Sunday, October 2, 2016

Diversity in Art and Audiences

By Laura P. Valtorta

Currently I am writing a novel about a black character and a white character that I plan to turn into a screenplay. I expect to make a lot of ugly mistakes.

While studying how to make these characters more genuine, I tell myself – “Woman – go forth and meet with artists and people in many different communities. Watch. Listen. Ask questions.”

An excellent place to do that was the Long Beach Indie Film and Music Festival, that I attended as a filmmaker on September 1-3, 2016. Here is an email I sent to my peeps:

Family, Friends, and Filmmakers: This weekend I attended the Long Beach Indie Film and Music Festival in Long Beach, California ( where "Queen of the Road" won best TV pilot against some formidable competitors from Hollywood!

This festival was special because the founder, Dr. Daniel Walker, shared with the group a vision like my own: to see diverse people creating and sharing art. Like me, Dr. Walker wants filmmakers to be diverse (more women, more African-Americans), and above all, he wants audiences to be diverse so that we can sit together, enjoy art together, and discuss what's important to us.

This festival (180 films and performances) and the artists were diverse in every way! Age, skin color, sex, disability, gender identity, nationality. I could go on. At the awards banquet, I sat next to a woman my age who had a film entry in the student filmmaker category! My table included a German director, a doctor who made music videos, and people from Australia.

This mix of people made for excellent talk-back sessions with directors after each film. I felt comfortable asking questions that were really on my mind about filmmaking and American society.  Some of my questions were obnoxious – but they were important to me.

For the first time I did not feel out of place being an older female director. There were other women, older than me, who were presenting awesome films.

Funny how more diversity makes us all feel more welcome.

When Dr. Daniel Walker spoke, it was refreshing and liberating to hear a man speak about something we both found important -- drawing people together through art. When I accepted the award, Dr. Walker told me that he knew about my work and thought I was doing some great things. This was a true compliment!

Dr. Walker teaches Latin American studies in Long Beach, which is said to be the most diverse town of its size (500,000) in the United States. The diversity extends to age, sex, gender identity, skin color, language, disability, and nationality – just like the participants in the festival itself. Heaven!

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