The New York Film Academy’s Industry Lab and African American Black Film Society (ABA) kicked off the first official screening of internationally acclaimed short film, The Counter: 1960. Seven Industry Lab members contributed to the making of the film, and were invited along with cast and crew to the screening.
The Counter: 1960 gives the account of three “woke” students from 2017 that find themselves seated at a lunch counter in 1960. Will they be served?
On February 1, 1960, four young educated African American men attending North Carolina A&T decided to make their mark in history. On that cold blistery day, the A&T Four — which they would soon to be named — walked to the local Woolworth lunch counter and sat down to be served. Keep in mind African Americans were able to shop in Woolworth’s but not eat there. This non-violent protest known as a “sit-in” became a common demonstration as a way to abolish segregation in eating establishments across the rural south.
The Q&A was moderated by Chair of the Industry Lab and producer Kimberly Ogletree and ABA President Furaha Bayibsa; panelist and director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd shared stories about the making of the film; actress/producer Ashley Jackson, daughter of civil rights activist Reverend Jessie Jackson offered advice regarding producing and acting; editor and NYFA Editing instructor Leander Sales crafted the creative techniques used in the editing process that assisted in delivering a strong well-rounded message; and actor Charles Malik Whitfield shared stories about the making of the film.
The film has been an Official Selection in numerous film festivals, including the Jaipur International Film Festival. The US Premiere was held during the Pan African Film Festival. Lights and cameras flashed as the producers, director, and cast walked the red carpet and spoke with media promoting the film. Producer Kimberly Ogletree said, “I’ve always supported this festival and by this being my 3rd film in PAFF this is a great night. Just being surrounded by filmmakers from the black diaspora is a humbling experience. It’s important in our history that we as African Americans control and document the true narrative of our stories for the generations to come.”
The Bentonville Film Festival was the next stop on the festival circuit. The screening was well attended and the audience became emotional during the screening. The film was in competition with other amazing short films. Although we didn’t bring back a win, the film was part of the top five shorts in the festival. Since then, the filmmakers have been asked to submit The Counter: 1960 into the Bentonville Film Festival archives, which is paramount for the film and the New York Film Academy Industry Lab.
The Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival awarded Best Actorin a Short Film toBuddy Lewisfor the role ofJoseph and NYC Indie Awards winner. The Counter: 1960 also won the Gold Award in the LA Shorts Awards.
The Official Selections continued with Garifuna Film Festival in Los Angeles and the British Urban Film Festival in London. The night was filled with British filmmakers and celebrities. The winners will be announced later in the year and will be celebrated in June 2019.
However, it wasn’t until the Diversity in Cannes Film Showcase that the film won for Best Cinematography and the Audience Award. The film was placed in the Women In Formation category, which focused on strong social and political messages from a female perspective. Out of 260 official selections from 25 countries with an acceptance rate of 10%, The Counter: 1960 became an Official Selection in the 2018 showcase. Yolonda Brinkley, Creator of the Short Film Showcase, commented, “I’ve created a needed platform for underrepresented filmmakers from diverse backgrounds to showcase their stories that would normally not be seen at the Festival de Cannes.”
As quoted from the Entertainment Sun news article “JuVee Productions’ Julius Tennon And Viola Davis Support Independent Filmmaker Initiative Promoting Diversity And Inclusion At 71st Festival de Cannes”, AJUUA Entertainment and Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis and husband Julius Tennon, President, Development and Production stated: “For the last eight years, Yolonda has been focused on shining a light on films about people of color. The curtain has been lifted, and a fresh conversation can now be had about how inclusive and diverse films travel. A global audience awaits and is ready to be served.”
In April 2018, director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd won Best First Time Director in the Top Shorts Online Film Festival. “It felt amazing, freeing. It felt like someone else sees what’s been burning inside me for years. My fears were unfounded and I’m thankful I took the leap,” commented Tracy.
Additional accolades mount as our most recent Official Selections include the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, where the film received a standing ovation and the Bronzelens Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia; which is forthcoming.
The Industry Lab’s number #1 goal is to strive to make award-winning productions to further our alumni and student professional work ethic and experiences in the entertainment industry.