When filmmakers Lauren Waring Douglas and Ricky Taylor crisscrossed the state for the S.C. Educational Television network, they unwittingly compiled a list of people in the movie and television industry with ties to the Palmetto State.
As Douglas and Taylor drove from one small town to the nex, he asked: “Hey, did you know Phylicia Rashad has roots in Chester?” Douglas answered: “No. But did you know Dana Campbell, who got an Emmy for costume work on Dancing with the Stars, has roots in Charleston?”
Those conversations over 20 years grew into an idea that became the genesis for the inaugural three-day AfroSouth Film Festival, which begins Nov. 4 in Charleston. It will feature interactive panels, workshops, youth programs, networking opportunities and the screening of a dozen films on the Harborwalk at 360 Concord St.
The lineup also includes the opening night screening at 6 p.m. in Marion Square of Get on Up, starring the late Chadwick Boseman, an Anderson native.
The festival is a celebration of African American and Southern cultures, said Taylor, the festival’s founder. “You can’t have African American history without being connected to Southern history,” he said. Taylor, a Columbia resident, said he has often wondered why the MOJA Arts Festival in Charleston does not market the event in the capital city.
“I never hear anything about it in the Columbia area,” said Taylor, a senior producer and director at SCETV. “I always thought that with our [Black] history and Charleston being our … [entry to] this country, why Charleston does not have a national event that would draw people back to their roots to celebrate the journey we’ve been on.”
Blood of the Lamb is one of the featured films produced and directed by Konate Hendricks, a graduate of Trident Technical College, Douglas said. Another South Carolina connection, she said, is Austin James, producer of the short film My Nephew Emmett. James is from Hartsville, Taylor’s hometown. The film, which stars Jasmine Guy, was nominated in 2018 for an Oscar.
Taylor hopes AfroSouth becomes that event to bring people from around the country to Charleston, just as the Essence Festival attracts visitors to New Orleans. Douglas envisions an AfroSouth festival as the portal to get the work of young filmmakers to larger festivals at Tribeca and Sundance.
Douglas said, “So many people in South Carolina’s Black community have made fruitful careers for themselves in front of the camera and behind the camera.” The festival is a way to “come back and celebrate those of us who’ve worked in film and television that have gone off to make a career in New York or L.A.,” said Waring, an AfroSouth board member and founder of Catfish Row Productions in Charleston.
She acknowledged that South Carolina has not supported the film industry as Georgia.
“When you are a media professional in South Carolina you are intentionally making a choice, and it is a very brave choice,” she said. “You know you can get more opportunities and more money outside of the state, but you choose not to because you really believe in the cultures that are here and the environment that inspires you.”