Last night, Reel Works honored Issa Rae (Insecure), The Inclusion Rider Trio of Fanshen Cox, Tasmin Plater and Kalpana Kotogal with a “Changemaker” Award and Eddie Huang (Fresh Off The Boat) was honored with the Inaugural Variety “Voice of an Inspiration” Award. Broadway’s Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton) hosted the event and LL Cool J made a surprise appearance. The Annual Gala is a fundraiser for the organization, and also a chance to honor industry leaders who are paving the way in terms of diversity and representation. The virtual event helped raise over $32,000 for the non-profit.
Student filmmaker Jesus Luna won the F. John Outcault Award for “Outstanding Filmmaking” for his film “Under The Sun”. Previous honorees include Ryan Coogler, Danai Gurira, Phoebe Robinson, Gabourey Sidibe, Jeffrey Wright and more.
The event served as a fundraiser for Reel Works, a Brooklyn based youth media and workforce readiness program that matches underprivileged BIPOC young adults with professional filmmaker-mentors as a pathway to success for work readiness. This year marks their landmark 20th anniversary while the arts education nonprofit has now pivoted during the pandemic to go virtually.
Please find highlights from the conversation below.
James F. Lopez, President of Will Packer Productions introduced his friend and colleague Issa Rae: “To witness her trajectory in the business has been amazing. To see her build a company from the ground up and provide so much opportunity for diverse voices and creatives has been amazing to see.”
Rae sent a greeting from the set of Insecure and said: “This means so much particularly because the Reel Works program promotes inclusion and community and that has been a part of so much of my own journey in this industry. So much of my story is built around working with the people around me.”
“Being in the industry is so important to me to uplift others to be able to have those same opportunities and build their own communities. I think programs like Reel Works really allow you to do that. Where you have the opportunity to meet the people you might work with and collaborate with in the future. That is your ticket to carving a place in this industry for yourself and each other.”
“There is this real doubt that we can accomplish and fulfill our dreams. I think that is the hardest part. For me even being in Hollywood for almost 10 years now it is such a surprise and unexpected to be accepted by something like Variety that you have been reading or Reel Works that you look up to. I think the hardest part growing up is believing that you are here and you can do it. The doubt still creeps into my eye.”
LL COOL J
“One of the most important things you can do as a filmmaker and as an artist is to never limit yourself.”
“Never ever let fear get in the way of any project you have to create. Go from the heart, believe in the beauty of your dreams, and believe that the issues that matter to you matter in general. I would encourage you to seek not what is commercial but seek what is true. It’s important for you from a creative standpoint that you create things that you are passionate about that you love.”