Filmmakers highlight struggles in the black community


Philip Irving and Travis Haughton are two black filmmakers from Florissant, Missouri. In a public announcement on Dec. 5, the two students invited Webster University and city of St. Louis residents to watch their screening this Thursday. By Dec. 20 all 120 available seats in Sunnen lounge were reserved.

The duo said they were blown away at how quickly people reserved their tickets.

Their films explore the trials of growing up in the St. Louis African American community. These films are part of their Film and TV production majors at Webster University but also their personal journeys as artists.

Haughton said one of their goals with these screenings is to gather support for a return to the American Black Film Festival. The second screening is slated for a Wednesday in February. The filmmakers are open to donations for their trip at both screenings.

The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) will be held in Miami, Florida this year. ABFF has been an annual event since 1997. The goal, according to ABFF website, is to connect emerging black artists.

“Basically it’s just to kind of get our foot in the door and network with people that look like us and to get connections,” Haughton said.

The two filmmakers started working together after Haughton premiered his film at the Winifred-Moore Auditorium in September. Now they want to show the school their work again to get support to go to the film festival.

Irving’s film, screening Thursday, explores growing up gay in a black baptist background. Irving believes there is a lot of homophobia and transphobia in the African American community and this has to do with how people use the Bible to push personal agendas.

“I think there’s a stigmatism that you have to be tough and anything that is not tough means you’re not black,” Irving said. “You’re not standing up and being what you supposed to be.”

Haughton and Irving attribute the success of their screening to networking. Talking to people and using school organizations like the Multicultural Center & International Student Affairs (MCISA), Association of African American Collegians (AAAC), and the Student Government Association (SGA) to really got their project off the ground.

Their connections landed them a TV interview. Haughton and Irving were featured on Fox2Now on Jan. 23 to discuss their films and goals as artists.

Larry Morris is the coordinator of the MCISA and has been helping Irving and Haughton with their film screenings. He said he keeps tabs on the African American students on campus and has made sure they have the resources they need to be successful.

“Phillip and Travis are two amazing students,” Morris said. “They do most of the hard work. I just make sure they have a path.”

Haughton and Irving have called the different departments of the School of Communications to work together to make films. They believe the art of filmmaking is a team effort that requires quality audio, acting, makeup and writing to get out a quality product.

“We’re transitioning from that stage of being so reliant on the school system to being reliant on yourself,” Irving said. “I think this time more than anything is that time where you need to step out of your comfort zone.”

Irving and Haughton believe that the opportunity to go to film festivals is not advertised by the School of Communications. This however does not discourage the filmmakers because it has given them a sense of independence.

They said they hoped their experiences at the film festival will get their foot in the door to connect with filmmakers in Los Angeles or New York. Irving says its up to the individual to be successful.

“The biggest thing I want people to draw from what we’re doing is that you don’t have to be in a situation where it’s easy to get connections and stuff to make it happen,” Irving said.

Haughton agrees with Irving that it comes down to the individual when it comes to success. He hopes he and Irving create a successful example for the next generation of Webster film students.

“Basically I just want to leave a legacy so that the same thing can happen each year without [me] being there,” Haughton said.

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