Ahmed Siddiqui is an award winning Screenwriter & Director. He is the Founder & Executive Director of bckstry (backstory), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing youth mentorship and job training to aspiring filmmakers, while supporting local artists. His favorite film is 2001: A Space Odyssey and you can hear his podcast every Thursday on bckstry.org!
Instead, I’ll tell you about a kid named Kate (and if you’re looking up at the author of this article, I definitely don’t look like a Kate.) Kate attends UL, loves photography and wants to be a cinematographer. She wants to learn how to curve light around an actor to evoke a feeling in your gut. She wants to work with creatives to make projects that require leaving every ounce of talent into every 24 frames that are required to produce a single second of film.
But here’s the problem: Kate lives in Lafayette. The nearest film community is about a 120 miles east in New Orleans, while the real film haven is over in a little town called Austin. Now she’s left with a choice, does she stay or go?
Acadiana’s independent film scene needs support. This isn’t a “desperate plea” begging for funding or anything like that, rather, an honest look at the community we’re building and what does it look like 10, 15, 20 years from now? Have we grown? Are we financially stable? Or is it the 1980s again and the last person better turn off the lights?
Freaking out over a solution? You shouldn’t. It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel, so why not do what Tarantino does and steal from the greats?
Fifteen years ago, Austin went all in on their artists, especially their film community. As they became an artistic mecca, the next generation of creatives migrated en masse. Soon, tech companies followed because they wanted the younger workforce and to be in a “cool” town. As the city grew, real estate rose, economic development expanded and now Austin has become a cornerstone in pop culture. (Heads up, I’m not that naïve to hang my hat on one isolated variable, but stay with me.)
Now, let’s take a look at Lafayette. Culture? Check. Awesome people? Check. Great food? Double check. Easy to access city via interstates and airport? … Well, we’re working on that!
A key element of our long-term growth and stability is deeply rooted in the infrastructure we provide for our artists and the dedicated vision of their future. Simply put, we filmmakers need a reason to stay.
If you don’t care about film or art, well, I can’t really change your mind other than to say, nobody ever really “compliments” a city on how well they do “business.” Rather, citizens and tourists boast about how much they enjoyed the culture, people, art and food.
So, you’re probably thinking, this guy talks a big game but what’s he doing about any of this? Well, you remember Kate? Last year, I banded Lafayette’s filmmakers together and designed a program that provides mentorship and job training to aspiring artists. We created a learning environment where you work side-by-side with an industry professional to develop your skills. Since Kate finished our program, she has over six productions under her belt and is properly trained to work on a big budget Hollywood film.
For me, indie film is near and dear to my heart. I feel that Lafayette is the right type of community that can transcend and become a pop culture cornerstone.
But for that to happen, you need to give our artists a reason to stay.
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