Business Tips

Lights, camera, hip-hop: The Hip-Hop Film Festival

In our previous posts, we talked about how we will be showcasing Sideline customers’ inspiring, sometimes disrupting, stories on the Sideline website and this blog. For our first feature, we sat down with C.R. Capers, Founder and CEO of the Hip Hop Film Festival, to hear how her event (of which the third annual 2018 New York event is taking place this weekend, Aug 2-5) is disrupting the status quo in more ways than one.

Q: Tell us about the Hip Hop Film Festival and how it got started?

A: I’m a filmmaker and had been working in the industry for some time. I noticed that there wasn’t a space for filmmakers who grew up in the culture of hip-hop. It’s a film genre that wasn’t really being explored or developed. A lot of people think that it just had to do with music, but it’s much more than that.

Most people who were born after 1960 grew up in the hip-hop era and have a completely different perspective on life. Many of us from that generation became content creators and had the spirit of entrepreneurs, but there wasn’t a lot of space for us to exist. When we started the Hip Hop Film Festival, I wanted it to be a place where this generation and creators could come together and make something. They needed a platform. I wanted them to be able to tell their stories in a unique way. When it first started, I thought it would be 50 friends in a room who all had a passion for cinema and film, but it turned out to be much, much more than that. There is interest and support from all over the world. It’s been amazing!

When we started the Hip Hop Film Festival, I wanted it to be a place where this generation and creators could come together and make something.

Q: How is the Hip Hop Film Festival different from other film events out there?

A: Our spirit embodies entrepreneurship and creativity. Our motto here is, “We are the future of fresh.” The Hip Hop Film Festival and everything we do embodies that word, “fresh.” When you look at the types of content that we share and the types of artists that we bring together, it’s fresh and never been done before. And we embody that with our global network of artists and supporters. We want to be disrupting some things.

Q: Can you share a little bit about how you use Sideline as a part of your business?

A: Sideline allows me to separate the noise. When my Sideline number rings, I see money. It’s my way to bucket clients and sponsors into different tiers and prioritize what I need to do. It allows me to keep my personal life separate from work. Sometimes I have to be able to turn off my normal number, but still need to take business calls. I think that being able to balance work and personal is an important learning curve for any entrepreneur.

Q: How long has the Hip Hop Film Festival been around for and how do you work with artists?

A: We’re in our third year and just launched our international film tour as well. We had a one-day pop-up festival in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a beautiful event and the amphitheater was jam-packed! It was challenging to manage and figure out logistics internationally, but we have a great team there that helped us pull it together. Our next show abroad is going to be in the Ivory Coast.

We have awesome relationships with our artists and we want them to succeed. I’m like their mother in a sense. We actually care about their bigger goals and work with them over the course of their entire careers. We work with them on marketing plans, connect them with other artists and valuable resources. Consequently, we’re less about consulting and more about getting our hands dirty and doing the work. In many ways, it becomes a real family. We’re still working with people who came into the festival in its first year.

Q: Some might say that what you’ve built and the community you’re empowering at the Hip Hop Film Festival is disrupting the film industry in some ways. Would you agree?

A: Yes. The film industry has long been a white-boys club. There is little room for anyone or anything else. As a result, a lot of the stories that get told and shared with the masses have predictable narratives and plot lines. Particularly, they’re often unrealistic and don’t reflect the diversity of the world we live in. When you watch a movie, you can tell when there were no women or other cultures in the room helping decide on the story and direction.

There are thousands of storylines and narratives that have never been told before because of the way the film industry has always been run.

To be in the room making decisions and having a seat the table, you traditionally needed to have a certain economic status or be a certain type of person. I didn’t want the Hip Hop Film Festival to be that way. There are thousands of storylines and narratives that have never been told before because of the way the film industry has always been run. Here, there is room for us and there is room for everybody to create and to inspire others.

Also, we’re majority female-led team, which is pretty unusual in the hip-hop space. I really like that I have the opportunity and freedom to approach things differently. For example, this year we’re heavily focused on women’s films. I’d say that we’re probably leading in this area. We’re extremely diverse and we understand what the future is about and where the market is headed. We’re about building a community and catering to things that people want. People are hungry to see ‘fresh’ content and new perspectives. We’re bringing them that.

Q: What’s been the reaction of other festivals in Tri-state area?

A: They don’t know what to do with us. There is confusion. A lot of other festivals don’t know what hip-hop is all about, so they dismiss it versus taking the time to understand it. We’ve had to put our stake in the ground, work hard, and back up our artists to ensure we’re getting the visibility and credit we deserve.

Q: As an entrepreneur, what are some of the things that you’ve learned that you think other small business owners should know?

A: Your team is everything. And collaboration and unity are key. I can’t stress that enough. Your team can be your family, spouse, colleagues, or friends. Whoever it is, you need to know that they’re reliable. It’s a considerable waste of time to put effort into people who aren’t reliable. That can set you back. Picking the right team and having consistency can make a huge difference when it comes to growing your business and being successful.

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