Surrounded by bodegas, apartments, and parking lots, an energetic filmmakers’ meeting is in session at the mansion-styled galley and educational space named the Bronx Documentary Center.
“Content in the Bronx is needed,” says the very passionate and experienced filmmaker Harri “Indio” Ramkishun during the weekly class, who are known as the Bronx Filmmakers. The group meets to discuss and screen films as well as get helpful advice from each other.
The Bronx Documentary Center (BDC), located in the heart of Melrose, regularly holds events for artists as well as the general public. The non-profit gallery and educational center is a second home to photojournalists, filmmakers, artists, critics, and educators. Founded in 2011 by Mike Kamber and Danielle Jackson, the center has since held five exhibitions, it has been viewed by 40 school groups, and it has screened over 65 films according to Jackson.
Immersed in discussion during the two-hour class, participants in the filmmakers’ meeting discussed the projects everyone was working on and exchanged ideas for the celebration of the group’s one year anniversary at the end of September.
The class welcomes newcomers who have not yet decided what they want to do in multimedia arts, including Cinnamon Willis,
Willis is a 31 year-old graphic designer from Melrose who decided to attend one of the classes. She claims she is more of a photographer than a filmmaker. “I wanted to network to get my name out there and help others,” she said about her decision to join the center.
Joining the program has helped Willis make connections with other people who share the same interest and she enjoys it, which is why she continues to attend.
The center welcomes veteran filmmakers and photographers and interested people welcomed to join in its activities. On Tuesday and Friday evenings from 7 to 9pm, aspiring and established filmmakers and photographers teach classes to college students and adults of beginner and intermediate levels. The classes are free of charge.
The multimedia classes, which usually have a class size ranging between 15 and 25 people, bring together a variety of people interested in showcasing their projects and obtaining critical feedback and greater skills.
The 33 year-old co-founder of the BDC, Danielle Jackson, who was placing photos on the wall as the gathering was taking place, is pleased with what the center has become and doesn’t see what she does as a “job,” she said.
“I get to create conversation on documentary work and help communities explore,” she said.
Jackson was the former cultural director at Magnum Photos New York and is
very passionate about history, media, photography, and contemporary art and video according to her profile on the BDC website.
Jackson puts a lot of her time into the gallery. “When you’re starting a business, be prepared to put in a lot of time,” she said.
“What makes a film for you?” was one of the questions asked during the recent filmmakers’ session. One of the leaders of the Bronx Filmmakers, Harri ‘Indio’ Ramkishun shared his thoughts on the matter.
“The story,” he replied. If you don’t have a great story, it won’t engage the crowd.”
Ramkishun decided to be a part of the program as soon as he heard the BDC was creating it.
“I heard the BDC was putting this together and I wanted to be a part of it, like one of the leaders,” he said.
Ramkishun was always a creative type, he said, and mentioned his first short film, entitled “BlackOUT City,” which was about a couple addressing their relationship during the Northeastern power outage of 2003.
“I wrote, directed, and produced it in my apartment,” he said proudly of his work.
Willis, Ramkishun, and Jackson all said they have larger artistic aspirations for which they plan to use the experience and skills learned from the BDC.
“Who knows?! It’s a hobby now, it’d be nice to make some money off it though,” laughed Willis, when asked whether what she’s learning at the center could help her in her future career.
She added that she doesn’t want a “day-to-day job.”
Ramkishun’s ambition is for Bronx artists to get global recognition.“I want to help facilitate a true filmmaking culture in the Bronx that’ll be known.. Hey, worldwide!” he said.
Jackson, the center’s co-founder, hopes to develop the center even more.“We’d love to expand,” she said.. “We just want to help others expand their minds.”