Dark Meridian,” a Big Easy-based crime thriller featuring a solid cast of native talent, has recently completed production in New Orleans. The locally-produced independent film shot throughout the summer and marks the directing debut of Rankin Hickman, who also penned the script.

In “Dark Meridian” Detective Spencer Soleno (James Moses Black, “Terminator Genysis”) finds himself in the middle of a dispute between warring crime families. Entrusted to protect one of the crime lord’s sons, Tevi Marek (Dave Davis, “True Detective”), the two must work together to unravel the identity of a captive man (Billy Slaughter, “The Magnificent Seven”) before a killer on the loose reaches his other targets.

Rounding out the ensemble are Paul Rae (“True Grit”), Christopher Berry (“The Free State of Jones”), David Kallaway (“The Magnificent Seven”), Clint James (“Salem”), Jody Mullins (“NCIS: New Orleans), Alexander Babara (“Triple 9”), Oscar Gale (“The Big Short”), and Daneen Tyler (“Deepwater Horizon”).

Jimi Woods (“White Rabbit”), Jacky Lee Morgan (“Camera Store”), and Rankin Hickman produce under their Good Fly Productions banner, in association with Panta Rei Productions. Ronald M. Lamarque and Billy Slaughter executive produce.

The film has recently inked a deal with international sales outfit, Reason8 Films, toward a 2017 release.


Q+A with ‘Free State of Jones’ Donald Watkins

by Gretchen Erickson on July 27, 2016

by Nicole Cronley

photo by Vicki Miller photo by Vicki Miller

What made you want to become an actor?

When I was kid, I used to watch a ton of movies. It didn’t really matter if they were good or not, I just used to love the stories. We would also take trips in school to see shows or there would be a touring show that would come and perform. I was so interested in these characters and their journeys and the people behind them. I fell in love with it all before I ever knew it.

Who are your inspirations?
My parents are definitely my biggest inspiration. I was fifteen when my mom married my stepfather. Before then, I watched my mom make countless sacrifices and work so hard to take care of my sister and me. By the time my stepdad came, the foundation was set, but he really molded me and taught me what it means to be a young man. I always say, “I get my fire from my mom and my ice from my dad.” They’re both extremely dedicated, but my mom’s very passionate while my dad’s more calm and collected. If I possess half of what they have, then I’m going to be in good shape.

Where are you from? And what made you choose to start your career in Louisiana?
I am from Greensboro, North Carolina. I was in LSU’s MFA program from 2010-2013 — that’s what brought me to the state. One of the reasons I chose LSU because of its ties to the film industry. I remember thinking, “Man, they’re shooting everything down there.” I came for a visit, they fed me and I stayed! The culture is so strong here and it’s very different from L.A. and New York. That’s what I needed to grow — not only as an artist — but as an individual. To this day, I’ve never second guessed it. I’ve always felt like I made the right decision.

What was your formal education like?
My undergrad courses were vital. From Voice and Movement to Dance to Acting for the Camera and Acting Techniques, they really preached the essentials. Who are you? What do you want? Why are you saying what you’re saying? Then, you build. Also, theatre forces you to be prepared. There is no, “Cut. What’s my line?” If something goes wrong, you find a way to justify it and make it work. It also teaches you how to truly connect with your acting partner. It’s a give-and-take relationship. I always try and give as much as I can to my scene partners but at the end of the day, it’s all acting. The muscles may be different but it’s all a part of the same body, working towards a common goal: to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances.

How long have you performed professionally?
I’ve done film professionally for five years now. I signed with my agent Brenda Netzberger of Open Range Management in May of 2011, so we have an anniversary coming up. Theatre’s a little longer. I had my first professional contract with the Barter Theatre in 2007.

After starting in the theatre, why did you shift to film?
Yeah, theatre will always be my first love. That’s where I started. And there’s no substitution for a live audience going through a journey with you from start to finish. But I always knew I wanted to do both in a way to affect change. Film is so widespread and you could reach so many off of one project. I’ve never met Viola Davis or Dustin Hoffman or Denzel, but they’ve changed my life. These artists have made me laugh, cry, contemplate, question, they’ve given me hope. And I think that’s the power and beauty of film that attracted me. It still does.

When you decided to shift into the film market, how did you choose a local agent? How has your agent helped guide your career?
I knew I needed an agent if I wanted to do anything. My buddy Alex was a third year at LSU at the time. I just remember it seemed like he was always auditioning for something. I asked him who he was with and he said Brenda. He actually sent her an email that night about me and I immediately followed it with one of my own to set up a meeting. And it worked out! You know how they say God puts people in your life for a reason? Well that’s how I feel about Brenda. She’s always been there for me and had my best interest at heart. It doesn’t feel like actor-agent these days. It honestly feels like a family. We work so well together and I love it because she never tells me what she thinks I want to hear. She always gives me the facts. She is the one person who I’ve trusted with my career and she’s never let me down. Things are different these days but up until now, save my friends and family, no one knew I acted cinematically. Not like now. But since day one, she’s fought for me with vigor and passion and I completely respect that. I always told her the word I want synonymous with my career is longevity. I remember her telling me that if I were truly serious about this business, not the celebrity but the business, and if I were diligent, then I would go far and she’d always be there. Five years later, we’ve come a long way, but still have a lot to prove. All we ever need is the opportunity, and neither one of us will disappoint the other.

What have been the fruits of your education and hard work?
My first film was Pitch Perfect. I was in the Treble group, but I was an Opening Treble which meant that I was a senior when the movie started. That kicked everything off. I had no idea that it was going to take off the way it did. Then, 22 Jump Street was next, I was on the team and in the frat. 22 actually taught me to wait for the cut. It came out the day before my birthday, and my girlfriend at the time surprised me for my birthday and took me to see it in New Orleans. We’re having dinner and drinks in the theatre and, as an actor, you know where you might appear on screen. Those scenes came and went and she’s smiling and I’m like, “Oh no!” Haha. So I had to lean in and break the news. It’s funny now but I was bummed for a few days. I was an infantryman in Get On Up. I was Silverman in a Popeye’s commercial. But I think my most notable performance was the first thing I ever did. I was in the fourth grade and we performed a live commercial at our winter concert for a fictional toothpaste called Mud Mouth Be Gone. There was some grade A acting happening. That’s the performance I’m still trying to live up to! Haha.

What are some of the big names you have worked with?
Well with Mud Mouth Be Gone, it was the infamous Michelle Hardy. After that, Matthew McConaughey, Mahershala Ali, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell, Erica Tazel, Anna Paquin, T.I. and many others.

What else do you have coming up that hasn’t been released yet?
Roots just premiered on Memorial Day, Free State of Jones, which hits theaters on June 24,  and a film called Bolden, with the release date currently TBD.

photo by Steve Dietel photo by Steve Dietel

Let’s talk more about Roots, where you booked a lead role. What was it like working on such a high profile project?
It was amazing. Still such an honor. I often look back at the projects I’ve been able to do and I realize how fortunate and downright blessed I am. I saw the original Roots a few times when I was younger, but as kid, you just don’t grasp the magnitude of what you’re watching. You just can’t. The first time I saw it fully as an adult was after I was cast and I watched them all the way through. I couldn’t stop. The cast navigated the story beautifully and I’m hoping our reboot has a similar effect for our generation.
I play Virgil. Chicken George and Matilda’s oldest son, and great grandson to Kunta Kinte and Belle. The thing I enjoyed the most was that it actually felt like a family from the top down. Rege and Erica did a fantastic job as the pillars of our family. They set the precedent from day one and I believe that was key to our vibe and success. Every day, the level was raised, for myself, Sam, Frankie, Carlacia, Sedale, Brittany, Kesha. And no-one needed any extra motivation. This is Roots. That’s motivation enough. But everyday, every take, there was new energy from all of us that no one could explain. We came to the conclusion that our job was to get out of our own ways and let these characters tell their stories. I’m excited to see it all come together. Though the time period is different, I believe the themes are still very much relevant to today. There are things we still struggle with as a community and society as a whole, but the ability to fight and love and persevere is central to the human spirit. I’m honored to be a part of it.

You booked a supporting lead role as Wilson in The Free State of Jones. What was it like working on that set and with the cast?
It’s funny because the first thing people say when they ask about Free State is, “How was it working with Matthew McConaughey?” Then they’re like “I’m sorry I know you probably get that a lot.” And I don’t mind it at all because I know he’s probably getting the same questions: “How was it working with Donald Watkins? Were you nervous? Did you shake his hand or play it cool?” Haha!
But Free State was another blessing. I booked Free while I was still shooting Bolden so I had about a week between the two to shift gears and focus. I’m always nervous the first day, no matter the project. I may not look it but I’m like a little duck. It looks like I’m just gliding on the water but I’m actually kicking for my life underneath. Two things you can count on the first day is that I’m prepared and nervous. But the cast was phenomenal. It was like being in a master class for three months. Many times I would just catch myself watching and being in awe of my peers: Matthew, Mahershala, Gugu, Chris, Sean, Troy, everyone. The mark of a great actor is to make it look easy, and they all made it look so easy.
I play Wilson, who I like to describe as second in command in the Maroon camp. Maroons were runaways who lived off the land and survived as free men by any means necessary. Wilson’s a strong young man and he really looks up to Moses (Mahershala Ali) for guidance, survival and how to conduct himself as a man in their circumstances. From day one, Ali took me under his wing and I can’t thank him enough for that. He really was like my big brother on set. It got to the point where if Hersh wasn’t in my scene, I didn’t feel right. I think that speaks to the dynamic and I hope it comes across on screen. He’s very genuine. The Maroons in general were all pretty tight: myself, Artrial, Charlie and Greg. I think my favorite part about the process would be our mini-rehearsals before we started filming. Gary Ross is definitely an actor’s director. He has such an appreciation for the process and really works with your choices and what you bring to the character. Before our calls, he’d have the Maroons and Rachel get together and discuss and build the world and our reality, and it opened up so much more for me and character choices that I hadn’t even thought of until that point. He was very collaborative and I loved that. I would be very excited to work with him again.

Bolden was a big project for you! I hear you had to learn to play the guitar. Tell me about that experience. Who did you study with? How long did it take to learn? Tell me about your role and who you worked with?
It was. That was actually my first big one. First time cracking top ten on the call sheet. I played Brock Mumford who was the guitarist in the Buddy Bolden band. I never played the guitar before so I was literally starting from scratch: this is the neck, these are frets, etc. We rehearsed for a month in New Orleans and I’m telling you, it felt like musical boot camp with cool instructors. When I tell you my fingers were killing me, oh man. Right after I was cast, I took a quick lesson with Brian Breen and he told me what to expect. But it’s difficult once you’re trying to apply it to the actual instrument. I would tell my fingers to do one thing and they’d completely do their own thing! But I had absolutely the best instructor, Mr. Anthony Brown. He’s really a solid dude and a family man and a beast musician. I got a chance to go to a few of his performances and, my God, effortless. I was thinking to myself, “I have to do that!?” He was so patient and giving. We worked out this sheet music system that really stuck and just started plowing through music. He’s a fantastic teacher. And if Brown couldn’t be there then Carl LeBlanc, another absolute beast on guitar, was right there with me. They had a lot of faith in me and I put a lot pressure on myself to get it right because I didn’t want to let Mr. Brown down, let Carl down, or my cast mates. I made it my mission to really be able to play all of the songs and I did it. Now that only pertains to Buddy Bolden songs. If you ask me for “Free Bird” it’s not happening. That’s another project I’m looking forward to. Another project where I grew immensely as a person. We had a solid cast and there’s a lot of good performances. Those band scenes are what I’m looking forward to the most. We all worked so hard on the music: myself, Breon, Korey, Justin, Ser’Darius, Calvin and Gary, so I’m excited to see how it translates. Plus, just to see Dan Pritzker’s work come alive. You read the script over and over but you’re not present when they shoot everything. To know how hard the cast and crew worked just makes it that much more special.

Free State of Jones is in theaters everywhere now.


Urgent: Support Louisiana Film & Entertainment Industry

by Gretchen Erickson on May 5, 2016

Dear Friends and Members of the Film & Entertainment Industry,

Thank you to everyone who has submitted their on-line testimony!  We’ve heard from crew members, actors, jewelry stores, vintage antique stores, hotels, restaurants, machine shops, lumber yards, gyms, sign companies,  paint stores, homeowners, real estate companies, churches, schools, students, parents  and more from all over the state.

The deadline to submit your online testimony to us for the House Ways and Means Committee is Today May 5th, 8 p.m.  

We need you to reinforce the message that the film industry creates high paying Louisiana jobs, spends millions of dollars with Louisiana  businesses, keeps Louisiana students in state after graduation and attracts new Louisiana residents.

Help us as we attempt to secure a more predictable and stable industry environment for all of us.

Please tell your story by clicking the link below to answer the five quick questions.

Remember to follow the instructions carefully and thank you!

 – The Scene Team
 Click Here to Support


Sync Up Cinema 2016 During Jazz Fest

by Gretchen Erickson on April 21, 2016


Louisiana’s film industry conference during Jazz Fest!
FREE & open to the public At 1225 N. Rampart Street



Bring Your Own is a nomadic storytelling series that takes place in unconventional spaces within the community. Each month, eight storytellers have seven minutes to respond to a theme. BYO airs on All Things New Orleans and is a biweekly podcast on We’re teaming up with BYO on Thursday, April 21st at the Jazz and Heritage Center for our 3rd Thursday to kick off 2016 Sync Up Cinema with stories based on the theme:

“(Not) For The Money”

….things you did just for the money, or what you did knowing there was no paper at all; rent parties, Japanese commercials, egg selling? You tell us.

7:30pm- BYO happy hours- drinks from rozzie+leggy, grub from Goodman’s BBQ, tunes from Lost in the Holler. 8pm- stories. Oh yes, and we’ll be outside! To learn more or sign up to tell a story, email


1:30pm – The Master: best practices in film and video preservation. Panel featuring Toby Armstrong (preserving a film via NOJHFF grant), Ben Solovey (local film print preservationist), and more.

3pm – Best of the Fests & Local Works. Top Louisiana produced short films from NOFF 2015, 48HRFF, the Louisiana Film Prize 2015, and other local works, including The Boatman and Shotgun Boogie.

5pm – Louisiana Film Prize Social. Meet the crew behind the LA Film Prize and have some drinks to the jams of DJ Loira Limbal!

6:30pm – Queen Sugar Panel.  Meet the team that’s producing Oprah and Ava’s QUEEN SUGAR, a Louisiana Story being produced in Louisiana.  Discussion of Duvernay’s drive for #inclusivecrew and developing voice and vision in white male dominated Hollywood.  Producer Paul Garnes in attendance. More to come as we approach the date.

8pm – The Glamour and The Squalor, presented by Shotgun Cinema. As a rock DJ in late-’80s Seattle, Marco Collins achieved something virtually impossible: he became a star, and in the process helped make the city synonymous with grunge music. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains – Collins championed them and countless other bands, was the first to play their breakout albums, and became the go-to source for the newest and greatest in rock. But although he became one of music’s most influential tastemakers, Collins is more than his on-air personality – music is just one of his complex, unquenchable, and uncompromising passions. Director Marq Evans in attendance.


3:30pm – Music Licensing for Film. With Rob Filomena and more.

4:30 pm – Documentary development and diversity panel with N’Jeri Eaton (ITVS) and Loira Limbal (Firelight Media). MacArthur Foundation, which funds normally 20-25 docs a year, just announced that it won’t be funding individual films any more, but will be funding 5 regrantors.  Two of them are ITVS and Firelight, and both have expressed concrete interest in highlighting voices from the South.  This is a direct opportunity for local filmmaker to hear about the types of projects and applications that two of the largest documentary funders in the country are interested in.

5:30pm – A Woman, A Shark, A Robot with Misty Talley. Misty is Louisiana filmmaker who started with a dream, a very cheesing dream that involved comic books and cheesy genre movies. Today, she is the first woman ever to have directed a feature for the Sci Fi channel and she is busy producing in Louisiana a slate of films that play on her eye for detail and sense of fun. In a keynote presentation, Misty will talk about how she built a career in film and TV, her Baton Rouge robotic shark builders and what it’s like to be a woman in a very bullshark world.

6:30pm – Springbreak Shark Attack Happy Hour with WIFT. Then join us in the courtyard for a reception hosted by WIFT and some delicious shark attack cocktails!

8pm – I AM THE BLUES (SXSW). This film takes the audience on a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou, the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta and Moonshine soaked BBQs in the North Mississippi Hill Country. Visiting the last original blues devils, many in their 80s, still living in the American deep south and touring the Chitlin’ Circuit. Let Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Little Freddie King, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, RL Boyce, LC Ulmer, Lil’ Buck Sinegal and their friends awaken the blues in all of us. Director Daniel Cross in attendance and a performance by Little Freddie King.


1pm – First Friday. Oakland made it onto two “top” lists: Top Five travel destinations in the U.S., and Top Five most dangerous cities. Once a month, those two realities meet at First Friday. What started as simple art crawl on the first Friday of every month has grown into a cross-cultural and intergenerational event drawing thousands of people to downtown Oakland for food, entertainment and every kind of art imaginable. The event’s popularity has fueled the city’s larger cultural and economic renaissance. But after a teenager was murdered during one of the events, the future of First Fridays is uncertain. Directed by N’Jeri Eaton and Mario Furloni.

4:30pm – Made in Japan (SXSW). Made in Japan is the remarkable story of Tomi Fujiyama, the world’s first Japanese country music superstar. It is a funny yet poignant multicultural journey through music, marriage and the impact of the corporate world on the dreams of one woman. In partnership with the New Orleans Japan Society. The Diamond Brothers, directors of the film, in attendance. Preceded by Garrett Bradley’sLIKE, a 6 minute short about clickfarms, produced with Field Of Vision.

7pm – Belizaire The Cajun 30th Anniversary. In 1859 Louisiana, a wily root doctor must save his friend’s life, win a woman’s heart, outfox a crooked sheriff, stop marauding vigilantes, expose an evil villain, heal the sick, play music for the dance, keep himself off the gallows, and, of course, rescue the inheritance of three orphaned children in a picture that helped launch both the 1980s all-things-Cajun craze and the independent film movement. The film screened in the Official Selections of Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, Munich, Torino. Produced by Sandra Schulberg, Allan Durand, & Glen Pitre. Written & directed by Glen Pitre. With Glen Pitre in attendance. Preceded by Atchafalaya, The Construct Films Southern Gothic Thriller.

For More Information Visi:


Sync Up 2016 at Jazz Fest Connects Music, Film, & Digital

by Gretchen Erickson on April 21, 2016

The 9th annual Sync Up conference  brings together leaders in music, film, and digital media for educational and networking sessions during Jazz Fest.  With panel discussions and interviews in the mornings before Jazz Fest, Sync Up explores various aspects of a career in music: recording, touring, distribution, crowdfunding and more – all from the perspective of an independent artist.

All events take place at the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center, 1225 N. Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116 (map).

Admission is free, but seating is limited so advance registration is required. Register online here.


Discussion Topics and Speakers

9:00 a.m. – Registration Opens

10:00 a.m. – Panel Discussion
How To Launch A Career In Jazz
So, you just graduated from Berklee, Juilliard, UNO or another fine jazz conservatory. Now what? How do you get your career off the ground? Do you apply for the Monk Competition? Do you hope that whoever plays your instrument in Wynton Marsalis’ band gets a better gig (whatever that could be) and makes room for you? Do you hit the road like a punk rock band? All of the above? We talk to two rising young stars of the jazz world – who took very different paths to their current success – to get their perspectives on how best to approach launching a career as a jazz musician.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, trumpeter and bandleader
Jamison Ross, drummer, singer and bandleader

11:00 a.m. – Keynote Interview
The Art of a Career in Jazz: Geri Allen
How do you start a career in jazz? By talking to one of the most respected pianists, composers and educators around. Far from being a traditionalist, Geri Allen – who headlines the Jazz Fest’s Jazz Tent – started her touring career with Mary Wilson and the Supremes. After that, she worked with the genre-busting Black Rock Coalition and Brooklyn’s M-Base Collective. Whether working with Ornette Coleman or recording jazz versions of Beatles and Motown classics, she’s a restless artist who breaks all manner of boundaries. Now, as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, she mentors young musicians as they take their own places on the global stage.
Geri Allen, musician; Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh
Moderator: Geoffrey Himes, Jazz Times/Paste Magazine

12:00 p.m. – Panel Discussion
Take Me To the Next Level: Artist Managers On What It Takes to Make It
You’ve got talent. You’ve got smarts. You’ve got a great work ethic and 50,000 likes on your SoundCloud. But you still don’t have a manager. Could it be that there’s something essential that you just don’t understand? Our panel, of some of the most experienced artist managers in New Orleans, sounds off on the biggest misconceptions about what managers can – and can’t – do for your career.
Alex Bowen, Able Partners Group (manager of Earphunk, Flow Tribe, George Porter, Jr.)
Howie Kaplan, Howlin’ Wolf Management (manager of Rebirth Brass Band)
Jon Phillips, Silverback Artist Management (manager of Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk)
Tavia Osbey, Simple Play Presents (manager of Tank & the Bangas)

9:00 a.m. – Registration Opens

10:00 a.m. – Panel Discussion
The Business of Gospel Music
Gigging, recording, social media and… God? Gospel has lots in common with its secular cousin – and a lot that makes it different. Still, it can be a lucrative path for artists who feel the call. We reveal the mystery of how to pursue opportunities in gospel.
Alfred Caston, Jamalar Entertainment and Rampart Street Music
Reginald Nicholas, Jr., gospel and secular artist/producer
Jeremiah Stewart, booking agent
Jai Reed, gospel artist
Charles Driebe, Manager of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Grammy-winning gospel group

11:00 a.m. – Presentation
$treaming, Spotify and You. Or, Where the Money Goes from Online Streaming Services
What do Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke know that you don’t? Is there a good financial reason to keep your music off of streaming services? Or are you the one who is missing out? Our man from New York, who handles Bruce Springsteen’s online publishing, breaks down the revenue streams from streaming.
Jedd Katrancha, Executive Vice President, Downtown Music Publishing

12:00  p.m. – Keynote Interview
Newport Revived: Jay Sweet
A few short years ago, the Newport Folk Festival was known more for its history than for breaking new acts. Now, after consistently providing the crucial gig that has helped to push dozens of indie bands into the media spotlight, we talk to the talent booker who gave the spark back to the event where Dylan famously went electric.
Jay Sweet, producer of the Newport Folk Festival and executive producer of the Newport Festivals Foundation
Moderator: Dave Margulies, co-producer, High Sierra Music Festival

9:00 a.m. – Registration Opens

10:00 a.m. – Panel Discussion
Busting A Move: S-8ighty On His Trip to a Major Label
Singer/songwriter/producer S-8ighty (Dave Welcome, Jr.) is a New Orleans native who has been working in the hip-hop trenches for years – most notably contributing tracks to albums by Juvenile in 2009 and 2010. After some independent output of his own, he’s signed to a major label and making noise with his song “Halfway,” with a remix that features Li’l Wayne and Mannie Fresh. New Orleans’ favorite hip-hop DJ, Wild Wayne, talks to S-8ighty about his ride so far.
S-8ighty, artist
Moderator: Wild Wayne

11:00 a.m. – Keynote Interview
Managing a Platinum Rap Artist: Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad
Three albums, three Number Ones, more than a million copies sold, headlining arenas – J. Cole has had quite a ride. Along for the entire trip has been Cole’s wingman, Ib Hamad, who has provided the steady hand and calm support that a rising megastar needs. New Orleans’ own rising rap star, Dee-1, talks to Ib about the thrills and challenges of managing a platinum-selling artist.
Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad
Moderator: Dee-1, rap artist

Thursday, April 21: 7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sync Up Cinema + NOVAC’s 3rd Thursday + BYO Storytelling presents:
(Not) For The Money
The things we’re ashamed to say we did for that paper, and/or what we do knowing there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Like shooting a Fruity Pebbles commercial in between making your own doc, even though you didn’t know they still made Fruity Pebbles…or selling your own fruity pebbles… The theme is inspired by this month’s partner, Sync Up Cinema, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s conference that focuses on how to make it in the industry as an indie.

Sync Up Cinema Screenings and Panels:
Monday, April 25, 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 26, 2 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 27, 2:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Our showcase for the Louisiana independent film community features screenings and panel discussions. It’s produced in partnership with the New Orleans Video Access Center and the New Orleans Film Society. For details, see here.

TUESDAY, APRIL 26, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Esplanade Studios, 2540 Esplanade Ave.
Featuring a keynote by Geoff Emerick, recording engineer for the Beatles. Also featuring panels on demystifying mastering and the studio magic of Allen Toussaint. Free admission for Sync Up registrants and Recording Academy members. Detailshere.
9:00 a.m. – Registration Opens

10:00 a.m. – Keynote Interview
Running a Grammy-winning Independent Jazz Record Label: Jana Herzen, founder and CEO, Motema Music
Gregory Porter, Arturo O’Farrill, Geri Allen, Monty Alexander and dozens of other jazz artists entrust their recordings to Jana Herzen, founder of the indie label that gets more Grammy nominations that just about any other. What’s the secret to selling records – and supporting creative artists – in the digital age? Danny Melnick, Producer of the Newport Jazz Festival and other events, interviews Jana to find out.
Jana Herzen, founder and CEO, Motema Music
Moderator: Danny Melnick, President, Absolutely Live Entertainment, and Producer, Newport Jazz Festival

11:00 a.m. – Keynote Interview
Crowdfunding Originator: Brian Camelio, Founder & CEO, ArtistShare
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Pledge Music, GoFundMe – all of them are well-known crowdfunding sites for music and other creative projects. And they all followed – by a long shot – in the footsteps of ArtistShare, which is not only the oldest crowdfunding platform but also the one with (by far) the most Grammy nominations and wins. Founder and CEO Brian Camelio has dedicated his life to helping off-the-beaten-path jazz and classical ventures, providing the kind of support that leads to not just awards but sustainable careers outside of the label system. Now he has a new project up his sleeve – one that he hopes will do for the masses what ArtistShare has done for a select few.

12:00 p.m. – Panel Discussion
Hitting It Big the Old Fashioned Way: The Suffers
A soul band in the age of EDM? A 10-piece that tours even when the money can barely support a trio? How does that happen? The old-fashioned way: By rising to the top of a local scene, hitting key showcases and getting national exposure (thank you, NPR). Still indie (that is, with no record label but their own), the Suffers has management, booking and a publicist – and is playing major festivals around the world. We bring the band and their team together for an inside look at how an unlikely combo – one that started as a reggae jam band – now has the tiger by the tail.
Kam Franklin, lead singer, the Suffers
Adam Casteneda, bass player, the Suffers
Marc C. Austin, The Convoy Group (Suffers’ manager)
Gregg Little, New Frontier Touring

9:00 a.m. – Registration Opens

10:00 a.m. – Panel Discussion
Social Music Platforms: Turning Content into $$
Alex Ebert – best known as the leader of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes – says he releases one album every three years, but in that time may write and record 300 songs. He didn’t want the songs to go unheard, or to deny his fans the chance to pay for the privilege of hearing them. So he built an app for that, Skrapps. Tim Quirk, a veteran of Rhapsody and Google Play, has started a new company, Freeform Development, to help musicians make money the same way game developers do. 
Tim Quirk, Founder & CEO, Freeform
Alex Ebert, Skrapps

11:00 a.m. – Keynote Interview
How to Build a Rap Artist’s Career: The Story of PELL
Born in New Orleans, evacuated after Katrina, the rapper Pell has steadily built the kind of career most indie artists dream about: More than 15 million spins on Spotify, a tour schedule packed with more than 200 gigs a year, and he owns the rights to all of his music. No wonder his web site rhymes with “hell, yeah.” With Pell since the beginning has been Chris Cajoleas, whose own success as a manager has mirrored that of his fast-rising client. We talk to Chris for a peek at what it takes to build a rap artist’s career. 
Chris Cajoleas, Founder & CEO, SWMMNG, manager of PELL

12:00 p.m. – Keynote Interview
Making Money From Artist-Owned Records – Ghazi Shami, Founder & CEO, EMPIRE
You want to put out your own records? You want to keep ownership of your master recordings and publishing? And sell lots of copies and make it onto the Billboard charts? If you’re in hip-hop, R&B, rock, pop, gospel or Latin, you want to talk to Ghazi Shami, founder and CEO of the indie distributor EMPIRE, the San Francisco-based company that launched the career of Kendrick Lamar.



New Orleans Film Society Gala Photos

by Gretchen Erickson


Louisiana International Film Festival & Mentorship Program (LIFF) 2016 Award Winners

by Gretchen Erickson

The 4th Annual Louisiana International Film Festival & Mentorship Program (LIFF) announced the audience award-winners for LIFF 2016 on Sunday night at the Closing Night Gala Reception for the 5-day film festival that premiered over 70 films from around the world and included guest appearances by Christy Turlington Burns, Kelsey Grammer and over 30 filmmakers representing films screened […]

‘Star-Crossed’ Star Johnathon Schaech

by Gretchen Erickson

Johnathon Schaech is a veteran actor and writer from Baltimore, Maryland. His films include That Thing You Do!, How to Make an American Quilt, Quarantine, Takers, 5 Days of War, The Legend of Hercules, and Phantom. His television series include Time of Your Life, The Client List, Ray Donovan, Star-Crossed, Texas Rising, and Blue Bloods. […]

‘Better Call Saul’s’ Rhea Seehorn

by Micah Haley

Rhea Seehorn is a triple threat: beautiful, funny and incredibly smart. After making her Broadway debut in Neil Simon’s 45 Seconds From Broadway, she landed a series regular role on I’m With Her starring Teri Polo. Since relocating to Los Angeles, the mecca of film and television, Seehorn has appeared on The Starter Wife, The […]