Tanesha Morris is here to shake things up.
Morris, 29, is a local filmmaker from Shreveport-Bossier City, and her plan for the last few years has been to create the Shreveport Urban Film Festival (SUFF).
“For me, it’s just about opportunity — giving a platform for folks like me, especially in the Shreveport area,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of African-American filmmakers out here.”
What spurred the festival was a culmination of things including Morris’s work with the Louisiana Film Prize.
“My experience with the Film Prize for the most part was great,” she said. “The part that was hard for me was going to the award ceremony and when they called everyone on stage, I was the only African American woman up there.”
Morris has a background in film and music with degrees from both Bossier Parish Community College and Full Sail University. She’s written and directed three pieces including Raisin Grans (a documentary in 2015), Ruthless: A Hip Hopera (2016) and Crystalville (2017).
“Movies allow you to escape your own reality. They alter emotions and can change your opinion, your views on life and the world,” said Morris. “I love films because it’s a way to communicate and empathize with others without actually having to go through their situation.”
In 2017, Morris spent a portion of the year working in Los Angeles, something she said she would never forget.
“Hollywood is more racist than the 1950s south,” she said, recalling walking into a casting office where she was the only African American in the room. “I could tell I was out of place.”
That only fueled her fire, and earlier this year she announced she would be creating northwest Louisiana’s first Shreveport Urban Film Festival.
“It’s going a bit faster than I expected. I’m excited to bring it to the area,” she said.
SUFF is a one-day event on July 28 that focusses on the film and filmmakers rather than a competition style festival. So far, she says she has about 40 films ready to showcase (which is about seven hours of footage). Submissions have come from not only Shreveport-Bossier City, but Nevada, New York and California as well.
“I think it’s important to have that opportunity for African American creators to come here and be shown here. And also, for the creators here to be shown, to cross network,” she said. “There is talent all across America.”