MARSHALL, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas college has been the home of some very creative people for the past week.
“Being from New York, it’s a creative city, but I don’t see a lot of creatives that look like me,” said Mason Bleu, a student at the Nate Parker Film Institute. “Being able to come to one program, and everyone here looks like me, it means so much.”
The Nate Park Summer Film Institute is in its fourth year at Wiley College.
“I really believed that this program would empower young people to believe they could impact their communities,” said Nate Parker, co-founder of the Nate Parker Foundation. “I just didn’t realize to the extent they would feel that power and own that power.”
Those involve say the institute isn’t for one specific position.
“We go through classes that involve writing, producing, directing and just a whole bunch of other things that we learn about the creative process,” Bleu said. “This has been the best week of my life and honestly, I mean that wholeheartedly.”
The students are learning to push past stigmas in front of and behind the camera.
“I had to take certain roles just because I was black or ‘you play a good friend number two’,” said King “Camille Ariana Spirlin," a student in the institute. “This taught me I can play that queen. I can play that strong, vulnerable mother in a play. It taught me that there are more roles out there for me, and I have a family that can create those roles for me and vice versa.”
“There is a power in being front and center,” said Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, a casting director in Hollywood who is teaching at the institute. “If we don’t see ourselves in that way then we feel powerless.”
The teachers said they hope what the students learn this week will help them for the rest of their lives.
“If we can birth the nations of storytellers that can address all the problems in our communities, then we wont have to beg for anything. We wont have to go outside of the people that are oppressed to find the solutions for those who are oppressed,” Parker said. “We can become the solutions we’re looking for.”
If you’re interested in watching the films created by the students at the institute, you can do so at the red carpet premiere on Saturday.