A coffee chat with the leaders of the Pegasus Film Festival: Grayson Micaela, Daviah Harrison, CJ Camot, and Lucy Roberts

Now in its sixth year, the Pegasus Film Festival is a part of the newly formed Pegasus Media Project (PegasusMediaProject.com) by educators and professional filmmakers Niloo Jalilvand and Glenys Quick. The event is open to students (from kindergarten through graduating high school seniors) around the globe and will be held online on Saturday, May 22, at 7 pm. No matter where the students and their family and friends live, they will be able to view their work along with their peers.

An organization run by students, for students, Pegasus Film Festival has also continued its partnership with FilmFreeway, a platform for filmmakers to submit their creations to established and trusted festivals around the world.

Outlander: What inspired you to found the Pegasus Media Project/Pegasus Film Festival? How did it come to be? 

Niloo Jalilvand (founder of PFF): In 2010, I had been an instructor at  Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts, in Dallas, Texas, for roughly 10 years. I was thrilled, as some of my students were advancing to Ivy League schools and majoring in not only science (which I taught, along with math) related fields but also in film and Technology-based arts. As happy as I was, however, I was also a witness to the lack of resources and support that other talented and driven youth, who did not attend booker T., did not seem to have. I remember seeing some of those same rejected students at film competitions where my students were taking away all the awards and it was obvious that those students who did not win those awards had the potential, and with a little guidance and direction they would have easily won as well. So, I began thinking about extending my guidance outside of Booker T., and eventually, the Pegasus Summer Film program started, where students from all over DFW came and made films, along with my own students from Booker T. At the time I was also the director of Flicks by Chicks, Women in Film, a female-fronted film festival, and also served as a board member on several arts organizations, so I reached out to those within the networks and began fundraising and putting together the Pegasus Film Festival to showcase the works that were being created. The goal was to give the first-hand experience to students in order to learn real-life lessons, experience, and create opportunities, and with dedication, it turned into what it is today.

O: What makes Pegasus Film Festival unique from all of the other film festivals? 

Pegasus Team: Pegasus Film Festival is a festival for student filmmakers, by student filmmakers, where the students themselves are the biggest priority. It’s a comfortable, family-style film festival, open internationally, that values the creation and collaboration of filmmaking rather than competition, and is a safe place for people to grow as both students and filmmakers. The commitment to the students above anything else sets Pegasus apart from other festivals. 

O: Are there any filmmakers that you look up to, whether it be someone who motivated you to begin your careers or someone whose work inspires you today? 

PT: As a team, we talk about filmmakers a lot, we even started a new series this year called “Cinematic Conversations” where we talk about important films from a filmmaking perspective, and the conversations run from works that are notable, to works that are important in our society and culture(s), and especially works that are relevant to our festival and the core values that we uphold. But, the films and filmmakers that we always end up coming back to, are the films created by indie and independent filmmakers, who are just like us. There are too many great ones to name, but the filmmakers that started from nothing, who do all aspects of filmmaking, who pour their heart and soul into the project, are the films and filmmakers that inspire all of us to continue doing Pegasus. 

O: In the six years since the Pegasus Film Festival began, you’ve surely seen many films from upcoming creators. Is there one in particular that stands out to you? And if so, why? 

PT: In the six years of the Pegasus Film Festival, we have seen a large number of films come through, from all different categories. Pegasus hosts, and has always hosted, a broad range of categories to be shown every year, which allows for a multitude of films to be shown, and artistry to be recognized. With that large range, there are so many films from so many different artists, that are notable. The ones that consistently get talked about throughout the years though are the meaningful stories that are not expected. Every year, there is always a film or two that stands out in terms of emotional content, with a hidden core message, and a composition style that surprises the audience. Those are the films we always look for and eventually end up conversing about later down the line.

O: What is your favorite part of organizing the film festival? 

PT: Most of the team’s favorite part of the festival is the genuine networking and collaboration that happens with peers who have the same goals. As a team, students learn how to put on a film festival from the ground up, everything is up to the leaders, from ticket prices to the films that are shown–all of it is created and implemented by the team, with adult guidance when needed. There is also always enjoyment in judging all of the films and seeing how creative the filmmakers are. The work that is produced is truly amazing, and being hands-on is just the icing on the cake. 

O: Has this festival always been held online, and if not, has converting the platform to completely virtual posed any challenges for you?

PT: We actually switched to online last year, which was more of a challenge because of how unexpected the change was. It was just another curveball, in the madness that was 2020. This year, however, we were prepared and had time to think of new strategies. Being completely virtual has allowed the team to communicate efficiently and has helped us bond more over time. It also has opened up the opportunity for more filmmakers to find PFF, such as our international friends. Without the virtual aspect, they would not normally be able to attend the screening or invite any of their friends and family, but because it is all online, there’s an increase in accessibility and out-of-the-box ways we can all come together as a community.

O: Could you talk a little bit about your partnership with FilmFreeway? 

PT: Absolutely! FilmFreeway has been a staple in the film festival circuit for years, and we are so lucky to be able to partner with them once again for this year’s festival. FilmFreeway does a huge service to film festivals of all sorts, not just Pegasus, and is widely acclaimed as a staple partner, who encourages festivals to expand beyond their normal means of production, allowing filmmakers to submit their films directly onto their website, where the festival can gather all submitted information, for screenings and press. FilmFreeway works as a sort of front-desk clerk, maintaining all the records and films that are submitted so that show-runners can manage other aspects of the festival, while still maintaining a level of professionalism. 

O: Who else are your partners? 

PT: We are also partnered with Falcon Events, which is the streaming platform that we use and has helped us continue our festival during the pandemic, when we were unsure if it was going to be possible, due to everything changing. We are so thankful to Josh and the Falcon Event team for being a part of the Pegasus family, for allowing us the opportunity to both promote Falcon Events, as well as continue to host Pegasus Film Festival, simultaneously. We also have a partnership with Dallas College, and a few theaters/organizations in the Dallas area (check our website for the full list). 

O: What are you looking forward to as the film festival grows? 

PT: Hands down, watching the next generation of filmmakers step into their artistic power, and continue to tell their stories to the world. That is the entire mission of Pegasus, to inspire the next generation to tell their stories, and to give them a place to do so, so they have the resume credit, and the exposure to go on and continue to tell their important stories to the world. As Pegasus grows, we hope that the love for filmmaking only continues to grow with us and that the filmmakers of the future, look back on their time at Pegasus fondly, and with the knowledge that they can do anything, because we all have a Pegasus within us, if only we spread our wings. 

O: The 2021 festival is coming up on May 22nd. Is there anything we need to know beforehand about the festival? What can we expect? 

Yes, May 22nd at 7 pm CST! Tickets will be on sale after our submissions close May 4th, and can be bought off of our website as soon as they’re live.

As for what to expect: It will be roughly a two-hour event, packed full of endless cinematic entertainment, a Q&A panel for the filmmakers, as well as an awards ceremony. There will be more information released on our social media closer to the day, so keep an eye out and get ready to watch some films! And make sure to give some extra love to Outlander, for the work they’re doing while you’re checking out Pegasus Film Festival!

Thank you so much to Grayson Micaela, Daviah Harrison, CJ Camot, and Lucy Roberts from the Pegasus Film Festival team for sitting down to chat with us in the midst of preparing for the festival!

If you are interested in checking out their past work, purchasing tickets for the May 22nd event, or getting in the loop with all things Pegasus Film Festival, please check out their website (www.pegasusfilmfestival.com/) and their Instagram (www.instagram.com/pegasusfilmfestival/).

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