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    Posted November 12, 2013 by
    New York City, New York
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    Convention Honors Action Cinema Pioneers and Inspires Next Wave of Creators - Part 1 of 6


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    Here are links to all sections of this report, with additional photos:

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6


    Saturday I attended the First Annual Urban Action Showcase Convention & Awards (UAS), which was part of a three day film festival, film & comics competition, and vendor expo. The event, held at the New York Hilton and AMC 42nd Street Theatres, advocates ethnic diversity in the film & television industries, focusing on the action genre. The event unspools through a series of workshops, panel discussions and screenings, all celebrating established, as well as up-and-coming men & women in the industry.


    UAS is an example of how changes in mainstream film distribution have lead to grassroots innovation in independent media, both on and offline, creating new opportunities for independent filmmakers. The potential to set the Urban Action Showcase apart from other film workshop events lies in UAS founder Demetrius Angelo's focus on action filmmaking, a genre that holds 9 out of the top 10 spots for the highest grossing movies of all time. It was also a benefit to invite established entertainers to inspire and mentor attendees.


    I was very impressed with the scale of the inaugural UAS, given its resources. Angelo's company, Action Scene Combat Productions, was able to convince a number of trailblazing performers to take part in the weekend's activities, including: former Miss Teen USA & Miss Hawaii Kelly Hu from X-Men 2 & The WB TV show Arrow, who famously went toe to toe with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine; Michael Jai White, who brought "badass" to the characters Spawn & Black Dynamite; Football legend Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, who lit up 1970's cinema in roles such as Three the Hard Way and Black Caesar; filmmaker Ben Ramsey - who directed White in the indie action hit Blood and Bone; Taimak - who skyrocketed to stardom in the cult favorite Motown-produced martial arts film The Last Dragon; and Ron Van Clief - the iconic martial artist who - after becoming dissatisfied with the roles being offered in the U.S. during the late 1960's - became one of the first Americans to become an action superstar in Asia. They all took part in a unique industry panel on Saturday moderated by filmmaker Warrington Hudlin, where they offered advice based on their own experiences. Ben Ramsey and Undisputed II director Isaac Florentine, also held separate filmmaking workshops for student and professional attendees.


    Many martial artists supported the event, including: Michael Woods, who has appeared with Donnie Yen in a number of films; O'Sensei Felix Vazquez, a top student of the late Professor Ronald Duncan, the first American master of Ninjutsu; Oso Tayari Casel, a well-respected competition fighter; Master Mahaliel Bethea, who's also a writer, actor and stuntman; Grandmaster Ernest Hyman; Grandmaster George Logan; Richard Hopkins, from the Philadelphia area; Sifu Cliff Kupper from Atlantic City; and former pro boxer Demetrius "Oaktree" Edwards.


    Another panel I attended was "Angels of Action," moderated by Troopers Touch Films founder La'Mard Wingster. During the panel, the female stars of Troopers Touch film projects, including Ellen Mah, Tina Duong, Kylie Fox, Teresa Nash, Trace Lysette, Jessica Locke, Denise Christine, Aimée Watson, Jeanna Lue and more, talked about the rigors of training, doing their own stunts, and developing projects.


    Everyone I met at UAS had an infectious passion for the entertainment industry, fueling their desire to attend, learn and participate in the many professional events that took place throughout the weekend. Robert Garrett - an independent comics writer I previously met at the Schomburg Center’s Black Comic Book Festival - premiered his short film Inheritors at UAS. The Chidi Ozieh-directed Inheritors is a live action adaptation of Garrett's comic of the same name. Raymond Ruiz and Anthony Lolli were hyped up about their film Brotherhood: Code of the Streetz, produced by Luminary 76 & starring Cory Thompson and Eddie Jones, screening at UAS, giving them a creative outlet opposite their day jobs as real estate agents at Rapid Realty in Brooklyn. I also had the opportunity to speak with some of the young actors, writers and stuntmen looking to break into the industry, such as Amityville, New York-based personal trainer Kevin Logan, who said he attends as many professional events as he can, with the hope of meeting the right producer, with the right opportunity, at the right time. Logan entered the industry after a stint at Officer's Candidate School, bringing a sense of discipline to his journey within the industry. I also spoke with Khalil Maasi, who hails from a distinguished lineage in martial arts, yet dedicates his focus to becoming a successful screenwriter. Maasi had a screenplay in competition at UAS.


    As the vendor expo wound down, the final event of the day was an awards ceremony for winners of the Film Festival, Best Indie Comic and Action Legend Awards. As guests streamed into the AMC Empire Theatre in Times Square, spoken word artist Rochelle Miller, a.k.a. "La Chocolate Box," and DPTV, interviewed many of the nominees and guests. Kelly Hu, Michael Jai White, Fred Williamson, Taimak, Ron Van Clief and Ben Ramsey, were all honored with Legacy, Action Legend and Cult Cinema Awards. The late Jim Kelly was posthumously honored with a video clip tribute and award, honoring his pioneering career in 1970's cinema.


    Overall, there was a lot of positive energy at the First Annual Urban Action Showcase and I look forward to seeing the event grow next year, when organizers promise to return larger.


    The next major event on the east coast celebrating action cinema and martial arts will be Alan Goldberg's Action Magazine Hall of Honors, which returns to the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, from January 24 - 26th, 2014. The Hall of Honors is considered the largest event of its kind, attracting hundreds of celebrities & some of the best martial artists in the U.S., for a weekend of tournaments, workshops and panels. The 2014 event will also add a major MMA tournament to the proceedings.

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