Photo by Kobina DeGraft Johnson

The Reel Effect hosted its first film screening event on April 20th with a diverse group of filmmakers of color. The screening called A Reel High Film Screening featured nine short films that incorporated cannabis in some way, or were comedic shorts, because who does not want to laugh on the biggest smoking day of the year. The event featured weed vendors and a special event sponsor that offered their business space for FREE for filmmakers to shoot their next production at. Meet our filmmakers below and get a sneak peak at their short films! Also, take a look at our event recap photos here and make sure you sign up for The Reel Effect newsletter for upcoming events, film news, and production resources!

Mo Rabbani – Tom Freeman Of The North

Biography – Bangladeshi born, and Brooklyn bred, Mo Rabbani is a filmmaker with an eye for revolution. Tired of the status quo being maintained by the people of yesterday, Mo left his position as an editor at a commercial production company for four years to go freelance and start his own production company, Mukti Pictures. With the intent to create more films that will ignite change. Mukti is an ancient Bengali word that means “spiritual freedom”, Mo’s life mantra. 

Film Synopsis – A film crew follows the lives of Tom and Desean Freeman, two diametrically opposed young brothers living in a rapidly gentrifying Harlem. While Desean tries to fight displacement, Tom welcomes it, so that the new residents can “Make Harlem Great Again”… whatever that means.

Social Media – @mo.the.director

Chanel Dupree – “Next Step” and “Black Retail”

Biography – Chanel Dupree is an award winning screenwriter and director based in Brooklyn, NY. Her film “Next Stop” won her Best Female Director, it currently streams on The New York Times rated streaming service “NoBudge”. Winner of “Spec That Scene”, Fellow of BRIC Screenwriting Lab Fellowship, Finalist for Women Write Now and BLACK BOY/GIRL WRITES, Chanel’s web series “Black Retail” premiered in Toronto in 2023, she is dedicated to bringing authentic black stories to screen.

Film Synopsis –  

Black Retail: Twenty is too far away and thirty is too damn close, Black Retail follows three millennial friends navigating the ebbs and flows of adultin’ all while working in the hair pulling world of retail.

Next Stop: Next Stop is a surrealistic dark comedy following a woman’s return back home after unfortunate circumstances. 

Social Media – @artisticlaughter  @Chanel_Dupree93 

Gaelyn D. Smith – Chasing Viral “The Cyph”

Photo by Michael Kushner

Biography – Gaelyn D. Smith is your next favorite Hollywood multi-hyphenate. She is a writer, actor, and creative producer. She received her BFA in Acting from Syracuse University, earning the Marcia Mohr Award for Excellence in Dramatic Acting. Her theatre credits include: Clyde’s at Studio Theatre, How Old is a Hero? at the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theatre, The Women of the Plums at the Howard Theatre, For Colored Girls, Good Kids, and The Women at Syracuse University.

She has also written a one-woman show called Something Like… This. She is an accomplished spoken word artist, winning Grand Slam Champion of the DC Youth Slam Team (2016) and other awards. She is also a graduate of the Television, Radio, and Film Graduate program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

She won the Gordon J. Alderman Award for Excellence in Television, Radio, and Film for her half-hour dramedy Chasing Viral. The script was a Finalist in the One-Eyed Rabbit Black Screenwriter’s Grant (2021) and a Quarterfinalist in the Shore Scripts TV Pilot Contest (2021). She is the Co-Host of the
No Sleep Till Hollywood podcast, discussing her favorite shows, industry news, and
issues of representation on her journey to becoming an industry game-changer.

Film Synopsis – It is the first day of school at Nicholls High, and Jazzy, Boogie, Tyra, Kyshawn, and
Jared are ready to take on senior year. Before school starts, Jazzy, Boogie, Tyra,
Kyshawn, and Jared excitedly prepare for their first day of school and give us a peek
into their home lives. When the crew meets up after school, an afternoon in the park
quickly transitions from shooting a Zip-Zap to smoking a joint. Jazzy brings up her
idea of starting a creator crew and making content that showcases their talents and
skills to build a following and financial security. Will Jazzy’s dreams of turning her
friend group into a creator crew manifest?

Social Media – Instagram @gsmittyyyy, @chasing_viral, @nosleepxprod, Tik Tok @g_smittyyyy

Leanne Velednitsky – Bike Thief

Biography – Leanne Velednitsky is an actor, comedian, and creator of things and owns 35 board games. When she’s not creating masterpieces for the internet, you can see her performing characters, stand-up, and clown all over the world* (*NY and LA). She hopes you enjoy her film. It is, unfortunately, based on the true event of four bikes being stolen from her in NYC. Life is crazy like that!

Film Synopsis – After her bike is stolen, a heartbroken girl scours Los Angeles in hopes of reuniting with her one true love.

Social Media – @leannevely @yjlu @arisaolazabal

Henry Amharai – Tales From The Mandem

Biography – Filmmaker, Henry Amharai, is passionate about uncovering and elevating the diverse experiences of the multicultural landscape of his city. The Toronto-based Eritrean-Canadian brings a distinct and affective blend of comedy and complex realities to his writing and directing. His production company, Lost People Pictures, was born from a commitment to unite and build community, within the often disorienting and marginalizing spaces of contemporary society.

A Film Studies graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University, Henry went on to study sketch comedy with The Second City Training Centre, and the elements of series creation through the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT). Henry’s directorial debut, Share (2017) – a comedic short film which he starred in, wrote, directed, and produced – was well received by online audiences and lauded as a selection of the 2020 Social Distance Film Festival. His second short film, an award-winning mock thriller entitled Tales from the Mandem debuted in the fall of 2022 to public and critical acclaim.

Today, you can find Henry working on his much-anticipated third short film, Meron – an introspective homage to his Eritrean roots that uses surrealism to critique toxic masculinity and cultural dissonance. In line with his commitment to broadening diasporic representation in mainstream art, Henry hopes to develop his latest project into a series for TV/streaming.

The best stories are about people who are hilariously flawed, but perhaps misunderstood and certainly deserving of empathy. – Henry Amharai

Film Synopsis – On a Wes Craven typa night, Toronto wasteman, Grungy, ventures out into the darkness tryna find some munchies.

Social Media – @talesfromthemandem @lostpeoplepictures

Christopher Williams – Tales From Da Ville

Biography – Christopher D’andre Williams is a actor/filmmaker based in New York City. He has created short films such as “Relentless Scoundrels”and “The audition” to name a few. He recently completed his First Feature film “Dangerous People ” which is now streaming on Tubi. He continues to make films for the culture and entertainment.

Film Synopsis – Horror/Fantasy- A anthology series where a Count of Brooklyn tells three witches scary stories that deal with social horrors. 

Social media – @Christopher.Williams.779 

Deanna Griffin – The Car Ride

Biography – Deanna Griffin is an Atlanta Cinematographer & Camera Operator who loves to tell short-form stories. As a filmmaker, Deanna’s mission is to tell the stories of underrepresented communities that deserve light shed on them. Her interests are telling coming-of-age stories, advocacy projects that help uplift communities & areas that need a voice, and creating branded content & commercials.

Film Synopsis – A young woman enjoys the open road singing along to old jams with an unsuspected surprise from her ex-boyfriend.

Social Media – @deannaxnicole 

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Meah Denee

Meah is the Founder and Host of The Reel Effect; your go-to entertainment news site for all things black entertainment news. Our mission is to showcase not only television, film and celebrity news but also the work of indie filmmakers and artists. Follow her work at www.youtube.com/ Learn more about her at www.meahdenee.com

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