Film collective zooms in on Bronx with new show

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When Harri “Indio” Ramkishun read and responded to a call to start a Bronx filmmakers group five years ago, the Riverdale resident felt like everything was finally starting to fall into place.

“I was able to see that Batman signal,” he said. “I knew from then and there I wanted to be part of it, and more importantly, be able to help develop the group to what it is now.” 

The Batman signal was coming from his co-founder, Hannah Leshaw, who was looking for like-minded local filmmakers to join a group where they could share ideas, give constructive criticism and hone their craft. 

That initial meeting between Ramkishun and Leshaw turned out to be the start of the Bronx Filmmakers Collective. Now with about 24 members, the collective meets monthly at the Bronx Documentary Center on Courtlandt Avenue, many of them ready to dive into script-reading, analyze rough cuts of work, and hear lectures from others in the film industry.

These filmmakers come from all walks of life, possessing interests in different types of film — even television — that doesn’t make any one meeting the same.

“There’s a mixed bag with the stories and the locations” they bring in, Ramkishun said. “But many of the filmmakers focus on having the Bronx as one of the characters, including myself. Whenever I get a chance to show areas of the Bronx, I will.”

The group debuted its show “The Bronx Filmmakers Collective Presents” on the cable access channel BronxNet. Ramkishun hosts the program, packaging each episode into a theme that ranges from celebrating female filmmakers to showcasing comedic films from members of the group. He hopes to expand the series to include filmmakers across the tri-state area.

Although the collective attracts Bronx natives, filmmakers like Benedict Campbell — a new member of the group — were drawn in because of its intimate size. Campbell moved to the Bronx this past year after 15 years of jumping around New York City. He said joining the collective has opened him up to going out and meeting people in the borough.

“The more times that I’ve (moved), the more important I feel it is to feel a sense of community in a very large city,” Campbell said. “It’s really important and valuable for me to know my neighborhoods and get to know other people who work in my profession who also live in the same community as me.”

As a filmmaker focused on producing fictional movies, Campbell doesn’t focus on other media or genres like television or documentary films. But the collective has taught him to open himself to learning about the work that goes into them.

“I love being exposed to it,” Campbell said. “I love reading it, and if I did have an idea for one of those types of things, I do have some level of familiarity with it.”

These days, Ramkishun said he’s seen the group grow into a family that bickers out of love, based on the feedback they give each other to grow and develop as filmmakers. 

“It’s motivated and inspired me as a filmmaker as well because you see other people that” have the same goals, he said. “And then there’s that camaraderie” when you try to accomplish them. 

Aside from the nuts and bolts of creating a film, the Bronx Filmmakers Collective still has a core mission to celebrate the Bronx in any way they can — especially on film.

“We want to be able to show the Bronx in its vibrancy,” Ramkishun said. “We’re trying to break the mold of what the Bronx is to many people. We’re essentially a city of 1.4 million people. Bad stuff does happen. 

“But that’s not who we are. We have stories that are engaging, that are beautiful stories. And that’s what we’re hoping to really put out there as a collective.”

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