AAFCA Member Ronda Racha Penrice Brings a Diverse and Talented Background to the Judges Panel



Growing up with a working class background on the south side of Chicago, for Ronda Racha Penrice, the practical career choice would have been to become a lawyer. However, considering she was a published writer before she even entered eighth grade, you can’t deny her writing skills. While reading and writing were some of the subjects Penrice excelled at as a child, she didn’t consider writing as a viable career until various people in her circle encouraged her writing skills and motivated her to share her opinions.

Post secondary school, Penrice’s collegiate career includes studying in New York and Mississippi. While in grad school at Ole Miss., Penrice heard of an associate editor position available at Rap Pages. She applied, and she got it! Penrice says studying around the country has impacted her in several ways. She reminisced on how studying Their Eyes Were Watching GOD in different parts of the country allowed her to see how people can view text differently, and how different things are important in different parts of the country.

“When I studied in New York, there was probably more focus on Janie’s {the lead character} fulfillment as a person, but in Mississippi, where so many people know scripture, they were able to take out different passages and match it with the scripture, so you look at the author’s intent, differently.” - Ronda Racha Penrice

It wasn’t just reading and writing that interested Penrice. Since she was a child, she always kept track of what was on TV. So, when she got to Rap Pages, it was a perfect fit that one of her duties was to take over the entertainment column. Eventually, people started noticing the column, and as time went on, publicists would invite the publication to screenings and film sets, including A Lesson Before Dying. She also had interview opportunities with a number of actors, including Tamala Jones and Don Cheadle.

While in New York, Penrice frequently attended and judged film, television, and music festivals. When she arrived in Los Angeles to cover the Black Hollywood Education Resource Center, she was afforded numerous opportunities to network and support black films. She had the opportunity to work on many films including Bring It On and Nutty Professor 2. She also continued her work with numerous publications including Honey Magazine, Vibe.com, and Essence. Eventually, the incredible talent and drive of this freelance writer put her on a short list of people to work with Roz Stevenson of Roz Stevenson Public Relations. Stevenson put Penrice in charge of black audience outreach, and the main client was Universal Pictures. The future AAFCA Cultural Critic got recruited again, this time by Upscale Magazine and she relocated to Atlanta, GA.

Penrice’s skills and work ethic expands beyond the seams of America. This historian has been to over 20 countries, but she credits the seven countries she’s visited in Africa as having the most impact on her life.

“Going to multiple countries in Africa and really seeing how diverse the people are...we don’t recognize all the various cultural groups that exist within black people. A lot of times we don’t understand some of the politics. Everywhere I go, I watch TV and I watch film. It’s always amazing to me to go to other countries and see the American content, especially the Black American content. Most recently, in London, {I saw} Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood, {and} an Alabama game in real time. {Even} to see Straight Outta Compton in German...it's very interesting to see how our product is dispersed throughout the world.” - Ronda Racha Penrice

Penrice learned of the I See You Awards® from her work with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). She gives us a little insight into what she will be looking for as a judge for the third annual awards.

“I look at things with a blind eye, because you just never know what you’re going to see. These days, we have greater production value ... people have really great equipment, and they’re shooting things very well, and things make sense.

I look more so for story.” - Ronda Racha Penrice

Penrice knows that filmmakers can get distribution deals in the most unlikely of places. She says “every time you get an opportunity to show your work, you should seize it.” When promoting your film, the former publicist would advise that while people may be eager to try to get to what they think is “bigger”, especially when it comes to publicity, you have to get the people closest to you on board first. “You really have to seize the opportunity to get people galvanized around you on the grassroots level”. She gives the example of when she worked on the film, A Beautiful Mind. She says the general Universal team would reach out to MIT, Princeton, and mathematician groups, because the people who actually knew who the real John Nash was, were mathematicians, and if they didn’t get them on board first, then it would be harder for them to get other people on board.

For filmmakers that our waiting on the right opportunity or for a big company to approach them, this freelance producer says:

“The qualities you have when you’re doing the small stuff, is what defines you when you’re doing the big stuff. So if you’re doing something and you’re holding back because that doesn’t pay as well, or that isn’t big enough, then you're not really going to make it. The kind of care and diligence that I have in my work today, is no different than the care and diligence I had when I was working my summer job at McDonalds. You have to show up all the time; nothing is throwaway (because the impression can come back around). Your work is always the calling card to get to something bigger. So you have to love and take pride in what you do.” - Ronda Racha Penrice

If her resume’ isn’t enough, one conversation with Ronda Racha Penrice will inspire and motivate you at the same time. She is a Speaker, Author, Historian, Cultural Critic, Journalist, and a judge for the 2019 I See You Awards®. While she’s checking out filmmakers’ work for the I See You Awards®, you can check out her incredible work and journey on her website. The I See You Awards® is certainly thrilled to have her on our team!

The third annual I See You Awards® will be held Thursday, August 22 - Sunday, August 25, 2019 at the Emagine Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan. Filmmakers interested in submitting their films and/or getting more information on the event can click here for all the details.

The third annual I See You Awards® are sponsored by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Emagine Entertainment and WWJ Newsradio 950, with additional partners The Lee Group and ES Communications Agency.

For more information on the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), visit their website here.

#RondaRachaPenrice #indiefilm #supportindiefilm #ISeeYouAwards

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