Aug. 2



Securing the Bag with Immersive Storytelling

Presented by Crux

This panel is a discussion of the opportunities for Black filmmakers in the immersive (XR) space.  How do we get started making immersive content? What are the opportunities for monetizing and retaining control of our work? Alton Glass is an award-winning director and educator working primarily in virtual reality. Tahir Hemphill’s work sits at the intersection of art, technology, social engagement, and interdisciplinary research. As an interactive producer, funder and public programmer, Opeyemi Olukemi creates spaces for interdisciplinary artists, communities, and content teams to experiment with innovative work. Hear directly from these creators at the forefront of digital storytelling as they share excerpts of their work and their experiences.

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Alton Glass

Filmmaker, Co-Founder, GRX Immersive labs

Alton Glass is a visionary entrepreneur who leads a team of new media gurus tackling contemporary issues through immersive storytelling. They create enterprises based on VR, AR, and formats not yet envisioned while prioritizing community capacity building to ensure that under-resourced communities have access to new technology, tools, and training. After producing and directing feature films, Glass founded Glassrock Entertainment, which utilizes emerging media technologies to transform the consumer experience. Over the past 10 years, Glassrock made a name for itself through successful and impactful entertainment and advertising campaigns created for Fortune 500 companies. In 2018, Glass launched GRX Immersive Labs, a creative technology studio and R&D lab with a dedicated focus on virtual reality storytelling and immersive journalism. GRX is blazing a trail to ensure that the diverse media makers of the future maximize their potential as leaders, creators, and innovators in virtual reality and immersive narrative platforms to sustain and amplify systemic and narrative change for a more racially-just and equitable society. Alton Glass’ recognitions include the Best Director nomination for the African Movie Academy Awards. He is an Accenture “Breakout Star of The Year” for Tech Innovation award; an alumni of Facebook’s Oculus Launch Pad, and of the Google VR180 Lab for immersive content creators. Glass premiered his virtual reality movie, A Little Love, at the 2017 American Black Film Festival in partnership with CNN VR, and his feature film CRU netted Best Film and Best Director awards at the 2014 American Black Film Festival Independent Film Awards.

Tahir Hemphill

Creative Director, Creative Strategist, Rap Research Lab

Tahir Hemphill is a creative technologist whose practice investigates the role systems play in the generation of form and the role collaborative knowledge production plays in the resilience of communities. Tahir uses computational analysis to draw out what is usually unseeable in the semantic structures within large bodies of archival text. Coming of age in the 1980’s Tahir divided his time between practicing different elements of Hip-hop culture and exploring cyberspace with a dial up modem. Today, Tahir considers Community-focused Open Source to be the theoretical framework that supports these two early educational influences, and it fuels the tension between his reverence for traditional models of scientific inquiry and the critical reflection he applies to creative technology projects. As a result, Tahir’s work straddles art, technology and archival research. The frameworks that support these influences are synthesized into his current creative pursuits at the Rap Research Lab, where they catalyze critical discourse through the production of VR, AI, and community data projects. To do this, Tahir leads cross-functional teams of artists, radical educators, narrative designers, software developers and researchers who explore rap music as a text to pressure notions of identity, race, gender, class, place, and justice in our modern era.

Opeyemi Olukemi

Executive Producer, POV Spark; Vice President, Interactive at American Documentary

Opeyemi Olukemi, Executive Producer of POV Spark and VP of Interactive leads the innovation arm of the nonfiction film program POV. Throughout her career as an interactive producer, funder and public programmer, Opeyemi has created spaces and pipelines for interdisciplinary artists, communities, and creative teams to experiment and create meaningful innovative content. She is a fierce advocate of technological equity and eliminating bias from social innovation. Before joining POV, Opeyemi was the Senior Director of Interactive Programs for Tribeca Film Institute, produced for ScrollMotion and has served as an assistant professor of Integrated Media at Brooklyn College’s Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Opeyemi has served on numerous festival juries and has mentored through the IDFA’s Doc Academy, New Museum’s NEW INC and Oculus’ VR for Good. She is a proud Rockwood (Ford Foundation) JustFilms Fellow.

Javier Torres

Program Director, Thriving Cultures Program, Surdna
Javier Torres serves as Program Director of the Thriving Cultures program overseeing a $9 million grantmaking portfolio seeking to advance the Foundation’s social justice mission. His career has been committed to building just and sustainable communities in partnership with artists and culture/tradition bearers.
Prior to joining Surdna, Javier served as the Director of National Grantmaking at ArtPlace America. In his role, he was responsible for building a comprehensive set of demonstration projects that illustrated the many ways in which arts and culture can strengthen the processes and outcomes of the planning and development field across the United States. Under his leadership, the National Creative Placemaking Fund at ArtPlace supported 279 creative placemaking projects totaling $86.4 million across 46 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Prior to ArtPlace, Javier was Senior Program Officer for Arts and Culture at the Boston Foundation where he led an exploration of the role of culture as a tool for transformation, sustainability, and as central to the development of vibrant communities. Javier also spent six years as the Director of Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, a program of IBA, a community based multi-disciplinary arts complex that operates as a regional presenter and local programmer for Latino arts.
Javier has served as a board member for Grantmakers in the Arts and an advisory board member for the Design Studio for Social Intervention. He also previously served as a board member for the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, MASSCreative, was a member of the MA Governor’s Creative Economy Council and Chair for the Boston Cultural Council.


Dafina McMillan

Co-Founder, Crux

Dafina McMillan has spent her career at the intersection of technology, arts management, philanthropy and communications. In addition to co-founding Crux, she has launched a thriving consulting business providing facilitation, program management and hiring support to clients including artEquity, 516 ARTS and the City of Albuquerque. Dafina was previously a program officer on the arts team of Bloomberg Philanthropies, where she managed Bloomberg Connects, a digital engagement initiative, and the Arts Innovation and Management program (AIM), a capacity-building supporting more than 260 small and mid-sized arts organizations in six U.S. cities. She also served as the Director of Communications & Conferences for Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national service organization for not-for-profit theatre. In 2012, Dafina was integral in launching TCG’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative to support organizations and artists nationwide. Prior to joining TCG, Dafina served as the Associate Managing Director of Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN. She’s held numerous leadership positions at global public relations agency GCI Group (now Cohn & Wolfe) in New York, and consulted with the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on marketing and community engagement initiatives. Dafina is an alumna of the Kennedy Center’s International Arts Management Fellowship in Washington, D.C. She is a proud native of Houston, Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She serves as Vice Chair of Coronado Ventures Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she resides.