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Inaugural ‘I See You Awards’ held in honor of low-budget independent filmmakers

Inaugural 'I See You Awards' held in honor of low-budget independent filmmakers
Founder Terri J. Lee, Jalen Crawford, Sylvia Crawford, Jordan Crawford, Joe Crawford Jr. (back row), guest, Braylon Crawford (pink), Cristen Metoyer (Photo credit: Tonya Shirelle)

The first annual I See You Awards® was recently held in Detroit at the Bel Air Luxury Cinema. The awards program was specifically designed for low-budget independent filmmakers and was created to be a black-tie, Hollywood-styled awards affair where attendees could walk the blue carpet, network with like-minded people, and be honored with awards. One special award in particular, the Hollywood Excellence Award, was presented to the well-known award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who started her career as an independent filmmaker. DuVernay was honored in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments in Hollywood and for her passion for helping others succeed in the business.

The awards program was created by Terri J. Lee, a professional film critic and a member of the prestigious Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the largest film critics group in the United States and Canada. In addition to being a film critic, Lee is an independent filmmaker so she easily understands firsthand the challenges that independent filmmakers face as they work to bring their projects to the big screen. After years of reviewing movies for all of the major Hollywood studios, Lee noticed that there was a void for small independent filmmakers. She felt that producers of low-budget independently produced movies deserved recognition for their films as well. The awards were sponsored by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Bel Air Luxury Cinema, Emagine Entertainment, ES Communications Agency, Franklin Publicity, Pro Cam, Srodek’s Campau Quality Sausage, Co., Randazzo Formal Wear, The Lee Group and WWJ Newsradio 950.

Rolling out chatted with Lee about the inspiration behind creating the awards program and to also find out what one could expect during the ceremony. Check out the interview below. Drop a line or two in the comments section.

Tell us about the I See You Awards, and what it is and why you developed it.

The I See You Awards is a unique awards program that I created for low budget independent filmmakers. I created it because I really saw a need. A few years ago, I was working on my low budget, independent, short film, and I realized then how much hard work it took to make a film. I had never done anything as hard before in my life, and I’m a hard worker. Anybody that knows me will tell you that I’m a hard worker. I wasn’t going to shy away from it, it was just an experience that’s unlike any other. I also am film critic and when I thought about it I said, “You know what? There is not an awards [program] that recognizes low budget independent film makers.” And I get to vote, as a film critic, in a lot of the awards programs like SAG-AFTRA, like the Critics Choice which is put on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the African American Film Critics Association, so I get to vote in several awards programs. And it’s nothing against these awards programs, but a lot of times those awards programs recognize major Hollywood players, and that’s fantastic because they deserve to be awarded, but I think that the low budget independent film makers deserve to be recognized too. And that’s how I came up with the idea.

That sounds wonderful because I don’t think there is anything else out there like it.

No, it’s not. I mean there are things that. There are thousands and thousands of film festivals and they recognize people. But I wanted something where people can come and walk the carpet. And a lot of the times we walk the red carpet, and we love it. But mine is a blue carpet and we came up with the blue carpet because the logo is blue  and I wanted something different, that stood apart.

There was a movie screening associated with the awards program too. Tell us about that.

We had 12 films that we screened and it was a combination of short films and feature films. The reception that we got from the film makers and the audience that was in attendance was phenomenal. People were just thrilled. The filmmakers couldn’t say enough nice things about the event. They were just so happy to be able to see their films on the big screen. For many of them, this was the first time for them. It was awesome.

What should one expect to experience during the awards show?

The first thing they’re going to see is the blue carpet. We want people to come in, walk the blue carpet, the step and repeat is behind you, just like you see in the major Hollywood shows, and you get to mingle with your friends, and make new friends and acquaintances. There’s time for networking as well. Then after that, we’ll go into the theater to start the awards program. We have some fantastic co-hosts, Cristen Metoyer, a basketball wife will be there co-hosting, along with Revon Yousif, who is an up-and-coming actor, he mostly worked for “Empire.” Then we have some other presenters that will be presenting to the winners. I think that we’re going to make some people very, very happy. We’ll also have a script doctor, who is one of our sponsor who’s going to be there and he’s anxious to talk to people about their scripts and how he can help them. So, it’s just going to be an awesome time.

The awards are a refreshing event for the city that will hopefully attract major players in the future.

The awards are coming along at the right time for the city of Detroit too because the city is experiencing a rebirth and this is something brand new, never been seen here in Detroit — or anywhere for that matter — so I think it’s a perfect time for it.

Where can we find more information?

I have a website, which is and we also have our FaceBook page which is I See You Awards, we’re on Twitter, we’re on IG. Then you can also find me on FaceBook at Terri J. Lee or just Terri Lee. I also have an entertainment page through my fulll time at WWJ, as a film credit. If you google it, it’ll pop up as well.

Photo gallery credit Tonya Shirelle (except where noted otherwise):

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