A day or two before Sharee and I left to volunteer for Sundance Film Festival we got notified that we were selected to be seat fillers for the 48th Annual NAACP Image Awards hosted by Black-ish Anthony Anderson in Pasadena, CA(outside Los Angeles). We were already in the area to attend a UCLA Extension Entertainment Studies networking event. Only 350 seat fillers out of 4000 requests were selected. Each person allowed one guest. We were so ecstatic to be in close proximity to the cast of Survivor Remorse, Empire, Underground, Queen Sugar, Black-ish, Fences, and Hidden Figures.
On the day of February 11 we got to the Pasadena Civic Center at 2:30pm. We were informed prior that no cellphones were allowed. However, an exception was made for us because Uber was our transportation for our time in Los Angeles, CA. Although we had to stand in line two hours in a parking garage, it was worth the wait. We were selected to be in the first few rows to fill in empty seats and/or until celebrities arrive for their seat. Sharee was position in the middle of row seven while I was positioned on the end of row six(5 rows behind Denzel Washington). Denzel took the 1st Image Award for Best Actor for Fences. We were so proud of his inspirational speech. Denzel talked of filmmaker Barry Jenkins shooting 10 short films before his feature Moonlight. He said, "So never give up. Without commitment, you’ll never start. But more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish.”
During commercial breaks it was a large scale musical chair game of seat fillers sitting in empty seats and replacing celebrities as they went onto the stage. Seat fillers are important because when the camera comes upon the audience the seats are not empty. In the meantime during commercial breaks the celebrities themselves got out of their seats and were greeting each other like a family reunion. There was so much love of them congratulating each other on what they have achieved the previous year/recent weeks or meeting each other for the first time.
Although I eventually went to the upper level of the Pasadena Civic Center, I was so thankful to be in presence of these entertainers and being in the moment. They are like you and me. Only they are seen in the spotlight. We later took pictures outside the Pasadena Civic Center with many of the celebs taking pictures right alongside us. Sharee, who is a huge fan of This is Us commented later if I saw the cast as we were taking pictures. She was beaming. Next year we are looking at being seat fillers for the Grammy's in New York and we would love to be seat fillers again for the 49th Annual NAACP Awards.
What activity have you done recently in which you truly enjoyed the moment?
It's been a few weeks since we've posted in the blog. We've been working and traveling quite a bit, and most recently we volunteered for the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. We came during the last weekend of the festival, so everything had slowed down somewhat. We missed not only the epic snow storm, but also some big events. Jay Z's movie, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, and Gina Prince-Blythewood's Shots Fired, premiered the the night before. We also missed the Women's March led by Ava DuVernay the first weekend of the festival. However, it was the perfect time to see movies that premiered earlier in the festival, and were harder to attend. As a festival volunteer, we receive a voucher for admittance into either a panel or film screening for every four hours that we worked. Having worked 24 hours, we secured 6 tickets and used every one. We were able to see 7 different movies between the two of us. The most highly anticipated screenings we saw were STEP, Crown Heights, Roxanne Roxanne, Gook, Winnie, Quest, and The Incredible Jessica James. We were also able to attend a panel discussion of some of televisions newest episodic writers including Issa Rae (Insecure, HBO) and Gina Prince-Blythewood (Shots Fired, Fox). It was very inspiring to see two black females in such powerful roles, as not only writers, but also as producers of their own projects. We look forward to volunteering next year for our fourth year. If anyone else is interested in volunteering, the application becomes available on the Sundance Film Festival website in late August for first-time volunteers.
Rhonda & Sharee Washington