WHITE ELEPHANT GROUP’S ‘WEG WEEKEND’ IS ANYTHING BUT A FILM FESTIVAL
A behind-the-scenes picture of the film ‘El Reggaetonero’ which will be screened during WEG Weekend. A themed “El Reggaetonero” party will also take place during the event. Pictured is actor Cesar Pichardo alongside Daniela Marie Fernandez (left), and Daniela Rafa (right). (Photo Courtesy of White Elephant Group)
When local filmmakers Eddy Moon, Ronald Baez, and Kevin Ondarza founded White Elephant Group (WEG) 10 years ago, the trio struggled to find resources and support for their projects. With a grant from the Knight Foundation, they’ve organized WEG Weekend, a three-day showcase of South Florida film projects, themed parties, and panel discussions starting April 28.
“I think WEG Weekend for me, is us going all out and trying to remind people that there is a community here (in South Florida) that wants to support filmmakers,” said Moon.
The event promises to be a sprawling symposium for South Florida filmmakers, with discussion panels and screenings ranging widely in genre and subject. Miami-based Caribbean film collective Third Horizon will showcase shorts that have previously won their film festival, Pioneer Winter Collective, a Miami-based dance company, will lead a discussion on the art and process of creating dance films, and Yellow Wood Immersive, a media wing of WEG produced by WEG co-founder Baez, will host two VR experiences, among 25 other unique programs lined up for the three-day long event.
When asked about which events or programs might have been left out of the diverse lineup, “Bro, you got time?” jokes Moon. The process, which started three years ago, is grueling because as friends who look back fondly at their close-knit childhoods in Westchester and Kendall, the trio is at once imaginative, ambitious, and harshly critical.
“I think we’ve known each other for so long and we’re so intimate with each other and so vulnerable with each other, and the culture at WEG is very driven by vulnerability and the demand for authenticity,” says Baez, “So if Eddy (Moon) comes up with an idea, my first reaction is to knock it down, like I’m not interested in being supportive I’m interested in being critical, and that’s not a “me” thing, that’s an “us” thing.
At one point the team of more than 20 WEG staff members – each pulling their own creative weight – considered bussing event attendees to a remote location in the Everglades and hosting a private screening. Another idea that was thrown around involved the motion-capture studio located at the event’s location, MAD Studios.
Ultimately, innovative and cost-effective programs like WEG Weekend’s “Digital Dialogue Panels.” One of the panels, titled “Telling Women’s Stories,” will feature a screening and panel discussion telling female stories from female, male, and queer perspectives, and attendees will be given digital screens where they can actively participate in the panel through polls, questions, and discussion recommendations. The idea came from frustrations the team felt attending other industry events that often held one-sided discussions.
“We were like how can we create a system or some kind of technology to contribute to the conversation, so that the audience is in the driver’s seat, and I can actually move the conversation from my seat without interrupting it,” says Baez.
All the event programming will take place at MAD Art Studio in Dania Beach, a large multi-purpose warehouse that houses a gallery space, screening room, motion-capture studio, and a dark room for black-and-white film development. Its location is an unconventional choice for a film-focused event in South Florida, often held at artistic hubs and trendy locations such as gallery spaces in Wynwood or Downtown Miami. For the WEG team, hosting it at MAD was an obvious choice once Baez met with founder Marc Aptakin.
“I met with Marc (Aptatkin), and he gave me a tour of this facility, and at one point I stopped him and I was like, ‘Dude, you built a playground for artists,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I was trying to do,’” says Baez, “It was like Chuck E. Cheese for artists, it was like this ridiculous space.”
The versatility and size of the space also allow WEG to take accessibility and inclusivity a step beyond standard American Disability Act compliance. The event will feature a curated room where attendees can sit if they feel overwhelmed. In terms of economic accessibility, WEG has affordably priced tickets with artists in mind, provided discounted student rates, and included special activities such as parties in the general event pricing, which often come at an added premium at film festivals or similar events.
“All of this means absolutely nothing if any random person from the community doesn’t feel one-hundred percent at home… accessibility is literally the heart of what makes things matter in an industry that is so focused on exclusion,” says Moon.
Despite its focus on filmmaking, the screening of various shorts, panel discussions centered on storytelling through film, and the underlying goal of WEG Weekend being to bring together South Florida’s filmmaking community, the group made a conscious decision to avoid calling their event a film festival.
“The last thing we wanted this to feel like was a film festival… the most interesting part is never the film, although we’ll be seeing wonderful films,” says Ondarza, “ It’s having a conversation with the filmmakers, seeing what their inspirations and their processes were. So we wanted that to be at the heart of how we put this together.”
WHAT: White Elephant Group’s “WEG Weekend”
WHERE: MAD Arts, 485 S Federal Hwy, Dania Beach, FL 33004.
WHEN: The weekend of April 28-30.
TICKETS: $45 for Weekend Pass. $15 to $25 for individual day passes. Purchase at
INFORMATION: Visit https://wegweekend.eventive.org/welcome