In school yards across New York's five boroughs, young boys battled for the attention of bubble gum chewing girls by flaunting scraped knees and athletic abilities... yet a young Wil Sylvince sat propped on a Brooklyn stoop surrounded by girls effortlessly laughing. Amongst the sea of pig tails and double dutch ropes, Sylvince discovered his natural ability to keep girls coming back for more. Noticeably when his jokes were on point the usual cat and mouse games were not needed; but he quickly realized that once the jokes stopped so did his spotlight. Trading in his stoop for the Apollo might have been a leap but it wasn't until introduced to a Robin Harris CD that Sylvince considered this talent as a serious career. Raised by strict Haitian parents, Sylvince was expected to follow a traditional lifestyle... fortunately for his fans he dodged the path of normalcy and has paved the way for people of color to follow his lead.
On this particular morning, I was greeted by a humble and shy superstar comedian... no bells or whistles. When the timid bearded man walked toward me and extended his hand, I knew this interview was going to be interesting. Once we started he leaned into our conversation and let his story speak for itself. Performing on legendary stages and opening for comedy's heavyweights such as the Wayans Brothers, D.L. Hugely and Kat Williams, Sylvince is not boastful. This simple man was led to his fortune by working hard, accepting opportunities and now is on a mission to share the stage. We spoke of his impressive resume but what sparked his excitement was an upcoming event he proudly called his baby. With preparations in full effect, NBC and Sylvince reviewed over a thousand entries ranging from comedy, drama, horror and sci-fi to feature at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His original plan of helping inspire and generate buzz for a whole new generation filled with film makers of color was well received by NBC executive Damona Resnick and together successfully helped make this their 8th Annual Short Cuts festival. With enticing prizes ranging from Pitch meetings to a full funded production, Sylvince's vision has developed into a media "can't miss" event!
Sylvince relates to these up and coming film makers and hopes to inspire them by sharing his story. Although the wonders of technology kept Sylvince's gears going, it was comedy that kept him up late. The struggle was real for him as he recalls, "I use to finish my set and go straight into work at 3 a.m. The love I had for comedy and technology was equal but ultimately I wanted to work for myself." Surpassing memories of failure at his first attempt on the Apollo stage, Wil let his skills organically develop. He studied for six months techniques, expressions, and people in general. He figured out how to capture an audience and once he was ready he had guest on their feet cheering at his second attempt on the "scariest stage in history."
By now in our interview he was comfortable sharing his story and released the endless characters that influenced his life. Passionately expressing how he wants to reverse the favor and create opportunities, he continues to share details about the Short Cuts Film Festival. "This is a chance for executives to come out and sit in seats next to real people. They can first hand see reactions, hear laughter and feel the impact." The two day festival allows reputable comedians to host the event, interact with the film makers and pick apart the film. Professional commentaries are made and Q&A's are set to help introduce the more business savvy side of the industry. Sylvince has this operation well thought out for those hungry to develop their craft. His vision for the festival is to increase the events to a week long experience allowing a whole day dedicated to each genre. He wants to raise the bar and make the overall prize enticing to all those committed to the event. His vision to educate contestant was met when NBC created a panel discussing hot topics that are not taught in everyday classrooms. Reviewing Pitch presentation, networking, promoting, and protecting your work are discussions that carry out the first part of this event. His focus was to give people of color an opportunity to change what has been grandfathered in board rooms in Hollywood.
The impact from this event is far greater than I had initially perceived. Sylvince gifted me a video with movies featured in the last event. No name actors and low budgets captured real people scripted to make contact with views. As I watch the first movie I recognize how believable this story was but the bottom line...tragedy exist. The young actors in Los Angeles pulled money together to present this film highlighting the message of how real this opportunity is. The plot of these two friends trying to survive the mean streets of LA is nothing out of the ordinary but after meeting at a crossroad death presented itself as a consequence. Gang related scenes filled my screen and common sense rushed to my tongue. Their battle to survive was real and in the end...a mere name flashed on the credit. Death struck. An actor from this low budget film, the same film viewed by New York City residents, executives and opportunist is now tugging at their hearts. Killed weeks after filming, this potential film genius lost his life. This is just an example of how important Wil Sylvince's vision to give back really is.
The festival has received an enormous amount of hype allowing people from all walks of life to pursue their dreams. Sylvince has many dreams of his own and does not plan on settling here. Although his cookie cutter Haitian family has accepted his career, he says he wants to now direct the spotlight on their native home of Haiti. Keeping in mind the possible wealth the island has to offer, this funny guy's concept of a new airport and access to tourism is high priority. Lending his gift of laughter to charitable events hosted on the island is another way he stays grounded. The humble man I met now has exploded with ideas and his passion for this mission guarantees he will not fail. I credit this man for his new beginning and all the hard work he has invested in his career, fans, family and himself. He shared intimate details about himself and how he used to be overweight and doubtful. He allowed me to preview his current project and explained the discipline he has taught himself over the course of the year to prepare for the role. Chiseled abs and toned from head to toe, he has reinvented his perspective of life. When referring to his past he states, "I was determined to change my life for the better, although it was the hardest thing I had to do I knew it was time." Now physically able to chase his dreams, Wil Sylvince is a force to be reckoned with and will get you weak at the knees as he slams his new approach to life in your ear. Surviving the Apollo only set him up for the true test of creating laughter in the soul and opportunity on the screen!
Los Angeles NBC Short Cuts Festival Finals are on October 22 & 23rd. October 22 is a panel discussion and October 23rd is the showcase.
Directors Guild of America Theater (DGA)
7920 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90046
Short Cuts Festial: www.nbcshortcuts.com
For all up-to-date info on Wil's latest project, follow him on the web:
twitter: twitter.com/wilsylvince OR @wilsylvince
Patrice O'Neal Show Coming Soon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4MPufIq2e4
Follow Marjoriet T. Matute on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marjorietmatute