Per Matt
Overall, the film industry doesn’t seem to have a whole lot in common with the brewing industry, but when certain topics can bring these two forces together, working for a common goal to improve life as we know it, that is a very good thing. Such a situation happened when Flagship Video Works filmmaker Marco Ortega collaborated with Weathered Souls Brewing Co-Owner and Director of Operations, Marcus Baskerville. Documenting the Black is Beautiful collaborative brewing project was a definite goal, but so was exploring the initiative’s impact. More than 1,200 breweries in 50 states and 22 countries participated to raise money, provide education and support to underserved communities with organizations that support equality and inclusion.

The Black is Beautiful short film attempts to go behind the scenes of the initiative and this week, Marco will be appearing at America’s largest craft brewing industry gathering, the Craft Brewers Conference, which will be held in Nashville, TN. There, the Black is Beautiful documentary will screen, and immediately afterward a roundtable discussion will be held, which will include Marco, along with his filmmaking crew and Marcus Baskerville. It will also be moderated by Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham.

Before heading out to CBC, Mr. Ortega agreed to a quick email interview to discuss his background within the industry, filming the documentary and making beer selections while living in Texas.

Although he’s never brewed professionally, Marco Ortega knows his way around beer. For several years he’s homebrewed with friends, and from time to time he volunteers at a local brewery in San Antonio for a variety of events. And beer seems to be a topic that appears in his films, as well.

“I really enjoy the topic of craft beer. There are so many different perspectives and range of topics that surround beer. I think the one thing I enjoy most is seeing how craft beer brings people together.”

For more than 20 years, Marco has worked as a filmmaker in a variety of roles, starting with video production at his local church, then moving into broadcasting sports and continuing into freelance work, but the craft-beer movement kept rising to his attention. In 2014, there was a surge of craft breweries coming online, so he decided to dig into their history, shining a light on the unique stories behind the San Antonio breweries. Brewed in the 210 became his first feature-length film telling these stories, which took the better part of two years to complete. It was then screened at a variety of film festivals around the country and even won some awards.

After hearing about the BiB initiative in 2020, Marco began exploring Black is Beautiful and applying for some grants. By the time he approached Marcus, he didn’t have any funding and the world was deep into pandemic shutdowns. Local breweries had started selling to-go beer, so he decided to do his part and make a social-media video that all breweries could use, inviting people to support their companies. After filming Marcus, he started talking about the possibility of doing a documentary on the initiative, which began pre-production in 2022.

Production for the film lasted just over a year, which received funding through the Brewers Association’s DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) program. While there was a grant fulfillment and quality screening at the end of March, Black is Beautiful will officially premiere at CBC to the craft beer industry, with upcoming film festivals being the immediate goal. Currently, it has been entered in more than 50 different festivals around the world, with eventual hopes of finding a streamer to have it available for all to see. As an aside, the film has been invited to screen during Asheville Beer Week at the end of May.

Worldwide, the campaign has raised more than $4.5 million dollars, which has gone directly to local social-action causes. When asked if there were any scenes that didn’t make the final cut, he reveals, “I would have loved to have captured a lot more stories from other breweries around the country, and even around the world, and how they used the BiB initiative to create change in their communities. Unfortunately, time and money were a big factor.”

And as the initiative continues into the second half of 2023, how has it changed?

“I would say the initiative is still growing strong and there are many out there that are still waving the flag to continue to fight for many of the social issues that affect BIPOC communities and businesses today. With that said, BiB has led and inspired others to create other initiatives in their communities, using local breweries to team up.”

Wrapping up our interview, I had to ask if Marco had a favorite style of beer.

“If you’ve ever been to Texas, then you know how brutal the weather is down here. Year round, I really lean toward crispy lagers. They’re always refreshing and can be enjoyed year-round.”

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