Inspiring People

Stephanie Tavares-Rance, Co-Founder of The Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Stephanie Tavares-Rance
Stephanie Tavares-Rance began her career in entertainment in 1990, working in the A&R department at SBK/EMI Records. She eventually became the A&R Marketing Director and worked on award winning projects such as Frank Sinatra's Duets I and II, Prince, Jon Sescada, Gloria Estefan and many others.

In 1999, Stephanie became the Marketing Director at Larry Flint's Code Magazine, a short lived lifestyle magazine for men of color. Her marketing impact was immediate as she created strategic alliances with top notch celebrities and luxury brands. It was there and then that she realized that her calling was in event planning.

Stephanie eventually formed her own public relations and event planning company, Crescendo and she worked exclusively with such clients as Martell Cognac, HBO, Showtime and Vanguard Media.

From there Stephanie co-founded The Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) with her husband Floyd Rance. MVAAFF is currently in its fourth successful year.

Stephanie currently lives in North Carolina with her husband Floyd and their two children.

Few people exercise the kind of self discipline that allows for living a life fulfilled. Stephanie Tavares-Rance is on of the few.

Stephanie and I talked early one morning and her energy and her enthusiasm for - pretty much everything - was an immediate energy booster.

By most people's standards Stephanie has been being successful for a very long time. From the outside looking in, few would argue that Stephanie has been living a great life. What might not be so obvious is the courage that she demonstrates every step of the way and the "just plain good common sense" that she is smart enough to use.

For Stephanie being successful is like breathing; she just has to! She demands a lot from herself and she makes no excuses when she falls short.

Her example is one worth following.

DR: Tell me about your life and your work?

STR: I am Stephanie Tavares-Rance, a native New Yorker. I started my career in the music industry as an intern at SBK Records. It doesn't exist anymore. They had Vanilla Ice and Wilson Phillips on the label.

I interned in the A&R department for a year right out of college. They wanted me to be a college intern so I cut the letterhead from a letter that I got from my college and I put it on some white paper and said "Here is my letterhead! I'm still in college!" They didn't check it so it was great.

From there I stayed in A&R and then SBK emerged with EMI. From there I became the associate director of A&R and marketing. I worked with DeAngelo and Frank Sinatra on Duets, which was, what I think, one of my biggest coups. I worked with Mila Jovovich and Gloria Estefan and a whole lot of great artists. I did a lot of public relations and events for them when I started to feel my calling coming but I hadn't quite tuned into it yet.

EMI closed down and I went into management. I managed Melky Sedeck, Wyclef's brother and sister, for awhile and I hated that intensely. I didn't like management because it was a lot like baby sitting. Being in the music industry you have to maintain a mentality of "I am not a fan. I am working for you" but, they wanted me to be a fan so there was a little clash there.

Then I went into publishing. I went to work for Larry Flint and Code Magazine. That was an upscale style magazine for Black men. Loved that! Loved working at Code! It was a great magazine and I did all of the events in New York and LA and I realized that I loved doing events. It was what I was meant to do.

When Larry Flint did not commit to Code and that folded I thought "You know, I am gettin' tired of this gettin' laid off thing so I started my own company, Crescendo Entertainment. I got Martell Cognac as a client and I did all types of high profile events for them. I did press junkets in Paris and cognac in London and Acapulco and all over the world. That was a lot of fun.

From Martell, I started doing some events for HBO and Showtime and that was great.

Floyd and Stephanie Tavares-Rance, Founders of the MVAAFF, with their son Zaire

The film festival came about because my husband and I go to "The Vineyard". We were going there a lot when we were dating and first married, before we had kids. When I was with Martell I did an event there and someone suggested that we show some films. I thought that was a good idea. So we showed films at this theater on the corner of Circuit Avenue and the line was around the block. I thought "Wow! We might have something here!" My husband I started brainstorming and decided to do a film festival. That is how The Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) was born.

MVAFF is in its fourth year. We showcase hundreds of films over a four day weekend from independent and established African America film makers. It is a great vehicle. We have got really great films! A lot of them have been picked up by HBO and Showtime and BET...

The film festival is very laid back. It's not stuffy and it's not about celebrity gazing. It's about trying to have the work of these film makers get seen by the powers that be, in an attempt to get them distribution and to just show different sides of Black American life.

We show all types of really, really wonderful films and "The Vineyard" has been really supportive and good to us. It can be challenging doing events in Martha's Vineyard because they want to keep that island mentality - we barely email, no banners. It has worked out well. We are really excited.

Right now we are going to start a distribution company where we are the conduit for the "Time Warners" and the "BETs" -

We have the films. You guys want Black films, come to us.

It is really evolving nicely and it is nice to do this with my husband - sometimes


We are happy and we do it from home which is even better!


The Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival started as most ideas become a having a dream.

At Run and Shoot Filmworks, we wanted to create a haven where filmmakers of color could convene, share ideas and showcase their works in beautiful setting.

In 2002, the MVAAFF was conceived. Martha's Vineyard was chosen as our festival destination because it is a beautiful island with a rich African-American history.

Now in its 5th year, a milestone of achievement, our idea that came about talking in our Park Slope coop has become a reality.

We are very proud of our festival as we strive each year to make it stronger and better. It takes dedication and hard work to make this happen each year.

Five years strong! Here's to another five years.

Always Moving Forward

Floyd and Stephanie Rance

Click here for more information on Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival.

MVAAFF begins August 10th - August 13th.

DR: Talk to me about the importance of having a vision.

STR: You have to have a vision in whatever it is that you do.

Without a vision there is no place that you can really go. You have to know what it is that you want to do with your life and with your time here on earth. For some people it comes quicker than others.

I have always known that I wanted to do something creative. I was definitely never the "9-5" type. I never really fit in with that even though I have had those types of jobs. My vision has always been to have my own business and to do my thing. Once I had my children I wanted to stay home but work as well. There are some women who want to stay at home and do "the Mom thing" and I think that is wonderful but for me, just doing that was not enough. I needed something else. I needed more to do to fulfill my personal destiny. I am supposed to do more here on earth. Events might seem "fluffy" but doing a film festival is my way of giving back and trying to do this magazine that we are trying to put together is my way of giving back.

A vision for anyone is important. As my kids get older I want to teach them to "Dream Big!"

DR: Describe one of the best moments in your life.

STR: Wow. The best moments in my life were when my two babies were born. My son is 3 ½ and my daughter is 16 months. That was the best time for me! Having my kids completed the circle. That is the thing that I am most proud of. I love my children a lot. I love my family and I just want my kids to see me and my husband doing our thing and trying to reach our goals. I love that.

The next thing was building this house. That was definitely a dream come true - to build my dream home. That has been nice.

The career that I have is a career that I think most people would love to have had -- the travel and the award shows -- but once you get married and you have kids, things get put into perspective. You start to realize what is important in life. Family is really important to me. My family is my pride and joy.

DR: Do you have a personal recipe for success?

STR: Girl please! Just try! Try! And if you fail just get up and try again!

I was reading an article in O Magazine. Oprah interviewed Mary J. Blige. One part of the interview really hit me. She was saying that

When someone tries to achieve, people will always try to talk you out of what you are trying to achieve - the haters and naysayers. They want to keep you at a level where they are comfortable with you. When you try to go beyond that level, they become uncomfortable with their own inadequacies.

My recipe is to just keep reaching for the top. Don't listen to what anybody says. Do what your gut tells you.

Everybody on this planet has something to give and I think that we should all try to fulfill our destiny. I don't want to be 60 years old regretting what I didn't do. I want to just do it!

DR: What is being happy for you?

STR: Being at peace with myself.

Just knowing that I have tried everything that I have wanted to do, making my children happy, being a good mother and a good human being, being with my husband, seeing my parents all makes me happy.

Trying makes me happy; just trying. Trying and succeeding when everybody told me that it couldn't happen and making it happen.

Success is the best revenge!

DR: Dig it!

STR: Not that we are trying to "do" revenge


DR: Do you ever get afraid Stephanie?

STR: Most definitely.

The first year that we did the film festival we had 10 people there - ten people! I had a business partner at the time who wasn't ready and she blamed the whole thing on me. I decided to take responsibility…

DR: Was that 10 people for the entire run of the film festival or the first day of the festival?

STR: The whole thing! The whole film festival! Ten people!

It was the first year, the location wasn't right…A lot of people would have walked away but I said

"You know what? You have five minutes to cry and feel sorry for yourself. You can either give up, which is easy, or you can try again".

And, here I am.

I was afraid when I left corporate America and decided to do my own thing. I don't regret it at all, though. I am my own boss. I can work when I want and I am responsible for the outcome of everything that I do. No one can say "You are fired".

Yes I have been afraid, but fear is a good thing.

DR: It sounds to me like freedom is something that you value...

STR: Most definitely.

DR: What is something else that you hold as a strong value - something that drives you or keeps moving you forward?

STR: I move myself forward. In my conversations with my Higher Power, I pray for guidance all of the time and God just always tells me to go for it. I have come this far and there is no turning back.

I push myself.

DR: What is one of the biggest lessons that you have learned?

STR: Research! Research! Research!

Be open to suggestions. Don't think that you know everything.

Research! Research! Research!

Talk to people who are doing what it is that you want to do. Get good advice. Find a mentor. I also like to read autobiographies of people who have done great things.


DR: Is there anything that you would do all over again if you could?

STR: No.

I am happy with the path that I am on. This was my chosen path. My success and all the bumps in the road were supposed to happen. I wouldn't change a thing. I am satisfied with everything. I can look back and own up to my mistakes and learn from my little mishaps. Once you learn from your mistakes you can be a better person.

Learn from your mistakes, acknowledge that they happened and then bless them and let them go and its best not to do it again.

If you keep the blinders on and if you don't acknowledge your part in it, then it is going to keep happening again. It's like the girl who always ends up with that certain kind of guy…

DR: Do you have a hero?

STR: My Mom and my Dad are my heroes.

They really gave my brother and me a really nice life.

My husband is a hero of mine. He has worked for himself his entire life and he always goes for the gusto!

Oprah is one of my heroes. I just love her and I love her story. I think she is truly an angel. She seems to have a genuine heart. I admire her.

My other heroes are people who "go for theirs"; people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. I love people like that who, against all odds, did what they had to do and stood for their right to fight. I love that.

DR: Would you say that you are someone's hero?

STR: I hope I am!


Who I don't know, but I hope I am! People have said that I inspire them and I thank them and then I move on…

DR: Are you inspired by who you are?

STR: I am really hard on myself.

I find it hard to sit back and say "You did a good job, Steph!" I find it hard to give myself praise. I am hard on myself.

DR: A hundred years from now, what do you want to be remembered for?

STR: For just being a good human being, for caring about the planet, for caring about my family and friends…

I want to be remembered as being a good person and as -

someone who tried and went for it all!

Thanks Stephanie!

For further information, contact:

Run&Shoot Filmworks
PO Box 1860
Denver, NC, 28037

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