Meet Danielle Bender. Danielle is the Cinematic Arts Manager at Oolite Arts, the sponsor of this week’s Locals to Know.
Did ya know that oolite is a sedimentary rock formed by shells, corals, and other organic material coming together? It’s literally what Miami is built on. Oolite Arts seeks to be the bedrock of the visual arts in Miami — learn how Danielle is helping Oolite achieve that goal and more:
Tell us about your work — your job and/or any volunteer work.
I’m the Cinematic Arts Manager at Oolite Arts and have been leading the department for about a year and a half now. Our biggest goals are to support and provide career-advancing opportunities for local artists and filmmakers, as well as create more opportunities for our community to meet and grow together. Everything we do is with that in mind.
What’s your favorite Miami memory?
WAY too many amazing Miami memories. I’ve lived in Miami my whole life so my entire life is made up of Miami memories. I grew up in West-Kendall and my dad and I used to go dirt biking through the cornfields that have since become LA Fitness. That and my first date with my now-husband at the 2006 Miami Heat Championship Parade.
Pick a favorite local outdoor experience. What is it? What’re we doing? Who’s going with ya?
It’s impossible to choose just one outdoor experience. I’d say either going to Legion Park Farmer’s Market on a Saturday and getting a supersonic juice from Nature Boyzjuice tent and a vegan Jamaican patty from Akete’s stand and eating them by the water, or Sunday beach hangs with friends on North Beach during magic hour. My friends and I spend hours floating in the water. These are both simple experiences but they’re the ones that make me love living here more than anything.
What’s your favorite local Instagram or TikTok account and why?
I am obsessed with everything O, Miami Poetry Festival does. Truly one of my favorite arts organizations in Miami.
Third Horizon is a Caribbean filmmaking collective and film festival that I love following and attending…best events ever and I love seeing films that represent all the different cultures that have made Miami their second home.
And lastly, the Coral City Camera. The underwater camera livestreams an urban coral reef just off of Miami Beach. I love checking in to see the diverse wildlife living just off our shores.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Hands down, Naomi’s Garden. I’m obsessed w/ the Baked Mac n Cheese w/ Pikliz.
What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?
Right now, Oolite Arts has an open call for filmmakers, in collaboration with the City of Miami Beach. It’s called Local Love Letters, and we’re asking filmmakers to pitch their ideas for 3-5 minute short films that utilize their favorite spots on Miami Beach as locations in their films. We have an independent jury that’s going to select 10 filmmakers to receive $5,000 each to make their proposed films a reality. We love partnering with the City of Miami Beach and are excited to be offering incentives for filmmakers to continue making creative work using our beautiful city as the backdrop. If you’re a filmmaker and you have an idea that has Miami Beach locations, we’d love to see your pitch!
What are you looking forward to this year?
I’m really excited about all the programs our team has been working on for the film community. In addition to our Local Love Letters open call, we’ve also been able to partner with Miami Film Festival on film commissions to eight filmmakers, totaling $120,000! We’re rolling out monthly meetups and professional development workshops for local creatives. All that is on top of our continuing partnership with the Community Justice Project and our staple Cinematic Arts Residency, which awards $50,000 to filmmakers to make their first micro-budget feature. We’re committed to supporting filmmakers’ creative process and creating opportunities for this community to grow. It’s a really exciting time for us.