By CLAYTON GUTZMORE
More than 20,000 aspiring actors, producers, directors and other talented black content creators are expected to gather in New York this week for the 2015 American Black Film Festival, the largest film festival highlighting films, TV shows and artists of African descent.
Started in 1997 as a vehicle to highlight diversity in the film industry, this year organizers plan to focus more on television content, founder Jeff Friday said.
“We are really excited to have Taraji P Henson as our ambassador,” said Friday, speaking of the leading lady of breakout hit Fox television series, Empire. “She transcends the role of Cookie Lyon and is probably the most popular person on television.”
First held in Acapulco to honor Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, the festival has since moved stateside and now features workshops in addition to meet-and-greets with Hollywood legends and film screenings. This week for example, the festival will offer master classes in writing for television as well as the fundamentals of producing for television led by Meet the Browns and House of Payne producer Roger Bobb.
And while television studios’ embrace of more black TV shows including Empire and Blackish will be the toast of this year’s festival, participants will also discuss ways to green-light their own offerings. Crowdfunding and other methods to finance everything from movies to web series production will be topics of conversation.
Black content creators have long complained about an inability to get money for their projects. That’s mainly because they lack access to funders, Friday said.
“Probably the greatest challenge of filmmakers and actors of color is relationships,” Friday added. “We are not short on talent, but many of us are short on contacts.”
The festival will take place from June 11-14 at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City. Click here for ticket and schedule information. If you’re unable to travel to the festival, follow #ABFF on Twitter.