The Hollywood Black Film Festival (dubbed “The Black Sundance”) provided a panoply of inspiration, education and imagination with five days (October 2-6, 2013) of film screenings, panels, talks, workshops, pitchathons and live-readings.
Wrapping up it’s 13th year, HBFF was launched by Founder and Executive Director, Tanya Kersey, to “showcase the most innovative and inspiring work being created by black filmmakers and to provide them with a platform to have their works seen by the industry, media and general public.”
The festival’s vision is simple: to serve as a beacon of light for master filmmaking, storytelling and acting, grounded in humanism, innovation and diversity.
Held at the W Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, with screenings at the adjacent Ricardo Montalban Theatre, the festival edified attendees with its stellar line-up of speakers, covering every aspect of filmmaking, from budgeting and pitching, to writing and negotiating, to producing and directing:
- Adam Lebovitz (@Lebovitz81) showed filmmakers how to efficiently budget their films with his web-based tool Quick Film Budget, the first budgeting technology to automate the process by asking key questions and instantly delivering a professional customized film budget.
- Austyn Biggers (@Austyn), Sr. Director of Development for BET, in his workshop, ELEVATOR PITCHING THAT FLOORS, emphasized, “The three keys to a knock-out personal pitch is being able to clearly communicate: 1) Who you are? 2) Why you’re different? and 3) Why you’re memorable?“
- Jeffrey Gordon (@WritersBootCamp), Founder and Director of Writers Boot Camp, shared, “One of the easiest ways for screenwriters to tighten up dialogue is to read your script and cover the names of the characters delivering dialogue” — if the lines all sound/look the same, more effort needs to be applied in distinguishing each character’s voice.
- Stephen Barnes, entertainment attorney, in “One-on-One with Power Broker Stephen Barnes” advocated that a willingness to walk away from a deal is the most effective way for a filmmaker to maintain control of his/her content.
- At the Masters Class: Producers Prospective, every producer agreed great films start with great material. A producer’s job is to find the exceptional script with compelling characters and build from there.
- During the Directors Chair panel, legendary filmmaker John Singleton (@SHAFT6816) confessed the most paramount aspect of good filmmaking is: putting your soul down. And perhaps the most moving moment of the festival came during this session when director Sheldon Candis (@sheldoncandis), whose sensitively raw film LUV garnered him acclaim at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, teared up when sharing his own personal journal of making it into the director’s chair.
With more than 75 screenings, including short films, documentaries, features and web series, the festival concluded with its Closing Night Film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, featuring Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie and standout newcomers Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon. A gripping, poignant tale of two coming-of-age boys on a journey to conquer the harsh realities of the Brooklyn projects, Brooks, Dizon and Hudson all delivered out-of-the-park performances. The film will be in select theaters on October 11, with information and updates available at www.MisterandPeteMovie.com.
Amy Senger is an L.A. transplant by way of Washington, DC, and co-founder of 1X57, named to Washingtonian’s Tech Titans list with her partner Steven Mandzik. Follow her on twitter @sengseng and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email amy@1×57.com.