Friday at the Movies

How this champion of black films keeps diversity on the screen

Has technology made it easier for emerging filmmakers?
The introduction of the DVD market offered a new platform for distribution of niche movies that didn’t get theatrical release, and you can actually earn a better living with a successful DVD release than you can with a theatrical one. Secondly, access to affordable technology has lowered barriers of entry to filmmaking. But just because you can buy a high-definition camera for $2,000 and some editing software doesn’t mean you’re good. That’s why I created the Film Life Foundation with the mission of raising money to send African Americans to film school.

How has social media affected filmmakers?
Social media, Internet distribution, self-promotion [are] the ways you get the word out about your movies because nine out of 10 films are not going to get [traditional] distribution. It becomes your e-commerce store, and levels the playing field. One filmmaker told me he sold 50,000 copies of his movies from his website. One of our next steps is to develop theaters with the Film Life or ABFF brand—take a film [that did well in our fest] and offer the filmmaker a place to show it around the country.

You have a program called the Pro-Hollywood Initiative, that encourages professional athletes to get involved in the movie industry and the production of independent films. What is your ultimate goal?
About 10 years ago, we started to see a lot of African American pro athletes in their 20s coming to the festival. Their interest was social because 10 years ago people still wanted to be rappers and music producers. But the music industry has changed and we saw a seismic shift in interest toward film. People would show up with films financed by Charles Oakley or Baron Davis. It struck me that a lot of NBA players were financing movies.

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