HBCU First LOOK Film Festival

Howard University Will Host Inaugural HBCU First Look Film Festival In November

The inaugural HBCU First LOOK Film Festival, a new initiative created to showcase the next generation of Black filmmakers, will take place Nov. 10–12 at Howard University.

The HBCU First LOOK Film Festival will be a one-of-a-kind event dedicated to celebrating Black filmmakers, producers, and writers while also serving as a pipeline for HBCU students in film and television to cultivate their talents.

Attendees will experience screenings from established and emerging filmmakers, panels, and discussions featuring award-winning industry professionals, educational workshops, and networking events for students who want to be in front and behind the camera.

Sheila Eldridge, the founder of the HBCU First LOOK Film Festival, told Black Enterprise the festival is an important step toward increasing diversity in the film industry.

“There needs to be more of an effort in our culture of connecting our students with alumni and really trying to build post-career opportunities for HBCU students when they graduate and so at the end of the day, the HBCU First Look Film Festival is a way to make sure everybody has an opportunity in this industry,” said Eldridge. 

HBCU students can submit their films on the festival’s home page through July 30, 2023. The seven film categories are shorts, features, animated, documentary, family & faith, mobile, and health & wellness. Winners will be selected by a board of industry professionals, including producers and filmmakers. Each finalist will receive an internship opportunity, while the winners of each category will receive $5,000 and an internship opportunity.

According to Eldridge, films have been submitted by students who attend North Carolina A&T, Savannah State University, Prairie View University, Norfolk State University, Russ College, and many other HBCUs. Guests and notable HBCU alums attending the festival will be released later this year. 

Additionally, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) is partnering with the festival to facilitate internship placements and help create a diverse talent pipeline.

“This partnership with the First LOOK Film Festival offers another avenue to increase the representation of Black talent,” TMCF President & CEO Dr. Harry L. Williams said in a statement. “TMCF’s intentional efforts to advance equity and inclusion align perfectly with Sheila’s vision.”

The festival is being conducted through a partnership between Miles Ahead Entertainment, the Howard University Film + Television Department, and WHUR Radio. Notable HBCU alumni in the film and TV industry include Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, Brian Tyree Henry, Anthony Anderson, Wanda Sykes, Oprah Winfrey, and Phylicia Rashad, who currently serves as the Dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.

“We’re building on the impact and the flavor of HBCUs and looking at how do we develop the business side, how do we develop more students on the corporate side and the decision-making side from agents to every aspect of the industry,” Eldridge added. “So we’re really looking to develop students and put a lens on the behind-the-scenes, the business side of the industry.”