The 16th Annual American Black Film Festival took place June 21-23 at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach, Miami. The three day festival was packed with amazing screenings, panels, and hospitality suites for independent filmmakers and avid-moviegoers. The festival is a great way for independent film makers to network, promote, and mentor others aspiring to be filmmakers and actors. One of the panels that had a heavy impact on the festival attendees was the Black Women in Hollywood panel.
Panelists included Twinkie Byrd, Casting Director (Jumping the Broom, Sparkle), Tracey Higgins, Actress (Cherry Waves), Angi Bones, SVP of Development (BobbCat FIlms), Malinda Williams, Actress (The Undershepherd, SoulFood), and Elizabeth Hunter, Writer (The FIghting Temptations, Jumping the Broom). The women on the panel represented different perspectives in relation to successful working women in Hollywood. The discussion within the panel touched on many different topics and shows thats are popular today such as VH1′s Basketball Wives and Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Three key terms heavily discussed in the panel to help women go beyond the barriers and biases in the industry were integrity, standards, and a sense of community. Sometimes women can lose their integrity and standards when approaching certain professional situations, often finding excuses to come up with, instead of actively pursuing their passion or making a difference within their community. In regards to popular reality shows and mainstream roles that have been receiving scrutiny from the media and people in the African American community, panelists advised to create your own content to make a difference as opposed to complaining about a situation.
Writer, Elizabeth Hunter, expressed how important it was for her to help create a film like Jumping The Broom to showcase a wealthy African American family that still had their own issues to address. She wanted to show the African American community that it was possible to achieve wealth and much more. Casting Director Twinkie Byrd, expressed the importance of African Americans sticking together as a community and helping each other excel in the business. “Many people in this generation want everything fast, and are not willing to work for it,” said Twinkie Byrd as she tried to validate Malinda Williams’ point about giving your all for every position or role and not thinking that a certain role or job is too small. Everyone has to start out somewhere, and the people that you work with at the smaller jobs can possibly help you stay well connected in the future and they might even excel to bigger projects and bring them with you.
We had a quick opportunity to interview the panelists and get a better understanding of why the American Black Film Festival and their panel was important to them.
“It’s really nice to tell people how we’ve navigated through the business and that also inspires people and let’s them know that there’s more than one way to enter into the business. We need each other in this business, and I can even make a movie with just these women.” -Malinda Williams
“As long as the business is still separated into Black Hollywood and Mainstream Hollywood, ABFF is incredibly important and it must continue to exist.”-Twinkie Byrd
“This is my platform, without ABFF and the independent world, I wouldn’t have a job.”-Tracey Higgins
“Since mainstream Hollywood has stopped making as many African American movies, it is very important that we keep the artform alive, and we keep playing in this artform and this is where we play. “-Elizabeth Hunter
“It’s kinda like the Soul Train of the film industry. I wanna hear ABFF’s story from the beginning, and how many lives it has inspired and the careers it has catapulted over the years.”-Angi Bones