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The American Black Film Festival is a Black filmmaker, screenwriter, or pure film fanatic’s dream vacation. Featuring Black Hollywood’s finest and surrounded by thousands of up-and-coming creatives, this experience is like Disney World for young, Black creatives.

As a budding writer/filmmaker, I didn’t know exactly what to expect at my first ABFF experience. Now, after having attended the 2018 festival in Miami, I can honestly say that my life will never be the same.

Here are the top 5 gems I took home to Atlanta from South Beach:

Photo: miaminewtimes.com

1. There is room for everyone to succeed. The very first thing I noticed was how nice, caring, and considerate everyone was to each other. As humans, we are often encouraged to look at those around us as competition. While this is true to a certain extent, many of the speakers constantly reiterated the fact that “What’s for you, is for you.”

Instead of feeling intimidated, let the next person’s accomplishments motivate you to do your very best. At the end of the day (and especially with the way entertainment is streamed now-a-days) there is room for us all to push our content. It is imperative that you believe in, own, and walk in YOUR own unique power.

2. Be Ready to Pitch. In this industry, you have to be willing to market yourself. No matter how dope the content, 9 times out of 10 – you’re going to need funding to reach your platform. A lot of us creatives are humble souls who don’t like to brag on our “babies.” “My art speaks for itself!”… I get it.

BUT, ask yourself this. How will you get somebody to believe in your project enough to spend their money on it, if you aren’t willing to put yourself out there enough to get it noticed? Work on your elevator pitch and know your project inside and out.

Photo: American Black Film Festival

3. Be Unapologetic. The dream is achievable. This crazy dream you have…. The one that your “non-creative” coworkers, friends, or even family members don’t always understand — is possible. To be in a room with people I’ve grown up admiring, in front of and behind the camera, is indescribable.

They’re humans just like you and I, who took a chance on themselves and traveled a path less traveled. They had naysayers, and so will you. The key is, to never ever give up on what you know you’re put here to do.

Photo: American Black Film Festival

4. Relationships are key. The popular phrase, “It’s not always what you know, but who you know” is absolutely true. It’s so important to build and foster relationships in the industry, because when the time comes to greenlight a project, the shot callers are calling on people they know or with whom they have good rapport.

You never know when a colleague or assistant today, will be a producer, director, or casting agent tomorrow. Network with your peers and work to make major moves together. The talent you need could be right beside you.

5. You have to do the work. It doesn’t matter if you have all of the ideas, belief in yourself, the networking connections, or marketing skills in the world if you aren’t prepared when your golden opportunity knocks at your front door. You have to prepare – study, experiment, practice, and bring your content to life for any of this to matter.

Start where you are and go from there! Write that script, shoot that short, and audition for that role. The dream doesn’t begin when the limelight is present. The dream is activated when YOU press start.

Photo: American Black Film Festival


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