*“This industry evolves around the exclusion of black (and brown) people,” said Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), about “Hollywood.” “You have to shake-up Hollywood…but not by protesting on the streets, because they don’t hear you way up there in their offices with windows closed, you have to protest in artistic ways…we call it a celebration instead of a protest.”
In fact, Jeff is celebrating 25 years of offering a platform for black and brown filmmakers. A film festival that in its first year attracted an audience of 90 to today’s audience of 15,000, ABFF is screening 100 films in four categories (Narrative Features, Short Films, Documentary, and Television Web-Series) from Wednesday, November 3, 2021 to Sunday, November 28, 2021. Judges are those whose first films were screened there, like Will Packer. Will’s first creative “protest” was screened at ABFF and 28 films later Packer’s film has brought in a billion dollars in revenue.
“I am going to watch anything Jeff puts in front of me,” Will Packer laughed a little when I ask if he is screening all of the 100 films selected by ABFF. “I am the Jury President. I have an honorary position. I was one of those filmmakers…I just wanted people to watch my film.”
The beginning for ABFF was in 1997 in Acapulco with Halle Berry, Bill Duke, Morgan Freeman, Debbie Allen, Bill Duke, John Singleton, Regina King and Robert Townsend in attendance. HBO was its first major sponsor in 1998. Today HBO is still a sponsor – of the Short Film category. Forced online in 2020 via ABFF Play because of the pandemic, ABFF gained over 54,000 people attending in 90 countries. Normally ABFF is held in Miami (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) and attendees are around 10,000.
“We are a for-profit…doing the work of a non-profit,” said Friday. “Purposeful work doesn’t come with an award. Your benefit is helping them.”
“It’s totally virtual…Renaldo Marcus Green’s film King Richard opens the festival,” Jeff added. “We’re going live (in person) next year – a hybrid.”
The film Will Packer first screened at ABFF was Trois and it won ABFF’s Audience Award. In 1997 Halle Berry won the ABFF Rising Star Award. Omar Hardwick won ABFF’s Best Actor Award. Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Stone Cars was screened at ABFF in 2013 and later distributed by HBO, while he was still a student at NYU.
“I believe that when you get to a certain level of success you have push the ladder back down,” said Will, whose Alma Mata Florida A&M University (FAMU) recently unveiled the Will Packer Amphitheater in Tallahassee. “I’m a big supporter of HBCUs. I am urging all celebrities to give to HBCUs.”
Aside from being a film producer, Packer is also an actor, casting director and writer. While at FAMU Packer and classmate Rob Hardy made their first film, Chocolate City, with $20,000 via their company Rain Forest Films. In 2018 their company is noted as making over one billion, with credits that include Ride Along, Girl’s Trip, About Last Night and Think Like a Man.
Jeff Friday, aside from being the founder of ABFF, he is also the General Manager of ABFF Ventures, LLC and CEO of Los Angeles based Jeff Friday Media, which has a first look deal with Sony Pictures. He is also CEO of JFM Properties that includes ABFF Ventures, LLC, Jeff Friday Productions and ABFF Play. www.ABFF.com www.ABFFVentures.com
SYNDICATED COLUMN: Eunice Moseley, MS, MBA, MPhil has an estimated weekly readership of over ¼ million with The Pulse of Entertainment. She is also a Public Relations Strategist and Business Management Consultant at Freelance Associates, and is Promotions Director (at-large) for The Baltimore Times. www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com. EVENTS: “Uplifting Minds II” Entertainment Conference (ULMII), founded by Eunice in 1999, is into its 22nd year. Next events are coming to Los Angeles Saturday, November 6, 2021 via Zoom Video Conferencing and Baltimore Saturday April 16, 2022 at via Zoom Conferencing presented by Security Square Mall and The Baltimore Times. The ULMII event is a free entertainment conference offering a Business Management Panel Q&A Session, a Talent Showcase and Talent Competition (vocal, songwriting, dance and acting) where aspiring artists have a chance to receive over $16,000 valued in prizes/product/services. Log onto www.UpliftingMinds2.com for more information or to RSVP for Zoom Access email [email protected]