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Howard University to host first-ever HBCU Film Festival and Challenge


Elevating stories of black film makers

By Kristina Dixon | Across Black America

An HBCU film festival is coming to Washington, DC in October 2023 to celebrate Black filmmakers and showcase the next generation of film and television stand outs that kicks off with a college tour this spring.

The goal? To elevate the stories of Black filmmakers and build a pipeline of talent in the film, television, and broadcast industries. There is a growing demand for more diverse stories with high grossing Black films hitting the box office in recent years. However, only 6% of the writers, directors and producers of U.S.-produced films are Black (Source: McKinsey, 2021).

The initiative launched at Howard University on March 23rd with a media reception, panel discussion with industry leaders and special ‘Talk Back ’with award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Courtney Glaude, who has received critical acclaim for his recent release “The Reading,” starring comedian and actress Mo’Nique.

Sheila Eldridge, CEO of the award-winning broadcast production company Miles Ahead Entertainment & Broadcasting, is the brainchild/founder of the challenge and festival. The HBCU First LOOK Festival and Challenge is looking to find the next Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, Will Packer, Samuel L. Jackson, Ruth Carter or Terrence J who are just a few of the notable HBCU graduates that have found success in their fields and brought us award-winning movies from “Do The Right Thing”, “Malcolm X”, “Think Like A Man” just to name a few.

“As an HBCU graduate myself, I am excited to launch The HBCU First LOOK Film Festival this fall,” said Eldridge. “This is a first-of-its-kind event that will not only connect but develop HBCU students with an interest in film and TV. Ours is to provide training and development for participating students while also connecting them with HBCU graduates in the industry to create a network and pipeline for new talent.”

In conjunction with media partner the sessions will range from production to marketing and distribution.  College tour stops will bring together students and HBCU alumni in film for skills-building bootcamp sessions to deepen students’ knowledge of producing, directing and financing films. With a combination of in-person and virtual sessions the hybrid experience will host one-on-one fireside chats on a myriad of topics to serve as “creative thought starters.”

The HBCU First LOOK Film Festival will also include a nationwide student filmmaker challenge with an award value of $5,000 for the winner. Film categories include feature, short, mobile, animation, documentary, family and faith, health and wellness films. Submissions opened March 23 and end July 30. Student finalists from the filmmaker challenge will be featured at the fall festival which will take place at Howard University in October.