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Leslie Fields-Cruz talks Black Public Media


Helping ‘creators’ at all levels

Black media has come a long way in the entertainment industry in all aspects, as they are allowed and supported to tell their stories the way they are supposed to be and not let other groups of people portray or purport  Black history, culture, struggle, or future. Black Public Media is doing its part in supporting Black creators in film and television by hosting pitch forums, fellowships, funding projects, and education while giving creators a platform to share their work.

“I joined in 2001 as the grantmaker and program director at Black Public Media and stayed in the position until 2014 once the executive director at the time came to me and wanted to figure out a way to support creative better, and that was the beginning of PitchBlack 360 Incubator program,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, executive director of Black Public Media (BPM) and creator of the PitchBlack 360 Incubator program. “We held our first incubator in 2015, which was shortly followed by our newly created PitchBlack Forum that same year, and we continued that continuity until 2022 when we spun off PitchBlack to be separate from the incubator.”

While BPM offers help to creators at all levels with their different programs and competitions, the incubator program is for experienced film creators or at least ones that have displayed their skills. The incubator program is a year-round open call for creators. It’s expected that creators have a business plan, resume, work sample, project ideas, and referrals of people they have worked with when applying to the panel.

PitchBlack Forum is a pitch competition for independent filmmakers and creative technologists developing new projects about the global Black experience. Three winners of the competition will receive awards totaling $225,000 in production funding. The panel of judges looks at different aspects of the films, the storytelling, the impact, the visuals, the budget, and the personnel behind the film, to decide the winners of the competition.

“The person behind the film is important because we are not trying to support extractive directors who are not connected to the film personally and are only going off other people’s stories and experiences to create their film,” Fields-Cruz said in explaining the importance of looking at the creatives developing these projects and seeing what place or point of view they are telling these stories from. “We want authentic stories told from authentic experiences and eyes,” she explained.

“Our judges were amazed by the quality and ingenuity of the eleven projects pitched from the film and immersive teams at this year’s PitchBLACK Forum,” she said.

“These filmmakers and creatives represent not only the stunning depth of talent in our community but also the wide breadth of stories yet to be told. We are happy to award the three winning projects with funding through PitchBLACK, and we look forward to seeing all these documentaries and immersive projects once they are completed.”

You can learn more about BPM and its programs by visiting