A non-profit that helps Black filmmakers network and thrive is expanding its reach.
Black Film Space, an organization with roots in Brooklyn, is launching a membership program that will allow it to start offering even more opportunities to BIPOC working in the film industry.
The organization was founded in 2015 by Flatbush screenwriter/producer/director Lande Yoosuf and screenwriter/director Reggie Williams, who wanted to bring together Black filmmakers to network and support each other.
Over the last five years, Black Film Space has acted as an accelerator for projects run by Black filmmakers, holding multiple mixer events, workshops and sessions in Brooklyn.
Even as a founder, Yoosuf said the organization had changed the trajectory of her career, connecting her with talent when people fell through for jobs and allowing her to complete projects she was working on much faster than she would have done without it.
“All my contacts were in another sector of TV and now most are in film because of Black Film Space. In an industry where relationships are paramount, it really makes a big difference,” she said.
In 2020, Black Film Space decided to focus on programming digital events, and expanded hugely. The network now has over 10,000 participants with members from Texas to Philadelphia to Chicago, and even South Africa and the UK.
“We grew progressively and around 2017 we spiked, and from there the expansion has been aggressive,” Yoosuf said.
Through social media and word of mouth, the organization has built a network of Black filmmakers who support one another and increase access and opportunity in an industry where people of color have traditionally been shut out.
Williams said, while the industry was generally trending in the right direction in terms of recognizing and awarding Black film talent, he felt the access for Black fillmmakers was about the same as it was five years ago.
“They can sit there and nominate all the Black films and actors they like, but that doesn’t solve the problem – the challenge is opportunities and resources,” he said.
“If you are paying attention there’s definitely more Black content than ever before, which is amazing, but it does feel we’re the last in the door. If there was a new network starting tomorrow we would probably not be the first, we would probably be last — that’s how I feel.”
The new membership offering seeks to advance opportunities for Black filmmakers and expand representation in front and behind the camera, its founders say.
“We wanted to step into another space, level up and offer mentorship so people have greater access to the industry, and offer grants so filmmakers can work on their projects,” Williams said.
The two membership plans offer access to the collective’s platform of industry resources, discounts on tools and film festival submission fees, 75+ workshops and on-demand courses led by TV and film professionals.
It also gives creatives access to the Black Film Space filmmaker database, screenwriting accountability group, member-only events, and its newly launched mentorship program. Members can apply for up to $3,000 in grants annually, and filmmakers and creatives of African-descent at all experience levels are invited to submit. Membership prices starts at $70 for all of 2021.
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