Open Letter to Hollywood. Because Hollywoodn't

Open Letter to Hollywood: Because Hollywoodn’t

iconic Hollywood sign

ABFF 20th anniversary logoBottom line: these nomination processes–and the entire industry, for that matter–are out of focus. African Americans, Latinos and other people of color remain the equivalent of extras, absent from leading roles when it comes to gaining the budgets to make high-quality films, participating in the green-lighting process, and having a voice when it comes to making decisions on the industry’s winners and losers across-the-board.

We find this to be no less than an insult to African Americans given our history of creative and commercial success which has been responsible for the industry’s vitality and profitability. African Americans contributed significantly to the $11 billion-plus in gross annual box office receipts in 2015, and our annual ticket sales are roughly 19% higher than non-Hispanic whites. On a revenue basis, we are an indelible part of the main feature.

We refuse to play the victim. That’s why we have created and expanded the American Black Film Festival. In its 20th year, ABFF continues to provide a platform for black filmmakers, advocate for inclusion in the industry and offer entertainment options that showcases the rich diversity of the African American experience.

That’s why this year–on Feb. 21–we will unveil ABFF Honors* to recognize the excellence in film and television produced by people of African descent. We will honor our film legends of yesterday as well as the creative forces of today–all of whom will serve as inspiration for the filmmakers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. If the industry at large refuses to recognize our creative achievements and commercial success, we have designed our own vehicle to promote African American talent and excellence. We will ensure the advancement of our presence and participation within the industry.

The development and expansion of ABFF represents just one of the catalytic forces to make Hollywood inclusive and responsive. We call upon African American consumers to do their part as well.  It is imperative that you demand greater access to opportunities and recognition for African Americans in all aspects of the film business. We have the collective economic muscle to determine the financial success of the film industry. We have the voice to let mainstream Hollywood know that we will no longer accept the status quo. Let’s communicate to Hollywood that it’s time to rewrite its exclusionary practices and, at the same time, engage with ABFF to celebrate our own ingenuity and filmmaking prowess.

Collectively, we can flip the script. Why? Because Hollywoodn’t.

*“ABFF Awards:  A Celebration of Hollywood,” airs on BET and Centric Tuesday, February 23rd at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Jeff Friday
Founder & CEO, ABFF Ventures LLC

Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.
President & CEO Black Enterprise