For The 20th Year, The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Puts The Spotlight on Black Filmmakers

By Flo Anthony

It all began in Acapulco 20 years ago. Visionary Jeff Friday gave birth to his dream of producing a film festival similar to Cannes that would showcase Black directors, actors and filmmakers. Two decades later, ABFF is still soaring, making ground and tonight opens with Central Intelligence, starting Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson.

The festival also profiles African American individuals that have achieved tremendous success in Entertainment based solely on there self determination and will not to fail.

This year from the Oscars to Golden Globes there has been less diversity and recognition of African American writers like myself to directors to executive producer to advertising executives.

Many minorities working in film and television need a showcase like ABFF to accomplish success and growth. While as a whole, we have key figures that are recognized for their work such as Will Smith, Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels and others, the industry at large is far from diverse. So this is the importance of events like the ABFF that showcase greatness, and works hard encourage mainstream Hollywoid to support the vision of these incredibly talented individuals.

I recently had a conversation with Steven Marcano, television executive producer of Knockout, a reality based television series. Marcano, who is trying to secure funding for his first feature and will be at the ABFF this Saturday to attend, support and discuss the format that has allowed him to enter into Hollywood with little to no support, and has what many consider today’s best reality-based boxing show ever. Knockout, which is on its third season, is only getting bigger.

As I talked with Steven I realized so many things that he has done which can become a blueprint to the success, not only of African American or Hispanic Film and Television makers, but to all independent persons in this field.

The Contender season 1 on NBC was a mutli million dollar production and never secured the level of participation such as Knockout which has featured Floyd Mayweather Sr., Roy Jones Jr, Yoel Judah, Ruben Guerro, Shane Mosley, and the list goes on. While the Contender in Marcano eyes, was genius with pairing boxing superstar Sugar Ray Lenord and Hollywood’s Boxing Champ Sylvestor Stallone, the difference is Contender only made new stars.

Knockout keeps the sports legends in the spotlight and makes new stars.

So one would think this was a major funded program and it isn’t so. Marcano took an extremely modest licensing fee, and once he had a time slot, went to work on securing ad revenue and sponsors. Then he also set up the interviews and media outlets and secured the celebrity trainers all on his own. As reported on yesterday, Marcano, who is represented by Paridigm is becoming visible in Hollywood and has offically started a production company. He has started to receive very good offers for Season 4.

The series has secured one global sponsor for season 4 which will allow him to stay with license approach so he can retain ownership of his shows and films the production company creates. This approach can become beneficial to all independent TV and film producers. This limits the risk to the networks while increasing sponsors buy in and allows the small guy to retain ownership.

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