Emboldened by COVID – 19 and the civil and social upheaval of 2020, The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) curated the 26th Annual African American Film Marketplace & S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase (AAFM SEMSFS) streaming online now through November 29, 2020, to include a global voice from storytellers with points of view not often heard. An inclusive festival of 140 plus diverse films from all genres that presents the opportunity to share, learn and gain inspiration to meet the challenges facing the world to today and panels to inform, educate and give insight into the entertainment industry from top professionals and executives in the business.

In addition to the films, selected free panels give the audiences the opportunity for a more intimate look at filmmaking and features industry professionals and filmmakers with a wealth of knowledge for newcomers, veterans, and film fans over a variety of topics. The upcoming panel set for Sunday, November 8, 5:00PM (PDT), follows the free screening of “Atlanta Black Tech Mecca” (Short-Docu Series) by directors C’vonzell Dondrico and Vante’ followed by a Q and A with the cast and crew. The film looks at the emerging Black Tech Ecosystem in Atlanta, Georgia while highlighting leaders in the industry and celebrating diversity and inclusion.

The most recent panel held Sunday, November 1, “The Art of Documentary Filmmaking” provided priceless information and fundamental understanding into the real workings of making a documentary film. Moderated by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, David Massey “Last Breeze of Summer” and hosted by the Black Association of Documentary Filmmakers – West (BAD West), the panelists were guided through a discussion that allowed each to share their personal journey as documentarians, discuss distribution strategies, explain how funding was secured, describe their storytelling approach and documentary genre. The panel included filmmakers Jerry Henry, award-winning director-cinematographer, “St. Louis Superman”, Mellisa Haizlip, award-winning producer-director-writer, “Mr. SOUL!”, Frank Dawson, award-winning director “Agents of Change,” award-winning Kimberly Browning, producer-director, “Room 19” and Nathaniel Kahn, academy-nominated director “My Architect. When asked for a closing recommendation to filmmakers, some of the wisdom shared by the panelists included:

“Shoot with your ears, not just your eyes. Always, follow the story.” –Jerry Henry

“Don’t let festival deadlines determine the way you shoot your movie. Take the time you need to finish your film”. – Kim Browning
“Watch your footage as you go. Do not wait until then end to find you did not capture what you needed.” – Nathaniel Kahn

“Do not make a documentary for the money. You will not make any. Find a story you just must tell and follow the story. Listen in your interviews.” – Frank Dawson

“The passion and story are important. But building a good team that believes in you and your story is key.” – Mellisa Haizlip

In the opening discussion the panelist spoke exuberantly about the development of the increasing demand for the documentary format. The evolution of the form over the years has created a demand from the public creating a surge in demand from multiple distribution channels in both short and long documentary formats. However, Nathaniel Kahn cautioned filmmakers to remember themselves and their films as artists and art not product. “Remember to keep the power to tell the story your way. Always seek to maintain control of your artistic vision.” When asked if this demand has opened new opportunities for women, Ms. Haizlip remarked, “Women are no longer asking permission. They are demanding their opportunities. The virtual space gives way to opportunities not seen before and that levels the playing field.” Frank Dawson commented about the wealth of diverse talent, stating, “There are more qualified filmmakers of color than any other time in history whose stories have never been told, aligned with the access to multiple and varied platforms for distribution of documentary films.”

During the panel, several films were cited as great examples of good documentary filmmaking worthy of watching in addition to those listed in the panelist’s bios. They are: “Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America” by Dr. Gretchen Sorin and Emmy-winning and director Ric Burns, “Sherman’s March” by director Ross McElwee and “The Apollo” by Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams.

Special Event Highlights
Additional BHERC panels include the following:
11/14 11AM Editors on Editing
11/15 2PM I’M Good Bro’ addressing Black Male Depression Black Nurses Assn.
11/20 5PM Road to Television designed for 1st timers in the Industry
11/21 11AM Cinematographers on Cinematography
11/21 5PM The McHenry Trial… Q and A with Ken Sagoes, Filmmaker
11/22 4PM Black Filmmakers on Social Justice. Sandra Evers-Manly, BHERC President

Space is limited so early registration is suggested. Log on to www.bhec.org for the complete schedule.

More About the Festival
In addition to the 18 countries represented at the festival, filmmakers hail from over 20 US States and 40 Cities. Festival participants may sort and select films by genres that include: Action, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Historical, Horror, Inspirational, Music, Romance, Sci-Fi, Spoken Word, and Thriller. They may also explore by topics such as Art, Diversity, Family, Faith-Based, LGBTQ+, Mental Health, People with Disabilities and Social Justice. The festival also plays host to a few young filmmakers from Film schools such as: Academy of Art, Florida State University, High Definition Film Academy, Loyola Marymount University, New York Film Academy, Oral Roberts University, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Southern California. However, the youngest filmmaker is a self-taught nine-year old.

Festival passes are available online at www.bherc.org. $75.00 for a full Festival Pass, $25.00 for a Day
Pass and $10.00 for a block of 5 films. All panels and special events are free.