Building on HBO’s 23-Year Legacy, WarnerMedia Makes a Splash at 2019 ABFF
The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) wrapped its 23rd annual event in Miami on June 19 with WarnerMedia’s collaborative participation across its diverse portfolio reinforcing its commitment to identifying and cultivating the next generation of storytellers.
HBO, a presenting sponsor of the festival since it began in 1997 in Acapulco, Mexico, has been instrumental in furthering ABFF’s mission to empower black artists and showcase quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. This year, WarnerMedia and parent company AT&T were premier sponsors with Warner Bros. and truTV rounding out the partnership as supporting sponsors of the annual film event.
For more than twenty years, ABFF has been one of the leading festivals in the world tocelebrate independent television and film content for emerging black artists. Here’s a look back at some of WarnerMedia’s highlights from this year’s festival:
- New Line Cinema (Warner Bros.) premiered its action comedy “Shaft” as the opening night film to kick-off the festival. The latest film in the popular franchise is directed by Tim Story and stars three generations of John Shaft: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher and Richard Roundtree.
- HBO Collabs hosted its second annual Ask HBO Hour, an invitation only event to a select group of filmmakers, giving them access to key HBO programming and production executives from HBO Production, Post-Production, Comedy Programming, Drama Programming, Films Programming and Talent Development. The intimate sessions totaled over 150 key filmmakers and ABFF fellows. During each hour-long session, attendees had an opportunity to ask HBO executives questions about their respective fields at HBO, the industry as a whole and network with other filmmakers and creatives.
- HBO held an exclusive conversation with Alabama public interest attorney, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson. The event spotlighted his work and the upcoming HBO documentary “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality”(premiering June 26). It was moderated by attorney and CNN political commentator Angela Rye, with opening remarks from Jackie Glover, SVP of HBO Documentary.
- HBO hosted its 22nd annual Short Film Competition, one of the most prestigious diverse short film competitions in the country, which garnered 400 film submissions which were narrowed to five competing for a $10,000 cash prize. This year, the jury was expanded to include development executives from across the WarnerMedia family. The final five contestants were Daniel Willis and Jessica Shields for “Wednesday,” Zoey Martinson for “The Fisherman,” Eric Pumphrey for “Evelyn X Evelyn,” Kia Moses and Adrian McDonald for “Flight,” and finally, the winning submission, “Cap,” written and directed by Marshall Tyler and produced by Moria Griffin.
- Festival attendees had an opportunity to learn from the talented team behind WBTV’s top shows at its Business of Entertainment Seminar, “See Yourself in the Work We Do.” The panel included some of the biggest names in television production. Attendees also learned about the WB Good’s Access to Action program, which has placed production assistants on each of the productions represented on the panel.
- The ABFF Comedy Wings Competition, presented by HBO, had a full capacity attendance at New World Center for the annual comedy show on Friday night. The Comedy Wings Competition is a nationwide search to identify outstanding comedic talent and expose undiscovered comics aspiring to careers in film and television, as well as provide the winner with access to new industry contacts and an additional live performance opportunity.
- Comedians Allan Cunningham, Ty Davis, Reg Thomas, Brian Tucker and Kevin D. White competed for a cash prize of $5,000. Ty Davis received a standing ovation for her comedy set and was crowned the winner at the end of the evening. Deon Cole provided ample comedy in between sets as the official host of the competition.
- 2017 ABFF Writing contest winner Darrin Dortch returned to the festival to tell his story of how he went from contestant to assistant writer in the “Claws” writing room. He was joined on stage by “Claws” showrunner Janine Sherman Barrios and executive producer Eliot Laurence. Darrin shared his before, during, and after the ABFF festival story and how he landed his gig. The panel concluded with Janine, Eliot and Darrin providing the more than 200 panel attendees the opportunity for a one on one conversation on writing and filmmaking success with the panelist of their choice.
- truTV’s Laff Mobbs “Laff Tracks” featured a sneak peek at the inventive comedy series that flips stand-up comedy on its head. Special host Ronnie Jordan was joined by fellow comedians with live stand-up sets and hilarious recreations from the series.
No film festival is complete without an awards ceremony. This one culminates with the Best of ABFF Awards Presentation, sponsored by Dream in Black – AT&T. Here’s a list of all the WarnerMedia winners:
- HBO Comedy Wings Competition – Ty Davis
- HBO Short Film Award – Marshall Tyler, Writer & Director, “Cap”
- truTV Comedy and Writing Contest – Domonic and Kim Smith-Weston
- TNT Drama writing winner – Darnell Brown
- TBS Comedy writing winner – Claytia Gonsalves
Winners received various prizes including paid trips to the festival, cash prizes, plus opportunities to speak with WarnerMedia executives from several of its business units.
The festival wrapped for WarnerMedia with all the business units coming together for a brunch to honor all the winners. We are proud of our various partnerships with the American Black Film Festival and look forward to more years of finding new and emerging diverse stories and voices.
WarnerMedia companies have long been committed to diversity and inclusion as moral and business imperatives. It is essential that our content and creative partners reflect the diversity of our society and the world around us. We all must ensure there is greater inclusion of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers both in front of and behind the camera.
The companies of WarnerMedia have a historic and proven commitment to diversity and inclusion. But there is much more we can do, and we believe real progress can be made in the industry. We will work with our partners in the entertainment community to make this commitment a reality.