The fellowship, which kicked off in October 2020, awards a $25K production grant to each of the six emerging producers so that they can develop, produce and deliver short narrative films inspired by the Black experience of education in America. In addition to the grant, each participant will receive in-kind support and career mentorship as they pursue their projects with programming and operational support provided by Cinereach.
“We are honored to work with the Black TV & Film Collective to bring to the forefront important narratives highlighting the Black experience in American schools. I was deeply moved by both the compelling personal stories submitted for the grant, and the quality of talent associated with them,” said Wavelength’s Founder, CEO, and Executive Producer Jenifer Westphal. “It’s time to recognize our current school system is not designed for inclusivity and disproportionately affects the Black population. We hope this series shines a light on this key issue and sparks the discussions necessary to foster change.”
“The Black Producers Fellowship has cultivated a talented group of producers and six exciting stories that deserve to be told. Each of these projects has real heart and we are proud to work with Wavelength and the BTFC in launching its inaugural fellowship program,” said Paul Mezey, Producer and Director of Productions + Investment at Cinereach.
Huriyyah Muhammad, Co-Founder of the BTFC and Producer of the award-winning Sundance film Farewell Amor, is excited for the fellows selected. “Through this initiative, we’re not only shining a light on America’s educational system but doing so while supporting and lifting the voices of emerging Black producers,” she said. “The Black TV & Film Collective is proud to be a development and production hub for Black and African descent filmmakers creating episodic, shorts, features, and documentaries. This fellowship is a critical continuation of our work in this area.”
The six projects selected for the fellowship include:
- CAN I HELP YOU? – When unfairly questioned by a white teacher, AP Bio student Keisha receives the unsolicited advice of her ancestors. Produced by Carlos Barrow, Directed by Desirae Lee, and Written by Kevin Johnson.
- HERE – Eleven-year-old Meskerem, with the help of her immigrant Ethiopian family, finds the courage to act bravely when confronted with cultural bias. Produced/Written by Bethel Dixon, Directed by James Anthony.
- I WON THE LOTTERY – A documentary crew chronicles the cut-throat world of Brooklyn parents vying for spots at the prestigious MLK Only Hope Charter School. Produced/Written by Monique Hazeur, Directed by Jenn Shaw.
- PENS & PENCILS – Mallory Johnson finds herself on a surreal wild-goose chase to find the missing student that no one else seems to miss. Produced/Written by Gem Little, Directed by Gia-Rayne B. Harris.
- THE CHAMPION – When second-grader Jacob begins to exhibit unusual behaviors in school, his mother takes on an unrelenting fight for answers. Produced/Written by Akima A. Brown, Directed by Tonya McCornell.
- THE PATIENT – A sick mother escapes the hospital for a precarious journey to her son’s graduation. Produced by Craig T. Williams, Written/Directed by Yucef Mayes.
The six producers selected for the fellowship include:
- Carlos Barrow – a Barbadian film producer and director who holds a BS in Film Production from Full Sail University and is set to graduate with an MFA in Film from Howard University.
- Bethel Dixon – a writer/producer focused on authentic and moving stories centered upon the lives of people of color around the globe.
- Monique Hazeur – a Brooklyn-based writer and producer originally hailing from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Her feature script, Patron Saint of Black Girls, was a semi-finalist for the 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab.
- Gem Little – a creative entrepreneur, activist, and emerging writer/producer who is currently completing an MFA in Producing at the American Film Institute Conservatory.
- Akima A. Brown – a writer, producer, and casting professional best known for A Haunting, on Discovery Network; In-Lawfully Yours streaming on Netflix, and the short-form, festival favorites Orange Morning and Kids & Couture.
- Craig T. Williams – a New York City-based writer and producer whose award-winning script Hanging By A Thread has Viola Davis and Julius Tennon attached as Executive Producers.
These stories were selected by a jury of five prominent industry leaders including Westphal; Ekwa Msangi, producer and writer/director of Farewell Amor; Emelyn Stuart, CEO of Stuart Cinema & Cafe, Founder of Ocktober Film Festival in NYC, and CEO and Executive Producer at Stuart Films; Marttise Hill, producer, director and Co-Founder of Pryor Hill Productions; and Paul Mezey, Producer and Director of Productions + Investment at Cinereach.
Principal photography for the shorts is set to begin in May and June pending production schedules.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.