Black Filmmakers Hopefully Haven't Bought Into the Belief that Their Films Have No Market Internationally
Photo Credit: S & A

Black Filmmakers Hopefully Haven't Bought Into the Belief that Their Films Have No Market Internationally


I could very be wrong, but I just assumed that filmmakers – black filmmakers specifically – with completed films, who see a film festival circuit tour in the future of their films, are submitting them to festivals all over the world, and not just here in the USA, and certainly not just the popular ones.

In an email chat I had with a filmmaker last night, who recently completed a feature film, and was in the process of submitting it to film festivals for consideration (asking for any advice I could give on where he should submit his film), I was a bit surprised to learn that he had no overseas strategy; he listed the film festivals he was planning to target with his film, and they were all local – as in, USA-based.

As I repeated to him, I certainly hope that black filmmakers here in the States haven’t unconsciously (or even consciously) bought into that silly, though common Hollywood studio belief that black films don’t travel.

It is for that very reason that I’d strongly encourage black filmmakers to submit their films to international film festivals! And I’m not referring only to the top-tier, most popular names that we all know of, like Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Venice, etc. There are countless film festivals all over the world, on almost every single continent. Some of them may not be as popular but are very well run, and will provide you with an audience that’s genuinely interested in what you have to offer, if only, in some cases, because they are located in parts of the world with a less than significant African population, and there’s a curiosity there; or, in the case of others, they don’t get a lot of submissions from black filmmakers, probably because black filmmakers aren’t submitting to those festivals, because they don’t believe that there’ll be any interest in their films.

There may be an opportunity to build awareness for yourself and your films in parts of the world that might be more open to your work than you realize; being big in China, even if no one knows who you are in the USA, can be huge for your bottomline. Obviously that’s just one hypothetical example.

And, as we all know very well, having an international presence is key in this business. It can be the leverage you need to help you get your next film financed. More American filmmakers (big names and indies) are seeking funding overseas, whether directly from individual investors, or via co-production deals/markets and the like (we’ve highlighted many on this site).

In addition to film festivals, also consider filmmaker labs and workshops, as well as film markets, and other related opportunities outside the USA.

There are opportunities that exist that you might be missing, because you’re too focused on being represented here in the USA. Not that you should ignore building a presence at home. But just be sure to factor into your plans, an overseas effort.

Think of the many black artists who found early 20th century France (viewed by many black people as a welcome change compared to the racism that oppressed them here in the United States) more ready to embrace them and their talents, than they experienced at home.

We’re not exactly in a similar kind of climate as they were back then, but the sentiment is pretty much the same.

So if you’re not already thinking outside this box that we call the US of A, you really need to start doing that. There’s a whole world out there that, as I said, you might find will be more interested in your work, for a variety of reasons (obviously it’s up to you to decide on what you can stomach) than the profit-hungry, shortsighted executives in Hollywood studio offices. And that foreign audience might help you build an international profile/presence which could prove to be beneficial for you down the road.

Obviously it’s easier said than done, and I know that there are costs to some of these things; but there are those that carry no fees as well. So there’s more of a balance than you might realize. You just have to do the work.

Those of you who are already on top of this, please share your experiences (good and bad) to enlighten others.

For my part, I will compile a list of “under-the-radar” festivals, markets, workshops, labs, contests etc, all over the world, that you should know about and explore; some that may be looking especially for work by and about people of color, especially at a time when words like “diversity” and “inclusiveness” are cause célèbre, not only in the USA, but in a number of other parts of the industrialized world where industries have announced an intent to be more representative of the people who buy their content, or who they serve.

I’ll publish the list, accompanied with links, and other relevant info, in the next month or so.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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