tanya kersey*The Hollywood Black Film Festival is one of the most highly-recognized film festivals geared towards African American filmmakers and taste-makers alike.

Founded in 1998 by HBFF executive director Tanya Kersey, the HBFF is a four day celebration of Black Cinema. EURweb’s Lee Bailey recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Ms. Kersey about what attendees can expect from the event this year.

“This year, for the first time ever, we’re doing three events free to the public,” Tanya told Lee. “We’re doing a live storyteller reading with Michael Baisden. It’s great to partner with a national radio show host. I’m happy to have him aboard to increase our outreach outside of the Los Angeles area. He’ll be signing books and hosting during the reception. We have celebrity casting director Twinkie Byrd doing a monologue slam with her celebrity friends.”

“Actors come down and do a one minute monologue and it’s nothing negative. It’s just a panel for actors on how to make the audition better,” she continued. “The third event we have is Wells Fargo sponsoring an event with DeVaughn Franklin. For those who don’t know he’s the new V.P. of Sony. He’s responsible for ‘Jumping the Broom’, ‘Sparkle’, and ‘Just Married’. He’s a preacher and an executive. I’m actually monitoring a sort of fireside chat with him talking about faith in films. Those are the three newest entries into the festival that I’m really excited about.”

hbff logoFilm Festivals are a delightful way for fans of films created by and for African Americans. However, attendees might not necessarily be there for the films but for the networking opportunities instead. Though most film festivals say they offer the chances to network with some of top names in the business, very few actually deliver.

“Our motto has always been; access, opportunities  deals,” she explained. “The notion behind that is you can come to the festival and have access to information, to people and resources. Access to things you can’t get elsewhere. Opportunities because you have a chance to meet the people to network and develop business relationships. In terms of deals, you can actually make some deals. You can make some things happen for your career.”

The black film festival phenomenon has grown a great deal in the past 15 years, but very few live up to the grand billing that they give themselves. Tanya Kersey feels the HBFF is one of those few.

“Years ago we were dubbed ‘the Black Sundance’ and I think that speaks volumes about our festival. There are black film festivals all over the country and all over the world, but that’s what separates us along with the fact that we’re in Hollywood’s backyard. I started the film festival when I ran a paper called ‘Black Talent News’ so I already had a relationship with studios, with networks and with talent. It was launched at USC which kind of gave it instant credibility. I can’t remember a year when we didn’t have most of the major studios represented. Unlike other film festivals, you have a real chance doing some serious power networking, creating relationships, mingling with other people in the industry, and you can’t do that if your film festival is in Tennessee. Industry people aren’t going to Tennessee  Not only do you have the opportunity to get your film seen by the people, but by the entertainment media who might want to talk to you and give you buzz and not to mention the studio executives. At no other film festival will you have the opportunity to see that many people in one place.”

The W Hollywood Hotel has been announced as this year’s host hotel while Montalban theater will be the actual screening venue. The Hollywood Black Film Festival is slated to kick off this Thursday, October 25 and run through Sunday, October 28. For additional information or for tickets log on to www.hbff.com.