Officials Huddle To Bring Black Film Fest Back To The Beach
By Frank Norton
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After drawing 1,200 filmmakers and accompanying media to Miami Beach this summer, local officials are discussing the American Black Film Festival as a yearly, if not year-round, operation.
Representatives of the county, the City of Miami Beach and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau plan to meet with event organizers on Thursday (9/19) to discuss the festival’s future on the Beach and its potential impact on the county.
"Often times we’re simply recruiting an event," said David Whitaker, senior vice president of marketing at the bureau, "but what’s slightly different in this case is the potential to make the festival a yearly event as well as a vehicle for the local film industry."
Organizers moved the 13-day event from Acapulco to Miami for the first time this year, citing logistical problems and poor media coverage. They chose Miami for its proximity to major markets, black ethnic communities and entertainment infrastructure, event founder Byron Lewis Sr. said.
"Miami is a multicultural atmosphere with a real film infrastructure and I’d like to make it a permanent home for the festival and for a year-round operation," said Mr. Lewis, also chairman & CEO of UniWorld Group, a $270 million Manhattan advertising agency.
"Ideally we want to encourage film production in South Florida for independent and feature filmmakers," he said.
That could mean integrating South Florida film schools with local production – a way to both support and tap higher education resources in the region, he said.
Mr. Lewis said he and event producer Jeff Friday, who also will attend the meeting, will discuss building a formal film network among South Florida film operatives and possibly city and county officials.
The festival would serve as an anchor, really," he said.
In July, Jeff Peel, director of Miami-Dade Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment, said he hoped to build relationships with filmmakers through seminars and educational initiatives that could bridge the gap between higher education and South Florida’s burgeoning film industry.
Mr. Whitaker declined to comment on possible incentives to bring the festival back, but in July Mr. Lewis said: "Whether we come back or not will be influenced by the convention bureau’s receptivity." He was referring in part to the bureau’s undisclosed incentive package paid earlier this year to festival organizers.
Mr. Whitaker would not disclose the amount of the financial portion of the package. Mr. Lewis said it was significantly more than the $50,000 the event received in Acapulco.