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  • AAFCA and ABA Film Society Hold ‘Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema’ Event at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Monday, February 18, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and the African Black American (ABA) Film Society to present a special discussion exploring the past, present and future of Black creative excellence in Hollywood through an inaugural learning lab, Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema at its Los Angeles campus. The event featured Outlier Society’s Alana Mayo, and was moderated by AAFCA Founder and President Gil Robertson.

    Gil Robertson said, “AAFCA is thrilled with our partnership with NYFA as we celebrated Black excellence in the industry during BHM. Our panel with Alana was excellent. She was very generous in sharing her experiences with the students as a Creative Executive, as well as providing them with inspiration on how they can follow in her path.”

    Alana Mayo

    Alana Mayo was Vice President of Production at Paramount and Vice President and Head of Originals at Vimeo before becoming Head of Production and Development for Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions. At Paramount, Mayo helped develop the cinematic adaptation of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

    Mayo discussed her background, how her parents influenced her career, and navigating her trajectory as a Creative Executive for three of the top studios in the industry. 

    Three students who attended the event gave NYFA their thoughts on the experience. Folake Kehinde, recent NYFA MFA grad and ABA’s Events Chair and Interim Communications Chair, had this to say:

    My favorite things about this event were the access. Alana was welcomed by one of the ABA members who is also queer. I had no idea of this connection when I was scheduling volunteers and was so happy to be able to give Jamie the opportunity to meet and welcome Alana. Alana has greatly inspired Jamie and she was thrilled for the opportunity to meet and welcome her. 

    Alana attended the pre-reception briefly. She took pictures with the ABA and was so polite and happy to be with us. Her humbleness was so sweet and unexpected. Then during the event I appreciated her learnedness. It was so wonderful to hear from a production executive with a degree in film studies. So often production executives studied English or something slightly unrelated to filmmaking—it was nice to hear from someone with an extensive study of cinema as well as years of employment with various studios and production companies. 

    It was interesting to watch her talk so passionately about her favorite films, Polish Cinema, and the discussions she has while watching TV with [her fiancee] Lena Waithe. They’re very different in how they communicate but both have obtained vast success. 

    I also loved hearing how nice Michael B. Jordan is. I was so moved by her saying that Michael will give out her email at various places around town to people who have an idea and that they’re even going to make one of the ideas a person he met on the street wrote. I love that Michael is so kind, contemporary, and cutting-edge. The fact that he cares about people and is interested in talking with them and helping them to make their work blows me away. I also love that he is starring in several projects his company is making as well as other projects outside of his company. It’s inspiring to watch his career as an actor and now producer unfold. As an actress and producer myself this helped to confirm for me that I can achieve my dreams! 

    My final favorite moment was when Jamie told Alana that she is also a queer woman and that she has been so inspired by Alana’s career and bravery to be heard and make a path in the entertainment industry. 

    After the Q&A, legendary casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd (who cast Michael B. Jordan and others in the film Fruitvale Station and so many other projects) stayed and did an impromptu Q&A with actors and filmmakers. It was fantastic! She had a very frank conversation with us where she challenged us to tell our stories! She talked about being on a panel that read scripts for a Festival and how so many of the ideas were so similar. She knows that all black people didn’t grow up in ‘the hood’ and she wants creators to be unafraid to share their middle-class or wealthy upbringing. She advised actors to look their best at all times—even at the gym. She also told actors to put our pictures on our business cards, and avoid putting too much of another actor on their reels. 

    It was an extraordinary evening. I’m very grateful to New York Film Academy, Professor Kim Ogletree, and the founder of AAFCA for putting the event together.

    Alana Mayo

    Toyin Adewumi, 8-week Producing student, learned a few lessons from the event as well. The first was to take risks! A former HR professional, Adewumi loved that Mayo talked about leaving her comfortable job at a studio she had been at for years: “Having that clarity of there’s more out there. Yes I’m here… but… not being connected with the culture there.” Adewumi was impressed that Alana was brave enough to leave and find her ideal job. 

    She also loved that Alana isn’t ashamed of her personality. “Her acknowledgement that she needed to change some things. Her boldness to be humble… being willing to drop some things I (she) learned when I’ve (she) grown up. Her being humble helped lead to her breakthrough….Taking risks, knowing when to work on herself, being humble” are lessons Adewumi will treasure for a long time to come.

    Brianna Dickens (AFA Acting For Film ’18) was moved by the ABA events held during Black History Month. Dickens had a wonderful chat with Twinkie Byrd and at the ABA Careers in Television event, she was invited to visit a set for a day with some friends. She tells NYFA:

    I’m so thankful I found the ABA. I didn’t even know they existed. Luckily my class was invited to a screening event of theirs (the Q&A with Chuck Hayward). The second I arrived, the leaders of the group welcomed me and introduced themselves to me. In less than a month of being an ABA member, I’ve attended three events that have truly inspired me, opened my eyes, taught me things no one else has, and even opened the doors for me to have real on-set experience!

    Everyone in this group is focused, supportive, kind, and encouraging. They uplift each other. I think we will do great things for one another and together. I’m thankful to have them.

    The New York Film Academy and ABA Film Society thank Alana Mayo and Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd for sharing their experience and advice with our students!

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    March 12, 2019 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 655

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Offers Support for the 10th Annual AAFCA Awards

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    On February 6, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) provided volunteers and a crew to film the 10th Annual AAFCA Awards at the Taglyan Center Complex in Hollywood.

    The African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) is a group of African-American film critics and was founded in 2003 by Gil L. Robertson IV and Shawn Edwards. The AAFCA body consists of a geographically diverse range of journalists who cover all genres of film and represent television, radio broadcast, digital media, and print. Each year it presents a variety of awards in addition to its Top Ten Films of the Year list.

    AAFCA Awards 2019

    “I have attended this celebration for many years and the AAFCA continues to excel far beyond the boundaries of mainstream television and film,” states Kimberly Ogletree, Chair of NYFA Industry Lab and Consulting Producer for the awards. “The recognitions they give to the underrepresented voice will be a testament to the longevity of this organization.”

    The Marvel blockbuster and cultural phenomenon Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler, was named by the AAFCA as Best Film of the Year, as well as being awarded Best Director (Coogler) and Best Song (“All The Stars”).

    Additional awards include Best Actor for John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), Best Actress for Regina Hall (Support the Girls), Best Animated Film for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Best TV Comedy for Insecure, the HBO series developed by and starring New York Film Academy alum Issa Rae.

    The AAFCA has also announced its annual Top Ten List of best films:

    1 Black Panther (Walt Disney Studios)
    2 If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna Pictures)
    3 The Hate U Give (20th Century Fox)
    4 A Star is Born (Warner Bros. Studios)
    5 Quincy (Netflix)
    6 Roma (Netflix)
    7 Blindspotting (Lionsgate)
    8 The Favourite (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
    9 Sorry to Bother You (Annapurna Pictures)
    10 Widows (20th Century Fox)

    “It’s been a breakthrough year in cinema on a number of fronts,” says AAFCA co-president Gil Robertson. “Most significantly, the tremendous success of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians clearly demonstrates that films populated by people of color can perform well overseas.

    The New York Film Academy provided filming assistance and volunteers for the ceremony through its Industry Lab. The NYFA Industry Lab, founded in 2014, offers students real world experience through working on major productions for professional clients. A recent success of the NYFA Industry Lab was the internationally acclaimed short film, The Counter: 1960, which had seven Industry Lab members contribute to its production.

    Later this month, the AAFCA and NYFA Industry Lab will partner together to present a special discussion exploring the present, past, and future of Black creative excellence in Hollywood through the AAFCA’s inaugural learning lab, Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema. The event promises to inspire fruitful dialogue and creative exchange and will feature Alana Mayo (Outlier Society). 

    “The collaboration of AAFCA with NYFA will forge a path for students and alumni to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities that AAFCA can bring to NYFA,” adds NYFA Industry Lab Chair Kimberly Ogletree. “By aligning ourselves with a proven organization such as AAFCA, we can benefit from their expertise and knowledge of servicing the community and the entertainment industry.”

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    February 12, 2019 • Industry Lab, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 112