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The Black TV & Film Collective (BTFC) started as a Meetup group in 2014. We were just a couple of people who agreed we could help each other by sharing knowledge, building relationships and working on each other’s projects. In the early days we weren’t doing any marketing or recruiting yet every day there would be 6, 7 or 8 people joining the group. We quickly realized that the network we were building should extend beyond Meetup and that the ways we were supporting each other and other artists within our community should be formalized as a nonprofit organization.
Now we are over 1200 member, predominantly in the NYC area, but we have members in several other states. In 2017, we were awarded 501c3 status.
Everything we do is aimed to increase the equity and inclusion in storytelling. The stats don’t lie when it comes to our industry. Not only do they not lie, but in fact they are abysmal. People of color are systematically locked out of television and film career opportunities both in front of the camera and behind the camera. But we can’t live with the status quo. We can’t just hope someone else will come along and make a rule that changes this. We have to be the ones who change it. We believe that by working more closely together, we can. We also believe that by telling our stories and helping others to do the same, we will increase empathy and understanding in our society and human race.
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I started thinking about the North Star and so many slaves escaping their plantation and following that star toward freedom. What inspires me about this is the courage that it must have taken despite the fear, despite the uncertainty, despite not knowing for sure the path, and following only this North Star. The risk. I look up at the sky and the stars are bright and I just have to pause and wonder my god, what it must have taken to make the journey. I think about Harriet Tubman and the courage it must have taken her to escape, reach freedom and then put herself back in the grip of the beast again by returning to free more slaves. The courage it took to follow this star again and again and again. Our logo pays homage to this journey. The reason it feels right is because it takes courage to be an artist. Artists are one of the most disrespected professions. Artists are encouraged not to even try because it’s so hard, you don’t make any money, and the work you do unless it is “nominated or acclaimed in some way”, very often is looked down upon because how much money you have and make is the only thing that matters. “Unless you get into Sundance or Toronto or Cannes your work is shit”. And we fell this about ourselves and our work. With AMFAM, my good friend and comrade Ekwa Msangi had to coach me off the ledge when I was feeling insecure about the work, so it’s really a personal struggle. When you graduate from film school, they don’t give you a map to the “promise land” and there is no guide. But it takes courage despite the fear and determination. The mission of the Black TV and Film collective is to help guide artists, toward sustainable long terms careers in film, TV and media. It’s so necessary that we are empowered to tell our stories, it’s important for our own souls, it’s important for our esteem as a people, and it’s important for the next generation.
The Black TV & Film Collective