Friday believes young filmmakers need more visible role models who are “breaking through.” He cites Tim Story, who directed Barbershop, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and other films before helming the 2012 hit, Think Like a Man, and who has been called “the highest-grossing black director that no one knows.” But he says most black directors aren’t working regularly enough to influence the next generation.

“The reason you don’t know the directors, because the volume of films is so scarce,” he says. “It’s kind of hard to know Malcolm Lee, a buddy of mine, if he only does a film every four years.”

The biggest issue, Friday says, is the shrinking studio system. “There are only like eight companies. And they really do set the course for everything that we digest theatrically. So I don’t think the culture of filmmaking has changed. I see a lot of great movies. And if you come [to the ABFF] this week, we’ve got a lot of very diverse stories – a lot of them. Will they ever make it to the, to a theater near you? Probably not. But I’m hoping that the television market will remain healthy and we’ll see our films. And at the very least, we’ll see our films in television, and then followed by, you know, successful digital, digital releases.”

And as for the role models who are out there, Friday says one, Tyler Perry, has gotten a bad rap.

“This whole Tyler Perry criticism really to me has been unfair,” Friday says. “Some of us sit around and criticize his work. The only problem is, it’s the only thing that we have to talk about. It has nothing to do with his work.”

“Between ’93 and ’99,” Friday says, “there was an average of about 12 to 16, I mean straight up black films – black director, producer … black writer – but more important, they were clearly targeted to a black audience. If Tyler Perry was just one of those twelve, we wouldn’t be talking about him. There’s so many people who don’t like his work. There are obviously more who do, ‘cause he wouldn’t be the highest-paid person in Hollywood last year [otherwise].”

For more on the American Black Film Festival, go to www.abff.com.

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