Andre Wilkins, director of Womack

When the value of what you do is based on the people you help, magic is created. That’s the adage of American Black Film Festival founder Jeff Friday who single-handedly created a platform for some of the best writers, producers, directors, actors, and executives to promulgate in one  ‘film-tastic’ venue.

As the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) celebrates its 16th year, film aficionados from all walks of life continue to show immense support for its mission to strengthen the black film-making community through resource sharing, artistic collaboration and career development. The festival boasts a great number of industry and corporate support with expected celebrities to include filmmaker Robert Townsend; actors Mekhi Phifer, Boris Kodjoe, Laz Alonzo and Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy; CNN host Don Lemon and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. The festival’s ambassador this year is actress Tracee Ellis Ross, best known for her lead role on the UPN/CW series Girlfriends.

This Thursday kicked off with incredible workshops, seminars and a ground breaking special event. Imperative discussions lighted up the room as the future of Black Entertainment led to some compelling discourse. A panel of senior media executives addressed the opportunities available for content producers in the digital space along with the various ways to use the digital landscape to distribute content and create buzz.

The highlight of the evening was the HBO Short Film Competition, which is known as one of the most prestigious platforms for emerging filmmakers. This competition is known to breed extraordinary talent and also deliver quite the monetary reward with a grand prize of $20,000. Talent discovered through this competition includes filmmakers Sylvain White from (The Losers, Stomp the Yard), Frank E. Flowers from (Haven) and Saladin Patterson from  (Psych, The Bernie Mac Show and The Fighting Temptations).

After a rigorous evaluation process, the five finalists filmmakers were able to screen their works of art before a sold-out audience at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach. From mastering arduous cinematography angles to breathtaking dramatic scenes, each film stood out for its unique joie de vivre.

In essence, everyone is a winner as all finalists are offered a broadcast deal on HBO and the opportunity to showcase their work in over 250 million homes. The winner will be announced on Saturday June 23rd. A celebration of success isn’t a celebration without a Black Hollywood Party. The night ends with a star-studded dance party at Club Cameo with many in tow to cheer on the Miami Heat’s big Finals win and to celebrate the success of the $90 million box office of the film Think Like a Man and the launch of the sketch comedy the Q&A Show.