AFI partners with AMC for Black Production Fund

(Courtesy American Film Institute)

The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the establishment of the Black Production Fund in partnership with AMC Networks. The fund will provide grants for thesis productions by Black Fellows in their second year at the AFI Conservatory.

The Black Production Fund, along with the recently announced Thomas P. Pollock Endowed Scholarship for promising diverse AFI Producing Fellows, is part of AFI’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives dedicated to increasing Black voices in storytelling.

“At this pivotal moment in America’s history, the revolutionary power of visual storytelling to inspire change has never been more critical – and there is no better way to support underrepresented voices than to help fund the films they make to tell their own stories,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and EVP of the American Film Institute. “This support for our Fellows with their thesis films is transformational. We want to thank AMC Networks for their leadership in creating opportunities for Black storytellers.”

Beyond the fund, AMC Networks has committed to distributing select AFI Conservatory films on UMC, AMC Networks’ streaming VOD platform exclusively dedicated to showcasing Black film and television, beginning with THE FIRST STONE, directed by Kaisan Rei (AFI Class of 2016); GUMMI BEAR, directed by RJ Dawson (AFI Class of 2019); and YELLOW GIRL AND ME, directed and written by Isabella Issa (AFI Class of 2019).

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“AMC Networks is proud to support the Black Production Fund – a vehicle to break down barriers for Black artists to tell stories that build a more inclusive culture,” said Josh Sapan, CEO of AMC Networks. “With UMC, we are also proud to provide a home to showcase some of these outstanding projects.”

In its continuing efforts to honor excellence in the art of the moving image, American Film Institute also awarded the AFI Alumni Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in directing and screenwriting, to members of the Class of 2019 during a private virtual alumni reception at this year’s AFI FEST presented by Audi.

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The William J. Fadiman Award for Screenwriting ($15,000) went to Christina Kingsleigh Licud for her screenplay The Daughters. The Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award ($10,000) was awarded to Isabella Issa for her thesis film YELLOW GIRL AND ME; and The Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award for Directing ($20,000) went to Haohao Yan for her thesis film The Speech. The first Thomas P. Pollock Fellows, Haley Beasley (Producing, Class of 2022) and Nagee Brown (Producing, Class of 2022), were also feted at the reception.