***Warning! This post is long. So have a seat with your cup because you’re about the get the tea***
I debated long and hard on whether or not I wanted to reveal my truth regarding my experience with ABFF 2017. One thing I pride myself on is honesty. I have to practice honesty throughout all facades of my life especially in my work.
And My Honest Experience With ABFF 2017 In One Word: HORRIBLE!
Please note this is an account of my experience and doesn’t necessarily reflect the festival as a whole. My experience only reflects attending the event as press.
I was excited to attend ABFF for the first time this year. After a friend suggested that I cover it, I made it my mission to submit my request for credentials as soon as registration opened. I had my calendar marked for the day to do so to ensure I would not forget. Generally with events of such magnitude, I’m pessimistic about receiving approval. So I was pleasantly surprised when I received a “Yes”.
Since I’m a small business owner, I was apprehensive about spending the money to go. Once I saw the list of scheduled talented, I felt it was going to be worth my while. Boy was I wrong.
Where do I start?
I’ll start by saying I love the premise of the festival. Bringing together black filmmakers, producers, actors, writers and creatives to a space where we can grow, build and tell our stories the way they should be told. I like promoting positivity but don’t enjoy the hard time I’m given from my own community to do that.
I have been in this business for 10 long years. I’ve also attended many press trips. I’m not naive to how up and down these things can be. I’m also aware of how things should be ran accordingly.
Not to point any fingers, but it seems like there was a lack of communication somewhere in the chain which trickled down to media. A lot of people were traveling far to cover this event and there should have been more details (before we departed) on who we would have access to interview. Not waiting the day of to find out we’re only allowed to have 1:1’s with selected talent. That’s ridiculous!
The festival started Wednesday June 14th. I flew in on Tuesday night to ensure I was prepared for the days events. Before noon on Wednesday, I grabbed my press passes and still didn’t have an idea of who I can get a 1:1 with. I had asked about this the Friday before I left Chicago. I knew staying the whole festival was not feasible for me so it was important for me to have things planned out. I wanted to see if I could arrange 1:1’s with talent before I left back to Chicago on Friday.
I didn’t press the issue regarding the 1:1’s because I figured the talent I interview on the red carpet opening night would make up for the 1:1’s I don’t get. Well, that was another instance where I was completely wrong.
We had a list of 20 confirmed celebrity talent that were going to walk the carpet opening night. I’m thinking this is OPENING NIGHT, everyone is going to show up in style and will be prepared to answer questions. No problem. How come only 8 celebrities showed up? Keep in mind we had a face sheet of celebs, which includes a photo with their name below, so you can identify each person. Terrance Howard, Nicole Ari Parker and Faith Evans were some of the names listed. Why give us that sheet if none were to be expected on the red carpet? Out of the 8, I got 2 interviews! 1 celeb out of the 8, Regina Hall, was only instructed to speak to 3 media outlets out of the 20-30 that were there.
After media waited countless hours for her, you usher her along? Saying “she doesn’t have time“. Well you waited until the carpet was almost over to send her, along with others, out to do press. You wasted our time sending out sponsors and other random people that were not on the press release. I don’t know about you but I find it completely uncomfortable to interview someone that I know absolutely nothing about. I’m a professional. I like to have some general idea about the person I’m interviewing before the interview takes place.
Mind you, they had us packed on the red carpet like sardines. I’ve NEVER been to a red carpet where we were in rows! Rows?? Wait, now that I think about it they did that at the Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards and I almost passed out.
How do you expect one media outlet to capture footage behind another? We were practically humping one another. We’re in Miami heat (no pun intended) and you have us crammed on the carpet like we are on a slave ship with no offer of water.
It really disgusts me at the lack of blatant care/respect these events have for media.
Then they expect a rave review of their event. I’m tired of lying and acting like everything went smoothly when it was bumpy af. Again, I’ve been doing this for some time and a little bumps in the road are to be expected but …baby, if I feel like I’m on a rocky mountain.[in a southern accent] Something ain’t right!
What put the icing on the cake for me during opening night was the fact that media was not allotted access to attend the screening of “Girls Trip”
The 1:1’s Fiasco
During the day on Wednesday, I got approval for 1:1’s at the festival. I thought things were looking up. As I continue to read the email, I see my scheduled time and date for the interview would be a time I’m ON A PLANE BACK TO CHICAGO! This is exactly what I was trying to avoid when I sent an email, prior to departing to Miami, attempting to find out more details. My inquiry was never addressed and despite the lack of information I attended anyway thinking press would be taken care of. With this experience, I’ve learned events like this only care about their sponsors and talent. If you’re not going in your pocket then you’re not important. No one cared about what media needed to get the job done, unless you’re a media (say it with me) sponsor.
What kills me is black Hollywood constantly complains about not being recognized or supported and when there is press trying to recognize or support they either: a) don’t want to talk b) get too big-headed and will only chat with certain media outlets or c) Haven’t had a helping of humble pie in awhile. In the words of Kendrick Lamar:
Needless to say, I left the WHOLE 4 day festival with 2 interviews which totaled 2 min & 20 secs! Again, I’m a small business owner and in my mind this was a waste of time and money. I will never return to ABFF unless someone is paying me to be there. To other media outlets, this is my warning to you if you decide to attend. If things work out for you then great!
Upcoming filmmakers, directors, producers…etc, this might be a great event for you but take note: You will not leave the festival without doling out cash! With all the masterclasses and workshops, it’s inevitable!
Lastly, ABFF you really need to look into figuring out how to treat press a little better no matter how big or small the outlet. It’s easy to get hung up on the big names and faces and forget about those that work just as hard at your event as the bigger publications. There is a big flaw in how things are organized (I’m using that term loosely). I hate that this event perpetuated every stereotype about our culture
“Black events are never on time” , “Black events are so unorganized“, “The people at black events always have attitudes“
My hope is that someone on the board of ABFF reads this and tries to implement better strategies next year.