For almost as long as I’ve been running Shadow And Act, a question I’m asked very often, whether via email, or when I meet folks in person (mostly black filmmakers and black actors) is whether I can connect them with any “support groups” for black filmmakers/actors/etc in their respective cities (although, most often, the question comes from folks living in so-called *big cities* like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and others).
I use the term “support groups” as an umbrella description even though the questions I receive don’t say those words specifically. But that’s pretty much what their searches can be summed up as. Essentially, they’re looking for real (as opposed to virtual/online) spaces/collectives where they can meet and network with other black talents in whatever areas and cities they live in.
It’s not a question I can always readily answer, because I live in New York, and so I’m most familiar with that terrain. Although I still wouldn’t say that I’m aware of, or connected to every black filmmaker/actor/whatever talent group/collective that exists in NYC, even though I live here. So I often first reply with a question; and that is, what they, the people inquiring, are looking to get out of any group/collective, because that’s where it really starts. You have to know exactly what you want to get out of the experience first, which will assist in narrowing down your choices.
And secondly, I tell them to join social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, if they don’t already have accounts, and *friend*, *like* or follow all those filmmakers we’ve written about here on S&A, as most of them are on both (and other) social networking sites – especially those you know who live in your city; and then engage those folks you follow, or are Facebook friends with, and find out where they’re hanging out, and who they’re hanging out with, and be proactive.
Third, I tell them to seek out and join any film organizations in their area, maybe volunteer at black film festivals or film screening series in their city (and almost every major city in the USA probably has a black film festival), which should provide further networking opportunities.
Fourth I suggest volunteering to work on film shoots. In a city like New York, there are often film shoots happening on any given week, whether shorts, features, docs, web series, etc; and PAs (production assistants) are sometimes needed. That’s also another way to meet and network.
Fifth, I tell them to go to their local colleges and universities – specifically the film departments – and inquire there.
But other than those few choices (and others not mentioned), I thought I’d present the question to you folks who read S&A. Although it’s more like a series of questions.
Those of you who’ve been at this for awhile now, and understand the hustle of it all, I’m interested in hearing what your thoughts are on this idea of a black filmmakers collective (some folks have suggested that Shadow And Act create one, but I just don’t have the resources to put into something like that; and frankly, I’d say that this website is itself is a collective – a virtual one. And if you hang out here long enough, I think you’ll pick up a few tips here and there – whether from the posts, or the comments – that could assist in your search).
But I’d like to read your thoughts on what you all do to stay connected, to meet and network, etc with other black folks in the biz, no matter on what level. If I were a black filmmaker or actor and I just moved to your city (whatever city it is) and I asked you where I can go to connect with other black filmmakers/actors/etc, what would you tell me?
Also, as someone asked, is there enough “unity” among us that a diasporic collective of some kind can exist and thrive? What do you say to that?
And lastly, if you already belong to, or run an organization, group, collective, or whatever for black filmmakers or black actors, or black talents in general to gather, meet, network, commiserate, etc, please introduce yourself (especially if we’ve never written about you here), whether in the comments section below, or to me directly via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and say what city/country you’re in so that others in your area know how to get in touch with you.
So, have at it… Don’t be shy! Let’s see where this conversation leads.