The largest pitch competition in the country for Black, independent filmmakers and creative technologists, PitchBLACK, has selected its winners. At its competitive project pitching event, Black Public Media, the national nonprofit organization with a Harlem base that has supported and distributed Black movies and programming for more than 40 years, gave $225,000 in project financing. The PitchBLACK Awards, presented by Paramount+ and other important companies. Director Yoruba Richen announced the winners.
Luchina Fisher, a GLAAD Media Award nominee for her film Mama Gloria, won the PitchBLACK Film Forum and received $150,000 for a documentary about LGBT presence in the music business. LaJuné McMillian, who created The Unseen, a project on Black figure skaters and co-directors Kidus Hailesilassie and Ainslee Alem Robson, who created Uncharted VR, a voyage through African language and dance, won the PitchBLACK Immersive Forum. They received $50,000 and $25,000 for their respective projects.
PitchBLACK is the result of Black Public Media’s three-month 360+ Incubator fellowship, a comprehensive professional development course created to aid in the commercialization of high-caliber Black content. Previous winners have gone on to produce for PBS, CNN, Showtime, Netflix, HBO, BET and The CW. Projects have premiered on PBS, WORLD Channel, Create, PBS Digital, Independent Lens’ StoryCast and more. One of the participants later wrote and produced for the popular NBC drama This Is Us.
We caught up with Luchina to ask her a few questions.
What does this win at PitchBLACK mean to you personally and professionally?
It’s such validation for me. It says we believe in you; your voice is important and matters; and keep going! In 2020, Black Public Media was the first organization to fund one of my films – my directorial feature debut Mama Gloria. It was the first green light from an industry I have tried for so long to be a part of. Back then, it was like they were saying, “We believe in you.” Three years later, with the PitchBLACK Film Forum Award, it’s like BPM is telling me “don’t stop, keep going!” I so appreciate the jury panel understanding the urgency of this project (Hiding in Plain Sight). Every day, there is another headline about the attacks on trans and LGBTQ people and their rights. This project has the power to remind us of our shared humanity and history through music. And it’s the celebration we need right now of all the Black queer artists who have contributed to the music and culture we enjoy today!
How will you use the winnings?
We can’t wait to start filming. Our plan is to use the winnings to film several interviews and continue research so that we can create a longer sample or first rough cut to continue raising money to get us to the next milestone.
What’s next in your creative process?
Filming! Now comes the fun part – interviewing all these amazing Black queer artists and learning about those that came before them through our incredible lineup of scholars!
Photos credit: Cheryl Duncan & Company Inc.