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AT&T, American Black Film Festival Celebrate Collaboration

A company built on connectivity brings together newcomers and mentors via its Dream in Black platform at the festival and year-round

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AT&T’s integrated media platform, Dream in Black, launched in 2018 at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). It was born out of a desire to uplift, celebrate and connect with Black culture and the creators who shape it.

Built on a foundation of empowerment, AT&T’s Dream in Black platform focuses on the world of creativity through a future-forward lens, where dreams come to fruition. At the core of its mission is to recognize and support creators who are shaping the now, the new and the next.

“We know that we play a really big role in connecting folks, especially creators,” says AT&T’s director of marketing and head of special experiences, Angela Burgin Logan. “People today are shooting short films and long-form content on devices, who are connecting to other creators through the power of technology.”

With the American Black Film Festival celebrating its 25th year and its continued partnership with AT&T, a premier sponsor of the festival, AT&T Dream in Black is helping young filmmakers like never before.

Jeff Friday, president and CEO of ABFF Ventures, says, “ABFF’s secret to success is that we align ourselves with corporations, brands and initiatives like AT&T Dream in Black that are committed to empowering Black creators. It’s been a fantastic partnership.”

Throughout the 26-day festival, which took place virtually from Nov. 3-28 and garnered over 100,000 registered attendees from 97 countries, Dream in Black placed an emphasis on spotlighting the work of the next generation of Black creators who are making an impact in film and entertainment.

“Wherever you are, whatever you know, whatever stage you are in the creative process, you can participate virtually to learn from some of the best in entertainment and to also experience amazing content,” Logan says.

The team behind Dream in Black also arranged a special on-site portrait studio to capture candid moments experienced by participating talent and visitors. This activation highlighted Black Future Makers, an integral component of Dream in Black that recognizes individuals who have substantially impacted the culture.

Each year the exceptional contributions of celebrities, culture-changing activists and community-based influencers are heralded by Black Future Makers programming. The diverse mix of Black Future Makers honorees has included business and educational leaders, community organizers and stars of sports and screen. In 2021 recipients ranged from LeBron James to DJ D-Nice, transgender activist Angelica Ross, TV industry leader Channing Dungey, H.E.R., essential worker and artist Keeley Morris and venture capitalist Kwame Anku.

As Logan explains, anyone who is positively impacting their community or field of work may apply on social media with a 60-second video. A committee considers the entries, and each month, one individual is awarded $10,000.

At ABFF, the Black Future Makers Portrait Studio – complete with lush, intensely colored foreground and background effects to mirror the creativity on display throughout the festival – helped document the excitement and joy surrounding the event, including photographing expressive portraits of the panelists of the “Hot in Hollywood” panel presented by AT&T Dream in Black featuring Kendrick Sampson (“Insecure”), Storm Reid (“A Wrinkle in Time”), Quinta Brunson (“Abbott Elementary”) and Javicia Leslie (“Batwoman”).

In addition to spotlighting 102 films from 35 countries, ABFF also featured competitions, panel discussions, one-on-one pitch sessions for creatives to get their work in front of key industry executives and virtual networking events that paired industry newcomers with established veterans. Importantly, festival admission was free, expanding access to opportunities for participation and resources designed to help festival attendees reach new levels of achievement.

On top of giving initiatives such as AT&T’s Dream in Black programming a live physical platform to thrive, ABFF has provided an opportunity for the works of young filmmakers to be seen, with many going on to become noted feature directors and major producers.

“It’s about being the place where people can get their start,” Friday says. “If it weren’t for events like ABFF and others, buyers and distributors would have very little contact with new voices.”

“Hollywood is a private party,” Friday adds. “We used to say ‘Bring them in the back door.’ Now, we are going through the front door.”

During this year’s festival, screen stars and other industry panelists included Halle Berry; Regina King; Larenz, Lahmard and Larron Tate; Storm Reid; Bevy Smith; Meagan Good and the cast of the sisters-in-the-city TV series “Harlem”; MC Lyte; and Angela Burgin Logan.

“It’s people who are creating the stories of today and tomorrow,” Logan says. “We’ve made it really easy to access capital to help people pursue their dreams.”

Dream in Black dovetails with AT&T’s history, Logan observes; the company was literally built to connect people. In her position at the front of AT&T’s march into the world of modern media, it is Logan’s job to discover unique ways to touch customers and create special experiences in a variety of formats.

Logan sees Dream in Black as the ideal confluence of AT&T’s mission of seamless communication and connectivity. It’s a chance to uplift the voices of the community and beyond.

Since its launch, Dream in Black has been recognized with numerous awards and is committed to continuing its efforts year-round. Logan emphasizes that the Dream in Black platform is always on, not limited to the run of the American Black Film Festival.

“It’s not something that is here today and gone tomorrow,” Logan says. “Bringing together such a wide variety of talent—from storytellers to musical artists, there are no limitations to the diverse voices that fuel Dream in Black. The new economy for creators has arrived. That’s the power of connecting.”