Film Life’s 14th Annual American Film Festival (ABFF) to Kick Off a Groundbreaking Workshop for Professional Athletes

NEW YORK, NY (April 28, 2010) – The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) will launch the Pro-Hollywood Initiative (PHI), a pilot program created to encourage professional athletes to explore careers in the motion picture industry. The program’s main objectives are to stimulate athletes’ interest in the movie business, connecting them with talented filmmakers, educating them about the workings of the industry and promoting their involvement in the production of quality independent films. The inaugural program will be held during the 14th annual American Black Film Festival June 23-26, 2010 in Miami, FL.

The PHI centers on master classes covering a variety of disciplines related to filmmaking, including screenwriting, directing, cinematography, producing, acting and film financing. Instructors will be selected from among leading filmmakers, industry executives and professors at top-tier film schools. The highlight of this year’s program will be the “Art of Directing” master class led by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. The PHI will culminate with a private roundtable luncheon to honor the participants in the 2010 program, and provide them the opportunity to gain valuable industry insight from Mr. Lee and other distinguished filmmakers.

The PHI was inspired by the 2009 meeting between ABFF founder Jeff Friday and Baltimore Ravens All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs, who attended the festival for the first time that year after launching a film production company. Mr. Suggs is currently in production on his first film, Sisters, based on a screenplay by a writer he met at the festival. “Last year I attended the ABFF for the first time and left the festival inspired to produce my own film. The ABFF master classes I attended gave me a comprehensive crash course in the filmmaking process and provided a foundation for my future professional pursuits in the motion picture business,” says Mr. Suggs. “I look forward to participating in the Pro-Hollywood activities and commend Jeff for his unique vision to bring this groundbreaking opportunity to the ABFF.”

“I am proud to provide a platform for professional athletes to learn about the filmmaking process,” says festival founder Jeff Friday. “The dedication, focus and commitment to detail exhibited by most great athletes in their careers will suit them well in the film industry, regardless of whether their interest lies in front of or behind the camera. We hope to see more sports stars like Terrell engaged in the film arena as part of their off the field agendas.”

The premier Pro-Hollywood Initiative at this year’s festival is by invitation only and will be limited to ten (10) participants. Current or retired athletes from any professional sport are eligible to attend. This innovative program will seek the support of player associations and major sports leagues, including the NFL, NBA, WNBA and MLB.

In 2011, Mr. Friday will expand the PHI, offering a Bootcamp focusing on the various disciplines of the filmmaking process to professional athletes and sports leagues. The Pro Hollywood Bootcamp is an intensive one-week program which will be held in Los Angeles, the movie capital of the world.

Founded in 1997, the ABFF is a leading international film festival and marketplace dedicated to promoting the work of Black filmmakers. The festival was created to stimulate the development of independent films and to increase cultural diversity in Hollywood. One of the festival’s main objectives is to showcase emerging talent in front of and behind the camera. Aspiring and accomplished filmmakers, actors, producers and other industry professionals gather at the four-day festival to participate in workshops, panel discussions, networking activities and, of course, film screenings, with the intention to build interpersonal relationships that lead to artistic advancements and greater access to coveted positions in the film industry.

HBO® is the festival’s Founding and Premier Sponsor. Other sponsors on board for this year include: Grey Goose (Premier); BET Networks (Official); Nielsen, Nickelodeon, Gold Peak Tea, Stella Artois and Code Black Entertainment (Supporting); Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority and the City of Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (Host); SAG Indie, WGA West and Coty Inc. (Industry partners). Media Sponsors include: AOL Black Voices, Black Enterprise, Uptown, Monarch, Heart & Soul, and Precious Times.

For media inquiries, call Lisa Sorensen (LSPR) at (646) 330-5458 or via email at Program registration information can be obtained by contacting Ghana Wilson at or by calling 646-375-2144, ext 5. Regular festival updates are available at