By Priscilla Wiredu
Posted on September 24, 2021
In recent years, Black representation in film has increased dramatically. There has also been an expansion of Black-owned film companies that cater to Black individuals in theatre and arts.
One such foundation is Black Women Film! Canada (BWF), a Toronto-based company that helps Black women create films catering to their lifestyle, their aspirations in filmmaking, and other art projects. They cater to the advancement of Black women seeking careers in filmmaking, media arts, and social networking for new opportunities.
BWF works as a leadership program catering to the advancement of Black people who are women of the Canadian-African diaspora.
BWF provides many networking opportunities for Black filmmakers, promotes Black and diverse representation in film, and offers an annual leadership program to its members. They have launched a new directory that provides a new online series of online professional development and mentorship opportunities.
As mentioned above, Black Women Film! offers many programs and resources for the film and arts community. With the support of the Canadian and Ontario Arts Councils, as well as many other industry and community partners, here is a list of the programs offered through BWF:
Black Women Film! Leadership program
Black-owned and Black-supporting, this program offers a weekend leadership intensive series, a week of evening workshops, mentorship opportunities, meetings with funders and broadcasting companies and insight into developing a career path in film, television and media arts.
Elevate Masterclass series
Black Women Film! introduces a new series of masterclasses & workshops for Black identified filmmakers and artists. These classes are taught by incredible industry leaders, such as Amma Assante, Gillian Muller, and many more.
Black Girls Film camp 2020
Black Women Film! is excited to re-launch Black Girls Film Camp, an award-winning, Afro-centric summer arts & film camp for those who identify as Black and non-binary youth aged 17-24 years residing in the Greater Toronto Area, in collaboration with the Nia Centre for the Arts. Participants are mentored as well as supported by Black Women Film alumni and industry professionals to create their first film project.
Award-winning filmmakers and educators Ella Cooper and Laurie Townsend make sure the camp includes presentations by guests and mentors to help participants create their first films in a safe and fun outdoor, online environment.
The programs are as follows:
- Learn Filmmaking Techniques
- Articulate & celebrate their unique stories
- Create video self-portraits and your first short film
- Learn from Black Women filmmakers
- Build new connections and have fun in nature
In 2019, Black Women Film! launched Phase 1 of their brand new directory to facilitate the industry to locate and hire Black women of all levels of experience currently working in the field of film. They are now moving to Phase 2, pending funding, and will build on this directory to create a more expansive platform and outreach initiatives that promote and highlight Black women filmmakers, media artists and content creators from across Canada.
To see the directory or wish to join it, check out their page here.
BWF is launching a new awareness campaign using a Canada-wide survey. They aim to increase the visibility and representation of Black women in Canadian film, video and media arts. The short survey only takes 10 minutes to complete and will showcase names, bios, photos and video links with the permission of the participant. This information will be showcased on BWF’s social media channels and alongside the new directory, and an industry report will be distributed widely to offer more opportunities for local Black artists to network, collaborate, and create.
BWF welcomes Black filmmakers and media artists of all genders to complete the survey to join their mailing list. In the fall, BWF wishes to create larger screening events to promote works of the Black community.
The Thrive campaign
Ella Cooper, the founder of Black Women Film! Canada has an important message on why she created this company:
“Do you know why I named our collective Black Women Film!, with an exclamation mark? It’s written that way because it’s a call to action, it’s a statement and reminder to everyone that yes we are here, we are numerous, we are thriving and we are making waves in this industry with our creativity, drive and talent.”
Black Women Film! held their first Thrive campaign, asking community members to donate to the work being done by BWF, especially during the pandemic.
The funds help BWF:
- Provide new methods to continue the intensive leadership programs (as a response to the new restrictions that COVID has put on them), provide meaningful online mentorships to aspiring artists, create new educational video content, and provide in-person shadowing opportunities and an active online community support networks for up and coming Black filmmakers.
- Support award-winning Black Girls Film camp this summer with equipment, physical distance supplies, free data for participants and hot lunches for all teens involved.
- Turn the online directory into an interactive platform that can be easily accessible to the industry. Make it easier for productions to hire Black women working in the field.
- Pay the core staff and contract staff in running their programs throughout the year.
The incredible support for the Thrive campaign resulted in BWF reaching 80 percent of their goal. BWF was able to double its social media activity and engagement with followers. They also developed new partnerships with other businesses to help fund and support programs across the country. BWF wants to thank community supporters, industry allies, seasoned filmmakers and emerging creators for helping them make Thrive a success.
BWF is transformational, motivational and dedicated to providing a professional network for Black women, which will help change the future of our dominant media culture and support Black women in taking on diverse leadership roles across all aspects of the media industry. Their programming initiatives have helped provide access and support in an industry that is still trying to be inclusive of Black women.
For more information, visit their contact page.
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.