DeWanda Wise, Reggie Bythewood and Jill Hennessy of “Shots Fired”
The Black Women Film Network (BWFN) pulled out all the stops this week to celebrate its 20th Anniversary. Kicking off BWFN’s annual Black Women Film Summit on Thursday at the Center for Civil & Human Rights was a screening of the new FOX series, “Shots Fired.” Show creator Reggie Rock Bythewood was in attendance along with cast members DeWanda Wise and Jill Hennessy who all participated in post-screening Q&A moderated by HGTV host Egypt Sherrod. Additional VIPs were BWFN founder Sheryl Gripper, BWFN Sponsor Chris Richardson from the Foote Welch Group at Morgan Stanley, “Shots Fired” actors Josh Chris and Steven Green, Da Brat (rapper/radio personality “Ricky Smiley Morning Show”), Joseline Hernandez (VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta”), Crystal Fox (OWN,“Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots”), Dionne Farris (singer/songwriter), Gocha Hawkins (WE tv’s “L.A. Hair”), Jasmine Burke (Bounce TV’s “Saints & Sinners”), D. Woods (Recording Artist), DJ Fadelf, April Parker Jones (OWN, “Tyler Perry’s If Loving You Is Wrong), BWFN sponsor Jeremy Norman from Norman & Associates Real Estate Solutions, Young Money/Republic artist Shanell, and many more.
Shante Bacon – Kate Atwood – Ty Scott – April Parker Jones – Erica Anderson
On Friday, the “Untold Stories” Awards Luncheon took place at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and honored several VIPs whose work and careers have either inspired or paved the way for women of color in film and television. Honorees recognized were “Creative Power Couple” recipients Dondre Whitfield and Salli Richardson-Whitfield; “Industry Award” recipients Will Areu, vice president of Tyler Perry Studios, and Ozzie Areu, president of Tyler Perry Studios; “Trailblazer Award” recipient Tichina Arnold; “Rising Star” honoree Teyonah Parris, and “Founder’s Award” recipient Donna Lowry, veteran broadcast journalist and 20-year BWFN board member.
2017 Honorees – Teyonah Parris – Donna Lowry – Will Areu – Salli Richardson-Whitfield – Dondre Whitfield
Additionally, four college students were awarded with scholarships during the luncheon: Danielle Boyd (New York University) received the Dr. Doris Derby Award, while Atiara Brown (Atlanta Technical College), Sarah Griffin (Atlanta Technical College) and Ariel Jones (Louisiana State University) — mom Melissa Jones accepted on Ariel’s behalf — won BWFN Scholarships.
After the luncheon, the “Reel Sista Talk” panel – an annual tradition where honorees engage in a no-holds-barred conversation about their lives and careers – featured honorees Salli and Dondre Whitfield, Donna Lowry, past honoree Terri J. Vaughn, and was moderated by former honoree Shante Bacon.
The Summit came to a close on Saturday, with a busy day of workshops, panels, a book festival, and film screenings. Attendees enjoyed a stand-up comedy class with Myra J, a kids acting class with Jonna Johnson, a “Hosting 101” class with Jasmine Adams and Summer Jackson-Cole, a “Self-Taping” audition class with Naylon Mitchell, a “Social Media 101” class with Nicole Harris, and a “Casting Tips” class with Tyler Perry Studios casting director Rhavynn Drummer.
The BWFN Book Festival, hosted by Donna Lowry, featured a number of authors presenting books on various topics: Olympic Gold Medalist Mel Pender (Expressions of Hope); recording artist Danny Boy Steward (Stranded on Death Row); romance novelist Ruth P. Watson (Cranberry Winter); celeb hairstylist and tv personality Gocha Hawkins (Gocha’s Blueprint to Business 101); former LaFace Records exec Sheri Riley (Exponential Living: Stop Spending 100% of Your Time on 10% of Who You Are); Faghayai Ogoun (Chasing the Horizon); Marsalis (Elegia); news anchor Karyn Greer (I Am a Mother); and Lori Dixon James (Letters to My Daughter: While I Am of Good Health, Sound Mind & Sound Body).
ChooseATL presented the last panel of the day: “Secrets from the Set: Showrunners, Writers and Actors Take you Behind the Scenes of Hit TV Shows Produced in Atlanta.” After a brief presentation from ChooseATL executive director Kate Atwood, 135th Street Agency CEO Shante Bacon moderated a lively conversation with “Greenleaf” writer/story editor Erica Anderson, “Saints & Sinners” showrunner Ty Scott and “If Loving You Is Wrong” actress April Parker Jones.
Finally, the Summit closed with awards for the winning films from the BWFN-Bronzelens Film Festival screenings:
Miss Winn’s Garden – Best Audience Participation
Director: Shanalyna Palmer
Producers: Shanalyna Palmer, Lucy A. Fazely, Brenda Porter, Sishan Palmer, Barbara -Lee A. Palmer
Brazilian Wavy – Best Comedy
Director: Kirk Henriques
Producers: Kirk Henriques, Yusef Muhammand , Jasmine Burke, Chet Brewster
UNtitlED – Best Drama
Director: Mike Michaels
Producers: Winsome Sinclair, Don, Saint-Julia Vilnet
Sista in the Brotherhood – Best of Festival
Director: Dawn Jones Redstone
Producer: Roberta Hunte, PhD.
Special thanks to our 2017 Sponsors for making this year’s Summit a great success: 11Alive, The Foote Welch Group at Morgan Stanley, ChooseATL, Georgia Production Partnership, Norman & Associates Real Estate Solutions, the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame, the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment, Spelman College, Bovanti Cosmetics, Classic Party Rentals, Nikki & Mallory and BodyFab.
To learn about the Black Women Film Network, visit www.blackwomenfilm.org.
About Black Women Film Network
Established in 1997, the Black Women Film Network (BWFN) was founded to prepare black women to enter the film and television industries. The organization seeks to preserve the voice of these women through film and educational programs that empower and inform. A 501(c)3 non-profit, BWFN provides student scholarships, hosts screenings and workshops, and honors individuals who have excelled in this difficult industry.