Fayetteville Film Fest Accepting Applications to Fund BIPOC Film Projects

The Micheaux Award will distribute up to $4,000 for Arkansas-based films.

The Fayetteville Film Fest is still accepting applications for the Winter 2020 Cycle of its Micheaux Award for Arkansas-based BIPOC filmmakers looking for funds to support their projects.

The Micheaux Award, named in honor of Oscar Micheaux—a founding father of American Black cinema, will distribute up to $4,000 across two to three select film projects with no single application receiving more than $1,500.

The Winter Cycle will close Dec. 31. Award recipients will be announced Feb. 1, 2021.

The Summer 2021 Cycle will open for applications May 15, 2021 and close June 30, 2021.

Eligibility for the Micheaux Award includes:

– Film projects in all stages of development, scope and genre.

– Film projects made by BIPOC individuals living or working in Arkansas. Preference will apply to filmmakers focused on the BIPOC communities of which they are a part.

– Films that address issues of social and racial justice are especially encouraged.

– Application submitter must be at least 18 years of age.

Why should we continue this model of paying for validation?

This year’s Fayetteville Film Fest ended on a high note: An intimate introduction to fresh board leadership, a host of new festival winners and a promise to the BIPOC filmmaking community.

With the introduction of the BIPOC Film Lab initiative and the Micheaux Award, the Northwest Arkansas film organization is making good on that promise.

“The essence of the initiative itself is to provide money, education and networking,” says Fayetteville Film Fest board member Airic Hughes who has played an integral role in bringing the BIPOC Film Lab Initiative to fruition this year.

“I definitely want to give a huge shout out to Raymond House, to Chris Washington, and to Russell Sharman for coming together on those initial discussions,” Hughes says. “Those were some of the toughest talks that I think the Fayetteville Film Fest board has had because it was a reckoning of sorts. It was coming to terms with what they haven’t done to try to figure out how to do better.”

The film lab initiative, designed to support and encourage creation and authorship of Arkansas-based projects from Black, Indigenous and filmmakers of color, was inspired from a statement of solidarity issued by the Fayetteville Film Fest board of directors earlier this year in response to the death of George Floyd.

In Spring 2021, the initiative looks forward to facilitating educational workshops and networking events to encourage diverse content creation, equip filmmakers of color to tell their own stories and cultivate audiences that are truly reflective of the whole community.

Colleen Thurston, another Fayetteville Film Fest board member who is a working film professional and documentary film professor at the University of Arkansas, recognized that some of the top regional film festivals with successful artist programs also have integrated BIPOC components to support filmmakers of color.

“This is an interesting time for film festivals because there are a lot of struggling filmmakers that are going ‘why should we continue this model of paying for validation?’” Thurston says. “Nowadays, why should we pay a $60 admission fee for a film that’s going to screen online that is not necessarily going to screen to our community? That’s exclusive and those opportunities are not available for everyone.”

Film festivals have reached the point where where they need to think about what their purpose is for their communities and who they want to serve, Thurston says.

“We always talk about who are our audiences, but who are our filmmaking audiences? Who do we want to serve?” she says.

Thurston also notes that Northwest Arkansas is a region that has been overlooked and hasn’t always been considered a great hub of filmmaking.

“I’ve been in these artist programs that have been affiliated with different festivals. Then I come back to my home communities and luckily being a professor, I get to disseminate that information, but that doesn’t always happen,” she says.

“So my hope for the program beyond the funding would be to expand the knowledge of filmmaking, to cultivate a community that is sustainable, and to amplify voices from a geographic region whose communities have been erased, ignored, silenced and oppressed.”

Niketa Reed
Niketa Reed

Executive Director

Niketa Reed is the founder and executive director of Arkansas Soul. She teaches digital content and diversity in media courses at the University of Arkansas - School of Journalism and Strategic Media. She is also a native of Peoria, Illinois and transplant to the south -- by way of Memphis.