The XL Film Festival & Summit took shape earlier this year when its creator, Troy Pryor, founder of Creative Cypher, merged his Cypher Foundation with the Chicago South Side Film Festival. This rebranded version, touting Black-owned and Black-led artistic visions centering DEI philosophies and BIPOC voices, arrives at a perilous time in the entertainment industry. Presently SAG-AFTRA and WGA are striking against AMPTP, a work stoppage that stretches beyond Hollywood to the independently minded.
So how can you give life to a new festival while the industry holds its collective breath?
I was fortunate enough to attend most of the event’s talks and screenings (where the strike loomed large). The consistent refrain from everyone involved preached resourcefulness, sustainability, and determination.
It began for me with a panel entitled “The Family Business,” featuring Black mom-agers, mothers turned managers for their talented acting and directing children (I missed the opening talk, “Mental Health & Black Artists,” moderated by Saudia Davis, and featuring panelists Jae Davis, Vee L Harrison, Richard Gallion, and Brooklyn McLinn). The assembled women, guided by moderator Taron Patton, spoke about protecting their kids from a nefarious business, and instilling a sturdy work ethic within them. They also discussed how to balance dueling roles as mom and manager. Gwenda Starling, the mother and manager of recording artist Jeremih spoke from a music perspective. Altovise Ferguson, mother, and manager of actor Ahmad Ferguson (“The Chi”) and singer Amari Noelle, bridged the gap to television.