Essence: The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Contest
Black Women in Hollywood is ESSENCE’s A-list, Oscar-week luncheon, where luminaries from the African-American film and TV community—including Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Halle Berry, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Alfre Woodard, Ava DuVernay, and others—gather annually to celebrate their on-screen accomplishments and their legacy in a very tough industry. It’s one of the most coveted and exclusive tickets in town each year. But to better serve its audience, ESSENCE understood that it needed to invite them to become part of this signature event. And it also wanted to make the event even more meaningful for the celebrities and tastemakers, by giving them a platform to welcome and anoint the next generation of talent. That’s why the ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Short Film Contest was created. The contest invited emerging filmmakers to submit an original film, no longer than 20 minutes, that presented a unique and refreshing image of a Black woman. Several Hollywood heavy-hitters—including Shonda Rhimes, Regina King, Mara Brock Akil and others—were part of the Black Women in Hollywood Academy, the panel that chose the winning film, “Seventh Grade,” by Stefani Saintonge. In partnership with video hosting partner Second Thought, ESSENCE launched the contest in November 2013 with a call for entries. The brand partnered with key festivals and blogs targeted to African-American filmmakers and film enthusiasts, including the blog Shadow & Act and the UrbanWorld Film Festival. It also targeted film schools and promoted the contest heavily on social media. After the submission period ended, ESSENCE editors screened and whittled down more than 200 entries to 5 stellar finalists.