2023 PitchBLACK Forum and Awards from Black Public Media


( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Hosted by Comedian Sir Alex and Supported By Netflix, the PitchBLACK Awards Honored Prolific Documentary Filmmaker Yoruba Richen

ENSPIRE Contributor: Daniel Garritson

Eleven producing teams competed for up to $150,000 in funding for their film and immersive projects at Black Public Media’s sixth PitchBLACK Forum — the largest pitch competition for Black, independent filmmakers and creative technologists in the United States. The event is the culmination of multiple professional development programs of Black Public Media (BPM), including its 12-week 360 Incubator + launched in 2014 for traditional filmmakers, and several fellowships designed for immersive makers. The initiatives by the prominent national nonprofit, which is dedicated solely to producing and funding media content about the Black experience, are designed to help bring quality content to market.  

Winners were announced at the PitchBLACK Awards honoring award-winning filmmaker and educator Yoruba Richen and emceed by Baltimore-based comedian Sir Alex. Brittany Luse, host of NPR’s It’s Been a Minute, moderated a conversation with Richen at the Awards. BPM is presenting a two-week retrospective of the director’s work featuring five selections from her filmography that all PitchBLACK registrants can stream, from April 24 to May 8, on an exclusive online platform.

Two of the six projects that competed during Wednesday’s PitchBLACK Immersive Forum received ‌$75,000 in funding. The Unseen, from LaJuné McMillian, is an abstract documentary and motion-capture performance that celebrates Black figure skaters. It won a $50,000 grant. Co-directors Kidus Hailesilassie and Ainslee Alem Robson won $25,000 for their film Uncharted VR, which depicts a dance performance set in a data cloud of 5,000 years of African languages.

One film will also be presented in a virtual community screening as part of PitchBLACK. The PitchBLACK Forum and Awards are invitation-only but registration to attend virtually is open to the public at no charge; passes to the retrospective are included.    

Since it launched PitchBLACK in 2015, BPM has awarded more than $1.5 million to 17 different projects, some of which have premiered on PBS, WORLD Channel, Create, and PBS Digital. Program alumni have produced for PBS, CNN, Showtime, Netflix, HBO, BET, NBC, The CW, and more.

PitchBLACK will be supported in 2023 and 2024 by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity, a dedicated effort to help build new opportunities for underrepresented communities within entertainment. This new grant from Netflix builds on previous support awarded in 2020 to BPM, a major funder for and champion of Black filmmaking, and helped make the formerly biyearly event an annual industry opportunity for Black creatives.

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