Each year, the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center promotes black history and culture through a series of annual film festivals and programs.
Its goal is to reflect more stories about people of color on the big screen by prioritizing powerful storytelling and teaching the next generation of filmmakers.
This year, one of 111 films the organization screened at its African American Film Market and SE Manly Short Film Showcase was a film by Alexander McDaniel, who started making films at age 11 years old.
Today, at only 14 years old, Alexander already knows all the answers that a filmmaker asks to assess the knowledge of middle and high school students in his lesson on the art of cinema.
“That’s what I want to do with my life,” he said. “I started acting when I was 6, but after many years I fell in love behind the camera.”
It was then that Alexandre made his first short film, “Bullyproof Vest”, about a girl who overcomes bullying, based on her own true story. He showed off several awards the film and others have won since, all showing his passion for telling stories with purpose.
“They can shape your view of the world,” he said. “I want to make films with themes and goals. I want to put people of color, people of different genders or sexualities in my films. »
That’s why Alexander’s latest short was selected for screening at the annual film festival hosted by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center.
President Sandra Evers-Manly said she selected 111 shorts and documentaries to screen throughout the week from more than 1,000 submissions.
“Cinema is so powerful,” she said. “It connects you right away and unfortunately we haven’t seen the spectrum of people represented in Hollywood, both front and backstage.”
It has been BHERC’s mission since Evers-Manly founded it nearly 30 years ago, to educate, and even financially support, the next generation of filmmakers to bring more diversity to this industry.
She has just retired from a career in aerospace, but Sandra says she was first encouraged to start an organization like this by her mother when she was just a child, asking why she never saw herself reflected in the stories told on TV.
“We want you to tell your stories, we want you to tell stories based on your experiences,” Evers-Manly told a theater of future storytellers attending the film art workshop.
She explained to them why it is so important to reflect the diversity of skin color, gender and disability on the big screen.
As a single mom, Sharon McDaniel says she’s so grateful that Alexander found a way to express herself at such a tender age.
“You don’t have to worry about self-medicating and getting involved with the wrong people or substance abuse,” she said. “Use your art. It’s your gift, it’s your passion.
It’s a passion that Alexander says he’s already losing sleep over.
“I want to become the youngest person to win Best Direction at the Oscars,” he said.
The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center also offers scholarships to help support independent, emerging, and student filmmakers. For more information, go here.