Black Public Media awards $225,000 for films on queer artists, figure skaters and more

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Kat Walsh

Filmmaker Luchina Fisher, center, and Shan Shan Tam, right, pitch their winning project, "Hiding in Plain Sight," during PitchBLACK.

Black Public Media awarded $225,000 in production funds Thursday to three creative teams competing during PitchBLACK Forum, an annual event that draws potential funders to film and technology projects developed by Black creators.

“Our judges were amazed by the quality and ingenuity of the 11 projects pitched from the film and immersive teams at this year’s PitchBLACK Forum,” said Leslie Fields-Cruz, BPM’s executive director, in a news release. “These filmmakers and creatives represent not only the stunning depth of talent in our community, but also the wide breadth of stories yet to be told.”

PitchBLACK, held April 25 and 26 in New York City, is the culmination of BPM’s talent development and fellowship program, 360 Incubator+, designed to support development of Black-led media film and immersive media  projects and bring them to market.

Luchina Fisher’s film Hiding in Plain Sight, an examination of Black queer artists who have helped shape popular music and culture, won the top prize of $150,000 in the Film Forum. The documentary, which Fisher pitched with producer Shan Shan Tam, will spotlight the work and lives of artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard and Sylvester.

BPM awarded a total of $75,000 to two of the six projects that competed in the PitchBLACK Immersive Forum. LaJuné McMillian’s The Unseen, a documentary and motion-capture piece that highlights Black figure skaters, won a $50,000 grant. Co-directors Ainslee Alem Robson and Kidus Hailesilassie won $25,000 for Uncharted VR, which depicts a dance performance set in a data cloud of 5,000 years of African languages.

McMillian, Robson and Hailesilassie

“We are happy to award the three winning projects with funding through PitchBLACK, and we look forward to seeing all these documentaries and immersive projects once they are completed,” Fields-Cruz said.

During the PitchBLACK Awards Thursday night, BPM awarded the Nonso Christian Ugbode Fellowship to Georgiana Wright, a third-year student at Alabama A&M University, for her work in artificial intelligence and fanfiction. The fellowship, founded in 2016 and named after BPM’s late director of digital initiatives, supports creative technologists under age 30.


BPM also honored filmmaker Yoruba Richen, whose films The New Black and Promised Land premiered on Independent Lens and POV, respectively, and paid a tribute to Mable Haddock, founding president and first CEO of BPM, who died last July.

BPM has awarded $1.75 million in production funding to 20 projects since the PitchBLACK initiative began in 2015. This year’s event was supported by Netflix and Gimlet Media, with additional support from Paramount+ and CPB.

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