Listen, learn, repeat. Experience the BFF 2019 official discussion events with an open mind, ears, and heart. Hear from celebrities, advocates, corporate change-makers, industry leaders, athletes and more on their innovative practices and personal experiences with inclusion and diversity in media.

AspireTV – Looking Through a Brown Lens

Wednesday, May 8th – 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Record North

Panel Discussion, Short Film, Followed by Q&A
This panel will discuss the creative structure and thought that goes into telling a unique story through Black culture. Panelists will discuss what their “why” is for the films they’ve produced and what methods they utilized to create an emotional connection to the audience. They will also discuss the avenues of funding, casting and promoting their films and what their tactics were in making the films a reality.

Short Film: Tre
Desperate for his own identity, 8-year old Tre sets out to reclaim his sense of self by dropping his inherited name and choosing one of his own. After sudden tragedy strikes, he ultimately accepts the legacy he was given.


  • Tina Rodriguez – Senior Director Programming & Acquisitions for Aspire TV
  • Nakia Stephens – Award-Winning Screenwriter/Filmmaker

Dreams: Unsung Heroes of African American History

Friday May 10th – 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Record North

Five Alabama high school students explore the spaces hidden in their state, where African-Americans struggled and pierced the inevitable to build society as we know it today.

Short screening and discussion moderated by Doug McMillon (Walmart, CEO); with Sheldon Candis, Grace Brown, Zadren Hill, Lisa Hobdy, Joseph Katz, and Julius Shanks II.


  • Doug McMillon – CEO, Walmart
  • Alecia (Lisa) Hobdy
  • Sheldon Candis

Queer & Here to Stay

Thursday, May 9th – 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, 21c Main Gallery Stage

3.4% of our American population identify as LGBTQ. However, a recent study from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in media revealed that over the past decade of the top 100 largest grossing family films in the U.S, less than 1% of all lead characters were LGBTQ.

This panel will look at the presence of LGBTQ+ characters and stories on screen, as well as what the future now looks like for gay, lesbian, and trans filmmakers and their projects at our multiplexes, arthouses, and on our TV screens.


  • Frankie Grande – Host, Performer, Producer, Reality TV personality and Social Media Mogul
  • Craig Robinson – NBC Universal
  • Jeremy Blacklow – GLADD, Director of Entertainment Media
  • Carly Usdin – Actor, Misdirection
  • Tamara M. Williams – Actor, The Garden Left Behind

Indigenous Stories

Friday May 10th – 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
21c Main Gallery Stage

This panel will discuss and highlight the inclusion of Indigenous stories in film, and the importance of having indigenous people involved in the creative process. The panel will feature industry professionals and film talent that work behind and in front of the camera.


  • Haroula Rose – Once Upon a River, Director

Let’s Make A Deal

Thursday, May 9th – 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
21c Main Gallery Stage

Although opportunities have improved in the last 40 years, women and minority filmmakers still struggle to secure funding and distribution to bring their films to life and in front of audiences. This panel will discuss how filmmakers can “make the argument”, leverage the realities of emerging technology including the ever-evolving landscape of release strategies, smart business, branding, and marketing models to solidify that pitch to get their stories told and in front of an audience.


  • Chevonne O’Shaughnessy – President of American Cinema International
  • Rachel Derrico – Executive Producer of VUDU’s “Mr. Mom”
  • Yrthya Dinzey-Flores – Warner Media
  • Jason George – Actor
  • Maria Aspan – Inc. Magazine

The New Mr. Mom: Redefining Traditional Family Roles

Friday May 10th – 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
21c Main Gallery Stage

Seventy percent of moms with children under 18 participate in the labor force and moms are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960 (U.S Department of Labor).

This powerhouse panel will feature female talent from Vudu’s first series, “Mr. Mom”. The series (a modern take on the beloved classic ‘80s film) follows a mom who is re-entering the workforce and a dad who decides it’s his turn to stay at home with the kids. The panel will discuss how conventional family roles are continually being re-defined by both moms and dads, how families today must band together as a team to make it all work, and the continued effort to combat dated stereotypes in content and media. How have things changed for families since the 1980s, and how is inclusive media like Vudu’s “Mr. Mom” helping to shift societal expectations on what makes up today’s family?


  • Michelle Ortiz – Actor
  • Rachel Derrico – Executive Producer of VUDU’s “The New Mr. Mom”
  • Leslie Rathe – Co-Writer of “The New Mr. Mom”

Able & Willing

Friday, May 10th – 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
21c Main Gallery Stage

18.7% people in the U.S. have a disability and are one of our largest minorities. However, the Geena Benchmark study which analyzed a decade of films from the Top 100 Largest Grossing Family Films found that less than 1% of all lead characters were characters with a disability. How do we, as filmmakers, broaden our creative landscape when conceiving characters or casting to more effectively add the differently abled to that mix – going beyond gender and race to those with disabilities as well? How do force ourselves out of what may be a comfort zone to consider someone we hadn’t initially envisioned in the role? And, what are the rewards for doing so?


  • RJ Mitte – Advocate, Actor
  • Andrea Fay Friedman – Advocate, Actor