Oct 17, 2018
By Nicole Bitette
The “Project Cre8” competition will award a filmmaker with a $1 million budget.
BET has been a home for black audiences and creators for decades, which is why the network decided to offer one filmmaker a $1 million movie studio budget to make their script with a contest that supports minority voices.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to create opportunities for people behind the camera, in front of the camera and in the editing bays. So this was just a perfect opportunity to really tap into the next generation of minority filmmakers,” says Connie Orlando, head of programming for BET.
Orlando thought a competition for filmmakers would be a perfect next step for the network, and through a partnership with Paramount Players, she was able to make it happen.
Project Cre8 Creative Executive Jamal Noisette and Contest Producer Alex Kocher were both approached by Orlando with the idea for a filmmaking competition with a $1 million prize provided by Paramount Players. Kocher researched examples of other incubators and competitions after Orlando’s suggestion, then the team quickly opened submissions on the BET website and social media platforms after the announcement was made at Sundance Film Festival in January. More than 650 people submitted screenplays for consideration, according to Kocher, and BET and Paramount Executives chose 10 finalists who were each given $2,500 to shoot a scene from their film.
BET and Paramount executives narrowed the field to five finalists, with the exception of one finalist who was voted on via social media. The ultimate winner will be chosen in a series of in-person panels during September and announced to the public on Oct. 1.
The contest was open to creatives from all races and backgrounds, but Noisette said they ultimately wanted to provide opportunities to minorities.
“Obviously, we would love to represent ourselves. It was open to any and everybody because great stories can come from anywhere,” he explains. “I think this is a great opportunity for us to find content creators, period. But yes, we were hoping to find someone of color.”
Not only will the winner of Project Cre8 have an opportunity to create their film with a $1 million budget, but all of the scripts that were submitted will be available for BET or Paramount to possibly tap into in the future, according to the team.
"It’s about these people out here that would never have an opportunity to walk in BET’s door and pitch an idea or have a film made. That’s the point in all of this."
“Who better to release a film about African-American college students being shot and killed while fighting for their rights than BET,” he says.“That’s why it’s a good opportunity.”
Tran, a Chicago native now living in Los Angeles, said she was about 10 years into her “trying-to-make-it phase” when she heard about Project Cre8 through a filmmaker group.
“A contest where the prize is a studio budget and the chance to direct the piece is, frankly, unheard of,” she says. “I just happened to have a brand-new script that fit the contest mandate, which was even more shocking because I wrote the script thinking ‘this story needs to be told, but no studio will want to make it.’ It just wouldn’t let go of me, so I had to write it.