Charlotte Black Film Festival founder Tommy Nichols. (Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Black Film Festival.)

This weekend, movie buffs may be calling a few periodic timeouts on the annual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (aka CIAA) basketball tournament for an event of a different kind: the Charlotte Black Film Festival.

“We say the CIAA is the backdrop of the film festival — because it’s bringing people here,” said Tommy Nichols, president of Glorified Media and founder of the CBFF, which kicks off Thursday, Feb. 28 and runs until March 2. “Last year was the first time that we [drew] people from CIAA, which was funny because they found out once they arrived in Charlotte. They were film people or film enthusiasts or people who were writers, and they blamed me for hijacking their CIAA experience.”

The Thursday night opening will feature a special screening of “24 Hour Love,” a movie that chronicles a day in the life of seven characters embroiled in love and relationships. Written by Don Welch and directed by Fred Thomas, the movie has made its rounds on the national circuit — premiering in festivals from Los Angeles to Chicago — and stars such well-known actors as Malinda Williams, Tatyana Ali, Lynn Whitfield and Darius McCrary. Twenty additional screenings of music videos, short films, feature films and documentaries that made the final cut from work submitted from all around the country will round out the 3-day event.

Nichols, who started the festival three years ago, calls this year’s CBFF a more, “holistic film experience.” “We have several powerful workshops — a writing workshop, a producer’s workshop, we have the Women in Film and Entertainment panel,” Nichols said. “We also have a pitch session … where you go from industry table to table, pitching your project and getting feedback with the hopes that someone will want to partner, buy or distribute your project or take it to the next level.” Toward helping filmmakers seeking distribution, Nichols says Maverick Entertainment will be on hand to get first look at CBFF films, and is ready to do distribution deals with filmmakers onsite.

After Friday’s full day of workshops, panels and films, Saturday night’s annual red carpet Vision Awards will honor filmmakers in a range of categories — from best short film to best music score. In addition, the Dennis Darrell Community Vision Award will honor a person in the community who, much like Darrell, has worked to elevate African-American film in Charlotte.

One month after moving to the city in December 2009, Nichols saw a presentation by Charlotte Regional Partnership President Ronnie Bryant that elevated his own understanding of how important film was to become to the region — and how necessary it was for African Americans to get in on the ground floor.

“[Ronnie] said that film production in this region had the potential to be greater than the Bobcats, The Panthers and NASCAR put together,” recalled Nichols. “And so the film festival was created as a way … to have us engage in the process early on, so whatever happens here, we’re creating an environment where people are trained, where people are getting exposed, where people are being able to showcase their work.”

Already, films from previous CBFFs are making their mark. Nichols says a documentary that screened at the 2012 festival, “The Scroll,” recently signed with the Gospel Music Channel and will appear in the network’s March 2013 lineup.

Three years on, Nichols is looking for audiences to fill the seats at this year’s festival. And, in basketball terms, he is creating opportunities for black film and filmmakers in Charlotte to see nothing but net.

“…When the floodgates really open here in Charlotte, [we want to be sure] that we are prepared to take advantage of the economic growth,” he said. “That we’re right there with them. That’s really why the festival was created, so that we, as people of color, can participate in the growth of the film in this region.”

For more information on the Charlotte Black Film Festival, including the festival schedule, locations and tickets, please visit

This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance, a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts.

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