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Black Filmmakers at the Crossroads to Success

Film lovers have never been treated to such a wide variety of Black films. Today’s pipeline is filled with projects representing not just the United States but also the Diaspora, serving up narratives from nearly every part of the world – Africa, Europe, The Caribbean, South America, and Oceania. Despite the increased output, films created by Black directors or featuring Black-themed storylines remain underfunded and still face challenges finding distribution. In recognition of these challenges, AAFCA is engaging a lineup representing filmmakers, financial brokers, marketing executives and more with the intent of disrupting the cycle to find a pathway forward.

Gil Robertson,  Co-Founder, African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)

Cassandra Butcher, BRON Media Corp CMO, BRON Life Co-Creative Director, Executive Producer Queen & Slim
Simon Frederick, Artist/ Photographer/ Filmmaker, ATELIERFREDERICK
Samantha Racanelli, SVP of Film Development & Production, Endeavor Content

presented in partnership with the AAFCA


Nov 01 2021


1:00 pm - 2:30 pm




  • Cassandra Butcher
    Cassandra Butcher
    BRON Media Corp CMO & BRON Life Co-Creative Director & Executive Producer Queen & Slim

    As CMO and Co-Creative Director at BRON Studios, Cassandra Butcher develops and implements global
    publicity, promotional, digital and media strategies for the company’s film and television projects, while
    overseeing the marketing and production teams responsible for content strategy, research, social
    media, promotions, media and licensing partnerships, and experiential marketing and technology across
    the globe.
    Cassandra has served as the primary liaison for studios and networks across numerous films and tv
    shows including: The Addams Family franchise, Judas and the Black Messiah, Candyman, Respect,
    Cyrano, along with television projects Call My Agent (UK version), That Dirty Black Bag, and digital
    projects Fables and Gossamer.
    Additionally, she oversees BRON’s creative, publicity and media Awards strategy which resulted in
    numerous nominations and awards including 5 Academy Awards for films, Bombshell, Joker and Judas
    and the Black Messiah.
    Cassandra previously worked as Vice President, National Publicity at Fox Searchlight for over 10 years,
    where she devised publicity and promotional plans for a slate of films, including many awards
    contenders and the studio’s only franchise title, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best
    Exotic Marigold Hotel with Dame Judi Dench.
    During her tenure at Fox Searchlight, she worked with some of the most respected directors including,
    George Tillman (The Hate U Give), Steve McQueen (Widows, 12 Years a Slave) and Simon Curtis
    (Goodbye Christopher Robin) as well as many others. She established an illustrious track record of
    release and award campaigns, including several Academy Award winners, including The Shape of
    Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 12 Years a Slave, Beast of the Southern
    Wild, Youth, and Crazy Heart.
    Cassandra has been at the forefront of inclusion initiatives and worked with many social media
    influencers, outlets, festivals, and organizations including, Congressional Black Caucus, US Conference of
    Mayors, Essence Festival, NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists), National Urban League, Tyler
    Perry, TD Jakes and Michelle Obama.
    Prior to working at Fox Searchlight, she worked as a unit publicist during production and as a publicity
    consultant for multiple studios including Fox, Lionsgate, Screen Gems and Paramount Pictures.
    In recognition for her invaluable contributions to motion pictures, Butcher was recently selected by the
    Academy Marketing and PR Branch committee members to serve on the Branch Executive Committee
    for 2020-2021, with the potential to extend for up to six consecutive years. Butcher is also a key
    contributor in the Academy’s Aperture 2025 initiative, a conversation about equity and inclusion as part
    of the Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP). Additionally, Butcher is an active participant in
    Academy initiatives such as the Academy Museum, Academy Aperture 2025, the GOLD Rising
    Mentorship program, and educational outreach.

  • Gil Robertson
    Gil Robertson
    Co-Founder, African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)

    For nearly three decades, writer/author Gil L. Robertson IV has used the written word to enlighten, empower and uplift. The one-time political organizer initially made his mark in entertainment journalism, penning over 50 national magazine covers and contributing bylines to a wide range of publications that include the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Billboard, Fortune, Essence and Ebony. He is also the founder and creator of the nationally syndicated Arts & Lifestyle column, The Robertson Treatment, which began twenty years old with an interview with Samuel L. Jackson for Eve’s Bayou. Today, The Robertson Treatment has a reach of nearly two million.

    As an author, Robertson has specialized in books that empower his readers, beginning first with the self-published Writing as a Tool of Empowerment (2003), a resource guide primarily aimed at young people interested in journalism. From there, he edited the groundbreaking 2006 anthology Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community where he gathered a diverse mix of voices that include Oscar winner Mo’Nique, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, legendary singer Patti LaBelle and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, all addressing one of the most pressing public health and social challenges of our time. His subsequent anthologies—Family Affair: What It Means to Be African American Today (2008) and Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African American Community (2013)—ignited a national conversation about identity and love and relationships in the 21st century. In addition, Robertson has been a regular contributor to The African American Almanac (Gale Press). Accolades for his work include “Pick of the Week” selection by Publisher’s Weekly for Family Affair and a NAACP Image Awards nomination for Not in My Family.

    Book of Black Heroes: Political Leaders Past & Present, his latest from Just Us Books, is a full circle moment for Robertson who began the first phase of his career in politics. The collection of biographies on game-changing elected political leaders like former President Barack Obama, pioneering Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, current U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Reconstruction era governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchbank is intended to introduce young readers especially to not only dynamic personalities but to the concept of individual and political leadership.

    Never one to sit on the sidelines of any pressing issue, in 2003, Robertson rolled up his sleeves and got to work as the cofounder of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the largest collection of Black film critics in North America. As its president, Robertson oversees the annual AAFCA Awards, which has become a recognized fixture of the Hollywood awards season. In addition to highlighting African American achievement behind and in front of the camera, AAFCA works with the industry to usher in and support African Americans in the Hollywood community, uniting consumers, creators and gatekeepers. Robertson also serves as a public ambassador for diversity within the industry, appearing on numerous shows on networks like CNN.

    Robertson earned a B.A. in Political Science from Cal State Los Angeles and is a professional member of the National Press Club, National Association of Black Journalists, The Recording Academy, The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Motion Picture Association of America. He is also a national lecturer who speaks on such issues as fostering diverse representation in the entertainment industry, as well as personal and communal development.

  • Samantha Racanelli
    Samantha Racanelli
    SVP of Film Development & Production, Endeavor Content

    Samantha Racanelli is the SVP of Film Development & Production at global content studio Endeavor Content. She oversees a large and diverse slate of films, shepherding them from inception to script, through production and release.

    She is part of the Endeavor Content team responsible for films such as JOE BELL starring Mark Wahlberg, SHADOW IN THE CLOUD starring Chloë Grace Moretz, PENGUIN BLOOM starring Naomi Watts, and BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL from the directors of the Sundance hit BAD DAY FOR THE CUT.

    On the advisory side, Racanelli advised several financiers and producers on their entertainment strategy. Racanelli packaged and sold Sam Levinson’s ASSASSINATION NATION, Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU, Chloé Zhao’s THE RIDER, Trey Shults’ IT COMES AT NIGHT, and Stephen Merchant’s FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY.

    Before joining Endeavor Content, Racanelli worked as a paralegal in the Entertainment practice of Greenberg Traurig, LLP in New York. She is a graduate of Barnard College and is originally from Long Island.

  • Simon Frederick
    Simon Frederick
    Artist/ Photographer/ Filmmaker, ATELIERFREDERICK

    Self-taught artist, photographer, filmmaker and
    broadcaster, Simon Frederick is highly regarded to
    be at the vanguard of his discipline, with a career
    punctuated by firsts; Simon has made recent
    television appearances in front of camera for Sky
    Arts, as the lead judge of their pan European series
    Master of Photography, which he co-hosted with
    Hollywood royalty Isabella Rossellini. He conceived,
    produced and directed the award winning series
    “Black Is The New Black”, for BBC, with the portfolio
    of portrait’s he shot of his subjects during the filming
    of the show, making history as the largest acquisition
    of African-Caribbean sitters by the National Portrait
    Gallery, becoming part of the Gallery’s permanent

    His follow up series “They’ve Gotta Have
    Us”, which charts the revolutionary rise of black
    artists in film, is another critically acclaimed hit
    delivered by Frederick was acquired by ARRAY
    Releasing as the company’s first series acquisition.
    ARRAY premiered the docuseries on Netflix on
    February 5 and acquired distribution rights in the
    U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
    The announcement was made by ARRAY founder
    Ava DuVernay.

    Frederick’s latest project is the four 6
    part series THEOUTSIDERS? Highlighting the global
    success of young black visionaries, with YouTube
    Originals and completing the script for his feature
    debut as well as being named as one of the U.K’s
    100 most Influential Black People alongside the likes
    of the Duchess Of Sussex, Meghan Markle and
    British Vogue Editor Edward Enninful.