BHERC organization supports next generation of filmmakers

Every year, the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center promotes Black history and culture through a series of annual film festivals and programs.

Its goal is to reflect more stories about people of color on the big screen by prioritizing powerful storytelling and teaching the next generation of filmmakers.

This year, one of the 111 films the organization showcased at its African American Film Marketplace and S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase was a film by Alexander McDaniel, who started making films when he was 11.

Now, at just 14 years old, Alexander already knows all the answers a filmmaker is asking to gauge the middle and high school students’ knowledge in his lesson about the art of filmmaking. 

“This is what I want to do with my life,” he said. “I started acting when I was 6 years old, but after many years, I sort of fell in love with behind the camera.”

It was then that Alexander made his first short film, “Bullyproof Vest,” about a girl who overcomes bullying, based on his own true story. He showed several awards that film and others have won since, all showcasing his passion for telling stories with a purpose. 

“They can shape your worldview,” he said. “I want to make films with themes and purposes. I want to put people of color, people of different genders or sexualities in my films.”

It’s why Alexander’s latest short film was selected to screen at the annual film festival hosted by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center.

President Sandra Evers-Manly says they selected 111 short films and documentaries to showcase throughout the week out over 1,000 submissions.

“Film is so powerful,” she said. “It connects you right away and unfortunately, we haven’t seen the spectrum of people represented in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the scenes.”

It’s been the mission of BHERC since Evers-Manly founded it nearly 30 years ago, to educate, and even financially support, the next generation of filmmakers to bring about more diversity in this industry. 

She just retired from a career in aerospace, but Sandra says she was first encouraged to start an organization like this by her mom when she was just a child asking why she never saw herself reflected in the stories told on tv. 

“We want you to tell your stories, we want you to tell stories based on your experiences,” Evers-Manly told a theater of future storytellers attending the art of filmmaking workshop.

She explained to them why it’s so important to reflect diversity in skin color, gender and disabilities on the big screen.

As a single mom, Sharon McDaniel says she is so grateful that Alexander has found an outlet to express himself at such a tender age.

“You don’t have to worry about self-medicating and getting involved with the wrong folks or substance abuse,” she said. “Use your art. That is your gift, that is your passion.”

It’s a passion Alexander says he’s already losing sleep over. 

“I want to become the youngest person to win best directing in the Oscars,” he said.

The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center also provides scholarships to help support independent, emerging and student filmmakers. For more information, visit here.