reate Next Film Project, John Boyega’s recent collaboration with Converse, is putting young Black filmmakers on the map. A vision that originated from the actor’s talks with pupils in Southwark has grown into a far-reaching network that aims to empower the next generation of Black filmmakers. The initiative brings together young creatives and industry giants in hopes of bridging representational gaps in the industry.
I want to develop projects here and that’s what I’ve been doing, rather than just speaking about it, I’m trying to be a part of that effective change
“I want to film projects here [in London],” Boyega told the audience of an in-conversation on the project. “I want to develop projects here and that’s what I’ve been doing, rather than just speaking about it, I’m trying to be a part of that effective change… I love Top Boy, I love all of those shows but we’re seeing that we want more nuance – something that spreads and gives us much more freedom to play more versatile characters,” he said.
This partnership with Boyega is the latest venture under Converse’s All Stars Program, a grassroots scheme involving more than 3,000 individuals from more than 27 cities, from Los Angeles to London to Lima and beyond, aiming to champion young game-changers by helping to amplify their voices.
It’s important, they actor says, that a focus on a new wave of Black talent remains at the heart of the Create Next Film Project. Carefully-selected program participants are awarded access to a robust and community-focused ecosystem of mentorship that not only provides them with funding but allows them to dream with their eyes open. The filmmakers are given room to realise their talents and showcase stories they believe deserve to be on the big screen.
Over the last six months London filmmakers, Ade Femzo, Kaylen Francis, Kemi Anna Adeeko, Lorraine Khamali and Ibrahim Muhammad, have each written, directed and produced their own five-minute short film, which premiered at London’s Curzon Cinema on Tuesday.
According to Boyega, participating filmmakers weren’t chosen “based on race” but on a desire to put talented people out there and invest in gifted individuals who have pathed out a career for themselves. “I just want to see an industry that allocates these qualities and talents to the right people,” he says.
Boyega said he wished he had been exposed to similar initiatives when he first started out, and identified a sense of community and transferable knowledge as being among the most useful things for burgeoning actors and filmmakers.
Now a well-decorated actor and producer, he takes pride in his ability to influence change and shine a spotlight on talent, particularly that of young people from a similar ethnic and economic background to himself. “There are moments that I genuinely missed out on and lessons that I genuinely missed out on, it didn’t stop success but I still have to learn it,” he said.
Boyega also said that a lack of representation is the most limiting factor for creatives from similar backgrounds to himself, and noted that restrictions can sometimes simply boil down to a lack of knowledge of or access to the different opportunities that exist within the film industry. “For me it is about building something that provides an access point for individuals that were restricted to who you know,” he says.
“[We’re] just trying to give a much more realistic vision to our dreamers.”
The filmmakers all agree that they have gained extensive industry knowledge through the scheme, especially from sessions with industry experts which included script writing and storytelling workshops. “In the UK there hasn’t really been much to cultivate young Black minds into entering the film industry,” says Ibrahim Mahummed, a photographer and film student at the University of Westminster.
Create Next Film Project has been really good at creating a kick start for our careers and giving us an opportunity we may not have ever gotten
“Usually you’ll just see black people in music videos or something like that, and I think giving someone a face or giving faces to an industry that is underrepresented is really inspiring for young Black filmmakers. I think the opportunity with the Create Next Film Project has been really good at creating a kick start for our careers and giving us an opportunity we may not have ever gotten.”
Boyega foresees a long and bright future for the young creatives who have taken part in the program so far. He says watching the filmmakers grow over the weeks and face their struggles head on was one of the proudest moments for him as a mentor and that he hopes his partnership with Converse will continue to grow and thrive into something that provides long-lasting opportunities for Black filmmakers.
He believes the impact of Create Next Film Project goes beyond these five filmmakers and serves as inspiration to all Black filmmakers in the country, encouraging them to manifest their creative goals and create the next big thing in the industry.
Create Next Film Project is accepting applications for a new round of film funding from June. The process is straightforward and involves sharing your idea and project breakdown with the Converse team. The maximum amount of funding allocated for each project is £2,500 and this can go towards all the elements needed to put your film together – so get applying.
All of the filmmakers’ movies are now available to watch on YouTube