XL Film Festival a Smashing Success; Townsend, Riddle Among Special Guests

Five years ago, Creative Cypher launched an accelerator lab for rising content creators. Founder Troy Pryor’s goal was to then provide those creators an opportunity to showcase their work and this eventually evolved into a full festival.

Pryor curated a diverse group of speakers spanning multiple generations and media lanes. Special guests for this year’s XL Film Festival included visionaries Robert Townsend, Leon Rogers, and South Side creators Bashir Salahuddin and Diallo Riddle.

Troy Pryor, Bashir Salahuddin, Leon Rogers, Robert Townsend, Diallo Riddle

This year was geared toward the summit conversation and complemented with the screening of 10 projects. Let’s take a look at some highlights from the XL Film Festival, courtesy of the festival…

Inspiration and Inclusion Throughout the Festival

The festival packed the house and offered inspiring events throughout the weekend, including:

– A conversation between Louis Carr, President of Media Sales at BET, and Rufus Williams of WVON. Carr discussed his journey to becoming one of the most powerful people in media and his new venture Waymaker, which has a summit approaching in Chicago next month.

Louis Carr, President of Media Sales at BET, and Rufus Williams of WVON

– A panel on mental health and Black artists led by Saudia Davis with Vee L. Harrison, Brooklyn McLinne, and Jae Davis, kicked off a series of in depth conversations for the weekend.

– Creative executive Danita Paterson of Destiny Unlimited Inc. led two conversations. The first with a group of young creators aspiring to become filmmakers Addie Belhomme and Dusan Brown. The second, a discussion on the state of the industry, including SAG-AFTRA President Charles Andrew Gardner, Peter Hawley, Head of Illinois Film Office, Brenda Gilbert, Founder of BRON Studios, Pemon Rami, author of “When Blackness was Golden”

Danita Patterson (center) with Addie Belhomme and Dusan Brown

– A private meet and greet with filmmakers, past XL lab winners, industry execs, and the Director of Chicago Film Office, Jonah Zeiger.

What’s Next? ‘First you Brand, then you Expand’ 

The XL Film Festival has attracted a powerful group of brands, celebs, and organizations on board to scale the festival and partner on year – around programming.

Coming up in September…

Creative Cypher has programming lined up with Music Box Films in September to celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th Anniversary. Pryor will be on stage and interviewing directors beginning September 4th with Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewer. 

In October Creative Cypher has collaborations lined up in Chicago for another rooftop film event, a block of films at PROOF Film Festival in LA with American Cinematheque, and a screening in London for the film “Mister Abbott”,  which also screened at the XL Film Festival.

“Festivals play a role in the larger Cypher ecosystem which is dedicated to empower creatives at every stage of the creative supply chain,” said Pryor. “I am a creator and I study people who are not only amazing in front of the camera or mic, but also understand how to build infrastructure like President Barack Obama, Oprah, Tyler Perry, Berry Gordy, Jay-Z, Robert Townsend, Mark Wahlberg, Issa Rae, Kevin Hart, Ryan Seacrest… you get my point.”

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