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MPAA’s John Gibson Talks The Org’s Partnership With ABFF

MPAA’s John Gibson Talks The Org’s Partnership With ABFFby Wilson Morales

June 26, 2015


Most recently at the 19th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF), caught up with John Gibson, Advisor for Diversity and Multicultural Outreach to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). This year the MPPA partnered with ABFF to present the opening night film DOPE for the festival.

In our interview with Gibson, he discussed the MPAA’s Diversity Program and it’s partnership with ABFF.

What’s your role at the MPAA?

John Gibson: I work with Senator Chris Dodd, who is our chairman and CEO on diversity and multicultural outreach. The Senator has been chairman here for years and he established a formal program in January 2012. Interesting enough, the MPAA was 90 years old and there had never been a formalized diversity program.

Chris Dodd MPAA

What’s the MPAA involvement with ABFF?

JG: Back in August 2012 after visiting ABFF for my first time, I saw that major studios were not actively engaged with the festival. We brought Jeff Friday in for a meeting with the Senator and an hour afterwards he and I created “Trailerfest.” It’s an upfront type event where six of our major studios presented to the audience 15 to 20 minutes each exclusive footage. They would provide talent, marketing, Q & A and we did the first one in 2013, when ABFF was last held in Miami. We had 600 people in attendance. It was a really stellar event. Separate from that, it’s also keeping constant communication with the MPAA and ABFF joint programming.

Big Six Studios

Why do you think it took so long for the studios to get involved and for the MPAA to oversee it?

JG: These studios have smaller studios underneath them like Fox Searchlight, Screen Gems, Columbia TriStar; and they have a regular presence as well. If it’s not the big 6, I can’t speak for that. I don’t know why. In talking to some studios, a lot of them weren’t aware or the American Black Film Festival. That’s still an ongoing conversation that Jeff Friday is addressing. I think the move to New York arguably put them in the world’s largest medium market. I noticed in the last few years that they were getting press in the New York Times, People magazine, and The Wrap. They had received more press in the last two years than they had in the previous 17 years. I get that there are so many film festivals but we’re working with them now and we’re working together for the future.


With the festival slated to go back to Miami for its 20th anniversary, will things change?

JG: Our largest event with them was in Miami and that was in 2013 as I mentioned before. The studios are committed with our partnership with ABFF. We’re thinking now of what we are going to do next year. In the next couple of weeks we will come up with some ideas and see what ABFF would like for us to do.

How did the MPAA get involved in having Open Road’s Dope as the festival’s opening film?

JG: That was our first year sponsoring opening night. The two previous years, we did our trailerfest, which featured all six of our studios. This was pretty exciting. We’re so grateful to Open Road Films for partnering with us. They are not one of our six, but we represent the entire American film industry and we’re so proud of what Open Road has done. We partner with different film companies all the time. I did a screening of Patrik-Ian Polk’s Blackbird in late April as part of an LGBT event. That was with RLJ Entertainment. I did ‘Black or White’ in February and that’s Relativity. We partner with the independents all the time

When you say trailerfest, is it that difficult to call up a studio and ask for a trailer to showcase at a festival?

JG: I don’t think so. Why it wasn’t done before, I can’t speak to that. Let me take you back to 2013 when we did our first one. Fox Searchlight had brought in ’12 Years a Slave’ when the film wasn’t even finished. Paramount had bought in 15 minutes of exclusive footage of ‘World War Z’ before it had hit theaters. Universal had brought in Malcolm Lee, Morris Chestnut and Sanaa Lathan to present the trailer to ‘Best Man Holiday.’ Our studios have been quite supportive. Sometimes they are not able to show stuff because it’s been edited or not finished. The footage of Ant-Man that was shown at the festival was only finished the day before. ABFF audiences were the first to see that footage

What’s in store for next year?

JG: We might go back to the trailerfest and really do it up or we might spread the individual studio presentation over a number of days. That obviously has to line up with what ABFF is going to give us. It’s going to be really special because it’s the 20th year and we’re so pleased that we have this partnership. I can guarantee that it will exceed expectations.

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