BFF and Walmart: Working for Balance on the Big Screen

By Louis Greth
May 6, 2015
BFF - Bentonville Film Festival - lead image for blog

I have a pretty cool job: leading the team responsible for bringing your favorite movies to your local Walmart store. But this week, it gets even better. I’m part of a team judging the first-ever Bentonville Film Festival, an event that’s not only bringing A-list celebrities to my town – it’s also working to raise the profile of women and diversity in the movie-making process.

This big event for Bentonville, Arkansas, only started about a year ago, as my team and I talked with our leadership about how our work might support Walmart’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative. Because much of the movie industry is controlled by major studios, we couldn’t just abruptly decide to purchase movies from more women-owned companies. We had to think more creatively. So, we came up with an unconventional idea. What if Walmart helped to coordinate a film festival that called for submissions created by diverse filmmakers?
The next week, we took that brainstorm to Trevor Drinkwater, our contact at ARC Entertainment, a movie distribution company, and asked him if he thought it was something we could pull off. The next we heard from him, he’d talked to someone who was very interested and ready to help: Geena Davis, who, in addition to being an Academy Award-winning actress, is the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, an organization working to influence the need for gender balance in the entertainment industry.

I don’t know if a lack of female characters is something that would have been overly apparent to me before, but what I have noticed is that Walmart customers are buying a lot of the diverse films we carry. Having seen Geena’s data, now I know that promoting more women and diversity in movies is clearly an issue we can do better on. One important way we’re doing that at BFF is by drawing in submissions through a unique proposition for winners: offering guaranteed distribution at not just Walmart stores, but also via VUDU.
There’s no film festival in the world that offers guaranteed distribution, Geena recently said, so that’s definitely an aspect that sets us apart. It’s an awesome prize, but what’s even better is the broader benefit to movie fans everywhere: adding even more great characters – and talented filmmakers – to the entertainment business, and therefore bringing even more fantastic stories to life.

Walmart is a proud sponsor of the Bentonville Film Festival, taking place May 5-9. Learn more at bentonvillefilmfestival.org.