MIAMI -- Like most pro athletes with time, money and energy to burn, Terrell Suggs is a veteran of South Beach. The Ravens All-Pro linebacker has played in these clubs, been accosted by the highly aggressive hostesses at these sidewalk café, swam at their hotel pools with three hundred of his new closest friends and gawked at shapely body parts that aren't usually exposed in public but tend to be exposed along the white sand that borders this turquoise surf.
This is what the pros do when they're not playing ball. They play in Vegas on the Beach -- hard.
But this past weekend, on his most recent trip to Miami, Suggs, as he'd put it, "ain't playing." He made the trip from his home in Arizona to sack the 14th Annual American Black Film Festival -- an event unlike the 13 that preceded it. This year's edition boasted a sports spin, a first-of-its-kind program called the Pro-Hollywood Initiative, designed to teach professional athletes about the motion picture industry and to connect these hopeful filmmakers with African-American veterans of Hollywood.
The inaugural PHI class: Suggs, Chiefs tackle Ikechuku Ndukwe, USA track & field alum Monica Cabbler and retired NFLers Hannibal Navies and Isaac Keyes, all of whom attended a masters class in filmmaking taught by Spike Lee before joining Lee for an intimate luncheon moderated by filmmaker-comedian Robert Townsend and featuring heavies like director John Singleton, Universal Studios VP Steve Williams, and ABFF and PHI founder Jeff Friday.
Over a family-style meal of steak and salmon, mentors and students engaged in chit-chat about film craft, the importance of networking and the pratfalls of financing, as well as weighty talk about race and the value of the Tyler Perry brand. "These athletes aren't joking around," Lee said. "They didn't have to sit in my class for three hours starting at 8am on a Saturday morning at South Beach, when most people are just getting in. They're serious about learning the business of cinema. We want to help them succeed."