Creative Cypher acquires the Chicago South Side Film Festival

During the last quarter of 2022, Creative Cypher, founded by Troy Pryor, agreed to merge its sister brand Cypher Foundation with the Chicago South Side Film Festival, founded by Michelle Kennedy.

This partnership will rebrand the Chicago South Side Film Festival as the XL Film Fest, a weekend festival that will expand beyond film, showcasing Black storytellers from multi disciplines.

Founder of the Chicago South Side Film Festival, Michelle Kenndey will remain the Executive Director, while co-chair for Black Harvest Film Festival and Film curator of Soho House Chicago, NK Gutierrez will oversee programming.

Troy Pryor will remain chairman of the festival and connect to the larger Cypher ecosystem “I’m grateful to have helped build programming for a variety of institutions and will continue consulting on their DEI initiatives,” said Pryor. “Inclusive community leadership is key for our overall growth. It’s also critical that Black targeted programming is Black owned and Black led to ensure the highest quality of authenticity.”

Relaunching in August, the festival will now include the Creative Cypher Film XLerator, which helps identify rising creators, provides monetary grants, physical equipment, studios, industry mentors and more. Many of the projects coming through Cypher content labs are now streaming on multiple platforms.

Winners of the XLerator will be selected at this year’s festival and go on to the 12 month development lab led by industry executives in preparation to premier at the following year’s festival. Past mentors include Brenda Gilbert, Co-founder and President of Bron Studios, JaNeika James, JaSheika James Co-Executive producers of Bel-Air, and actor Lamorne Morris. With this year being the celebration of Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary, guests can expect to see the culture in full effect with screenings, panels, workshops and several special appearances.

The merger provides Creative Cypher a flagship festival in its growing portfolio of media entertainment properties. In addition to the XL Fest in Chicago, Creative Cypher has a line up of collaborations at festivals in over 10 US markets and the UK. Creative Cypher’s ecosystem curates entertainment activities around the country, includingfilm screenings, comedy shows, music showcases, and speaking engagements that engage, empower, and educate other creators.

Pryor, an award winning media producer, has been committed to empowering Black Storytellers for the past decade. His role goes beyond media entertainment as he sits on multiple festival councils to help amplify Black voices. For the past three years, Pryor has served as the co-chair for the Black Harvest Film festival, which was was ranked #6 on Black Film Festival’s in the US by Shadow and Act. His leadership and advocacy in Black entertainment and media was the driving force behind the Creative Cypher and Chicago South Side Film Festival partnership.

For more info follow @creativecypher on social media and visit


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