All Articles Tagged "african american filmmakers"
by Steven Barboza
Great black stories almost never get shown at America’s megaplexes. The reason? They are an endangered species.
In a perfect world, major studios would green-light a dozen films per year with mostly black casts, and audiences of all persuasions would pay to see them. But Hollywood moguls seem stuck on the color of actors’ skin. Either major studios don’t think white audiences would pay to see universal human dramas played out by black actors, or studios are bewildered by black films. Many fail at the box office for a host of reasons, including lack of audience development and badly hatched advertising and publicity campaigns.
“Ultimately, to reach an African American audience, there needs to be a cross-section of tactics,” said Ava DuVernay, filmmaker and publicist. DuVernay, who helped to market such Hollywood releases as “Dreamgirls” and “Invictus,” has formed an alliance that aims to bring more black films to commercial theaters. The African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (or AFFRM) uses social networking and grass-roots tactics to reach its marketing goals.
The alliance hopes to overcome a host of mistakes being made by otherwise savvy producers and film makers. Many black films fall victim to their creators’ good intentions but inept marketing practices. “I think that a lot of people overshoot in terms of the number of screens that they put a film on,” said DuVernay, “and I think that a lot of people undershoot in terms of the type of marketing that they apply toward certain types of films. But in cases where there’s been a happy marriage of distribution and marketing, you’ve seen modest and successfully distributed films that give nice returns to investors.”
The film “Just Wright,” starring Queen Latifah and Common, was “on too many screens,” DuVernay said. “And it was a campaign that didn’t integrate any kind of grassroots effort or real local outreach. They had a very national campaign, and they were relying on their stars. If they would have had some boots on the ground, it might have made some difference.” The film only grossed $21.5 million.
Other black films succeed if producers employ the right marketing mix. “You look at something very successful like ‘Jumping the Broom’ — they had a full-fledged publicity campaign, a very aggressive advertising campaign and local support on the ground — and you get a hit,” DuVernay said. “Same thing with ‘The Help.’ With the right marketing, the right push, the right kind of perfect storm of elements, you can actually have a successful release.”
She herself has left nothing to chance. She has written and directed a film titled “I Will Follow,” starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who plays a woman sorting through memories of a dead aunt. The film was the first to be marketed by the AFFRM. “We couldn’t afford big advertising so we upped our ground game,” DuVernay said. “We did more grassroots organizing. We did heavy, heavy publicity. We were in a market for six months, when you’d [customarily] be in a market for 3 or 4 months before opening.”
(Huffington Post) — This week marks another historic milestone in black media, with the launch of Bounce TV, the nation’s first-ever, free broadcast television network marketed exclusively to African-American audiences. Founded by entertainment industry luminaries and businessmen Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III, Andrew “Bo” Young III, television executives Ryan Glover and Jonathan Katz and filmmakers Rob Hardy and Will Packer, the channel targets African Americans primarily between the ages of 25 and 54 with 24-hour programming that includes movies, live sporting events, documentaries and inspirational faith-based programs. ”It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when we approached by Ambassador Andrew Young, Martin Luther King III and Ryan Glover. They had this idea and this concept that was past its germination stage,” said Packer, the network’s Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer. “They came to myself and Rob and said, ‘Listen, this is what we want to do. This has the potential to be historic. We want you guys to be apart of this launch, first African-American broadcast network. We want you to bring the same energy and perspective and the same marketing that you have brought to your projects that have been successful.’ And we said, ‘You know what, just the potential of a project like this, how could we say no? How could we not be apart of it?”
(Black Enterprise) — Robert Townsend hopes his latest film, In the Hive, joins his critically acclaimed and popular works such as Hollywood Shuffle and The Five Heartbeats. (In the Hive, which premiered at the American Black Film Festival and screened at this year’s Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge, may be in wide release next year.) The veteran entertainer broke into acting as an extra in Cooley High more than 30 years ago but branched into drama, writing, directing, and producing. From 2003 to 2007, the 44-year-old was president and CEO of The Black Family Channel. In 2009, he ventured into the digital world with Diary of a Single Mom, a Web series that will make the leap to television in a one-hour pilot on TV One on Oct. 9.
(Success) — Success is a slippery word. Ask a dozen people to define it, and you’ll receive 12 different answers, none of them wrong. Take a poll on how to find it, and hundreds of paths will suddenly appear amongst the trees. The right trail is always changing, multiplying and contracting—different for each of us. See? Slippery. So how would you define success for a poor black boy growing up in 1970s New Orleans? Would you lower expectations if you knew his father was so abusive he once attempted suicide to escape the beatings? If you knew he was molested by several different people in his community, would that alter how you judged his progress through life? For this boy, success might simply mean surviving childhood. Maybe, if he’s lucky, he’ll find the path that leads to being a kind man with a decent job. Nothing special. “Nothing special” is not good enough for Tyler Perry. The little boy from New Orleans not only survived, he became the most unlikely power broker in Hollywood, earning millions and connecting with a legion of fans with his poignant, funny, down-to-earth interpretations of African-American family life in his plays, movies and sitcoms.
(Uptown) — Tanya Hamilton is making Philly her very own Black Hollywood. The acclaimed Jamaican born screenwriter struck gold with her critically lauded 2010 film, Night Catches Us, starring notable actors Kerry Washington and Anthony Mackie. Nominated for the venerable Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the movie tells the story of the 1970s Black Panther movement and its effect on a Philadelphia community. Now, the wife and mother is busy with her latest project, Future States, a series of web-based short films that tackle “the destruction of people’s lives in relation to the housing bubble.”
It’s been 20 years since Boyz N The Hood hit the big screen and completely changed our collective expectations of Black film and its place in Hollywood. The writer, producer and director of the film, John Singleton, was only 22 when he made the film and at 24, he became the youngest and first African-American to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
When Singleton emerged, only one other Black filmmaker was a household name (Spike Lee). Today, there are only a few more that can command the power to get a film greenlit including Antoine Fuqua and Tyler Perry.
Although Boyz N The Hood was his most critical film, Singleton has continued to make strides and has had a pretty illustrious career. Here, in honor of the anniversary of his debut film, we highlight a few of his other notable moments.
(AP) — One of the most prestigious festivals honoring black cinema returned to Miami Beach on Wednesday to promote cultural diversity and recognize the contributions of black directors, writers and actors to the film industry. Now in its 15th year, the American Black Film Festival promotes cultural diversity within the film industry by strengthening the black filmmaking community through four days of film screenings, networking, workshops for both actors and directors and panel discussions. Jeff Friday, the festival’s co-founder, said he wanted to change America’s tone of African-American characters on television and films. ”I had always been disturbed by images of people with color in films. There was always a level of struggle,” he said of black people on the television shows he grew up watching, such as “Good Times” or “The Jeffersons.”
(Uptown Magazine) — When Spike Lee released Jungle Fever in 1991, he single-handedly addressed an issue that had been raising eyebrows for years: interracial dating. Even though at the time of filming, interracial couples represented only 1.9 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau, there seemed to be a fascination, and for some, a disgust over interracial dating, specifically between African-American men and white women. Set in New York City, Flipper (Wesley Snipes), a married architect began an affair with his assistant, Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra), an Italian-American. The affair seemed to stem from both characters’ deep curiosity about each other’s race, more so than mere physical attraction, from the contrast in their skin colors–his dark complexion to her pale, “lily-white” skin to their upbringings, which were worlds apart. After disclosing his secret affair to his best friend, Flipper confessed, “I have to admit I’ve always been curious about Caucasian women.” The friend declared that he had “the fever, Jungle Fever,” described as an attraction between two different races.
Springtime in Manhattan means many things from putting the Uggs away to getting the umbrellas out. But April also ushers in a special time where Hollywood power players descend from LA and mix it up with hipsters and other locals to peep the best in film during the Tribeca Film Festival. Already 10 years old, the Festival is an ever-expanding celebration of current creative expression via film while actively supporting those poised to take the future spotlight in filmmaking. To that end, Tribeca Film Festival’s (TFI) Tribeca All Access (TAA) program officially kicked off today marking its eighth year anniversary!
For those who may not know, TAA was created to help foster and nurture relationships between film industry executives and filmmakers from traditionally underrepresented communities. This year, ten young filmmakers from across the country were selected from more than 376 submissions to participate in TAA this year. New to this year’s program, participating filmmakers will also receive an initial $10,000 each in grants and are also paired with an advisor from the Producers Guild of America (PGA), in advance of the festival program.
Lucky TAA participants are offered a a whirlwind of panels, lunches, networking events and award ceremonies but a special part of the program also enables women and minority directors and screenwriters to obtain one-on-one meetings with more than 100 potential investors, development executives, producers and agents.
But what, you may ask, has all this got to do with millennials and digital media?
Well today as I schmoozed at the Welcome Lunch in a large, sun-filled room at the Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park, my suspicions were confirmed. One, TAA is a great opportunity for young filmmakers of color, so tell a friend (and if you’re a filmmaker, start thinking about applying for next year in order to get some leverage within a notoriously difficult-to-penetrate industry). Two, the intersection of filmmakers and the digital realm will only become more deeply entwined so you need to be prepared. Thus, with a cool transmedia producer named Caitlin (who had a major hand in “Avatar”) on my right and TAA Advisory Board member, digital fan and film director Reginald Hudlin (“House Party”) on my left; our table excitedly mixed it up non-stop about the power of digital cross-platform opportunities, the browning of our country and the future of film!
In fact, while Spike Lee and Tyler Perry go at it in the media; I couldn’t help but think during this luncheon that energy might be better put to use by these directors actually publicly contemplating and encouraging creation of a larger footprint by the next generation of filmmakers of color by using digital means to better create, market and distribute.
To that end, Henry McGee, President of HBO Video and a speaker at the luncheon probably summed it up best by saying that “digital is our destiny” from distribution to methodology. During his brief talk McGee noted, for example, that a whopping 1/3 of all Americans went to see a 3D film last year and that “clouds” will enable expansive storage while simultaneously contributing to the challenge of attracting and retaining audience attention for titles; given the increase and ease of access to film content. Of particular note is that the global box office is now made up of a viewing audience two-thirds of which is outside of the United States. This coupled with the fact that the U.S. Census numbers strongly reinforce the “browning” of our own country should finally create the need for a change in the persistent, largely homogeneous images previously force-fed to all.
While McGee seemed particularly impressed with the fact that statistics show that 1 out of 4 box office tickets were purchased by Latinos, I have to say I was a bit disappointed that he gave no love and no stats on just how many of those tickets are bought by African-Americans. Make no mistake, our demographic is quite unique because my research shows that it is consistently an influencer demographic meaning that, particularly within youth culture, our demo helps to greatly shape what is and isn’t trending. This is incredibly important to marketers trying to encourage a purchase. Further, given our behavioral inclinations, we’re also apt to see a film opening weekend given our “buy now” mentality.
At any rate, one thing is certain: we are inside of a new era where opportunities abound for those who are persistent and prepared. Don’t find yourself on the outside looking in because the stars are aligning in a way they previously have not. Visit tribecafilm.com for detailed information.
* Stay tuned for my re-cap from inside the next day’s event’s from TAA @TFI later in the week; and in the meantime don’t miss my footage in our Videos section to see all the latest in digital devices.
We rarely hear much from Tyler Perry when he is being slammed by critics for his cinematic and small screen work that is constantly described as being overly dramatic with one-dimensional characters that embody racial stereotypes. That is until recently when he reached his breaking point and basically told his critics, namely Spike Lee, where they could take a flying leap to.
On Tuesday during a Beverly Hills press conference for the West Coast premiere of his new film, Madea’s Big Happy Family, Perry said point blank that he is “sick of hearing” about Spike Lee, according to Box Office magazine.
“Spike can go straight to hell! I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is coon, this is a buffoon…’”
Perry is referring to a 2009 interview that Lee did with Ed Gordon, former host of Our World with Black Enterprise. During the interview, Lee explained that “each artist should be allowed to pursue their artistic endeavors,” and although Perry’s film and television work has made “a lot of money and [is] breaking records,” Lee still believes much of the content geared towards African-Americans is “coonery and buffoonery.”
Perry tries not to dwell on negativity, he says, but still gets frustrated with the criticism he receives from within his own community. “I don’t even understand it [but] this is where the whole Spike Lee [comment] comes from—the negativity, this is Stepin Fetchit, this is coonery, this is buffoonery…’”
The filmmaker admitted in a 2010 interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes that he is completely baffled when he receives criticism from fellow African-Americans when he doesn’t see other groups receiving similar criticism from their respective communities.
“I’ve never seen Jewish people attack Seinfeld and say, ‘this is a stereotype,’ I’ve never seen Italian people attack The Sopranos, I’ve never seen Jewish people complaining about Mrs. Doubtfire or Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.’ It’s always black people,” he said.
Whether you are a fan of his work or not, it can’t be denied that the man is making moves in Hollywood. His work may not amount to Spike Lee or John Singleton, but Perry does have a valid argument that the ‘crabs in a bucket’ syndrome continues to plague the black community unlike other racial and ethnic communities.