All Articles Tagged "black filmmakers"
Atop this weekend’s box office tally is the latest installment of the tired horror franchise Paranormal Activity. That film brought in $30.2 million in its opening week. And, according to E! Online, Tyler Perry’s latest film, Alex Cross, based on the James Patterson novel, flopped, coming in fifth with $11.2 million, lower than his lowest-grossing film, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls.
But despite those numbers, it’s an indie film made by an African-American woman that’s generating lots of talk, including an endorsement from the lady, Madame Oprah.
Middle of Nowhere by Ava DuVernay was made for just $200,000 (minuscule by Hollywood standards) and opened on October 12 in just six theaters. But the film averaged $13,055 on each of those screens, giving it the best outcome of the weekend. This weekend, the film expanded to 21 theaters in 14 cities and made more than $54,000. It has grossed $127,137 so far, says IndieWire, and will be showing in additional theaters this coming weekend.
DuVernay is not just a filmmaker, but helps to run the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AAFRM), an organization dedicated to black indie filmmakers. (Note that ImageNation, the subject of one of our recent profiles, is highlighted on their site as well.) Earlier this year, DuVernay became the first African-American woman to take home the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
“The weekend was electric as Middle of Nowhere enjoyed sold-out shows with both diverse crowds in NYC and LA, and predominately African-American audiences in Washington DC and Philadelphia,” the AAFRM’s Tilane Jones told The Hollywood Reporter.
Oprah Winfrey has also thrown her support behind the film, tweeting to her 14 million followers that this is a film to see. ”Bravo to you my sistah,” she’s written.
DuVernay was a publicist when she came up with the idea for Middle of Nowhere, a film about a Compton nurse named Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) whose husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) is in prison. She decided to strike out on her own to make the film, and is now being credited with giving a shock of life to the black indie film scene. (She has also made another film, I Will Follow.) Reviews in top-tier publications like The New York Times have been positive.
“There’s something very important about films about black women and girls being made by black women. It’s a different perspective. It is a reflection as opposed to an interpretation, and I think we get a lot of interpretations about the lives of women that are not coming from women,” DuVernay told the AP.
Have you seen Middle of Nowhere? Let us know what you thought. And let us know if you plan to see it.
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.”
By Torri R. Oats
The recent release of the movie version of “The Help” has caused a firestorm of cinema commentary. More than anything, “The Help” has re-ignited a debate on the recurring role of the “mammy”in film over the decades, and the evolution of the African-American woman in the movie world. Black leading ladies and execs behind the scenes in the feature film industry still lag far behind their Caucasian counterparts. Yet, there is hope. Black actresses of yesteryear have already done the heavy lifting, struggling through a Hollywood system that fought against their grace and dignity — sometimes playing “mammy” to make a way. The next generation built on their power, and never looked back. Because of them, more African-American women than ever are able to realize their dreams in front of and behind the cameras. We celebrate these women for their contributions to black film history. Here is how African-American ladies have gone from being “The Help” to the boss — more than ever before — in the Hollywood system.
The Foundation: Roberta Hyson
To understand how far we’ve come, and in some ways, how far we have to go, one needs to return to the beginning and explore the roads traveled by Hollywood’s black female trailblazers. “Melancholy Dame,” a short from 1928 was made at the beginning of the “talkie” era, featuring the triple threat, Roberta Hyson. Ms. Hyson, the first African-American woman in a theatrically released film, was known not for her portrayal of a mammy or any variation of such, but as an actress who portrayed positive characters in black cinema. As one half a comedic duo formed with another talkie actress, Evelyn Preer, she was able to showcase all three of her “threats”: singing, dancing and acting. Thanks to Paramount pictures, which released many of these African-American talkies, Ms. Hyson’s work can still be enjoyed today. Roberta Hyson laid the very foundation for black women in film.
(AJC) — In search of role models, some 400 young — and mostly black –Atlanta entrepreneurs found one Friday in the form of Tyler Perry. First and foremost, Perry is a movie star and one of Hollywood’s most bankable commodities. But Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the White House also noted to the audience that he is at heart a businessman who has created a multi-million-dollar entertainment and philanthropic empire in Atlanta. “I had heard other aspects of his story, but it was good to hear how hard he worked to get his business off the ground. That was very inspiring to me,” said Jarrod Jordan, executive director of the Vanguard Leadership Group. “Now I am here to learn from others what it takes to run a successful company.”
Instead of waiting for Hollywood’s permission — and dollars — these artists are giving themselves the green light to produce their own online series.
When filmmaker and actress Hannelore Williams decided it was time to put her many talents to use and make ‘Queen Hussy,’ a coming-of-age film that would hopefully open doors, she enlisted her fellow NYU film school alum Pete Chatmon. She and Chatmon, who had previously directed Zoe Saldana in the movie ‘Premium,’ went to sunny Los Angeles earlier this year – but not to pitch the project to movie studios. They went to Hollywood to shoot an original web series.
Leaving behind “development hell” – an industry term for having your project wait in the wings for an executive to approve it – black producers like these are instead using unique web-based projects to “green light” themselves. The implications are profound. They are building audiences, sharpening their skills and finding their voices.
Off the set, Chatmon runs Double 7 Images, a full-service multimedia company that helps small and large businesses build their brands online. When Williams and Chatmon wrap production on ‘Queen Hussy,’ they will promote the series through his company. Their goal, he tells The Atlanta Post, is to “get eyeballs” or large numbers of viewers. “The web is less a place where you end up and more a place you can design content for. It is not a wasteland of cute kitten videos. If [a content producer] is smart, you can position your work for fully-customized web delivery.”
For black content producers, the potential to reach audiences via the web grows daily. The 2010 Pew Internet & American Life report “Teens and Mobile Phones” notes that African-American teens are accessing the web by mobile phone at twice the rate of their white peers. Across all races, roughly a third of teens use their mobile phones to share videos and go online. With these shifts, diverse populations of users will expect Internet content to reflect their interests.
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.
In Hollywood, a black director can be a little hard to come by. So we truly celebrate the work of those who’ve busted through that tricky barrier, into tinsel town’s inner circle. In honor of these individuals, theGrio.com compiled a slideshow of their favorite black film makers.
See if your favorites made the list. You never know, you might even learn something new.