All Articles Tagged "Black independent film"
In 2008, filmmaker Dennis Dortch was living the life that many independent film directors and writers aspired to. After being rejected by Sundance the previous year, his film “A Good Day to be Black and Hot” was gaining well-deserved praise and attention.
“It was probably the greatest experience in my filmmaking career. It’s the time that every filmmaker wants. To be recognized in the street, have your film be talked about,” said Dortch. “People come pat you on the back. That happened for like two weeks. They take care of you very well and make you the star when usually the stars are the people in the film.”
Nicknamed “Blackdance,” it’s apparent that since 2008, there has been an increase in the number of African-American filmmakers showcasing their work at the most esteemed film festival in the country. In 2010, there were just over a dozen, still a significantly low number compared to the 113 films that were accepted. One of the most prevalent black films that did make it to theaters was Tanya Hamilton’s “Night Catches Us,” a romantic drama based on the 1970s Black Power movement.
Though beyond the Sundance Film Festival, there lies a misty void in African- American culture that many in the film industry are working hard to solidify. Organizations like the Urbanworld Film Festival, the American Black Film Festival and distributor Codeblack Entertainment (Qasim Basir’s Mooz-lum and Laugh at my Pain) significantly contribute to the cause every year. However, it’s using the foundation that these organizations have built, breaking out of a subculture and making an impact on the general indie film market that will garner lasting effects.
While countless theatrical projects find themselves birthed at film festivals and carried by unwavering support to neighborhood theaters, black independent films are still lagging behind. From their presence in the general independent film market to their journey onto the big screen, an inquiry constantly hovers: what’s the hold up with black indie films?
By B. Hutson
The dialogue is never-ending about the lack of African Americans in Hollywood, but Ava DuVernay is proud to say that she has not needed the backing of Hollywood to achieve what she has done thus far, and that’s independently shooting, producing and distributing her own films. She made her feature directorial debut with the documentary, This Is the Life, in 2008, and directed two network music documentaries: “My Mic Sounds Nice” for BET Networks and the 2010 Essence Music Festival that aired on TV One.
Today, DuVernay’s first feature film, I Will Follow, will debut in AMC theaters in the following cities: New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles. The film stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Omari Hardwick, and explores how a family tragedy impacts its members and how they overcome it. DuVernay made the film in 15 days with her own money, keeping costs under $50,000 by filming in one location.
Besides the film, DuVernay is leading the movement to spread the distribution of black-themed films with her new organization, African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, a distribution organization that strives to release two independent African-American films per year. She says that with the gaping hole in Hollywood in regards to diverse films for diverse audiences, this is a perfect time for independent filmmakers such as herself to embrace the open space and capitalize on it.
“For folks that are forward-thinking and are using their imaginations and their hearts instead of thinking about the bottom line, we can create new models of distribution, new ways to make our films, new ways to tell our stories, share our stories. So it’s a good time,” she told NPR’s Michel Martin.
Read more of DuVernay’s interview with NPR here.
By Andrea Williams
2002 was a historical year in Black cinema since it was the first time that the Best Actor and Best Actress awards were both taken home by African Americans. In the wake of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry’s monumental victories, it would seem as though the American film industry would have opened its arms wide to African Americans; but, many, including the notoriously outspoken filmmaker Spike Lee, believe that things have actually gotten worse—except, perhaps, for a certain gun-packing grandma.
Detroit-based independent filmmaker Andre Seewood agrees, and TAP recently spoke with him about the entire filmmaking process, what he calls the “crisis” in African American cinema and the trouble with Tyler Perry.
Can you start by describing the filmmaking process?
For me, I’m inspired by various ideas that I’ve seen over the years in classic American or European films. Usually, I start with an idea from one of those films and then I encounter things in real life that are similar or contradictory. That’s how I come up with my stories. I start with the story first and then I start writing the screenplay. The most important thing, as the great American filmmaker Nicholas Ray said, is that you have to have a ‘what if?’ You need to think about ‘what if this happens?’ and ‘what would happen after that?’ You begin to come up with your screenplay and story once you start thinking along those lines.
Do you write the screenplay yourself or do you bring someone else in to do it?
I believe in writing and directing your own work, but that’s because I have had extensive experience as a writer from writing novels. But I know that after you write your story, you have to transpose that for the cinema because writing for the page and writing for the screen are two different things. I’m not opposed to directing someone else’s script, but I think that it’s a lot more interesting and you surprise yourself a lot more often with your own work.
After the screenplay is written, what is the next step in the process?
For me, the next step is usually finding money. You utilize the screenplay and script to find the financial resources to make the film. There’s also putting together the cast and crew – finding people who are eager to act and maybe a couple of good producers who can help you get the financial backing, or at least secure a location.
Why do you think it’s so hard for African American independent filmmakers to find financing?
I think it’s because the marketplace for African American films is so tight and the expectations are so low in terms of what you can produce. There’s also the issue of what investors think will reach an African American audience. If you come up with a weird or bizarre kind of scenario in your film and you’re an independent African American filmmaker, you’re going to have a hard time convincing investors and other producers that other African Americans, or any audience, will be interested in seeing that. It’s very difficult to get financing for ideas that people think that other African Americans won’t accept. But what I try to stress is that my films are not just for African Americans. They’re for anybody who wants to see them—international or interracial audiences. I think that once we break into that type of thinking [then] we’ll be able to have a wider array of films from African American filmmakers that won’t be just within one or two genres.
(Black Web 2.0) — Cinema connoisseurs rejoice! The Urbanworld Film Festival will be starting on September 15 in New York City. From Sept 15-19, the largest competitive multicultural film festival will showcase the works of up and coming filmmakers, directors and actors. Attendees can also expect to see an enormous amount of black star power with celebs like Nia Long, Kid Capri, Salli Richardson-Whitfield and festival ambassador Kerry Washington in attendance.