Black Filmmakers & TV Producers Taking Creative Control Through the Web

July 28, 2011  |  

Instead of waiting for Hollywood’s permission — and dollars — these artists are giving themselves the green light to produce their own online series.

By Olufunmilayo Gittens

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.

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