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Pondering The Seemingly Dismal Outlook For Black Filmmakers Working Within The Hollywood Studio System

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 16, 2012 12:13 PM
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Looking over the top 300 grossing films of 2011 released in the USA (via Box Office Mojo), just 6 of those 300 titles were directed by black directors – Madea’s Big Happy Family, Jumping The Broom, Laugh At My Pain, Shame, Pariah and Mooz-lum.

And of those 6 films, only 2 of them are what we'd call purely Hollywood studio-backed productions - Madea’s Big Happy Family (Tyler Perry's deal with Lionsgate) and Jumping The Broom (Sony/Tristar).

Box Office Mojo lists a total of 598 movies released in theaters in 2011; however, I don’t think I need to go through the entire list of films to make my point, which should be obvious.

In recent days, we’ve seen projects from the likes of Spike Lee (Da Brick) getting passed over by HBO, and F. Gary Gray replaced as helmer of The Last Days Of American Crime (a project he’d been attached to direct since it was first announced early last year).

Other veterans like Antoine Fuqua and John Singleton have been attached to, and then later unattached from various projects.

Of course I should note that there are reasons why none of these *attachments* was seen all the way through; reasons that aren't always necessarily made entirely public.

And these are just the men by the way; black women directors have fared even worse. They don’t even seem to get mentioned in "who-to-hire" conversations. When was the last time a black woman director’s name was on any short list for any studio-backed feature project?

I won’t bore you with info that you’ve likely already heard enough of – specifically, Hollywood’s so-called "diversity problem," a topic that’s been discussed and analyzed ad naseam. One would think that black directors wouldn’t face similar hurdles that black actors do, if only because they are behind the camera; I’m of course taking into consideration Hollywood’s perceived *aversion* to casting black actors in especially lead/prominent roles, because black faces supposedly don’t sell as well.

But what about black directors?

Every week (if not almost daily), I read reports on Deadline, Hollywood Reporter or Variety announcing some young, relatively unknown, almost always white filmmaker, with often just a single feature film on their resume, getting the opportunity to direct some hefty-budgeted, high-profile, star-driven film, as their second feature. These opportunities just don’t seem to be as available/afforded to non-white (specifically black filmmakers).

I pause and think of all the young black directors we’ve profiled here on S&A in recent years, and, to be frank, I wonder what will become of all of them, given how challenging the climate seems to be for all filmmakers, but seemingly more-so for filmmakers of color, and even more specifically, filmmakers of color making films about people of color.

I’m sure some of them (certainly not all) aspire to work within the studio system, or some studio/indie hybrid, making films primarily about characters that look like them; and if that’s your goal, how do you maintain your optimism?

How do you observe the inconsistent careers of some of our most notable black directors, as you make advances (no matter how small) in yours?

Take into consideration the names I mentioned above (and others); the last time Antoine Fuqua was behind the camera for a feature film project was in 2008 for Brooklyn’s Finest (eventually released in 2009) – almost 4 years ago; Spike Lee’s last big screen project was Miracle At St Anna, which was released in 2008, although, really, it was shot in 2007 – almost 5 years ago (I’m obviously not counting the docs; and yes, he’s got Red Hook Summer coming up, which he shot last year; but really, it’s a mighty mess of a project, and Spike reportedly financed it from his own bank account); F. Gary Gray’s was in 2009 with Law Abiding Citizen; John Singleton’s most recent was last year – Abduction (which was terrible, though not entirely his fault; the script is where it begins). But the period before that movie, really tells the tale; before Abduction, Singleton’s last effort behind the camera was Four Brothers, some 5 to 6 years prior.

You have to wonder what happens during these large chunks of time between projects; meanwhile, Tyler Perry cranks out 2 (or more) a year.

And there are others – Kasi Lemmons, the Hughes Brothers (who’ve also been attached to a handful of projects since From Hell in 2001, later seeing Denzel Washington in Book Of Eli all the way through; both of them are currently attached to separate projects; but only Allen’s seems as close to a sure-thing right now, since it’s in post-production).

After Precious, Lee Daniels piled up on a handful of projects, and didn’t eventually go into production on any of them until 2 years after that film was released.

Salim Akil didn’t waste much time before diving into his Sparkle remake, after Jumping The Broom last year; although I’d have loved an original project based on an original idea, instead of a retread.

Of course, there’s Steve McQueen who’s on to his next project, post-Shame – the slave narrative with Chiwetel Ejiofor, which will be McQueen’s first film with a black lead.

Who else? Malcolm Lee, Tim Story, Carl Franklin, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Angela Robinson, and Chris Rock, who has gotten into the directing game himself, though nothing in the works currently.

There are others, but I think you'll find similar stories of long periods of inactivity. 

And then there are talents like Seith Mann who’s been toiling away rather quietly in TV land, directing episodes of numerous television shows which certainly assists him in continuing to hone his skills, as well as put money in his bank account; however, Seith also has 2 feature film projects (1 he’s been trying to get financed and off the ground for a while now) that I’m sure he’d like to see realized sooner than later. And I have to wonder if he's ever even considered for some of these director-for-hire studio feature films.

I’m obviously not including the names of those independent black filmmakers who’ve emerged in the last couple of years or so (we've written about, and continue to write about them all as they progress), working chiefly outside the studio system; despite any early successes, it's not entirely certain what their individual careers will look like in coming years. But this post isn’t necessarily about them.

I’m really just looking at, and trying to make sense of the plight of those, what I’d call, primarily veteran, *industry* black directors/filmmakers; what to make of it all – their seeming lack of productivity; the lack of opportunities available to them compared to their white contemporaries. Because other than Tyler Perry, I think you’ll have difficulty coming up with another black filmmaker whose output has been as consistent, or even coming close to being as consistent as Perry’s has been since he first burst onto the scene some 7 years ago.

Since his debut, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman in 2005, Perry has helmed 12 feature films, all released in theaters. That’s more than John Singleton has done his entire career since Boyz In The Hood over 20 years ago. Comparisons between Perry and other filmmakers I’ve mentioned here will look very similar; in some cases, the differences in output are much more pronounced.

So it baffles me when I read about new projects like the Will Smith/Denzel Washington remake of Uptown Saturday Night (what we could call, for a number of reasons, a quintessentially black film) being given to white writers to pen the scripts for, and white filmmakers to direct, when there are more than capable black writers and directors who could most certainly use the work, as well as the paychecks.

It’s even more of a head-scratcher when you take into consideration the fact that the men responsible for the project becoming a reality – Will Smith and Denzel Washington (although primarily Smith it appears) – are on that really short list of elite, powerful industry talents (who also happen to be black), who are probably in a position to ensure that those key positions go to writers/directors of their choosing; or at least have enough leverage to fight for the hiring of talents they prefer to work with; after all, it’s not like the writer and director who were indeed hired to work on the project are what you’d call *names;* this isn’t a movie that will be sold on the strength of the names of the talents behind the camera, so why not push for any of the directors I’ve mentioned in this post (or *gasp* give a young African American up-and-comer with proven talent an opportunity, just as we’ve seen, and continue to see upstart white filmmakers get these kinds of career breaks).

I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers to this crisis – yes, I’m calling it a crisis, as extreme as the word might sound. The obvious solution is that these filmmakers (if they haven’t already) become more proactive in their efforts, as in looking outside the studio system for opportunities, or funding, for their own personal projects. But I understand that it's much easier said than done; financiers everywhere still have strict rules that determine what projects they invest their money in; although I’d say that the rigid numbers game that seems to govern studio financing/greenlighting may not be as defined outside of that system.

Of all the directors I’ve named here (and others unnamed who fit the criteria), very few have definite projects in development right now – films that have been greenlit, cast, and are scheduled to begin production within the next year or two. Some may find themselves without work even longer - maybe settling for the occasional TV gig, commercial work, music videos and the like. Nice to have the paycheck at least; but not really the kind of directing I'd guess most of them would prefer to do.

"We just want the same opportunities, and chances," as I've heard/read some black filmmakers say.

An interesting note is that, if you take a look at the top 10 grossing films so far this year, 2012, none of them was directed by what we’d call a *name* director; in fact, I’d say that most of you wouldn’t even recognize the names of many, if not all of these directors - Chris Renaud, Michael Sucsy, Daniel Espinosa, Brad Peyton, Baltasar Kormakur, Josh Trank, Mars Marlind, Mike McCoy, William Brent Bell, and James Watkins.

Any of them sound familiar? Maybe Espinosa, since he helmed Safe House with Denzel Washington; and I should note that Espinosa is one of those aforementioned young directors given a mega-million dollar star-driven project to direct primarily on the strength of his last feature film – the Swedish thriller Snabba Cash (Easy Money) which hasn’t even been released in the states yet (it’ll be in theaters stateside in July). For his Hollywood studio debut, the 34-year-old was given an $85 million budget, Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds in what, as I said in my review of the film, was really a lackluster effort. And I wouldn't be surprised if it's soon announced that the young director is attached to helm another similar high-profile project.

How many black filmmakers/directors can you name who have been given that kind of opportunity (budget and star power) to prove themselves so early in their careers?

Do studios see black filmmakers as black people first, and as filmmakers second? Meaning, are black filmmakers only viewed as being suitable to direct "black films?"

Although, as we've seen in the past (and as I noted earlier in this post), even "black films" don't always get the opportunity to be directed by black filmmakers. So what you'd think is sacred ground, where black filmmakers can at least guarantee that they'll be considered for directing work, isn't so sacred anymore, if it ever even previously was.

So as a black filmmaker, not only are you not on the short list of names to direct non-race-specific films, but you're also not necessarily always in consideration to direct race-specific (black) films. What's a black filmmaker working within the studio system to do?

I wish I had a direct line to some of these folks, so that I could just pick up the phone, call them and ask what each is up to currently, how they view the somewhat precarious industry situation they find themselves in, and how they plan to deal with it all; how does one eat and pay bills between projects when you're a Kasi Lemmons (for example), and the last film you directed was 6 years ago, and since then, your only credit (according to IMDB anyway) is an acting gig in Waste Deep playing (as the film's credits list her character as) "Angry Black Woman."

Alas I don’t have that kind of direct/immediate access to these folks to ask all these questions, so all I can do is speculate based on the evidence in front of me.

And as already noted, the outlook for the majority of them looks rather bleak from the outside.

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  • wj | July 22, 2012 10:41 AMReply

    Here's a easy answer,

  • Daniel | July 2, 2012 1:07 PMReply

    And black producers and directors are just as good at not opening the doors for new artists with new concepts and ideas as their white counter parts in Hollywood, I know because I have been trying. At least I get response back frommain stream Hollywood. Not ONE repsonse from the black established film makers. Our movies command the same themes, same ideas, run of the mill. Not creativc and simply not very good products. These guys are stale. They need a transfusion of new ideas nad concepts and stop asking for the black support just because they are black.

  • chen | June 14, 2012 11:50 AMReply

    "within" the hollywood system. Doesn't that say it all. WHY can't we ever DO anything 100%for ourselves?? In EVERY sphere of our lives we're always, ALWAYS waiting for some one other than ourselves to give us the nod!! This isn't just in america, it's EVERYWHERE we happen to be!! Nigeria's Nollywood OR Black america should of been a beacon to Diasporic and Continental Afrikans everywhere across the language, national and cultural uniqueness just like India's Bollywood does for Indians regardless of their backgrounds.

  • James Nelson | May 18, 2012 2:32 PMReply

    Really liked this article, because I hear a lot of people putting down black films and directors as not being a good or innovative as their white contemporaries, which I completely disagree with. During one of these discussions a question did come to my mind which I don't have an answer for. There are several white filmmakers whose first film would be considered "black" films, but I can think of no black directors whose first film could be considered a non-black film. If anyone knows of any, could you please tell me who they are and the name of the film.

  • bondgirl | May 18, 2012 2:51 PM

    Steve McQueen and Antoine Fuqua off the top of my head. Technically Rashaad Ernesto Green as well.

  • HandsomeLustyBlackLaddieBrett1953 | May 13, 2012 4:37 PMReply

    I think the way for an aspiring actor such as Yours Truly-who's a boyishly handsome,58-year-old-59 July 6-black Canadian lad who's a rocker dude/(su)burban cowboy rather than a prototypical "ultra-urban brotha" sort (to say nothing of the updated versions of the hackneyed black male roles in vogue today) is partnering with an indie-likely black flimmaker,but I'd like to know where such people might be located.

  • Lisa | March 23, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    I think we need to realize that there are two kinds of filmmakers: indie sensibility and mainstream sensibility.

    Black indie filmmakers do well in terms of getting into big festivals, etc. Since those are the only black directors most people have heard of, it's easy for folks to say, well, black directors just don't want to make mainstream movies.

    Sure, the director of Precious probably doesn't want to helm Spiderman. But somewhere out there is a great black film school grad who has a Michael Bay sensibility, but who will never get the studio call, and will also never break through on the Sundance circuit. That's who's getting screwed here.

  • Kevin Robinson | March 22, 2012 5:40 PMReply

    Nielsen Research came out with their report on African American consumer spending for 2011. Roughly $15 Billion was spent on movie tickets last year. That kind of clout is something that should be used to sway Hollywood to re-think their hiring practices.

  • Hollis McCray-Clark | July 8, 2012 1:40 PM

    Thank you.

  • Moionfire | June 20, 2012 1:40 AM

    In 2009 Americans of all backgrounds spent $9.87 billion on theatrical films. And black Americans make up 25% of movie goers(in-spite of being only 13% of population). So this means black Americans spend about $2.5 billion a year at the movies. That alone is a lot, which means people could become rich and make a lot of money by just targeting a black audience(or any ethnic minority). One could really bypass most US cities and only distribute them in "chocolate cities"- chicago, detroit, nyc, philadelphia(and therefore decrease the cost of marketing).

  • alexander anthony | March 22, 2012 10:04 PM

    domestic ticket sales in the US was about $10 billion in total. Unsure if your numbers are accurate. care to clarify?

  • alexander anthony | March 22, 2012 2:48 PMReply

    BTW Your comment system doesn't accept paragraph breaks and bullet points, etc. It makes it way more difficult for your users to parse comments and thus probably significantly reduces contribution.

    I'm a fan of your site and remember this issue every time I return. Otherwise, great work. I'm going to try to comment more when some time frees up.

  • alexander anthony | March 22, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    I keep seeing words like "given" an opportunity, phrases like "use the paycheck" to categorize the reasons why the industry should be making a concerted effort to enfranchise more black filmmakers. These sentiments litter your editorial.

    It's an unwarranted position. This is the movie BUSINESS. There are fundamental tenets at play: 1) they're in the business of making movies with 3rd party (P.E.) money, 2) consequently they need to meet the expectations of check writers and risk mitigate excessively, and 3) it's a defacto condition of the black experience that we'd be the last chosen for any opportunity - so current conditions aren't particularly atypical.

    Then we look at the wealth of talent in indie black film. Tons of talent. TONS of it. Why is there no traction?

    -A lot of great black movies are being made that don't stand a chance in a movie theater. This is probably the most important.

    -Since there aren't a lot of moneymaking black films coming out of the black indie film environment, there is little impetus for gatekeepers to otherwise arbitrarily choose to "put" people on.

    -Third, there is little unity among black filmmakers. Too many are working independently from one other, worried about haters, theft, or serious competition. the biggest asset available to black indie filmmakers is sheer numbers (and sweat equity). With effective networking people could open-source movies (that is, make them ON-SPEC using talent from the PEER-REVIEWED talent pool and decide to release them to the web for publicity). AFAIK nothing like that is happening. I've broached it with peers here in Brooklyn and I get blank stares like I'm speaking in Sanskrit.

    The moral of the story is this: if you can make movies that make money, the industry will come running; anyone who is racist enough to purposely avoid making money in order to perpetuate a racist agenda is not long for his job. So the reality is that this is disconnect issue... a lack of monetizable filmmakers differentiating themselves from the pack.

    So the discussion that needs to be broached is how can we mobilize the black moviegoing audience. And the sad answer to that is that black indie filmmakers are less in touch with their potential audience than they think.

  • Sidney Barnes III | March 21, 2012 10:08 PMReply

    I dont thing Black people get it. You need to read the book Brother Warners. They didnt have anyone hand them nothing, they started from scratch and together, even though they fought with each other, they stuck with making something come alive. Now with all the film directors and Black execs now with alot more resources, how come there isnt black film studios making black actors/actresses all over the film and tv. People just love good movies but we need to put more positive messages and better stories instead of drugs and killings and the typical. We have some great success stories and all directors, producers and movie execs to start up a new movie revolution.

  • anon | March 21, 2012 2:31 PMReply

    why dont aa's get it? hollywood was never set up for YOU it was set up as a propoganda machine to promote american (i.e white) beliefs, culture and values around the world- blk people just dont feature in this. Before hollywood was set up very few people knew much about the " new world" aka america and only the wealthy that were intrested in high culture knew anything about it therefore there was actually alot of mistrust about this new country and what their agenda was in the world. Cinema remedied this as it was able to dispense its culture to the MASSES and indoctrinate people into believing that they americans were "heroes" This especially worked during the world wars and to win hearts and minds during the cold war conflicts. American culture was so dominant and so beloved by the world that it enabled them to get away with things they might not have been able to i.e dodgy foreign policy, neocolonialism etc.. Black people are shut out of every industry in u.s why would hollywood be any different and considering that hollywood only promotes its "best" (beautiful whites) and america belives blks to be their "worst" its baffling to me why aa's still havent worked this out yet.

  • Mark Dudley | March 20, 2012 4:42 PMReply

    Why is it that black folks in America have more financial power than Great Britain yet we are always asking these same types of questions. Hollywood respects money.

    If all of these black athletes, singers, rappers etc put their money together to buy some distribution and partner with a guy like Magic Johnson to open some theatres we could put movies directed by us and produced by us out there.

    We like movies just like other folks right? Hell wasn't it "blaxplotation" that saved Hollywood in the 70's. We need to get a foot hold in all aspects of film making particularly producing and distribution. That way we can see more of our own stories or those directed by us.

  • Kevin Robinson | March 22, 2012 5:56 PM

    Mr. Dudley is correct. Black people have to wake up from being consumers to becoming producers of media. With that said, the powers that be within the community (NAACP) should lean on Hollywood (per their mission statement), but also call out those who have the means to this end. BTW, the National Association of Theater Owners is having their annual convention coming up in April. This is where ownership and distribution deals are done.

  • Really | March 20, 2012 12:44 PMReply

    You can forget the studio system. They are not going to trust their money with Blacks. Much less women. 1 Oscar winning female director ever?! We've got to do like they're doing in Nollywood, Hillywood, yes - I said Hillywood aka the burgeoning film industry in Africa's hilly Rwanda and do the damn thing ourselves.

  • jayC | March 20, 2012 11:57 AMReply

    Great article and greats comments. The only thing I would add to this is to say that, sadly, it will NEVER change within the Hollywood system. It is what it is and what it is is an old (white) boys network. If you are a black, latino or...actually anything other than white filmmaker, as long as you want... in you will be left out. Rejection is the unfulfilled need to be accepted. Stop seeking acceptance from those that will never accept you.

    The technology to make a film for a modest cost is now readily available. If you want to make a film, you can. It still takes a great deal of drive and talent, but it can be done. If, however, what you want is to be accepted into that very exclusive club of "Hollywood" Filmmakers....then you're gonna have a problem...and a lot of heartache.

    Everything Robert Townsend showed us in Hollywood Shuffle is still quite true today...and it will be true 50 years from today. When do we wise up and stop begging for acceptance that will never materialize? Isn't that a bit demoralizing?

  • LeonRaymond | March 20, 2012 12:35 AMReply


    I agree with you and lets multiply Ava Duvernay's effort by 35 cause she is truly onto the cure, she has unlocked the code and how she does it we should all do cause we do not need nor should be held into the studio system. All of Ava's films are getting theatrical and if that is what your plan is then I see no reason to travel any where else. you can take her model and tweak it, just think what She could have done with Pariah if that film was part of AFFRM!!!!

  • Pencilpush | March 20, 2012 4:09 AM

    Pariah and I Will Follow made almost the same money on their first opening weekends. This proves that things are just as possible without the Hollywood movie studios.

  • Jordan Brown | March 19, 2012 11:38 PMReply

    You ain't said nothing but the T-R-U-T-H! :)

  • Neema Barnette | March 19, 2012 11:08 PMReply

    I loved your article and the important and intelligent dialogue it provoked! Film is an mind molding art form and the final frontier for Black folks. It's the strongest political tool there is and if you are a filmmaker who takes time to de-code the sterotypes and re-code images with balance then you understand your position and are comfortable with the work you accomplish, whenever you have a chance to work. It's all about image control and we are fighting hard to control our own images. I'm very excited about the new generation of Black filmmakers coming up. You are talented, strong and smart with Alot of black self love which shows in your films and because of that our people will support you! I support you all as varied as you are. The article tells the truth, trust me I've been doing it long enough to testify.

  • Donella | March 19, 2012 6:50 PMReply

    It seems as though distribution remains a huge stumbling block. I recall that Prince (Rogers Nelson) circumvented distribution by record companies when he released music as an insert for European print media. He released Planet Earth in 2007 with England's Daily Mirror, and I believe he released 20Ten with the German edition of Rolling Stone magazine, England’s Daily Mirror, Scotland’s Daily Record, and Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad. This distribution method certainly assisted AOL in the good old days when they distributed their software via print media. I wonder if magazines worked with computer software and music, could this method also work with movie DVDs--insertion deals with African, Indian, Asian, European print media.

  • Donella | March 20, 2012 12:19 PM

    I wonder if Black Enterprise or Ebony or Upscale would accept DVD inserts? I believe all three have foreign markets. This deal would serve as an end-run around Hollywood distribution for the film producer, plus the value-add would boost Black-owned magazine sales for the publisher.

  • Loretta Burnette | March 19, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    Wow!! As stated in the very well written article,although not primarily written about black actors. I feel as an actor,very frustrated at ,although happy to see the same actors/ actresses inevery film,directed and produced in main stream/Hollywood. It happens in everything concerning black americans! It's hard as it's always been for black americans, I do feel this is why we excel in everything we allowed the proper tools, funding,backing as any other race. This is where the issues always seem to arise. Unity has got to start being a factor for all black people,to ever be truly seen and heard..I know it can be consequently, I so fearful and honestly loosing hope that it will be..Praying daily however,and trying to do my part anyway and with any opportunity that arise. I'm but one of this world and life we where born into.

  • ExodusAnimator | March 19, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    FILM DISTRIBUTION!!! Does anyone here know what this is? It's something that African American and filmmakers of color have little or no control over. The way the film industry is situated, at this moment, we have to rely upon distribution opportunities from White owned companies. That means that if we want our works to be seen in the mainstream movie theaters, on network TV, cable TV, video, on planes, and seen internationally, people that do not look like us will make the determination as to whether our works will be seen. These decisions are made through a combination of economics, race, and personal perspectives.

    With that said, we, as African Americans, either have to pool our resources together or push wealthy African Americans to create distribution companies, own/buy movie theaters, own cable TV providers, create more TV networks, own DVD printers and presses, own marketing and advertising agencies, and own daily newspapers and other media outlets. IS THAT A LOT TO TAKE IN? IT SHOULD BE!

    People posting on this site seem to believe that OUR success as African Americans in the film industry, solely relies upon screenwriters, directors, and producers. Now although there needs to be more of us in the creative capacity of the film industry, there are not a shortage of stories and films that are being created. There are a number of extraordinary films and horrible films being created by African Americans. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS GETTING THESE FILMS SEEN!


  • sandra | March 21, 2012 9:22 AM

    @Exodusanimator - If you follow the posts, comments and podcasts on this site, you will realize that distribution and quality of work are two of the main problems facing black films today. This is not a newsflash.

  • illthoughts | March 19, 2012 12:02 PMReply

    Bottom line blacks in film have to decide what they want. If they want to be rich and famous then go hollywhite. If they just wanna make quality movies then build our own studios, have our own distribution. That's the only way it's gonna get done.
    That black people don't sell tickets is BS. "Coming to America" made truckloads of cash with an entirely all black cast and Hollywhite didn't give another actor or black director a huge check to make another movie. Pam Grier everyone's number one on the first female action chick started this genre but did hollywhite keep her working? Did Hollywhite try to create another sexy action woman of color superstar?
    Denzel and Will make over $20 mil a movie they could easily pool their resources together and crank out one small budget film a year but I guess they have other things on their plates. Now I hear that Tyler Perry is selling out b y saying that movies with majority black casts are extinct and that's why he's adding lighter persuasions to his films. Excuse me Mr. Perry but umm... you made more money than anyone in Hollywhite last year white or black and you did by making movies with all black casts so I don't know watcha mean by that.
    Blade was Marvel's first attempt at making obscure Super hero films and it performed well as Wesley Snipes as the lead. So where is the check for another black super hero film? Blacks are the most copied culture from around the world from fashion, music, athletics. So don't give me that we don't sell movie tickets. Give us the same checks you give your people and sit back and watch what we can do.

  • BLACK$ | March 18, 2012 4:41 PMReply


  • IT'S NOT A BLACK THING | March 18, 2012 12:15 PMReply

    It's a Hollywood Thing:

  • Nadine | March 18, 2012 8:16 PM

    ""Stars Diss Hollywood: Clooney, Edgerton & More Swipe At Commercial Movie Bombs ", (, as well.

  • Peggy | March 18, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    Class Action Suit?

  • Cliff | March 18, 2012 11:06 AMReply

    IMHO, this is not about race. It's not about talent. It's about the bottom line, i.e., the profit motive! How will the investment be recouped by the financier? Forget films for a moment. It can be any commodity. Profit is directly related to distribution and sales. For films, it's distribution and sales through exhibition. How can you get a film financed when you cannot present a case to the investor that the investment will be recouped? How can an investment be recouped if your film is never distributed or exhibited? Studios are not picking up many independent films (so-called urban genre or mainstream) because of the limited market for films with no name casts. Studios have fallen in love with foreign films instead. Another issue is that Black people comprise only about 15% of our population. Studios need domestic box office performance to break even in a film investment. Our market upside is limited. This is not attractive for any investor. Would you want to invest your resources on a product that may only appeal to 15% of any given market? Why would any studio?

    There is also the issue of the "block booking" tool that creates a studio monopoly over distribution and exhibition. Exhibitors must commit to showing only studio fare in exchange for having the opportunity to exhibit the tentpoles with mega budgets and stars. Exhibitors will never object because of the studio promotional machine that puts butts in their seats, those same butts buying overpriced concessions. As long as distribution and exhibition are locked down by the studio system, there will be no independent films seen in your neighborhood multiplex where 99% of the filmgoing public have been indoctrinated to pay to view films.

    An earlier post by "Ghost" hit this issue straight on. If filmmakers know that there will be a venue for viewing their films, and a distribution network for placing their films in these venues, they can represent to an investor that there is legitimate income potential for their films. No matter how many rich black folks pool their resources create no matter how many films, there will be no alternative black film industry without distribution and exhibition with sufficent screens to maximize box office income. In the 1920's and prior, Oscar Micheaux exhibited his extremely low overhead films in segregated churches, schools and social halls. That was before black folks were allowed to patronize real theaters. Once segregation ended, so did the Micheaux model, and that is where we remain almost 100 years later. Obviously, I have no answer for the vertical integration that locks independents out of the market. I just want to make the point that if black audiences, or even mainstream audiences were patronizing black films to the tune of $100M+ apiece, we would not be having this discussion. The studios would be eagerly distributing these films to meet the demand. The studios are corporations. Corporations exist only to make profits. Studios are not morality-driven, they're all about the profit motive.

    By the way, I enjoyed the article and the ensuing discussion. Thank you for addressing this issue!

  • Turner | March 18, 2012 7:34 PM

    Adapt or die.

  • Word | March 18, 2012 7:30 PM

    Cliff you are 150% correct in your assessment. Everywhere I go I have conversations with fellow black film makers and they keep saying the same thing and do not want to acknowledge the politics in play. You have to feed the machine..its a business bottom line. If you can show them that it can make money (a la Tyler Perry) then you are in. Tyler consistently feeds the machine and thats why they love him. I read somewhere that lionsgate usually put out his films in the 4th quarter of every year just to make up the numbers in the event they had potential losses within the year. They are that confident that they can gamble on a couple of films knowing that Tyler will save the day..Wow. But not every black film maker is tyler perry so what do we do. Make films that appeal to a mass audience. We have to hedge against the bootleggers(usually us) and those who don't attend films regularly. There is not enough advertising dollars to go around in the US anymore we need to expand overseas thats they only way we will survive as film makers or else we are just doing it as a hobby.

  • Laura | March 18, 2012 4:20 PM

    Cliff, I get the jist of your argument. I just want to take issue with the whole Black Demographic argument. I feel the who Black demographics/economic theory does not hold water. Let me tell you why. Women make up over 50% of the American population. Where are all these women directors? Where are the films where the main protagonist is a woman. 50% percent of the studio directors are not women. 50% of the films put out do not have woman as the main protagonist. Major studio directors who are big made are there partially because there connection to a male director. Kathryn Bigelow was married to James Cameron. Sofia Coppola is Francis Ford Coppola's daughter. That's just of the top of my head. And with the exception of the new crop of films coming out (i.e. Bridesmaid -directed and produced by Judd Apatow, a man) there are few woman centered films. These films do not past the a simple Benchel Test. How does a movie past the Benchel Test? I will tell you. To past the test the movie has to 1. have at least two woman characters that are named 2. They have to talk to each other 3. about something besides a man. Here is a link to a website dedicated to that idea, Also White American people are not the majority of the world population but somehow Hollywood is one of the top movie industry in the world. It can't be based solely on demographics. Though I understand the logic of that explanation about Blacks being a small part of the film market. It same logic does not apply to explanation of woman in cinema and Hollywood in world cinema.

  • Rane | March 18, 2012 1:40 PM

    @Cliff... Exactly! It's called Show "Business" because that's what it is and will always be.

  • CareyCarey | March 18, 2012 12:19 PM

    @ Cliff, when you mentioned Oscar Micheaux my eyes lit up. His story should be required reading for every POC, whether or not they are in the film "business". Yet particularly for those who consider themselves in the film world, his challenges and movies speak to the exact themes/issues we are discussing today. Let me say that again... THE EXACT SAME ISSUES! Now, I have to admit that 1 year ago I did not know much of this information. I was on a journey to find information on an actor who I assumed appeared in one of Micheaux's films. That gentlemen is my great uncle, and to my delight I found out that he was in Micheaux's second "talkie" . I was given the film by the director of the Oscar Micheaux Film & Book Festival. This same man was the driving force behind Micheaux's image appearing on a U.S Postal Service stamp (2010). I just talked with him on the phone yesterday. RE: The Issues. First, this man (the director) is a white gentleman. 2.) Oscar Micheaux made over 40 films, many of which quetioned the complexities of "race". 3.) His own people were some of his biggest detractors. 4.) His 1938 film "God's Stepchildren" is a depiction of conflict over shades of color within the black community, huuuuumm. Okay, I'm not mentioning names but we've heard these stories.... have we not.... huuuuuum? Now check this and tell me what y'all hear? From the start, Micheaux's films were controversial for mocking corrupt preachers or for depicting characters who gambled, drank, took drugs, or used vulgar language. By contrast, Micheaux ensured that his typical heroine was intelligent and strong and that his films advocated hard work. Huuuuuumn.... but let me continue. Mr. Micheaux saved his money from jobs like being a porter, and thus used HIS OWN money to start his career as a filmmaker. In his own words "We want to see our lives dramatized on the screen as we are living it, the same as other peoples, the world over." ~ Oscar Micheaux (1884 - 1951) . I believe every black filmmaker, student, etc, should take a little time to study the life, movies and books of Oscar Micheaux. And then maybe, just maybe, some things, some day, some kind of way, some things might change.

  • onyx | March 17, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    "How do you observe the inconsistent careers of some of our most notable black directors, as you make advances (no matter how small) in yours?"
    Well, I look at their struggles and triumphs as inspirational. And I also recall that it was worse during segregation. For example, once there were no African American cinematographers, because we couldn't attend film schools. But getting back to today, like everything else in this current economy, things are hard. But not impossible. When I wanted professional film and digital cameras I researched how to write a grant, applied (after several tries) and secured funding. There were lots of "nos" on a way to a yes. And while Hollywood probably signifies you've "made it" there are those content to work in their own community, producing local documentaries or working with kids to ensure they know pacing, how to write dialogue, and above all recognize the difference between a stereotype and a riveting character. In short, helping them see themselves and encouraging their stories. Yes, it looks dismal, but resiliency (or stubborness, or love of one's craft, belief in a higher power, whichever you prefer) can drive an individual when things seem bleak.

  • Donella | March 17, 2012 3:24 PMReply

    What does it actually take to create an international film distribution system?

  • James Nelson | May 18, 2012 3:15 PM

    Now that is a truly good question with which to start a progressive discussion upon. Black, and any other ethnicity for that matter have to take control of the image that we want to project to the world. The question keeps coming up, why is black culture so popular around the world and yet black films aren't? The answer is we've only believed what white distributors told us about foreign sales of black films. Truth is, they've never tried to market black films overseas. Will Smith films seem to have no problem. Just like American's know very little of what foreign films are out there until Hollywood decides to do a remake, foreign markets really have no idea what black filmmakers are doing. The technology is in place and we need to start taking advantage of it.

  • Really? | March 20, 2012 12:39 PM

    So now there's like 2 Black cinematographers in the union. Progress!

  • LeonRaymond | March 17, 2012 6:52 PM

    Wow, what does it actually take to create an international film distribution system?
    Yours is the most powerful question since (and this is not a joke or pun) what direction did the bullet come from? I hope we can find the answer as it relates to our problem and hence it would lead to the solution!

  • urbanauteur | March 17, 2012 1:48 PMReply

    Tambay, this 64,000$ question should be ARE WE(as artists) willing to commit Class Suicide? and forever SEVER this Umblical Cord of White Paternity and perhaps, finally laser splicing our black pathology from Hollywhite? W.E.B Dubois [split personality manifesto/indicment brought pressure to bare well over 100 yrs ago, so now its a matter of rolling OUR pennies and rolling the fuck out! this inersia we got with mr.charlie,b/c these Tea Party-Hollywhite mofo's aint playing and you can see they have already circle their wagons, where's OUR calvery?

    jazz great Charlie Mingus sum it best...Meditations on Intergration.

  • urbanauteur | March 18, 2012 2:38 PM

    @MIEL, thatz the reality of DAS KAPITAL...but its crumbling however slowly, beneath our feet..;-)

  • Miel | March 17, 2012 7:16 PM

    @urbanauteur I could not agree more. The only problem is: there are too few of us willing to do just that. Not because we're not courageous or brazen enough but because we simply cannot afford it financially.

  • urbanauteur | March 17, 2012 2:59 PM

    @LAURA, weather it be middle,low or high octane, you answered the basic premise, and i'm well aware of Llyod Kaufman's horror grunge, along with Amos Poe, Nick Zedd,Patty Smith & Andy Warhol; as for my Class Suicide Mantra? i meant severing our co-dependancy and just toil at our task, now that will speak volumes, and yeah, that big obsacle?, weather it be your or my soap box, it dont long as its heard as clear as a african drum, Black Panther Author-Sam Greennlee said it best ...if you want to be a rich ho, move to hollywood....

    as for our soap box derby?... if u dont already know .. that soap box detergent - TIDE- is now a hot commodity among drug dealers & petty thieves..sounds like a movie premise to me, what u think?;-)

  • Laura | March 17, 2012 2:24 PM

    @Urbanauteur, what do you mean by class suicide? If you mean that we have to give up the middle class ideological trappings, then I am in full agreement. There is a schlock film director name Lloyd Kaufman. This guy is a graduate from Yale. His father was a lawyer. He talked about his love for cinema such as the French New Wave and how it got him interested in film maker. This Yale graduate, cinephile brought us the "Toxic Avenger" and "Poultrygiest". He's is less known then Corman, but never the less he made and got films distributed outside the Hollywood system. When are going to stop with this implied sentiment that "White" folks are suppose to do stuff for us because we want them to. Mind you, I don't have issues those of us who want to go to Los Angeles and work inside the studio system. But the film industry is MUCH LARGER than the studio system. I can't understand for the life of me why folks thinks that because we are film makers we are entitled others people resources. I swear I don't understand that. But back to class suicide thing. I believe that, if we want to have our presents felt and shape our imagery world wide, we have to meet the movie goers where they are at. (Please don't get that confuse to catering to their base instinct and their prejudices) I tell you, people image of race, gender, class, nationality, sexual orientation does not come from the auteur films, it comes from the everyday films of 21 Jump street, Jaws, Star Wars, Paranormal Activity, etc. We individually and collectively have to decide what we want to be as Black filmmakers. We can be Steve Mcqueen's and Julie Dashes and there is nothing wrong with that. And then we can be Tyler Perry and I do see nothing wrong with that (But I still don't like his films). We can be any where in between. But we have to create the apparatus to get is out there and what I am seeing it is harder to get our film out there and make a return on investments than it is to put a film together. And we know how difficult it is to put together a film. We have to know that a one or two filmmakers do not make an impact. An onslaught of film does --Nollywood any one. I have hopes they we can see the bigger picture and work to make things happen, Ava can not do it by herself, Spike can't, Singleton can't, hell even TP can't. We have to stop look for them to carry all this weight of obligation. It's too heavy. We got to get it together folks ***Laura is now getting off her soap box****

  • CarmichaelReid | March 17, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    To close, about the comment about being a jazz musician in a hip hop culture... The best producers I entertainment are jazz influenced. I do not need to list them as you know this.
    “[T]here's something about movies that always amazes me, their transcendence of time. You can in one second, in one frame, see something that will spark you as divine or genius"
    -Oliver Stone on Filmmaking.

  • Rane | March 17, 2012 2:51 PM

    @CARMICHAELREID... my point is if you're into Lil Wayne, you're not likely to be into Wayne Shorter

  • Jane | March 17, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    Tambay, You should do a similar essay on a Pariah case study. It is the only Black independent film to be picked up and pushed by a major studio. What are the final numbers? How did Spike Lee producing help the release? It never came to my town and I never heard much else about it after the run up to the big city openings. But it seems like a good place to look to see exactly what these studios can do for movies outside of the Tyler and Salim Akil and Big Momma movies. Also I don't think we give enough credit to Salim Akil. He's not making high art but he's making good solid movies that aren't slapstick with Jumping the Broom and Sparkle back to back. Hes working consistently inside the studio system. So it is not impossible.

  • Miel | March 17, 2012 7:41 PM

    @Jane, I am glad you made this point. I was also thinking of the Pariah example. That film was so badly distributed. Instead of selling it like a regular coming of age story, it was sold as a coming out story. We know it was much more than that. It was put in the lesbian box and was marketed as a niche film. I went to see the film with a good friend of mine and there was nothing but gay couples in the theater. The place should have been packed with teenagers of all ages and races and the parents of those teenagers. The distributors picked up the film because it won prizes and had Spike attached to it, but they lacked a real innovative vision for it. The same thing happened to Kasi Lemmons' last film Talk To Me the studios produced it and then sunk it. I don't think it was done on purpose, I think they just don't really have a clue on successfully distributing our films. We need to truly multiply Eva Duvernay's effort by 10.

  • Yvonna Russell | March 17, 2012 12:49 PMReply

    Well research and important article that pulls no punches. Excellent!

  • Carmichael Reidm | March 17, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    The same thing happened to the Hughes Brothers on Akira in Vancouver. Warner's pulled the plug. I just think that filmmaker's in general are seeking to the work in the studio system for all the WRONG reasons. Today, you do not need 20 million dollars and studio backing to make Boys n tha Hood.

  • Carmichael Reid | March 17, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    I think that this is not isolated to a black filmmaking problem, it's simply a universal rule that filmmaking is a tough business to remain relevant towards a studio system whoever your are. Joss Whedon had monstrous problems over at MGM. There is truly only about a 1% rate of filmmakers who can do and say what they want. Hey, even Martin Scorsese figured it out. This is no secret anymore that, filmmakers are trying to keep the lights on. But, if you can write in the dark, you're practically invincible with the new platforms being developed. It's in the filmmaker's hands to get out there and instead of DOING THE RIGHT THING... JUST DO IT.

  • Nadine | March 17, 2012 2:16 PM

    You are absolutely right, "The Disposable Filmmaker", HuffPost ( and "Stars Diss Hollywood: Clooney, Edgerton & More Swipe At Commercial Movie Bombs ", (

  • Rane | March 17, 2012 12:05 PMReply

    Here's the deal as I see it: The heartache facing black filmmakers is if you are truly talented with an original voice, the majority of black people will not be coming to see your film. You are a jazz musician in a hip hop nation. This is reality. The socio economic status and post secondary education among theater goers is also working against you as Tyler Perry said recently: "The Black people who don"t like my films are college educated bushies trying to keep me down." The only film in my memory that bridged the demographic divide is The Color Purple. I think for the sake of our (black filmmakers) mental health, we should endeavor to make entertaining integrated films that feature black folks in great roles instead of banging our heads against the proverbial wall.

  • Terrance Jackson | March 17, 2012 9:03 AMReply

    Tyler Perry is not that talented as a writer or director, but understands that this is business. He first developed successful business models outside of the system and demonstrated that he didn't need the system to be successful. That why he is the highest-paid person in Hollywood. Racism is about power, Black folks shouldn't take it so personally. We definitely need to change the status quo when it comes to media images of African-Americans. Every Black woman [in the top 1996 Hollywood films] was sexualized. The Black male had no qualities that could be admired by any man or more particularly any woman.

  • noel | March 17, 2012 5:02 AMReply

    Good Donella. if you conclude in going to nigeria do reach out to a producer called Emem Isong. seen some of her low budgeted flicks and I guess a healthy collaboration will make her stand out of the pack. as for ghana, please reach out to Shirley Frimpong Manso...another woman doing great things in ghana movie world.

  • Donella | March 17, 2012 3:21 PM

    Thanks for the info.

  • Gigi Young | March 16, 2012 10:50 PMReply

    You forget that Tyler Perry has three things going for him: a built-in audience (hence, why Hollywood will throw black singers/entertainers like Beyonce, DMX, Common, etc plum roles), low budgets, and his own scripts.

    I get the feeling that up-and-coming (or in the past, when Spike, John, et al were up-and-coming) black filmmakers think THEY will be the exception to the rule, that if they work within the system, they will somehow crack the code so many other black filmmakers have been unable to crack. I see the same thing happening with black writers of non-street lit fiction--they keep writing and writing, meeting deadlines, but never breaking out of the black niche they cling to in hope that one day, they'll write something that will make them a best-seller (or they will release 5+ books a year to make the sort of income and gain the sort of exposure a non-black author can get with just 2). Sorry to say, but the mainstream has no incentive to support black people in the entertainment industry.

    And TISHAUNA7's comment is spot on: "even if black directors manage to make it, they'll still have to contend with black viewers taste. black folk is not gonna watch something like the girl with the dragon tattoo because it has a all black cast. i hate to say it, but our tastes aren't particularly broad." Because we can complain about the lack of variety in black film all day long, but the numbers for Basketball Wives, The Braxtons, The Game, etc don't lie...

  • Ghost | March 18, 2012 12:57 PM

    The numbers for shows like Basketball Wives, Braxtons and so on are high because you can FIND them. If a black version of Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo was made-where would it air? Unless they put some no talent rapper or media whores like Rihanna or Nikki Minja in it. I don't think up and coming filmmakers that they are going to be the exception to the rule-they just want an equal chance to get their stuff out there and when I say equal chance it doesn't mean from white Hollywood. I shouldn't have to do a film with women getting done wrong by a down low brother and crying to their fat man looking granny to or a film with a woman beater to get coverage from my own black media.

  • Nicole | March 16, 2012 8:04 PMReply

    Wow. This is pretty depressing.

    I don't have any suggestions outside of what has already been mentioned. I used to support the idea of black filmmakers pooling their money together and creating their own studio(s), film financing companies, etc., to alleviate their dependence on Hollywood but quite frankly, I don't think we have the mindset to pull it off. Sorry to sound pessimistic but I just don't.

    I mean, when Tyler Perry announced he was building his own studio in Atlanta did any of the mentioned filmmakers see this as an opportunity for them to invest in something that could potentially aid them in getting their movies made? Did they approach Tyler and say they wanted to partner with him? I don't know. And Tyler may not have agreed to it if approached. I'm just thinking "out loud". Thinking of some options.

    Black directors/writers will have to wait until the old Hollywood guard dies out(literally) and is replaced by more open-minded people who value diversity and see them as directors/writers who just happen to be black.

    That's IF they don't think of a way to create their own opportunities.

  • Ghost | March 18, 2012 1:05 PM

    The reason we don't have the mindset to pool our resources together and build our own studios is called TRUST. How many of these folks trust each other? Just from the stuff I have heard about Tyler from those who have worked with him-I would be weary too. I think for black filmmakers to move up-they have to work beyond the realm of black films. Show what you can do with nonblack projects and use that money earned to fund the black film of your choice. There are whites that want to support black film/shows but not if it's something to make them look bad as well.

  • Akimbo | March 18, 2012 6:38 AM

    I guess it wasn't clear, but TO ME talent trumps race, friendship, etc. Therefore, I would not go into business with Tyler Perry, especially if I was an established filmmaker. You're free to do whatever you feel necessary to "make it" and to calm down.

  • Excusez-moi | March 18, 2012 12:36 AM

    @ Akimbo, anyone who has lived in this world would call you a bit naive or a fanciful thinker. "Talent trumps race, friendship, etc", REALLY?!. And what might the "etc" entail? And on what elusive post-racial atmosphere have you found that others have not? Seriously... talent trumps race? and friendship?, and a person would sully their name and lower their standards by working with Tyler Perry? If all that be true, there's undoubtedly a thousand people walking around with smudged booties and a million more waiting to get that P-funk. Really, Akimbo Jiminy Cricket or Nancy Naive or Trippin' on Tyler?

  • Nicole | March 18, 2012 12:05 AM

    @akimbo: Who says they would have to "lower their standards"? If nothing else TP is a businessman and I doubt he would turn down a deal to expand his market or the types of films under his brand umbrella.

    As for "sullying their name", which black director is so revered and respected in Hollywood that partnering with Tyler Perry would end their careers? Spike? Antoine? Kasi? John?

    And it takes TALENT to do what Perry has done in such a short period of time. Create a brand, get Hollywood to partner with him( a relative unknown), build your own studio and create your own tv network and retain the staunch loyalty of your target market. Ask any business person and they'll tell you that takes TALENT.

  • Akimbo | March 17, 2012 12:23 PM

    I'm sorry, but talent trumps race, friendship, etc. I would never go into business with Tyler Perry, wouldn't want to sully my name or lower my standards. Just for some money? No thanks.

  • WhiteBoyBrown | March 16, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    One well know film site asked people to chime in with Oscar predictions a few weeks ago. So I chimed in ultimately getting un-friended from there page. I said I predict that there would be no black or latino best directors/ I guess they didn't like that. Not that the talent isn't out there of course it is. Across the board Hollywood is behind. When is the last time you saw a black hero on screen saving the day. Just ranting but I tell ya what I will not see another hero, action packed, hollywood summer blockbuster film until my son can say wow daddy that hero looks like me.

  • Yvonne | March 16, 2012 7:16 PMReply

    Angela Robinson. She directed a short film called D.E.B.S. (2003) through the POWER UP program. Got a deal to turn the short into a $3.5 million feature (2004) and then was hired by Disney to make the $50 million HERBIE FULLY LOADED (2005) starring Lindsey Lohan which grossed over $144 million.

  • BIGBLACK | March 16, 2012 5:20 PMReply

    90% of what black folks complain about in any industry, not just motion pictures can be solved if black folks gave a shit about each other. I just turned 40 and I've been hearing the same story since I was in high school. I used to study engineering, same shit. Then I practiced law for a while, same shit. Now I'm a budding writer in hollywood, again... same shit. John Singleton did help an up an comer. His name is Craig Brewer, he directed HUSTLE & FLOW, he is white. Most of Spike Lee's personal assistants have been white. Viola Davis says that black filmmakers only want her to play crappy roles, so she don't do black films. You know who has helped a black filmmaker on the rise, George Lucus. Yeah, the Star Wars dude. He plucked a relatively unknown black director named Anthony Hemingway and gave him a shot at a $70 million dollar flick. Of course black folks dissed the movie. Now a days, you can make a movie for as little as $100K. If these tired, lazy ass so called established filmmakers would stop complaining, and take some of their money and name recognition and put it to work for them, we'll have black movies coming out every week, and eventually, some of these films will take off. Also, the black audience, or should I say the black inteligencia. Y'all need to chill! Don't be so quick to stomp on a black filmmaker if his movie it not a master piece. The more movies we make, the better we'll get. But we have to be more encouraging to each other and stop being so quick to diss. There are just as many bad white movies, actually, much more. And black actors, if you really care about this game, it can't always be about the money. If a young filmmaker comes to you with a project, tell your gatekeepers to stand down, and give that brother or sister a shot. You ain't working anyway. What could it hurt. The moral to this story is simple, we need to stop complaining and blaming the "white man" or "hollywood" for or misfortunes and truly come together as a people and look out for one another. We have black billionaires. We have Tyler Perry, we have Oprah, and 1000's of really wealthy black folks out there. For less than 50 million dollars a real black studio could be created like tomorrow if anybody really cared. The crab in the barrel syndrome has got to end, or we will cease to be relavent as a people. GOD HELP US!

  • Word | March 18, 2012 8:01 PM

    Big Black unfortunately when money is involved politics will always been in play. So when it comes to the movie industry there is no exception. You talking about what other people should do with there millions of dollars and you have no clue what they had to go through to get that money. Only what you read probably. No one is telling you what to do with your money and they should not. Its a self serving endeavour when you have people saying that they should be helping us because they got it and we don't. And why should they help you and others and not all the millions of other black folks out there who are trying to get put on and get in the game. Because your special and they are not ... come on. When you work your tail off and get 100 million or more then you create your studio system for others to come up under you but in the meantime don't count others money. Your agenda can not be forced on someone else. Thats not their plan for their money and its safe to assume they are smart enough to know where it will be better served. As for Black Film maker Spike Lee ... he has single handedly done more for black film makers in the last 25 years than any other since Tyler came on the scene. Just look at the actors alone who he brought out and have gone on to do great things. Now Dee Dee Reese in Pariah. not because she is black(may have played a part but) she puts out good work. When your work is good others will offer a hand bottom line no matter what color you are. Just make sure your work is good and when that is the case often times they may approach you to work with you. And all that help me help are better off investing in yourself via school, fellowships, etc and get better at what you do. If you don't have the money and complain then this industry is not for you. Oprah, Tyler and Spike don't owe you shit because they are and have done enough for the community. I guess I am sorry they are not helping you out with your film so you can be famous one day and help all the millions of folks who need to get put on. Good luck with that.

  • lvf | March 18, 2012 7:52 AM

    BIGBLACK you are so on point. I am old school - all I hear is the same old, same old. It's beyond tired. And your point about how we are so quick to diss each other! Why? What gives....
    Nigeria has a big film business. Say what you will - They are not trying to be "hollywood" they have patterned themselves on Bollywood - That industry is viable and supported by Nigerians. This I'm sure is replicated in other areas across the African continent. Those who want to do Hollywood - keep trying - [some will always get through, if only for awhile] - Those who want to do something else, I say go for it! In NYC I saw a Brother shooting a film and I asked what camera he was using. His answer: my own camera. I buildt this camera myself to shoot with. That is the future!

  • C'mon S&A | March 17, 2012 10:09 PM

    Thank you LAURA & WRITER but I already knew about his assistants being black, especially the ones who used to steal from him. That's right. I have an in and I never went to him for anything yet. I doubt whether people are necessarily referring to Spike as someone who turn their backs on up-and-comers but all he does is lend his name. He doesn't actually executive producer i.e. contribute financing. All he does is lend his name to be attached to film in most cases. Let's not act like he is making leaps and bounds to help. But giving his name is better than what most of these black filmmakers are doing. Funny enough, the filmmakers who have found recent success are turning out to be a lot worse than the previous generation. It's only getting uglier.

  • BIGBLACK | March 17, 2012 5:57 PM

    LAURA, DONELLA, WRITER, my comment on Spike was a tiny part of my rant. However, duly noted. I just remember working with him a few years ago and all his assistants were white. Most of the EP credits he has on IMDB are for lending the use of his name, or students from his class or for helping his cousin Malcolm, but I still don't see the kind of support I see like what filmmakers like Speilberg, Lucus offer young filmmakers. But don't get me wrong, I don't want you to think I am hating on Spike, I love Spike, just making a point that when have we done enough that we can afford to give white folks the breaks we need to keep in the community.

  • Donella | March 17, 2012 3:19 PM

    Really glad for the clarification on Spike Lee.

  • Laura | March 17, 2012 7:16 AM

    Might I add, because of the work Spike did as a New York filmmaker, he helped ushered in Blacks and women in the local film unions. Prior to Spike Lee, unions were lilly white and the most people secured entry through nepotism. And to echo Writer below. Just look at Spike Lee IMDB page. He has executive produce quite a few film. Films for Julius Onah, Dee Rees, Micheal Pinckney, Lonnette Mckee and the list goes on. A lot of New York based filmmakers got their break through Spike Lee. He is still ushering new and upcoming filmmakers. Dee Rees is a testament to that. I know some of you maybe upset that Spike didn't help you personally, however that is not the same as saying Spike Lee doesn't help up and coming Black filmmakers.

  • writer | March 17, 2012 4:53 AM

    Just to clarify, most of Spike's personal assistants have been black. And unlike some other directors he has mentored other filmmakers.

  • C'mon S&A | March 16, 2012 10:28 PM

    You (BIGBLACK), EVERETTE and QUENTIN are fast becoming MY must reads on Shadow & Act. You three are basically saying the same thing, but different. This needs to be the dialogue here. Please you there, keep it coming. This is what it's about. And yes, GOD HELP US! But then again, God help those who help themselves.

  • CareyCarey | March 16, 2012 8:41 PM

    @ BIGBLACK, you and SANDRA get my "Don't Say It Right, But Say What IS RIGHT" award. Yes sir, I see it and smell it too... that same old funky-ass shit. Now it's time AGAIN to drop Martin on the crowd. I mean, from what I am reading, some folks love to hold hands and cry that same ol'shit! Soooo, MLK said... "Man fears nothing more terrible than to take a position that stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinions. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it agrees with everything, and so favorable that it agrees with everyone" ~ MLK. He's not talking about you BIGBLACK. You said what many others are afraid to accept, let alone champion.

  • Ghost | March 16, 2012 8:02 PM

    Those socalled complaining directors wouldn't have to complain if they KNEW they had a place to air their films. We as black s don't control distribution or the airwaves. A lot of white films and shows get made because those folks KNOW someone/somewhere will air them or sell them. If BET or TV One or OWN or Tyler Perry Network was willing to air new films every weekend like Chiller, Lifetime & Syfy do-you would have folks going out of their way to create films. A lot of those SyFy films were made for LESS than $2 million dollars including Jaleel White's last film and they all had well know folks in them. They are not going to do that if it takes someone starring in a hit film, dropping death, doing sex tapes or going to jail to get their film . Like we saw with Zoe, Ray J and a few others over the past few months.

  • Kia | March 16, 2012 5:20 PMReply

    My comment is directed at the notion of black filmmakers not extending a hand. Yes, some may be for self, but I wouldn't be surprised if many more or just struggling themselves to maintain what they've worked hard to achieve. So I'm on the fence. What I would and hope to see happen ( and this is a plan for myself as well)... collaboration. You can produce much more content. For those few who are super established, start branching out and build a team outside your little circle. This includes those filmmakers (writers, directors, producers) abroad. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that talented emerging filmmakers are being deliberately--so it seems--for those w/little experience themselves and who already have world wide privileges to pen, direct and produce stories about black and brown people. I agree Tambay, mind boggling.

  • Everette | March 16, 2012 4:31 PMReply

    We are going to be in this struggle for awhile yet. African American Film Industry Artists tend not to look back or offer a hand up to those attempting to get where they are. That type of attitude holds back the clan. Thus, when those at the top fall, they have nothing to which they may seize for survival, and they fall or fail. That leaves nobody in place.

    African American Writers in Hollywood who catch hell are in the predicament because they write only for one audience. Most of my friends there turn their project into white ones and sell them for little or nothing just to keep their noses above the surf.

    A friend of mine told me that it is difficult for her to get a script to an African American Director than it is to get one to a white director. I found that to be interesting. Then, she showed me the letters.

    We have not learned some fundamental lessons about working together. Nothing much will happen for us until we do.

    Even in this indie DIY world we are not producing as we ought to be at this point. Why is that? We certainly have the technicians, writers and others to execute it. Nothing is going to change until we place a firm down payment on Hollywood by producing a string of successful movies. Or a string of successful directors. We do not and we are not going to be given the benefits that others get, so we will have to produce on a consistent level success until we are accepted as successful filmmakers. Hitting and missing will not do it for us.

    We need a network of indie filmmakers to come together for the sole purpose of producing movies. If five hundred African American Filmmakers got together now, why could we not produce three hundred no-budget movies in the next year? Just artists assisting artists.
    Yes, I can hear the groans, but that is what it is going to take.

    That is the effort the newly freed African Americans employed after the the disaster. It is what those in the Civil Rights Movement did, it is what many of the rappers have done.

  • C'mon S&A | March 16, 2012 9:58 PM

    Sounds like you (EVERETTE) and QUENTIN are saying the same thing but different. And as I replied to him, I'm experiencing the very same things both of you have rightfully expressed. this is what is needed, real dialogue about the ugly truth derived by the hard questions.

  • sandra | March 16, 2012 5:20 PM

    @ Everette and others - I've read of Spike Lee specifically requesting minorities be part of his crew and I've read that he likes to work with a lot of the same people. There are a lot of black filmmakers doing this on a smaller scale. WHO AMONG THE DIRECTORS LISTED ABOVE -given their anemic careers- is in a position to bring a filmmaker up? Help them in what way (mentor/mentoree, take the person out to lunch, set up workshops, join panels at film fests, becoming email penpals, set up support groups, etc...??????) My point is twofold: 1) When a filmmaker realizes that help isn't out there, then why does he/she keep complaining. IT'S NOT COMING!!! DAMN IT. I will never understand this sense of entitlement/expectation/begging 2) The filmmakers who have "made it' haven't made it to a point where they have any real power. We don't need anymore examples of just how powerless Spike Lee really is (when it comes to getting things rolling). They're not even mentioned in day-to-day conversations among executives. A young joeblow filmmaker from a random Austrian village has a better chance than a Lee/Singleton/Fuqua of securing 80 million+ and stars on his first or second attempt at a film. STOP BEATING THESE GUYS UP. Where is the power? It's not with least not yet. It's like shouting at someone who's in a coma. All of the directors mentioned have careers that are on life-support. No one is even remotely considered "red-hot". Why are so many (men/women of various qualifications) suffering from this drought? I mean... Kasi Lemmons last seen as an "angry black woman"GTFO. SMDH

  • Tishauna7 | March 16, 2012 4:22 PMReply

    even if black directors manage to make it, they'll still have to contend with black viewers taste. black folk is not gonna watch something like the girl with the dragon tattoo because it has a all black cast. i hate to say it, but our tastes aren't particularly broad. and you're right about how it's easier for first time white directors to get a job. i have seen the black film veterans get attached to several thing but nothing ever come of it.

  • Quentin | March 16, 2012 3:13 PMReply

    Most of those established black filmmakers mentioned with the long careers are lazy. Also, they work differently than their white counterparts who for the most part work tirelessly to bring up-and-coming white filmmakers into the game. In fact, black filmmakers try to make it impossible for black up-and-comers. They oftentimes are very selective and select the people closest to them if that. They're too busy holding black up-and-comers down in hopes of protecting their own careers, fearing they would lose shine to their budding proteges. Indeed, some of these black established filmmakers may play nice and be courteous when you meet them. They might even accept your friend's request on Facebook. But when it comes down to doing something that can actually help an up-and-comer progress, they will shut them down immediately. White established people are different. They'll help you if they know you're serious with some talent. They don't have to know you, just present yourself properly and you will soon have a friend championing you. They'll even put their money where their mouths are. If black established filmmakers can act in this way, you will hear more stories about black up-and-comers being part of the conversation as to who directs what. Also, black actors aren't making it easy for them either. You mentioned Will Smith, who I am convinced will never hire a black filmmaker for biased reasons. He probably don't think he knows of any that are good enough. Then you have other black actors who aren't supporting projects extended to them unless it's fully financed. These types don't have to attach themselves. A letter of interest would suffice. But their agents/managers won't even accept the spec unless the project is fully set up. What they fail to realize is that there are many financial institutions who would foot the bill if you have names attached. The Catch-22. Banks like CNB would give loans to a production if it has at least 20% of its financing and at least one name actor attached. And let's not forget about all the companies that can provide gap financing and foreign sales agents who can probably contribute advances from overseas distributors towards your budget. But this can't happen unless there is a name actor attached. I believe black actors need to work their careers differently from white actors until true progress is made for black cinema in general.

  • Donella | March 17, 2012 3:13 PM

    Sheba, I agree with you about calibrating the filter (agents).

  • ShebaBaby | March 16, 2012 11:22 PM

    I agree with Quinton especially the part about black actors not attaching themselves to projects that could really help their careers. I'm in the process of developing a feature and it's a very strong project that will crossover and will sell overseas. However, when I started looking at getting the actors attached that I had in mind, and these are B and C list black actors, their reps were really tripping with the call me when it's fully financed. I'm like when it gets fully financed I'll see your actor at the audition and at that point the producers who've put their money in will have the last say about who they want to hire. However, if your client comes aboard now (and all I was asking for was a LOI since that's all the financiers wanted) then they've pretty much hired themselves on one of the hottest upcoming projects. I got the lead actor attached after going through management and then later dealing with this persons agent who sees that this project will be huge for them. But the rest of the B and C list reps were afraid to give me a LOI but refused to tell me NO despite how much I pushed them for an answer. I say all this to say that the black actors out here really need to pay attention to their own careers and take it into their own hands. I remember an article on this site where Isaiah Washington was saying how it wasn't until after he dropped his agents that he realized how many projects were coming his way and getting turned down cold and this is why he'd decided to just rep himself so that he can see everything being offered. It's like black actors want to be treated like white actors where they can just sit back and wait for auditions for multiple movies but sadly they don't have as many opportunities. The only actor I know of who I think is really conscious of his career and who I think goes out of his way to make sure his reps at least tell him about everything that comes his way, no matter how small, is Anthony Mackie.

  • C'mon S&A | March 16, 2012 9:52 PM

    I don't see what QUENTIN is saying that is so wrong, besides the "lazy" comment? I'm up-and-coming, worked on both coasts and as I develop my first feature, I'm being confronted with some of the very same conflicts he is mentioning. Do you, EYEROLLER, have any opinion or solutions to share with us from your expertise? Is that your thing, you go to different boards, cowardly attacking people behind some made-up name that reflects your feelings at the time, attacking people who seem to be about something without any sound reason that supports your attacks? Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution. Let's come to the table with suggestions and ideas, not try to put people down who are.

  • Nadine | March 16, 2012 4:33 PM

    I guess everyone has a different point of view. Both sides have valid points and different methods maybe.

  • Eyeroller | March 16, 2012 3:58 PM

    "I might even be talking for people who requested me." Soooooooo. If I had half a brain, I might assume you were talking about yourself - as an established black filmmaker - who accepts Facebook requests - and doesn't actually help black up and coming directors - like the white man? That's the black filmmaker you want us to think you are? WAAAAHAAA! You just dig yourself deeper. Youre laughable! And yea TOEXPLAIN: Mr. I-Am-A-HollywoodBigShot-Really-I-Am always writes half-cocked posts like he knows something and somebody, but they are riff with speculation and halfassness.

  • toexplain | March 16, 2012 3:46 PM

    Too many errors in here to know where to actually begin.

  • Quentin | March 16, 2012 3:33 PM

    @ EYEROLLER... And your "assumption" gives you away? I have a Facebook account I don't use (smdh). I used it for something else. Anyway, if you were bright, you would logically assume the possibility that I am talking on behalf of other people's stories. I might be even talking for people who requested me. Now if you rush down to that Flea Market, you can purchase that half-a-brain they still have their in the window on layaway.

  • EyeRoller | March 16, 2012 3:23 PM

    "They may even accept your friend request on Facebook." BWAAH! Bitter much? Aren't you the guy who said on here so many times how connected you are? Youre a mover and shaker according to you! WAAAHHH! Your own words give you away.

  • Nadine | March 16, 2012 3:22 PM

    Got a little "real" with the characterizations (ahem), but you're soooo on point. Yeah, it's crazy.

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