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BET Networks Partners w/ Relativity Media To Produce Gina Prince-Bythewood's 'Blackbird'

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 26, 2013 4:33 PM
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Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and choreographer by Laurieann Gibson (Photo credit: Stephanie Allain)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: despite all the criticism the network has faced and continues to be on the receiving end of, I can't help but be encouraged by BET's recent aggressive moves within the original content creation space. 

Since signing the Akils to a multi-year development deal a couple of years ago (a move that's proven to be fruitful), the network has made a few acquisitions that immediately drew my attention, notably, most recently, boarding veteran Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo's upcoming adaptation of The Book of Negroes

Today, the network has announced that it is partnering with Relativity Media to produce writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood's next feature, Blackbird.

This pairing marks the very first collaboration between BET and Relativity, and possibly not the last. 

"Relativity is always looking to work with creative and original companies like BET Networks. We are excited to have them on board for Blackbird,” said Tucker Tooley, president of Relativity Media, in a press statement.

Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming and News for BET, added: “BET Networks is excited to partner for the first time ever with film and television studio, Relativity Media to create a film that matches the high-quality caliber production expected by our viewers. BET Networks looks forward to the first of many collaborations and sharing the final production on the big screen with our U.S and African audiences via its theatrical release.”

Bythewood began pre-production on Blackbird in July - a film that's described as a love story set in the music world, which stars Gugu Mbatha-RawNate Parker and Danny Glover.

Stephanie Allain is producing and The-Dream is creating all the original music for film, which will be choreographed by Laurieann Gibson.

The film's official synopsis reads:

Blackbird is the story of Noni Jean, a hot new artist who has just won a Grammy and is primed for stardom. But the pressures of success compel her to nearly end her life until she is saved by a young police officer. They fall hard for each other, despite the protests of their parents who want each to focus on their own career ambitions. But he might be the missing piece to unlock her artistic potential. 

Relativity president Tucker Tooley is exec producing with Matt Alvarez and Reggie Bythewood

Blackbird will be released theatrically by Relativity, and then have an exclusive television premiere in the U.S. and South Africa on BET.

Worth noting, this will be the second film by a black filmmaker, with a black cast, with the title Blackbird, currently in production. Patrik-Ian Polk's 5th feature film, which stars Isaiah Washington, is also titled Blackbird.

This will be Bythewood's first feature film directorial effort since 2008's The Secret Life of Bees.

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  • Beware | September 26, 2013 11:03 PMReply

    But will it ever come out? Reggie Rock Blythewood's Gun Hill was shot two years back. I was there. Ain't seen hide or hair on the channel. Did Sheldon Candis movie get what it should have? 'Cause they gave it three days of promotion, played it and that was all she wrote, Where's Middle of Nowhere by Ava Duvernay? Bueller? Why do they have Mary Jane under lock and key when it's been done for a year? Whole series done but not airing. What about that hot mess with that Tracee Ross show? Was drama there. Ask people who know and they will tell you, BEWARE!

  • D.C. Kirkwood | September 27, 2013 2:43 PM

    I doubt it. It is so frustrating at times dealing with African American tv/film projects. You get all excited about a film or tv movie then it takes two to three years for something to be released. It's frustrating because people get mad and make it seem like black people only want to support Tyler Perry type films or reality housewive shows, when that is not the case. As far a BET is concerned you never get an apology or an explanation about what happened. Just the standard, "Good look to the brotha and sistas we screwed over and we wish them the best in the future" yada yada!!!

  • R.A.L. | September 26, 2013 11:35 PM

    You make a very valid point Beware, although I believe MARY JANE is scheduled for 2014. I'm really confused about MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, especially since Ava is hot on the indie circuit right now. At least Sheldon Candis' LUV has played a few times as well as Corey Grant/Datari Turner's DYSFUNCTIONAL FRIENDS. *shrugs*

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