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It's Time To Stop Drinking Hollywood's Kool-Aid

by Cynthia Reid
February 8, 2012 9:33 PM
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Don't Drink The Kool-Aid pic

Of all the media coverage given to the Red Tails film within the last couple of weeks, one surprising belief that surfaced often was the idea that supporting the film at the box office would "send Hollywood a message" and somehow force studio executives to finally consider greenlighting more black film projects.  Now, I can understand the average Joe saying this but a number of industry folks repeated this same mantra which, quite frankly, seemed idiotic.  Why are we still trying to court Hollywood?  Am I the only one who got the "we don't do black films anymore" Hollywood memo?

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the desire of many wanting to do something that causes change.  I'm just not sure going after Hollywood should be our objective anymore.  In my opinion, it's akin to going after that old boyfriend or girlfriend, that dumped you ten years ago, to prove how worthy you are despite knowing damn well they've moved on.  

A better solultion would be, for all those "proclaiming" to want to see more black films, supporting the emerging black indie film scene.  If a third of the films we constantly profile on this site received the same fervor as Red Tails, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

I've survived the era of the 80's and 90's when supporting a black film had a huge social impact on society.  Regardless, that impact never correlated into a pulsating and thriving "black Hollywood" as so many expected.  It's easy to attribute Hollywood's disinterest in black movies to just being strictly about box office success but there are far too many financially successful black films for that to be a creditable excuse. 

Blacks in the US represent roughly 13 percent of the population and, although that may seem small, that's still a majorly significant number when you consider what we bring to the economy.  Yet, just last year alone, only six films - out of hundreds of studio films - were created and marketed towards that demographic.

So what's the good news in all this?  The more people know about and support the black indie scene, the better chance of us seeing more creative and diverse projects.

Below are the black cinema film releases for 2010 and 2011 with the majority of them being indie productions.  If you'd like, count how many clips are actually Hollywood studio films and see what you get.

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  • Rasheed | February 10, 2012 6:55 PMReply

    Agreed about passion projects. I just think the whole "GET OUT OF HOLLYWOOD" mentality is reductive and, in a way, keeps Black filmmakers in the same box Hollywood wants us to be in anyway. They don't want us to be able to really compete with them because history shows us that anything we do, we dominate. So until we can create an independent system that allows larger budgeted Black films to be produced and internationally distributed theatrically, we shouldn't be limiting the scope of our struggle.

  • Clayton | February 11, 2012 12:37 AM

    I agree! I have films being developed independently. But these are passion projects. I'm more of a commercially viable type of filmmaker. I grew up loving films like Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Lost Boys, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Robocop, Poltergeist, etc. These are the films that inspired me, that made me want to tell stories.

  • Rasheed | February 9, 2012 4:17 PMReply

    @LEONRAYMOND. I don't know if we can create actual A-listers strictly playing the indie game. I'm talking about talent you can attach to a project, take it to investors, and have them write fat checks based on that name's marketability. Has anyone done that in the past? Look, what Ava DuVernay is doing is excellent. I applaud the sister. But the problem with that shoestring budget business model is that it assumes that all Black filmmakers are creatively monolithic. What about that young Black filmmaker that grew up influenced by Spielberg and Lucas who's got a $60 or 70m dollar film with predominantly Black characters he wants to get made? What does he do? Strip it down to where it looks like some $2m knockoff? Change all the characters to white?
    And before we continue, let's not turn this into some silly, divisive indie vs mainstream argument. I'm just looking for solutions that allow all of us to rise.

  • Rasheed | February 9, 2012 3:46 PMReply

    At first I was annoyed by your dismissive response, but then I thought about it. You're right, I do want to be on par with whites in this industry. Why wouldn't I? Why wouldn't any filmmaker? White filmmakers get top dollar budgets, state of the art equipment, A-list actors, and a distribution network that spans the globe. That goes for big budget sci-fi movies as well as intimate family dramas. This extends to Black audiences. Why should we be regulated to a handful of screens in three or four cities across the country when white films get thousands?
    But hey, why should you complain? Judging by your post, you're already getting exactly what you want anyway.

  • kevin | February 9, 2012 3:22 PMReply

    SOLID! great collage (youtube videos), just wish the films were credited--it would be nice to see a list of all that was featured so we could all easily seek them out. i especially liked the documentary and memorial piece in this mix--it would have been nice to hear the audio from the films rather than the music. as for hollywood, in the immortal words of public enemy "burn hollywood, burn."

  • Donella | February 9, 2012 3:14 PMReply

    I enjoy indie movies. But I also enjoy Hollywood movies too.

  • LeonRaymond | February 9, 2012 12:36 PMReply


    I Strongly disagree, we can create our own A-LISTER'S we need to follow what Ava DuVernay is doing, we can distribute in so many methods, we can make strong films with the system in place, that is Hollywood, why would you want to enlist those only two stars any way. We can tap into audiences that are ready , I am producing projects for the Latino community that has long ago seen the game Hollywood plays with them and they are all about creating their own system. their are so many stores we can do that can be shown all over. Ava Duvernay is the foot path to follow cause her 2nd film has been picked up but through her thing and on her own terms. But hey everyone here is awake on the same page.

  • The Letters Project | February 9, 2012 10:35 AMReply

    I tend to avoid "Hollywood" films anyway. They simply do not make films that speak to me on a regular basis. I think the indie world is the way to go and by demonstrating success by going that route, doors will be opened to make bigger films. Maybe I'm naive, but with all the tools available to filmmakers to do it ourselves, we shouldn't have to wait on Hollywood to give us permission.

  • Kuambia | February 9, 2012 7:06 AMReply

    GET OUT OF HOLLYWOOD! We don't need them! Stop begging them and being grateful for crumbs! Hollywood has NEVER promoted a truly positive Black film filled with truth and showing folks that you know and see everyday. Give it up!

  • stars | February 12, 2012 9:59 PM

    I agree !!! Until we build our own industry, get financially and artistically strong in numbers we will never become the force to be reckoned with!!! Get Out of Hollydwood please and stop looking for them to spoon feed you with the "Hollywood Contract"!!!! It's their house, their yard front and back therefore THEIR RULES. Don't you get it!!!!!! You may not be a Tyler Perry fan but until you can do what he has done - you'll always be a hamster on a spinwheel WORD.

  • Rasheed | February 9, 2012 2:52 AMReply

    Supporting indie cinema is great, and should absolutely be one part of a multi-pronged assault on the Hollywood system. However we should ALSO be spending time and energy tearing down the walls of Hollywood. Here's why:

    1) Scope. What about the Black filmmakers who want to work on a larger canvas? As long as we remain independent, we'll never see a big budget Black movie (in front of as well as behind the camera). The money's just not there. Oprah, Will, etc. can't, and most likely won't, pony up the tens of millions to properly do a sci-fi flick, or high concept action piece, or anything not a somber family drama or lowbrow comedy. And even if they did, you'll need a decent theatrical run to recoup the production costs. That means several hundred screens, not one theater in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York.
    2) Creating A-list talent. S & A periodically asks, "Who are the Black A-listers?" We've got two male actors and maybe a potential female if Viola wins the Oscar. But all of these actors are over forty so their shelf life is limited. Now, name A-list creators; writers, directors, and producers. I'll wait. Fact is, the only real way to create A-listers is to make blockbuster movies. A-listers help get films financed.
    3) Breaking out of the niche. As long as we play solely in the indie scene, we'll always be "other", and marginalized. Yes, I know. We're already marginalized. But does that mean we are to be satisfied with being shunted to the side? Or playing only in our own little pond?
    4) Creating icons. American Black people influence culture all over the world through sports, fashoin and music. There's no way we shouldn't be doing the same on the big screen. Young ladies all over the world swoon over Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and George Clooney. Where are our equivalents?
    5) Economics. People who devote their lives to filmmaking, be it writing, directing, acting, etc should be able to make a comfortable living doing it. They deserve the same union wages that white people get. Why should Denzel take a huge pay cut to do a Black film because it's being shot for a tenth of what it really needs? I'm not saying that he shouldn't sacrifice for the greater good. I'm saying that film should have the same budget as a similarly themed white film.

  • Clayton | February 10, 2012 12:37 PM

    My mindset is way ahead of you on all counts. I mean, I'm already thinking and working in the direction you're talking here. I'll make indie films when necessary, but I intend on going around the indie world to get commercially viable films made. So, I'm already there. But passion indie films should be excluded from the economics section you discussed. White talents like Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams and George Clooney take pay cuts all the time for quality indie stories. There's nothing wrong with it.

  • Colored | February 9, 2012 10:32 AM

    All you want here is to be on par with whites. Your goals are disturbing. I'd rather have a deep, real family drama about our lives in three theaters, than a big sic fi action in three thousand theaters. But I guess that's just me.

  • get these nets | February 9, 2012 1:02 AMReply

    Indie film makers need to do a BETTER job of promoting their films.

    I have an older sis and when she was college age..attending the Black college kid events...she saw Spike out there hawking T-shirts for "School Daze". He was directly reaching the direct target audience for the film.
    Spike turned out to have a flair for marketing and merchandise/books tied to each film release.

    I don't see that same creativity in the promotion of today's indie films.

    No disrespect, but those logos of "winner of this or that film festival" on the posters/boxcover of these releases is NEVER EVER going to make people decide to check out your film.
    Use the same ambition and drive that it took to complete your go out and promote it to the people.

  • James Madison | February 9, 2012 12:42 AMReply

    I don't know the figures, it could be getting there, I don't know but It would be great if theaters could invest in showing film from DVD/Disk.

    Some have the capabilities and some don't. If their was an investment in that, the doors to see independent film would totally be wide open to more markets. The cost to get your film to print is amazingly high. There are other routes too, if filmmakers just wanted to bypass the theater chains.

  • LeonRaymond | February 8, 2012 11:35 PMReply

    I agree, not one response here is wrong every one is good and Ava DuVernay should be exalted she is the point person. and we all can move ahead with this state of mind noted here, I think we have all woken up now and understand we need to make and support indie films by and with People of color

  • Kay | February 8, 2012 11:11 PMReply

    Hey is it possible to list the names of the film clips so that we can check them out if we have not seen them?
    Thanks :)

  • gryph | February 8, 2012 10:56 PMReply

    every generation since oscar micheaux black folks paint their faces, beat some drums and dance around the idea of starting producing their own films. the hollywood neglect and insults are paraded about, as are the stats. them, hollywood appears move just a smidgen on the issue and black folks drop every thing and get their favourite kool-aid drinking glasses out. here we go again.

  • david ashley | February 8, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    I'm torn! On one hand I want to believe that if REd Tails (1. was good and 2...) had been a box office success, then if would have given way to "more opportunities". On the other hand I agree 1 KABILLION% with the fact that we've had enough profitable films for us to continue making more.

    Good or Bad I'm for supporting ALMOST all black films and now more than ever especially the indie films. I also wholeheartedly agree that we should have gotten the "we're just not that into you" memo a while ago. I agree with Mr. Mackie and his statements. Its about that time, we have to get used to the fact that, at least for a while your movie might not be in 2,500 or even 1,500 theaters. Ava DuVernay (spell check) should be EVERYBODY'S HEROINE right now...

    If you happen to get a role or a deal with H-Wood, FINE but if not we're gonna have to scale it down and hitting up our resources and making QUALITY FILMS! We have to create a market and put out enough good work that we can't be denied. SHOUT OUT To Corey Grant/Chevez Fraizier (and the other producers) for taking DYSFUNCTIONAL FRIENDS to the theaters and taking success into your own hands and showing your work anyway...

  • Ghost | February 8, 2012 9:46 PMReply

    I think people would love to support black indie films if they could find them. Also if those events would promote themselves outside of black media (the few that talk about them) because not every watches, listen to or read black related media. If you do have black indie film events-you have to have them in places where folks can go to them. You can't keep having them in New York, Chicago and California. What about other states?

  • Clayton | February 8, 2012 10:14 PM

    Hi Ghost... Please, try going to this link to check out my black indie film Pro-Black Sheep: You can also go to our fan page for the trailer and more information @ Just a courtesy gesture, helping you find one of many indie films that aren't easy to find out here.

  • Cynthia | February 8, 2012 10:11 PM

    Ghost, I agree because I don't reside in any of those states as well. A lot of this "support" is about being proactive in your own small way. Whether you Facebook friends about a project you learned about or alerting the media outlets you speak of. Truthfully, media folks have to be alerted about projects because they won't know until someone tells them or they read about it. You'd be surprise to hear how much "hunting" S&A contributors have to do.

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