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John Singleton Gives Scathing Criticism of Hollywood: "They Ain't Letting Black People Tell Their Stories"

by Jai Tiggett
March 24, 2014 12:20 PM
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Director John Singleton had some pointed words about the studio system during a recent event at Loyola Marymount University. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Singleton spoke about the climate for black filmmakers, his upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic, and also expanded upon the op-ed he wrote late last year discussing the lack of black directors helming black films. 

On studios not advocating strongly for black filmmakers:

"They ain't letting the black people tell their stories. And you're like, oh ok, we're going to take your stories but you know what, you're going to go starve over here and we're not going to let you get a job... Because the so-called liberals that are in Hollywood now are not as good as their parents or ancestors. They feel they're not racist.  They're not racist, they grew up with Hip Hop so you can't be racist.  I like Jay-Z, but that don't mean I got to give you a job. You see what I'm saying?"

On white directors telling black stories: 

"Taylor Hackford did a great job on Ray... You can watch what Brian Helgeland did on 42. But those people also had a respect and they also had people who were African-American behind the scenes who were allowed to give opinions to make it special... They did a good job because they had respect for the thing. They didn't say I'm going to tell the story and I'm not going to give nobody black a job. There's a difference."

On the potential in independent films: 

"Films are being made outside of the certain norm, people are putting in and financing. That's a liberating thing. You're going to get different types of stories made.  A good example of a person who happens not to be black, Benh Zeitlin who did Beasts of the Southern Wild, that would never have been made if it hadn't been made in that model.  That could never have been made in the studio.  12 Years a Slave could never have been made in the studio model... Both of those films were very profitable."

See video of the conversation below, and find the full transcript HERE.

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  • peter | May 17, 2014 12:36 PMReply

    I am getting bored watching movies and tv shows in the last few years portraying black men as always the heroes , leaders or men of honor and white men as the bad guy , is this how life is really like in your country America ? surely not and is it taboo to say you don't like black men ? what sort of fake society is yours ?
    peter australia

  • andre | March 25, 2014 1:32 PMReply

    I'm tired of this argument. There is no letting us do anything. We have to do it ourselves. we DON'T need permission from Hollywood. How many black directors, writers, actors, producers and etc and we still looking for hollywood to do it for us. That's a damn shame. Are we so friggin stuck on stupid. China has their own. they say f...hollywood. India did the same. every other ethnicity does the same but blacks in america seem to always be looking for the handout.

    You mean to tell me with all of the movies that we ourselves can produce and direct and act in.....we are so incompetent that we need others to do it for us? bull...where's bill cosby now with the speeches about getting it done? OH nothing to be said there. I'm all about solutions. Not excuses. It seems that as american blacks got intergrated they forget the struggle and suffering the elders went through. I could go on and on but why. Malcolm said it right. YOu got to get mad. Get sick of this nonsense and lets do it amongst ourselves

  • Reinaldo | March 25, 2014 7:58 AMReply

    DJ, I agree with you it is not only the studio system that is in the preventing black folks from telling their stories. It is more complex than we think.

  • ALP | March 25, 2014 10:22 AM

    Twist ending: it's NOT the studio system preventing black folks... it was JOHN HIMSELF the whole time!

    no joke

  • vincent cook | March 25, 2014 2:26 AMReply

    John is right! they are not letting Black folks tell they story.

  • Mark V | March 24, 2014 4:57 PMReply

    I find John's words somewhat odd, coming from the same man who was instrumental in bringing Craig Brewer to prominence.

  • Mark V | March 25, 2014 4:47 PM

    No Brainer, it is indeed odd that John would accuse the studios of exactly what he has helped to perpetuate from the most grassroots of levels. I do find this odd, but how does this make me an idiot?

  • stp | March 25, 2014 1:37 PM

    Actually I don't think the ones that don't agree with John are idiots. I'm sick of the generalization of "Hollywood." An article on how hollywood won't make our stories on shadow and act every three months doesn't assist us one bit! John should know better than that by now I'd think. Who works for the studios? The readers. Did that stop Ava Duvernay and Ryan Coogler?

  • NO BRAINER | March 25, 2014 12:59 PM

    So because of all this, it's odd for him to say what he knows to be true about the studio model? You people are bunch of idiots.

  • SHEBABABY | March 24, 2014 8:57 PM

    Well damn. Y'all kicking the actual factuals up in here.

  • Turner | March 24, 2014 6:59 PM

    Didn't he tell a white boy's story with that awesome and ground-breaking example of cinema (sic) Abducted? Lol

  • Ladybug | March 24, 2014 5:44 PM


  • Karen Marie Mason | March 24, 2014 2:40 PMReply

    Do we really WANT Hollywood to tell OUR stories?

  • mawon | March 24, 2014 8:11 PM

    He specified that Hollywood doesn't want US to tell OUR stories. He never called for Hollywood to tell our stories.

  • Patch Neck Red | March 24, 2014 1:51 PMReply

    In every generation you need someone to champion your passion I believe Mr.Singleton might be one of those voices. Time will tell carry on Solider!

  • DeeDee | March 27, 2014 9:56 AM

    I may be exposing my ignorance here, but I am really curious about your screen name (Patch Neck Red). Heard a reference to the same in an August Wilson play and haven't been able to figure out what the allusion is. Any help?

  • DJ | March 24, 2014 1:44 PMReply

    "They want Black people to be what they want to be." Truth.

    Singleton's reference to "they" can easily apply to the indie film gatekeepers. Sundance wants [Asians, Blacks, etc.] to be what they want to be. Because, of course, they "grew up" with Do The Right Thing and Better Luck Tomorrow.

  • Ava | March 24, 2014 4:21 PM

    Just to add to that, I saw a press release about a new writing program expanding into the television and online series realm that supposedly is calling for participation among writers of diversity, except it is by Invitation Only! They claim it is for the inaugural year, then they will open it up but why do this at all if you claim to want to cast a wide net?? I understand they probably want the most talented and committed but isn't that what bios, resumes, portfolios and mission statements are for?
    I had to laugh when I read that Press Release but I cannot tell you how irritated that Invitation Only made me.

  • kjmlm | March 24, 2014 12:58 PMReply

    He has some valid points.

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