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Listen Now If You Missed It - Conversations w/ Nelson George, Cynthia Stafford & Lanre Idewu

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 18, 2011 2:03 AM
9 Comments
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The conversation ended up running into overtime, past the 9pm mark, so those who were listening live got caught off after the first hour was over; but we continued on for another 30 minutes. But you can listen to the rest of it below, since the entire 90 minutes were recorded.

And if you missed the entire show, you can hear it all below.

The entire write-up about the show's content follows underneath the player.

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During the first half hour, author, filmmaker, journalist, world traveler Mr Nelson George will join me to talk about, what else, black cinema. I assume most know who Nelson George is - from helping Spike Lee finance She's Gotta Have It 25+ years ago, to penning books like Buppies, B-boys, Baps, And Bohos: Notes On Post-soul Black Culture, later producing the HBO film Everyday People, and finally making his directorial debut with the 2007 HBO drama Life Support, starring Queen Latifah.

But we'll look back over the last 25 years in black film, and how far we've come since he entered the business.

And during the second half hour, a name some of you may remember, as we featured her on the site in early 2010 - Ms Cynthia Stafford the African American lady who won over $100 million in her state’s lottery, and chose to use $30 million of the money to start a film production company called Queen Nefertari Productions.

In the few short years since all that happened, she's co-financed/produced a few titles, like The Inheritance, a genre horror/thriller that was produced by Effie Brown, a name that I'm sure some of you are familiar with, and starring Keith David, D.B. Woodside, Golden Brooks (of Girlfriends fame), and others. We've featured the film on this site a few times. It's currently on DVD & Blu-ray.

Ms Stafford and Lanre Idewu, an exec at her company (and an actor as well) have been traveling the film festival circuit quite heavily, and I've run into them twice this year already - first at Sundance, where Lanre & I were part of one of Ava DuVernay's AFFRM dinner gatherings, and I saw both he and Cynthia at the ABFF last month. They were also at Cannes, looking to make deals. So, they're active. They have some projects in development.

But they'll both be on to talk about Cynthia's story (from winning the lottery to creating the company), how the company is surviving/thriving in the marketplace, projects in development, and more.

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9 Comments

  • Tamara | August 18, 2011 5:12 AMReply

    Enjoyed all. I look forward to Nelson's documentary. Appreciate his love and enthusiasm...he didn't have to sell it so hard for "me", 'coz I'm definitely intersted.

    Cynthia's story, inspiring....positive thought processes, outside forces, historical bests and all. Truly inspiring.

    Very insightful the rest of the interview. Thank you. Good stuff!

  • Donnie Leapheart | August 18, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    Wait...did I just hear him say that this company called "Queen Nefertari Productions" (an Egyptian ruler) is more interested in producing white (aka mainstream) films that feature a few people of color sprinkled behind the scenes?

    Oh, its because they are more profitable...Unlike Tyler Perry's little insignificant black (aka non mainstream) indie films, LOL....

    Lemme stop....I think its great that Cynthia is a positive influence to add to the world. Based on this interview though, I can tell she won't be putting out any of the kind of films the Shadow & Act crowd tends to enjoy the most.

  • Donnie Leapheart | August 18, 2011 4:56 AMReply

    @Quentin

    See that's the problem...They don't seem to realize that you gotta crawl before you can walk...

    I really feel like they could take 2-3 million dollars and finance 5-10 $200k-$500k feature films with that. All made by rising independents or established "artists". Not just dramas either...The recent smash "Monsters" was made for only $50-$100k, for example.

    Then they could hit the festival circuit. With the low overhead, they're sure to get distribution and licensing deals for at least half of the films....One of those films may even be able to breakout and make the ENTIRE investment back at least. She plays the lottery, so this notion of gambling and risk shouldn't be unfamiliar to her.

    This way, she gets a foothold into the film world and builds a reputation at least to then attract the bigger films, filmmakers and actors. "Rainforest Films" is the best African American example of what I'm saying and Christine Vachon's "Killer Films" is another (more prestigious) example.

  • Quentin | August 18, 2011 4:34 AMReply

    "I didn’t hear them talk on the quality film as first and foremost. They sounded very Hollywood to me" -- RB

    They are Hollywood. Very. They're trying to copy the formula that worked for Hollywood pundits all these years and try to make it work for African-American cinema, which is on life support.


    "But, this question is for Tambay, as someone who has seen them around, and gotten to know a little bit, how do you feel her company is viable for filmmakers?" -- RB

    It's not. They're Hollywood out of the gate, not accepting any unsolicited material instead of creating opportunity for unrepresented talent to submit quality projects to them. She wins the lotto but is afraid to lose 500K to make a good indie film, diving into the horror/thriller genre because they heard this genre sells. I just want to ask them, "How is it all working out for you?"


    "did I just hear him say that this company called “Queen Nefertari Productions” (an Egyptian ruler) is more interested in producing white (aka mainstream) films that feature a few people of color sprinkled behind the scenes?" -- Donnie

    I didn't get to that part yet but you probably heard right.

    As for Nelson, great interview. He is passionate.

  • Truly Uncommon | December 6, 2011 3:15 AM

    @Quentin, et al-I too agree-it seems as though we have another case of people just wanting to "rub noses with A-listers'" rather than to actually embrace the arts for arts sake! As an actress, entrepreneur, talk show host and collaborator on several substantive reality treatments, I too visited her website in hopes of submiiting and found they weren't "accepting any unsolicited material"! Wow, really? How are you any different than any of the other production companies/networks which proceed you, in not potentially making opportunities available for people of color? If something is no good, it is what it is but if something is worthy of a chance, then give it! What would be the harm in taking a look?

  • RB | August 18, 2011 3:01 AMReply

    I am glad that Ms Cynthia Stafford have this company, I didn't hear them talk on the quality film as first and foremost. They sounded very Hollywood to me, which was a little disappointing, but I think they are on the right path.

    Ms Cynthia Stafford sounds very positive and very inspiring with her story.

    But, this question is for Tambay, as someone who has seen them around, and gotten to know a little bit, how do you feel her company is viable for filmmakers?

    Great interview.

    Cheers!

  • James Madison | August 18, 2011 1:15 AMReply

    I caught a few minutes. I'll wait for my podcast subscription to listen before I comment.

  • Swint3 | August 18, 2011 1:14 AMReply

    I think Cynthia learn from the Inheritance, that the international market is not fully ready or better yet hasn't develop the marketplace for Black films, There a market for them, but the buyers don't understand the black market, 60% of Hollywood movie sales comes from the international market. So, if you want that upfront money, you have to do projects and have talent that international markets understand. 50cent, was very smart in his choice of stories and co-star talent. It's a business you have to think like a business person or you will lose a lot of money......

  • jaceton | August 17, 2011 3:02 AMReply

    The Inheritance is streaming on netflix.

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