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What's Wrong With Being Black And Chasing Your Hollywood Dream? (Survey)

Shadow and Act By Courtney | Shadow and Act November 29, 2012 at 2:36PM

As a writer, but also a big fan of this site, I take time to read through the comments from readers as much as I can, to get a sense of what general perceptions on whatever a post is about. And I'm always taken aback when I read comments that belittle, or look down on actors and/or filmmakers especially, who are chasing the proverbial "Hollywood Dream," as if there's something antithetical about being black AND wanting to work within the Hollywood studio system.
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Hollywood Sign

As a writer, but also a big fan of this site, I take time to read through the comments from readers as much as I can, to get a sense of what general perceptions on whatever a post is about. And I'm always taken aback when I read comments that belittle, or look down on actors and/or filmmakers especially, who are chasing the proverbial "Hollywood Dream," as if there's something antithetical about being black AND wanting to work within the Hollywood studio system.

Is there?

I was reminded of the below video clip (posted previously on this site) of a very frank Sam Greenlee (The Spook Who Sat By The Door) dishing on the state of what we call "black cinema," being independent, being outsiders as black people in the industry, embracing our outsider status, what all that means, and adding that "if you want to be a rich ho, move to Hollywood..." and more...

Obviously, as we all know, it's quite a challenge for people of African descent in this industry; I don't think I need to elaborate on that. The proof is in the pudding. We talk about these issues every week on this blog, in some form or another. So if you're entering this business with the long-term goal being to work primarily within the Hollywood studio system, as opposed to as an indie (and all the differences between both worlds), you should already be familiar with the struggles that likely lie ahead for you, as a person of color in a system that essentially marginalizes people who look like you, both in front and behind the camera.

Is that a fair assumption to make?

Not that it's any easier as an indie; being an indie comes with its own share of challenges. But I think that I'd say that, generally, for those who've chosen to strictly traverse the indie path, freedom of expression or in creativity is probably what's the most attractive about being an indie. If you're a filmmaker, full creative control over your work, meaning you can be as fearless, and take as many creative and even fiscal risks as your heart desires, without big brother looking over your shoulder, or pulling your puppet strings.

I suppose we could say a similar thing about actors.

Obviously that's not a steadfast rule, because, depending on how you obtain financing for your indie movie, you still may have to succumb to the requests of your financiers, in the end. But I'm just running with that as a key difference between working within those two worlds. 

And being black adds another layer of limitations for you to work through, although far be it from me to suggest that we (black peope) are in any way helpless victims, who have no control over our own destinies. But there seems to be a general belief that to work within the studio system means to understand and embrace the fact that you're really NOT in control.

But again, if you're entering this business, all of this, you should already know and be prepared for. 

So I'm curious to know how many of you up-and-coming talents (filmmakers, actors especially) have set their sites on Hollywood, despite how any disadvantages being black might negatively influence your career? And if you are, is there any shame in your game, so to speak? Do you feel pressure from the outside to give up that dream and take a different path? Do you have a plan of attack? A pre-planned path to success? Or are you just riding the wave, and see where you land?

And if you've already decided that Hollywood isn't for you, and you've committed to being entirely indie, despite the immense challenges ahead of you, I'd ask the same exact set of questions.

Obviously, it doesn't have to be one or the other; you can exist in both worlds at the same time; several people already do, and have been successful not having to choose one path or the other.

Just a little survey to generate discussion on an otherwise slow news day.

Here's the video with Greenlee:


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