Friday, February 17, 2006

Issue #6: Female Directors

Issue #6, already?
You bet!

SPIKE'S AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE...On Feb. 19, at California's Armstrong Theatre Spike Lee will talk about his life in the film biz. Spike's insight will cost ya $30, however. For your tix, hit

HIP HOP SOLDIER....It's official, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson have signed onto a new film about Iraqi war veterans called Home of the Brave. The independently financed, $12-million flick will begin shooting in Morocco in March. But hopefully, 50 will get better acting reviews than he did for his biopic, Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Guess Jackson got over his playa hatting of rappers turned actors.

BLACK OUT...The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) has added its two cents to the already mounting concern about the merger of the WB and UPN and what this might mean not only to black programming but to black-owned television stations. According to the folks over at the NABOB, the deal has struck "a severe blow to African-American owners of television stations" since these stations were affiliates of the WB and UPN are facing the possibility of no programming. Talk about socio-economic repercussions.

....Last week, Oprah Winfrey signed a three-year, $55-million deal with XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. to launch a new radio channel. Starting in September, "Oprah & Friends," will air programming on fitness, health and self-improvement topics as well as a weekly radio show with Winfrey and her bestest friend Gayle King. Sounds great, but Oprah didn't great anyway near the reported $600-million, five-year deal that Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. inked with shock jock Howard Stern. And XM, itself, signed an 11-year, $650 million deal for Major League Baseball. Hmm...Well, Oprah doesn't desperately need the money, we guess. Maybe it's just a case of reality setting in at the company. Right after she inked her deal, company director, Pierce Roberts, resigned from the board because he saw "a significant chance of a crisis on the horizon" and was "troubled" about XM's direction, according to press statements. Maybe they're hoping for some Oprah ratings magic and already working to tame that spending madness.

TV TOUCHDOWN?...He may not be loved on the football field, but TV execs are lovin' him right now. The producers of "Trading Spaces" have signed bad boy football player Terrell Owens to his own reality show. According to the folks at Banyan Productions, the show is still untitled and unsold. Given what has already taken place in Owens' life recently, an insider look at all the emotion and antics behind the scenes may just prove interesting.

POWER MOVES...Shon Gables, News Anchor CBS 2 This Morning (NYC) will be Mistress of Ceremonies for The Network Journal Magazine's 8th Annual 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards, March 16 at Marriott New York Marquis. Tickets start at $175. Game recognize game. Visit


African-American Female Directors Look
Outside The Box

It's hard enough to make it in Hollywood as a black director. It can be even tougher for African-American women. In fact, "less than one percent of directing jobs go to African-American women," says Carolyn A. Butts, founder of Reel Sisters (,) a film festival co-organized by Long Island University's Media Arts Dept. for women of color. Further, despite some critically acclaimed films by black women--from Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust to Kasi Lemmons' Eve's Bayou to Euzhan Palcy's A Dry White Season--black female directors have not yet been awarded the big-budget flicks. "Because feature films are such high-risk ventures, money wise, we have not seen the full extent of what African-American women are capable of doing inside and outside the movie making industry," says Dash. As such, many of them are turning to other outlets, including the Internet, television, even mobile phone platforms.

Director Millicent Shelton, whose Ride came out in 1998, has been working in television as of late, directing multiple episodes of "The Bernie Mac Show" and most recently an episode of "Everybody Hates Chris" (which aired Feb. 9th). She considers the break into television, rather than the film world, as her biggest career highlight to date. "There aren't many African-American females directing episodic TV," she says. "It took me three years to finally get a foot in the door." But still she hasn't left film behind. "I am currently shopping an urban slasher/horror feature film script," says Shelton, who has found more opportunities in the last five years. "The ABC/DGA program gave me an opportunity through their seasoned directors program that lead me to breaking into the [television] industry," she explains. "As they say, you need to get that first one. Then John Ridley, executive producer on 'Barbershop' for Showtime gave me my first official episode. He simply took a chance and believed in me. The episode turned out great."

Maryam Myika Day of Epiphany 3 Films ( too has turned to TV as an outlet. She is serving as segment producer for an upcoming PBS television show called “Real Moms, Real Stories, Real Savvy” as well as acting herself with the Negro Ensemble Company. "I found as an African-American woman I have to create opportunities for myself to get people in the position to stand up and watch," says Day. "[You have to] set your goals and look to achieve without the approval of the general film community. Think outside of the box and create stories and moving images that allow you to get your audience talking about what you are doing." Shelton has found the same to be true. "Be persistent without being annoying, know your craft better than what people would expect, be prepared whenever you have a meeting or walk onto set, know that it is a mountain and be willing to persevere and weather the climb, and make your crew love you," advises Shelton.

Julie Dash ( also has been working in other realms, including the Internet and mobile phone delivery. "I have found less opportunities in Hollywood in the last five years," says Dash, who is currently working on an original screenplay, a feature film project for a major African-American women's organization, "but there are more opportunities in the wider field of multimedia and film production," she notes. "For instance: directing a movie for the National Underground Railroad's Museum in Cincinnati, designing an African-American pavilion for another major theme park company, writing for Internet and graphic novel projects." Dash, who is also attached to a major motion picture called Crispus Attucks and Making Angels, an independent film, says broadening her scope has increased opportunities. "Diversification is the advise I would give. I love designing writing and conjuring up images and concepts for cell phones, Internet sites; it goes back to my roots in grassroots, independent film making," says Dash.

Tina Mabry ( still finds festivals as a great way to showcase her work. "Getting into Showtime's Black Filmmaker Showcase has been a very rewarding experience," says Mabry, whose Brooklyn's Bridge To Jordan premiered on Showtime earlier this month. She just co-wrote a feature script entitled Itty Bitty Titty Committee for But I'm a Cheerleader's director, Jamie Babbit as well as another script.

While making it in Hollywood is tough, many women feel a change is going to come. "At the moment the industry is definitely run by white men," says Mabry. "But I think as we continue to use the festival circuit and continue to make our films, we will one day be more prominent and people will actually realize that there is an abundant amount of Black female filmmakers out there trying to tell our stories."

Shelton hopes others like her break into TV. "I would like to see more Black female filmmakers directing television single camera comedies and one-hour dramas, particularly the dramas," says Shelton. "My hope is that they move up the ranks and become director/producers on TV shows in a position to employ more diverse directors. I also hope that there are more Black female feature film directors with successful theatrical releases. The reality is the road is tough but I believe all theses goals are attainable if we just might take a while."

But these celluloid dreams may be a reality sooner than later. "In the future I think Hollywood will have no choice but to seriously take a look at these projects. More and more films are being produced by us and the demographic who spend money in the theatres is African American. We consume more statistically--we are not afraid to spend the dollar. Eventually our presence in Hollywood will be known," says Day.

Dash agrees. "I think the future looks great. We are the new kids on the block. We have a lot to say and the whole world is listening." And hopefully watching.

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