36STATE OF THE UNION: BETWEEN HOLLYWOOD AND WIRELESS TECH
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
SHOPPING CINEMA...A bevy of screenings, power panels on film acquisition and distribution, and an Indie Filmmaker & Buyers Networking Expo will be served up as well as provocative panels at the 2006 International Diversity Film Market (IDFM) in D.C., Sept. 21–Sept. 23. Launched in 2001, IDFM was created to bridge the gap between the commercial television and film markets and the independently produced films created, produced, directed and/or performed primarily by women and filmmakers of color and filmmakers who utilize diverse casting. For more info, visit: www.onevibe.biz. Tickets are $25 each. Hey, small price to pay for a possible deal.
E! ON DEMAND...As announced earlier this week, E! Everywhere is launching a new series and bringing wireless platforms into its distribution mix. Debuting Oct. 3rd, "Planet Gossip," available both on the broadband channel The Vine, E! Online and via wireless, will feature a roster of "in-the-know" industry insiders and correspondents across the globe will sending in updates via webcam. "Carters on the Couch," is a new online series created for The Vine, set to debut on October 2 in conjunction with the series debut of the TV series "House of Carters." Obviously, E! does plan on being everywhere and maybe now with an expanded platform they will finally be able to cover more than just Paris, Lindsay, and Jessica and actually add a little techicolor to the lineup. Everyone's gotta branch out sometime, right!?
FILMMAKERS ALERT...Got a script? Maybe Robert DeNiro can help out. Peep what his institute is up to: Tribeca Film Institute's Tribeca/Sloan Screenplay Development Program, which pairs emerging talent with established screenwriters and scientists, is now seeking scripts that have a scientific or technological theme and storyline or have a leading character who is a scientist, engineer, or mathematician. One writer and/or writer-producer will receive financial support and insight from an advisory panel of leading filmmakers and experts in science and technology over the period of one year. Deadline from submissions is Dec. 15. Visit http://www.tribecafilminstitute.orgorg for more info.
MOBILE MAGAZINES...Crisp Wireless just announced that it has delivered a mobile portal for Premiere Magazine. The new portal, available as a WAP site at http://wap.premiere.co, is part of an expanded mobile presence for Premiere's parent company, publisher Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. Mobile Internet subscribers can gain access to both exclusive mobile Premiere content as well as elements from the magazine. Crisp, in addition to Premiere magazine, has also announced that it will deliver mobile portals for ELLE and ELLE Girl magazines. No you can truly read on the fly. Of course you know you won't get the same kind of hot view that we offer, but feel free to add this to your reading repertoire right after you read us!
THE CAGE BIRD SINGS FOR OPRAH...Financial woes for XM has certainly not gotten them down. Latest deal: Maya Angelou will host a weekly show for their "Oprah & Friends" channel. The hour-long show is tentatively called "Maya Angelou's America," and the revered poet/novelist plans to interview ordinary people, along with the "famous and infamous," asking them what they think it means to be an American. This is interesting and of course, no disrespect to Madame Angelou but we gotta keep it real: is this really incentive to actually pay for radio? On the other hand, hurray for a woman of color getting a deal because, Honey, there haven't been many!
DADA MOVEMENT...Move over Jamster and MySpace.com. Dada Mobile is looking to take you on. Dada mobile, Italy's the first social community and entertainment provider to offer complementary product suites spanning the mobile and online worlds, is coming to the U.S. Using Dada Mobile, consumers can: update personal blogs with pictures and video with Life.dada.net, download the latest in mobile entertainment (ringtones, wallpaper, games) with, Mobi.dada.net, among other services. Buona fortuna, Dada. Don't front on the hip-hop content additions.
NEW NICK MAN...Nickelodeon is gearing up to show off it's new new urban comedy series to the press next week. The series stars 15-year-old actor/stand-up comedian Lil' JJ. According to the folks over at Nick, the show will launch in early 2007 and is a multi-generational urban comedy following the adventures of ninth grader Jordan Lewis (Lil' JJ). A fish out of water, Jordan, who recently moved from Arkansas to his mom's hometown of South Central Los Angeles. Alison Taylor ("Lizzie McGuire") and Ralph Farquhar ("Moesha," "The Parkers," "Proud Family") are executive producers with Ken Bright consulting. Let's hope it's funnier than "Kenan & Kal."
POLITICAL POWERHOUSES...Look out Capital Hill, there's a shift occurring--at least on film. I Got Five On It, will capture the life and work of five powerful black women in Congress. Principal photography began on Sept 7th during the recent Congressional Black Caucus gathering. Featuring Congresswomen: Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio), Maxine Waters (California), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Diane Watson (California), Barbara Lee (California), interviews are being conducted by the likes of Isaiah Washington and Sheryl Lee Ralph. Producers are Dawn Carter, president/founder of Donlyn Productions, and Vanessa Morman, the executive director of the Houston Black Film Festival. No word on where the filmmakers plan on shopping this doc, but we'd also love to see one on blacks in the Senate--maybe that's next.
STARTUP BLACK FILM/TV STUDIO LAUNCHED
An African American-owned TV/Film Studio and Distribution Center launched last week with 11 films and 5 television shows. Chicago-based Sapphire Entertainment, Inc. (http://sapphireent.com) will produce, market and distribute action, comedy, drama, thriller and suspense movies. "Although we are an African American-owned studio, our products will not target the African-American audience only. We're creating films and television shows for all movie lovers to enjoy," says Andrea Allen, CEO and founder of Sapphire Entertainment. The new company has divisions devoted to TV, Film and Home Entertainment as well as an acquisitions department.
Sapphire has received much of its funding from a private investor an within the next three years Sapphire aims to employ 300 workers in their distribution and sales centers in Chicago and Los Angeles, and corporate offices, and studios in the Gold Coast area of Chicago and New York. "We're excited about launching the first studio of this caliber in Chicago and Illinois. Chicago and its surrounding suburban communities are ripe with wonderful neighborhoods and settings that will work well for just about any film, and television backdrop. The State of Illinois and city of Chicago are very passionate about servicing the film community--that's evident in the 20% tax incentive program offering. As a filmmaker [myself], I am extremely excited about this," says Allen. Sapphire Entertainment has scheduled seven film productions to be shot on location in the Chicago area with other productions scheduled for New York, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida.
SMARTVIDEO & ACTION ENGINE DEBUT MOBILE TV GUIDE
Mobile application platform leader, Action Engine Corporation announced a few days ago that it will work with SmartVideo Technologies, Inc., a leading mobile TV provider, as the technology provider for the SmartVideo Mobile Entertainment Program Guide (EPG). The SmartVideo EPG lets consumers quickly search for television programming from the company's library of live mobile television and video on demand, including ABC News, CNBC, DIC, Fox Sports, ifilm, NBC Mobile, The Weather Channel, and more. The SmartVideo EPG can be downloaded on Windows Mobile Pocket PC devices from the SmartVideo website http://www.smartvideo.com
mobZilla, the first global digital entertainment provider for mobile phones with an integrated online service, and VOY, a leading U.S. Latin media company, just the companies' new relationship to deliver VOY-branded Latin Music radio station to mobile users across the nations. They will launch seven top VOY-branded Latin Music radio stations for mobile users across the nation: Reggaeton, Pop Hits, Latin Ballads, Tropical, Regional Mexican, Classic Rock and Indie Discovery. American Latino consumers are among the heaviest users of advanced mobile features. According to a report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, English-speaking Latinos considerably over-index, compared to non-Hispanic consumers, in their use of text messaging, playing games and listening to music. The VOY mobile radio stations will be marketed on the VOY Music portal (www.voymusic.com) and reach more than two million unique visitors per month, and through the mobZilla music service, where fans can sign up for free channel previews. Additionally, both companies will promote the service through such activities as text message opt-in campaigns, online marketing and email outreach.
Sprint has announced the launch of a new service that lets subscribers stream full-length movies from Buena Vista, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and Universal Pictures on pay per view basis on their handsets. Sprint Movies now offers more than 45 titles and films may be viewed in its entirety all at once, or watched over time. The product also allows users to play, pause, and skip forward/backward. Movies can be viewed for unlimited times within a set period, varying between 24 hours and one week, depending on the title. Sprint Movies debut comes after the company launched mSpot Movies in December 25th. With mSpot customers watch unlimited movies, TV shows, and concerts for a $6.95 monthly subscription fee. Meanwhile, Sprint Movies cost between $3.99 and $5.99 each.
STATE OF THE UNION: BETWEEN HOLLYWOOD AND WIRELESS TECH
We came, we saw, we conquered.
Yes, The A-List hit the CTIA Wireless I.T & Entertainment conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center earlier this week, and thank God we took our vitamins! A roller coaster ride of heavy-hitter keynotes, killer apps, and panels took us from Monday the 11th straight through Wednesday the 13th.
Starting it all off was a kind of tech appetizer in the form of the Billboard Mecca event held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel. While beautifully organized with concurrent panels on everything from games to films on the mobile phone, this day-long slew of info was suffocatingly representative of all one gender and one race, we'll let you guess which ones, as pundits and pacesetters serving up info on the stage.
High points included Sprint's Paul Reddick added some spice by dressing up as one of their content "stars" Ricky Bobby of Talladega Nights which demonstrated the execs' passion as a carrier about their commitment to entertainment content. Reddick also stressed that the wireless industry needs help from the entertainment industry to make the rights for older properties easier to obtain. Fireworks flew with Robert Tercek of Multimedia Networks frank comments about some of the politics of the industry, but all in all, for those who really cover the industry; we kept hearing that nothing really new was presented by these speakers. Perhaps this is because that so often they can't speak in specifics due to deals and partnerships at the fringe of being completed and also just the insecurity of not wanting to necessarily exchange ideas in an industry that is morphing as quickly as a kaleidioscope. Frustrating, sure, but these events provide for fabulous networking opportunities and the ability to see so many fresh new companies, applications and more that will propel this hot new medium. Albeit if they all use the same somewhat annoying lingo as "ecosystems," "awesome," and "walled garden."
Looking for celeb execs? They were all out from AOL to Sony Digital to Helio, Fox's Chernin, Orange and many more!
The buzz phrase throughout was "ease of use for the customer" as if a magic fairy had hypnotized everyone to finally realize that many people don't even know what is available on their phone much less how to always use all the fancy additions to the handset. And these mobile kidz are taking no prisoners as they plan just how to facilitate the use and education while tackling issues of advertising to "gifting" to make this industry one revenue generating behemoth! What is unfortunate is that somehow these companies are missing that they are selling the same thing to same people the same way. Clearly market segmentation and people who get it, is sorely needed!
Day two (technically day one) and Day three (technically day two) of the convention found us in the cavernous but pleasant-enough LA Convention center with a ton a stands from upstarts to Motorola, from the stiff to those blasting techno. Energy, energy,energy. People running in and out, deal making at the cafe center near by, huddling around celeb execs in adjacent meeting rooms; this was the epicenter, Kids, of everything that will come to affect your entertainment life, whether consumer or exec, for years to come.
But let's get into details on who/what to watch as you plan your mobile strategy for entertainment properties (and I stress that no company "owns" this territory yet, and don't believe for a moment that the established entertainment brands today will necessarily be the winners over boutique companies that are able to move faster and smarter.) Taking notes? Ready, set, go:
SHOZU: is an interesting little application that will help the consumer download digital media quickly without connecting to the Internet while on your cell phone. Touting the product's simplicity and consistency, Shozu's CEO Mark Bole explained that the application was six years in the making. It's free to subscribers and at the end of the month, they will already be releasing the next version! Cross-promo, rev share, it's all good with Shozu. We think this will be a company-to-watch.
TINY PICTURES: is an itriguing company in that it's all about image sharing with them but in a much more intimate way that posting to a blog for all to see. It's about using the phone to communicate, of course, but in a way that is not for the masses. This is about sharing WHILE you are experiencing what-have-you in a very personalized way. Though maybe not straight up entertainment, this is concept provides for a interesting overlap of "micro-communities" which will no doubt be valuable to certain brands in the very near future! Launched in June '06, the app works on every cameraphone, and, explains the company's head John Poisson, "with more than a billion camera phones, we should be doing something more interesting like forging human connection." No storage worries, Friends, because all images are stored on the company's server.
HOOK: Is the first to offer MMS cross-carrier in the United States. An intriguing concept, this company is about digital trading cards, and the concept is kinda hot! Already negotiating with one network to create a package for one of its game shows, Hook is planning to offer the cards at $2.99 per pack and create collectible content. Yes, you read right. Stored on-line, the cards will definitely appeal to existing fans and deepen loyalty. Founder, Casey Jones, couldn't be more committed and affable. Look for interesting things to come from this company.
MBLOX & TELESCOPE: In the belly of the beast of SMS voting, this newly announced team of companies are the "T" in "text in your vote". Having already experienced major success with Endemol productions, this partnership can only make things hotter in what is now known as "participation TV". Having worked with such companies to successfully handle the major deluge of responses from "America's Got Talent" to the BET Awards, this is the team to partner with for the convergence of technology and TV.
MINDMANTICS: Offers mobile marketing and has been the force behind such work for film's such as New Line Cinema's Snakes on a Plane. Customized for each client, Mindmantics develops wallpaper and games to extend the awareness of a film project. They also help companies such as Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile to optimize their offerings and develop deeper relationships and awareness about their consumers. Mindmantics GM, Hans Henkes also noted that the company is also beginning to work with television properties too such as "Midnight Money Madness" to develop 900-number SMS campaigns.
AIR2WEB: is an interesting company in that it is an "end-to-end full service company to take a company's brand to the mobile space," explains the company's VP of marketing Alfredo Navez. Air2Web has a variety of relationships from brands to carriers and has worked with such heavyweights as American Express and UPS!
COMVERSE: demonstrated an interested streaming video application called "Video Express" which allows a user to take video and stream it to others. Turning the mobile phone into a virtual mobile webcam in real time. This, folks, is the next level of user generated content, right here, although there could be some pesky rights issues down the road depending on who does what with it! It's a wonderful opportunity though and even combines Instant Messaging with the video!
SONY-ERICSSON: is clearly focused on mobile music and images. The company recently launched its Cybershot camera on the phone! The dual-front concept coupled of course with the company's legendary standards of image quality makes this a winner. Accessed via Java, this product is part of the company's overall objective to facilitate moible lifestyle experiences. While collaborations with such prior "partners" as The DaVinci Code film and certain Sony BMG artists, the gaming factor is not to be missed here. Offering both landscape and portrait opportunities to play, even the casual gamer will be impressed. Speaking aesthetically, Sony-Ericsson has some of the chicest phones around. Matte black spells nothing but sophistication but for those who like color, there is also a nice range. Scarcity is an issue though in the US currently so if you want to stand out from the Hollywood pack, think seriously about the quality and design of this brand.
LEAP: Leap is one of those innovative rebel companies that comes along as the dust settles in a land-grab type stage of an industry. Touted as providing carrier services for the "underserved market," this company offers two brands, Jump and Cricket to a 46% African-American consumer base. Keeping prices down by not partnering with handset companies, Leap offers consumers a $45 per month flat rate with an unlimited number of minutes. No credit checks and no contracts make this a very attractive option for consumers who live in the regions where this service is currently offered. "We've found that there is a strong need to connect, particularly within African-American and Latin families," explains the company's SVP of Marketing and Customer Care, Linda Wokoun. And connect they do! Thanks to, particularly Wokoun's drive to treat this particular segment with respect and attentiveness. The 8th largest carrier in the US and #5 in text, Leap is beginning to be seen as "disruptive" to some of the major carriers looking to keep all the goodies for themselves. 90% of Leap's Cricket and Jump users count their mobile as their primary and often their only phone. Using guerrilla marketing techniques, Leap is no joke and is definitely to be put on the radar.
PROVENANCE VENTURES: Provenance Ventures is a new, LA-based VC headed the former AG executive, Bryan Biniak, who was responsible for signing the Def Jam Mobile deal during his tenure there. Wise beyond his years, Biniak left AG to start this venture to support start-ups in the LA area "who shouldn't have to travel to San Francisco to find funding from a tier one company," he explains. But this is not your average tech VC. "I decided to stop complaining about the world and actually do something to make the world a better place," says Biniak. Thus, Provenance seeks to provide full support to start-ups that help fulfill that mission, and that mission only. For example, one of the first accomplishments of Provenance is that of a start-up which will facilitate interactive television. Why? Let's just say, it's on for the next presidential elections. Look for good things to come from this smart company that's not simply out for the "land grab" of mobile.
Of course, it's not all about tech for us. There were networking events at night, a plenty. Funny though that this segment plays from 6pm-8pm, and then I guess they pass out to get up super early for more deal-making the next day! Ah, tech people! Anyway, Disney Mobile was in effect, Sony Digital set up a chic little "camp" across from the Convention Center complete with Aretha tunes blasting early one evening. Air 2 Web had a nice gathering at the Foundation Room of the House of Blues, complete with the designer from MTV's "Pimp My Ride", Nokia of course, represented and the Mobile Entertainment Forum had a cool event complete with tarot card readings and mini-massages. Not sure whose idea that all was but shout out to the organization's head, Patrick Parodi, who at least had to approve it if not come up with it!
After all this, we are mobile-d out but only for a moment. Stay tuned for some things that we've got cookin' on this end. We're about to take the segmentation bull by the horns!
UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND'S "AN EVENING OF STARS: TRIBUTE TO ARETHA FRANKLIN
United Negro College Fund's "An Evening of Stars: Tribute to Aretha Franklin" taping that took place over two nights at the famed Kodak Theatre. While one would have expected an even heavier support of glitterati to come out for the Queen of Soul, those who were there, did their thing. Clearly, it was Miss Fantasia Barrino's night. This little "American Idol" winner is definitely coming into her own and so demonstrated by doing not one, but two Aretha covers which wowed the crowd. Always gracious backstage, Fantasia (pictured above with author Michael Eric Dyson) also announced that she and Aretha were headed to the studio to record a track together for Frankin's upcoming album called Let Me Put Your Up On Game (yes, you read right!)
Other performances included Natalie Cole, the ubiquitous Joss Stone, and killer cuts by Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, among others. Presenters ranged from a beaming Regina King to a well-poised Michael Clarke Duncan. Mary Mary contributed to Aretha's gospel years and even the man who signed her, Chairman of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun attended stating backstage that "Black Music is the the music of the world." (you got that right!)
A touching moment was added by comments by Lou Rawls' daughter and light-heartedness was definitely provided by M'onique (photo, left).
The overall message seemed to be that it was important to support Black college education especially given our current situation in America today! Funny though, given the demo for which these funds are raised, no hip hop or hip hop/soul artists were on hand to present! All in all though, viewers will definitely be entertained. Be on the lookout for broadcast times and dates in your area.
The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) were special guests at the monthly meeting of the DGA’s African American Steering Committee. Moderated by actress T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, the meeting included radio personalities Tanya Hart and Mingon Turner and media impressario Lee Bailey who were joined by AAFCA president Gil Robertson IV (The Robertson Treatment IV, The A-List).
SHOUT OUT TO EAGLE EYE A-LIST PHOTOGRAPHER PHILIPPE CERTA AND THE EVER-PRESENT GIL ROBERTSON IV.