Issue #3: Nollywood & Beyond
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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
ROLL 'EM...The Next Generation Awareness Foundation announced its 3rd Annual National Black History Month Film & Discussion Series Tour earlier this week. Scheduled to hit several cities beginning February 11th including D.C. and partnering with such companies as Miramax Films and filmmakers such as Antoine Fuqua; this year's events will pay tribute to the mothers of the civil and human rights movements and utilize film as a resource for spreading awareness of urban problems and solutions in the U.S. and Africa. Tall order, and we wish them much success. For info, hit up (202) 409-7240. or www.UrbanFilmSeries.com.
TIRED OF TYRA?: Better not be, since both "The Tyra Banks Show" and "America's Next Top Model"--have just been renewed for yet another season. Talk about model programming.
CONSPIRACY THEORY: There's been a email going around that claims NBC was trying to sabotage Jamie Foxx's variety show, "Unpredictable," that aired on Wed., Jan. 25. Of course your hot shot reporters here at The A-List received the email as well. Interested in hearing the details? Well, in part it said: "NBC is not doing any marketing and publicity on Jamie's music special on NBC because he stood his ground and wouldn't have any white guests as they requested. To make it even worse," the email continues, "he had two controversial guest stars that do not fit the 'NBC profile' on his show. Tune in to find out who they are." A publicity ploy? Inquiring minds are still debating, but NBC claimed to have marketed the Foxx special like any other. In fact, it's re-airing the special tonight, Fri. Let's see if the ratings add to the extension of this little conspiracy theory.
WAY UNDERGROUND: Damon Wayans recently inked a contract for yet another show--a comedy skit show that Showtime is billing as "'In Living Color' on steroids." The deal to date is for 10 episodes of the half-hour series to be called "Damon Wayans' The Underground."
ABFF WEB UP & RUNNING: American Black Film Festival (ABFF)'s Jana Taylor g-mailed to let us know the ABFF, which was founded by Jeff Friday, has just launched its 2006 website, www.abff.com, with all the info you need about the festival, July 19-23.
MICHEL MARTIN MOVES TO NPR
Former correspondent for "Nightline," Michel Martin has joined NPR as the host of a new daily two-hour show to start airing later this year. Slated for afternoons, the program will focus on public affairs and cultural issues pertaining to African Americans.
STARBUCKS AND LIONS GATE FORM PARTNERSHIP
With businessman Magic Johnson at the head in conjunction with and Ken Lombard, now president of Starbucks Entertainment; the coffee franchise has announced a new strategy for connecting with more black coffee drinkers by utilizing film and music. The latest promotion is a union between Starbucks and Lions Gate Entertainment. Under the partnership to promote the release of the studio's upcoming black film Akeelah and the Bee, Lion's Gate will be the first independent film company to work with Starbucks as as such an entertainment partner.
Starbucks will promote the film, its DVD and its soundtrack in its 5,500 North American stores and share in a portion of the revenue. The film will be released theatrically April 28. Its soundtrack will be available for purchase at Starbucks April 4 and the DVD later in the year. Akeelah and the Bee centers on a precocious 11-year-old girl, Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), from South Los Angeles, who is discovered to have a talent for words. It is directed by Doug Atchison and produced by Laurence Fishburne, Sidney Ganis, Nancy Hult, Daniel Llewelyn, Michael Romersa, with a cast that includes Palmer, Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Curtis Armstrong, Jeff Marlow, Sara Niemietz, Eddie Steeples.
WB AND UPN FORGE NEW NETWORK
Warner Bros.'s Barry Meyer announced earlier this week, that the media giant will cease operation of its WB network in tandem with CBS ceasing business of its UPN network in order to combine forces for a new network entitled "The CW." Programming is slated to begin broadcast in September 2006. Both the WB and UPN have been historically home to many black television series. Dawn Ostroff, currently president of UPN, will become President of Entertainment at the New Network while counterpart John Maatta, of The WB, will become COO at CW.
Nollywood & Beyond: Film Production In Africa Heats Up
Look out Hollywood. Forget Bollywood. Nollywood in Nigeria is the new frontier on the global front when it comes to film; and the rest of Africa, especially South Africa isn't far behind.
In Nigeria, things have gotten so intense that it has been dubbed Nollywood. Experts have noted that because of political changes, the Nigerian film industry is experiencing a renaissance. In fact, according to the UK's Guardian newspaper, Nigeria has surpassed India's Bollywood, making it now the world's fastest growing film industry.
Notable Nigerian film companies include NEK, Gabosky and Cheskay, Moving Movies, Zeb Ejiro and JBM. Most of the films are produced by independent by companies and businessmen. However, the big money for films in Nigeria is made in the direct-to-video market. The average film costs between $17,000US and $23,000US, is shot on video in just a week--selling up to 150,000-200,000 units nationwide in one day. With this type of return, more and more are getting into the film business there. By most reports, Nollywood is a $115-million industry. And it keeps growing.
In fact, according to Frank Ikegwuonu, author of Who's Who in Nollywood (www.nigeriaentertainment.com), about "1,200 films are produced in Nigeria annually." And more and more filmmakers are heading to Nigeria because of "competitive distribution system and a cheap workforce." Further, Nigerian films seem to be better received by the market when compared to foreign films because "those films are more family oriented than American films," says Ikegwuonu. However, he has not seen a rise in Americans venturing to use the production there. "They are not aware of the phenomenon yet as Nigerian filmmakers lack the marketing tools [to get the word out]."
South Africa, on the other hand, is not only creating a wealth of new films itself, but has become a popular shooting location for international filmmakers.
According to Brin Kushner, an associate producer, his Cape Town, South Africa-based company, African Film Services (www.africafilmservices.com), does "10-12 major international commercials a year and between 2 and 4 documentaries." The reasons people are choosing South Africa, says Kushner, "is that we have fantastic weather, amazing locations and very experienced crew. We are also cost competitive. There are lots of savings on equipment, crew rates, talent rates and buyouts as well as increased shooting time due to great weather conditions."
And with African countries actively targeting the U.S. film business, it is getting easier for foreign production companies. "[African governments] are becoming more film friendly as they realize the revenue that the film industry is bringing into the country," notes Kushner, adding that American companies have increased their presence in South Africa. "South Africa is now becoming a major filming destination for American Companies. In fact, Black Diamond with Leonard DiCaprio is currently being filmed over here."
Even black Americans in the entertainment industry are coming to the Continent in search of great locations and better production values. "There is a definite trend for black Americans to want to work in Africa as they feel a strong affinity and tie to our country. We have seen numerous famous black actors on our shores," says Kushner. Plus, they can deal better with black South Africans in the business, unlike in the States where the majority of crews would be Caucasian. "Black South Africans are very involved in the industry...We have amazingly talented black south African filmmakers and crew," explains Kushner.
Will the trend continue to grow? Kushner hopes so. "There is always pressure from other countries such as those in South America which become flavors of the month, but on the whole the future is looking positive."
And it is not just American film productions that reaping the benefits. Many African films have been considered quite well done in the past, but now they are getting the attention some think they deserved long ago. In fact, the South African independent film Son of Man, about Jesus as an African man, was recently chosen for the World Cinema competition category at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the first South African film ever to be selected for competition at Sundance; last year another South African film, Drum, premiered at the festival.
Also on the rise for film production, say experts, is Kenya and Namibia. Namibia even passed a the Namibia Film Commission Act in 2000 "to support the film industry and film marketing in Namibia by promoting the country as a location for film production on the international market."
So on either front, Africa may be the next filming Mecca or the place to pitch films--especially black movies--to an eager audience.
FAYARD NICHOLAS: October 20, 1914-January 24, 2006
When dance icon Fayard Nicholas had his stroke, actor/singer/dancer Obba Babatunde was a constant visitor to his hospital room. One day when Fayard was really sinking, Obba gently started to tap for Fayard right there in the hospital. When that sound he'd heard for his entire 91 years reached Fayard, the lovely old man opened his eyes and smiled. Obba talked with him for a while until he fell asleep again.
Babatunde played Harold Nicholas in "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," starring Halle Berry. He also hosted the documentary "Dorothy Dandridge: An American Beauty" written, produced and directed by Ruth Adkins Robinson.
Fayard and his brother were to tap dancing as Michael Jordan was to basketball. Nobody before or since was ever as athletic, graceful or as powerful as the Nicholas Brothers. Fred Astaire said the Nicholas Brothers were responsible for the greatest dance segments ever put on film and it has been said that if the life story of the Nicholas Brothers were to be made, they would have to have the dance sequences done through computer generation. Nobody alive today can do what those brothers did.
Snoop Dogg, Ananda Lewis and Nick Cannon partyin' at Ray J’s (Brandy's baby bro) B-day bash thrown this past weekend...Terrence Howard scooping up ipods; Ruby Dee and Russell Hornsby interviewing in the AOL Black Voices "Unscripted" Lounge; Entertainment Weekly's Neil Drumming and Marc Bernardin dining with power publicist Ava Duvernay at Wahso on Main Street; Anthony Mackie chillin' with young co-star Shareeka Epps from their film Half Nelson at the Riverhorse all representin' at the Sundance Film Festival...Queen Latifah, Toni Braxton, Gabrielle Union, Tracee Ellis Ross, Eric Benet and Blair Underwood checking out Sanaa Lathan's Something New at the premiere in Hollywood this past Tuesday...Susie Castillo (former Miss USA and MTV VJ), Bobby Deniro (Robert's son), SNL comedian Tracy Morgan at the launch Tues. of www.GoTrump.com, a new travel site powered by Trump International and featuring nightclub and events content from JoonBug Productions. The Trump affair, hosted by JoonBug, took place at NYC's Marquee. Thanks again to hot contributor, Gil L. Robertson IV!
See ya next Friday!