Saturday, June 03, 2006

issue 22: IMAGE SURVEY

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Dazzling and as fabulous as always. You know you love it. Issue #22


URKEL HAS NOT LEFT THE BUILDING...One of the craziest things this week in entertainment reporting had to be the Jaleel White hoax. Despite an Internet rumor, designed to look like an AP story stating White, most famous for his Steve Urkel character on "Family Matters," was dead, it is confirmed by his "people" that he has absolutely not committed suicide, leaving a note with his famous line saying "Did I do that?!" What some people won't do for so-called fun.

HOLLYWOOD SHOWDOWN...Hollywood's got more competition. And it's not from Canada. One of President Bush's many arch enemies Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has decided to take on the American movie industry by starting his country's own film studio complex to counter the cultural "dictatorship" of Hollywood. Chavez has a start on the television broadcast side, having launched Telesur, a news station to compete with such news networks as CNN. In addition, Film Villa Foundation opened with a $9-million investment to fund two studios that will produce local indie and South American movies. According to reports, Film Villa's first production is a series about Francisco de Miranda, a local hero who helped in Venezuela's fight against colonial Spain.

THE NEW AMERICAN DREAM...According to our friend Billy Johnson at Yahoo! music, multiplatinum recording artist Master P figures hip-hop lovers need their own "American Idol," so he's created a rap reality talent show, "America's Next Hip Hop Stars" ( It'll give aspiring rappers a chance to compete for a recording contract and $50,000. Like "Idol," America will be the ultimate judge on who has the dopest skills. While he has not sealed a network--or cable--deal yet for the show, Master P will host and judges include his son, rapper Romeo; rapper Snoop Dogg; rapper Paul Wall; and ex-BET VJ Free. The show will have weekly guest DJs as well as performances from established rappers. Look out Simon Cowell!

FROM FRANCE...ak-a TV is the first Black Entertainment TV on Internet offering amongst others an Afro sitcom, which is an historic event in French media. The "Tchip Show" is gaining speed enjoying thousands of Internet subscribers logging on each month. The breakout program seems to be the first-ever French-African sitcom ever in existence. Looks like these kids are destined to move into the new millennium!

DVD TO-GO...The A-List has been reporting on the industry's efforts to combat falling box office receipts and DVD sales, well now it seems many studios are in talks with Wal-Mart to develop in-store kiosks where consumers will be able to copy movies and TV shows on DVDs and devices, which would be cheaper than purchasing the released DVD. According to experts, video-burning kiosks would help counter the slowing growth in the $24-billion home DVD market.

$10-MILLION WOMAN...The folks over at Electronic Urban Report (EUR) say Shonda Rhimes (right), 36, "Grey's Anatomy" creator/producer, has just inked a $10-million, three-year deal with Touchstone TV. The hit ABC show cast also got a bump in salary. And, Rhimes has a new untitled drama set to roll for ABC about a group of female journalists. We'd say this definitely qualifies as "girl power."

LENDING A HEALING HAND...The PR folks for Grammy winning music producer LROC (Usher, Nelly, LL Cool J) gave us a buzz about a special DVD being produced called Heal the Motherland. Supported by The Mandela Foundation and Bill Clinton Foundation, Heal is an upcoming recording and television project headed by Atlanta-based World Music International. The project pairs American producers and artists with African producers and artists to benefit AIDS research, prevention, and treatment in Africa and the Caribbean. So be on the lookout for Heal in early 2007.

GONE IN 60 MINUTES?...The New York Daily News is reporting that Ed Bradley of "60 Minutes" is battling the CBS over his contract. Word is, the 64-year-old news magazine anchor wants more money. If he doesn't get his way, Andy Rooney might be the only "60 Minutes" veteran left on air. We'll keep you posted.

RAP ON STAGE...Hip Hop Theater Festival (HHTF) is about to hit NYC for the sixth year, from June 20 to 24. This year's HHTF ( features a number of highlights, including the NY premiere of Live from the Front starring Jerry Quickley and directed by Tony Award-winner/spoken word artist reg e. gaines. Hip-Hop spoken word artist/radio correspondent Quickley covered the Iraq war for KPFK and Pacifica Radio Network. Live From The Front uses music, poetry, performance, and video to tell of his travels to--and expulsion from--Iraq. There's also Critical Breaks Staged Reading Series: Actor's Wrap, written/directed by J. Kyle Manzay. In this comedy, a group of classically trained actors frustrated with rappers being cast in movies, kidnap the hottest rapper in the game. Most of the action happens at The Public Theatre.

HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE...Google has its hands in just about everything these days--including our cyber host Blogger. Now they have announced a Web-based spreadsheet application, the Internet giant's latest challenge to Microsoft's core PC software business. Number crunchers in need can get Google Spreadsheet on a limited test basis at And it was also just announced that Google will start an online payment system on June 28 to go head-to-head with eBay's PayPal. It's called GBuy.



According to a new study, television pilot production in the Los Angeles area for the upcoming season fell more than 23%, costing more than 1,000 jobs and up to $70 million from the local economy. Many other states, 25 in all, have lured production away from Hollywood with tax incentives, according to Film L.A. Inc., a private group that promotes the city's film and television business. According to the findings, in 2005, Los Angeles had some 105 pilot projects, 85% of those filmed. In 2006, there were only 81 pilots shot in the City of Angels, reducing the city's share to 68%. Apparently, New York City and Canada lured the most pilots--11 each. To counter the downturn, L.A.'s mayor has announced his support for state legislation that would give tax credits to companies filming in California.


Industry Power Players Take On Current Dynamics

A couple of weeks ago, The A-List embarked on a groundbreaking survey about the images of African Americans in cinema and the state of Urban Hollywood. The never-ending debates about the impact of certain images within the rise of urban cinema, lead us to ask for ourselves just what you think about the images Hollywood is pumping out today. Here's what you had to say.

Since hip hop has been a major force
not only in music but in film, we wanted to know what you thought about its influence on Tinsel Town. The first question we posed was: "Has hip hop--rappers cum actors and rap movies--hurt or hindered Urban Hollywood?"

A) Helped by providing more projects, a wider audiences, and more employment;
B) Hindered because it reinforces negative stereotypes of violence and ghetto mentality; or

C) Images of blacks remain the same in Hollywood, with or without the influence of hip hop.

Surprisingly, most--50%--of our respondents thought "B." But many (40%) selected "A" with "C" was the minority. But one of those who selected "C" pointed out that "unfortunately, Hollywood is just a reflection of the negative attitudes that still exist in the real world with respect to Black Americans."

Yet still another suggested we needed a "D" answer. "[You are missing one choice. Hip hop has] helped by providing more projects, wider audiences, and more employment and hinder
ed because it reinforces negative stereotypes of violence and ghetto mentality," said one A-Lister. "Ice Cube, Queen Latifah (pictured left) and Mos Def are prime examples of how Urban/Hip Hop Hollywood can be positive. Their combined credits include TV, film, music, and directing...Cube's "Black White" should garner some kind of award as he put a spin on age-old issues and presented them in a new format. Queen has singlehandedly carved out a place for African-American female rappers in the industry...Mos Def continues to choose diverse rolls that show his incredible range as an actor--he's more than a rapper playing a rapper. 50 Cent is the opposite and thus reinforces negative stereotypes of violence and the ghetto mentality. I don't know if there is any truth to the issue he has with Oprah...I do know that it is her show and she decides who and what she does and does not promote. He also comes across as unintelligible--do viewers really have the patience to strain through an hour trying to interpret what he's saying? We need to stop making role models solely out of those who survived being shot. Because we (African-Americans) are still viewed as having a singular experience and thus presented as a singular voice, EVERYTHING we do either helps or hinders us all."

Once we tackled hip hop, we decided to delve a bit more into actual overall roles coming up that could be considered controversial. Our second Image survey question was: "Looking at some of the projects African Americans have been signing on to, such as Queen Latifah's deal to do The Welfare Queen, does this hurt or help the our position in Hollywood?"

A) Helps. More people are working;
B) Hurts. We should be very careful about the images we want portrayed on the Big Screen;

C) Change society, then Hollywood images change.

Well, very few of you selected "A," just 20% of the respondents. The majority (45%) of you said, "B." One respondent who selected "B" has mixed feelings. "I think it hurts if we let it hurt: depending on the script and how it is written, what can appear to be negative can be real edutainment," the reader suggested. "But like the best filet mignon thrown up on a greasy paper plate, it's all about presentation, presentation, presentation. How do you present the subject matter? I think that's the real key. "

Another reader, who opted for "C," agreed: "If the script for
Welfare Queen sends a positive message that will help others not to go that way, what wrong with that? It's hard to believe that Queen Latifah would sign up for something that would stereotype her image just for the money. There's got to be more to it for her to have accepted the role."

Still, others looked beyond Hollywood images to the society at a whole, and almost an equal amount--(35%)--of you choose "C"--"Change society, then Hollywood images change." "That's a biggie," someone wrote in.

It seems many in Urban Hollywood believe that we do have some control over the images that are portrayed. And the problem arises when only ONE type of image is shown consistently, instead of a range of images that reflect all of urban culture in its diversity. The great thing is, that as Urban cinema continues to evolve so will these multilayer debates, and it is that, my friend which gives us all the fire we need to do what we do each day. Rage on!

what A-List talent rangler is so extra now that he does not "do" email? There is nothing liking shunning modern forms of communicating to get ahead. Wonder how one text-message happy client, known to be tied to her Blackberry even at dinner parties, reaches him. Maybe smoke signals.


Football great Emmitt Smith, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Terry Mcmillan, Tavis Smiley,
and Whoopi Goldberg were seen jammin' on the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage cruise last weekend.

Shout out to hot contributor LeAnne Lindsay and man-about-town Gil Robertson IV.

Comments, Questions, Kudos, News Tips? Gmail us at

Friday, June 02, 2006

Issue 21: Director Nnegest Likke

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Issue 21...and legal!


CUTTING EDGE...FX has just announced that Sanaa Lathan will join the cast of "Nip/Tuck" for the hit show's fourth season. Lathan will play a young woman married to a wealthy, much older man, and the two buy McNamara/Troy, Dr. Sean McNamara and Dr. Christian Troy's practice. Hmm. Lathan's signing comes just as the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that more African Americans are having plastic surgery than ever before. Guess the producers are gearing up for a slew of new black viewers.

MOVIES IN MICHIGAN...Filmmaker Michael Moore decided to make a sequel, to his film festival that is. His camp just announced a second go-round for the fest he founded in Michigan, Traverse City Film Festival ( The fest will take place July 31-Aug. 6 and feature about 45 films. Also planned is a tribute to Stanley Kubrick on the 50th anniversary of his first film. It will include screenings of all 11 of his movies as well as A Clockwork Orange, Lolita, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, Moore will host daily panel discussions with such filmmakers as directors Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and David O. Russell (Three Kings). Between Moore, DeNiro and Redford, some of the hottest film festivals just may be created by those who have mastered it.

TUCKER MANIA 2...For a while there Chris Tucker seemed to have gone almost underground. Guess he got a major rest in because now homeboy is back with a vengance. As if the ensuing hype for Rush Hour 3 weren't enough, he is now set to star in a Hollywood remake of a Bollywood hit about a gangster who goes to medical school, according to Mumbai Mirror newspaper. Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay) will direct. And here we thought Tucker had found another calling. When a good script comes along...

FARM AID, GLOVER STYLE ...Danny Glover has joined in the fight to save an inner-city farm in Los Angeles. It seems, hundreds of small city farmers are trying to hold onto a 14-acre patch of land despite an eviction notice. Glover, actress Daryl Hannah, and veteran environmental activists John Quigley and Julia Butterfly Hill are trying to help the farmers keep the land where they grow beans, tomatoes, squash, watermelon, and other fruits and vegetables to feed a reported 350 families. The land's owner has offered to sell it for $16.3 million. Hopefully, Glover's star power can help raise enough funds to keep the farm running.


According to the company, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has expanded its Voices of Color (VOC) Film Series on Tour, the retailer's sponsorship of television programming and events that highlight African-American life in film. As a part of the VOC Film Series on Tour, Wal-Mart will sponsor and participate in three film festivals: the American Black Film Festival (ABFF); the Urbanworld Vibe Film Festival; and the African-American Women in Cinema International Film Festival (AAWIC).

Besides supporting the film festivals, there are several productions the company has financed. The VOC documentary film, The Will to Survive--The Story of the Gullah/
Geechee Nation was underwritten by Wal-Mart earlier this year. The film, which explores the past, present, and future of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, gives viewers a chance to learn more about the Sapelo Island and the Gullah/Geechee people. It will be screened during the VOC tour.


Director Nnegest Likke Sees If Phat Girlz Makes
The Weight Overseas

One of the arguments often cited as to why African-American filmmakers obtain lower budgets than their mainstream counterparts and minimal marketing is that Urban-themed films do not sell overseas. Well, here's yet another example of why this myth may have to be re-written. While Phat Girlz was received with very mixed reviews in the U.S.--and harsh criticism from some in the black community--the writer/director, Nnegest Likke, and studio, Fox Searchlight, are looking for an international run to boost the film's box office, which currently is $6.9 million plus $92,201 in foreign theatres without any promotion at all in markets supposedly anti-urban flicks. This has now encouraged Fox to ramp up for a promotional campaign in order to truly drive sales.

"When we first sat down with Fox Searchlight we talked about an international marketing plan," says first-time director Likke, who worked in television for several seasons as a segment producer and staff writer for the reality show "Blind Date." "I never understood the argument that black films lacked global appeal. Take hip hop. It would not be the global phenomenon it is if someone didn't decide to test the international markets to see if it would sell overseas. The same has to be done with African-American films."

And dong it, she is. On June 22, Phat Girlz will have a full-out premiere in Nigeria. South Africa, Spain, Jamaica, London are also on the tour abroad. "The film has an African theme running through it and one of the actors (Godfrey) is of Nigerian descent, and we wanted to capitalize on that," says Likke. "Plus, Mo'nique is very well known in all of these countries from 'The Parkers.'"

The international marketing and openings will give Phat Girlz a new life. But the film almost didn't have its first. After writing the screenplay, Likke was hired as the director for the $2.5-million film, and countless struggles happened along the way. Monique's stand-in died of a heart attack. The producer, Bobby Newmyer of Outlaw Productions (Sex, Lies & Videotape, Training Day) who mortgaged his home for financing, ran out of money and the film was shut down for six months. But the cast and crew persevered. "We were the like the little engine that could," says Likke. Then Fox Searchlight stepped in. "They purchased the film for twice the budget," says Likke. "And set up a marketing plan." Unfortunately, Newmyer, too, later died of a heart attack. "It was unbelievable," says Likke of his untimely death.

Of course, there are things she'd change about Phat Girlz. "For one thing I would tell more people about all the obstacles we had. It's hard to do
a film on a $2.5-million budget," she says. "And it actually wasn't film. We shot with a HD camera, which I think is great for people on a shoestring budget and it will allow more people to get their films made. Plus in just a short time, the cameras available today are 100 times better than what we used."

In an ideal world by the time Likke's new projects hit theatres, international marketing of black films will be standard. And Likke is already banking on it. The next two screenplays she is currently working on, one of which she may direct, have international and multicultural threads that she plans on capitalizing on. "It's a large, global world," says Likee, who has one more film to do for Fox Searchlight, "why not show it on film."


Just in from the East Coast, one of your beloved A-List reporters in back on the scene in L.A. and already hitting all the hot spots.

No sooner did I touch down, did I have to rush to The House of Hype
! (see last issue for explanation). High atop one of the many exclusive Hills in L.A., this event beckoned. But like most events in the Hills, parking was dramatic and the unwanted "guests" of the LAPD and LAFD always seem to make things stickier than need be. (God help those poor staff members of Valet of the Dolls--cute name, huh?--who are still probably letting Calgon take them away as they rushed up and down the multitude of serpentine canyons trying to work it out with all these cars.) But alas, like seeing Mecca in the distance, the curious but slightly stressed attendees began to perk up as the shuttle golf carts brought the large shape of the mansion site into view.

Sweeping views, bikini-clad girls, expensive cars, hip guys, Hypnotiq bars and cool new items turned out to be what was in store. With music
pumping from the tennis courts, trendsetters and tastemakers buzzed around to check out everything hot for guys from rims to shaving products, and more. Bank of America's private banking division even supported with some signage. But while this was touted to be a tech toy paradise for men--and it did include the new Vtech i5871 phone (left), a beautifully designed, expandable system selling for about $149, and the new Coby combo DVD/CD/Mp3 unit, which looks kinda hot--it also included clothing by some of the hottest new lines on the scene.

The real standout in the gear offerings was this little gem called Chopshop, which is simple hoodies and tees but with elegant, metallic style designs reminiscent of the owner's own tattoos. The brilliance when these items hit the light is not to be dismissed. Definitely check for this at H. Lorenzo in L.A. or Atrium in NYC, while we'll be rocking our T-shirt swag from the event complimentary style. Ne-yo and Tyson Beckford have already been seen out and about in this gear, so need we say it's definitely on the radar.

Okay, so what else?

Another standout participant was Delta's Air Elite service, which is celebrating its year anniversary of the
"Perfect 10" program offering a 10-hour jet membership card (with that of 25 hours and 50 hours being offered since 2003). It's the only way to floss and the company's director of marketing, Brandon Greene, definitely sees it as a wave of the future. The only commercial airline to date offering such private jet service (no, of course it doesn't say Delta on the body of the airplane), this luxury is something you future and current ballers might want to check into (see inclusion on this in a future exec toys story).

But what would all this product be without celebs to get it for free and hawk it, right? Well, while none were in the House of Hype at the exact same two-hour period we were there, we were told that cutie Simon Rex had just left and that notables such as Ludacris, The Game, and Hilary Duff were to hit day two.

So there you have it. You've been informed. Young Hollywood setting the pace.

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