issue 22: IMAGE SURVEY
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Dazzling and as fabulous as always. You know you love it. Issue #22
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
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" (http://guttarmusic.com/). 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 (www.hiphoptheaterfest.com) 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 spreadsheets.google.com/. 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.
PRODUCTION OPPORTUNITIES DWINDLE FOR L.A.
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 hindered 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!
DIVA MOVE OF THE WEEK
Guess 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.
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