57: Diversity Issues on Digital/Wireless Entertainment Front
OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
IN THE NEWS...Tired of the slim, mainstream pickings on CNN or ET? Now you can keep track of the all the media news on one website, http://www.blackmediareview.com./ Just launched by Elbow Grease Productions as a place to turn to for much-needed supplement which flies under the radar of these big media outlets but is pertinent to us, nonetheless. On the site you'll find a vast array of reviews of films, radio shows, TV programs, and music. pertinent to the African-American community. Author/activist Pearl Jr. and veteran music exec Cecil Holmes are the founder who aimcreate an independent voice that disseminates facts and commentary.
NBC BENDS FOR BECKHAM...She hasn't even settled into her new home in L.A. with soccer hubby David, yet Victoria Beckham has done something that many African-Americans can't do even with industry connections--land a $10 million deal with NBC. The British diva will host her own tongue-in-cheek reality show. Will Damon Dash, who previously "introduced" the Beckhams to Hollywood and music industry powerati, a cut? We also wonder if this program falls into NBC's diversity mandate, and if so, how will they manage to pull that off.
COVER BLOWN...Insiders are buzzing that Bill Duke is in Philadelphia shooting powerful performance scenes with none-other than diva, Patti Labelle for his upcoming movie Cover (20th Century Fox). The film also stars Vivica A. Fox, Lou Gossett Jr., Anjanue Ellis, Leon, Clifton Powell, Mya, and Raz Adoti. The thing is, no one seems to be talking about the exact theme of the movie though. The film, which is about AIDS in the Black community, is apparently close to Duke's heart as one of his female relative contracted AIDS from her husband, who was on the "down low."
FROM HELL AND BACK...Where do bad movie trailers go hen they die? Well, Elizabeth Stanley Pictures, Metaluna Productions and Mobile Streams’ U.S. subsidiary, The Nickels Group, have announced the launch of Trailers from Hell (TFH), a new series available to view through websites and mobile devices around the world. The TFH series (http://www.trailersfromhell.com/) can already been seen by Sprint subscribers via the Fun Little Movies premium channel as well as at http://www.metacafe.com/. Viewers can opt to watch the original trailer as a whole and/or enjoy a new version punctuated with humorous commentary by iconic genre directors, such as John Landis (American Werewolf In London). Wonder what Urban films will hit the site.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
FLIP THAT HOUSE...Just heard that Paramount Home Entertainment & MTV Networks will release Seasons 1 & 2 of "Run's House" on March 20th. The DVD set is being released in conjunction with the third season's TV premiere on MTV April 2nd. On the DVDs are more than an hour of bonus footage including interviews, extended scenes, music videos and room tours from “Run's House: Family Confidential.” While it's great to see yet more urban-related DVD titles in the market, we are family fared out at this point, Hollywood!
BBC AND YouTube INK PARTNERSHIPThe BBC, BBC Worldwide and YouTube have announced the beginning of a partnership to offer Internet users across the world new and innovative ways to view BBC content through YouTube. This non-exclusive partnership will create branded BBC “Channels” on YouTube operating under separate BBC and BBC Worldwide agreements. The partnership, which will build over time, comprises three elements-- From the BBC: Clips of new shows and specially commissioned promotional content linked to popular series such as "Doctor Who" and "Life on Mars"; From BBC Worldwide: An entertainment Channel called “BBC Worldwide” showing clips from material such as "Top Gear," "Spooks," "The Catherine Tate Show," "The Mighty Boosh" and a range of factual programs including those presented by David Attenborough; and From BBC World, the BBC’s international commercial television channel.
Diversity Issues on Digital/Wireless Entertainment Front
A wise academic recently explained something to The A-List that we found a little startling. In a nutshell: Each time a major technological advancement is made, the African-American race finds itself at a greater economic disadvantage than before the introduction. As far back as the cotton gin, which displaced many who made their living picking cotton, Blacks have had to scramble to re-adjust to technology advances to which they are not privy to before introduction to the market.
We’ve come a long way since the cotton gin days…or have we? As the latest invention of digital and wireless media changes paradigms all around the world, it seems that we may very well be at a very critical point at the critical crossroads once again for Blacks. You'd think this technology with create endless opportunity, but the ingredients to ensure success are always composed of two things: access and inclusion, which we seem to be presently lacking.
The doors haven't yet fully opened to us in terms of becoming true business partners in the process of creating this new entertainment media, even though African-Americans are major consumers of technology.
In fact, according to the leading mobile research company, Telephia, African-Americans are actually the largest consumers of cell phone service in the United States--almost twice that of Whites and about one-third more than the Latin population. We rule what makes ringtone sales go ‘round. Consistently Billboard’s Ringscan charts reveal 85%-95% of the top 10 money-makers are of the Urban genre. And while this might be cause to celebrate, by the time the White-owned carriers and White-owned labels take their cut, the artist is not left with much. And besides, artists are not businesses, per se. So the question remains: Are Blacks being left behind in the deal making new media revolution – from video content to audio?
We already reported in September that the large wireless entertainment convention CTIA was suffocatingly one race and one gender. And as these busy bees create expensive, exclusive membership organizations and produce panels and conferences which will shape the industry; let alone strike deals between each other, there seems to be a consistent new invisible man and woman in the room.
While such companies as Urbanworld Wireless (who did not respond to our request for an interview) have exhibited the scrappy entrepreneur survival skills not unlike that those which have launched many an indie rap label into success, this story does not have many clones. Made-for-mobile or simply re-purposed, your current mobile phone video content seems to be produced by currently existing White-owned media giants (yes, that includes BET) or start-ups that are also White owned.
Relying on more mainstream companies to automatically remember diversity may be a dangerous mistake. Just look, for example, at the Sundance Film Institute’s recent big premiere of cell phone short films at the 3GSM conference in Spain last month that featured nary a Black filmmaker or Urban experience.
It’s like someone pressed the pause button on production equity here. And more alarming is the question of who is, once again, controlling our images.
The digital/online sides seems just as sparse. No big YouTube deals so far. And as traditional media companies race to create more digital content, we are hard pressed to find any Black production companies invited to the party. When we asked Vince Broady, Head of Games and Entetainment, Yahoo! Media Group what the company’s policy was on partnering with content providing companies owned by people of color, we were politely told that there was no policy. But he added, that they realize there are a variety of users on Yahoo! so they will be looking to do something more Urban in the future. Don’t expect an exact date, though, Dear Reader. When we pressed to explain that large media companies can't provide the same thing to speak to, say, a niche market, we were told that Yahoo! Head Terry Semel’s relationships helped Yahoo! what it is. With all due respect, The A-List would like to suggest that Mr. Semel widen his circle.
So, what to do?
“There is definitely a movement that will continue to perpetuate niche programming, and those creating content now will be the next big titans,” explains media consultant Laurie Scheer. She also suggests that people interested in this scene simply start to get their new brands out into their immediate communities and from there the buzz will merge with the mainstream.
Thus it would seem that the usual bootstrap approach may apply. But this coupled with funded “incubators,” outreach, forums and even possible federal regulations just may create a sorely needed balance.
As Scheer, who lectures on media ownership and finance, and mass communication points out, "In this 500 channel universe and soon-to-be 1,000-plus Internet network marketplace, the move to continue to perpetuate niche programming will be in demand and those that are creating that content NOW will be the Yahoos and Googles of the next phase of the Web 2 and other virtual worlds."
Do all your can to carve out space now.
MEMPHIS BLACK WRITERS CONFERENCE & SOUTHERN FILM FESTIVAL
When writer/producer/director Lawrence Wayne launched The Memphis Black Writers Conference & Southern Film Festival, his mission was to "support writers, poets, artists and others who portray positive aspects and cultural achievements of African-American people across the globe."
Wayne, who is also and teacher and a syndicated columnist, has been in the mix for a long time. Besides expanding the festival, he has been promoting his various projects, including an original play entitled The Ernest C. Withers Story: Civil Rights Photographer based on the life of the award-winning photographer. Wayne, who has worked stridently on literacy issues, was recently given his own "day." The ‘Lawrence Wayne Day’ was declared and is observed each July 25. The author of the book How to Encourage Young African American Children to Read…A Black Reader’s Guide, Lawrence hopes to make the Memphis Black Writers Conference & Southern Film Festival the center of the New Memphis Black Renaissance. We caught up with Wayne recently to find out more about the festival.
Q: Why did you decide to launch the film festival?
A: I had goals myself of writing a treatment, book, directing, so I attended several festivals across the country and abroad and I thought there should be one nearby. So I launched one.
Q: What is new for the film festival this year?
A: We have numerous things--a great list of films, and we will take part in the Urban Film Series Tour for the first time. Selections from our festival will go on tour. We're also in the process of teaming up with the Soweto Writers & Film Festival. Memphis and Soweto have a lot in common--our Civil Rights Movement, their Apartheid. There's also a conversation with Eric Monte, TV and Film screenwriter of Cooley High, "Good Times," and creator of the characters George & Louise Jefferson from the show, "The Jeffersons."
Q: How has the festival grown?
A: We've been able to attract more and more big names, from Tavis Smiley to Saul Williams and Eric Jerome Dickey. We've had films from all over the world, including Japan, Russian, Germany, Canada, Britain.
A: It's the best way to get the word out about your film and to get instant feedback from attendees.
Q: Have you had many deals made through the festival?
A: Yes. We've had a number of people get video distribution deals.
Q: You are on the board of the African Diaspora Film Festival. Is it normal for festival founders to take part in other festivals?
A: We [black film festivals] face the same issues, so many of us have created a network. We aren't in competition, we share information.
Q: What issues do black film festival face?
A: Distribution, resources and proper recognition. We [black film festivals] are often the breeding ground for new black filmmakers, who might not get to show at Sundance, yet people don't recognize our significance.
Q: What steps should a filmmaker take after submitting a film to ensue its acceptance?
A: The personal touch is best. Don't just fill out the forms and send your film in. Call and give a 30-second pitch And, of course, it doesn't hurt if your film is great. After a film gets accepted, get the word out to all your family and friends. This year, one director told everyone about his screening--he called the local press and set up interviews, sold tickets to people who are coming in just to see his film. Get the buzz out.
Name: Memphis Black Writers Conference & Southern Film Festival
When: April 26 - 29, 2007
Where: Peabody & Marriott hotels, and Muvico 22 Theater, Memphis
HONORING A LIVING LEGEND: JAMES EARL JONES
In honor of Black History Month the Thurgood Marshall Center in DC hosted “An Evening with James Earl Jones,” sponsored by Verizon. Marshall is the Verizon "Brand Ambassador." An eager audience of more than 100 people waited patiently for the event to begin. Although scheduled to commence at 4:30 pm, this didn't get under way until an hour later with an eruption of applause and a barrage of photography flash as James Earl Jones entered the room. The famed actor, whose voice is known for such roles as “King Mustafa” in The Lion King and “Darth Vader” of Star Wars, participated in a discusson with Verizon Washington, D.C. president Anthony A. Lewis. Local businesswoman and attorney Karen Hastie Williams, Esq. acted as Mistress of Ceremony.
Jones spoke about the highlights of his 50-year career as well as his admiration of Justice Thurgood Marshall, which was fostered while Jones was doing character research of Marshall for a play last year at the Westport County Playhouse called Thurgood.
Jamie Foxx gettin' a double dose of love from Janet Jackson and Jennifer Husdon at GIANT magazine's First Annual Oscar Party with The DuVernay Agency, which was hosted by Foxx to fete Oscar winner Hudson at the Beverly Wilshire Penthouse. Also on the house: Ludacris, Terrell Owens, Eva Longoria, Lil Jon, Kimora Lee Simons, Vivica Fox, Angela Bassett, Henry Simmons, Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Michael Mann, Serena Williams, Chris Brown, Marques Houston, Omarion and more. DJ Irie kept the party rockin'
SHOUT OUT TO OUR NEW CONTRIBUTOR JOSHUA THOMAS.