Friday, April 27, 2007

65:Pilots/BET Upfront

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CHANGING THE DIAL?...Kicking off this week is the strong rumor that radio titan Cathy Hughes, founder/CEO of Radio One, may be looking to sell off a few of her radio channels in order to give a financial boost to TVOne, which Radio One co-owns. Insiders say that she may be making this move to hedge her bets on television in the wake of Imus radio scrutiny. This, plus the fact that Urban audiences are hungry for channel choices. And especially since TVOne has been getting ratings boosts in the last few weeks. We'll keep you abreast should a deal go down.

HISTORIC TV...In an unprecedented move for the network, BET announced earlier that it will for the first time in its 28-year history introduce its first scripted original series. "Somebodies," based on a '06 Sundance film about group of Black slackers, will premiere in October; no word on casting. You know The A-List will keep you posted.

CALL FOR ENTRIES...For the second year, Tribeca Enterprises and John Polson, founder of Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival, have teamed up for Tropfest@Tribeca. It will take place as a stand-alone event on Sept. 16 at NYC's World Financial Center Plaza and is now accepting submissions. Here's what's unique about Tropfest: Filmmakers are given a word or phrase—the Tropfest@Tribeca Signature item—that must appear or be referred to in the films. The 2007 Tropfest@Tribeca Signature Item is “slice.” Through Aug. 10, Tropfest@Tribeca will accept shorts for entry into the competition. Submissions must contain the Tropfest@Tribeca Signature Item and be no longer than seven minutes, including the title and credits. In addition, Tropfest@Tribeca must be the film’s first public screening. For details, visit

LIVE & IN PERSON...Remember actress Ella Joyce who co-starred in the TV show "Roc"? We just got word she will star in a one-woman tribute to Rosa Parks, A Rose Among Thorns, at L.A.'s Stage 52 Playhouse on various dates in May, starting May 5. For info, call 323-549 9026. Joyce has been busy since "Roc" ended in 1994, appearing in TV shows and films, including her most recent movies City Teacher, Lost Signal, and A Simple Promise. So check her out on stage while you have the chance. But don't call it a comeback.

THEN THERE WAS...Just as Black films have taken the family friendly turn, TV is doing the opposite. It was just announced that Atlanta-based Black Family Channel will fade to black April 30. Word is the cable network, which was launched eight years ago and had 16 million subscribers, could not secure the cable and satellite distribution it needed to stay on the air. Among the owners are celebs: Marlon Jackson of The Jackson 5 and former heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield. Obviously, this loss is indicative of the need for more minority media power and ownership. Take a look at The A-List petition to the FCC, and take a stand:

ON AUTO PILOT...Having taken a look at the fall season pilots, there seems to be a few trends emerging: the British invade, safe bets in classics, reality still bites, L.A. cops have drama; and multi-cultural casts rule while very few black and brown faces take the lead. Here's a taste.
  • ABC: "Cashmere Mafia," from "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star is about--guess what--a group of women in NYC but there are a couple women of color: Lourdes Benedicto ("The Nine," The Fighting Temptations) and Lucy Lui; drama "Perfect Gentlemen" is about four friends who are up-and-coming execs. Nia Long is among the ensemble cast; "Eli Stone" is about a psychic lawyer. Loretta Devine is on the cast; Charles Dutton and Michael Ealy star in crime drama "Suspects"; do-good contest show "Oprah Winfrey's The Big Give"; "Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office," a Jane Curtin comedy with Flex Alexander (pictured).
  • CBS: "Los Duques" is a Latino family drama. No cast announced but Cynthia Cidre penned the pilot and will exec produce along with Jonathan Prince, Polly Anthony, and Jimmy Iovine; L.A. cop drama "Protect & Serve" will feature Latina actress Victoria Cartagena; vampire-flavored "Twilight" counts Latino actor Benjamin Benitez as a cast member; LL Cool J stars in "The Man," another L.A. police drama; Freddie Prinze Jr. helms "Atlanta."
  • NBC: Author Candace Bushnell hopes to repeat her "Sex and the City" success with "Lipstick Jungle," which like its predecessor is color-free; the former "face" of J. Lo's clothing line Natalie Martinez has been cast in the drama "Chuck"; we were happy to see Viola Davis as one of the stars of "Ft. Pit," a light-hearted Brooklyn cop drama with Dania Ramirez as a cast member; Spike Lee's "M.O.N.Y." features Bobby Cannavale ("Third Watch") and Carmen Ejogo.
  • FOX: Actor/singer Keith Robinson is on the cast of cop show "The Apostles," based strangely in Simi Valley (aka the venue of the Rodney King trial); African-American comediennes Frances Callier and Angela Shelton (pictured) have described "Frances and Angela" ( as what happens when each woman releases her--PC police, cover you eyes--"inner Black bitch"; The Terminator lives with "The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Richard T. Jones is on the cast.
  • THE CW: One of the few shows with a majority of African Americans starring, "Hell on Earth" features Kyla Alissa Pratt, Dawnn Lewish, Kim Coles, and Lamont Thompson. It's a comedy about a spoiled girl killed in a bus accident and granted a second chance at life; "Eight Days A Week" (see; Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are behind "M.I.L.F. and Cookies," a comedy about sexy single moms;
  • TV LAND: George Foreman and clan debut on reality TV in "Family Foreman."
  • BET: (see " Inside BET's Upfront" below)

SMOOTHING OUT THE EDGES...Here's a unique program. The Rough Cut Labs for Narrative & Documentary Features is a national program connecting mentors and projects before they are submitted to festivals. And the program has announced its lab schedule: Narrative Rough Cut Lab, June 12-15; Documentary Rough Cut Lab, Nov. 6-9. For submission deadlines visit: On Rough Cut Lab Advisory Board are some familiar names, including St. Clair Bourne, filmmaker, Chamba Mediaworks, Inc.; Effie Brown, producer, Rocket Science, Real Women Have Curves; and Warrington Hudlin, founder/chief, dvRepublic.

WORK IN PROGRESS...Elijah Rock ( dashed over a gmail to tell us all about a feature film he's working on called The Family Will. Currently, he has a short ready-- Rock expects to release The Family Will in Sept. Rock and Kevin Dushon Threat’s production company is called Pick Up The Ball Filmworks and they are currently meeting with potential independent investors who are showing interest in the feature film, which they have budgeted for under $5 million. "We’ve also submitted the short to the American Black Film Festival and Urban World Film Festival," notes Rock. Already attached is Stu Large. So what makes The Family Will a potential hit? "This film will stand out because it is the first Urban comedy to come out of Cleveland, where we will shoot the feature," says Rock. "We have not seen this kind of Midwest story in Black film yet. The Karamu House, in Cleveland, is the oldest Black theatre in the country. Many of Hollywood’s Black elite have traveled through Karamu. Therefore, we intend to make Karamu actors a part of this film project." The film will also spark debate, notes Rock. "The other reason it will stand out is because it deals with real family issues. How many black folks do you know, that don’t have wills?...It also explores the issue of accountability in the Black Church."

SEND IN YOUR FILM...Film Life's 11th Annual American Black Film Festival, which has relocated to L.A., has put a call out for entries. The fest, which takes place Oct. 25-29, has had 70% of its screened films go on to secure theatrical or DVD distribution. So visit for details and get that submission in. You might just find yourself a deal.

BEDROOM DIVAS...Shhh. We know what you'll find in the bedrooms of actresses Kerry Washington, Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Hudson and Kimberly Elise? Neero & Ana’s satin pillowcases. African-American women in particular love these cases, as these soft and sleek pillowcases ( offer no-fuss hair protection. It's one way to keep your weave looking fab and camera ready.

WARTY NIGHTMARE?...Will Disney's upcoming The Princess and The Frog (formerly called The Frog Princess) turn out to be a nightmare instead of the first Black fairytale that the company announced recently. Going off the brief description Disney gave out, the new project seems that Disney was taking diversity seriously. And earlier this week word leaked out that Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) had signed on to provide the voice of the title character, beating out Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Tyra Banks. But avid A-List reader filmmaker/designer Shirley Bruno ( tells us there maybe a few warts on The Princess and the Frog. "I recently discovered The A List and...been hungrily reading all your previous installments with glee. Your radar is perpetually broad in scope, cutting edge, and often informative...I love it!" says Bruno.

"However, I was shocked to see how carelessly you guys treated Disney's animation film in the making. What the hell! Disney's first Black fairytale and the lead is a Black chambermaid who runs way with a White prince?! There's a villainous Voodoo priest!" Seems a roundup of the film's major characters popped up on ( Maddy, a 19-year-old chambermaid; Charlotte La Bouff, an 18-year-old spoiled, southern Debutante and Diva; Dr. Duvalier (get the Haitian dictator reference); Mama Odie, an elderly, 200-year-old Voodoo priestess/fairy godmother; Ray, a lovesick Cajun firefly; Louis, a Jazz singer alligator; Prince Harry, a gregarious, fun-loving European Prince; Lawrence, Prince Harry's pompous valet; Big Daddy La Bouff, a wealthy, Southern plantation landowner and father of Charlotte La Bouff; Eudora, Maddy's mother and Charlotte's ex-nursemaid; George, the La Bouff family cook; Little Arila, Maddy's sister. So The A-List asked Disney to clarify.

According to Disney spokesperson Heidi Trotta: "While it is a Studio policy that we do not comment on our animated films while they are in the early stages of production due to the nature of our evolving development process, it has come to our attention that there is incorrect information being circulated about Disney’s 2009 motion picture The Princess and the Frog (whose previous working title was The Frog Princess). The central character is a young girl named Princess Tiana. The story takes place in the charming elegance and grandeur of New Orleans’ fabled French Quarter during the Jazz Age. She is the newest addition to the Studio’s royal family of “Disney Princesses.” Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney’s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity. This American fairy tale is several years away from completion and the creative process is ongoing. No other details regarding the film have been released at this point, and unfortunately much of the information that has surfaced, including the casting inaccurate. When we do casting calls we frequently use substitute information as we don't want details out about the movies. Therefore that information you have is incorrect." The A-List will keep an eye on the developments of The Princess and The Frog and the various characters. So stay tuned. And shout out to
Shirley Bruno for the heads up!

IN NEED OF FILMS...The 5th annual Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival wants all to know it is still accepting film submissions for the festival, which takes place Aug. 8-11. Visit This year's event promised to be bigger and better, so send in those reels.

SCREENWRITERS ALERT...We hear that Swift Street Productions and Tijuana Entertainment are developing a series of features for theatrical release based on novels published by Vibe Books/Vibe Street Lit., targeting a young, Urban audience. The first two titles in the series are: the gritty, coming-of-age tale Death Around the Corner by rapper C-Murder, and Snow by Kenji Jasper. But they aren't ready to roll just yet. They are looking for African-American writers to adapt the books to screenplays. Call 310-341-2500 for details. Though street novels have yet to be given the thumbs-up by literary circles, they have been successful with a niche market--mainly Urban teens. But the film versions if written well and great directors are tapped, could get a broader audience.

CINEMA ON TOUR...And Then Came Love, starring Vanessa Williams, Eartha Kitt, Kevin Daniels, Michael Boatman, Stephen Spinella and Ben Vereen will kickoff the 2007 Urban Film and Discussion Series hosted by Landmark Theatre in DC on May 10. Following the screening, there will be a discussion and Q&A with the film's writer-producer, Caytha Jentis, and other members of the cast and crew. The discussion will be moderated by Corey "CJ" Jennings, Urban Film Series founder. The tour, which was founded in 1994, will head across the U.S. To find out what's happening in your city, hit It's a great way to get a sneak peek on upcoming Urban flicks.


BIG PICTURE BLURRED...The saga continues. With Hip Hop taking a beating on all fronts, The Rev. Al Sharpton has announced he's planing a full-on battle against rap music by trying to buy stock in various music companies and their parent firms (such as Time Warner and Universal Music) so he can attend shareholder meetings and voice his opinion about raunchy and sexist Hip-Hop lyrics. This is nothing new; C. Delores Tucker did the same tactic in 1995. Our two cents: Sharpton and others seem to be missing the point. Though surprisingly the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan got it when he recently told "It's bigger than our rappers. There are powers that want to keep us killing each other...What they see is your power. And now they want to reclaim their children, so they want to make the enemy now Hip-Hop." The A-List thinks it just may be a smarter business move be for Sharpton to encourage all the mega-powers in the Black community to pool their monies and resources to create a multi-media conglomerate that will finally have the power to promote and market a broader ranges of images for the Urban community. Instead of this small inner circle that seems to only benefit by these Sharpton and Jackson type raids.

TARGET PRACTICE...MySpace is coming under heat for what many have deemed offensive ads called "Shoot The Rapper." The advertisement features an animated rapper that resembles real rapper and a photographer whose camera you have to position to "shoot the rapper." If you can, “You will win $5000 or 5 ringtones guaranteed.” While such ads have featured other celeb types, the Hip-Hop community isn't too happy about this latest marketing twist. "I think the 'Shoot the Rapper' ad is pathetic," says Rasheeda (pictured), who is signed to D-Lo/York Records/Imperial. "People wanna talk about Hip Hop and its negative influence but wanna use Hip-Hop artist as a target...and then reward people with money and ringtones once they 'shoot' them, how stupid is that." Adds her labelmates, underground rap group Super Flight Chron Brothers: "[This is] a perfect example of the hypocrisy one deals with living in this country every day. They fire Don Imus, then say Hip Hop is to blame. We grow up watching action movies and then are told Gangsta Rap is bad. We have shows like 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' and then wonder why kids don't want to work at McDonalds...It's only a matter if time before Anderson Cooper is interviewing Jim Jones about MySpace, watch and see." Continues Dr. James Peterson, founder of Hip Hop Scholars, LLC and assistant professor of English at Pennsylvania State U. at Abington: "The mainstream media are doing everything they can to assassinate the character of our culture...The ad takes on more popularity now because of the backlash and the systematic attempt to kill Hip Hop by scapegoating it for all of the ills of American society, including gun violence, misogyny and racism....We need to redress Anderson Cooper, Jason Whitlock, and Oprah Winfrey. These folk are taking out rappers for real --not in some animated advertisement."



A bill introduced in Congress last week aims to overturn a controversial royalty fee increase. The "Internet Radio Equality Act" was introduced by Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) and would void a recent decision by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board that calls for raising royalty rates paid by Net radio operators. The rules call for rate increases of .08 cents per song per listener retroactive to 2006. They would also climb to .19 cents per song (or a 30 percent increase per year) by 2010. The new House bill is a compromise: It would set the rate at 7.5 percent of the Webcaster's revenue "directly related to" its transmission of sound recordings, or 33 cents per hour of sound recordings transmitted to a single listener. That rate would also apply to satellite and cable radio operators.



Well, by now everyone must know that BET, interestingly enough, had its L.A. version of its New York Upfront last week. But, as they say on "Access Hollywood," only we take you inside --A-List style. And you may just be surprised at what you read. Ready for the jump off?

Let's go.

Rushing during what turned out to be yet another unseasonably cool night, we thought we had arrived late to the Kodak Theatre area to get our inside peek at BET's new season lineup. After all, being forewarned that seating would be limited and that doors opened at 5pm for a 6pm "show," we thought 5:45 was really pushing it.

Ah, not so in BET world. With quite vocal attendees in both white and brown hues, most were still left outside at this time and actually ended up not even being ushered in until about 6:20. We had passed the time by talking with reps from a White production company-on-the-rise with not one but two series they are producing for BET in what seemed to be their one and only gig at the moment. We're sure some Black creatives are dying for a similar chance, what with the void of Black-owned production companies getting shows on the air in cable. (Our interest was peaked, to say the least, to see just how the further production deals would fall as the network would reveal its offerings inside.) The delay in getting started was due to what we heard was a exec rehearsal still going on. Trying to keep a positive vibe, we snatched up a quick glass of complimentary white wine, chatted a bit and then found ourselves being beckoned by a loud speaker about 15 minutes or so after entry.

Now to the show.

You know how these things go: No network is better than whose upfront you are attending, suits on stage attempting to be engaging as they talk facts and figures.

But with the introduction of the actual rollout of the upcoming line up, things got a bit interesting. While we have to commend, the network for it's actually deciding to add scripted programming and all after what, 28 years?, we're just not too sure of all the offerings. While not totally true innovation here, we can't say viewers won't tune in to many of these programs. From reality programs about ministers ("Exalted" produced by Strange Fruit) to animated programming to a brown version of "The Hills" ("Baldwin Hills" from McCommera Filmworks), to a brown gospel version of "American Idol" ("Sunday Best" from one of the producers of "American Idol"), the effort is ambitious. And even maybe risky as the crowd was visibly uncomfortable with a Tyra Banks forehead segment in an animated series entitled "BUFU" (which seems like someone with dyslexia being inspired by the old clothing brand FUBU. Other program offers include the Paul Mooney venture "Judge Mooney." Will Smith's Overbrook is in the mix as well with a cartoon series the company is producing.

All in all, we're waiting to see the verdict here. Yes, ratings have shot up for this network with programming such as the Tracey Edmonds-produced "College Hill" and specials like "American Gangster." Kudos, but one can only help that from the timing of the Upfront to creativity in programming that everything marches ahead.

LA VIE EN ROSE, Icon Pictures

Absolutely loved it! From director Olivier Dahan La Vie En Rose is the biopic of the legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf and starring Marion Cotillard (A Good Year).

What a rags to riches to F*** You--I did it my way story! I've not seen an actress slip so seamlessly through emotions in a long time... her passion, her resilience conveyed effortlessly.

The film was simply shot but the simplicity underscored the director's intentions that much more. Viewers are transported back to the days of Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin, etc. while placed in the middle of Paris. Well done.

On the down side, the continuity was off--there were several gaps in the film that didn't make sense. Not all the characters were developed enough so that at minimum you understood where they fit into Piaf's life. The scene about the death of her daughter came out of left field--the placement was strange and seemed more like a bad editing decision. Also, with the current editing the film is probably about 10-15 mins too long. However, that said, the music and intensity of the film pretty much overshadowed its discrepancies.

It's a great film, about a legendary singer... I have no doubt many, many people don't know her story but would welcome the chance to hear it, view it, feel it. Rating: B+ List. --Melissa Ross



Two NYC DJs and production Oliver Stumm & Domie Clausen also known as "A Touch of Class" spent time spinning their fav tunes for the L.A. locals at Zanzibar Club in Santa Monica on April 20. The event capped off a week of eclectic turntabling for the promotion of their latest CD, A Touch of Clas Still Sucks! at L.A.'s The Standard and The Black Disco Social. They spinned tunes from various genres and time periods such as neo-soul, electronica, rock, alternative, keeping the patrons on the dance floor and happy. --words and photo by Anthony Davis