63: The Perfect Pitch
DIPPING LOW…Looks like Christina Milian’s music career is taking backburner to her developing acting career. She just inked a deal with The CW to appear in a pilot for a new sitcom called “Eight Days a Week.” “Will & Grace’s” Sean Hayes is exec producing along with Todd Milliner ("Situation Comedy"). Mario Lopez, who got a career boost from his "Danicing With The Stars" appearance; Johnny Lewis ("The O.C."); Anna Chulmsky ("My Girl"; and Robert Ri’chard (“One on One”) co-star. Milian plays an ex-legal eagle who gives up a law career to venture into the art world. With this interesting cast mix, if the writing is tight Milian might have a TV show in her future. We'll see.
ON THE JOB…With “College Hill” continuing to soar in the ratings, BET has decided to do a spinoff—“College Hill: Interns.” And the network just held casting calls in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston for the upcoming reality show that follows eight college students as they work at summer jobs. BET's been on a roll, so this one will probably be another winner.
SISTA SESSION...The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (http://www.bherc.org/) will present the 14th Annual Sistas Are Doin’ It For Themselves: See Their Images… Hear Their Stories… on April 21 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. Writer, director, producer Julie Dash will moderate the event with an open dialog between the filmmakers and the audience after the screening. Filmmakers include: Numa Perrier (Judi); Antonia March and Jacqueline McKinley (Oxtails); K. Marie Walters (A Different Light); Dani Dixon (In Conflict With Kismet); Rachel Benjamin (The Missing Peace); and Rae Shaw (Soap and Roses). Admission: $10; call 323- 957-4747.
STRIKE A POSE…Fashionistas are buzzing about Kimora Lee Simmons’ (right) upcoming summer show for The Style Network. Tentatively titled "Kimora," the series will follow the Baby Phat diva around town and at home. We’re sure they’ll be cameos by her soon-to-be ex, Russell Simmons, and the other Simmons reality TV star, Rev. Run. How much of a success the show will be will depend on if anyone cares to see how Kimora lives her life.
OSCAR MEN…Talk about double teaming. We hear Forest Whitaker is in negotiations to join Denzel Washington in the period drama The Great Debaters, the true story of professor Melvin B. Tolson (Washington) who formed a debate team at a small black college in the 1930s that went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships. Whitaker will play the father of one of the debaters. Washington will direct the Harpo Films project; Oprah Winfrey will produce. Sounds like cinema's Dream Team.
FLAV IN FAVOR…Two Flavor Flav spin-off reality shows have made VH-1 the most popular cable network in Black households during the first week of April, according to Nielsen Media Research. “I Love New York” took the top spot and the new “Charm School,” featuring Mo’Nique, came in second. Following close behind VH-1 in Black households was BET. Eighteen million black households watch the top 25 shows, a 28% boost over the previous week’s total. How many more spin-offs can come from the Flavor franchise? We're sure the folks behind the productions--Mindless Entertainment--have a few more ideas up their "Surreal Life" sleeves.
PEABODY RECOGNIZES…Spike Lee's New Orleans documentary for HBO, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, has won a Peabody Award, as did the late CBS journalist Ed Bradley for his piece on the Duke University rape case. The Cartoon Network also got one for an installment of the animated series "The Boondocks." And two websites earned Peabodys for online projects: washingtonpost.com won for Being a Black Man and channel4.com won for FourDocs, a series of short documentaries that teaches non-fiction filmmaking. Kudos to all.
HERE COME DA JUDGE…Scoot over Judge Mathis, comedian Paul Mooney will be joining you on the bench. Mooney says he’s about to star in a BET pilot called “Judge Mooney,” which will feature re-enactments of real cases that will be given the Mooney treatment. Knowing Mooney’s humor, we’re sure a re-do of the OJ trial will be on the lineup.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
The Interactive Television Alliance (ITV) recently announced that Mobile Streams has become the newest member of its independent trade association representing the ITV industry. Mobiles Streams’ involvement in the ITA coincides with the company’s focus on the media and entertainment sector for sales of its Vuesia mobile content management platform. “Our alignment with ITA provides us with real opportunities to help future-proof our major studio and broadcast media clients with mobile solutions that keep them on the value end of the value chain,” comments Mobile Streams Executive Chris Rovtar (SVP, Business Development).
NEXT GENERATION SCREENS
Sony Corp has announced plans to start selling small televisions with a technology that's a contender for next-generation flat-screen TVs. Sony will begin marketing an 11-inch TV with an organic electroluminescent (OEL) screen by the year's end. OEL screens, which use less power because they don’t need a backlight and are much thinner, are already used in mobile phones, personal digital assistants, camcorders and other small-screen gadgets.
CBS INTERACTIVE AUDIENCE NETWORK DEBUTS
CBS Corporation has announced the creation of the CBS Interactive Audience Network, which will initially include new content deals with a host of online distributors including AOL, Microsoft, CNET Networks, Comcast, Joost, Bebo, Brightcove, Netvibes, Sling Media and Veoh. The agreements, building on the Company's existing arrangements, solidify CBS's position as the most widely distributed professional content provider on the Web. All content will be advertiser supported and free to the consumer. Advertising revenue will be shared between CBS and its partners. All content will be available domestically with select clips and full-length sports programming distributed worldwide.
"Today marks an important step in our strategy to distribute content broadly across the online interactive landscape on an open, non-exclusive basis," said Leslie Moonves, President and Chief Executive Officer, CBS Corporation in a press statement. "CBS's ability to partner with leading next-generation interactive platforms is the best way for CBS to evolve from a content company to an audience company," added Quincy Smith, President, CBS Interactive.
A rotating list within a specified viewing timeframe of programming from entertainment, news and sports will be offered including “CSI: crime Scene Investigation,” “Late Show With David Letterman,” “Survivor,” among other offerings including classic programming from the vast library of CBS Television Distribution.
THE PERFECT PITCH
By Joshua Thomas
1) Warming Up In The Bullpen: According to Barry Michael Cooper, writer of New Jack City, Sugar Hill and Above the Rim, an effective pitch can be broken down into an equation, “I think that a great pitch is a result of two things: good preparation and spontaneity.” As far as preparation, Cooper stresses doing extensive research on the studios or networks you plan to pitch to. That includes finding out about the executives you will be meeting with, their backgrounds and some of the projects they recently green lit.
Knowing your project is also a requirement. Find out what the last big hit in your genre was, what the selling points of your story are as well as having thoroughly developed and identifiable characters.
2) At The Mound: According to Cooper there's artistry or science to the perfect pitch. “Figure out what roles you will be playing in the pitch meeting, because the pitch meeting in and of itself is great performance art," Cooper explains. "Will you be the hype man/woman, warming up the room with humorous anecdotes, and the fever pitch of the emotional high-points? Or are you the more subdued straight man/woman, who only comes with pertinent facts?”
Just like in anything else that one wants to excel in, great pitches take “practice, practice, practice,” says Cooper. That practice allows one to be sure of his or her work to the point that he or she can confident in the pitch meeting. However, be wary of being overconfident, arrogant, or overly aggressive. “Suits don’t like to sweat and they don’t like desperation either. If you are desperate, then your project is too,” offers Cooper. “Free and easy makes them feel like that you know this is a winner.”
3) The Pitch: Still the most vital part of the pitch is the actual story itself. Regardless of how much you can wow the suits in a pitch meeting, if the story in not up to par the deal is not going to happen. So what separates the good stories from the bad ones? “In my experience a bad story is a story with unbelievable situations and characters. If the audience can’t connect with the characters or the plot then it’s hard to lead them anywhere,” says Joseph C. Grant Jr., director and screenwriter of the TV series "Da Stuy." “A good story puts you in the room with it, watching it unfold. It brings you in and makes you want to keep watching.”
BEHIND FESTIVAL SCENES
BRIDGETOWN FILM FESTIVAL, Barbados
The red carpet will be rolled out in Barbados as the The Bridgetown Film Festival (BFF) draws Caribbean, U.S. and international film industry folk to the island. Established by a group of Bajan filmmakers in 2004, the festival gives Caribbean films a chance to shine. While it highlights local talent, the festival has been steadily attracting filmmakers from all over the globe. Last year, some 2,300 people attended the festival, and BFF expects even more this year. The A-List caught up with BFF Coordinator Kerri Birch as she prepares for this year’s event.
Kerri Birch: The Bridgetown Film Festival was the brainchild of Mahmood Patel, Nala and Ian Smith, the founders of The Film Group, the company that produces the Festival. In 2004, the three put together a very successful Digital Filmmaking workshop for anyone in Barbados who was interested in filmmaking. Each student was required to produce a short film. What Mahmood, Nala and Ian realized that with a class of about 25 students, which meant 25 films, there should be a place where this work could be showcased. So the Bridgetown Film Festival was born.
KB: The film industry in Barbados is still in its embryonic stage. What we have been accustomed to seeing here is more of a video culture. The first Festival was a success in that it awakened the Barbadian film community and the Caribbean film community as well as and though video is the format on which our films are shot what we see now is a more cinematic approach being taken.
KB: We realized that last Festival was a much bigger event than the year before and instead of adding new elements to this one, what we'll be doing is improving on what we've started last year. So once again audiences can look forward to a screening in the City of Bridgetown, The Beach Lime, the Music Video Fete. We are scheduling more seminars for this year, however, being conducted by Caribbean Filmmakers and Distributors.
KB: We will be premiering five Barbadian films with Special Presentations of two Barbadian films, one Antiguan film and one Trinidadian film. This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Our programming is not finalized as yet but judging from last year's films we'll probably be screening around 30 films this year.
KB: There were two reasons to include this event in our Festival…The Caribbean music industry is though established in many ways still looks for new ways to breakthrough. What Caribbean filmmakers now have to go through in terms of being recognized even by their own homelands the people in the music have gone through already…It gives both the artist and the filmmaker a chance to shine. And it allows the filmmaker to hone his/her skills. What is a music video but a short film based on a song or a melody.
KB: When we (The Film Group and Warm Water Productions) first had the idea, we wanted to produce an actual marketplace where filmmakers and distributors will meet to buy and sell films or services. However, after doing some research we realized that this marketplace though needed, would be "putting the horse before the carriage." We found that most of our filmmakers here in the Caribbean had no knowledge of what distributors look for or even how to market their films. The Symposium therefore, is a way to educate the filmmakers here on the ever-changing international market standards. The Symposium in coming years will also look at other topics such as co-production, animations, etc.
KB: We do the best to promote your film as much as possible, during our Festival. So when you submit, be sure to give as much info on your film as possible. Send in press kits, trailers, posters--the whole works. Though we are small, there are opportunities here as there are in any Festival.
KB: The Festival is young so we haven't had that much exposure for big deals to be brokered. However, connections were made by filmmakers and attendees that we must admit we are very proud of. Through our Festival Sistagod by Yao Ramesar was selected for the Toronto International Film Festival where it was premiered. Our Festival Pick, a local production called Tek Dem Out by Bongo Lights was given a deal to be shown in the Olympus Theatres here in Barbados. It ran for two weeks. We expect more to happen this year. We've invited the Caribbean Media Corporation and Broken Curve, an Internet distribution company to speak on distribution opportunities. Also we've been contacted by E360, an Internet distribution company operating under Universal Studios, about the opportunity to buy film for this year's Festival. We're three years old and getting better by the minute.
When: April 28-May 6
Love In The Nick of Tyme starring Morris Chestnut, Philadelphia Showing
Before writing this review it would have been nice to peep on video He Says She Says, The Fabric of a Man, His Woman His Wife or any of the other 11 plays written by prolific playwright David E. Talbert, which reportedly have grossed more than $75 million. The reason being, this man once heard the phrases “Know Your Audience” and “Write What You Know” and he took it to the limit. A musical about relationships, centered around Tyme (Terry Dexter) who runs a beauty salon on Chicago's South Side.
At least that’s the impression one gets from his latest play Love In The Nick of Tyme, which delivers all its audience is looking for: sexy men, easy to follow plot, familiar setting, cultural references--“Green Grease” and dialog of the like. There are some issues with Nick. But it does make for a fabulously relaxing and enjoyable evening, especially when you throw in some easily accessible tunes by Philly’s own Vivian Green and introduce a cast of exceptional talent.
In fact, this is Morris Chestnut’s (The Best Man, The Brothers) stage debut. Although his role in Tyme is relatively small, he’s got great stage presence and the women of the audience are treated to a disrobing scene in the second act (PG rated).
The real treat of the piece was newcomer, Andre Pitre, who plays the UPS man and rival for Tyme’s affections. (In fact, there’s a contest on Talbert’s website to win a date with this really fine actor.) Ladies, if you were excited by Jesse L. Martin on “Ally McBeal,” then Pitre will be another one of your favorite pinup boys.
The other highlight of the cast was Ellia English (“The Jamie Foxx Show”). Her role as the outspoken and sage friend and loyal customer to Tyme really holds the play together.
The play hits Chicago next, those in the Windy City will find Love In The Nick of Tyme is the right ticket to help warm up this cold spring and get you to believing again in good black men and good love.
Love In The Nick of Tyme is on a 19-city tour, ending May 20th in DC. A-List rating: B+-List . --Le Anne Lindsay
REMEMBERING...Roscoe Lee Brown
We couldn't finish this issue without noting the passing of one of Hollywood's greats, Roscoe Lee Brown, who died at the age of 81 on April 11th from cancer. His rich baritone voice was as distinguished as his acting style. He was one we wished we saw more of on the big screen and beyond. But the body of work Brown did leave behind included his Tony-nominated performance in August Wilson's Two Trains Running, his many other Broadway roles (General Seeger, Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Danton's Death, A Hand is on the Gate, and the Gershwin-scored 1983 musical My One and Only); his appearances on the "The Cosby Show" (for which he won an Emmy Award), "Soap," "All in the Family," and many more shows. Before becoming an actor, Brown taught literature and French at Lincoln University, and was an award-winning track star.