67: Diary of a Filmmaker, Aaron Greer
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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
DOING THE RIGHT THING...Just announced! Spike Lee and an Italian billionaire are venturing into YouTube territory with Babelgum, an online video site started by the founder of Italy's second largest telecom. Babelgum founder Silvio Scaglia has announced his plans to focus more on videos by professional filmmakers as well as make the site open to the public (it previously required a password to enter). The first film up is a new Lee short called Jesus Children of America. Content by a filmmaker of color is definitely welcome on this digital front. Kudos to Babelgum. Now let's see if U.S. business folk catch up to this Italian forward thinker in terms of who to tap for mobile content.
NO SNEAK PEEK ALLOWED...Warner Brothers has decided to ban any and all promotional screenings in Canada due to the piracy rate in the country. Since it's not considered a felony to record a movie North of the border, that seems to have given the green light for certain people to go a bit wild. The proof is in the pudding. Says Warner Brothers, about 70% of its releases have been pirated in Canada during the last 18 months. Without the ability to see films before their opening dates, Canadian media will be unable to pre-review. It will be interesting to see if this helps or hurts Warner Brothers films at the boxoffice. It should however aid legitimate DVD sales.
SPACE WELL USED...Looks like MySpace is about to get a few new high-powered friends. The company just announced it will hold a series of "town hall" meetings with U.S. presidential candidates on its Web community. The goal, it says, is to encourage its millions of members to play a role in the political process. NAACP and Urban League, take note: Progressive moves utilizing relevant media can do wonders for the brand, relationships and goals.
FRENCH DOORS OPEN...You read about "Tropiques Amers" ("Bitter Tropics"), the French equivalent to "Roots," here first (see http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2006/11/45.html). Well, the historic series hit France's airwaves starting May 10. In all, there will be six episodes focusing on slavery. And The A-List caught up with the lead actress, Thiam Aïssatou, and asked how "Tropiques Amers" might forever change French programming. "This is the first time French production, and in particular a public channel, is doing a fiction on this matter," she says. But this wasn't an easy production to mount. "It was hard to find the money and...no one believed in this project. But the team fought hard," explains Aïssatou, who is one of the most popular actresses in France. For her, this was a challenging and fulfilling role. "It's rare that we have such beautiful Black characters in a movie in France," she says, "Plus..it'll probably help the public understand the violence of slavery. As a Black actress I feel concerned by anything that can helps us go further. Lastly, the character of Rosalie is a gift, and emotionally complex and complete. It was a wonderful exercise as an actress." In light of the recent presidential elections in France in which conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won, the timing seems right for "Tropiques Amers." "Mr. Sarkozy said that France doesn't not have to do 'repentance' [for slavery] but...[it] is necessary. French people are ethnically diverse--even if some don't like it; it's about time to show it!!" (photo by Patrick Glaize)
VERTICAL HOLD...According to Nielsen ratings, this spring has seen the worst TV ratings in recent history. More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year. While there could be many reasons--from increased TiVoing (which cannot be calculated) and uninspired programming to more viewers watching original broadband and mobile programming. If it's due to poor programming, judging from the unimaginative fall pilot offerings (thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/04/65.htmlgzine.blogspot.com/2007/04/65.html), the fall season might not fair any better. One solution: More diversity on TV that actually reflects the American landscape. When people see "themselves" on TV, they'll tune in.
GAG ORDER...With countless people calling for the censorship of Hip-Hop lyrics, TV execs are doing just the opposite when it comes to their own programming. It has been reported that at the 56th annual National Cable & Telecommunications Association's event The Cable Show, earlier this week, execs from Time Warner Inc., Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Comcast Corp. all urged the government not to regulate programming. The arguments were in response to a Federal Communications Commission report on TV violence that suggested government could oversee violent programming without infringing free speech.
BLAIR OF ALL TRADES...Currently playing the new love interest for Julia Louis-Dreyfus' character on NBC's "The New Adventures of Old Christine" before he hops to HBO to star in a new drama series called "In Treatment," Blair Underwood is now about to switch gears. He is co-authoring a new detective novel called Casanegra with husband and wife writing team Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes. It's the second time Blair has teamed up with Due and Barnes. He also bought the rights to their novel, My Soul to Keep. That film is currently in pre-production. So will Blair, who is also shooting his feature directorial debut for the indie drama Bridge to Nowhere (starring Ving Rhames), turn Casanegra into a film as well? Stay posted.
TECH MISSION...Richard Jones, founder of BlackReport.com, is on a mission--a mission to not only increase the visibility of Blacks online but to push for more Web ownership by African Americans. "There are sites out there that call themselves Black, but are not Black owned," says Jones. "We need to be in control of the images of ourselves that are created online and are seen across the globe." So, Jones launched the 20 Million March (representing the research that there are some 20 million African Americans online). This online campaign is twofold: "Major corporations are using our image to establish and brand Black websites," notes Jones. "And our viewing patterns online are scattered across hundreds of websites." Under this directive, Jones is urging people to make Black Report their homepage, thus not only boosting his site's visibility but "I want to get Black sites in the top-viewed sites in the world." A Black ownership drive is also underway. "I don't want us to repeat mistakes from the past--like we've done with music, haircare products, and so many other industries. We are major users on the Internet, so we should have an economic stake in this," says Jones. Obviously, The A-List, which called for increased minority media inclusion with our petition to the FCC, isn't alone in its believe that people of color need more power in all forms of media. For more info about the 20 Million March, visit http://www.blackreport.com/ or http://www.20millionmarch.com/.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
YOUNG & RESTLESS...Here's a new reality show twist. A reality program for the tween generation and younger. Nine-year-old rapper Big Korey is set for a reality run that will track him as he tries to launch his own record company. While no one has picked the show up just yet, we hear that the producers--who include rapper Ludacris--are thisclose to inking a deal. Sounds like the perfect show for Nickelodeon.
A SERIES OF FIRSTS...The writer behind the play In The Nick of Tyme, David E. Talbert (http://www.davidetalbert.com/), is about to start directing his first feature film in next weeks. It's Ice Cube's First Sunday. Judging from his success in theatre, Talbert should be able to make the jump to film seamlessly.
VIACOM REPORTS PROFIT LOSS
Earlier this week, Viacom Inc. reported that its first-quarter profit fell 36%. The reason: restructuring charges and higher expenses at its MTV Networks. The revenue results, however, still beat Wall Street estimates. Viacom's profit fell to $203 million from $317.2 million last year when it purchased Dreamworks SKG and began distributing Dreamworks Animation films. Revenue at Viacom's cable networks, which include BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1, jumped 10% on higher affiliate revenue, but operating income dropped 3% on increased expenses including higher programming amortization and selling and marketing expenses.
DIARY OF A FILMMAKER
AARON GREER @ TRIBECA
Film festivals come and go. Filmmakers flock to them in search of that elusive, though career-changing, deal. So The A-List decided to get the inside scoop from a filmmaker attending a festival. Aaron Greer headed to this year's Tribeca Film Festival. It was his second trip to Tribeca. In 2004, he screened his debut feature film, Gettin' Grown, a micro-budget DV feature. This time around however, Greer was participating in Tribcea All Access, a program that seeks to diversify the film industry (see http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2006/05/issue-20-tribeca-all-access.html). His latest project is Fruit of the Tree (http://www.fruitofthetree.net/), which was inspired by the true story of the only known survivor of a lynching, Dr. James Cameron.
DAY 1: Tribeca All Access Orientation
Pitch Day: In Search of A Deal
Stevie Wonder singin' "Ribbon in The Sky" at the L.A. showing of Morris Chestnut's play Love In The Nick of Tyme while Lorretta Devine enjoyed the show, no doubt being impressedy ex-"American Idol" sason 2 contestant Trenyce Cobbins. On the opening night for the play, Elise Neal, Michael Beach, Marlon Wayan and Terry Crews venturin' to the Kodak Theatre.
Don Cheadle, Claudia Jordan and Ananda Lewis playin' poker at the 2007 UHI Celebrity Poker Tournament at the Playboy Mansion.
Fox Atomic COO John Hegeman and Cassandra Butcher, VP of Publicity for the studio, holdin' court recently in London at the post premiere party for the studio's much anticipated release 28 Weeks Later. The affair was brimmin' with A list Brits who joined Harold Perreoneau and the film's other stars at the party till you drop affair.
Everyone was havin' a ball at Chris Brown's 18th birthday party on May 5th in NYC at the 40/40 Club and the Riverbank State Park Gymnasium. Instead of just a star-studded gala, the singer/actor also threw a celebrity basketball game benefitting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The half-time performance was given by Juelz Santana. And guests included: Jennifer Hudson (pictured w/ the birthday boy), who sang "Happy Birthday," Sanaa Lathan, Rihanna, Jo Jo Simmons ("Run's House"), Remy Ma, MTV’s "Sweet 16" show recorded all the action.
Hip-Hop artist/actor Method Man playin' arcade games at the ESPN Zone Baltimore and watchin' the NBA playoffs.
SHOUT OUT TO ANTHONY DAVIS & BILLY JOHNSON IN L.A., FILMMAKER AARON GREER MAKIN' THE ROUNDS AT TRIBECA, AND GIL ROBERTSON (www.robertsontreatment.com) MEETIN' AND MINGLIN' FROM LONDON TO L.A.