Friday, November 09, 2007

92: Damon Dash


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Issue #92


BETTER LATE THAN NEVER...Seems The A-List must have sparked something. Back on Feb. 5, 2007, The A-List launched its campaign and petition (/takeaction/463150484) to the FCC for increased minority media inclusion. Then on May 25, 2007 Sen. Obama sent his own open letter to FCC Chairman Martin urging that the agency take a close look at diversity in media. Now Rainbow PUSH, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Asian American Justice Center, Hip Hop Caucus, among other minority empowerment organizations have issued an open call to the FCC as well. Given that there is strength in numbers, it shouldn't be long now until we see an actual move to diversify broadcasting ownership on all fronts. It will be interesting to see how it will affect business and creative levels across the board, once it happens.

Lights Out...What do you get when you cross a hard-headed company with general business changes and setbacks? An end. No doubt some readers remember our praise and subsequent analysis of Clickstar, the Morgan Freeman new media venture with Intel. While The A-List had reached out for interviews (which were flatly denied), our publication's parent company Punch Media Group's concepts for reaching and monetizing the over-indexing Urban film lover through the Clickstar's technology fell on completely deaf ears. Well, the death toll has sounded for this company. Shame, since it would have added such a beautiful way to assist in expanding distribution for not just mega-blockbuster but for a variety of films.

ON BOARD...She may have just given birth to her first baby, but Salma Hayek isn't slowing down. She's already signed on to two new film projects. One is a 2008 drama entitled Keep Coming Back, directed by acclaimed actor William H. Macy. Hayek co-stars with Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Mos Def. Up next will be the Spanish-language musical comedy called La Banda, which she is also producing. In the 2009 release, to be directed by filmmaker Issa Lopez, a wealthy housewife falls on hard times when her husband leaves and she has to take a job as a wedding singer. No actor attached as the hubby just yet, but it will film in Mexico and the U.S. On top of all this, Hayek will also produce an untitled action flick to be directed by newcomer Nicolas Lopez during '08. Not bad for someone who says she started out by calling the William Morris Agency and asking for reception to transfer her to Mr. Morris because she needed an agent. Go, Mama!


Damon Dash Talks New Media & Breaking Into Hollywood

There's a reason Damon Dash, 36, calls himself the "ultimate hustler." If there's some new trend ready to be broken, particularly in the Urban world, he's usually finds a way to capitalize on it.

After the well-publicized, $10-million spilt with Roc-A-Fella (which co-founded and was CEO) and all its brands (Rocawear, Roc-A-Fella Films), Dash
was left to re-invent himself, and tell all who would listen, in the process. The latest move seems to be aiming to break into the film world with his latest DVD release, Mr. Untouchable, and new media with a brand new Web community called So, you know The A-List had to get the down low from the phoenix-on-the-rise.

Q: With social networks now heating up, and MySpace even announcing it will take a more social approach to compete with Facebook, why did you decide to enter the arena now?
A: For just that reason. It's the best time now. And there is no social network like BlockSavvy, which is for the Urban user. But while it is for the Urban lifestyle demographic, we felt it will have a global reach. We have more of an edge that anyone else. (Dash might, however, have some mighty competition with GlobalGrind, which Russell Simmons announced several weeks ago as a global Hip Hop online lifestyle destination)

Q: How has it been perceived so far?
A: We have 50,000 members, and growing.

Q: Were you a user of social networks yourself?
A: No. Never used--I'm a grown man. Never got into them. But I think there is a major role they play for some people, especially people in cities where there isn't much entertainment. And, for people who like to stay in.

Q: So have you left music behind (Dash launched Dame Dash Music Group in 2004)?
A: For the moment. I'm looking for a new way. I don't want to have my own label, and while I feel there will always be a place for record labels, there are now new ways of presenting music and I want to take that to the next level. Plus, I have the online venture, and my new clothing line, CEO. I realized there was only one of me; I couldn't do it all.

Q: Well, you have been steadily trying to break into films.
A: People
didn't take me seriously at first. That's why I had to use my own money and prove how serious I was.

Q: On the producing end, you've made some interesting choices--The Woodsman, Shadowboxer. (Dash also produced State Property, State Property 2, Death of a Dynasty, Paid in Full and is in post-production with a film entitled Tennessee).
A: Yeah, that was surprising to people. But I like art films. I'm artsy fatsy, always have been. So I like films that are not the typical movie.

Q: You have one out now.
A: Yes. We went to DVD with Mr. Untouchable after a limited theatrical run. It's the Nicky Barnes story.

Q: What is next on the film roster?
A: A drama about guns called Weapons.

Q: What attracted you to that?
A: The filmmaker. The filmmaker is usually what attracts me to the project. This filmmaker, Adam Bhala Lough,
is going to do well. And the film isn't about what most people think--it's about young white boys and guns.

Q: What is the status of the film?
A: We will release in 2008, after shopping the film for distribution.

Q: Although you have an Urban base, is it important to have a broader reach?
A: That has always been my mindset, from the days at Roc-A-Fella. We thought globally. We positioned it as a global brand. I brought in supermodels for Rocawear. Global has always my goal.

Q: When was the turning point for you in being able to meet all the right people to make deals?
A: I never called people up, I let them come to me. But I am finding the film industry to be totally different. But if Scorsese is open to a meeting, well...

LET'S TALK SEX... Baton Rouge, LA-based Dr. Rani Whitfield, known as the “Tha Hip Hop Doc,” is the featured health expert on the upcoming BET Special “What U Know ‘Bout That?, produced in association with the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. Set in Miami Beach, with a group of 18-24 year olds, Dr. Whitfield answers life-saving questions related to sexual health and also leads a discussion about the pros and cons of maintaining good sexual health. Dr. Whitfield will also respond to questions from man-on-the-street correspondents in New York, Atlanta and LA, and from special quest artists Ciara, Lyfe Jennings, Mos Def, Common, Alicia Keys. In recent months Dr. Whitfield has toured the country as part of talk show host Tavis Smiley's “Road to Health Tour,” with his health advocacy platform focusing on HIV/AIDS, Obesity, Cardiovascular Disease and Substance Abuse. He’s also a regular Health Expert on the nationally syndicated Chuck D Show. In 2006, Dr. Whitfield established “Tha Hip Hop Healthy Coalition,” a non-profit designed to promoting healthier life styles to young people. He also contributed to the bestselling anthology “Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community.”



Radio One Inc. has reported a 40.2 percent decline in third-quarter earnings. And Black-owned broadcaster also announced that they expect fourth-quarter results to be soft as well. Radio One had net income of $4.8 million, compared with $8 million in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue was $90.4 million, down 1.7 percent from a year ago.

A Handsome Woman Retreats, starring Kim Wayans
2100 Square Feet Theater , L.A.

She may not have been seen much on television since the days of "In Living Color" and "In The House," but it seems Kim Wayans has been busy working on a major project--herself. And now the Wayans sisters wants to tell all about her journey of self discovery trough a one-woman play called A Handsome Woman Retreats. It is is an amusing, thought-provoking look at Wayans and her life. After trying a slew of self-help books and TV shows, Kim’s yoga instructor directs her to a 10-day meditation retreat. Apprehensive feelings about the experience give way to acceptance as she discovers the beauty of silence and really hears the world around her for the first time. Wayans is able to unlock the sources of her pain and confusion to find her own voice. --Dana Rebecca Woods

Denzel Washington and wife, Pauletta Pearson, struttin' their stuff at the L.A. premiere of American Gangster. (Photo: Maxx)