Friday, January 12, 2007

50: Stomp The Yard

Happy Golden Anniversary to us. Behold Issue # 50.


GOLDEN APPLE... We warned you recently to stay tuned for New York (formerly of "Flavor of Love") to explode on VH1. Well, her "looking-for-love" reality show "I Love New York," scored the highest debut in VH1 history on Jan. 8. Some 4.4 million people (18-49) tuned see Tiffany Pollard begin weeding through a pool of 20 eligible bachelors. And it is no surprise that it was co-created by Flavor Flav--the man's smarter than some believe. VH1 has been wise in keeping its winning reality formula, even if some pass it off as buffoonery.

FEELING BLACK & BLUE...It was critically acclaimed on stage and screen, now HBO is developing Ruben Santiago-Hudson's autobiographical play Lackawanna Blues, which was also made into an award-winning 2005 TV movie, into a drama series. Santiago-Hudson is currently writing the pilot script. We'll keep you posted on cast round up and launch date. We also just heard that the network is working on an unscripted series from Larry Charles ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") that will star rapper Kanye West about the crazed life of a ego-tripping rapper. Sounds like perfect casting. If done in that signature cutting-edge HBO style, these projects just might help the network return to its powerhouse position. Other than "The Wire" and "Sopranos" (which is wearing thin) there's not much excitement over at HBO. Magic seems to be on hiatus for the moment--but maybe not for long.

COMEDY WHITE OUT...In more HBO news, we just heard about about the HBO and U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's 13th annual Aspen Fest (Feb. 28–March 4). On the lineup is a "Salute to Entourage with Cast and Creators," John Landis’ The Rickles Project; as well as performances by George Carlin, Steven Wright and Katt Williams. While fest touts its "mission.. to present the best cutting-edge new talent, writers and filmmakers as well as featuring appearances and performances by some of the biggest comedy stars," we'd like to see more diversity here. Loving some Don Rickles, but besides Williams where are all the urban funny folk? We ain't looking for Def Comedy Jam, but come on.

THE MOUTH THAT ROARED...Things are heating up over at Sirius Radio. The network just added yet another show on its uncensored hip hop channel Shade 45 (channel 45) entitled Lip Service. Watch out for a live, weekly female-hosted talk show featuring Angela Yee, who already co-host of Shade 45’s morning show, The Cipha Sounds Effect, and Leah Rose, a music editor at XXL magazine. While the addition proves that there is a growing audience for hip-hop radio programming that people will actually pay to hear, it might lure in greater numbers with different talent picked. There must be names with greater influence to pull in to host. Our suggestion: Us. Only kidding.

PEEK-A-BOO RADIO...Speaking of Sirius, actress/magazine pinup/video vixen Melyssa Ford ("Soul Food") is also joining the network. Starting Jan. 15, she'll host Hot Jamz, channel 50, a commercial-free R&B/hip-hop hits music channel. Will she be inserting any of that steam she is known for in print to become ear candy? Listen to find out.

TAKE SHANAYNAY HOME...For the first time ever, Martin Lawrence's groundbreaking TV series "Martin" is finally on DVD. The 1992-1998 show has finally hit the home entertainment market with the release of Martin: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Video). Fans can see all 27 episodes of the show's first season along with a blooper reel and commentary by Lawrence on selected clips. Although the appetite for urban DVDs has been growing, companies have been slow in releasing many offerings. As the deluge of mainstream DVD has cooled, with the ever-increasing market for urban DVDs, "Martin" should do just fine.

COLOR BLIND...Hurray to Brad Pitt for all the hoopla lately surrounding the African documentary God Grew Tired Of Us, which he executive produced. But seems "do-gooders" like Pitt still might not get it. While Africa does deserve attention and help, things still ain't quite right here in the States. Also while Nicole Kidman's voice is melt-in-your-mouth desirable, you mean to tell us there was no prominent Black-American actor on earth they couldn't have reeled to narrate; because between Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Kidman all arm-in-arm on the red carpet, it's screaming superhero saviors. It is more than a tad condescending.
BROTHERS INC...The Massey brothers seem to be everywhere on cable. Kyle Massey,15, and Christopher Massey, 16, have racked up some TV time that even veteran actors would envy. Kyle stars in the first-ever Disney Channel spin-off of the hit show "That’s So Raven." The new TV series, "Cory in the House," premieres January 12. He also stars as Raven Baxter's younger brother with her still currently airing show. And he was the star of the 2005 Disney Channel original movie Life Is Ruff. Kyle also proved he had a few skills with the rap single, “It's a Dog,” a cut on the Disney flick The Shaggydog soundtrack. Christopher, meanwhile, is a series regular on the Nickelodeon show "Zoey 101." Note to the Masseys: Use your power to start to build your sibling entertainment empire a la the Olsens. It's about time.
PLAYING MIND GAMES... Want to get inside a Black man's mind? Well that's what actor/playwright Ron Allen aims to do with his latest project The Aboriginal Treatment Center. According to Allen, he uses "surrealism to examine the Black male experience." The L.A. premiere opens Feb. 3rd-18th at Art Share Los Angeles. Actor/playwright Jemal McNeil directs. The cast includes Lamont Coleman, Erinn Anova, Lynne Conner, and Dee Freeman. Fore more info. hit Although a daunting task because that's a lot of mind to cover, if executed well, this could spur some buzz from the industry. The result might be a spin off into film, a la Tyler Perry.
HILL ON A ROLL...He seems to be covering all the bases. Hill Harper just received three NAACP Image Awards nominations in different genres. He just got a nod for work on “CSI: NY”; another as the debut author of Letters To a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny, which spent seven weeks on the New York Times Advice, How-To, and miscellaneous category list, reaching #6; and a third NAACP nod for “Outstanding Literary Work: Youth Teens.” It'll be interesting to see which he takes home on March 2nd. If we had our say, we'd give him the debut author award; Harper doesn't get to fully shine on CSI, unfortunately.

GOT OUR VOTE...Speaking of the Image Awards, we're excited to report that The A-List's own Gil Robertson was nominated "Outstanding Literary Work--Non Fiction" for his book on AIDS in the black community entitled Not In My Family. Way to go, Gil! Also, a quick congrats to filmmaker/TV director Millicent Shelton for a nom for "Outstanding Direction in a Comedy Series"--again. And to Bil Carpenter, who will be vying against Hill Harper for Outstanding Literary Work.
FILM ECONOMICS 101...Hollywood Black Film Festival founder Tanya Kersey tells us there is going to be a Film Finance & Distribution Summit Feb. 3 at UCLA De Neve Plaza. The day-long summit will focus on recent trends and developments in film financing and distribution, including understanding a film financing transaction, how a film makes money, local incentives and opportunities, what film buyers are looking for, and a look at new and old distribution channels. Summit Cost: $150. For more info, visit

ES SALAAM ALEIKUM...Though we haven't been feeling the industry vibe in Canada, we had to give a mention to an innovative, quirky new sitcom called "Little Mosque on The Prairie," airing in the land up North on CBC. Created by a Muslim female filmmaker, Zarqa Nawaz (right) of FUNdamentalist Films, the new series is about a fictional Muslim family living in rural Saskatchewan. When you have such a influx of people from elsewhere, it is only a matter of time until they start desiring to see themselves on the small screen. African-Americans in the industry need to start taking risks and get a bit more edgy in their sitcom offerings. Congrats for CBC taking a chance on diversity. It should be only a matter of time that the U.S. and the UK follow suit.

BOOK IT...The folks over at Kimani Press tell us to be on the lookout for a new fiction imprint for African-American teenagers. Kimani TRU will cover topics from peer pressure, sex, drugs to alternative lifestyles. The novels are written by well-known Black authors and emerging literary talent, including 17-year-old Cassandra Carter whose first novel, Fast Life debuts this summer. The premier novel, however, is Indigo Summer from author Monica McKayhan. With urban youth novel the hot thing these days, it will sooner than later before Hollywood picks up a few for film options.


One of Hollywood’s highest-ranking female executives, Gail Berman, the president of Paramount Pictures, has resigned. According to the New York Times, after meeting with the chairman, Brad Grey, on Tuesday, Berman called it quits. The following day, Paramount officially announced the departure and a reorganization of its production team. The duties of Brad Weston, co-president for production, will expand. His partner, Allison Shearmur, on the other hand, will be leaving Paramount. And. Berman will not be replaced. While Berman has refused to comment on her exit, according to the Times, the "dealings between her and Mr. Grey had become increasingly strained as Ms. Berman found her responsibilities to be less than expected when she arrived from the top job with Fox’s television operation in 2005." Grey, however, issues a statement, in which he said: “...Gail’s job became too small for her. She’s a great talent.” The Times also reported that "movie agents complained that Ms. Berman, who had no movie industry experience, was too abrupt, while executives at MTV and Nickelodeon which, like Paramount, are owned by Viacom, were upset when she criticized their film projects." Meanwhile, the studio hopes to have a few new hits on its roster. Insiders say the studio is betting on the David Fincher-directed thriller Zodiac and the Eddie Murphy comedy Norbit.

An A-List Exclusive: Producers Rob Hardy and William Packer Come on Strong With Stomp The Yard

Producers Rob Hardy and William Packer (pictured, right) are more than a little anxious about their film Stomp The Yard (Sony/Screen Gems) opening nationwide on January 12. Why? Because they are out to prove a point--that a film about the Black college experience can draw a broad audience. Especially when faced with people buying into stereotypes like the owner of a Springfield, Ill., theater. Kerasotes Theaters initially refused to show Stomp the Yard because they "feared" gang violence. After media backlash and NAACP suuport, the film is now set to open there on Sunday. For Hardy and Packer, Stomp The Yard is far from violent--it is a more inspirational tale.

Focusing on the Black Greek campus life, Hardy and Packer cleverly wrapped this picture driven by young black actors with seemingly universal images and messages. Stomp The Yard ( has friendship, first love, school and peer pressure, fraternal loyalty, fierce competition--and the added cherries on top are two of music's most popular acts (Chris Brown and Ne-Yo), a young starlet (Megan Goode
), hot tracks and high-step stomping.

The pair know how to do such expert layering based on experience. They created Rainforest Films in 1994 on the eve of the success of their first film Chocolate City. Shortly thereafter, the duo began producing a myriad of corporate pieces as their film was distributed to video stores. Next came the sleeper hit Trois. The independently funded, produced, and distributed movie, became the fastest African-American distributed film to ever surpass the million-dollar mark. This landed Rainforest Films at the #34 spot of Top 500 Film Distributors of 2000 listed by Hollywood Reporter, and in the picture being in the Top 50 Highest Grossing Independent Films of the Year, according to Daily Variety. Pandora’s Box followed and earned Monica Calhoun (The Best Man) an award for “Best Actress” from the 2002 American Black Film Festival. Lockdown, starring Richard T. Jones, Gabrielle Casseus, and Master P, was next up. It was one of Columbia Tri-Star’s top-selling independent releases. It's no wonder The Hollywood Reporter named Hardy and Packer one of the “New Establishment” of Black Power Brokers in Hollywood in 2002.

More small projects followed, such as Motives with Vivica A. Fox and Shemar Moore. But with Stomp The Yard, budgeted under $15 million, the pair is looking for big-time success. The A-List caught up Hardy on the eve of their first mainstream breakthrough.

Q: Were either of you ever in a frat?
Rob Hardy: Both Will and myself are members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. We are line brothers (inducted together) who pledged in 1993.

Q: The black college experience has been mainly overlooked by Hollywood, except for maybe School Daze. Why did you want to cover this?
RH: We are a product of the Historically Black College. The friendships and lessons gained there have made us who we are. Our first independent film Chocolate City, dealt with the topic. For us, it was only a matter of time before we revisited the experience.

Q: Was it hard to convince the studio of this idea since dance films have not done well? Plus it was an urban "dance" film?
The first challenge was getting the studio to understand what "Stepping" is. There was a misconception that it was the ballroom waltz version synonymous with Chicago and R. Kelly's hit song, "Step In the Name of Love." Once the studio understood the history of the organizations behind the Steps, the momentum began to build.

Q: I understand everyone did their own dancing, was this a long process in teaching steps to non-steppers?
RH: Dancing was an important aspect of our story. Each principle actor cast, also HAD to be able to dance. With that said, the basics were there. The choreographer Dave Scott and the step master Chuck Maldonado, the put them in a four-week "steeping boot camp." The picked up the moves from there.

Q: Why did you decide to go with two musical artists rather than actors for two major roles?
RH: We had solid actors in all our roles. Both Ne-Yo and Chris Brown had the total package. They could dance, act and sing. It gave us a whole entir
ely new appeal, while still staying true to our core story.

Q: What has the feedback been from black frats and colleges?
RH: The people who have seen the film have really responded well. Many of them commented about how many fond memories it brought back of past experiences.

Q: What is next for you two?
RH: We are producing a holiday themed film entitled This Christmas. The movie stars: DelRoy Lindo, Idris Elba, Regina King, Columbus Short, Zoe Saldana, Sharon Leal, Chris Brown and Mekhi Phifer.

Q: What makes your team work well together?
RH: We have a mutual respect and understanding for each other. We are friends first, and business partners second. But we have a singular vision and a willingness to work, compromise and adapt.

Q: If there was one piece of advice you could give to a new filmmaker, what would it be?
RH: I would suggest that all filmmakers just go out
and make your film by any means necessary. Use video or whatever medium you can.
---Photo credit D.S. Hathaway

Lil Kim, shock jock Wendy Williams, Foxy Brown, Nick Cannon, Cormega, Bone Crusher, Jimmy Cozier, Melly Mel, Richard Jefferson of the NJ Nets, Brooklyn rapper Maino celebratin' at Home in NYC the launch of Hip Hop Weekly, the latest venture by Dave Mays and Ray Benzino, formerly the men behind The Source.


Kudos, Comments, Questions? Email us at

Love your stuff. Keep up the GOOD work.
Shawn Edwards, FOX-TV (WDAF-TV, Kansas City)

Monday, January 08, 2007


New Year, New Minds, New Chips - go for yours. We wish you a great '07 and are back again to help set things off right. The A-List...Issue #49.

NOTHING BUT A MAN...TV One is tackling a subject often overlooked or maligned by mainstream media--the black male. In the new original series "Black Men Revealed," premiering Jan. 14, brothers of various ages, educational backgrounds, and economic strata chat in a swank Hollywood Hills loft about everything from police abuse to marriage. Comedian David Arnold has been hired as host to keep to conversation flowing and fun. The premiere episode, “Going to the Altar. . .Kicking and Screaming,” examines black men and commitment phobia. Participants include comedian and former Vibe TV host Chris Spencer; marriage therapist Arthur Day; TV One Access co-host and Access Hollywood producer Jamal Munnerlyn; and businessman Ricky Hill. Executive producers for the eight-episode, one-hour series are Monique Chenault and Alex Chenault from MacVision, Greg Shelton from Another Bright Idea, and Marcus King of King Artist Management. This should be a good one--seems to have a good mix but only time will tell whether average Joe Black will be able to identify with these "authorities." Hurray for TV One doing more original program. Set your TiVo's, Kidz.

THE SCHOOL OF SNIPES...Another celeb is opening up a school in Africa. While not as elaborate as Oprah's $40-million South African school for girls, Wesley Snipes has just announced his launching of a film school in neighboring Namibia. Snipes, who just wrapped filming of Gallowwalker there, opened Namibia's first On-set Film Training project before returning to the States to fight tax fraud charges. The project will run by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Film Commission of Namibia and the Pan African Centre of Namibia. One of the first goals is encourage Hollywood and other film industries to employ locals instead of bringing in foreign film crews. Let's hope this is the beginning of more African American filmmakers connecting with African filmmakers and the African movie market. However, the last time we looked we noted that there is still work to be done here as well on the equality front. The "winner" will be those who can think globally and connect the dots.

CAREER SPIKE...He's been a busy, busy fella. Now he's going to be even busier as we all know by now . Spike Lee has signed on to direct a bio pic about James Brown. And, according to insiders, he's also trying to get a film called Selling Time into production. We're told it's a pet project of Lee's and is about a man who shaves time from his life to change the worst day of his life. As Hollywood cycles go, Lee seems to be one of the few African-American filmmakers who stays in the loop.

CAPTURING SOUND...After the major success of Happy Feet, Earth, Wind & Fire is now about to embark on another musical project, Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, the group decided to film the making of the CD, which includes renditions of EWF hits "interpreted" by the likes of Angie Stone, Mint Condition, Meshell N'degeocello, Lalah Hathaway, Musiq, Chaka Khan and Kirk Franklin. In this age of reality TV, we'll probably see more and more music artists taking advantage of the phenomenon--making for a marketing dream. We'd love to be an insider to see the making of the music--but we'll have to wait for the DVD.

A SOLDIER'S STORY…You may not have heard much about him, but director Richard Willis, Jr., CEO of NYC-based production company Mozell Entertainment Group, is hoping his new documentary style film, Prison Body--Freedom Soul: The Saga of Robery Coney, will shed light on the plight of a little-known African-American man, a WWII and Korean War vet, who spent 44 years in prison for a crime he did not do. He also escaped eight times from maximum security just to see the love of his life, his wife Shirley. As we always say, there are so many compelling and untold stories still to be told about Black America. Hopefully, Hollywood will wake up. Be on the lookout for this gripping story.

LOVE LOST...A little bird tells us that actress/comedian Loni Love (Soulplane) isn't getting any love from a former publicist who can't seem to get paid. Let's hope the mess doesn't wind up making her a jester in court.

COLLEGE CASH...While we had the hot backstage scoop on this earlier this summer with pics ands a play-by-play, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has announced the 28th annual "An Evening of Stars Tribute to Aretha Franklin" to be broadcast nationally Jan. 27 and 28 on BET, SuperStation WGN, and other top media markets. This historic three-hour special marks the first time a woman has been honored for her longstanding support of UNCF. So, dial in your donations and make the late Lou Rawls proud.

CRITICAL MATTERS...Well, you can stop holding your breath. The ballots are in for the laudatory season kick off. And the envelope please...The African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) has named Dreamgirls as the Best Picture of 2006. The organization (, comprised of African-American media professionals, selected Forest Whitaker as Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. Helen Mirren earned Best Actress for The Queen. Dreamgirls also captured the most AAFCA 2006 honors, including Eddie Murphy as Best Supporting Actor, Jennifer Hudson as Best Supporting Actress and Bill Condon as Best Director. AAFCA bestowed its Special Achievement Honor to director Spike Lee. And in case you were wondering, the AAFCA's Top Ten Films of 2006 were: Dreamgirls, The Last King of Scotland, The Departed, Akeelah & The Bee, Catch A Fire, Idlewild, Bobby, The Devil Wears Prada, Pursuit of Happyness, Inside Man. Let's see if Oscar gets it right.

WHITAKER FOR THE WEEKEND...If you're in NYC on Jan. 19 and 20th, spend the "Weekend with Forest Whitaker." You can at the Walter Reade Theatre, that it. Whitaker, in a rare move, will hold an onstage conversation preceded by clips from his career. The cinema date will cost ya $40. You also have your choice of a ticket to either Ghost Dog, Bird, or The Last King of Scotland. Visit With the cost of a single movie ticket these days, this sounds like a deal.

ACTIVISM GOES ONLINE...BET's Jeff Johnson is looking to make his mark on the Web with the launch of My Nation Online ( PR diva Candace Reese of Envision ( tells us the social awareness site will kick off Jan. 25th in Atlanta with activities that end Jan. 27th. According to Johnson, he hopes the site fills "a void by creating a non-partisan resource to cultivate leadership and activism among young people, college students, and young adults.

CALL FOR ENTRIES...Get your reels ready. Early-bird submissions for the 8th Annual Hollywood Black Film Festival (June 5-10) are due by Jan. 15. And, final entries must be postmarked no later than Feb. 15. So end in your feature narrative and documentary features, short and student films, music videos and animation. HBFF founder Tanya Kersey also tells us there will be a separate Storyteller Competition for screenwriters. Get submission forms at

INSIDE TRACK...The folks over at Tools of War ( tell us that there is going to be a hot new conference to help people get the jump on that prosperous new year wish. Called "Inside Man Conference: How to Get Jobs in Film," the conference opens with a screening of Spike Lee's Inside Man followed by film industry workshops and informational panels. Price: $25 (refreshments included). Sponsored by the Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Center and taking place at the Spike Lee Screening Room Long Island University: Brooklyn Campus. Visit Knowledge is power.

ACCOLADES FROM EBONY...It may not get as much hype as Vanity Fair's Oscar parties or Hollywood issue, but Ebony magazine is gearing up for the Third Annual Ebony Presents Hollywood in Harlem: Pre-Oscar Celebration on Feb. 22. Oscar hopeful and Golden Globe nominee Forest Whitaker and casting director Reuben Cannon are among the honorees this year. The event will be held at the Jim Henson Studios in Hollywood, so dust those tuxes off.

NIELSEN NUMBERS...For the first time ever the Nielsen companies have released a compilation of “Top 10’s” of the Nielsen brands--and for the most part the results are no surprise. The top three TV programs were: "American Idol," "American Idol," and "Dancing With The Stars." The top films, by box office, were: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead ($423,315,812), Cars ($244,082,982), and X-Men: The Last Stand ($234,362,462). The only top 10 ranking black project came in the documentary category--Dave Chappelle's Block Party ($11,718,595), which placed number three. Congrats to Chappelle, but it would be great to see the Top 10 broken out by certain demographics on who's watching what.

PERRY ON THE PROWL...Get ready for an other Tyler Perry production to invade the theatres. Daddy’s Little Girls ( premieres February 14 with Gabrielle Union, Lou Gossett, Melinda Williams, Tracee Ellis Ross. The Lionsgate movie is about a single father (Union) of three looking for love. It'll be interesting to see if the Perry formula strikes box office gold again.

O-VER EXPOSED...If you've had a moment to take a breath from all the Oprah South Africa school coverage you may realize that not a more noble effort become a media circus. Just what, for instance, do all the U.S. celebs at the opening have to do with the price of beans at the opening for this school ? Will they be guest teachers? Why, and speaking of teachers, have we seen no coverage of the teachers with O, the principal, any soundbites of laudatory comments from the government, or anything else substantial? Plus some have been asking about uneducated, needy black people in the States--where is their school of leadership? Unfortunately, this media act, not the building of the school itself, mind you; seems to be yet another step in the near deification of O. Now, can you imagine other "do-gooders" such as Ghandi doing G magazine with dude wrapped in different traditional dress each month by top designers and then supporting the Indian print edition with a special one in South Africa? Or better yet, Mother Theresa paying for and flying a gang of media over to cover the first time she fed starving young girls. Sometimes donations done in silence are best unless there is a pure end goal of awareness and directives for greater donations. It's the '07, dear intelligent readers. Let us not be duped by the new form of the PR machine swathed in charitable garb. Some of most compassionate acts will never be known about en mass. And it may just be better that way.


It was a history making year for BET Networks in 2006. With new original programming that drove record ratings, the emergence of BET J, the re-launch of BET International and further expansion into broadband and mobile content, BET Networks maintains its rank as the #1 cable network in Total Day and in Weeknight Primetime among Black Households.

The company had its highest-rated year in its 26-year history. “It has been an exciting year, fueled by a solid business plan and a strong executive team more than capable of executing that plan,” said BET Chairman/CEO Debra Lee. “In addition, the programming direction mapped out by President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin has not let us down. Hit program after hit program has proven that BET is in a new era and the sky is the limit.”

Topping the list of a string of hit series was "American Gangster," cable’s #1 Weekday original series among Black Households and Blacks ages 18-34 for 2006. Rounding out the list of the top five original series in BET history – all airing in 2006 – were "Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown," "Keisha Cole: The Way It Is," "College Hill: Season 3," and "DMX: Soul of A Man."

BET also took full control of its interactive arm,, with the cash buyout of its original investment group. This led to content that resulted in 56.9 million page views in November ‘06, an increase of +424% vs. November ‘05 according to Nielsen/NetRating (Nov. 2006) and 3.7 million registered users.

Other 2006 successes for BET Networks included: The launch of BET International and the introduction of BET programming on three continents – Africa, Europe and Asia – and on three separate platforms – broadband, digital radio and television; the creation of BET Animation and Business Affairs departments to expand original programming and strengthen BET’s relationship with the Hollywood entertainment community; the launch of BET Interactive’s BET on Blast, the first broadband player targeted towards African Americans that offers a mix of web-only original programs and live streaming special events; the convergence of and BET News to create a 24/7 newsroom that provides users with a constant stream of breaking news, exclusive content and alternative points of view with streaming video, news blogs and interactive polls;· BET Mobile’s debut on iTunes featuring top-rated original programs AMERICAN GANGSTER, LIL’ KIM: COUNTDOWN TO LOCKDOWN, DMX: SOUL OF A MAN, BEEF: THE SERIES, BET COMIC VIEW and THE CHRISTIES: COMMITTED. Within the first week, the BET docu-drama AMERICAN GANGSTER became one of the ten most-downloaded cable TV shows on iTunes and garnered a four out of five star rating from iTunes users; continued recognition of BET’s Rap-It-Up initiative, the largest HIV/AIDS effort in the country targeting African Americans, with multiple Cable Positive POP Awards; and increased growth for the BET Foundation with the introduction of “We Can For Wellness,” the Foundation’s second youth-focused initiative.

Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom, Inc., recently announced the launch of a mobile phone portal to deliver content to mobile devices and act as a platform to promote theatrical and DVD releases. Visitors to the mobile movie sites will be able to browse and purchase movie-related content from their mobile phones, and opt-in to receive alerts about Paramount Pictures. Crisp Wireless, a provider of mobile content management solutions, was selected as the content management software partner.

“We are delivering a movie destination site that will enable users to learn about new releases, find theatres, purchase content, buy tickets and participate in promotions,” said Sandi Isaacs, Senior Vice President of Interactive & Mobile for Paramount Digital Entertainment. “Paramount Pictures will now have a direct-to-consumer relationship to deliver revenue generating content, innovative mobile campaigns, tailored promotions, DVD/retail tie-ins and collaborative partnerships with technology and media partners.”



The birth of a new star is a wondrous experience. Watching the buzz grow around a new talent is always exciting, however, given the precarious nature of the industry, what’s far more interesting is watching that career---will grow up against the pressures of stardom or super nova back into oblivion?

Which brings us to Jennifer Hudson. Last seen as a runner-up on the popular TV show “American Idol,” the Chicago native has nevertheless gone on to catch the real top prize when she won the coveted role as “Effie” in the much sought-after and long-awaited screen version of the seminal Broadway musical Dreamgirls. With boundless raw talent and personality, Hudson, a Golden Globe and SAG nominee, is the best reason to see this film. We happened to catch up with her as she makes her media rounds during pre-award show madness.

Q: Can you talk a little about your preparation for this role? Did you speak to any of the Broadway folks behind the production?

Jennifer Hudson: "No, I didn’t have a chance to speak with any of them, but I researched the Supremes and read books about them and footage and watched the DVDs of their old performances. I would sit and study Florence Ballard, who Effie is patterned after."

Q: Was this a nerve-wrecking experience for you given that it’s your first film and so much of the weight was placed on you?
JH: "Well, I didn’t realize how much weight was on my shoulders until after I saw it. Thank God I didn’t know because then I think I would have been a nervous wreck. But I was so excited and so happy to be a part of the project that it never occurred to me that Oh God, you have a lot to do here and this is your first film and in it with all of these all stars."

Q: Did you think you’d be winning Grammys before Oscars?
JH: "Yeah! I thought I would have an album out. I don’t know if I even thought of myself as an actress. And I didn’t pursue acting actually to be honest. I’ve always been following a musical path. And to get my big break in acting and then to hear that, it’s like omigod! So, I can never get used to hearing that."

Q: What challenges does fame present for you?
JH: Well, to whom much is given, much is required—you know what I mean? I don’t think of it like that—like Oh My God, what am I going to do next—I don’t put limits on God. But, I feel like my main problem is how am I going to balance both worlds because I’ve been thinking that I am just going to sing for years. And then now I’m in between both industries. So now my main issue for myself is to decide on making the right next decision, the right move and how am I going to go between movies and music and balance them out. That’s my biggest concern."

Q: Everyone is talking about you and the golden boy. All of this Oscar buzz. How’s that make you feel internally—excited, nervous?
JH: "I can’t believe it! I’m like are they serious?! People are really serious, they’re not joking! I feel very honored because that’s such a high accolade to receive and to think back to last year when I just got the part, it never crossed my mind. So, to be here today and hear that, I can’t even grasp it all."

Q: What is your next move? What do you want to do next?
: "Record my album will be next because I did just signed my record deal, which is very fresh and we haven’t started the whole process and know what kind of material I have. But my album is next and then I’d like to do another movie behind it. I don’t know what that will be yet, but that’s how I feel." --Gil Robertson for The Robertson Treatment (


For fun, we decided to look into the future and do a little predicting of our own. Here's what some of our writers came up with. Check in Dec. 2007 to see if we're right.

If someone asked me several months ago what I saw in the upcoming year for Oprah, I would have tapped into my mystical powers of seeing into the future and told them she would expand. I'm sure many would scratch their heads, perplexed on how the Queen of Media could get bigger: Produce low cost (Reality) prime time shows! And so the big "O" sold two reality skeins to ABC via her new TV development group which is yet unnamed (I predicted it will be called HarpoHOME). I can see now that this will bring forth a new phase to Reality TV. Instead of clamoring for the next cut-throat competition reality series, they will be searching far and wide for (ooops, just dropped my crystal ball) shows that show a much positive side of human nature. I see huge crossovers of daytime mid-western couch potatoes with primetime couch potatoes watching these two series. Although both shows will perform well, one will be much more successful than the other. "Oprah Winfrey's The Big Give" will surely be the big winner of the two. On this show, money and other resources will be provided to 10 people and they will be challenged to help others in a way that tests the players' ingenuity and passion. I see lots of human drama and tear jerkers here. The winner gets to realize their "wildest" dream. Of course, a dream 'wild' enough to not frighten Middle America. "Your Money or Your Life" will be the lesser of the two hits. This show will feature families who are confronted by a crisis and must change or risk being "consumed by disaster," folks will get weary of this because not enough contestants will be "Consumed." Americans only want happy endings in movies, not reality series. Airdates have not been announced. But I see one during fall rating sweeps, and the other during spring. My cracked crystal ball says so.--By Guru Ant


It could be a sign that James Brown died the same day that Dreamgirls opened wide. Eddie Murphy’s James Brown Hot Tub sketch is one of the most well remembered and loved "Saturday Night Live" sketches of all time. It helped earn Murphy an honored place among comedy legends at 19.

Two decades later, Murphy’s James “Thunder” Early is a little bit of Sam Cooke, a touch of Little Richard and a whole lot of James Brown. Eddie Murphy gives a career defining performance as Early and without James Brown, neither the role of Early, nor possibly Eddie Murphy’s career, may have even existed.

There’s an old James Brown album, Love Power Peace: Live At The Olympia, Paris 1971. It’s an album I played constantly on an old Sony Walkman. Listening to the Godfather of Soul send the Paris crowd into a frenzy as he belted out classics with power and ferocity, I was nothing but envious.

Yeah, Brown was still touring during the 80s, however, that was after his legend had been cemented. In 1971 no one knew that Brown would still be touring and recording for another 35 years. No one knew that James Brown’s music would be the major template for Hip Hop, helping to fuel Hip Hop’s golden era. And no one could have known that along side Ray Charles, he would still be an iconic force that, even five decades after his career started, represented R&B’s youth, vitality and innate ability for reinvention. There’s no decade that Brown, nor Charles, didn’t conquer.

Without that knowledge, the Paris crowd was pure. Imagine sitting in the middle of that audience, merging with it till you’re lost in the mass pulsating surge. Hands reaching out to absorb Brown’s energy. Lungs bursting as you scream out the lyrics, stressing every syllable till your throat is raw.

James Brown was a master showman not above bragging and as a singer, performer, dancer, writer and producer, he earned it. The “hardest working man in show business” Brown was first and foremost a businessman. A businessman that understood entertaining the crowd was his trade. His business. And he never failed to deliver. --Charles Judson


Social Miami at Sagamore was packed with celebs this New Year's: rapper/actor Ludacris (Crash, Hustle & Flow), and Venus and Serena Williams were among those potted ringin' in 2007.