Friday, February 09, 2007

54: Stanley Nelson

It may be Black History Month, but here's what you can do to make your voice heard to ensure a more powerful history, click here now for action Welcome to Issue #54!


BALANCING ACT...We aren't the only ones who want the airwaves to open up. Seems like hip-hop's Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation are continuing their campaign to create balanced content in NYC area radio, which we reported in October 2006 ( Interested folks can join the hip hop icon and crew at an open forum to officially launch the NY/NJ area “Balance Campaign” at City College NAC Building in Harlem, NY, on Feb. 9 at 6pm. The Zulu Nation's The Universal Federation for the Preservation of Hip Hop Culture tells The A-List, that "this is a nationwide campaign to organize communities to demand that radio stations and media outlets play a balance of music in rotation and in the media--to play music that has a positive and uplifting message for our children and which truly reflects all of the images of Hip Hop culture and any other categories of any music." For more info, call 212.650.5008.

SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON...Academy Award nominee Will Smith gave the keynote speech at the first annual "Business of Show Business" movie industry symposium in Washington, DC, last week. At the invite-only event, such speakers as the Hon. Charles Rangel, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton discussed ways in which to educate policy-makers about the value of the motion picture industry. While at press time, there was response from the Smith camp and no comment from Rangel, the effort to strengthen ties between the government and Hollywood is interesting and enterprising, especially following a recent era of strained ties between the two entities. As MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman pointed out during the event, the movie and TV production industry is responsible for 1.3 million U.S. jobs, generates $30.24 billion in annual wages and funnels $10 billion in taxes each year to federal and state governments. It would be nice, however, to see how these numbers break down regarding Black participation.

BOX OFFICE REWARDS...Speaking of Will Smith. He may not have taken home a Globe or SAG Award, but his film The Pursuit of Happyness took over the top spot internationally last weekend, earning an estimated $16 million from 3,100 screens in 25 markets. Smith didn't need a statuette to boost his box office--he did it on his name alone and proved a Black film can have legs overseas.

HOLY SHENANIGANS...We thought we had heard of everything. Well, obviously we were wrong. A company called Bro. Steve Enterprises has just announced they are looking for submission to "America's Funniest Church Videos and Bloopers...Volume 1." Planned is a TV show--though no word on air date and network--and a DVD series. According to Bro. Steve, he plans to include favorite Gospel stars' most embarrassing moments as well. So, the next time you catch the Holy Ghost at service, "Smile, you're on camera!"

CALL FOR ENTRIES...Medgar Evers College is calling for films for its Film & Culture Series ( They are looking for all types of flicks, from documentaries to comedies. Interested filmmakers send DVDs, or VHS Tapes to: Medgar Evers College, Film & Culture Series, Office Of Student Affairs, S Bldg. Rm. 306, 1637 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225. Showcasing to students is a great way to spread the word about your film.

JUMP UP...We just got word about this year's
Ebony Pre-Oscar Party. It seems the Islands of the Bahamas has come on board as the only destination to sponsor the Hollywood bash. Set to take place Feb. 22 at the Jim Henson Studios, the event will celebrate excellence in African-American film and media. And with Junkanoo dancers entertaining guests, Ebony's gala might just steal the light away from the Vanity Fair Oscar party.

SPEAKERS, SCREENING, & SCHMOOZING...No, we're not talking about the day in the life of an average high-powered Hollywood exec. This is actually what will be happening at a Women In Film ( event called WIF Malibu Networking Breakfast that will take place on Feb. 9th at the Chart House Restaurant in L.A., from 8-10am. Get ready for $15 dollars worth of gems from such notables as Academy Award winner Louis Gossett, Jr.; Deborah Pratt, co-executive producer/head writer of the Sci-Fi series "Quantum Leap" and "The Net"; author Pearl Jr. (Black Women Need Love Too); reality TV diva Omarosa (pictured); author Baron J. Littleton Jr. (Your Little Black Book); and spoken word artist Roni Walter (aka Poet Roni Girl) of Acoustically Speaking as they discuss minorities in the film industry and their achievements. They also promise surprise panelists and a special sneak preview of the Pan African Film Festival closing night film, Cutting Da Mustard, with writer/producer/director Reed R. McCants and his cast and crew. Sounds like you're get your money's worth. RSVP to Candace Bowen, WIF chair at 310.457.8664 or

Digital Commerce Giant Expands
VeriSign has announced that it will spend $100 million over three years to expand tenfold the DNS (domain name system) infrastructure it operates for the .com and .net top-level domains. Internet telephony or video delivery rely heavily on the DNS infrastructure, and according to VeriSign, it has launched a project called Titan that will focus on reinforcing its DNS infrastructure in two ways. First, it will increase server and bandwidth capacity tenfold at around 20 existing sites, taking bandwidth from 20Gbps to over 200Gbps. This will allow VeriSign to respond to over 4 trillion DNS queries a day, from 400 billion currently. Second, VeriSign increase the number of sites where it operates DNS servers to around 100. At present VeriSign operates regional sites in Brazil, China, Egypt, Kenya and South Korea. It plans to open sites in Chile, Germany, India and South Africa.

According to a forecast just released by Nielsen Media Research, the nation's TV households will grow 47 percent to 163.7 million by 2050. There will be double-digit growth in TV households among blacks and triple-digit growth among Latino and Asian-American households, found the study, entitled Projected Estimates of TV Households and Persons 2008-2050. Asian-American TV households, which was tracked for the first time, will increase 166 percent from 4.4 million today to 11.6 million by 2050. Latino TV households will jump from 11.6 million currently to 31 million in 2050, marking an increase of 167 percent. And, Black TV households will be boosted to 66 percent from 13.4 million now to 22.3 million in 2050.

Welcome to a new weekly segment that you won't find anywhere else. A segment that should have been officially recognized long ago--and yes, we are "coining" the phrase starting now!

THERE'S A DR. IN THE HOUSE...New Line Cinema and Dr. Dre have entered into an interesting--and we're sure lucrative--partnership. The mega music producer will now producing a number of flicks under the movie company umbrella Crucial Films. From our insider tip, Dre will produce comedies and horror pics to start off. And he may even direct. Now the real question will be if the long arm of Jimmy Iovine will have any reach in shaping these projects. He never seems to miss an opportunity to make more money off of hip hop. We'd love to see a true hip hop helm here. Fingers, toes, eyes crossed!

DOWNLOW RAPPERS EXPOSE...Is the rap world ready for a tell-all about downlow gay hip hoppers? Well, the buzz is about to explode about former MTV producer Terrance Dean's new book, Hiding in Hip-Hop: Confessions of a Down Low Brother in the Entertainment Industry, about the gay underground in hip hop music and film. While he doesn't name names, we hear that from the descriptions you'll know who's who. But you're going to have to wait--Atria Publishing isn't set release the book until 2008. That will give Dean time to shop his book to Hollywood--we're sure there's a film or two there! You know, we'd thought someone like shockjock Wendy Williams would have beat Dean to the punch.

LA-LA LAND LOVIN' COOL J...Congrats out to LL Cool J. Not only does he have a new fitness book out and has been tapped to host the live telecast of The 38th NAACP Image Awards on March 2nd, but he just sealed a deal to star in a new drama for CBS. Called "The Man," the pilot is being written by "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker. Cool J will play an undercover Los Angeles cop who is juggling his job and duties as a surrogate dad to a boy orphaned from one of his drug busts. Can't keep a good hip hop man down.


Producer Stanley Nelson Discusses The Making Of Controversial Rap Film

Filmmaker Byron Hunt had an idea he desperately wanted to explore on film. A longtime hip hop fan, Hunt was worried about the current state and the direction of rap. Had it become to commercial? Too masochistic? Too homophobic?

It was time, he thought, to explores these issues through film. But who would dare to produce a film sure to spark controversy and possible backlash from the music industry. Hunt turned to Stanley Nelson, executive producer of Firelight Media, a NYC- and Bay Area-based independent non-profit production company dedicated to to telling the stories of people, places, cultures, and issues underrepresented by mainstream media.

Thus Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes was born. After receiving rave reviews at film festivals, it is now set to air Feb. 20th on PBS' "Independent Lens," which is hosted by Terrence Howard.

"This takes a look at hip hop with a questioning eye. No one else has done so," says Nelson. who himself has directed countless groundbreaking documentaries, such as The Murder of Emmitt Till, Duke Ellington's Washington, and A Place of Our Own. "You cannot play the radio for a half an hour without hearing hip hop, and its a certain type of hip hop that is getting played. This [film] is really important because it takes a look at how hip hop affects young men and their images of themselves and the world." When Hunt approached Nelson about the idea in 2000, he had no funding initially, but he soon received backing from The National Black Programmers Consortia and Independent Television Service (IVTS). The National Black Programming Consortia awarded Hunt $50,000 in production money, which only covered a quarter of his production budget. The 9/11 tragedy got Hunt's fundraising effort sidetracked as most available grants at the time were going to documentaries about terrorism. After three years of applying for funds, Hunt was awarded $291,612 by IVTS, a private corporation that funds, presents and promotes independently produced programs for public television. Nelson helped Hunt raise funding from other sources as well.

Beyond Beats features rap industry insiders Talib Kwelis, Mos Def, Chuck D, Russell Simmons, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, among others discussing issues rarely talked about in rap circles--including sexism, violence, and masculinity. There are also interviews with fans, industry executives and hip hop culture experts. "The images that today's rap portrays is what is sent all over the globe and is who the rest of the world sees African Americans [as a whole]. This needs to be addressed. It also needed to be addressed why this is the type of music radio stations are playing and why the record companies are putting it out," says Nelson.

Though conceived as a "loving critique," there could be some concern about backlash from the hip hop community, seeing the film as bashing their art--and business. But says Nelson, "Don't get me wrong. This is an inside look and a loving look at Hip Hop. The feedback we've gotten has been great; it seems to be a film that has impressed people such as my 17-year-old daughter to myself, a 55-year-old father. Rappers who have seen screenings have given it good feedback." And the film is achieving its goal. "This film has sparked a dialogue. Bryon has been showing the film at festivals and colleges, and the discussions afterward prove that it has hot a nerve."

Nelson and Hunt next hope to create debate overseas, as they are in discussions for foreign distribution. And, Nelson says that a BET executive also attended a screening. With the film attracting industry insiders, it is not only gaining momentum but helping to position Hunt as a major new player in Hollywood. According to Nelson, he is also trying to reel Hunt in to direct another film for Firelight, and he himself will see the release of another documentary called Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple for PBS' "American Experience."

Agree or disagree. Beyond Beats takes Hip Hop filmmaking to a new level--as a bonafide cultural phenomenon and not just a fast-buck, fast-food film fare.