Tuesday, April 03, 2007

62: Lost In The New Frontier


MAC ATTACK 2...It didn't take long. "The Bernie Mac Show" has been off the airways just a year, but the comedian already has another TV deal. We hear he and Ben Silverman (the executive producer of "Ugly Betty" and "The Office") are working on a pilot for NBC. Called "Welcome to the Family," the new show, if picked up, will be a reality show about soon-to-be-engaged couples. The twist: The couples involved will be from totally different religions, ethnic and cultural backgrounds--all the elements for real-life family drama. Mac will narrate--and executive produce.

BALD IS BEAUTIFUL...Hoping to break her Oscar curse, Halle Berry is going for shock value in her next film--Nappily Ever After. Perhaps taking a lead from Brittany Spears, Berry will be bald in the Universal flick, set for an '08 release. Optioned by Berry, the film is based on the Trisha Thomas novel about Black women and their hair issues. Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves) is now set to direct, in place of screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism (ATL, Drumline).

TV WITHOUT A SCRIPT...Sooner or later it seems many celebrities get around to the reality circuit. Now former R&B star Taj, of the now-defunct group SWV, is headed to train-wreck TV. She and hubby, ex-football player-turned-sports commentator Eddie George, are having their lives documented on the TV One reality show "I Married A Baller." The show debuts April 21.

BALL'S IN THEIR COURT...These days, BET always has a new show announcement. Add a sports talk show to the network's growing lineup. Hosted by former NBA star John Salley, former NFL player Hugh Douglas and to add the light touch to the show, comedian Guy Torry, the hour-long series "Ballers" at debuts April 20. Tony McCuin will direct and creator John Johnston will serve as executive producer and director. The weekly show features the hosts gabbing about sports in a nightclub environment, with topics ranging from serious issues to silly plays. In an effort to attract both men and women, the show will also have a female presence--provided by DJ Rashida's "girl's booth" and Claudia Jordan ("Deal or No Deal") serving as a correspondent. A female athlete, maybe Serena or Venus Williams, might have been even more impressive.

SUMMER TUBING...Looks like it will be a hot summer over at TNT. Among the shows on the "We Know The Drama" network's lineup: "The Closer," "Saving Grace," "Law & Order," "ER," just to name a few. And at sister station TBS, comedy reruns rule--"King of Queens," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Sex & The City," and not to mention the original program, "Tyler Perry's House of Payne."

FOXY FRIENDS...While it is sometimes like pulling teeth to get screeners from other studios, the folks at Fox dashed over the Home Videos of Last King Of Scotland and Notes on a Scandal. If you want to see a couple of good flicks in the comfort of your own crib, pick these two DVDs up either at your local store or even the library.

MONEY TALKS...Move over Hanks, Cruise and Gibson. Will Smith has now taken the title of the "most powerful actor in Hollywood," according to the new issue of Newsweek. The publication determines an actor's power primarily by opening-weekend grosses. What put Smith on top? A worldwide career box office of $4.4 billion! On the Newsweek list, Smith is followed by Johnny Depp at No. 2 and Ben Stiller in third place.

BROWN & BLACK POWER MOVES...Call it a multicultural trifecta. TV One, Sí TV, The Africa Channel have formed an alliance for diversity in programming. The minority targeted cable networks recently joined forces with civil-rights organizations and civic groups to form the Alliance for Diversity in Programming, which plans to lobby against any a la carte regulation. Among the groups involved: Black Leadership Forum, the Hispanic Federation, the Hispanic Telecommunications and Technology Partnership, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Congress of Black Women, the National Council of La Raza and the William C. Velasquez Institute. Seems like The A-List was leading the way when we launched our petition on Feb. 5, 2007 to challenge the FCC for increased minority media power and inclusion (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/463150484).

...Shout out to our own Gil Robertson as he makes his way to DC on April 13 to do yet another book signing for Not In My Family: AIDS in the African American Community (http://www.notinmyfamily.com/). This one's at Karibu, The Mall at Prince George ’s. So don't miss it.

EXTRA CREDIT...Here's initiative for you. Three Philadelphia college students have created a new kind of Internet-based media platform. Called TUV (TUVonline.com), or Truly Unique Vision, it's a broadband video channel that showcases college lifestyle. Jason Smikle, Ebele Mora and Fabricio Sousa, originally founded TUV as a video production company that used works of students from Temple, the University of Penn and Drexel University. Spoken word artists and rappers created projects as well. The Website's content now includes original video clips featuring dance performances, fashion shows, poetry slams, commentary on topical points of view and a roving party cam. And, the TUV crew has already contributed to ESPN360, Comcast and Sprint. "We’ve become a primary source for ideas and anything that deals with the college market with a few media companies and ad agencies," says Smikle. So what's next? "When it comes to creating media concepts for the ultimate goals of TUV are simple. One, as a company, to be the youngest production company in the game that produces fresh, new concepts for a young audience," says Smikle. "Our website, TUVonline.com, is a representation of what you can do when young, creative minds come together...Our company has 20 brilliant, young 'student-producers' that work on TUV across the country—now our challenge is to get more companies to hear about us...By listening to their target they can connect with them better, and for the first time we are representing that. Since the beginning, we knew we had something special. It was everything you don’t see nowadays with the big media giants... Creative, original, innovative and unique." Sounds like a solid plan.

OPENING DOORS...The Tribeca Film Festival along with the Tribeca Film Institute have announced the selected projects for Tribeca All Access (TAA), a program designed to help foster relationships between film industry execs and filmmakers from traditionally underrepresented communities. TAA
will present projects at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (April 25-May 6). The 32 narrative and documentary directors and screenwriters selected to participate represent members of the African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Native-American and Pacific Islander communities. And this year’s TAA projects span a range of topics, including director Benson Lee's world premiere of Planet B-Boy, a doc on world championship breakdancing. Sound interesting? Read more about TAA in our past coverage (http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2006/05/issue-20-tribeca-all-access.html).

DID HELL FREEZE OVER?...Oprah Winfrey is having a rapper on her show. It t
ook a non-threatening family TV show, but Hip-Hop legend Rev. Run of RunDMC will sit on O's couch along with his real-life family/stars of his popular reality show, "Run's House." Word is O's BFF Gayle King is a fan of the show and urged Winfrey to have Run and family on. Knowing that it would be near impossible to get a quote from Winfrey, we turned to Hip-Hop culture experts for their take. "Obviously, Rev. Run presents a unique opportunity for Oprah Winfrey to silence her Hip Hop generational critics. She may have been punchy with Ludacris and 50 was way out of line in his (out of nowhere) attack on Oprah and the production of her show; but we must bare in mind that significant figures within Hip-Hop Culture (including Kanye West and Chris Rock--the only self-professed Hip-Hop Comedian) have appeared and thrived on the 'Oprah Winfrey Show,'" says Dr. James Peterson, Assistant Professor of English, Penn State University and Founder, Hip Hop Scholars, Inc. "Run is a standard barer of Hip-Hop Culture. RunDMC established Hip Hop music as an emergent component of mainstream American popular culture...Run is a Hip-Hop figure whose life experiences speak to the audience of the 'Oprah Winfrey Show.' He’s a family man who also happens to be a Christian minister. He’s been through a divorce he has a beautiful (if a bit fragmented) family and he lives in a multi-million dollar mansion in Jersey....In short, Rev. Run is a Hip-Hop figure who embodies everything the 'Oprah Winfrey Show' is all about–struggle, spirituality, success, and redemption. He is also Russell Simmons’ brother."

Marc Lamont Hill, Assistant Professor of Urban Education and American Studies at Temple University, agrees that Run is the perfect Hip-Hop guest for Winfrey. "Oprah's decision not to have rappers on the show is likely driven by two concerns. First, Oprah is rightfully offended by the rampant misogyny and objectification of women within genre. Also, few rappers appeal to the middle class White female demographic that comprises much of her audience. Rev. Run, however, is not your average rapper. In addition to his status as a rap pioneer, Run's status as a television star, father, and minister places him in sharp relief to artists like Ludacris and 50 Cent. Also, the tragic loss of his newborn baby is a human interest story that cuts across issues of race, class and gender."

SAY THREE HAIL MARYS...Looking to add some Hip-Hop flavor to your DVD collection? Well, the Jay-Z-inspired hip-hop musical, Confessions of a Thug (http://www.confessionsofathug.com/) has just dropped on DVD by Polychrome Pictures, a subsidiary of Warner Home Video. Starring, directed and written by Daron Fordham, Confessions Of A Thug, chronicles the life of a college-educated street hustler--set to music. There are performances by J. T. Money and The Lady of Rage. The movie gained the award for Best Director at this year's 2007 San Diego Black Film Festival.

Discovery Communications has announced plans to launch a 24-hour channel focused on eco-friendly living. According to the company, it will next year rebrand its Discovery Home Channel with a name that has not been selected but will highlight its position as the centerpiece of an initiative called PlanetGreen. The will be carried initially in 50 million homes. Other Discovery networks, including the Discovery Channel will carry documentaries and other programming highlighting the new green lifestyle channel. The first project slated is “Ten Ways to Save the Planet,” scheduled to be air late next year.



As the multimedia world heats up, the question which begs to be asked is: What will be the place of diversity in a new frontier of mobile entertainment where even in the traditional media arena, there is such a long way to go. Funny enough, few are even addressing this question. Aw, that's the future right? We have plenty of time. But make no mistake, Ladies and Gentlemen, the future is now.

As certain busy little bees carve out their niche in the industry, particularly of mobile television, portions earmarked for ownership companies of color are a present, a mere afterthought. And unless we begin to all put our visionary hats on, this particular digital divide will be such a cavernous one that it will be long tugs to pull back to what may seem a somewhat level top.

Let's look at where things are: Some interesting strides have been made recently. Notably by one company called Viva Vision, which offers a wealth of Latin video content and Real Content, a company which offers hip hop-related audio content. The latter has even recently formed an urban special interest group within the interesting Mobile Marketing Association. But save for these and a few sparse other companies slugging it out with the carriers; the battle seems daunting-- particularly in comparison to the plethora of deals made by media giants such as NBC and ESPN with Sprint, for example and youtube.com with Verizon.

Just how do we all get in to enjoy some of this mega money pie--estimated to reach $8.35 billion by 2010? U.S. residents bought 143 million new handsets last year, spending $8.8 billion, according to NPD, a market research firm providing news and information on consumer trends, sales and marketing information for a diverse range of industries. By 2009, there will be 15 million mobile TV subscribers. This year alone there is an estimated 20 million U.S. mobile video users.

And guess who is at the forefront as major consumers of this technology? Telephia, the leading provider of performance measurement information to the mobile industry, reports that African-American and Hispanic mobile consumers are heavy cell phone users. The latest data from Telephia's Customer Value Metrics report shows that the African-American demographic group used more than 1,200 voice minutes on average per month. Hispanic cell phone users followed closely with 979 total voice minutes used on average per month. Historical trending illustrates maximum mobile usage growth for African-Americans and Hispanics as compared to other demographic groups, increasing 10 and 13 percent, respectively.

While the FCC has shied away from regulating "information technology," there is now doubt that there would be more minority players is the agency did form regulations for mobile TV just like they did with traditional TV. And how do organizations like the Minority Media Telecommunications Council (MMTC) play a role, particularly in their brokering of acess to capital for companies to make more firm offerings to carriers which also relying on incentives which the Council has introduced? With the help of the government and organizations like the MMTC, theoritically the doors would be open to companies of color.

But there are other potential issues to keep in mind. Like any business, this industry too is built on relationships. Viva's Nick Montes explains, "Certainly it's a combination of the right relationships and what you bring to the table. I worked at Verizon for 10 years before working at Viva so I had a firm working knowledge. Further for Viva, we were able to enter this side of the industry because the company had proprietary technology as well as a track record that goes back to 2000." He continues, "We knew that the carriers had to expand beyond the traditional offerings and went for it. But yes, I could see that it could be very challenging for an indie producer with a couple of cool ideas to get in. It's difficult because there aren't a lot of people at the carrier's departments for content. So I would suggest really understanding the mobile eco-systems and talking to aggregators."

Other organizations are doing their part, such as the National Black Programmers Consortium and their upcoming program later this year and the internship in-roads they have recently made with MTV (see The A-List, issue #59, http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/03/59.html.

It would seem like an interesting and intricate balance of persistence, education and networks but what may be needed now more than anything else is open dialogue with the right players about the industry and speculation and action steps for the future so that we can all be partners in the creation of this new medium.




New Orleans. A city on a mission of rebuilding. Home to a film festival with a vision on addressing human rights issues via the power of filmmaking. Called the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival (NOIHFF), it was launched in 2003. Though born prior to the ruins left behind Hurricane Katrina and the broken levees, it seems apropos that the film festival is based in the Big Easy. For what happened to the property was devastating, but what happened to the people of New Orleans was unimaginable. So if there was anywhere in the country where a new organization with a human rights initiative was to thrive, NO would seem to be the perfect place.

Plus, the movie business is also returning to New Orleans, with the city regaining its Hollywood South moniker. In fact, more than 30 movies released in 2006 were filmed in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, including: All the King's Men, Bug, Failure to Launch, Glory Road, Last Holiday and Déjà Vu. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, filmed in the city and there are more than 20 movies that are filming or will be filming in New Orleans. With films, have come money--Film and TV studios are expected to have an economic impact of more than $400 million on the are. Louisiana still ranks third after New York and California as a location for filming. Also, LIFT Productions Digital Media Studio/Soundstage Training Complex: The Film Factory is in the planning stages. It will be a $185-million, 300,000-square-foot motion picture production studio that includes four sound stages, a film training institute, and distribution house. The Film Factory will be owned and operated by LIFT Productions, a Louisiana-based company that has produced and/or financed 30-plus films and TV movies.

Obviously, there much happening in New Orleans. The A-List caught up with Jordan Flaherty, NOIHFF festival director, to find out more about the NOIHFF. Here's what he had to say.

The A-List: What is the vision of the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival?

JORDAN FLAHERTY: We are a festival with a mission. A wide and diverse range of New Orleans community activists founded our festival, and we are dedicated to nurturing our city's human rights community, supporting the work of local organizers and organizations involved in these struggles, and linking local issues to international issues. Our goal is to raise awareness of these issues and provide a forum for artistic expression of these themes.

AL: Why was it important to launch the festival?

JF: Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had already been devastated by racism, corruption, de-industrialization and governement neglect. Katrina highlighted these issues. If there is anywhere in the U.S. that needs more resources and support for struggles like this, it is New Orleans. We are on the front lines of struggles around criminal justice, health care, education, infrastructure--all of it. Sixty percent of our population has been displaced. Our school system is in crisis. Every school teacher in the city was fired overnight (post-Katrina). One public school near me has 21 teachers and 54 security guards. Our public hospital was closed and still has not reopened. Public housing has not been reopened. There are several hundred people in our city jail who have been held for up to a year or more without once seeing a lawyer. This festival is a small step in supporting the community that is working to do something about these issues.

What are some new highlights this year?

JF: We have an incredible line-up of films. Many of the local films are brilliant and powerful films you won't see anywhere else, including at any festival in the world, such as Katrina Story, directed by New Orleans Bounce music superstar 10th Ward Buck. It's a film about his personal experience during and after Katrina. We also have an appearance by actor/producer Danny Glover, a concert by recording artist Toshi Reagon, and much more.

AL: How many movies will you screen? How many entries did you receive?

JF: [We will have] more than 50 [films screening], including 5 U.S. or world premieres. [We received] more than 100 entries, but we also aggressively searched out films, both by looking at other festivals, but also through our extensive networks, both locally and internationally.

AL: What elements does a film need to get accepted into the festival?

JF: We look at both the filmmaking skill, and the message. We accept documentaries, fiction, features and shorts, animation, experimental, etc. We also screen a wide range of formats.

AL: Have a lot of deals been brokered through the fest?

JF: We're not that kind of a festival. We are about connecting local organizing with national and international movements. Ask us if movements for justice have been sustained and activated through our festival.

AL: Where are most of your films from, the U.S.?

JF: We are an incredible mix of local, national, and international. More films are from New Orleans than anywhere else. After that, we have many from the Middle East--Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and other countries in the region.

AL: Can you describe the overall vibe of the festival?

JF: We have supported access to the festival by a wide range of communities, especially including communities that have historically been excluded by many festivals, by offering free or reduced admission to many high school students and members of grassroots organizations. We are also more than just a New Orleans festival. Last year, we hosted screenings in Natchitoches and Shreveport, Louisiana.

AL: What makes the festival unique?

JF: We have always prioritized community accountability, preparing our festival in consultation with a range of New Orleans' grassroots from veterans of the civil rights movement, to high school teachers, advocates, and organizers. We are a small festival in a still-devastated city, but we offer the chance to screen in a vital and beautiful city, during an important moment in history.

Name: New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival
April 12-22
Location: New Orleans, LA

Discover Noblige by Martell, Beverly Hills
The event: The Martell event Discover Noblige. The location: The penthouse of the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel, which is a suite of four rooms--all candle lit with a long center hallway connecting them. There is also a rooftop patio with views of Beverly Hills looking north, the west side and West Hollywood on the east. If the event didn't impress you, the decor and view sure would.

Arriving to a spread of hors d'oevres including oysters, clams, prawns, crab claws, chicken skewers, fruit and cheese as well as an interesting desert created by Chef Govind Armstrong consisting of a Krispy Kreme donut bread pudding and espresso creme, our taste buds were more than piqued. The event prompters were seeminlgy trying to staify every sense. We already had sight and taste. And for sound, there was a four-piece combo playing background music in the largest room along with a DJ set up.

Now to the reason for the event. One to introduce Martell's new cognac.
Second, to honor individuals who display nobility in giving. The guests of honor Holly Robinson Peete, Nia Long and Hill Harper were all present. Among the other guests enjoying the pleasant atmosphere were Eric La Salle, Terry J. Vaughn, Marla Gibbs, and John Witherspoon. Martell also made a charitable donation to Long's Mwikali's Gift Foundation, Peete's HollyRod Foundation and Harper's MANifest Your Destiny Foundation.

All in all a worthwhi
le event for a worthy cause. --Dana Woods

Jamie Foxx peace signin' at the party Belvedere Vodka threw for him after Foxx's "Unpredictable" tour stop in Atlanta. And Ovie Mughelli (left) of The Atlanta Falcons stylin' and profilin' at the star-studded event. (Photos by Barry Williams/Getty Images for LMVH)

Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund President Dwayne Ashley celebratin' the HBCU organization's name change to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (http://www.thurgoodmarshallfund.org/) at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Former San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown Jr. showed his support.

Black Family Channel co-founder, businessman Alvin James (alvinjamesgroup.com) & Vanessa Webber hostin' a "Power Net" mixer that attracted a Who's Who of Atlanta elite. Sponsored by Donald Trump's Super Premium Vodka, the event was attended by former "Apprentice stars Bill Rancic, Randall Pinkett, and of course, the ubiquitous Omarosa. Also in the house: Marlon Jackson, Kelley Jackson, Keysha Camermon, Charles Rambo, Sharon Silva, and Tanya and Terrence Williams.