Friday, June 15, 2007

72: Open Letter to Sirus/BHFF

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The A-List is heated like an old-fashioned hot comb on the stove from back in the day. Want to know why? Read on. Welcome, all: Issue # 72!


NEW YORK CALLING...Hot on a lot of lips this week is some interesting news. Tyra Banks is making a move. No, not what you might think. "The Tyra Banks Show," which was renewed by Telepictures Prods. and is produced by Bankable Prods. and Handprint Enter., will shoot its third season in New York as opposed to L.A. The L.A. exec. producers for the show, which will tape at Chelsea Television Studios, will stay on board. Seems Banks wants to inject that Big Apple energy into the talk show--which could equal a ratings boost. No word on if Banks' "America's Next Top Model" is set to relocate as well. If not, the former supermodel will be racking up major air miles.

MOCHA CHILL...Remember The Big Chill? According to Variety, there is remake of the 1983 film favorite this time with an all-black cast. The flick with get a name change, but the concept will remain mostly intact. Regina King, Reina King (her sister) and Will Packer (Stomp The Yard) will produce. Regina will be in the cast. We tried to get a quick quote from our friend Packer, but he was in middle of another project--more on that later.

THE GIFT THAT KEEPS GIVING...It hasn't even happened yet, but we can tell you about some of the goodies celebs will be getting at the BET Awards.
GEM Celebrity Gifting will present a Luxury Gift Lounge for nominees, performers and presenters. Swag includes CHI Products, Fruits to Remember, Botox injections courtesy of REVIVE Institute of Beverly Hills, Carnivo XO, among other freebies. Say, what about us media folk?

COLOR BLIND...We had to send kudos out to our friend Greg Braxton over at The L.A. Times for his piece "Black, Latino and Asian groups feel TV's multicultural momentum has been lost" on June 6th. In it, he examines the stalemate in diversity efforts at the networks, especially in light of the coming season--something The A-List took note of in issue # 65 ( We really don't understand why the networks drag their feet on broadening content--after all just taking a look at the census if their viewership reflects America it is a very diverse one.


RAIN MAKERS...It's official. Hip hop has taken its place on the Forbes list of the 100 most wealthy celebrities--for the first time. At the top of the list of Hip-Hop moguls was music & fashion man/businessman/filmmaker Jay Z, ranking in at no. 9 on the Power Rank chart, beating out the likes of Donald Trump. According to Forbes, Jay Z earned $83 million in 2006. Sean "Diddy" Combs, was positioned at no. 43 with earnings in 2006 of $23 million. Others on the list included rapper-turned Hollywood player Will Smith at no. 57 with earnings of $31 million.

Now By Popular Demand: Advertising Opportunities with The A List. Reach target audience of industry trendsetters, power brokers and tastemakers with banner ads, email blasts, and more.
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Are you Sirius, Mel?

This week The A-List noticed something that just can't be pure coincidence. As reported in the news earlier this week, it seems the XM-Sirius folks have some new would-be supporters. Civil rights and rural groups are backing the pending XM-Sirius merger. Among them the Hispanic Federation, National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Latino Coalition, and the League of Rural Voters. "Satellite radio is critical to the programming needs of African Americans," NBCC president Harry Alford wrote to the FCC last month. "Both companies offer dozens of channels that are targeted to African-American entrepreneurs, entertainers, and consumers."

But we just can't help but think this seems like not only a direct swiping of an earlier master plan A-List co-publisher Lauren Coleman made to Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin several months ago, but beautifully allowing him to bypass some of the seeming disparity in programming at the station, particularly regarding the talk radio division.

How did this all begin, you may ask? Well, since part of Punch Media Group's (of which The A-List is a division) endeavors include a radio strategy; we co-developed and conceived (along with a noted up-and-coming Hip-Hop film director) of a concept for a ground-breaking talk radio show. Came in through connections only to be thwarted, even after referrals, by the dreaded "we don't accept solicitations" upon arrival at the talk radio god. Odd, particularly because the key issue was about diversifying Sirius' talk radio offerings since, albeit a plethora of Black representation flows on the music side, there are absolutely zero offerings for us doing more than singing and dancing on the station; hence our much-needed "talk" pitch.

Thus, as you will read in the letter, we saw a way to bridge the interests of both sides; only to see now a seemingly weird turn of events. Now we know this is Hollywood, folks. Ideas and concepts get lifted all the time. But somehow, and this is only assuming this is the same case here, the "lifting" without addressing the glaring diversity issues in talk radio is what stings.

So in the spirit of all that The A-List represents, we are hear to obtain some answers. So let's begin: What follows in the original email sent to Mr. Karmazin's office to both better clarify for our readers and to refresh Mr. Karmazin's memory.

Check it out because honestly, we'd love to know if this company is actually Sirius or what? In fact, what's next? A Hip-Hop radio talk show which just happened to be in the works to the station? So, when it comes to these matters, best thing is to talk. Thus, we are awaiting your call Mr. Karmazin in order to discuss this matter further, and you have one of the direct lines since it's listed in the original email you received back in March. As diversity on our airwaves has become such a hot button issue for civil rights organizations and media watch groups--as well as a growing news story--we eagerly await your response.


From: Lauren Coleman
Date: Mar 6, 2007 2:04 PM
Subject: Merger help?

Hello Mr. Karmazin,

Naturally like many, I have read about your frustration regarding meeting with various players about your merger wishes. Seems like the company could use some more allies? If it weren't for such "alternative" radio options as Sirius, Hip Hop would really have quite a hard time today because we all know the commercial stations play limited amounts. To get the full variety, it's everything from downloads to the all important satellite radio options!

Thus, I bet many outlets from the Hip Hop Caucus in DC from our relationships with Hip-Hop journalists could well wake up the 50 million U.S. Hip-Hop fans to possible supporters. We know how to reach them. However, in order to do that, I would need to be more clear on Sirius' policy on diversity as it pertains to deals with Black-owned companies/partnerships.

We, for example, had a recent strange event where we pitched an idea to Music Programming who loved it but suggested it was better in the Talk division, only to obtain a form letter from the talk division saying that it does not accept unsolicited material. Even though we were referred.

So how might that affect diversity of deals, then and is Sirius saying that one needs to be repped by agencies such as CAA now? Confusing. Well, at any rate, I would like to discuss this further with your office and see how we might be able to support each other. I am in Los Angeles at (xxx) should you like to speak.

Thank you for your consideration.

Lauren Coleman
Punch Media



The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced a rule change that will allow a best picture Oscar winner to have more than three producers in some circumstances. The regulations change will take place by the 80th ceremony. In 2000 Academy initially required that limited each nominated film to three credited producers who could claim statuettes. Lawsuits followed from producers who felt they were denied Oscars for pictures that won. While the rules still read that "three or fewer producers who have performed the major portion of the producing functions" will be considered eligible nominees, there is now a provision allows the Producers Branch Executive Committee to override the rule in certain circumstances.



Opening Night: Peoplewatching, Movie Viewing & Partygoing

At about 6 pm, you could see people walking towards the Fine Arts theater in their smart attire excited about the beginning of this year's Hollywood Black Film Festival. The atmosphere was charged with excitement as moviegoers dressed in chic jeans and heels with jeweled tops or leather jackets, mingled with those dressed in cocktail dresses and dapper men outfitted in suits. The filmmakers greeted friends and associates who waited to enter the theater. Outside enjoying the vibe were Gary Hardwick whose film was being screened that evening, Jacqueline Blaylock, director of programming for the festival; photographer Conrad Montgomery; and director Tamika Lamison, whose film short Spin would be screening later on in the week. We found seats in the theater around 7:30. As the lights dimmed, a hush came over the room. This was the beginning of six days of movies by Black filmmakers featuring Black stories.

By 7:45, a trailer introducing the Hollywood Black Film Festival and founder Tanya Kersey filled the screen before the movie began

After the screening, there was a brief question and answer session about Universal Remote
(see review below) with director Hardwick and producer Kibi Anderson. From there, many at the theater headed over to the after party at the Camden House already in full swing. R&B was playing in the background compliments of DJ Smooth Mellow-Dee and low lighting set the mood of a relaxing getaway.

Candles flicked on the tables and the bars were serving cool drinks mixed with Carnivo XO. Between the vibe, the mix of people, the music everyone was in the mood to network. So if you hear of any deals having been brokered at this year's HBFF, they might have taken place on the dancefloor at Camden House.


Universal Remote
In Universal Remote, writer/director Gary Hardwick (pictured) has created a series of cutting-edge skits that are strung together as if someone is changing the channel on the television set. The vignettes parody our contemporary television viewing habits ranging from white men rapping about being rich and powerful in a gangsta rap style, to “The Game Show” where the correct answers are the most extreme stereotype, to “Thugged Out,” which is a Queer Eye for people not living the Thug life, to a show called “Inside Paris Hilton’s A_ _.” A stinging retort on today’s tabloid press that feels every aspect of a celebrity’s life is fair game.

Hardwick (Deliver Us From Eva, The Brothers), the film is inspired by creations such as "Laugh In" and Kentucky Fried Movie. Universal Remote is a fast-paced sketch comedy that satirizes the digital world we live in and our short attention spans. The movie opens with two slackers who are transported through a unique television set to a world in the subconscious of modern society. Lost in this world, they wander from one show to the next looking for the universal remote so they can get back home.
Right in the middle of all the political incorrectness, there is an animated piece called “That Darn Jesus,” a coming-of-age story about Jesus, his younger brother James, Mary and Joseph infused with typical sibling rivalry. Hardwick treats the subject matter smartly and sweetly, imagining what life would be like for a younger brother whose older sibling has not yet learned how to temper his youthful mischievousness with his incredible abilities and destiny.

Produced as an independent film in order to maintain the director's vision, Hardwick made Universal Remote independently in order to maintain the story he envisioned.

While the movie seemed well received by this audience, there may very well be wide-spread distribution challenges given the challenging nature of the contents.

Sister's Keeper

Sister’s Keeper is a powerhouse of a suspense drama about a hitman that begins to rethink his profession. He is offered one last job, which will allow him to leave gracefully without fear of reprisal. The mark is Diane, married and a teacher, living with her husband, nephew and grandmother. No scouting or research required for this one. His plan is to ring the doorbell and when she answers, pull the trigger and leave. However, things do not go as planned and he is mistaken for the long lost brother she has never met and invited into the house. Now the tension mounts as his adversary’s start arriving to finish the job that he has not completed; as “brother and sister” start falling for each other against their better judgment; and before the family finds out the truth about what he does for a living.

Ken Faulcon’s story is tight with twists and turns that are suspenseful and exciting. Writer/director Faulcon also plays the lead role. He and the rest of the cast give you a sense of time, and atmosphere that requires no explanation. The production values are wonderful!

The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang, Lavender House Films
The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang is a poignant story written and directed by Stacy Hawkins about finding one’s passion, following a dream and each person’s definition of success.

With a sweeping script complimented by innovative cinematography, the plot centers around a struggling tap dancer attempting to financially support herslef and her mother's gambling addition while trying to hang on to her dance dreams. As obstables amount, the dancer must decide whether to abandon her career or take a risk.

The production values were good and the actors threw themselves into their parts. Unfortunately for Hawkins, during the screening, the ratio of the film to the projection screen left heads and feet missing. However, it did not deter the audience from enjoying this young woman’s journey.

Miss Thang, LLC is financing the film through private investors.

HBFF Stand Out Shorts

Project W.O.W. A Look Into the Lives of Men Having Sex With Men On the “Down Low,” Lisa Durden Productions

Written and directed by Lisa Durden, this film asks questions regarding the phenomenon known as “men on the down low” and it’s potential link to the AIDS epidemic within the Black community in Newark, NJ. Project W.O.W. takes a look inside the world of men dating men secretly, interviewing men and women on all sides of the issue. The straight men, men who were “straight and came out,” transsexual men, gay men, and women who have experience with or opinions about how these choices impact their lives. In the documentary, the men on the “down low” did not consider themselves gay; they prefer it seems to think of themselves as without boundaries, freaky. Sex therapist Rebecca Chalker puts forth the idea of men on the down low as a “sort of victim of society,” in so far as our rigid understanding of what it means to be a man--emotionally, physically and socially--does not make room for a man to explore ideas outside of strict societal parameters and as such force them underground. This behavior is looked at as denial by the men they sleep with, and looked at with hostility by straight women and society as a whole. The documentary raised as many questions as it tried to answer. However, one point is certain, regardless as to whether we can understand the rationale behind the behavior, from a medical standpoint, it appears to be one catalyst for the AIDS epidemic in the Black community. To this end, through the Project WOW Youth Center in Newark counselors and members are trying to counsel the gay youth and perhaps the men on the down low in ways to protect themselves and their partners.

HBFF Stand Out Shorts

Flower Shop

Written and directed by Mark Anthony Williams, Flower Shop is about a man named Roy who demands respect and goes looking for it by attempting to rob his sister’s flower shop. He holds up the three employees, who are gay, as they try to talk him out of his scheme for fear that he hurt his sister and himself, let alone them. As things go horribly wrong, Roy learns more than he expected about respect, and loyalty.

U Got Played
As the saying goes, never play a player, and that is just what Capricia tries to do when she meets her boyfriend’s best friend Rico. When Rico and his lady arrive to play cards with her and Eric, Caprisha’s eye for commerce is opened as she notices Rico’s interest in her. However, she is not fast enough and finds herself unexpectedly holding the bag. U Got Played, written/directed by William Young, is smart and funny for today’s audience.

The Art of Theatrical Ushery
The Art of Theatrical Ushery, written and directed by C. Thaddeus Banks, is a spoof about a professional movie theater usher who takes his job deadly serious. His co-workers are amazed and bewildered by his dedication as are his parents. Moviegoers beware because all rules regarding outside food, garbage, cell phones, talking are strictly enforced. Inspired by the bad behavior exhibited by movie patrons in the theater, The Art of Theatrical Ushery, shows us what life would be like if we were under his watchful eye.

Low (written by Philip-Anthony Traylor; directed by Brian Stemmler) is the story of a Alex, a woman betrayed by her boyfriend, who exacts revenge on men she picks up in bars to get back at men in general for what her boyfriend did to her. It is not until she meets Miles, a potential victim that she begins to take a look at herself and the anger that is consuming her. Low discusses the responsibility of relationships and why it takes commitment, honesty and effort from all parties involved to make them work. --Dana Rebecca Woods

OUSMANE SEMBENE, African Film Pioneer
Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene, who made what is regarded as Africa's first feature film (The Black Girl from...), died last week at his home in Dakar. He was 84.

Sembene began his filmmaking career in 1963 with Borom sarret, a black and white short about a poor cart-driver. During the course of his career, he made some 10 films. One of his last films Moolade, which explored female genital mutilation, won him an award at the Cannes Film Festival. Prior, he won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival, in 1968 (The Money Order) and in 1988 (The Camp of Thiaroye). Sembene was also the co-founder of the Panafrican Festival of Film and Television of Ouagadougou held every two years.