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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
A second filmmaking contest begins April 28, with submissions being accepted until June 2. "Every month we'll have competitions and, a little over a year from now, we will announce another feature film winner," explains Nayar. "We also have a monthly documentary competition. And, FX enlisted Filmaka to develop a comedy series. Filmmakers have until May 11 to submit a short comedy film. The winner will create a full-length TV pilot." Such ventures as Filmaka can only further open sometimes difficult-to-navigate Hollywood circles to people of all cultures--and that is a good thing. Concludes Nayar, "We are in the business of getting behind talent and building their careers."
WHAT TO WATCH...Teamwork. That's the new Hollywood buzzword. Viacom Inc. and five Hollywood studios will join forces to create a new television channel and video-on-demand service. Starting fall 2009, the venture will show movies and television series from Paramount, Paramount Vantage, MGM, United Artists and Lionsgate. Access to the service will cost viewers on a pay-for-play basis. This way of consuming entertainment on viewers' time frame is evident with this model; however if it still misses the multicultural boat, it won't be nearly as successful as it could be.
TOXIC COCKTAIL...Talk about a hot ghetto mess. Gossip blogger Perez Hilton will be joining urban radio station HOT 97's controversial deejay Miss Jones on her show "Miss Jones in the Morning." The Hollywood motor-mouth will only drop in for segments, but we can guarantee the mix of these two will be more than volatile. We're sure Wendy Williams will be listening.
THE THREE PERCENT...The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) has called for the government to get involved in increasing minority media ownership. This follows a Government Accounting Office comprehensive report released last week on the paucity of minority and women broadcast ownership that found, surprise, surprise, "ownership of broadcast outlets by minorities and women is limited" due to three factors: (1) the large scale of ownership in the media industry, (2) a lack of access to sufficient capital for financing the purchases of stations and (3) the repeal of the tax certificate program. According to the MMTC, minorities own just 3% of the nation's commercial television stations and 7.8% of the commercial radio stations. Always right on time, The A-List has been calling for not only government involvement but for corporate America to partner with minority media owners.
AT&T Inc. has announced it will launch a new video service for cell phones on two of its phone models via AT&T Mobile TV. This joins AT&T's other mobile video service, CV, which is based on different technology and works like Internet video, providing short clips on demand. The new service will be more like traditional TV broadcasts, constantly streaming shows on airwaves that run alongside regular cell-phone spectrum. AT&T Mobile TV will be available in 58 markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. The only AT&T handsets that will initially work with the service are the LG Vu and the Samsung Access. In all, there will be 10 channels available.
JAMIE JOHNSON: MOVING BEYOND HIS LEGACY
Due to that endeavor's success, he decided to further assess the impact of wealth and has completed another documentary called The One Percent, which analyzes the impact of one percent owns roughly 40% of the country's wealth. In it, he interviews Bill Gates Sr., U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and economist Milton Friedman. "I wanted to explore why so few have so much while the masses are struggling," says Johnson. "And to be able to talk to people like Bill Gates about this was incredible." To say The One Percent is timely during this election year is an understatement. "I made this film because it was something I don't think people in power, the politicians are talking about," says Johnson. "It's for this to be talked about in order to solve this problem."
Johnson, who majored in American History at New York University, says studying people has always been a hobby and filmmaking was a natural progression. Though he admits Hollywood isn't always easy to navigate. Luckily he got a few tips from his uncle, screenwriter and novelist Dirk Wittenborn. "He was extremely helpful [in explaining the industry] and encouraging," says Johnson. Wittenborn is credited as one of the producers on Born Rich.
With two much-acclaimed docs under his well-money belt, Johnson says he is next venturing into feature films, though again his base will be small. "I don't want this large production company with a lot of people. Right now it's just me and a camera person," says the scaled-down Johnson. "I just want to do films I am interested in making. Nothing more." And, obviously, nothing less.
RUSHMOREDRIVE.COM DEBUTS: SEARCH ENGINE FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS TAKES ON THE WEB
"We found that while people are used to search engines like Google, many complain that it is hard to find in searches information that is specially related to African-Americans, " says Kevin McFall, Vice President, Products. "The information may come up on the search but it is way down on page 10. We bring it up to page 1."
RushmoreDrive.com was officially launched April 10th and is a venture by Black Web Enterprises, a company owned by Barry Diller's IAC, the $6 billion giant behind Match.com and Ask.com, among others.
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, RushmoreDrive.com promises to deliver an unparalleled digital experience by combining mainstream search results with those tailored to black audiences, which includes African Americans, Afro-Latinos, Caribbean-Americans, and others of African heritage. "Since this is a global venture, we wanted to include all people of African descent," says McFall. "I think we are the only Internet venture to do so."
But RushmoreDrive, which is named after its street location, won't stop with just being a search engine. According to McFall, the site will include original content. "We will offer helpful articles and information for our users," he says.
On paper, RushmoreDrive appears to have all the bases covered. But can it take on a giant like Google? "Well, we are serving a market that is underserved by Google," says McFall. "We want people not to Google It, we want them to Drive It!"
The opening day for the Tribeca Film Festival. So on this balmy spring morning we headed off to The New School to pick up press credentials and it's all rather smooth sailing. No lines, no major confusion except for a minor hiccup about the registration location at the last minute. But that was rather quickly resolved.
The options for Tribeca has always been a bit overwhelming, and this year with more than 900 screenings and 53 world premieres to choice from, we're torn as to what to see and what to do. But to make the fest more manageable, the organizers have installed a few new things. One of the most obvious changes is that the venues for screenings had been condensed to locations in the East Village in rather close vicinity to the press office--meaning one doesn't have to run around town. Plus, it gives the festival more of a cohesive feel. Also the intranet for the festival could not be more comprehensive and accessible.
The festival kicks off with a Hollywood red carpet frenzy with the screening of Madonna's new documentary, I Am Because We Are. Directed by Nathan Rissman, the movie depicts the struggles and hardships facing the children of Malawi, an African country ravished by poverty and HIV.
Madonna, who is in the process of adopting boy from Malawi, is the film's executive producer, writer and narrator. Among the celebs we spotted at Madonna shindig were gal pal Rosie O'Donnell, designer Donna Karan and actress Bernadette Peters. But there is so much else to see and do. So we head off to plot of the strategy for getting the most out of Tribeca. There was, however, a dark cloud looming just beneath the surface.
While a bright breezy day in New York City, a darkness was about to overcome the city. Just around 9:30 AM the verdict is back from the murder trial of Sean Bell, who was shot and killed by NYC police on the eve of his wedding. The not guilty verdicts seemed to almost immediately engulf all of New Yorkers, including those folks in town for Tribeca. Even jaded industry folks were buzzing about the outcome--and what might happen in the city in lieu of it. For us, we decided to now gravitate more gravitation towards movie/documentary Tribeca offerings that addressed social injustice.
One was Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. It is a first-person documentary by New Orleans natives Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie. The film addresses the trials and tribulations of the community of Faubourg Treme, better known post-Katrina via the media as the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The documentary is powerful because it draws the viewer into the sensibility of the community. It's like a family reunion, going through the family album and getting a sense of one's past. Yes, you do find out how proud, smart African Americans were before and after the Civil War, but the viewer also see it all snatched away post Reconstruction. This is the story of Blacks' struggle for dignity, freedom and equality continues with exploration some of moderate gains due to the Civil Rights Movement and ends in a disaster called Katrina. But WAIT! - It's not over- the film seems to be saying "We've will not give up, give in or go away."
Today was Mariah's day. Mariah Carey, that is. After a horrible showing in her film debut, Glitter, the singer is easing back into the film world with Tennessee. The world premiere seemed well received. Directed by Aaron Woodley, it follows two brothers on a soul-searching road trip to find their estranged father. Along the way they meet a waitress played by Carey. While not blockbuster material, this should play well in art houses and small venues--and maybe pave the way for Mariah to make a bigger film in the future.
Taking a short break from the action, The A-List comes back rested and strong for the rest of the festival. More on that in our next installment, Monday.--dan k. williams
The A-List is: Lauren Coleman, founder/co-publisher...Ann Brown, co-publisher...Melissa Ross, European correspondant...LeAnne Lindsay, contributor...Anthony Davis, contributor...Gil Robertson, contributor...Dan Williams, contributor...Jaleesa Brown, contributor...Clemetine Clarke, columnist.
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