Friday, April 04, 2008


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DYNAMIC DUO...Ever hear of Nia Hill and D'Angela Steed? Well, you will soon. This African-American female production team just celebrated the debut of their latest project, a series for TV One called "Family Reunion." It is an hour-long series that introduces a new family with a compelling story who compete for more than $25,000 in cash and prizes towards their next reunion. Add this to Hill and Sneed's long list of film and TV productions--which include BET's "Exalted," "One Night Only," the film The Seat Filler (distributed in partnership with Will Smith)-- and they just may be about to emerge as the hottest new TV producing duo in Hollywood.
The pair continues to overcome obstacles, however, "It is no secret that people work with people who they have a natural affinity for or, at the very least, some commonalities. And things in this business get done based upon relationships," says Steed. "Because there are so few Black people in power in Hollywood, it is difficult to have those natural allies that other groups of people may have. It's not an excuse, but a fact. Likewise, it's beneficial to have an "angle" in Hollywood...The question becomes what do you do when you don't have any of these 'angles'? Well, I pray a lot and work my butt off."

And the pair is going to be working a great deal it seems. "
We are in the marketplace pitching new show ideas to multiple networks and there are some that are getting close to being set up," Steed reveals. "We are currently closing a few deals that would facilitate us producing a slate of feature films, we have movement of some of our studio projects and we are venturing into scripted television."

WOMEN RULE...According to most studies, women over the age of 18 account for 40.9% of all Internet users in the U.S. So it's a smart move on Yahoo's part to launch of a site for women ages 25-54. Shine joins Glam Media Inc. and iVillage as sites with women as the primary focus, and, which specifically targets young African-American females. Unlike most other Yahoo sites, Shine will be presented in a blog form. Yahoo! tells The A-List, that there will be no specific outreach to women of color, however. But somehow Yahoo! believes its content will make it stand out above the other female-focused sites. "Yahoo! Shine has three types of content--from the top publishers in this category, from an editorial staff and from users. Also, Shine can tap into the power of Yahoo! and know what women are searching for and clicking on and can program content based on that," says a company spokesperson. Time will tell if this one-size-fits-all approach will work with the multicultural rise of our society, though.

HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE...Actress Terri Vaughn (Dirty Laundry, Daddy's Little Girls, "The Steve Harvey Show") has done a Robert Townsend. Tired of the lack of diverse roles, she has given life to some of her own projects. First up, a documentary about appropriately enough the struggles of Black actresses in Hollywood entitled Angels Can't Help But Laugh. Actresses Regina King, Malinda Williams, Tasha Smith and Sheryl Lee Ralph all appear. Now if this project keeps it as real as Vaughn is known to be, Angels Can't Help But Laugh should be a hoot and a holler.

MOBILE MOVES...As many know, all the talk in the mobile world has been about Sony's latest move. Sony Pictures Television is looking to launch the first movie network on mobile phones in the United States--though already available in Europe and Asia. The studio inked a deal with AT&T and MediaFLO USA to launch a linear channel called PIX as one of two exclusive channels set to debut on the newly announced AT&T Mobile TV with FLO service in May. So far, the titles in stock include Ghostbusters, Philadelphia and Stand by Me, among others. We'd also like to suggest a few Urban flicks in Sony library be added--as long as it's not Booty Call.

NO DEAL...If you bet that the Wayans brothers wouldn't follow through on their plans to build a movie studio in Oakland, you would have hit the jackpot. The Hollywood clan has pulled out, according to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums who recently made public a new list of potential developers for the studio/shopping center. For the Wayans' part, their business partner Britten Shuford told local press that "the partners dropped their latest proposal--for a business park and shopping center called Destination Oakland--because it was not compatible with heavy industry at the adjacent Port of Oakland." A Black-owned movie studio would have been nice. Note to Dellums: Drop a line to Tyler Perry.

LIP SERVICE...The future has arrived. Video clips from Paramount's movie library will now be available inside a virtual 3-D vault for consumers to access. and vMTV, Paramount Digital Entertainment and Makena Technologies Inc. just inked a deal for this unique offer. Under the agreement, and vMTV members will be able to express themselves with video clips of movie one liners with the service called VooZoo. Sounds like fun.

ON THE VERGE...For actors, it's all about timing. And the time seems right for Curtiss Cook, who has been cast in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Michelle Williams. While Cook has been sworn to secrecy about the film, he's more than too happy to talk about landing the role. "First of all, I could not believe I was going to audition for Martin Scorsee," says Cook, who has project after project lined up including appearances on Fox's "New Amsterdam" and "Canterbury's Law" also on Fox. Then there's a role in Order of Redemption, starring Tom Berenger and Armand Assante. "Then, I get there and he says call me 'Marty.' I couldn't believe it." Just moments following his meeting with Scorsese, Cook got the call to pack his bags. "It's been surreal," says Cook. "I got my script the other day, with the warning not to talk about the film--but that's all I want to talk about!" Well, we do know the action/thriller also stars Busta Rhymes and Sticky Fingaz. Although Cook seems to be on a roll, he's not planning too far ahead. Cook, based in Upstate New York with his family, isn't ready to head to Hollywood just yet. "You never know what's going to happen in this business. We just got through a strike and I was one of the lucky ones because I had commercials to fall back on," he says. "But you can never say never [to moving to Hollywood]." So, watch out for Cook--and remember The A-List told you first.

HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN...The A-List made sure to be front and center at the recent California Democratic Party Annual State Convention at San Jose Convention Center last weekend (March 28-March 30). All the politico stars were in the house. Former President Bill Clinton was one of the highlights. As usual, he gave a well-received speech--in support of none other than his wife, Hillary. Prior to his speech, the ex-Commander-in-Chief met in private with several uncommitted California superdelegates. As reported during the convention, Clinton's main objective was to attempt to persuade the uncommitted superdelegates to join Team Hillary. But reports say that none of the uncommitted superdelages were swayed. In fact, according to the buzz at the convention, a few were taken aback at the intensity of Clinton's conversation with them. The soap opera continues. Since Clinton provided the pep rally type speech to the party loyalists, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris spoke from a personal perspective on behalf of Senator Obama. Also in attendance at the convention was California Assembly Speaker-elect Karen Bass, the first African-American woman Assembly Speaker. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was present like a proud parent--and of priority was promoting his new book Basic Brown. At the main convention dinner, former talk show host Phil Donahue showed a sneak premiere via clips of his powerful new documentary Body of War. Directed by Donahue, it is a moving 2007 documentary following Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran paralyzed from a bullet to the spine. The multicultural attendance at the convention spoke to strength of future of country. --C.C.


RAP RETRO...Can you believe it's been 20 years since MTV's groundbreaking show "YO! MTV Raps"? To celebrate, the network is planning an anniversary special. And yes, Ed Lover will be there will bells on. Just thinking about the show, The A-List got more than a little nostalgic. It made us wonder how MTV got so off track with reality programing, forgoing the innovative shows that used to be their stable.

HIP-HOP CHEF... Move over Coolio. You may have shown you have chops in the kitchen during your new reality show, but Hip-Hop producer Jazze Pha is actually hosting his own cooking show on the Internet. Launched on March 31, each webisode of "What's Cookin' With Jazze," according to, features the music producer with a different special celebrity guest, such as Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis, cooking up a different meal. We hope to see a more A-List line up to boost this hot idea.



The world's largest social network Website, MySpace just announced it has formed a joint venture with three major music companies--Vivendi's Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. The new venture will be called MySpace Music. The music companies will each hold a minority stake in the new company. MySpace Music will offer free music audio and video streaming supported by advertising, paid-for MP3 downloads, ringtones, artist ticket sales and merchandise.


Vickie Burns was named VP of news and content at WNBC-TV (New York). She'll oversee newscasts and be responsible for how the news is produced and distributed across all digital platforms. She had been VP of the NBC-owned WRD-TV in Washington since Sept. 2003. Prior to that, she was with sister station WMAQ-TV, Chicago where she started in 1986 as a line producer and held various positions, until named news director in 2001.



Just how alike are entertainment and politics? As we continue to explore the similarities between entertainment and politics, we couldn't help but look at how the two relate in terms of having to show and deliver on make-or-break dates. Both political camps and film studios sit down, do the forecast, consider the audience, and create a unique marketing message, promote strong credentials and attempt to control the uncontrollable.

A Hollywood product gets primped and primed for its big opening weekend and cross promotion is key. Candidates--and their spouses--get makeovers, speech writers, media training as they ready for the big day--Election Day. Hollywood gets the word out via press junkets, sneak-peek screenings, a publicity machine, and of course ads. Campaign managers parade their candidates out to country diners, arrange photo ops with kissing babies and Hollywood celebs, flood the airwaves with commercials, and send spin doctors to court the media. And as the big day approaches, the big guns--so to speak--are pulled out. Hollywood hosts star-studded red carpet premieres. Politicos throw fundraisers with heavy-pocketed donors--and increasingly a number of those are Hollywood insiders.

Right now, the big "tent pole" is all about whether the Obama sequel or Clinton action-thriller will take the biggest "box office" in the Pennsylvania primary. Many observers note that Hillary's "trailers" are still appealing to the older adults, especially since college students aren't too keen on Chelsea's mom. And if Obama was on a press junket to promote his latest "picture," its clear points would have been won, at least for media time alone, due to his comments on race and unity.

But just as studios are analyzed for which actually succeeds in pulling off all the better cross-promotional deals, creativity and sheer frequency of marketing push for big film, we too must ask whether Camp Clinton or the Obama machine are more effective at their branding. Similar to Universal Pictures' successful cross-promotion for American Gangster with the music world, Obama has gotten positive results from his cross promotion in entertainment world via Oprah and the like. Now that, Clinton has added the Rocky theme song and compared herself to the tenacious Hollywood classic character, the reviews are still out on if co-branding will work however.

The overall answer is, who has the smartest guys in the room? And who has the better understanding of the numbers? At this point in the game, team Obama may seem to claim that title after all, he's locked down more primaries, has more delegates and seemingly starting to swing the superdelegates in his direction. But just like Juno, you can never count out the element of a surprise hit that could be Hillary Clinton, right?

So it would seem that Hollywood wants your ticket money, the candidates want your vote. Just what makes one actually leave their house and make a move maybe prove something that is actually not able to be determined based on a set model or formula. Case in point? The fact that insiders have nicknamed Michelle Obama "The Closer"--it seems she has the unique ability to turn a skeptical voter into a sure vote for her husband--and in most cases walk away with a donation to boot. Only time will tell what the numbers will actually be.

Coming Soon: President Nov '08. --Clemetine Clarke

Clemetine Clarke owns and operates her own governmental affairs, political strategy, fundraising and community relations firm called CMH & Associates. Her business main focus is on electing women of color (African American, Asian and Latino) to political office. Clarke has shaped San Francisco politics over the years through various roles: Campaign Manager, Volunteer Coordinator and Finance Director. Clarke has also served as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Democratic Party.


Future of Television West Conference, Los Angeles

The recent "Future of Television West Conference," produced by Digital Media Wire, turned out to be one of the most informative events we attended recently. Our only disappointment was the serious lack of African-Americans (or folks of color) on the various panels.

The conference was sponsored by such major players as Macrovision, Move Networks, Content Agenda, and the Visual Effects Society, Producers Guilt of America, among others.

So where is the future of television? There are many people who believe that television, as we've known it for more than 50+ years, is dead. But on the contrary, it's actually not dying or dead, but transforming. As Kevin Yen, Director of Strategic Partners, said, "YouTube has not taken over the place in society for television, but merely is a tool to help new creative content to find avenues of expression and partnership with existing media establishments. Thus the future of television is just like the future of America back in the early years of the 19th century; uncharted with unlimited potential."
--Anthony Davis




On April 3rd, millions of people tuned into the first part of CNN's new
groundbreaking special "CNN Presents: Black in America," a two-hour documentary entitled "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination." In fact, the special topped the ratings. It won in the 25-54 demo from 9-11pm, besting FNC and MSNBC. It represented a 46% advantage over FNC and an whopping 103% lead over MSNBC.

But this is just the beginning of a network-wide initiative. The A-List talks to Mark Nelson (pictured left) about "Black In America" and what's to come.

The decision to address the topic of being Black in America ironically came from Nelson, who starts the interview off jokingly with "Well, first of all I am a White man." That being the case, Nelson's initial plans were even more intriguing. "I had been wanting to do a special about Black men in America," says Nelson from his office in Atlanta. "There has been so much misreporting about Black men and I thought this needed to be addressed."

After the subject was broached at a staff meeting, "someone mentioned that the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King was coming up," recalls Nelson, who saw this as an opportunity to introduce a new diversity initiative to the network. Thus "Black in America" was born. "This isn't just about a two-hour documentary, this is an initiative that will be network wide," says Nelson.

In fact, to understand the broader issues facing Blacks in the United States, Nelson called together all CNN staffers of color. "We had people from all departments. It was a very diverse group," explains Nelson. "We learned a lot from one another. One of the things was that there are so many different issues." So following "Eyewitness To Murder," two more specials will broadcast: "Black in America: The Black Man" (July 23rd) and "Black in America: The Black Woman & Family" (July 24th).

"Black in America" will be multiplatform as well, with the website ( playing a vital role.

Considering the climate in America and the issue of race being brought to the forefront in the current Presidential election, the timing seems perfect for CNN's "Black In America" project. For this Nelson has to take the credit of being somewhat of a visionary, since the idea was born nearly a year ago. "It's part of my job to look ahead and realize what some of pertinent issues will be," says Nelson. "And with Senator Obama running for President, I understood that race would be part of the discussion."

But right now, Nelson wants to talk about "Eyewitness to Murder." "We're taking a look as King's assassination in real time," he says excitedly. "We show you what all the characters were doing, where they were. We talk to people who never gave interviews before. We explore the theories about who really killed Martin Luther King. We talk about the FBI surveillance. We weave all the characters, the stories together. It's a truly eyeopening experience."

For Nelson, he says he hopes that through his work, social issues are tackled.

Spike Lee soakin' up the accolades (here with CNN's Soledad O’Brien) at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel where he was honored as one of the most in Chrysler's 2008 Behind the Lens. O'Brien hosted the invitation-only affair, that included the likes of Rosie Perez, Elise Neal (pictured left), Delroy Lindo, Keith David, Chuck D, Savion Glover, Rick Fox, filmmaker Julie Dash, Bill Duke, Damon Wayans. (Photos by Anthony Davis)