Friday, October 10, 2008


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ALL EYEZ ON PERRY...Even after stinging complaints by four writers on the "The House of Payne" TV show who accuse Tyler Perry of unfair labor practices, The Family That Preys director still attracted star turn out for the grand opening of his massive Atlanta production studio. Those who crossed the picket line (albeit a small one) included: Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey (who broke out in tears when she saw Sidney Poitier), Cicley Tyson, Patti Labelle, among others. Not the progressive set by any stretch of the imagination, but what can you say. Those not celebrating? The four striking writers who, by the way, this same week attracted support from director Spike Lee. Thus, while Perry will more than boost Black film production with the studio, it's not all good unless everyone involved in the success benefits and that means playing by the rules for fair compensation. Let's see how this controversy all plays out.

THE WAR ROOM...And speaking of Spike Lee, has the acclaimed film director begun influencing other filmmakers of note to set the story straight on diverse participation in past wars? Following the release of Lee's African-American war heroes flick, The Miracle at St. Anna legendary filmmaker/producer George Lucas has announced he's bringing Red Tails, the story of the first group of Black airmen to serve as pilot escorts for American bombers in WWII, to the big screen. Anthony Hemingway ("The Wire," "CSI: NY," "ER") will direct; John Ridley (Three Kings, Undercover Brother) has written the script; and Lucas will serve as exec producer on the Lucasfilm feature. While it been reported that Lucas actually started developing the project in 1989, he had put it aside until now. Could be Lucas was inspired by Lee.
VERIZON TAKES A HIKE...From major studios to original content producers, promoting and selling content at least on the Verizon Wireless platform may become a bit more expensive. The company just announced a 3 cent increase for every MT (mobile terminated) - ie. press "Y" for yes, "N" for no if you just requested a purchase for "Iron Man" wallpaper) message processed on its network beginning Nov. 1. Since text messaging is the most widely used data application in the world, with 2.4 billion users and since Verizon is the second largest wireless telecommunications company in the U.S., this 3 cent shift from consumers to content producers maintain millions for Verizon while its content producers pay more. This comes on the heels of an anti-trust investigation regarding the exorbitant and steadily increasing text fees charged to consumers during content purchase. And, even though industry experts expect outrage among companies including CNN and ESPN who use MT messages to send text-search results, real-time news and sports updates, etc., other wireless companies are expect to follow Verizon's lead. According to Verizon--which already makes approximately 40% on all actual content sales-- the new fee was necessary to cover the carrier’s overhead in delivering such messages. Calling the MPAA, RIAA and others to have a quick sit down right with CTIA and work this out. With a budding industry not only for creative expression, promotion and revenue why threaten it with yet greater fees? Remember mobile carriers without the entertainment industry, offerings are mighty slim for this growing revenue stream outside of your voice business!

OUT OF TOUCH...If aliens landed today and watched prime time they'd think America was all White judging from the new batch of shows. Aside from Tristan Wilds on the CW teen drama "90210," Lance Reddick and Jasika Nicole on "Fringe" (FOX), Lisa Bonet of ABC's "Life on Mars" (and she's not even one of the main characters) ad Jimmy Smits joining Showtime's three seasons-old "Dexter," there's a dearth of people of color on the tube. The networks shouldn't be surprised as shows start to tank. Face facts: America is now a Brown nation, and when television starts reflecting America's beautiful diversity the viewers will tune in. Otherwise, look for these eyeballs on your nearest computer and mobile phone screen where original, organic entertainment abounds.

BOLLYWOOD CALLING...The latest Hollywood trend seems to be foreign fiance collaborations. Now Steven Spielberg has completed a $1.2-billion deal with Mumbai, India-based Reliance ADA Group to launch his own filmmaking company and depart from Paramount Pictures, which in 2005 purchased Dreamworks. With this latest development, Paramount has release DreamWorks co-founder Spielberg and his team of executives from their contracts. Under the new deal, Spielberg is expected to produce about six films a year, with the first at least a year away. According to Businessweek, Reliance will invest $500 million in equity for a 50% stake and has helped arrange another $700 million in debt through its longtime bankers, JPMorgan Chase. If countries such as India are wooing filmmakers like Spielberg and entering the market, could new entrants in this country from other nations without the racism roots that American-based companies have finally give light to more films of color?

ALL OBAMA, ALL THE TIME...Obama is aiming to command the airwaves as the campaign hits the final stretch. By now you've probably heard Obama has purchased a prime-time half-hour block of air time on CBS and NBC for Oct. 29 (the anniversary of Black Tuesday). But did you know the senator from Illinois, has temporarily purchased--until Nov. 4th--a TV channel. If you have the Dish network, you can tune into Channel 73 aka Obama TV, the cable channel owned and operated by the presidential candidate's campaign. According to DishNet it charged "no more than what we charge a commercial advertiser" to lease an infomercial channel. Having just laid out some serious campaign cash for the network airtime, we can see where the infomerical channel with its one-time fee for endless commercial would make financial sense. But unless the campaign has some special plans to drive people to the channel, they're just going to get channel surfers occasionally tuning in.

DITTO...Speaking of Obama, if you need any more pro-Barack product, Wilson Ebiye's RockCity Entertainment along with Pearl Jr. and Cecil Holmes' Elbow Grease Productions are releasing a DVD entitled Barack Obama The Power of Change. The 110-minute DVD includes speeches by Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Stevie Wonder, Hill Harper, Tyson Beckford, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. You may remember Ebiye, his last DVD release, The Amazing Grace was the first Nigerian/Nollywood film to be distributed throughout North America. He also produced HipHop Story: Tha Movie, which featured Tupac Shakur, and Jay Z.

A McCain A DAY...Obama isn't the only one dominating the airwaves. His opponent, Sen. John McCain, has been releasing a new TV ad every ad and at least three new Web ads a week, accounting to campaign observers. Between the two camps, TV viewers and Internet users are surely going to get election fatigue--leading to a total tune out.

MUST SEE TV...Check out David Alan Grier's "Chocolate News," "The Daily Show" urban style, on Comedy Central. As usual, The A-List was on top of multiculti trade news when it told ya back in August that this was one to watch ( Well now it's here, and it's hilarious. Grier can hang with the best of the network tongue-in-cheek hosts such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

A NEW L WORD...Following the tracks of BMW, Lexus is making an entry into online entertainment. The first project on the carmaker's Internet-only branded channel L Studio is with former "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow in in a shortform comedy series called "Web Therapy." Insiders say the venture is a $30-million project that will recruit more celebrity contributors. Note to Lexus: If it isn't in the plans yet, where you will really win is via ensuring collaboration with actors and content creators of color. It would more than support the carmakers recent boost in ads marketed to Black auto buyers and its special podcast, launched in 2006, targeting African-American consumers.

MAKE ROOM ON THE MANTLE...James Earl Jones is taking home another award. Jones, whose career highlights include critically acclaimed films, Broadway success, lending his voice to the characters of Darth Vader and The Lion King's Mufasa, will be honored with the Screen Actors Guild's most prestigious accolade—the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment at the "15th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award," which premieres live on TNT and TBS Jan. 25, 2009.
THE MAN FROM OZ...Eamonn Walker is back in a big way. He is co-starring in Cadillac Records as Howlin Wolf, is on the new NBC series "Kings" as the prophet Samuel, and co-stars in the upcoming film The Messenger with Woody Harrelson. Whew. Just listing the upcoming credits made us tired.

THINKING OF A MASTER PLAN...Master P's big TV plans seem to be on hold for the moment. While P's Better Black Television network already has a Web presence (, financial backing (his own and private investors), and shows in production (including a multicultural soap opera and children's programming), he's missing one major item--a broadcast distribution outlet for his BBTV. His reps tell us exclusively he's in talks with various cable giants, but still no deal. We'll keep you posted on this one for sure.

THE GODFATHER NOIR...It hasn't even been a month since the leaders of a multi-state cocaine trafficking ring known as the Black Mafia Family, infamously well-known on the underground Hip Hop scene, were sentenced in Detroit federal court Friday to 30 years in prison, and already there's a film deal. Beating out several bidders, DuBose Entertainment acquired all media rights to the “Black Mafia Family” story, and is now developing a scripted series with plans for a feature film and a book to be completed down the road.

Earlier this week, a federal judge upheld a temporary prohibition against the distribution of RealDVD, DVD-ripping software. Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court of Northern California decreed that RealNetworks must not distribute its software for now. The MPAA and RealNetworks filed dueling lawsuits over the software on Sept. 30. Movie studios contend that the software will allow consumers to "rent, rip and burn" movies for personal use. RealNetworks contends that its software is legal since it does not bypass copyright encryption.


Robyn Lattaker-Johnson has been named president of Dubose Entertainment. She will oversee television and feature film development. Prior to joining DuBose, Lattaker-Johnson served as SVP of Original Program Development at BET Networks. She developed the critically acclaimed series “Baldwin Hills,” “American Gangster,” “Sunday Best,” “College Hill,” “Hell Date” and “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown.” Prior to BET Networks, Lattaker-Johnson was a creative executive at the Sci Fi Channel.

VH-1 RocDoc "NWA: The World's Most Dangerous Group"

The A-List caught the recent "premiere" of the VH-1 RocDoc "NWA: The World's Most Dangerous Group." Held at the Landmark Theatre on the westside of LA, the event was a nice one though sparsely attended. After a bit of mixing during a small reception at a cozy bar/lounge adjacent to the theatre, we all ascended to the reserved theater. (Note to VH-1: Receptions normally include complimentary food and drink, so it's a bit awkward to partake in the cheese, mini-pizza, grape and cookie festival while then having to saunter across the room to purchase wine at a cash bar. Complimentary soft drinks are always nice or at least one drink ticket or skip the recep all together.)

As always, with these RocDocs; they are well-produced and leave the viewer wanting more. Special treat here: Chris Rock narrates the 90-minute piece. New interview footage from Cube and Yella gives the doc a fresh vibe, and one feels that the emotional journey is pretty much complete by the time the credits roll on this thorough documentary. We can't help but wonder though, why these producers rarely tap any female writers/experts/professors for their points of view. The long-suffering wife is the only female face we see, leaving one to actually think there aren't notable and respected female figures in LA who could speak to and were close to this subject matter. Creature Films, the force behind the project, may want to take note going forward.

In addition, there is a the nagging feeling that roles in the music industry are still very much dominated by race and those with the "power" seem to remain in those power positions holding the keys to the gateway for talented young recording artists and entrepreneurs (i.e. Jerry Heller and Bryan Turner). While the Q&A afterwards held promise, we are not certain if Eazy-E's son L'il Eazy E and Yella as "panelists" offered the most compelling insight nor provoking thoughts. Writer Cheo Hodari Coker held his own as moderator of sorts. In the house were: John Singleton, Alonzo Williams (aka Lanzo) from the World Class Wrecking crew and a few other L.A. locals.

All in all, a nice way to kick off this doc and album release of N.W.A and their Family Tree, which features a variety of "18 genre-defining" tracks by N.W.A., Snoop Dogg and others. The only thing missing is a more appropriate name to this series painfully making clear the mainstream establishment just doesn't want to let go of long-silenced reign of rock and resonation of MTV Networks historic barriers to anything non-White. Given that these documentaries cover all kinds of genres (and might we add some of the most popular not covering rock) might we see the term "RocDocs" change anytime soon?


Acclaimed Winged Creatures director Rowan Woods to Australian paper Live News: "A [film company] executive told me straight: `Even if he [Forest Whitaker] wins the Oscar he's ugly, he's Black and he's unbankable.'"