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OVERSEEN & OVERHEARD
DIRECT-TO-DIGITAL...William Morris is looking to harness the power of the Internet for its high-profile clients. The mega-talent agency is close to inking a deal with YouTube under which the agency's clients will gain an ownership stake in the videos they create for the Web site. After the ink dries, YouTube will being featuring professionally produced videos by A-list actors, musicians and other WMA stars such as actors Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. This could open up new arenas to actors, producers, screenwriters to create new projects that go directly to the viewing public instead of signing production deals that sometimes go no where. This will also open up greater distribution avenues for creatives of color , who will no longer have to tussle with studios.
ON THE GOOD FOOT...Bio pics, from Notorious to Cadillac Records seem to be Hollywood's latest fancy. Now, Spike Lee has announced his plans to cast Wesley Snipes in a James Brown bio pic. Snipes won't sing, however; Lee says the film will feature the singer's voice in the Paramount Pictures. Although Snipes' last six films were direct-to-video, Lee seems confident the actor, who also stars in Brooklyn's Finest, can pull it off as the Godfather of Soul. With an Inside Man sequel in the works as well as a doc on Michael Jackson, Lee could be called the hardest working man in show business.
TBS HEARTS PERRY...TBS is sold on another Tyler Perry sitcom. "Meet The Browns" just debuted on the network Jan. for a 10-episode run, and already TBS has ordered for 80 more episodes. The reason: The first two episodes marked cable's second-highest premiere for an original sitcom behind only "Perry's House of Payne," also on TBS. "Meet The Browns" is also television's number-one scripted series among African-American viewers. And, according to Broadcast & Cable, the show ranked as ad-supported cable's top comedy in January among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, averaging 3.4 million viewers. Like Perry's creations or not, he has developed a knack for raking in ad dollars--a tough job in this economy. The test will be if other non-Perry urban TV fare can duplicate the formula.
...Despite the layoff and budget pullbacks, the industry is buzzing with new projects--many of them featuring Black talent and creatives. Among them, an underground fighting drama entitled Blood and Bone, starring actor Michael Jai White (left). The flick was just picked up by Sony Picutres Worldwide Acquisitions Group. White plays an ex-con who takes the underground fighting world by storm in his quest to fulfill a promise to a dead friend. Eamonn Walker, Julian Sands, Nona Gaye and Mixed Martial Arts fighter Kimbo Slice; Ben Ramsey (Love and a Bullet) also star...Outspoken NFL star Terrell Owens is putting all the drama that surrounds him to good use. He just landed a VH1 reality show. Exec produced by Evan Prager and Jesse Ignjatovic for Den of Thieves (MTV Music Video Awards 2008), the show will follow Owens around during his daily life...The A-List told you it was going to happen (thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2008/12/to-join-a-list-email-us-today-for-your.html). Now, it's official. Christina Norman has been named Chief Executive Officer of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Norman will be located at the company's Los Angeles headquarters..."The Game" is going into overtime. The series was just canceled by the CW, but BET Networks has acquired rights to air series. "The Game" is a production of Happy Camper Productions and Grammnet Productions in association with CBS Paramount Network Television. Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier," "Girlfriends"), creator Mara Brock Akil ("Girlfriends," "Moesha," "The Jamie Foxx Show"), Kenny Smith ("One on One," "The Jamie Foxx Show") and Steve Stark serve as executive producers.
OFF-SCREEN DRAMA...The A-List predicted that director Lee Daniels' Push was going to cause quite the stir (http://thealistmagzine.blogspot.com/2007/10/89.html). In addition to the accolades the film, starring Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, and Sherri Sherpard, is getting, Lionsgate recently acquired North American distribution rights to the intriguing drama. Push, which is based on the novel by Sapphire, won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, only the third film in Sundance Film Festival history to do so. Awards aside, the film is involved in a drama all its own. Lionsgate Films and The Weinstein Co. have just filed lawsuits in L.A. and New York, both claiming they had an agreement with producers to distribute the film. The Weinstein Co. claims it had a "firm agreement" with the film's producers and that Lionsgate interfered. Meanwhile, Lionsgate claims the producers signed a written agreement and is seeking a ruling that it owns the rights to distribute the movie in the U.S. and Canada. Weinstein is suing for breach of contract. We'll let you know how this drama plays out.
HIP HOP HOLLYWOOD
WALK THIS WAY...Notorious screenwriter Cheo Hodari Coker is on a roll. Following the success of the Biggie biopic, which has taken in $35.6 million thus far at the box office for Fox Searchlight, Coker has been tapped to adapt Bill Adler's Tougher Than Leather: The Rise of Run-DMC for DJ Classicz, the urban arm of Davis Entertainment. The Run-DMC project is still in pre-production with no studio yet attached. According to Adler, who may act as a producer on the project, "The idea of making a movie out of my book is the brainchild of the producer Dallas Jackson. He's a huge Run-DMC fan and needed a literary property on which to base a film. He suspected that the release of Notorious"in January of this year might create a climate of appreciation in Hollywood for a film about Run-DMC. I'm hoping he turns out to be right." While no budget has yet been decided, Adler says, "Russell Simmons, whose support is crucial to this project, is adamant about not making this film on the cheap."
For a period Hip-Hop inspired films had all but disappeared; but with Hollywood seemingly running out of interesting and exciting story lines, which the rap world is filled with, the industry is getting back on the bandwagon. As Adler notes, "To a certain extent, I feel that the climate is always right for a movie like this. It's a story about a small group of young people who hold fast to their dreams and succeed against overwhelming odds. On the other hand, with Obama in office, I think the country as a whole may be more ready now for a movie with Black heroes than they would have been even a year ago. Of course, Run-DMC, for all of the love they elicited in the Black community, also always had a ton of White fans. Indeed, they never would have gone multi-platinum if they hadn't been selling records to White folks as well as Black -- just as Obama wouldn't have been elected if he'd only received votes from the Black community."
SAG GETS COURT RULING
On Thurs., a judge rebuffed for the second time a bid by Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg to block the union's new negotiating team from reviving contract talks with the major studios. Rosenberg and other board members filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a recent vote by a majority of board members that ousted the union's chief negotiator and disbanded the union's negotiating committee. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant denied the request for a temporary restraining order, ruling that the board's action complied with the state law governing corporations. The ruling, however, didn't dismiss the overall case, doesn't end the uncertainty over when contract negotiations with the studios will resume. Actors have been without a contract since June 30, 2008.
Blair Underwood hangin' with the evening's host & honoree Maria Menounos celebrate the Grand Opening of the new restaurant, TONYS, on the Sunset Strip and to raise funds and awareness for the amazing work of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Bad Boy Recording Artist Janelle Monae, Elijah Kelly of “Hairspray” fame, Brian McKnight alongside his two sons (Brian Jr. and Nikolas), and singer Kenny Lattimore all performed. Celeb Guests included Adrianne Bailon, Al B. Sure, Alex Band, Alice Greczyn, Amber Corwin, Colby O’Donis, Chris Milk, Danny Musico, Derrick Delmore, Eduardo Xol, Elijah Kelley, Evan Ross, Eve Marcille, Faune Chambers, Fonzworth Bentley, Jake Austin. Janelle Monae, Jason Silva, Kevin Connolly, Layla Kayleigh, Max Lugavere, Scott Bakula, Shane Sparks, Shannon Elizabeth, Susie Castillo, Twitch, and Vince Spaeda.