Monday, December 17, 2012

Black Women Directors Take the Helm



Indiewire.com posted an article by Melissa Silverstein “What Bigelow Effect? Number of Women Directors in Hollywood Falls to 5 Percent” on Woman and Hollywood citing a study by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film on the fall in women directors at the helm of feature films in recent years. We can all imagine the determination it took to kick through the glass ceiling for these talented women of color film directors. Dr.Maya Angelou (Down in the Delta), Euhzan Palcy (Sugar Cane Alley), Sanaa Hamri (Just Wright), Bridgette Davis (Naked Acts), Leslie Harris (Just Another Girl on the IRT), Darnell Martin (Cadillac Records), Dee Rees (Pariah), Gina Prince-Blythewood (Love and Basketball), Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust), Nema Barnette (Civil Brand), and Shari Carpenter (Kali’s Vibe).  Actress hyphenate directors include Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me), Troy Byer Bailey (Love don’t cost a thing) and newcomer Sallie Richardson. (Eureka).  For a more complete list check out www.sistersincinema.com. If you haven’t checked out the films of these talented women many are available on DVD, iTunes and Netflix. Surf their websites, and IMDB to keep up on upcoming projects. Director Ayoka Chenzira

has teamed with New York Times bestselling author, Oprah Book Club favorite and playwright  Pearl Cleage  to produce feature films of her novels at  The Pearl Cleage Project.  First Black Woman Sundance Best Director winner Ava Du 
Vernay  second feature film ( “Middle of Nowhere”) is currently in theaters. ”Middle of Nowhere” is receiving critical praise and industry awards.  Many of the women directors  have film projects are in the various stages of filmmaking: development, production, postproduction, marketing and distribution.  Independent sisters in film utilize Kickstarter and indiegogo to finance their films.  Dee Rees and her partner Neksia Cooper used Kickstarter campaigns during the various stages of production for her feature film “Pariah”. If you can’t contribute financially you can always give shootouts on blogs, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Google +.  You can even post clips or campaigns with widgets or hyperlinks. You could reach out with a tweet, comment or e-mail. Ever-phenomenal woman Dr. Maya Angelou is on Twitter. @DrMayaAngelou. Many independent films rely on word of mouth and social media for advertising without access to the big marketing campaigns financed by the major film companies. They would appreciate the positive energy for their work in a tough field. Your support could be the push for the first African American women to win an Oscar for Best Director!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"MINISTER OF SELF DEFENSE"



Last year I remembered a documentary I saw produced by Antoine Fuqua called, "Bastards of the Party" about the Bloods and the Crips. The director, a former gang member felt the gang turf wars grew out of the restless generation that came after The 

Black Panther Party who patrolled to monitor police brutality during the civil rights era. I thought it was fascinating it got me to thinking about Huey P. Newton co-founder and Minister of Self Defense of The Black Panther Party. I started reading everything on his life and work. Truly a labor of love one book on Eldridge Cleaver (Eldridge Cleaver author of Soul on Ice and Minister of Information became a Republican ) would lead me to a book on Geronimo Pratt and on to a book about his lawyer Johnnie Cochran and so on. I read Alondra Nelson' book, “Body and Soul The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination” for her extensive research on the Party's healthcare activism. Tumbler is a great source for historical research. I found photographs by Stephen Shames, artwork by the Minister of Culture  Emory Douglas and the first copy of The Black Panther Party newspaper, "Who killed Denzil Dowell"? I had conversations with David Hilliard of The Huey P. Newton Foundation. Another great archive of The Black panther Party is It's about time by Billy Jennings. YouTube has an awesome archive of news footage including my favorite of Huey and William F. Buckley on "Firing Line"
I’ve read FBI files and court transcripts of the famous murder trial of Officer John Frey that made Huey a cause celeb.
 I researched "The Glass House Tapes" at the Rose Room at the Schwarzman Building. I read Huey's poetry and letters. I felt it was a rich slice of American History that hadn't been told. I wrote a treatment and took a meeting with my entertainment lawyer Tom Selz .We strategized a game plan for an independent feature film. First I drafted a development proposal and he added the legal stuff.  HPN Prod. LLC was formed.
My frustration in finding a screenwriter led me to many profanity-laced tirades and to write the script myself. Generally it's not me to pepper my speech with motherf**er this and that.  I'm sure Tom Selz's wonders if I'm a hood rat.  But HPN's kick ass style has inspired my bitchassness. The first draft of the screenplay, "Minister of Self Defense" has been written.

 Not boring histories lesson but a portrait of Huey the man. There are many roles to cast talented African American actors.  I imagine Malik Yoba as Bobby Seale, Idris Elba as Eldridge Cleaver common as Geronimo Pratt and Daniel Sunjata as Huey P. Newton. My wish lists of A-list actors are Bill Murray as Charles Garry, Maggie Gyllenhall as Fay Stender and Brad Pitt as Bert Schneider. The part of Elaine Brown would be any actresses dream role. Elaine Brown is a singer, activist, adventuress and first chairwoman of The Black Panther Party. Today Elaine campaigns for prison reform and Occupy Wall Street.
When I secure development funds I would hire a screenwriter to polish my script a Michael Genet, Kevin Arkadie or Richard Wesley. Much needed is a feature film director who shoots lean and mean like Oliver Stone,  Mike Figgis, Bill Duke, Clark Johnson or Jim Sheridan. I want to make a great film; raw and edgy in high-def with love, family, incarceration, friendship, sex, courtroom dramas, shootouts and the cause.  Power to the People!






Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Celebration of Octavia Spencer’s Oscar Win




You Go Girl!  Octavia Spenser won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Despite only 2% of Academy Award members are people of color and the “controversy” of playing a Black maid in a feature film, she won for us all. In the 1960’s many African American women cleaned homes for a living under the racist practices of the era.  Our people stepped up despite sitting in the back of buses and banned from sharing a meal or toilet with their white employers fortified by faith and hope for advancement of the next generation. We should be able to look at our history with an unflinching eye. 
The critics of the film should acknowledge how the film industry operates. Any controversy around the film is a factor positive or negative at the box office.  The commenter’s should take responsibility for the outcome and objectives of their criticism.  Octavia Spencer is a talented actress for hire. Now Octavia’s Oscar Best Supporting Actress win combined with the box office success of “The Help” makes her a bankable star. We should look forward to her next exciting career chapter.  This month Ava DuVernay  became the first African American woman to win a Sundance Award for directing, “Middle of Nowhere”.  Director Dee Ree’s “Pariah”, the coming of age lesbian film just won the Independent Spirit Award’s John Cassavettes Award. As Black History Month comes to a close let’s celebrate the diversity of voices with Octavia and all the African American women in film. There is still much to be done. Let’s not loose sight. To quote Stokley Carmichael, “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations. I walk in the footsteps of giants”.

Blushington

I had a gift card for a makeup application in my International Emmy's Gala swag bag. So off I went to the Le Parker Méridien Hotel to ...