Saturday, February 23, 2013


Last year I proudly blogged about Octavia Spencer’s Supporting Actress Oscar win for “The Help”. Happily this is the year of milestones and  giving major props to the woman of color actresses on film in 2012. Making history as the youngest Academy Award nominee newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis has charmed audiences and critics as “Hushpuppy” in “Beast of the Southern Wild”.  At 12 years old actress Amandla Sternberg is a seasoned veteran of television and film.  Amandla broke the color barrier winning the role of “Rue” in “The Hunger Games”. Starring as the lovely “Bronhilda” in “Django Unchained”, Kerry Washington turned a milestone with the lead in the Shonda Rhimes’ ABC hit show, “Scandal” as the first African American actress to star in a television series in 39 years.   Emayatzy Corinealdi’s feature film debut in “Middle of Nowhere” earned her a Gotham Award for Breakthrough Actor and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. Honored by Women In Film as a Trailblazer, Viola Davis co-starred with Maggie Gyhllenhall in “Won’t Back Down“. Triple threat Tamara Tunie must be the hardest workingwoman in show business. Tamara continued her role as “Melinda Warner” on “Law and Order SVU” and a film role opposite Oscar nominee Denzel Washington in “Flight”. Ms. Tunie added directing a feature film, ”See You in September” to a resume that includes Tony Awards for producing Broadway hits, “Spring Awakenings“ and “Radio Golf”. Queen Latifah provided the voice of in “Ellie” in Ice Age: Continental Drift”, co-starred in “A Joyful Noise” and produced the TV remake of “Steel Magnolias”. Her production company, Flavor Unit Entertainment has struck a deal with Netflix for a multiyear licensing deal. Playing six unique characters in a ring cycle plot about soul reincarnation; Halle Berry joined an A-list actor ensemble in “Cloud Atlas” directed by Tom Twyker, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski. Octavia Spencer followed up her Best Supporting Oscar win with roles in independent films, “Smashed” and “Blues for Willadean”. S. Epatha Merkerson played a pivotal role in Best Film Oscar nominee “Lincoln” and co-produced and directed a documentary film, ”Contradictions of Fair Hope”. Fierce are these Black Women in the entertainment industry who have empowered themselves and self-actualize success in front and behind the camera. According to the AFL-CIO as of July 2012 there were 3,350 Black-female actors employed. The next generation of triple threat talents will have to seize every opportunity. For aspiring producers, writers and directors, there is Project Involve, Sundance Produces Lab, ABC Talent Development, NBC Diversity Initiative, CBS Diversity,Independent Lens and Withoutabox. As Black History Month begins let’s celebrate the women of color on film who embraced the challenges of directing, producing and diverse on camera roles in milestone achievements of a year past.

“Beloved, you are my sister, you are my daughter, you are my face; you are me.”
Toni Morrison

Monday, February 11, 2013

Black + Beautiful Vogue Cover Girls

  The first black model to grace the cover of British Vogue was Donyale Luna in 1966.  Donyale went on to star in movies directed by Otto Preminger, Federico Fellini and Andy Warhol, before the end of her short tumultuous life.   The cover of Vogue is the pinnacle of any model’s career. The honor can lead to high-end fashion and beauty contracts, film, TV and commercial roles and entrepreneurial enterprises.  The first African American model on the cover of American Vogue was Beverly Johnson.  Her career achievements include film and TV roles, two beauty books and a successful hair product line.  Beverly is the star of a reality show on OWN“Beverly’s Full House”real estate entrepreneur. The second African American model to score a Vogue cover was Peggy Dillard. Peggy is now a successfulHer Harlem salon, Turning Heads was on the vanguard of the natural hair movement.  Somalian beauty Iman is also a multi hyphenate talent. Iman is an actress, author and CEO of Iman Cosmetics. Many Vogue cover beauties of color pen their memoirs and campaign for important issues. Waris Dirie has a memoir and documentary, “Desert Flower” that details her escape from genial mutilation.  Her foundation is called Desert Flower Foundation. Beauty Alek Wek also wrote her memoir and is an ambassador for Doctors without Borders. Alek also designs a line of elegant handbags, "Wek 1933". Tyra Banks is a television mogul who started on “The Fresh Prince of Belair” as Will Smith’s love interest. Tyra is the CEO of Bankable Enterprises, which produces “America’s Next Top Model” and her successful talk show “Tyra”. In addition Tyra has found time to complete her Executive Business Education at Harvard School of Business.   Shari Belafonte has starred in several TV dramas. The model with the most Vogue covers to date is Naomi Campbell. Adding to her various endeavors philanthropy and acting, Naomi is the executive producer of reality show, “The Face” where aspiring models compete  to be the face of ULTA. The show will debut this week on Oxygen. Naomi is a coach with supermodels Coco Rocha and Karolina Kurkova.   Other models have established post Vogue cover careers in the arts. Louise Vyent is a photographer. Wanakee Pugh is a visual artist. The new cover girls are branching out like their history making supermodels of color. Chanel Iman has a website devoted to her accomplishments and philanthropy. Liya Kebede is the face of L’Oreal. Liya founded the Liya Kebede Foundation to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world. Noemie Lenoir has added film actress to her resume. Joan Smalls is the co-host of MTV’s House of Style.   Lana Ogilvie and Kiara Kabukuru have beauty campaigns with Cover Girl Cosmetics.  Now there is an online campaign to launch a Vogue Africa. Black + Beautiful Vogue cover girls are Semper Fabulous.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Hopefully gone are the days when filmmakers raised funds for their films by any means necessary: medical experiments (“El Mariachi”, Robert Rodriguez), credit cards (“Hollywood Shuffle”, Robert Townsend) and family and friends (“Kissing Jessica Stein”, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen). Now crowdfunding platforms are the way to finance film projects through individuals on the web.  There are two types of crowd funding platforms for film; equity investment and donations. President Obama signed the JoBs (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act containing provisions for filmmaker’s to raise up to a million dollars in equity on the internet. But according to  Filmmaker Magazine, the crowd funding platforms created for equity film investment still has a few kinks to work out.   The most lucrative crowd funding platforms are through established web companies Kickstarter, IndieGogo and newcomer Seed & Spark enabling indie filmmakers to raise funds through donations. Oscar-winning "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich" screenwriter Charlie Kaufman raised a record $406K for “Anomalisa” his first animated film on Kickstarter.   According to Mashable, Indiegogo has had a good year too. Seed & Spark‘s Emily Best emphasizes the unique services her site offers film projects, “The goal of filmmaking is not simply making a film, but getting people to see it when its finished. Seed &Spark is built to leverage crowd-funding specifically for audience building and additionally to deliver finished films to those audiences. Filmmakers can fund their film, build cast and crew, and gather their community and keep them updated from pitch to premiere. Audiences can follow or fund film projects that speak to them. Audiences get unprecedented access to excellent independent content, and filmmakers keep 80% of the distribution revenue. Fair trade!”. 

Successful film funding campaigns utilize equal parts: planning, teamwork and incentives.  Set a realistic fund goal for the time period you select begin by calculating the amount your requesting   secured by the middle of your deadline. Make a budget for your incentives to have at several donation levels. Through a fiscal sponsorship contract with a 501(C) 3 organization such as Independent Feature Project or Women Make Movies, your project could offer to give donors a tax deduction for their support.  A great campaign involves a team effort with delegated tasks to blog, tweet or donate so make a list of who would be interested in your project and seeing it succeed. Cut a strong trailer; write compelling and personal pitch material and press releases. Utilize every bit of social media (Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest Twitter, Google+ LinkedIn) in support of outreach of your project.  Kickstarter’s Justin Kazmarek advises, “The most compelling rewards draw the backer into the project and offer a behind the scenes glimpse of the creative process along the way.”

One notable Indiegogo success is a documentary film, “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth”. The director Pratibha Parmar of Kali Films Ltd. declares, “ The most successful part of our campaign was the tremendous amount of outreach we did, which helped us to create a longer term awareness of the film. We were successful because we pushed out on every front, facebook, twitter, regular blog on our website, interviews in online magazines. We had an enthusiastic response from many people to our teaser which got watched by over 13,000 people. It was exciting to see our support base grow internationally as our funders came from over 17 different countries. To get to be Project of the Week and then Project of the Month on Indie wire was a fabulous boost and then to go on to be selected as one of the top 12 Creative Campaigns of 2012 by Indiegogo was a great affirmation of all our hard work. It was a full time effort and there were, in the end only 2 of us doing it throughout the 3 month period so it was quite exhausting but worth it in the end. “

Producer Sara Murphy’s   film project, “Stories of the Unconscious” has a Seed & Spark campaign in progress. Sara observes, “As we are still in the midst of our funding campaign, this continues to be an enormous learning experience, but I have several observations thus far. 

I think the most important thing to remember during your crowd-funding campaign is to remain positive and keep moving forward. There are days and/or weeks wherein you will bring in way less than your goal, and this can be extremely demoralizing. You have to continue reaching out, brainstorm new ways of bringing people to your funding site, and take the opportunity to become very resourceful. 

Creating fun incentives as 'weekly specials' that go beyond your basic incentives can provide funding surges and also provide new possibilities to create 'buzz' about the project and the campaign. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But by getting creative and targeting different demographics, you will increase your reach and hone in on your target audience.”
Preferably working on the creative process of a film, a filmmaker wears many hats and fundraising is an important one. In his book “Rebel without a Crew” Rodriguez financed his film with paid assignments as a medical experiment lab participant. Raising money on crowd funding platforms requires a great deal of sweat equity to succeed but it is less painful then being a hospital lab rat for pay.


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 ...