Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Help - The Review


THE HELP

Written & Directed by Tate Taylor

Produced by Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Brunson Green

Cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt

Released: August 10, 2011 (USA)

Summary: The Help is a 2011 comedy-drama film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name. The film is an ensemble piece about a young white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids during Civil Rights era America in the early 1960s. Skeeter is a journalist who decides to write a controversial book from the point of view of the maids (known as the Help), exposing the racism they are faced with as they work for white families.

Review
Let me start by saying this will be a short review for the majority of what I have to say about the film is labeled as commentary and not really about the film itself.

The Help is a wonderful film. The direction, the acting and yes the story. As stated in the synopsis this is a comedy-drama and as that it succeeded. The film had A LOT of wonderful performances most notably in the leads Emma Stone and Viola Davis. Viola Davis is THE TRUTH as an actor we all know that. I’ve only seen Emma Stone in one other film (Easy A, a film I did not like), but she did a great job in this film.

Stand out supporting characters were played by excellent actors of their generation Sissy Spacek and the indomitable Cicely Tyson. Cicely’s fine portrayal affected me the most. Jessica Chastain also did a great job and I have to mention that Allison Janney was great as usual too. Bryce Dallas Howard as the villain of the piece was too cartoonish and should have been twirling a moustache. Of all the awards buzz about the acting in the film my favorite portrayal came from Octavia Spencer. Octavia Spencer’s performance was sublime.

In the end, The Help was simply one of the BEST films I’ve seen all year.

Commentary
Now I DID NOT want to see The Help. I don’t like those Driving Miss Daisy/Magic Negro types of movies. For the record, in movie circles, the figure known as a "Magic Negro," is a term that dates back to the late 1950s.
“[Filmmakers] give the black character special powers and underlying mysticism, " says Todd Boyd, author of "Am I Black Enough for You? " and co-writer of the 1999 film "The Wood." "This goes all the way back to 'Gone with the Wind.' Hattie McDaniel is the emotional center, but she is just a pawn. Pawns help white people figure out what's going wrong and fix it, like Whoopi Goldberg's psychic in Ghost"
Now I HATE films like that and from what I saw from the trailer and the TV Spots The Help looked like another Magic Negro movie. Here we go with the black maid helping the white character become a better person—PASS.

As a filmmaker though I will watch ANYTHING…probably not Soul Plane, but I digress. When a friend of mine wanted me to go see The Help with her, I said “Sure”. We never got around to it and that was fine with me. In the interim though blogs I frequent about black film eviscerated that’s the word they used—EVISCERATED The Help. I think I’m a smart discerning guy so I said I’ll reserve full judgment.

Well you saw what I thought about the film above and that is the film as a film,  not the story it portrayed, but honestly I didn’t have a problem with the story either. Yes it was a sanitized version of the past, yes it had a simplified message, but I think that was the intent. It was also a “chick flick” which I don’t really dig either. Never saw Steel Magnolias, never want to see Steel Magnolias.

Now I have to share two varying opinions set forth by a friend I made over on the Nother Brother Twitter account (@NotherBrother) Journalist Candice Frederick on her blog REEL TALK.

I want to share two excerpts from her post 2011 ANNUAL FILM ROUNDTABLE (ROUND 1) where she and critic Julian Stark talk about Star Wars…just kidding…of course The Help

First up Journalist Candice Frederick or as I know her "Reel Talker"
“Ahh...The Help. 

It's funny, every time I start thinking about The Help I really start thinking about what could have made it good, interesting. 
For instance, if it's called The Help, why isn't the movie about them? Wouldn't it have been cool if the person writing the movie was a black maid, who probably would have revealed a much more controversial look at the story from the help's point of view? Why is the most interesting thing about the help, or the most realized aspect of their stories, is that they take care of the children of their white employees, or teach them to fry chicken? 
I think a huge missed opportunity is that they didn't really dive into--spoiler alert--the fact that Aibeen's son died, or that Minny was getting abused by her husband. Every aspect of their lives was in direct relation to their white employers or to further develop Skeeter's role in the movie. They promote the "story" of The Help as being revelatory, but revealing that there are clearly a community of unhappy maids/housekeepers who take care of their employers' children is anything but that. And, if the story was so controversial in the neighborhood, the employers would have done a lot worse things than have them fired....The historical part of this historical fiction piece seems....blurred.”

Critic Julian Stark 
“It’s not difficult to glance at the general plot, watch the movie, and think that Emma Stone’s character Skeeter is a magic white lady who makes everything sunshine and rainbows with her spunk and sass, but that’s not how it played for me. Rather, it was the maids that saved themselves. Stone wants to bring their stories to light, and sure, that’s what gets the action going in the first place. But without the firsthand accounts of the maids, there would have been no progress.” 
(You can read the full 2011 ANNUAL FILM ROUNDTABLE (ROUND 1) here)

Now I shared those excerpts because I agree with them both, and that is the reason we’re here.

The whole reason ‘Nother Brother Entertainment is in existence is “To further propagate diverse images through development of films” I’m not going to denigrate someone else for making a good piece, even if I don’t completely agree with the ideology.

If we want to see a difference in Hollywood, we have to make a difference in Hollywood. I’ve reviewed several good independent black films here on the blog (Actually here ) and that is the only way we're going to see true change. I haven’t seen many (any?) films directed by a white person that fully captured the black experience anyway. As much as I might try, I don’t think I can tell a female driven story as effectively as a female director could.

When it comes to The Help even though I thought it was one of the best films of the year doesn’t mean it was one of my favorite films of the year, but I did like it. I really liked it.

Related Links
At our Sista Blog Cool Black Media
  • The full article about The Magic Negro here
  • The piece I wrote When Viola Davis Played a Serial Killer here

Related articles about The Help most notably from The Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) are posted at the blog for Spike Lee’s company 40 Acres and A Mule here


Friday, November 18, 2011

The Business of Show Business

One of my favorite quotes describing the business of show business is below

Well, it's called "show business", it's not called "show". Even though it's called "show business", ain't no business, no show. You know, they ought to call it "business show", actually. - Denzel Washington
I just read an excellent recent article describing how that business works. Making movies isn't all about creative part of making it, but the financial part of it. As Denzel put it, IT IS a business.

'Twilight' Money: How Summit Plans to Make $1.2B Off 'Breaking Dawn'

By Brent Lang at

Nov 17, 2011 6:59pm EST

EXCLUSIVE


“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1” is on its way to a massive opening at midnight, but as confidential documents obtained by TheWrap demonstrate, the movie’s backers have lofty expectations for equally gargantuan profits.

Experts estimate that “Breaking Dawn” will have to take in about $650 million at the worldwide box office to reach the $228 million in profit that Summit Entertainment, the studio behind the franchise, projected in an investor prospectus obtained by TheWrap.

The document, used to raise $750 million last spring, projected that the final two films in the franchise would generate more than $1.2 billion in revenues and $447 million in profits for the studio and its investors.

That number does not appear to be out of reach. The last two "Twilight" movies grossed roughly $700 million each in worldwide box office, and the latest installment is expected to take in up to $140 million domestically this weekend.

The studio won’t be alone in raking in cash. The three stars of the series -- Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner -- will reportedly get $25 million each for performing in the last two "Twilight" films against 7.5 percent of the theatrical gross. (Summit declined to confirm or deny this information.)

Supporting cast members such as Kellan Lutz and Nikki Reed are getting $1.25 million a piece to return to the last two films, according to an individual with knowledge of their deals.

Summit anticipates that the first film in the two-part finale to the “Twilight Saga” will bring in $611 million in first-cycle revenue and $228 million in profits.

"First cycle" includes theatrical, paid and broadcast television, video on demand, merchandising, and disc sales through the 10th anniversary of the film’s release in theaters.

The capital raised last spring was used to finance the studio’s production slate, pay down debt, and to reward its original investors and key executives with a $200 million dividend.

Summit declined to comment for this article.

Whatever the fate of the studio beyond the "Twilight" series, Summit is poised to see a huge near-term windfall in a declining movie-going market from one of the few box-office events of the year.

Barring a plague of locusts, “Breaking Dawn -- Part 1” is on track to bank between $125 to $140 million this weekend domestically. It will also rake in big bucks in more than 50 foreign markets, including France, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Summit licenses the foreign rights to its film slate, meaning it will share “Breaking Dawn”s’ monster overseas profits -- but only after its foreign partners recoup all of their costs plus interest.

The prospectus filed in March explains that as part of Summit’s strategy, the studio has four long-term output agreements with E1, Nordisk, SND and Tele-Munchen, which contribute on average 31.5 percent of the production cost for each film on the studio’s slate.

Each partner pays a minimum guarantee for the film rights, and once those and other costs such as distribution fees are recouped, the remainder of the profits are divided.

The documents do not outline the split, but according to a prominent film financier, the industry standard is for the studio and the partner to divide profits evenly.

“Nobody gives away anything for free,” Hal Vogel of Vogel Capital Management and the author of “Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis,” told TheWrap. “The advantage of a pre-sale is that you don’t get whacked if the film is a dud, but when you have a hit it limits the upside.”

Until the box office closes Monday, it will not be clear if the studio is on track to meet Summit's bullish projections.

What is evident is that the still relatively economical blockbusters have gotten progressively more expensive as the series has continued.

“Breaking Dawn -- Part 1” cost the studio $127.5 million and “Part 2” will cost $136.2 million. In contrast, the first three films were budgeted at a reported $37 million for “Twilight,” $50 million for “New Moon,” and $68 million for “Eclipse.”

The studio plans to spend a total of $100 million on marketing the two final films in the series.

Summit says that after-tax rebates, “Breaking Dawn -- Part 1” cost $110 million.

Thanks to Summit’s foreign sales deals, the studio’s exposure on the films is minimal.

“Their exposure is pretty small relatively speaking, but it’s bigger by a factor of almost four from the first films,” Vogel told TheWrap. “The revenues are flat, and even though they will still make a nice profit, their profits are going down.”

November 27, 2011
A great addendum to this article, talking more about "the business"
Lions Gate Said to Be in Merger Talks With ‘Twilight’ Film Producer Summit
Read it here



Monday, November 7, 2011

Jay-Z and Kanye West Get Guerilla Style 'in the Wild'

While technically a music video, this is MORE a short film and an excellently done one at that, hence being posted here at the NBE blog. This thought provoking short film was done by The High 5 Collective. You can read more about them after the video.


The High 5 Collective didn't waste any time in adding Watch the Throne to their repertoire. The collective, who is at the top of the field when it comes to guerrilla music video making, added their twisted touch to the already ominous Jay-Z/Kanye West track, "No Church in the Wild." The collective has done a video for Frank Ocean, the guest vocalist on "No Church in the Wild" who steals the show. -Huffington Post
The High 5 Collective one sentence description of themselves is "We make art for artists that inspire us." Word! I can dig that! You can check them out here

You can read more about Frank Ocean at here

HUGE THANKS to a personal friend of mine, actor Brandan Tate for giving me a heads up about this excellent video/film. You can check out Brandan's IMDb page here

Friday, November 4, 2011

Taking an Internet Show to TV


'Awkward Black Girl' Producer Shares Thoughts on the Web Vs. TV

By Tracy Oliver | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Nov 1, 2011

Last night, a few of my castmates -Issa Rae (J), Sujata Day (CeCe), Madison T. Shockley III (Fred), and Tristen Winger (Darius) came to my apartment to shoot a scene for the next "Awkward Black Girl" episode. Hours after we wrapped the shoot, we stayed in my living room passionately discussing the future of "ABG" til 3am. The topic of discussion: Should "ABG" stay on the Web or go to television?

Six months ago, that answer was emphatically television. I distinctly remember sitting in coffee shops with Issa, strategizing ways to reach potential producers, executives, and networks that may be a good fit for "ABG." We were even writing an extensive treatment for the series, visualizing how the characters and storylines could be adapted into a half-hour comedy.

I'll admit it. The prospect of "ABG" on television is enticing. The thought of millions of people sitting around their flat screens watching a weekly version of the show is pretty exciting. The thought of an African-American female lead with dark skin and a short fro starring in a mainstream comedy is downright revolutionary.

On television, "ABG" could be what "The Cosby Show" was back in the day -- a universal show breaking in several actors of color in front of the screen and writers and directors of color behind the scenes. In a perfect world, it could change the perceptions of African-American women at large and fill a void that's absent in mainstream media.

The only problem is, we don't live in a perfect world.

Television today often doesn't reflect the beauty in diversity, in front or behind the camera. The numbers of writers and directors of color working in television are dismal. The numbers of female writers and directors of color are even worse. According to a recent DGA study, white males directed 77% of all television episodes for the 2010-2011 season, while women of color directed just 1%.

When looking at these statistics, the reality of selling "ABG" to a network lends itself to many questions. Who will become the showrunner(s) and will they understand our vision? How many writers of color will be staffed? Will we able to maintain our current cast? How much creative control will we have over the content?

To answer these questions, Issa and I sat down with a television executive from a prominent network. In short, his response confirmed our worst fears. He felt that in order for "ABG" to become more mainstream, the entire cast would need to be replaced. His suggestion for the lead character, J, was a long haired, fair-skinned actress who looked more like a model from a rap music video than an awkward black girl.

Needless to say, the meeting was frustrating. But also very eye opening. This executive's thoughts on making "ABG" more mainstream stripped the show of what made it a hit in the first place -- its relatability. The truth is, he didn't get our show. He didn't get our vision. And worse, he didn't get our audience.

Our audience is the reason "ABG" is where it is today. They support our vision, and the Web allows us a unique opportunity to stay true to it. Though we haven't yet found a way to monetize the series as we would in television, the trade off is being able to have full creative license over the content, which is ultimately why we're excited to do what we're doing and why our fans are excited to watch.

Tracy Oliver is a writer/producer/actor whose work can be currently seen in the hit Web series, "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl," also known as "ABG." "ABG" has been featured on several sites and publications, including Vibe magazine, Clutch magazine, CNN, The Root, Shadow & Act, AOL, and the Huffington Post. You can find "ABG" episodes and information here

UPDATE OCTOBER 2012

Shonda Rhimes Sells A Comedy From ‘Awkward Black Girl’ Creator Issa Rae to ABC

By Alyssa Rosenberg | ThinkProgress
Oct 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Since my readers introduced me to Issa Rae’s web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, I’ve wished someone would give Rae, whose biting, original, low-budget show has earned her a well-deserved following, a deal and the resources to take her show national. Now, Shonda Rhimes, one of the few women and few African-Americans who can basically get a network to greenlight anything she wants, has found a way to do precisely that. Through her Shondaland production company, Rhimes has helped Rae sell a new series, I Hate LA Dudes, about the sole woman on an internet radio talk show, to ABC.

This is good, and illuminating, news for two reasons. First, it’s a sign that production companies and networks are finally starting to look to web-based content the way they should, as a source of genuinely new voices and of fresh storylines. In an ideal world, the internet and the distribution platforms native to it, Hulu in particular, should function as a kind of minor leagues for television, allowing artists to test ideas, improve their tool kits as low budgets require many of them to write, direct, edit and score as well as act, and build followings. Not all projects will succeed, but web shows, which are free from the pressures of network scheduling, can take time to develop audiences by word of mouth. If a show becomes a hit online without the benefit of a major publicity campaign, as Awkward Black Girl did, it’s fantastic proof of concept. That Rhimes and ABC recognized Rae’s talent and her audience is a testament to them, as well as to Rae’s work and vision.

The question will be how much leeway Rae has at ABC. Because it’s a network, it’s hard to imagine she’ll have as much freedom when it comes to content or to ratings as Louis C.K. has at FX or Lena Dunham has had at HBO. ABC picked up the show because the network thinks it can make money from Rae, not merely to pick up awards nominations or critical praise, and no matter how original Rae is, she’ll be getting network notes. But in a sense, there’s something invigorating about that proposition: ABC must think it’s possible to do well with a show from the perspective of a nerdy African-American woman whose prior selling point has been the social awkwardness of the character she portrayed, not precisely a demographic that gets heavy representation on network television.

And it’s also exciting to see Rhimes use her capital in Hollywood this way. Tyler Perry, the other person of color who can get almost any television or film project he wants into development, has never seemed particularly interested in using his shingle to help other writers and directors get projects moving (though he produced Lee Daniels’ Precious). And today he signed an exclusive development deal with the Oprah Winfrey Network, locking in profits but limiting his influence. There’s nothing wrong with Perry making that money. But it’s more exciting to see Rhimes single-handedly use her influence to make television a place that’s not just more diverse but more interesting, even in a way that goes beyond her own shows. I’ll be crossing my fingers for Rae to succeed not just because I can’t wait to watch whatever she creates, but because if she does well, that can only rebound to Shondaland’s credit, and if this is any indication, to our benefit as well.

Even though it isn't as cool as the animated version, the logo for Shonda Rhimes' production company Shondaland




Related Post
Let's Hear it for the Awkward Black Girls

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Upcoming Buzzed About Films from Black Directors


I’ve been hearing (really reading) a lot about two upcoming films by black directors and as their release dates are vastly/fastly approaching I will present them below in order of their release date.

First up is SHAME (2011)




Left, movie poster for Shame, Right, director Steve McQueen
The film from British director and co-writer Steve McQueen, stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Below is the synopsis.
In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life -- which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction -- is disrupted when his sister Cissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay. - IMDb
The film Releases in the United States
December 2, 2011

You can see the Official Website here  and see the trailer below



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Last, but not least is PARIAH (2011)

Left, movie poster for Pariah, Right director Dee Rees
 The film written and directed by Dee Rees,stars Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell. Below is the synopsis.
A Brooklyn teenager juggles conflicting identities and risks friendship, heartbreak, and family in a desperate search for sexual expression. - IMDb
The film Releases in the United States
December 28, 2011

The film will initially open across select theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, but will expand soon after throughout the winter."-Shadow & Act

You can see the Official Website here  and see the trailer below




February 2012
I have reviewed Pariah here

CLICK the button below to see all of our Reviews on other great black films

Related Posts
Watch the star of Pariah Adepero Oduye in a very nice short film RIGHT HERE on the blog in the post here

At our sista blog Cool Black Media a post about another film by a black director, but this one has the marketing muscle of George Lucas behind it read all about it here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Does a Film Producer Do?

From





Ask the Filmmaker: What Does a Film Producer Do?

Written by Deborah Osment

Does anyone have any idea how many movies are made each year as opposed to how many get distribution of some kind? It has to literally be in the thousands. DVDs sit gathering dust on shelves everywhere and every single one of those DVDs is responsible for at least one person who calls themselves a producer. Usually it’s more like five or six people who have that title on that DVD.

It used to be that people would ask me what a producer is when I told them I was a film producer. Now I hear that they’re a producer, too, or their cousin is or some guy they know at work, or all three.

I don’t mean to, in any way, suggest that these people don’t have the right to call themselves by that title. What I’d like to suggest is that “producer” is a job in itself and other than a few selcet MFA programs, no one is teaching what it really is. More is required than buying a digital camera, writing a script and getting your friends and family to play along. The reason I’d like to suggest this is that there are some good ideas out there that never seem to make it from script to screen.

A producer is the person who keeps the production on track and that track should be straight to the movie screen or one of the thousands of television/cable/satellite channels anxious for product these days.

I’ve never understood, for instance, how there can be such a thing as a producer/director. Unless, of course, said person is an actual schizophrenic and capable of arguing two sides of a question at once. He or she also would have to be a person capable of squeezing 48 hours out of your average 24-hour day because both producing and directing are full-time jobs. And we’re not talking the traditional 40-hour week here. My license tag once expired during a long shoot and I put a sign in my back window that read “In production, will get my tag renewed as soon as I remember my name.” As I lived in Venice, California, at the time, I went without a ticket.

The producer is the problem-solver. You have to be able to solve any problem and to do it instantly. I once was called into the make-up trailer to find the leading lady and her make-up person in hysterics because – you ready for this? – her blusher had dropped and the powder had spilled all over the floor. This was at midnight on a night shoot and it was expensive make-up that was only available in a few exclusive stores. I, being the producer, knew that I could call Nordstrom and they would open the store and replace the blusher for me. I knew that fact and that number because I was the producer and that was my job. Don’t think about this as a run to replace makeup, think about it as a run to keep from burning money because a crew was standing around or, worse yet, getting paid for a full day (per contract) and not working at all. And, no, you cannot tell the lead actress that another blusher will do just as well.

The producer has to see problems before they happen. I was involved early on in a shoot which is just finishing up in Michigan. A period piece, part of it was set in the jungle in Vietnam and those in charge were determined to shoot that part in the Ann Arbor Arboretum. Feel free to go back and read that sentence again. I was the only one arguing against it. In fact, it is supposed to be based on a true story and the dude who had written the script insisted that the arboretum looked exactly like Vietnam. I insisted that he just wanted his movie to be made and would agree to anything. I pointed out that, even if the Ann Arbor Arboretum did look exactly like the jungles of Vietnam, there would be traffic noise, planes flying overhead, kids riding skateboards, and so on. As far as I know, I’m the only one not working on the film. They are, however, shooting part of it in Vietnam. But it came down to this for me, if they were ready to make that kind of decision before the film was even greenlit, what would they do during production? I hope they’ve made a wonderful film.

So, what is a producer? A producer is someone who has to know everything about everything. They have to be able to keep their cool when everyone else is losing theirs. The primary job of a producer, however, is to make a creative bubble in which the director, the DP, the actors and all the crew can create a film. The producer has to start working on the project before anyone else but the screenwriter and can’t stop working on it until every penny of revenue has come in and every bill has been paid.

More tales of movie-making fun to come …
Deborah Osment, is an award-winning screenwriter and producer. Her work has been screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, HBO, AFI and many other venues throughout the world.
 Check out the Filmslate website here

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As Ms. Osment stated
how there can be such a thing as a producer/director. Unless, of course, said person is an actual schizophrenic and capable of arguing two sides of a question at once. He or she also would have to be a person capable of squeezing 48 hours out of your average 24-hour day because both producing and directing are full-time jobs.
YES that is true, but on the lower end budget stuff I had to produce it wasn't THAT hectic, but it is grueling at times. You have to constantly make on the spot decisions and you just say "YEAH go with that." It always helps to have a good co-producer and a good AD (Assistant Director) to help you carry out tasks, but the producer/director is the final decision maker. As she stated "A producer is someone who has to know everything about everything. They have to be able to keep their cool when everyone else is losing theirs." and that is 100% correct.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy - Review

A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy

Written, Produced, Edited & Directed by Dennis Dortch

Cinematography by Brian Harding

Released: December 5, 2008 (USA)
 
 
 
 

 

 
Starring:
Kathryn Taylor
Brandon Valley Jones
Chonte Harris
Marcuis Harris
LaKeisha Blackwell
Mylika Davis
Allen Maldonado
Jerome Hawkins
Natalia Morris
Alisa Sherrod

REVIEW
As I’ve said in the past, I usually post movie (and other media) reviews at Cool Black Media. I don’t usually post movie reviews here at the ‘Nother Brother Entertainment Blog, UNLESS it is an independent film worthy of distinction and A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy is such a film.

I never even heard about this film before a friend at work recommended it. Months later, a friend of mine on Facebook mentioned it was good, I thought I like films, I like black films, I like the combination of the two, maybe I should watch this and I’m glad I did.

As stated in the summary “the complex world of love, relationships and sexuality” is indeed explored in this film and done so WITHOUT gratuitous sex scenes, not that I’m against that. That is not to say that they sugar coat anything. This film has A LOT of sex and sexual matters. The opening of the film opens with a particular sexy, yet funny scene.

While the visual style takes some getting used to, you do as the film goes along and the acting is real and natural. The actors do a great job at being real given the sexual situations.

A good film that every adult should check out because it was indeed A Good Day to Be Black and Sexy ;-)

Commentary: I talked about distribution and marketing at length here on the blog and this film is a prime example. Had it not been for the good word of mouth I would never have heard of this film. As you might know, I read a lot about film before, during and after many films are in production and anything that I do see and I think is noteworthy I share on this blog and on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (You can join BOTH our page and feed to the top right, right below my smiling face :-) ~>

If you see a good black film PLEASE recommend it to your friends, every film can’t buy advertising on television or even radio. As evidenced by this review, good word of mouth is still relevant and in this era of the world wide web - pervasive.

Watch their trailer below



You can watch a wonderfully sensuous short film right here on this blog at the link below
Sensuous Short Film - If I Leap

See all of the good independent films I reviewed here on the blog at this link

Friday, October 14, 2011

Black Screenwriters Roundtable


Graphic courtesy of Shadow & Act
From the great site
Every now and then, we like to pull pertinent material from our archives to share with new readers of S&A. Today, we’re featuring a 2009 black television writers roundtable. Tambay [The site's Chief Editor & Writer] had a chance to speak with Courtney Lilly (The Cleveland Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Arrested Development, I’m Through with White Girls), Kriss Turner (Something New, The Bernie Mac Show), Kenya Barris (Are We There Yet?, Soul Food, Girlfriends, The Game) and Bashir Salahuddin (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Chocolate News) on their experience and outlook of the industry. Hear how they got started and worked through the maze known as Hollywood. If you haven’t heard this before, this is a MUST!
I listened and I wholeheartedly agree. You can listen to the podcast below and click their logo ABOVE^ to check out their site.  


CLICK the graphic below to see all of our blog posts about diversity


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tyler Perry: Buffoonery or Opportunity? [VIDEO]

Found this clip courtesy of SWAN (Morgan State University Screenwriting and Animation) More information about SWAN at the bottom.






For the record, I generally enjoy all of Tyler Perry’s films. Perry’s movies ARE disarming in order to slide a message in there. People are more likely to watch a Madea flick than ‘Precious’, while an amazing film is horribly depressing, and yes “poverty porn”. I think we can have hamburger and prime rib as long as we know the difference between the two.

In the end, I think people can take things too seriously, it’s all make believe.

Also for the record, I studied screenwriting at Morgan State University's Writing for Television program (Now SWAN -Screenwriting and Animation) and it was an excellent program. Even though I wound up getting my degree (in film) from Towson University, I tell people all the time “Everything I learned about screenwriting, I learned at Morgan State!”

Click Morgan's logo below to read more about their Screenwriting and Animation program.


Related posts at our sista blog Cool Black Media

 Tyler Perry is Highest Paid Man in Hollywood

A message from Spike Lee himself: 
No Fued-Spike Lee & Tyler Perry

You can also CLICK the graphic below to see all of our blog posts about diversity




Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cinematography - Time Lapse [VIDEO]

A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera (the art and science of which is known as cinematography). The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image.-Wikipedia
Basically a cinematographer is the person behind the actual camera and making sure everything is lit right (with electrical lights or through natural lighting using bounce cards (reflectors) Pictured below)

 
From cinematographer Dustin Farrell, below is some amazing time lapse photography.

A year's compilation of my time lapse work. All shot on the Canon 5D2 and processed in Adobe After Effects. The majority of the shots are in my beautiful home state of Arizona. Goblin Valley State Park and Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah also make an appearance. Most of the motion control for this video was done with the Stage Zero Dolly by Dynamic Perception. In addition to the Stage Zero, I also used a three axis motion controlled CamTram.-Dustin Farrell
Check out his work below.


Landscapes: Volume One from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

Read a blog post about Dustin Farrell "Dustin’s behind the scenes" here

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gunplay in Film

In the below video several people were arrested for staging a fake robbery for a music video. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the cast and crew was justifiably arrested. I say justifiably because it was a "misguided" idea in the first place and after the video I explain why.


Everybody wants to play “cops and robbers”. They think it’s cool and adds a heighten sense of danger and it does, when done properly. A lot of people want to go out and shoot an “action scene” without the necessary precautions. A real weapon, even unloaded, on a film set is NEVER wise. A real weapon is unsafe for a myriad of reasons, but one only need to look at the tragedy of Brandon Lee.

On March 31, 1993, while making The Crow, the crew filmed a scene in which his character walks into his apartment and discovers his fiancée being beaten and raped by thugs. Actor Michael Massee, who played one of the film's villains, was supposed to fire a revolver at Lee as he walked onto the scene.

Since the movie's second unit was running behind schedule, they decided to make dummy cartridges (cartridges that outwardly appear to be functional but contain no propellant or primers) from real cartridges by pulling out the bullets, dumping out the propellant and reinserting the bullets. However, the team neglected to remove the primers, which, if fired, could still produce just enough force to push the bullet out of the cartridge and into the barrel (a squib load). At some point prior to the fatal scene, the live primer in one of the improperly constructed dummy rounds was discharged by an unknown person while in the pistol, leaving the bullet stuck in the barrel.

This malfunction went unnoticed by the crew, and the same gun was later reloaded with blank cartridges and used in the scene in which Lee was shot. When the first blank cartridge was fired, the stuck bullet was propelled out of the barrel and struck Lee in the abdomen, lodging in his spine. He fell down instantly, and director Alex Proyas shouted "Cut!". When Lee did not get up, the cast and crew rushed to him and found that he was wounded. He was immediately rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington by ambulance, but following a six-hour operation to remove the bullet, Lee was pronounced dead at 1:04 pm on March 31, 1993. He was 28 years old.- Info from Wikipedia
As an independent filmmaker I’m all for “getting the shot”, but it should always be safety first. A DP (Director of Photography) I was working with wanted to get a shot of the ground in a moving car hanging out of the window and I said “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”. His safety wasn’t worth a shot. If we couldn’t afford a car mount (Examples below) we weren’t going to get the shot.

Camera car mounts
In this era of heightened security, the independent filmmaker must also be aware of what could be seen as a possible security threat. At a Legal Rights for Filmmakers seminar I attended a story was told about filmmakers getting footage of water towers and being detained by police. Now you can only venture to guess what can happen if you are getting footage of government buildings, major bridges etc. They exclaimed DO NOT try to get that kind of footage without notifying the police.

I’m aware that sometimes as an independent filmmaker you must also try to get some footage “guerrilla style”, and don’t have money or time to get the proper notifications and permits, but sometimes you must be smart and err on the side of caution and safety.

FEBRUARY 2014
Sarah Elizabeth Jones was a camera assistant on the film Midnight Rider when she was struck and killed by a train on set in rural Georgia February 20, 2014. The Hollywood Reporter did an extensive feature on the accident HERE

My Twitter friend Cinematographer Cybel Martin wrote a great related piece. Can Guerrilla Filmmaking Become an Addiction? My Thoughts on the Tragic Loss of Sarah Jones

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Will Follow - Review

I Will Follow


Written and Directed by Ava DuVernay

Produced by Howard Barish, Ava DuVernay, Molly M. Mayeux

Cinematography by Miguel Bunster

Released: March 11, 2011 (USA)

Summary: Chronicles a day in the life of a grieving woman, and the twelve visitors who help her move forward.

Starring:
Salli Richardson-Whitfield
Omari Hardwick
Michole White
Beverly Todd
Dijon Talton
Blair Underwood
Tracie Thoms

REVIEW

As I’ve said in the past, I usually post movie (and other media) reviews at Cool Black Media. I don’t usually post movie reviews here at the ‘Nother Brother Entertainment Blog, UNLESS it is an independent film worthy of distinction and I Will Follow is such a film.

THIS is the type of black movie that should always get made and get made often. This is not a movie about black people, but more a movie about people who happen to be black, in a story that’s universal.

The story told here, happens everyday and is happening as you read this. Someone dies and the family has to deal with the aftermath. As usual with the death of a loved one there is conflict within the family for a myriad of reasons and most of them are never about the person who has died, but what they leave behind literally and emotionally.

This movie isn’t all about death and despair, there are lots of light moments and a REAL human story at its center. I’m being intentionally vague because I went into this film COLD. I didn’t even watch the trailer and I think I am better for it. I think you should too, but if you MUST see a trailer, their official website is linked at the bottom of the review.

I Will Follow is a really nice story without a lot of histrionics and sweeping plot twists. That is not to say that there aren’t revelations in the story, but they are all organic and many aren’t revealed until the story is over.

In fact the whole movie just seems real with performances that are organic and true. Salli Richardson-Whitfield as Maye turns in a really nice performance at the center of the story. She deals with the various elements of the day with vigor and determination without being melodramatic. Michole White turns in a particularly strong performance as Fran.

A really nice movie with a lot of good performances. Definitely one of the best black movies I’ve seen all year. This movie keeps it real and that’s a good thing.

You can see the trailer and more at the official website by clicking the graphic below


Commentary: I was kind of apprehensive about seeing this film and not for the reason you might think. I wrote about this film and the “movement” that promoted and distributed it, AFFRM, quite extensively here on the blog. As I posted in that entry:
AFFRM - the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement hopes to spread the distribution of black-themed films through black film festivals based in New York, Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles including our online contact Reelblack in Philadelphia. The film festivals will share the profits from the film for helping to promote its wider release.
I Will Follow was the first film distributed by AFFRM. I thought, what if I don’t like the film? What will I do then? Probably nothing. Whether I liked the film or not, the MOVEMENT is what’s important. If I didn’t think it was important I wouldn’t have written about it. If I didn’t like the film I wouldn’t have reviewed it because I don’t diss films on this blog. I don’t diss films because I know what hard work it is to make a film and no matter the result, at least they got the film made!

All of my trepidation about I Will Follow is moot because I liked the film, I really liked the film. Whew. LOL.

You can see all of the info and video I posted on AFFRM by clicking their logo below

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writers Guild Presents - Writing in Color [VIDEO]

PRESENTS
WRITING IN COLOR II 

Interviews with-
Alan Young, Producer, Parks and Recreation,
Karen Horne, Vice President (Entertainment Diversity Initiatives, Comedy & Drama Programming). NBC & Universal Media Studios,
Halsted Sullivan, Supervising Producer, The Office.
Alsha Muharrar, Executive Story Editor, Parks and Recreation
Dan Harmon, Executive Producer/Showrunner, Community.

Sponsored by WGAW Committee of Black Writers

Moderated by David Wyatt, Chair, WGAW

Writing in Color, 1 of 4: Getting started in comedy writing In this episode, the panelists discuss how they got started in comedy writing.


Writing in Color, 2 of 4: Stereotypes In this episode, the panelists talk about how "The Office," "Parks & Recreation" and "Community" deal with ethnic stereotypes in different ways.

Writing in Color, 3 of 4: Dan Harmon on why he's obsessed... In this episode, "Community" creator/showrunner Dan Harmon discusses why he's obssesed with race Part 3 of 4

Writing in Color, 4 of 4: Writing "race neutral" characters In this episode, the panelists debate whether it's better to include race when writing TV characters or write them as "race-neutral."

CLICK the graphic below to see all of our blog posts about diversity








External Link-
Found out about this series from the great website Shadow & Act. Click their logo below to check them out.

The Diversity Round

I might be a scholar, but I am by no means a scholar on the subject of diversity. I do bring with me a lifetime of observing trends in the media (Self proclaimed Mediaphile) and always having the black eye. By “black eye” I mean whenever and I mean WHENEVER I see something in the media, television or film, I look for the black person(s). Does it make a difference in the overall enjoyment of the medium? More than likely not, but it is always good to see a vista that is not devoid of diversity.

As I stated before the mission of ‘Nother Brother Entertainment has always been "To further propagate diverse images through development of films." To that end a lot of blog posts on this blog are also devoted to diversity.

I find a lot of stuff on the Internet related to diversity and I will put it here. Starting it off below are two blog entries where I compiled my thoughts on the issue PLUS a lot of information.

June 2015
Recently I started putting more diversity articles on our Facebook Page. Our Twitter Feed is always retweeting diversity in film convos on a daily basis as well. Below is a link to our photo album




January 2016

Sundance Film Festival: How Netflix Is Spending Huge and Annoying Studios http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sundance-how-netflix-is-spending-857104 via The Hollywood Reporter
Posted by 'Nother Brother Entertainment on Thursday, January 21, 2016


Diversity in Hollywood 2011 and Beyond

Diversity in Hollywood 2011 and Addendum


September 21, 2011
From the L.A. Times blog
Will color return to this year's Oscar season?

September 22, 2011
At our sista blog Cool Black Media
Why Taraji Crams to Understand: Black Marketing in Hollywood

October 13, 2011
Tyler Perry: Buffoonery or Opportunity?

October 14, 2011
Black Screenwriters Roundtable

November 1, 2011
The blog Diversity Ink has reposted the article "The Rise and Fall and Rise Again of Black TV" from the May 20, 2011 issue of Entertainment Weekly. Read it here

January 2012
Great quote about the state of diversity in film here


March 16, 2012
Pondering The Seemingly Dismal Outlook For Black Filmmakers Working Within The Hollywood Studio System. Read it here



CLICK the graphic below to see all of our blog posts about diversity




Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th Memories [VIDEO]

On that fateful day, September 11, 2001, I was a student at Towson University. That morning I just got out of Chemistry class and I had like a 60-minute break before my next class. I decided to go to the record store (remember those?) and get that new Jay-Z CD .(The Blueprint [1] pictured below) that was just released that day.
The Blueprint
I don't listen to the radio (too many commercials and the same 7 songs over and over) so I listened to another CD on the way to the store. After picking my CD I tried to pay with my debit card and it took forever to go through. In fact all of the transactions were having problems. The purchase finally went through and I listened to the CD all the way back to school and in the parking lot until it was time for class.

TV Studio classroom
I was going to my TV Studio Operation class in the Media Center (pictured above) and the note on the studio door said class was cancelled. I ran into one of my professors and said, "What's going on?" He said, "We're being attacked! You can watch it in the studio down the hall”. I said to myself "The hell with that. I'm going home". I went home and like everyone else, I watched the rest of the event (history) on television.

I soon found out that ALL the phone lines were screwed up. I couldn’t make any calls on my cell phone on the way home. In retrospect, the phone lines (used to process the transactions in the record store) were tied up because of the tragedy.

I didn’t listen to the radio the whole time so I wouldn’t have heard ANY news. If one of those planes were targeting Towson Maryland I would have never known. I still don’t listen to the radio, but I still think that maybe I’m going to miss something huge one day.

No pictures of what happened, just what was...


UPDATE September 11, 2015


A few weeks ago I took my first trip to the 9/11 Memorial and composed a short film. 

You can watch that film below and learn more about the memorial on Wikipedia here

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Attack the Block Updates

Still from Attack the Block
Friday, August 19, 2011 Attack the Block expanded to six more cities - Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Washington D.C., Orlando and Phoenix taking in an additional $83, 478 bringing the U.S. total $604, 420. With a budget of $13 million, the film has grossed $4,275,216 overseas bringing the worldwide total to $4,879,636. -Info courtesy of Box Office Mojo

Read my review here

Update August 29, 2011
Because the film finally opened in Baltimore I wanted to post another box office update so soon.

Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $720,002    14.4%
+ Foreign: $4,275,216   85.6%
----------------------------------
= Worldwide: $4,995,218

-Info courtesy of Box Office Mojo

UPDATE September 1, 2011: Attack the Block's John Boyega has been cast in the lead of a HBO boxing drama being helmed by Spike Lee. Read more about it here

Previous updates about the film-

 
UPDATE: June 10, 2011

Attack the Block will have a limited platform release on July 29, 2011 starting slow in the cities where it will have the most immediate interest and then build on the buzz for future expansion.-ShockTillYouDrop.com
So it may or may not be in your town on the 29th, but hopefully it will be soon after. This type of release happens to movies like this all the time.


UPDATE: August 1, 2011
Attack the Block opened last weekend July 29-31 and became the HIGHEST GROSSEST FILM...however, according to the great site Shadow & Act-
The film opened in only 8 theaters across the country making a total of $130,000 with an average of $16,250 per screen.

That makes it the highest grossing film per screen, better than The Smurfs which came in second with $10, 660 per screen average, though it opened in 3,395 screens nationwide.
If you know the business of film,  "Per Screen Average" is a huge barometer of a film's success. Hopefully Attack the Block will soon be coming to a screen near you.

Related links-
Read more feedback about the opening weekend at Shadow & Act here

Read a great interview with the Writer/Director of Attack the Block Joe Cornish and star John Boyega at Ebony/Jet.com here

Official website
http://attacktheblock.com/

COOL FAN ART

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sensuous Short Film - If I Leap

Found out about this film through the site Shadow & Act

Anslem Richardson and Adepero Oduye in If I Leap. Photo courtesy of Shadow & Act
Synopsis:
Zipporah (Adepero Oduye), a sister in a religious order, is dealing with a secret about her desire for something she has never experienced—erotic love. When Luca (Anslem Richardson), the nephew of the Mother Superior, seeks refuge at the convent after deserting the army, Zipporah engages in an intimate relationship with him that will change the course of her life.
You can watch the 20-minute short film below:




You can read more comments about this film at Shadow & Act by CLICKING their logo below.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Let's Hear it for the Awkward Black Girls

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl -- ABG for short -- is a web series about a socially handicapped black woman who finds herself in hilarious situations.

The star and creator, Issa Rae (pictured above), sets her series in various Los Angeles locales, and in the main character's office.

This web series reminds me of another awkward black girl, Monie on a great animated show Hey Monie! who also was socially handicapped black woman who finds herself in hilarious situations.


Hey Monie! is an animated American black sitcom produced by Soup2Nuts. Hey Monie! originated as one of 14 animated-short components of X-Chromosone (1999), a series on the Oxygen cable network. Proving popular enough to stand on its own, the cartoon series expanded to 30 minutes and moved to Black Entertainment Television and, afterward, on the Oxygen Network in 2003.
Its main character, Simone ("Monie"), works at a public relations agency in Chicago. She lives in an apartment building with her best friend Yvette. The show chronicles her life living as a single career woman in the big city.

The series' voice talent included the Frangela duo (pictured below); Angela V. Shelton as Monie and Frances Callier as Yvette, Melissa Bardin Galsky and Brendon Small.- Some info from Wikipedia
Frangela - Frances Callier & Angela V. Shelton
You can find a couple episodes of Hey Monie! on YouTube, but they are of low quality.(* See 2016 update below) It really is a funny show and Frangela translate their real life chemistry to their animated counterparts.

Below you can see a video explaining more about how they put the show The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl together


Related link-
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl Official website
www.awkwardblackgirl.com/  

March 2016 Update
Watch the Oprah episode of Hey Monie! below.
 
See more Hey Monie! episodes HERE

September 2016 Update
The "Awkward Black Girl" is coming to HBO!

Reimagined as Insecure the half-hour comedy series starring Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis and Lisa Joyce, that looks at the friendship, experiences and tribulations of two black women.

Created and executive produced by Issa Rae, this eight-episode series is also executive produced by Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Beck, Jonathan Berry, and Larry Wilmore as a consultant.

WATCH IT October 9th at 10:30PM on HBO and see the trailer below.



Related Post
Taking an Internet Show to TV 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Film that Started a Career - 5 Deep Breaths

Found this film through the website Shadow & Act, 2011

Seith Mann’s impressive 20-minute short film called 5 Deep Breaths - his NYU MFA thesis project in 2002, which helped launch Mann’s career, directing several notable television shows – notably episodes of HBO’s hit, The Wire.

Some of the short film’s accolades: premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival; it was one of 4 American shorts selected to screen at the Cinefondation Competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival; It won the Best Narrative Short Film award at the 2003 Los Angeles IFP/West Film Festival. Filmmaker magazine named Mann one of their 25 new faces of independent film in 2003. And the IFP gave Mann the Gordon Parks Awards for Emerging African-American Filmmakers; and there’s a lot more.

Television producer Robert F. Colesberry saw Five Deep Breaths, and introduced the other producers of The Wire to it. The producers approached Mann and asked him to shadow their directors during production of the third season in 2004. And 2 years later, in 2006, Mann joined the directing crew of The Wire’s fourth season, and later went onto helm episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Cold Case, Entourage, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, and many more shows.

Mann has been working on a feature film script titled Come Sunday, which would be his debut. The script won two development awards (the Emerging Narrative Screenwriting Award and the Gordon Parks Award for Screenwriting) from the IFP in 2004.
Most recently, Seith was hired to adapt and direct the graphic novel MISS: Better Living Through Crime, which, as he told us, is still in the works, with a last draft of the script shipped off to the production company, which will be followed by the search for talent and financing. Spike Lee is executive producing that by the way.- Tambay, Shadow & Act


UPDATE APRIL 2015
The project written about in Shadow & Act above in 2011 MISS: Better Living Through Crime is still being listed a "in development" which as they call in Hollywood "development hell" meaning it will more than likely never get made.

Don't cry for Seith Mann though as he has to date 40 directing credits for numerous television shows including popular shows The Wire, Dexter, Homeland and The Walking Dead. You can check out his extensive credits on IMDb here