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SURVEY – It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up! (About That “Hollywood Whiteout” Problem)

no_bullshit_single Loooong time readers of Shadow And Act will be familiar with what follows below – initially posted on May 29th, 2009, almost 2 years ago, and only about a month after Shadow And Act was launched. Seems like an eternity. But it’s been a fun ride.

In light of recent articles and the conversations that they inspired, I thought I’d repost it as, in effect, my response to all the noise. I’m referring specifically to the New York Times article titled Hollywood Whiteout, by Mahnola Dargis and A.O. Scott, that was printed on February 11th. I won’t rehash; you can read it HERE, if you didn’t, but I think the title says plenty.

That article was sent to me by several of you, wondering if I would respond to it on S&A, but I really have had no interest in doing so. It seems like an annual occurrence now – mainstream media articles are written lamenting/criticizing/analyzing the film industry’s “diversity problem.” We all share them, discuss them, etc, but, ultimately, little, if anything, actually changes… until the next year, when the cycle only repeats itself and another batch of “Hollywood Whiteout”-style pieces are written, shared, discussed, and so on.

And then I saw THIS Huffington Post op-ed by Nelson George that references the New York Times article. George’s editorial is something of a nostalgic look at black cinema’s past, albeit an ultimately empty piece of commentary, and an even nihilistic one, in my opinion. I’d say that I was more turned off with what he had to say (or maybe what he didn’t say and should have said) than Dargis’ and Scott’s analysis.

And then there was Forest Whitaker’s reaction to the New York Times article, which we posted here yesterday, when he was asked to respond to it in an interview with Tavis Smiley.

So… what I see and hear here is just more of the same – a lot of analysis, criticism and whining, with little actual action to go along with it. And I’m over that! I also see a lot of reaction instead of proaction. The New York Times (or some other mainstream media site) pens a critique of the film industry’s so-called diversity problem, written by whites usually, and we all jump… because it’s the New York Times. Meanwhile, here on Shadow And Act, we’ve been talking about this shit forever; and not only just talking about it, there’s actually action to support all the talk! Eff the New York Times! I don’t need them to tell me that there’s a diversity problem! Do you? Isn’t it evident? Hasn’t it been evident since the medium was invented? We’re certainly not the first to have these discussions. Our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents had the exact same discussions.

I’ve long moved past all that futile dialogue, and have instead chosen to act, doing what I can to affect change. And it looks like it’ll take the vision and audacity of the everyman and woman to make the difference that many of us cry for regularly; From the Shadow And Act Filmmaker Challenge, to Ava DuVernay’s AFFRM, just to name 2 recent instances.

Now what?” That’s always my response to these articles? What do we do now? How do we fix this? Will another year or 2 pass, accompanied by another set of editorials analyzing and criticizing the industry’s “diversity problem?”

Meh! I’ll pass…

But as I started out saying, I penned the below entry almost 2 years ago in response to similar discussions about the dearth of work for blacks in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera. The response, as you will see from the comments, was strong and varied. In reposting it, I’m not necessarily asking for the idea to be implemented (The Shadow And Act Filmmaker Challenge developed from this, with the expectation that it would grow and prosper over time, to become something like what I proposed below). I just thought I’d share it all again, for those who weren’t readers at the time, and who may have missed it. I don’t think something like this would ever exist. I’m not delusional, but I’m forward-thinking and hopeful. So, consider it a shake-up, to get you all to ponder the possibilities; to shift the discussion from how bad things are to “what can we do about it?” Or think of it as my indirect response to the New York Times Hollywood Whiteout piece; it may not be what you were all looking for – those who were hoping that I’d respond to it; but it is what is; and instead of passing the New York Times article around to all your Facebook and Twitter pals, or everyone in your email contact list, consider sharing this one instead for a change :):

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It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up folks!

I’m not a whiner. I have little patience for whiners and complainers. I’m more of a doer. If I find myself in some unfortunate predicament, and it’s one that I can readily dig myself out of, I’d rather spend my time digging, than talking about how unfortunate my predicament is. It just makes more sense to me. We all have our moments, certainly, but just don’t make a habit out of it.

I admire doers – those who rise in the face of adversity and seize opportunities as they materialize, or create opportunities for themselves.

On this site, and others I’ve written for in the past, we’ve had endless discussions about the sad state of the film industry as it relates to those of us of the African Diaspora, and just how marginalized and invisible we still are, after a century, since the medium’s dawn.

We keep waiting, hoping that eventually, those elites in the industry with the power to do so, will recognize their collective strength, and utilize it to produce workable solutions that will cure many of the ills that dominate our often disheartening discussions. And we’re still hoping and waiting for people like Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Robert Johnson, or even P Diddy, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and others of their ilk, to collectively engender the kind of change that fuels our mostly impassioned conversations. We dump our expectations on those few men and women, somewhat unfairly, in my opinion, when the rest of us, almost 40+ million strong, can’t seem, or maybe just simply refuse to recognize and acknowledge our own collective might, which is arguably far stronger, and capable of swift and longer term impact than the former.

As much as I enjoy the dialogue, if only for the sheer entertainment value that can be derived from it, I do ofttimes grow weary of criticizing, and/or reading the criticisms targeted at those few people I listed above, and others not mentioned. It becomes tediously repetitive, and borders on futility.

Like I started off suggesting, let’s focus our collective passion into actually doing, instead of talking about doing. It’s time to put up or shut up; in essence, what are YOU, my friends, willing to do in order to see the kind of change most of us scream about, and despite the occasional disagreements, actually do concur with each other on?

In the fall of 2006, I wrote an op-ed piece for NPR’s News & Notes calling for a completely autonomous black-owned and operated film production and distribution studio, the likes of any of the major 6 or 7 that currently rule the film industry (you can read the article HERE if you haven’t already). My suggestion was met with more derision than I anticipated – specifically from other black people, which both disheartened and dumbfounded me.

A year later, 2007, opting to take matters into my own hands, I created a fund in conjunction with a black-owned non-profit organization (ActNow Foundation) called the Capable Tenth Black Filmmaker Fund, loosely borrowing from the now-defunct Talented Tenth ideology given birth to by W.E.B. Du Bois in the early 1900s – a concept he later abandoned.

The Capable Tenth fund was created with the intent to harness our collective resources into a singular entity (sort of like what we’ve done with the Shadow And Act website), which would then be used to produce and create the kinds of films that tell stories about people of African descent, that many of us feel have been, and still are lacking; to create the variety that we all say is desperately needed to counter the kind of often derivative, uninspiring work that’s dominated our screens over the years.

The core idea for the fund was a simple one: in brief, HYPOTHETICALLY – if 10% of the 40 million people who identify as Black or African American, or about 4 million people, contributed a meager $50 annually to the fund, that would instantly create a $200 million vault which would all be invested in the production and distribution of films that tell varied stories primarily about people of African descent. In effect, a financial entity that will operate as a kind of non-profit mini-studio. Every cent that each distributed film produces will be reinvested back into the fund, which will be expected to grow year-over-year, allowing for the production of even more films, and higher-budgeted films, than preceding years. With the average cost of “black films” financed by studios hovering around the $10 to $20 million mark (taking recent films by/with people like Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Ice Cube, Mos Def, Beyonce, and others into consideration), a $200 million pot could see 5 to 10 pictures produced and distributed annually – a number that will surely grow over time, provided most films are profitable in the long run. Again, these are all arbitrary numbers.

In the end, the Capable Tenth idea was also met with a rather lackluster response, and sadly so. There’s what I’ve noticed and would describe as a kind of defeatist attitude that’s hindering our progress. One of the first questions I was asked by several people I approached with the concept was, “what’s in it for me?” Apparently the lure of seeing a more varied, robust representation of our lives on screen wasn’t enough. Some weren’t interested unless there was money to be made, which I suppose I can understand in purely capitalistic terms. However, my response was just about the same for each of those people: no one will be making money from this. It’s an egalitarian idea; fuck the Ayn Rand individual over the collective stance. This time it’s about the collective, and the collective’s movement power.

Suffice it to say that it wasn’t a response that registered within the minds of many.

So, disillusioned by the prevalent sheer lack of interest and myopia, I eventually abandoned the Capable Tenth idea, about 8 months later.

I haven’t attempted anything similar since then.

We seem to like throwing around terms like “self-empowerment,” but often when a viable empowering solution is presented, we shred it to bits, or just don’t react to it, insisting to instead continue wallowing in our own shit, selling some other brand of “self-empowerment” that never quite materializes, and even possibly encourages regression instead of progression. We seem content with placing the burden on others to relieve for us, waiting to eat the crumbs off a table we’ve never really had a seat at.

So, consider this a survey folks: if a fund like what I described was indeed legally and legitimately created, and you were invited to contribute to it, whether $10, $50 or $100, or more every year, in one lump sum, or on a payment schedule, would you want to do so? And if not, give reasons why.

Forget Tyler Perry; forget Spike Lee, forget Oprah; forget Big Willie; forget P Dizzle Dazzle; forget Robert Johnson; etc, etc, etc… This isn’t about them. This is about us – you and I. Can you imagine how impressive it would be if something like this actually came to fruition, and was successful? Those same people I just mentioned, and quite frankly, the industry in general, will be forced to take notice, and will likely, eventually, want to be a part of it.

Harnessing the power of the collective over the individual.

Many of us spend, or maybe I should even say, waste large sums of money on frivolous items that bring us temporary pleasure. Why not put that money towards an idea that will reap long term rewards, far greater, and even more impacting universally, than the $50 you spent on Friday night alone on drinks? Or the $100 you spent on food at Cafe NegroChic to impress your date, who will probably not want to see you again anyway? Or, even worse, the $35 you spent at the movie theatre on tickets, popcorn and soda last week, for you and your significant other, watching the latest neo-minstrel flick, which you knew you wouldn’t like, after which you make your way to the Shadow And Act website to express your dissatisfaction with?

Yes, I realize that I’m simplifying the entire idea, and it’s much more complex than what I’ve described; there are, of course, other concerns, such as, how we decide on what scripts get produced, and what films get distributed. Will it be done collectively, regardless of how many contribute, or will a committee of people from varying backgrounds and experiences, be appointed by the collective to oversee those kinds of decisions? But I think those concerns are less worrisome than actually getting the idea off the ground.

I’m most interested in the basic concept, and your interest in it.

So, put your money where your mouth is, as the saying goes. If this hypothetical fund was created, would you contribute to it? And if not, tell me why; and maybe, to be even more constructive, if the idea doesn’t appeal to you, how would you shape it so that it becomes more attractive to you and others with your particular line of thought?

Come on folks… indulge me here… I dare you! Let’s have a fruitful discussion about this possibility… which might even lead to the beginnings of something definite…

A pleasant weekend to all!

83 comments to SURVEY – It’s Time To Put Up Or Shut Up! (About That “Hollywood Whiteout” Problem)

  • As one of the few (very, very few) people who contributed to the Talented 10th fund, you know where I stand on that score.

    However, as donations would be open to the diaspora at large (I live in the UK, not in the US), I’d like to know that the movies made would reflect this.

    As I’ve stated in a previous post, the problem with most African-American efforts seems to be that they’re so inward looking – never quite adventurous enough to look outside of their neighbourhood for ideas to run with. Yes, I know, I’m a writer, so I’ve heard all the write-what-you know arguments.

    A fund like this would be the opportunity for the diversity we all claim to seek in black stories told in films, with characters that aren’t caricatures and experiences that aren’t so much black (don’t get me started on THE black experience) as human.

    I’d suggest annual screenplay, short film and feature film competitions open to people of the diaspora, worldwide – any genre. Perhaps they could be judged by committee or perhaps actual screenings of the films could be set up in the form of a film festival.

    The festival needn’t be done at great expense if done online, and so would negate the need for travel and the inability of all to participate. A registration process could be set up involving a small fee (say, somewhere between $10-$50) after which you’d have access to all films in the festival, along with the right to vote… or maybe voting rights would be dependent on your registration fee/package.

    I’ve not had time to think about it, but these are my initial thoughts on the matter.

    • Forgot to mention, the idea I had in mind would be to, not just identify writing, acting, producing and directing talent (as well as other crew), but also to match sole writers to directors and producers, and give funds to get projects made.

      Not just because writing is my thing, but everyone seems to think they should be a writer/director when what they really want to do is direct. Not everyone who displays directing talent can write… Spike Lee, anyone…? Many director may have good ideas, but that doesn’t mean they can make these ideas work as a story, even though they may be able to “see” it visually in their minds eye.

      So team would should be stressed, putting together writer, director and producer teams together and giving them funds to make a films (which would be shown in future festivals once completed before going on to theatrical – hopefully not too limited – and eventually DVD release).

    • Gaston

      Good point MsWoo about non-American blacks. I am concerned though about it getting too large and difficult to control if it’s all-inclusive initially. Hmmm it just raises more questions. I suppose electing a group of “officials” to manage it would be the easiest solution. It’ll be madness if every single person had to vote on every project. Although, if it’s truly egalitarian as Tambay mentioned, then maybe that’s how it could work. Nah, I think appointing a group makes more sense. People from different countries so that we get a truly diverse set of opinions and I think that will help with the problem you mention about the films reflecting the diaspora.

      Plenty to think about =)

      • Plenty to think about indeed. No one said it’ll be simple :)

      • It’s already all-inclusive. I’m in the UK and I’m taking part in the debate because it’s on the internet! Someone else could be reading this who also finds it interesting but hasn’t said anything yet – and maybe they live in Hong Kong!

        Every time I’ve entered a screenwriting competition, it’s been open to entries from anywhere in the world. Why should this effort be any different? I’m in Europe, of Nigerian descent, Tambay’s in the US, of Cameroonian and Nigerian descent… We’ve already narrowed it down to black people, why then narrow it down even further to just Americans?

        A group of “officials” goes without saying. However, there’d have to be a good deal of transparency too. It also goes without saying that, even if it’s internet based, chances are that most entries will be from the US – but this needn’t stop us from dividing entries (or awarding prizes) according to region – N America (inc. the Caribbean), S America, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific (Asia and Australia). This way we can fairly represent all of the diaspora, rather than just a small section of it. The majority of black people do not live in the US, so why limit it to the US? I could go even further to break it down into the Caribbean as a separate region, due to their various cultural differences from North America, and breaking down the huge continent of African into North, East, West and Southern… again, due to huge cultural differences that aren’t necessarily apparent to non-Africans… but just five regions would suffice initially – I don’t want to scare any Americans… lol.

        A group of officials could narrow it down to a shortlist from which everyone with voting rights (anyone who’s paid a minimum fee) could vote for online.

        Maybe it’s just me, but I believe in thinking big and then, even if you fall short of the mark, you’re still likely to have a greater result than if you’d thought small to begin with only to end up with an even smaller result.

        As Tambay suggested in the post, we shouldn’t really be casting stones at anyone if we’re too afraid to go beyond our own small comfort zones.

  • Gaston

    I read your NPR piece previously and aside from the obvious concern of solving race based problems with race based solutions, I agreed with the general idea. What other options do we have after all?

    The “capable tenth” idea is a reasonable one. It makes total sense and is doable. It’s just a matter of doing it. I think a problem we (black people) still have between us is our mistrust of one another. We would have to get over that hump before something like this can thrive.

    Will I contribute to it? Hell yeah! I spend like $100 every week eating out, drinking with friends, movies and all that stuff. And that’s weekly. I know people who spend a lot more than that. That’s like over $5,000 a year. Even 10% of that I could give up each year and not miss it.

    So I’d support it if it was created. My questions would be what you asked about how the films will be chosen. I think appointing a committee is best. Maybe made up of liek 10 to 50 people to give us a nice range of opinions. Maybe each is from a different part of the world, covering the diaspora.

    I say do it man. Bring the idea back and let’s see what happens.

  • Tambay, have you checked out the site http://www.indiegogo.com – it offers a DIY social media set-up for donating to films you’d like to see made. It could be a great instrument to use in the production of the concept you mentioned.

    • Gaston

      I was involved in a project that used indiegogo. We didn’t get the funds needed but I like the site’s concept. Something similar but more targeted could be replicated. I do wonder what their success rate is. Worth investigating.

      • I’ve come across indiegogo too, and I contemplated using it to get a short film made.

        It seems it’s great as a tool for independent filmmakers working on small projects, I think. However, I too wondered about the site’s success rate. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of progress reports or promoting the sites’ successes stories.

        Following this model for a black film fund would really just render it a myspace or facebook for black filmmakers. Not a bad idea in itself, but it just means lots of people clamouring to get their voices heard, or small project made, rather than a concerted effort to get at least one fully funded feature film made a year, and in a way that will make people sit up and pay attention.

    • Yup, I’m familiar with IndieGoGo. I know at least 2 people who’ve used the site. I like their model, but I think a maybe concerted, more focused “attack” would produce more definitive results. However, there are definitely some ideas of theirs worth “stealing.”

  • cuse

    I can see how ideas like these could be intimidating to a lot of people. I think folks will be more open to an idea when they see it working. Nobody wants to get in on the ground floor.

    That said I believe this could be successful. It might take a few tries to perfect it but it can work if folks set their minds to it. Like you said, that’s the uncertain part of the equation. Convincing folks to buy into the idea.

    We don’t even need 4 million people. 4000 people could make a big difference.

  • I am behind you Tambay. I’m a single mom but I do spend money on some things that are neccessary so I can surely can surely donate that towards this effort. I’m so very happy that you posted this. I was not aware of your prior efforts but I am now.

    Forget the naysayers and defeatists, they’ll always be around but believe they will come running when you succeed!

    And if there is anything else we can do to spread the word, please share. May I link and repost an excerpt from this to my blogs?

    • Thanks Noelani. For now, I’m more on a “fact-finding” mission than anything else. As I said below, let’s see if this is even a discussion that people want to have. Because if it isn’t, then actually creating something will be pointless.

      And yes, feel free to share and repost on your blogs.

  • I also wanted to add, geez, I need an edit button on this blog! *lol*

    I meant to say: “I spend money on some unnecessary things”

  • What it sounds like you’re calling for is a grass roots form of independent film financing. Your idea is a non-profit, no? Why not start on a more modest level?

    Getting four million people to do anything isn’t easy in this day and age, but I could see, with a strong mission statement and a university/film school/celebrity/NEA endorsement getting 1,000 people to give $500. It would be a full-time job and require a whole lot of networking, but that’s fundraising. An organization like that, which maybe focused on some writing and literacy programs, maybe had a scholarship component and produced at least one film a year… that’s something I know a lot of people might be interested in. A black film MacArthur Grant-like program.

    And as far as “put up or shut up”, I tend to agree with you. That being said, out here in L.A. there are a lot of young black writers, directors and actors doing their thing. People are getting work done and now with the Internet and increasing opportunities in cable television I predict it won’t be long before you see a black Wes Anderson or Ricky Gervais — someone who seemingly comes from no where and completely shifts the paradigm.

    • cuse

      Just a sidenote… I know what you mean when you say “a black Wes Anderson” or “a black Ricky Gervais” but boy do I cringe when I hear someone say them lol. I guess I don’t want to be “a black” version of some white person, but rather just little old me and my own style.

      But I understand what you mean though.

      • I was referring more to their seemingly meteoric rises, than anything else. I suppose I could have written “a talented Tyler Perry”, but I thought I’d take a strike.

    • 4 million was just an arbitrary number. I certainly don’t expect to move 4 million people to do anything. Let’s just consider that the ideal.

      So, yes, modest beginnings…

      I’m primarily interested in gauging overall interest in just some basic concept, and gathering ideas. The fine-tuning will come afterward, if there is indeed any genuine willingness to even just have this discussion. So far… so good.

      • I think you’re on to something, I just feel it’s more a top-down kind of endeavor rather than bottom-up (sadly). My guess is that only people with a lot of time and discretionary money will be able to afford to be patient enough to allow for the project to take the time it needs to develop.

        • I’m taking a page from the Communist Manifesto: Workers, or maybe more appropriately, “bottomers” of the world, unite!

          Then again, Marxism isn’t exactly a friendly word around these parts.

          • cuse

            Lol! I wouldn’t yell that “M” word too loudly. Not on American soil anyway.

            I hope you get many more responses. I’m definitely interested in seeing what a wide group of folks think about this.

  • pnc

    Tambay, I think different people can ‘do’ and arrive at exactly the same point. We all don’t have to think in the same manner. I’ve never really been part of a collective. I’m very much an individualist. There has never been a time in my life I consulted with others in my direction. I do whatever feels right to me at the time.

    I don’t believe in making films as a collective. No good film could come through ‘consensus.’ There has to be ONE strong vision. Now, you can support an individual filmmaker in their vision, but then how does one decide? Yes, form a collective, but if you’re interested in QUALITY black films, let the choice be that of a single screenwriter/director.

    • You’re right, pnc, a filmmaker’s vision must be supported, but how many black filmmakers are struggling to get their voices heard and visions supported?

      Wouldn’t you even be the least bit tempted by a fund aimed specifically at black filmmakers and run by black people who wouldn’t be looking to make your vision and images more “white-male-market” oriented/friendly?

    • You misunderstand me… but maybe the fault is in my writing.

      This isn’t filmmaking by committee per se; funding by committee is more like it. I’m not calling for a Borg-like structure (to use a Star Trek TNG reference).

      So, PNC, the Individual with the strong singular vision, writes her screenplay. There’s a pot of gold managed by a sub-group that represents a larger collective, who are seeking projects to see through the funding, production and distribution process. Your vision isn’t tampered with. If your project is selected as one of the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,… to receive funding, then, you get the funding you need.

      You go off, produce your movie, and when it’s complete, the next phase of the process begins, as money from the collective pot of gold is used to get your film distributed.

      But, like I said to others, I don’t have a definite idea on how this will function. I’m simply introducing the discussion and hoping that others contribute; and then, the fine-tuning can begin, if there really is any interest.

  • @ Tambay, nice Borg reference. “Resistance is futile” hehe.

  • filmmaker man

    Sometimes the solutions to a problem can be so obvious that we can’t believe just how simple they are to our detriment.

    Like others have already said it doesn’t even have to be 4 mill. It could start with 40. And then 400. And then 4000. But the point is it should just start.

    I’m in.

  • SDG

    I would absolutely contribute. I’ve blown 100′s of doallrs on absolutely nothing. Why not contribute to something worthwhile. If you continue to hammer out the details, I’m absolutely there. I like your thinking on this matter. We need to just do it ourselves. Not as if we haven’t had to handle business on our own before when addressing our needs.

  • Faith

    Wow. This a great idea. I would definitely contribute. You are correct that there needs to be a system in place to evaluate the scripts however.

    • cuse

      It really shouldn’t be any different than any other system of selection i’d think. If a group of judges is selected to handle the process.

      This is one of those rollup your sleeves and just do it kind of things.

  • I remember reading your NPR piece and I posted a response. I’m supportive of such a fund and would definitely contribute. I just don’t want anyone to approach such an endeavor unprepared, unprofessionally and with unrealistic expectations. Its too important a mission. As a long-time investor in black cinema, I’ve made it my life’s work to try to create some independent structure to support it and have seen too many clumsy and ultimately unsuccessful efforts at doing the same. Its great to have passion, but that passion has to be channeled with effective planning and even better execution. You have to engender the trust and confidence of potential contributers, first by having a business plan and making sure you have reputable people with solid track records on your team and then by ensuring ongoing accountability and transparency. As I mentioned in a previous reply on another topic, you should definitely seek out those who’ve been down this road before. Maybe not creating a non-profit film fund per se, but those that have tried to raise financing or set-up distribution for black films in the past. Financing and distribution are inextricably linked. Its impossible to have one without the other. Your personal experience in indie distribution confirms this. When people talk about one without the other, it immediately tells me that they haven’t thought things through. Anyway, I can go on all day on this. If you want to discuss specifics, email me at rodney@clarendonent.com. I’d love to help flesh out the idea of such a fund. Ever heard of Grameen Bank? Imagine one for black filmmakers…

    • Absolutely, without a doubt Rodney! This isn’t a business plan.

      I’m not talking about rushing into something blindly. Of course, it will be well-planned and implemented.

      I hope I didn’t give the impression that this would be some fly-by-night venture.

      I simply wanted to introduce the topic and have a discussion about it. If there isn’t even an interest in talking about the possibilities, then it’s pointless to move forward with a genuine plan.

      But this is just to gauge overall interest in some basic concept; and if there is enough interest in moving forward with something, then, with the contributions of others, like yourself, we would get into the finer details of such a venture.

    • By the way, I’ll send you an email, and we can exchange thoughts.

  • Anthony

    Good luck trying to motivate people to do this. You’re gonna need it. Can it work? Anything is possible. Will it work? Doubt it. First we gotta learn to actually work together on simple things. But think of how much of our own issues we could solve with this model. Not just film.

  • abe

    I don’t like the idea of “black cinema” in the first place. I certainly wish there were more films with a dominantly black cast, but “black cinema” sounds too exclusive. Kevin Smith maxed out his credit cards to make “Clerks,” the only certainly he had being confidence in his script. That’s the sort of thing black film makers and writers need to do. An explosion of black cinema isn’t going to come about because of a foundation or some such.

    • cuse

      Eh black filmmakers need to max out their credit cards too?

      I think cinema of the African Diaspora is the focus.

      An explosion of black cinema isn’t going to come about? Where did you get that from? And do you have more workable solution than filmmakers maxing out their credit cards?

      I don’t understand what you mean in general with your whole post abe.

    • What’s wrong with “black cinema”? Black is a subculture within American culture, why not have a body of work that explores it using references that have meaning to those that live it? Like black music, literature, soul food, etc. I think what the people that post here would like to see from black filmmakers inside and outside of Hollywood is more artistry, better writing and a wider range of themes explored. IMHO, the most interesting and creative work by black filmmakers is being made in the short fim arena, primarily because that arena is more accessible from a cost standpoint and it doesn’t have the commercial pressure to have a film be sellable. That’s why short-form content has been a focus for our company.

      What indie filmmakers of every stripe lack is access to financing and distribution. The explosion you refer to will take place when those 2 elements are available to black filmmakers independently of Hollywood. I agree that it won’t likely come from a non-profit foundation, it will have to somehow be commercially viable, but on its own terms.

  • elise

    It’s an interesting idea Tamay and a bold piece of writing. I think you speak for a lot of people but sometimes people need to be shaken up. I think ideas like this scare some people and that fear turns them away from it. But I can guarantee that when it’s working all those fearful people will be less afraid and will jump on board.

    Will I contribute to the idea? Definitely, as long as its well planned and managed. But ithat goes without saying.

    I look forward to reading from others.

  • elise

    Oops sorry. I spelled your name wrong. I left out the “b”.

  • Gaston

    Wow! It’s good to see the discussion continuing. This must be a record for the site for the short period of time since you posted it.

    Let the conversation continue I hope because I wanna see where all this leads. Hopefully somewhere and all this isn’t just a waste of time.

  • abe

    No, black film makers shouldn’t max out their credit cards, but they certainly should take risks like Smith did (when he was in his early 20s, no less.) More risk taking from black film makers (while setting their sight on the mass culture, as opposed to just black film goers) will yield more fruit than what some foundation committed to black films can achieve. Someone can seriously suggest that we need such a foundation because the few black film makers there are are so averse to taking the risks so necessary to success.

    • Gaston

      That’s such an ill-informed comment abe, for real. Don’t you realize that there are many of those “risk-taking” black filmmakers out there with risk taking scripts that are just sitting around unproduced because there just isn’t any funding to finance the production of those scripts to films? What risks did Kevin smith take other than maxing out his credit cards, something that many other filmmakers have done only to see their films go nowhere and unable to pay back their debts? What risks are you referring to exactly?

      If there isn’t a foundation to see that these “risk-taking” filmmakers get the financing the need, then we’re exactly where we are today.

      I’m puzzled by your comment.

    • Maxing out credit cards is certainly risky (especially in today’s debt laden, credit-crunchy environment) but it’s hardly new or revolutionary… I believe a black filmmaker called Spike Lee did it some time in the 80s.

      And nobody said anything about films being made specifically for black audiences but, obviously, black film enthusiasts have a stake in wanting to see themselves represented in more ways than in is currently available to the “mass culture.”

      It’s about films by black filmmakers who, in case you hadn’t noticed, aren’t really getting a fair shot with the current Hollywood studio system, a system which tends to prefer to feed the mass culture with tried and tested stereotypes of black characters, or create new, “safe” ones.

      But, as it said in the post, this isn’t about begging for crumbs from a table we weren’t really invited to in the first place – it’s about suggesting solutions, something which, from the various responses, seems risk-taking enough in itself.

  • abe

    Don’t get me wrong with the whole “black cinema” thing. I happen to adore the films of the Wayan’s Brothers, as poor as they can be, because of what you say, Rodney–I like the novelty of seeing references that have meaning to the people living it. I put “Medicine for Melancholy” on my netflix queue as soon as I saw the trailer. Etc.

    But I guess what I want most is for black film makers to have power in Hollywood, and that isn’t going to happen if their focus is just black audiences.

  • abe

    Gaston–I recall recently that your fellow blogger Sergio saying this:

    “I can’t tell you how many times I have had conversations with many black filmmakers asking them about the possibility of making other type of films such as sci-fi. westerns, detective mysteries, period films, even horror films (and I mean serious horror films, not some “The Mummy in da’ hood” straight-to-DVD type crap) and I always get these strange, befuddled or shocked look on their faces like as if that the most outrageous thing anybody has even asked them. I definitely recall a certain black filmmaker of a hit comedy film last year (who shall remain nameless) I asked that question to and he quite surprisingly got very upset with me for even asking that and I had scramble to talk my way out of it just to calm him down.”

    Don’t you think that’s a problem?

    • Abe, it’s a huge problem. It’s idiots like that that get given money by Hollywood to pump out even more shite, or which encourage other unimaginative (or simply frustrated) types to believe that’s the only way they’re going to make it Hollywood.

      As you must have obviously seen elsewhere on the site, a call for diversity is what many of us are calling for, and this kind of funding would help to nurture that – Hollywood isn’t doing it.

    • Gaston

      So Sergio’s experience speaks for every other black person’s experience? I don’t think so. Not mine. And based on many comments left by others who write for this site, he doesn’t speak for them either. No offense to Sergio.

      I’m not ready to resign myself to some myth that black filmmakers are so narrowminded and simple that there aren’t any out there with out of the box thinking which is what you and Sergio seem to have done.

      I believe Tambay’s response to Sergio’s post, and several other comments and posts on this site say otherwise. If the money isn’t there to produce certain kinds of challenging films then there is no incentive for filmmakers to make those other kinds of films.

      As a filmmaker, I find what you’re implying insulting. You’re buying into a dangerous kind of mentality that does nothing to help the situation.

  • ghost writer

    Maybe I’m naive but what if we set up a network of writers, directors, and actors. The goal: low budget, quality films. As an upcoming screenwriter, I’m willing to have a director look at my work (anyone interested in doing something on lesbianism…or a short comedy on “No child left behind”). If the direct likes it, maybe we can get something rolling. Perhaps up and coming actors and actresses are willing to work for cheap–take a chance if it means possible exposure. If it succeeds, we split profits. People who succeed are people who take chances. The question is: Are other people game? I mean, that 70 something horror film which screened at Cannes, it really inspired me. We can do that too–establish symbiotic relationships.

    As for donating money for the Talented tenth fund, as a writer off the radar, how will it directly trickle down to me? I don’t mean to sound harsh…but it’s a concern.

    • A network is a brilliant idea but, without financing and some form of distribution, it may not lead to very much.

      In an earlier suggestion, I did mention teaming up writers with directors and producers could be one aim of setting up such a financing vehicle.

      A writer could be matched with producer and director and be given money to get the film made, which would include, I’d imagine, paying the writer for their work.

      • ghost writer

        Yes, I imagine paying the writer for their work too :-)

        But it doesn’t have to be an astronomical fee. At this point in my life, I’m more focused on receiving exposure. I’m praying it’ll lead to a job. I mean, I’m sick of selling my soul everyday! Cubical is a fancy word for cage.

        As for financing, I’m talking low budget. Seriously low budget (without it looking low budget). The key is getting talented writers/directors/producers who are just starting their careers–who are looking, in a way, to build a resume.

        Distribution? We need to find a way to bypass companies. Facebook and myspace; those are powerful tools!! I mean, Soulja Boy is a millionaire. We spead our work word of mouth, one person at a time.

  • abe

    I meant, “I recall recently your fellow blogger Sergio saying this:” Blasted typos.

  • I like what IFC Films is doing with their “Festival Direct” and “First Take” programs. It’s a fresh way to think about distribution.

    @ Tambay, have you been to the theater they have in NYC? I’d like to hear your thoughts on their set-up.

    • Oh yes, I go to IFC theatres often. I’m actually going there today to see “Pressure Cooker.” And, when I had cable TV, I used their On Demand channel several times, which included films playing concurrently at the theatre, and those that aren’t.

      I like IFC’s model. In fact, it’s one that a small group of us in NYC have been working on emulating. Of course, money is prohibitory, but we’re taking baby steps. IFC has a niche, and they do a great job of exploiting that niche. It helps that they are backed financially by cable TV behemoth, Cablevision.

      We’re trying to come up with a similar structure – 1 theatre in NYC that screens cinema of the Diaspora, rotating titles weekly, showing both classic and recent films, which IFC does regularly, holding retrospectives on certain filmmakers, and occasional screenings of experimental works that usually won’t be seen anywhere else… giving a full range of the so-called “black experience” on screen, the old, the new, the “bizarre,” and your favorite, the quirky :o)

      Money is just hard to come by for these things… and it’s tough getting those with money to part with it, especially for something for which there really isn’t much of a precedent.

  • The bottom-line here for me folks is really quite simple: we all say that we want variety in “black cinema” (however you choose to define the term), yes?

    We all agree that we’re not, nor have we ever really seen that variety of our lives and experiences on screen, right?

    We can argue till the end of days on why that is, and who’s to blame (the filmmakers, the financiers, the audiences, etc). But all that chatter doesn’t really get us anywhere. Frankly, these are issues we’ve been discussing for decades, and we’re really not that much better off than we were 30 years ago. So, clearly, something isn’t working. Or, we aren’t DOING enough.

    As I said on my last podcast recording, I don’t have all the answers, but, from where I’m sitting, it seems as if we’re caught in this cycle of blame and self-loathing, and at some point, something has to happen to break that cycle, and this is merely one solution that I’m proposing to do just that. If you don’t like it as a solution, suggest another – something other than blame (like, filmmakers need to do this, or the audience needs to do that). I’m over all that kind of useless dialogue that really gets us nowhere. Maybe it makes for colorful, entertaining discussions on sites like this, but, if we really do want change, as a lot of us say we do, then, why don’t we just change – the dialogue, our thinking, our habits, etc.

    At the root of “the problem” as I see it, is money! I know some very smart, imaginative filmmakers who have opted to do other things, because they just don’t feel that there’s much interest in financing the kinds of projects that are of interest to them. So they teach, or they become journalists/critics, or they blog, or the throw themselves fully into corporate jobs, etc… I’m convinced that if they had access to the same kind of funding for projects that white filmmakers do, we would see a much wider variety of films from black filmmakers. And if they had assurances that their films would be given a real chance to survive and find an audience in the marketplace, much like films by white filmmakers often are, there would be many more black filmmakers willing to take the chance.

    As it stands, funding is hard to come by. We’ve featured several promising black filmmakers on this site and others, who seemed to all but disappear despite their auspicious debuts, partly because there just wasn’t the funding for the kinds of films they wanted to make. People like Wendell B Harris Jr, for example.

    In the last year, we’ve seen films by filmmakers like Dennis Dortsch and Barry Jenkins enjoy some success. Will we see anything more from either of them? Who knows at this point? In 5 or 6 years, we may be talking about “that guy who made that film about the man and the woman who had a one-night stand and spent the next day together in San Francisco,” wondering what the heck happened to him, and why he hasn’t made anything else. Or, if all works out well for Barry, the conversation might be a completely different one… we certainly hope.

    If I had the money to fund films myself, I would do it. But, I don’t. However, I know that I can spare a few bucks… and I know others who can spare a few bucks… and others who can do the same… so, hmmmm… what if we all combined our “few bucks,” into one giant pot, and did for ourselves what the studios aren’t already doing for us? At worst, if it doesn’t work, I would have lost “a few bucks.” No biggie! But at least an attempt would have been made, and we would likely learn from the experience.

    • “But at least an attempt would have been made, and we would likely learn from the experience.”

      You summed everything up in this comment Tambay! That’s what it all boils down to. It’s time to take action–to at least try.

  • pnc

    Hmm…I’m visualizing this…the film collective intially raises $250-500k to do the following –

    A) warehouse – buying or renting out one whole floor of a warehouse in some undiscovered place in Brooklyn or Queens, dirt cheap (if there is a such place). There you divide the property into sections – an administrative office, contribution/marketing dept, equipment room, prop room, groundskeeper, but the majority of the space is used so filmmakers create scenes for their films.

    B) equipment – use 150K on equipment (cameras, lighting, stabilizing devices, lens, stands etc. ) that anybody in the collective can use to make the film of their choosing. Get someone who can train filmmakers on usage. And to repair and upkeep equipment

    c) list filmmakers & film enthusiasts – who want to help make films with their availability to go out and shoot films in any capacity.

    d) create prop list – filmmakers will add what they desire to the prop list, which should be updated regularly and emailed. For example, there is a scene in my screenplay that I will need tons and tons of old glossy magazines. In our travels around town, I’m sure we can pick them up anywhere and put them in the prop room for future use.

    d) become garbage collectors – most folks throw out stuff that can easily be used as props for film, especially in NYC. Be on the lookout for anything that can be used and bring it back to the prop dept and log it.

    I can’t think of anything else now…I’ll add more soon.

    This way, we’re raising money to give access to filmmakers to make the film of their choosing.

    • cuse

      Eh Brooklyn or Queens? Hey, some of us don’t live in New York, ya know. Lol. I’m half-kidding.

      But your ideas do suggest some logistical problems. If we’re talking a collective like what you’re referring to, it would have to be a regional kind of thing.

      I was thinking something that wasn’t limited by space. But I suppose it could all fall under a single umbrella. We all want the same thing.

  • Just let’s get the fund set up, and then we can worry about what films to make later! Never mind the committees, that’s not how creativity’s done, in Hollywood or anywhere else. Set up the fund, get some well-known brothers & sisters to put up some of their money, and we’ll all be seeing some movies made about us.

    • cuse

      Nothing like just rolling up the sleeves and getting right into it. Now let’s see how many people are willing to really do this.

      Although the financing and the films go hand in hand. Some people will want to know what kinds of films will be made before contributing money. And they have every right to ask I guess. So it’s reall about putting together the best package possible and approaching people to sell it to.

  • @ Tambay – Have you seen The Seat Filler? It stars Duane Martin and Kelly Rowland, it’s actually kind of cute, reminiscent of Julia Roberts’ Notting Hill.

    Anyhow, that film was produced by Duane Martin, Blair Underwood and Will Smith under the banner of Momentum Experience. You should check out the site, it looks like they’ve attempted to do something similar. Basically, they were trying to screen films outside of the Hollywood premiere setting targeting other urban areas i.e. Atlanta, Detroit, etc. It seemed as if they were aiming to make the screenings more of an “event” with things like Q&A’s to follow and such. Perhaps trying to bring a film festival type vibe to various cities. However, the site hasn’t posted any news since 2006. So I’m wondering maybe they didn’t get enough help and support on the project from the black audiences they wanted to bring new films to. So maybe you could contact them perhaps form some kind of collaboration, show them that there are people out there who want quality films and that the Internet could be a great asset to raise awareness about the projects/events and such. Just something to think about! It’s proof that there are people with money who want to do something fresh with “black film” but it takes someone getting them together to make something happen.

    Here’s the link to the site: http://www.momentumexperience.com

    • Gaston

      I remember that. Nice try but I guess it didn’t really work out. They never tried it again. They tried to make an event out of the screening by including live music before and afteer, food, comedians and all this other stuff that just seemed unnecessary. I think it should just be about the film. Leave all that other distracting stuff out.

      I don’t know why they didn’t just use the money they spent on a basic theatrical release, especially with Will Smith’s name attached. No need for all the theatrics. If it’s a good enough movie, and there’s marketing behind it, it’ll do fine most of the time. I feel like they didn’t really feel like they had a good enough movie for a normal theatrical release and so they went with this secondary model. Imagine if every film release was like that, with the musical guests, comedians, food and the screening. I think in the end people just want to see a movie in a dark theatre with some popcorn and a soda in their lap. We don’t need a whole show to go with it.

      But like I said, nice try. At least they tried something different. It just didn’t work.

  • Yes I would be willing to contribute to such a fund on a regular basis. In a heartbeat.

    I would really like to see historical pieces produced rather the usual introspective tripe. Whats the last one we had.. Shaka Zulu? I can’t wait to see and own Touissant for example, assuming it ever gets finished.

  • AccidentalVisitor

    As I said on my last podcast recording, I don’t have all the answers, but, from where I’m sitting, it seems as if we’re caught in this cycle of blame and self-loathing, and at some point, something has to happen to break that cycle, and this is merely one solution that I’m proposing to do just that.

    If you strip away the subject of filmmaking, isn’t this, in a nutshell, the problem of black society (in America at least) in general? Don’t we limit ourselves, place ourselves in a box, deep down doubt ourselves, have little faith in ourselves, often resort to limited types of thinking, devalue ourselves, refuse to celebrate our differences and instead cast suspicion at or direct ridicule towards those of us who don’t do what is “expected” of us, etc ? Raise your hand if you ever mentioned to a group of black folks (family, friends or co-workers) about doing something different (Like, I don’t know, mountain climbing) and one or more of those folks say something like “no black person does that type of stuff”? Have you ever known of a black person who accomplished something special and/or branched out and hung with “different” type of people only to hear comments such as “he/she thinks he/she is better than the rest of us black folks or he/she thinks he/she is too good for us black folks”? Not to say that there aren’t black people who have that type of superior attitude. But to paint a broad brush and assume that most black individuals who interact often with non-black people or try to strive in a field that is not necessarily filled with black participants are therefore a type of race traitor who looks down at other blacks is absurd. It smacks of insecurity. And I think that insecurity is a key characteristic that is shaping what we do, what we strive for, what we think is acceptable, what we think is the norm. Other races of people in America don’t put limitations on themselves like black people do. Just my opinion. You should see some of the looks I get from black co-workers when I mention that I’m seeing a film about a Chinese actress who gets caught up in a plot to take out a powerful Chinese businessman who is collaborating with the Japanese during the occupation of China during WW2. And, yes, I tell them, it is subtitled since the characters aren’t speaking English. These types of films aren’t necessarily the cup of tea for my white co-workers either. But at least they don’t look at me as if I’m from Krypton like my black co-workers do. Through the shared, knowing looks that pass between them I can just bet they are thinking to themselves “damn, what’s wrong with this brother?” And I can just imagine what they are saying when I’m out of earshot. Sure there is a lot of good natured ribbing between us. I will roll my eyes when a few of them talk about how excited they are to see the next Tyler Perry film or Obsessed. But at least in my case I’m against the notion that black people should all be seeing the same damn thing when it comes to picking films. They though seem to be surprised by the notion that I would see something that’s “different”.

    One moment that stands out was when someone told me, a white co-worker and a black female co-worker that one particular black guy who worked in the building was planning to take a trip to England. The black female co-worker blurted out quickly “why would he do that? He’s black?”. The white co-worker looked at me for an explanation before he turned to the female to ask what did she mean by that. I asked the same question. Now this woman is a smart lady and a mother of three. But in her limited outlook black folks should be taking vacation trips to the Bahamas. She couldn’t imagine what interest a black person could have in England. History, museums, art, culture…Big Ben….none of that meant jack to her and therefore she could not understand why it would mean anything to anyone else.

    So I agree with Tambay but if we as a people don’t know how to apply this way of critical thinking to the bigger and more important things in life, I don’t know if we are going to get to a point in which we would place such scrutiny on the entertainment we make and experience. My view though is the same as I apply to real life in that I can’t wait for the rest of the 40 million to “get it”. I must make sure I get it, try to associate with black people who do get it and try my best to help others cross that bridge and gain a new appreciation for a boarder definition of who we are as people.

    But I’m still going to try to live my life in the way I see fit. In every day living that means if even if most black people are eating way too much junk food, I will keep trying to eat healthier. I can give advice to others to choose a healthier diet but I can’t wait for them to come around on that before I do it myself if you get my drift. If most black babies in America are being born out of wedlock I may not be able to change that but I can do my best to ensure that I don’t have father children under similar circumstances. Once again I can spread the good word but I can’t wait on others to get a clue or worry too much about others before I hold my own feet to the fire. And when it comes to art and supporting good art (especially when its produced by black people) I can spread the word and try to promote to other black people the overlooked films, records, books that are out there. Perhaps I can contribute some of that quality art myself. But even if I can’t convince a girlfriend or a best friend to at least try looking at “Killer of Sheep”, doesn’t mean I can’t go and see the film myself anyway.

  • AccidentalVisitor

    As for giving money to some sort of black fund….sure. Just as long as I respect and can trust the individuals behind it. Hell, I contribute to PBS. Might as well as contribute to something like this too.

  • I would most definitely contribute to a fund like that. If I had know about your previous attempts I would have contributed to that too. The magazine I work for recently held a call for entries for film projects and we’ll help the winner make her film.

    Engaged, constructive criticism of media culture ais needed for sure, and that goes hand and hand with putting your own stamp on things; with creating or contributing something to counterbalance mainstream images.

  • I know that I’m commenting very late. I never knew that a fund like this existed; but I would definitely contribute. Hopefully this will succeed and let mainstream know that there is a market for “our” films…

  • NothingButAMan

    “If this hypothetical fund was created, would you contribute to it? And if not, tell me why; and maybe, to be even more constructive, if the idea doesn’t appeal to you, how would you shape it so that it becomes more attractive to you and others with your particular line of thought?”

    If this fund:

    1) accepted tax-deductible monetary & in-kind contributions through a 501(c)3 status or a fiscal sponsorship with one,

    2) pursued “high net-worth” donors through gift annuities, foundation grants, corporate partners, etc.

    3) showed signs that it could be managed well and produce output on a steady basis.

    I’d be inclined to contribute monetarily on a subscription basis to the extent that my finances would allow.

  • Russell

    Bro. Tambay,

    First, I want to say I really appreciate what you and your team have been doing here at S&A. Not only do this site post the latest news, but it’s posts like this one that really underscore the power and potential of social media. In the words of Frederick Douglass, we need to “agitate,” so I thank you for being about action, not just reaction.

    With that said, I would definitely contribute to this fund. As a screenwriter, I see this opportunity as an investment that could make an impact on the types of movies that we see. As a follower of the site, I know we have similar interests, so I’m not so concerned that the money would be put toward a project that lacks substance. But I would still be interested in knowing if and how contributors could be a part of the process. And also, as other commentators have stated, I would want to know how the money would be managed.

    In short, the three things I would like to see:
    - how films get selected (flow chart)
    - how the money gets managed (monthly reports?)
    - how contributors can get involved in the process

    Peace.

    Russ

  • JMac

    Being a recent reader of the blog, I’d say the number one impediment to demanding collective action isn’t just that too many negroes are complacent but heck, I’ve never even heard of this Capable Tenth fund. There needs to be nationwide publicity and people running around demanding donations. So basically, it’s the administration of such a fund. There are several African American charitable administration companies around that can at least handle the financial aspect – accepting the funds, accounting for it, handling the reporting and paperwork (IRS and state-wise) but you would need more than a handful of people knocking on doors, meeting with local black businesses and civic groups, hounding co-workers, neighbors, etc. . ., going on popular media (radio shows, tv shows, not just the internet) to get those dedicated 10%. Once the word gets out, the momentum will build and maybe those lazy ass black millionaires will step up.

    Setting up a 501(c)(3) is easy. My Dad and I do it all the time. But it would take a lot of legwork and *cough* doing that legwork for free. I imagine in addition to having regular people donate $5 a month every month, we could also get corporate sponsors like Tom Joyner does. And to be extra black, have all the donations earning interest at various black banks like Warren Ballantine – so I listen to a lot of black radio, sue me.

    I’m not trying to make this sound simplistic but all you need is to get a dedicated AND HONEST team together who’s willing to spend all their extra time to make it happen. Decide how it’s going to work – who is responsible for what, how funds will be distributed and on what projects, deal with the details THEN go out and target groups, companies, individuals for donations. From the business side, no one’s going to give you a penny if you don’t have all your ducks in a row first. Gotta look and be professional and in charge. It doesn’t really take that long to put a business plan together and you can always tweak things afterwards.

    I’m guessing some of you have media connections so you can cash in some favors and get more widespread nationwide attention after things get set up. Maybe check around for other black organizations who are doing the same thing and bring them under one fold (maybe not – damn politics- but if they don’t have the time or desire to do the administration part they might be willing to send the money our way and let us deal with the nitty gritty.)

    If you need help with the administration and pulling things together, I can definitely help with that. Heck, I’ve got nothing else better to do :D

    It’s a great idea and doable (within a couple months even). You just need to find the right people.

  • Russell

    JMac brings up some good points, and I agree that organization is key. With that said, it might be worth thinking about to have a team comprised of three parts: business, creative, marketing.

    - Business could handle funding matters, the entity filing, tax forms, distribution deals, etc.
    - Creative could be in charge of the development of the projects, whether that’s done through a contest selection, or a collaboration with various writers, or however.
    - Marketing could handle getting those sponsors, spreading the word about the fund, managing the online presence and other PR materials.

    Just some thoughts.

    Russ

  • Laura

    What “Nothing But A Man”, Russell and JMac said.

  • Jo Ann

    I can see the vision…ie, “Capable Tenth Fund”…However, I was surprised to read of the responses from others about “what’s in it for me” mind frame…I too am a visionary,and learning that I am also a “thinking forward” person.
    I’m discovering though, there are a lot of nonprofit organizations w/in the film industry who are making a difference…So, maybe these smaller groups will “collectively” bring about change…

  • james madison

    Good article.

    I believe I sent (one of the persons) the NYT article to you and several other members, and I am glad that you posted a response. One that I echoed to several
    people that I know years ago.

    Why wait for anyone to give you anything, whether a studio or someone established.

    It is possible to do things for yourself now. Will it be a tougher road to the finish line? Yes, but I feel it will be much more rewarding because once you produce your own films, you are in power because you control it. It doesn’t matter how much it cost, as long as it is produced professionally.

    It’s the ages old thing where people have town hall meetings discussing the problems. I believe we all know the problems and the symptoms. Just develop the cure.

    James M

  • Yeah so, I got to the paragraph about the about the film version of the Talented Tenth and immediately followed the link to the Act Now foundation, took out my wallet and donated, in monthly installments to the organization. Then I went back to the page and finished reading the rest of the paragraph where you said that the foundation is now defunct. Silly me for not reading fully but at least some organization is getting some support for their cause, which is still a worthy one. Sure not everyone is going to support but there are folks out here, who will. You just got to give them time to find out about it. I wish I had known two years ago – hell I didn’t even have broadband internet service back then – because I would have surely donated to the cause.

  • Hey guys, I hate to even mention what I am about to mention. But it is what it is. This past week I attended a film at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and I love how the film festival is funded by the American Jewish Committee. I really like the set up of the entire event and I thought it would be a great way for blacks to model. Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with Oscars and what not, but this festival has been one of the most organized that I have been too http://www.ajff.org/about. I know I am off subject…

    I agree with one comment above— prod companies need a system that covers funding/marketing/creating

  • chiguy

    Tambay, I applaud you for this initiative. As an indie filmmaker I would definitely invest in this movement to finance more films. But financing a film is the first of three major hurdles for any film. The second and most difficult is distribution. To set up distribution channels should also be examined. Most exhibitors(theaters nationwide) are not checking for African American indie films. It is a niche within a niche. To create channels outside of the norm will be required(internet maybe). The third phase which is just as important, is the advertising aspect. If a tree falls in the forest… you know what I mean. If these three phases can be adequately addressed this could be “game changing,” which is millenium speak for revolutionary. One last thing, don’t wait for the masses to get behind this initially. It is in most peoples nature to jump on board once it has shown and proven. If you have 50 folks willing to rock, rock with what you got.

  • I would totally donate to such a fund. I first found out about your blog in 2010, so I missed the original post.

    I do think aggressive marketing to interested folks all over the diaspora would help you find like-minded individuals. I have to believe there are large(r) numbers of us out in the world.

  • Sounds like this idea needed some more marketing around it in order to help it take root. I would have GLADLY put money into this if I knew about it. I’m just now discovering this blog.

    What if instead of investing in a full pool as a whole we had more power to pick and choose where the money went to. I know personally I wouldn’t want a portion of my money to go to a film that I didn’t agree with. But if I had the ability to put $50 into a good idea or a film that already in production, I’d love to do that. I’m thinking something like a KickStarter.com for Blk Film would be amazing.

  • And don’t forget we also have the internet. Why isn’t there a major blk website where you can go watch blk indie films on a pay per play basis?

  • I recently also came to the realization that as much as WE (African Americans) want to see our images and stories on the screen so do THEY (Caucasians) and they control the studios, distribution etc.

  • [...] problem — getting our programs out to the public — from TV to online (potentially) to film (which is why the AFFRM is so important). Bounce’s efforts to circumvent the cable/satellite [...]