Love for Black culture is at an all-time high. That’s probably because in today’s marketplace, urban content has proven lucrative and in high demand. That should be nothing new to Our Weekly readers, as we have been informative of all the Black artists, writers, producers and directors who are in high demand with the streamers as well as the various broadcast TV networks.
That statement was endorsed by a study last year by Nielsen that indicated that many Fortune 500 companies – such as McDonald’s and General Motors – are aiming their advertising budgets at urban content.
Not saying it’s perfect or anywhere near where it should be; however, the rewards are coming financially and the big time awards, the recognition, are at an all-time high. It was just a few years ago that #OscarsSoWhite hit awards season and Hollywood was forced to look at itself in the mirror.
The scenario gets sweeter
“Black Panther” wasn’t the only film with Black leads, and directors and producers that drew the attention of cinema critics – “Green Book,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “BlacKKKlansman” are also among the favorites for this year’s Oscars. And in music, hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar leads nominations with eight, followed by Drake with seven and Cardi B with five.
Note that rapper and activist Kendrick Lamar has been recognized by his own state (California) for his efforts in his community, and most recently was awarded one of the most prestigious prizes known to the world – the Pulitzer.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as in addition to those major awards and awards shows, several “boutique” awards also favored nominees of color. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards will air Jan. 27. Nominees include John David Washington for “BlacKKKlansman,” Mahershala Ali for “Green Book” and the films “Black Panther” and “BlacKKKlansman.”
Groundbreaking woman of color Missy Elliott is being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with producer Dallas Austin, in June at the Marriott Marquis in New York’s Times Square. Elliott is one of the few women who impacted the music industry as a producer as well as artist. She is the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
A preview to the Oscars or Academy Awards tends to be the Golden Globes. They come before the Oscars and are often mirrors of what to expect from what is probably the most coveted award in show business. Black nominees for the Golden Globes, which took place in Los Angeles on Jan. 6, included “Green Book” with five nominations, including Best Picture Drama. That category was actually dominated by Black-oriented films, also including “Black Panther” and “BlacKKKlansman.
The Golden Globe went to “Bohemian Rhapsody” for Best Drama, but “Green Book,” which features Olivia Spencer and Mahershala Ali, took the trophy for Best Musical or Comedy.
No Black women were included in the Best Motion Picture Actress category; and only one man of color was in the Best Motion Picture Actor slot, going to John David Washington for his role in “BlacKKKlansman.” Green Book” was also a nominee for Best Motion Picture Musical/Comedy. The trophy went to “Green Book.”
Top honors for Regina King
Actress Regina King was a nominee and winner for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role Musical/Comedy for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” And for Supporting Actor in that category, Mahershala Ali was nominated and won for “Green Book,” while Richard E. Grant received a nod for his role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Of the five nominees in the Best Director category, one was Spike Lee for “BlacKKKlansman” and another went to Peter Farrelly for “Green Book.” The winner was Alfonso Cuaron for “Roma,” which was a streamed show.
Nominees for Best Screenplay included Barry Jenkins for “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga and Brian Currie for “Green Book” … which won. “Black Panther” was given a nod for Best Original score and Best Original Song (“All the Stars”).
When it came to television, there weren’t many nominations for people of color, except with the Best Comedy Series, with a nod going to Donald Glover for “Atlanta.” Regina King was nominated for Best Performance by Actress in Limited Series for Television for “Seven Seconds” and Thandie Newton for Best Supporting Actress for “Westworld” in that category. Actors Stephan James and Billy Porter were both nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a television series.
The Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 22; the awards show airs Feb. 24. Meanwhile, the Critics Choice Awards have already taken place, with 25 film categories and 17 for television. Again, “Black Panther,” “BlacKKKLansman,” “Green Book” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” were all nominees. However, no women or men of color were nominated for Best Actress or Best Actor. But then, as he did at the Golden Globes, Mahershala Ali took the award for Best Supporting Actor, beating out for one, Michael B. Jordan for his role in “Black Panther.” And as with the Golden Globes, Regina King took the trophy for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
‘Black Panther’ a critical favorite
Best Adapted Screenplay went to Barry Jenkins for “If Beale Street Could Talk” – Spike Lee was nominated for “BlacKKKlansman” in this category. Although it did not receive any Golden Globes, “Black Panther” received a Critics Choice Award for Best Production Design, one for Best Costume Design and one for Best Visual Effects.
It should be noted that the Best Comedy Award went to “Crazy Rich Asians,” which features a predominantly Asian American cast. Although none of them won, three Black-oriented movies were nominated for Best Score, including “Black Panther,” “Green Book” and “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Switching to television, Thandie Newton won for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Oddly, “Black-ish” was not nominated for Best Comedy; however, “Atlanta” was, with Donald Glover of the series nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. “Jesus Christ Superstar” – which starred John Legend – was up for Best Movie Made for Television (which it won), with John Legend nominated for Best Actor in that category.
More opportunities for Black men?
A historically high number of top movies had Black directors last year, confirms a study released that examined diversity behind the scenes and in studio boardrooms, reports the New York Times. While 2018 was a banner year for Black directors — with 16 working on the top 100 films — 15 of those 16 directors were men; the one woman in that group was Ava DuVernay (“A Wrinkle in Time”). The overall figure was up from six Black directors working on the top 100 films in 2017 and eight in 2007.
“While we do not see this finding mirrored among female or Asian directors, this offers proof that Hollywood can change when it wants to,” said Stacy L. Smith, who wrote the report with the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which released it. The research showed little change for other ethnicity groups or for women. Surveying the 1,200 top-grossing films from 2007-18, researchers found that just more than 4 percent had female directors, which meant that they were outnumbered by their male counterparts by a ratio of 22 to 1.
“Women of color are nearly invisible in film production — whether as directors, producers, or in below-the-line crew positions,” Dr. Smith said. “A mere 1.4 percent of editors, 1.5 percent of production designers and 1.6 percent of producers were women of color. Only one woman of color worked as a composer across the 300 films we examined, and there were no underrepresented female directors of photography.”
‘Trickle down’ for Indie films?
It’s rare, though, for an independent film to break through. Some Black writers, directors, producers and production companies say, however, that the climate is improving.
In Atlanta. a Black video, TV and film production community continues to blossom. It’s not just Tyler Perry and his studios – indie film makers and their projects are beginning to see more opportunities to get funding as well as support from a community that also is home to Bounce TV, a Black-owned TV network that is seen across America in an estimated 95 million homes and has moved from almost all “rerun” programs to original programming. “Saints & Sinners” is just one of its original programs, as well as “Family Time,” and this last week, the network offered the debut of “Last Call,” a comedy that takes place in a Baltimore bar.
Others in Hollywood and cities such as Atlanta find other opportunities to get in the mix. Maurice Haskins has seen his Black-owned production company pick up major clients for his video and commercial business. Count iHeart Media as one of the major firms that he works with, and recently, he drew in former music star Chilli Thomas of TLC to appear in two of his commercial productions.
He says there’s a new respect for Black culture, which is one of the reasons more doors are opening for businesses and artists of color.
“While always eyeing a good feature film, my concentration for now is on commercials, marketing, writing and corporate branding. As an independent African American producer/director, I have discovered mainstream clients extremely motivated to experience the flavors of creative diversity from lead talent to post-production,” Haskins told Our Weekly.
A more diverse talent pool
“There is a fresh confidence by way of results with diverse editing styles, casting, spokespeople and even original jingles that represent mainstream products or services,” he continues. “Years ago that model would have been known as a risky step out of the box… when it’s really not a stylistic issue, it’s a true step with America’s culture. Those are the successful clients – those willing to be open to diversity.”
Haskins says the talent pool, from directors to actors, is “so versatile. I recently completed a shoot directing the talents and extraordinary skills of Chilli from TLC. The production featured her as the spokesperson for two totally different products and demographics: from the hip-hop style of TLC to that convincing professional spokesperson speaking directly to an audience concerning everyday life issues.”
Watch video commerical with Chilli here…
Haskins and his Maurice Haskins Productions and Marketing ( www.mauricehaskins.com) also used Black-owned support for the commercial spots he developed with Chilli as a spokesperson, including the Meme Agency, which is owned and operated by two young Black women – Jay Love and Tuere Love. Their clients include reality TV stars and Final Draft, a male R&B quartet that is on the rise.