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Friday, January 4, 2008

Still Not Surprising....


Okay...so yesterday a few people got all "sensitive" about what I said about these screenwriters...they said that the writer writes, and then along come the producers, directors, casting directors, etc. to eff it up.

Let me tell you a story.

When I worked at the studio That Will Henceforth Remain Unnamed (TWHRU), I worked on a film that the screenwriter was constantly bitching that the director (who I worked for) was twisting his script to hell in a handbasket. So much so, that he officially took his name off the film and had some fake name on the credits. Let me interject that this dude (black) was a complete and total a-hole, and the film turned out fine, with no coonery, and I haven't heard about that elitist diva since. Sometimes a director can turn out a fine film in spite of the writer with his "vision".

On the other end of the spectrum, it was my job to pitch scripts for my (black) production company to these honchos at this major (white) studio, and like I said before, they shot all of the good, positive, black ones down like the Taliban.

I say this because I KNOW it is a challenge to even get your script read in Hollywood, much less greenlit. And it is even a bigger challenge to get the dozens of folks involved to stay close to your vision...unless....

-You have no vision to begin with, and are just trying to make a quick buck on some bulls--t.

-You are pandering to the low expectations of these studios and all they represent. The bottom line is that you want to live "Hollywood", say you are a "screenwriter" and get paid, and will sell your shriveled soul to do it.

And yes, there are many factors involved about why a film wins or loses. But it is also about the intent in the beginning, and you can talk to me from now till Armageddon and you'll never convince me that the white dudes who wrote "Who's Your Caddy?" had any noble intent for even 3 seconds. David Talbert too. "Let's get a mixed pot of black actors and an 8th degree script, and we'll make a ton of dough...those Negroes don't care, and they're not smart enough to notice. And who cares what the critics think when I'm driving my Lamborghini?"

Well guess what f--ckers? We DO CARE. And we ARE noticing. And sorry, it is not enough that we have a few Black screenwriters "with varying of degrees success" (and I use the term "varying" loosely) as one commenter put it, no disrespect to the person who commented. And I feel the same way about every single film on my "Worst Of 2007" list.

I didn't accept the racist condescension in front of the Hollywood decision makers then, and I don't accept it now. "WE" (non-sellouts) have to start writing, and getting paid for, "OUR" stories. And we should not stop trying. Period.

Check this comment from TAO of the Obenson Report that he left on theblackactor blog:

It's worth noting, if you haven't already mentioned it on your blog, that Robert Johnson's so-called film studio (Our Stories Films Inc) which brought us the masterpiece that was WHO'S YOUR CADDY, is currently in pre-production for their next outing entitled, MISSION INTOLERABLE, starring Mr Pimp Chronicles himself, Katt Williams. But here's the kicker - the film was written AND will be directed by white men.

So, Our Stories Films, supposedly created to provide opportunities for black talent, both in front and behind the cameras, introduces itself to the world by making its first two releases, Caucasoid creations. Robert Johnson is an imbecile... a rich imbecile, but an imbecile nonetheless. I dedicated an entire podcast to Mr. Johnson and his "studio" a few months ago, after I first learned of Our Stories Films Inc. It was more of an extended rant, but something had to be said. I'll touch on this a little more on next week’s show, as I’ve got a few more specifics. It’s truly maddening, but I’ve come to expect very little from Robert Johnson and those of his ilk.

I also hosted an episode last year during which I detailed the rather pathetic list of black films released theatrically in 2007. And yes, it truly was pathetic!!! I think there were about 9 or 10 films out of more than 400 total studio releases. I should mention that my definition of a black film was/is somewhat stringent.

From IW: You may officially marinate in this.

17 comments:

aulelia said...

this is really illuminating. thanks for this post.

theblackactor.com said...

I dismiss the notion that on so many occasions what may have started off as a "good" script ended up something completely other than what it was supposed to be.

Obviously, everyone has a hand in the pie, but absolutely and without a doubt, this goes to what IW says is "the intent in the beginning."

The screenwriters are at least partially responsible, if not entirely responsible for these images (to the extent their script maintained its cinematic integrity in the end).

Qadree said...

I have the utmost respect for Tambay. He released a film called The Man Who Couldn't and if you haven't seen it, go to Amazon.com and get it. I wish they had a bigger budget when they made the picture, but you've got to start somewhere, even with that it's still better than much of what you will get from Hollywood in terms of storytelling.

If people are serious about the various issues being discussed I believe that supporting independent projects like this is a major part of the solution. That film was written and directed by Brandon Wilson, Tambay has his own film called Beautiful Things. I just ordered it today and I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

IW, I'm sure you know that many people see a topic posted and just want to vent. They don't actually want to put effort into changing things. Talking about the people who are doing things right seems to be of little interest compared to mudslinging, it seems that's what most people want these days.

Nicole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
IVENTBYBLOGGING said...

Well, why don't u break it down for real, IW???? U go girl, i'm learning all kinds of technical stuffy stuff up in Heeahhh.
. I have a film studies class, so now I'm going to go class Wed and give my professor the "side eye!" Poor man :(

Villager said...

Excellent insights. I'm strictly a movie fan. I have subscription to Netflix. Ordinarily I either watch NetFlix movie or one that I've checked out from my local library. I rarely go to movie theatre anymore ... however, while on vacation in Los Angeles last week I did take my family to see The Great Debaters and National Treasure 2.

peace, Villager

Nicole said...

Duly marinated…and I agree with all your points…I just hate to see the writers bearing the brunt of the blame (which I know was not the goal of your original post) when they’re low on the totem pole. If Who’s Your Caddy is what producers want, that’s what they’ll get. I see intent and end results being driven by the market, which to me equals those who hold the purse strings – the producers but also the audience. Before I say that a script was bad because of the writer, I’d want to know if what ended up on film matches with what the writer created or intended. I’m not a screenwriter, but I can imagine that there’s a fine line that has to be walked between maintaining principles and paying bills – i.e., getting to see your movie made but knowing that it now contains sex scenes you didn’t write or characters that you wrote as black/curvy but now they’re white/thin, or vice versa. Those may seem like small changes, but in the hands of the wrong director/producer, they could perpetuate a lot of stereotypes.

asha vere said...

I think I was the person who pointed out the varying levels of success of different screenwriters, in part because the Web site I linked has quite a few folks aspiring screenwriters.

I don't disagree with what you're saying. Quite a few writers are part of the problem.

The person above me who says its partially the audience's fault is also right. If there wasn't a seemingly insatiable appetite for these things, they wouldn't get made.

It's the same thing in the book world (which interests me most). While there are, of course, authors who have published serious, well written books, they don't get nearly the attention that the folks who write "street" or "urban" literature -- or have a story about their hustle -- do, primarily because the "street fiction" market and the hustle narrative are hot.

And that's a shame.

Janice said...

http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=184971


I think Robert Rodriguez is a good model for non-hollywood cinema that elevates the minority. (yeah yeah its not Shakespeare but he makes profitable films that showcase Hispanics without the buffoonery). It will take one person with the right thinking to get the ball rolling. At this point the ball is in our court.

theblackactor.com said...

I'm just glad you guys (and those who visit my blog) are discussing this and expressing your viewpoints, whatever they may be!

theblackactor.com said...

Girl, where'd you get that pic?

LOL

Invisible Woman said...

aulelia: welcome; i love your blog

@blackactor: nobody ever started out with the godfather and ended up with soulpane....thanks as always for your views and support--found that picture cruising around :-)

@qadree: I think I'll feature those films on my blog soon; i have some things coming up that are a little more obscure. i don't mind at all when people vent--i want people to say whatever is on their minds about everything, even if i don't agree--just don't call me out my name, haha

ivent--i've taken a few film classes, italian neorealism, french new wave, etc. please keep me updated on how yours is going

villager, that's right you were in my neck of the woods...how did you like LA and how did you like the Great Debaters?

@nicole: welcome...duly marinated as well!

@asha vera: you are very right about the audiences dictating--or else there would have been no National Treasure 2....I hope the complete lack of interest in Who's Your Caddy meant something, but probably not.

@janice-RR has definitely made huge changes with the Latino film making community, but just like our community, they need more projects too. Spain is getting there with pan's labyrinth and the orphanage

Femigog said...

We have to stop being lazy consumers and lazier artists. You hit the nail on the head sis!

Janice said...

I also wanted to add about the screenwriters. I don't think the fact that some of the SRs are Jewish(or even white) has much to do with the quality of "black" film. Along with the list of above the line talent it is a lack of good writers period. i would say all films today are lacking originality and depth. If the assertion is black film is terrible because of an agenda among white/jewish writers and executives I will say that is wrong. Yes racism exist and is practiced everyday in hollywood but hollywood sticks to what they think they can sell. I think the lack of vision among the executives is to blame. They can't envision non hood films because hood films are the ones that consistently make money. If you take into account the writers you listed as example of a white agenda you also have to take into account sam goldwyn jr, ed weinberger, brandon tartikoff, norman lear, Norman Jewison and countless others that represented blackness in a positive light. Even if we put white involvement of the black image you cannot deny the tragic involvement of some black people in the negative portrayal of blackness in film (entertainment really). in the past black creative types had vision (berry gordy, Ossie Davis, Bill Cosby and sidney poitier, Van Peebles) today the black people that can greenlight a film (excluding Big O , D Washington and Lee Daniels) are Tracey Edmonds, Eddie Murphy, the BET guy Jay Z and Russell Simmons. Look at the utter crap they turn out. Not just film but look at Def Comdey Jam it has all black writers and they are not remotely funny. Their material is lowest common denominator but look at the crowds mostly black hoot and holler just the same. Rap (not all I know but the bad stuff) is written by blacks and it is simply devastating to the image of blacks esp. women. That's Black created it doesn't matter who the executives are because even BET guy and Edmonds come around to profit from it. making money no matter what. Like I said before it will take an independent artist to change things. Their isn't a great money barrier to making films today. RR made El Mariachi for 8 grand in the early 90's it's even cheaper now.

Invisible Woman said...

Femigog: I know that if you keep plugging away you'll make it; you are our new Octavia Butler! :-)

Danielle said...

Oscar Micheaux must be rolling in his grave. I'm always screaming let's do it ourselves and it seems that if we're given a chance, we still go down the "garbage" road and don't believe in accountability @ all.

Invisible Woman said...

Girl I hear you!