For The Hollywood Reporter’s largest shoot ever, members of Black Women Who Brunch, a networking group co-founded by Lena Waithe, gather to discuss how the industry can better understand black women in Hollywood: “We have to be exceptional.”
In 2014, Nkechi Okoro Carroll was an executive story editor on Bones when she met an up-and-coming scribe named Lena Waithe at a WGA Committee of Black Writers event. The two hit it off, so much so that Okoro Carroll got the future Emmy winner — whose major credit at the time was writing for the Nickelodeon series How to Rock — hired as a staff writer on her Fox procedural, making Waithe the second black woman in the room. “Aren’t you worried she’s going to take your job?” a fellow writer on staff asked Okoro Carroll.
“You should be worried she’ll take your job,” retorted Okoro Carroll, now showrunning The CW’s All American. What the duo felt was not competition but kinship: “We often felt like unicorns,” Okoro Carroll says. “When someone asked me to recommend mid-level female writers [of color] for a job, I was appalled to realize I didn’t know many names.”
Together with Erika L. Johnson, then writing for BET’s Being Mary Jane, the women decided to create a network of black female TV writers themselves. Twelve assembled for the March 2014 inaugural meeting of what came to be known as Black Women Who Brunch (BWB); today, the membership nears 80. “This group is the proof” against and antidote to “people saying, ‘We can’t find any black female writers,'” says Johnson, now a co-executive producer on NBC’s upcoming The Village.
BWB holds potlucks at Okoro Carroll’s house every few months (usually about 30 members are available at one time) to toast triumphs and troubleshoot challenges. “It’s not just a community we’re building, but a resource,” says Waithe. “We really are able to recommend eight or nine black women for certain jobs.”
In August, BWB took its first off-site trip — a weekend getaway to Palm Springs. And in November, 62 members gathered for THR‘s biggest photo shoot ever, where they revealed what they wish their colleagues knew about being a black woman in the business.
According to Variety.com, Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Viola Davis and her producer husband Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions has just signed an exclusive first-look feature production deal with Amazon Studios, putting the streaming service in business with one of the most acclaimed and honored thespians of the modern day.
JuVee Productions signed an overall deal with ABC in early 2016, for television development and production. But Davis has been working with Amazon as a producer on the upcoming movie comedy “Troupe Zero,” which co-stars Allison Janney and Jim Gaffigan. The film will be released in 2019.
“Amazon Studios is passionate about building a home for both new and established filmmakers of all backgrounds, who share the same vision in telling incredible and engaging human stories,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “Viola and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions brings distinctive, fresh voices and high-quality content to our customers in both theaters and on Prime Video.”
Davis continues to headline the ABC hit “How to Get Away With Murder” and is starring in movies like this fall’s “Widows.”
According to PRNewswire, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios (ES) and the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM) – plaintiffs in federal lawsuits filed against Comcast and Charter Communications – have announced two decisions issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that will allow them to go to trial against two of the largest cable television carriers in the country.
In the $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast and the $10 billion suit against Charter, the carriers are accused of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracting. For years, Entertainment Studios has been requesting that Comcast and Charter carry its networks, which are distributed by Comcast and Charter’s competitors, including Verizon, DirecTV, AT&T, DISH, and many other carriers, to millions of people around the country.
Both Comcast and Charter, however, refused all of Allen’s requests for network carriage. Subsequently, Allen filed lawsuits in federal district court in Los Angeles.
In two historically significant decisions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Comcast and Charter’s attempts to dismiss the cases before trial. The Court upheld Entertainment Studios’ Section 1981 claims against both Comcast and Charter; and instead ruled that both cases could proceed in the trial courts to discovery and trial.
“These two decisions against Comcast and Charter are very significant, unprecedented, and historic,” said Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Entertainment Studios. “The lack of true economic inclusion for African Americans will end with me, and these rulings show that I am unwavering in my commitment to achieving this long overdue goal.”
“The Court’s rulings overwhelmingly reflect the Ninth Circuit’s rejection of the Defendants’ positions and arguments,” said Mark DeVitre, President of plaintiff, NAAAOM. “I look forward to quickly moving into discovery where we expect much more evidence to surface.”
“These decisions are hugely important in terms of opening the courts to African American-owned media. The Court paved the way to our eventual success at trial by ensuring that the proper ‘mixed motive’ standard for our claims – a lower standard of proof than the ‘but for’ standard argued by Comcast and Charter – applies,” said Entertainment Studios’ attorney, Skip Miller, partner in Miller Barondess. “Additionally, the Court dismissed Charter’s and Comcast’s attempts to use the First Amendment as a shield for their alleged discrimination. I very much look forward to trying these cases. And I give Mr. Allen tremendous credit for having the will and the constitution to invest the capital and resources to pursue them relentlessly.”
According to Deadline.com, Charter and Comcast issued separate statements, expressing disappointment with the ruling. “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision, and are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” Comcast said in a statement.
Charter was more pointed in its response. “This lawsuit is a desperate tactic that this programmer has used before with other distributors,” Charter said in a statement to Deadline. “We are disappointed with today’s decision and will vigorously defend ourselves against these claims.”
The Los Angeles-based Entertainment Studios alleged Charter’s former senior vice president of programming, Allan Singer, refused to meet with its representatives. Singer rescheduled and postponed meetings and offered “disingenuous” explanations for refusing to carry it programming, according to court documents.
Singer said bandwidth limitations and operational demands precluded carriage of ENT’s cable networks, while reaching carriage agreements with “lesser-known, white-owned channels” such as the rural focused RFD-TV and the horror channel Chiller.
Court documents cite evidence of racial bias, including one instance in which Singer allegedly approached an African-American protest group outside Charter’s headquarters and told them “to get off welfare.” Additionally, in court documents Charter CEO Tom Rutledge is alleged to have referred to Allen as “Boy” at an industry event.
“Plaintiffs suggest that these incidents are illustrative of Charter’s institutional racism,” the Appeals Court writes, in summarizing the case’s history. “Noting also that the cable operator had historically refused to carry African American-owned channels and, prior to its merger with Time Warner Cable, had a board of directors composed only of white men.”
Entertainment Studios ascribed similar discriminatory motives on the part of Comcast, which offered carriage deals to such networks as Inspirational Network, Fit TV, Outdoor Channel and Baby First Americas while telling Allen it had no bandwidth or storage capacity for his networks.
Allen founded Entertainment Studios in 1993 and owns eight 24-hour HD television networks serving nearly 160 million subscribers: THE WEATHER CHANNEL, PETS.TV, COMEDY.TV, RECIPE.TV, CARS.TV, ES.TV, MYDESTINATION.TV, and JUSTICE CENTRAL.TV. The company also produces, distributes, and sells advertising for 41 television programs, making it one of the largest independent producers/distributors of first-run syndicated television programming for broadcast television stations.
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures is a full-service, theatrical motion picture distribution company specializing in wide release commercial content. ESMP released 2017’s highest-grossing independent movie, the shark thriller 47 METERS DOWN, which grossed over $44.3 million. In 2018, ESMP also released the critically-acclaimed and commercially successful Western HOSTILES and the historic mystery-thriller CHAPPAQUIDDICK.
Upcoming releases include the Keanu Reeves sci-fi thriller REPLICAS, the John Krasinski/Emily Blunt-starring animated feature ANIMAL CRACKERS, and Joe Carnahan’s Mel Gibson/Naomi Watts starring action-thriller BOSS LEVEL.
According to Variety.com, Academy Award-winning producer/writer/director Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight“) and his PASTEL production banner have landeda first-look television deal at Amazon.
Jenkins is planning to direct the entire limited series “Underground Railroad” at Amazon, based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel from 2016. Under the deal, Jenkins will exclusively develop television series for Amazon Studios.
“Barry is clearly a master of groundbreaking, authentically emotional storytelling and we are so proud to have him share that gift with us,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “We are incredibly fortunate to have also secured his directorial vision for the entire limited series The Underground Railroad.”
“We at PASTEL are excited to continue our Amazon relationship begun on ‘Underground Railroad’ and look forward to growing that partnership on projects near and beyond,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins’ feature film debut, “Medicine for Melancholy,” was lauded as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times. He recently debuted his latest film, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on James Baldwin’s novel and starring Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry, at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The U.S. release in theaters is scheduled for November 30 of this year.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $19.5 million to more than 200 current and former black financial advisers and their attorneys in a class action settlement with the bank.
The nation’s largest bank also will spend $4.5 million to launch in-house development programs over the next three years to recruit advisers and help them be successful in those positions.
The New York-based bank recently reached the $24 million settlement after six current or former black financial advisers at the bank filed a discrimination suit, basically alleging they were mistreated because of their color.
“This allows us to continue to focus on the diverse and inclusive environment that is critical to our success,” Tom Kelly, a JP Morgan spokesman, said. “We’ll keep work with our black advisers through recruiting, development, coaching and management training.”
The suit asserts JP Morgan sent white advisers to wealthier sites while assigning black peers to branches that were not as successful. The advisers added black employees received lower pay and had fewer licensed bankers to support them. Further, the suit claims black personnel was blocked from a program that catered to wealthier clients.
“These racial disparities result from Chase’s systemic, intentional race discrimination and from policies and practices that have an unlawful disparate impact on African Americans,” the six plaintiffs said in court papers, Bloomberg reported.
The plaintiffs included Jerome Senegal in Texas, Erika Williams in Illinois, Brent Griffin in Wisconsin, Irvin Nash in New York, Amanda Jason in Kentucky, and Kellie Farrish in California. “Our clients are proud of this outcome and acknowledge that JPMorgan had a choice to fight,” their lawyer Linda Friedman said in an email via Bloomberg. “Each case builds on the last. This is how progress is made.”
Other major banking and financial services firms have faced parallel accusations. Last year, Wells Fargo reached a $35.5 million settlement with a group of black financial advisers who claimed the firm discriminated because of their race. Five years ago, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch resolved a race discrimination suit for $160 million.
RichardParsons, former chairman and CEO of Time Warner, has been named interim chairman of the CBS board of directors.
The newly configured CBS board had its first formal meeting via teleconference on Tuesday after the shakeup that began Sept. 9 with the forced resignation of longtime CEO Leslie Moonves amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Parsons was appointed to the CBS board earlier this month along with four other new members. He’ll be tasked with leading the board at a time of great transition for CBS.
Also on Tuesday, two more long-serving CBS board members, Bruce Gordon and William Cohen, confirmed that they have resigned from the board. Their departures leave the panel at 11 members. It’s not immediately clear if their seats will be replaced.
Gordon, former head of the NAACP and a former top Verizon executive, was credited with stepping up and leading the negotiations that led to Moonves’ resignation and the settlement of the lawsuit CBS filed against its controlling shareholder, National Amusements Inc.
2018 U.S. Open women’s tennis champion Naomi Osaka is winning both on and off the court. After defeating Serena Williams, the 20-year-old Haitian and Japanese athlete has become a household name. According to Business Insider, Osaka is slated to make history by inking the biggest deal that Adidas has ever offered to a woman athlete.
Osaka is reportedly working on a deal with the sports brand that is worth $8.5 million per year, the news outlet writes. The deal could possibly make her one of the highest-paid women in the realm of sports; out-earning her tennis opponents. Osaka currently has a contract with Adidas for six figures which is ending this year.
It seems as if the Adidas deal is just the beginning of more endorsements to come for Osaka. She recently signed a three-year endorsement deal with Nissan to be one of their brand ambassadors. “With a combination of grit and grace, Naomi Osaka is not afraid to take on the best tennis players of our time, and win,” Asako Hoshino, Senior Vice President, Nissan, told the news outlet. Osaka is humbled to represent the brand and says she was drawn to Nissan because of its “strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirit.”
Osaka’s win over Serena Williams at the 2018 US Open garnered a lot of attention after Williams was hit with a slew of unjust code violations for coaching, breaking a racket, and her exchange of words with umpire Carlos Ramos. Despite the drama surrounding the match, the tennis veteran displayed sportsmanship by giving her opponent encouraging words as the crowd booed the outcome. “She said that she was proud of me and that I should know that the crowd wasn’t booing at me. So, I was really happy that she said that,” said Osaka during a recent appearance on The Ellen Show.
Nearly two weeks after the ad provoked calls for boycotts, shares hit an all-time high, closing at $83.47 Thursday — an all-time high for the company.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Nike had previously faced a dip in its stock price immediately after its Kaepernick announcement, dropping nearly 3 percent in the next day of trading at the New York Stock Exchange. That fall has since been made up and more, per Yahoo.
Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ‘Just do it’ campaign is a two-minute video featuring the former 49er narrating stories of athletes who have beaten the odds, ending with the words: “It’s only crazy until you do it,” then changing to “Just do it.”
WarnerMedia, the parent company of Hollywood studio Warner Bros., announced Wednesday a company-wide policy aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera. The initiative, established in partnership with actor Michael B. Jordan, is to apply to all productions going forward, beginning with Jordan’s “Just Mercy.”
“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward,” Jordan said in a statement. “I’m proud that our film, ‘Just Mercy,’ will be the first to formally represent the future we have been working toward, together. This is a legacy-bearing moment.”
Since April Reign and #OscarsSoWhite took over headlines beginning in 2014, the entertainment industry has openly grappled with calls for more accurate and representative portrayals of more communities.
But it was, for many, Frances McDormand’s fiery speech at the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony (she won an Oscar for her lead role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) highlighting the concept of inclusion riders that drove some people to action.
(First coined by Stacy Smith, director of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, an inclusion rider is a provision that can be placed in stars’ contracts to mandate equity in casting and beyond.)
“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business,” Jordan said. “[But] it wasn’t until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire — inclusion rider — that I realized we could standardize this practice. It allowed me to formally pledge my production company, Outlier Society, to a way of doing business.”
WarnerMedia’s policy, which will also apply to HBO and Turner, focuses on having women, people of color, members of LGBTQ communities, folks with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers in front of and behind the camera.
Along with the help of his agent, Phillip Sun at WME, Jordan worked with WarnerMedia to launch the policy with “Just Mercy.” Jordan is also an executive producer on the film, which is set to begin production in Atlanta this week.
“I’m proud that Warner Bros., and our sister companies HBO and Turner, are willing to state unequivocally that this is where we stand on diversity and inclusion,” Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros.’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
“Our policy commits us to taking concrete action to further our goals, to measure the outcomes and to share the results publicly,” he added. “I’m also thrilled that we were able to work with Michael B. Jordan to craft a meaningful policy and framework that will apply to all of our productions, across all of our divisions, going forward.”
Though the policy as written does not include specifics, the company does commit to “in the early stages of the production process, [engaging] with our writers, producers and directors to create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects, with the goal of providing opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups at all levels.”
“And, we will issue an annual report on our progress,” it said.
“Just Mercy” is a legal drama about a gifted young lawyer’s defense of the most vulnerable in this country and his fight for equal justice in a flawed legal system. It’s based on the book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson.
Despite a 14-month maternity leave, Serena Williams has topped Forbes’ “Highest-Paid Female Athlete” list for the third consecutive year.
Due to her pregnancy in January 2017, Williams was off the court for the majority of the past year, leaving her with only $62,000 in winnings. Still, the 23-time Grand Slam champion collected twice as many off-court coins than any other female athlete.
Earning $18.1 million in endorsements, Williams was able to top the list by over $5 million, with Australian Open winner Dane Caroline Wozniacki second in line.
Though Forbes did not include a woman in their ranking of the world’s top 100 highest earning athletes of 2018 after Williams’ earnings fell by approximately $10 million since the year prior, only 16 male athletes earned more than Williams in sponsorship money over the last 12 months.
In addition to over a dozen sponsors including Nike, Intel, Audemars Piguet, JPMorgan Chase, Lincoln, Gatorade and Beats, Williams also launched her first solo fashion compilation, Serena, in May.
Williams is currently gearing up to match Margaret Court’s 24 grand slam title record at this year’s US Open.