Category: Movies

Jordan Peele’s “Us” Earns Weekend Top Spot at Box Office with $70M Debut

Filmmaker Jordan Peele is two for two with his horror-film offerings: “Us,” starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss, generated $70 million from 3,741 North American locations to top the box office charts in its debut weekend.

According to Variety.com, that haul is enough to give “Us” the second-best opening weekend of the year behind Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by a band of doppelgangers now has the largest weekend for an original horror movie, surpassing “A Quiet Place,” as well as the biggest launch for an original R-rated film behind “Ted.” “Us” has also surpassed the benchmark set by Peele’s first horror film “Get Out,” which opened with $33.3 million in 2017 and went on to earn over $255 million worldwide.

Universal and Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions spent $20 million to make “Us,” not including marking and distribution fees, which means the movie has almost quadrupled its production cost in less than a week.

Watch the trailer below:

Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actress nominee for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Regina King accepts her Oscar during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (Credit: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

2019 is arguably the year of #OscarsSoBlack. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year set the record for the most individual Black winners of Academy Awards, with seven victors in six categories.

Regina King kicked it all off by winning first award of the evening for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Already a recipient of a Golden Globe for the same role, King gave an emotional, touching acceptance speech.

“To be standing here, representing one of the greatest artists of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal,” King said. “James Baldwin birthed this baby, and Barry [Jenkins, the director], you nurtured her, you surrounded her with so much love and support. So it’s appropriate for me to be standing here because I am an example of what happens when support and love is poured into someone.”

“Black Panther” collaborators Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler made history with their wins, becoming the first African Americans to take home Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, respectively.

“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we made him an African king,” Carter said. Among those she thanked was director Ryan Coogler, whom she called “a guiding force.”

Beachler also acknowledged Coogler in her acceptance speech. “I stand here with agency and self-worth because of [director] Ryan Coogler, who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. When you think things are impossible, remember ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.’”

Spike Lee accepts the Oscar for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Spike Lee, along with writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott (who is black), won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Black KkKlansman.”

After full-body hugging presenter (and “Jungle Fever” alum) Samuel L. Jackson, in his acceptance speech Lee paid tribute to his grandmother, whose mother was a slave, who lived to be 100 years old and put him through Morehouse College and New York University film school.

Lee also made the first direct political comments of the night: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said.

“Let’s do the right thing!” Lee added. “You know I had to get that in there.”

Additionally, Peter Ramsey, co-director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won for Best Animated Feature.

Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for the second time in his career for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That movie also went on later in the evening to win the Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture categories.

Below is the full list of winners:

Best Picture

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book” (WINNER)
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Director

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” (WINNER)
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Lead Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Lead Actor

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Original Song

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Original Score

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Adapted Screenplay

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee (WINNER)
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters Continue reading “Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards”

REVIEW: Aretha Franklin’s Soul-Stirring “Amazing Grace” Documentary Soars Into the Divine

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Before reading, please understand the deep degree to which I am an Aretha Franklin fan. I have been in rapture since I was a teen grooving to “Jump To It,”  “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Think,” and, of course, “Respect.” My devotion to her voice and musicianship only intensified when I gained full access to her catalog when I DJ’d for my college radio station. I went all the way in, past her Arista recordings, back and through her Chess, Columbia and Atlantic LPs, and never came back out.

I played her records over and over, never singing along, so as not to disrespect or sully the divinity I was taking in. Back then, during this time of discovery of the breadth of Aretha’s genius, it would have been as rude as chatting during a sermon. I could go on – there is so much more Aretha stanning in my history including the full day spent watching every hour, minute and second of her funeral – but it’s enough to get the picture.

I am in, down, and for all things Aretha.

So a few years ago when I heard about film footage existing of Aretha recording her 1972 gospel masterpiece “Amazing Grace” in Los Angeles at Reverend James Cleveland‘s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with the Southern California Community Choir, shot over two nights by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “The Way We Were,” “The Firm”), I was ecstatic.

It didn’t get released in conjunction with the album’s 1972 release as originally planned by Warner Bros. because the film’s recording was mishandled. Pollack, who died in 2008, did not use clapper boards, a crucial tool in matching sound with filmed images in the pre-digital era. There were 20 hours of raw footage shot by five 16-millimeter cameras to sync, so the project got shelved, until the footage was re-discovered over three decades later.

The movie was then set to screen at several prominent film festivals, but Franklin herself sued to stop it from being released. So I checked my thirst out of loyalty and stood by the Queen’s side, even if it meant never seeing what I was sure would be a Technicolor feast of mind-blowing artistry.

I brightened when I heard Aretha’s beef with the project was not about its content – she reportedly loved the content – it was about the money. Okay, cool – Aretha wanted her coins as well as her respect. I hoped it would all settle quickly, because as much as a person can be in love with her recordings, watching Aretha live, doing her thing, has always been where it’s at.

Not long after her passing, producer Alan Elliott screened “Amazing Grace” for Franklin’s family and got the family’s approval for release. It was picked up by NEON Studios for North American distribution and is slated to be in theaters in the early part of this year. But when I got a chance to see the film Thursday in Los Angeles on Opening Night of the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival (#PAFF), I jumped to it.

Even though I saw it with an audience so fully there for it, and even with my freely admitted pre-disposition towards loving it, viewing “Amazing Grace” is a sensorial experience that exceeds all expectations. This “making of” documentary is a pure, raw American musical treasure that should go down, like Aretha, as the greatest of its ilk.

In case you’ve never heard the “Amazing Grace” double album or perhaps only know Aretha from Inaugural Hat or “Great Gowns, Beautiful Gowns” Taylor Swift memes, in 1972, Aretha Franklin is 29 and at the absolute height of her recording success, fame and vocal prowess.

As Tirrell D. Whittley, another of the film’s producers, put it during the Q&A that followed its #PAFF screening, Aretha was “it” back then, the Beyoncé of her time. And while at that height, Aretha decided to honor and commune with the roots from which her unparalleled artistry grew – church music.

Listening to the “Amazing Grace” LP (still the best-selling gospel album of all time), I always imagined it was a packed Sunday morning service where Aretha was singing with a fully-robed choir joyfully bouncing in step behind her. But what the film shows you instead is nighttime, a handful of white guys with mics, wires and cameras running around, and maybe 80-90 audience members, several of them likely not even New Temple congregants (Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones are there one night, as are gospel great Clara Ward and her mother, Mother Ward).

Aretha Franklin from the film “Amazing Grace”

The backing choir, directed with great aptitude and verve by the lively Alexander Hamilton, does not wear church robes but all-black clothing underneath Vegas-style sparkly silver vests. They look more like they are at a local talent competition than a service, and they stay seated during most of the recording. Aretha alone is robed – the first night in a long, white, bejeweled caftan and the second in a beautiful chartreuse paisley one.

It is clear from her commanding sashays down the church aisle as she enters upon introduction from Rev. Cleveland, that Aretha is not only in church, but there to put in work. On the second night Aretha enters in one of her signature fur coats. Her walk, steps, bearing are those of a queen, unashamedly in charge and full of femininity. She touches outreached hands but intentionally keeps moving at her own pace.

While Cleveland plays host with avuncular affability as he encourages the crowd from the pulpit and piano, and Aretha’s father Rev. C.L. Franklin is solicited to offer remarks, Aretha herself barely talks during either session – seemingly conserving her voice between songs. When she does talk it’s brief and at whisper level.

I think it’s both the truth of what happened those nights as well as a great dramatic device – Aretha’s singing literally speaks for her. She has such sharp focus on what she is doing and trying to achieve – Aretha comes across not as a guileless prodigy, but as a hard-working, brilliant young woman who fully knows what she is capable of and what it takes to tap into and employ her superlative gift. She is also connected enough to know when to give in to it and allow a higher power work through her.

Aretha Franklin in “Amazing Grace”

Seeing the process with your own eyes makes it all the more impactful and palpable. When Aretha sits down at the piano and starts in on “Wholy Holy,” there is nothing to do but watch in awe. And at a certain point, song after great song, it hits you – as you take in the old-school microphones, the physical dynamics of the space and people in it, that the sound is, in a word, superb. I don’t know if it’s from remastering with present-day technology or because that audio was recorded so well back in 1972, but the depth and clarity of the music and the vocal responses to it are an aural delicacy.

The prosaic nature of the church space itself sits in humble, human contrast to the sublimeness occurring inside it. The church is not so much majestic as it is makeshift – and in the best way. The mural of Jesus on the wall behind the pulpit – let’s just say it’s barely a notch above paint-by-numbers. But looking at that amateur effort behind the woman who is evocatively singing “How I Got Over” and “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” in His name – it’s almost as if Mural Jesus sags in admission that no one could have painted an image to match the artistry and meditation of Aretha.

This is most evident during Aretha’s performance of the title track “Amazing Grace” – as she reaches higher and higher, the shouting and clapping from the audience rises and rises – people literally stand, fall, cry, and scream. Rev. Cleveland himself is so overcome by the power and beauty of what Aretha is delivering that he stops playing the piano so he can collect himself.

It’s such an incredible moment to watch – even the man running the show, a seasoned church pro – is overwhelmed and touched, all his pomp crumbling down under literal amazing grace. Many of us know that moment – when you witness something so superlative and divine, you can do nothing more than be in its presence and be thankful you exist to receive it.

The other indelible highlight in the film is Aretha’s delivery/deliverance of/during “Never Grow Old.” I have watched countless clips of Aretha performing live, at all ages and stages of her career. She is always professional and on point, but when she herself catches the spirit? There! Is! Nothing! Like! It!

Aretha is at the piano during “Never Grow Old” as you see it happening. She is so channelled and so in it that the spirit takes over the tempo, the piano, the choir, and several people in the audience. There is spirit dancing – Mother Ward falls out – an actual white towel is thrown in!

And as the towel comes towards camera, the audience watching the movie burst into laughter as did I, because it is perfect punctuation to what we were all feeling at that moment. We were in thrall and surrender to the power, the genius, the spirit, the joy that is flowing through Aretha Louise Franklin.

Even as you feel the heat, the light, the literal sweat on her brow coming at you through the screen, Aretha’s voice makes you shiver down to your bones.

“Amazing Grace” LP cover

The only song that doesn’t come across as powerful on film as it does on the record is “Mary Don’t You Weep.” According to producer Elliott, they did not have full visual coverage of “Mary” in the church, so they could not match it to the audio from the LP. What we do hear of “Mary” is still worthy of our time, suffering mainly from comparison to the oomph and punch so many of the other visually-realized songs have, including lesser-known songs such as “Climbing Higher Mountains” and “Precious Memories.”

But all in all, after dwelling for over 45 years in obscurity, the fact that the general public will finally get to see the best singer in the world recording the best gospel album of all time while communing in the most prolific and sustaining pillar of African-American society – the church – is the real blessing that needs to be recognized.

Even if you don’t know or revere Franklin’s work like I do but love any powerhouse singer from last 50 years, or just love music, you should see this film. For it proves without a doubt that since the sixties, all roads to enthralling, singular vocal ability, agility, facility and feeling lead back to one root, one person, one singer – Aretha. And her preternatural gift is never in finer form and potency than it is in “Amazing Grace.”

BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Not many people on Earth have their names become synonymous with genius in their profession, let alone genius in general. Einstein, Shakespeare, Mozart, even Spielberg and Prince easily come to mind. Notably, they are all men, mostly White, and only one is known by his first name. But when you say, “Hey, where are the women? What women do you think of when someone says ‘Who are the geniuses?,'” an immediate response would (or should) be… Oprah.

It may seem like opinion, but I want to go on record that saying “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” is a fact, and one that should be touted widely. Oprah’s status as a cultural icon, media mogul and inspirational leader is taken as a given, but when you look back and reflect on her journey from rural poverty in Mississippi to global icon, you too will recognize how much intelligence, excellence and genius it took to get there and what’s more – stay there.

What follows below in regards to recognizable achievement, vision and success rightfully will only add credence to the “Oprah Winfrey is a genius” fact, but I submit that the secret sauce of Oprah’s claim to that title has been best articulated (and realized) by Oprah herself:

Everybody has a calling. And your real job in life is to figure out as soon as possible what that is, who you were meant to be, and to begin to honor that in the best way possible for yourself. – Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey, originally named “Orpah” after the biblical figure in the Book of Ruth but had it misspelled and mispronounced so much that “Oprah”  stuck, recently celebrated her 65th birthday on January 29, 1954. Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to Vernita Lee, an unmarried teenage mother and housemaid, and Vernon Winfrey, a coal miner turned barber turned city councilman who had been in the Armed Forces when Oprah was born.

According to wikipedia.org, Winfrey spent her first six years living with her maternal grandmother, Hattie Mae Lee, who was so poor that Winfrey often wore dresses made of potato sacks, and the local children made fun of her. Her grandmother, ever in Oprah’s corner, taught her to read before the age of three and took her to church, where she was nicknamed “The Preacher” for her preternatural ability to recite Bible verses and command the stage.

Despite parental neglect from her mother, sexual abuse by family members from the age of nine, and the stillbirth of a son at age 14, Oprah’s intellect and ability to speak powerfully in public earned her a full ride to HBCU Tennessee State University on an Oratory Scholarship.

As Oprah honed her skills through education and experience, she became the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. Oprah then became an anchor in the larger market of Baltimore, MD before taking over the hosting position of low-rated AM Chicago in 1984.

Oprah aligned her talents, smarts, professionalism and relatability to catapult her over Phil Donahue’s long-venerated talk show Donahue for the top-rated slot. Oprah then wisely took advice from movie critic Roger Ebert to make a syndication deal with King World Media and have ownership in her program – the beginning of the Oprah brand.

The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted September 8, 1986 and topped daytime talk show ratings for 25 years until she retired from the show. Oprah really hit her stride and pinpointed her brand when she followed her instincts in the 1990s to shift away from “tabloid-style” shows to ones with a focus on literature, self-improvement, mindfulness and spirituality. Even though she briefly took a ratings dip during the change, she soared to the top again and outlasted several popular talk show hosts of the time such as Sally Jesse Raphael, Ricki Lake, Montel Williams, Donahue, Jenny Jones, and Jerry Springer. Continue reading “BHM: Let’s Honor Oprah! Entrepreneur, Media Maven, Philanthropist, Actor, Influencer… Genius”

“Black Panther,” “Black KkKlansman,” Regina King, Spike Lee and More Nominated for 2019 Academy Awards

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced early this morning by Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross and The Big Sick star Kumail Nanjiani, and among them were for the first time a superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, Black Panther, and the prolific Spike Lee‘s first nomination in the Best Director category for Black KkKlansman, which also was nominated for Best Picture.

Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of 2016, the demand for more diversity in movies and television has gained and retained attention. Although there are no African-Americans among the Best Actor or Best Actress nominees, Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio was recognized for her work in Roma, and among the nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category are Golden Globe winner Regina King for her turn in If Beale Street Could Talk, and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, who garnered his third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Green Book.

Other notable African-American Oscar nominees this year are Kendrick Lamar and SZA in the Original Song category for “All The Stars” from Black Panther, and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, who might win for what she first became known for as she is also nominated (with Diane Warren) in the Original Song category for “I’ll Fight” from RBG.

“Black Panther” nominees Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” co-director Peter Ramsey

Peter Ramsey, who is co-director on Best Animated Feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Barry Jenkins in the Adapted Screenplay category for If Beale Street Could Talk. Spike Lee earned a second nod in the Adapted Screenplay category as one of the writers of Black KkKlansman.

Another first this year is Hannah Beachler‘s nomination for Production Design for Black Panther, the only African American woman to receive one in this category. Ruth E. Carter earned her third nomination for Costume Design (the first two were for Malcolm X and Amistad) for Black Panther and  composer Terence Blanchard, who has scored more than forty films and all of Spike Lee’s, finally earned an Original Score nomination this year for his work on Black KkKlansman.

The Oscars will be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET. Below is a complete list of all the nominees:

Continue reading ““Black Panther,” “Black KkKlansman,” Regina King, Spike Lee and More Nominated for 2019 Academy Awards”

27th Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival to Screen Long-Awaited Aretha Franklin Documentary “Amazing Grace” On Opening Night February 7

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

The Pan African Film & Arts Festival announced today that it will celebrate its 27th Annual Opening Night on Thursday, February 7, with a screening at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles of Amazing Grace, the long-awaited Aretha Franklin concert documentary.

Amazing Grace, produced by Alan Elliott, was originally filmed and directed by Sydney Pollack in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. A rare gem, the documentary has not been seen or released before now due to technical and rights issues.

The festival, which presents a slate of over 170 new projects by black filmmakers from the US and around the world and exhibits more than 100 fine artists and unique craftspeople, runs from February 7 through Monday, February 18, with most films shown at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theatres and the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.

“It’s such a blessing to open the festival this year with Amazing Grace,” expressed PAFF Co-Founder and Actor Danny Glover. “Aretha Franklin is a rare treasure. To be graced with this film is an honor and a testament to the perseverance and long-standing prominence of the festival’s impact.”

Over the past 26 years, The Pan African Film & Arts Festival has sought to increase cultural awareness and bridge diverse communities from the African diaspora by providing a creative safe space for the development and expression of the Black narrative through film, poetry, art and music. This year, PAFF will “amPAFFify” and ignite the Pan-African experience through next-generation storytelling.

To further “amPAFFify” PAFF’s proud history, the organization recently launched an “#IAMPAFF” Meme Generator, designed to allow festival supporters to share their own stories on social media. Festival supporters can join in the fun by creating a meme to tell their story at paff.org/iampaff.

“27 years ago, we made a political, cultural, social and intellectual decision to get involved in film festivals as it became clear that a platform to showcase Black films was needed,” shared Ayuko Babu, Executive Director and Co-Founder of PAFF.

“It’s been a privilege to be a platform for many filmmakers and talent to share their unique stories through the lens of their own experiences, visions and creative artistry. The on-going challenge is… who’s story gets told on the small screen and big screen? The Pan African Film Festival is a way of showing distributors the stories that matter to people of color.”

This year’s program features the Filmmakers Brunch, ARTFest, PAFF Institute Panels, StudentFest, LOL Comedy Series, Children’s Fest, SpokenWord Fest, Seniors’ Connection and much more.

Individual screening tickets and all festival passes can be purchased at paff.org/tickets. Group sales discounts are also available. For more information, visit the PAFF website at paff.org or call 310-337-4737.

MOVIES: “Little” Trailer Released Today Starring Issa Rae, Regina Hall and Marsai Martin – In Theatres April 12

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

I have to admit, I have been waiting for this. Ever since I heard a year ago that then 13 now 14 year-old Black-ish star Marsai Martin came up with the concept for this movie and sold it to Universal, I have been excited about the potential of “Little.” Seeing the trailer for it, released today, makes me feel only more justified in rooting for its fruition.

Starring Issa Rae, Regina Hall and Martin (Martin and Hall also serve as executive producers), “Little” is produced by Will Packer Productions, written by Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”) and Tina Gordon Chism (“Peeples”) and directed by Chism.

Hall plays Jordan Sanders, a snarky tech mogul who shows little regard for her assistant April (Rae). After a confrontation with a young girl, Hall wakes up to find that she is a tween (Martin) again and has to lean on her assistant, the only one in on the secret, to run the company, while she heads back to grade school. Based on the trailer, this movie looks like a potential comedy blockbuster as well as great family entertainment.

“Little” will be in theaters April 12 – mark your calendars – and check out the trailer below:

Issa Rae and Columbia Pictures Sign Multi-Picture Production Deal Promoting Diverse Screenwriters

(PHOTO BY PETER YANG)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to deadline.com, creator/writer/actor Issa Rae, via her production company ColorCreative, has signed a multi-picture production deal with Columbia Pictures. ColorCreative will work primarily with and support projects from emerging, diverse screenwriters.

Globally successful, profitable films such as “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have demonstrated the commercial appeal of movies with leads of color and from their perspective, but so far movies like these remain the exception, not the rule. A recent study from USC  stated that only 29.3% of characters in the 100 top grossing movies of 2017 were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

Selected participants, to be announced in spring 2019, will work with Rae and Columbia to develop and write features based on their original ideas.

“Issa is a force of nature, and a magnet for talented people,” said Sanford Panitch, president of Columbia Pictures, in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to join her in her mission to pave the way for fresh and authentic voices.”

Bryan Smiley, VP of production at Columbia Pictures, oversaw the deal and will oversee production and development with ColorCreative for the motion picture group. Sara Rastogi, VP of production for ColorCreative, will also help guide the deal for the company along with Deniese Davis, COO of ColorCreative.

“Working with Bryan Smiley and Columbia Pictures to further the mission ColorCreative set out to achieve four years ago in creating access for underrepresented writers, has been a dream come true,” Rae said in a statement. “All of the projects we are working on are fresh and promising and we can’t wait to continue the work. We hope to set a precedent and inspire the industry at large to invest in undiscovered talent, original IP, and fresh stories and perspectives.”

Meet Lena Waithe’s Black Women Who Brunch, the Next Big TV Scribes | Hollywood Reporter

splash_blackfemalewriters-thrby Rebecca Sun via hollywoodreporter.com

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.

To read and see more, go to:  Meet Lena Waithe’s Black Women Who Brunch, the Next Big TV Scribes | Hollywood Reporter

Viola Davis Stars As Shirley Chisholm in New Movie “The Fighting Shirley Chisholm”

viola-davis-shirley-chisholm-now-113018.pngThe first Black actress to earn a lead dramatic Emmy will bring another pioneering Black woman, Shirley Chisholm, to life on screen.

Deadline reported yesterday (November 29) that Viola Davis will produce and star in “The Fighting Shirley Chisholm.” This will be the “Widows” star’s first project under the first look deal that JuVee Productions, the company she co-heads with husband Julius Tennon, recently signed with Amazon Studios. Davis confirmed the project today (November 30) by retweeting JuVee’s tweet with one of the late Democratic politician’s quotes:

Read more via Viola Davis Stars As Shirley Chisholm in New Movie | Colorlines