‘Moonlight’ Filmmaker Barry Jenkins to Adapt and Direct TV Series for Amazon Based on Colson Whitehead’s NYT Bestseller “The Underground Railroad”

Barry Jenkins (Photo: ROB LATOUR/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK)

article by Joe Otterson via Variety.com

“Moonlight” director and Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins will write and direct a one-hour drama series about the Underground Railroad currently in development at Amazon. The series will be based on Colson Whitehead’s best-selling book, “The Underground Railroad.”

“Going back to ‘The Intuitionist,’ Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ is no different,” Jenkins said. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking and in Amazon we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

Published by Doubleday, “The Underground Railroad” has sold over 825,000 copies in the United States across all formats. An Oprah’s Book Club 2016 selection, New York Times bestseller, and the winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, the book chronicles young Cora’s journey as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping her Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad full of engineers and conductors, and a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil.

This will be Johnson’s first attempt at directing a TV series in its entirety. He recently directed an episode of the upcoming Netflix adaptation of the film “Dear White People,” and previously directed one episode of the PBS series “Futurestates.” Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will executive produce along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Pitt and Plan B also produced “Moonlight.”

To read full article, go to: ‘Moonlight’ Director to Write, Direct Underground Railroad Series | Variety

Sean and Terry Torrington Create SlayTV, Media Network for Black Queer Community

Sean and Terry Torrington (photo via nbcnews.com)

article by Julie Compton via nbcnews.com

The term “slay” has important meaning to out director Sean Torrington. “To kill it, to be the best of the best, to always be on top,” he told NBC Out. It’s also the name of the 36-year-old’s new global media network for LGBTQ people of color.

SlayTV is the brainchild of Torrington and his husband, Terry Torrington, also a director. He said it gives a platform to black LGBTQ storytellers whose voices mainstream media often ignores. It also allows them to make money so they can “keep on creating the dope content they create,” he explained.

Torrington started his career as a Goldman Sachs project manager. After getting laid off in 2010, he took the opportunity to follow his passion for filmmaking and began creating web series on YouTube that centered on LGBTQ people of color. He said it’s a community that rarely sees itself reflected in gay or mainstream media.

According to a 2016 GLAAD report, cable and streaming platforms predominantly depict LGBTQ characters that are white (72 percent and 71 percent, respectively, in the most recent TV season).

“People would come up to us and be like ‘Oh, where can we see more content like this? This is really revolutionary, this is great,'” Torrington said. “I was like …’We need one central location for queer [and] trans people of color television.'”

Shortly after, Torrington created an app that collects selected content about LGBTQ people of color from YouTube into a single platform. “We literally within a month got 20,000 downloads,” he said. Continue reading

Jay Z and Weinstein Co. to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series

Trayvon Martin (photo via variety.com)

article by Justin Kroll and Brent Lang via variety.com

Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and the Weinstein Company are partnering on an ambitious series of film and television projects about Trayvon Martin.  The indie label and the rap icon won a heated bidding war for the rights to two books — “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It” and “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.” The 2012 shooting of the 17 year-old Martin sparked a national debate about racial profiling and inequities of the criminal justice system that brought about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The African-American high school student was killed by George Zimmerman, 28, who was a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community. He claimed he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self defense after the two became involved in a physical altercation. Zimmerman’s acquittal on a second-degree murder charge inspired protests around the country.

“Suspicion Nation” is by Lisa Bloom and recounts her experience covering the trial for NBC. She looks at the mistakes made by prosecutors that caused them to lose what she describes as a “winnable case.” “Rest in Power” is by Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. It tells a more personal story, looking at Martin’s childhood and the aftermath of his death.

The plan is to make a six-part docu-series with Jay Z producing as part of a first-look deal he signed with the studio last September. The indie studio will also develop a narrative feature film. The Weinstein Company earned critical raves for “Fruitvale Station,” another true story, about the death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was killed in 2009 by a BART police officer.

To read more: Jay Z to Make Trayvon Martin Film and Documentary Series | Variety

John Singleton-Produced Documentary “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later” to Air April 18 on A&E Network 

Director John Singleton (photo via Variety.com)

article by Cynthia Littleton via variety.com

A&E Network will mark the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots next month with a two-hour documentary from filmmaker John Singleton. “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later,” set to debut April 18, tells the story of the civil unrest that shook the nation from the perspective of those who lived through a week of upheaval following a jury’s acquittal of four Los Angeles Police Department officers charged in the 1991 beating of African-American motorist Rodney King.

King’s arrest and savage treatment at the hands of veteran LAPD officers was caught on videotape by a local resident who gave the incendiary footage to KTLA-TV Los Angeles. KTLA’s coverage and airing of the nine-minute recording depicting cops kicking and beating King with batons while he was lying on the ground set off a firestorm of outrage and protest over the LAPD’s treatment of minorities.

The incident coincided with the dawn of the 24/7 news cycle fueled by the growth of cable news and the spread of home video recording technology.Singleton, a native of Los Angeles, was fresh out of USC film school and had just launched his career as a movie director with 1991’s Oscar-nominated “Boyz n the Hood” when the riots erupted on April 29, 1992, the day acquittals of the four officers were handed down by a nearly all-white jury.

Five days of violence and unrest left at least 55 people dead, more than 2,000 injured and inflicted more than $1 billion in property damage.“I believe the 1992 L.A. uprising has never truly been given a voice until now,” Singleton said. “We’ve attempted to chronicle the untold stories and unique perspectives of people whose lives were profoundly affected by this event. As a native Los Angeleno I know the actions of that three-day event didn’t just appear out of thin air. The city was a powder keg boiling at the seams for many years under police brutality and economic hardship of people of color.”

Among those featured in the documentary are actor-activist Edward James Olmos, police officers, rioters, bystanders caught in the crossfire and reporters who covered the upheaval. “L.A. Burning” hails from Entertainment One and Creature Films. The doc is directed by One9 and Erik Parker.

“L.A. Burning” is one of several TV productions in the works to mark the anniversary of the violence that shook Los Angeles and the world. Filmmaker John Ridley is behind the two-hour ABC special “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” set to air April 28.  On April 18, Showtime will air the documentary “Burn Mother—–r Burn!,” examining the history of racial tensions and rioting in Los Angeles.

To read full article, go to: A&E Network Sets Los Angeles Riots ‘25 Years Later’ Documentary From John Singleton (EXCLUSIVE) | Variety

Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions Raising $250M for Content Development, Production & Distribution

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon (photo via shadowandact.com)

article via shadowandact.com

JuVee Productions – the integrated film, television and digital production company created by Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, is embarking on an effort to raise $250,000,000 in a global expansion plan for the development, production and distribution of diverse and inclusive film and digital content.

The fund will be used to develop, finance, produce and distribute a slate of multiple feature films and branded digital content that will see the relatively young production company expand its footprint globally. “The shift in storytelling should be inclusive and we aim to make it a reality,” says Julius Tennon in a press statement.

Launched in 2012 by Davis and Tennon, JuVee Productions is a Los Angeles-based artist driven production company that develops and produces independent film, television, theater, and digital content across all platforms. JuVee Productions aims to become the go-to creative hub where the next generation of filmmakers and artists have the space to craft dynamic stories spanning the broad spectrum of humanity.

The company’s most recent project is the courtroom drama “Custody” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and aired on the Lifetime network last week. The short film “Night Shift” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year and continues to tour the film festival circuit.

Upcoming the production company has the film adaptation of “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree” which Davis is starring in; a biopic on Barbara Jordan (the first Southern African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives), also with Davis starring; and a TV period series set up at ABC titled “The Zipcoders,” set in 1968, about a group of black teenagers form a rock ‘n’ roll band who aspire to be like The Beatles; and there’s also Davis’ Harriet Tubman film with HBO.

To read full article, go to: Viola Davis’ JuVee Productions Raising $250M for Content Development, Production & Distribution – Shadow and Act

‘Star Trek’ Icon Nichelle Nichols to Take Part in NASA Mission

“Star Trek” actressNichelle Nichols (photo via eurweb.com)

article by Ny Magee via eurweb.com

Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols revealed Monday during a Reddit AMA that she will be involved in an upcoming NASA mission. She will be “among the first non-essential personnel to experience NASA’s newest telescope: SOFIA,” MSN reports.

“In September, I’m traveling on a NASA SOFIA flight, a second generation Airborn Observatory, which I am honored to have been invited too,” Nichols told fans before her “Ask Me Anything” began. The flight isn’t a mission into space: SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) is built into a Boeing 747, which will take off from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California according to ABCNews.

SOFIA is a second-generation airborne observatory and a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The first generation model originally flew in 1977, and Nichols was a passenger on that plane too. “SOFIA does not, sadly, fly into space. It’s an airborne observatory, a massive telescope mounted inside a 747 flying as high as is possible. I was on a similar flight, the first airborn observatory, back in 1977. It’s an amazing experience, you get a totally different perspective than from earth,” she wrote, adding, ”I do hope someone gets some great pictures.”

SOFIA was created to observe infrared energy in the universe, which enables it to study everything from star births to black holes, including nebulae, solar systems, comets, and asteroids, reports MSN.com.

Source: ‘Star Trek’ Icon Nichelle Nichols Going on NASA Mission | EURweb

Queen Latifah and Flavor Unit Team Up with Travel Channel for Mini-Series ‘The Best Place to Be’

Queen Latifah (photo via shadowandact.com)

article via shadowandact.com

“The Best Place To Be,” a new Travel Channel mini-series from Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere at Flavor Unit, is an invitation to discover the world through the eyes and access of Hollywood’s most adventurous.

Each of the four one-hour episodes of “The Best Place To Be” follow a noted personality as they share the best places to eat, drink, shop and sightsee at their favorite international destinations.

“This is a fun show that gives a true glimpse into how to really escape and explore,” says Shakim Compere of Flavor Unit. “Actors and performers are fortunate enough to travel around the globe for work and fun. But there’s always places that stay with them — these are the cities they keep going back to.”

The mini-series will premiere two episodes in April and two in May as follows:

“Rio, Fit for a Queen” – Premieres Sunday, April 2 at 5:00 p.m. ET/PT Queen Latifah and her friends explore Rio de Janeiro, taking mototaxis to the favelas, trying local dishes and dancing the samba. From footvolley on the beach to hunting for waterfalls in the rainforest, they discover why Rio is the best place to be.

“Anthony Anderson’s Barcelona” – Premieres Sunday, April 9 at 5:00 p.m. ET/PT Actor Anthony Anderson and his friend Jeff Sanchez head to Barcelona, Spain, where they catch a soccer game, check out architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, join a St. Jordi’s Day celebration and try Spain’s traditional dishes.

To read more, go to: Queen Latifah and Flavor Unit Team Up with Travel Channel for Mini-Series ‘The Best Place to Be’ – Shadow and Act