An Interview With Independent Black Filmmaker Alton Glass » VSB

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An Interview With Independent Black Filmmaker Alton Glass

Courtesy of Alton Glass

 

A few weeks back, I wrote a post entitled, “Dear Netflix, You Are A Liar”. In this post, I spoke about the Black movies that Netflix was alleging were popular that I found hard to believe. Now, as a cultural arbiter of Blackness, Black movies are my bag, baby, but still, lies are lies. Well, in this post I mentioned the movie CRU and lo and behold, the writer and director of the movie came across the post and offered some opinions. I decided to engage that opportunity and see if I could get an interview to ask some questions about indy Black movies and the culture as a whole from somebody on the front lines. Mr. Alton Glass, thankfully, obliged. You can check his resume on IMDB, but this is a man who has done a lot and earned the right to parade through my Netflix queue.

He took some time out of his day to answer some of my questions and offer somewhat of a call to action about the constant gripe about the lack of Black movies. Check out the interview below!

VSB: Thanks for doing this interview. You have no idea how avid a fan I am of Black movies. I’m such a fan, I watch each and every movie with Black people in them on Netflix, which is no easy undertaking. I have even purchased some. I think Clifton Powell needs to have an award named after him for his contributions to the genre. I love Black movies that much; I am about that life. With that being said, I’m also super curious about the HUGE divide between movies with a big budget and what seem like the lowest of low budget movies ever. I feel like in the mid-2000s, we got lots of movies that weren’t going to kill the box office, but came out in theaters like Deliver Us From Eva, This Christmas, or even N-Secure, one of the worlds worst movies of all time. It seems like now, unless Tyler Perry is attached, its difficult to get a movie into theaters, with War Room being a recent successful exception. Is that an accurate reading of the climate in “Hollywood”? As somebody on the front lines, what is driving?

Alton Glass: What drives the market for African American films is revenue and timing. Film festivals are what helped CRU and are the major booster these days for Black Indies when you look at other successful films like Dope or Dear White People. Back in the 90’s the Theaters and Home video market was booming so there was plenty of revenue generated, unlike today. Flash forward to the Digital age of the Millennials and post Napster and the collapse of Blockbuster and now you have Netflix and Redbox, which has minimized the former revenue streams tremendously. When the cashflow slowed down the first thing to go at the studio was Urban Films because they felt African American films were not viable overseas for worldwide revenue. Now you have limited capital and limited distribution options and its only getting smaller for African American feature films as consumers get more options and watch more short form content.

So when you see Tyler Perry driving the box office making millions then that’s what Hollywood feels is a safe bet. However, when we do get other films we have not shown the support needed to keep these higher budget films being made like Beyond The Lights. The film was not a big draw in theaters unfortunately. Gina Prince-Bythewood made the classic film Love & Basketball and if that does not get people in the seats it makes it tougher for the next filmmaker. In terms of timing look at films like Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station in the wake of Trayvon Martin. It was a good film with perfect timing which made it cross over. The other films that still keep strong are faith based a la War Room which did great at the box office, too.

VSB: How does this affect how you write and direct the movies that you make?

AG: Budget will always impact storytelling but you can still create gems if you use your limitations to fuel your creativity. Sometimes its actually better because you can’t throw money and explosions to cover up a weak story and bad acting. Even big Hollywood blockbuster movies suffer from this because they put financial band-aids over bruised and battered scripts. As a storyteller relying on independent capital we have to find “hot buttons”. I often compare indie filmmaking to boxing. You know in order to get a title shot you have to keep people entertained in the ring. Although you may not have the best trainers or perfect stats you still have to show you have something to look forward to during your twelve rounds. A nice jab, strong hook and at the end people walk away saying damn I enjoyed that. Everyone can’t be Mike Tyson but people have to at least look forward to seeing you fight again. You get better, your work harder and work within your means and that ultimately becomes your strength.

VSB: I feel bad calling them low budget movies, but I don’t know the proper term to differentiate between the movies I’ve found all over Netflix versus a Beyond The Lights, so excuse me if it sounds condescending at all. But I’ve had such a curiosity about “low budget” movies. What constitutes a low budget anyway? I know Friday was filmed for like $3.5 million. That seems low budget to me. But is that accurate? How much do a lot of those movies, feel free to talk about yours specifically should you like, cost to make?

AG: Most of these “ultra-low budget” films to DVD are under $1M. The film CRU was less than half of that. It’s often difficult even at levels under $10M because the more you spend the bigger the names and marketing to get that money back. With these smaller Black Indies, most of them get small distribution advances and never see their money back.

VSB: What’s the process like for you? You have quite a bit of writing and directing credits to your name. How do you approach each new project?

I write what moves me from the inside first and I try to educate and entertain without being preachy. Life is short. That’s what motivates my narratives. I try not to get caught up in trends or chasing other business models because the business is always changing. My risk is on me every time so I can’t blame anyone else.

VSB: I was somewhat hard on CRU (one of your movies) in my write-up about Netflix, though it was largely about the same actors ending up in every single movie. How real is that? Is there an actor shortage? How do all of the same actors end up in the same movies whether its “low budget” or blockbuster?

AG: It varies because people like Richard T. Jones just likes to stay busy and he will book a blockbuster like the recent Godzilla and Netflix show Narcos to films like CRU. Keith on the other hand just enjoys working with his peers and happened to work with a company on several films but I think people really overlooked his talent and CRU shows another side to his skills.

You also have to keep in mind “Black Hollywood,” as they say, is small. These actors and filmmakers all cross paths regularly and just work well together. The problem is when you see Seth Rogen and his Superbad ensemble doing films together over and over again no one says anything about that. The only difference is they have $30M and we have a fraction of that so these Black ensembles are bashed. Dismantle that and then your Popular list on Netflix will probably cease to exist unless Tyler Perry gives them his TV shows.

VSB: How does one break that glass ceiling? I presume that most of the actors and directors (and writers, etc) who are working on these movies would love to hit the big budget arena. What’s holding that back?

AG: The Black consumers have to engage and consume the content. Most of the time they just vent on how bad the movies are without asking for what you want us to give you.

People/audiences have to  engage and express what they want and just support these filmmakers so they can get better and get more resources. African Americans are expected to spend $1Trillion dollars according to Nielsen in 2015 and that shows we have buying power. Take 1% of that and you have a black booming movie studio with $100M to create content. The sky is the limit from here but we often trash our own movies and the efforts of these filmmakers with the lack of financial support. This creates the ceiling. No tickets sales, no revenue. No Netflix and then there’s the black movie in the $5 bin at Walmart at the bottom of the see through bucket.

VSB: Do you all in the industry have as many conversations about Tyler Perry and Spike Lee as we who aren’t in the industry do? I feel like every single time a Black movie comes out, some renewed convo about Tyler Perry vs Spike hits the waves.

AG: Mainstream Hollywood does not do that to each other. You won’t hear George Lucas bashing Tarantino even though they are totally different filmmakers. I think Tyler has excellent business acumen. So does Spike Lee and if you look at Spike’s work its good but his branding is stronger than his films. Spike needs Tyler, if you really think about it, just as much as anyone else. Otherwise he can’t complain and make noise that lives up to his brand then he’s not the Spike Lee we love. He’s a genius. They both are great and they both are needed in the marketplace, which is all that matters.

VSB: One thing you always hear people complain about is the lack of Black movies. It’s a refrain I echoed before I ventured onto Netflix and picked a movie liked Who Made The Potato Salad, which was apparently a cheat code into the world of Black movies I never knew existed. Why do you think more people don’t realize how many Black movies are out there? Writers and directors like yourself are clearly constantly working, but unless you stumble upon the right channel, you’d never know it. How do we get more recognition and acknowledgement for movies like CRU as well as movies like Selma?

AG: We need to share these films. Talk about them. Even if its bad. Fine. Express that. But we still need to give it something for the effort so people can judge the films for themselves and keep the numbers up.

VSB: As a filmmaker, what’s your goal or purpose? Are you making movies to fill a hole in the community, or are you making passion projects about ideas you’re curious about? What’s your motivation, basically?

AG: My motivation is awareness. Every film carries its own theme. Sometimes they are carried over to other films but the motivation is sharing an experience that makes us all aware of something and brings us together even for a brief moment to share a laugh or cry.

VSB: We’ll make this the last question (I asked a lot): What should we look out for from you and your company? Feel free to push and promote you and your work as much as possible. Anything you want people to know that maybe they’re not thinking about when it comes to Black movies? Fire away.  

AG: I’m currently shifting my gear toward Immersive Storytelling in Virtual Reality. I will be releasing a line of hardware and content that can be ordered directly from my company to enjoy exclusive content along with my forthcoming feature films and short form content. In a nutshell I’m developing my own distribution outlet designed for independent filmmakers to connect directly and engage with our audience. I want to be accessible so I can provide the demand and hear what we need to do so we can all grow together culturally and financially.

At the top of 2016 you will also get a chance to see my new film with my co-writer Oliver W. Ottley III on a Crime-Drama set in my hometown of Detroit.  When Detroit’s former mayor is released from prison 20 years after bankrupting his city, he immediately returns to the life of crime that he knows. But when he befriends an impressionable boy on the verge of adulthood, he has to choose between his self-destructive path, or repairing the city and people he left broken.

VSB: Thanks for taking the time!

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Sylqué

    Now I have to go look up CRU on my sis-in-law’s Netflix.

    Oh and really awesome interview. Definitely a perspective I hadn’t really understood, or considered for that matter, before.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    Thanks for the insight. I always wondered if it was budget that kept some of my questions from being answered:

    Who got the house?
    Did work ever find out he was sick or was the vacation effectively him getting axed?
    What happened to his assistant?

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    I’ll run with his point of how we,the Black community, complain about the kind of movies we get but never speak on what we’d like to see. I’m guilty of that.

    It is a reminder to me now that no matter what I think, all of these movies are a process. You only get what you put in. I figured budgets were always going to be a problem for Black movies, but it never dawned on me to think of the international market. That’s basically where the money is right now, because domestic never compares to international.

    I’m all for supporting Black entities, I just want to be able to say they suck when they suck without people claiming “this is why we don’t have anything, yall don’t support stuff”.

    • The international market is also driving the franchises, action flick and comic book movie movement. An explosion translates a lot easier than a joke. Any movie that requires a certain level of cultural knowledge to get (and Black movies fall into this realm) is going to have a hard time getting funded unless you know it has a built in audience. A lot of White comedies are falling under the same pressures for the same reasons.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        I get that but in the same breathe, I also call bull s h i t on it. Korean dramas are on Hulu right now and have a huge fan base, which is why they get their own channel on Hulu. People LOVE anime here and most don’t even care about English dubs, they can read subtitles just fine, and buy the merchandise, cosplay as the characters, etc.

        Our products translate just as well into many other international markets but people always want buckets of cash to reflect how well a product will do and that just doesn’t work that way.

      • Pinks

        I love seeing Black folks in foreign movies. One of the upsides of Netflix is their international section, which has exposed me to a lot of good films I might not have otherwise viewed. Particularly, I’ve found success with French movies and flicks about things in Africa NOT related to slavery.

  • I just want to see a good black Horror or Thriller film. I’ve never seen one that is genuinely terrifying to me or gets my gears turning. What do black film makers have against the Horror/Gore genre?? The last decent thriller film I saw was, “Good Night Mommy”. Twisted concept about two brothers who don’t believe that their mother is really their mother after she returns home from a plastic surgery operation.

    I don’t mind supporting black films but it’s hard to do if I’m not aware of them or if they aren’t in my market. Beyond The Lights wasn’t in my market area so I couldn’t spend money on it even if I wanted to. I only found out that it was on Netflix after a photoset hit Tumblr. I don’t recall any promo for it leading up to the release and I watch a decent amount of television during any given week.

    Regarding his point concerning the black community discussing black film to encourage the generation of concepts we’d enjoy seeing, if we keep complaining about how bad black film seems to be, why do we still keep getting the same product? “War Room” is the perfect example of the same dry formula that gets re-hashed in black film as it relates to religion. We get it, you want to get money and nothing says money like a black film with a heavy dose of adversity and Jesus. I understand, money talks. The black church seems like such a cheap cop out for black film makers. Well, we know the church will bring bus loads of members so we can bank on them to push the numbers at the box. Again, I get it, but it’s such a predictable and boring thing to do.

    All that being said, I can see how lack of funds and star power definitely limits black film to a degree. I’m off to watch CRU now :-)

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      The sad thing is in the 90s, we got a handful of Black horror movies. If we get them now, they are almost comedies with how bad they look.

      I get they don’t get the same kind of budget as other movies, but in the same breath, the best horror movies of the last decade weren’t even made for more than $10 million. And then it sucks that most Black movies are just easy cop outs to the church crowd and to the hood. There’s a huge market in between waiting to be tapped, but they claim we don’t support anything to get anything.

      • Exactly! Why is the limit on black culture the hood or Jesus? Literally no in between. How can black film makers begin to complain about a lack of support when they don’t offer anything new or creative?? Of course I’m not supporting your film on Tyrone getting “caught up in the game and choosing the streets to get by”. I’ve seen this story before and it’s been done better. Find something else to talk about or at least present the same tired tropes in a new way. S h i t.

        As for black horror films, I don’t think anyone has seriously tried to make a good black horror film because they believe there won’t be an interest, which is sad. I’m a huge horror film glutton.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          “How can black film makers begin to complain about a lack of support when they don’t offer anything new or creative??”

          We won’t know if it’s different until we watch. I wonder if we let past experiences cloud our willingness to look at new product. It’s like kissing a few frogs before you find the “one”

          • If your film’s premise is “Individual loses relationship, job, kids, house, etc. and turns to God for direction” I can assure you that I don’t have to watch said film in order to know how it will pan out. I have never seen War Room but if you give me a brief summary I can probably tell you scene for scene how that movie breaks down.

            I don’t have anything against inserting religion into film but black film relies on religion so much that it becomes a turn off. Christianity is laid on so heavily in these films and the storyline becomes an after thought. Jesus is the equalizer for everything and the film is unwatchable because it’s so unrealistic.

            • Alton Glass

              I agree. I have not seen WarRoom but I have seen the box office numbers and thats all that matters to the financiers and distributors unfortunately. Blacks are very diverse when it comes to culture and education and various taste in cinema and we heavlily influence world pop culture as a whole but still have a tough time crossing over into other genres bc the bottom line still boils down to revenue. We just have to keep taking risk to become broader.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          The only other thing they offer is romantic comedies, which generally suck. The story is cheesy and predictable, the jokes suck, and the theme is always the same (which is honestly not that different from traditional rom-coms but Jesus, give me something new).

          I just hate this idea that we as Black people are boxed in by the same tired tropes. We can do everything that anyone else can do. We can make love stories about being a foreigner from another country and trying to adjust to a new life while finding love (Brooklyn). We can make action movies about soulless assassins who have what it takes to save the world (Bond). We can make movies about childhood friends and their crazy adventures (The Peanuts Movie). We just need to actually…DO IT.

          • I don’t enjoy many rom-coms, black or not, because they are ALL corny and predictable lol It’s hard to make a good rom-com in general. @PDL – Cape Girl:disqus is a good example of why film makers assume that black film can only exist in a narrow window of topics.

            Have you ever seen The Strange Thing About the Johnson’s? It’s a short film that is so disturbing on so many levels. It’s a great watch but I would avoid it if you’ve ever experienced any kind of s e x u a l abuse.

            I’d love to see more films that break into this realm of fucked up-ness that The Strange Thing About the Johnson’s does.

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              Yea I can’t stand them either but when certain great comedians like Kristen Wiig or Bill Hader are in one, I’m kind of assured it isn’t going to be typical, and I can work with that.

      • Part of it that there isn’t a consistent lane for those filmmakers to target. At some point, you have to realize that filmmaking is ultimately a business. If you are losing money more often than not, you aren’t going to target that market.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Film is just like video games. If they feel like a particular brand won’t sell, they won’t make it. And when they do, and people don’t support it 1000%, they feel validated in their claims that nobody wanted it.

          I get that part. The part I have a problem with is they purposely manipulate the market to be such a financial drain to avoid having new ideas and creations be the experimental agencies they need to be.

    • Brass Tacks

      “The black church seems like such a cheap cop out for black film makers.”

      I’m so tired of this cliche. My brother and I went to the theater a few years back, and seen a preview for what might’ve been a decent thriller. However, towards the end trailer; some negro spiritual comes on and the narrative shifts to become a pseudo rehash of every T. Perry film since 07. We literally laughed out loud at the shock of that unexpected curve.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        The Black church is bankable. The Church is always looking for how can our parishioners go out, date, etc. and have clean material? A laugh here, a joke there, a spiritual theme without being overly churchy and you will have congregations taking their members to the movies.

        • PDL – Cape Girl

          And ain’t nothing wrong with that

        • Exactly. Say what you will about the Black church, but they put money in pockets.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            and politicians in office

          • PDL – Cape Girl

            Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

        • Brass Tacks

          As Glass alluded to earlier. We are a trillion dollar entity in purchasing power alone. It needs to be broader than spiritual themes (because for some reason the overly churchy concept has yet to be grasped.), In order to reach demographics who just aren’t checking for that.

          I dont always want overarching themes of salvation in my movies. Sometimes I want to see my characters cut loose in a Reservoir Dogs-esque dystopian way. I don’t need or want the heavy handed expose afterwards.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            I’m not disagreeing with you. Glass also alluded to profits and the only Black audience that has shown it does make money is church themed movies. Movie houses could care less that I like anime and loved Afro Samurai or I like Sci Fi; if it don’t make dollars it won’t get made. We need the movie houses to attend a comi con to see there is a market for Black Anime, Sci Fi, or horror. How much are we really making our voices heard or are we talking to and amongst people who already know?

    • PDL – Cape Girl

      Maybe because horror films ain’t our thing or historically haven’t been. You can’t have a good film if everybody is running. I know I would….lol We aren’t cut from the let’s see what’s moving in the shadows or checking for Jason or Freddy cloth. IJS I wouldn’t pay to see one on the simple fact that black folks are too smart to look to see where that ax in the wall came from or needing to look a serial murder in the eye and then deciding “oh, he’s a serial murder.” I wouldn’t buy it.

      • This is exactly why we don’t have any variety in black film now. This thought that the black community isn’t interested in anything outside of what we’ve been told that “we like”.

        Black people enjoy a variety of subjects, genre’s, etc. and saying that horror film isn’t “our thing” is a really unfortunate stereotype because many of us do enjoy that genre and have been active participants in the films that you think black people haven’t had a hand in.

        • PDL – Cape Girl

          If this is why we don’t have black films, and the majority thinks this way, maybe there’s some validity to it.
          Actually I was sort of kinda joking but……….

          • I don’t think it’s fair to tell a group that, “Oh y’all can’t get this kind of film on screen because I don’t subscribe to this kind of thought process when I think of black people so we’re going to stick to Jesus, Romantic Comedies, and gangs for your subject matter.”

            There’s no validity in that statement just because you feel like the black community isn’t interested.

      • Brass Tacks

        I don’t agree. I think the black experience makes for excellent horror stories.

        Candyman is one of the best “horror” examples of this I’ve seen. It ties in a lot of race/ antebellum gothic overtones and really creates an evil yet sympathetic character.

        Now that I think of it: much of the South alone would be a great source to tap into, when looking to create new boogiemen.

        • PDL – Cape Girl

          Honestly, I’ve not see enough horror films to make a real assessment. I was just poking a little fun. Chile, I’m all for blacks being and doing everything well.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        I mean, stereoytypically yea, for a Black horror film, once we hear strange sound, we like ” to the left n i g g a, to the left, I am not going over there” And then the credits roll.

        But seriously we could have a great horror movie with our Black tropes included. Somebody just needs to write a great script and the trend will follow.

        • I think it’s worth noting that horror films are more than just a scary location and something that goes “bump in the night”. Another common misconception about horror films is that they all have to follow the Freddy Krueger formula.

          The scariest films for me have been films that cast doubt in normal everyday things for me.

          • RewindingtonMaximus

            True. For instance, there can be a Black horror movie based off being experimented on during routine medical visits (a la Tuskegee). Or you can make a movie about an expedition to the Sahara desert and being trapped by an ancient spirit. It doesn’t all have to reflect the movies we grew up with.

            • Or just a messed up situation in general please watch The Strange Thing About the Johnsons below:

              https://vimeo.com/70163273

              • 2011k

                What. The. Actual. F***. Did I just watch??

                • Again, this is the kind of thing that black film has the potential to be. The kind of sick and twisted things in this short film are things that get people talking. It’s that wreck that you gawk at and can’t turn away from

                  • 2011k

                    And I DEFINITELY couldn’t look away. But it just didn’t feel… realistic to me? The child-to-parent abuse vs. the normally seen parent-to-child abuse part, I mean. Or maybe I’m not understanding all of it? Idk.
                    But I see your point.

                    • Either way, it’s something you’d never even considered before. It’s different. Imagine if these were the kind of ideas that got play instead of what we normally see? People would be outraged. People would be intrigued. This is the kind of thing that keeps me on my toes. It’s so unsettling.

              • Pinks

                I remember this!!

                This was some sick shiznat

              • RewindingtonMaximus

                Thanks love, I’m watching this when i get home

      • Oluseyi

        This just means that a good black horror film would actually have to be smart for once!

    • Pinks

      Or science fiction. I’m totally not into the genre, but I think it would be dope to see brown folks in our celestial habitats. Especially since the epic masterpiece that was “Homeboys in Outer Space” is no longer on the air.

      • YES! I’m HUGE on sci-fi films too!! Seeing Sanaa Latham in the Alien vs Predator series and Blade really made me excited as a black girl. There’s this huge misconception that black people can’t like anime, sci-fi, gore, horror, etc. and it can’t be further from the truth.

        I think that movie that Will Smith did with his son flopping, was unfortunate because it further gave “proof” that black people don’t enjoy sci-fi film. However, that film was garbage all around.

        • Pinks

          There are soooooooooo many black people into sci-fi, fantasy, etc and like in a lot of spaces, we just aren’t represented well enough. I know a girl who is the biggest Marvel/DC fanatic and gets dressed for like every comic con and she’s said time and time again that she’s tired of being quizzed like she has to prove her fandom or something.

          • Oluseyi

            @disqus_gmwFYkpdRM:disqus
            @AfroPetite:disqus
            @ess_tee:disqus
            @quirlygirly:disqus

            cc @altonglass:disqus

            I just so happened to be watching this yesterday.
            https://youtu.be/faG8RiaANek

            • So ethereal!!! This was really awesome to watch.

              • Oluseyi

                Also a good song, but incredible silent storytelling in just five minutes. The blackness of the astronaut and his family is wholly incidental to the universality of his experience, and that’s the point: Hollywood acts like having us in stuff has to make it “specifically urban” in some way.

                Anyway.

        • QuirlyGirly

          After Earth- yes it was garbage all around. And due to that, it is hard to get that needed base for black sci fi flims. What is sad is that now it is even harder to get a black sci fi film but Will Smith can go on and do other movies but the that genre now suffers.

          • Exactly. I think more people would be interested in sci-fi but the closest we have to that, are films that were on screen, at minimum 15+ years ago. But, I think the lack of black interest in sci-fi can be largely attributed to religious ties that dissuade potential fans from indulging in stories filled with aliens, robots, other gods, etc.

        • It’s not on the big screen (or even on the small screen), but Reagan Gomez apparently started some YouTube series about black and brown folks in a zombie (?) apocalypse. I’m not one who watches zombie apocalypse movies or horror films (for no other reason than I have an overactive imagination, and the scary ish would stay with me for far longer than the length of the show or film), but it seems like folks dig her series.

          • Nice! I hadn’t heard of it until now. I’m over the zombie thing but I’m willing to support black folks doing things differently.

        • Hugh Akston

          “I think that movie that Will Smith did with his son flopping, was unfortunate because it further gave “proof” that black people don’t enjoy sci-fi film. However, that film was garbage all around.”

          It had M. Night Shamalon fingerprints on it…I remember walking out of the theater midway through The Village pledging: If I ever see that name on any movies I will stay away.

          I’ve kept my word. I wanted to see Avatar the live movie because I was just a huge fan but I had to keep my word didn’t regret it.

          “There’s this huge misconception that black people can’t like anime, sci-fi, gore, horror, etc. and it can’t be further from the truth.”

          I think the number is not there though..there is a good minority though for those type of genre…The advertisements just are not geared towards the mass group.

      • Alton Glass

        I’m totally into Sci-Fi…I have something cooking for the multi-cultural audience who wants more than the traditional films we have seen thus far and will be staying in tune with all your voices to help create whats missing in the marketplace.

        • Pinks

          Exciting!

        • That would be dope. I love scif-fi and fantasy (as you can tell by my avi). There is definitely an audience for it!

  • This was a really through interview. Only.disappointing bit is that you didn’t mention what Ava DuVernay’s film movement means for black film. She’s finally made a base for well made cheap black films. That’s not to say I loved everything distributed by ARRAY but they’re all well acted and shot films that aren’t cliche driven which is ultimately my problem with the majority of black films. They look and sound cheap with no new ideas. I’d watch 1000 Hype Williams films because he has a great eye and a distinct style.

    I don’t get the budget rational for some genres since someone like Cassavettes redefined American cinema with just shoestring budgets and good horror movies made for cheap come out yearly.

  • I’m not going to pretend to be a great film auteur, but dude kept it 100 with the finances. Not every movie needs to be a blockbuster, but they do eventually need to pay their bills. At some point, there has to be some finance backing up the love for certain films.

    Also, shout out to dude for pointing out how the collapse of home video and theaters (to a lesser extent) has changed the economics of filmmaking. There’s no real Lane for the mediocre in this film market to even develop a fan base, let alone get a chance to blow up. At least in the 90s, the Booty Talks and BAPS of the world could make a living. And without those films, Jamie Foxx and Halle Berry aren’t in Hollywood long enough to get their Oscar shot. I’m not sure how the next generation gets a chance.

    • Vine and YouTube has become that lane for my generation to traverse and maneuver our way into Hollywood. Two popular black Viners have now gotten themselves tv shows, acting roles, etc.

      • Agreed, but it screams of the old dude hustling mixtapes out of the trunk of his car. It can work, but the margin for error is a lot smaller.

        • People who are interested in getting their hustle on the internet aught to read Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust Me I’m Lying.” It’s kind of a go to on understanding how the media works in regards to social media and traffic…I have to read up on it because I’m doing that SEO hustle right now and I’m learning a lot of stuff that I probably would have never known or guessed about how things go viral on the net.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          Different spin but the same hustle. Much love to my boys from Dormtainment for getting the Comedy Central pilot.

          • YeaSoh

            Really??? I remember them… that’s great!!

          • Similarly, Black & Chexy TV managed to parlay their YouTube hustle into an HBO development deal as well as a partnership with VHX.

            • Sigma_Since 93

              I like RoomieLoverFriends. What say you?

              • I like it, too. I’ve been waiting for the latest season, but it seems like there’s some stuff delaying that.

                The series they were able to get the HBO development deal on was The Couple, which I was entertained by.

              • Eh. I’m tired of roomieloverfriends. I much prefer sexless and even hello cupid.

        • Why does the vehicle to stardom matter??? We just want to see black bodies on the screen and if they can use “mixtape hustling” to get there, then more power to them.

          • I have no problem with that. It is gets people working, great. My issue is that there’s a lot less money upfront. The money in the 10 cents per view can get rough if the views don’t cover the budget.

            • I’m a little lost on what you’re saying here. Are you saying that Vine/YouTube doesn’t generate funds? I know people who have quit full time jobs off the strength of a YouTube channel and subsequent endorsement deals from their e-popularity.

              If that isn’t what you were saying, please expound.

              • It definitely generates buzz and funds. That can’t be denied. I love it actually. It gives people a chance to create content they want to see.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          The game has changed Todd. People make real bank off this internet hustling right now, but it is still in its pre-teen years. It’s not going to make everyone big bucks out the gate, but for the most creative and dedicated, they are killing it way before old media realizes it.

  • IsitFridayyet?

    Very insightful interview. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on your craft and sharing with us.

    I particularly liked the response to the question concerning the misconception that films with a predominately Black cast aren’t getting made and how to spread awareness about them. This conversation around Black films reminds me of the “We need diverse books” campaign launched a few years back. It targets books geared towards children and young adults to promote and encourage publishing companies to publish books that include children from all walks of life but it has spread to include books geared towards adults as well.

    If we operate on the notion that something does not exist without doing our own investigation, we will never find what we are looking for. Like finding books written by POC and other minorities, there may not be many in the mainstream spotlight or being published by the big time publishers but they exist. You may have to dig and get your hands dirty to find films geared to and by POC and other minorities, but they exist. Saying “We don’t have Black films being made” or “we need diverse” books without acknowledging what’s out there solves nothing. It is completely possible to explore, consume and critique what is on the market while also asking for more.

    • Alton Glass

      No thank you all for keeping the dialogue going and tuning into these writers. As a community if we just communicate we can slowly make the paradigm shift into what we collectively want to see and support.

  • cakes_and_pies

    Never heard of him before today, but I will definitely check out CRU.

  • Ustadh

    A very insightful interview.

    Would love a similar interview with a recording industry insider about the current state black music and black artists.

    • 2011k

      Yaaaaassss, that would be so dope

  • I alluded to this upthread, but horror film does not equate to scary location and black folks falling over invisible roots in the ground. The horror genre is extremely vast and I think black people miss out on so many films because they feel like “common sense” prevents them from being in situations that can get them hurt/killed.

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