A DISCUSSION OF JAMES MCBRIDE’S OPEN LETTER ON RED HOOK SUMMER AND THE STATE OF BLACKS IN CINEMA IN THE U.S.


http://www.indiewire.com/article/spike-lees-co-writer-writes-an-open-letter-nothing-in-this-world-happens-unless-white-folks-says-it-happens

www.indiewire.com

This hasn’t been a good Sundance for Spike Lee. Reviews for “Red Hook Summer” were generally not good; nor were reviews of his post-premiere Q&A, in which the director launched into an extended rant about Hollywood’s marginalization of black stories. Today, Lee’s “Red Hook” co-writer, James McBride,…
Like · · Unfollow Post · · Thursday at 11:56am

    • William Martell Though that’s probably true of mainstream audiences and even studios distribution, there are plenty of exceptions (movies that *star* African Americans as the lead characters – I can easily name 5 Black movie stars… including the #1 star in the world). But critics love Spike and want to love his movies. They are his cheerleaders… and if they did not like RED HOOK it may just be because it doesn’t work (I haven’t seen it).

      The critics also didn’t like MIRACLE – which was written by the same writer… I just checked the RT score – 24%.

      There are lots of indie guys who have a limited range (Kevin Smith is one) and when the audience tires of what they do best they do something else… that they don’t have the skill-set for.

      That’s what I thought about MIRACLE – it *looked* ragged, was too long, and the sort of flat look that might work on some gritty NYC movie just didn’t work in a period piece. Spike needed to up his game before he made that. I’m not even getting into the script.

      You can’t blame the system for problems with the film. Just like with a script – if it isn’t working, the *writer* needs to make it work – not blame the biz for not accepting it.

      Friday at 12:51am · Like · 1
    • Rich Weems It’s an interesting discussion, and I think McBride makes a lot of valid points. Having said that, I do think it comes down to “green” as opposed to “black” or “white”.

      I wrote a script that achieved some small measure of success in contests, but not much else. Because it’s a “gay” script. I had read an article in Entertainment Weekly a few years ago where openly gay producers were decrying the lack of good “gay” scripts. So I wrote one thinking it would get noticed. And it did, but not by anyone who wants to make a movie.

      The reality is that any “minority” movie is going to have a tough time being made, but

      BUT…would McBride have written his letter if his films had been better received by the critics? Where was the letter from him complaining about Tyler Perry’s lack of success? Or Oprah’s?

      Friday at 7:26am · Like
    • Rich Weems By the way, there is some bias on my part as I’m a white, straight male so take everything I say about “minorities” with a grain of salt. Not pepper. Salt.

      Friday at 7:28am · Like
    • Howard Casner I think I agree with what people are saying. It’s a complicated issue and McBride makes some good points (such as, when Lucas said something, people took it seriously; when Lee says it, he’s an angry, black man). And there are exceptions to what he is saying (Washington, Smith and Tyler Perry). And I have to say, I’ve never been as big a fan of Lee as a filmmaker; I don’t think he’s as good as many people think he is. And Rich is right, every minority has this problem. Part of this is the powers that be that won’t support chancier material, but part is an audience who often won’t go to it. One of the issues is how we fiance movies in the U.S. It’s all so box office dependent, it’s hard to get movies with minorities made (from black to Hispanic to female to gay, etc.). I’m also a white male, but I am gay.

      Friday at 7:41am · Like
    • William Martell The issue with the business side is always going to be “what will ge the *most* butts in seats” – so anything aimed at minorities or even just unusual is going to hit a roadblock. What that means is that there are going to be 2 film industries: mainstream (no sharpe edges, aimed at widest possible audience) and niche (a bunch of different kids of movies aimed for different kinds of audiences). And mainstream movies are always going to be all about the money and exclude anything that isn’t appealing to majority audience. When you’re above average height, you can’t shop at a department store – you have to shop at the Big&Tall.

      Friday at 5:21pm · Like
    • William Greenways I agree and I’m 5′ 17″ (really).

      Friday at 6:44pm · Like
    • Howard Casner Some other countries handle financing of independent movies differently, which is why, I think, I find foreign movies often more interesting than American ones and why these films are often more diverse in subject matter.

      Friday at 8:10pm · Like
    • ScreenwriterHank Byrd I agree. It is green, but at the expense of blacks. And George Lucas was correct in saying that the studios don’t get behind African American films, which are, at their core, AMERICAN films. Black indie filmmakers have a better shot at a getting a halfway decent distribution deal on Redbox, iTunes or Netflix than getting the studios to pony up the dough to produce and market our films, largely because they are scared that white audiences won’t come to see our films if there are too many of US (black folks) on the screen. In a research paper published in May of 2011, Andrew J. Weaver, a telecommunications professor at Indiana University, conducted two studies to test whether the racial makeup of a film’s cast could influence the decisions of white audiences. The study, called “The Role of Actors’ Race in White Audiences’ Selective Exposure to Movies”, concluded “minority cast members” do in fact lead white audiences to be less interested in seeing certain films.

      Friday at 10:21pm · Like · 1
    • ScreenwriterHank Byrd Heres another interesting article: http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/14/opinion/martin-red-tails-hollywood/index.html

      Friday at 10:21pm · Like · 1
    • Howard Casner I think we all know the problem. But once you know the problem, the problem becomes, what is the solution.

      Yesterday at 6:48am · Like
    • Lin Fahrenheit What did you guys thank of the Malcolm X film?

      Yesterday at 7:35am via mobile · Like
    • Howard Casner I remember when it came out and I and a friend were commenting on the idea that originally Richard Attenborough (I believe) was suppose to direct it and Spike Lee shamed the studio into giving it to him, and damn, if he doesn’t go and make a film that is no different than the one Attenborough would have made. I and my friend have a phrase we use for movies like this: a typical Warner Brothers bio pic. It did have a wonderful performance by Denzel Washington and the wonderful cinematography by Ernest R. Dickerson.

      22 hours ago · Like
    • William Martell Just about everywhere except the USA has government funding of films – so that they end up *not* a commercial product. These arts programs are designed to employ artists from the country to make art that represents the country. The closest we have to that in the USA is the NEA. So here it is a business, aimed at a global audience.

      13 hours ago · Like
    • William Martell One of the weird issues is that USA films dominate the BO in just about every country – because they tend to be entertainment rather than art. Countries like France that are very protective, still end up with mostly US films drawing an audience. The other films that make money in France end up being French genre films – mainstream comedies and Luc Besson flicks. In the UK they have decided to quit throwing money at movies that fail to attract an audience and look at film funding in a more commercial way. Controversial.

      13 hours ago · Unlike · 1
    • Howard Casner In the U.S., we haven’t figured out a way for the government to fund art. Don’t know if we ever will.

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