Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema Part 2: Media Coverage

Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema Part 2: Media Coverage

I was going to call this something else entirely, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it fit nicely into the "Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema" series that myself and Charles Judson have both addressed in separate posts. 

It's all part of the ongoing discussion; this time however, lots of questions for both filmmakers and audiences: 

To get right into it… many of *us* (black people) routinely lament the perceived lack of interest in, and thus coverage of black films and filmmakers (especially indie black films and filmmakers) in what we could call the "mainstream" media (this site's thriving existence is proof of that); although the more *militant* among us have said explicitly that what it comes right down to is wanting validation from white people, essentially a nod to Frantz Fanon's theories on feelings of "dependency and inadequacy" black people experience in a "white world;" an inferiority complex, if you will, whether you agree with that or not.

So, the first question is for the filmmakers: how much importance do you filmmakers put in coverage of black cinema by non-black media outlets? In talking to black filmmakers over the years, I've discovered that many feel they need that kind of press because black audiences (generally speaking of course) are more likely to take the work seriously, or pay closer attention to it, if it's covered in Variety, for example, or The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times, Deadline, or even the parent site of the network this blog belongs to, indieWIRE.

Black filmmakers feel that black audiences (again, generally speaking)  hold those outlets in higher regard than specifically black media sites, with the feeling being that, getting a write up in Variety, for example, can be of immense value to their film, not only because it might raise the overall awareness of the film, potentially broadening its reach, but also because it gives the work an *importance* or *validation* in the eyes of black audiences.

To be clear, I'm not saying this is the thinking of every black filmmaker, or every member of the audience; but I've talked to enough folks on both sides over the years to recognize that these feelings (whether imagined or real) do exist enough that this is worth discussing.

Another question I'd ask filmmakers is, for those whose films have received attention from any of these major industry sites, just how much difference has that made in the reception of your film by audiences (of all colors)? Can you say that you've seen a definite, quantifiable impact on the success (or failure) of your film, especially since there is a general perception that "black films" rarely cross-over?

There's the added question of whether "black films" directed by non-black filmmakers (read: white filmmakers) are more likely to be acknowledged within the mainstream (read: white) press than "black films" directed by black filmmakers; but that's another post on its own entirely. However, I wanted to at least mention it to say that I'm aware of that conversation and how it fits into this particular discussion.

Now I look to black audiences with the same first question: how much importance do you put in coverage of black cinema by NON-black media (mainstream) outlets? How much value do you put into seeing a "black film" written about (whether it's an announcement or a review) in The Hollywood Reporter for example, over any comparable black media site? As black filmmakers suggest, or seem to believe, do you feel that a write-up in a major trade validates the film's existence in any way, over a write-up of the film on, let's say, Shadow And Act for example? And if a black media outlet covers a film, but it doesn't get any coverage by any of the few industry standards/stallwarts, does that in any way lessen your interest in it, or do you see less value in it?

Are these thoughts even conscious, intentional ones, or is it a matter of years of programming, or the inferiority complex Fanon theorizes? 

Or do you feel that none of what I've presented here are issues at all, as far as you're concerned, and thus a conversation isn't even warranted?

The point here is to stimulate conversation on things that I don't know if we really talk about; things that are said, but within groups of like people, and hardly ever to those we really should be talking to, leading to assumptions about the other, which only worsens matters.

As the title of the series states, "Notes On Working Towards A Fanboy/Girl Culture In Black Indie Cinema;" and I feel that the success of that journey partly depends on a trusted "value system" between filmmakers, audiences and the black media. Or as Melvin Van Peebles suggested to me when I interviewed a few weeks ago – working towards being an entirely self-reliant, self-sustaining unit. 

Probably not the kind of post you were expecting on a Friday, but you have time to think about it, and share your thoughts. But please keep it civil, and stick to the topic. You can answer the questions posed directly, whether you're filmmaker or audience member, or you can give general thoughts.

This Article is related to: Features


Comments

Ash

I value Shadow & Act's reviews and coverage of black cinema/media above mainstream coverage of the same projects and have for the past 3 years.

Wave Cap Willis

Glad that this post was created. I just wish that this article had a link to a more streamlined poll/survey at its conclusion. You know, because of power in numbers and proof in pudding. Or something.

vc

As a film maker and a film watcher (52 films a year in theaters) it's not that the white press adds validity as much as "reach", S&A is a great site but even with the"Indiewire" front page it's reach is nowhere near THR or Variety, then there is "frequency", black folks have to be reached several times to pay attention to the promotion and to become a "Fan" of the movie or movie trailer as the case maybe, for we black filmmaker press is press we need as much of it over as wide a coverage area as we can get and the indie black press doesn't do a great job at covering small black films, as far as wanting validation from white people, according to the MPAA 2010 stats there are 3.4million frequent (once a month or more) black movie goers in the U.S. we don't need white folks to have a successful theatrical opening or run.

see (trailer) http://youtu.be/kT1bUADlfX0

everybodyknowsmyname

I think it is that way because credibility has to be earned. We,as black folks, know a black publication does not want to run a brother down. You aren't going to go as hard against a movie. The mainstream outlets aren't interested in black cinema. There is no I'm covering my brother's back. We know they are not going easy on the movie. It doesn't pay their bills so we trust it more.

I think it takes time to build credibility and the black outlets have to build that credibility that they are covering the best of the black cinema and not just black cinema. And I think right now the audience feels it's covered because it's black.

Any outlet that can build that credibility will be able to push the black indie scene more. Though there are instances where black media do push indie movies. The Heart Specialist was a movie I doubt the mainstream press pushed. I might be wrong. I never heard about it till it opened. Yet It had strong numbers for an indie film.

That is me as a paying customer. From the filmmaker perspective, because those are the trades that the industry reads to get news, a quote, write-up, or review means people in the industry are aware but I don't know if that affects the common man or that the message trickles down to the guy who's not in the industry and not perusing the trades, you know the paying customers for God knows industry people don't pay to watch anything. They just pass screeners among themselves.

Tracy

I'm looking forward to THIS post —-> There's the added question of whether "black films" directed by non-black filmmakers (read: white filmmakers) are more likely to be acknowledged within the mainstream (read: white) press than "black films" directed by black filmmakers; but that's another post on its own entirely. However, I wanted to at least mention it to say that I'm aware of that conversation and how it fits into this particular discussion.

CareyCarey

"It's your thing, do what you wanna do, I can't tell you, who to sock it to. If you want me to love you, maybe I will, I need you woman, it ain't no big deal. You need love now, just as bad as I do
Make's me no difference now, who you give your thing to". Some of you may have recognized those words as lyrics from the Isley Brother's "It's Your Thang". I uesd my ol' school brothers to embellish my opinion that all of this is highly subjective and personal. When Tambay, "got right into it…" with Frantz Fanon's theories on feelings of "dependency and inadequacy" black people experience in a "white world;" an inferiority complex (generally speaking), I shook my head in agreement because that's true for many, whether tor not they will publicly admit it. Or maybe – possibly… "we" (generally speaking) are not consciously aware of the subtle messages we've received (brainwashed) that would solicit our need for "validation" from "them". Anyway, contining on my theory/theme of subjectivity and personal preference, when I read reviews from whatever outlet, be it "black" or "white", I take them all at face value. First, there are only a few reviewers/critics that "I" value. If it's a white critic, I take into account that fact that he or she maybe not be able to appreciate the subtle nuances of our culture, which could lead to a corrosive affect in their review. If it's a black critic, I try to understand that individual. What elements of a film does he or she value the most. And possibly, more importantly, do they have a personal agenda? So again, there are personal things which "I" need that soothes my soul. On the filmmakers tip, I believe that ideology still applies. I can safely assume that filmmakers and the general black audience, all have personal goals, likes and dislikes. In regards to films, each of us may spell "success" in different terms. Some may spell it on the wings of money. Others desperately need adulations from white critics and viewers alike. On the other hand, there are black artist who could care less about the whimes and opinions of "NON-black media", and money is not their God. Consequently, if their artistic expression does not hit a non-black publicayion… oh well, que sera sera. Now of course an argument can be made that "more is better". Meaning, the more media outlets that mentions a film, the more black viewers will catch wind of it's existence. Huuuuuum… could be? But now it's time for "due diligence" and "responsibility" to walk through the door. And now we're back to personal goals, personal agendas, how one spells success, knowing and understanding one's market. If an artist/filmmaker has a well defined game plan and understands their personal "needs", I 've come to believe it's their responsibility to do whatever it takes to make sure their product gets in the hands of persona (white, black or dookie brown) with a need to know. In short, back to the top: It's Your Thang… do what you gotta do, I can't tell you (or anyone), who to give that thing to… Subjectivity & Personal Preference & A Well Defined Road Map, is the name of the game.

Janta

Bump Playlist and Deadline and Indiewire and all them that none of us even care about. Most of us ain't checking for them. The key is to get the Bossips and YBFs to report on our movies. If Essence will stop putting the same tired people on the cover (yes I'm lookin at you Nia Long) and give love to Adepero and others. If the black radio station will start giving the movies love that would help some of the directors. On the other hand I'm not mad at pushing the white world to recognize either. I say don't let them ignore us in comfort. We have been forced to see them all these years, sh*t, force them to see US! just sayin'

Realer than Real Deal hollyfield

The industry is built on perception….period and unfortunately. We are in the industry of illusions …when the illusion becomes real then more accolades begin to pour in. Shadow and Act will always have its place in cinema especially black cinema however variety is like the wall street journal. Look how its marketed ..in fact you have to pay for the services to view it. Its a privilege and they have done great creating that perception in the psyche of not only blacks but people in general. Sort of like the clubs in the meat packing district in NYC…velvet ropes and your name has to be on the list for entry same thing different industry. In the wall street journal when an investment bank decides to hire a Managing Director its announced in the journal. Do you know how many traders, Investment bankers etc are craving to be noticed in that regard. So yes mainstream is validation …just as when Melvin did Badassss and made a lot of money I am pretty sure variety talked about it afterwards and everyone took notice. Nothing wrong with that and its not selling out it means you know what the fck your doing and you need to be recognized for that. We need to respect and understand that in any industry where money is involved that politics will alway be in play. We as black folks don't like politics because we tend to wear our emotions on our sleeve often to the determent of our goal. We need to curb our enthusiasm and play this game out to suit our agenda and no one is exempt from that. I love Melvin Van Peebles and what he has done for black cinema however his keep it real routine has gone wrong and he is only remembered for one film unfortunately. Spike is a distant second following suit as well and to his credit he might be 2 bad films away from selling the upper eastside townhouse to renting a room next to Melvin. Tyler is playing the game and winning, rainforest films is playing the game and winning. Overbrook is winning. Code black is winning. We need to find our lane and follow suit. The revolutionary talk is great after a couple of drinks but come on too much money is at stake and unfortunately when money is involved politics will always be in play. Anyway as far as black publications May be shadow and act needs to create a model that rivals variety. Not a paid subscription(nooooo)lol. but something that shows that your a major player that folks in the non black community need to take notice like how Vibe magazine used to be. Maybe it can serve as a feeder system for non blacks to discover and monitor new talent.

david

So man points here but the quote "Or as Melvin Van Peebles suggested to me when I interviewed a few weeks ago – working towards being an entirely self-reliant, self-sustaining unit", I think is the best way to go.

If you get caught up in the oscar hype/race for something you've done, FINE but as far as pining for it should never be the goal again. PROBLEM? We (maybe because of us not taking the smaller outlets seriously) don't really pay attention to, or know about the smaller scale "indie" films that come out.

PARIAH was a VERY GOOD FILM as most of us who've seen it know, but people still look at me like "what's a paranna?" because they've never heard of it.

another misconception is (and I'm guilty of this) that if the film isn't publicized or there isn't a commercial for it, or even if it isn't in theatres, or if there isn't a big star in it, that it isn't worth watching. Then on the other hand, I've seen some ATROCIOUS "black" indie films…lol

ALL IN ALL I DO think the key is to attempt to build a genuine fan base for "black indie's" by flooding the market with good projects, and hopefully getting "US" away from needing to see a fall down funny comedy, or a super dramatic movie all the time…they've made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that they don't really care if we're here or not so lets not care back…lol (sorry for the dissertation…lol) but I'm an actor but i write and direct a lil bit too and i STAY thinking about a better way. have a great weekend yall!

al

IMHO the only way a "black" film is ever going to be covered by one of the major outlets is by getting into a top tier film festival or a theatrical release. I don't recall ever having read a Variety or Hollywood reporter review where the film was seen at a low level festival or "black" film festival. Getting coverage in one of the majors is going to get the word out about your project to a wider audience which will mean that many people who are not black will now, potentially, have your project on their radar. The major outlets don't validate a project for me any more than this site does because I will evaluate the project on my own based on the trailer , synopsis , cast and director. I don't feel like I need a lot of help and I believe other filmmakers feel the same way. I do think that once black folks come across a publication , website or blog they trust it does carry weight.

There are a few black film festivals which have posted calls for entries this year on Shadow and Act. My film "The Next Day" ( http://botnfilms.blogspot.com/) has been discussed here a couple of times. I do not believe that it's a coincidence that my film was accepted by the three festivals that placed calls for entries on this site. Anyone who comes to this blog on a regular basis can also name a handful of projects that have reaped the benefit of being mentioned here as well as in Essence, VIBE and JET etc.

I think black media , journalism and criticism is needed and valued by black people. Not sure if I'm 100% on topic here but I felt compelled to respond.

AntGrizz

Of course these questions are valid. Everyone knows you do not exist until you are mentioned in a mainstream publication. I don't think it necessarily has to do solely with our own self image as a Black people and our history in America of wanting desparately to be acknowledged by our oppressors. Negroes think mainstream, period. It's hard for us to support the local designer on the come up when he/she is a nobody. Let's that person get a write up in the news or an interview on a major network news program. They'd be validated overnight. Its just the way the game works.

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