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Watch: How Gina Prince-Bythewood Made ‘Beyond the Lights’ Her Way, See it on Netflix (Exclusive Video)

Watch: How Gina Prince-Bythewood Made 'Beyond the Lights' Her Way, See it on Netflix (Exclusive Video)

There are many talented women directors working–if not often enough–in Hollywood today. Top of the pack is writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who broke out of UCLA winning prizes, writing and directing shorts and television (HBO’s “Disappearing Acts”), and delivering a well-reviewed Sundance hit for New Line Cinema, “Love & Basketball” (2000), starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, which scored Prince-Bythewood an Indie Spirit award and a Humanitas prize and grossed $27.4 million domestic.

After producing 2003’s “Biker Boyz,” Prince-Bythewood followed up with Fox Searchlight’s 2008 literary crowdpleaser “The Secret Life of Bees,” starring Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah, which played better for audiences ($37.7 million domestic) than critics

It’s been another long stretch until “Beyond the Lights” (November 14, 2014), which played to raves in Toronto and Urbanworld, and earned a Gotham Best Actress nomination for Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who broke out earlier this year with Searchlight’s historic drama “Belle.” That had not happened when Prince-Bythewood abandoned her Sony studio deal after two years of development.

Sony was demanding that a star like Beyonce play the biracial singer who tries to break free from her overbearing stage mom. (The film has been described as a cross between “Gypsy” and “A Star in Born.”) The director insisted on casting then-unknown Mbatha-Raw, and went on to raise independent financing for the film. 

So Prince-Bythewood spent $5000 to shoot a video to show what Mbatha-Raw could do. Finally, BET put up $2 million and partnered with indie distributor Relativity. The film features Minnie Driver as the misguided mother and rising star Nate Parker as the cop who falls for the singer and helps her to find her own identity. At a Los Angeles Film Festival 2014 panel introducing the trailer, Prince-Bythewood said, “You have to overcome the ‘no.'”
She wasn’t going to stop making this film, which earned raves and despite a woeful lack of marketing support from Relativity, grossed $14.6 million at the domestic box office. Catch up with “Beyond the Lights” on Netflix. Let’s hope we do not have to wait so long again for her next. 

Watch our flipcam interview below. 

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