Tuesday, Jun 27th

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Director John Singleton Speaks About the State of Black Cinema

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In the last decade, black films have made considerable strides in Hollywood. Normally there are roughly 10-15 films released about the black experience each year. While half of these films are stereotyped urban crime dramas or predictable comedies, it has been refreshing to see other films like The Pursuit of Happyness, Dreamgirls, How She Moves; the Great Debaters, and The Karate Kid being made that did not marginalize black people.

During the era of Obama, many hoped to see a more progressive shift in how Hollywood portrayed the black films but for now, it seems the studios have stopped investing in the black experience only releasing one film per year--in 2010, For Colored Girls by Tyler Perry and in April 2011, Jumping the Brown, starting Angela Bassett and Paula Patton.

 

Recently, the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles conducted a panel about the Black Experience in Hollywood featuring director John Singleton, actors Don Cheadle, Taraji P. Henson, legendary actress Marla Gibbs and actor/comedian Wayne Brady.

B.Couleur had the rare opportunity to sit down with critically acclaimed director John Singleton to talk about his thoughts about the state of black cinema, why Hollywood isn't making our films anymore and what filmmakers need to do to survive.

BC: Thank you for speaking with us today.

JS: No problem

BC: Lately there has been a lot of talk about the absence of minority films in Hollywood.  What are your thoughts?

 

JS: (With Hollywood) it is the same thing it has always been.  It is really a matter of ebb and flow, there is our country's·economic·factors to consider.

BC: So you think it is purely economically, not racial?

JS: I believe it is a part of it. The big economic downturn really affected the film· and entertainment industries in particular and whenever that happens black people are always at the bottom of the totem pole in anything, in any industry.

BC: Many people think it's more racially driven.

 

JS: Hollywood is a corporation-- it is a business. I really do not think it is racial. I believe it is much deeper than that. ·I believe its indifference. I do not think·the black dollar means as much to Hollywood as it once did.

BC: Interesting…

 

JS: But that should not keep people from·utilitzing their resources or curb their passions to make their own·films and get them distributed.

BC: Should black filmmakers expand their repertoire pass the black experience to stay viable.

 

JS: Personally, I am open to everything. I am not one of those people who came into this business saying, “I want to be a black filmmaker.” I am a black filmmaker and a black man.

BC: I know you recently signed on to direct, "Abduction" starting Twilight's Taylor Lautner.  How is this experience different?

 

 

JS: When I work with people who happen not to be of color, my directorial experience enlightens them, so it makes them hot and hipper. I am one of the only people in this business that keeps that as a mantle. Therefore, I can work with anybody.

BC: How do you feel about the state of black cinema today?

 

JS: I do think there is a travesty that the films I was influenced by and the movies Spike tried to build for a more viable black cinema, seem to be dead. Today's films are a plethora of middling comedies or movies featuring singers or hip hop stars; whomever is hot at that moment.


BC: What are these films lacking?

 

JS:·Noone is really aspired to do more. Noone is questioning where Black, Asian or Latinos people are in terms of their characters. There aren't any·character films.


BC: What advice can you give to aspiring filmmakers?

JS: Learn to write your own projects. Have the passion to succeed with your films..· I remember when I was starting out, I had real hopes of getting in this business and was prepared to take that journey.  I was going to keep going until it happened and I am still on my journey.


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