Friday, October 12, 2012

Middle of Nowhere


If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they are yours. But how long do you wait?  In her newest work, "Middle of Nowhere", film publicist turned award winning director, Ava DuVernay, explores this question through a loving young couple sentenced to eight years separation.

Devoting Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is married to Derek (Omari Hardwick). Like Erykah Badu's "Otherside of The Game," Derek had a complex occupation that earned him eight years in prison. But despite the near decade sentence, Ruby is hopeful he'll get out in five with good behavior.  Derek's outlook isn't so optimistic and tries to convince her not to wait for him and go on with her life.

Five years is a LONG time to wait. Things change, people change, and life for Derek on the inside isn't as calm as he claims it to be during Ruby's faithful visits.  When she learns of his activities in prison during a probation hearing, Ruby comes to realize her waiting may be in vain and she must decide what's right for her future. This includes exploring a new relationship full of potential.

But trying to hold on to what was while also looking toward what could be, may keep her stuck as the title suggest, in the middle of nowhere. What was once complex is now more complicated. So what will Ruby, whose already sacrificed so much of her life, ultimately choose to do?


With a great cast of new talent like Edwina Findley ("The Wire") as Ruby's loving sister, and some veteran, including Lorraine Toussaint ("Saving Grace") as Ruby's strongly opinionated mother, "Middle of Nowhere" gives audiences a fictitious story that looks and feels so real-- personal even--it could've said in the opening credits "Based on a True Story."

It moves almost like a documentary as we watch Ruby interact with the small group of people in her life. Scenes are not rushed through. Well used camera close-ups pull us into the varied emotions of the characters, especially Ruby and Derek.

One particular scene where Ruby humbly asks her mother for money is expertly done with little dialogue, but great focus on their faces.  Just the looks between them well demonstrate their strained relationship.

Overall the poignant "Middle of Nowhere" terrifically represents the untold story of those women and mothers "holding it down" as we say for their loved ones on "lock down." It's the kind of emotional character driven film rare in black cinema.  Not stereotypical,  nor "hood," but a well acted and thought out timeless work that will touch various audiences regardless of race.








 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Iyanla: Fix My Life, Sweetie Pies Give Oprah's OWN Ratings Boost

High drama, family secrets, in-your-face accusations, conflict, humor, palpable emotion, and quotable soundbites all sound like the makings of what we call in the biz, "good television." Audiences LOVE to watch other people's dramas play out on screen, that explains why the premiere episode of OWN's "Iyanla: Fix My Life" was the network's #1 series debut EVER in its time slot, and why it ranked #2 in all of cable in it's time period for the 25-54 demographic according to Nielsen ratings.

This recipe for "good television" is also the reason why the return of OWN's "Welcome To Sweetie Pie's" earned the series placing in the top 5 shows in its time period among ad-supported cable networks for the same demographic.

Add to that the fact that Usher's interview on "Oprah's Next Chapter" ranked #3 in its time period amongst women 25-54 and 18-49 among all ad-supported cable and #1 "in the time period across all broadcast and cable in key African-American demos," according to a recent press release.

So what's all this really mean?  It means Oprah's OWN ain't as failing as some people would have you to think. In fact, it's not failing at all!  In fact, Saturday and Sunday nights it ranks in the top 5 of ad-supported cable networks.

And what's been the key to these impressive increases in  OWN's TV ratings? The addition of more African-American programming and thus more African-American viewers, especially females. Just as VH-1, WE TV,  and even TBS have found major success in appealing to African-American viewers, Oprah's OWN is now beginning to see and feel just how effective its new programming strategy focus has been.

Now for your rolling your eyes talking, "Oh, NOW she wanna do some stuff for black people now that she NEEDS us," I say this: "SHUT UP!"

We, as a black tv viewing audience, didn't complain back in the late 80's/early 90's when FOX used black programming to entice us to watch the then new network and then changed its focus when it got enough money to appeal to white teens.

We were quiet too when UPN turned CW network did the same almost a decade ago. And now we don't complain enough that VH-1 uses the same tactic to entice the black viewing audience with often ridiculously pseudo reality tv shows to boost its bottom line. That's what REALLY "behind the music"!
 
Every TV programmer and analyst knows statistically the black audience consumes more than its share of television programming. We're so hungry to see what we HOPE is a reflection how we see ourselves we settle with being fed any "flavor of love." So in this BUSINESS of show, appealing to Black and now, Hispanic, audiences is wise and strategic especially when you need to strengthen your overall viewership.

But don't get it twisted! It's not just black audiences watching "Sweetie Pie's" and "Iyanla: Fix My Life."  The beauty of the Oprah Winfrey brand generally is that it appeals to mainstream, aka white audiences, AND others too. And that ain't gonna change, nor should it. BUT,  I dare say in appealing to her various audiences we can trust Oprah and OWN NOT to give us programming that dumbs down black culture to boost ratings, but instead gives us good alternatives to the mess we're fed on other networks.

So I'm eager to run on along with O and OWN and see what the end will be because O has the resources and forethought to provide shows that entertain as well as enlighten that star black talent.   Between her, Iyanla, Tyler,  Bishop T.D. Jakes, and others she's off to a good start.






Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kelly Price, SWV, New Edition, Heat Up Balboa Music Festival



"Some like it hot!" And "hot" is great way to describe the first annual Balboa Music Festival this past weekend. Hot talent, hot venue, and of course hot weather! But despite the extreme heat and lack of shade, hundreds lined up early to get their seat or ideal spot on the grass at Lake Balboa's recreational park last Saturday in California's San Fernando Valley.

The line-up was a good mix of old school and new school R&B, Hip Hop, and funk, featuring award-winning talents of Kelly Price, SWV, Cameo, Robin Thicke, New Edition, Kyesha Cole, and Gladys Knight. As an #R&BJunkie (one of my fav twitter hashtags) THIS was the music I grew up to and still keep in heavy rotation in the iPod.

Kelly Price kicked off the first annual Balboa Music festival with a medley of hits including "You Should've Told Me", her throwback to Shirley Murdock's "As We Lay," and "Secret Love." But Kelly reminded us she wrote songs for lots of famous artists and sang the hooks on some of the popular radio and club jams before her solo career. Then she shared how Whitney Houston and her fans inspired her music and performances.



Keeping us in the 90s groove, Sisters With Voices aka SWV hit us with that CLASSIC remix of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and "Right Here." To this day I don't know who is responsible for combining those two songs, but God bless 'em! The sisters then took us back to the days of Coko's dangerously long finger nails, watching music videos, and sporting big hoop earrings with "I Get So Weak" and "I'm So Into You."



Before leaving the stage, SWV sang their NEWEST release, "Co-Sign," on their new album, "I Missed Us". It was my first time hearing it and I liked it.  From the first note, it reminded me why we as #R&BJunkies fell in love with SWV in the first place. It's just a feel good, sound good, head-bobbing single that makes you want to sing along. Yeah, I missed "us" or them too on radio.

Then from the CD era we stepped further back in time to when cassettes were enjoyed on boom boxes. Cameo took over the stage and lead singer, Larry Blackmon, brought the eye catching costuming with him.

Still sporting that bright red cock piece-slash-jock strap, Blackmon sounded great, but his costume needed a 2012 update--see the pics below. Starting with "She's Strange" (a personal anthem), they made us appreciate the era when instruments were actually played, not just plugged in--imagine that! "Sparkle", "Word Up", and of course the family reunion fav, "Candy," had folks grooving in their chairs and afternoon sun. And yes, I spotted people doing the electric slide.

Smoothing things out just a bit, sexual white chocolate Robin Thicke came on stage and crooned to the ladies. Obviously, this man knows his audience, WELL! So well, I believe I HEARD him take a departure from his usual mellow-groove self and bust a few bars of a Jay-Z rap tune. Unfortunately, I was behind the stage when I heard this, so if anybody's got a link to video of this, PLEASE share.

Then at long last the ones I had been waiting for...Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, and of course, Johnny.  I've never seen New Edition live so let me tell you, these dudes ain't lost a step. With the first beat of "If It Isn't Love" the crowd screamed as the group seemed to step right out the popular music video. Some choreography never needs to change and the moves from that video are now etched in our minds forever.



Admittedly, Bobby didn't dance as much but his vocal was still strong. It was and always has been his prerogative as he took us back, waaaay back to when there was jealous girl in their town, and Mr. Telephone Man was called to come check their phone line.

Then still dressed in their cool white outfits,  individual members showcased their hits.  Johnny showcased his mult-range voice with "My, My, My" followed by Bobby getting the crowd dancing again with "My Perogative."

Then putting on a little street swagger with simple baseball caps and a change in posture, Ronnie, Ricky, and Mike took us straight to the club to "smack it, flip it, rub it down, oh noooooo!" Despite the heat, we--and I do mean we--gave just as much energy back to them as they gave us. Great show, guys! Now I really gotta see them in concert.

And with New Edition, the First Annual Balboa Music Festival, came to end for me. Overall it was a good festival MUSICALLY.   Every act I saw or heard was really good and kept the crowd enthused, despite the sweltering heat.  That ain't easy to do! You know how some of us can be, especially when it's hot and we don't get what we expect.

That said hopefully next year issues concerning logistics, dissemination of information, and other festival related hiccups will be taken care of.  Yes, there were some problems, which were to be expected for a festival first, but overall I see POTENTIAL to turn the Balboa Music Festival into one of the best events of the year for the San Fernando Valley.

Enjoy the Flickr pics!

Shanice Wilson Talks To Press"The Voice", Jesse PowellSWV PerformingSWV PerformingBalboa Music Festival 2012Balboa Music Festival 2012
Balboa Music Festival 2012Balboa Music Festival 2012Cameo's Larry Blackmon PerformingCameo's Larry Blackmon PerformingRobin Thicke PerformingRobin Thicke Performing
Robin Thicke PerformingRalph Tresvant, New EditionRalph Tresvant, New EditionNew Edition PerformingNew Edition Performing

Via Flickr:
Held September 15, 2012, in California's San Fernando Valley, the First Annual Balboa Music Festival featured R&B favorites SWV, Kelly Price, Cameo, Robin Thicke, New Edition, and more.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Hollywood Pub, Wyllisa Bennett, Spills The Tea On DNC 2012



Charlotte, North Carolina, was the place to be this week. The queen city of the Tarheel state hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention and some of Hollywood's notables left California Pizza Kitchen behind for Carolina BBQ. Check out this twitter pic from actress Eva Longoria with Alfre Woodard and Ashley Judd:



Another showbiz notable that left Hollywood and flew east was celebrity publicist, Wyllisa Bennett. Originally from Charlotte, NC, Wyllisa traveled back home to be a part of the celebratory Democratic National Convention. I say celebratory cause after Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton's powerful speeches, the crowd seemed ready to dance in the streets at the thought of another four years with Barak Obama as President of the United States.

And let me be clear IN WRITING. I'll be dancing right along with them when the time comes. I'm eager to run on and see what the end will be with President Obama and equally awesome wife, Michelle. I digress...now back to Ms. Wyllisa!

Wyllisa has been at the convention sharing her personal experience through social media all week and I've been living vicariously threw her. Now you can too cause I'm sharing some of her tweets and pics with you.

This homegirl was EVERYWHERE at the DNC reporting and documenting the haps--from food to events to meetings to the behind-the-scene media rooms. She did all that and still served as publicists for her clients there.

Check out this excerpt from her Facebook blog on the food at the DNC. Lawd, what I would give to have some good hushpuppies right now and hometown barbecue!

There’s probably not a living pig in a 25-mile radius of the Democratic National Convention. Why? Because North Carolina is one of the states famously known for it’s barbeque, and as a Tarheel native now living in Los Angeles, it’s by far my Number 1 menu item that I miss the most. And everywhere you go at the convention, they’re serving up some barbeque sandwiches with all the fixings!

Note in NC, BBQ is what we EAT at the COOKOUT, not what we DO as its commonly said here in La La land!

Anywaaaaay! Nevermind the semantics for now! Read Wyllisa's tweets below thanks to online tool, Storify! When I said she was EVERYWHERE there was to be at the DNC, her tweets and video bare the proof. Forget MTV Awards, the DNC is where the best parties were this week!




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Sparkle's" Jordin Sparks, Mike Epps, & More Share Experience

It's hump day! Seemingly that's nothing to get excited about. BUT it's the Wednesday BEFORE the much anticipated film, "Sparkle," hits theaters this weekend! 

So I should tell you this is NOT a review. Press is on a muzzle clause until it comes out. Why? 'Cause our reviews can sometimes be a profit killer.

But despite our published OPINIONS, errbody and their cousin wants to see the last movie we'll ever see Whitney Houston perform in *sigh*. Yeah, I'm prepared to cry. So, if you're sitting next to me at the theater don't say nothing about the big fat tear rolling down my face when she sings.  Just pass me a tissue and keep watching the movie.

In fact, I hope we turn this into a movie going experience! You know how we do! The old schoolers and church folk will get a little dressed up to head to the theaters.  The rest of us youngsters will head out in whatever as we often do excitedly. It will kind of feel like a family reunion.  Young AND old coming out to support a wonderful movie.

And that's the beauty of it.  Those that remember the original have stories to tell and those that are seeing it for the first time, will have a whole new take on it.  Hopefully, the two generations can and will start a dialogue about music, culture, actors, etc. and really listen to each other.  Think how one generation loved Irene Cara while this generation loves Jordin Sparks.  My generation has the pleasure of experiencing both!

No need to tell you NOT to talk during the movie at the screen.  You already know the actors can't hear you. LOL. But I understand sometimes how you can get caught up and desire to tell characters what to do as if their actions have not been predetermined.  It's just what we do.  It's part of the EXPERIENCE!
  
So here's a little warm up for this weekend, 2 GREAT interviews. To start here are the lady cast members Jordin Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, and Tika Sumpter.



Now check out this GREAT interview with the men Mike Epps, Derek Luke, and Omari Hardwick. Goodness all that fineness in one little room.  *FAN ME!* But seriously out of all these gorgeous, talented men, I'm looking forward to seeing MIKE EPPS!  He's really coming into his own as a serious actor not just a comedian. 


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Showbiz Up-And-Comer's Guide To Social Media Marketing Part 2

The showbiz game has changed! That's right boys and girls, Hollywood is focusing its lens on the digital and online frontiers, and not just for content anymore.  It's searching online for YOU!  Your social influence and online presence are more important now than they've ever been!  And THAT is why "A Star is Born Online: The Showbiz-And-Comer's Guide to Social Media Marketing" was produced last year. And now Part 2 is available to audiences around the world!

In part one, the basics of social media marketing were covered, including tips for using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.  For many of you, these tools still are not important. You're still thinking a great headshot, winning personality, and talent are all that's needed to get the gig. What most showbiz decision makers AREN'T telling you is that once the audition is over, your social profiles and online influence can impact hiring decisions.

 Part 2 of the Showbiz Up-And-Comer's Guide includes highlights of part 1 and introduces Google+ and Pinterest as tools for showcasing your talent, art, and creativity. Also in part 2, the different kinds of Facebook tools, including ads, and YouTube's new focus are covered.  In case you haven't noticed, YouTube has changed the channel on online video, literally.

Get BOTH, PART 1 and 2, as  FREE DOWLOADS, HERE!

So why are your tweets and blog posts more important now as a showbiz up-and-comer? Because, marketing budgets have gotten even tighter in the last few years. Studios and indy filmmakers are seeking less expensive ways to promote projects to various audiences.

Secondly, it ain't about just the big screen anymore people! Mobile and tablet platforms, the second screens, are quickly becoming the first resource of internet access for many audiences. For the last few years, studios have been steadily adapting to this shift and now so should you.

WATCH this interview with United Talent Agency's execs, Brent Weinstein, Head of Digital Media and Eric Kuhn, Head of Social Media, and also quoted in the guides, as they confirm why digital content and social media are now the new "leading stars" in entertainment.












Now you get why I'm pushing for you to become more social savvy as performers and content creators. It's not optionally anymore, it's imperative if you want to stay relevant in this business of show.

So if you've got over at least 1000 twitter followers, several hundreds of YouTube subscribers, or an updated blog with a visible audience that actually comments on your posts, then YOU'VE got a growing, engaged audience and potential influence over them.  That's leverage boys and girls!  Learn how to use it!

"A Star Is Born Online: The Showbiz Up-And-Comer's Guide to Social Media" is produced by Sheer Social, a boutique social media marketing business specializing in entertainment and small business.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Only Tyler Perry Is Making Black Movies....!" Oh Really?

PhotoCredit: BlackEnterprise.com
Perception is reality! And for many seemingly intelligent movie- goers Tyler Perry is indeed the black director du jour. Even with the recent, "Think Like A Man," and "Jumping The Broom" successes, an avid movie viewer I recently talked with said, "Only Tyler Perry is making black movies!"

Of course, my response was swift! I couldn't let the man think for one more second the black film world rests solely on Mr. Perry's big shoulders. So I weighed in like actress Journee Smollett in "The Great Debators"!

But before you ask on what planet this man's been watching movies, consider that he probably represents a large portion of the black movie audience that knows little about non-studio films.

Thanks to huge marketing budgets promoting studio films, audiences learn about them months in advance. Then opening weekend people generally head to the box office. But there seems to be a growing number of the African-American audience that relies heavily on DVD, internet downloads, and cables' video on demand to see the films marketed to them.

Undoubtedly, our film viewing habits are changing. But it's not just black folks, it's everybody. Why spend nearly $30 or more at the theater when your can spend $3.99 at home for the same movie? I digress...

Still with so many film viewing options, why did THIS movie lover--who lives next door to Hollywood--think and even dare say that Tyler Perry is the ONLY African-American director producing successful films right now? Maybe being so close to Hollywood influenced his perception.

Many great indy black films are made OUTSIDE the Hollywood system now. Most lack the huge marketing and promotion budgets of studio films and don't have "name"actors. So, there's no press release, a lot of posts by high traffic blogs, nor black publication write ups to promote them.  Thus, the general black movie audience knows nothing about them.

These films rely heavily on traditional word-of-mouth and the internet, especially social media marketing and email, as promotional tools. And when used strategically, actually work! But my film friend doesn't spend as much time on the internet as I do. His perception is his reality.

So how does one change the perception of the "too many" that think only one man is successfully making black movies and good ones?

Those of us "in the know" that work in and around black film really have our work cut out for us! It appears we've got to do better at communicating and sharing information BROADLY, outside of our own artsy cliques, environments, and surroundings.

That said here's a list of my favorite resources of black film, many of which I've blogged about. This is NOT a definitive list but a good start! And for those of you already in the know, PLEASE share this post with those who are not!

Black filmmaking is "hot" right now especially outside the Hollywood system. You just have to know where to look! 

FESTIVALS:
WEBSITES & BLOGS:
LEGAL ONLINE RENTAL/PURCHASE
  •  iTunes
  • CodeBlack.com
  • YouTube (Kind of hit or miss)
  • Hulu (Great for documentaries)
For you adding to your black film DVD libraries, visit a movie retailer in a black neighborhood. For those of you not close to a predominantly black area, don't hesitate to ask for films you hear about. If stores don't think there's a demand for black films, they won't stock them.  That ain't racism, that's simple economics of supply and demand.

If I've missed a resource of black films and filmmaking please let me know in the comments below. Tell me too how you hear about black movies most. I'm eager to learn of new resources and sharing them!

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