Friday, August 31, 2007

Getting to Know Master Story Teller, Eric Jerome Dickey

I am certain that I am not the only one guilty of reading a novel that you just can't put down on company time or letting friends' calls roll to voice mail because you know whatever drama they've got going it ain't hardly going to be as interesting as the one you're about to experience between the pages of the next chapter. So who could write a story so good it is worth sacrificing the boss's time, gossip calls from friends, and much needed beauty sleep? Eric Jerome Dickey, that's who.

I was granted a phone interview with the prolific award winning author to talk about his intriguiging new book, Sleeping With Strangers and it 's sizzling follow up, Waking with Enemies. As an avid reader of his novels, admittedly I was a little nervous. But after the initial introductions, conversation flowed like a gifted lecturer speaking to a student who was eager to learn, and I was.


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Originally from Tennessee, Dickey relocated to Los Angeles in the early 90's to pursue a career in the aerospace industry as a software developer. So why did this "techie" also seek work as an actor and stand up comedian? And how did those jobs lead him to author ten New York Times best-selling titles?


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Even as a kid, Eric Jerome Dickey loved comic books. When Marvel Comics approached him to write a mini-series for X-men character, Storm, he knew he could bring something unique to the character.

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Our conversation lasted much longer than it probably should have, about an hour and a half to be a exact. Dickey loved talking about his craft and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. It's obvious he's passionate about writing and creating stories that "stay with you a long time." If you've never read any of his books, I dare say you've missed out on some of the best story telling in the adult fiction genre. My favorites to date are Milk in My Coffee, Between Lovers, The Other Woman, Genevieve, and Chasing Destiny. To learn more about these books and his current novel, Waking With Enemies, just click the book titles to the left or do a search through Amazon on this site.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's a Glamorous Life or Is it? Sam Jackson & Josh Hartnett Explain

Lindsey, Brittany, Nicole, and Paris. If you didn't know any better you might possibly think these names belonged to members of a hot new girl group preparing to take the world by storm. But you do know better because these "girls behaving badly" have been paparazzi favorites for several months and have plagued media broadcasts and gossip blogs for the past year if not longer. Then Monday, their names were surprisingly replaced in entertainment headlines by a reported suicide attempt by actor Owen Wilson. With the shocking news came a new paparazzi frenzy in town.

As I watched on television the aggravating cameramen approach Samuel L. Jackson during a visit to Wilson in the hospital, it reminded me of some relevant comments he made last week while promoting Resurrecting the Champ.


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Cast member, Josh Hartnett agrees. But now that he's portrayed a journalist in Resurrection he's gained some insight into how sometimes relevant details and facts fall through the cracks.


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Hollywood: As I Live & Work is NOT a gossip blog for the very reasons Sam and Josh expressed. Celebrity gossip has its place and purpose, but I agree that the public's nosiness over the years has really gotten out of hand. As Wilson recovers, I truly hope his request to heal in private will be honored. But let's be realistic, as I type this post some member of the paparazzi is probably climbing the tree outside Wilson's hospital room trying to get a shot of him as as he sleeps, if such a tree exists. And if it doesn't, let us hope some overworked and underpaid hospital employee won't be bribed into doing the paparazzi's dirty work for them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Resurrecting the Champ: "A Writer, Like a Boxer Must Stand Alone."


In this dramatic new film, Samuel L. Jackson, gives a champion performance as an amicable homeless man who identifies himself as "Battling Bob Satterfield" aka "The Champ." A former heavyweight contender, Champ fought for fame in the ring long ago, but now fights for survival on the streets of Denver. His riches to rags story is definitely one that needs to be told and Denver Times sports reporter Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett) feels his is just the journalist to do it.


Similarly, Kernan has personal battles of his own. Unimpressed by his sporting event coverage, Kernan's boss (Alan Alda) thinks his articles are empty and only worthy of filling space in the Denver newspaper. And where he used to call home, his wife (Kathryn Morris) desires to end their marriage separating him from their adorable son Teddy (Dakota Goyo), the person that believes in him most. Then add to Kernan's woes, living in the shadow of a famous father that he respects professionally, but resents personally and you understand why Kernan's desperate to change the direction he sees his life going. He feels writing the story of sports legend, Bob Sattterfield, who most believed to be dead, will get his career off the ropes and arm him with a knockout punch.

It's a story of trying to live up to expectations and Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson agrees. He also adds that Resurrection is a film basically about relationships.



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For Josh Hartnett (The Black Dahlia, Lucky Number Slevin) the film's handling of real issues and good writing is what convinced him to take the role.


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Oscar nominee, Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alan Alda, says Resurrecting the Champ is also an interesting mix of social and personal matters. But the film also makes you question the credibility of the media.


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Inspired by a true story, Resurrecting the Champ is the title of an article written by Los Angeles based reporter J.R. Moehringer in 1997. In it, Moehringer featured the life of a former legendary boxer who went from being a Chicago City Golden Gloves Champion with a shot at a title fight to a
LA homeless man living on the streets. While writing the article Moehringer not only learned a lot about his subject but also about himself. This film version is directed by Rod Luri (The Contender) and hits theaters nationwide August 24th.

On a personal note, the film really spoke to me on a professional and personal levels. As an entertainment writer/blogger credibility is of upmost importance to me. While you surf the net, you'll see that many entertainment sites think different. But I'm old school about mine in that I strive toward giving readers something entertaining but also truthful. When Hollywood: As I Live and Work steps into the room, a certain reputation precedes it. It's what got me invited to the party, per se. And as most of know, when you've got nothing else going for you a good reputation can get open doors you never thought would open.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Heineken's Kicks Off Red Star Soul Tour with Independent Achievers, Chrisette Michele, & Common

Since it's beginning in 2006, Heineken's Red Star Soul has been satisfying the thirst of soul music enthusiasts and the hunger of soul music artists for success and recognition through its Independent Achiever Award. According to Heineken.com those awarded demonstrate the "integrity, hustle, drive and achievement and make a positive impact in their community."

This year's recipients are an interesting mix of hip hop soldiers, musicians, and entrepreneurs that have worked behind the scenes to lay the foundation of the sounds that not only make us dance but think too. It's conscience hip hop--intelligent, aware, and sometimes political. At a private reception held recently in Los Angeles, I talked with some of the 2007 award recipients present about their music and why they thought they were chosen to receive Heineken's Independent Achiever Award. Take a listen.

Representing the west, here's Los Angeles' Antonio Delgado, aka The Voice. This Rhodes Scholar is more than book smart. He's quite sagacious in the ways of the world.



For this thespian, musical greatness runs in the family. Representing Chocolate City of the east here's one of D.C.'s finest, Renaissance Man, W. Elllington Felton.



When this Chi-town producer started in the game, rapper Common had "sense," and thanks to his skills, Kanye West got his first degree in hip hop before becoming a "College Dropout". Repping the midwest is a man who's talents are not hard to identify; No I.D.



And representing Cleveland's much loved and dearly missed Teddy Bear, Gerald Levert, was his father, Eddie. When asked how accepting the Independent Achiever Award continued Gerald's musical legacy this was his response.



To see a full list of Independent Achiever Award winners click here.

Heineken Red Star Soul kicked off its tour with an invitation only concert headlined by Grammy winner Common and R&B songstress Chrisette Michele, at Boulevard 3 in Los Angeles. MCLyte, Malinda Williams, Derek Luke, and Tichina Arnold were just a few of the celebs that came out to enjoy the show. Before the concert I asked Michele how she would describe her sound.




Celebrity Arrivals:


Derek Luke and wife Sophia

Brian Hooks

Tomiko Fraser

Red Grant

Omar Epps and wife Keisha of R&B group Total

Malinda Williams

Earl Cole




Enjoy a taste of Heineken Red Star Soul

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Heineken Showcases Independent Achievers in Hip Hop and R&B;

What complements a cold, frothy beer better than salty peanuts, seafood, or pizza? Of the other multiple choices that exist, place music at the top of the list. Not just any kind of music, but soul music--music that springs from the spirit of African-American culture. R&B, hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, gospel, the blues--all of it defines the sound. And when you combine this music of the soul with a drink usually associated with high spirits, you've got a winning combination that not only tastes good, but sounds even better.

Heineken USA obviously understands this relationship between business and culture. Through Red Star Soul, a series of invitation-only musical events, the company not only promotes soul music but also the artists that work hard to create it and keep it flowing year after year, city after city.

"Heineken Red Star Soul was created to honor the achievements of soul and R&B musicians and others who inspire others with their talent and tenacity," said Heineken USA brand director Andy Glaser. "With our concert performances and by honoring our Heineken Independent Achievers, we salute luminaries and rising stars who continue to make valuable contributions to soul and R&B music."

Independent Achievers are chosen in every city of the Red Star Tour by a committee of stellar artists and music industry insiders. The 2007 award recipients include:
  • J. Carter, Atlanta founder of Sol Fusion, a premiere event promotion company
  • Antonio "AD the Voice Delgado", Los Angeles based MC, Rhodes Scholar, and Co-CEO of Statik Entertainment
  • J. Dilla, the late influential Detroit hip hop producer and former Slum Village member
  • W. Ellington Felton, D.C. Renaissance man--poet, artist, writer, and actor
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff, South Philly DJ and Touch of Jazz Founder, producing such acts as Will Smith, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, and Floetry
  • Gerald LeVert, the late Cleveland based singer, songwriter, and beloved performer. Former member of groups LeVert and LSG
  • Ralph McDaniels, N.Y. based founder of Video Music Box, the first tv program to feature hip hop videos
  • No I.D., Chicago producer that helped lay the musical foundation of artists Common and Kanye West.






Pictured above is this year's selection committee: (l-r) The 2006 Washington, D.C., Heineken Independent Achiever Award and current Jive artist, Raheem DeVaughn; Multiple Grammy winning songwriter and producer, Brian Michael-Cox; Vice President of Writer Publisher Relations, BMI, Catherine Brewton; 2006 Atlanta Heineken Independent Achiever Award recipient and founder of FunkJazzKafe, Jason Orr; and former Roc-a-Fella Vice President and lifestyle specialist, Kenny Burns

Recently at a private reception at the Social Hollywood in Los Angeles, I asked committee members in attendance how they selected this year's award recipients, and here's what they had to say:

Burns


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DeVaughn


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Orr


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Pics from the reception:

Kenny Burns & Eddie Levert


Raheem DeVaughn

Eddie Levert, No I.D., Antonio Delgado, J. Carter, W. Ellington Felton


Jason Orr, Raheem DeVaugn, Heineken Brand Manager, Madison, and Kenny Burns

As mentioned headlining this year's tour is new singing sensation Chrisette Michele, Grammy Award winner, Common, and one of hip hop's favorites, DJ Nice. To get tour dates and more information click here: Heineken Red Star Soul.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Attitude Adjustment

"The entertainment industry is a fast paced, dynamic environment. ...The common thread that I have observed across those that do well in the industry, moved up successfully, is a lack of attitude – the negative kind. Perhaps older (not literally – just figuratively) generations of the industry have succeeded in bullying their way to the top – not anymore. Executives want team players, positive attitudes. Do you have one?"

That's a very good question asked by Ellen Goldsmith, VP, Human Resources for FreemantleMedia North America in Breaking In, a Variety.com weblog. Do I have a good attitude? Yes, most days. But 4 years ago when I was just getting my foot in the entertainment door, my attitude was not so good. Constantly running to Starbucks, cleaning refrigerators, walking dogs, and carrying executives' bags wore on my nerves. I kept telling myself it was all a part of "paying your dues." But in reality, I felt those stressful moments editing in hectic news rooms and long production days field producing in Carolina's sticky heat was payment enough. Little did I know, those dues were not transferable.

Most of those days I had a "This is some bull (cough)!" attitude. Like a motel with a large, bright neon sign I was open for business, but closed to doing certain menial jobs that supposedly proved my willingness to succeed. I kept thinking what did cleaning up the messy spills of executives and coordinators have to with producing? And what was I to learn by walking the A-List producer's rambunctious pet other than the best places for a dog to take a poop along Sunset Gower studios? My not-so-happy attitude stemmed from those questions.

So what kept me from not letting Foofoo--I changed his name to protect the innocent--run across busy Sunset Boulevard without a leash? Besides the fact that I like animals, I constantly reminded myself of the thousands of people who wanted to be in my position. And secondly, I told myself that Hollywood had not invited me here, I chose to come. What I was experiencing was a rite of passage. I was not the first, nor would I be the last to go through it. And If I did not change my attitude with a quickness, I would never get to where I really wanted to in the industry.

That said, if working in this industry teaches you nothing else, it will give you a lesson in people skills. Even if your boss is a jerk, you are expected to take the high road. Trying to understand them, viewing them as a customer, and communicating effectively should all be a part of your master plan if you want to move up Goldsmith says. Yet, if none of that works for you, I suggest you send her your resume, maybe Variety is hiring.

Friday, August 10, 2007

You're Invited

Indeed, you are officially invited to share your comments on this blog. It's only fair. If you're willing to read my opinions and experiences then I'm willing to do the same. Not to mention, lots of comments make me look good in front of company. And in Hollywood, appearance and presentation go a long way. Although, I must admit, every now and again this blog gets caught out there with its slip showing. But several kind people have politely let me know and I've made the necessary adjustments as quickly as possible. Big Mama would be proud 'cause personally I haven't worn a slip since Easter Sunday 1970 something. Still, I do my best to make sure Hollywood: As I Live and Work always has matching purse and shoes.

Truly, it's hard out here for a blogger. Your comments will let me know what topics to cover, what you're interests are, basically get to know you a little better. So, come on in! Wipe your feet on the rug and stay awhile. Do some reading, commenting, and some shopping. And I'll do my part to give you something to talk about.






Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Hollywood Bookstore Grand Opening

Before relocating to California, I read a lot of books about the industry. And despite everything I read about working in Hollywood, I packed Corolla and came anyway. Maybe one of these days, I'll write my small town girl in the big city story, sell it to Hollywood, then watch Kerry Washington play me trying to explain to a potential boss why Black people did like cats as pets--an explanation which had absolutely nothing to do with the position. But until then I'm content to read others' Hollywood tales of working in this sometimes quirky industry.

My Hollywood Bookstore located, not on the famous Sunset Strip, but right here in blogsphere is my new source for books about Hollywood. On the right, there's a widget under Shop for Books and DVD's. Click it and viola! You've entered my online bookstore. Now click on Great Hollywood Reads. Everything you wanted to know about the industry becomes available. Even the books the professionals use like the Hollywood Creative Directory and Contracts for the Film and Television Industry are there. Truly folks, one of the most powerful tools in the world is information. And no matter the subject, somebody's written a book about it. Your favorite oak tree hasn't died in vain!

And if you're thinking, "she just wants people to buy something." You're absolutely right. I do. Digital camcorders and Intel Macs, my tools of choice for generating content for this blog, are expensive. Yes, I've done alright thanks to Tyrone and his digital cousins, but with an upgrade in equipment and software I could make this blog leap off your screens--be the website I envision it to be. So shop for books, DVD's, and other offerings on Amazon through my site. Otherwise, I might have to resort to selling books and incense on the corner of Slauson and Crenshaw in 90 degree heat next to Mr. Bean Pie and Fake Designer Purses, and oh, Mr. Bunches of Oranges. Now y'all wouldn't want a sister to go out like that would you?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

And Then Came Love for Vanessa L. Williams

And Then Came Love

Multi-talented actress, producer, former Miss America, and proud Syracuse University graduate, Vanessa L. Williams, proves once again that she has "The Right Stuff". In new film, And Then Came Love, Williams portrays single mother by choice, Julie Davidson. A successful columnist and author, Davidson juggles motherhood and career with the help of her worrisome yet loving mother (Eartha Kitt). But when her usually well behaved son is said to have attention deficit disorder, Davidson starts to wonder if her perfect Ivy League sperm sample was a little tainted. So, to find out she goes right to the source--not the tube, but the donor. And what she discovers is an out of work actor (Kevin Daniels) that manages to complicate her life yet simplifying it at the same time.

At a recent screening of the film in Beverly Hills, Williams and Daniels both explained what attracted them to the project.






And Then Came Love screenwriter and producer Caytha Jentis, had been out of the Hollywood scene for a while when she penned the script. A former literary agent, Jentis said writing the script provided the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things. It also gave her a creative way to explore how today's women balance family and work.




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Though the cast is predominantly African-American, Warner Brother's Manager of Multicultural Marketing, Felicia Bell, says the story is universal to all women and that expectations are high for the upcoming DVD release, August 14th. Pre-order the DVD by clicking the And Then Came Love link to the right, under the Featured On This Site section.




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Pictures from the screening:


Vanessa L. Williams

Vanessa L. Williams & Kevin Daniels

And Then Came Love Cast and Screenwriter/Producer, Caytha Jentis

Elimu Nelson

Jon Cryer


Vanessa, Caytha, and Warner Bros. Executive, Felicia Bell

Tracey Edmonds Explains The Biz Of Black Drama

Black Dramas Weep On The Big and Small Screen

When it comes to deciding whether to greenlight a comedy versus a drama, hands down comedies win the toss of the coin almost every time. And when it comes to African-American films and television it is especially true. Even television networks, Fox and the former UPN, built their success on the strength of African-American sitcoms and viewership. So what is the connection between us and comedies?

As a successful producer of television and film projects that involve predominantly African-American casts, Tracey Edmonds is definitely an expert on the topic. She also reveals why despite its creative success, why the popular series Soul Food was canceled on Showtime.


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Friday, August 03, 2007

Our Stories Films Tracey Edmonds Takes The heat

Our Stories Films,' Tracey E. Edmonds Responds to the Critics


Tracey E. Edmonds is hardly just another pretty face in Hollywood. She's an entertainment power player with major successes in music, television, and film. And now as President and Chief Operating Officer of Our Stories Film, the only African-American owned studio in Hollywood, she is undoubtedly one of the few HWIC's (Head Woman In Charge) in town. So with a resume of full of executive credits and profitable titles, what more does the former psychobiology major have to prove in Hollywood? To many in the industry, a lot.

It's a perfect example of "to whom much is given much is expected". And expectations were high as the only "African-American owned studio with greenlight authority", says Chairman, Bob Johnson, released its first film. But when the studio's, Who's Your Caddy?, premiered last week with quite a buzz, criticism arose in the press and blogsphere before the popcorn could become stale.

In an interview conducted with several entertainment reporters, Edmonds responded confidently to serious questions about Who's Your Caddy's brand of comedy and Our Stories Films' vision.



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Human flaws make great comic fodder, but certain societal flaws are not so funny. For instance, in the film when a white teenager greeted his father with "wassup nigger" after partying with his new black friends, I didn't laugh. I cringed. So when the subject of using the N-word was discussed during the interview, I asked Edmonds about this particular scene.


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Obviously, Tracey Edmonds is prepared to take the heat needed to do business in Hollywood. And as any African-American celebrity or studio executive knows, with the job comes a welcomed responsibility or unwelcomed burden of always representing "your people". Our Stories Films has established itself to do just that, according to Edmonds. However, the release of Who's Your Caddy as its first film, has many questioning whose story is the studio really trying to tell or sell. Box office returns show not as many as expected want the answer.

You only get once chance to make a first impression and Our Stories may have missed the mark this time, but I'm hopeful the next project will be better. In the meantime, I'm also hoping to see a young African-American woman succeed as a major mover and shaker in the business of show, as it's called. But more importantly, I want to see Our Stories Film succeed in providing new opportunities for African-Americans not just in front of the camera, but also behind it as directors, producers, and screenwriters. Otherwise, our stories run the risk of becoming their stories packaged as our stories for a profit.


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