Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Red Carpet Interview? Here's A Few Tips!

Photo source: Vanguardmindloop

As an entertainment writer and blogger, I meet plenty of up-and-comers new to the red carpet game. And while we prepare for the next two month's award shows and celebrity parties, I know some of you will need a little help--though you'll never admit it--on how to REALLY work the carpet. So this post is mostly for those WITHOUT A SEASONED PUBLICIST and have hired family and friends for the job to stay under budget.

However, if you do things right there will come a time in your career when you will ABSOLUTELY NEED A REAL PUBLICIST. So I do not suggest doing major red carpet events without one if you're trying to present yourself as an established star. So here are a few tips, publicist Tonita Perry, from Eaddy Perry & Associates shared, that will tighten up your red carpet game if you're planning on going down the "Hollywood vein" soon:

1. Get familiar with the various media outlets AND reporters, especially those that regularly cover red carpets. This includes blogs and entertainment news websites.

2. Figure out what's YOUR story and what makes you unique.

3. While on the carpet introduce yourself to those behind the machines and ASK FOR COVERAGE.

4. Play up the fact that you are familiar with a reporter's or an outlet's work.

5. Tell them you want them to get to know YOU which may lead to more coverage on a consistent basis even if it's just a mention.

6. Exchange business cards so when you receive coverage you can respond with a "Thank You," and if more information about you is desired, the reporter can reach you. But DON'T SHARE personal emails and contact numbers. Too much access is not good!

Here's a few from me:

7. Observe how the media outlets are situated along the carpet. Generally photo is first, tv outlets are next, then print and radio, and online is generally last. (I hate that!) These are SECTIONS. And on carpets with limited space, media outlets stand literally on top of each other so the name cards on the carpet may NOT actually be the outlet it says, so just ask what outlet it is.

8. Do NOT spend all your time on the carpet with just one outlet. Personally, I don't even think A-listers should, but it's done often. But for you, up-and-comer, it's a numbers game. Not every outlet may use your interview so "network" your way down the carpet, hitting every section.

9. Get to know faces and names, as you do more carpets you'll come to see "the regulars". Once you establish a rapport with them they'll start calling you by name IF you give great poses and soundbites.

10. Have some fun with it or at least look the part! Even when you think people aren't looking, they are.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"The Lena Baker Story" DVD: A Review

Glancing back at Martin Luther King, Jr holiday and looking forward toward Black History Month, I finally decided to watch, "The Lena Baker Story." Why? Honestly, 'cause I was asked to review it, but also because I really wanted to see actress and singer, Tichina Arnold, play a role that wasn't comedic and totally different from what we're used to.

Adapted from Dr. Lela Bond Phillips' book, "The Lena Baker Story", the film begins at the scene of the crime in 1945 with a shocked Baker realizing she's killed her employer Elliott Arthur, then
steps back to Baker's childhood in small town, Cuthbert, Georgia, 1910. There we meet her devoted mother, played by veteran actress Beverly Todd, then watch Baker grow up in a religious environment, reciting stories of David & Goliath and singing in the church. To see her later arrested for prostitution raises questions.

After serving time in a women's prison, an experience we never see, the prodigal daughter returns home to raise her family of three children. Side note: When did she have three kids? That is unclear. She was childless when she was arrested.

To support herself Baker reluctantly takes the job of nursemaid to Elliott Arthur, a notoriously mean alcoholic. On her first day of work, it's clear Arthur expects Baker to do more than clean and return to her "old ways." Her old habits also include alcohol which becomes the tie that binds them.

The rest of the film, we witness Baker's downward spiral into alcoholism and domestic violence. When sober up or permitted, she escapes Arthur's abusive employment only for him to literally kidnap her and hold her hostage for several days. For three years their volatile relationship continues until one night Baker threatens to leave for good. When she attempts to remove the chains from the door, Arthur pulls a gun. But during a scuffle for the pistol, Baker accidentally shoots and kills him instead.

In a matter of four hours--some reports say six--with hardly any legal defense, Baker is tried and convicted of murder by an all white male jury. She is then sentenced to death and executed, making her the first and only woman to ever be electrocuted by the state of Georgia.

Overall "The Lena Baker Story" film does what it sets it out to do in chronicling the story of injustic, but doesn't give us much insight into her early life decisions. What really drove this devout Christian woman to prostitution and then to alcoholism? Understanding the film is based on the book, possibly the filmmakers stuck to what was on the author's pages and didn't have much research into Baker, the woman.

Still despite the questionable filmmaking decisions, it is undoubtedly Tichina Arnold's outstanding performance that will keep audiences replaying this DVD long after Black History Month.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM)

To say film publicist and filmmaker, Ava DuVernay, is busy is an understatement. Her latest project and directorial debut, "I Will Follow," hit the film festival circuit last year and now will become the first film of a a new movement, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM). I know what you're thinking, "That's a long title, but what does it mean?"

AFFRM is DuVernay's vision to address distribution issues many indy black filmmakers face. According to a NY Times report, her plan is have black films or black themed films screened in commercial theaters for two weeks through the indy film program started last year by AMC Theaters. The program, called AMC Independent (AMCi), brings indy movies to multiplexes usually reserved for Hollywood studio films. To create buzz about these films traditional and non-traditional means including social media will be used.

"The films will not be a part of normal festival programs, but will screen in all cities simultaneously with promotional backing from the festival organizations, which will share in revenue," states the article.

Those festival organizations include LA's Pan African Film Festival, New York's Urbanworld Film Festival, Philly's Reel Black Film Series, ATL's Bronze Lens Film Festival, and Seattle's Langston Hughes African American Film Festival. Chicago, Boston, and Nashville are expected to be added along with another film.

So why is this important? To put it bluntly, Hollywood ain't checking for indy black films nor does it do the best job of marketing and promoting them in my opinion. And before some of you point to Tyler Perry's success, remember his films are distributed through Lionsgate and even he has complained of the lack of screens his films are provided. Not to mention his audience followed him from theater into films. And remember Spike has complained for years about his difficulties trying to get his "joints" made and distributed through traditional Hollywood means.

If Tyler and Spike are having issues imagine what it's like for those lesser and unknown black independent filmmakers. The system's one factor, but the other is the audience. For this movement to be really be successful, WE who claim to love and support black film MUST SHOW UP! BUY TICKETS, DVDS! EMAIL, TWEET, BLOG, FACEBOOK! In other words support these films financially as well with our own resources, but most importantly LEAVE THE DAMN BOOTLEGS ALONE!

To learn more about the state of black filmmaking and read DuVernay's comments, please read the rest of the NY Times article.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Oprah's OWN Launch Party: What We Missed!

This post is from guest blogger and journalist, Darlene Donloe. She graciously gave me the inside scoop on Oprah's recent OWN launch party which she attended. It's a perfect and humorous example of how we really live and work in Hollywood and what we think as we're doing it!

The Start of the Day: Television Critic Association

There's something about Oprah Winfrey that, admittedly, makes even a sophisticated, seasoned entertainment journalist like myself, a little gitty at the thought of interviewing her.

The queen of all-media was at TCA (Television Critics Association) in Pasadena recently to talk about the launching of OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).

During the conference Oprah, dressed in various hues of purple waxed philosophical and spiritual at a press conference filled with hundreds of television writers eager to put the shoe on the other foot and interview the queen of talk . After witnessing Lady O take up to 18 minutes to answer one question, it was clear why she has her own talk show. That woman can talk. And talk. And talk some more. I never got a chance to ask her a question. Bummer! Now I wasn't going to be able to tell my mama I interviewed Oprah. Dayum!

The OWN Launch Party: Got Your OWN ID?

Later that night Oprah hosted a lavish dinner party under a behemoth white tent erected on the lawn in the Horseshoe Garden at the Langham Hotel. To get into the party you had to show your TCA registration ID and then obtain your OWN separate ID.

Before descending down the stairs, you had to have your OWN ID visible as you passed a security checkpoint. At the bottom of the stairs there were tall, glowing orange, green and purple OWN letters mounted on the lawn. Various guests including myself took pictures in front of and around the letters W as evidence we were at an Oprah Winfrey party. I realized at that moment this may be the only time in my life I'll actually be invited to an Oprah Winfrey party. I was going to have stupid fun.

I must admit, I had been waiting all day for something BIG to happen. I just knew Oprah was going to give us all something so fabulous that we'd be bragging about it for weeks to our jealous friends and family. After all, networks were known for giving backpacks, shirts, caps, cups, etc. to promote their shows.

But, this is OPRAH!!! You know she's going to go BIG!!! Alas, all we got was a journal and a pen with the OWN logo. Ok, I'm grateful.

Where is the OWN-er?

Once inside the tent decorated in white with pillows bearing the letters O, W and N - the music was pumping , and, of course, there were television screens promoting OWN. There was a candy station and several bars and food stations strategically placed around the room. There was also a steady stream of waiters walking around with everything from pasta, to chicken satay, to some kind of seafood concoction that didn't sit well in my mouth. The food , sans that seafood sumthin was good. The bubbly flowed freely and everyone seemed to be having a good time. But, there was something missing.

Oprah wasn't there yet. Plus, there wasn't a goodie bag anywhere in sight. Dayum! Every so often people would gaze at the entrance waiting for Winfrey to make an appearance.

About 20 minutes after I arrived, one by one the celebs lucky enough to get shows on OWN began to make there way through the door. There was, however, a Lady O sighting. She was still holding court with the media on the red carpet. It would be at least an hour before she would finally make her way to the tent.

God Blessed The Child Who Got Their OWN Shows

First celeb through the door was Oprah's BFF, Gayle King, dressed in a flattering, form fitting gray dress with sparkles. King's radio show (The Gayle King Show) is now on television. Gayle waltzed through the tent smiling and saying "hello" as she made her way to an area where some friends were waiting.

Next up was Lisa Ling with her fine husband on her arm. Her new show is called "Our Amerca with Lisa Ling." It looks like a good one. Ling always does a good job reporting. Nancy O'Dell and Carson Kressley who co-host , "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star," were in good spirits often laughing openly and loudly. Well, hell, I would too if I had a show on OWN.

Financial wiz, Suze Orman greeted some fans, but stayed close to the front entrance as if she was anticipating having to make a quick exit.

Mike Tyson seemed to be having a ball. He had been at TCA to promote his upcoming show, "Taking on Tyson", scheduled to premiere this March. With a small entourage, Tyson held court in the back of the tent taking lots of pics with adoring fans. Tyson enjoyed himself so much, he was one of the last people to leave the party.

Oh, I guess to know that, I would also have to be one of the last ones to leave. Guilty as charged!

OWN Personified Arrives !

Finally, the moment had arrived. Oprah, dressed in a black coat and hair pulled back in a ponytail had finally made it to her OWN party. She was quickly descended upon by a second wave of reporters who seemed fascinated to be in her presence. She stood patiently answering one question after the other.

I tried on several attempts to get a question in edgewise only to be shouted down by the more boisterous reporters. And, just when I was about to give up, I saw my chance.

"Oprah," I said in a mild voice. "What's the most important lesson you've learned from the time you got in the business until now." She turned and looked me dead in the eyes. That was one thing I learned about Lady O, when you ask her a question, she's very attentive. It's like it's only the two of you in the room. She gives you her full attention and looks you dead in the eye.

After about 30 minutes of talking to reporters, Oprah finally got a chance to greet some of her other guests. She smiled, sipped a drink and waxed lyrical for about 15 minutes before making her way to a golf cart that whisked her away.

And, poof, just like that, she was gone.

I watched as the golf cart got smaller. I reflected on the fact that I had attended an Oprah party and interviewed her briefly. The gitty-ness was gone. It had been a long day.

Besides, it was getting late. I had to go call my mama and tell her I interviewed Oprah!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Teena Marie

"She was not a spiritual human being, but a spirit having a human experience".

Dressed in white hundreds of close friends and family gathered at Forest Lawn today to say goodbye to R&B superstar, Teena Marie, at an afternoon memorial service. The singer, producer, died December 26, in her Pasadena home, but no signs of trauma were found according to investigators. She was 54.

In attendance were music legends, Stevie Wonder, Smokie Robinson, Berry Gordy, and R&B greats Johnny Gill, George Duke, Deniece Williams, Shanice Wilson, and Norwood Young. Near the start of the service, an emotional Wilson shared a special moment when Marie became her unofficial "auntie". After the story she delivered a beautiful performance of "Ave Maria."

Later, a medley of Marie's hits were performed by a group, as baby pictures and photos with friends and family, including Rick James, were displayed on a large screen. The performance was a musical reminder to celebrate Teena Marie's life and talents, not just mourn the loss of it. When songs "Square Biz" and "I Need Your Lovin" were sung many attendees bobbed their heads to the beat, while soulful ballads "Dear Lover" and "Portuguese Love" moved some to sway to the music.

During remarks close friend and ex-label mate, Smoky Robinson, shared how he informed Motown founder, Barry Gordy, of Teena Marie's passing. But it was Gordy that led Smoky to call her house and hear Marie's tribute to him on her voice mail. In return, Smoky wrote and performed an original ballad in her honor. "Go on, glow on...shine. You'll always be love girl; you'll always rock my world," he sang.

Gordy followed Smoky with comments about how much he loved Teena Marie's attitude. "She was bad," he said, then quoted the rap from "Square Biz". The audience agreed with applause. "I'll miss her forever and forever," he said in close.

Following sincere comments from Stevie Wonder on the blessing of Marie's talent and existence, her brave daughter Alia Rose, closed out the remarks. With tears she expressed her closeness and love for her mother. Having celebrated her 19th birthday the day before her mother's death, Rose said "my mom was having problems with me growing up...she died so she won't have to...When she died, I grew up."

A releasing of doves marked the end of the memorial service.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ted Williams, Homeless Radio Announcer: A Hollywood Perspective


This story of Ted Williams, the homeless radio announcer with a "God-given gift of voice" is inspiration for the new year. It's proof that when you least expect it a blessing can happen, and that in life you do get second chances, maybe even more.

This story is a "Hollywood as WE live and work" story. We who work in entertainment know how quickly you can go from feast to famine and back again due to the fickle nature of the industry or just bad decisions. On a certain level, Ted Williams is just like us. We may not be homeless, but like him, we aren't exactly sure how the blessings will come either.

We don't know just how close we are to getting a script or show idea optioned, getting that gig or job we've prayed for, or finding angel investors for your film or business. The blessing could come from anywhere, anyone, at anytime! The trick is to keep pushing!

The other side to that is to BE READY when the blessing comes! When Williams was asked to demonstrate his talent, he didn't hesitate! His "God-given gift of voice" blows you away in the video. In an instant the professional radio announcer appeared. Can your "God-given gift" be demonstrated regardless of your situation? Or do you often allow circumstances to hinder you? In this town, you generally only get one chance to do your thing and do it convincingly. Williams had one shot and he nailed it!

Lastly, the story behind the camera is a Hollywood lesson too. "The Columbus Dispatch" videographer/photographer, Doral Chenoweth, set out to get some interesting video, not necessarily to be a good Samaritan as this CNN post reports. He didn't give Williams money nor a tangible gift, he gave him priceless, intangible exposure instead. All these talent shows.."American Idol", "So You Think You Can Dance", etc., are just grander versions of what Chenoweth did for Williams. The networks aren't necessarily doing it to be a blessing, but they do know the exposure contestants get can lead to bigger, better things.

Still, here in the entertainment world, we get so damn caught up in appearances, that REAL talent is often overlooked and real passion is devalued. But if there's a story to SELL behind the appearance, it has value. Thus, all the reports and media coverage.

On a smaller scale, when that inner voice says do something useful or helpful for somebody else, do you stop to ponder only what YOU can get out of it? If so, remember success in Hollywood is built on relationships, not just talent and persistence.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Hollywood As I Live & Work Looks Back At 2010

2010 is officially history! But before the 2011 blog posts begin I'd like to take a moment to reflect on some highlights here in blogsphere on Hollywood As I Live & Work. Nearly 90 posts in the past year and they reflect a range of events, celebrity interviews, and personal perspective...all giving you some insight into the me, the blogger, and the individual.

So here's my list of favs in no particular order. Take a moment to reflect with me and share your own thoughts with me on posts of 2010. Here we go:

Celebrity Interviews:

"For Colored Girls" Richard Lawson on the film's criticism, Loretta Devine, and teaching acting.

Why I Still Support Wyclef despite the accusations.

Our Family Wedding, remember that romantic comedy featuring "Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera and Lance Gross. Listen to interviews with her and film director, Rick Famuyiwa.

Hill Harper,
"The Conversation." Lawd this man is husband material!

The Neptunes' Pharrell
on producing score for "Despicable Me."

Spike Lee on "If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise."

Bookeem Woodbine is back! New movie role and new rock band! Yeah, I said it, rock band!

Jenifer Lewis talks "Hereafter", "Princess And The Frog", and Mental Illness.

Essence Atkins and Lamman Rucker
talk sex on the set of indy movie.

Special Events and Happenings

Mo' Nique wins the Oscar

John Mayer Stop Talking, Stick To Singing

Freedom Sisters Exhibit honors 20 local women. Features interviews with Taraji P. Henson, Holly Robinson Pete, Artis Lane, and more

BlackNLA Mammoth Ski Weekend!
We bring the party to Mammoth Mountain every year and 2011 "Blackout Weekend" will be even better than the last.

Nightline's "Why A Successful Black Woman Can't Find a Man."

The 2010 Gracie Awards. Features interviews with Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless, Jessica Simpson, and Macy Gray.

The Bahamas International Film Festival
honors Alan Arkin.

BlackNLA 2010 Toy Drive. Making the vid

Gone But Not Forgotten

It's still so good...Teddy Pendergrass

The Legendary Lena Horne dies at 92

Gary Coleman, Ali Woodson, and Rue McClanahan

Reflecting on Teena Marie and Lenny Kravitz's emotional video.

Just Plain Funny

Wayne Brady, Bobby Brown, & Mike Tyson...Every Misstep They Make! Hi-LARIOUS!

Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen's take on "Whip My Hair."

2011 whatcha got? I'm ready, so Let's GO!

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