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indieWIRE asked 75 film community insiders about diversifying American cinema

This iW article from May '04 is still relevant & interesting; re: ethnic diversity in American indie film. Here is the introduction to the article by Eugene Hernandez:

"The genesis of this article was a recent SXSW panel discussion on the "state of independent film" that included panelists Michael Barker from Sony Classics, former producer and rep John Pierson, Film Movement's Larry Meistrich, Micah Green from Cinetic Media, Newmarket's Bob Berney, Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles, and former UA and October head Bingham Ray. During the session, New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell raised a question about the lack of new African-American filmmakers emerging since the movement led by Spike Lee back in the '80s. Sitting in the audience listening to the panel of white males tackling the topic I was reminded that ethnic diversity is a major challenge within the specialized and/or independent film industry."

And later in the same article, here's director Jim McKay on the topic:

" "There probably aren't a lack of people of color pursuing jobs, but there are certainly an excess of people of whiteness in hiring positions -- and they are hiring their own," noted filmmaker and producer Jim McKay. Continuing he added, "Spike Lee single-handedly did more for the integration of the industry (and to bring non-whites in) than anyone in the modern history of film. And the real shame is that no one has carried the torch -- if everyone committed to doing a quarter of what Spike did in terms of hiring, things would change radically. But people are lazy. And selfish. And cowardly." "

Read the rest of the excellent article here.

- Sujewa


Anonymous said…
Check out Atlanta- the home of Tyler Perry, Will Packer/Rainforest Films, Dallas Austin and rumored soon to be launched efforts by Andre Benjamin, Big Boi and a couple of others- where diverse cinema is alive and thriving.

Go back and search the iw BOT charts and see if relatively low budget indies (such as Stomp the Yard, The Gospel, Drumline, the Madea movies etc) are covered. No other filmmakers are as indie as these guys and yet they seem to get no indie love- even though (or maybe because?) their films are routinely succesful.
The Sujewa said…
Re: Stomp the Yard, The Gospel, Drumline, the Madea movies...

i think those are pretty much bigger budget mainstream fare in relation to art/indie/foreign type films that indieWIRE covers. but i have seen them write about more Hollywood stuff such as the ones mentioned above. i personally do not consider any of those movies "indie", but they may be low budget from a Hollywood stand point & they do have Hollywood level distribution - so on the distribution front they are not "indie". i believe the iW Bot charts cover indie/foreign/art films handles by a certain number of distributors who specialize in that stuff & also self-distributed stuff. If distributors report the numbers to the co that puts it together (RentTrack?), they probably end up on the charts.

- Sujewa
Anonymous said…
I think you bring up a couple of interesting points.

1) If you go box to IMDB, Box Office Mojo or other service and compare budgets, screen counts and indie/indiewood distribution company release schedules I think you'll find some interesting info to compare between these films and some of those on the chart. Then look at which one actually have "Hollywood" stars.

2) You raise a good question about what qualifies a film to be on the iw BOT chart. I've always found it interesting that it ranks Little Miss Sunshine, The Illusionist, Sideways along side "Hannah" and Killer of Sheep. I love iw and read it daily, and since you posed the question here and referenced the article I think it would be interesting to know.

3) By specializing in "that stuff" do you mean Lionsgate, Sony Screen Gems, Focus and the new TWC joint venture Our Stories among others? I'm pretty sure even a cursory view of the iw chart will show these companies are no strangers to the list. I think you'll also be surprised what Magnolia's highest grossing film of all-time is.

4) I would argue that the African American film community may have the most succesful self-distribution efforts of any media artists working today. Fpr example, ever hear of the Momentum Experience? I think you would be really interested by it.

Good and worthy discussion.

The Sujewa said…
Re: "You raise a good question about what qualifies a film to be on the iw BOT chart. I've always found it interesting that it ranks Little Miss Sunshine, The Illusionist, Sideways along side "Hannah" and Killer of Sheep."

That line up contains Hollywood "indies" (low budget Hollywood movies that might appeal to an indie film fanbase/audience & thus are marketed as indies) & real indies (ultra-low budget stuff like Hannah & Killer made outside of Hollywood). I think the iW Bot mostly covers whatever the studio/distributor that is releasing a given film reports to RentTrack or whoever puts the iW Bot together. I guess if a distribution company feels that it benefits their film to be listed in the iW Bot, they will make it happen.

The links in your last comment are interesting, working on checking them out.

- Sujewa
Anonymous said…
So you think maybe it is the distributor that puts a film on the list? Now I'm more curious.

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