To get work, to get seen, to break stereotypes and be included. We are trying to make changes and be part of the conversation -- not just be talked about. As I write this, I'm watching GOOD MORNING AMERICA. It's Friday. The Oscars are Sunday. ABC's entertainment news anchor, Chris Connelly, just did a segment covering a new study on diversity on screen and behind the camera. He interviewed Cynthia Erivo, the lone black actor up for an Oscar. I don't mean this as a slam against Connelly. However, this is the 3rd year in a row I've seen him, a white gentlemen, talk about Hollywood diversity, or the lack thereof, at Oscar time. In the past, he did not mention some major Black History made in Oscar nominations. It's my opinion that there should be a black/Latino veteran entertainment news contributor with him at Oscar time to add some extra substance, awareness and color to his diversity segments.
The Hollywood credo was "Black Stories Don't Sell." Black filmmakers were disadvantaged by it. That credo also handicapped black actors seeking agents. If black actors were not sought for work as much as white actors were, agents were unenthusiastic about signing black talent -- figuring they could make a larger 10% commission off a white film/TV performer. It's been a struggle for black actors and filmmakers to keep their history, their stories, their skills from being overlooked, ignored or treated as disposable. Today, it's imperative we defy all that and tell our own stories. Here's a look at THEY'VE GOTTA HAVE US. The first hour takes us from Hattie McDaniel winning a breakthrough Oscar for 1939's GONE WITH THE WIND to the colossal box office success of BLACK PANTHER.
Diahann Carroll gets candid about her affair with Sidney Poitier.
Director Norman Jewison. He's not it but this info is relevant. His IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1967. He want to a film version of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, A SOLDIER'S PLAY to be retitled A SOLDIER'S STORY for film. Hollywood studios turned Jewison down saying "Black stories don't sell" and his project had a predominantly black cast. He worked for way less than his usual fee and got the money to shoot it. (Jewison also directed THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR). Robert Townsend was in the 1984 military drama movie and he talks about it.
The memorable Oscars moment when we all discovered that the real winner of the Best Picture Oscar was
MOONLIGHT snatched the Oscar for Best Picture of 2016. Barry Jenkins is another filmmaker who was told black stories don't sell.
THEY'VE GOTTA HAVE US -- enlightening, infuriating, accurate. Check it out on Netflix.