Saturday, 13 December 2008

AND THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS ... An introduction to The New Black

“Drums please”

All together now:

Dur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur…nur and saw history in the making.

Much to the anger of some who felt it quite inappropriate early on in the year for Film London or any white led institution, come to think of it, to create a ‘fund for black exhibitors’ and a training programme, the “New Black” as it’s been termed, finally gave birth in the boardroom at HQ and was attended by fifteen of the UK’s leaders of black film exhibition.

I must address this point quite early if only because in having a blog we have opened the group to the eyes of the world, and to make it clearly obvious and apparent that ‘big brother and his sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews, not forgetting grandma and grand-dad’ are watching, had been waiting quite anxiously for this industry to get it’s act together and get over the continuous thumb sucking and throwing of toys out of prams, albeit justified in most cases, I hasten to add!


Business is business. The money’s out there for the taking and to fund the ideas of BLACK EXHIBITORS within the industry. An ever increasing, vast and growing market, which has for some time, it seems, left the industry baffled as to how best to work with, feed and capture this diversely rich and eclectic market. The distributors, and producers are clear, it’s about the bottom line – money, money, money. Films cost a lot, and need to generate a lot of income in return. This has meant the mainstream have left these audiences starved of food and drink and been happy with box office turnover. In turn as with human nature to have the thirst quenched, this led to piracy, and other infringements of copyright. Infact the new generation of film buffs have found their own way to meet demand through the internet, downloads and a host of other mediums that have left the industry wanting.

Conversant to this, black exhibitors decided to do for themselves across the UK and organising their own events to meet the demands of their audiences, in some cases, to meet their own needs that they felt others must share. This is reflected by the make-up of the ‘course’ (another questionable feature, that I shall leave someone else to address) attendees who exhibit Wales, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Kent, Essex, and various London locations serving the north, south, east and west with the founder of the black film industries annual award ceremony amongst. These screenings and festivals come in various forms, and take place mainly, in alternative venues, mainly using independent cinemas and the odd mainstream, have been happening for some time, only more increasingly so, albeit to date we’ve merely whet the appetites of our audiences.
By stark comparison and someone who uses mainstream cinemas for her screenings, I’m all too aware of the move by some independents to turn the current idea and feel of cinema as we know it into something that has an entirely different experience and where popcorn, the industry’s must have and real means of business are contemplating doing away with popcorn entirely.


So Film London in its wisdom alongside Skillset, BFI, UKFC to name a few cut right down the middle of all the crass, saw the business opportunity, seized the bull by the horn, did what some us have wanted to do for some time, but decided not to – perhaps a good thing in hindsight – who knows, time will tell, and created what they term ‘The New Black!’ a cultural leadership training programme.

Having spent the week on the newly formed CULTURAL LEADERSHIP training programme, it has left me wondering, amongst other things, what the old black was...? The words to a song by the Beatles comes to mind ... help me if you can I’m feeling down, but I do appreciate your being round … if only for the humorous connotations. By the same token it does seem that if we were to be informed as to what this was, it may leave room for swift advancement. Dare I say, that perhaps there wasn’t a former, and TNB as I shall term it from hereon in is simply the bright…ish idea of someone in marketing, and whilst for some it causes offence and for me an initial reaction of what the ….! And conjured up a number of questions, having had time to get a feel for the potential within TNB it leaves me feeling this newly formed collective should call on the scriptwriters and producers amongst us and start penning what will be feature films for TNB James Bond, Steven Seagal, Robert De Niro etc etc etc and yes, it does seem to have quite a male feel about it.

However we will feel about the title, the true resonance within the opportunity and potential within areas of marketing, pr and all the p’s mustn’t be overlooked!

As for me the creative juices and flow have taken the concept from movies to perfume aftershave and advertising and all the fluff and bumph that comes with promoting, marketing and selling a brand – which, whilst we’re on the tip doesn’t actually have to come literally as TNB. In thinking outside of the box (as I do) and in going forward it would seem quite sensible during this time of advent, rest and making of plans for 2009 that we all take some to think about us, our product, branding and project forward five to ten years.


It must also be suggested that the move to consider others and form a collective with a brand name that incorporates Africa alongside Asia really needs to be resisted! For a start there isn’t one exhibitor of Asian film on the programme, and I’m mythed as to why within a programme under the moniker of ‘black’ we would feel a need to incorporate a market that stands alone, is doing quite well thank you without ‘our’ help and wouldn’t for an instance evoke the same consideration. Furthermore, I’m called to question what this invisible allegiance is that appears to exist within the community (for some) to be so achingly harmonious to audiences and industries that neither, need, or want our embrace.

I would further suggest that where an opportunity has been created for ‘black’ exhibitors that the embrace be given to self acceptance and advanced accordingly towards self value, and sufficiency in numbers and distribution. Broader still should instances of commaderie and allegiance to what I don’t know be necessary that it might be an idea to test the water through invitation to exchange the same. I for one don’t feel it necessary to embrace my heritage as a Carib within the black film industry. My focus is driven more to what is this industry? Having posed the question to the right panellists this week, and not received an answer it seems clear to me the opportunity to dictate, inform and or establish is beaming, flashing and even slapping us in the faces.


Is it not more poignant to be addressing Africa in all its contexts as it relates to film and come to a point where we are able to define African film and cinema more definitely as well as the Caribbean say?

What about the ‘wood’

Whilst on the theme of new, might it be an idea to create taglines for ‘the’ ‘new’ ‘black’ film industry that is befitting say, to Ghana as the ‘wood’ doesn’t work here, or in a lot of other instances as it does with Holly, particularly as the ‘N’ word is reflective of one aspect of the African film industry?

Again, I feel taking ‘the new’ on board if we really want to make a mark, then the view must be this is a time of change for which the seeds have been planted.


Increasingly so, it seems we should be drawn more towards considering definition of TNB, and the true context within the potential for this industry, and not shy away from extensive opportunities to be pioneers for the future and present generations. There is room for all industries and requirement from within that, for leaders, role models and voices to be heard. We must, as I’m sure the industry is, remain mindful of the multi cultural society we live in. In addition we must take heed of and remove the need for those with the knowledge, capital and ability within the creative industries or sectors (as some would term it) as a whole to pilfer ideas in order to inform their direction and leave the minority wanting.

It is time to STEP UP to the mark, collaborate with the mainstream, which for me is and has always been the only route forward and build TNB together. No one comes knocking on the door of an empty barrel.


Film industries in the UK and USA are in collaboration, ready to take the market by storm.

- We have the audiences, knowledge, accessibilities, and initiatives.
- We’re already creating the new experiences that draw audiences of all ages and races to our screenings.
- We’re already working with the next generation of talent.
- We’re already providing the-feel-good-factor and understand the essence of the link to back in the day late night screenings and the need to provide for a wanting market, which in my mind is what the Chinese understood at the time.

Whilst I love ‘Drunken Master’ and all the other listings the reality is, as with now, any good product would worked at the time that fed the appetites of a waiting market.

It is for this same reason, to lead by example that my ‘Tribute Bob Marley’ screening at the Rio cinema was successful.

Chicken, Chips and no wings please …

It had an all round entertainment package, with a rum punch reception sponsored by Wray and Nephew. The ‘event’ started at ten in the evening, with lots of entertainment around the film, including performances by an international reggae artist, and compeer in the form of a good comedian etc. Doors closed at two in the morning everyone went home happy, and felt like they’d been to a party – because they had been! NEWS FLASH! The next ‘Tribute to Bob Marley’ screenings take place in February and May respectively – what this space for updates times locations.

Better still, akin to the thinking around ADULTHOOD, the aim was to capture a mainstream audience within a few screenings. Quite poignantly, the audiences came mainly from Belsize Park, St. John’s Wood, Notting hill, Islington and other locations en route and surrounding the borough of Hackney and were majority Caucasian, Asian, then Black and other cultures.

The opportunity within ‘the interval’ to eat quiche, chicken and other cuisine, as well as the choice of the obligatory popcorn and ice-cream was a welcomed one.

Ensuring the right certification meant families could attend with children once they were fifteen and over. To add value to the story one family used the event to celebrate their sons’ sixteenth birthday and brought along a group of his friends.

Recipes need the right ingredients and not everything has to be baked!


The need and crucially the thinking say at Lionsgate to reach out and marry the two – distributors with exhibitors with regards to Tyler Perry is a step in the right direction, long over due and one that needs to be piloted! OVER HERE MATE!! :o) We’re all aware of how quickly this mindset will lead to success.

It must be said however, that alike the distributors thinking behind the film AKEELAH AND THE BEE which I was pleased to learn of from Andrew Woodyatt, it would serve the industry well to have advanced screenings with ‘black exhibitors’ who will in turn inform the direction marketing should take is of essence.

Two screenings of the film through my film festival FFISH ’07 in association with Odeon cinemas made it very clear to me that although it was marketed as a film for children, Lionsgate would have done better in marketing this as the ‘must see’ family movie of the year – the film has everything and covers areas of bullying to excellence, throws in a bit of romance, educates through the spelling bee and use of prose and pertains to black authors, informed through the teachings of tutor (Lawrence Fishburne). The film gets real about the struggle of a single Mother (Angela Bassett) and embarks on the challenges of friendship ensuring to incorporate the community.


Let us not recreate the same scenario that conjured up the stance within the business opportunity for funding and training through Film London.

Exchange is a two way medium in which both parties glean from the other. The dichotomy in forming distribution networks and provision of real content for audiences, old and new, delivered through black exhibitors is one that must be swiftly mastered and manoeuvred into a quick succession of gear changes, aligned and mapped out within the timeline allocated for duration of the course.

I’m encouraged by the open doors and the information exchanged across the board this week. One thing’s for sure the potential is so vast that if you can’t taste it you must be sleeping.

The market place is wide open for creators, this has been confirmed. So what are we waiting for?


In closing we must look at the wealth dynamics within this group. Infact, through some of the other work being conducted through other Gabriel Media International partnerships; I’d welcome the opportunity to look at the psychometrics of this group? We’ve connected for a reason and must maintain the momentum over this period.

It’s important we begin advancing the ideas and relationships in order to maximise the potential and use the nuances to our advantage, and would do well to begin structuring the calendar of events for 2009 by ensuring, as discussed, there is an event taking place monthly. We must remain true to our word, for ourselves, not others, as in building and establishing it is this that will see whether we stand the test of time. Moreover it is this that forms the confidence needed to build on the foundations that are The New Black.

Stay tuned in ...

Have great weekend everyone!


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