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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What the Negro Does Not Understand about the Movie Business

 In a previous blog, I explained the numerous reasons why Black movies don’t get made during the summer blockbuster season. And some are still saying that it’s racism that’s leading to this Black movie shortage. It’s not. It’s economics plain and simple.

What the Negro does not understand is that filmmaking is a business. And it’s a high-risk business. And filmmaker, movie studios, distributors and movie theaters want to minimize their risk.

This is why we don’t see many original films, especially Black films being produced anymore. Most films produced today are in the following categories:

Adaptations of best-selling novels (Books that have sold over a million to two million copies)

Adaptations of successful commercial properties (comic books, television shows, soap operas, etc,)

And remakes (a new version of a previously made movie that was successful at the box-office.)

Out of all the films in the entertainment business Black films are considered the highest risk. The main reason why Black films are considered a high risk is because they do not perform well in foreign markets. Some can’t be sold anywhere but in the U.S. Alone. A few are so esoteric when it comes to content or are of such poor quality they can only be sold direct-to-video in only the U.S. market.

And that risk factor is exacerbated because most of the Negro masses do not go to the movies that are produced and distributed by both large movie studios and even independent film producers. People like Mario Van Peebles, Denzel Washington, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Chris Rock, Michael Jai White and countless other brothers and sisters produce movies for Black audiences, but the Negro does not show up at the theater when they are released. Some don’t even show up when the DVD is released to home video.

If these small independent Black movies can’t get a large enough audience of Black people to go the theatre during their limited runs, how can the Negro expect a billion dollar movie studio to risk  $50- $100 million dollars on producing a big budget movie for them?

In addition to not showing up at the movies, the Negro does not create material in the previous categories I mentioned that most movie studios can turn into viable properties that can be invest in or adapted into screenplays. There has not been a million selling African-American fiction novel since Waiting To Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Movie studios today mostly make adaptations of best-selling books. Unfortunately, Most of Black fiction being published today is of the poorest quality. The African-American fiction market is flooded with Street lit, Erotica and Pseudo Christian fiction with no plots and minimal character development. 

And most of it just doesn’t sell well enough to prove to a studio it’s a viable property to invest millions of dollars needed to make a movie today. Most of the Street lit, erotica and Christian fiction books published today barely sell between 20,000 and 100,000 copies, far below the million needed to get the attention of movie studio executives.

Even worse, the material is so badly written most of these books just can’t be adapted into screenplays. And With all the profanity, sex and violence in these stories, many of these books would get an X or an R Rating, the kiss of death for a movie in a marketplace filled with kids and moms looking for PG and PG-13 content to take the family to.

In the Black book marketplace there are no African-American best-selling children’s fiction, Young adult or fantasy novels. And Young Adult and fantasy novels are the kinds of books movie studios can to capitalize on and build a franchise around.  Books like Harry Potter, Twilight, Divergent, and The 100, are all money in the Bank for Movie studios in both the United States and the foreign box office. But even when authors like myself publish these kinds of books Black people, The Negro won’t buy these books in the millions of copies needed to show film producers there’s an audience large enough to take a RISK on them as a commercial property.

Movie studios like best-selling books. Again, these books have an established audience that’s guaranteed to come to the theater for the studio. A sure $25 to $40 million opening weekend at the box-office. But Because Black people do not come out in numbers and show studios the numbers and the money, there is no way to show the studio how the Black community will minimize the risk for them.

Most Negroes believe films are just made from scripts. But what the Negro does not understand is that the original screenplay (Spec Script) is not something movie studios are going to greenlight (approve) for production. Original screenplays are a huge risk, even for a person who self-finances them. It’s untested unproven material. There’s no guarantee it’ll have that large audience turnout. And in most cases people wind up taking a loss.

The only thing most businesspeople can guarantee with investing in the Negro is a loss when it comes to making Black films. And with studios making fewer films in a calendar year now, executives and indie filmmakers just can’t afford risk a slot in their limited release schedules to lose $5 to $100 million dollars it takes to produce, promote, and distribute a Black feature film. Too many people have been burnt trying to reach the Negro and establish a connection with the Negro audience.

Which is why we don’t see Black films anymore.

The big problem with the Negro is that they will ask for product from businesses like film studios. But when it’s time for the Negro to follow through and put his or her money on the table to buy said product, the Negro just won’t show up at the theater.

Making people believe that the Negro is fickle. Making people believe that the Negro is noncommittal. Making people believe that the Negro is a LIAR. For all the Negro’s talk, their actions speak louder than their words. And executives don’t have time for talk. There are other groups of people such as comic fans who will follow through with their promises to spend money. It’s more profitable for that executive to deal with those groups of paying customers with money in their hands ready to spend than to deal with the Negro who only has lint in his pocket and his hat in hand. 

The Negro believes that the movie business is just like the Welfare department, the government programs, or the foreign owned grocery store they’re used to dealing with where the co-dependent shuck N’ jive, blame n’ shame games can get them something for nothing.

 Unfortunately, what the Negro does not understand is that indie filmmakers and movie studios deal with real money. Money that is hard to raise. Money that is harder to get back once its spent. It’s a challenge to get $5,000 together for a small budget short. Even harder to raise $100,000 for a documentary. And it’s an uphill battle to raise the million or so dollars needed to put together a TV pilot or small budget feature with halfway decent production values.

Most times when it comes to Black productions, this money comes from friends, family, and sometimes out of the filmmakers’ own pocket. Lots of Black people work for that money. And if they can’t make it back at the box-office a lot of Black people LOSE.

With every Black film box-office failure the Negro finances his own unemployment and poverty. Every film that fails keeps six others from getting their greenlight. And it keeps two or three more scripts from getting read by executives and investors.

The Negro doesn’t understand that filmmaking is a business. Nor do they understand that business operates on a reciprocal exchange. In order to GET Black films, you have to GIVE your money to theaters that feature Black films.

Black folks If you do not put your money on the table to pay for Black movies, you do not get ANYTHING. Nor do you have a right to SAY anything about what’s being featured on the marquee of any movie theater. The film business both large and small only deals with paying customers with money in their hands for tickets and it only listens to those customers. Businesspeople don’t have time for dusty Negroes who sit on the sidelines complaining about the content they’re not paying for. And as long as Black folks act like beggars, they can’t complain about the choices offered to them at the theater. 

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