I'm not sure if anyone has noticed, but there is a void where there should be a plethora of opportunities for African American filmmakers. Just as you may be reading this, you're thinking, "what about Spike Lee, John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, or Tyler Perry?". Well
there are a large number of others, including animators and screenwriters as well, whom have not been able to walk into the doors of the major ane even minor studios to find work.
Lets start with Spike Lee. Lee is the founder and owner of 40Acres and a Mule Filmworks. This production company has been Lee's calling sign since the mid 1980s. But that's just it, 40 Acres is just a production company. A production company is an entity where a film is simply created. And the creation of any film is no small feat. You must come up with a story, create ideas for characters and the look of the film, write a script and draw a storyboard, find funding, build or find a location, hire a crew, create your shots, and finally edit with sound and hopefully the production is finished.
After the film is finished, you then must find a way distribute or show your film. This is where studios like 20th Century Fox, Disney, and the like have a distinct advantage. Major and even some minor studios not only produce their films, but they also have a distribution network or company which gets their films into the theaters and on the DVD store shelves. This demographic now has a new player, and that is the Tyler Perry Studios. Along with TPS, Tyler Perry is creating an offshoot called 34th Street Films, which is is to cater to the creation and acquisition of films by other filmmakers of African Decent. This studio, billed by the New York Daily News as "the nation's only African-American-owned film studio" (http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/2009/02/22/2009-02-22_tyler_perry_the_man_behind_madea.html?page=0), is responsible for both production and distribution of film and television programming.
I put a question mark at the end of my title because I do wonder if this will be an advent of new opportunities for African American filmmakers. I as an animator have had a hard time meandering through this industry, trying to find success. The same could be said for my partner with Exodus Publishing as well as many other talented and educated African American filmmakers, whom I have met over the past several years. You toil to create a film, traverse the film festival circuit, and finally wait in hopes that some entity will deliver you into a prosperous career.
Hollywood is very formulaic and segmented in terms of who gets an opportunity. Certain formulas that have been lucrative in years past are recycled over and over again, keeping out the creativity of new ideas and new people. Also while handing out opportunities to friends, family, classmates, and those whom they can relate to. I'm not asking for a segregated or divided entertainment industry, but if Tyler Perry Studios is the ONLY African American owned film studio, what does that really say about Hollywood. What does that say about success for African American Filmmakers and Animators like myself.
Everyone deserves a voice or an outlet for creativity. African American people are much more than gangstas and cross-dressing big Mammas on the silver screen. There are so many dynamic stories within drama, science fiction, horror, action, and thriller that need to be told. And told in a professional and quality way that major studios have been able to do for nearly a century. Tyler Perry should not be the only act in town. It is my hope and dream that multiple doors will open, not just for African American filmmakers, but for filmmakers of all ethnicities throughout this great country.