Magazine article Black Enterprise

Black Clout in Hollywood

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Black Clout in Hollywood

Article excerpt

In 1919, Oscar Micheaux became the first African American to write, direct, and produce a feature length film, The Homesteader. This silent movie grossed $5,000 and was deemed a commercial success. The son of former slaves, the pioneering filmmaker delved into such controversial topics as racism, interracial romance, and corrupt clergymen--decades before the civil rights movement. Producing more than 40 "race movies," as films with black casts were called at the time, the visionary is considered one of the most prolific independent film producers ever, black or white.

Micheaux was one of a handful of black producers in the film industry during the early 20th century. Today African Americans are involved in virtually every aspect of filmmaking. In front of the camera are some of the hottest names in Hollywood: Will Smith, Forest Whitaker, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce Knowles, and Jennifer Hudson--all of whom at press time were up for Golden Globe Awards and had a good shot at receiving Oscar nominations.

But true power in Hollywood goes beyond bravura performances. Although African Americans collectively have a way to go in reaching the pinnacle of power in film and television, a growing number have gained clout within the industry. Some have become senior executives at studios and networks, developing films and TV shows and controlling mammoth production and marketing budgets. Many are entertainment attorneys and agents with A-list clients who cut lucrative deals. And others are household names like Smith, Denzel Washington, and Halle Berry, who through their artistic ability and box-office draw can influence the green-lighting of major cinematic projects.

As Hollywood celebrates excellence on the silver screen during the 79th Annual Academy Awards, we have also placed a spotlight on the best and brightest in the entertainment industry. …

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