Roots Miniseries: A Cultural Phenomenon

In the simpler media landscape of the late ‘70s, networks considered a show a blockbuster if it was watched in three of every 10 households. When “Roots,” a 12-hour miniseries exploring the multi-generational story of an African-American family, made its historic premiere on ABC during the last week of January in 1977, it could be found on more than half of the nation’s televisions (that night in Los Angeles, the share was 67 percent).

When putting the estimated audience of 130 million into perspective, one network executive said, “it’s like millions of people reading the same book simultaneously.”

Author and journalist Alex Haley made his name exploring different chapters of the African-American story, from Malcolm X to Miles Davis, and the blockbuster miniseries adaptation of his best-selling 1976 masterpiece “Roots” was a prologue to them all. Haley’s family story tells “the symbolic saga of a people,” a tale far more universal than even the most compelling celebrity interview.
Chasing the answer to a simple question of origins, which required the author to spend 6,500 hours in 57 libraries and archives, led to profound answers.

Review: ‘The Girlfriend Experience’

The Girlfriend Experience” is a show about selling flesh, but its true fetish is for glass.

Set in the law offices, restaurants and pricey hotels of Chicago, this half-hour drama is in love, or lust, with glass-walled dining rooms, translucent office partitions, shimmering skyscraper exteriors. It relishes the gleaming curve of fine stemware; there are more crystal goblets filled with red wine than on “The Good Wife,” “Scandal” and the fourth hour of “Today” put together

That aesthetic — seductive and cool and expensive — captures both the tone and the subject of this icy but intriguing limited series, beginning on Sunday on Starz, about a law student who becomes an elite prostitute. (The full 13-episode series will be available to subscribers the same day, online and on demand.)

“The Girlfriend Experience” is “suggested by” the 2009 Steven Soderbergh film of the same title, but although Mr. Soderbergh is an executive producer, it’s no remake. Mr. Soderbergh’s slice of life was set amid the financial collapse of 2008, with the porn star Sasha Grey as an escort contemplating the next stage of her career. It was a moody, flat-affect film about money having its way even as money was losing its way.

For TV, Mr. Soderbergh handed off the title to the indie filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz, who shared writing and directing duties. They’ve kept some of the art house sensibility but reconceived the story as a business-of-pleasure bildungsroman.

Christine Reade, played by Riley Keough (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), starts an internship at a law firm, where she’s quickly caught up in office politics involving two ambitious partners, David (Paul Sparks, “Boardwalk Empire”) and Erin (Mary Lynn Rajskub, “24”). Her law school friend Avery (Kate Lyn Sheil) has taken an alternative career track in the sex trade, specializing in a “girlfriend experience” or “GFE”— the temporary, bespoke semblance of a relationship.

Turf Dancing From Street To Subway

Published on Dec 22, 2014

The Bay Area may be the birthplace of Uber, but here’s something you’d never see while ride sharing: the mad Turf Dancing skills of iDummy, Slow Motion, C4 Boom, Kidd Strobe, No Noize, Turf Bieber, Torch and Phil Of The Future. Together they are TURF NATION. Watch as they turn BART trains into showcases for their mad skills.

Produced by: Chaz Hubbard, Ike Sriskandarajah
Filmed by: Luis Flores, Chaz Hubbard, Mikey Prizmich
Edited by: Chaz Hubbard, Luis Flores, Denise Tejada
Audio Mixed by: Luis Flores

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Review: Good Performance By Andre Benjamin Isn’t Enough To Bolster Hendrix Biopic ‘All Is By My Side’

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A little over a decade ago, VH1 premiered one of its many mediocre television biopics, Hendrix. Playing well against type, Wood Harris starred as the iconic guitarist, alongside Vivica A. Fox (as girlfriend/groupie Faye Pridgeon), and Billy Zane. A general overview of Hendrix’s life, the film chronicled his time playing with black artists like Little Richard, his period as a recording artist in London, his breakthrough performance at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and his untimely death at the age of 27. It had all the hallmarks of most rock ‘n roll biopics: the tough childhood, the discovery of genius, the hit single, the hard partying, the groupies, the hangers-on, the drug problems, the fall from grace. But it was missing something, one major element. The music. Getting music rights has been an uphill battle in many a musical biopic, and last year, with the announcement that a new Hendrix movie called All is By My Side was set to begin production, getting rights to the rocker’s extensive discography once again became an obstacle for filmmakers. Hendrix’s estate withdrew all support for the movie, and barred writer-director John Ridley (who paradoxically also wrote 12 Years a Slave and Undercover Brother) from using seminal Hendrix songs like ‘Purple Haze’, ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ and the ‘Hey Joe’ cover in the movie. Ridley, determined to tell his version of the Hendrix story, sidestepped this slight inconvenience by crafting a story set specifically before the debut of Are You Experienced. Andre Benjamin plays Hendrix, discovered by Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith (Imogen Poots) while playing backup guitar at New York’s Cheetah Club. The two strike up a romantically-tinged friendship, as Linda works tirelessly at helping him find a manger and get a record deal. Eventually, under the management of former Animals member Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley), Hendrix moves to London, shacks up with feisty party girl Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell), and begins his journey towards starting The Jimi Hendrix Experience and becoming one of if not the greatest guitar players of all time. Continue Reading

Hard Times – Making It, Vol. 1 – Entry #3 of 9 – Transitioning (Tahir Jetter Chronicles Web Series Journey)

ImageI’d gotten an imdbpro membership and, after rifling through the endless stack of business cards that I’d amassed after attending Sundance in 2011, (and considering the nature of the film that I wanted to make) I started contacting every single film person that I could think of that had financed,  produced or cast an independent feature film that featured a young, African-American cast between 2007 and 2011. Additionally, I reached out to countless people that I knew, personally, and approached them for private equity investments.]

Concerning the film producers I’ve spoken with, these past few months, feedback that I got on my draft of latest All The Wrong Places, has been: “Yeah, I don’t know, I liked it, but to me, it just kind of read like the Black version of ‘Girls.’” – anon Producer of a feature film that had gone to Sundance, that year “I liked it, but we don’t make those kinds of films anymore.” – anon Producer of a feature film that had gone to Sundance, years before “I don’t work on feature films that have a budget of less than $500,000.” – anon Producer of several Sundance-selected movies “Yeah, I’ll read your draft, but due to familial issues, I can’t really afford to take on projects of this scale.” – anon Producer of several Sundance movies “I’m getting to the point in my career where I can’t take on projects of this size, but I’d be more than happy to read your draft.” – anon Producer with a movie that had just premiered at Sundance. Suffice it to say that this was a small sampling of the people that I’d reached out to, at the time, and that it seemed that the chances of getting the film made were not looking good.

First Look At ‘Downton Abbey’s’ First Black Cast Member Played By Gary Carr (Teaser Trailer)

www.indiewire.comAs you may recall last year, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes announced that he intended to introduce a black character to the show’s cast for its fourth season. And what better way to attract more diverse  viewers? And it was later announced that the character will be played by Gary Carr, who many of you will know from his role as the young ambitious cop Fidel Best on the BBC series Death in Paradise. In the upcoming season 4, Carr will play a singer at an exclusive night club. The character he plays has been described as “a charming and charismatic young man.” One of the producers of the series said that Carr’s addition to the cast “will bring interesting twists to the drama which we can’t wait for viewers to see in series four.Hmmmmmmmmmm… What could that mean? I think I have a guess.

Here’s the first trailer for season 4, which premieres in the U.S. on PBS in January 2014: