Foreign distribution, an area major studios use in their calculus to determine a given film’s profit potential, is another beachhead for black filmmakers to conquer. “Hollywood is often shortsighted in thinking that our issues would not be globally embraced,” says Marvet Britto, founder of the entertainment public relations firm The Britto Agency. “Black movies sell poorly overseas because they aren’t marketed well not because the filmmakers or the stars are black.”
Despite such challenges, a number of black directors refuse to sit on the cinematic sidelines. On the following pages, you’ll discover a group of uncompromising filmmakers—some of whom have gained access to major studios while others have employed guerilla tactics in acquiring financing and distribution. All are determined to get their vision on the big screen by any means necessary.
THE GLOBETROTTER Sylvain White
French-born director Sylvain White has found the right formula to connect with foreign audiences. Take his breakout feature film Stomp the Yard. Produced by Rainforest Films, a black-owned production company, the hip-hop college drama was intended for a targeted domestic release but the studio decided to market the movie abroad as a dance film, performing well in Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and Japan. Stomp the Yard grossed $75 million worldwide—$61 million domestically and a respectable $14 million overseas. Not bad for a film with a $13 million budget.
White, 35, believes the notion in Hollywood that foreign audiences will not be attracted to black-oriented films or movies with black lead actors “is the most ridiculous thing ever.” In fact, he has made it his mission to reverse the trend by developing projects with universal appeal, even if a segment of the audience is located on another continent. “As an African American filmmaker one of my agendas is to prove that point wrong. Movies can connect people from different walks of life, different cultures, and have them share a similar emotional experience,” he says. “From the minute I was attached to the project I was determined to open the movie up to a general audience.”
At press time, White was preparing for the April opening of The Losers, his latest action adventure movie adapted from a graphic novel of the same name. White believes the movie—with its multicultural cast and featuring three black actors, including Idris Elba—will appeal to overseas audiences.
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