Soul. Gay was instrumental in securing the 85-year-old Miss America Pageant for CMT, which drew a total of 21.2 million viewers during its seven airings in January 2006 — the network’s highest ratings ever. To reinvigorate the pageant, Gay created the reality show, Finding Miss America, and allowed viewers to cast votes for the winner.
F. Gary Gray Director-Producer o Age: 37 Why he’s powerful: Gray is part of the elite club of Hollywood directors whose films have surpassed the $100 million mark at the box office. The attachment of his name to a project means that it will include A-list actors and a million-dollar budget. His filmography includes Be Cool, the 2005 sequel to Get Shorty that starred John Travolta, and The Italian Job, the 2003 film with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron that was budgeted at $60 million and grossed $175.8 million worldwide. Because of its strong performance, Gray was tapped to continue Paramount’s franchise, directing The Brazilian Job, which is expected to be released in 2008.
Pearlena Igbokwe Senior Vice President, Original Programming, Showtime Network o Age: 41 Why she’s powerful: For more than a decade, this native Nigerian has been instrumental in Showtime’s role as one of the leaders of groundbreaking cable programming. She’s responsible, in part, for getting a slate of Golden Globe–nominated series on air, including the edgy comedy Weeds; the terrorist thriller Sleeper Cell; and Dexter, the serial killer drama that’s the network’s highest-rated show. A graduate of Yale University and Columbia Business School, Igbokwe oversees Showtime’s Black Filmmaker Showcase, a vehicle designed to introduce the work of up-and-coming directors and producers.
Jeff Friday CEO, Film Life Age: 42 Friday learned early on that continuing to complain about how blacks were being shut out of Hollywood would only foster more frustration. He believed being a player in the motion picture industry would require not just talent — which he knew existed in abundance — but a plan, creativity, fortitude, and the right timing. They all converged for Friday when, in 1997, he, Warrington Hudlin (president of the Black Filmmakers Foundation), and Byron Lewis, (founder, chairman, and CEO of Uniworld) formed an alternative to the Sundance Film Festival, supporting independent Black filmmakers, particularly since he saw the studios as the biggest barriers to black stories in the movies. In five months, they introduced the Acapulco Black Film Festival in Mexico with financing from Lewis .
Since then, the organization, which today is the Film Life and HBO American Black Film Festival (ABFF), has grown into the premier showcase for black filmmakers. He has also developed it into a vehicle for film distribution; a platform for networking with producers, directors, and actors; and a stage for showcasing black talent. Through a variety of strategic partnerships with HBO, Lincoln, Warner Home Video, Wal-Mart, and TNT, Friday has launched a number of brand extensions including ABFF on Tour, a DVD series, and the Black Movie Awards. In 2007, Friday plans a feature film to be distributed by his company. His efforts have provided