ABOUT THIS BOOK
Why are there so few Black filmmakers who control their own work? Why are there scarcely any Black women behind the camera? What happens to Black filmmakers when they move from independent production to the mainstream? What does it mean for whites to control Black images and their distribution globally? And, was it always so? Could it be different?
In this vivid portrait of their historic and present-day contributions, Jesse Rhines explores the roles African American men and women have played in the motion picture business from 1915 to the present. He illuminates his discussion by carefully linking the history of early Black filmmaking to the current success of African American filmmakers and examines how African Americans have been affected by changes that have taken place in the industry as a whole. He focuses on the crucial role of distribution companies, the difficulty of raising money for production, the compromises that directors and writers must make to get funding, and the effect of negative, sensationalistic images on the Black community. Many well-known directors, including Spike Lee, Reginald Hudlin, and Grace Blake are interviewed in the book, allowing Rhines to give readers an inside look at how deal making does--or does not--work.
Rhines surveys significant eras in film history and their impact on African Americans, from the silent era and the impact of The Birth of a Nation , through the emergence of the Black-owned Lincoln Motion Picture Company, and the later introduction of sound, to the postwar era, the antitrust suit against Paramount Pictures, the introduction of television, and Blaxploitation movies that won audiences back. He brings the story up to date with present-day blockbusters and the success of Spike Lee, who began as an independent and became a force in the industry, and others who hope to follow in Lee's footsteps. Rhines, who has worked behind the camera himself, reflects on independent filmmaking, the risks of both failure and success, and his hope for positive change in the African African community if more African American filmmakers can come to the forefront in the business.