Thursday, March 29, 2012

Inspiration Never Gets Old

The pursuit of happiness is a journey that we are all striving for. Sadly, however, many people never reach this journeys ultimate destination. One case of a person that has truly lived the pursuit of happiness and reached that destination is that of Christopher Gardner. In fact, his journey has been so remarkable that it has been made into a Hollywood movie. You might be familiar with it. It’s called The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. Gardner was determined to “make it”, both for his young son and himself.

Though bitter at first, the journey eventually became sweeter as things started looking up and Gardner could pursue his dream of one day becoming a Wall Street broker. After a chance encounter with an individual, he learned of his profession and set out to get the proper training so that he could succeed in the business world.

Life on the streets is a harsh reality and Chris Gardner dealt with it the best way he could. There were times when he wasn’t sure where the money needed for food would come from and where he and his son would sleep for the night. Things got so bad for him that he had to spend some time in jail because he did not have the money to pay for the outstanding parking violations that he acquired. Even if all of this wasn’t bad enough, his wife left him and their young child when they needed her most. I can only imagine how he must have felt dealing with this kind of uncertainty. Through it all he persevered and kept his head held high.

As life would have it for Christopher Gardner, the same place where he and his son would sleep some nights, he would wind up overseeing the numerous bond offerings for them through his company Gardner Rich & Co. No longer homeless, Gardner now enjoys the finer things in life while still where he came from and appreciative for the position that he is in now. Hearing stories like this about urban professionals never gets tiring for me because it provides constant inspiration so that I can attain what I aspire to achieve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Few and Far Between

On the big screen, African American actors and actresses in prominent roles are few and far between. I remember the many movies of the 1990’s that featured a great deal of African American actors in a variety of roles. As an urban professional I would like to work in the entertainment industry so that I can help put actors in a position that is respectable and also influential to other minorities.

Sheril Antonio of writes a reflective piece on the state of ‘Black’ or ‘African American’ cinema. She notes that in recent years, the Oscar’s that African American actors have won have been for roles that are less desirable or not as glamorous than others. The characters in these movies typically have traits that are viewed as “nostalgic”.  Roles like the ones played by Halle Berry in Monsters Ball, Denzel Washington in Training Day, Mo’Nique in Precious, and Octavia Spencer in The Help, are ones that African Americans would generally like not to be associated with.

Spike Lee, one of the most prominent and well-known directors in Hollywood, agrees. He said, “Where are the people of color? That’s what it comes down to. How many people, when they have those meetings and vote on what movies get made, how many people of color are in those meetings,” displaying his frustration at the lack of diversity in Hollywood. I find his statement to be particularly telling of the reality because Spike Lee was the director of many films in the 1990’s that I saw that featured a lot of actors of color. Now, a lot of those same actors that were in his films before, it seems, are not involved in any other film projects that have mainstream distribution. I have noticed, however, that a lot of well-known actors have been starring in independent features. This just shows that even though their work isn’t as mainstream as it once was, their love for the arts is still as strong as ever.

Nollywood: Africa's Hollywood

Urban professionals can be found anywhere in the world. Africa may soon be adding to that list. The film industry in Nigeria, known as Nollywood, is the third largest in the world after Hollywood in the United States and Bollywood in India. Aspiring filmmakers have a much less difficult time getting their work to viewing audiences in Nollywood compared to Hollywood because there are not as many rules and regulations in place that were established by the government.

With this being the case filmmakers are hoping to bank on American actors to be a part of their productions so that they will simultaneously bring exposure to the film industry in Nigeria and also introduce them to American audiences. Some big name movie stars have already been featured in Nollywood films like Mickey Rourke, Kim Bassinger, and Jeffrey Wright. Popular Black actresses Nia Long and Vivica A. Fox have also been in Nollywood produced films. A lot of the filmmakers there look to the example that American Tyler Perry has set with model for making movies. The movies are produced at a low price and reap the benefits greatly, sometimes earning at least ten times what it cost to make the production.

Black filmmakers may want to consider Nollywood as a viable option for them to produce their products because the film industry there has a wide distribution reach that includes the entire African continent, the Caribbean, and the United States as well. The topics or themes that are prevalent in African cinema are ones that are common to the people of the region like issues of religion, romance, hardships, and political corruption.

As with most things in life, with the benefits come the negatives. Since the film industry in Nollywood is still developing, there are some major issues that filmmakers might have to contend with like power outages and a lack of skilled and equipped people that can handle certain film equipment. Still, these problems do not deter determined filmmakers from completing their projects and making them available to the public. Nollywood just might be the perfect place for urban professionals in the film industry to make an impact.