This time it was not the Guardian that got things started, it was actually a man from Birmingham, you know, the one city in the UK with an obscene amount of Ashton Villa fans. It was his sketch ‘How is this STILL a thing‘ (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XebG4TO_xss) that started it all. To appreciate what comes next, you should take a look at the video. It makes a few jabs, some actually hilarious. In the collections of laughs, there is one gem that is centre in all this. It is the mention of Ridley Scott. The quote “SCOTT: The short sharp crude answer is, I couldn’t get a film like that mounted for that kind of budget—we were $145 million, not $260 million, so that wasn’t bad– but to make Moses black and his wife Ethiopian? They never would have made the movie“. That is part of the issue, or is that part of the answer?
No matter who we want as a cast, there is still the director (the visionary) and the producer (the money man) and the producer is often not just putting his money up, but a ‘manager’ of several ‘investors’. I would like to be all in agreement and there is enough data, but is the entire issue this simple? You see, there is also something called a script and when you seek on Google, we get ‘Category: African-American screenwriters‘, which gives 80 names. Is that not part of the problem? Now, this list might be lacking in many ways, yet would any famous names be missing? Now we get something, my first step was to look for Alice walker, as I loved the movie ‘the Colour Purple’. She was not there, so I sought out the Oscars and found out that the adapted screenplay was written by snowy white Menno Meyjes, a Dutchman. Now there is no critique on that part, yet I wonder is this not part of something else? You see, my thoughts (which might be terribly wrong), was thinking that the USA has its share of really wealthy non-Caucasian people. What if they took a script, gave the option to a visionary African American director and let them rip out a true cash maker? Would it work? Let’s not forget that Hollywood is the stomping ground to a few visionary African American directors. John Singleton, Spike Lee, Melvin van Peebles, Will Smith, Forest Whittaker. There is plenty of talent there, and the list of really good African American actors and actresses would go on for quite some time. So what is stopping them?
I will give you an option, just an option, not a claim that this is the reason.
I believe that a great movie require the union of a scriptwriter and a director. If those two are not brought together the entire process sizzles from day 0. Which gets us back to the 80 African American scriptwriters. Is that truly the case? Why can’t others write about black heroes? Well, personally, from my own views as I am writing my novel, I am writing it from my point of view, my Caucasian point of view. There is no malice, no intent to stop African Americans, I have not lived as an African American, so how can I write about one, or a Mexican, a Japanese or a Chinese for that matter. I think that this is the first step in all this and it is just my view.
So what to do?
I believe that there are solutions for everything, if Will Smith can reforge I, Robot to be a success, he can pretty much do anything. Yet, how can this change the industry? This is where them billion thingamajigs come into play. A script is one thing, the money to make it a reality is another. You see, any form of visionary requires realism, it needs funding! In the set of three, the script, the producer and the director, the Director seems to be the easiest one, yet it will requires his visionary views to make the other two a reality, one that really pays off. Again, this is just my view on this.
In the first place, the American Universities. Why are they not trying to kindle the skill of artistic writing within their African American community? Perhaps they are, I do not know, but with all those Ivy leagues schools the list I saw of screenwriters is that limited?
Consider that the Writers Guild of America, East has well over 3500 full members and the Writers Guild of America, West has over 9000 full members. Now consider that (I know not the most reliable source) Wiki specifically the African-American screenwriters page shows 80 names. Now, I am the first to state that there is no statistical way that this is correct, but, the fact that not more visibility is an equal issue here. The Committee of Black Writers, part of Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) gives us a decent amount of goods, especially when we read the report by Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, Professor of Sociology. You see, this is not the laughing version John Oliver brought us, this gives us an academic confirmation “The familiar story of male and white dominance told in previous Hollywood Writers Reports still characterized industry employment and earnings patterns in 2012, the last year covered in this report“, in addition we see “The earnings gap between white male writers and women writers closed considerably by 2012, while the earnings gap between white male writers and minority writers remained large“, which gets me back to the very first thought, why isn’t African American America picking up the slack on their side, pushing and promoting the work of African Americans? Now, there is loads wrong with that statement, the fact that they have to do this is one, because there is no feasible way that the non-Caucasian population lacks drive, ambition, talent or creativity.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant, Birdman), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 years a Slave) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi). This is just the last 4 years, not all winners, but all amazing achievements and none of them are of a Caucasian disposition. I believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg, you see, my issue with #oscarssowhite is not the whether it is or it is not, but the fact that Americans forget that the bulk of their revenue is no longer coming from the US, they are coming from an international community. Just to give you an indication. The 5 most successful movies of ALL TIME had the following non-US revenue (72.7%, 69.9%, 54.8%, 61% and 59%). Did I say that clearly enough? That was the non US percentage of revenue, with the top 3 surpassing 2 billion. From the earlier list there is for example 62.1% of $723M (Gravity) and 79.5% of $609M (Life of Pi), so the money is there, even when we take the US market out of the equation. So, if it is just about #oscarssowhite, why are certain steps not taken? It can’t be ‘just’ the money, because Gravity costed $100M to make, so someone walked out with a clean taxable half a billion and Life of Pi left someone with $480M in the end. So there is a clear evidence that white is not the colour of money in the end (it actually tends to be green), but the stronger reality is, is that if we accept that Hollywood is to white for its own good, there is a market worth billion out there and it only requires the right person to pick up the profits.
In my view an achievable goal if the Money Man can unite the right director to the script he deems worthy. Have I oversimplified the problem for those people?
If so, feel free to make a contribution to my Clydesdale Bank PLC account on Guernsey. You see, whilst looking into this issue, I actually came up with 3 ideas for movies. That’s excluding the novel I am writing, which is written as is, with no mindset to either publication or setting it up for a screenplay. It is just a story I came up with and I surpassed 63,000 words last month. I reckon I am half way there now, could be a third, time will tell. This is not a twist to state how brilliant I am, because I am certain that I am not, what it does refer to is that #oscarssowhite implies that those at the top of the hill are not that bright at all, which only gives further weight to the utter need, for promoting what should be referred to as the #NonCaucasianMovieWorld, one that is very likely to bring in billions, because the names I mentioned earlier are surpassing that revenue with ease. Now in realistic light, not all movies made turn out to be a Gravity or a Life of Pi, but many of them end up having paths that lead to a situation where the ROI remains close to zero, making the chance of a cash cow at some point a lot better than most could conceive. Consider the source (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/), where the top 33 (Martin Scorcese being the lowest on that list, making $1B or more (over all their movies), gives only way to more opportunity for those who can see the right path (let’s call them semi-visionaries) and it is only when we get to position 122 when the gross revenue starts dropping below half a billion. Here is my view: ‘There is no black and white, they aren’t even real colours’. There is the colour green for $$$, profit and envy, there is red for anger of not seeing the opportunity and red for those betting on the wrong horse, yet even there the list is pretty long, because Director 771 on the list is the last one making $1M or more, which is more than I will ever make in my life. Now consider the other side of the spectrum. The Razzies gave us what some perceive to be the worst movies. In 2016 that was a tie for Fifty Shades of Grey and Fantastic Four (2015), 50 shades of paint made $571M, whilst costing $40M and Fantastic 4 made $167M, whilst costing $56M. Can you believe it? Making the worst movie of the year still gets you at least $100M, I am so in the wrong line of business!
So when you decide to fight #oscarssowhite, consider in addition the massive amounts of money you could be making. For those picking up that baton, I truly hope it will bring you the wealth you dream of. Good luck!