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gil robertson

AAFCA President & Founder Gil Robertson Talks Black Film and More

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*As African Americans in the television and film industry continue to expand past the trappings of racism in Hollywood toward true peer recognition, so too must the role of the African American film and television critic expand to enjoy universal recognition and respect.

While that sentence may sound good in theory, the truth of the matter is that most film and television press junkets feature the same cast of African American journalists, many of whom have been covering films for over 20 years.  While there has been growth within the African American press who cover film, there is still a great deal more to be done. Veteran journalist Gil Robertson is found prominently among  his contemporaries thanks in large part to his column The Robertson Treatment.

Back in 2003, Robertson, film critic Shawn Edwards and a group of colleagues consolidated their collective talents and good business names to form the African American Film Critics Association.

“There’s power in numbers and we work with the studios directly as well as the agencies that represent them,” said Robertson regarding the AAFCA’s ability to leverage influence and experience in Tinseltown.  “We just had a very successful luncheon for several members over at (Allied Integrated Marketing). That’s something we’re going to continue to do in 2015. We’re going to meet with the marketing people and the publicity team at various studios. Sometimes it’s just about educating them and making sure they understand the importance of the Black community and the Black press to their bottom line.”

As is often the situation whenever people of African descent do business with members of the greater majority, the specter of racism ultimately rears its ugly head and seems omnipotent to Blacks while most White folks barely acknowledge its existence.  That potential duality wounds many work relationships before a true business bond can be formed. People should not be reduced to the sum total of their racial attitudes, no matter the color of their skin.

gil robertson

Gil Robertson

However, so many African American media members have been affected by this ghost while many in the majority act ambiguous to. Part of the AAFCA’s charter is to represent a solid regarding the interests of the African American viewing audience through its collective power and strength, but a portal of knowledge and experience for the greater community of Black entertainment reporters as well.

“The goal here is the more people that are able to interact with our members, there will be some additional consideration given to the Black journalist,” he explained. “Black journalists have to do their part in terms of delivering. From my own experience, you have people who commit to doing things but then their follow through is poor. So, if we want these opportunities we have to be willing to put our best foot forward and deliver. We have to respect the Black press and the role that they play in the careers of Black talent, both in front of and behind the camera.”

On the other side of the coin, there are often rumblings within the Black press corps as to the level of appreciation they receive from Black artists before and after they make it big. For some, the difference is beyond noticeable how that appreciation wanes when some stars of color make it as a bankable mainstream actor.

“They get more love from us, we support them day in and day out, we play a crucial role in the development of their careers and we should be respected for the value,” said Robertson. “I think that Black talent and their representatives should specifically be called on the carpet because we do play such a crucial role. For that matter, talent across the board. Whether they be Black, White, Red or Yellow, they need to respect the critical role that Black journalists play in their careers.”

Though he agreed that African American journalists needed to be involved in the coverage of big budget film projects, but followed that up by saying that he was against offering additional consideration to reporters on skin color.

“Again, should Black journalists be given consideration just because they’re Black? No. It’s all about delivery. Delivering quality, delivering consistency, and all of that. Very often, Black journalists drop the ball. I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years, but what allowed me access on the junket circuit was the work that I did on my own column, The Robertson Treatment. And I do all that through a column that I don’t get paid for.  I just am able to leverage it. Consistency was key in my positioning. That allowed me to establish a presence in the industry that studios and marketers respected. There for, you know, it was all good. That’s the suggestion I would give to other African Americans that are trying to do this. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to try to nurture and support, not only the next generation, but other journalists who are having some difficulty. We want to work with the next generation of journalists in particular to properly prepare them for the realities of doing business in this industry.”

As is the case with most every industry, a very important key toward success for career success for many journalists is via mentorship. Robertson explains how he and the AAFCA are doing their part.

“We are doing that through our internship program at Clark-Atlanta and Howard University.  Our Clark internship is going into its third year and our Howard internship will be starting in the fall of 2015. We also have plans to expand the program to Northwestern University and to USC in Los Angeles.”

This year has seen a multitude of high-quality content featuring Black thespians and directors visit the silver screen, but none has received the type of accolades that the Ava Duvernay directed film Selma. However, film’s such as Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw starrer Beyond the Lights, while original, beautifully acted and written, didn’t do as well as it should have at the box office.  Selma, on the other hand, is blowing critics away. Critical acclaim is nice, but money makes things happen.

“That’s my concern too. Everybody can Tweet and Facebook, but where are they going to be on December 25 or January 9 when the film opens? Are you going to be spending your 10, 11 or 12 dollars to make sure that the film performs so that more films like it will be made?  The bottom line is it’s great, the accolades are great and I love the attention that the film is getting but what’s even more important is what happens in terms of how we support the box office.”

“I think they did an incredible job with that. We definitely continued to move the needle, and I think we built upon what we saw last year.  I think we saw greater diversity in terms of the stories. It wasn’t just historical dramas. You had everything from historical drama to comedies, to romantic narratives like Beyond the Lights, which is something that we never see. But the Black community didn’t do what it needed to do to support Beyond the Lights and some of the other films.  You can’t expect someone to welcome you to party if you don’t ever support. Hollywood is a business and they’re not going to continue to make films that they don’t make money off of.  Just like you would look for another job if you’re not making enough to support yourself.”

In addition to the lingering angst many creators of African descent suffer in Hollywood regarding the Black dollar’s impact on their bottom line, some Black journalists believe they are being excluded from major mainstream.  A live one-on-one interview is always preferable to a phoner and a marketing firm’s insistence upon the latter over the former is looked upon as somewhat belittling to one’s professional pride.

“It can’t always be about a free trip. Sometimes you may have to do a phoner. Sometimes you’re not going to get invited on the junket. But it’s important to deliver your highest quality so that people will know that they can count on you and that you in fact deserve to get any extra perks that may be available out there.”

In February, the AAFCA will hold the Sixth Annual AAFCA Awards in Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that Selma is presenting hard in every category. Including, David Oweyolo for Best Actor, Ava Duvernay for Best Director and a Best Song nomination for the Common/John Legend collaboration from the Selma soundtrack “Glory”.  Other award winners include Gugu Mbatha-Raw for Best Actress in Belle, Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress in Black or White and Breakout Performance for Tessa Thompson in Dear White People. The AAFCA will throw its annual award ceremony and dinner on February 4, 2015 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, CA.

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‘Love & Hip-Hop’ Producer & Cast Celebrate Holiday Season (Watch)

The Young Family - Shawn, Justin, Mona, Jordan rsz

*On Saturday (12-06-14), EURweb.com was invited to partake in some holiday revelry amid some of the biggest and brightest stars in reality television at the Monami Entertainment Annual Holiday Party hosted by Mona Scott-Young. In attendance at La Venue of New York City were the friends, family and associates of Monami Entertainment and Eastern TV.

Attendees included  Ms. Scott-Young’s family (husband Shawn Young and children Justin and Jordan – pictured above) as well as Stefan Springman and Toby Barraud of Eastern TV, Love and Hip-Hop series mainstays Yandy Smith, Stevie J, Joseline Hernandez, Rich Dollaz, Tara Wallace, Cyn Santana, new cast member Chrissy Crastanda and many others.

The tones ranged from old school hip-hop and house to new school rap, reggae and soul music provided by Chris Washington on the ones and twos. Libations were sponsored by Myx Fusion. Check out our holiday montage of video and photos from this festive affair below.

karin stanford

Dr. Karin L. Stanford Talks Daughter Ajae Jackson’s Career Choice in a Harsh Business

*Recently EURweb’s Lee Bailey spoke with burgeoning pop artist AshleyAJae’ Jackson and her mother Dr. Karin L. Stanford, an educator at Cal State-Northridge. 15-year-old AJae is also the daughter of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

In our previous article, young Ashley talked about blazing a trail for herself that was independent of that which was set upon by her parents. However, speaking to Lee Bailey as well, her mother, while very supportive of her undertaking, had to be convinced that this is the proper path for her child.

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Ashley ‘Ajae’ Jackson and her mother, Dr. Karin Stanford

“Why couldn’t she just become an academic? Why are you doing this to my life? I want her to be happy, I really do,” Dr. Stanford bemoaned to Lee Bailey. “But I came kicking and screaming. You know, with kids they see that people in the industry get a lot of positive attention.”

AJae’s first single is titled “Just Do Me” and she’s currently hard at work trying to find a place in the game. But her mother tells Bailey that she was diligent in explaining the nature of the music business to AJae. As many of our readers can attest, it can be a dirty business.

“I’m an academic so I don’t know much about the entertainment industry, but it just seems to me to be as hustle. You just move from one job to the next. I tell her that even with Brad Pitt after he finishes one job he’s unemployed.”

RELATED STORY: Upcoming Pop Artist AJae Wants To Be Her Own Woman

“I tell her that I want her to maybe get some internships next summer. Work in a production office or something like that. That way, if things don’t work out in one area there’s always something else that you can do.  You can offer your talent in front of the camera, but be able to offer more in other areas.”

Despite her mother’s consternation and concern, young AJae has been steadfast in her belief that this is her lot in life and has been doing so for quite some time. Ms. Stanford says Jesse Jackson has expressed his concern over her career path as well.

“She’s very strong headed. How she would bring me along, and him to and I’m not sure he’s there yet, is she would say something like ‘Hey Mom, there’s a play at school today’ and she would be the lead. Or ‘Hey Mom, there’s something going on in the park’ and I’ll show up and she’s the keynote speaker or singer. I put her in a film class and she was doing all the acting. I put her in the class to learn to work the camera. She still doesn’t know how to work the cameras. That’s when I said ‘Okay, I’ll go along with this.’ I wanted her to see how hard it is to be an entertainer. It’s all day and all night. It’s really hard.”

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Jesse Jackson, Ashley ‘Ajae’ Jackson & Michael Jackson

AJae aka Ashley Jackson is a very talented young woman whose pop sound is very different from much that appears on the radio these days. Karin L. Stanford told our Lee Bailey that she does not want AJae to be targeted and lambasted because of the nature of the one-time relationship between her mother and Jesse Jackson. It is indeed a hard row to hoe, as the old folks used to say.

“I just don’t want her to be labelled.  I don’t want her to be labelled she’s a kid and she’s doing her work in the entertainment industry. I don’t want our experiences to mar her future. I think that, you meet people who want to exploit her father’s legacy. They use her to get to him. I’ve had people come into our lives who weren’t genuine, who were selling stories to the tabloids. Most of them not true. I don’t trust people like I did before he was born. I don’t know what the future bodes for her. Especially since the industry she wants to be involved in is one in which people do exploit others.”

Despite all the perils of fame that Prof. Stanford has worked to ardently to impart upon AJae, she tells EURweb that her daughter’s resolve remains unshaken. The nature of her upbringing is unique among her circle of friends and fellow students and has likely helped foment her worldview. One that incorporates aspects from both her parents but is an independent source of light and matter unto its own.

“She said ‘Mom, I’m never going to be a professor. I’ll never, ever be a professor’. But teaching is still an option for her. She grew up on a college campus. Her Dad and I are really involved in social movements and civil rights and politics, he does his thing in his world. But I am very much engaged with issues on campus. She went to a school where all of the homes were intact. So, she was something of an outlier in that respect. Then, when he comes to town, she takes off for two or three days to spend time with him. Then, his lifestyle is very different than ours. So, when she’s with him everything is first class. When she comes home she has to do the laundry, do the dishes, she has to clean up. So, it’s a very different lifestyle. So, she has to go back and forth between those two worlds. There’s a major class difference between here and there.”

Ashley-Jackson-single just do me

As stated previously, Ajae’s first single is titled “Just Do Me” and is currently available on iTunes. Additionally, she’s gearing up to drop some songs as soon as possible. In the interim, she’s still a student and a daughter. However, her indomitable will and self-awareness is already apparent. Positive attributes to be sure. Though any parent would be right to show concern, from our vantage point it appears as if AJae “Ashley” Jackson is already well on her way to success in whatever career path she chooses.

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Upcoming Pop Artist AJae Wants To Be Her Own Woman, but She’s Jesse Jackson’s Daughter

Scroll down to experience Ajae’s new video for her song, “Just Do Me

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*They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in the case of upcoming pop artist Ashley Jackson aka “Ajae,” that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The daughter of prominent civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and esteemed collegiate dean and author Karin L. Stanford Ph.D., Ajae has been preparing herself for a life in front of the masses for quite some time.

But there will be no marches, speeches or sit-ins. At least not of the type we’re used to. The 15-year-old protégé has been pursuing a life in music ever since she could remember and her time in the limelight is quickly approaching.

“I’ve been singing for a long time and I’ve had to try and convince my parents that this is what I’ve wanted to do for a while,” Ajae told EURweb’s Lee Bailey. “For the past two or three years I’ve been working with a production company on getting a project together. It came from one song and turned into several. I have a team and I’ve been working with management. Right now we’re working with a team and trying to get together a project.”

Jesse Jackson's Daughter (Ajae) Wants to be Her Own Woman

Though a major record deal and all the bells and whistle indicative of a pop star are on the horizon, Ajae says she and her team are gearing up now to prepare the listening public to the coming tsunami of talent that she is destined to catalyze.

“I just kind of wanted to let people know what I’m doing because I felt like they needed to know at some point,” she explained. “Right now, I think we’re just going to be releasing some music and letting people know that this is what I’m trying to do.  Then we’re going to put more music out and see what’s going to happen and more visuals, of course. I mean. I take it very seriously. It’s like a fun project but I do want people to hear my music and see what I’m about.”

Ashley Jackson’s pedigree is without question and her familial legacy is one that many Americans would be proud to be a part of. However, this young wunderkind has plans to make a name for herself on her on accord. That’s literal and figurative as well.

“Professionally, I go by AJae because it’s my initials. People have been calling me that for years and it just kind of stuck,” she explained. “I go by that because I kind of want to separate that part of my life from my regular life.  Like, all of my friends don’t call me AJae because I think that would be kind of weird. I performed at a location once and all these little girls were calling me AJae. I feel like if my friends are calling me AJae it kind of puts me out of the zone.  I have friends that I’ve met in the industry and they call me AJae. But none of my friends and family call me that.  To them, I’m just Ashley. Kind of like a separation of lifestyles.”

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Musically, AJae’s style is a distinctively American amalgamation of music and influences that we’re all familiar with.

“I love R&B and I’m hoping to incorporate more hip-hop in my upcoming songs. I also rap, which a lot of people don’t know. I hope to do that in my upcoming music as well. It’s kind of like a mix between R&B, Pop and rap. That’s where my style is headed.”

“My main influence is Beyonce. Honestly, I love everything about that woman,” she continued. “She’s been my influence, not only because of her music, but she’s such a good business woman and a feminist. I’ve always defended that about her. Other influences are Janelle Monae and Alicia Keys. I like people who kind of have a message about their music but they still kind of bring you in. I also think Nicki Minaj is hilarious.  I just like the character and nobody is rapping like she is right now. I think she does so well because of her character and also she has the talent to go along with it. I think that’s interesting. Of course, her lyrics at times are a little alarming.”

Though this young woman undoubtedly has the talent to make a living as a pop artist she will repeatedly be mentioned in the same breath as her parents. Young AJae explains how she convinced her parents that this was the life she wanted and not a passing fad.

“My parents have their own background working for them. Like, academics and politics, which I still embrace because of my upbringing. But that’s not exactly where I’m headed. I still want to respect their legacy and what they taught me. But I still have to do what I love, which is creativity and music. Like respecting their legacy, but simultaneously respect my dreams and what I want to do.”

Ashley-Jackson-single just do me

“My Mom always knew that I wanted to do music. But, I think, initially she didn’t take it as seriously as I already have. It wasn’t a big conflict, but I had to take the time and energy to prove to her that this is what I wanted to do because she wasn’t just going to put me out there wholeheartedly when she wasn’t sure that I was officially in it. Once I proved that to her then we were fine.  Of course she still wants me to follow in her footsteps. I’m just going to do that through educating people in my music.”

Ashley Jackson’s first single is titled “Just Do Me” and is a message to her fans regarding her life path, and to her family as well.

Speaking of family, we’ll have more from the young Ms. Jackson in part II of our story as well as get some insight from her mother, Dr. Karin Stanford Ph.D. Stay tuned and check out Ashley’s video below for “Just Do Me”:

 

(Jesse Jackson’s Daughter (Ajae) Wants to be Her Own Woman)
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All Aboard For Ava DuVernay’s ‘Selma’ (Video)

All Aboard For Ava DuVernay's Selma

*The slow build toward the debut of director Ava DuVernay‘s first big  budget film, “Selma,” is beginning to quicken as major media outlets and independents alike are starting to pick up on the fact that this is shaping up to be a pretty kick ass movie.

We haven’t heard anyone say this is an ensemble film, but with a cast that includes David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Common, Giovonni Ribisi Andre Holland, Wendell Pierce and many others, Selma appears to have a high-quality cast from top to bottom. Recently, the first trailers for “Selma,” which is slated for limited release in December, were released.

Additionally, Duvernay and Oyelowo have been making their rounds to get the word out about “Selma,” which is executive produced by Oprah Winfrey in conjunction with Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company.

Check out the trailer below fora first glimpse of the film and take a look at EURweb.com’s video gleaned from the 18th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival and stay tuned for more installments of this candid conversation.

 

(All Aboard For Ava DuVernay’s Selma)
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‘Beyond the Lights’ Director and Star Discuss New Film

Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw

*After seeing the new Gina Prince-Bythewood film Beyond the Lights as it was screened at the 18th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival early in September it is clear to us that the storyline is as original as it is necessary in these times of accelerated pop stardom and the undisclosed hardships that haunt many who chose a life in the spotlight.

The film stars (Belle) and Nate Parker (Secret Life of Bees, Red Tail). Gugu’s character is named Noni Jean, a burgeoning pop star who is on the cusp of super stardom. Parker stars as Kaz, a young Los Angeles police officer who is on the verge of actualizing his dreams of becoming more as well.

Beyond the Lights was written in 2007. It was a story that was in my head and it was a real fight to get this film made,” Bythewood told audience members. “But when you’re passionate about a story it fuels the fight. And, again, this was a fight. But we’re very passionate about excited about the film. They say your challenge is in your choices and I had two tremendous lead actors in this film in Nate Parker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.”

As mentioned earlier, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the lead as Noni Jean. By all visual appearances, Jean’s life is about to make a change for the better. As the film opens, we find that Noni has just won a Grammy Award for a song recorded with rap artist Kid Culprit (played by Machine Gun Kelly) and her album is about to drop as well. However, she’s depressed and suicidal at the thought of living her life under the unblinking eye of public scrutiny.

“When I first read the script I thought that Gina had done such a terrific job in showing kind of the underbelly of the music industry,” said Mbatha-Raw. “Yes, we have that sort of manufactured pop star imagery that we’re used to, but it also shows the psychological effects of fame. For me (it also shows) the idea of mental health and how, if you don’t have a sense of self-worth, it really doesn’t really matter if people are lauding you with all these accolades. For me, I felt like it was a worthwhile story. It was uplifting. The love story was beautiful and fun, and there was an intimacy and a realness to it that I thought was really refreshing.”

Beyond the Lights, originally titled Blackbird after the Nina Simone song of the same name, features an ensemble cast supporting Parker and Mbatha-Raw. Each lead character deals with issues that have been thrust upon them by their parental figures and must overcome them through the course of the film to attain self-actualization.  Minnie Driver’s performance as Macy Jean, mother of Noni, is outstanding as is Danny Glover’s performance as Captain David Nicol.  Beyond the Lights opens in theaters nationwide on November 14 and we’ll be penning an extensive review as the release date draws near. In the meantime, checkout the trailer for Beyond the Lights below.

 

(Beyond the Lights Director and Star Discuss New Film)