‘Free Angela’, a gripping documentary reflecting the historic events that catapulted a young Angela Davis into a controversial political icon during the turbulent late 1960’s will make it’s limited release in theatres on Friday April 5th.
The powerful docudrama, which stars Angela Davis, the former university professor, was written by screenwriter Shola Lynch, but also has the backing of Hollywood heavies Will and Jada Smith, respectively.
Many who watch the film will immediately become captivated by the Davis’ saga and what they see, hear and can feel, but behind all of it is the relatively unsung role albeit most —- the distributor.
More than likely this individual will go unrecognized, but is the one who assumes the financial risk for making such projects a reality. If it is successful the distributor can also reap huge rewards.
In Hollywood there are very few Black distributors and there isn’t one on the level of CodeBlack Entertainment’s Jeff Clanagan.
Moviegoers will see Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry on the big screen?and feel sense of connection to their character.
Then there are your successful Black screenwriters such as Tyler Perry, Spike Lee and John Singleton who are also behind the lens directing their projects.
Hollywood has not always been kind to Blacks. Since the turn of the century when Oscar Micheaux became the first Black film star in 1914, the industry has mass-produced a negative perception of Blacks.
Way before the success of current stars, Blacks could only get in front of the camera if they wanted to play the role of the maid or the butler, as white filmmakers such as D.W. Griffith produced such despicable films such as ‘Birth of A Nation’, until an even worse–Black filmmaker- Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry- arrived with the character of ‘Stepin Fetchit.’
Clanagan is determined to embrace the Black market and thus become responsible to it.
“The reality is there have been a lot bad experiences for African Americans because we are trying to assemble in Hollywood instead of creating our own commerce and business,” explained Clanagan in a recent exclusive interview from his Lionsgate office Santa Monica office.
Clanagan is the CEO of CodeBlack Entertainment, the first independent, vertically integrated Black owned film studio, actively engaged in the business of feature film production, film distribution, worldwide DVD and digital assets distribution, urban marketing consulting and production of programs for television broadcast and syndication.
He blames as divide and conquer syndrome and crab in the bucket mentality among Blacks as one of the primary obstacles.
“There are five or six major studios and four or five networks, but they don’t have an obligation to give us anything,” he declared. “The people who run those studios or networks are descendants of people from the past, so they don’t have an obligation to us. So, we go in with our hands out and we get crumbs as opposed to recognizing our economic power that we have proven and harnessing that power to create our own business.”
CodeBlack Entertainment was created to facilitate positive representations of African-Americans in film. A multi-faceted entertainment organization, CodeBlack provides a consistent stream of urban-themed programming that is distributed across theatrical, digital, broadcast and internet-based platforms.
It owns the larges catalog of Black material in the world, an expansive library that consists of dramatic, comedic, romantic and faith-based titles featuring top African American and Latino talent.
In just a short period of time Clanagan has already established CodeBlack Entertainment as an independent distributor of urban-themed content releasing urban content through theatrical, DVD, and broadcast channels and has further increased its equity by developing a strategic business alliance with one of Hollywood’s biggest media conglomerates Lionsgate.
The company has a multi-picture deal with Lionsgate, to produce original urban films targeting the African-American market.
Previously he enjoyed such a relationship with Fox where he produced film adaptations of the 1980s Off-Broadway gospel musical hit Mama, I Want to Sing! as well as the popular play A Good Man is Hard to Find. In June 2009, the entered into a partnership with basketball player Shaquille O’Neal to produce and distribute the All Star Comedy Jam series. Featuring some of the most celebrated stand-up comics.
Most recently CodeBlack has enjoyed enormous success with comedian Kevin Hart and has a long working relationship with Lionsgate.
Clanagan elaborated; “Once you are able to create you own business and can do it on your on, then instead of asking for stuff you are able to create partnerships based on your ability to produce. I am not saying that you have to be in business with studios, but there is a way that you can be in business with them as a partner.”
As he sees it there isn’t a system for Black executives to exist at the studios and networks and conversely when Blacks attend college they are not learning about public relations and marketing jobs behinds the scenes, but instead are taught to go for the more popular jobs in front of the camera.
“The other part of that dilemma is that as actors and producers we fail to arm ourselves with the proper information so that we can go in and intelligently negotiate the best deal for us,” he added. “What I mean by that is we don’t understand the numbers and the economics of the movie business.”
Clanagan decided upon the name CodeBlack to directly deal with the stigma of racism in the industry. He courageously ran to who his race, instead of from it. Studios executive have ultimately respected him for his stance.
So, CodeBlack Entertainment doesn’t just have the right man for it’s job, but Hollywood has the right man to be The Black Power of Hollywood.