PRODUCTION JOURNAL: Midweek Morning Mixer - 1.8.14 ("It's-hard-for-black-actors-but-things-change" edition)

Sometimes it's easy to forget how far we've come because we still have so far to go. Although public outcries forced SNL to hire a black female as a featured player on the show after so many years, opportunities are plentiful for actors of color compared to what it was like in the past.  And the roles are waaaaaaay more dignified.  So as a reminder of how hard it was for black actors who had to accept roles that were beneath them, let's offer a special HBD tip of the hat to... Butterfly McQueen.
"She was born on January 8, 1911in Tampa, Florida, to a stevedore and domestic maid, Thelma McQueen would go on to make cinematic history as one of the few African-American character actors in classic Hollywood. In 1916, her father abandoned the family, leaving her mother and her to travel the East Coast in search of work. She eventually landed in Long Island where she completed her education and learned to dance. She made her stage debut as a part of the Butterfly Ballet in a production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Her stage name “Butterfly” was given to her by friends after seeing her dance. She was cast in several Broadway “black” productions when she auditioned for Gone With the Wind. Originally dismissed as too overweight, David O. Selznick decided he wanted veteran actors for the slave roles. And McQueen’s high-pitched flightiness––"Lawdy, Miss Scarlett, I'se don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!"––played off the solid earthiness of Hattie McDaniel. She continued to act in films like George Cukor’s The Women and Vincente Minnelli all-black Cabin in the Sky until 1947, when she refused to take on any more demeaning black roles. While she would occasionally appear on television and in theater, McQueen focused on her education, graduating from college in 1974. Looking back on her life, McQueen stated, “Now I am happy I did Gone with the Wind. I wasn't when I was 28, but it's part of black history. You have no idea how hard it is for black actors, but things change, things blossom in time.”" ~~Focus Features

January 8, 1969
Pierrot le Fou Opens

"Jean-Luc Godard’s tenth film, Pierrot le Fou, a seminal transition picture for the prolific director and a high point in his early career, was released on January 8, 1969 in New York. Typically playful in its freewheeling narrative and bold in its use of pop colors and pop imagery, the film starred Jean-Paul Belmondo — the lead in his debut film, Breathless — and Anna Karina, the Danish actress who became Godard’s partner and muse through a series of late ‘60s films. Belmondo plays a TV exec who goes on crime spree with his family’s young babysitter (Karina), traveling from Paris to Nice. There are musings on high and low art, B-movies and Herman Melville, the Algerian and Viet Nam wars, and, amidst the cinematic playfulness, a strong romantic fatalism as well as a feeling of summing up. Godard’s filmmaking would become more directly political in the following years, and the sense of Pierrot le Fou as a kind of culmination work is perhaps stated directly in its advertising, which references several of the director’s previous pictures: “A little soldier who discovers with contempt that one must live one’ life, that a woman is a woman and that in a new world one must live as an outsider in order not to find one’s self breathless.”" ~~Focus Features

Plus HBD to Charles Bryant, English-American actor and director (1879, d. 1948); Jean-Marie Straub, French director (1933); John McTiernan, American director and producer (1951); and Sarah Polley, Canadian actress, director, and screenwriter (1979)
RIP to Johannes Pääsuke, Estonian photographer and director (1911, b. 1892); Bimal Roy, Indian director (1963, b. 1909); and Iwao Takamoto, American animator, director, and producer (2007, b. 1925).
WRITING: How do you write the perfect logline and why is it as important for your screenplay?

PRODUCING: What are the best big cities, small cities and towns to live and work as a filmmaker in 2014 starting with #10 San Francisco? (an ongoing series throughout January)

FINANCING: What are 3 funding trends that can affect any filmmaker seeking investments or money in 2014? 

DIRECTING: Some thoughts on finding your directing style.

SHOOTING: A writer explains his reason for choosing a particular camera to shoot an action movie with lots of parkour based on his book.

LIGHTING: Why your film needs a good gaffer?

SOUND: How do you set audio levels in FCP X, Premiere and Avid?

STUNTS & VFX: How do they fake horse-riding in the movies?

EDITING: How do you animate a still photo in post to create the cool slow-motion effect used in documentaries?

DISTRIBUTION: What are the top 14 film markets around the world?

MARKETING: Should indie films license products like Hollywood?

LEGAL: So, what could have entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 2014?

Finally, RIP to Sir Run Run Shaw, godfather of the kung fu genre, who died yesterday at the age of 106.  His productions not only influenced me just as much as all the silent pictures, foreign films, Hollywood movies and experimental pieces that I love but also inspired me to become a martial arts instructor in Bruce Lee's art of Jeet Kune Do. 



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