The increase in television programming and film projects spearheaded by Black content creators in Hollywood has been steadily on the rise over the past 5 years or so, but if you ask those who are actually doing the creating, the glass ceiling has yet to be broken. When looking from behind the scenes, it seems more work completed also shines a light on just how much more work there still is to be done to continue the forward progress.
Weighing in on the topic in a panel titled Black Behind The Lens: Shaping Our Stories From Script To Screen, some of the most prominent voices in the film and entertainment industry came together for an enlightening conversation on the 2018 ESSENCE Festival Empowerment stage. The conversation included candid discussion on ways Black directors, producers and screenwriters help better define our narratives within television and film while continuing to push the boundaries in Hollywood.
Actress and director Regina King, director Barry Jenkins, and director George Tillman Jr. offered a blended balance of their perspectives, as journalist and television personality, Toure moderated the discussion centering around the importance of representation amongst directors, producers and actors.
"I think Hollywood wants to see more of African-American characters and African-American stories, period," Tillman said.
Pivoting the conversation to address the perceived "ease" with which Black films seemingly being more accepted in Hollywood today, Tillman
"I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s easier," he said. "We could all agree it’s not easier. I would say that television has allowed this space to grow, so there are probably more opportunities because there are more outlets but, it’s tough."
Responding to a question on what type of stories they like to tell, specifically when it comes to authentically capturing the essence of Black life, Hall spoke on the untapped common interests that link people and how portraying that accurately on screen is a priority for her.
"I want to tell stories that are interesting to me," she said. "I think we have more in common than we think."
"What are you trying to give to Blake audiences with your filmmaking? Tillman added. "They always say a filmmaker tells the same story no matter what. I enjoy telling stories about families. I was taught in film school to talk about things you’re interested in, extensively, and I think I always gravitate towards."
The trio closed out the conversation with sound words of advice for those aspiring to do great work behind the scenes in Hollywood. Hall, in particular, encouraged young television and film content creators to never give up.
"You’re gonna hear no more than you hear yes," she said. "But don’t let that discourage you. Keep going."
For more on everything you missed at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival, check out ESSENCE.com