Screenwriter Michael Elliott (Brown Sugar, Just Wright, Carmen: A Hip Hopera) attended this month's 15th annual American Black Film Festival in Miami to conduct a master class on how to write a script. Afterward, he shared with us his thoughts on film and his upcoming project.
The Root: What's happened to black film since the heyday of the 1990s?
Michael Elliott: The movie business is a business, and it is all about money. Studios like to follow trends and do things that work. There became a time when our movies just didn't work. When you think about New Jack City, which made $48 million back then, that's like $80 million today. Boyz n the Hood did phenomenally well. Waiting to Exhale did over $70 million back then. There was this moment where our movies were doing very well, and then they weren't. So when they stopped making money, studios stopped making movies like that.
TR: What's your favorite black movie?
ME: Wow. There are so many, but I loved Love Jones and Mahogany.
TR: What are you working on right now?
ME: I'm working on a musical with MTV. Its going to star a well-known R&B singer who I can't name right now, but people will know soon.
TR: Where do you fall on the Spike Lee versus Tyler Perry debate about black films?
ME: For all the criticism Tyler Perry gets, he's the best thing that has happened to the business for us. He's shown that there is an audience for our movies that's not only black. His movies are mainstream, and they're making money. The more of us that are making money, the more opportunities for everyone else. We still have some hurdles, but this is not a bad time to be in our business right now.
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