Monday, June 27, 2005

Craig Brewer: Black, White and Rich All Over

You may have heard about Craig Brewer's post-screening discussion of Hustle and Flow at the MGM Screening Room last Friday. The first-time filmmaker joined producer Stephanie Allain in chatting up indieWIRE editor Eugene Hernandez's film class, discussing the trials, tribulations and five-year process of getting his troubled pimp opus Hustle to the screen.

You know, it is hard out here for a pimp. Director Craig Brewer explains with producer Stephanie Allain (Photo): STV

During the discussion, Brewer had some remarkably candid comments about the racial politics that he claims almost scuttled his film. He referenced one unnamed executive who explained the trouble with whites directing "black" films: "One studio person actually told me, 'If it's a comedy and we have a star, we can sell the star. If it's a small personal indie film, we have to sell you. And that's too confusing.'"

Hmmm. Typical Hollywood logic. Brewer continued: "Stephanie and I were getting cautionary tales about this one movie because it was being financed independently, outside the studio, for about $40 milion. It was packed with incredible African-American actors and they said, 'No one is going to buy this movie. They are being ridiculous making this movie about Ray Charles.' And we totally bought it. We thought if there's no way Ray Charles was going to work, there's no way that a pimp is.

"There is the sense in Hollywood that says: 'We know how to make money off films with a predominantly black cast. It is in this avenue and this avenue. But inbetween, you get into a grayer area, and nobody wants to explore that. But actually, I think that in the last year and this year, that's going away. Race is no longer something to be a gimmick. It's something to be celebrated or explored. That's why I think that our movie is an earnest hip-hop movie. Hip-hop has always been inclusive, as I feel rap as been."

Well, Paramount must have seen something inclusive enough to make it worth throwing $9 million at during Sundance. And it was learned last week that Brewer will dig deeper into the phenomenon with his next project, Black Snake Moan, featuring Samuel L. Jackson as a blues musician.


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