African Americans spend more time watching television and going to the movies than any other segment of the population. And there have always been films and television shows aimed at this eager audience - but they rarely feature African Americans behind the scenes, writing, producing and directing.
As a result, the stories and characters row models of how white writers believe black people feel, think and live. And more often than not, comedy is the message. Fortunately, that's beginning to change: Young black writers, directors and producers are increasingly taking a more active role in the industry.
Though problems do persist, the climate is getting better. African Americans still have to fight being stereotyped as 'hood directors. And black television writers and producers are still more likely to be found creating and writing sitcoms than dramas. Of course, black Hollywood can't be built in a day. Here are some young African Americans who have the chance to influence the images we see. They are contributing to a new direction for blacks in television and film entertainment - both in front of and behind the camera.
Bentley Kyle Evans
In Hollywood, Bentley Kyle Evans is running the show. Actually he's running two shows simultaneously for two networks. At 30, Evans is quickly making his mark among the entertainment glitterati. In 1995 he inked a multimillion-dollar development deal with Warner Brothers to create new television programming.
His first effort under the WB deal is The Jamie Foxx Show. The highest tested pilot in WB's history, it debuted this past September as the No. 1 program in its time slot. Evans is also co-executive producer/ head writer for the Fox comedy, Martin, starring Martin Lawrence.
This double duty puts Evans in charge of a staff of over 100, and budgets in the millions. A typical 12-13-hour day includes brainstorming sessions with writers, working with directors and producers, writing and overlooking scripts and casting extras. "It can be mentally challenging," he admits, but he uses his youth to his advantage.
Evans hasn't limited himself to the small screen. He co-wrote A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, a $7 million film starring Martin Lawrence that grossed more than $40 million "Opportunities are here [in Hollywood] as they've never been before," asserts Evans. "It's a good time for African Americans both in front of the camera and behind the scenes."
Evans' first gig in the entertainment...