Lena Waithe doesn’t think African-American movie stars like Denzel Washington and Will Smith are doing enough to support up-and-coming black filmmakers.
Waithe is the creator of Showtime drama The Chi, co-creator of BET’s Boomerang and she wrote the script for the upcoming Universal Pictures thriller, Queen & Slim.
In an interview with The New York Times about Queen & Slim and the future of film, Waithe said one of the biggest challenges young black storytellers face is financing their movies. She called on successful black stars to do more to help.
“You can make a very well-done independent black movie for three million bucks, and that’s a drop in the bucket for what some of these black stars make per movie,” said Waithe.
“Don’t get me started on black financiers!” she added. “How many of those do we have? I’m not [going to name] names because I know better, but there are some very big black movie stars out there, and they could pay for two or three or even five small independent movies to get made by black directors and black writers.”
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The writer-producer-actress brought up Barry Jenkins’ 2016 film Moonlight and Steve McQueen’s 2013 drama 12 Years a Slave. Both movies were from black directors and both won Oscars.
“Whose production company put those out?” Waithe asked the Times interviewer, who replied Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B.
“[It] wasn’t Denzel. Wasn’t Will Smith,” she stated. “You won’t catch me making $20 million a movie and not paying for at least four or five independent movies a year. I do give credit to Ava [DuVernay] for trying to build something that hasn’t been built before, but that’s a lot on Ava’s back.”
She was referring to Ava DuVernay’s film collective, Array, an indie distribution and resource collective that helps women and people of color. Waithe said to bring more change to Hollywood, African-Americans have to work together.
“I’m over here trying to build a community, and I don’t see other people doing it,” she continued. “I really do feel like there’s a way for us to change the movie business from the inside out, but we’re all in our own silos doing our own thing. We’re definitely in the middle of a renaissance, make no mistake. In 20 years, people are going to be writing about what you’re writing about. But for me, I want more.”