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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 

Have We Been Hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Led Astray?

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Have We Been Hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Led Astray?

Artel Great

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On the hotly contested and politically charged terrain of contemporary media culture most filmmakers live or die based on an industry model that is largely dependent upon the number of screens on which a film plays. This traditional line of thinking posits that the more screens on which a movie is shown the more money that movie makes.

However, given the state of audience fatigue induced by the current Hollywood megabudget, superhero, sequel, prequel, unoriginal remake, CGI, film cycle we're mired in--- this line of thinking has become misleading.  Movies with huge budgets that play on thousands of screens are failing to turn a profit (see my previous article: "Is Hollywood Out of Touch?" for more details.)

As a critical part of my research agenda, I’ve examined the most recent data from the United States Census Bureau and the theatrical market statistics from the Motion Picture Association of America, and what I’ve found is shocking.  People of color comprise 36 percent of the total U.S. population.

Yet, this same segment (people of color) make up 57 percent of the total movie-going audience.  That’s a lot of box office power!  But despite this stark overrepresentation of people of color in movie audiences only 2 percent of the movies produced in Hollywood have a diverse cast!  Have we been had?  Are we being took?  Have we been hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Led astray? Run amok?

You be the judge. Take a look at the infographic I've created below based on the data from a new study conducted at UCLA's  Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

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Men lie. Women lie. But numbers don’t.

The stories, images, and experiences of people of color remain largely absent in commercial film and television.  The way America's population is trending (with people of color rising dramatically in number) this current lack of cinema and media representation is nonsensical and, frankly, fiscally unsound.  So instead of complaining about these gross inequities (and listening to others complain) I’ve decided to do something.  My current research with the CRI reveals that multicultural audiences have an enormous appetite for films that honestly depict the multiple facets of their communities using imagery that expresses the fullness of their humanity.

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With this in mind, working with the CRI I’ve designed Project Catalyst— an innovative transmedia company that fuses creative community building practices with cinema, art, and technology— to challenge the lack of visibility given to people of color in the current media landscape. 

My work with Project Catalyst is aimed at re-imagining the empowering possibilities of cinema by designing a new socially engaged, artistically rich, transmedia experience that directly addresses multicultural audiences and filmmakers.

As new technology continues to evolve and change the cinematic terrain, my goal is to embrace this change and push the boundaries of the possible.  My work with Project Catalyst emerges as a disruptive innovation that marries digital and mobile technologies with cinema, visual art, creative activism, and participatory engagement.  My aim is to achieve an alternative distribution model that navigates multiple media platforms to showcase amazing films— by and about people of color.  In fact, I contend a platform like Project Catalyst is long overdue.  And I am not content waiting around for some out-of-touch studio executive to finally recognize that people of color actually go to the movies!  The time has come to truly celebrate diversity in cinema and media— the audience is there, the appetite is there, the buying power is there, and the time— is NOW.

 I real(eyes) great ideas can changethe world, but it requires great people to make it happen. So I need your help. Go to our newly designed website www.projectcatalyst.com and fill out the information to “Become A Catalyst,” and get involved to show your support.  I look forward to taking this amazing journey with you!

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