Inside Jake Gyllenhaal’s Nine Stories, a Production Company for Edgy Indies


Jake Gyllenhaal has become a fixture at the Toronto International Film Festival. Over the last four years, the actor has appeared there with a series of chameleonlike performances in “Nocturnal Animals,” “Demolition,” “Nightcrawler” and “Prisoners.” This week, he heads back to Canada with “Stronger,” the story of real-life Boston Marathon survivor Jeff Bauman.

“Stronger” is a harrowing showcase for Gyllenhaal, playing a 27-year-old man who loses both his legs in the 2013 bombing on Boylston Street. The movie, which opens in theaters on Sept. 22 through Roadside Attractions, signals a behind-the-scenes transformation for Gyllenhaal. It’s the first project that he has produced through his Manhattan-based company Nine Stories (named after the 1953 collection of prose by J.D. Salinger), which he launched two years ago with veteran producer Riva Marker.

“We have two goals,” says Gyllenhaal, seated next to Marker in their new offices in SoHo in downtown New York. “One is to find material I can do as an actor. And also, it’s to champion the filmmakers we love.” He notes that when he’s not appearing in a project, he’ll be involved behind the camera only.

Nine Stories’ game plan is to back edgy, independent films in the $10 million-to-$40 million-budget range, TV series and stage productions (such as “Sunday in the Park With George,” starring Gyllenhaal, which had a limited, sold-out run on Broadway in the spring). Many of its film titles are financed through a first-look deal with Bold Films, an agreement that was recently extended through 2020. “They have so much passion and such great taste,” says Gary Michael Walters, the CEO of Bold Films. “They have very quickly evolved into true producers.”

The world of independent film is one of feast or famine. Money is freely flowing into productions, thanks to the influx of digital players like Netflix, Amazon Studios and Apple, which is entering content creation. At the same time, it’s never been harder to sell tickets to smaller and midsize movies, which are fighting to keep up at the box office.

“I feel like it sort of is the best of times,” says Marker, the producer behind such indie films as “Hello, My Name Is Doris” and “Beasts of No Nation.” “I think the market does feel flush with cash. But also, because we’re living in such a dark time politically, people really are looking to the arts, especially when you have an administration that wants to pull back on it.”

Nine Stories’ slate is a robust mix of sizes and genres (including the Tribeca documentary “Hondros,” about a celebrated war photographer, which sold to Netflix in the spring). The company just closed a deal with Fox Searchlight for the next movie from “The Big Sick” director Michael Showalter, called “The Last Ride of Cowboy Bob.” Based on a Texas Monthly article, it tells the story of a female bank robber in the ’90s who got away with her heists by dressing up in men’s attire. “It’s an opportunity for a tour de force role,” Marker says. “It’s a woman playing a man.”

Gyllenhaal says one of his missions as a producer is to elevate projects with female leads and directors. “My sister happens to be an actor,” he says of Maggie. “She’s the person I always looked up to since I was little. And my mother” — Naomi Foner — “is a very strong, powerful, talented writer. I’ve been raised by these incredible female storytellers, so it’s natural for me to say, ‘Where are those stories?’”

Also on tap at Nine Stories is “The Son,” to be directed by Denis Villeneuve, with Gyllenhaal portraying a man who confesses to crimes he didn’t commit; “The Anarchists vs ISIS,” based on a Rolling Stone article about a ragtag group of Americans battling the terrorist group; Luca Guadagnino’s drama “Rio,” with Benedict Cumberbatch and Gyllenhaal; and “The Good Time Girls,” the directorial debut from costume designer Courtney Hoffman, starring Laura Dern.

Gyllenhaal, who now reads roughly 250 scripts a year, got the producing bug during a time of restlessness in his career. Unfulfilled by studio tentpoles, he started to experiment in the indie space with dramas like David Ayer’s “End of Watch,” for which he received his first producing credit in 2012. On that film, he learned the important lesson of collaborating with a director at the right time, on his way up, when the costs of a budget can still be kept down.

“For me, it’s not about anything up front,” Gyllenhaal says about taking a reduced salary as an actor. “You put in your preparation and hustle. When we made ‘End of Watch,’ David Ayer and I said to each other, ‘Let’s do it out of the earshot of everybody in a small space.’ The same with Dan Gilroy.” His thriller “Nightcrawler,” with a budget of $8 million, went on to gross $50 million worldwide.

Those successes drove Gyllenhaal to launch his own company. But he needed a partner, and he struggled with the idea of working with a total stranger. Graham Taylor, a top agent with WME, suggested that Gyllenhaal meet with Marker, on a hunch that they would get along. “I felt the two of them would be the Starsky and Hutch or Laverne and Shirley,” Taylor says. “They were like two halves of a locket. They seemed like the obvious pair to put together.”

It was a blind date that led to a happy working marriage. Their first conversation was so easy, it was like they’d known each other for years, as they bonded over their favorite ’80s films. Marker had experience making tough movies. For “Beasts of No Nation,” she was one of the producers who spent three years with director Cary Fukunaga, who filmed in Ghana under treacherous conditions involving snakes and malaria.

For “Sunday in the Park,” Marker enlisted Fukunaga to shoot a video of Gyllenhaal belting out “Finishing the Hat” that became the show’s viral marketing campaign. She had one day to figure out a way to hang Fukunaga from the rafters of the Hudson Theatre so that he could get the extended shot he wanted.

Gyllenhaal and Marker’s rapport is on full display in their joint interview with Variety. He talks about how he’s sent her text messages at 3:30 in the morning, while shooting a movie overseas, and she’s responded immediately. “People say to me, ‘You work so hard,’” he says. “I sleep. She never sleeps!”

“I sleep,” Marker insists. She says she gets six hours a night — although they might not be consecutive.

The Making of ‘Stronger’

“Stronger” required a Herculean effort to get to the big screen. Producer Todd Lieberman had optioned the rights to Bauman’s story, developing it at Lionsgate with Gyllenhaal in the lead role. But after the studio partnered with CBS Films to release “Patriots Day,” starring Mark Wahlberg as a Boston police sergeant in the aftermath of the attack, there was concern the two films were too similar. “It started to feel like it was slipping,” Gyllenhaal says. “We were the smaller movie.”

Just after starting Nine Stories, Gyllenhaal went to Bold Films in October 2015 with a pitch to see if it would finance “Stronger,” with him and Marker as additional producers. “It was a great fit for a number of reasons,” Bold’s Walters says about the project, which had a $30 million budget. “We are aspiring to make larger movies.” Lionsgate stayed on as the film’s distributor, with Roadside partnering later on the domestic release.

Gyllenhaal spent days in Boston with Bauman to capture his likeness (even watching how he picked up a fork). It was important for him to get his story right. “I started to understand Jeff psychologically through his speech,” Gyllenhaal says. “He constantly has an inviting quality to him. Always open. Always childish. That childish aspect made him a survivor.”

Bauman recalls how Gyllenhaal would drive up from New York. “He did a lot of research,” Bauman says. “We went over a lot of physical stuff, like what hurt. How I would sit up, how I would take my legs off, stuff like that, which was really interesting to show him. Not a lot of people asked questions like that.”

Gyllenhaal had to portray the character knowing that both his legs would be digitally erased later on. “We had to plan,” Gyllenhaal says. “It’s a mixture of prosthetics, holes in the floor and visual effects.” He’d often sit in a wheelchair with his legs tucked under him, and he’d wear green socks for the special effects. “The team would come over and have these little white stickers, and they would tape them all over my legs,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many nights I would wake up with a sticker in my hair.”

Between takes, Gyllenhaal attended production meetings, scouted locations and weighed in on the film’s poster. He said that as a producer, he felt more pressure to deliver a movie that was financially successful. “This thing doesn’t work, it’s on your ass,” he says.

At least he won over an important viewer. In June, Bauman saw a finished cut of the film. “I don’t want to brag about him, but he’s amazing,” he says of Gyllenhaal’s performance. “I have a lot of amputee friends, and they saw the previews and asked: ‘How did he do that? He looks just like you.’”

After Toronto, for the first time in five years Gyllenhaal is giving himself a short break from his day job. “I’m taking the fall off as an actor,” he says. “We’re just going to focus on the company.”




The SOL Venue & Free2bMee Present R&B Singer Marques Houston


What are YOU doing August 24th? Marques Houston will be performing at The SOL Venue.

Thursday Aug 24, 2017
Doors: 7:30 PM (ends at 12:00 AM)

Check out Marques Houston new single #Together on @itunes now Music from the movie #TilDeathDoUsPart in theaters September 29th #SPMGMedia



Marques Barrett “Batman” Houston (born August 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, California) is an American R&B singer, rapper, actor and former member of the R&B group Immature, also known as IMx. He founded the group in 1992 along with Young Rome, and they released five studio albums before disbanding in 2002. Houston released his debut solo album, MH, in 2003 and has since released 2005’s Naked, 2007’s Veteran and 2009’s Mr Houston. His fifth solo album, Mattress Music, was released September 14.

Houston sang with his childhood friends, Jerome “Romeo” Jones and Kelton “LDB” Kessee in the group Immature. Chris Stokes became the manager of the group. They first started with the band called Immature. Houston’s Immature nickname “Batman” was given to him for wearing Batman underwear on his head. The group later changed their name to IMx, because they felt they had matured personally and musically. In 2002, IMx mutually disbanded because the members wanted to move on and do different things creatively. Houston inked a record deal with TUG/Universal records and embarked upon his journey of becoming a relevant R&B soloist.

In 2003, Houston recorded and released his first solo album entitled MH. The singles were “That Girl” and “Clubbin (Ft. Joe Budden)”. Houston also appeared on Scream Tour with Nick Cannon, B2k, and Bow Wow.

In 2004, he released two more singles from that album; “Pop That Booty (Ft. Jermaine Dupri) and “Because Of You”.

In 2005, Houston released his sophomore album entitled Naked. The singles from that album were “All Because Of You (Ft. Young Rome)”, “Naked”, and “Sex Wit You”.

In 2006 he released the first single from his third solo album, “Favorite Girl” and the Accompanying video, featuring Stacey Dash. He was also featured in his fellow T.U.G. artist, Mila J’s video/song “Good Lookin’ Out” and on Yung Joc’s video/song “1st Time” and with Trey Songz.

On March 26, 2007, Houston released his third studio album entitled Veteran.

Acting career

Houston made his debut acting appearance in the comedy film House Party 3, where he played himself along with fellow Immature/IMx bandmates Jerome “Romeo” Jones and then member Don “Half Pint” Santos (who was later replaced in the group by Kelton “LDB” Kessee).

Houston’s breakthrough role came when he won the part of Roger Evans in the television comedy show Sister, Sister, playing the next door neighbor of Tia and Tamera (played by Tia and Tamera Mowry). He played the role from 1994 to 1997, making a final cameo appearance in the final episode of the show in 1999.

Houston starred in a couple of movies and played small roles here and there throughout his career. He even held his own television show for a short while (the short-lived UPN’s Cuts, a spinoff of another UPN show, One on One).

Marques Houston made his return to the music industry with the release of his first song in a year called “Together”! The song is featured on the 9 song soundtrack for the movie “Til Death Do Us Part” starring Taye Diggs, which Houston also wrote and produced. When asked why he chose to make his return to music on this particular soundtrack, it surprisingly wasn’t the answer that we expected. Houston felt compelled to give his addition to the soundtrack because the movie’s message and purpose is to bring awareness to the growing domestic violence problem in America. “I don’t condone any kind of domestic violence….and people so easily overlook it. Hopefully this film and the soundtrack will bring attention to this problem and help to solve it.”, says Houston. The soundtrack features a few other artists including Mila J and J-Boog formerly of B2K and will be available on September 22. “Til Death Do Us Part” releases in theaters nationwide on September 29.

‘TIL DEATH DO US PART, starring Taye Diggs, Annie Ilonzeh and Stephen Bishop, is a suspenseful thriller about a young woman’s struggle to escape a violent marriage. The film is directed by Chris Stokes, and written by Marques Houston and Stokes.


‘TIL DEATH DO US PART soundtrack track listing includes:

1. Together – Marques Houston
2. Touch Me – Mila J
3. Your Love – J-Boog formerly of B2K
4. Enough – IRich
5. Let Me Know – J-Boog formerly of B2K
6. See You Again – Marques Houston
7. Palm Tree – JACOB
8. Leave – Chrissy
9. Just Chill – Smooth

Til Death Do Us Part Trailer


SOL Venue is a beautiful private event space and live music venue; an entity owned and operated by The Omens Group. Centrally located within the South Bay, The SOL Venue brings sophistication and charm to downtown Carson. This beautiful cocktail lounge and acoustically sound entertainment venue features a weekly collection of live music, specialty private events, innovative mixology, and personalized service. All of which make The SOL Venue truly one of a kind.

If you are interested in utilizing our venue for a private event, we are an ideal vicinity for exclusive birthday celebrations, receptions, bridal showers, baby showers, corporate events, presentations, and any event worth celebrating! Learn more at




One year ago, veteran documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield realized that something was wrong. He was about three months into postproduction on Whitney: Can I Be Me, his new documentary on the life and death of Whitney Houston – and sitting in his editing room, he found himself “in complete despair.” In its rough state, the movie was primarily a compendium of experts and talking heads opining about the singer’s influence and legacy – a “journalistic report” as Broomfield calls it. But, he notes, “I wasn’t feeling my heart moved by the story.” The director refused to show the cut to the BBC, who co-financed the film with Showtime: “I tore the film to pieces.”

What it needed, he realized, was a radical shift in direction. “She somehow wasn’t in there,” the 69-year-old says from his home in Sussex, England. “So I switched editors, and we decided that we were going to put Whitney’s voice in as much as we possibly could. We wanted to tell the story through her eyes. And as soon as that was changed … I found myself tearing up. I could feel the spirit of Whitney.”

Told through a combination of original interviews, archival material and footage captured by co-director Rudi Dolezal, Whitney(which opens in theaters on August 18th and premieres on Showtime on August 25th) is still an intimate look at the singer’s life. But it also touches on the myriad factors that led to her death and a broader dissection on the intersection of race and marketing in the music industry. And unlike Broomfield’s other music docs like Biggie & Tupac and Kurt & Courtney, the director is never seen and seldom heard, letting the singer’s friends, family, record label associates and band members celebrate a life as much as mourning a death.

How familiar were you with Whitney Houston – and what was your initial plan for the film – when you started?
I don’t think there was much of a plan going in. I didn’t know that much about Whitney Houston; the thing that originally interested me was when I heard that the record companies in those days had a black division and a white division. One of the first people I spoke to was [Arista Records publicist] Kenneth Reynolds, who said that she was so very carefully manufactured to make her acceptable to a mass, white audience. I had never really thought much about the racial aspect of Whitney Houston at all, but it was something that went to the very core of what the story is about. Namely, that people thought that she was somebody other than who she actually is. They were fed a particular image. Whenever she didn’t live up to the expectations of that image, she was then judged severely. It was an unsupportable situation.

Reynolds talks about the public getting “Princess Whitney” and not “Newark Whitney.” The film features numerous people detailing how the singer was a “creation.”
That’s a very strong undercurrent in the film. She was supposed to just toe the line and behave herself, and got into terrible trouble whenever she somehow strayed from this image. Whitney took the easier path out, which was creating this little bubble where she could be herself and free – because she just could not operate within the parameters of what had been set out for her.

The film delves into her paradoxical feelings on fame and the idea of attaining a certain status only to see people trying to take her down. Was there an allure to that for you?
I think so, yes. I always felt that there was a disconnect between this person who was this staggeringly beautiful, doe-like, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly creature who could sing like an angel … and this “reviled drug addict” who became the butt of jokes on late-night talk shows. It was like, How did we get there? And how did we get there so quickly?

Her estate denounced this film early. Since so many of your previous docs focus on the process of getting the film made, did you consider including any battles with them in the movie?
I could have told the story about the estate trying to close me down at every moment, but I did genuinely fall in love with Whitney and just thought she had such an amazing talent. She had such an incredible wit about her that I just wanted to devote all that time to telling her story. [Having Rudi’s footage] allowed me to make the decision to chuck my story and bitching about the estate out … with great relief, actually. I didn’t want to end up making a bitchy film about them trying to close me down.

There’s an alternate doc that we’re never going to see.
[Laughs] I shot my conversations, for example, with Showtime. We were being bombarded with phone calls by William Morris and by the estate saying, “Drop the film,” you blah blah blah. There was a lot of pressure being brought to bear on me and the channel to pull out and dump it – and threats pretty much from the get-go before they announced their film. [Through a rep, the estate declined to comment for this article.]

The film shows the family’s disapproval of Whitney’s friendship with longtime friend Robyn Crawford, and you’ve said that they’re trying to “obliterate the memory of her from their version of Whitney.” Do you think the refusal of some members to participate in your film was impacted by its lionization of Robyn?
Absolutely. And when you look at the film, you can see why. Because she was the angel on her shoulder and it was only when Robyn left that things went absolutely out of control. She deserves that recognition. Robyn was efficient: She was the guiding force that kept it all together, and always put Whitney first, never tried to cash in on their relationship. She’s the heroine, in a way, of the film. I admire her.

Were they against this film from the beginning or did you have any interaction with them at first?
The estate has been a disappointment to me. I think, for example, it’s a terrible pity that most of Whitney’s clothes and awards have all been auctioned off by the estate. I don’t have an enormous amount of respect; otherwise I probably would have felt differently.


How aggressive did they get? Did they ask people not to participate in the film?
They were very aggressive. Kenneth Reynolds received an email and phone calls saying, “We don’t want you to take part in the film. We’re doing our own film with an Oscar-winning team [Last King of Scotland director Kevin MacDonald is working on a competing documentary] and we would appreciate it if you don’t take part. And we understand that you’re helping Nick Broomfield talk to other people and we don’t want you to do that.” Kenneth hadn’t heard from these people for 30 years. He was like, “Who do they think they are, telling me what I can do and what I can’t do?”

A lot of people who really love Whitney, a lot of musicians and friends – to this day, they love talking about her and  remembering that part of their lives, because she was such an amazing person to perform with. People just wanted to carry on talking forever. They remain incredibly loyal to her, and I guess they made a decision that they all believed in the film that I was going to be making.

The depth of Whitney and Robyn’s relationship feels like the subtext that runs as a throughline through much of the film.
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I don’t think you need to make a big point of it. People keep saying, is [Whitney] gay or is she not gay? I find that annoying because clearly [Robyn] was, for a long time, the single most important relationship in Whitney’s life regardless of anything else.

A different director could’ve easily gone a more salacious route.
Yeah, which I think would have completely undermined the film. ‘Cause what you wanted was Whitney’s humanity and greatness to come through. There was an ease and naturalness between her and Robyn. These were two people who met when they were teenagers. It wasn’t a salacious thing; it was just the most natural thing. The world made it a salacious thing, and it was the first question that she was asked on all these talk shows. I’m sure [Clive Davis] didn’t intend to do it, consciously, but he took this innocent person and made her life absolutely impossibly difficult by creating something that wasn’t that person. And then kind of expecting them to live it. [Davis declined to participate in the film and, through a rep, declined to comment for this article.]


What did you think of the 2015 Lifetime biopic on her life that focused mostly on her drug use and turbulent relationship with Bobby Brown?
It was an awful drama and anyone who does a Lifetime film is asking for trouble. Poor Angela Bassett [who directed the film]; what a thankless job she took on. It just went for a lot of the more obvious punches. The one interesting thing was that it didn’t just blame Bobby for everything, which a lot of the other ones did. He was “Mr. Evil” who “corrupted” Whitney and the more you talk to everybody, you realize that that’s so far from truth. To his credit, Bobby Brown took it and did not come out swinging and pointing fingers at Whitney, which I thought was pretty sophisticated and very much to his credit.

One bombshell in the film is a detailed report filed by Whitney’s bodyguard David Roberts in 1995 warning her management of the singer’s drug use and corrosive influence of those around her.
And he was fired for it. It’s true. Because there were others, subsequently, who tried the same thing and they also got fired. [Her people] weren’t prepared to stop the concerts and touring. She was so on fire. Those who were supplying her with the drugs and hiding the drugs in their vaginas were the ones who stayed with her until the end. And per that report, they were all on drugs, too. David Roberts really cared. He was punished for sticking his neck out.

What was the most surprising thing that your learned about her as a person?
What moved me a lot was that she was just so funny. She had this infectious giggle and you could just completely understand why her friends liked hanging out with her. And somehow that fun-loving person just got more and more trampled on. She was supporting so many people and had such massive responsibilities with this gigantic entourage that it just became insupportable. She was generous to a fault, and she didn’t really care about money until it was much too late.

What do you hope people take away from the film after watching it?
I think it’s a film about judgement. She was so judged. I find sometimes it’s possible to just write people off. We’re always looking for a reason to not give people a second chance, and I think she was so harshly judged for the drug addiction. There was very little attempt to really understand where this was coming from or what it was about. I would like a lot of people to feel that there was a whole other way of looking at this.

‘Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me’ Trailer: Feature Documentary Follows Life Of Trailblazing Icon

The first major documentary about legendary actor/performer SAMMY DAVIS, JR, is set to debut next month at the Toronto International Film Festival. I’VE GOTTA BE ME is the first major film documentary to examine Davis’ vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th-century America.
Davis had the kind of career that was indisputably legendary, so vast and multi-faceted that it was dizzying in its scope and scale. And yet, his life was complex, complicated and contradictory. He strove to achieve the American Dream in a time of racial prejudice and shifting political territory. He was the veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions trying to stay relevant; he frequently found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America; he was the most public black figure to embrace Judaism, thereby yoking his identity to another persecuted minority.

Featuring new interviews with such luminaries as Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection and excerpts from his electric performances in television, film and concert, SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I’VE GOTTA BE ME explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across the major flashpoints of American society from the Depression through the 1980s.

I want to live, not merely survive
And I won’t give up this dream
Of life that keeps me alive.
I’ve gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me
The dream that I see makes me what I am.
I’m Puerto Rican, Jewish, colored, and married to a white woman.
When I move into a neighborhood, people start running in four ways at the same time.
–Sammy Davis, Jr.




“The Empowered Girl – How Not to be a Victim of Human Trafficking” is brought to you by the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls, a nonprofit founded by Shaun Robinson to empower young women through STEM education, the arts and healthy lifestyle choices. Sponsored by Ford Motor Company. Speakers include: host, former “Access Hollywood” host and philanthropist Shaun Robinson; panelists Garcelle Beauvais, actress; Joan Pera, Supervising Deputy Probation Officer, Los Angeles County; Kim Biddle, Founder/CEO, “Saving Innocence” organization; Tracey Webb, former Cyber Crime and Child Abuse prosecutor, Los Angeles; Gina Loring, poet/vocalist; and more.

Sponsored by Ford Motor Company.
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4708 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles.
Contact: Marie Lemelle (213) 276-7827


“When Silence Screams” ENCORE Stage Play


When Silence screams is one of the most talked about Stage Play’s rotating in the wind through out the Illinois area. It all started from an AWESOME run April 29th and 30th at Cornerstone Christian Center. The demand on the show was so high, that we decided to immediately put it back on Stage August 12th and 13th. We would be honored if you come out and see what the hype is all about. See what the people had to say about it.

Clips from “When Silence Screams”

We visit churches to promote the play and here is a snippet from a previous production:

When Silence Screams, is an original stage play written, directed, and produced by Richard Gallion. Taking place at a foster home, it tells the story of women, men, and children who are living secret lives to mask the scars from their unthinkable pasts. As they are forced to deal with their own inner demons, they must fight to be heard in a cold world that’s full of pain. Thus, making their cries for help a deafening silence. How much can someone’s heart take before it screams out to break the silence? Sometimes you have to fight your worst days just to move forward and earn the best days of your life. When Silence Screams explores real life story lines that plague our communities such as: domestic violence, lack of identity, family secrets, absence of love, and so much more. Laughter, tears, and triumph will be experienced as you see the heart of each character unfold when their silence is given a voice.



‘The Incredible Jessica James’ Trailer: Jessica Williams Dances Her Way Through Netflix’s Rom-Com — Watch

The Incredible Jessica James
The Incredible Jessica James

Netflix has released the teaser trailer for “The Incredible Jessica James,” a romantic comedy that seems to have delighted nearly everyone who saw it at Sundance this year. The film is being touted as a breakout for former “Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams, who plays the title character. Watch the teaser below.

READ MORE: ‘The Incredible Jessica James’ Review: Jessica Williams Makes a Bid For Movie Stardom — Sundance 2017

Williams can be seen on a boring date as well as at her job in the service industry, but mostly she dances — in stairwells, on rooftops and occasionally even in nightclubs. “I’m pretty, I’m smart, I am Coco Queen,” she announces to a party guest who doesn’t seem all that interested.

READ MORE: Netflix Acquires ‘The Incredible Jessica James’ — Sundance 2017

Chris O’Dowd, Noël Wells, Lakeith Stanfield, Megan Ketch and Zabryna Guevara co-star in the film, which was directed by “Grace Is Gone” and “People Places Things” helmer James C. Strouse. “The Incredible Jessica James” is available to stream on Netflix as of July 28.



‘Power’: When Starz Began Targeting African-American Viewers, It Paid Off With More Ratings and Subscribers

Power Season 4 2017

Power,” which returns for a fourth season this Sunday, continues to be perhaps the most-watched TV series that the industry still isn’t talking about. But they should be.

Last year, the Starz drama was the second-most watched series on premium cable (behind “Game of Thrones”), according to the network’s data – which cumed more than 8 million viewers per episode via multiple platforms.

Credit for the show’s – and Starz’s – success goes to tapping into an African-American audience that has traditionally been underserved by the pay cable networks.

“The secret weapon is targeting audiences that are voracious watchers of television,” CEO Chris Albrecht said, “and would like to have something on there that is targeted toward them and is high quality.”

Power Season 4 2017

Courtney A. Kemp is the creator behind “Power,” which centers on the rich of Manhattan and the drug trade underworld that supplies their habits. Omari Hardwick as nightclub owner and drug kingpin James “Ghost” St. Patrick, while Naturi Naughton plays his wife, Tasha, and Lela Loren is Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Valdes, who happens to be Ghost’s first love. Joseph Sikora also stars. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson is among the executive producers.

As Season 4 begins, Ghost is in jail, having been arrested by Angela for the murder of an FBI Agent – a crime he did not commit. Per Starz, “His fight for redemption brings him face-to-face with the Feds, the media, new allies, and old foes. But the biggest obstacle for Ghost remains himself and his internal struggle between the man he wants to be and the one he really is.”

“Power” came to Starz after Albrecht, the former HBO boss who took over as CEO of Starz in 2010, began looking at ways to expand the network’s programming and differentiate it from HBO and Showtime.

Power Season 4 2017

At a Paley Center event last year, Kemp said she brought “Power” to Starz at the right time, as the channel searched for that identity.

“There was no formula for what made a Starz show, so I was able to pitch what I wanted to do,” she said. “Chris is not afraid of black people and not afraid to put them on the air. I can’t say enough about how different that atmosphere is. He has a level of relaxation with the subject matter.”

Early programming efforts at Starz were targeted more broadly, and met with less success (“Magic City,” “Boss”). Since then, the decision to focus on female and African-American audiences appears to have paid off: The network reports 24.2 million subscribers, up 40 percent from where it was at the start of the decade.

“We’re in the business of growing the Starz business,” Albrecht said. “Let’s find groups who can become subscribers. With the opportunity in digital through wholesale or direct-to-consumer, we can find people in ways you couldn’t find them before. Now you can access directly for $8.99 a month. In a world where the average income of the Starz subscriber is less than the Showtime or HBO subscriber, there’s a real upside for targeting some viewers who have previously been unable to become customers.”

READ MORE: ‘Black-ish,’ ‘Insecure,’ and Others Aren’t Just ‘Black Shows,’ As Nielsen Study Proves

African-American audiences consume more television on average, and networks such as OWN and VH1 have also found success by targeting that demographic. “Power” is a phenomenon even as its audience skews heavily African-American – around 75 percent of all viewing. (The audience makeup for network’s comedy “Survivor’s Remorse” is similar.)

“[African-American audiences] are underserved in television, and yet we keep seeing reminders, especially now, of the power of the black dollar,” Albrecht said. “But if you look at the demographics of the [Hollywood] executive suits, it’s not a surprise that there aren’t more shows targeted like this.”

That reminder was on display again last weekend at the box office, when the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me” did well despite tepid reviews.

“I think [competitors] are sticking their toe in the water, but they don’t make the full commitment,” Albrecht said of his rivals. (The handful of shows on premium cable featuring casts that are predominantly people of color include HBO’s “Insecure” and Showtime’s recent “Guerilla.”)

Albrecht also said the Hollywood business media has also been slow to pick up on the success of “Power” because of a similar blindness to shows they’re not watching.

“Power is a real success story, and no one would have bet on it, and the attention from the press [isn’t quite there],” he said. “It’s not a big franchise, it’s not pretentious, and in the minds of a lot of people who write it’s not cool. But in the minds of the fans, it’s one of their favorite shows on television.”

Starz has now found a healthy backend market for “Power,” as Seasons 1 through 3 were sold earlier this year to Hulu. “[New Starz parent] Lionsgate came in and did a great job selling the show to Hulu,” Albrecht said. “We think that can benefit the show by bringing in new viewers to the new season and we’ll still retain the right to keep the previous seasons on Starz on Demand and Starz app. It’s a win-win. When you have a successful product like that and people see it and start to come to it then it becomes more valuable.”

“Power” Season 4 premieres on Sunday, June 25, at 9 p.m. on Starz. The premiere episode is also available starting at 12:01 am June 25 on the Starz app and Starz On Demand.


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