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Black women in film

Gail Choice | 3/12/2009, 5 p.m.

Black women are becoming more and more business savvy when it comes to working in the entertainment industry. Today there are a number of black women who realize you can exercise more power working behind the camera as producers, writers and directors.

Vivica A. Fox is a very versatile and talented actress; her impressive career indicates she's a hard worker and very dedicated to her craft. But she's also an astute businesswoman.

Fox created Foxy Brown Productions, Inc. named after actress Pam Grier (Showtime's "The L Word") who Fox says she just adores. Grier starred in the 1974 hit film "Foxy Brown," as a fearless, beautiful black woman out to get revenge for the murders of her boyfriend who was a government agent and her pathetic brother. Fox says she may one day remake the film; she certainly has the experience to do so.

To date Fox has produced or co-produced about 11 projects. Most recently, "Three Can Play that Game" the funny and clever sequel to "Two Can Play that Game." Fox said she had hoped the film would receive a theatrical release, but it went straight to DVD. Other releases include "The Salon" and "Getting Played" both of these films can be found on DVD. And she is no stranger to the small screen having co-executive produced the Lifetime Television Network series "Missing" in which Fox had the lead role as an unorthodox FBI agent.

Fox is focusing on developing her 'brand' she is Foxy Brown Productions, she is her own product. In a recent Vibe Magazine article Fox said "You are your own business and the more people learn that and learn to invest in themselves and get in the right places for their visions and their dreams to come true, the quicker it will be."

And then there's Darnell Martin (director, "Their Eyes Were Watching God"), a director/writer who burst on the scene in 1994 with her much talked about film "I Like It Like That." Hailed as the first African American filmmaker with major studio backing, (Columbia) "I Like It Like That" told the story of a black Latino woman (Lauren Velez "Dexter") living in the Bronx fighting to keep her family together while dealing with the lure of the streets, and sexy women after her man.

Martin's most recent project, "Cadillac Records" which she is the writer/director is now in production. This 1950's period piece chronicles the rise and fall of the highly popular R & B Chess Records. It was recently reported that Beyonce Knowles has signed on to play blues singer Etta James and she is now set to executive produce the film.

Martin's creative control of the script as well as directing the film is affording her almost total control of the project.

When it comes to having control we look towards Tracey Edmonds who leads Our Stories Films. She's the first African American to head a film studio. Selected by BET Founder Robert Johnson, in partnership with movie moguls Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Johnson told Black Enterprise Magazine that she was a natural selection because of her strong creative background, she ran her own business so she knows how to manage the bottomline, and third because she has a very extensive Rolodex which gives her access to the top creative people in the industry.

The studio was created in 2006 to produce family friendly movies about African Americans. However, the first movie released, 2007's "Who's Your Caddy" under the helm of the new studio received a lukewarm response from the public.

Edmonds comes fully prepared to lead this studio to great heights having run her own company, Edmonds Entertainment Group for ten years until she joined Our Stories Films.

Her first feature film "Soul Food" hit a chord with the movie going public and it was developed it into a very popular cable series on Showtime. She also created the wildly unpredictable and popular "College Hill" for the BET Network.

Black women are making great strides in the entertainment world. From young entrepreneurs like Raven-Symone to media moguls like Oprah Winfrey, black women are ignoring the roadblocks and making their voices heard.

- Gail Choice is a writer/producer. In Celebration of Women's History Month, www.strictlyhollywood.com.