Gina Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights and her start in television (I get a covert shout out!)

BTL1Shannon M Houston, writer for Paste Magazine, got to interview Love & Basketball writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood about her latest movie Beyond the Lights. Before the interview, she asked me on Twitter what I would ask Gina. I knew that she wrote for A Different World at the beginning of her career, so I wanted to know if she’d ever return to television. Shannon asked the question and I got a covert shout out and a response! Here’s the quote:

Paste: Your name came up the other night while I was tweeting with Black Girl Nerds during a podcast. One of the co-hosts is a big fan of yours, and she suggested I ask you about transitioning from TV to film, and whether or not you’d consider a return to TV.
Prince-Bythewood: TV was such a great training ground for me. I was very fortunate to have gone right from film school to A Different World. Going to work every day with three black women running the show made it normal for me. Later, I worked with J.J. Abrams, which was amazing. I learned a lot from him. I love TV!My So-Called Life was one of my favorite shows growing up. I love writing it, because I loved watching it. But ultimately, I knew I wanted to get into directing. I wanted that big canvas, so I left after five years.

I will do TV again eventually. I’m actually writing a pilot now, but I’d never attach myself to a show that’s expected to do 22 episodes over five years. I just couldn’t do that. But with TV now, it’s great because you can create shorter seasons, or you can be on the peripheral.Her response makes a lot of sense–she used TV to propel her career into the direction she wanted, but still loves the genre. I wonder what her pilot is about (and how I can write for whatever show it is!) and if we’ll see it on television someday. Something Gina says later in the interview also really resonated with me because it’s something that’s also important to me:

GPB1Prince-Bythewood: When we allow Hollywood to have “black film” as a genre it limits us. They do one film a year with a black cast, and that’s their black film. I want us in every genre—sci-fi, romance, period pieces—that is really my fight.

This is what I want as well. I want black films and TV shows to be seen as more than just the “urban” film/show of the year. Gina mentions that Scandal isn’t a black show–and neither is How to Get Away with Murder–but they have black leads and that often makes people want to dump them into an “urban” category, but that’s not what they are. They are TV shows, political and law shows (however loosely they accurately portray real life haha), with black leads. They don’t have to be shoved into a box that only black people are allowed to unlock. We need more television and film with black stars and we need them in all genres. The Marvel Black Panther film isn’t out until 2017 and Will Smith’s next movie is a con movie (as fun as those are), so when will I get to see a black person leading a science-fiction movie? Or a fantasy film? I need studios to get rid of the idea that making a “black” film or show doesn’t intersect with making a romance or sci-fi/fantasy or period piece. They aren’t mutually exclusive ideas and can still appeal to wide audiences (read: white audiences too) .

I loved this article, love that Gina answered my question, and love that she and I have similar ideas on widening the genres black stars are allowed to lead in. I hope her pilot gets made, but in the meantime, I just hope that she has more films on the way, because I really enjoyed Beyond the Lights and we need more films like it.

For the rest of the article, go here: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Beyond the Lights, and Dismantling the “Black Film” Genre (Paste Magazine).

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