Lena Waithe is calling on African American movie stars to do more to support up-and-coming black filmmakers.
Waithe, who created Showtime series The Chi and wrote the script for upcoming Universal drama Queen & Slim from director Melina Matsoukas, says A-listers like Denzel Washington and Will Smith should do more to support independent movies from young black storytellers.
“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,” Waithe told The New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan.
During the interview about Queen & Slim — which is slated for a November release — and the future of movies, Waithe said one of the biggest challenges young black filmmakers face is securing financing. She called on successful black stars to do more to help
“Don’t get me started on black financiers!” she said. “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.”
She brought up two Oscar-winning films during the interview — Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and Steve McQueen’s 2013 drama 12 Years a Slave. Waithe described both films as being “very important to the black community.”
“Whose production company put those out?” Waithe asked Buchanan, 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.”
Waithe praised Ava DuVernay for founding film collective Array. But she said to open more doors in Hollywood, African Americans must 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.”