Volume 76: About Last Night…Why I “Ride Along” with Rainforest Films

Posted on 01/28/2014


That's me in the middle with Will on the right.

That’s me in the middle with Will on the right.

Years ago, I worked for a successful boutique marketing company (shout out to my LSM family) that promoted a number of feature films. It was there that I learned the five-letter words in the lexicon of America cinema. Those words are “urban” and “niche“. At that time, attaching those words to a film meant a number of things. Now, I don’t have the space to go into the myriad of challenges when dealing with studios hiring us to promote films with those words attached to them; however, let’s just say that Hollywood had not yet dealt with its self-fulfilling prophecies as it pertained to the success of “urban” cinema. Basically, the belief was that “urban” films don’t make as much money, so the budgets were smaller, and smaller “niche” marketing efforts were employed. Guess what happened? Yep. The films didn’t make as much money.

Then, something happened in Hollywood that would forever change the dialogue around “urban” films. Someone agreed to let a small company out of Atlanta, GA called Rainforest Films make a movie called Stomp The Yard. That’s when everything changed and the industry had to rethink some of its borderline practices.

Thank you, Rob Hardy and Will Packer.

The tandem that created Rainforest Films took the Venus and Serena approach to filmmaking. They didn’t follow the well-trodden path of interning, associate producing, and grunt work until someone opened Tinseltown’s glass ceiling and allowed them to make an urban film. No, they pioneered crowd funding, and made their films their way.  Wait. Check that. They made our films their way. And. Got. Noticed. Not only did they get noticed, but urban moviegoers began to flock to their films because they were not the latest in a slew of urban films that panhandled to a niche market. Instead, they took the novel approach and concentrated on taking good stories and making good films that just so happened to have African Americans in the lead roles. A novel idea indeed…

About Last Night…

I had the unique privilege of being invited to an advanced screening of About Last Night starring Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant (in theaters Feb. 14). Now, I’m not going to write a review or ruin the plot; but I will tell you my thoughts as I sat there eating overpriced popcorn and cola. I thought, African American cinema has forever been changed due to the efforts of Rainforest Films. They are forcing Hollywood to see Black actors in roles that had not been traditionally written for them. They are forcibly removing the stigma associated with the terms urban and niche. In fact, there are no niches when it comes to their work. Their films appeal to all and (along the way) their success has catapulted the careers of a few actors because they gave them a chance to shine. Chris Brown, Kevin Hart, Idris Elba, Laz Alonzo, Michael Ealy, Taraji Henson, Gabrielle Union. The list reads like a Who’s Who? of Black Hollywood. And, at the center of it all are two men that said yes when so many told them no.

Last night I had an epiphany. I realized that I had a front-row seat at a cultural shift in American cinema. Rainforest Films hasn’t made a film that is Oscar-worthy (yet). At the same time, they have made the rest of us stand up and take notice that our cinema can be sold worldwide. Our cinema can be done by us and feature us, but entertain us all.

I went to the movies last night. It was a random Monday evening in January. However, there was something about last night that made me realize I woke up to a new world.

That’s just my three cents…


“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”