On Saturday, June 15, 2024, MGM+ celebrated the world premiere of its highly anticipated docuseries Hollywood Black at the Tribeca Film Festival. The event featured the first two episodes (Built On Our Backs, The Defiant Ones) followed by an engaging Q&A moderated by Variety Television Critic Aramide Tinubu with director and executive producer Justin Simien along with Lena Waithe, W. Kamau Bell, and Donald Bogle, who appear as interviewees in the docuseries.

During the panel, director and executive producer Justin Simien shared insights into the making of Hollywood Black, which upends the history of American cinema from his deeply personal point of view and shows the profound and revolutionary impact of trailblazing Black filmmakers on the art and business of Hollywood. “I was lucky enough to see The Wiz at a young age and fell in love with the artful and bold filmmaking that was about us,” he said. “That was the beginning of my love for cinema and storytelling.”

Donald Bogle, author and historian shared, “When Justin reached out to opt my book, Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers, the reason I said ‘yes’ was because in our conversation, I realized he would capture the love necessary in sharing the history of Blacks in cinema which was important.”

Emmy-winning writer, Tony-nominated producer, actor, and founder of Hillman Grad, Lena Waithe who appears throughout Hollywood Black as an interviewee spoke to the issue of  ownership, saying, “The entertainment business is tough because most times you are selling your ideas and content to studios and you don’t own your work. You have to be strategic and figure out how to make the business work for you like chess. It’s hard but telling Black stories including Queer stories is needed and necessary.”

When W. Kamau Bell, the stand-up comedian, director and producer behind the Emmy-winning docuseries United Shades of America, was asked about the way Gen Z audiences consume media and the decline in box office numbers, he said, “Gen Z will be fine. They might not be going to the theaters, but they are creating content and telling stories on social media platforms that connect with their community, and culture. Studios and companies just need to figure out how to lean in, bridge the gap, and monetize the audience.”

Photo Credit: Dave Kotinsky