The New York Times article by Kim Severson, “Stars Flock to Atlanta, Reshaping a Center of Black Culture”, caught my attention because of the headline that called Atlanta the “Black entertainment Mecca”. The article discusses how Atlanta is becoming important as a center for media,
fueled by a generous entertainment tax credit, the migration of affluent African-Americans from the North and the surprising fact that even celebrities appreciate the lower cost of living here.
It is no surprise that the entertainment tax break encourage those in the business to move South, but I wonderd why it was Black entertainers who moved. Surely, White people appreciate a good bargain too. But as I kept reading, I realized that the article provided several reasons for this. Stephen Hill, an executive vice president for Black Entertainment Television gave one: “Atlanta is home to our core audience,” he said. “I’m trying not to make it a racial thing, but Atlanta is our New York, our L.A.” In New York, the Black population is about 15% (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html) while in Georgia the Black population is said to be at 30.5% (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/13000.html). The population in New York is around 19 million while in Georgia it’s closer t0 9 million. Given this information, Hill is saying that movies made in Atlanta are movies made for a Black audience. Since the Black population is larger in Atlanta, I can see why he said the core audience for these movies are in Atlanta.
This makes me wonder about what kind of entertainment targets which populations. For example, I think Tyler Perry’s films have a mainly Black audience in mind and I’m wondering if this could unwittingly perpetuate stereotypes. I have the Medea series in mind where Medea is portrayed as this “mami” character. Not all movies are like this though and I for one appreciate movies that target non-White audiences. Mainstream Hollywood is very much a White man’s world and when minorities are present, they are often cast into stereotypical, secondary character roles.
It is also very expensive to make a movie and making films on a budget is another reason why many Black entertainers are moving south.
“Atlanta is really becoming the black Hollywood,” Mr. Hudlin said. Because many black filmmakers are working on tighter budgets than white filmmakers, they need to save money and Georgia helps them do that, he said.
As we discussed in class, on average Blacks and other minorities make less than Whites. This could be due to several factors including access to higher education, living situation, accessible opportunities etc. I can definitely see money as a reason why Blacks are more likely to move to Atlanta to make films.
Along with saving money, these filmmakers are also directing their films towards a minority audience. This means that they will cast minority actors and this pulls actors who are looking for jobs to the South. Not only are struggling artists moving to the South, but affluent Blacks are also moving. “Nearly a quarter of a million blacks moved to the greater Atlanta area from outside the South between 2005 and 2010” and “More than a third of the new migrant households made more than $50,000 a year”. The growing middle class Black community is pumping money into the entertainment system and the system in turn is attracting more people down South. Another key aspect that is encouraging the migration, is that the living costs are less in Atlanta than New York or Los Angeles.
This migration seems to me a sort of affirmative action: entertainment division. The city of Atlanta is making things more affordable and accessible for Black entertainers, helping them catch up in an industry that has long kept them out.
Here is a link to the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/us/atlanta-emerges-as-a-center-of-black-entertainment.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=2&adxnnlx=1322459215-ocVHf8U8UMajXYppBDBI/g