New Documentary Underway on America's First Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux
Oscar Micheaux, the first major African-American filmmaker, displays his independent American spirit and remarkable early twentieth-century success in The Czar of Black Hollywood, a compelling new documentary previewing during Black History Month. The self-made movie producer and publisher's unconventional career spanned from his birth in 1884 to his death in 1951 at age 67 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mama's Black Baby Boy is an 8-minute preview of Mack's feature-length film. It portrays Micheaux's youth, including his arrival in Chicago's black metropolis of the early 1900s and life-changing stint as a historic Pullman Porter on major railroads. Go to this link to see a free preview of the Oscar Micheaux documentary. People can follow the film's progress on Facebook. Please LIKE The Czar of Black Hollywood Facebook page.
Bayer L. Mack, writer and record executive of Block Starz Music, conceived of and produced the inspiring film about Micheaux using Library of Congress archived footage, photos, illustrations and vintage music. A first full episode of the six-part series, The Czar of Black Hollywood, premieres on March 31, 2014.
Bayer says, "The life and career of Oscar Micheaux is an American story. With no backing and no studio, at a time when the only producers who could get film distribution were companies run by white men, he managed to produce 22 silent movies and 15 talking pictures with multi-faceted characters and controversial themes."
Micheaux rose from humble beginnings in rural poverty, as the son of a former Kentucky slave, to accolades such as receiving a 1987 star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2010, having a US Postal Service commemorative stamp issued in his honor. Using experiences as a homesteader in South Dakota, he wrote his first novel in 1913 and sold 1,000 copies. At the end of World War I, he started Micheaux Film and Book Company of Sioux City in Chicago and adapted the novel to make his first feature-length silent film, The Homesteader. At its height, Micheaux Pictures Corporation had offices in Chicago, New York, Virginia and Florida.
Mack describes Oscar Micheaux as "a towering figure with no contemporary black equivalent." He says, "Like most people, I hadn't heard of Oscar but was immediately impressed with his accomplishments. When I realized that there was no documentary exclusively depicting the three-decade career of our country's most prolific black filmmaker, I knew I wanted the opportunity to inspire modern audiences with his uniquely American story. I called him a "czar" because in addition to his unprecedented success, Oscar lived larger-than-life wearing wide-brimmed hats, marrying disastrously, and being driven by his personal limousine driver."
For months, Mack collected and organized archival Edison footage, the oldest in America, and authentic piano-roll music recordings. He created an authentic historical film soundtrack featuring ragtime music from Scott Joplin and classical music from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and the Unique Quartet. He hired Nicholas Jones to compose the film's original score.
Micheaux's films offered unflinching accounts of race relations and black life during the Jim Crow era and appealed to middle- and lower-class audiences. The House Behind the Cedars, dealing realistically with mixed-race issues, was banned by some theaters. Micheaux's gravestone in Great Bend, Kansas, where he grew up, aptly reads: "A man ahead of his time."
About the Producers
Bayer L. Mack, producer of The Czar of Black Hollywood, is founder of independent record label Block Starz Music and its subsidiaries, which produces records and reality-TV series. Block Starz Music LLC distributes and promotes early independent releases by platinum-selling recording artists. Mack also launched The BlockStarz.Tv Network (blockstarztv.com), a film and television production company that distributes online video.
Executive producers Hal Croasmun (producer and president of ScreenwritingU.com) and Frances Presley-Rice (writer/producer) have committed to helping Bayer bring his inspiring film to a wide audience.