Lionsgate and Harpo Films Say Yes to Will You Be My Black Friend?
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. — LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), the leading next generation studio, and Harpo Films, Inc. announced today that they will partner to develop the film, Will You Be My Black Friend?, starring Chris Rock (Good Hair, I Think I Love My Wife, The Chris Rock Show). The project is based on a magazine article of the same name written by GQ senior correspondent Devin Friedman. Published in the magazine's November 2008 edition, Will You Be My Black Friend? chronicles Friedman's unorthodox and admittedly self-conscious quest to make "black friends." The producers of Will You Be My Black Friend? are Oprah Winfrey, Kate Forte, President of Harpo Films and Carla Gardini, Senior Vice President, Production of Harpo Films. Lionsgate will distribute worldwide. The announcement was jointly made today by Joe Drake, Lionsgate Co-Chief Operating Officer and Motion Picture Group President, Mike Paseornek, Lionsgate President of Motion Picture Production and Harpo Films' Forte.
Winfrey is a co-presenter with Lionsgate on its eagerly anticipated fall release from director Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. Winfrey is also an executive producer of the critically acclaimed film, which has won top awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the Deauville American Film Festival.
Said Paseornek, "We're thrilled to continue our relationship with Oprah Winfrey and Harpo Films by bringing Will You Be My Black Friend? to the screen. The cinematic potential of Will You Be My Black Friend jumped out at us immediately; after all, Devin launches his search for black friends by posting an ad on Craigslist. But what really makes the piece special is Devin's voice, which is honest, astute and extremely funny. We can't imagine a better actor to help bring this story to life than Chris Rock, who is simply one of the smartest, boldest comic talents working today." Commented Forte, "We're delighted to partner with our friends at Lionsgate on Will You Be My Black Friend? This is a story that takes on themes of race and friendship in a very modern and unexpected way, and we think audiences across the spectrum will find a lot to laugh about and think about."
Gardini brought the project to Harpo Films, and will be supervising the production alongside Paseornek; Lionsgate Director of Development Charisse Nesbit will also be working on the project. Rock's latest film, the Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary Good Hair, opens Friday, October 9th and is being released by Roadside Attractions, in which Lionsgate owns a minority stake. Rock is repped by ICM.
The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Robert Melnik, Lionsgate Executive Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs, and for Harpo Films by Scott Stein, head of Operations and Business Affairs.
Inspired by a true story, a white, married journalist living in Manhattan comes to the unnerving realization one night at a cocktail party that virtually his entire social circle is white. Indeed his entire existence has become steeped in a certain style of "whiteness": a rarefied industry (publishing); a weekend house in the Catskills; yoga; ambient music; and seasonal gourmet cooking. With help of the internet, a "white guy" sets off on a humorous journey to make "black friends," only to discover that regardless of race, the older you get, the harder it is to make friends.
ABOUT HARPO FILMS, INC.
Harpo Films, Inc. produces feature films and, through an exclusive deal with HBO, scripted television programming. Recent produced features have garnered the highest industry honors for quality, including The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Telefilms include the multiple Emmy Award® winner Tuesdays With Morrie, as well as Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry.
Harpo Productions, Inc. produces the number-one-rated, award-winning The Oprah Winfrey Show; creates and develops original TV programming for primetime, syndication and cable television; and operates Oprah.com (www.oprah.com), a premier lifestyle website. Harpo Print, LLC and Hearst Magazines publish the monthly O, The Oprah Magazine publication. Harpo Radio, Inc. produces Oprah Radio (XM channel 156, Sirius channel 195 as part of its "Best of XM" package) on Sirius XM Radio. A joint venture between Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a multi-platform company, will debut in 2010 in more than 70 million homes, on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.
Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) is the leading next generation studio with a strong and diversified presence in the production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment, video-on-demand and digitally delivered content. The Company has built a strong television presence in production of prime time cable and broadcast network series, distribution and syndication of programming through Debmar-Mercury and an array of channel platform assets, including TV Guide Network in partnership with JPMorgan's One Equity Partners and Allen Shapiro, the Epix multiplatform channel expected to launch in October 2009 with partners Viacom and MGM, the FEARnet branded horror channel with partners Comcast and Sony, and the KIX and Thrill branded action and horror channels in Asia. Its feature film business achieved a number one box office opening weekend in September 2009 with the eighth film in the Tyler Perry franchise, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, with the sixth film in the Saw franchise opening in October 2009. The Company's home entertainment business has grown to more than 7 percent market share and leads the industry in its box office-to-DVD revenue conversion rate. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 12,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as the foundation for the growth of the Company's core businesses. The Lionsgate brand remains synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.