Urban Supplier Delta Dedicated to Quality21 Aug, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf
Fostering and developing new talent in the urban filmmaking genre is all part of the business plan for Delta Entertainment, a production and distribution partner with MTI Home Video, especially since the voracious consumer market for product is becoming more sophisticated, said Delta president Joe Kelly Jackson.
Urban consumers want quality more than quantity these days, Jackson said.
“For a while anything black-themed or Latino-themed you put out. Even if it was shot on video rather than film it would sell, no problem,” he said. “But I find the audiences are getting more sophisticated, they don't want to see the same story told a hundred different times. You need a fresh twist, better quality. You can't just throw stuff out there and see if it sticks on the wall.”
Part of Delta's success so far, Jackson said, has come from a strong distribution partnership with MTI and its president Larry Brahms; valuable input from NAACP advocate Kay Shaw; and a creative relationship with Joe Brewster, a writer/filmmaker and Delta partner who also holds a degree in psychiatry from Harvard.
“He's a guy from South Central [Los Angeles] who graduated from Stanford and then graduated from Harvard medical school,” Jackson said. “He's got a psychiatry practice in Manhattan but does pro bono work in Harlem and Brooklyn.”
Brewster authored MTI/Delta's The Killing Zone, which streeted this week. It follows a young African American boy who survived civil wars in Nigeria and was brought to America by an affluent doctor. Years later, his benefactor/father figure is killed by a 12-year-old member of a street gang, and the film's protagonist is bent on revenge.
“The whole point about The Killing Zone is that the killing zone is not just in civil war Africa, the killing zone can be in Brooklyn, the killing zone can be in your mind,” Jackson said.
Jackson pointed to storylines like this, which feature well rounded, deep character motivations and function outside a “shoot-em-up” plot as a trend in the urban genre.
Jackson also credits Delta's emergence as a leader in the urban film genre to the company's strong ties in the communities its films reflect.
“We try to be an organic part of the black and Hispanic communities,” Jackson said. “We don't hire a bunch of Beverly Hills directors to make movies and cast them with Beverly Hills actors. Most of the people that we work with, the directors are black or Hispanic.”
Delta actively supports, with monthly donations, the nonprofit organizations Digital Soul Cinema and Image Nation, which provide funds and opportunities for up-and-coming urban filmmakers.
Another trend is the popularity of titles that boast good music soundtracks, especially those with hip-hop music or casting tie-ins, Jackson said.
Delta has long been fostering the growing careers of urban filmmaking duo the Quiroz Brothers and will release the pair's sixth movie, DopeGame 2, Nov. 4. The brothers also run their own hip-hop record label.
It's been gratifying to see these two filmmakers grow and improve over the last few years, Jackson said.
“We love them and their movies are getting better and better,” he said. “They have a lot of heart, they really do. They're going to do major studio projects soon, I know they will,” he said. “Even now they're getting all kinds of offers from other companies but there's a trust factor between us that precludes them from jumping to what might be larger labels at this point.”
Running a successful business is only part of the end goal for Delta, Jackson said.
“I think we're different than any other company out there,” he said. “I mean, we definitely started these businesses to make money, but we also figured we could help minority filmmakers get exposure at the same time.”