Full post at AfterElton.
Thanks to Precious, Oprah and Tyler Perry, Lee Daniels is now becoming a household name, but black gay male directors are still almost nonexistent in Hollywood. Aside from Daniels, the list is short. Some might be aware of Paris Barclay, who works primarily in television, and more still will know Noah’s Arc creator Patrik Ian-Polk.
Yet, under the radar, Maurice Jamal has been making films and working in the industry for years. Now, he is starting his own web and cable network.
“I started at the bottom, grabbing coffee on film sets,” Jamal said of his early days in the business.
After a few appearances on Chappelle’s Show, Jamal turned to directing. His first major feature, Ski Trip, put him on the map. Ski TripFriends & Lovers, released in 2008. ran regularly on Logo in the network’s early years. He also shot a sequel. His second film, 2006’s Dirty Laundry, was a strong family film about a black gay man moving back to the South. Yet despite nabbing Loretta Devine and Jenifer Lewis for the production, its theatrical run was cut short and it went quickly to DVD.
In the years since, Jamal has secretly been working on creating his own distribution platform: an ambitious web and cable network called GLO TV aimed at urban LGBT audiences.
“We’re banking on a new trend. It’s our network, it’s a network for us,” Jamal said. “For me it was so important to tell those stories and let our light shine.”
GLO, which debuted early in September, is a subscription video service featuring original TV and web content. The network’s marquee property is a full-length TV series, Friends & Lovers, a follow-up to hisSki Trip franchise. With numerous series in production, the site already has a couple of web series, including Drama Queenz and Christopher Street, a “wonderfully campy drama, with a great young and talented cast,” said Jamal.
“It’s quite an undertaking to produce a slate of shows that are diverse in content, culture and orientation,” he said. “Friends & Lovers is near and dear to my heart because it’s a spin-off of my first film The Ski Trip. It was so much fun to revisit those characters but spin them off in a whole new way, with a new set of circumstances and entanglements. To say the drama is high and the comedy is on full tilt is an understatement. “
The network aims to be as inclusive to the GLBT community as possible. As a film fan who watches two or three movies a day, Jamal knows most gay and black audiences are used to imagining themselves on the screen, not seeing themselves reflected in the stories they watch.
So Jamal is producing in-house a number of reality shows documenting the lives of transgender individuals, lesbians and people of all types living with HIV in what will be GLO’s first series, Living Life.
“In communities of color, we rarely see these images. Or hear these stories. And we need to. That’s how we affect change, by breaking down the barriers,” he said. “It was important that our Lesbian programming wasn’t token. So I couldn’t be happier than to have Girl Power, which is a reality search show that will be looking for lesbian films and filmmakers across the U.S. I want GLO to be a place that’s truly for all the LGBT community. “
And using the web as a platform, he doesn’t want it to be a traditional TV network.
“We want people to be able to interact with those folks,” he said. “There are people across the country who are infected or affected with HIV who don’t have those resources that some have in the major cities.”
The big question, of course, is money. “Funding is always an interesting scenario whenever you’re dealing with gay and urban material in Hollywood,” Jamal said. “We were fairly well-prepared for it.”
GLO has a number of advertisers and sponsors lined up, including Jose Cuervo and Sonu Water. A number of these sponsors have joined GLO at promotional events this summer during Harlem and Atlanta gay prides.
As for getting on cable, Jamal is in talks with cable providers to get the network a station, but he launched on the web to prove GLO was a viable franchise.
“As a community I think it’s been challenge to show that we have the economic power and the business sense,” he said. “The urban community is one of the largest, if not the largest, consumers of media and culture.”