Lena Waithe isn’t going to sit quietly when she thinks she has a solution to a big problem.
Last week, in an interview with The New York Times, the producer and actress vented her frustrations with the lack of black financiers supporting black filmmakers, specifically calling out Will Smith and Denzel Washington.
Speaking over the weekend on a panel at the BET Experience Genius Talks, Waithe clarified that everything is fine between her and both Smith and Washington, The Root reported.
“Look, Will, Denzel, I have a relationship with both camps, no shade no tea, I was just texting with Jada—everybody’s fine,” she said. “But ultimately, I’m saying for anybody who has money [and is] black, I think should be held to finance at least one or two black filmmakers trying to make their first film. I just think it’s important because then what will happen is we’re keeping the well within our community.
“I know that it is difficult to walk into a room of white financiers trying to explain why this particular black story should be told.”
In the original New York Times interview, Waithe got animated when the subject of black financiers came up.
“Don’t get me started on black financiers!” she said. “How many of those do we have? I’m not [going to name] names because I know better, but there are some very big black movie stars out there, and they could pay for two or three or even five small independent movies to get made by black directors and black writers.”
She lists this as the biggest reason young black filmmakers can’t make it into the business.
So who is backing the films that are “important to the black community”? Plan B, a production company co-founded by Brad Pitt and which is behind “Moonlight” and “12 Years A Slave”.
“[It] wasn’t Denzel. Wasn’t Will Smith,” Waithe said. “You won’t catch me making $20 million a movie and not paying for at least four or five independent movies a year. I do give credit to Ava [DuVernay] for trying to build something that hasn’t been built before, but that’s a lot on Ava’s back.”
She added, “I’m over here trying to build a community, and I don’t see other people doing it. I really do feel like there’s a way for us to change the movie business from the inside out, but we’re all in our own silos doing our own thing. We’re definitely in the middle of a renaissance, make no mistake. In 20 years, people are going to be writing about what you’re writing about. But for me, I want more.”
ET Canada has reached out to Will Smith and Denzel Washington’s rep for comment.