When producer Effie T. Brown first read Justin Simien's script of "Dear White People" — a satire set at a fictional Ivy League school with just a few black students — she says she found it "almost a little too close to home, to be honest. Because in my personal experience I was always the only black face in a white place."
Brown — whose credits include "But I'm a Cheerleader," "Real Women Have Curves" and "Rocket Science" — adds that her experience in the film industry hasn't been much different. Brown — who has made 17 movies as a producer, line producer or executive producer — says that she's often been the only person of color on several films.
Her experience on "Dear White People" was different. Writer/Director Justin Simien is black, and the producers who've worked with him from the start are all people of color: Angel Lopez, Ann Lee, and Lena Waithe. Plus, executive producer Stephanie Allain ("Boys in the Hood") is African American. Brown says that they all shared the perspective of "not seeing ourselves in mainstream cinema."
Brown first heard about "Dear White People" through the "concept trailer" that Simien and his producers made for their Indiegogo campaign. That effort got them more than $40,000, but more importantly that video "went viral" among the filmmaking community and attracted the interest of people like Brown and Allain.
Brown tells The Frame that she hopes "Dear White People" will spark conversations about how "there's all different types of 'blackness' — there's no one right way to be a proper black man or a proper black woman." She also says that the white character who is "not politically correct" raises "really good points" and feels he may "give a voice to people who are not of color," which could address issues in a non-confrontational way by using humor.