“Empire” and “Brooklyn’s Finest” writer Michael C. Martin to visit Newhouse, discuss barriers in Hollywood 

Michael C Martin event promotional image

Writers, producers and directors of color in Hollywood often lack access to capital that can be used to support projects that tell authentic stories about diverse cultures and backgrounds. 

This barrier can have the effect of stifling creativity, even for some of the more successful names in the field, said J. Christopher Hamilton, assistant professor of television, radio and film at the Newhouse School. It’s an aspect of life in the entertainment business that can often be hidden behind the scenes.  

Navigating invisible hurdles to express creativity and ways to overcome those obstacles are among topics to be discussed by writer, producer and director Michael C. Martin, who will join Hamilton at an event Wednesday, Sept. 6 titled “Black Capital and Black Content in Hollywood.” It is this year’s topic of the Conversation on Race and Entertainment Media series at Newhouse. 

Martin’s credits, which date back nearly two decades, include the film “Brooklyn’s Finest” and TV series “Empire” (Fox), “Wu-Tang: An American Saga” (Hulu), “Star” (Fox) and “Lethal Weapon” (AMC). He will also share thoughts on the impact that the writers and actors strikes are having on the entertainment business and the future of diverse voices in Hollywood. 

J Christopher Hamilton

“The Black and brown communities have made great strides when it comes to entrepreneurship and creativity,” Hamilton said. Prior to joining Newhouse, he worked for media conglomerates including Paramount Global, Disney and Warner Bros.  

“But one of the things that we see as a hindrance to breaking certain barriers is the lack of independent capital invested in projects that we’re passionate about, and the lack of narratives that are truly representative of the culture,” he added. 

Hamilton and Martin share similar personal and professional journeys, having grown up in the same neighborhoods in Brooklyn and developing successful careers in Hollywood.  

Their conversation, Hamilton said, will delve into Martin’s personal story and “how he was able to empower himself and how others probably rallied around him to support his dream of being a screenwriter.” 

They’ll also discuss the hurdles that arise from the financial side and political dynamics of the field.  

“This is true for all of us, in whatever industry you’re in, that you begin to really get a grasp of what you’re up against, and what resources you have to deploy towards your goal,” Hamilton said.  

Hamilton recently took on oversight of the Newhouse speaker series about race and media issues, which gathers perspectives from alumni and industry professionals.  

Started over two decades ago, the annual event is sponsored by the Hearst Speakers Fund. 

Hamilton said he intends to anchor the series in discussions around the dynamics and power players of Hollywood, which aligns with his upcoming untitled book, to provide others with insight on the ingenuity, relationships and tactics that Hollywood insiders have leveraged to make the entertainment industry more accessible. 

“Another way to put it: I want to empower outsiders with ‘insider information’ to even the playing field,” he added, “so that their challenges navigating the business are more equitable than they may have been for maybe myself or others because of a lack of understanding, relationships or knowledge.”