Emma Goes Hip-Hop

Screen Gems set to do musical version of Jane Austen novel

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Jane Austen goes hip-hop. At least that’s the plan. Last week, Screen Gems, a Sony Pictures specialty film unit, announced plans to make a hip-hop musical version of Austen’s classic 19th century comic novel Emma. Screen Gems has released such successful black-oriented films as This Christmas, Stomp The Yard,The Brothers, and Two Can Play That Game.

“I saw the music video by Malcolm Jones for the song Lip Gloss by Lil Mama and loved it,” says Clint Culpepper, Screen Gems president, who had the idea for a musical version of Emma months before seeing the video. “[It] triggered my Emma thoughts. I just went crazy for it,” says Culpepper of the bubblegum-pop song and video.

This isn’t Emma’s first trip to the big screen in a contemporary setting. The 1995 Amy Heckerling comedy Clueless is loosely based on the novel and is set in a Beverly Hills high school. The film, starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, and Donald Faison, grossed $77 million worldwide. Miramax’s period version of Emma, released in 1996 starring Gwyneth Paltrow, made $31 million on a modest $6 million budget.

African American versions of literary or stage classics have found their way to the big screen in the past. In 1954, Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen became Carmen Jones, featuring some of America’s finest young black stars of the day: Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Diahann Carroll, Brock Peters, and Olga James. Dandridge went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for best actress, making her the first African American actress to do so.

More recently, in 2001, hip-hop met Bizet in the MTV Films production Carmen: A Hip Hopera, starring Beyonce, Mekhi Phifer, Mos Def, and Wyclef Jean, with Robert Townsend directing. Mekhi Phifer also played the Othello-like lead in O, a film loosely based on the Shakespearean play, with a multiethnic cast.

Though the entertainment industry frequently uses the term urban as a catchall for anything black, Culpepper underscores the point that he sees urban in its broader, more realistic context. “Urban really means inner city,” he says. “And in the city there is a cross section of everyone–black, white, Latino, Asian.” Screen Gems’ Emma, which like Clueless is set in a high school,will be representative of that mix.

Chris Bender and J.C. Spink of American Pie fame will produce the film from a script by Menace II Society screenwriter Tyger Williams. No director has been named.

With its hip-hop veneer, Emma should certainly be digestible for its targeted young multicultural audience. Its announcement comes at a time when over the past decade the movie musical has seen some amazing box office hits like 2001’s Moulin Rouge ($175 million worldwide gross), 2002’s Chicago ($306 million worldwide gross) and Dreamgirls ($153 million worldwide gross). The Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise has been a huge hit for the network. A remake of the 1980 hit film Fame is already in the works.

But there have also been musical duds like Rent, The Producers, and Phantom of Opera. And like everything else in Hollywood,

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  • Favort2

    Thanks for sharing the importance of having a diverse team and to test the new hiring team out before hand. Its important to have a team that works well together and realize the company’s core values and goals. Valuable information Scott. Thanks again !!!

    • I agree Favort2. Having a team that works well together is key! 

  • Joe

    Great lesson , some example of trying people out; institute a shadowing program where a potential hire spend time with one of your top employees, have them complete a 30 day plan of action that details what they plan on doing the first 30 days on the job to be successful.

  • Nlewis1

    Great advice!

  • Gwen

    I like the part about testing the person before hiring.  I have a pre school, how would I be able to implement this technique?

    • great class
      Elite Services for those Who Want to Attain their GoalsResearch and Information Gathering ExpertBuilding Relationships to Build SuccessGet the Information and Direction You DeserveThe Walking On Water Media/Ent. Business Coach Antonio

    • Hire part-time tell them it only for a week to test out the skill-set in action.
      Elite Services for those Who Want to Attain their GoalsResearch and Information Gathering ExpertBuilding Relationships to Build SuccessGet the Information and Direction You DeserveThe Walking On Water Media/Ent. Business Coach Antoniot

  • Lucubrate75

    Hire military veterans like me, most are good at getting the job done.

  • Lucubrate75

    No points will = visiblity for my company http://lucubrate.co Thanks and enjoy your day.

  • Kristina Nelson

    Very good lesson on hiring friends and family

  • Jerome Espy

    Great advice. Friends are friends and business is business.

  • A good way to find people sometimes is through a temp agency and put that people on a 90 day trial.

  • Jorge


  • David

    Really good.

  • Infinitehi4

    Wonderful information and so very true.  Thanks

  • Kallen

    Great information. Hopefully I’ll get points for this video, I haven’t gotten any points for the last four videos I watched.

  • Absolutely love it’

  • AL Consulting

    Always hire people you can count on. Check out colleagues and industry people. Don’t hire friends unless you can depend on them.

  • Thank you Mr. Scott for the great tips in hiring a good team! I love that I can apply your tips to hiring volunteers for my nonprofit. 

  • Great points

  • Very true.

  • Ransford

    Interesting: Sounds hard/harsh but practical not to hire any one you know. I guess it’s all about business.  

  • Good stuff!

  • good info!  So honest and to the point.

    smh at the point system… 5th video I have not rec’d any points for

  • GGreen

    I’m going to use these tips on form my board. Thanks

  • Internships are also a good way to vet potential candidates.


  • Daks. J

    Companies success lies with the people of the company so need to be smart to hire good people.

  • Cherry

    I totaly agree! Right on the money with these points. I work in that type of environment now! Even though these points aren’t working, the information I am getting is way more valuable! thanks for your time!!!

    • WLM

       The hire someone smarter than comment, reminds me of what you say all the time.

  • Fuzzy Spritz

    This is great information, my company culture is very important. 

  •  Very good info for the lifeline of a company.

  • Lucubrate75

    Whoo Hoo I just earned a badge points are finally rolling in Now if I could get 300 people to vote for Lucubrate at missionsmallbusiness.com I’ll be very happy Thank.  A good team for me to hire or veterans and or lucubrators

  • DreamsKept


  • Elaine Jackson

    This leads one to want to do it all themselves but it is extremely hard to accomplish
    I am going to hire someone on an as needed basis but need to check on tax laws related to hiring individuals. Hate for them to sue me for health insurance in Massachusetts. IRS is not joke. Be informed.

  • Mrazq1

    I appreciate this info, as usual. Thanks

  • Learning this lesson…I started a “family” business…not every member of the family is business-minded…great course!


    Great Tips. I am loving SBU

  • Dlovitt2

    The strength of your business is built on the
    strength of your managers. Investing in your management team is securing a long
    term partnership towards a successful venture. Excellent points introduced by

  • Erica D.

    I have learned the hard way about hiring the wrong people to become a part of the team. Sometimes, you have to go with your gut instinct. If I had done so, I would not be currently hiring to replace someone who did not work out and is not working out.


  • calyope systems

    “Hire people who are smarter than you.”
    I like that!

    • Oldflim123

      I think it’s great to hire people that are smarter than you. In that way, you know that you are on the road to success. As long as their smarts don’t takeover LOL.

  • Donna

    Valuable information in this lesson. Will imolement it in my business.

  • natalie johnson

    Company culture combined with aligned ability just makes good sense when hiring someone.  It sounds like common sense but is easy to overlook when you need someone to fill in.

  • Zurriane

    Very interesting.  I know a company that has to many family and friends working for them.  Many are poor hires that sad part is that the business then wanted to blame others for the problems that were created by earlier bad choices. That were made by now higher level management who have moved up.

  • Laura Hudson

    Very helpful information regarding hiring family and friends and how it could lead to  the end of your company.

  • Bobby

    Definitely hire people that are smarter than you and great team/office moral is a must!!! 

  • Jonathanpope71

    I gained the most insight from this lesson. Thanks !

  • Great presentation and tips on hiring the right team for your small business.

  • Devonne

    Good information, I like the tips, on test and try out new hires and set the company culture.

  • Michael125

    I enjoyed this lesson especially the hiring people who are smarter than you, and testing new hires before hiring them,