United Image Entertainment, which specializes in producing programs featuring black talent, is chugging along with nearly a dozen projects in development, including a biography of Lena Horne.
The company, a partnership of actor/producer Tim Reid, Black Entertainment TV president Robert Johnson and promoter Butch Lewis, recently produced its first movie, “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad,” for BET and the Family Channel in association with Atlantis Films.
United Image has acquired rights to do a Horne biopic, tentatively titled “Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story,” to produce either as a feature or for television. The company will begin production in March on “Out of Sync,” an action drama starring rapper LL Cool J that will be directed by Debbie Allen.
That project, which will be offered through BET Action Pay-Per-View/Live Entertainment, represents United Image’s exploration of alternative means of financing and distribution. Another project, a blues-themed movie, is being financed by BET in conjunction with Blockbuster Entertainment, which will offer the pic on video shortly after a short broadcast or theatrical window.
Reid, the former “Frank’s Place” star/producer who will also be featured in the upcoming Paramount sitcom “Sister, Sister” on ABC, said those new outlets will hopefully further his goal of “filling just one line of the information superhighway.”
Because of those niche opportunities, Reid said he’s very comfortable being known as “a black producer” but reiterated his contention, made in a recent op-ed piece, that Hollywood is still underappreciating and utilizing black talent. One of the company’s priorities remains to help nurture minority filmmakers.
Other United Image projects in development include “The Power of No!,” a hip-hop comedy/fable being developed through Steel Pictures and Touchstone; and “Spirit Lost,” an erotic ghost story about a young black couple who inhabit a haunted house.
Formed in 1990, the company is also still pitching two long-in-development movies. “Brothers,” a book adaptation characterized by Reid as “a black ‘Big Chill,’ ” traces the different paths of men raised in a housing project. It is being written by Paris Qualles and is in development at Warner Bros.. The other is “Buffalo Soldiers,” telling the story of black cavalry regiments in the post-Civil War era.