DaimlerChrysler Honors Melvin Van Peebles With 2004 ‘Behind The Lens’ Award

Legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles will be honored at the third annual “Behind The Lens” award, Oct. 24, 2004, in Santa Monica, Calif. The event, established by DaimlerChrysler in 2002, recognizes the contributions and achievements of individuals who work behind the scenes in the entertainment industry.

“The creative contributions of African-Americans who work behind the scenes have been largely overlooked by the entertainment industry,” said Frank Fountain, DaimlerChrysler Senior Vice President-External Affairs and Public Policy (Auburn Hills). “This award celebrates the trailblazers that we don’t often see, but whose contributions impact virtually every segment of the entertainment industry.”

An independent judging panel composed of automotive media and entertainment professionals selected Van Peebles for the 2004 “Behind The Lens” award.

In being selected to receive the “Behind The Lens” award, Van Peebles will be in good company. Past recipients of the “Behind The Lens” award have been veteran Hollywood casting director Reuben Cannon and legendary film director, author and photographer Gordon Parks. The “Behind The Lens” award is an invitation-only event.

“Melvin Van Peebles is being celebrated for having created a distinguished body of work that is truly amazing in its breadth, depth and variety,” added Fountain.

About Melvin Van Peebles
Multi-talented and prolific, Melvin Van Peebles paved the way for modern African-American filmmakers and music artists. Called “the godfather of modern black cinema” because of his controversial 1971 film, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” Van Peebles has also written five novels, wrote and produced Broadway musicals and TV shows, acted for film and television, and released several spoken-word albums.

He was also instrumental in launching the career of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, when he decided to have the unknown band perform the background music to “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” Van Peebles has been nominated for three Grammys and 11 Tony Awards. He has received numerous honors and awards including an Emmy Award (for The Day They Came to Arrest the Book), a Drama Desk Award and the prestigious French Legion of Honor in 2001 among many others.

Van Peebles was born in 1932 on the South Side of Chicago. His earliest work experience was in his father’s tailoring shop. He told an interviewer that his long hours in the shop “didn’t give me a work ethic as much as it gave me a work routine.”

Following his initial foray into film directing and producing, he wrote and staged two Broadway shows, “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” in 1971 and “Don’t Play Us Cheap: A Harlem Party,” a 1972 gospel-influenced musical.

Van Peebles made “Don’t Play Us Cheap” into a film in 1973, and it won first prize at the Belgian Film Festival. His 1971 Broadway musical “Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death” is currently playing to sold out audiences at the Harlem School of the Arts in a much-heralded revival in New York.

In the late 1970s, Van Peebles wrote scripts for television, including the pilots for “Sophisticated Gents” and “Just an Old Sweet Song.” In 1984, he wrote and produced the off-Broadway musical “The Champeen.” In the 1980s he made a foray into Wall Street and became the first African-American trader on the American Stock Exchange. He then wrote a successful book about investing and stock market trading, “Bold Money.”

(Source: PRNewsWire)

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