Gina Prince-Bythewood
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Gina Maria Prince-Bythewood (born June 10, 1969) is an American film director and screenwriter. She is known for directing the films '' Love & Basketball'' (2000), '' Disappearing Acts'' (2000), '' The Secret Life of Bees'' (2008), '' Beyond the Lights'' (2014), '' The Old Guard'' (2020), and '' The Woman King'' (2022).


Early life

Prince-Bythewood was born in
Los Angeles, California Los Angeles ( ; es, Los Ángeles, link=no , ), often referred to by its initials L.A., is the List of municipalities in California, largest city in the U.S. state, state of California and the List of United States cities by population, sec ...
, and adopted by Bob Prince, a computer programmer, and Maria Prince, a nurse, when she was 3 weeks old. Her adoptive father is white and her adoptive mother is of Salvadoran and German descent. She grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of
Pacific Grove, California Pacific Grove is a coastal city in Monterey County Monterey County ( ), officially the County of Monterey, is a county (United States), county located on the Pacific Ocean, Pacific coast in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 Unite ...
. She has four siblings through her adoptive family. In 1987, Prince-Bythewood graduated from
Pacific Grove High School Pacific Grove High School (PGHS) is a public high school located in Pacific Grove, California, between Carmel, California, Carmel and Monterey, California, Monterey. History Pacific Grove, California, Pacific Grove formed the Pacific Grove Unifi ...
. She attended
UCLA The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA's academic roots were established in 1881 as a Normal school, teachers colle ...
's film school, where she also ran competitive track. At UCLA, she received the Gene Reynolds Scholarship for Directing and the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduates. She graduated in 1991. She sought out her birth mother around 2014, but it was "not a positive experience". Her birth mother, who is white, was a teenager when she gave her up for adoption, because her family knew her child would be multiracial and they wanted her to have an abortion.


Career

After five years working in TV as a writer on shows like ''
A Different World ''A Different World'' is an American sitcom (and a Spin-off (media), spin-off of ''The Cosby Show'') television series that aired for six seasons on NBC from September 24, 1987 to July 9, 1993. The series originally centered on Denise Huxtable ...
'' and '' South Central,'' Prince-Bythewood wrote her first film, 2000's '' Love & Basketball.'' The film was based on Prince-Bythewood’s personal life and her experiences growing up. It was developed at the
Sundance Institute Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization founded by Robert Redford committed to the growth of independent artists. The institute is driven by its programs that discover and support independent filmmakers, theatre artists and composers fr ...
's directing and writing lab. The film won 12 awards and was nominated for three more. It won Best Film and Best Film Poster at the Black Reel Awards, and Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film also grossed $27.7 million worldwide, making it the ninth most popular basketball film in the United States at that time. She directed the feature film '' The Secret Life of Bees,'' adapted from the best-selling book by
Sue Monk Kidd Sue Monk Kidd (born August 12, 1948) is an American writer from Sylvester, Georgia best known for her novels ''The Secret Life of Bees (novel), The Secret Life of Bees'' and ''The Invention of Wings''. Early life and education Kidd was born in ...
. It was released by Fox Searchlight in October 2008, and debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and Urbanworld Film Festival that same year. In 2014, Prince-Bythewood directed '' Beyond the Lights'', starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Prince-Bythewood began work on the film in 2007, before work on 2008's ''The Secret Life of Bees'' was completed, but struggled to find financing when the original production company,
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, backed out after she insisted on casting Mbatha-Raw. The film premiered at the
2014 Toronto International Film Festival The 39th annual Toronto International Film Festival, the 39th event in the Toronto International Film Festival series, was held in Canada from 4–14 September 2014. David Dobkin (director), David Dobkin's film ''The Judge (2014 film), The Judg ...
. ''Beyond the Lights,'' originally called ''Blackbird,'' is based on the
Nina Simone Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003), known professionally as Nina Simone (), was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, folk, gospel Gos ...
song "Blackbird" from the record '' Nina Simone with Strings''. Prince-Bythewood said: "That song really inspired the movie and inspired Noni's story." The main character's story was loosely inspired by the lives of
Marilyn Monroe Marilyn Monroe (; born Norma Jeane Mortenson; 1 June 1926 4 August 1962) was an American actress. Famous for playing comedic "Blonde stereotype#Blonde bombshell, blonde bombshell" characters, she became one of the most popular sex symbols of ...
and
Judy Garland Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922June 22, 1969) was an American actress and singer. While critically acclaimed for many different roles throughout her career, she is widely known for playing the part of Dorothy Gale in ''The W ...
. Prince-Bythewood also stated that the movie is filled with intense personal issues with some resulting from her own adoption and her fraught encounter with her birth mother. Prince-Bythewood did research with the assistance of a number of singers, including
Alicia Keys Alicia Augello Cook (born January 25, 1981), known professionally as Alicia Keys, is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. A classically trained pianist, Keys started composing songs when she was 12 and was signed at 15 years old by Colu ...
. The story was also inspired by an experience seeing Keys play the song "
Diary A diary is a writing, written or audiovisual record with discrete entries arranged by Calendar date, date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. Diaries have traditionally been handwriting, handwritten but are ...
". Elements of the film, especially the sexualization of female pop artists, act as a "critique of American media culture." The film was shot in 29 days and cost $7 million. All of the key crew members on the film were women, including costume designer Sandra Hernandez, production designer Cecilia Montiel, cinematographer Tami Reiker, and editor Teri Shropshire. Other collaborators were choreographer Laurieann Gibson (
Lady Gaga Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta ( ; born March 28, 1986), known professionally as Lady Gaga, is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She is known for her image reinventions and musical versatility. Gaga began performing as a teenag ...
,
Katy Perry Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson (born October 25, 1984), known professionally as Katy Perry, is an American singer, songwriter, and television personality. Known for her influence on modern pop music and her Camp (style), campy style, she has been ...
,
Nicki Minaj Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty (; born December 8, 1982), known professionally as Nicki Minaj ( ), is a Trinidadian-born rapper based in the United States. She is known for her musical versatility, animated Flow (rapping), flow in her rapping, alter e ...
), hairstylist Kimberly Kimble (
Beyoncé Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter ( ; born September 4, 1981) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Beyoncé's boundary-pushing artistry and vocals have made her the most influential female musician of the 21st century, according to ...
), and record producer
The-Dream Terius Youngdell Nash (born September 20, 1977), better known by his stage name The-Dream, is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. His co-writing credits include songs with "Me Against the Music" (2003) for Britney Spears, "Ride ...
. In 2016 Prince-Bythewood announced her next project would be an adaptation of
Roxane Gay Roxane Gay (born October 15, 1974) is an American writer, professor, editor, and social commentator. Gay is the author of ''The New York Times'' best-selling essay collection ''Bad Feminist'' (2014), as well as the short story collection ''Ayiti ...
's novel '' An Untamed State''. The project would be co-written by herself and Gay and would star Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In 2017 Prince-Bythewood, along with her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, created the show '' Shots Fired'' for Fox. Later that year, Prince-Bythewood was announced as the director for '' Silver & Black'', a film based on
Marvel Comics Marvel Comics is an American comic book publishing, publisher and the flagship property of Marvel Entertainment, a divsion of The Walt Disney Company since September 1, 2009. Evolving from Timely Comics in 1939, ''Magazine Management/Atlas Co ...
characters
Silver Sable Silver is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Ag (from the Latin ', derived from the Proto-Indo-European wikt:Reconstruction:Proto-Indo-European/h₂erǵ-, ''h₂erǵ'': "shiny" or "white") and atomic number 47. A soft, whi ...
and
Black Cat A black cat is a Cat, domestic cat with black fur that may be a mixed or specific Purebred, breed, or a common domestic cat of no particular breed. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognizes 22 cat breeds that can come with solid black coats ...
. She wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of the novel '' Before I Fall'' by Lauren Oliver. The film had an estimated $12,498,674 worldwide box office take by March 2017 after its release date (January 21, 2017). She directed the 2020 film adaptation of
Greg Rucka Gregory Rucka (born November 29, 1969) is an American writer known for the series of novels starring his character Atticus Kodiak, the creator-owned comic book series ''Whiteout (Oni Press), Whiteout'', ''Queen & Country'', ''Stumptown (comics), ...
's '' The Old Guard'' for
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, starring
Charlize Theron Charlize Theron ( ; ; born 7 August 1975) is a South African and American actress and producer. One of the world's highest-paid actresses, she is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award The Academy Awards, bett ...
and KiKi Layne. She is the first mixed race woman to make a comic-book film. In 2020, she and her husband signed a deal with
Touchstone Television The second incarnation of Touchstone Television (formerly known as Fox 21 Television Studios) was an American television production company that is a subsidiary of Disney Media Networks' Walt Disney Television owned by The Walt Disney Company. It ...
to produce their output using the banner "Undisputed Cinema." Prince-Bythewood directed the TriStar Pictures epic '' The Woman King'', a feature inspired by true events that took place in the Kingdom of
Dahomey The Kingdom of Dahomey () was a List of kingdoms in pre-colonial Africa, West African kingdom located within present-day Benin that existed from approximately 1600 until 1904. Dahomey developed on the Abomey Plateau amongst the Fon people in th ...
, one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th and 19th centuries, ''The Woman King'' tells the story of Nanisca (
Viola Davis Viola Davis (; born August 11, 1965) is an American actress and producer. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the only African-American to achieve the Triple ...
), general of the all-female military unit known as the Amazons, and her daughter, Nawi, who together fought the French and neighboring tribes who violated their honor, enslaved their people and threatened to destroy everything they’ve lived for. She also directed the first episode of ABC's '' Women of the Movement''. In March 2021, Prince-Bythewood took on a new role as Co-Chair of the
Directors Guild of America The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is an entertainment guild A guild ( ) is an association of artisans and merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular area. The earliest types of guild formed as organizations of ...
African American Steering Committee (AASC). Working alongside Director Jeffrey W. Byrd, Prince-Bythewood will be addressing needs of the African American members of the Guild such as job creation and career advancement in this new position. On August 26, It was announced that because of Prince-Bythewood's commitments to other projects, she would not direct '' The Old Guard 2'' and will be replaced by Victoria Mahoney. Prince-Bythewood will remain as producer on the film.


Personal life

In 1998 Prince-Bythewood married film director and writer Reggie Rock Bythewood, whom she met on the writing staff of ''
A Different World ''A Different World'' is an American sitcom (and a Spin-off (media), spin-off of ''The Cosby Show'') television series that aired for six seasons on NBC from September 24, 1987 to July 9, 1993. The series originally centered on Denise Huxtable ...
.'' The couple have two sons, Cassius and Toussaint, and live in
Southern California Southern California (commonly shortened to SoCal) is a geographic and cultural region that generally comprises the southern portion of the U.S. state of California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States, located ...
. Along with friends
Mara Brock Akil Mara Brock Akil (born Mara Dionne Brock; May 27, 1970) is an American screenwriter and television producer. She created the UPN comedy series '' Girlfriends'' (2000–2008) and its spin-off '' The Game'' (2006–2015). She later created the firs ...
, Sara Finney Johnson and Felicia D. Henderson, Prince-Bythewood endows The Four Sisters Scholarship.


Directorial style


Themes

Through her films, Prince-Bythewood explores themes that often reflect the experiences of women of color. Specifically, Prince-Bythewood's films frequently challenge popular portrayals of women of color rooted in cultural stereotypes by presenting women as passionate and ambitious figures committed to the realization of their goals. Furthermore, Prince-Bythewood’s films work to resist negative conceptions and ideologies about the ability of women to be dynamic; people who are both successful in their professional pursuits and in their maintenance of romantic relationships. Commenting on her film '' Love & Basketball'', Prince-Bythewood spoke to normalizing the idea that women can balance working toward career aspirations and being romantic partners: “Girls are often told you can’t have both, so I just wanted to normalize the belief that you can have both. I wanted to normalize girls like Monica, who were girls like me, who grew up playing sports and were… made to feel different”. This element of Prince-Bythewood’s work - one that challenges societal expectations that refuse women’s (particularly through the experience of Black women) ability to solidify their own subjectivity through passionate and purposeful vocational pursuits while also being desired romantically - has led some to label her work as romance films that chronicle “love stories” in what may be considered an oversimplification and dismissal of underlying womanist narratives and themes. Additionally, throughout her work, Prince-Bythewood has indicated a particular investment in spotlighting the humanity of the female characters that her films depict. Prince-Bythewood forefronts the humanistic quality of her film’s characters through the development of narratives that demonstrate the complexities of human emotion; an aspect of human nature often weaponized against women to portray them as weak, overly-emotional, or lacking mental toughness. In producing narratives that highlight the intricacies of feeling, thought, and behavior, Prince-Bythewood works to dispel limiting images and representations of women that regard them as objects of desire and self-sacrifice whose purpose is centralized around being in service of others, who are often men, around them. When asked by
Kathleen Newman-Bremang Kathleen Newman-Bremang is a Canadians, Canadian writer and broadcaster, most noted as a journalist and editor for ''Refinery29'' and as a guest commentator on the CBC Radio One arts and culture magazine show ''Q (radio show), Q''. She has also wo ...
why highlighting emotion within her film's female characters is a significant element of her work in a discussion at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with
Viola Davis Viola Davis (; born August 11, 1965) is an American actress and producer. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards, she is the only African-American to achieve the Triple ...
oriented around the debut of '' The Woman King'' (2022), Prince-Bythewood said “It’s showing our humanity. People don’t see our humanity. So, it’s important to put it up on screen”.


Filmography


Shorts


Feature film

Producer * ''
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'' (2003) * '' The Old Guard 2'' (TBA)


Television


Awards and nominations


References


External links

* * {{DEFAULTSORT:Prince-Bythewood, Gina 1969 births 20th-century African-American women 20th-century African-American writers 20th-century American screenwriters 20th-century American women writers 21st-century African-American women 21st-century African-American writers 21st-century American screenwriters 21st-century American women writers African-American film directors African-American screenwriters African-American women writers American adoptees American television writers American women film directors American women screenwriters American women television writers Film directors from California Hugo Award winners Independent Spirit Award winners Living people Place of birth missing (living people) People from Pacific Grove, California Screenwriters from California UCLA Film School alumni