SCV residents seek to make Netflix of black history

Darryl Pugh Sr. and his wife Renee now live in Stevenson Ranch. Photo courtesy of the Pughs
Darryl Pugh Sr. moved to sunny Southern California in April to see what he could bring to the entertainment industry here. Throughout his career, he shot decades of video for some of the biggest black entertainers, from 50 Cent to Toni Braxton to Michael Jackson and others. And he’s currently honing his history as an actor, producer, writer and filmmaker to create what he calls the “Netflix of black history.” Already through its soft launch, the website “Black History Cinema: An Evolution in Black Filmmaking” is set for official release on Feb. 1. Pugh Sr. has been working for years to create an archive of black filmmaking over the years, from the 1980s when his career launched with gigs working for Black Entertainment Television and performing as a stage actor. Pugh Sr. and his wife Renee now live in Stevenson Ranch, worlds away from the days when they were working high-end Jewish weddings, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs when they first purchased filmmaking equipment in 1982. Then the couple decided to up the ante and create their own iconic series, leading the way to more films. “But from there we went and produced the first ‘black Dynasty,’ which if you’ve heard of the soap opera, ‘Dynasty,’ was supposed to be similar but with an all-black cast,” he said. That series was called “The Raven,” which featured the music industry as a story backdrop. It was Pugh Sr.’s definition of doing something a little different. “It surrounded a fictional family called the Tylers, the wealthiest black family in the country who owned a chain of nightclubs called ‘The Raven,’” he said. “It’s very similar to what (the FOX television show) ‘Empire’ is doing now. And back in the 1980s when we were making it, it got a lot of attention.” At the National Association of Broadcasters’ first minority television producers exhibition in 1984, “The Raven” narrowly missed being showcased and was passed up for “The Cosby Show,” Pugh Sr. said. But he wasn’t dismayed — he went on to work as a topical producer for Oprah Winfrey, producing and editing commercials going on her show while living in the Washington, D.C., metro area. He then worked as a freelancer with Black Entertainment Television, filming award shows for years, traveling all around the world to capture concerts and interviews in the Caribbean, Haiti, the Virgin Islands and United States. “Wherever we went, we’d have our video cameras,” he said. “And we have over 700 hours of unedited footage of some of the most iconic black leaders and public figures around.” Pugh Sr. is currently working as a Lyft driver and readying to shoot feature films in Los Angeles. He’s most anticipating launching this black history project as his next big move, though. To Pugh Sr., Black History Cinema is designed to be about black history worldwide, from the African diaspora to the Western world’s influence. On its website, blackhistorycinema.com, the site currently has about 40-50 videos up. It is set to be subscription-based and celebrate all the ways the black entertainment industry has changed over the years — to be showcased in a different light, he said. “We have interviewed folks in the military, some of the most iconic black leaders in business, entertainment and politics, from footage of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton locking arms in 1992 to interviews with folks like Bob Johnson, founder of BET, Yolanda Adams, Toni Braxton,” he said. “”We have an iconic piece with Stevie Wonder, and also 50 Cent talking candidly about his 2007 beef with Kanye West. It’s going to be great when it launches.”  

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About the author

Crystal Duan

Crystal Duan

Crystal Duan is the Signal's political reporter, covering City Council, the county and other happenings around the city. She graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school and has worked at the Indianapolis Star and Minneapolis Star Tribune. She has been with the Signal since March 2018.