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Wayans hope for two snaps up from city
Irreverent brothers propose film company for Oakland’s ex-Army base
By Cecily Burt, Oakland Tribune
June 8, 2005

Oakland – Emeryville has Pixar, San Francisco and Marin have Lucasfilm. Could Oakland be in line for its own famous film production company? Homey thinks so.

The details are murky, but apparently the wildly wacky Wayans brothers, as in Keenen Ivory, Shawn and Marlon — notorious for such gems as "White Chicks," "Scary Movie" and "In Living Color" — are scouting a location on the former Army base in West Oakland for a film and television production company.

"That would be great, most definitely," said Bryan Rawkon, 25, of Oakland, who said his favorite Wayans character is probably Homey D. Clown, a parolee played by Damon Wayans who is reluctantly forced to work as a clown on "In Living Color," the brothers' ensemble break-out TV show.

Homey's signature line whenever he was asked to do something a normal clown would do — "I don't think so ... Homey don't play that" — helped make the irreverent series an overnight success.

On Tuesday, the city Community and Economic Development Committee will decide whether to negotiate turning over to the Wayans 70 acres of vacant land on the former Army base for their film and television production company, the Fulton Project Development Group.
The Wayans brothers propose building a movie studio complex including sound stages and production offices, retail and housing for actors and production staff.

If the City Council goes along, the city will negotiate exclusively with the development group for one year. Within 10 days of council approval, the Wayans must pay $150,000 to cover outside consulting fees.

Such a scenario thrills Rawkon, who got to chuckling at memories of "White Chicks," where Shawn and Damon Wayans play FBI agents who go undercover as white girls.

"Hell yeah, it was funny," Rawkon said. "Everything they come out with is hilarious. There's no bad, all good. Anything that's dealing with change — positive change — for Oakland is a plus for me."

Although many of their films center on African-American urban themes, no topic, character or ethnic group is immune from the Wayans brothers' brand of comedy. They have poked fun at Little Richard, the "Cosby Show," "Star Trek" and Siskel and Ebert, with the two white movie critics replaced by the black, very gay "Men on Film" duo with their signature "two snaps up." They also spoofed the slasher flick genre in "Scary Movie" and its sequels.

The brothers approached city officials about moving their operations from Los Angeles to Oakland, where they would have room to grow, said Dan Vanderpriem, city Redevelopment Agency director.
He said the brothers have already made a couple of trips north to scope out the potential site.

The specific location for the production company has not been selected, Vanderpriem said, but it will be on the south side of West Grand Avenue, within about 125 acres the city received from the Army after the base closed. City Councilmember Nancy Nadel (Downtown-West Oakland) said the production company would bring jobs to Oakland.

Former plans for the base included a casino, luxury hotel and convention center, a big-box retail center and a technology campus. But none of those panned out.

"(The Wayans' plan) very much fits in with job production, which is a high priority, and job production that is not environmentally damaging," Nadel said. "This would be a destination site, a Universal Studios kind of thing."

Danyeal Bobino, 23, of Oakland, couldn't believe it. She liked the "Wayans Brothers" TV show, and she owns the "In Living Color" DVD. As a creative writer, she's already thinking she'd like to write movie scripts for them.

According to city documents, the Wayans said they will work with the community, especially youth, to help get them experience and jobs in film and television production.

That was music to Cemara Griffith, 14, an eighth-grader at Chipman Middle School in Alameda, who thinks it's about time more positive things happen in Oakland.

One possible hitch is the city may have to make good on a promise to accept a proposal from Opus/Legacy West Wind, which held a now-expired exclusive negotiating agreement to develop the former Army base.

It is not known whether Opus/Legacy West Wind still exists or if it is still interested, Vanderpriem said.

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