Diverse Creators Turn to New Media for Production Opportunities

The Oscars are behind us, but the controversy over the under-representation of racial and ethnic minorities and women in the film industry isn’t going away any time soon. Particularly in the nitty-gritty world of production, two women are using new technology to take matters into their own hands.

Production, of course, begins with financing, which itself is a male-dominated field, according Emily Best, an indie filmmaker who three years ago started crowdfunding and distribution platform Seed&Spark.

“The (existing) systems … are built for a very tiny percentage of white men,” says Best. “But if you use the new landscape the digital space has created, then you’re not married to the strictures of the system. We simply don’t have to spend our time beating down a door that was never open to us.”

Rachel Skidmore, director of media development and production at Skybound Entertainment, which produces content for comic books, film and TV, agrees. “Digital is where you can make space for yourself,” she says.

Best didn’t set out to create a funding source that favors women, but, as it turned out, 60% of the projects funded by Seed&Spark are female-driven — and benefit from the crowdfunder’s 75% success rate, according to the company.

One such project, “The Camel’s Back,” a thesis film by Nairobi-born Yale senior Michelle Mboya, quickly received 120% of its funding.

Set to be shot in remote Kenya locations, it will tell the story of an African teenager who believes she has one day left to live.

“We simply don’t have to spend our time beating down a door that was never open to us.”
Emily Best, Seed&Spark

The company’s crop extends to a variety of other projects, including Brooklyn-set Web drama “Money & Violence,” picked up by Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service, and Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s “The Dog,” a docu about the would-be bank robber who inspired “Dog Day Afternoon,” which was gobbled up by Cinedigm.

As CEO, Best is primarily focused on raising money, but she has traveled to more than 50 cities to educate filmmakers on using crowdfunding to build a relationship with audiences, and to take home the knowledge she gains from meeting with such creatives to construct  “the best audience-building product we can.”

Skidmore has found an audience on YouTube. She co-developed and exec-produced original series “Scare PewDiePie,” along with Robert Kirkman, David Alpert and Kevin Healey, for YouTube Red, the streamer’s new paid-subscription service. “Now, YouTube is only a portion of what I take on, since there’s more opportunity for over-the-top content,” she says.

Skidmore also is working on “Gone,” a live-action, scripted, 360-degree interactive VR thriller series from director J.T. Petty (“Splinter Cell,” “The Burrowers”). Virtual reality entertainment, she believes, is here to stay. “It is going to be what 3D wanted to be,” she says.

Both Skidmore, who previously worked with YouTube creators and digital talent at Big Frame, and Best think that the digital world is far more democratized than that of traditional filmmaking. “If you want to make something,” Skidmore says, “you can go out and do it right now. You don’t have to wait for someone to anoint you to become successful.”

Adds Best: “This is an utterly different landscape, where anyone who is a self-starter can really excel.”

Skidmore recently spearheaded a writers workshop in conjunction with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at YouTube Space L.A. Next up: panels at WonderCon and SXSW. In digital, new voices are always clamoring to be heard.

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content