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Vidcon 2018 Showcases Diverse Voices, Creators of Color

Diversity is front and center at Vidcon 2018, with women and people of color set to be featured prominently in panels and sessions throughout the week at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Vidcon’s agenda features sessions on a range of topics, including a panel on the rise of Raze, the digital media company aimed at Latino millennials. Other panels focus on how digital media has provided creators of color opportunities to share with millions their perspectives and stories.

Across the various so-called tracks — different events aimed at industry leaders, content creators, and fans — attendees have options for panels and workshops aimed at educating industry leaders and creators alike about business and marketing opportunities.

Jen Ruggirello, a cast member with Buzzfeed’s LadyLike, said during a panel titled Not Your Token Asian Friend that before she began creating content, she didn’t see people like her in media.

“When I first started making media, I was really inspired by the people around me who made me feel less alone,” she said. “For making content going forward, I want to see it as a safe space for people to come.”

Adam Wescott, co-founder of Select Management Group, who counts among clients digital stars like Gigi Gorgeous, said digital media naturally attracts diverse voices.

“We didn’t have to concentrate on (diversity) or call attention to it – it just happened,” Wescott said. “YouTube and social are the only places where you’ll find someone like LaurDIY, an Asian girl who has millions of followers. That doesn’t exist in network TV or in film.”

Wescott said creators of color have been able to capitalize on opportunities to appeal to a base that isn’t catered to on other platforms. “It’s great that brands are recognizing that and you’re seeing top-level endorsement opportunities for people like Gigi, who works with Revlon and Google,” he said, adding that LaurDIY is also the face of Mudd jeans.

“There’s opportunities that didn’t exist for diverse talent three years ago,” he said.

Emiliano Calemzuk, co-founder and CEO of Raze, a digital media company that launched a year ago and has quickly become an incubator of Latino talent and video content that is attracting the attention of film and television studios.

Calemzuk said online video has created an opportunity for Latinos to be the next generation of content creators, saying that traditional media brands have lost touch with younger audiences who consume online video almost exclusively.

“This is a time for a next generation of content creators and a new brand to be born,” he said during a panel for industry leaders. “Let’s create a platform to give these people a tool.”

Charles D. King, founder and CEO of Macro, said his 3-year-old media company behind critically acclaimed films like “Fences” and “Mudbound” is wading into digital media with a focus on discovering diverse voices.

He shared a newly announced initiative with Black List and producers Lena Waithe and Eva Longoria that will invite writers of color to submit “ideas for review” by Macro executives and the Black List team. Semi-finalists in the review process will compete for deals to produce a $30,000 presentation or sizzle reel, with up to three winners that will be named in December.

Macro is currently developing a digital series, “Gente-fied,” with Netflix. The streaming giant picked up the series about gentrification in east Los Angeles out of Sundance. America Ferrera is an executive producer of the series.

King, whose background has been in film, said he’s cognizant of how audiences, particularly young ones, are flocking to online video.

“Digital is a huge part of our present,” King said. “It’s (also) going to be one of the driving elements in the future.”

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