Issa Rae’s production company, ColorCreative, has signed a multi-picture production deal with Columbia Pictures. The pact is unique in that under the agreement, ColorCreative will work with and back projects from emerging, diverse screenwriters.
The move comes as the entertainment industry is under pressure to develop films and shows that feature underrepresented talent both in front of and behind the camera. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Films such as “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have demonstrated the commercial appeal of movies with minority leads, but they remain the exception, not the rule. A recent USC study found that only 29.3% of characters in the 100 top grossing movies of 2017 were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.
Rae is best known for creating, co-writing, and starring in the HBO series “Insecure.” Selected participants, to be announced in the spring of 2019, will work with Rae and the studio to develop and write features based on their original ideas.
“Issa is a force of nature, and a magnet for talented people,” said Sanford Panitch, president of Columbia Pictures, in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to join her in her mission to pave the way for fresh and authentic voices.”
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Columbia, which is owned by Sony, has backed several projects with minority or female-leads, including the upcoming “Miss Bala,” an action film with a cast and crew that is 95% Latinx, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” an animated film that features Miles Morales, a superhero with an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother.
Rae was discovered via her self-produced web series “Awkward Black Girl,” which inspired “Insecure.”
Bryan Smiley, VP of production at Columbia Pictures shepherded the deal and will oversee production and development with ColorCreative for the motion picture group. Sara Rastogi, recently appointed as VP of production for ColorCreative will also help guide the deal for the company along with Deniese Davis, COO of ColorCreative.
“Working with Bryan Smiley and Columbia Pictures to further the mission ColorCreative set out to achieve four years ago in creating access for underrepresented writers, has been a dream come true,” Rae said in a statement. “All of the projects we are working on are fresh and promising and we can’t wait to continue the work. We hope to set a precedent and inspire the industry at large to invest in undiscovered talent, original IP, and fresh stories and perspectives.”
“Sara’s commitment to discovering and elevating budding voices along with her out-of-the-box thinking has made her a perfect and insightful addition to our team,” said Rae.