Jeron Smith, CEO of Unanimous Media — the production company co-founded with NBA star Steph Curry — wants to broker film deals at Sony Pictures Entertainment with underrepresented talent, via a new joint venture.
Smith and SPE have formed The Incubation Lab, which Smith describes as a “culture-forward content incubator.” Smith told Variety the goal of the project is to identify nontraditional storytellers, like athletes, musicians, designers, artists, and other influencers, and pair them with screenwriters and filmmakers to develop original intellectual property. Those will be pitched to Sony for movie development deals.
“The demand for premium, resonant content has never been greater, yet despite their large platforms, some of the most creative minds don’t have access to the resources or the relationships needed to get projects made,” Smith said.
Sanford Panitch, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, said in a statement that the “mission of finding fresh voices and new kinds of storytellers is foundational as we navigate going forward. Jeron and Stephen have been great partners with a unique perspective on things. We look forward to the new projects that will undoubtedly come out of this.”
The Incubation Lab is separate from Sony Pictures’ production and development deal with Unanimous, established in 2018 with Smith, Curry and Erick Peyton. Whereas the Unanimous shingle is focused on “family, faith-based and sports storytelling,” the new incubator will have a wider lens.
“It’s important for huge talent to feel like they’re in their own lane with their own footprint,” Smith said in explaining why the Incubation Lab is independent from Unanimous Media. Smith will be attached as an executive producer to projects that emerge through the incubator.
The Incubation Lab already has its first film in the works with Sony Pictures, according to Smith — but he declined to identify who’s behind it. It’s a hip-hop music film from “one of the biggest artists in the world” and a writer-director who has never worked with a big Hollywood studio before, according to Smith.
“It’s a story that would be difficult to get through the studio system,” Smith said. “It’s hard for anybody to make a movie, and that’s especially true for talent from underrepresented backgrounds.” He said the film’s principals are working with Maia Eyre, VP of creative production at Sony Pictures.
Unanimous, which is housed on SPE’s Culver City, Calif., lot, has several projects in development at Sony, including sports drama “Signing Day” with John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. and “Church Hoppers,” a “Wedding Crashers”-esque comedy.
Smith previously was chief marketing officer of Curry’s brand-management firm, Stephen Curry 30 Inc., under which he signed partnership deals with Facebook, Sony, Rakuten, Infiniti, YouTube and Tencent. Prior to teaming up with Curry, Smith worked in President Obama’s White House Office of Digital Strategy and prior to that was at Nike as a brand marketing strategic lead.