Impact X Capital, a Black entrepreneur owned venture capital firm seeking to invest £100 million ($137 million) for underrepresented entrepreneurs, is launching Impact X Studios to fund, develop and package international content with an focus on diversity and inclusion.
A creative capital vehicle for underrepresented talent, Impact X Studios is being launched by Erica Motley, a well-connected TV industry veteran who is creative partner at Impact X, and Eric Collins, the CEO of Impact X who is also a tech entrepreneur and investor.
“Impact X was launched for founders from underrepresented communities – mainly Black and female entrepreneurs – and now we’re aiming to do the same for the creative content industry in Europe, Africa and the Carribeans,” said Motley, who pointed out that the recent success of “Bridgerton” and “Lupin,” two shows with Black protagonists, are game-changers as they show that there is a “massive audience for distinctive storytelling with multicultural characters.”
Motley said “Bridgerton,” in particular, was groundbreaking because it’s the first period series with a Black lead. “It showed us that there is a huge audience to tap into.” She added that the idea for Impact X Studios was to pursue “commercial stories, based on strong IP’s and true stories.”
The new banner is rolling out a powerful slate of 12 premium series projects, ranging from drama to documentary and animation, that are led, produced and/or star diverse talent. These include the France-based period series “Dumas,” “Baldwin in Paris” and the comedy series “Blind Ambition” which are already packaged and will be introduced to buyers at the virtual MipTV.
“Dumas” is romantic costume drama that Impact X Studios is developing with former ITV executive Francois Florentiny (Netflix’s “The Hookup”) about the real-life legend Alexandre Dumas, the father of the famous French playwright and novelist behind “The Three Musketeers.” The series, which is all based on historical facts, will tell the adventures of the real Musketeers, Dumas and Chevalier St. George, who were the best swordsmen in Napoleon’s army and happened to be black.
Pitched as a “‘Hamilton’ meets ‘Dangerous Liaisons’,” “Dumas” will also have strong female characters, La Veuve Cliquot and Madame Tussaud, who became powerful businesswomen in the wake of war. The lives of all these characters intersect in Paris before the French Revolution and in the fallout of the Napoleonic Wars. “Dumas” is based on historical facts and was penned Virginie Laurent and Florence Colombani.
“It’s amazing that so few people know that the inspiration for ‘The Three Musketeers’ were fiercless and admired Black swordsmen, said Motley. “We don’t have to make anything up to make a historical show with strong Black protagonists.”
“Baldwin in Paris,” meanwhile, is a civil rights era drama that Impact X Studios is developing with the award-winning producer Sarah Green – whose stellar track record includes “Loving,” “Mud” and “Tree of Life” – and “Orphan Black” producer Boat Rocker Media.
The prestige six-part drama series is inspired by a New York Times bestseller, “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons For Our Own.” It recounts James Baldwin’s life as an American exile in Paris and his path to literary stardom.
The show will also shed light on Baldwin’s controversial life and show the glamour of post-WWII Paris which at the time was a haven for international artists, writers and musicians — especially African-American artists, who enjoyed more freedom and opportunities than in America.
“Baldwin” will feature Baldwin’s influential friends, such as Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, Miles Davis, Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, Bobby Kennedy, Aimee Ceasaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor and Simone Signoret. The series will boast a score of gospel, jazz and blues which infused Baldwin’s writing.
The series will be headlined by Chukwudi Iwuji who previously starred in “Designated Survivor,” “Peacemaker” and When They See Us.”
In a total different genre, “Blind Ambition” is a comedy series based on the true story of the first African team to compete in the world’s finals for the best sommelier in Burgundy, France. Forced to leave their homes for a better life, four friends immigrate to South Africa where a chance encounter with a star chef sets them on the path to wine greatness.
Impact X Studios is developing “Blind Ambition” with Diprente, Tamsin Andersson and Ryan Haidarian. Kagiso Lediga, the South African star of “Queen Sono” and “Catching Feelings,” is on board to write and direct the series, as well as star in it.
“We’re a venture capital fund so of course we want these shows to make money. We’re not going to make poverty porn content,” said Motley, who previously worked as international acquisitions executive at HBO, Fox, BMG and Shine, as well as UIP in London and K5 in Germany.
Collins, who served on President Obama’s Small Business Administration Council on Underserved Communities, said Impact X was “piloting a new business model – we can’t rely only on the current (studio) system.”
“What we have found is that if Diverse creatives can get funding, they have double the opportunity of getting their shows made. What it means for Impact X is that we can pull in our return cycle by 50%,” said Collins.
Other projects on Impact X Studios’s slate include Live Connection, a documentary series about European Afrobeat and hip hop artists and culture set against the urban city backdrops of London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome. The series will kick off with an episode dedicated to Runtown, the Afrobeat superstar. It will be produced by JM Films and directed by Meji Alabi, the pair behind Beyoncé’s Grammy-winning music video “Brown Skin Girl.” The episode will follow a concert of Runtown and will show behind the scenes to portray the artist. Impact X Studios is producing the docu series with producer Bunmi Akintonwa.