Rideback — the entertainment company known for producing “The LEGO Movie” and “It” movie franchises, as well as Disney’s “Aladdin,” along with series television including the CW’s “Walker” — has developed the accelerator program to support BIPOC writers, filmmakers and entrepreneurs and their projects as a “means to advance racial equity in mainstream entertainment.”
“When I started my career, first as a creative executive and then as an entrepreneur, I benefited from the mentorship and generosity of leaders in both a formal and informal way,” stated Lin, pointing to industry leaders including Alan Horn, Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Jeff Robinov and Peter Roth, who guided him “in an era long before the industry’s recent racial reckoning.”
“But they took a bet on helping a 25-year-old intern from Taiwan who had no connections in Hollywood,” he explained. “With Rideback Rise, we are building a system of support and mentorship for creators and entrepreneurs alike, to help the next generation of leaders who are creating content and businesses that will help build bridges and advance racial equity.”
Lin went on to acknowledge the “incremental improvement for diversity on and off screen,” but affirmed that people of color “remain massively underrepresented, and this inequity perpetuates the racial divide in American society.”
Thus, he concluded, “Rise is dedicated to lifting up those exceptional creative voices that get fewer chances, whether they are Asian, Black, Hispanic and Indigenous, for example, or whether they are Muslim or another underrepresented group. Our goal is to empower these creators to make popular entertainment that reflects our multicultural society so we can help improve racial equity in America.”
Rideback Rise, a registered 501(c)(3), will operate as a separate organization from the production entity, though program participants will have opportunity to utilize the company’s Rideback Ranch creative campus and performance space in LA’s Historic Filipinotown and have access to ongoing educational and networking events and programming, as well as senior executives and creative professionals from throughout the company’s community.
The program will comprise of two groups: the Rise Circle, a community of more than 500 diverse writers, filmmakers and creative talent who will be supported through career-oriented programming and networking events; and the Rise Fellowship, an annual cohort of BIPOC creators and entrepreneurs who are financially supported in the development of market-ready projects.
Rise Fellows will receive a $50,000 annual stipend and are eligible to access an Intellectual Property Fund for underlying rights to material, as well as a Visuals Fund to create presentations and reels for their projects. In the program, fellows will work closely with each other in a writers’ room approach, and will have the option to work from Rideback Ranch.
Once they complete the program, fellows are free to set up their projects with the producing and/or financing entity of their choice, with Rise remaining on board as a passive participant in the life of the project. All fees generated from projects will be reinvested in the Rise program to support future cohorts, supporting the goal of establishing Rise as a “virtuous loop,” a self-sustaining program that can continue to grow annually.
BIPOC-identifying creators may apply directly to become Rise Fellows through www.ridebackrise.org, which will begin accepting applications on Sept. 1. The program will formally kick off on Oct. 15 with the announcement of the first cohort of Rise Fellows.
In Oct. 2021, Rideback produced a pre-launch event for the non-profit accelerator aimed at experience BIPOC creators, called “Navigating the Comedy World.” The masterclass, taught by comedian Hasan Minhaj, was attended by more than 100 BIPOC-identifying comedians and TV comedy writers, showcasing the type of programming that Rise will provide to its fellows and those in the Rise Circle.
Rideback Rise is launching with more than $1 million in commitments from leading philanthropic institutions, including the Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Zelnick Belzberg Charitable Trust, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and UTA Foundation.
“At Rideback, we’ve built a strong community of like-minded creators who believe in giving back and helping the next generation. It’s a natural next step to contribute all that we’ve learned and to partner with the non-profit sector to establish Rise,” added Lin, expressing his gratitude to the philanthropic institutions for sharing Rideback’s vision “for combating ‘otherness’ and creating a more empathic world.”
Of uniting with Rideback and the other creative partners involved in the project, Chi-hui Yang, senior program officer for JustFilms at the Ford Foundation, said, “We are thrilled to work with Rideback Rise and other creative partners in entertainment and philanthropy who share our mission of advancing equity. The work that creatives do, both on screen and off, help color our understanding of our communities and the world at large. It’s essential that production teams, studios, and more reflect the diversity of our society.”
Added Kathy Im, Director of Media and Journalism at MacArthur Foundation: “The rapidly changing media ecosystem, including entertainment, requires an infrastructure and professional creatives that reflect the democratic ideals of a multiracial, multiethnic America. Rideback Rise will help build the community, collaboration, and support necessary to center equity in the entertainment industry.”
Zeyba Rahman, program director for the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program, noted: “For far too long, mainstream media has overlooked the rich perspectives and representation of culturally diverse creators. We are excited to support Rideback Rise and their goal to elevate the voices that have often been minimized and provide resources to those creators to tell stories. We look forward to how they will advance racial equity and social change, deepen cross-community connections and truly embody what the U.S. looks like today.”
Rideback Rise is currently seeking additional funders to close out the organization’s 2022 funding goal, as it begins selecting Rise Fellows for a Fall 2022 start.
Rideback itself is contributing $150K to the program, in addition to the infrastructure donation of the Rideback Ranch creative campus. To date, the company’s executives have also contributed more than a thousand hours to launch Rise, with plans to run the program until it has its own executive director and staff.
Lin serves as chair of the Rise Board of Directors, with the remainder of the group at launch comprised by Brickson Diamond, partner at Spencer Stuart and founder of The Blackhouse Foundation; Alice Rhee, Skoll Foundation’s Chief Communications & Partnerships Officer; and Strauss Zelnick, Chairman and CEO of Take Two Interactive and managing partner at Zelnick Media Capital.