Get to Know Ensemble: Q&A with April Reign and Donnovan Andrews
Jordan Kelley, Content Director, Brandstorytelling.tv
April Reign, the equity advocate, former lawyer, cultural marketing expert and creator of #OscarsSoWhite, is partnering with New York-based media company Overture Global to launch a digital content studio that will accelerate opportunities around content and development in front of and behind the camera for people of color. The new initiative will be named Ensemble, to signify that it takes a collective effort: people of various talents, backgrounds and cultures to create content that is inclusive, equitable, authentic and relevant for the masses.
Brand Storytelling caught up with April Reign and Donnovan Andrews, Founder of Overture Global, to learn more about the new initiative:
April, what motivated you to engage in this partnership and put your attention to the world of brand-funded content?
April Reign: I created #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 to bring increased attention to the lack of marginalized communities working in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera. We know talented people of color exist, from gaffers and key grips to aspiring actors and actresses, but they are sorely underrepresented. Ensemble provides an opportunity to allow marginalized creatives to put their best foot forward and gives them a larger platform to do so.
What short term and long term goals did you have in mind when deciding to launch Ensemble?
AR: One of the most important issues in the entertainment industry is who is telling the story, and whose story is being told. The goal of Ensemble is to provide opportunities for underrepresented communities to tell their own stories. Stories that resonate with them that will also resonate with an ever-growing audience as we watch the demographics of entertainment consumers skew toward traditionally underrepresented communities.
Donnovan, what about this partnership clicked for you?
Donnovan Andrews: April and I share the same vision of wanting to create an organization and to be part of an industry that is fair, inclusive and transparent. We know that in order to be successful with this approach you have to be authentic, forward looking and willing to do the work.
What can Overture contribute to April’s work?
DA: Me being a part of the technology and media landscape for over two decades put us in a position where we can leverage relationships not understanding of technology to bring stories to life. In addition, overture is a profitable organization that's been around for several years and has been able to build relationships with Major Brands, NGOs, editors and of course with our readers - this puts us in a position where we have an understanding of what content to create, what brands are looking for and how to reach a very unique, influential and intelligent audience.
What services will Ensemble include or seek to provide?
DA: We aim to provide a full suite of services ranging from custom branded content, overture owned and operated content to lastly, production services to brands and distributors.
What can consumers expect from Ensemble content?
DA: We've built a brand and an audience over the past few years that has been loyal to us and excited about what we create. Our objective is to continue telling amazing stories at the intersection of innovation, human development and the culture of change.
We know that now more than ever consumers (of all color) expect brands to stand for social issues. Brands that ignore issues and continue to lean entirely on interruptive advertising vs. content that informs, entertains and inspires are going to find themselves losing favor with today’s consumer. Now is a time for brands to support stories that need to be told and you are looking forward to helping them find those stories that reflect today’s society and culture.
Although the movement taking place in America right now is highly visible, ultimately the way that movement is perceived in its extension to areas like the mainstream media, the workplace, the content we all consume, etc. can be fuzzy for some. For those folks, can you share why an initiative like Ensemble is not just important, but necessary?
AR: Every industry relies on the bottom line, whether it is entertainment, media, corporate structures, or anything else. The data shows that diversity sells: in other words, the more diverse a project or a workplace is, the more money it makes. Just as businesses are finally beginning to implement more equitable and inclusive policies in the workplace, entertainment must continue that work as well. Ensemble will help kickstart those efforts with an emphasis on content by, for, and about people of color.
April, you’ve been known publicly for challenging the lack of representation of marginalized communities on screen for half a decade. With inequity in the spotlight and initiatives like Ensemble rising from the exposure of a broken system, how do you imagine the ways we will see that representation on screen change?
AR: What we've seen is people of color in front of and behind the camera taking more ownership of the images and stories that are brought to screen. Michael B. Jordan, for example, not only created his own production company, but also was an early supporter of Inclusion Riders for the work he produces. Ensemble will operate in the same vein: providing opportunities for creatives in front of and behind the camera to take ownership of their work, while providing a platform for distribution. We expect increased opportunities will lead to amazing content for which the world has been waiting.
Donnovan, what advice do you have for brand leaders who are inspired by this partnership and/or looking to enact similar initiatives themselves but don’t know where to start?
DA: Call us!
About April Reign
Ms. Reign is an influential and sought-after media presence; she has built an impressive global social media following across several platforms, as well as a network of recognized celebrities, creators, activists, and corporate decision makers. She capitalizes on this network and her experience, using her voice to spark conversations and explore issues of race, politics and culture, helping to structure ways to turn dialogue into action.
April Reign travels internationally, speaking at academic institutions and conferences; she appears at industry awards, festivals and events, and is highly sought-after for consulting with organizations regarding issues of diversity and inclusion.
Overture Global is a media platform and thought leadership community built to inspire those working across boundaries, industries, disciplines, and generations. Overture focuses on the intersection of innovation and our culture of change, by curating conversations for a young, digital, connected audience via content online, print, video, and live events. Its members and sponsors include Facebook, Google, Spotify, the World Bank, the Nature Conservancy, International Rescue Committee, US State Department, British State Department, and Johnson & Johnson, among many others.
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