Hollywood’s Leading Ladies Turn Out in Full Force

 The Women in Film Los Angeles Awards

Last night, a glittering crowd came out for the annual Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards, sponsored by Max Mara, Lancôme, and Lexus. Industry heavyweights and leading ladies including Lake Bell, Jane Lynch, Katherine Langford, Michaela Watkins, and Letitia Wright turned out in full force at the iconic Beverly Hilton hotel, packing the ballroom to capacity to honor 45 years of WIF as they advocate for and advance the careers of women in the industry.

The star-studded evening featured a host of female entertainment icons such as Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo, who presented the Lucy Award (named for Lucille Ball) for Excellence in Television to ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey—who most recently made headlines when she canceled the network’s Roseanne revival following Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter comment. Beyoncé protégés Chloe x Halle performed and presented the Artistic Excellence Award to the Grammy Award–winning songwriting and production team Nova Wav, aka Denisia “Blu June” Andrews and Brittany “Chi” Coney, whose work last year included A Wrinkle in Time. And actress Alexandra Shipp, of X-Men fame, received the Max Mara Face of the Future Award.

Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand finally shared the story behind her acceptance speech “inclusion rider” closer, which set the film world abuzz earlier this year. “A couple of nights earlier, I heard about the idea at a dinner party from agent Blair Kohan,” she recalled. Fast-forward to the awards ceremony and “in the excitement of having all those women rise to their feet and stand with me in that room, I got flustered, and I improvised—little did I know. Now I know a lot more. And I’m here tonight to take some responsibility for my actions and to restate a call to action. If I may use a sporting metaphor: If you want to go fast, go it alone; if you want to go far, do it together.”

The last award of the evening—the Crystal Award for Excellence in Features—went to Brie Larson, who used the moment to promote a new kind of inclusion rider—this one calling for more diversity among film critics. “If you make a movie that is a love letter to a woman of color, there is an insanely low chance that a female critic of color will be able to review your movie,” she said. “I am thrilled to announce that [next year] Sundance will ensure that at least 20 percent of their top-level press passes will go to underrepresented critics.” She added that the Toronto International Film Festival would do the same. There was a physical takeaway from the night, too: McDormand’s red and black “Inclusion Rider” bumper sticker—inspired by the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri movie signs. “Every revolution needs really good merch,” she quipped.

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BE IN THE TALK WITH SHEREE ROSS, FOUNDER OF WFOC MEDIA

Sheree talks about how important women of color filmmakers are today and how her social media platform is cultivating a network to support them.

 

Sheree Ross is an award winning screenwriter, director, and author.  She is currently the founder of WFOC Media – a growing and popular aggregate news social media platform for and about women filmmakers of color.  Sheree has served on the board of Scriptworks, a playwright-driven service organization and theatrical producing company, The Higher Power Foundation – serving spiritual education and growth, and is currently Board Chair of Torch Literary Arts, working to cultivate a network that supports the work of black women and girls through creative writing.
Please follow us on Twitter Women Filmmakers of Color
Instagram @womenfilmofcolr
And on YouTube at WFOC TV

Issa Rae wins Peabody Award for ‘Insecure’

Issa Rae thegrio.com
(Photo: HBO)

Issa Rae secured a prestigious Peabody Award, giving praise and props to the wildly popular and witty HBO series Insecure that she created.

Rae has entertained audiences to two successful seasons with the hit show, which was adapted from her bestselling book, The Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl.

Issa Rae is surely riding high with this new adventure and a Peabody accolade under her belt. The Peabody recognizes and “honors the most powerful, enlightening, and invigorating stories in television, radio, and online media.”

And in typical outspoken Issa Rae fashion she tweeted: “Pop that Peabody!”

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Reel Sisters Becomes the First Qualifying Film Festival for Women of Color

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series has officially made history this year by becoming the first Academy Qualifying Film Festival for narrative shorts devoted to women of color! The festival’s new status is a game changer for women’s access to Oscar consideration in the Live Action Shorts category.

“Reel Sisters’ new designation will give women of color a path to getting on the Oscar consideration list and open the doors for all women directors. It is a milestone for women directors who rarely get nominated by the Academy Awards for Oscar worthy films,” said Carolyn A. Butts, Reel Sisters Founder. “We’re proud to kick off our film submissions season with this amazing news and opportunity for women filmmakers.”

In the Academy Awards 90-year history, only five women directors have been nominated for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to win for Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

The list for women of color represented in Live Action Shorts is just as short. Dianne Houston was the first African-American woman to receive a nomination in 1996 for Tuesday Morning Ride and Yuki Yoshida, an Asian-Canadian director, won an Oscar in 1978 for I’ll Find A Way.

Reel Sisters has presented over 3,000 films produced, directed and written by women of color, and has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarship money since 1997. The festival has set the agenda for creating opportunities for women in the film industry through advocacy and supporting other organizations with similar missions.

The organiation is currently seeking films for its 2018 season. Shorts, web series, animation, works-in-progress, narratives, features, documentaries and experimental works are eligible. Filmmakers will have their films screened in Reel Sisters Film Festival at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn from October 20-21, 2018 and other venues in New York City.

If you have a film that you would like to submit to the festival please submit using this link HERE.

The early bird deadline is May 7, 2018 with an extended deadline of June 22, 2018.

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The Oscars Just Taught Everyone 2 Valuable Lessons in Branding

…and Small Business
Think the Academy Awards are all films and fashion? Think again.
CREDIT: Getty Images

I never miss the Oscars. I find them fascinating because I’m not just a film and fashion lover–I’m also a branding and marketing strategist. I always pick up a few great lessons in business and personal branding from the Academy Awards.

Here are just two of the ideas I took away from this year’s red carpet:

1. Great brands are ageless–if they stay relevant.

Jane Fonda is 80 years old, but walking onto the red carpet in a white gown, she radiated the same kind of presence she’s been known for her since her youth.

How has she managed to keep getting great roles for more than six decades? Simple. She knows how to keep the essence of her brand intact, while reinventing herself to be pertinent to the times we are living in.

Fonda’s left behind the young and sexy Barbarella and instead become a role model for her fellow boomer-age women who are committed to remaining passionate as they age. The same goes for other red carpet walkers: Rita Moreno (87), Christopher Plummer (88), and James Ivory (89) who was nominated for best adapted screenplay with Call Me by Your Name.

The lesson to take away here is that even if you have a brand that has been around for decades, you can’t rest on your laurels.

Simply existing over an extended period of time does not ensure survival. Instead, leverage your longevity with an occasional re-brand that keeps your business, product, or service relevant for current times and concerns.

The practical action: If you haven’t stepped back and taken a look a hard look at your brand and asked yourself whether it’s still hitting the mark today’s world, it’s time to do so. I recommend these three actions to my clients:

  • Host a series of customer panels where the only purpose is to hear what your clients have to say about how relevant they think your company is today, and what suggestions they have for moving forward in the future. One hot tip: You may want to use a professional facilitator, since he or she will be more able to stay neutral in the face of any feedback.
  • Hold lunch-and-learn sessions with your front-line employees and ask them the same questions you ask at the customer panels. They deal with customers every day, so they’re experts.
  • Have an off-site with 10-15 key people in your organization to discuss the feedback from customers and staff, and to determine the three most critical areas your company needs to focus on in order to stay current.

2. Brand in a bold–not boring–way.

Remember Viola Davis in florescent pink, Allison Janney in bright red, Ashley Judd in royal purple, Jennifer Garner in colbalt blue, and Whoopi Goldberg in a huge flower print dress sporting a large tattoo covering much of her right shoulder?

These ladies are not afraid to rock it in a crowd. It almost makes me feel sorry for the men, who are relegated to a uniform black tuxedo.

It takes confidence to stand up and be noticed. It’s not just about talent, reputation, or brand equity–it’s about being brave and bold.

Maybe it’s time your business or personal brand put on a bright red dress, with bolder colors, fonts, images, websites, brochures, social media, and sales pitches. Often companies and individuals sacrifice bold in favor of businesslike.

Many CEOs I’ve coached about their personal brand are concerned about crossing that fine line between being bold and being obnoxious–but playing it safe (and small) isn’t the answer.

The practical action: Create a team that includes creative types such as writers, artists, and graphic designers. Task them with turning a critical eye towards a few of your brand’s collateral pieces.

It could be your website, a section of your website, a brochure, your logo, or business card. In particular, pay attention to the following:

  • Are you using language to its fullest potential here? Is there a way you can integrate more powerful words and descriptions that will convey greater emotion?
  • Are you using color to its greatest impact? Is there a way you can enhance your message with the strategic use of color?
  • Are your photos conveying the greatest strengths of your brand? Do they enhance your message or simply just accompany it?

Maybe the closest you and I will ever get to the Academy Awards is being curled up on our couches, eating popcorn and hoping we win the office Oscar pool. But if you take these branding lessons and put them into play, you could be the winner in your category.

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Olivia Anthony’s LIV Streetwear Is An Ode to Black Creativity and the ’90s

Read our interview with the fearless creative.

Olivia Anthony watched streetwear bloom before her very eyes. Despite streetwear’s diverse origin story, the industry seemed to have forgotten its roots. A rich marriage between surf wear, Asian street style, European haute couture and hip-hop created the casual wear we consider street fashion. As a young girl in the American south, Anthony watched this fusion happen and began to form her own ideas of what it means to be a black woman with style.

Beginning with a spark that began in college Anthony created LIV Streetwear to pay homage to a time she loves dearly — the ’90s. The clothing is bold and graphic referencing the logo-heavy apparel that was popular late in the decade. She pairs these features with her own flair that includes manipulating color, shape and fit to produce cozy gear you won’t want to take off. We got a chance to talk with Olivia Anthony about her style inspiration, being a black woman in fashion and what it means to work hard. Read on below and enjoy photos from our lookbook with breakout model India Graham.

What’s one of your first fashion memories?

My earliest fashion memories would be getting ready for school with my mother. I remember while she was doing my hair she would watch the Style Channel where they has fashion shows like Dior and Chanel running early in the morning. So I’m watching this at like nine or ten years old, subconsciously taking in all these amazing, avant-garde types of fashion.

How did your style develop? Who are some of your inspirations and fashion role models?

I feel like my style constantly develops with each time period. In high-school I went through this whole ’80s rope chain-Nike SB Dunk’s-Pastry sneakers-wild type of Pharrell skateboard stage. I literary had a skateboard even though I didn’t know how to skate. Later in college I was more focused on labels and getting into my sex appeal. Then I got to New York and it totally turned me out. I shaved my head, I went blond, I went purple — I really got to have fun and express myself. I feel like that’s how I found my style that I have today. Personal style is always evolving which is why I don’t think I can ever get bored with myself.

As far as inspirations, I get inspired by anyone who is different and challenges me to think to myself: “Well how can I stand out”? I love people that standout, that’s why my brand is different because it’s for those types of people that are bold. Honestly, I really don’t have many fashion role models besides my mom.

What inspired you to start House of Olivia Anthony and later LIV Streetwear? 

A lot of the new followers of the brand don’t know that I actually started LIV Streetwear back in 2012. The website launched during college and  I had a couple of people model my logo on a T-shirt at the launch party. When people started to approach me about actually purchasing the T-shirts that’s when it became a whole big thing. When I first moved to New York I was working as a stylist, I wanted to make something I absolutely loved. That’s what really gave me the urge to take my brand to the next level. Basically House of Olivia Anthony was created in that moment.  It’s really been a great experience to watch both of them grow and evolve.

“A lot of things that I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of are now being embraced and walked down the runway. That’s why I named my last collection “My Love Letter to Our Culture” to pay homage to that.”

What’s your creation process like? How do you come up with references for your next line?

It changes with every collection. I design pieces that I would love to wear and that’s the beauty of being a designer. Whatever you feel is missing in fashion you get to create it.  Usually anything inspires me; it could be the oddest thing like a French manicure or a guy walking down the street wearing a lime green hat. Any simple little detail can trigger my creative juices. From there I begin to create a story. I view myself as a storyteller when it comes to presenting my clothes and every collection always pulls some reference from the ’90s. In essence that’s what my whole brand is inspired by.

How does color play a role in your design?

Color plays a humongous role in my designs. Color truly inspires me. In New York it’s always one extreme to the next. A lot of people might want to wear black all the time but I feel like it takes a bold son of a gun to walk down the street looking like a blueberry or yellow sunshine that lights up the whole block. That takes power, that takes light. I want my clothes to bring light and be all about living out loud, being expressive and the best way to do that is through color.

In fashion, nothing under the sun is new. People reinvent previous trends and reintroduce it to the next generation. How do you feel about the resurgence of ’90s fashion?

I’m excited that the ’90s aesthetic is back. I feel like I might have been early as f*ck because I was always rockin’ 90s stuff way back when. My brand has been centered around this era, so the simple fact that its come full circle is great, it sort of lets me know where I am branding-wise.

I watched my older sister when she was in high school go through ’90s trends, from her rocking Tommy Hilfiger to her matching outfits with her boyfriend. I love that I can take all these different elements and reuse them to tell a story to the younger generation. I recently did a shoot based off taking pictures in the mall, my two models were under 21 and they had no idea what mall pictures were. I’m young as well but I’m happy to have had a glimpse of that era. A lot of people reference the ’60s or the ’70s even though they might not have necessarily been there. However seeing it with my own eyes and now being able to put my soul into creating and telling a story to those whom might not have witnessed it, that’s beautiful to me.

I also think it’s also important because it lets people learn about the influence that our culture had on a lot of things that are trending today, like grills, baby hairs, twerking etc. A lot of things that I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed of are now being embraced and walked down the runway. That’s why I named my last collection “My Love Letter to Our Culture” to pay homage to that.

There aren’t many women in your position? Why do you think that is?

There is a lack, and I honestly don’t know why. I don’t have the answer. I think all I can do is be myself and show them that it can be done as a black womn in streetwear and on the higher end. Hopefully by me showing them more will follow. By living through my truth I hope that I inspire some other women to grab their team, grab the people that are around them and jump off faith and start doing what they want to do. Issa Rae said something really inspiring, she said a lot of people try to reach up and connect with people higher than them instead of looking to their left and their right and building with what they have close to them. So maybe its resources or a lot of things I really don’t know, but all I know is I’m going to try my hardest to reach my destination so hopefully I can inspire others to do the same thing.

Do you have any advice for young girls who wish to start their own labels or pursue a career in fashion?

My advice for young women or anyone who wants to start something is to be consistent. With any business, when it starts getting hard people tend to give up or get steered away. I feel in most cases they might feel “Well it’s just not the right time”, but it’s never going to be the right time. You’re never going to have the resources that you think you may need. If you stay consistent you will start to see it grow. I always tell people it’s just like planting seeds, if you plant a seed you have to nurture it and watch it grow. We live in a microwave world where people expect things to just grow overnight and when they don’t see growth happening they begin to just plant other seeds all over the place. When you go back to look at the garden there are no flowers, just seeds everywhere and that’s because they never nurtured the first one. It’s about following through and being consistent. We live in a world where nothing is perfect, I mean sh*t’s gonna happen but you can’t let anything defeat you. You have to keep going because that’s the only way you will see progress with anything you do in life.

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Marketing to Millennials: Move Beyond the Stereotypes

Millennials doing HIIT workout Photo by Thinkstock.
The millennial generation spans more than 20 years, so generalizing how to reach this market is not recommended anymore than generalizing marketing to any other generation. Instead, you must segment this generation as you would any other.

It’s no secret that brands today are making a concerted effort to get in the good graces of a previously shunned generation — millennials. But why?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room. For years, millennials have been labeled with disapproving nicknames and negative stereotypes. The “Me Generation” that is supposedly lazy, entitled and lacking work ethic. Yet, this generation — diverse in age, lifestyle choices and purchasing habits — represents a unique majority of America’s current consumer base. And if you think the workplace is immune, it’s good to understand that millennials are expected to make up more than 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020.

With their diversity in mind and the rapidly evolving “new normal,” it may seem impossible to develop an exact formula for connecting with this generation.

The truth is, even though future shifts are imminent, by listening, keeping up with generational norms and formulating organic relationships, brands can continually adapt their marketing plans to best engage this ever-changing and important audience.

To better understand how to effectively market to millennials, let’s take a holistic look at digital marketing’s evolution.

The Early Days of Digital Marketing

In the early days of digital marketing, it was simply a matter of claiming and branding your profile page on relevant platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, etc. Then came the phase of posting interesting and keyword optimized content — blog and social posts  — to engage your core audience and drive earned media impressions. Although these both still hold relevance, it is not that simple anymore.

Somewhere along the way, social platforms realized that they could monetize interest and started restricting views (and engagement) through sophisticated algorithms. As a result, many brands started to pay to boost content and acquire larger organic audiences.

Although this is largely the cost of doing business today, many brands have still not initiated these basic concepts.

The Current Landscape

Digital marketing has diversified as the number of social platforms have increased. Today, the role of influencers and experiential marketing (pop-ups, virtual reality, etc.) is gaining significant traction. Implementing experiences such as these require a more sophisticated approach to marketing and a greater commitment of resources: time, budget, creativity and manpower.

The most important thing to keep in mind is, whether it be through an experiential engagement or influencer strategy, millennials are more focused on a relationship and conversation versus a pushed message.

How to Irk Millennials

In the interest of developing the right formula for a strong millennial marketing campaign, let’s take a look at the marketing tactics that are sure to leave a bad taste. Brands should avoid:

1. Overgeneralizing. The biggest mistake is casting a single stereotype across an entire generation (millennial or otherwise). People who are between the ages of 18 to 34 years old represent a wide range of lifestyles and priorities. Companies need to narrow or segment millennials into relevant subgroups and adjust messaging accordingly. To be clear, 75 million people spanning a nearly 20-year age gap is not a segmented audience.

2. Skimping on authenticity. Using a tone that is not authentic to your brand is another common mistake many marketers make, and not surprisingly, it usually falls flat. Did you hear about the Microsoft recruiter who sent an email to college job candidates with a subject line of “HEY BAE INTERN! <3”. Uh, yeah, it happened.

3. Overusing emojis. This mistake isn’t exclusively owned by our parents — many companies have also embraced the emoji as a barometer of coolness. This rarely goes over well. Emojis have a limited place in the marketer’s toolkit. Know it, appreciate it. Don’t overuse it.

4. Respect the direct and text message. Millennials (and most consumers) regard their text message stream as personal. Without explicit permission to engage with consumers on marketing messages via these channels, you’re violating their trust (and probably breaking the law).

Who Is Doing It Right

Although it would be easy to point out the slew of brands who have botched connecting with millennials, some brands offer inspiring examples of doing it right. Amazon continually re-defines the concept of frictionless user experience and has created the standard against which every brand is being measured even if Amazon is not considered a competitor in the traditional sense. Surprisingly, Cadillac is also doing a great job of reaching millennials. In 2015, they launched a 10-year plan to rejuvenate the brand and engage a younger generation. Their “Dare Greatly” and “Don’t You Dare” campaigns featured young people’s stories of inspiration and innovation where they only mentioned their product in the last few seconds of the commercial. They have followed that campaign with “Book By Cadillac,” a subscription-based car service available in New York City. It’s a great story to watch unfold.

Key Takeaways

Although developing an adaptive and unique marketing strategy that resonates with millennials is no simple feat, below are a few key takeaways from my experience in building out millennial fitness-focused brands:

1. Think community. Brands must stand for more than profit. What is your brand’s greater purpose, and how do you share this story with your audience?

2. Create a seamless experience. A frictionless brand experience is a must. Think of millennials as a co-creator/ambassador of this experience. The traditional customer journey and life milestones don’t apply to millennials, so you should consider creating a non-linear customer experience that still creates value regardless of entry point.

3. Strive for balance and diversity. Both are important to millennials. Know your brand’s “sweet spot” and don’t push for more or you risk turning off your most loyal customers.

4. Disrupt and innovate. Millennials appreciate brands that embrace this mindset, even if it fails. Create a brand architecture that promotes these concepts and note that this goes far beyond marketing. To be successful, you’ll need cross-functional alignment from operations, human resource and IT, among others.

5. Be authentic. Although this is the easiest recommendation to implement, it’s often the most overlooked. Sincerity is key when it comes to messaging, tone and voice.

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