While it’s been wildly refreshing to see Black content creators — and Black women no less — like Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil and Ava Duvernay take over our TV and movie screens, there’s another quiet storm of programming happening on the web. Today’s writers, directors and producers aren’t waiting for the greenlight from studios or networks to create their programs about the Black experience that audiences are eating up and Hollywood is taking notice.
Issa Rae is one of the major players in a current wave of independent content spawning from the web and making such a splash amongst Internet audiences, and with an arsenal of fan-favorite shows including “Awkward Black Girl,” “Roomieloverfriends,” “The Choir” have resonated in the wider industry. But it didn’t start out that way.
“In the past we were limited to 5 specific networks or even cable networks that just didn’t cater to diverse audiences,” Rae told NewsOne Now host Roland Martin at an Urbanworld Film Festival fireside chat. “You pitch to a studio you pitch to a network, separately. They’ll say yes to that pitch they will ask you to write it, months go by, and as they frame the product that they want you to create in your voice but that they really want to tailor to their specific formula, you may or may not get your show to pilot which they may or may not take to series. So by the time I decided to do ‘Awkward Black Girl’ it was more out of obligation and necessity. I complained so much about what I’m not seeing on television and in film, I needed to do this.”
Rae’s non-traditional path to getting new talent and diverse stories in front of audiences has landed her on the 2012 Forbes 30 Under 30 Entertainment list, garnered her work a slew of honors including the Shorty Award for Best Web Show (Awkward Black Girl, 2012) and development deals with HBO. Watch the content creator and her producing partner, Deniese Davis, discussed their path and process for creating diverse stories on their own terms, without compromising independent authenticity in the video above.