A Refection on the 2022 Hollywood Creative Forum

The Walter Kaitz Foundation Returned to LA
with the 2022 Hollywood Creative Forum

Marking its return to Los Angeles after nearly four years, the Hollywood Creative Forum was presented over two days on April 26-27, 2022, at the London Hotel in West Hollywood. The invitation-only professional development and networking event, which explored the theme, The Art of the Possible, was attended by more than 200 diverse, high-level writers, producers, directors, showrunners, and content creators along with talent and acquisition executives from television networks, streaming platforms, and production companies.

The opening night of the Forum (April 26) kicked off with the first in-person screening, Clips & Conversations, a preview of several projects exploring various facets of ethno-racial and gender identities, followed by audience discussions and sponsored by the newly launched Warner Bros. Discovery. Presented in the Screening Room of the London Hotel, guests were treated to exclusive, upcoming television and feature film clips followed by an interactive dialogue with audience members including community leaders represented by Latino, Asian, LGBTQ+ and African American groups as well as television and film executives. An opening night reception on the Rooftop of the London Hotel capped off the night and gave guests a chance to network and mingle.

 

The second day of the Forum (April 27) opened with the official breakfast provided courtesy of long-time sponsors, Disney General Entertainment Content. With key messages from seasoned Disney executive, Tim McNeal (Disney General Entertainment Contentthe program then launched with remarks from the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s Executive Director, Michelle Ray. Ray not only spoke about the mission and work of the Walter Kaitz Foundation in ensuring that diversity and inclusion remained an important priority in media and entertainment but also provided insight into the goals of the Forum and its role in driving meaningful change in content diversity. Ray had this to say,

“The last two years have been transformative both globally and for our industry, in particular. As the media and entertainment industry’s long standing national advocate for DEI, (over 40 years) the Walter Kaitz Foundation has the unique responsibility to understand socio-cultural shifts and how this impacts our industry – from workforce, content, supplier diversity, research and thought leadership.

As part of our keen focus on content, we have recognized the importance of super serving the pipeline of established and next gen creative talent. Some thirteen years ago, the HCF was founded along with veteran entertainment industry executives who believed that we had to be more intentional in our approach to ensuring that diverse creatives had a path to opportunities. Together, we invested in a highly curated marketplace where vetted diverse creatives along with talent and acquisition executives could meet, greet, and create connections. Our purpose was simple: to help build a robust pipeline where diverse creatives were given the opportunity to be part of a movement of change that was reflective of the changing face of America and the diaspora.”

Following the official welcome, the remaining day was packed with a stellar lineup of panels led by entertainment industry insiders, inspiring conversations, and short, subject-matter expert presentations all addressing the central theme of possibility while providing actionable career advice for the creatives in attendance. The event’s host, Dana Blair, led the audience on a guided journey of exploration and actionable career next steps.

In underscoring the theme of possibility, the opening conversation, led by Brett King (Sony Pictures Entertainment) and featuring entertainment visionary, Jeff Friday (Jeff Friday Media & ABFF) explored the past, present and future of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) and what it takes to navigate change and to boldly leverage possibility, opportunity, and culture.

 

What followed next was an in-depth conversation from the executive’s perspective with writers, producers, and authors, Kelly Edwards and Weiko Lin. 100 lucky participants received copies of Edwards’, The Writer’s Chair: A Writer’s Guide to TV Series Development or Lin’s Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture a Global Audience. Both authors discussed the keys to successful screenwriting and were on hand throughout the day to sign copies of their books and to meet with participants.

 

Presentations by subject-matter experts as part of the KAITZTALKS series were one of the day’s highlights. The 15-minute individual presentations delivered expert information by Brett Dismuke (ALLBLK & WE TV), The Rise of Streaming;  Moira Griffin (New Bumper & Paint Productions), The Art of the PitchTohru Iokibe (Sony Pictures Entertainment), IP Exploitation & Opportunity; and Dexter Cole (TV One), Data: Driving the Future of Content.

 

The event luncheon, sponsored by Revolt Media & TV, allowed guests the opportunity to network and exchange ideas before jumping back into the afternoon’s line up of panels. The first post-lunch discussion was produced and sponsored by The Africa Channel and highlighted The Opportunities for Cross Cultural Storytelling. Moderator by Narendra Reddy (The Africa Channel) and featuring panelists April Shih (Dave, Mrs. America, You’re the Worst)Conor Galvin (It’s Always Sunny, Woke, Asylum, Ballad of Hugo Sanchez)Brendan Gabriel (The Africa Channel), Emilia Serrano (Mixed*ish, Gentrified, Boomerang, High School Musical), and Talitha Watkins (Color Creative Management & Production), the key takeaways for the audience was both prescriptive and ideas-generating in providing a path for diverse content that is reflective of the shifting identities and experiences in more honest, inclusive, and authentic storytelling.

 

Next on deck was a perceptive discussion on content monetization and how technology plays a role in creating high-demand content. Moderated by Jonathan Landrum (The Associated Press) and featuring Keith Dorsey (Young Guns Entertainment), Kinya Claiborne (STYLE & SOCIETY Magazine), Cleopatra Lee (Influencer)and Heidy Vaquerano (Fox Rothchild LLC), panelists provided the audience with strategies on IP monetization and the opportunities for diverse content creators. The panel was wholly produced by NAMIC SoCal.

 

The panel presentations continued with the much-anticipated Showrunners Leading Hollywood panel sponsored by Mentorship Matters.  Moderator by Tananarive Due (UCLA, Department of African American Studies), two of Hollywood’s leading showrunners, Niceole Levy (S.W.A.T.) and author of The Writer’s Room Survival Guide and Miranda Kwok (The Cleaning Lady)  engaged the audience with their keen insights, the many challenges faced in the writer’s room and the importance of building inclusion onset and on screen.

 

Wrapping up the day-long presentations was the final panel of the day moderated by Jay Tucker (UCLA Anderson School of Management) and featuring a trio of talented Warner Bros. Discovery’s executives, Naimah Holmes, Loren Ruch and Tatiana Olsak.  The expert panelists explored genre-bending content and gave the audience a peek at upcoming shows that demonstrates how linear networks and streaming platforms are defying the traditional paths of identity through unique content. Exploring the intersections of content, creativity, identity, and storytelling was the perfect punctuation to this year’s event, wrapping the day of discussion but also creating space for even more discoveries of unique perspectives and authentic representation in content.

 

At the conclusion of the panel presentations, the winners of the NAMIC Vision Awards were presented by co-hosts, Akilah Ffriend and Eboné Chatman, co-founders of The Black Creator Club podcast.  The podcasters joined the event in celebration of NAMIC’s 25th anniversary of the Vision Awards to celebrate original, multi-cultural television programming that reflects the ethnic and cultural diversity of the viewing audience. The awards were immediately followed by a closing cocktail reception on the Rooftop of the London Hotel.

The Hollywood Creative Forum was established in 2009 by the Walter Kaitz Foundation to serve as a marketplace where experienced and diverse creative talent could be afforded the opportunity to meet with talent and acquisition executives for potential hiring, meetings and collaborations on future projects. The creation of the event was in direct response to the outcry by media outlets and viewers alike to address lack of representation of diverse characters in stories on television. Thirteen years later, the mission remains the same but continues in earnest to advance the intersection of diversity, creativity and storytelling while creating a clear pathway for diverse voices and stories to be told, seen, and heard.

To learn more about the Walter Kaitz Foundation and the Hollywood Creative Forum visit www.walterkaitz.org.