February 09, 2017
By Brittany K. Jackson
If you’re an aspiring actor, artist, writer or filmmaker, you’d likely want to understand how to maximize and manage your dollars while living the life of a creative. Fortunately, OneUnited Bank and the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) have stepped in to bridge the gap, advocating financial literacy for Black industry professionals.
Recently, the Black-owned and operated bank and premiere film association for Black Hollywood conducted its 3rd Annual “Money on My Mind: The Film & TV Industry” event, featuring a dynamic panel of LA’s top industry executives and creators working behind the scenes.
Panelists included Malik Ducard, YouTube and Google executive, E. Brian Dobbins, Executive Producer for ABC’s hit television series “Black-ish”, Angela Northington, Senior Vice President of Content Acquisitions at RLJ Entertainment, Anthony Paul, Morgan Stanley executive and Jeff Byrd, Filmmaker and President of the African American Steering Committee at Directors Guild of America. The in-depth panel discussion was moderated by Teri Williams, OneUnited Bank’s President and COO, and Gil Robertson, AAFCA’s President.
Often time, many creative professionals become so engulfed in pursuing one aspect of their career goals, that they miss out on countless opportunities to work behind the scenes and expand their business knowledge. Northington, who’s integral content producing for urban markets, says it’s important to “look at those myriad of departments and sub industries” that promote upward mobility in multiple areas, such as in the creation and distribution of content.
In terms of technology, many creatives have found “overnight” success as YouTube sensations and social media stars, pulling in massive viewership for original content. According to Gil Robertson, “technology has expanded the opportunities that filmmakers and other creatives can utilize in order to find distribution and audiences for their projects.” Robertson added that it’s really a matter of “learning how to think outside the box” and “taking advantage of the technology that’s available”.
As a talent manager, however, E. Brian Dobbins has a much different spectrum, noting that the number of social media followers or YouTube subscribers doesn’t automatically equate to success in the film industry. “The people who really make it are the people who have a true talent and actually work at it over and over and are dedicated to the craft and not the fame and money,” Dobbins said.
While hard work and dedication is essential to skill building, many Black artists still struggle financially, particularly budding entrepreneurs. Luckily, the Sentinel ran in to celebrity investor DonRay Von, who dropped some serious wealth knowledge in an exclusive interview. Von says that anyone seeking an investor must first understand what they’re asking for before the pitch, adding that most investors look for the askers’ documentation and experience level. “You need documentation on the business, strategy and target market, but then you also need a team,” Von said.
When asked about the keys to raising capital as a new business owner, Von says it’s all about “proof of concept”. “If you want to ask someone to do a project, let’s say the project is a million dollars, then a good way to start to get a million dollars is to do a project that costs $100,000,” he said. “If you can succeed at something small, chances are with better resources and a better team you could succeed at something big,” he added.
Von says that he attended the event because he supports black empowerment. “I support us getting access to larger pieces of the pie and I want to spread the knowledge I have from investing and sitting next to very high net worth people and billionaires and understanding how they do things, and I want to bring those kind of things to my community,” he declared.
The panelists were also asked to provide tips on money and savings, reflecting on advice they would have told themselves at 25-years old. For Jeff Byrd, who gained his acclaim through the music-video industry, he says he would “probably say pay your taxes”. The filmmaker says that he was so accustomed to he and his friends doing 1099s at the time, that it made it difficult for him to understand the importance of paying taxes to remain clear of unforeseen financial loss.
Morgan Stanley tycoon Anthony Paul he would tell himself not to spend money foolishly. “I could have bought Nike stock instead of spending on fashion and trends,” he said. For Malik Ducard, he says he would have kept his eye on his credit rating, noting the considerable amount of time it takes to dig out of debt after opening lines of credit and taking out loans.
In an overarching theme of valuing the “Black dollar”, Robertson says the political climate should be a trigger for the Black community to get on the ball. “It’s time for us to really focus on recycling Black dollars and banking Black. The African American Film Critics Association is committed to supporting the Bank Black initiative at One United Bank and spreading it to our followers and the people we interact with professionally,” Robertson added.
Teri Williams, who’s led OneUnited Bank in acquiring assets in excess of 650 million dollars, continues the #BankBlackInitiative and #BankBlackChallenge as a means to drive economic empowerment in Black communities throughout the nation. Williams says that tackling the artist community in Hollywood is integral to promoting financial literacy. “We really want to focus on how can you make money behind that camera, since that where 99% of the opportunities lie,” Williams says.