August 6, 2020
The lack of diversity in Hollywood has been a longstanding issue but as calls for equality now boom throughout cities across the country, the shockwaves are impacting production companies and film studios.
For The SpringHill Company, a video production business co-created by NBA star LeBron James, diversity was always a founding principle, said chief content officer Jamal Henderson.
"The issues are profound and so the best way we can tell you is to show you," Henderson told Cheddar. "We try to be the example as opposed to, sort of, preach, and scold in any way."
While progress in Hollywood is being made in terms of funding for diverse projects, Henderson said there is much more ground to cover.
"We haven't had our diverse Game of Thrones yet, and so I still think there's work to be done on that front," he added.
Production companies and film studios should be obliged to commit to diverse hiring and funding practices, said Henderson, but he also emphasized that artists and creators have to bring their best to the table.
"We weren't the first ones that wanted to tell the Madam C.J. Walker story," he said regarding the Netflix limited series Self Made starring Octavia Spencer. "A lot of people in the town wanted to, but it's about creating the package that's undeniable to make it happen."
For artists looking to make their way on the big screen, the message was the same. "I say create your own heat," Henderson noted. Unlike other industries, he explained, the more traditional path to getting a break in Hollywood — by knowing the right people — is over.
"As much as I am someone that people want to meet and help push forward a project, the reality is that the heat on those creative endeavors, I'm generally chasing," he added.
As an actor and producer himself, Henderson has experienced the triumph of seeing his projects released as intended, but since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he said there has to be a way to salvage theatrical releases for the sake of the art and the artist.
"Some films really do belong in a large format setting, and I think we need to have options for that," he said. "We have to figure out ways to protect that."
Being able to hold theatrical releases is particularly important for Henderson and The SpringHill Company as production for the highly anticipated Space Jam sequel continues. The film, starring LeBron James, is slated for a July 2021 release.