Michael B. Jordan's Production Head on How Millennials Are Making Change in Hollywood
Alana Mayo, who leads production and development at Outlier Society, lays out the corporate responsibility, social justice and content needed to reach "the most diverse generation that has ever existed in the history of America."
When I was a studio executive, it always felt like the younger generation was the most difficult to reach with feature films. Some of that is because they use newer technologies — for instance, they obviously consume more content on mobile devices. I was fascinated by solving that puzzle. And, as a woman of color and a queer person, I was interested in making movies that would uniquely speak to that audience.
One of the things that most compelled me to start working with Michael was the prospect of having a company that is decidedly millennial. There is something really promising about having a company that proudly identifies with the largest living generation in the U.S.
When Michael and I discuss material that excites us, they inherently and organically tend to have attributes that people of our generation (and even younger) respond to and gravitate toward. For example, a remarkable defining quality of the millennial generation is its focus and interest in corporate responsibility. If a company is exposed for what is viewed to be an irresponsible practice — think of what's happened recently with Facebook or Uber last year — we often see a striking consumer reaction from that generation to boycott said company's products. Conversely, brands and companies may find their sales rewarded by leading with an image of responsibility. Not dissimilarly, I think of Michael and myself as "bleeding hearts" who want to make content that speaks to social justice and has some sort of community influence. One of the first things Michael said to me was, "I love to make content that could actually have an impact in the real world."
The traditional model in our business tells you that these types of movies aren't commercially viable, and specifically not for a younger audience. But in fact, we're seeing millennial audiences really respond to material that makes a statement. Michael has been quoted many times saying that adopting an inclusion rider, and partnering with Warner Bros. to add an inclusion policy at the corporate level, is a no-brainer, and I feel the same way. Our generation is also the most diverse that has ever existed in the history of America, and we want to see that reflected in the content that we make and in the people that we work with.
From a creative standpoint, it's exciting to think about whose story hasn't been told recently, or, in many cases, at all. For example, if there is one story told in a generation about a queer person of color, there could feasibly be entire generations in front of and behind them who may not have seen it. Why would we want only a small token of stories to represent the beautiful multitude of different identities and experiences that exist?
I feel strongly that one of the privileges of having a company like ours is to facilitate these differentiated voices and to challenge the status quo of what "commercial" can be.
Can you be a global movie star and be black? Yes.
Can a superhero movie be set on the continent of Africa and make historic amounts at the box office? Yes.
There is incredible potential for future examples to continue dispelling traditional beliefs. I'm not just saying this from an optimistic point of view. I believe this will inevitably come to pass, simply based on what the audience makeup will look like as time progresses and as young people, who have the privilege of more choice in content than any generation before them, continue to demand that our industry fill vast holes in the marketplace. What has been a frustrating experience of yelling into the void — and being almost universally disagreed with — now feels like nearing a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and actually making some headway.
This story first appeared in the 2018 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.