This is an incredible opportunity for Shadow and Act as it puts the site in a much stronger position to grow into what I envisioned it could become, but have thus far been unable to achieve independently. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done over the last 8 years in a rapidly evolving industry, and all that Shadow and Act has been able to accomplish. And I’m incredibly excited about the potential this acquisition by Blavity unlocks for the blog in the years to come. Shadow and Act as a media brand has long been the online destination for those seeking information and intelligent discussion on the varied screen representations of people of African descent all over the world – representation in the form of film criticism, in raising awareness of, and supporting the mostly ignored work by and/or about people of African descent, showcasing black talent both in front of and behind the camera.
With emphasis on black independents whose necessary efforts may not draw as much mainstream attention as we believe they and their work should, we’ve brought you numerous immensely popular, exciting and varied stories over the years, like the initial launch and evolution of the independent distribution collective ARRAY (previously AFFRM). Shadow and Act has introduced you to many black filmmakers, covering them and their work long before Hollywood recognized their talents, or mainstream awareness of them grew; from Ava DuVernay (“I Will Follow,” “Middle of Nowhere,” “Selma” and founder of ARRAY) to Barry Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy,” “Moonlight”); from Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) to Raoul Peck (“Moloch Tropical,” “I Am Not Your Negro”); from Michaela Coel (“Chewing Gum”) to Omar Sy (“The Intouchables”); from Issa Rae (“Insecure”) to cinematographer extraordinaire Bradford Young (“Pariah,” “Mississippi Damned,” “Restless City,” “Arrival”); from Stella Meghie (“Jean of the Joneses,” “Everything, Everything”) to Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave,” “Black Panther”), and countless others we introduced you to, becoming a key source for many looking to find out who the up-and-comers are, from our “Black Filmmakers to Watch” feature, to highlighting individual “must-see” films, showcasing the work of relative unknowns before they graduate to bigger things.
In line with the site’s goals, highlighting the work being done by black creatives outside the USA, has been of great importance to me, notably our reporting and analysis of Nigeria’s film industry (one of the top 3 in the world in terms of output), as well as challenges for black actors in the UK, and all the debate inspired by the competition for work that has resulted.
In addition to countless in depth interviews with almost every black director, actor, actress, producer, financier, showrunner, and writer, working today, we’ve provided windows into the professional lives of those in production roles that don’t receive as much attention, but are just as important, like Cybel Martin’s regular features that give insight into her work as a cinematographer. And also our “Frame by Frame” series in which we’ve spoken to influencers of African descent like Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer Shari Frilot. There is our filmmaker diary series in which filmmakers take us behind-the-scenes as they embark on their first feature films or web series, which has included Matthew Cherry (“The Last Fall,” “9 Rides”), Pete Chatmon (“Premium,” “Black Card”), and Tahir jetter (How to Tell You’re a Douchebag).
Shadow and Act writers have challenged readers and artists, even those that many of us love and respect, writing thought-provoking pieces that inspire impassioned debate, tackling controversial subject matter of interest to black audiences, from breaking the story on Zoe Saldana’s casting in the much-maligned Nina Simone film, as well as the seemingly never-ending debate over the volume and variety of depictions of slavery in film and TV, which we’ve covered in-depth and confronted perceptions, with our own research – the kind of research that others have come to rely on.
Ultimately, we’ve challenged the status quo and demonstrated that there’s a significant discerning black audience that demands more and better than what it’s been offered thus far, making its presence known as it speaks with its eyeballs and dollars, gradually influencing industry decision makers. There’s a wealth of original content published on this blog over the last 8 years that speaks to all of that.
As I previously made you all aware, I’m a filmmaker first, and I have long wanted to return to the craft primarily. After a period of soul-searching, and considering the respected opinions of a select few, a sale became the most sensible option for me. And in the last year, it became increasingly clear that Blavity would make the most ideal home for Shadow and Act. Every subsequent interaction with the company’s founders reinforced that we do indeed share a common vision and worldview. In essence, I didn’t just decide to sell Shadow and Act. I decided to sell Shadow and Act to Blavity, who presented a compelling case.
The site is now in the hands of a young, dynamic, black-owned and operated company whose leaders respect and appreciate the work that has gone into making Shadow and Act what it is today and who grasp S&A culture, but who also fully understand its potential to be greater than it’s ever been, and have the resources and motivation to see that vision through, over the long term. Blavity’s CEO Morgan DeBaun and Jonathan Jackson, Head of Corporate Brand are working closely with me to ensure a smooth transition,so the vision of Shadow and Act can remain intact and continues to grow.
I’m confident about this next move for Shadow and Act, which I believe will result in faster and more impacting growth, by leveraging Blavity’s scale and operations in a way that I would’ve not been able to on my own, or with any other partner. Just take a look at how much they’ve been able to accomplish, and how fast they’ve established their brand in the very short time since Blavity’s launch in 2014 (compared to my 8 years running S&A), boasting an audience that’s markedly larger than Shadow & Act’s and just as engaged.
Going forward, Shadow and Act’s goals and vision remain unchanged. I will continue to work with Blavity over a lengthy transition period, doing the hard work that will ensure that my eventual exit is a barely noticeable one, if at all.
So whether you have been a reader since the site was launched, or you just discovered it because of this announcement you’re at the right place at the right time, and it’ll continue to be the right place for comprehensive black film, TV and web coverage. I am confident that there are many more accomplishments to celebrate in the site’s future.
On a personal note, I’m very thankful for all the writers who’ve contributed to Shadow and Act over the years, notably Sergio Mims who’s been a significant influence on the site and its readership, and has been working with me from the very beginning, long before Indiewire came calling, and there was no money being made. In addition, despite challenges faced over the years, without the smart, informed, curious readers of this blog, it wouldn’t be what it is. You give it life, and I’m proud of what you helped build. Not disappointing you has been very important to me; and in some ways I feel like I have over the years by not realizing the site’s full potential. So this is not a decision I’ve taken lightly, and I believe Blavity will take Shadow and Act to places I never could, and beyond.
I’m excited for what comes next, both for Shadow and Act and for myself.
P.S. I’ve also got a new email now as well, so feel free to reach out to me at Tambay@blavity.com. We’re looking for new partners, writers and creative projects to promote and share.