Keep Culture Machine's Lights On

TL;DR - Culture Machine, the production company behind the television series DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, needs help to get through the writer's strike and keep our staff employed!

At 6:30pm on May 7th, I sat surrounded by five incredible humans who’d gathered for my 40th birthday dinner, in awe of the fact that ten years after my first feature I’d finally assembled this ferocious team of employees and moved us into our first office. At about 7:30pm, I received an email revealing that we might lose everything.

If you haven’t yet heard, the Film & TV industry is facing sudden and unprecedented turmoil, and my company is in trouble. Culture Machine is the production company I founded to support my work like DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, BAD HAIR and my upcoming feature film HAUNTED MANSION, but also support the work of other marginalized creatives in this city. On May 7th, Culture Machine’s overall deal was suspended.

What’s an overall deal? In television, it is essentially an agreement between a studio and a production company or creative where the studio offers financial support for ideas the company or creative mind creates while under this deal. To my genuine surprise and possibly yours, creating four seasons of a hit show, a podcast, and three feature films is still not enough to maintain a small production company without the support of an overall deal. Most companies like ours are only able to exist because of these deals. These economics are one of many reasons the current writer's strike is happening and the reason we are fighting to survive as a company.

You may be wondering, “Why even have a company?” Simply put, because no one can or does accomplish anything alone.

I started Culture Machine because I wanted to support the development & creation of stories for people from underrepresented communities and to amplify emerging writers & filmmakers whose voices are ignored by Hollywood far too often. Voices like my own that do not see themselves represented in our culture.

But now that the studios have used the writer's strike as grounds to abruptly suspend overall deals, companies like Culture Machine and their employees are suddenly left in financial free-fall.

It's taken a decade since my first feature to finally move into my first office and fill it with a very awesome team. Do our office bathrooms have prison vibes? Yes. Is the lease both pricey and impossible to back out of? Unfortunately. But I’m in it with a diverse group of Black, Brown and queer folks who share my mission to fuel popular culture with inclusive, bold storytelling.

This writer’s strike is vital and necessary. That said, there are a lot of folks, particularly young POC and queer folks new to Hollywood, for whom this means the end of their career. I don’t want that to include my team. I am doing everything I can at the moment to personally finance this small company, but even with reduced salaries it isn’t enough. This isn’t about my paycheck or even my president’s, it’s about making sure our support staff can pay rent and survive in this city at least through the summer. Hopefully through the end of the strike, whenever that will be.

As of May 7, I’ve been Black for 40 years and I’ve noticed how cyclical things are. Like fascism and, actually, me asking the internet for money.

We wouldn't have been able to make my first feature without crowd-funding and this time it might literally help us keep the lights on. I’m nothing without my community, so I’m coming back to ask you to help me help my team.

The funds we raise from this campaign will go directly toward paying our support staff and overhead costs. With significant reductions in pay, $60k ought to keep us afloat until the end of the summer. If we are fortunate enough to make more than we need to stay afloat during the strike, additional funds raised will go directly toward helping support other writers affected by the work stoppage. If you can, please donate. If you aren’t able to donate, please share!

Donations (289)

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    • $25 
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Justin Simien
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