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Ken Tanabe | Breaking Barriers & The Story of Loving Day

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In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ken Tanabe about how he discovered the Loving vs. Virginia case. Which he then created an into an event that blossomed into Loving Day. It’s another example of taking something small and helping it blossom.

https://lovingday.org/

https://www.instagram.com/lovingday/

https://www.facebook.com/lovingdayproject/

https://twitter.com/lovingday

 

https://kentanabe.com/

https://www.instagram.com/kentanabe/

TRANSCRIPT

KEN TANABE

When you look back at Loving versus Virginia and the court cases that led up to it, there were a few different arguments that were made. And one of them was basically like legal precedent. Like, we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years, it’s legal, so let us continue discriminating on the basis of race when it comes to marriage and other relationships.

Right? And then another argument was a moral argument where they were saying that it is morally wrong. Among other things to bring children into the world as mixed race children because they will not succeed. Back in the fifties and sixties and before, people were saying it’s morally wrong. 2018, people are still saying it’s morally wrong.

MARIS LIDAKA

The man, the myth, the legend. Ken Tanabe, the creator of Loving Day. Ken, thank you for joining us today. How you doing?

KEN TANABE

I’m good. Thanks so much for having me.

MARIS LIDAKA

So I’m just gonna dive right into it. Just walk us through the journey of just how you discovered the Loving case and how that turned into the creation of Loving Day as we know it.

KEN TANABE

I, I’m happy to do that, but before I do, I want to say that your characterization of me as the man, the myth, the legend, is going to be completely dispelled as we walk through How. Loving Day was created. So just so you know, it’s a fortunate series of circumstances, you know, right place, right time, using my day job skills on something that was not typically part of my day job, that sort of thing.

So I just wanna start with that. Ground us a little bit, but to get to your question, how did I come across the loving case, right? And like, how did, how did Loving Gay Loving Day rather come about? So, It was a total accident. I was looking for something completely unrelated, and I wish I knew what it was like on this, you know, searching for something in like 2000, 2001, and I found the loving case instead, and I, it totally blew my mind because I had never heard of it.

Despite being the child of an interracial, you know, marriage and feeling like I was already in my twenties and I felt like I had, you know, paid attention to what was going on in the world. But no, not this completely escaped to me. So I asked my parents, I was like, did you know that there was a law that made it so you could not get married?

They’re like, yeah, we know. We had to like, you know, we narrowly missed it. Basically just in terms, cuz they were married a little bit after Loving versus Virginia. And I asked some other relatives, older folks, and they’re like, this was like the headline news back in the day. And then I asked people my age and I was like, have you heard of Loving Versus Virginia?

This thing called The Loving Decision that made interracial marriage legal in 1967. And they’re like, I have no idea what you’re talking about. So that really blew my mind. So what did I do about it? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t do anything about it for years, to be totally honest with you. I mean, what, what did most people do with interesting facts?

You know, what are you gonna do? So, fast forward a little bit. Nine 11 happened, the job market was not good. I got laid off and then I, uh, went to design school. I decided to go get a grad degree in design. I thought if the work isn’t out there right now, I might as well try to level up a little bit. As I was doing that, I needed a subject for my thesis project and I remembered the loving case, and I thought that was so interesting and it stuck with me and it’s very relevant to me personally.

So how can I apply design, technology and just like the intersections of those things with society and. And come up with something that might be meaningful. So that’s the beginning of loving day was like me and libraries and searching on the internet, talking to people, exploring the community that already existed around multiracial mixed race identity, and coming up with something that I thought seemed completely crazy at the time, honestly, where, you know, initially I thought, okay, maybe, uh, Maris, you can maybe relate to this.

I was like, I, I could make a film about this. But I didn’t, cuz I didn’t know anything about making films. So good thing I didn’t, especially since, you know, the Loving film, the Hollywood version and also the Loving Story. The documentary would’ve like completely, like so much better than anything I could have produced.

Right. So then I thought maybe I should make a website about the Loving case, but that seemed like not quite enough. You know, it’s like, how is this not the Wikipedia article? Basically. And then I thought, you know, after doing a lot of research, there’s a black history month. There’s, you know, MLK Day, Rosa Parks has a story like, could there be a loving day and could it be on the anniversary of this Supreme Court decision loving versus Virginia?

And could it be something that connects this multiracial community together? So I thought, it’s just a school project. I can just pretend that it’s real. And since I’m a designer, I thought, okay, I’ll make it like, I’ll, I’m gonna treat it like it’s real. Give it a name and branding, and I had to write a thesis paper about it, produced a website and a bunch of other materials, and put it out into the world and hosted the first loving day celebration in New York City, and like a hundred people showed up.

Wow. So that was great. It was, yeah. I, I was, yeah, I was, I was happy about that. I mean, literally it was in a bar. To be honest, you know, I, I, I knew I had a friend who had a friend who knew somebody who wouldn’t mind giving us the early slot in the bar. So that happened, and then year over year it grew into something, at least the New York event.

It was like a hundred people. And then the next year, 300 and then 500, and then it started hovering around a thousand people. And long story short, this is how it became something I. Found by accident, by looking for something else, and then turned into a school project, which I then sort of launched into the world as though it was real.

And I thought at least, okay, at least I’ll, I’ll graduate, you know? And if everyone ignores this, that’s okay. But it was really interesting to see people react to it. And because it was so designed and presented a certain way, I think people were saying, have you heard of this thing? It looks like it’s real.

And, and I think it’s hopefully, I mean, we’ll discover in the course of this conversation and years to come. It’s becoming more and more real. I hope for more and more people. It’s definitely very real to me.

MARIS LIDAKA

Now, is the date significant? I mean, I was research, trying to research a little bit. Is that the date when the case got officially, I guess, decided that.

KEN TANABE

That’s right. That’s exactly right. It’s the case. So everything is significant in, in loving days. So it’s called Loving Day because of the plaintiff’s of this case. Right. Richard and Mildred Loving, so their last name was Loving. Which is quite perfect for the subject matter. And they were arrested in 1958 because they got married in, uh, well, they were from Virginia.

They got married in Washington, DC where it was legal. So they got married legally in. DC but then they came back home to Virginia. But the law was written in such a way that if you did that, it was essentially like you’re coming back with contraband. Like you couldn’t do that. It was like you brought an illegal thing back to the state.

So they, they got arrested in their bedroom at night, you know, the police came and. And woke them up and took them to jail and they had to stand in front of a judge, you know, the, the whole thing. But a after nine, we’ll, we can get more into it later, but nine years. It took nine years between their arrest and the Supreme Court decision, which was on June 12th, 1967.

And that’s the day that they won Richard and Mildred, loving Juan the right to get married for themselves, but also for all other interracial couples in the US at that time. So the Supreme Court decision. Basically struck down all these state laws that had been around since the like colonial era of the, of the US you know, before the US was the us.

So June 12th definitely is a significant date. The name is significant and as sort of catchy as it is, is an idea. You know, it’s certainly the tip of the iceberg of like a much larger, longer journey with many people involved. Court precedences, you know, just people living their lives that led up to this June 12th date.

I’d, I’d also like to add that it doesn’t mean that on June 12th, suddenly everything was fine. Yeah, it wasn’t fine right afterwards, and it’s still not fine now. Progress has been made, but I think we’ll get into it as during this conversation that there’s a lot more work to be done. One of the first things I did is I went to the library.

I know like an old fashioned idea, but it was kind of great. I went to the library and I literally brought an empty suitcase with me. This was in New York City? Yeah. So I brought an empty suitcase and I checked out enough books to fill the suitcase. I kid you not, and I wield it back on the subway to my apartment, which was a bad idea.

It was very heavy. At least it had wheels, but I, it was, I just like immersed myself into everything I could find and. And on top of that, I discovered that there was a community, like there were groups, community organizations that already existed that had been around for years. So I started to look into like, who are these groups?

What have they done? Where, where are they focused? Like, where are they geographically and how could all this fit in? So during the course of my research, I found that there was gonna be a, a talk, a panel discussion among some folks who had already been part of that community at uh, Columbia University. In New York.

So I went there and walked into the room and looked around and had the experience that I think a lot of people have. When people would walk into loving day events, they would look around and they would say, sort of with a surprise. I think this is the first time that I have been, I felt like I was in the majority.

Because I looked around and I thought, is every single person in this room multiracial as like, like me? Cuz that’s, that’s not something I had experienced before. And the panel certainly was. So that, that was part of the research too, was interviews, talking to people, meeting people, getting to know that the community that was already there, but also like historical research, finding about the laws and the folks who were involved.

I, I actually had, uh, the opportunity to speak to, Bernard Cohen, who recently passed away, one of the attorneys for Richard and Mildred Loving, and he was very generous with his time with me as a student. He answered my questions. And then as I mentioned, there was a large pile of books and the internet as well.

So just, I mean, a combination of things, but it wasn’t just like historical research, it was also thinking about culture and community as well.

MARIS LIDAKA

Talk about how it has resonated with people, your, both, your and my age. Because I, I feel like, I guess the generation that’s kind of younger than us, they kind of get to like, see kind of more of a multicultural, multiethnic representation.

Whereas, you know, growing up during the eighties you kind like it was the special episode on television. It was still kind of a taboo. It’s just something that you didn’t really see and if you did see it was, it was very

rare.

KEN TANABE

Yeah, that’s, that’s a great, that’s a great question. So maybe I’ll, I’ll describe it this way.

You know, part of Loving Day as a project is about creating visibility for our community. So for a lot of, I mean, this goes for people of all ages, but especially for, for younger folks. It’s an opportunity to say, Hey, your experience is something that others perhaps in some form have gone through. I mean, I want to acknowledge the uniqueness and the diversity of everyone’s experience, but at the same time, there’s, there’s something that we perhaps have in common through being multi-racial, multi-ethnic, I mean, there’s diversity as well, but.

Commonality, I think too. So understanding that there’s this tradition that we can all share and participate in, that creates visibility. So it’s like an opportunity for folks to participate and say, Hey, I can feel affirmed about my identity. So I think that’s that’s one way that the project resonates with them.

Perhaps another one has to do with education, which is another important part of the Loving Day project. So not everyone, I think. Learns about the Loving decision. I mean, as I did not learn about it through, you know, school or through parents or just culture. And, you know, it’s an opportunity to, to learn about it.

And it’s, it’s not the end all be all, but it’s really like an accessible entry point to the subject matter saying, Hey, there was this couple, they wanted to get married, they couldn’t, it was illegal. They got arrested and take folks through that. But as you dig a little deeper, and, and that is by the way, like part of our goal as a project.

Is to serve as an entry 0.1 of many into the subject matter and say, Hey, this was not only a kind of racism that was part of culture and society, but also part of laws, you know, structural racism. So giving folks the opportunity to understand that and see how the laws were reinforcing something that’s still a problem.

Now. So I think giving folks and young folks a way, an entry point into like a very complex subject matter, and perhaps in a way that resonates with their own identity in a way that they perhaps haven’t experienced before, I think is important. You know, and then I, I might also add the idea of. Community.

So like I live in a city, not everyone does, and some folks just have not had the opportunity to connect with other folks that might share some part of this experience. So seeing that that’s possible either like in their own community, like physically where they live, or through the project and through what’s shared on social media or what happens in the press around loving day, that also I think is a grounding experience.

And then if you play it out a little bit further, Having that community and having that affirmation and having that education, I think builds itself into a platform where you can start to shift the conversation about race and identity and perhaps make a difference in your own personal kind of orbit, folks that you might be close to or like spaces that you can participate in.

And I think that that’s really how these things resonate. You know? So everything from literally like. Being a part of shifting the conversation on race and making things better wherever you can, all the way down to just like feeling that affirmation. Maybe you share a photo of yourself or you feel uplifted by seeing someone else sharing their experience that resonates with you, but perhaps you just haven’t heard that much in your own life to make you feel like you’re part of something larger and to make you feel like that you are part of something good.

MARIS LIDAKA

You’re not alone. Not not alone. Yeah. And also like. Something to counter, it’s like the counter narrative to the ranging from microaggressions to not so microaggressions, shall we say, that

It is kind of the benefit of things like social media and the internet. You know, we tend to focus on all the negative aspects of what social media and the internet does to our self-esteem and our anxieties.

But that is kind of the, the flip side is, you know, without it, it’s, it would be hard to build these communities that, that we have right now.

KEN TANABE

Yeah, it can certainly accelerate things. I mean, with Loving Day, we, we try to use whatever tools are accessible to us to make our mission happen, let’s put it that way.

Right? So that visibility, education, the community, and bringing all those things together to, to create positive change. Loving Day is, is something that’s been in the press. The international press hundreds of times for y many years, which I’m really glad to say. So that’s a channel that we used. Social media is a channel, which I, I think it’s really wonderful when folks share.

So with hashtag Loving Day, that’s a way that we can all be connected and, and people have that opportunity to be part of this like larger global community really.

MARIS LIDAKA

When they were making the documentary and also I guess the movie, did this come out of the blue? Were you like in the loop with this at all?

Did they reach out to you at all?

KEN TANABE

Yes. So the, the in, I’d say in the Loop to some extent, the producers and the directors of the films and the production companies were all very communicative through throughout the process. So I’ll go in chronological order. So the documentary film, I think you’re Referring to The Loving Story.

Which was directed by Nancy Buirski. I, I believe, um, there, I think there was someone else involved as well, but Nancy’s who’s, uh, who I was chatting with, and yeah, she was very communicative and supportive and I, I’m not mistaken, there might even be a thank you to, to Loving Day somewhere in the film.

But I mean, I recall for example, like attending the premier in New York, where one of the loving’s attorneys was in attendance, got the chance to meet him and just generally promote the film. So that spirit continued with the Hollywood film, the the one named Loving, which Nancy Buirski was also involved with, but actually the production company focus features.

They reached out to us and said, Hey, we happen to notice that you basically have like the pre-made fan club for this film that’s already been around for like many years. Would you like to be involved? And we said, you know, absolutely we would. So we attended advanced screenings, we had joint social media with the film.

We attended the premiere in New York where I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the entire cast. I have to say Ruth Nega is actually quite wonderful as a human being and she has a very different accent in real life from the film. Cause in the film she’s portraying Mildred Loving, but she’s Irish I believe.

So that was quite the surprise when I met her in person. And Joel, Joel Edgarton and is Australian. So I mean, both of them were like, they really did an amazing job. And so literally everyone else on the cast is, it was wonderful, but we were quite proactive for all you sort of film buffs out there. If you happen to purchase the loving.

Movie on D V D or Blu-ray or, or one of those formats. Any format where there’s extras, you’d actually see footage from a Loving Day celebration in New York in those extras because they were there promoting the film and, and shooting footage.

MARIS LIDAKA

So go out and get the D V D or the Blu-ray. If you don’t have a Blu-ray player, go get one.

KEN TANABE

Honestly, any method of, if you don’t get the extras, it’s okay. It’s a lovely film. Oscar nominated currently on Netflix and, and other places, so it is one to watch. It’s just beautiful. And they did a, you know, fantastic job in consultation with the family. Allotted footage is actually shot in Caroline County, Virginia, where the Lovings are from.

So yeah, highly recommended.

MARIS LIDAKA

Have you had a chance to meet the family at all?

KEN TANABE

I have, however, I will say that I wanna be respectful of the loving family because they prefer not to be in the spotlight really. So they, they don’t really come out and we try to respect their wishes for privacy. But yes, uh, I ha have had the opportunity to meet a few of them, and I think they’re wonderful people.

MARIS LIDAKA

Okay. I was just curious, you know, what kind of their response has been to, you know, everything that you’ve created with the case of their parents?

KEN TANABE

Um, Yeah, I mean, every interaction we have had is positive. I, I don’t want to, you know, put words in their mouth or whatever, but, but yeah, it’s, it’s been positive interactions.

And I think also, like, I mean, if folks are curious about them, there’s, you know, a few cases in those film, like in the documentary about the Lovings or like in the press from time when the movie came out. So folks can look into it that way. But honestly, Loving Day is a great way to learn about the Loving family and the Loving story without placing a burden on them.

So, you know, I feel like it’s, it’s part of the job that we do.

MARIS LIDAKA

And also, uh, so let’s get a little broader, you know, I’ll tell you sort of my story is, you know, I thought about, I kind of like thought a little bit about what it meant to be multiracial, you know, before I started doing this. But then as, as I started doing more with.

The Blended Future Project, obviously I became like more aware and involved sort of. I guess sort of if you, we could just take us through kind of as you’re going along, creating the website, creating the day. How do, I guess, did your awareness of the multiracial multiethnic community change?

KEN TANABE

That’s a great question.

So I’ll say that I’ve come to think of this as sort of a learning curve that everybody goes through as they become aware of loving day in the community. Yeah. So, um, in the beginning you might say, wow, there was a case, or there name was loving, or Oh, people have said, what are you, to you? They’ve said that to me also.

Or Where are you from? They’ve said that to me as well. And like the, just the, the various kind of. Common experiences that happen when, when you might be multiracial or mixed race. So I personally was, I was there too. I had not thought much about this beyond my own lived experience for, you know, the first 25 years of my life or so.

And then coming into the project, I think I followed the arc that a lot of people follow. And honestly, I’m, I still kind of like trying to build my understanding as life goes on. And, I mean, it’s been quite a long time now, but, As you build your understanding of it, I think that you realize that, I mean, first there’s an awareness of what’s out there.

Loving Day exists, Blended Future Project exists. There’s books, there’s films as we were talking about, and you realize that folks have been thinking about this for a long time and creating things that we can read and learn and understand. And then as, as you kind of build your way up from there, I think you start to understand that this is all part of sort of like a central narrative about race and racism and how those things manifest in personal life in society structurally.

And then as you kind of climb that, Curve a little bit more. Maybe you start to think about how you might be able to make a change in the world through your own actions and work. So I, that’s maybe a simplified way of taking people like up the curve, but that’s been my understanding as well. I mean, in terms of the Loving Day project, I feel like it’s very much there for folks who have no familiarity with the case, with the history, with the thought and the art and the films and all that other stuff, like we are here to welcome you into that Space and I, I think it’s an important part of the job.

Like we don’t want people to stop there, but we want people to start somewhere. So wherever folks are coming from, that is what Loving Day’s work is about. Like for myself and the folks who have volunteered over the years, we wanna welcome people into the community, get them started on that journey, and then take them as far as we can.

And then sort of hand off, I’ll say, you know, be like, here’s the resources, here are the other groups and projects you can explore. Like continue on your journey and we’ll supplement it however we can. And you mentioned,

MARIS LIDAKA

Uuh, briefly when we started, when we started this conversation, that you’ve noticed how things have changed.

Both in ways that are beneficial and both in ways where we still need to do some work. Can you just sort of tell us some of those changes that, what are the changes that you’ve noticed since you’ve started this until now?

Both the wonderful things that have changed and also the not so wonderful things that have, that you’ve noticed The wonderful things and the not so wonderful things.

KEN TANABE

Yeah. Oh, okay. Um, like where,

MARIS LIDAKA

how have we gotten better and where do we need to do some work still?

KEN TANABE

You’re talking about like as a culture?

MARIS LIDAKA

Yeah, like on that level as a, on that level. On that

On as a culture and a nation. And a and…

KEN TANABE

As as a society. Yes. Okay. So let, let’s take a little a step back.

So I love starting with the Lovings as as an entry point. So when Mildred and Richard Loving got married in 1958, there was a poll that went out. Uh, it was done by the Gallup organization. So they asked people, do you approve of black and white interracial marriage? And the approval rating was 4%. Wow. 4%.

So if you fast forward until you know the next, they did the poll, you know, they’ve been doing the poll like every so often. For years. By 1968, like the year after the Loving Decision, the approval was 20%. And then if you go to 2013, which isn’t that recent, but it’s the last statistic that they have, it went up to eight 87%.

So that is an improvement. But when I, when I heard that number, I was like, where, where’s the other 13%? You know? Yeah. Not, not approving. So I’ll find, you know, a little bit more recently, this is gonna be from 2018, there was another poll. Uh, this one, one done by the Economist and an organization called U gov, and they found that nearly 20% of Americans think that interracial marriage is morally wrong.

And that’s of 2018. Wow. Yeah, so when you look back at Loving versus Virginia and the court cases that led up to it, there were a few different arguments that were made, and one of them was basically like legal precedent. Like, we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years, it’s legal, so let us continue discriminating on the basis of race.

When it comes to marriage and other relationships. Right. And then another argument was a moral argument where they were saying that it is morally wrong, among other things to bring children into the world as mixed race children because they will not. Succeed, they won’t be happy. The way it was put, and this, these are not my words, I’m quoting others, they said the victims of interracial marriage.

So to me it is, it’s an important continuum, right? Like back in the fifties and sixties and before people were saying it’s morally wrong. 2018, people are still saying it’s morally wrong. So this is something that is clearly not over. Like we need to work on that. And I’ll also add to that, that, you know, when folks talk about interracial relationships or being mixed race, I think that part of what they miss about it, and this is part of what Loving Day can help with, is that when that comes up, you can ground it in this kind of structural racism and the underlying.

Racist thinking, which has to do with white supremacy, right? Like these laws, the vast majority of them were written in such a way to say that like, you cannot marry white if you’re, if you’re not white, you cannot marry white people. Right? Like that. That’s the, the basis of it. And that’s part of the arguments that got the case overturned eventually.

But I mean, the sort of the white supremacy, the anti-blackness, the racism that was also directed towards other, Racial groups. So the laws, for example, applied to folks who are Asian. They didn’t necessarily use these words, but we would currently probably say Asian, native American, Latinx, depending on a few variables.

Uh, Pacific Islanders. And we just go down the list. So that is what hasn’t changed. Like it is remarkable how. The sort of underlying problem is still here. I think what has changed is some of the attitudes, you know, to some degree as you can see in these statistics, but it’s clear that there’s a lot more work to be done.

And I think what also has changed is the, uh, for folks who want to make a difference, there are so many more places to explore that. And like Loving Day is like the small part of this huge. You know, world of trying to make, uh, a positive change. You know, we’re, we’re a seasonal business, as I like to say, right?

June 12th comes around. Not that you can’t talk about the loving case and what you can learn from it. Any time of the year is, is a good time to, to have that conversation. But yeah, still a lot of work to do. Maybe I’ll just finish that thought by saying, I think another thing that has changed, especially in the past year as the US and perhaps the whole world, has this like reckoning about race and racism, is that we’re not talking about it the same way anymore.

Terms like white supremacy and anti-blackness are much more common. And that is a good thing, I think. And what’s actually remarkable is if you look at the Supreme Court arguments for Loving versus Virginia, back in 1967, they were saying the same thing. They were like, these are white supremacist laws that are designed to hold.

I mean, they didn’t use the same terminology, but in a nutshell, they’re meant to oppress black people, and I mean by extension others.

MARIS LIDAKA

So, My dad was a lawyer and he would always, that was like his pet peeve was whenever an argument was precedent. It’s like, we’ve been doing this a long time, so why change?

That was, that’s, that was always something that kind of rubbed him the wrong way and kind of what you talked about of being, of it being sort of rooted in white supremacy and not being allowed to marry, just not wanting to marry white people kind of brings you back to this. I saw this James Baldwin interview that he did for British Television where he said, kind of the root of all of our problem.

What’s for a lot of our problems with racism in America comes back to the simple phrase of, “would you let your sister marry

one?”

KEN TANABE

Hmm. Yeah.

MARIS LIDAKA

And if we can sort of solve that problem, we’ll be a lot further ahead.

KEN TANABE

No, that’s a great, that is a great point. I would add to that by saying the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which I, I think

MARIS LIDAKA

Yes.

KEN TANABE

Kind of gets to that. Yeah. Came, came out. It was pretty much contemporary with the loving decision. Yeah. It came out just around the same time and asked that, that same question, and working on the Loving Day project, it’s something that we continue to hear, right? Like even as we sort of think about how these laws against interracial marriage are, are no longer really present.

Um, the attitudes, as I mentioned, still are, and sometimes those attitudes manifest from the people who are closest to us and perhaps, you know, in our homes. So that is just, you know, one of the reasons why the Loving Day Project exists is to give folks context, you know, to say like, this, this, these racist attitudes go back a long way, and you may be thinking about it as sort of a personal choice.

Kind of thing, but it’s much more than that. It’s something that’s rooted in equality. If we’re going to fight white supremacy, this is part of it.

MARIS LIDAKA

And in our, uh, I guess our pre-interview Beth brought up that it’s the, you know, it’s the same month as Juneteenth.

KEN TANABE

It’s the same month as not only the gay, uh, gay pride celebration, but also I believe June 23rd is when the same sex marriage was made legal.

MARIS LIDAKA

What’s kind of been your, uh, I guess, interaction with. With those other, both organizations and events occurring in the same month?

KEN TANABE

Yeah, that’s a great question.  You know, June, I, I don’t know what it is. With June, a lot happened in June,

MARIS LIDAKA

start of summer, start of, uh, summer vacation if you’re in school still

KEN TANABE

It is, it is. So, I’m glad you asked. So Juneteenth is, was actually inspiration for me personally, as. When I was looking at my, as I mentioned at the beginning of this graduate thesis project and wondering like what I might do, Juneteenth was something that made me feel like Loving Day might be possible because it’s another day.

I mean, I don’t, I’m not trying to compare them apples to apples cuz Juneteenth for those, uh, folks who might not know it commemorates the, the, the moment or a moment when the emancipation of, uh, enslaved people happened in the us right? So June 19th. It’s been observed for decades, like, uh, since the 18 hundreds by millions of people.

Right. And I find it to be important. And so, you know, I, I have to acknowledge that Juneteenth made me feel like it was at least somewhat like there was some chance that that loving day could turn into something that, that resonates with other people. So that, that’s a starting point. I also feel that, you know, Juneteenth, especially in the, in the past, you know, during 2020, I think Juneteenth got a huge boost, which was great, and it, it’s something that at least I personally acknowledge and, and commemorate in my own life and Loving Day has done so in the past as well.

So, yeah, uh, a definitely an important part of this also because it commemorates the, the emancipation of enslaved people and because Loving versus Virginia and those laws, I mean, the Loving’s lawyers argued that these laws are derived from slavery laws. So, I mean, it’s, it’s, even though Juneteenth, I don’t, I don’t want to minimize it, but Juneteenth is incredibly important, but it also has kind of these parallels and, um, connections to, to Loving Day.

And then as far as, you know, you’re talking about Pride and the Obergefell v Hodges decision all more June events. So marriage equality, when you’re talking about marriage equality, the loving decision was part of the, the precedence. You know, they made their way into the, the arguments for, uh, Obergefell v Hodges.

Right? So, uh, another important moment to, to think about our rights. And by the way, both of those talk about the 14th amendment, the right to equal protection, which is. There’s actually a Netflix series right now called 14th. I, I recommend that people, uh, check that out cause it will go into much more detail than we can here.

But understanding that, uh, equal protection under the law extends beyond. I mean, it’s, it’s broad, right? We’re talking about gender, we’re talking about race, we’re talking about sexual orientation. All of those things are covered. So, you know, all pride, Obergefell, uh, Juneteenth, all these things are. Part of the conversation and things that with the Loving Day project and myself personally, I feel are important and need to be acknowledged and recognized and, and have meaningful connections.

MARIS LIDAKA

It’s, uh, Yeah, it’s, they’re kind of just all related. And it kind of comes back to that, the idea that we can’t let, if we let this happen, then all society will break down if we like, let these people have just basic rights that we have. And it’s kind of interesting how it all just. Relates back one to the other.

KEN TANABE

Indeed. Indeed. So like there’s, there’s a few different levels of that. You know, I mean there’s, there’s the legal battles and, and the sort of wants to like push on the governmental level. And then there’s also, you know, hearts and minds. And, and people’s lives, right? So I mean, I feel like we operate on that level as well.

I’ve also want to acknowledge that, that folks who, um, I, if you, if you look at folks who commemorate Juneteenth, there’s also some who, who commemorate Loving Day and, and the other way around too. Same with Pride, same with Obergefell, you know, and, you know, as a community and in our events, et cetera, like, we’ve been welcome.

We’ve always felt like we want to be open and welcoming to all of these, uh, different communities. And I’ve, you know, seen folks host. Loving day celebrations coming outta the LGBTQ plus community. So yeah, there’s, there’s just so many interconnections. I just wanted to add that it’s not just like a purely like legal academic exercise, but it’s also a part of like the sort of hearts and minds and culture that, that we’re working to create here.

MARIS LIDAKA

And I don’t know if this is indicative of how far we do have to go, but just personally, I did not learn about Juneteenth until. Probably a few years ago.

KEN TANABE

I mean, maybe I’d, I’d like to build on that and just talk about how like some of the greatest things, I mean, not just for the Loving Day project, for which this is definitely true, but so many critical things come out of the, I mean, critical and joyous, you know, wonderful things come out of the community.

Just in the context of Loving Day. I know we were talking a bit before about. Surprising and meaningful experiences that that might have come out of Loving Day. Could we get into that question a little bit?

MARIS LIDAKA

Yeah, yeah. I was, that was gonna be my, my next question or what, what have some of, what have been some of the most surprising and meaningful experiences that, that have occurred from doing this event?

KEN TANABE

Yeah, so I mean, first I’ll, I’ll say top of the list is probably when I heard that people were choosing Loving Day as their wedding date, like Loving Day weddings or, or as close to it as they could get. Cuz you know, sometimes it’s on a weekend and sometimes it’s not. But I like, honestly, I don’t think I would’ve been brave enough to suggest it.

Like, your wedding day is something you remember for your whole life. You know, I, I, I didn’t think anyone would do this, but. The idea came from the community, and now it’s something that we share back with others is, is something meaningful? You know, even to the point where folks will, like, it might be part of their vows or part of a speech, or they might have something like a, like a little table cards or something like that.

I, I just found that to be incredibly meaningful. There was at a celebration in New York at one of our events, someone walked up to me and said, Hey, my friends are engaged. They’re gonna get married. You know, can you, uh, give ’em a shout out on the stage? So I got up on the stage and I said, Hey everyone, can I get your attention?

Hey, this couple come up on stage. These folks, they just got engaged and like the crowd went nuts. Like they were so enthusiastic in their cheer that the couple was kind of overwhelmed, you know? But right when you thought, like the good vibes, the clapping, the cheering went on for so long that they were like over, they almost started to like, you know, it was so emotional.

It was like, People were having trouble holding it together cuz it was so much positivity. Perhaps in a life where you’re more accustomed to be treated like any, anywhere from neutral to like, not terrible. Well not welcomed. Yeah, exactly. Or discriminated against. So those experiences are really powerful to me.

The Loving Day. Hashtag trending. That was another surprise. It happened the first time for the 50th anniversary of Loving Versus Virginia. So in 2000, let’s see, can I do math 17 2017. And I had to, what I saw was happening, I had to, you know, ask. One of our volunteers who knows social media really well. I was like, am I like completely misinterpreting this or is this hashtag trending?

Which sure enough, it was a lot of notable people, you know, celebrities, politicians have have shared that hashtag, but also I. Frankly, the, the much larger volume of, of, of sharing comes from just like folks, families, individuals, couples in the community. So it, it actually trended again last year in 2020.

So I, I found that to be very powerful as well. So, And then beyond that, I’ll say there’s just like on a, on a lighter note, people have made Loving Day cakes as part of their events. There is, as far as I know, one loving day tattoo. I know someone got the logo tattooed on their arm, which I like to refer to as the lifetime VIP Pass to any of our events.

You can show. It is, it is like, so I have my, some of my training is in, in design, you know, so having, since I designed that logo, I kind of think that’s the high point of my career, honestly, is like somebody got something tattooed.

MARIS LIDAKA

I, I guess you can’t get better branding than that than to actually have your logo literally branded on somebody’s body.

KEN TANABE

Well, yes. I mean, it’s, it is, I think, a statement of how meaningful it is to, to folks and, and the fact that they want to, uh, you know, by the way, I should say before I get to, you know, sort of emotional about it, uh, that tattoo inspired us to make temporary tattoos. Oh. So we, we, you can, you can buy them on our, uh, website or you can.

Sometimes we have events, we just hand them out for free. But yeah, that’s, that’s part of, you know, where we’re talking about the community coming up with great ideas and we kind of listen to them and try to serve that community in, in some way or just like create joy and fun. Cuz kids love temporary tattoos.

I’ve found. As well as cake.

But yeah, I mean, maybe the greatest surprise is like to, to bring it around full circle. You know, you were very generous in your praise about, you know, welcoming me to your podcast, but I’m not anything, you know. Terribly special. I don’t feel, you know, I’m someone who’s had the lived experience of being multiracial, multicultural, have, you know, coming from that perspective, I’m someone who had a, a, a skill basically like doing design and graphic design, which I thought that I could apply to this, this other part of my life and, and kind of connect it in that way, and perhaps it would be meaningful to other people.

And I, I continue to hope for that. I also hope that for loving Day, that it can be a shared tradition. You know, something that I, I, I kind of joke with folks, you know.

MARIS LIDAKA

What’s your ultimate vision for the project?

KEN TANABE

And part of it is for, for me to have nothing to do and the project, not to even really need to kind of exist formally because it’s been widely distributed as, as a part of culture.

You know, an intentional part of culture that connects people who share, you know, who are interracial couples, intercultural couples or families or multiracial or mixed race individuals, transracial adoptee, or anyone who like for, for whom the loving decision and loving day resonates. I just wish for that to be a part of the tradition so that we can continue to create visibility for, for our community.

You know, visibility matters and it’s especially meaningful when we’re able to drive. The narrative around that visibility, which I feel that with Loving Day, that gives us an opportunity to do and to educate people, you know, to share people with folks, you know, the Loving Decision, the Loving v Virginia Case, but also Richard and Mildred Loving and their story.

It’s just an accessible way to start that conversation and bring people to this deeper understanding of race and identity and where they sort of fit into the larger cultural, social governmental. Forces at work and how we can create positive change in that space. So all those things together, the community creating a platform for, for change.

And if I can just be a little, you know, I don’t know, open here is, is creating some space for joy in the midst of all that too. That affirmation, something to sort of be the, the wind in our sails, you know, as we continue to do this, this work to build community and to just meaningfully add to people’s lives.

It’s kept me busy since like 2003, so it’s definitely meaningfully added to my life and I, I hope that others, I hope that it does something positive for folks and for the world as well. Part of the philosophy of loving Day is that it’s not that you need to adapt so much to it, but it is something that can adapt to you, if that makes sense.

So if you talk about young people, that is a huge range of people and experiences. If that makes sense. Right. So, um, loving day can be a way, like if you’re a musician, if you’re an actor, if you’re a filmmaker, if you are someone who I don’t know, you, you like to build community, or you’re part of a group, you know, you’re part of a team, a group a, a club, like any of those things, like you have access and you have entry points, right?

Because of your family, because of your community, because of who you’re friends with or how you live your life like, All of those things create opportunities and entry points and spaces that you, you can be a part of and, and navigate. So I, I’d say start there, like, think about you and your experience and, and what you might bring, um, how you might share this story.

Are you, I mean, okay, we’re gonna go young. It’s like, are you on social media? Do you have a zillion followers? Are you an influencer, a micro influencer, that kind of thing. Do you have a platform and a voice? Not that that’s necessary, but it, it’s, it’s one way to do it. You know, is there someone in your life who you might wanna share this information with, like that please do use these resources as something that might be able to help you start the conversation.

Like, I’m of the opinion that the Loving case and Loving Day can be kind of, it’s fairly universal. You know, you’re, it’s not. Age dependent, but everyone’s life is different. So, you know, if you’re, if you’re way, way before the loving case happened or like nowhere near thinking about if, if you ever chose to get married, you know, around the age that you might do that, there’s still plenty for you to do.

But I think what I’d encourage the most is to consider it like a journey of learning, you know, so, You might start light with, with like loving day, for example, and then just continue your understanding and try to see how it all ties together in these like, deeper issues within society about race and, uh, racism and white supremacy and anti-blackness and discrimination.

I mean, right now we’re talking about, you know, anti-Asian hate, like that all ties together as well. So use those things, you know, use, use what you have.

MARIS LIDAKA

I think what really kinda resonates with people about, you know, loving day in general is just, and the loving case is just, it gets back to just basic human emotions, which is love.

Like if you love somebody and there was either a government or just any sort of larger power large that said that you can’t be together. Would you do anything just to be together? I think most people would answer yes. I mean, it goes the same story goes as far back as you know, Romeo and Juliet, it was kind of the same thing.

Two people that weren’t supposed to be together did anything they could to be together, and I think that’s kind of why, it’s just looking at it from afar.

KEN TANABE

That’s, I think that’s why it’s resonated so much with so many different people. Yeah. I mean that’s, that’s true. Our relationships are, you know, intimate, romantic relationships are a deep and meaningful part of our lives.

It, I mean, it also speaks to like the respect and dignity and equality, like all, all of those things. It’s, it’s very, it’s intersections of all of those things. For sure.

And eventually, what you like to get? What loving day to be near future? What are the loving day

plans? So the project continues to evolve.

I’ll say that, you know, we listen to our community and, and what they would like to hear from us. Often ideas come from them. We push ideas back out. So I think the near future is gonna be about up updating all of our resources and materials to, um, to better meet the conversation of today. And that’s, I mean, that’s an ongoing effort, right?

You know, we, part of our mission is to educate, so we provide educational materials. And I don’t know if folks know this, but you know, despite the, as a designer, I feel like you look at our materials and you might feel like there’s a, there’s a whole lot of resources behind it, but I. It’s just a, it’s volunteers and it’s folks spending nights and weekends, including myself, you know, working on this project to create these resources.

So they don’t always update as fast as we like them to, but we do try to, to keep them useful and, um, and to serve the community with them as well. So I think that’s, that’s part of it, you know, also, I think that, you know, at the moment that we’re speaking right now, We’re in the midst of this national and perhaps global reckoning around race.

So I think it’s important to build on the momentum that’s happening there and understand how our work can connect and support and be part of that platform for change and solidarity. So that, that’s, that’s, um, something that’s, that’s, I mean, it’s, it’s always been important, but it’s especially important in this moment.

Yeah. It’s really important to keep those channels open through any channels that we have, right? We talked about press and social media and all those things, virtual events for that matter. So I think that that should be a part of, of the tools that we use to, to stay connected and to not just continue loving day and it’s, and it’s mission, but to just generally, um, advance the conversation about race and to create positive change.

MARIS LIDAKA

And speaking of the links and resources, where can, uh, people find out more about you?

KEN TANABE

Loving Day, loving day.org is our website, lovingday.org. Also, we are on social media, so you can find Loving Day there. Um, we have accounts, but you can also look for the hashtag loving day. If you’d like to see some of that visibility being created and the education in the community manifesting itself in, in that form.

So we’re always happy to hear from folks. Um, and we’re always happy to see what others share on loving days. So, Big reminder. June 12th is loving day. Great time to share, but anytime is right. Hashtag loving day, loving day.org. We hope that it becomes a tradition for you and your family that you pass down to the next generation, whether that’s through your own family that you create or the your, your chosen family or the community around you.

We, we look forward to, to sharing that experience with you. And I think long term, you know, so, This is not something that’s over next year. It’s, it’s gonna keep going. So let’s keep the conversation going.

MARIS LIDAKA

Absolutely. Ken, thank you very much for joining us. We look forward to many, many more years of Loving Day in the future.

Thank you for joining us.

KEN TANABE

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you. Wishing you all the best with the Blended Future Project and everything else that you are, you’re working on, you know, so wonderful to connect with you as part of this community.

MARIS LIDAKA

This episode was produced with the help of Beth Chin. The Mixed Creator is a Blended Future Project. To find out more, go to blendedfuture project.com. If you want to listen to more episodes or if you’d like to be a guest in the podcast, go to marislidaka.com/podcast.

That’s M A R I S L I D A K A.com/podcast.

If you want more insight and advice. Get the Mixed Creator Newsletter, it goes out every single Monday morning. Just go to marislidaka.com/newsletter and you can sign up.

Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you in the next episode.


Streamlining Your Creative Identity

Being a mixed man, I am more than just one thing. I’m Black and Latvian. I’m also American and European. This traversing of multiple worlds has also found it’s way into my creative skills and work. I have a lot of skills in a lot of different areas. A lot of other creatives I know are in the same predicament:

The world doesn’t know how to take in all that we are.

Many a creator who struggles with this issue, including myself. Recently, I realized that I was putting too much onto one of my websites.  And got some key input on how to fix it.

So this week, I’m going to share the same secret with you.

SPLITTING THE ENTRY

My area of expertise is the entertainment industry. If I was to list out all the skills I have, it would be something like this:

I am a storyteller, writer, creative producer, film director, video editor, website builder, entrepreneur, motion designer , colorist, coach and consultant.

Lost yet?

Now, if I tried to put this all in one place. This would elicit a few reactions:

1 – Overwhelm at the amount of options

2 – Seeing all the options, expecting to pay less for them.

And creators do work that is of a high value.

Now, I just can’t declare myself a high-end option without these 2 things:

1 – Expertise and Examples

We all have to pass the competency test. This comes through everything that we present. From our web design to social media posts to work samples. Everything we put out there should present expectations we can live up to. It all has to work as a cohesive unit.

There was a filmmaker I worked with on several projects. He had made some great work and gotten some accolades. And he was very frustrated that his career hadn’t taken off like he thought it should. He didn’t understand what was holding him back.

As we dived in, I realized he didn’t present himself as what he wanted. His website was a mess. He hadn’t bought his own domain name (a killer mistake).  The template looked like it was 20 years old. He didn’t think it was important since it was just to house his work. He thought people would see his work and just be impressed by it.

But everything we do is part of our work. Ignoring one gives off the impression of a lack of attention to details. That we work hard on certain things. But others might slip through the cracks.

2 – Specificity

After the competency test, we need to fill a specific need. Content creation is something that used to be inaccessible. When I graduated film school, just being able to make a film or video was impressive. Because the barrier to entry was high. Now it’s not, so just making great work isn’t enough. We need to present it to a specific group, i.e. an audience.

There was a production company I worked for a while back that did incredible work on all size budgets. But getting clients was always a struggle. One day I asked the owner what the company’s area of expertise was. It was defined as making beautiful work. Now, I kept my mouth shut. But I knew this wouldn’t be enough. Again – the barrier to entry is lower now. This company is no longer in business.

Now, I am not perfect in my approaches. I have been dangerously close to making both of these mistakes in my own business. And I was able to avoid it by making a phone call to receive this:

COACHING

I used to think coaching was bullshit. I saw hundreds of people popping up online saying they were coaches for weird things. A gardening coach, really?

It looked like a very saturated market where anyone could give themselves the title. But I also know I can’t rely on my own perspective. I called a friend who is a producer and also a coach to get some invaluable advice.

For a while now, I’ve felt my points of entry have gone from clear to confused. When I was a freelancer, I had specific websites that pointed to specific needs. Those were:

Filmmaking (a personal website)

Editing (an editing portfolio)

After starting The Blended Future Project, I now had a blog about the mixed experience. Something I had shied away from, but now felt comfortable talking about. I wanted to tell stories and help other mixed creators. It’s what gets me excited to work on every day. But in my approach I made a key mistake:

I was adding too much into one place.

I have a lot of big goals for the company (and myself). But I was trying to cram them all into one. Which led to some confusion:

Is it a blog? A consultancy? A production company?

I had done so many things since it started.  I had added too many items to the menu. And I had gotten away from the key mission from outset:

An online media company dedicated to showcasing the mixed experience.

Through coaching, I unlocked that while I have a lot of skills. They can’t all be inside of one business. So what I really have is 3. Which, ironically, are almost identical to the 3 phases of filmmaking (pre-production, production and post-production):

  • Consulting
  • Content creation
  • Post-production

So instead of one business, I have 3. The key element here is that the businesses are all linked. Because they are all a part of me. And if you go to my website, you can see how I’ve broken this down. You can see what you’re looking for and choose how we can work together.

There might be multiple websites and businesses. But I have one creative identity.

And the lesson for everyone here is to think of yourself and your career the same way. You don’t have to be just one thing to everyone. But you have to present one part of yourself at a time, to someone.

A CREATIVE FOCUS

Now, having 3 businesses might be great. But also, from the outside, sounds like an INSANE amount of work. But these aren’t jobs that I have all hours of the day. These are just systems that I’m building. And there are some key ways I manage my time.

Task Ranking

Time Blocking

Team Building

Which I’ll dive into in later writings.

As creators, we have stories that we want to tell. But we also have to communicate our own story first – simply and efficiently. We need our audiences to understand who we are and what we bring to the table. That’s the way we build connections and get to create what really matters.



Introduction

Learning to Embrace My Identity

This is a welcome to the Mixed Creator Podcast. Learn about the journey of filmmaker and host Maris Lidaka. He will reveal how embracing his mixed identity led to having a greater creative impact.

Listen Here

Build Your Own Table

A TIME OF CRISIS

The creative industries are currently experiencing a significant upheaval. For decades, we have fought tirelessly for greater representation in storytelling, advocating for narratives that reflect the true diversity of our changing world. However, the rise of AI and the dominance of large companies are gradually diminishing our opportunities to showcase our stories. As these big companies regress, they are ignoring the demands of the wider audience.

But there is an opportunity for individual creators like us to forge a new path. In this week’s newsletter, I will demonstrate how we can seize this opportunity and build our own platforms. We don’t necessarily need a seat at the big table.

We have the power to create our own.

DISPELLING THE MYTH

We have been conditioned to believe that success in the creative field is akin to winning a beauty pageant. We must create a remarkable piece of work and hope to be selected. Someone with the resources and means to present our work to the greater public. Which means we finally get the chance to tell the stories we desire.

This model harks back to an era that excluded the voices of diverse creators. Being “picked” now often means creating stories that cater to someone else’s preferences. While using the limited time and resources we have to make work that truly matters to us. As someone who has worked in the film industry for years, I understand this struggle firsthand. My multitude of short films let to work that paid the bills, Work that  did little to nourish my soul.

However, I have come to realize that there is another way—a way that allows us to create our own resources, networks, and meaningful work.

All it takes is building a community.

BUILDING COMMUNITY

Like the myth of getting discovered. There’s also another that we need to have thousands of followers and fans to have an impact. The truth is the opposite,

Less is more.

While having a large audience is important. What is more important is having people who are passionate about you and the work you make. The biggest joy I get from the work I do, whether the films I make or writing this newsletter is the interactions. When I get to meet new people and hear their stories.

It’s by making those connections that you really start to have an impact. It’s how you build a supportive network that is mutually beneficial. What’s lost in how we use social media is by being social. We have the ability to talk to whoever we think is like us, or will understand who we are. And we can begin a conversation in a matter of seconds. If you repeat this then your audience and reach will grow.

And this is how you begin to create an income.

CREATING RESOURCES

Let’s face facts – everyone needs money. A starving artist isn’t an impactful one.

Money is an exchange of value for something that helps someone save time or enhance their life. For the longest time, I was focused on how the films I made could make money. But what I realized was the work is not how I built an income – I was.

Here’s a dirty little secret about influencers and YouTube stars, they make very little money for their videos themselves. Brand deals and the ads you see are constantly in flux, and are ultimately out of their control. They are not dependable sources of income. But what is dependable is something you can produce.

If you can use the skills you’ve learned through your work, you can make money. Or if you can teach someone how to gain those skills. That’s even better. As you are helping someone along the way. Someone you may end up collaborating with in the future. Which helps create that bigger change we all want to see.

I know that every person who can express themselves creatively can build an income. It just takes some reprogramming:

Embrace different formats. Show the process of how you made it. Share the lessons you learned from it. All of these are valuable ways to not only make money. But also give people the knowledge we’re all seeking. Art is a manual for life. So create as much of it as possible. And use is to be a guide for someone.

They’ll reward you with the ability to just create more


The Writer’s Strike is A Battle for Diverse Stories

THERE’S BEEN NEWS

Unless you’ve been completely ignoring the news, you know that the Writer’s Guild has gone on strike. If you’re a creator or in the entertainment industry, this is a huge deal. But if you’re not, it may seem trivial. However, this strike is not simply about compensation for a privileged few. But also about how we think of creativity and who gets represented in the world’s biggest storytelling platforms.

Because if the studios get their way – TV and movies will go backwards. Leaving us all searching for the stories that represent the way the world actually is.

This is secretly a battle for representation.

THE WRITER’S GUILD

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has long been an advocate for the rights and fair treatment of writers in the entertainment industry. However, the recent strike has shed light on persistent issues that threaten the livelihoods of writers.  Which impacts the quality of the content they produce.

Studios and production companies have referred to anything “digital” as something done on a lower budget. The original agreements for working with actors and writers on a digital project, were created with the idea of paying them as little as possible.

These same agreements were used as a baseline for anything on a streaming platform – including the major ones such as Netflix, Disney+ and Paramount. The staffs were cut down to the minimum, writer’s asked to wear multiple hats to work long days for lesser pay. And essentially, writers became gig workers who were asked to work long hours. With little to no guaranteed that their job was secure. In addition to other considerations such as rewriting scripts generated by AI. The WGA had had enough of working their writer’s being mistreated.

They tried to negotiate. But ultimately were forced to strike.

A LACK OF VALUE

The studios consider anything that’s done for a digital platform unworthy of a higher rate. Which, not coincidentally, is where the majority of women and people of color get their initial break. We know from the UCLA diversity report that streaming is where the budgets are lower and the representation is better. Beyond the outliers like a Ryan Coogler or a Jordan Peele. It’s how most people of color get their break into the industry. And much to no one’s surprise, studios don’t see it as being of equal value.

During the streaming boom, companies ran up large amounts of debt to get their foot in the streaming door. They wanted to get the attention that was diverting to online platforms. But now that they no longer want to be in the red. They want to cut costs where they don’t see any value. Which is ultimately anything that doesn’t have “broad appeal”, aka plays to an older, Whiter audience.

When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance?

And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?

A FIGHT FOR OUR STORIES

When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance? And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?

The demographics of America are changing at a rapid pace. The people of this country will look increasingly different. And we want the stories we see to reflect that. Stories are a reflection of our values. This strike is an indicator that the people bringing us those stories don’t see the value in who we are. Their decisions ultimately discourage people from entering the industry and letting their voices be heard. Which ultimately effects how we are able to see ourselves.

Of course there are social media platforms and YouTube to get the type of content and community we want. But there is still something special and unifying about narrative stories that the world see. It’s what kept us going during the pandemic. It still keeps us talking and connecting across cultural lines. And those stories are brought to us by writers. Who need the security to keep thinking about stories. And not having to worry so much about their own survival.

This will most likely not be the first upheaval in a creative industry. Along with AI, a time of big questions is coming. But all comes back to 2 things:

How do we value creativity? And what kind of world do we want to live in?


The Right Way to Build a Creative Portfolio

As creators, we are deeply passionate about our craft. However, it’s easy to fall into misconceptions when it comes to our portfolios. Having gone through numerous revisions of my own portfolio, I’ve learned a few key steps that everyone should consider.

So let’s take a closer look at how to approach your portfolio effectively:

Quality Over Quantity

In the beginning, it’s important to focus on quantity as you start building your body of work. However, as you progress, the emphasis should shift to quality. It’s easy to believe that a large portfolio with numerous projects is more important, but it’s crucial to remember that showcasing a few exceptional pieces is more effective. Prioritize quality over quantity to make a stronger impact.

Focus

Once you have a body of quality work, it’s time to hone in on what you want to be known for. While versatility is valuable, a focused portfolio can make you more attractive to potential clients or employers. Instead of including projects from various genres or styles, curate a portfolio that reflects a clear artistic vision or specific niche. This showcases your expertise and helps attract the right opportunities.

Curate Your Audience

It’s easy to overlook the intended audience for our portfolios. However, each project should be tailored to resonate with the people you want to impress. For example, including romantic comedies in a portfolio aimed at the horror genre might dilute your message and confuse potential collaborators. Understanding your target audience helps present relevant and compelling work, giving you an edge in the market.

Storytelling

Your portfolio should be more than just a collection of work; it should tell a compelling story about who you are and the kind of work you do. Consider what you want people to know about you and how your portfolio can take them on a journey to learn more. While technical skills are essential, striking a balance and highlighting your storytelling abilities are fundamental aspects of being a creator.

Update and Adapt

Regularly review your portfolio to ensure it aligns with the kind of work you want to pursue. Remove anything that doesn’t showcase your desired direction and use it as an opportunity to assess if you’re heading in the right direction. Revising and refreshing your portfolio is vital to showcase your growth and keep it relevant to your current abilities.

 

A great portfolio is a true reflection of your skills, vision, and artistic voice. By approaching it with the right mindset and following these steps, you can greatly enhance its impact and secure future opportunities. Remember to prioritize quality, focus on your desired direction, curate for your intended audience, emphasize storytelling, and regularly update your portfolio. With these considerations in mind, your portfolio will become a powerful tool for showcasing your talent and attracting the opportunities you seek.


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The WGA Writer’s Strike — It’s More Than Entertainment


The WGA writer’s aren’t demanding a lot of things. This strike is about respect for those with the gift of writing.

Hollywood has lost sight of what made it the entertainment capital of the world — great stories. Streaming opened the door for so many stories. But the powers that be couldn’t figure out how to use it. Lots of debt was run up throwing spaghetti at the wall. And now, they’re no longer comfortable living in the red.

So instead of looking at their business overall and making sure the pie was divided evenly. The first option was to cut away at the cost of writing — the lifeblood of any story we watch. Writers are asked to work by the day, on shorter shows and in smaller rooms. In essence, they are now gig workers. And companies are trying to have less of them to save costs.

Writers are being treated like someone you hire on Fiverr. Not like the craftsmen that we are. Anyone can write a sentence. Very few can write a compelling story. It’s a craft that takes years of practice and skills. It deserves to be compensated. And there’s a bit of irony that where new voices are being given an opportunity to speak. Suddenly there’s not enough money to pay them.

What happens here sets a precedent for what’s to come. And not just for the entertainment industry. This is about what happens to worker’s rights. Not to mention if we want a society where technology replaces instead of enhances.

If we lose sight of rewarding creativity. Then humanity itself is at stake.

And that’s a world we can all barely imagine.


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Forced Into Filmmaking

From cleaning houses to making films: hitting rock bottom pushed me to realize my dream.

Life can be unpredictable. One moment, you might be doing just fine, and the next, everything can turn upside down. That’s what happened to me. After I got married, I found myself struggling to find work. Even with years of experience in the entertainment industry in Chicago. There wasn’t a job I could find in Los Angeles. So sadly, I landed one cleaning houses. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but it put food on the table and a roof over my head.

One aftertoon while I was cleaning a bathtub, I sprayed cleaner against the wall. I took a breath and accidentally inhaled some fumes. So I rushed home to recover. As I sat on my bed struggling to breathe, I realized that I needed to make a change. Especially considering that I was fired from that job a week later.

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary(Monty) on Unsplash

A Lifelong Dream

For as long as I can remember, narrative and storytelling had held a special place in my heart. I was fascinated by the power of crafting a story, building characters, and taking audiences on a journey. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and actual begin filmmaking.

The last film I had made was in film school. At that point, almost a decade prior. But I needed to start creating. Just a couple of months later, I made part of my first big short film. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start, and it opened up new opportunities for me. 

My first attempt was both a failure and a success. I never completed the film. Because the budget was too big. But I found new collaborators to work with. I made more films with them that found their way into festivals big and small. I learned how to direct, edit, and produce films, which helped me generate freelance income.

Finding Opportunity

Over time, I continued to develop new skills, create new work, and network with other filmmakers. It wasn’t easy, but it led me to a place of greater confidence and stability in my life. I realized that I was capable of achieving my dreams if I was willing to put in the work and stay dedicated to my craft.

Looking back, I realize that hitting rock bottom was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to reevaluate my life and pursue what truly mattered to me. I had to face my fears and doubts, but in doing so, I found my true calling.

My advice to anyone who is struggling is this: Just start doing it. Take the leap, show up, be humble, and keep learning. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go when you pursue your passion with dedication and perseverance. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. So don’t give up, keep pushing forward, and never lose sight of your dreams.


A Martial Mindset

 

STUDYING MARTIAL ARTS

This is not a promotion for a martial arts course. Instead, I’d like to discuss a principle found in Chinese martial arts that can be applied to any creative pursuit. I learned this lesson while studying martial arts while living abroad.

From the time I was a kid, Bruce Lee was one of my role models. I was fascinated by the idea of becoming a great martial artist, so when I discovered a school that taught Lee’s original martial art (Wing Tsun).

I signed up immediately.

I studied it for around seven years, half in Denmark and half in the United States. However, it wasn’t until I took one of my instructor’s meditation courses that I learned what Kung Fu really meant.

LEARNING MEDITATION

Initially, I had no interest in learning how to meditate – especially since it required an additional fee. I was able to afford the martial arts lessons thanks to Denmark’s social policy of giving students a monthly stipend starting at the age of 18. However, my instructor Henning urged me to take it. He said it would help me learn how to be calm and peaceful in any situation.

Reluctantly, I agreed, and attended all the meditation classes over the weekend. I learned breathing techniques and how to meditate according to Indian tradition since Henning was of Indian and Danish descent. On the last day, he told us that we should practice meditation on a daily basis because it was a part of achieving good Kung Fu. Kung Fu wasn’t just tied to the practice of martial arts, but rather it meant dedicating oneself to years of mastering a practice. This lesson stuck with me, and I tried to apply it to my career as a filmmaker.

ACHIEVING KUNG FU

Achieving good Kung Fu means being dedicated to your craft for the long term, which is antithetical to our instant gratification world. This helped me not to get too hung up on the result of a particular film but to focus all my energy on it, reflect on the results, and use that to become even better at my chosen craft. I applied this same way of thinking to other areas of life, some of which are artistic, and others not.

While martial arts isn’t for everyone, each of us can and should strive to achieve mastery in at least one area of life. Engage in the practice with the idea of continued effort, focus, and long-term growth. For a few years, I forgot about this concept, which caused me to make short-term decisions that were not helpful to my long-term goals. Coming back to it has helped me cultivate the growth mindset that we hear talked about, where each accomplishment builds into a greater good.

Conclusion: In conclusion, studying martial arts taught me a valuable lesson: that achieving good Kung Fu means dedicating oneself to the long-term mastery of a practice. This applies to any area of life, including artistic pursuits. It’s about focusing on continued effort, maintaining discipline, and striving for growth. By applying this way of thinking, we can cultivate a growth mindset that leads to long-term success.


The Power of Narrative Filmmaking

Recently, I was reminded why narrative (i.e. scripted) stories are so important in our media landscape.

As visual inspiration for the film I’m writing, I’ve been watching Euphoria. I’ve always been hit or miss on the show. Some scenes are absolutely brilliant. Others are like a music video that goes on for too long. But after watching it all the way through. There were moments that really touched a nerve.

Like the main character, Rue, I lost my dad when I was young – age 29 to be exact. He had suffered with alcohol addiction since I had been in college. And his liver and kidneys eventually just gave out from the abuse. With that being said, I wouldn’t be in Los Angeles without him. The little money he had put aside to leave to family was used to fix my car, finance the move and honor one of his last wishes to me – to use it for filmmaking.

There is a scene in Euphoria (not really a spoiler) where she sees her dad in a dream sequence, hugs him, and tells him she misses him. That she can barely remember what he looks like and the sound of his voice. And in that moment, I felt like I was in her same shoes. Because while the pain of losing him has lessened over the years. There are still moments that I feel the exact same way – wishing that I could see him just one more time.

While I love the craft of documentary. It’s power is getting you to understand and empathize with another person. Narrative has a unique power – it helps us see ourselves in the shoes of the characters we’re watching. Because it’s fictional, It allows us to be a part of the journey the character is on. We fill in the details of what we don’t see. So it is a true representation of our own journey. It’s like it was made for just us.

I am not going to declare that the film I’m working on is going to be as impactful as Euphoria. I’m on draft 2 and I have a long to go. Not only in this film, but also in my career itself. But watching things like it reminds of why I fell in love with filmmaking in the first place. And why real, human stories will always be needed.