The 2022 ESSENCE Hollywood House experience provided the perfect space for Black creatives to sharpen their skillset and reignite their passions as Hollywood ushered in Oscar week.
Following an opening welcome from ESSENCE Communications CEO Caroline Wanga, the day went on to hear stories, advice and invaluable insights from some of the best and brightest working behind the scenes and in front of the camera in the film & television industry. In partnership with Coca-Cola, Onyx Collective, Smartwater and Warner Brothers Television, the third annual event convened over 300 guests at L.A.’s new Citizen News event venue to learn, connect, network and share space with other like-minded creatives working to elevate their careers to the next level.
There’s no denying that some of our favorite new television shows centering Black stories are also shaking the industry up for the better by bringing some of the very real issues facing our communities right to our living room televisions. During the Hollywood Rising panel, actor and photographer Brooks Darnell was joined by All-American/All American-Homecoming stars Geffri Maya and Michael Evans Behling, and Snowfall/P-Valley star Gail Bean to talk through what it’s really for them so far on this journey through today’s Hollywood.
Taking to the stage for an enlightening conversation presented by Onyx Collective, ESSENCE Deputy Editor Cori Murray, Onyx Collective VP of Documentary Programming Jihan Robinson, Writer, Producer & Actress Natasha Rothwell and Executive Producer & Showrunner Raamla Mohamed shared a little about what the Onyx Collective team has planned for the near future as they look to broaden the spectrum of globally inclusive storytelling helmed by creatives of color.
Providing a quick break from the panel conversation in what proved to be a true highlight of the afternoon, Producer Sidra Smith, Casting Director Anissa Williams and Actress/Director Vanessa Williams put several actresses and actors in the audience to the test by challenging them to do a cold read with a scene partner in a fun-filled segment presented by Smartwater. Following their readings, each participant then received feedback from each of the three ladies.
Fresh off of dazzling the crowd at the 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards, actor Larenz Tate, alongside his brothers Lahmard Tate and Larron Tate, sat with ESSENCE Entertainment Director Brande Victorian to talk about how they built their Tatemen Entertainment production company. The trio also shared candid advice about why it’s critical for aspiring Black & Brown entertainers to learn and understand the business side of show business and the value in unity.
Executive Producer & Content Creator Steve Jones kept the energy high as he took to the stage with a song, just before welcoming All-American showrunner and All-American Homecoming executive producer & showrunner Nkechi Okoro Carroll for a conversation about how to successfully package and pitch projects for film & television presented by WB.
Mid-way through the day, actress and TV host Chasity Saunders joined us along with ESSENCE Executive Vice President of Video, Branded Content & Experiential Stephanie Dunivan who shared sound lessons she’s learned about how to navigate the entertainment industry as a multi-hyphenate creative.
The next conversation shined a spotlight on the process of developing, creating and distributing documentaries with a little help from Actor and host Terrence J, along with jeen-Yuhs directors and producers Coodie & Chike and Watch Out For The Big Girls director Nneka Onuorah. The documentarians had the crowd fully tuned in as they shared insights about trusting the process, following your purpose and not shying away from doing the real work as a content creator.
Harlem star Shoniqua Shandai, Bel-Air star Coco Jones and A Black Lady Sketch Show star Amber Riley brought authenticity and truth to their panel helmed by Black Love creator Codie Oliver. Each of the ladies shared their unfiltered experiences with being a part of the surge in TV and film projects showcasing a wider variety of Black women’s stories, along with the hard lessons they learned along the way.
Closing out the evening, Call Me Kat/Proud Family star Kyla Pratt joined ESSENCE Girls United Associate Editor Brooklyn White for an introspective conversation about her nearly 30-year journey in Hollywood, including what projects she’s excited about currently and where she’d like to see her career head next.
For more of everything you missed at ESSENCE Hollywood House, check out the video above or visit www.essencestudios.com.