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January 29, 2024
Versus, Blacktag Introduce Curated Slate of Black Creators
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Slate spotlights up-and-coming Black directors, designers, photographers and more.

Last September, New York-based production agency Versus partnered with Blacktag, a global platform for Black creators, to work together to spotlight Black creatives.

Now, the partners have unveiled the first iteration of that partnership: Slate, which showcases 16 Black talents. According to the partners, Slate is “a unique roster of culture-driving Black talent spanning live-action directors, editors, designers and motion-graphic artists, creating culture-defining work for today's most influential brands and agencies.”

“The partnership and the roster with Blacktag is about bringing tons of different perspectives,” said Justin Barnes, executive creative director, Versus. “When we're looking at a brief and talking about what we can bring to a project, we always consider who we can lean in to.

Slate is:

– Design and animation director Alan Ambram, who has worked for such brands such as Netflix, Eno, Porsche, Triumph and others.

– Designer Alana Yolande, who runs a purpose-driven studio focused on branding and design.

– Director and editor Dior Rodriguez, an Afro-Caribbean filmmaker who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Washington Heights.

– Director Ellie Foumbi, a Cameroonian-American filmmaker and DGA member whose first feature film, Our Father, the Devil, won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival and 35 other awards worldwide. She made her directorial debut with BET's Tales, and had a short film, Home, commissioned by Netflix.

– Director and photographer Ellington Hammond has worked with such brands as General Motors, Nike, Adidas, Verizon Wireless, Hugo Boss, and the NBA and captured such subjects as LeBron James, Daniel Craig, Jorja Smith, Kyrie Irving, Joey Badass and Kelly Wearstler. His cover photography has been featured in New York Magazine and the Los Angeles Times.

– Director, cinematographer and photographer Gladimir Gelin is a self-taught, Haitian-American director/photographer born and bred in New York City. He has worked with such clients as Dior, Calvin Klein, Starbucks, Puma, Vogue, and such musical acts as Mary J. Bilge, J. Cole, and Kali Uchis.

– Director and DP Imani Dennison is a multidisciplinary lens-based artist and curator based in Brooklyn by way of Louisville, Kentucky. Imani is a part of the 2022 Tribeca Queen Collective Directing Program where they recently released their latest film, Bone Black: Midwives vs the South.

– Director Justin Lamar Carter served in the U.S. Navy as combat medic from 2004-2011. After leaving the Navy, he graduated Harvard University and worked for the U.S. government. He began directing in 2016 and worked with such clients as Shea Moisture, United Airlines, Google and more.

– Director Keaton Greene is a Los Angeles-based, self-taught director and photographer.

– Stylist and creative director Khleo Armstrong is a multi-hyphenate creative who sets the tone of captivating an audience through storytelling in various mediums, including wardrobe styling and art direction.

– Director Lanre Danmola is a Nigerian-American filmmaker and actor from New Jersey who splits his time between NYC and LA, and his work between commercials and music videos. Danmola has worked with brands such as Meta, Nike, McDonald's, Delta Airlines and more.

 – Director and creative director Modi Oyewole is a DC-born, LA-based creative marketing executive with Nigerian roots who has worked as VP of creative, experiential and content development at Def Jam Records and worked with such brands as Red Bull and Nike. He also curated DC's first hip-hop and dance music festival, which has featured such talent as Kid Cuci, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, Big Sean and more.

– Director and cinematographer Simone Holland is a Brooklyn-based visual artist who applies her multi-disciplinary technical experience to her directorial, mixed media and photographic work.

– Director, cinematographer and creative director Suresh Gordon is a Jamaican-born videographer and drone specialist.

– Director and photographer Tramaine Townsend focuses on aesthetics and how they help drive a complex narrative; and

– Director, cinematographer and drone operator Lemar Griffin is a Denver-based filmmaker and photographer with a versatile portfolio in sports, documentary and commercial projects.

“We announced the roster and they are so excited and feel so valued,” said Ashley Champ, head of growth and creative partnerships at Blacktag. “They see this as a chance to do ground-breaking work and elevate their names.”

To identify the 16, Blacktag and Versus spent months sorting through portfolios and conducting interviews before landing on this group.

“It was a really intentional process,” Champ said. “We pushed out an application and talked about what the program would be. What we heard across the board was that they just want to learn how to navigate this space. Some of these creators are already saying that just being on this slate has helped them. It's given them a stamp of approval.”

Champ said that Black creators often struggle to navigate the tight-knit world of brands and agencies because of “tradition. We are having to innovate and challenge traditional foundations. Even some of the celebrity creators we deal with will sometimes have a hard time navigating things because of the weight of the corporate situation they are latched to.”

Brands also tend to fall into the trap that “Black creators can only work on projects targeted at Black audiences,” said Barnes.

The Versus and Blacktag partnership has produced a campaign for Meta that's coming out in a few weeks and other projects are on the way. The partnership also has produced workshops including one to help film directors pitch their projects to funders and distributors and another to help creatives navigate and pitch brands and agencies.

“I think it's important to realize that we're not out there to check a box,” said Barnes. “Versus' work is now better because of this partnership.”

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