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Filmmaker Keithian D. Sammons: “Not including diversity in Film and TV is like orphaning people from the world and their culture”

It’s important to represent or have someone that looks and sounds like “you” It’s important to share stories and ideas from an individual that’s culturally connected to “you” It’s important to show the possibilities of our world in the future. Perhaps show what this world “is like” and “is going to be” in the future, with out […]


It’s important to represent or have someone that looks and sounds like “you”

It’s important to share stories and ideas from an individual that’s culturally connected to “you”

It’s important to show the possibilities of our world in the future. Perhaps show what this world “is like” and “is going to be” in the future, with out systematic exploitation.

I feel like not including diversity is like orphaning people from the world and their culture. We are all honestly working towards one love… but if all people are not represented, then we have holes in that love and the history of our countries, world, and times are lost.


As a part of my series about leaders helping to make Film and TV more representative of the US population, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Keithian D. Sammons. Keithian grew up in Louisiana and Texas in a very creative environment. At an early age he joined a boy band that eventually signed to Warner Brothers Records. While recording, touring, and performing with the band, he took an interest in creating content for their social media accounts and website. This later lead him to join a Film & TV class in high school that gave him hands on experience as a producer. He then became an anchor and producer for TEEN TALK, a syndicated show that was distributed on the CW network. While attending Xavier University of Louisiana, he began producing for WGNO New Orleans creating local programming geared towards the millennial demographic until moving to Los Angeles. While in Los Angeles he’s worked with creative agencies like 72 & Sunny, Ayzenberg, and ELA producing major campaigns for clients like TikTok, Disney, Hulu, AirBnb, Complex, and Blackberry. He then moved to Apple Music, where he was a Global Creative Producer creating branded content and docu series for the platform. He recently launched WorKs Entertainment Group, which is a new media production company that produces films, digital content, unscripted television, web, documentary, and scripted series.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up as a musician, and was in a boy band at 13. We used to do mall tours, shows, and spent a lot of time recording in the studio which exposed me to the entertainment industry. I loved being a recording artist and was successful, but was intrigued with film & cinematography…

So in high school I signed up for a Film & Television class that gave me the opportunity to work and learn production with hands on experience. While in that class I auditioned for “Channel One News” which wanted me to be a regional teen anchor and correspondent while developing content for their network. To my surprise I got the gig, they loved my ideas and allowed me to shoot, produce, and anchor my own segments which was aired on my local station and the “Channel One” network.

After a few years, I started taking projects as a freelance producer, which gave me a chance to experience producing in many platforms including Web Series, Branded Content, Commercials, Unscripted TV, Scripted TV, and most recently feature films.

In 2016, my father who worked in the industry for years, encouraged me to market my experience, brand myself, and open my own production company, WorKs Entertainment Group.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the most interesting things that happened to me was the way I got my first film. It proved to me that you have to take everyone serious, relationships matter, and being genuine always invites positive results.

I was telling a music producer friend about how I wanted to start doing films and he listened. We were in the recording studio working on some music for a movie, and I had been working on a pilot, but still very new as a producer. I literally pitched him one of my film ideas, joking and rambling as we were working in the studio… I never really spoke much about my TV/Film producing with my music buddies, and as an industry friend, we kept up with each other but didn’t really talk about work, but he remembered, and listened to me…..

A few years later, the writer of Rightful contacted me, telling me that he was referred to me by a friend of his that he meet in a music studio. Because of that relationship he trusted me to produce his film.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I feel like my funny mistake is a mistake that a lot of other young producers make….

I OVERSPENT!

I got my first big budget commercial and went lavish out of passion. It was very stressful because I had to figure out how to cut the budget without letting my boss know. So I started pulling tricks, started hiring friends that would help me and have my back, even if they got a little crankie. Things worked out until the production credit card got declined.

What was really funny is, my boss eventually told me that he kept a “young producer fund” because we all overspend once. He was very supportive, even though I beat myself up about it.

I learned that, even though you can bend and re-write some rules, you still need to keep some traditional ones.

Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?

I feel like I am helping because I am doing it. Being from where I am from, people don’t dream or come out of their comfort zones… You are not represented, respected, and even included in the conversation. And when you see “you”, you see disparity and stereotypes. So I feel like that’s why I am here… to help give that voice a bigger voice to be heard in the media of storytelling.

When I work on projects and see the people that “make all the rules” I rarely see diversity. It’s disgusting, the way people’s cultures and experiences are being exploited. They are not being protected or nurtured and I want to be a force to give others a voice and nurture it with the truth of representation.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in film and television and its potential effects on our culture?

  1. It’s important to represent or have someone that looks and sounds like “you”
  2. It’s important to share stories and ideas from an individual that’s culturally connected to “you”
  3. It’s important to show the possibilities of our world in the future. Perhaps show what this world “is like” and “is going to be” in the future, with out systematic exploitation.

I feel like not including diversity is like orphaning people from the world and their culture. We are all honestly working towards one love… but if all people are not represented, then we have holes in that love and the history of our countries, world, and times are lost.

For example, my upcoming film Rightful, is a horror picture based on the true story of the Meeks & Thomas Griffin. They were two wealthy African American brothers executed in 1913 for a murder that they did not commit. They were recently given the first posthumous pardon ever issued in a South Carolina murder case. Stephen George, who wrote the film and who is a white man, felt that it was very important to tell this story with the inflection and approval of African American producers and staff. This film is due 2019!

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

  1. Give more investment dollars to stories and teams of color. aka Accessibility!
  2. Include more stories from a raw, real, rare form of ideation. Meaning, actually do research.
  3. Teach children the truth and show them accurately without judgement and stereotypes.

Honestly, being a producer or being in the entertainment industry is a privilege. It’s not a necessity to live, but in the world we live in, it matters. So we need to address the root of this by plucking the issue.

That issue is called manipulation. Systematic manipulation, which could also be called racism…. To clarify, we have to address the major fact that people of color are not given the platform or resources it takes to tell their stories, and when you sit amongst the decision makers, they are disconnected from the truth, don’t care, and are not willing to get the truth from minorities.

I’ve personally been told that “You are one of the good Black guys, and that’s why we listen to you”. Thats bullsh*t! Yes, I’ve been able to navigate this industry, but with obstacles that my fellow “white” filmmakers have not had to experience. I don’t feel like I’ve been included or heard, because if I was, you’d be willing to listen to my family, brothers, sisters, and culture, without having the idea of filtering what you feel works. Spread the resources to minorities.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is volunteering to be the inspiration, communication, and motivational member of a group of individuals who are working towards the same goal. It is the act of being selfless and making sure the overall accountability is being met to gain accomplishment.

Someone has to be the “point person” for an explanation, whether it’s praise or critique.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

1) Slow down

2) Be Responsible for yourself

3) Work Smart not Hard

4) Stay Humble

5) Always go with your intuition

I could attest to more, but these ring loudly in my head…

When I first started producing, everything was easy. I was accomplishing things at an early age and felt like I could conquer the world as a quadruple threat. I thought that since I had really cool “jobs” I was able to walk in any door and demand what I wanted. So I did, but with a really poor attitude. I eventually started becoming my own worst enemy because I didn’t see myself.

One day I walked in my agent’s office and fired him because I thought that the projects that I was getting by myself were much larger than the ones he was getting me… Needless to say, my manager and lawyer were not on the same page with me because that agency was APA and a month later I had no team.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would have to call it the #DoYou movement…. This is for those who are questioning their greatness and allowing insecurities to hold them back; For those who are allowing other reasons and other people determine what they can do in life & their destiny. I’d like to call it a Mental Health movement, but open to whatever others interpret, as long as it is positive. You can inspire change by being great and showing others that they can do it too by you doing you!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Anything Can Happen, So Do Anything You Want”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many, but i’d have lunch with President Obama. I’d ask him to Produce a film with me…

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @Keithian

Instagram: @iKeithian or @WorKsentgroup

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/keithsantossammons/

www.WorKsEntertainmentGroup.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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