Culture House Redefines Storytelling Through The Intersection Of Pop Culture And Politics

Hollywood continues to be at the center of gender equality and inclusivity discussions. Women In Film and Pepperdine University published a report with research done by Professor Alicia Jess stating that only 18.6% of studio subsidized film deals and 35.7% of studio subsidized television deals were with women-owned companies in 2018. In 2021, McKinsey’s report, Black representation in film and TV: The challenges and impact of increasing diversity, explained that Black talent is underrepresented in film, particularly off-screen. For example, only 6% of producers and 4% of writers are Black. Although the statistics slightly improve every year, there’s still work that needs to be done to close the gaps. But it’s not just about women trailblazers leading off-screen; it’s about the diversity among the women trailblazers laying a foundation within the industry.

Carri Twigg, cofounder and head of development at Culture House, creates content that takes on the urgent cultural issues confronting America and the world. She and her partners, Raeshem Nijhon and Nicole Galovski, have created a Black, Brown and women-owned premium film and television production company. The team of female-identifying storytellers is setting the standard of inclusivity filmmaking both in front of and behind the camera. Their projects are staffed with at least 75% BIPOC women. They focus on themes that lie at the intersection of race, gender, inequality and justice, all with an entertainment-forward lens. Some of their current work includes projects with Oprah, Tracee Ellis Ross and Brie Larson.

“Culture House focuses on that intersection of pop culture and politics, but they are stories about really everyone,” Twigg explains. “They [the stories] all sort of have a political heartbeat to them. I don’t mean political in a left versus a right type of way. I mean, they are talking about justice. They’re talking about fairness. They’re talking about access and opportunity, sustainability, racism and misogyny; these structural and systemic forces that shape the day-to-day lived experiences of millions and hundreds of millions of people all using pop culture.”

Twigg took a course on campaign politics during college, which required the class to volunteer on a political campaign. She thrived in the environment. So she worked on both of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns. She joined the White House in 2013, serving as special assistant to President Obama for labor outreach and was director of public engagement for then-Vice President Joe Biden.

After ten years in politics, she decided to pivot into a more creative role and focus on storytelling. So she began consulting for media companies that understood how the marketplace was shifting towards intertwining pop culture and politics.

“If you were a pop culture brand, you had to have a clear political voice,” she shares. “So many of them hadn’t had to have that political voice for a generation. So how did MTV, for example, reenter the political space in a new way that kept pace with a younger, more political audience they were trying to cultivate and keep? I was working on research projects… doing some of that demographic work, and helping them conjure up some political messaging, and really hone their political perspective.”

Through one of her colleagues, Twigg was introduced to Nijhon. At that point, Nijhon was transitioning into a new form of entertainment after running a production company for many years. Twigg shared that she wanted to work on more pop culture projects. With Nijhon’s experience in that area and Twigg’s political background, they decided to go into business. Along with Galovski, they built Culture House.

The team brings stories that inspire and ignite conversation and change to life, like The Hair Tales with Oprah and Tracee Ellis Ross. It tells the enriching and deeply personal stories of Black women and their hair. It’s a revelatory journey that connects the personal tales of phenomenal Black women to broader societal and historical themes.

“We need to hear things multiple times before the message sinks in,” she states. “So if you’re pushing a particular point of view, or you are trying to articulate a specific narrative, how does that connect to what already exists in the world for your audience? Be mindful that connectivity in that ecosystem is a way around some of the obstacles that exist around the fracturing of the media landscape.”

As Twigg continues to transition in her career and use storytelling as a way to impact society, she focuses on the following essential steps:

  • Make sure you’re rested and well prepared before embarking on a new venture. It’s going to take both mental and physical stamina to get to where you want to go. You don’t want to burn out halfway through.
  • Bet on yourself. Don’t hesitate. Having the confidence in yourself to do something new is game-changing.
  • Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. This will save you time in the long run and help you focus on the value you bring to others; you can position yourself as an expert.

“The world is a really complicated place, and people are even more complicated,” Twigg concludes. “Anytime you’re trying to do things with more than one person, it is, by nature, a complicated affair. That experience of being able to think through someone else’s point of view, being able to listen to what they’ve had to say and deduce what their position or perspective would be, is an exercise in keeping your mind nimble and elastic.”

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