Kenya Barris is collaborating with BET to blaze a new trail for Black filmmakers and screenwriters, with the creation of a new film and television studio focused on the work of Black creatives.
Barris, his frequent collaborator, actress Rashida Jones, and television and film screenwriter and producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas will each serve as principal partners in the launch of BET Studios.
Created in conjunction with BET, the new studio will focus on content from Black creators and featuring Black talent. In an industry first, BET Studios will also provide its creators with ownership of their productions.
With capital sourced from BET and ViacomCBS, BET Studios will serve as a space for the creation of TV series and films for buyers for streaming and cable services within their own network (Paramount+, SHOWTIME, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET+ and source company BET) and a select few third-party platforms will be eligible to purchase productions as well.
In an official statement, Barris called the funding from the networks “not only an investment in Black storytelling, it is also an investment in the culture.”
“And while individual success is great, being able to amplify and champion underrepresented storytellers has been equally exciting and this venture allows that to continue to be a key focus in this next chapter of my career.”
Thomas agreed, seeing this as an opportunity to bring new stories and fresh perspectives from Black creators to the forefront.
“This is a chance to bring nuanced, layered narratives to life, partnering with a forward-thinking team, interested in surprising and engaging the audience.”
Aisha Summers Burke has reportedly been named EVP and general manager of the new venture. As such, she will oversee day-to-day creative studio operations.
“With the launch of BET Studios, we are excited to introduce a new model that opens the aperture to a broad array of platforms and supports the full range of content from Black creators,” she said in the statement. “This entrepreneurial environment offers creatives the opportunity to produce diverse high-end content reflecting all aspects of entertainment.”