CBS Studios has struck an overall deal with iconic racial justice, anti-violence, gender equity advocate and ‘me too’ founder Tarana Burke and storyteller and her producing partner Mervyn Marcano. As part of the agreement, the duo will partner with CBS Studios to develop scripted, unscripted and documentary content for linear television networks and streaming platforms. This is another huge step when it comes to inclusive storytelling in the film and TV industry.
Burke and Marcano’s banner, Field/House Productions, is a development and production home for stories that embrace complexity and highlight underrepresented voices. Working across all mediums, Field/House looks to champion narratives driven by storytellers who represent “the rest of us.”
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“In our quest to partner with compelling storytellers, Tarana and Mervyn stand out,” said David Stapf, President, CBS Studios. “Their drive and leadership as stewards of change brings a powerful and distinct voice to advancing stories of inclusion and impact. They are clearly magnets for many whose voices need to be heard and we’re excited to work alongside them in this new venture.”
“Creating space for new narratives has always been an integral part of cultural change work,” said Burke. “Field/House is a platform for those new narratives. This partnership gives us the reach and scale to ensure that we build new audiences for new voices.”
“We’re thrilled to be building a powerful vehicle for inclusive stories with CBS Studios,” added Marcano. “Our goal has always been to create a pipeline of culturally progressive programming with our diverse network of creatives and storytellers. We look forward to working with the team at CBS Studios as these stories find their homes across the media ecosystem.”
Burke and Marcano looked to many possible opportunities but felt that Field/House should be in partnership with a studio that had the capability to sell across the media ecosystem. With George Cheeks as President and Chief Executive Officer, the partnership between CBS and Field/House is part of a transformative new wave of creative leadership.
For three decades, ‘me too’ founder Burke has worked at the intersection of racial justice, arts and culture, anti-violence and gender equity. Her theory of “empowerment through empathy” is changing the way the world thinks about sexual violence, consent and bodily autonomy. Her work has galvanized millions of survivors and allies around the world. She has received numerous accolades, including Time Person of the Year (2017), Time’s 100 Most Influential People (2018), Harvard Kennedy School’s Citizen Activist Award (2019) and USA Today’s Women of the Decade in 2020. Her debut memoir, Unbound, will be published by Flatiron in the fall.
Marcano is a producer, storyteller and communications strategist. He is currently Executive Producer on an untitled long-form documentary series set at HBO and a film special for HBO Max. His prior television work includes the YouTube Original series Resist and “Finding Justice” for BET. Marcano heads communications and storytelling work at Blackbird, a strategy hub for racial and social justice movements. He provides strategic counsel to issue campaigns and is a well-recognized source for journalists around the world. He has received numerous accolades for his work in impact advertising including Campaign’s 2019 Inclusive & Creative Award, The AICP Animation Award and The Andy Gold Award. Prior to founding Blackbird, he served as senior leadership for a number of leading progressive organizations including ColorOfChange, MediaJustice and The League of Young Voters.
This new partnership continues CBS’s effort to move the needle forward when it comes to diversity, inclusion and authentic representation. CBS Studios recently entered a multi-year partnership with the NAACP to establish a production venture that develops and produces programming for the broadcast, cable and streaming markets that tells inclusive stories and expands the number of diverse voices. In addition, the Studio recently signed an exclusive agreement with 21CP Solutions, a group specializing in police reform efforts in the U.S., to advise on its police and legal dramas.
On top of that, CBS revealed that it will allocate a minimum of 25% of its future script development budgets to projects created or co-created by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
In addition, CBS also set a target for its writers’ rooms to be staffed with a minimum of 40% BIPOC representation beginning with the 2021-2022 broadcast television season, and a goal to increase that number to 50% the following season (2022-2023).
For future unscripted programming, CBS looks to have casts with at least 50% of the contestants being Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), beginning in the 2021-2022 broadcast season. The Network will also allocate at least a quarter of its annual unscripted development budget to projects created or co-created by BIPOC producers, also starting in the 2021-2022 season.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Award-winning journalist Alvin Patrick has been named Executive Producer of CBS News’ newly-formed Race and Culture Unit which will help shape the coverage for all of CBS News. Patrick and his team will work to ensure the division’s reporting reflects diverse perspectives. The CBS News Race and Culture Unit will lead new initiatives on race and culture reporting and produce storytelling that is inclusive. The unit will also work closely with CBS News Standards and Practices team to assure all reporting meets the division’s guidelines.
For even more inclusion initiatives, CBS became the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities in 2019.
Burke and and Marcano are repped by CAA and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano.
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