This is the new frontier!
A Black woman-owned production company is championing diversity on and off camera.
Culture House is a Black and brown woman-owned production company and cultural consultancy launched by Carri Twigg, Raeshem Nijhon, and Nicole Galovski in 2018. Twigg, a former political director who spent over a decade working in politics, partnered with Nijhon and Galovski to bring new stories to light. Serving as founding partner and head of development, Twigg is helping aim the companies services at creating premium television and film production while also offering opportunities for people of color, women, queer people, and non-traditional voices on and off the camera.
Twigg spoke to Because Of Them We Can about the inspiration behind Culture House, saying, “Our projects are all sort of at the intersection of pop culture and politics. When we were looking…at what’s on TV and in film, we didn’t see ourselves the way that we wanted to… There’s so many amazing creators out there doing phenomenal work, don’t get me wrong, but there was a gap, particularly in the documentary space… [We needed something] that is political, that is focused, that is about who we are, who we’ve been and who we are becoming, but is accessible.”
They recently announced their first major project, “The Hair Tales,” a docuseries centered around the connection between Black women, beauty, and identity through the lens of Black hair. Tracee Ellis Ross and Michaela angela Davis serve as executive producers alongside Twigg, Tara Duncan, Nijhon, and Oprah Winfrey. The series has brought Winfrey’s OWN and Hulu together, simultaneously premiere the original film in an unprecedented partnership.
“This series is about identity, culture and legacy, beauty, strength, and joy. Hair is a portal into the souls of Black women; it drives straight to the center of who we are. Our goal is to share this vibrant community, where we hold a sacred space for each other. Like many women, I can trace my own journey to self-acceptance through my hair. This series is personal and universal, American and global. It is a love letter to Black women,” said Ross via statement.
Both Twigg and Nijhon called the series “a dream project” that united Culture House’s values by “centering creators with agency and authority.” The project is set to begin production later this year with a 2022 release.
The company is not looking to target the traditional documentary crowd. Instead, it opens the world up to new storytelling by merging pop culture news and film in new and exciting ways. Twigg said they are also looking to innovate on the cusp of future conversations, engaging topics like race, justice, womanhood, identity, gender, sexuality, etc., in new and exciting ways that pique the everyday person’s interest.
Culture House has also teamed up with Wired Studios to produce “A People’s History of Black Twitter,” a new documentary film about the genesis, history, and cultural zeitgeist that is “Black Twitter.” The project was announced just in time for the 15th anniversary of Twitter, and the series is based on a WIRED feature by Jason Parham. He documented a definitive account of the origin story of Black Twitter, showcasing its major impact on world culture. Twigg spoke candidly about the project’s significance, which specifically centers on the authors of Black Twitter for Culture House based on her personal experience and how vital Parham’s work is in this day and age.
“Over the life cycle of my career in the White House, we went from us sending one tweet to fully being responsive to what was happening on Twitter, which is largely architected by Black folks…The way that [Black Twitter] became the dominant cultural scaffolding for what was happening on any given day in America, and then, therefore, the world, was a wild, wild experience…And all of that is then articulated so well and clearly and beautifully in the piece,” said Twigg.
While there is no set release date for the project yet, it is just one of many culturally shifting narratives coming down the pipeline from Twigg and her team. For them, it is more than just producing a good film or television show. It’s giving opportunities for voices that aren’t being heard and championing diversity in front of and behind the camera. They put a significant emphasis on the supply chain of their stories, including who is telling it, why, from what perspective, and source material with great detail on where the product will live and who will be participating. All of these things are critical in carving out the new frontier of storytelling, says Twigg.
“For us, [our mission] is to help build a cannon. [Currently], the canon of American storytelling is Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, John Wayne, and June Cleaver. And there are some masterful stories there. But we have largely, not in the TV and film space, been as active, particularly our generation, and not as robust as it could’ve been,” said Twigg. “There have been Black people writing books and making TV shows and making movies since [the beginning of] time. We have innovated and dominated that space, and that has always been the case…However, there still needs to be more. And so for us, it’s really about adding to that cannon and expanding it and expanding the breadth of it … [because our projects] haven’t always been treated with the premium treatment that they should have.”
Right now, Twigg is trying to get as many people behind the work of Culture House as possible, knowing that it will take an army of people to propel their ultimate mission forward. She hopes that the storytelling canon will begin to reflect the true diversity of America as it is today.
“I think that we are just super interested in doing things in a new and interesting away as we can. We are constantly looking for ways that we can help other people who are trying to make things happen, ways that we can support other creators, ways that we can collaborate with people…although competition feels like it’s high, there’s more space for us than ever,” said Twigg.
To learn more about the work of Culture House, visit their website here.
Photo Courtesy of Carri Twigg