Creating Reel, Impactful Films with Viacom and Reel Works

Any professional filmmaker will tell you that creating original films is a challenging process that requires great effort and skill. One may assume, therefore, that young high school filmmakers would find it an enormous challenge to produce quality, original work. However, walking into Reel Works’ Reel Impact event at Viacom’s 1515 Broadway headquarters two weeks ago, audience members would never have guessed that the nine students presenting their original work were relatively new to the world of film.

Reel Works is a New York City based organization that immerses young people in filmmaking programs free of charge. In the Reel Impact program – which was recently launched through a partnership with Reel Works and Viacom – students create original films examining social issues of their choosing. A heavy emphasis is also placed on marketing and finding a target audience for the student films.  Participants are given the opportunity to conduct research through focus groups and interviews to determine which audience facets best fit the social topics of their choosing. A mentor guides students through the filmmaking and post-production processes, covering everything from concept through promoting their films via social media.

Read More

FBI Legend to Lead Viacom’s Global Security Operations

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom’s global footprint is massive. A 53-story headquarters embedded in New York City’s Times Square anchors an office network spread across dozens of countries. We host a constant stream of more than 200 annual high-profile events, such as last month’s Bellator MMA fights at Madison Square Garden and the BET Awards at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater. Threaded among these offices and events is our thousands of employees and guests.

Fernandez, via LinkedIn.

Such a huge presence requires robust security, which is why Viacom has hired FBI legend Carlos T. Fernandez as our new Global Chief Security Officer, leading all security teams at Viacom events and facilities around the world.

“Carlos is a highly decorated security and intelligence expert who is widely recognized for his exceptional leadership, planning and problem-solving abilities,” wrote Viacom Chief Administrative Officer Scott Mills in a memo to employees last week.

Fernandez most recently led counterterrorism operations at the FBI’s New York field office, as well as the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, an approximately 500-person unit sculpted from local and federal agencies to investigate cases from Canada to Europe to Africa, according to The New York Times. He has participated in some of the most high-profile investigations of the past two decades, including the bombings of the USS Cole and American embassies in East Africa, the assault on the U.S.’ Benghazi diplomatic compound, and the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

A Times profile last week outlined how Fernandez repaired frayed relationships between his agency and local law enforcement in New York through constant communication, coordination and information-sharing. Critically for someone about to enter a large, diverse, employee-centered corporation, he understands how to work with people.

“You can have all the memorandums of understanding in the world, and they really don’t mean anything if people don’t like you,” Don Borelli, a former counterterrorism special agent, told the Times, explaining how Fernandez worked inexhaustibly alongside his police department counterparts to unify the NYPD and FBI following last year’s bomb attack in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Fernandez, a New York City native, will start at Viacom later this month.

Get Schooled and DJ Khaled celebrate ‘Major Keys’ Success on Get Schooled’s Annual Yearbook Day

It was a digital yearbook thrust six stories over Times Square, with 400 high school students from 38 states grinning from the side of Viacom’s world headquarters. They had good reason to smile. These self-assigned “change makers” were about to be acknowledged by DJ Khaled for their commitment to improving their schools and communities.

Khaled Key Day – as the whole activation was dubbed – was part of Get Schooled’s Yearbook Day. In particular, they acknowledged the impact of the Shorty Award-winning Major Keys campaign and honored Khaled’s role in helping it to flourish. The program – which challenges students to master seven “Major Keys,” or focus areas via Get Schooled’s gamified online interface – has been immensely successful, reaching more than 250 million people in just the past year.

While the digital yearbook photos flashed on the billboard outside, several New York City area high school students piled into Viacom’s studio inside to watch a catered question-and answer session between Khaled and radio host Sway Calloway. The students waved their “Grateful Khaled Keys” in the air and learned a bit more about the program’s Keys to Success.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before,” one student told Complex. “Everyone’s really excited and hyped up, and I’m excited to be here. It showed me that you can be who you are, and I’ve always struggled with that, so learning to be myself has gotten me to where I want to be when I graduate.”

Students also shared their aspirations and accomplishments with Khaled. “I am grateful for the positive impact we have had on so many young people and even more grateful for their talent and leadership,” said Khaled. “I am excited to work with Get Schooled to inspire and engage even more young people next year.”

#GRATEFUL #JUNE23RD 🔑 bless up @getschooled

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled) on

Read More

Viacom Once Again Joins Everytown for Gun Safety to Wear Orange and Fight Violence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There’s a reason that hunters, bicycle messengers, construction workers, joggers and anyone else with a compelling reason to stand out drape themselves in orange: it works. After all, it is hard to be mistaken for a deer when you are wearing a blaze-orange insulated onsie in a snow-filled forest.

Yet, safety orange is not a widespread part of the everyday American wardrobe, because why should it be? Most Americans are not traipsing through the forest on a deer hunt or delivering pizzas via bicycle on a daily basis.

And yet, 93 people die, on average, every day from gun violence. Seven of them are children or teens. Hundreds more are injured. Every. Single. Day. With 12,000 annual gun murders, America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times greater than the average of other developed nations.

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety

It is an ongoing crisis in plain sight. And it often seems as though it is being widely ignored by lawmakers and others. On June 2, Viacom once again teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety for Wear Orange, a statement initiative declaring that change is needed. Their weapon was one that cannot be ignored: orange clothing.

Viacom unleashed the power of multiple brands to support the initiative across a variety of on-air and outdoor platforms. The company’s headquarters, a tower heaving from the center of Times Square, served as the epicenter of this support, with the building lit orange along the New York City skyline and this public service announcement – created in conjunction with Everytown and HUGE – playing on the enormous video screens hanging off the building’s eastern facade:

Read More

A Secret Language Written on Viacom’s Walls – Art at Viacom Continues with Marela Zacarias

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The colors ripple like some secret language across the objects’ surface, arrayed in geometric patterns as elegant as a circuit board and as mysterious as ancient hieroglyphics. They sit on a series of banners and bulging sculptures in the south lobby of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, dancing along the walls, each with a unique pattern of colors and lines.

Sculptures by Marela Zacarias hanging in Viacom’s lobby at 1515 Broadway as part of the latest Art at Viacom installation. Photos by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

The expansive and varied texture of the work reflects the deep cultural influences of their creator, Marela Zacarias, a Mexico, Montana and Brooklyn based artist who was the latest exhibitor for Art at Viacom, an ongoing program that showcases rising artists at our offices around the world.

Huffington Post contributor Isa Freeling wrote this about Zacarias’ exhibit in April: “Her show, Echoing Forms is impressive in its ability to sensually exact beautiful pieces by casting sheets of mesh into sensuous folded blankets, by using plaster and polymers and are so exquisitely executed and rich in texture and strength, it is a pleasure to look at the work.”

Zacarias’ installation follows a parade of Art at Viacom projects: the striking metallic oil paintings of Kip Omolade, the geometric wizardy of Tahiti Pehrson, the cartoonishy wondrous works of Australian duo Dabs Myla, the mammoth swirling tablecloth sculptures of Crystal Wagner, the multicolored yarn meadows of HOTTEA, and massive ceiling-dangling floral display from Rebecca Louise Law.

The tricycle was an existing work that Marela Zacarias incorporated into her Art at Viacom exhibit in Viacom’s Times Square headquarters lobby. Photo by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

Zacarias partnered with Viacom after high-profile installations at the Brooklyn Museum, Praxis Gallery, Brooklyn’s William Vale, and other places. She is constantly on the move. When I spoke to her over the phone the week after the exhibit opened, she was already down in Mexico City, preparing for a gallery show. Below is a condensed and lightly edited version of our conversation:

Stuart Winchester: How did you decide to use the banners, which are a departure from your typical work?

Marela Zacarias: There were challenges in terms of how much weight I could hang, and the sculptures are 135 pounds, so I couldn’t do my usual work, because there was nowhere to hang it from. And then I thought of the banners. I’ve been doing sculpture for about six years, and I really haven’t gone back to canvas for a while, so it felt really liberating to return, and I don’t know if I would have made that strategic choice if it wasn’t for the lobby’s structural situation. The technical problems led me to real artistic growth.

Hanging the banners at 1515 Broadway for Marela Zacarias’ Art at Viacom installation. Photo by Brooke Alexander/Studio Brooke

Read More

Artist in Residence Kip Omolade Talks Times Square Nostalgia, the Creative Process, and Who He’d Like to Paint Next

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
studiobrooke-2383
studiobrooke-2383
Stuart Stuart

A row of diovadiova chrome self-portraits by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2388
studiobrooke-2388
Stuart Stuart

A wall of diovadiova chrome oil paintings by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2397
studiobrooke-2397
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2399
studiobrooke-2399
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2402
studiobrooke-2402
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2419
studiobrooke-2419
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2425
studiobrooke-2425
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2435
studiobrooke-2435
Stuart Stuart

A row of diovadiova chrome self-portraits by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2439
studiobrooke-2439
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2505
studiobrooke-2505
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2518
studiobrooke-2518
Stuart Stuart

Kip discusses his work with Viacom employees at an event in an employee cafe. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2548
studiobrooke-2548
Stuart Stuart

A row of diovadiova chrome self-portraits by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2551
studiobrooke-2551
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2554
studiobrooke-2554
Stuart Stuart

A diovadiova chrome oil painting by Kip Omalade displayed at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2572
studiobrooke-2572
Stuart Stuart

Kip and his wife, Diana at Viacom's Times Square headquarters. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2635
studiobrooke-2635
Stuart Stuart

Kip discusses his work before Viacom employees at an event in an employee cafe. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

studiobrooke-2750
studiobrooke-2750
Stuart Stuart

Kip stands in front of his self-portrait at 1515 Broadway in New York City. Photo by Studio Brooke Read More

Have a seat in the lobby alcove of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters, and you may get the feeling you’re being watched. There, arrayed along the high east and west walls, sit a series of painted faces rendered in striking metallic palettes. They seem to nudge through the canvas, as though a serene and curious person were trying to push through the wall. You can sit and look at them a good long while, absorbing the detailed reflections in the metallic sheen, the gentle wisdom in the quiet eyes, the immense depth etched with shading precise and detailed. The effect is something at once surreal and magnificently lifelike, so that you wouldn’t be terribly surprised if one of the faces struck up a conversation.

The oil paintings are the work of Kip Omolade, the final product of an artistic process he has dubbed “Diovadiova Chrome,” a Greco-Italian combination of “god” and “goddess.” He begins with a plaster imprint of a subject’s face, which he finishes with the various hues of paint. Working off this three-dimensional original, Omolade recreates the face in painted form, sometimes many times across many canvases, each flushed with different colors and shading. When he arranges these variations alongside one another, as he has done with a self-portrait along the east wall of 1515 Broadway, the result is an arresting tryptic that underscores how wildly a viewer’s understanding can swing according to an artist’s interpretation of a work.

This video stamps out the Diovadiova Chrome creative process, which can take months:

Omalade’s work is the latest in a multi-year Art at Viacom project, which has included work by geometric wunderkind Tahiti Pehrson, a cartoon-set-come-to-life encampment constructed by Australian duo Dabs Myla, a mammoth swirling sculpture erupting from our lobby walls by Crystal Wagner, a synthetic variegated meadow of yarn funneling above our elevator banks by street-art legend HOTTEA, and a massive ceiling-dangling floral display from artist Rebecca Louise Law.

The artist and his wife traveled into the city from New Jersey on a recent Thursday evening to discuss the installation with employees. I sat down with them in the Refresh Café an hour before the event. As day tilted toward evening and the volume of the music steadily increased around us, we talked a bit about the creation of this exhibit, what Omolade may be doing next, and how New York inspires him. 

Stuart Winchester: There are a lot of people represented in these paintings. Who are they?

Kip Omolade: So it’s my wife, Diana; Joyce, my sister-in-law; Michelle, who’s a friend of ours; DJ Kitty Cash; and Karen, who was one of our first pieces that I did that gained a lot of attention. There’s something about her face that people connected with. Fantasia’s The Definition Of… album cover is actually a version of that piece. It was Photoshopped to look more like Fantasia. I focused first on people that I loved, either my wife, or my sister-in-law, or friends that I know, and from then, people like Kitty Cash reached out, and I guess saw the process online, and we just went from there.
Read More

Helping Dreamers Dream Bigger at Viacom HQ

Viacommunity and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation joined forces recently at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters for a speed mentoring event, an invigorating and inspirational experience for a group of under-served students seeking career guidance.

Focusing on goals, Viacom employees from across the Sales, Production, Marketing and Graphic Design departments, among others, delivered career advice to college students affiliated with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, who are otherwise known as Dreamers.

Both the students and Viacom employees came equipped with positive spirit and energy. During several timed sessions, students rotated among tables organized by Viacom’s departments. Two employees were stationed at each table facing one Dreamer, providing an intimate setting that provoked thoughtful questions about job-search processes and career tracks. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour event, the room buzzed with motivational chatter, as conversations trickled on long after each timer expired. Viacom’s employees were eager to share personal anecdotes to show Dreamers that they too can pursue careers in the entertainment field and the students, in turn, left our offices energized and inspired.

i-have-a-dream-event

Read More

Viacom Velocity Presents #nofilter: Influencers Tell Us How it’s Done

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Influencers are an important part of the media landscape, and Velocity is partnering with them on an ever-growing number of programs through its Social Talent Platform. At #nofilter: Influencers Show Us How It’s Done, a presentation and panel discussion organized by Tom De Napoli, who leads the Social Talent Platform under Lydia Daly’s Velocity Social team, Velocity staffers heard from some of the biggest influencers and industry experts in the field.

The panel included:

Shannon Boodram, YouTube sexologist and recent star of MTV’s summer-long #ResponsibleAF campaign for Trojan:

Matthew Patrick, the creator behind Game Theorists and Film Theorists:

Comedian, rapper, YouTuber and Wild ‘N Out cast member, Timothy DeLaGhetto:

Boodram, Patrick and DeLaGhetto were joined by:

  • Chris Erwin, one of Variety’s “New Leaders” and COO of Big Frame (a division of Awesomeness TV)
  • Sarah Weichel, CEO of Sarah Weichel MGMT, which reps clients like Lilly Singh and Jon Cozart
  • Courtney Carter, CAA digital agent, whose client FouseyTube recently starred in Tyler Perry’s newest Madea movie
  • Tess Finkle, CEO of Metro Public Relations, whose clients include YouTube megastars Hannah Hart and Colleen Ballinger (aka Miranda Sings).

De Napoli and Lauren Elias – the team’s Social Talent Manager – recapped the team’s success in working with social influencers over the past year, delivering best practices on creating “Fans First” social campaigns. To identify what worked, they drew on the Social Talent Platform’s successes as distilled through original research conducted by Juliette Snyder, a member of De Napoli’s Content & Platform Strategy team, who surveyed every influencer and Velocity employee who has worked on the team’s 25 campaigns over the past 12 months.

“Viacom is a brand name that everyone trusts, it’s a really, really, really big deal— and I knew my fans felt the same way,” – Shannon Boodram, YouTube sexologist.

Among their insights: partner with influencers early in creative development to guarantee authenticity of message; respect talent’s posting cadence when distributing content through their channels; and find ways to integrate influencers’ creative processes with ours and our advertisers’. These learnings will inform the Social Talent Platform team’s iterative approach to constantly improving upon its model as they support future Velocity campaigns.

Read More

Bebe Rexha Joins MTV Lore as Host of 2016 EMAs in Rotterdam

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

bebe-rexha

The MTV European Music Awards (EMAs) have spent more than two decades hop-scotching across the continent’s bottomless circuit of iconic cities, from recent stops in Milan, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Madrid to its inaugural acts in the global hubs of London and Paris.

The spotlight shines very bright with a stage that big, and it takes someone at the pulsing vanguard of pop culture to stand at the center of it all. Past hosts have proven equal to the enormity of the moment, with a register that includes Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry, Eva Longoria, Selena Gomez, Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran and Ruby Rose, among many others.

This year, as the EMAs land back in Rotterdam for the first time since 1997, singer, songwriter and producer Bebe Rexha will join that historic register, hosting the event and also performing.

There’s little doubt she belongs. Her No Broken Hearts video with Nicki Minaj has passed 125 million views on YouTube since posting in April:

 

Think she’s excited about hosting?

So are we. Earlier this week, MTV welcomed Rexha to its Times Square studio, where MTV News’ Sway sat down to ask her exactly how cool it was to host the EMAs. The whole thing streamed on Facebook Live.

Read More

A Cyclical Journey: An Interview With Art at Viacom’s Artist-in-Residence, Tahiti Pehrson

If you were to walk past Viacom Headquarters in Times Square, you would likely notice three massive turrets of mandalas glazed upon the building’s towering windows. This is the work of our latest artist-in-residence, Tahiti Pehrson from his Art at Viacom exhibit, The Journey of Light.

viacom-ext2

Photo courtesy of Art at Viacom.

The work is laborious—Pehrson evokes the intricate behavior of light and dimension by using exact-o knifes to carve designs into 100 percent-cotton paper, overlapping stencil upon stencil of geometric origami. From a distance, the art looks like it was laser-printed upon the building. The fact that it is the result of human handicraft makes it all the more stunning.

I spoke with the artist behind the imperial exhibit to learn more about his own journey of light.

19-gallery-821x530px

Pehrson’s peacful stencils are a perfect balance to the hectic construction outside of Viacom Headquarters. Photo courtesy of Art at Viacom.

Read More