Commentary

UPDATE: Refinery29; A NewFront Presentation, A Manifesto

Update clarifies the timing of Refinery 29's relationship with William Morris Endeavor.


After the Refinery29 NewFronts presentation, I congratulated Amy Emmerich, the chief content officer, for the “best use of word ‘fuck’ on stage this year” — and she was flattered.

More than the other NewFront presenters I’ve seen so far, Refinery29 seems to have a kind of fervent agenda beyond the common goal of getting rich.  Maybe (likely) much of it is stagecraft and plain old sales technique, but its women’s empowerment message is, well, consistent, too.

In the thoroughly marketed target millennial women represent, Refinery29 seems sincere.

“If you noticed, we don’t fuck around,” Emmerich said from stage. That came shortly after R&B duo (and real life sisters and Beyonce faves) Chloe X Halle appeared on stage singing “I’m Not Going to Dumb Down My Mind For You.”

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I’m actually not much of a fan of the f-word. It’s too easy from stage, for comics, singers and possibly even other chief content officers, and journalists. It works for R29--as they call themselves--because it seems to walk the walk it says it’s walking.

”Women are the protagonists of our content,” said Refinery29 CEO and co-founder Philippe von Borries, flanked by his co-founding/CEO guy Justin Stefano, before exiting to let the women who run the place protagonize on stage.

Last year, Refinery29 made its mark giving females a first-time shot at producing 12 movies, notably shorts from Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny, as part of R29’s very successful ShatterBox Anthology.

This year, it is pushing a music video series, Soundscape matching fem filmmakers with newbie musical acts, and another music series, “The Drop,” that strives to debut new music, mainly from women.

One of those is Rebel and the Basketcase. (Their name comes from detention hall characters in the John Hughes film.) The Basketcase is “Westworld” star Evan Rachel Wood who formed the band with “Rebel” Zach Villa. They appeared on stage to debut their anthem-ish  “Today” (in which they sing “We are today../We are the music that you hear/The changes that you fear.” )

The lyrics, we were led to assume, are speaking to the same culture-shattering and shaping R29 wants to be all about.

Last year, Refinery29 also launched Riot, a YouTube site for female comics, and this year, it’s adding the Riot Writer’s Room, partnering with TBS for a weekend workshop. The winner gets to shoot her pilot. Refinery 29 just signed a deal with William Morris Endeavor, the major mover Hollywood agency, and is working with a $45 million investment from Turner that Refinery29 signed last year that was designed to bring projects to the network.

The site also announced a fairy tale anthology series, “Fabled” that re-imagines old tales, but in this one the once put-upon female characters are now a lot more powerful. It will be produced by “Girls” star Zosia Mamet and Alex Gayner. And it is pushing forward with The Empathy Lab, started last year, in which, working with Columbia University, Refinery29 looks at the power of putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes. (And in this case, we’re not really talking about shoes.)

Like, it’s all kind of different.

For me, a favorite both a new series depicting women who aren’t what they’re “supposed” to be. That includes a pious stripper and dope smoking nuns. It’s called “I’m An Anomaly.”  (That ought to be the Refinery29 commemorative NewFronts bumper sticker.)


pj@mediapost.com
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