The BBC has ruined #HoodDocumentary!
#HoodDocumentary was better when it was independent!
What are we going to do to improve #HoodDocumentary?
The negative discourse surrounding BBC’s acquisition of the popular YouTube series #HoodDocumentary is tiring to read. The accusations levelled against Kayode Ewumi and co-creator of #HoodDocumentary Tyrell Williams that the show has become less authentic now that it lives on BBC 3’s new online platform seems at odds with the fact that both Ewumi and Tyrell have remained in creative control of the show despite its move under the British broadcaster’s banner.
This is not to say that the show is above criticism or reproach. It is questionable that R.S’ love interest Rochelle underwent a name gentrification and is now known as Rachel in the BBC3 version. It’s like one day finding out that we no longer call it Peckham as it’s been renamed to Peckhome. Who benefited from this name change? Who asked for this name change? Did anyone think we wouldn’t notice? It’s weird. It’s insidious. It’s crawled under my skin and annoyed me like a tiny stone in my shoe.
That aside #HoodDocumentary is suffering from nothing more than access to money. It’s a rare condition attributed to writers and directors where they are able to fully realise their hopes for their projects. The uncommon affliction independent filmmakers experience of “having a budget” can lead to the unique advantages of :
· Being paid to write
· Affording to pay actors
· Paying crew; lights, camera, sound
· Paying for location
I take personal offence to the notion that #HoodDocumentary was better when it was independent because words mean things. What people actual mean when they call for debate on how they can “fix” Ewumi and Williams’ show is that they preferred it when the two of them were producing this content without recompense. The call that somehow Ewumi and Williams “sold out” is laughable because #HoodDocumentary was never something they asked you to buy. They created the show for your enjoyment and put it on YouTube for free. Since BBC3 commissioned it the quality of the show hasn’t changed at all. The tone, focus and direction are as exactly what they were on YouTube (sans Rochelle and the duration).
Writing in The New York Times about the idea of “selling out” Jon Caramanica let it be known “the idea that art and commerce are at odds is a remnant of an old culture war: dogma presented as forward-thinking but really just protecting an outmoded status quo.” The outcry that #HoodDocumentary has lost its comedic value or that it is now ruined does a disservice to the power plays Kayode Ewumi and Tyrell Williams have made. The partners have done what no British web series has done before them- be commissioned for a show to a British Broadcaster with the same name as the one on their YouTube channel while also not having to make their videos private, thus creating a multi-layered revenue stream for the creative pair. Cecile Emeke’s Ackee & Saltfish will be the next to take this step (arguably the first). There’s a slow but steady stream of talented black writers and content producers being commissioned. It’s exciting.
What’s not so exciting is those who unwittingly uphold a prevailing and pervasive myth that to be signed to a label or to have your show commissioned by a broadcaster is to “sell out.” This idea would have black creatives remain financially unrewarded for their hard work while demanding they create more- a demand we do not place on their white counterparts. A Twitter friend even went as far as to outline the steps Ewumi and Williams should have taken rather than go under the BBC umbrella.
“… they’d make more money building up their YT channel independently through subscribers easily to 200K whichthen attracts company endorsements by signing over the script to a media company they’ve lost [a] % of creative steer.”
I find it fascinating that people the twitterverse over have come up with detailed plans, aims and objectives outlining what the duo should or shouldn’t have done and how they could have succeeded.
Tolu Ogunmefun, arguably the most successful Black British YouTube comedian has north of 150,000 subscribers and close to 40million views but it must be said he joined YouTube in late 2008. This is a whole 8 years ago. Only recently have the fruits of his labour begun to pay off in a mainstream, substantial way. It’s not fair to demand that everyone follows this blueprint as if there is only one acceptable way to achieve your goals. Black creatives must be allowed to navigate this constantly changing digital landscape and make it work for them as they see fit.
I’m excited to see how the team behind #HoodDocumentary make this work for them. Having BBC on your CV is a game changer, a door opener. While Brits might sigh and roll their eyes whenever the BBC is brought up in conversation, it doesn’t change the fact that they are an internationally respected broadcaster. To be able to say that you wrote or directed a show for the British Broadcast Corporation is a first class ticket to wherever you want to go in Television. I’m excited to see what Kayode Ewumi and Tyrell Williams have up their sleeves next. I decree and declare it’s going to be awesome!
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