Company & History
Company Description: Reel Image, Incorporated (“RII”), is a California 501 c (3) Not-For-Profit Public Benefit Corporation, that provides debt and equity financing and services to independent filmmakers with proven expertise and talent, whose prospective film content fosters a greater appreciation of cultural diversity by depicting images of positive role models, as well as realistic portrayals of women and minorities in all aspects of society. RII may provide advisory start-up services, production and “gap” funding through loans or equity investments of up to $500,000 at competitive rates for independent film, multimedia and television projects that reflect a new global awareness by depicting cultural diversity in a positive and realistic light.
History and Evolution of Idea: Reel Image, Inc. is the successor to the original company named Rebuild Los Angeles Community Lending Corporation, (“CLC”), a California 501 c (3) Not-For-Profit Public Benefit Corporation that was established to revitalize low-income communities throughout Los Angles County by providing business expansion loans to small businesses and creating jobs throughout the area. CLC was the first organization in Los Angeles following the “civil unrest” in 1992 to address these needs and was one of three remaining lending entities (out of 17 original banks) that had a “performing” loan portfolio until its transition to Reel Image, Inc. During its operations as CLC, the organization committed in excess of $4,500,000 in loan funding, through a portfolio of 30 loans and influenced the creation of over 500 new jobs in the State of California. CLC changed its name to Reel Image, Inc. in 2002 and simultaneously expanded its mission to the funding described above under “Company Description”.
In determining its new direction, the board and staff of RII maintained its original mission of improving access to economic opportunity on an equitable basis for disenfranchised members of the greater Los Angeles area, by focusing on psychological reconditioning, image building and education. RII decided to narrow its funding efforts and focus on providing funding to independent filmmakers whose film, multi-media or television content meets RII’s criteria. A specific explanation for this change in direction would include the following lingering challenges that have a direct effect on the potential for achieving economic success in disenfranchised communities:
Role models and positive images are still scarce in most disenfranchised, minority communities, in spite of the election of the nation’s first President of African-American ancestry. Revitalizing the attitudes, beliefs and education of the individuals making up a community and creating a strong, positive feeling of self-worth will help lay the foundation to restore and improve a disenfranchised community. Film, multi-media and television content is a “primary” if not “the primary” means of conveying ideas that shape attitudes and beliefs and persuade public perception. It has been consistently proven that one of the most effective ways of enhancing an individual’s self-image is through exposure to positive imagery as presented in film, multi-media and television content. As such, film and the media are invaluable tools in promoting positive images of a diverse society, and hence allowing for a thought process that enables education with the ultimate outcome being access to economic opportunity.
The entertainment and media industry has historically treated content (film, radio, print media and television) and the depictions of the plight, history, existence and struggles of America’s minority population in a less than favorable light. In spite of the advent of the Internet and the increase in the presence of minority and women characters in programming and film content, a problem of adequate balance and realistic portrayals still persists. These groups whether African-American, Native-American, Latino, Asian-American, or women are still often characterized in a negative, reprehensible, pejorative, stereotypical or subservient fashion. In many cases they are still relegated to roles as side-kicks or are the objects of ridicule or exploitation. Isn’t it interesting of the three most recent Academy Awards for Best Actor won by black men, two were undoubtedly for the portrayal of reprehensible characters. The performances were brilliant, but the question should be raised as to “Are there no roles of interest that embellish heroic and lasting achievements of black men or women in all of recorded history?”
Women and minorities are still heavily underrepresented in the film and media industry. There are very few, if any African-American, Asian, Latino or Native Americans in senior executive positions in the areas of marketing and distribution or production at the major film studio’s or broadcast networks. Occasionally a person of color is granted an ephemeral position, however, few if any generally enjoy a status of tenure. The various guilds (DGA, PGA, SAG, WGA etc.) also have only limited minority membership. Therefore, stories, characterizations, etc. continue to remain the domain of white male influence and thinking. Though minority representation is gradually increasing, the biggest impetus has been primarily with white women. Even though this indicates progress is occurring, the overall numbers reflecting minority involvement in every area of the industry are still categorically deficient. This also explains why a lot of content is not as profitable as it once was because it is being directed at a market that is actually shrinking in size when compared to the nations expanding minority population.
Minority filmmakers still lack access to equity capital and financing to produce films that attempt to achieve the goals of broadened diversity in a responsible and responsive manner. This is particularly true in the low budget, independent film arena. Historically films are financed via studio production deals, institutional financiers, wealthy individuals or a combination of any or all of these – all of which are areas that are largely closed to minority filmmakers. Some believe that funding opportunities in this area are improving due to overall costs reductions tied to improved technology however, the “funding” scenario for the minority filmmaker remains largely unchanged as it relates to capital access. This is heightened because of a recessionary global economy that has reduced the supply of capital from institutional and individual sources to everyone.