Five years ago, Universal Filmed Entertainment began a more concerted effort to diversify not only the company internally, but the kind of work in film and television it was producing. This included establishing programs for writers, directors, and composers to identify up-and-coming and experienced talent with unique points of view to tell stories and creating films that reflect the vast diversity of its audiences.
Writer Juel Taylor is a graduate of the program, and is now one of the writers on Shooting Stars, an upcoming film based on the book by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger. The still-in-production film is the cornerstone of a four-year, first-look deal that Universal signed with James’s SpringHill Company last year. Speaking at Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies Summit on Wednesday, Universal chairman Donna Langley and SpringHill CEO and cofounder Maverick Carter also pointed to this film and their partnership as prime examples of tapping into the power of underrepresented people and stories.
“Looking at a movie like Shooting Stars, our intention is to treat it like a mainstream movie,” says Langley. “If you look at a movie like that only through a niche lens, and say it’s designed for only a certain type of person, then it has no opportunity to break out. Where we’ve won is in our ability to find the universality in a story like that, even though it’s a specific story about a certain socioeconomic and cultural arena.”