Over the last year, creative producer and friend of the Ad Council Ramone Hulet has kept busy on projects like the forthcoming film Candyman and developing engaging ads in partnership with Amazon, Kingsford and Nike.
On June 8, 2020, Ramone also founded Black In Film, a database aimed to improve employment for Black filmmakers and create a means for connection and community. We spoke with him about the best advice he’s ever received, his experience launching Black In Film and marketing movies during a pandemic.
Mary Zost: As a kid, did you dream of being part of the film and television industry? Was there a particular moment when you knew you needed to create Black In Film?
Ramone Hulet: I'm from Chicago, and as a kid, I never thought of being in the film industry. I wanted to be an engineer or work with animals. There was no one making movies around me, I hadn't even considered how a film was made until I was a teenager. Filmmaking wasn’t even on my radar. Then my mother bought me a camera for Christmas, and just like that, I was hooked.
I knew I needed to make Black In Film when I was lying awake at night trying to figure out how to get more Black crew members. I knew we were out there, but at the time my hiring ability was limited to the people that I knew or people who reached out. I made Black In Film because I didn’t want a talented person sitting at home waiting for work when someone else is on set saying they didn’t exist.
I made Black In Film because I didn’t want a talented person sitting at home waiting for work when someone else is on set saying they didn’t exist.
MZ: In recent years, much of the cultural conversation has focused on celebrating films and TV shows with diverse representation (Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians). Do you think we spend enough time examining the ways the film and television industry has directly harmed marginalized communities through stereotypical depictions? And the ways those stereotypes influence how people are seen and treated in day-to-day life?
RH: Great question. It’s not talked about enough. Film, television and the media shape so much of how some people see the world—it holds an immeasurable influence. If every time you see someone of color on screen they’re in a subservient position, whether you like it or not, you’ll start linking those two things together.
MZ: Has the pandemic changed the way you think about marketing films?
RH: The pandemic has changed everything. Conception, execution and marketing. Shooting a film at its base level now comes with a level of COVID-19 exposure risk, and it makes you really think about what you are creating. Is the story you’re trying to tell needed and necessary right now? Is your creative vision something that can safely be done right now?
Hopefully, COVID-19 has reminded filmmakers not to take their projects for granted and to invest a lot of time and energy into pre-production.
The pandemic has changed everything. Conception, execution, and marketing. Shooting a film at its base level now comes with a level of COVID-19 exposure risk, and it makes you really think about what you are creating.
MZ: What has surprised you most about creating Black In Film?
RH: The quick response! I thought of and created Black In Film at 1am on a Saturday morning, we launched on Monday morning, and by the end of the week, we had over 300 members. By the end of the following week, we had 600-plus members and we were being interviewed by Variety.
MZ: As you look ahead, what’s next for Black In Film? How can our readers support your efforts?
RH: The next phase of Black In Film is partnerships. We’re speaking with other organizations supporting BIPOC crew hiring and we want to join forces with as many people as we can. There are databases out there that have only BIPOC stunt people, and sites that only have BIPOC documentary filmmakers. I would love to see Black In Film and all the other databases either under one big banner or aligned together as a hub of resources.
The biggest way to support us is to spread the word about us. Tag us on Instagram, send your filmmaker friend the site and donate. Black In Film is completely donation-funded and staffed by volunteers, so every donation goes directly into site upkeep and maintenance.
MZ: If you’re comfortable sharing, what’s a movie or TV show that doesn’t exist that you most want to see?
RH: I would love to see more of Dwayne McDuffie’s work on the big screen. He was a comic book writer and producer who was responsible for iconic Black superheroes in the DC Universe—he gave me some of my favorite cartoon moments as a kid. He unfortunately passed in 2011, but his work is still cherished today.
However, the biggest thing I want to see moving forward are Black and BIPOC characters that don’t have their race as their adjective or motivation. Films and TV shows exist indefinitely, and whether we like it or not, someone will watch them in the future and think this is what our time was like. I’d like for that someone to see characters instead of just stereotypes.
The biggest thing I want to see [onscreen] moving forward are Black and BIPOC characters that don’t have their race as their adjective or motivation.
MZ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, and how does it continue to help you?
RH: The best piece of advice I’ve been given is: Some situations require fish, and some situations require birds. It may sound silly, but I’ve seen a lot of fish spend their energy trying to be birds and then beat themselves up because they didn’t sprout feathers. I’ve learned that cultivating your natural gifts gets you much further than trying to make yourself into something that you’re not. Fish can do anything birds can do; it just may not look the same.