CEO Jeff Clanagan Talks Success, Films & Being Black In Hollywood
By Randall Rydell Russell
It’s 11:55, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The funny thing about this is that I am almost two hours into my shift as the footwear lead at Sports Authority in Citrus Heights, and I am about to conduct an interview with Jeff Clanagan, if you don’t already know the name, he is the CEO of one of the best black film corporations in Hollywood, CodeBlack Entertainment, which includes feature film production, film distribution, worldwide DVD and digital assets distribution AND several TV shows in syndication. This company was founded to change the way African Americans are treated in Hollywood.
Codeblack Films (CF), a division of leading global entertainment company LIONSGATE®, is a vertically integrated film production and distribution company focused on providing independent studios, filmmakers, globally-recognized celebrities, intellectual property rights holders and brands cross platform monetization solutions. Entertainment industry veteran Jeff Clanagan founded Codeblack Films in 2012.
Me being an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter, I jumped on the chance to take the job of interviewing someone I aspire to be like now and in the future. Around 11:58, I grab my phone out of my locker at work, run to the office of my store manager, sit at her desk and call Jeff’s always nice assistant Candice Wilson, to patch me through to Jeff himself.
Young Urban Voices: How did the idea of CodeBlack Entertainment come about?
JEFF CLANAGAN: Based on the fact that black filmmakers are not present in Hollywood. There are no African Americans on the production end who have say. I wanted to be able to change that.
YUV: Did you first begin your career as a music producer?
JC: No. I used to promote music then spoke with some people and wanted to try my hand at film production.
YUV: How did you get started with your deal producing movies through Lionsgate?
JC: I had a few connections through some executive in the industry and pretty much did my homework and from there I continued to learn and use what I already know.
YUV: How are you able to stay on top in the film production world?
JC: It’s like this, you have to approach it from a business standpoint. You have to always be willing to upgrade. Silicon Valley is nothing but people always upgrading and creating. You have to look at it like that.
YUV: Do you feel like you have to work harder being an African American in Hollywood?
JC: Oh yeah. That’s always. You only get one chance when you are trying to get in an industry like this one. There aren’t any second or third chances.
YUV: What advice do you have for aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs following in your footsteps?
JC: You have to stay educated on technology, what’s hot. You have to understand and learn the business. I can’t stress that enough.
YUV: Why do you think your brand stands out above the rest and continues to succeed above expectations?
JC: You have to approach everything regardless if it’s a movie or TV or comedy show as a business. You have to really look around. You have to base what works in the market and go from there. You have to let personal opinions go.
YUV: With numerous TV shows, films such as “Civil Brand’ “Laugh at my Pain”, and projects bringing in 150 million in revenue, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
JC: Setting up the company first but putting the Kevin Hart movie out. That just really changed things.
YUV: How was teaming up with greats like Master P with No Limit Films, being President of Manderlay Urban Entertainment?
JC: You learn from every aspect. You learn what do and what not to do.
YUV: What are your future plans. Any future projects:
JC: I want to keep upgrading. It really helps when you’re trying to do things beyond America. It’s when you have movies and DVD’s and shows being seen and bought internationally. That’s when word of mouth spreads and more of your stuff gets noticed.
YUV: What is the underlying message your brand has that has kept CBE targeting the sophisticated urban generation through it’s channels such as theatre, video and film?
JC: I want to develop for all platforms. Someone is always watching something, and I want to be able to be the one to entertain them.
Jeff also left me with some advice and to continue making my short films until something gets noticed and go from there. After that 15 minutes is up, I have to leave the office and go back on the floor and continue selling shoes, but I‘m left with the fact that I interviewed someone who makes me want to aspire to be better and never stop pursuing film and all of it’s avenues. Codeblack.
You can find out more about the many projects Codeblack Entertainment has produced at the following website http://www.codeblack.com/