Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Fights for Prison Reform in New Docu-Series ‘Resist’

Patrisse Khan-Cullors focuses on Los Angeles jail reform in this new series, now available on the digital streaming app blackpills.

When Patrisse Khan-Cullors spoke to IndieWire, she sounded tired, but that’s hardly surprising. Life gets busy when you’re the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement: Since its creation in 2013, her activism and life have been the subject of national attention.

Recently, however, Cullors decided to join up with French digital media company blackpills to localize her influence in Los Angeles and produce “RESIST,” a docu-series on the community’s efforts to thwart a $3.5 billion jail expansion plan.

Directed by Tani Ikeda, Mobolaji Olambiwonnu, and Nathalie Johns, the 12-episode series focuses on the Justice L.A. and Dignity & Power Now campaigns (the latter of which was founded by Cullors) as they protest the proposed jail expansion and call for a reform of the prison system.

So far, “RESIST” has been well-received, with screenings of the series being held in both Europe and the United States. “Folks were moved,” Cullors said. “And also I think surprised at how not boring the series is.”

She first heard about blackpills through Pulse Films. Enchanted by its millennial-focused content, her similar desire to appeal to this demographic convinced her to partner up with the relatively unknown company and streaming app.

“We really liked blackpills’ theory around content and who the content is for,” she said. She added that although the docu-series was produced by and made for millennials, it was intended to be “deeply impactful for other age groups or racial groups.”

In a similar fashion, “RESIST” also features leaders from a variety of organizations that make up Justice L.A.: Jonathan Perez (co-founder, Immigrant Youth Coalition), Bamby Salcedo (founder, TransLatin@ Coalition), and Jayda Rasberry (deputy director of external relations, Dignity & Power Now).

Salcedo and Rasberry’s experiences as former inmates were invaluable to the docu-series, according to Cullors. “The people who should be leading the fight against mass incarceration and state violence should be the people most directly impacted by it,” she said.

According to Justice L.A.’s website, those people are people of color; they populate over 80 percent of jails in Los Angeles. Each episode of “RESIST” features their personal stories, touching on unlawful arrest, suspicious prison deaths, police brutality, and the over-policing of people of color, to name a few.

Cullors, a queer woman of color, said that Justice L.A. sought to develop a movement that addressed all aspects of this issue.

“We are looking at the intersections of poverty, race, gender, class, educational background,” she said. “[We’re] looking at the ways in which all the different ‘-isms’ impact one’s life.”

To demonstrate the severity of these prison statistics, the campaign placed 100 jail beds in front of the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration last September (featured in Episode 3 of “RESIST”), shutting down nearby streets. Cullors compared the protest to performance art and stressed the importance is piquing public interest in such a way.

“There are different opportunities to share your message and one of those is through direct action,” she said. “We took the art out of the gallery and put it on the streets for people in Los Angeles to deal with and come to terms with.”

For Cullors, the next step is changing both local and national government legislation. She’s currently creating a ballot initiative in L.A. that would, among other things, identify alternatives to incarceration for arrested citizens. In addition, she’s working with Black Lives Matter to support “progressive and courageous [political] candidates that are willing to take on law enforcement and mass criminalization.”

She expressed interest in returning to documentary work as well, as she was “excited about the opportunity to tell more stories,” but it seemed as though her work was never done.

Fortunately, the national activist, writer, and now executive producer manages to find ways to unwind. “I’m currently watching an excessive amount of television,” she said — “The Path,” “Grown-ish,” “Empire,” and “Star” were just a few of the shows that occupied her coveted free time. She also listed hiking, therapy, and family time as good ways to recover from her busy schedule.

That same efficient bustle is captured in “RESIST.” With its local roots and focus on an often-ignored subject matter, it’s the perfect series for local and national viewers looking to get informed in the current sociopolitical climate. It’s personal and it’s passionate. But perhaps most importantly, it keeps people aware of what could happen in their own backyards if they don’t pay attention.

“Resist” is now streaming on the blackpills app (available in the Apple Store and Google Play here.)

Blackpills Lands on Facebook’s Watch Platform to Promo Original Series ‘Junior,’ ‘Playground’

Blackpills, a French startup focused on edgy original series created for mobile viewing, is trying to boost its exposure to U.S. audiences by sampling two of its original shows on Facebook’s Watch platform. The two series are coming-of-age drama “Junior” from Zoe Cassavetes and teen-assassin thriller “Playground,” based on an original idea by director Luc […]

Blackpills, a French startup focused on edgy original series created for mobile viewing, is trying to boost its exposure to U.S. audiences by sampling two of its original shows on Facebook’s Watch platform. The two series are coming-of-age drama “Junior” from Zoe Cassavetes and teen-assassin thriller “Playground,” based on an original idea by director Luc […]

Rightor Doyle’s Drama ‘Bonding’ Gets Straight-To-Series Order From Blackpills

Blackpills has given a straight-to-series order to Bonding, a short-form drama from Rightor Doyle (You’re The Worst) and executive produced by Anonymous Content. Zoe Levin (Palo Alto), Brendan Scannell (Heathers), and Micah Stock (Escape at Dannemora) have been cast in the series, which is loosely based on Doyle’s life experiences.
Written, directed and executive produced by Doyle, Bonding tells the story of long lost high school BFFs Pete (Scannell), a recently out gay…

Blackpills has given a straight-to-series order to Bonding, a short-form drama from Rightor Doyle (You’re The Worst) and executive produced by Anonymous Content. Zoe Levin (Palo Alto), Brendan Scannell (Heathers), and Micah Stock (Escape at Dannemora) have been cast in the series, which is loosely based on Doyle’s life experiences. Written, directed and executive produced by Doyle, Bonding tells the story of long lost high school BFFs Pete (Scannell), a recently out gay…

Blackpills Acquires Pan-European Rights to ‘Cold’ From Keshet International

Blackpills, a Paris-based digital entertainment media service, has acquired pan-European rights to “Cold,” a premium short-form series which played at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Repped by Keshet International (KI), “Cold” will roll out on blackpills across 15 territories including France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, UK and Ireland. Created by filmmaker and video blogger Emily […]

Blackpills, a Paris-based digital entertainment media service, has acquired pan-European rights to “Cold,” a premium short-form series which played at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Repped by Keshet International (KI), “Cold” will roll out on blackpills across 15 territories including France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, UK and Ireland. Created by filmmaker and video blogger Emily […]

Blackpills Launches App With Edgy Original Series in U.S. and Canada, Plans Premium Subscription Option

French digital-media startup Blackpills is launching a free app stocked with 12 of its provocative short-form scripted original series this week in the U.S. and Canada, and plans to add a premium-subscription tier next month for users who want to strip out ads and get immediate binge-able access. At launch, the made-for-mobile original series in the Blackpills app… Read more »

French digital-media startup Blackpills is launching a free app stocked with 12 of its provocative short-form scripted original series this week in the U.S. and Canada, and plans to add a premium-subscription tier next month for users who want to strip out ads and get immediate binge-able access. At launch, the made-for-mobile original series in the Blackpills app... Read more »

Bryan Singer Teams With Blackpills On Digital Sci-Fi Series ‘August One’

Bryan Singer (Legion) will collaborate with digital media company Blackpills on August One, a futuristic thriller set in a world in which the Roman Empire never collapsed.
Created by John Cabrera, the Gilmore Girls actor and creator of the Singer-produced web series H+: The Digital Series, the new August One will be produced by Singer’s Bad Hat Harry, with executive producer Antoine Disle for Rockzeline.
Blackpills describes August One as set in a society “on the brink of…

Bryan Singer (Legion) will collaborate with digital media company Blackpills on August One, a futuristic thriller set in a world in which the Roman Empire never collapsed. Created by John Cabrera, the Gilmore Girls actor and creator of the Singer-produced web series H+: The Digital Series, the new August One will be produced by Singer’s Bad Hat Harry, with executive producer Antoine Disle for Rockzeline. Blackpills describes August One as set in a society “on the brink of…

‘Spring Breakers’ Should Not Be a Digital Series (or a Franchise)

Once again, scheming producers are attempting to cash in on the property without the original creative team. This is very bad news.

It’s easy to understand the Hollywood logic behind developing sequels: If it does well, keep it going — and going, and going, with spin-offs flying in every direction long after the concept has been spread thin. But some projects are so antithetical to this approach that the very idea of the franchise approach registers as a vulgarity. So it goes with the ongoing attempts to turn Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” into something more than a single movie.

First, it was going to be a sequel; now, it’s a “digital series,” again without the participation of the creative team behind the original. This needs to stop.

Three years ago, it was reported that MUSE Prods., the company run by Chris and Roberta Hanley, was shopping around a followup to the 2012 project without the involvement of Korine or anyone else associated with the original. That included “Spring Breakers” star James Franco, who said in a statement that “I want everyone to know that whoever is involved in the sequel is jumping onboard a poison ship.”

While sales company Wild Bunch attempted to set up the project at the Cannes Film Festival that year, even attaching director Jonas Akerlund and Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh (“Trainspotting”) to write the screenplay, the pushback seemed to work: Reports of a “Spring Breakers” sequel evaporated faster than the memories of a boozy night on the beach.

READ MORE: Annapurna Pictures Supercut Celebrates ‘The Master,’ ‘Spring Breakers’ and More Hits — Watch

Now, Chris Hanley is at it again, this time teaming with “Spring Breakers” executive producer Fernando Sulichin, with reports circulating of plans to launch “Spring Breakers” as a “scripted microseries” based on the original concept for developing new digital platform Blackpills.

So what is Blackpills? The French mobile-streaming platform that quietly launched last fall with the satirical series “You’ve Been Trumped,” but remains a puzzling new entity in the digital landscape that has yet to unveil many of the alleged series it teased on social media in recent weeks — including Sundance short film “Pineapple” and another short produced by Luc Besson.

“Spring Breakers”

Representatives from the company declined to comment at this time, saying that the series was still in production and casting mode. For now, the venture remains dubious at best; backed by billionaire tech mogul Xavier Niel, who founded the mobile services company Iliad, it reeks of opportunism by people eager to exploit the entertainment world who have little interest in quality product.

In many ways, this news is a troubling form of deja vu — further evidence of scheming producers eager to profit off a successful property and confident they have the rights to profit off it without the creator’s consent.

The Hanleys, who were also responsible for the poorly-received “American Psycho” sequel in 2000 after producing the original, have made a habit out of exploiting original ideas after they take off. They also have a tendency not to work with filmmakers more than once: From Harron to Vincent Gallo with “Buffalo ’66” to Sofia Coppola with “The Virgin Suicides,” no major filmmaker has entered the Hanleys’ orbit and shown any signs of wanting to stay there.

But the “Spring Breakers” project is an especially egregious example, one that defies logic even if you only care about the bottom line.

Needless to say, the “Spring Breakers” team has been curiously silent on this news and unavailable to comment on recent reports. Their feelings aside, however, this latest attempt to exploit their achievement is a bad idea any way you cut it — sleazy, of course, but also a terrible business idea and even worse creative concept. Anyone associated with a potential “Spring Breakers” spin-off should take into account a few reasons why it’s worth backing off.

It’s not the hottest property for a franchise. “Spring Breakers” was a surprise hit for Korine, grossing more on its opening weekend than any of his previous movies — but Korine’s previous movies never made a ton of money, anyway. The director of eccentric character studies like “Gummo” and “Trash Humpers” has always worked on the margins of American cinema, and “Spring Breakers” was another provocative tone poem from a director whose work has always defied formulaic expectations.

All told, “Spring Breakers” grossed more than $31 million worldwide (not counting its sizable performance on home entertainment platforms) — over six times its $5 million production budget — which is impressive, but only in the context of the movie itself: an expressionistic collage of colorful mayhem about hedonistic college kids who rob a bank to fund their spring break trip to Florida, where they wind up in the employ of a cartoonishly self-involved gangster named Alien (Franco).

That’s about all the traditional plot it offers up. Laced with DayGlo imagery, ironic Britney Spears covers and introspective voiceovers about the joys of a never-ending party life, “Spring Breakers” baffled younger viewers who were hoping to see a more accessible narrative starring their favorite young pop star, Selena Gomez, and got away with smuggling a kind of experimental cinema to some unexpected audiences. But even though the movie found greater traction in popular culture than anyone could have imagined, it never reached the mainstream heights of the Disneyfied world it tore apart. It’s hard to imagine a cheaper, serialized version of “Spring Breakers,” with unknown talent to boot, giving anyone a reason to tune in at all.

Harmony Korine on the set of “Spring Breakers”

The story’s strengths were specific to the creative forces behind it. “Spring Breakers” may have been a surprise to some viewers, but not those already familiar with Korine’s work. Kicking his career off with the screenplay for “Kids,” Korine first made his mark exploring the grittier side of youth culture from the inside out, and “Spring Breakers” brought that thematic focus full circle. Franco, meanwhile, was at the peak of his performance art prolificacies when he tackled the role of Alien, a grinning monstrosity with golden grills and vulgar pronouncements that was the perfect vehicle for the self-reflexivity underlining his career at the moment, a brilliantly vulgar riff on exhibitionism driving modern criminality. Without Korine and Franco, “Spring Breakers” is simply not “Spring Breakers.” Which brings us to the next point…

“Spring Breakers” has a very clear ending. This movie is an experience tied less to plot than feeling, but it still brings the arc to a clean finish. If you’ve never seen it, beware of spoilers ahead. During the final act of “Spring Breakers,” Alien is killed in a shootout with his longtime foe — while two of his young trouble-seeking female proteges speed off as they embrace the newfound spirit of lawlessness that Alien has gifted them. Alien is the essence of “Spring Breakers,” an illustration of how lawlessness can provide a form of catharsis from society’s usual restrictions. His death provides a clean ending for Korine’s statement on the blend of danger and excitement that defines his characters’ life. How could a new series somehow continue in the wake of such a tidy conclusion? It’s unlikely that the two surviving Spring Breakers, played by Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens, would be willing to return for another chapter. The characters in “Spring Breakers,” archetypes of an impulse to escape the restrictions of a conservative society, are its lifeblood. In addition to that…

So was the atmosphere. “Spring Breakers” pulsates with an audiovisual poetry all to its own. And while it originated in Korine’s head, it owes much to many of his collaborators. The layered soundtrack by Skrillex and Cliff Martinez at once generates a sense of trouble and the giddy excitement of newfound freedoms. Benoit Debie’s cinematography is laced with a stunning range of colors to evoke the rush of escapism and subterranean dangers as the movie oscillates from one to the other. It would be impossible to replicate any of these textures for the reductive format of a mobile series. You’d be better off streaming “Spring Breakers” on your phone.

James Franco in “Spring Breakers”

The movie was a subversive masterstroke. A cheap series would be the antithesis of that. Everything about “Spring Breakers” is a form of deconstruction. The slo-mo opening shot of hard-partying on the beach doesn’t celebrate or endorse the scene so much as it redefines it as a kind of primal, animalistic ritual. Franco’s memorable “Look at my shit!” monologue is hilariously campy while also brilliantly lampooning the materialism of the gangster lifestyle. The group’s rendition of Britney Spears’ “Everytime” is the essence of the movie’s cartoonish soul. Any attempt to copy that would become the very thing it so eloquently deconstructs — a vapid spectacle of party life. You can find plenty of real-life examples of that on YouTube.

READ MORE: Harmony Korine’s ‘Spring Breakers’ Being Turned Into Digital Television Series

The movie has fans. They are dedicated, loud, virulent — and likely to speak out against the series at every available opportunity. There is a young generation of moviegoers for whom “Spring Breakers” was a formative experience just a few years ago, one of their first encounters with an experimental narrative. Others see it as a wild party movie. Selena Gomez fans don’t all get the appeal but they stand behind their queen. Franco’s supporters know how he feels about all this, and Korine’s own fan base goes back to the early nineties. All told, none of these people want to see a corruption of this artistic achievement in such knowingly crass fashion. That’s hardly an asset for the Blackpills project, especially as one of the supposedly marquee items for a company in the process of trying to establish itself. It’s hard to imagine anyone at the company really seeing the potential here — unless, like Alien, Blackpills is just looking to stir things up to assert its dominance.

But we all know how it turned out for him.

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Vice Dives Into Scripted Content With Productions From Luc Besson, Bryan Singer, Zoe Cassavetes (EXCLUSIVE)

Vice Media, which has built its brand for more than two decades around news, documentaries and other nonfiction fare, is spreading its wings into scripted entertainment. The Brooklyn-based media company has secured a pact with Blackpills, a French digital media studio startup, for a slate of original short-form scripted content that will be exclusively distributed… Read more »

Vice Media, which has built its brand for more than two decades around news, documentaries and other nonfiction fare, is spreading its wings into scripted entertainment. The Brooklyn-based media company has secured a pact with Blackpills, a French digital media studio startup, for a slate of original short-form scripted content that will be exclusively distributed... Read more »

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