Mimi Valdés, Chief Creative Officer at iamOTHER on producing her first film, ‘DOPE’
It was an honor to be in the same room as Mimi Valdés former Editor-In-Chief of VIBE Magazine and current Chief Creative Officer for Pharrell’s growing media company, iamOTHER. She is one of the dopest (no pun intended) women that I’ve met in a long time.
When she and Pharrell sat down with Dope director, Rick Famuyiwa the movie was nothing more than an idea. Valdés gives insight on how her journalism skills helped her to produce her first film.
“…There Aren’t a lot of people in positions of power championing these stories.”
What about the script appealed to you and Pharrell?
MV: There was no script when we got involved. Rick literally had an idea and a had a look book of images. He said he wanted to write a movie that spoke to today’s generation. Basically, “Nerds In The Hood” and all the drama that they go through and we were immediately interested.
Pharrell and I were really able to relate to the premise of the film based on our upbringing so we wanted to see what that script would look like. We were involved before Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bonjovi which to us was validation that we were moving forward with a great idea.
How did your background in journalism help you to produce your first film?
MV: I didn’t realize until I got on set how transferable my Editor-In-Chief skills were. When you’re working on a movie it’s very similar to a magazine; you have all these crazy creative people and you’re trying to make sure that you stay on path with what the collective vision is. It all felt very natural to me. I was on set for the duration of production (5 weeks) and it was very much movie boot camp. The next time iamOTHER does a movie, I’ll be even more prepared.
Why should people support and promote Dope? What are some of your responsibilities as the Chief Creative Officer?
MV: I was previously Creative Director at iamOTHER where I was more involved with Pharrell’s day to day from music videos to touring. In the new position I’m overseeing those aspects but my primary focus is building our media department; movies, TV, books and theatre.
The motto at iamOTHER is “individuality is the new wealth.” Dope is iamOTHER’s first feature film. We’re always looking for projects that help diversify the lens and perspective that’s out there. We want to tell stories that don’t ordinarily get to see the light of day from the mainstream.
MV: What I’ve realized from spending more time in Hollywood trying to develop similar projects, there aren’t a lot of people in positions of power championing these stories. That’s what ends up being the issue. I didn’t know until Sundance that Nina and Rick went to all of the studios and everyone had passed. It was shocking to me that the idea of ‘nerds in the hood’ didn’t resonate with anyone. I signed on after just hearing the idea, but Hollywood executives heard the idea and had the script but that still wasn’t enough for them which was crazy.
“…The most important take away from the film is that your environment doesn’t define who you are…”
People choose projects based on what they can understand and identify with. There’s clearly no Hollywood executive that could identify with the story and if there was, they weren’t in a position of power to give it the green light.
You don’t necessarily have to be from the hood to understand Dope, but you have to understand that America isn’t just one note. It’s a melting pot, it’s diverse and we have so many different stories to tell. If you don’t recognize that then you’re going to look at the script and say, ‘I don’t get that little subculture over there.’ As opposed to, this is America and this is an American film that has a universal theme that everyone can relate to. It may have a predominately black cast but it’s a universal film.
Would there have been anything different about the film if their were a black woman in the lead role? Are women of color associated with the same plight and stigmas as black males?
MV: I think so…I think it would have been a similar journey [with a female lead] I don’t know if Dom (A$AP Rocky) would have put drugs in a girls bag but I think the story of trying to navigate the challenges of the hood is same regardless of gender. The most important take away from the film is that your environment doesn’t define who you are.