If I could inspire a movement, it would be the one that gives Black people the chance and opportunity to be great — in any and every way that they desire to be.
As part of my series about “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that seem copied from science fiction, I had the pleasure of interviewingRashidah De Vore, founder and CEO of X MARKS THE BLACK — parent company of X On Demand (XOD), a new social media forward video on demand service that exclusively streams works by Black filmmakers. Rashidah, a writer and actress herself, has charted a path to creating a collection of film and episodic pieces that not only celebrate, but acknowledge Black history and culture, and its impact within American and global society through the ages. Under the X MARKS THE BLACK umbrella, Rashidah will expand upon her mission of capturing audiences across the media spectrum, as well as create opportunities for other Black artists, filmmakers and activists to tell their stories and expand their reach — through not only X On Demand’s streaming platform, but future divisions of the X brand.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
X On Demand came to be from my own struggles as a writer, finding it to be an uphill battle to get not only eyes on my work — but to be taken seriously as a Black writer whose works skew closely to topics that cover the Black experience in America. I found myself in a constant revolving door of being told by top-tier producers, agents and managers that I was incredibly talent writer — but not a marketable one, because my work was not something that would be entertaining to or sit well with a “white audience”. I started my own production company, X Marks The Black Productions, to begin to process of producing my own works and stories — and then began mulling over the idea of starting XOD as a means of showcasing my own projects. It was when I started to research the other platforms out there that I saw the recurring theme of several (if not hundreds) of other Black filmmakers such as myself all on their own individual services scattering and dividing the market share — and thought to myself “why aren’t we all doing this together?”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I don’t know that it’s particularly interesting, but given that XOD is virtually the first of it’s kind in the sense of being a dedicated streaming platform that is focused on expanding the viewer’s experience through social interaction and sharing — finding a web developer capable of integrating those various elements of the site was a challenge within itself. I went through several developers. I had some with 10+ years in the field of web development, who had created other streaming sites and apps say they’d never seen anything like it and needed a moment to wrap their head around what I was trying accomplish. The site was originally scheduled to launch on September 1st (2018), and was delayed months — almost solely because of the challenge of creating something so unique, slightly also due to my own perseverance in not wanting to settle for less than a product I knew would be a game changer.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
As I touched on earlier, XOD is virtually the first of it’s kind. Yes, we live in an obviously social age. There are platforms where you can message friends, there are platforms where you can have video chats, and there are platforms where you can stream movies and TV shows — but prior to XOD there was no dedicated streaming platform, and certainly not one solely for Black filmmakers, where you could stream a feature length movie while video chatting with a group of friends who are watching it in real-time with you. With XOD, you’re getting an experience unlike YouTube and unlike Facebook Watch (aka Facebook YouTube) where you have a social media platform saturated with random user uploaded videos. With XOD, you’re getting an experience elevated beyond what Netflix and Hulu are presently offering — something that is all in one — built with a usually overlooked and underserved community of people in mind. I think that it will not only help Black filmmakers with gaining the exposure and recognition that they may have struggled with in years past, but help in bringing works to the forefront of media that are necessary in this day and age to be showcased — so that Black youth have a means of seeing themselves represented in ways that mainstream media has been slow to do. Moving forward, we will also be expanding beyond the medium of web streaming and social interaction, and bringing the offerings of X On Demand to mobile and TV apps.
How do you think this might change the world?
I think it will put the rest of the world on notice to not only the direction entertainment is heading in, but the means by which society across the globe will be seeking to interact and connect through entertainment.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Absolutely. As with embarking into any new territory, there will always be the risk of opening the proverbial can of worms that we didn’t expect. I’m not one to speak negativity into existence, so I won’t speak on what those drawbacks could be — but I will say that we can only prepare for what we know to prepare for, unfortunately, and take on any unforeseen obstacles as they arise.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
There were no particular tipping points that I haven’t touched on. XOD was born out of my own experience as a writer, being told that my best was only the best if it could be sold to a white audience — and my desire to not have other Black filmmakers experience what I felt in the moments of hearing that. For me, it wasn’t just about hearing it once, twice or even three times — it is a remark that has been made to me since I began honing my craft as a writer in 2012, and I’m certain I am not alone. With XOD, there is now a platform that will never be the one to make such a remark a Black writer — because the “white audience” isn’t our core demographic.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The people, simply put. XOD’s success and growth is wholly dependent on the response had by our subscribers. The more subscribers we have, the larger our library and entertainment offerings can become.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Nothing beyond the standard social media ad outreach, and phenomenal PR by Deluxe Publicity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m blessed to have XOD and X MARKS THE BLACK as not only my passion projects and brainchild’s so to speak, but also be the only investor and funding source that aided in their creation. There were no outside investors, no GoFundMe, no loans from my local bank. I spent months working 12+ hour days, 7 days a week as a freelance Photographer, putting every dollar I had (not earmarked for bills) towards making something out of these concepts — so, in a more narrow and literal sense — I was the person that helped myself get to this place. In a more broad notion of the idea of success and what goes into creating and being a successful person, as cliché as it may sound, my parents would of course be the people I’m most grateful for in helping me be the person that I am today — which allowed for my having the diligence necessary to forge this path on my own.
My drive, determination and overall lack of an ability to give up in the face of adversity are traits I inherited from and had nurtured by my father. My knack for being the force that pushes myself to strive for greater, better and more can be attributed to my mother who taught me to never settle when seeking greatness. I was the kid that would come home with a “B” and my parents would say, “Why isn’t an A?” I’d come home with an “A”, and they’d say, “Why isn’t an A+?” Finding success on my own as an adult can be directly attributed to the skills and mindset instilled by my parents in my youth.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The whole premise behind XOD is to not only revolutionize the way consumers stream movies and shows — but create a platform that gives Black filmmakers a voice and an outlet. For me, helping others within my community find success, fortune, freedom to express themselves, etc. is the goodness I’m after, and I’ve only just begun in providing that.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I wish someone would have told me:
1. You’ll never get a full night’s sleep again — there is no time to sleep, emails come in at all hours of the day and the phone starts ringing at 9am sharp.
2. You’ll have no time for vacations/family/friends — my family is a literal subway ride away, just the next borough over, and the amount of times I’ve seen them since starting this journey can be counted on my two hands.
3. You’ll be poor for a while — when you are your startups funding source, those nights out you once coveted are but a faint memory, as your shallow pockets hit you with the Terry Crews side-eye.
4. You’ll feel like you’ve lost all time for yourself, but make sure to make time for yourself — my situation is unique in regards to the fact that I am the head of several corporations, where I am the only executive within said corporations. I often find myself falling prey to that “weight of the world” feeling, and as if I can’t take a second to myself — because there’s no one else there to be that boss and head honcho making decisions in my absence — but as my experience grows and I have become more versed in my field and things I plan to achieve within it, I’m now learning to be more mindful of taking time for me — to ensure I’m giving my best in the boardroom (even if I’m the only one in it.)
5. … and lastly, that you’ll hit several walls and not want to get back up and continue on — but you need to. For me, given my upbringing and the virtues instilled in me, that drive and determination to succeed always kicks in and I’m off to the races — but that’s not the case for many, and I realize I may be in the minority in that regard. It can be really hard to remind oneself of the saying (loosely) that on the path to greatness you may hit walls and obstacles, but those moments of adversity may be preparing you for an even greater outcome than you had envisioned. This may not be something I personally needed to hear, but hopefully it reaches someone who does.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
It I could inspire a movement, it would be the one that gives Black people the chance and opportunity to be great — in any and every way that they desire to be.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As stated earlier, the one regarding the obstacles one faces on the path to greatness — reminding myself of that is a crucial component in helping me to persevere.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Nothing. I’m all set here.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on all platforms at @rashidahdevore.
XOD: @xodtv (IG, Facebook), Twitter: @xodtvofficial
X MARKS THE BLACK: @xmarkstheblack on all platforms
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.