Former multimedia, photography and design graduate students Eric Derachio Jackson Jr. and Mylz Blake created Black Cub Productions to give underrepresented communities in Syracuse a platform to be creative.
Eric Derachio Jackson Jr. and Mylz Blake have been friends since middle school. They attended the Newhouse School as master’s students in the multimedia, photography and design program together. Now, they are co-founders of Black Cub Productions (BCP), a multimedia creative agency based in Syracuse.
Although mixing business with friendship can be tense, Jackson says working with Blake is one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“[We] can talk to each other about anything and be able to really communicate and express how we feel, listen to one another,” Jackson says. “We both know what we want, and I think that’s always something we keep at the forefront of what we do. [We understand] what we want out of this business and, more importantly, our life.”
Jackson and Blake had the idea to start BCP while they were students. After leaving Newhouse, they felt prepared to turn their idea into a reality.
“In the Newhouse grad program, they really push you to learn how to be your own multimedia storyteller, and it’s kind of similar to being an entrepreneur,” Jackson says. “[We thought,] ‘We want to tell stories. Let’s just go and tell stories.’”
They began by making documentaries for nonprofits in the Syracuse area, but found that they often saw opportunities to use their work for marketing that their clients missed, which inspired them to expand BCP into a full service agency.
“The main thing that gave us the courage to say, ‘This is something we want to do,’ was we were very, very passionate about having people who look like us, Black people, entering this space of multimedia… and most importantly, of storytelling,” Jackson says. The goal went from creating the work themselves, to enabling people from Black and other diverse communities to tell their own stories.
“We felt that if we started something as two Black men hoping to bring in more people who look like us, and just diverse people in general, we could build a space that’s for diverse creatives and that’s putting [our stories at] the forefront.”
One way BCP is doing that is by teaching future generations of creatives how to be storytellers.
The Central New York Community Foundation, a philanthropic foundation in Syracuse, created a program called the Black Equity & Excellence Fund, which supports Black-led community-based projects. Jackson and Blake became interested in the program and created Life Through My Own Lens, a 12-week storytelling program for students in grades seven to 12.
“They learn everything from storytelling to public speaking to how to interview to how to be interviewed,” Jackson says.
The inaugural program took place in April. Canon supplied cameras and the students learned how to use different lenses, how to light a shot and how to compose a story. At the end of the program, the students put together a final presentation in which they told their own stories.
“This [program] was super important to us because…I didn’t really want this to just be the Eric and Mylz show,” Jackson says. “We wanted to find a way to allow diverse creatives to not feel like they have to go to Hollywood or Atlanta or New York City to produce films. It can happen right here in Syracuse. We wanted to open the door for diverse creatives to be able to have great employment in this field, as well as just access to [storytelling].”
Jackson and Blake will host another session of the program this fall and are hoping to keep it going after that, extending it to include older storytellers as well. It’s their intention that through teaching these skills, they can help bring new business opportunities to the community.
“The Black community in Syracuse is one of the poorest in the nation,” Jackson says. “Being able to bring media to them seems to help that community to start building itself back up through this work.”
But whether it’s for money or not, Jackson says storytelling is its own reward.
“Your perspective and creativity is a gift,” he says, “and it doesn’t exist in the world until you give it.”
Adrianne Morales ’21 is an alumna of the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.
Patrick Sammon ’97 co-directed “Cured,” a documentary chronicling the fight to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s official list of mental disorders.
When Patrick Sammon ’97 first arrived at Newhouse, he thought he was going to be a sports broadcaster. Now almost 30 years later, Sammon is an award-winning independent filmmaker.
His most recent project, “Cured,” is set to open this season of PBS’s Independent Lens Oct. 11. The documentary, which Sammon co-created with fellow documentary filmmaker Bennett Singer, follows the fight to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s official list of mental disorders. “Cured” has won the audience award from Frameline, the biggest LGBTQ film festival in the world, and Best Documentary of 2021 from the American Historical Society Association. We talked to Sammon about the importance of LBGTQ history, his career path and how sometimes the best way to begin a career in documentary filmmaking is to just try to make a documentary on your own.
How did this documentary come about?
A friend [asked me to] read his film script and [had a scene that took place at] the 1972 APA annual meeting when Doctor Anonymous, a psychiatrist, had to dress in disguise in order to talk to his fellow psychiatrists about what it was like to be a gay psychiatrist. I had been familiar with this story, but reading my friend’s script, it jumped off the pages at me as something that would make an incredible documentary. I was pleasantly surprised that another documentary about the same subject hadn’t been done before, because this moment is so central in the history of LGBT equality. As long as we were classified as mentally ill, then business and government [will] use that as an excuse to discriminate. So this had to be the first domino to fall on the path to equality. I recruited my friend Bennett Singer to join me, and we did our first interview in the spring of 2015. We finished the production right before the pandemic. We were still doing online editing during the early days of the pandemic, and we released it virtually in film festivals in August 2020. Now, we’re excited to bring it to a national television audience.
What did you hope to achieve?
We really wanted to have this film as a testament to the courageous individuals who stepped up and achieved this victory, and that was one of our challenges in telling this story. The outcome of this fight wasn’t inevitable. It’s often easy when looking back through history to say, “Well, it was always going to turn out that way,” but actually events turn out that way because of the actions of individuals who join a fight and try to create change. When these activists started fighting in the late 60s and early 70s, it was a David vs. Goliath situation. So that was also one of the things we wanted to convey in the film—this outcome wasn’t inevitable. From a filmmaking perspective, that was a challenge because everyone knew the outcome of this story when they started watching it, but you need to try and create drama along the way, and I hope that we did that.
What was your path from studying broadcast journalism at Newhouse to co-creating this award-winning documentary?
I’ve basically had three careers. I started as an intern at the CBS affiliate in Watertown [New York]. Then in ’99, I worked as a general assignment reporter in Tennessee at WJHL. I enjoyed being a reporter but knew I didn’t want to do it forever.
From that experience, I knew I was interested in documentary filmmaking, so after doing some networking, I moved to Washington, D.C. in January of ’03 with no job, everything I owned in my car and $3,000 in the bank. I ended up taking a detour and worked in LGBT activism at Log Cabin Republicans for five years, but I always wanted to get back to documentary filmmaking. When I left in 2009, my résumé was odd, so at that point, I knew the best way for me to get into documentary filmmaking was to just make a documentary.
I then embarked on making a documentary called “Codebreaker” about the life and legacy of Alan Turing, the gay British code breaker, and during that production, I met Bennett Singer, my co-director on “Cured.” It’s been quite a long journey, but ultimately I’ve always been interested in storytelling, and that’s really what’s propelled my career forward.
What advice would you give to Newhouse students just starting out in their careers?
You just have to put one foot in front of the other. If I knew, on the day I decided to try and make “Codebreaker,” that it would take so many years to create and distribute, I would have gotten discouraged. Similarly, with “Cured” it’s been such a journey. So just take one foot in front of the other and don’t get discouraged.
Elizabeth Kauma is a senior in the magazine program at the Newhouse School.
Brigethia is an assistant account executive at Hill + Knowlton Strategies in the consumer markets sector providing day-to-day support to media relations, executive communications, influencer marketing and diversity and inclusion for a set of clients, including Procter & Gamble, Russell Reynolds Associates, and Aflac.
“Newhouse prepared me a lot for the workforce. The hands-on experiences that I received during my master’s program really equipped me for the real world.”Brigethia Guins-Jamison G’17
Prior to joining H+K, Brigethia worked as a public relations coordinator for Urbanity Communications and interned with Edelman’s paid media team in their Chicago office. While completing her master’s degree, she worked as a marketing associate for Aspen Heights Partners handling content creation, brand awareness and social media campaigns.
Brigethia received her master’s degree in public relations in 2017 from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2016 from Medaille College.
How did you obtain your current position, and what positions did you hold before it?
When I started at Hill + Knowlton I was a digital fellow. After about eight months I was hired on as an assistant account executive. Prior to joining H+ K, I was a part time account coordinator for a small boutique public reactions firm Urbanity Communications.
How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current job?
Newhouse prepared me a lot for the workforce. The hands-on experiences that I received during my master’s program really equipped me for the real world. Our benchmark trips were amazing because we got a chance to meet public relations professionals and learn a lot from them. We also got a chance to visit different agencies to see what it would possibly be like working there.
What are some obstacles or misconceptions about your field that students ought to be aware of?
When you first start out you really have to work your way up specifically in the agency life. Also, being so young with a graduate degree also made it tough for me to find a role after college. Life after college is definitely challenging but know that you aren’t alone in the process and that there are resources for you.
What moments in your career have been most exciting or defining thus far?
My most exciting moment in the career was working with my client Procter and Gamble on their Queen Collective program developed in partnership with Queen Latifah, and Tribeca Studios, aiming to accelerate gender and racial equality behind the camera by opening doors to the next generation of multicultural women directors through mentorship, production support, and distribution opportunities. I also was a part of P&G’s launch of their Widen The Screen initiative which aims to address the systemic bias and inequality in advertising and media. These moments were exciting because the work was meaningful and really gave underserved individuals a voice which I am so happy to be a part of.
What advice do you have for current or incoming students? Any classes or professors that you recommend?
The advice I would give to incoming students is to work hard and appreciate the moment you are in now because you will miss it. My favorite professors were Anthony D’Angelo, Hua Jiang and Dennis Kinsey.
John Sykes ’77, MTV co-founder and iHeartMedia executive, was awarded the key to the city by Schenectady, New York.
Patrick Sammon ’97, founder and president of Story Center Films in Washington, D.C., co-directed “Cured,” an award-winning PBS documentary about the David vs. Goliath battle that led the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove homosexuality from its manual of mental illnesses.
Adam Ritchie ’03 is principal at Adam Ritchie Brand Direction which was named one of the best public relations agencies in the country by PR industry experts at PR News, Bulldog Reporter, PRovoke and Forbes.
Elana Zak ’07 joined Politico as the head of newsletters.
Whembley Sewell ’15 will be joining the editorial and publishing team at Netflix.
Katie Czerwinski ’18 started a new role as graphic artist for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Oladotun Idowu ’14 founded Sisters in Media to connect women of color in media industries and help them find support and mentorship.
When Oladotun Idowu ’14 started her first job after graduating from the public relations program at the Newhouse School, she felt a bit out of place. She realized she was prepared for her job, but not for the culture shock.
“It’s crazy how small microaggressions are and how they may have an effect on you,” Idowu says. “It’s also crazy how you [could be] disconnected from people because of your taste in things.” She gives an example: “When I graduated, I did not know what SoulCycle was.”
Idowu, who is Nigerian, knew she was not the first to experience this cultural divide between her white coworkers and herself. She knew how powerful mentorship and friendships within a corporate environment were, and she wanted to make those connections with women who would understand her experience. When she looked around, however, she didn’t see any women of color to connect with.
“If I knew someone in this industry, or if my mom were the VP, I would have a better experience trying to [understand social] rules. But because [that’s not the case], I have to work twice as hard,” Idowu says. “That’s where Sisters in Media comes in. It’s there to help you get networking relationships, mentor-mentee relationships.”
Idowu launched Sisters in Media in 2016 to help women of color get connected with recruiters and hiring managers via events like panel discussions and virtual conferences.
“It’s there for women to feel this inclusion and [to] feel a part of a community that really cares about them,” she says.
Running Sisters in Media while working full-time can be tiring, but Idowu says it’s worth it. While in Houston working on an event for Twitter, Idowu stepped outside to get some air and found a message from a woman who got a job at Disney because of connections made at a Sisters in Media event.
“[This] young woman reached out to me to say, ‘Thank you for putting events like these on because it really inspires me and it changed my life,’” Idowu says. “I just started crying.”
Sometimes, she says, doubt creeps in.
“I do this work, but [I wonder], is this even helping anybody? Why am I adding more stress to myself?” Idowu says. “But that moment is 100% worth it, because I remember being a recent college graduate and being like, ‘How the heck am I going to get a job?’”
To people of color feeling left behind in the classroom or in the industry, Idowu says imposter syndrome, a general feeling of inadequacy, is real, but you have to push past it.
“Go there and perform at your best,” she says. “The truth of the matter is we are already a little bit behind, for the fact that we are minorities, and we don’t have the same privileges as our white counterparts. If you allow imposter syndrome to hinder your growth in your career development, it would kill you. Do your best to ignore those things.”
Adrianne Morales ’21 is an alumna of the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.
Maureen Crowe ’79 founded a guild to promote the recognition of music supervisors in film and television.
When Maureen Crowe ’79 went to California after graduating from the Newhouse School, she wasn’t planning on a career in music.
“I was going to learn film techniques to make important documentaries to save the world, [but] I ended up on the television show ‘Fame,'” she says. She nabbed a job as a production assistant in the music department for the show, and her career in music supervision was launched.
That career honored earlier this year when Crowe was recognized with the Guild of Music Supervisors‘s Legacy Award.
Crowe, founder of the guild, describes music supervision as “doing anything and everything” that has to do with music on a film or show.
“The music supervisor, just like anyone else on the film or set, serves the story,” Crowe says.
Crowe notes that the contributions of music supervisors have been widely overlooked, which is why she has worked to get the field the recognition it deserves. That includes the work she did to get music supervisors voting rights for the Grammy and the Emmy Awards. She is also very active in student outreach.
“Maureen has come in many times to talk with our students who are studying for careers in film and television,” says Syracuse University Los Angeles Semester director Robin Howard. “Visiting with Maureen, our students begin to really understand how the music they listen to can help them to be more impactful storytellers.”
“I don’t think I’m overstating things to say that music might be the single most important aspect of delivering the emotional quotient of a scene. One could argue that she helped to create two of the most iconic film music collaborations in history,” Werde says, referring to Whitney Houston’s hit take on “I Will Always Love You” from “The Bodyguard,” and the classic moment in “Wayne’s World” during which stars Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey sing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their car.
For students interested in getting involved with music supervision, Crowe’s advice is not to wait.
“Start where you are,” she says. “You don’t have to move to LA or New York.”
Crowe advises that students reach out to music supervisors and get their names out there. “Let them know you’ve followed their career and mention something specific about it. If you’re consistent with your efforts and respectful of their time, they’ll remember your name.”
Adrianne Morales ’21 is an alumna of the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.
Tanya Giles ’93 was named chief programming officer for streaming at ViacomCBS.
Nick Petruncio ’99 was named insurance authority editor at Law 360 in New York City.
Matt Allyn ’07, features director at Runner’s World, was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award for the feature story, “Twelve Minutes and a Life.”
Caitlin (Guthoff) Keffer ’10 joined L’Oréal as the director of retail media for the Luxe Division.
Noellia de la Cruz ’11 was promoted to vice president, communications for direct-to-consumer (HBO Max) at WarnerMedia.
Julie Kosin ’14 was named senior TV editor , Vulture at New York Magazine.
Lara Sorokanich ’15 was named as staff editor for The New York Times for Kids.
Taylyn Washington-Harmon ’16 was named health editor at Men’s Health magazine.
After attending a #StopAsianHate protest during her semester at Newhouse NYC, Aorui Pi ’21 was inspired to give other students a space in which to speak.
Although anti-Asian hate crimes have gained attention in the media recently, Aorui Pi ’21 says they are nothing new. She remembers a racially targeted incident at Columbia University in 2017, Pi’s freshman year at Syracuse, in which name tags—predominantly those with East Asian names—were torn off dorm room doors. When Pi, a recent graduate of Newhouse’s advertising program, participated in Newhouse NYC during her last semester as an undergraduate, she was worried.
“I was so afraid to go out because even though I covered my face with a mask and a hat, I still look[ed] so Asian,” she says.
During the Black Lives Matter protests in Syracuse in the spring of 2020, Pi wanted to protest, but her parents discouraged her.
“I grew up in China, and I was always told to stay quiet. [Girls, especially, couldn’t] make a scene or draw attention to themselves,” Pi says. But after the slaying of eight Asian women at a spa in Atlanta last March, which sparked a new wave of protests, Pi decided she couldn’t just watch anymore.
“I decided to get involved because, as an Asian student, I want[ed] to do something for the community.”
Initially, Pi was fearful of being attacked during the protest in New York, which she went to alone, but says she found it an emotional, educational and peaceful experience.
“I saw many families that brought children with their handmade protest signs,” she says. “I shadowed an Asian family while waiting for people to gather up. The mother was educating her children about why they should be there to support people. It was eye-opening.”
Five hundred participants were expected at the protest, but the number ended up being closer to 2,000, Pi says.
“It [was] overwhelmingly shocking to see [so] many families [teaching] children about the problem, because my parents wouldn’t talk about it.”
Pi says this contrast helped her realize that silence keeps societal problems in place by making them seem less important. Inspired by the healing she felt after attending the protests, Pi launched WeRound, a monthly roundtable discussion hosted by WeMedia Lab, a media organization run by international students at Syracuse University. WeRound allowed members to talk about their experiences, and vent.
“Sometimes it feels like a group therapy. Sometimes it brings relief and understanding among peers,” Pi says.
Now that she has graduated, Pi hopes that current members will continue the roundtable. As for her own plans, Pi says she’d like to start a podcast to teach people about the origin and history of common Asian practices in hopes of creating an appreciation of her culture.
“Your culture [and] community [are] marvelous, and you should be proud of it,” says Pi. “When you get involved in the community, you will be surrounded by like-minded people.”
Monique Fortuné ’82 graduated from Union Theological Seminary with a master of divinity.
Mike Morgan (G ’85) co-produces The Grand Life: Wholehearted Grandparenting, one of the leading podcasts on grandparenting, with his wife Emily Morgan (former English adjunct faculty).
Michael Graf ’87 was named one of the “Top 25 Screenwriters To Watch In 2021” by the International Screenwriters Association. He is also the inaugural Writer In Residence at the University of Wisconsin Institute For Discovery as part of their Science To Script program where he’s writing a screenplay, PICKET CHARLIE, an environmental action thriller.
Brian Piotrowicz ’92 has worked for Oprah Winfrey for the past 17 years, has been nominated for 7 Emmys and won his first two in 2020 for shows that aired on Netflix and OWN.
Megan Anne Stull ’00 was elected president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and was promoted to senior counsel at Google.
Adam Beasley ’01 joined the Pro Football Network LLC (PFN) as its National NFL insider and analyst.
Richard Washington III ’02 was named news director of Fox 61/CW 20 in Hartford.
Erica Ettori ’03 joined Marriott Vacations Worldwide as global communications vice president.
Brian Kanziger ’03 was named assistant news directory at WGCL, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta.
Michelle Marsh ’05, anchor at WJLA in Washington, D.C., was nominated for an Emmy and an Associated Press award for best news anchor.
Ari Ashe G’06 is a senior reporter with the Journal of Commerce, a publication covering transportation and supply chain logistics. He is a recurring guest on Sirius XM Radio’s Road Dog Trucking Channel.
Nichole Berlie G’06 anchors Early Edition weekdays on NewsNation.
Mike Janela ’07 has launched Mike Janela Media, a talent coaching and mentoring service for aspiring broadcast and digital hosts.
Megan (Eaton) Hinds ’08 is now the senior manager of marketing and communications at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
Tamara Vallejos (G’10) was named director of marketing for The Juilliard School in New York City.
Katie Czerwinski ’18 is a motion graphics designer at Cosmopolitan magazine.
Julian Baron ’21 is part of a team nominated for an Emmy, and is chief of staff to the senior vice president of news at Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Rick Bonnell ’80, award-winning sportswriter for more than 33 years at The Charlotte Observer, died June 1, 2021. He was 63.
Mike Perlow ’92 is president and founder of Perlow Productions, a corporate video production and animation company now entering its 14th year, with clients including Dell Technologies, Hitachi-Vantara, Scrub Daddy, Subaru and Playmobil. Mike is also the incoming president of the Temple Beth Sholom (Cherry Hill, NJ) Men’s Club.
Lucy Naland ’19 was named designer for the Washington Post’s Instagram team.
Matthew Evenden ’21 joined Major League Baseball as a production assistant.
Rachel Pierce ’21 joined WBOC in Delmarva, Maryland as a multimedia journalist.