Cross-platform entertainment site All Def Digital named former Machinima executive Sanjay Sharma as the site’s first president and COO, co-founder Russell Simmons said today. Sharma also will join the site’s board, and will be responsible for day-to-day business and operational affairs while working with Simmons and other site founders on strategic direction. Simmons, the music and entertainment impresario, launched ADD last year with a string of YouTube online video shows and series featuring acts such as musicians Spoken Reasons and Odd Future, slam poetry, comedy, the reality show Love Dollhouse and more. The site has since continued to branch out on various distribution platforms and with new programming. It has partnered with DreamWorks Animation digital video unit AwesomenessTV, HBO, YouTube and Universal Music Group, where Simmons’ Def Jam Music is quartered. The company also recently announced ADD52, a deal with Samsung’s streaming music service Milk Music to release a single from a little-known music artist every week for a year.
Sharma spent five years at Machinima as one of its first employees and left a few weeks ago as EVP Strategy and Business Development after helping spearhead a $18 million round of funding led by Warner Bros in March. Sharma previously worked in Warner’s business & legal affairs operations, and for an ad-tech startup.
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EXCLUSIVE: Hip-hop mogul, film and television producer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons has signed with WME for representation in all areas. He was at CAA. The representation shift follows the Def Jam founder’s decision earlier this year to move full time to Los Angeles to focus on building his film and TV businesses, run by Jake Stein and recently appointed Chris Conti, respectively. Under a two-year first-look deal at HBO, which Simmons inked in May, he is executive producing a high-profile new drama project from 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Steve McQueen, director of the Oscar-buzzed slavery feature 12 Years A Slave, is making his first foray into television with another project featuring a black protagonist. McQueen has teamed with World War Z co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, hip-hop mogul/producer Russell Simmons and Oscar-winning producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (The King’s Speech) on the drama project, which is in development at HBO. Co-written by McQueen and Carnahan and to be directed by McQueen, the untitled drama is carrying McQueen’s signature style of provocative filmmaking and is described as an exploration of a young African-American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that may not be what it seems. We hear the project, described by some as “Six Degrees Of Separation meets Shame“, is being fast tracked, with casting choices already being explored for a potential shoot before McQueen starts his next movie. McQueen, Carnahan and Simmons executive produce with Canning and Sherman. Canning and Sherman produced McQueen’s second feature, Shame, with Canning also serving as an executive producer on McQueen’s feature debut, Hunger, which won the Camera d’Or in Cannes. McQueen’s third feature, 12 Years A Slave, got … Read More »
Controversy over a comedy short helped Russell Simmons launch his new YouTube channel All Def Digital yesterday. But a firestorm of complaints over Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, in which the abolitionist has sex with her master in order to blackmail him into creating the Underground Railroad, led Simmons to pull the video today and issue an apology. “In the whole history of Def Comedy Jam, I’ve never taken down a controversial comedian,” said Simmons in a statement. “When my buddies from the NAACP called and asked me to take down the Harriet Tubman video from the All Def Digital YouTube channel and apologize, I agreed.”
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin,” he continues. “My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Russell Simmons is quickly building up his newly launched Def Pictures and RSTV. NBC drama executive-turned-producer Chris Conti has been tapped as president of the two companies. Simmons, who bought a home in Los Angeles at the beginning of the year, has been focusing his money, time and energy on his new production shingles and recently signed a first-look deal with HBO. He met with a number of executives before settling on Conti as president. “Chris is such a good drama guy, and he is such a good ‘melody’ guy with great instincts for story,” Simmons said. Conti was recommended to Simmons by Brett Ratner, for whom Conti most recently worked as president of his production company Rat TV. Simmons said he already has “a broad plate” of projects, including one based on an idea brought in by Conti, a Norman Lear-esque comedy about a progressive guy and a conservative girl whose relationship is put to the test as the politically divided country heads to an election. Read More »