Jamal Henderson on Space Jam, Structuring SpringHill, LeBron James, and the Creator Economy

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Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jamal Henderson (via Shutterstock)

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Jamal Henderson is the Chief Content Officer of The SpringHill Company, a video-production company created by LeBron James and Maverick Carter. He reveals what it took to get “Space Jam: A New Legacy” off the ground, diving deep into branding partnerships and the musical aspect of the production. He also weighs in on all of the changes that have happened in the entertainment landscape post-pandemic and gives a preview of what’s next for SpringHill.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spearhead projects for an entertainment company and to launch a movie post-pandemic, this is the episode for you!

Episode Highlights:

[02:08] How the pandemic affected the production and release of movies

[03:12] About “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and SpringHill’s brand projects

[06:27] Why the movie is on-brand for LeBron and how it aged well

[10:45] On creating the “Space Jam: A New Legacy” soundtrack

[14:40] How SpringHill came to be what it is today

[22:55] About SpringHill’s venture into the audio side of the entertainment industry and its ongoing efforts to promote diversification

[29:38] On SpringHill’s upcoming projects

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Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guest: Jamal Henderson, @jamalhenderson, The SpringHill Company 

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Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. Today’s podcast is a special one and I know I’ve said that before but I really mean it about this one. I had a really good conversation with Jamal Henderson who is the Chief Content Officer of The SpringHill Company, an entertainment and production company founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter. I’ve been trying to get Jamal on the pod for a minute now and he normally doesn’t do these but the timing of this worked out well because Space Jam: A New Legacy is out in theaters. This is the sequel to the original Space Jam movie that starred Michael Jordan in the 90s and Jamal and I talked about what it’s like to get a movie like this off the ground and all of the work that goes into it but also all of the changes that have happened in the entertainment landscape. There’s a lot that’s changed post-pandemic. The box office and the movie theater industry is completely different. Streaming is different too. We talked about those decisions but we also talked about what it’s like to push a movie and get a movie like this to have the distribution and reach it does and some of the branding partnerships that SpringHill has made and that Jamal has made happen.


Dan: We got Jamal Henderson here, Chief Content Officer at SpringHill, and today’s the day, finally here, Space Jam is out in theaters. I’m sure you must be relieved but you also must be excited too. How you feeling?

Jamal: Feeling good, man. Feeling great, man. We got an amazing movie for everybody. Yeah, definitely, definitely excited for folks to check it out. Yeah, just go, go buy two, three, four tickets, you know? Just get it.

Dan: It must be a bit weird too because you had this whole thing planned last year because you expected it to come out in 2020 then things moved and, with so many changes happening with streaming, there’s been so much up in the air but I do feel like between you and some of the other movies that have recently came out, you’re in a chance to make a statement about what this industry is gonna be like, what movie going experiences are gonna be like too?

Jamal: Yeah, well, I mean, one correction, we were always gonna come out in ’21, actually. So, some of the other movies actually have moved into our space but we were always coming out in ’21. We filmed it in the summer of 2019 but, because of like — which, you know, which everyone’s gonna see soon, all the high level animation and VFX, it was always gonna take time so, in a weird way, the pandemic didn’t really stop the flow at all because, you know, all those folks were working remotely and on Zoom, like we’ve all come to learn is very effective. Yeah, so it was always a wait, you know, a long wait and I know people were chomping at the bit but we’re here.

Dan: And I feel like, yeah, even though there were some movies that did get postponed, I feel like, overall, though, this summer isn’t that busy from a blockbuster perspective. I feel like this was — let’s say this would have been the normal 2021, there would have been a big one last weekend, there would have been a big one the following weekend, but Fast 9, A Quiet Place, and you all, those are the — unless you wanna count the King Kong movie, those are the blockbusters we have for 2021.

Jamal: Yeah, no, I mean, look, we feel really good about, you know, our place in the market. You know, we’re a global movie, a family movie, a hoops movie, you know, about gaming, you know, it’s a four quadrant movie with a lot of action and, you know, and it’s also a beloved title, right? I mean, 25 years later, we’re back with Space Jam: A New Legacy so, yeah, we feel great about it. The music, the fashion, the corporate partners, you know, which I’m sure we’ll get into because, you know, I’m a big fan of this podcast and what you dig into, like I think it’s a, you know, it’s a bonanza. It’s one of those few, you know, pop culture moments where I think we can really tap into the culture and really get everybody out so that’s what we’re so excited about. It’s really like, you know, just a real big case study for The SpringHill Company and kinda like what we’ve been building towards, you know, with regard to all our projects.

Dan: And you mentioned the brand projects. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it’s been working with that piece of it pushing the movie?

Jamal: Yeah, I mean, in a lot of ways, it’s funny because it’s like, you know, I’m more comfortable with that than some of the other movie marketing elements that have been different but, yeah, you know, we have great partners and Warner Brothers has been amazing too in terms of just like collaboration, you know? But a big plot point in the movie is around gaming, I won’t — no spoilers here, and so we’ve got Microsoft, you know, Xbox, which is a big partner, and we were able to run, you know, an amazing promotion where, you know, where folks were able to build their own video games and Dom, you know, LeBron’s son in the movie, he’s a gamer and he’s a guy who’s building games and building worlds so, you know, that’s an exciting moment and kind of a trend that’s happening all around with Epic and all these cloud gaming sites and so we got that going on. We also have Nike, a massive partnership, obviously, with the LeBron business, but also with Converse too and across Nike Basketball so you just see a lot of energy around the Nike from the jersey to the sneakers to the lifestyle gear, men’s and women’s, just amazing, amazing collection that they put together. And then finally, McDonald’s Happy Meal which is like the holy grail of movie marketing and without, you know, generally Disney and Marvel dominate that but we were able to snag one of those and, you know, just really, really dope. As a father, you know, being able to go get the Happy Meal and have the toys, you know, for the kids is, although not always, you know, we gotta get to apple slices, not the fries, Dan, but the toys, the toys are great, you know? And — so, yeah, just amazing partnership on that front too. So, outside of partners that, you know, would have worked with LeBron or work with him currently, it’s really just the big partners working with the movie and the Looney Tunes, Warner Brothers and so that’s where it gets exciting and I know that, you know, that also is right up your alley too but that’s how we get the word out globally around this like big, big movie moment.

Dan: That makes a lot of sense. The gaming piece especially, you see everything that happened, whether it’s Travis Scott in Fortnite and Roblox, so much of that makes sense for you all too and I remember with one of the trailers, you’re tapping into the HBO IP or tapping into the Warner Brothers IP and so much of that. This is a tent-pole and this is a tent-pole in many ways bigger than the last Space Jam film when it came out so it’s good to see how you’re exercising that and making that happen.

Jamal: Yeah, for sure, man. I mean, you know, look, the world’s changed, right? So we’re able to do some things that they just weren’t able to do at the time. At the time, they were on the cutting edge of it. I mean, they were taking a Super Bowl commercial and turning it into a film and Mike was obviously Mike, you know, and now, you know, we’re able to really highlight, you know, a black family in a big hybrid globally and talk about all the things we’re able to talk about. Again, I don’t wanna spoil anything but, you know, but it’s really uniquely LeBron and it’s really uniquely SpringHill and, you know, and I think that’s the one thing people will take away from it is, you know, it’s definitely right on time, it feels like the current moment, and that’s what we’re really proud of. It’s aged very well because we made this two years ago so, you know, the fact that it ages really well is exciting but also just proves that we’re, you know, on point, on brand, and sort of, you know, on trend.

Dan: That’s good. Yeah, the agent piece is interesting because I do think that there’s probably a lot of content that was made in 2019 that is sitting on that shelf because it just does not translate to this post-pandemic, post-Black Lives Matter uprisings that happened last year, any of that stuff, but a lot of that has already been on brand in who LeBron is so it’s a natural extension of that.

Jamal: For sure, 100 percent, yeah.

Dan: I think that for you all, especially with a movie like this, it’s an interesting time in the streaming landscape because I know Warner Brothers had made that big deal with HBO Max when that Wonder Woman movie had came out and then it became this decision point of, okay, are these movies gonna go straight to streaming or are these movies going to go straight to the theaters? What were some of those discussions like and were there any big decisions that or just considerations you made, obviously, the decision for this is that it’s going straight to the theaters and there won’t be simultaneous streaming option, but what was that decision like and what were some of the thoughts that you had to make or decisions you had to make around that time?

Jamal: Yeah. I mean, you know, look, I think Warner Brothers did what was best for their business. You know, we’re relatively new to the town, right? Like — and so, you know, as a company, we’re all about audiences and so, you know, we consume streaming movies as well as go to the theater. We love the theater but we also consume movies at home too so, you know, the pandemic just accelerated what I think we all knew was happening, right? And so, you know, for us, we’re just excited to lead the way. I mean, we wanna be producers in the town for a long time and that’s gonna take a mix of having movies that are streamers and movies that are, you know, in the theater and, you know, what’s exciting is this is gonna reach way more people, you know, than it could ever do if it was one or the other because it’s available in sort of both way so we’re excited about that. You know, globally, it’s still only in theaters mostly, and here in the US, folks have an opportunity to watch on HBO Max so it wasn’t really a decision point, you know? If anything, like we wanna just be leaders and show that like the business can survive this way, you know, as we sort of continue to mold and that, for all intents and purposes, the movies are even bigger than they were before so, you know, it’s gonna take time but with safety and the way of the world, there really was no other option, you know, than to do it this way.

Dan: And I think for you all, from a content perspective, SpringHill has done so much direct streaming video, whether it was your work with Netflix when you had that Self Made with Octavia Spencer with the Madam C. J. Walker doc, which I thought was great, by the way, not the documentary but the series, and I do think that, you know, being able to have that flexibility is what’s gonna make the difference. Obviously, you have the focus and I think this era has shown that box office support can continue but you’re gonna have it available to others as well so I think that’s the way to push it, for sure. The piece I wanna get your thoughts on, though, is the soundtrack though and I think the soundtrack piece is key because I’m not the first person to say this, I don’t think that the Space Jam movie itself, the first one, I think our nostalgic memory of it is often better than that movie was itself but that soundtrack, I actually went back and listened to it a couple weeks ago, I was like, okay, for the most part, this thing still holds up. I gotta imagine that must have been a point of like, okay, how do we live up to that level of what we’re then able to create with that last soundtrack?

Jamal: No, for sure, man. To be honest, a lot of people always ask me like, “Hey, man, were you worried about the pressure of making another Space Jam?” and I was like, “Not really, not movie wise, but soundtrack wise, hell, yeah, I was worried about that,” but, you know, that’s — the good news is, you know, we have amazing partners on the film in Proximity Media which is, you know, Ryan and Zinzi Coogler, you know, Sev Ohanian, and Archie Davis and a lot of people know Archie’s work because of his time at Interscope and Black Panther and now even more so with Judas and the Black Messiah. He’s the soundtrack guru right now so he was heavily involved. We have a label partner in Republic and, you know, LeBron himself is a, as we know, A&R Brons, so we had the best years in the game involved in this so we’ve curated an amazing soundtrack and, you know, amazing lead singles with Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin on “We Win” and then also Saint Jhn and SZA on one of my favorite records, “Just for Me,” and so, you know, there’s some bops on there. I’m excited, you know, for everybody to check that out. I think there’ll definitely be some memes in a scoreboard as we go because that first soundtrack definitely had an eclectic sort of vibe from everything from Seal to, you know, what was it? 95 South and all those guys, you know? So it’s a snapshot of the time and that’s what we tried to do, you know? We have everybody from the artists that are the big streamers to some classic artists, you know, just so that we even it out, but, first and foremost, you know, Malcolm Lee, our director, really wanted music that like propels the story along, you know? It’s not just like needle drops for needle drops’ sake. It’s real, you know, music that’s matching the moment in the film and he’s done that in all his films, you know, like The Best Man, and in all his films, music has been a huge character. And then we also have a composer in Kris Bowers who is second to none and obviously very special so he added that element too and he’s got that classical training but also that hip-hop ear. So, yeah, I’m excited. There’s music everywhere, wall to wall, in the movie and it’s like it’s exciting so we’ll see where we add up. I’m gonna let the critics like you, Dan, weigh in on which one was better but I know which one I’ll take.

Dan: I’ll definitely give my opinion and I’m excited to check it out and I think, overall, soundtracks have been having a nice comeback for movies, especially, you named Judas and the Black Messiah, there’s a bunch of others, because I felt that Space Jam also benefited from that time, the 90s was such a strong time for soundtracks, thinking about whether it was Waiting to Exhale, The Bodyguard, like there were so many iconic ones that I think were bigger than many of the actual albums that they had themselves and I think we’re starting to see a little bit more of that come back so I think we’re in a good spot for that now and, if I know anything about A&R Bron, he’s gonna try to hit us with that deluxe two weeks later.

Jamal: Yeah, we might have some bops, we might have some things later, you know, there might be some remixes. But, yeah, no, I mean, we’re just super excited that the music is out in the world and, you know, that’s the holy grail and really Ryan, like I said, Ryan and Proximity Media and Archie, those guys have set the tone with bringing the soundtrack back with their films like Panther and Judas and that’s really what we needed and I think the labels are noticing that too and the artists too. I think a lot of artists pulled up and really wanted to be a part of it because they knew it was gonna be, you know, a moment.

Dan: Definitely, yeah, and I think the artists you got speaks for that itself and I think, overall, for you all at SpringHill as a company, the past year plus has been pretty monumental. I know you’ve been with the company for a few years now but it does feel like last year, especially when you got the $100 million worth of funding and were able to structure the company, that did set things off in a way where you’re able to create the projects you’re doing and have things really living the vision that you probably always had for this. How has that been at leading the company specifically through that and just seeing the changes that’s been both before the funding came through and now after with some of the things you’re able to do?

Jamal: Yeah, I mean, it’s really more of the same. I mean, we definitely were able to bring on some partners financially and really like merge three distinct different companies that we all had, right? So, whether it be The Robot Company in New York which is a consulting and sort of advisory business for, you know, sports and entertainment and culture; Uninterrupted, which was an athlete empowerment business that was, you know, sort of a consumer-facing business from everything from content to merch and all the things; and then the SpringHill Entertainment Company which was, you know, more of a traditional production company in television and film and now, all together, we’re sort of like, you know, better together and, you know, one plus one equals three where we’re able to like, you know, really, really just amplify things. So, really just we’re able to just pour gas on it and nothing’s really changed in terms of that. We all still talk and do a bunch of things together, but what we’re able to bring to content, to clients, to partners is sort of like — now, it’s just like, you know, superpower.

Dan: And I do think that being able to superpower that has brought a lot of not just the attention but some of other projects and just seeing more of the brand in different places, right? Obviously, I think The Shop getting on HBO and those series was a nice turning point, right? And I know LeBron has done some of the conversations that he’s had, whether it was with, I’m thinking about that Uber, right? Where it’s like with KD or so —

Jamal: Oh, KD —

Dan: Yeah, but like that stuff’s cool and I feel like those things like build to the point where not just that but I know like that Fast Company article that was written, I think it’s true, you do, this is how you’ve become the envy of Hollywood in a lot of ways because you’re able to pull things and I think, at the end of the day, having a creator and a focus like LeBron at the center is what helps to drive so much more of this but it’s not just him, it’s you, it’s Maverick, everyone has a bit of a platform here and that, I think, really is what the Hollywood model will look like overall for entertainment.

Jamal: You nailed it, man. I mean, really, the thing that we’re pulling through everything is empowerment, right? You know, Disney kinda has happiness, right? Ours is empowerment, you know? Everybody knows the story, famously, you know, LeBron’s empowered Maverick, right? To do what he does or Rich Paul to do what he does and so, you know, I’m fortunate enough that Maverick’s empowered me to sort of build this slate and build this business up so we do that now at the next level so like something, you know, like House Party which we’re shooting right now in LA, we have Calmatic who’s a music video director, people know him from “Old Town Road” and early Kendrick videos. He’s now, you know, making his first feature film with our new take on House Party, you know? And so that’s what we’re trying to do is just continue to empower a new generation of creators. It’s not really different than what you’re reading about with all this creator economy, creator class, you know? That’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re putting it, you know, putting the ball in the hands of the creators, right? And so it’s the same thing, it’s not an influencer all the time but it is the creator and so we just follow creatives, you know? All we’re trying to do is be a lighthouse for those creatives to come and tell their stories and for us to create businesses around them, create franchises around them, like The Shop, which you mentioned, which we, you know, are able to do in a lot of different ways. Right now, it’s articulated, you know, on HBO, but, you know, you might be able to wear the hoodie or you might be able to go to a shop in person, you know? Maybe it becomes the next Supercuts, I don’t know, you know what I mean? But there’s so many avenues for these brands and, you know, my background is marketing so, for me, it all makes a ton of sense but, you know, in some places, it feels like a novel concept. So, we’ll — that’s good for us that it feels new for folks, you know?

Dan: When are we gonna see you in The Shop, by the way? I feel like you’d have a lot to offer in those conversations.

Jamal: Nah, man, nah. You know, I’m behind the scenes, man. I only do this for you, man. I’m food and beverage, Dan.

Dan: No, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Well, the creator economy piece that you mentioned I think is key because I even look at that as a bit of a flywheel, right? Because I think so much of this conversation is focused in many ways on folks like me who, not nec— I don’t wanna say everyday person but, yes, this is what you can create if you are not just making a living but you’re making a platform for something that you’re interested in, you have a skill set to be able to build on, but it also applies to people like Bron as well. This is someone who has reached the highest levels of sports entertainment, leveraging that brand to do the empowerment and by him maximizing his platform, getting the funding, getting these projects put out, he then can put on for other people to do the same and that creates a cyclical cycle in that type of way and I think that’s pretty cool and I don’t know if that piece of the creator economy gets talked about as much.

Jamal: No, no, it doesn’t, but, you know, you’re gonna see it right now, right? I mean, you know, obviously, the recent news around name and likeness for college athletes is all the rage, right? So you’re gonna see it happen in real life, I think, just in terms of folks like yourself who have a platform, have a niche that can be way bigger, you know, and so it’s an exciting time. It’s probably a little, you know, scary for gatekeepers and folks that wanted to stop that but I think that this is the way, this is the future, and so we wanna embrace that which is why, you know, we’re all about empowerment, we’re all about finding the next person up, the next amazing, you know, filmmaker. We just made a film about the Tulsa massacre called Dreamland for CNN that did very, very well for them and it’s directed by this amazing woman named Salima Koroma who had been trying to tell that story for years. She did all the work. She had researched it. She had like all — everything was ready to go, she just didn’t have anyone that would believe in it and so, you know, that’s effectively what we wanna do is we just wanna be one of those places that help empower that because, ultimately, that’s good business for us and it’s good for Salima. Now she’s on her way.

Dan: Yeah, and I think that name and likeness piece that you had mentioned with the old NCAA rule changing, that’s spot on for all you because Gavin Newsom had signed that law while he was on that episode of The Shop and —

Jamal: Yeah, we feel completely respon— no, I’m just kidding. No, you know, it’s funny, it goes even further than that, like one of the first films I was lucky enough to produce was — Mav and Steve Stoute produced a film called Student Athlete for HBO and so that kind of predated everything, you know, when, you know, everybody knew what we knew about the NCAA but then, you know, now, yeah, Governor Newsom came on The Shop and, you know, signed the bill and now here we are, fast forward to now where, you know, it’s the wild, wild West. But it’s exciting, you know? Because I think, you know, you’re now gonna have the gymnast whose routine goes viral, now you’re gonna see, okay, what happens when the free market is able to engage with her, you know? What happens now? Because it’s no different than the TikTok and so for folks like you, I mean, it’s gonna be really exciting because I’m sure you’re gonna be breaking that down in an infographic somehow but, yeah, but it’s great for those athletes and, you know, right now, you can be a musician in college at UCLA or USC and be making bread but be on the basketball team and not be able to make bread, which doesn’t make any sense. So, yeah, so now I think we’re gonna have a little bit of, you know, evening of the scales, you know?

Dan: Yeah, I think so too. This is something that so many people have been pushing for. Obviously, I think it works out well for you all. Of course, there’s the business aspect but, no, this ties back to the empowerment. This is what you wanted to do and although I know that there will be some grifter activity with something like this, it’s always inevitable, but the more that folks like you and the brands like yours can continue to push that, the better off it’ll be so I’m excited. I was gonna ask you if there were other areas that SpringHill will probably enter in and, of course, I do think college is one of them with this, but are there any business areas that you haven’t done yet? I mean, because I feel like from an entertainment perspective, you’ve clearly checked off that at the highest levels but I’m sure there’s so much more.

Jamal: Yeah, I mean, look, I think the next frontier for us we’re really excited about is audio, right? Like podcasting is just another version of storytelling and, you know, in a lot of ways, it’s cheaper development than video and so we have some podcasts now but we really, you know, we’re taking that to another level and we’re building a whole slate around that to have our own network that we can drive and, you know, help our brand partners reach more audiences but also, you know, just continue to like tell stories and create platforms where we might be able to adapt that into the next, you know, Self Made or the next film. So, it just allows us to upstream creative ideas that we’re excited about or articles or talent that we’re excited about and work with them sort of in an earlier step in the process. So, really, really excited about that in building that team and, you know, you know that well, I mean, that business is super, super red hot and trying to figure out how we tap into that is really where I’m spending a lot of my time today.

Dan: Yeah, the audio piece is such a smart move to double down on for you all. You’ve obviously been able to curate so many of those conversations and know how to do them well from a video perspective so it’s only natural there and easier to produce. Thinking more broadly about audio though, I feel like the SpringHill record label is only a matter of time, especially with A&R Bron, I know he’s gonna wanna tap into something like that.

Jamal: Yeah, man. Look, I think there’s a lot of opportunities, you know? We definitely are music — when I say audio, it could mean that too, you know? There’s a lot of opportunities in music that we’re excited about in live music, recorded music, podcasting, you know, definitely everywhere in audio, we’re excited about. You know, we’ve already done great partnerships with folks like Audible and Sirius and Pandora, we have active playlists on there as well so, yeah, we love that business. In fact, on the audio side, we did a whole special for More Than a Vote which is, you know, a concept around just getting more black voters out that was able to help, you know, turn states like Georgia out, so, yeah, I think just, you know, traditional label stuff or albums but also non-traditional things like, you know, like we were able to do with that special or maybe even comedy. I mean, I think it’s endless in terms of what’s possible on the audio side and, you know, we have an amazing executive, you know, in place now, we’re building that team, so watch that space, Dan, you know? That’s next.

Dan: Definitely will, definitely will. The other thing that I noticed SpringHill gets hit up about a lot is people have seen what your company has done from a diversity perspective and using that as a voice for social justice as well. You have a very diverse staff, both from a gender and race perspective, but you’re also using your platform and I think it’s great but I also could imagine, though, with so many corporate executives and folks reaching out, on one hand, you’re using your platform and doing it effectively, but on the other hand, part of you may be like, “All right, this isn’t that hard, y’all. You just have to have some intention behind it but we’re happy to tell you that if you want us to.”

Jamal: Yeah, yeah, no, you’re absolutely right, man. I mean, it’s something that we’ve been focused on long before, you know, last summer and, you know, it’s something that we care about and we do it at every level, you know? Like with the executive team but also on all of our projects and all of our productions, we are really focused on diversity above and below the line so not just the folks you see on camera but, you know, as you know, typically, you might look behind the camera and not see any folks of color or even women on a set, so that’s a systemic problem that we’re hoping to fix as well and, you know, it just takes more and more projects, more and more folks getting credits or getting opportunities to work on our projects and then they get, you know, they can move up the ladder. So, it’s just another element of the empowerment we’re about but I’m glad you noticed that. I mean, it means the world, you know, to us to continue to grow those executives and, you know, we have alumni already that are doing amazing things that have started at SpringHill and I think that’s like the best calling card, you know, for talent to say they started their career with us.

Dan: Yeah, because I think that’s how people see that pipeline, right? It’s like, okay, who were the people that are making moves here? How did they end up tying back to whatever they’re doing at —

Jamal: That’s right.

Dan: — you know, this company. And I think for you all too, SpringHill sits in this place where, from the talent and from the people that are working either behind the camera or behind the scenes, the people that you have in power, that are put in power positions are clearly there, some of them, you know, had their relationships and friendships with Bron before and then they’re put in those positions and then others, of course, were able to follow suit but it does seem like having that strong direction and intention upfront speaks to, yes, this is how you build these things because it started from the beginning origin parts of the company and I could imagine that, for some of the people reaching out, that part of it may actually be difficult because they’re trying to change things into like seventh inning or the eighth inning and it’s like, “No, we’ve been this way from the jump so that’s why so much of it is ingrained,” and not that culture is impossible to change over time but when some of these blue-chip companies that have been around before either of us were even born are calling, I can imagine it’s like, “Okay, well, how much do you wanna change things? Because it’s possible but it’s gonna take a lot of work and it’s work you should be doing but just FYI.”

Jamal: That’s right, 100 percent and really all that, you know, all credit goes to LeBron and Mav because they set the tone and it is a mission-driven company and, you know, SpringHill is literally named after the, you know, housing projects that, you know, they met at and LeBron used to live in and Uninterrupted was a clear, you know, sort of outgrowth of him trying to speak to folks uninterrupted and directly, right? When he was coming back to Cleveland. So, all of it is real and ties in, you know? There’s nothing like fabricated around it and you’re totally right, like if you’re a mature business trying to change in the seventh inning, that’s gonna be really hard to do so it has to be ingrained from the jump and it has to be just a part of the culture and that’s what we’ve tried to do here is just like continue to grow that energy and that culture with everybody that joins and, you know, we’ve been really fortunate, we just have a great amount of young people that wanna be involved and now, if you’re a young person in college or whatever, you’re seeking out SpringHill, you know it exists and that’s even better because we’re gonna create more SpringHills, there’s gonna be other folks that create that culture and that world and that environment so that’s the secret sauce right there. You nailed it.

Dan: That’s what’s up, man. That’s what’s up. So, we did talk a lot about Space Jam. You also mentioned House Party 2. Any other upcoming projects that you can give us a sneak peek on?

Jamal: Oh, man. That’s hard. I don’t wanna spoil anything but, I mean, we got a couple really amazing projects. You know, a documentary with Naomi Osaka. It’s directed by Garrett Bradley. A project with Neymar Jr. Both of those are in Netflix. They’re just amazing access, amazing stories, amazing characters, and really, really proud of those. And then we’re doing these really cool specials called Recipe for Change with YouTube that I’m really excited about. The first one was around Asian American hate and stopping that and the next one, they’re gonna be about other projects but, basically, just dinner parties where people are having real conversations about, you know, change and then, you know, with folks of the culture but also allies too because I think that’s the biggest part, right? Like people like to talk about it but then it’s like how do we make the plan to make change? And so we’re really excited about that, doing things that are a little bit out of the comfort zone, people might not expect from us. That’s my favorite thing to do is surprise folks so you’ll see some more stuff like that that might be, you know, might feel a little bit different but we’re really excited. You know, we have another project with Robin Roberts actually on Disney+ called Turning the Tables with Robin Roberts and it’s just an amazing project where she talks to women, she admires women who admire her and it gets super emotional but super educational so, you know, we just continue to push the lens and work with folks that we admire and talent that we wanna continue to work with.

Dan: And you mentioned that you like to do things that surprise people and you have a few of those things that are coming. What are some of the projects that you’ve done so far that you feel like have kept people on their toes or maybe they’ll would be like, “Oh, wow, SpringHill did this. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Jamal: I mean, I did — two that come to mind are actually both are scripted projects so I’d say Top Boy, you know, which is a project that Drake brought us actually, Drake and Future the Prince brought us and I had no idea about the show and I just binged it all. It was all on YouTube illegally at the time and I watched it all in one night and I told Mav, I was like, “Man, we gotta do this, this is crazy.” It was a part of London people don’t talk about, you know what I mean? It’s always the same Downton Abbey, you know, Crown, Energy. You’ll appreciate it. It wasn’t since SAS and Diplomats that I had, you know, felt like I was like, “Oh, wow, London is, London’s different. It’s just like, you know, just like the US in terms of, you know, parts of the city,” so I really connected with it and, you know, once you get around the language and the lingo, it’s exciting, it’s all the same, so we’re excited that, you know, we’re deep into that show. It’s been BAFTA nominated. I don’t know if people know we’re involved in it or they would expect that we would be in that London crime type of show and then Self Made, which you called out before, you know, which is a project that we’re super, super proud of and won multiple Image Awards but, you know, it’s a female entrepreneur and it’s black excellence and, you know, we’re all about entrepreneurship and we’re all about black excellence and it was a project that we chased hard and wanted to be involved in and, you know, Octavia has become a friend and just an amazing, amazing actress, obviously, but also someone we’re gonna continue to work with. So, those are the two that come to mind that I think people are, you know, just not as familiar with, expecting maybe we only do sports or, you know, we only do social justice or what have you, but those are two that I’m excited about and I’m excited about the next season of Top Boy too which is coming up fast and I’m excited for people to see where we’re at with that story as well.

Dan: Yeah, I think Top Boy was a bit of a surprise for people just because, well, a few things. One, when the headlines came out, people were like, “What? Drake picked this up? Oh, SpringHill picked this up too?” and this has been around since 2011 or whenever the first season came out so there was a lot of like, “Wait, what is this?” So I think that was good that you all did that and that’s the type of thing that just widens the scope for you all and you’re releasing global content and this is how you do and extend it and I know we talked about Self Made but that definitely felt spot on for you all. Different because I do think that a lot of the content so far, although it does cover a pretty wide space, I think a lot of it may lean itself to being a bit more male-oriented things, at least up to this point, so that was a nice departure from that and a story that a lot of people probably didn’t know about and when I say a lot of people, maybe a lot of people that are in the Netflix audience that may be like, “Oh, hmm, I’ve heard this name in school before. Let me figure out more. I think, you know, folks like us can do a little bit more,” but, you know, obviously, there’s some strategy in the streaming platforms that you choose to partner with to put things out, for sure.

Jamal: Yeah, no, for sure. For sure.

Dan: Well, this is dope, man. Jamal, man, I’m glad you came on, glad we did this. I know you plugged things but if people wanna follow along with you, specifically, or if things that are happening or coming from SpringHill, where should they go? What should they follow?

Jamal: Definitely follow @thespringhillco, definitely follow Uninterrupted, and definitely, definitely go buy a ticket to Space Jam: A New Legacy in theaters right this second. So, that’s the play right there.

Dan: And the soundtrack too.

Jamal: Oh, definitely run it up on that soundtrack. Definitely run it up on that soundtrack. Yeah, super excited for all those things and, yeah, man, thank you, Dan. Appreciate it. Big fan of what you got going on, man, and hope to see you soon, brother.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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