Nikko Kimzin, a graduate from the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television, is working hard to see minority performers and artists take the stage in new and important ways. His art initiative, Epoch Creative NYC, seeks to "uplift the human spirit" by creating and producing art from minority voices from the city's underserved communities. For more information or to donate to the initiative, visit epochcreativenyc.com.
Tell me a little bit about Epoch Creative NYC.
I always ask the question, if I was the CEO of my business, what is my mission statement? And one thing that's always rung true, ever since I moved to the city, my job here on Earth is to uplift the human spirit. I can wake up everyday and say, how does this project uplift this person? And if I can keep coming back to that with every mission statement, with every project, it's something that I can move forward with. It's really about working with minority artists to produce and present stories that are underrepresented in the tapestry that is American entertainment.
Who are you collaborating with right now?
Right now we have a couple of projects. We just got done doing "The Great Black Way," which was 13, one-minute comedic shorts about the black performer's experience. Like when you go to a makeup artist and they have no idea how to do a black person's makeup or you go to a costume fitting and all the white girls are wearing white tights and they give you a pair of white tights. Just [about] these hilarious things that are so real and so authentic to the black performer's experience. So we did that two months ago and we had this great following. And they kept sharing it, black young performers specifically, and they're like 'Oh my god, that's so my life.' That was kind of a tipping point to say, 'OK we have something here and we have an audience that is hungry to be represented,' so we're coming up with our second series called #Unbooked. Everything performers have to do to be booked. The unglamorous life (laughter). And it's written and produced by minority artists. For "The Great Black Way" we had over 40 black performers come in over two days to film our 13 episodes.
Tell me about "La Morena."
"La Morena" is our first short film. It's the story of a young woman who loses her identity in a relationship with this guy and, through the matriarchs of her family, regains her power. It's shot in two styles: modern realism and then it's paralleled by a ballet duet of the same story. The ballet duet incorporates elements of magical realism, so large-scale Day of the Dead puppetry. And there's some great symbolism in the Day of the Dead mask of the Bride of Death. Her lips are stitched together, meaning she's been silenced for centuries and now it's her responsibility to take the opportunities that she's been given to pave a new way for Latin women. It's a creative team [made up primarily with] women of color. Cause I kept struggling with this question: How do we empower women of color? Hire them. If we truly want equality in the workforce and if we truly think that racism and sexism are systemic, then put women of color in the system.
Why is this work important?
It's like our national news, right? Like everything that's been happening with Black Lives Matter, I hit a point of stagnation in my grieving. And then I kept asking myself, where does the call of action fit into the stages of grieving? What if we were all activists in our own disciplines? So what does that look like? For me, I believe artists are creators of culture and what we can do with the power we have is creating a new narrative and a new culture for underrepresented voices. So using more minority work is to get more minority work mainstream so that a kid in Arizona growing up can watch TV, go to a show, can experience art and feel represented because he's seen a person of color doing it. So I think that's why Epoch Creative NYC and what we're doing is important, because in order for all of us to be equal there's justice first. And that's bringing up people of color so that, from the top down, we are represented.