While it wasn’t a typical Hollywood Blvd red carpet opening this summer I worked a special movie premiere. My first outdoor drive-in theater experience during the pandemic was also my only Los Angeles movie premiere this summer. For anyone just finding my blog, my name is William and I’m an entertainment publicist working in Los Angeles, CA. I work at a boutique PR agency that represents film and TV for awards and film festivals. This post is inspired by my recent experience working a film that had its west coast premiere at an outdoor drive-in theater as part of the 2020 Outfest Film Festival.
Before the world shut down, film premieres were a staple in my work routine. It feels like a lifetime ago when I was darting and skidding on black ice in Park City, UT racing to reach a movie theater. My last traditional theater premieres were during my last work trip of 2020. Yes, I got to grace the crowds of the star-studded Sundance Film Festival. I share this to let you know that I’ve experienced theaters and movie openings of all shapes and sizes.
Attending and working this outdoor drive-in movie stands out in my moviegoing experience. A sobering reminder of drive-in movie reality was when I wanted to sh my friend, but I remembered that her voice only reached the walls inside my SUV. (I’ll talk more about this later but trust me big cars for the drive-in movie win.) For all the comforts that came with sitting in your own car, there are elements that were clearly missed from an in-theater movie premiere experience.
How a Drive-In Movie Premiere Compares to a Traditional Theater
Where going to a theater for a movie made the space work to immerse you, drive-in movies put this task on the individual. This drive-in movie premiere was hosted at the Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, CA. I'd never been to this Malibu scenery and wow was it a glorious scene. The space reserved for the cars was an open dusty lot giving each car ample room. I had no issues parking my SUV, big cars for the win. No cars had any issues in the drive-in theater when it came to finding room to leave and ensure that others could see too. While seeing the screen wasn’t an issue, it was up to me to suspend my disbelief as a viewer. Instead of relying on surround system a pitch-black room I had to shut out outside factors to focus on the film.
Attending a drive-in movie does offer some unique benefits in making it a comfortable viewing experience. When I arrived at this drive-in movie I was dressed up in a suit and tie. My typical uniform when working a movie premiere as part of the publicity team. Thanks to the luxury of sitting in my car I got to change into something comfortable after I did my publicist duties. I brought a friend with me to the event and we both go to enjoy the snacks and sandwiches we packed. Another win-win, saving money from movie theater snacks and seeing a movie in sweats. Unlike a traditional theater, within my car I had full control of my AC. When it got too cold in this outdoor Malibu theater, I had the power to make my own toasty screening room.
Drive-in movie premieres offer a unique viewing experience that echoes traditional theater traditions while inventing new ones. Audience engagement is what energizes movie premieres and it was hard to recreate that magic sitting in our cars. During key moments in the film cars honked piercing the empty night sky – a drive-in movie exclusive version of cheers and woos. Moviegoers at this outdoor drive-in premiere were limited to relishing their thoughts with their passengers. Focusing on the film playing did come a bit harder. Being in my car meant I could check my phone readily, which because I was working that night I did have to do often. I also noticed that if I poked my head in different directions, I could also see other films playing.
A small issue, that I knew I couldn’t be only person enduring. During drive-in movies the audio is provided by tuning your car radio to a set signal. In case you’ve never been to a drive-in movie, know that you do not want to make the mistake of leaving your car completely on during the run time. I speak from experience of being twenty minutes into the movie and realizing that my engine was still running… During the film I sporadically turned on and off my car’s lights and radio because the inactivity shut it down. A minor hiccup, but a drive-in movie issue I thought worth noting.
During a typical premiere the publicity team would be wrangling our talent and prepping them for a carpet and photo. Part of my responsibilities included scheduling these pictures, and beforehand ensuring our team was tested and had negative results for COVID-19. The 2020 Outfest Film Festival team did its best to maintain a socially distant press line by having our filmmakers take photos in groups of no-more than 6. I could tell the filmmakers enjoyed their premiere experience and seeing the cars packed to see their film. However, I could tell that there was an emptiness in not being able to connect for an in-person reception or for a talk back to introduce the documentary’s subjects.
Are outdoor drive-in movies the future of film?
In our socially distant world virtual cinema and drive-in theaters are becoming vital in the business of film. Yet, as someone who works on film campaigns and works with press, I admit that I think drive-ins are still more of a novelty than a viable film distribution method. For those in organizations like the Film Academy aka the voters for the Oscars, drive-ins are not on their radar. For members of our press, drive-ins could be the substitute for premiere receptions, but again press screeners are often easier for them to access.
For the average moviegoer not in the entertainment industry, drive-in theaters are a quality distraction to socially distant routines. For professionals, it’s one of those extra things that could be fun, but by no means is a priority in shaping contenders or the race of chasing gold, an Oscar.
Have you been to a drive-in movie? What are your thoughts?
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post!
Since the days of “Just Dance” back in the golden era of the mid-2000s, I have been a proud Little Monster, aka a fan of Lady Gaga. I’ve never failed to digest a Lady Gaga album on the day of its release, and when Chromatica arrived I already ordered multiple copies. (Yes, I even bought the Target Exclusive version that includes 3 additional tracks.) I share this because I don’t know that many know of my fandom for Lady Gaga to the same degree that people know I am the loudest Ariana Grande fan, Arianator, in the room.
I quite literally majored in the rhetoric of Ariana Grande at my undergrad. My senior thesis included a dedication to Ariana Grande and her seminal album thank u, next that got me through the turmoil of my last year in college. That is all to say that earlier this summer when “Rain on Me” was announced by Lady Gaga featuring Ariana Grande, I could not contain my excitement. This dance track was quite literally a cultural reset during quarantine.
Tonight, another cultural landmark has been reached as Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande united for the 2020 MTV VMAs to deliver the first TV performance of “Rain on Me.” As soon as the performance went live, I have relished in this culmination of pop artistry. Whether you have yet to or you saw it, these are my top 5 moments from Gaga & Grande’s performance of “Rain on Me” at the 2020 MTV VMAs.
Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande Deliver Iconic Face-Masked Performance of ‘Rain on Me’ at 2020 MTV VMAs
1. Lady Gaga’s MTV VMA performance begins with an ode to 1999 award show
Lady Gaga’s name is synonymous with the VMAs after the many jaw-dropping stunts she’s pulled. From ending The Fame era with an artful and gory critic of fame culture to the meat dresses, Gaga has cemented herself as a VMA icon. But what I’ve always loved Lady Gaga’s artistry because of how she pays homage to pop history. The opening bit on the television, inside of our TV, includes footage from the 1999 MTV VMAs and announces a lineup of Diana Ross, Britney Spears, and NSYNC. A blast from pop’s past.
2. Lady Gaga’s face mask steals the 2020 VMAs show
Leave it to Lady Gaga to not only deliver a perfect socially distant performance but do it with some of the most stylish face masks and PPE ever. "I was wearing face shields before it was a thing," Gaga said on Twitter Sunday night (Aug. 30). Honestly, Gaga has always been a style icon. I would not be surprised, or upset, if she released some more Chromatica inspired helmets. (I missed getting a mask!)
3. Ariana Grande sashaying into her “Rain on Me” VMAs Performance
Even though there was no way I could be witnessing these queens performing in person, I’m sure they heard me screaming when the “Rain on Me” united on stage. When Ariana Grande coolly slides in from the back of the stage, and with pony tails, you heard the nation scream, “Yas!”
4. Ariana Grande Hitting a Whistle Note and Lady Gaga Cheering her on during "Rain on Me" PERFORMance
The bridge on “Rain on Me” remains one of my favorites in all of pop music because we get a flavor of both signature Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. Lady Gaga gives us some sultry delivery lyrics taking us to the climax of this song. “Rain on me, tsunami” coos Gaga. And then Ariana Grande delivers perhaps one of her greatest whistle tones ever! Lady Gaga even turns to her, for a spit second of silence, as she cheers on her fellow singer. We have no choice but to stan legends supporting legends!
5. Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande end 2020 MTV VMAs performance walking away hand in hand
Back to my point of legends stanning legends, the beauty of “Rain on Me” exists in how organic Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s artistry works. From the song where the two vocalists carry their weight to the video and its stunning visuals, this performance is the culmination of pop perfection. In re watching the video, I caught a glimpse of Gaga and Grande walking away hand in hand. This subtle sign of support and friendship is the cure my heart and soul needed for my quarantine blues.
What was your favorite moment from the 2020 MTV VMAs? Comment below or let me know on social media Instagram/Twitter @Willsshowem
Thanks for reading these Words by Will!
TikTok is that app that is sticking to the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and this time it’s because of the threat of a TikTok ban from President Trump. I’ll be honest, when I think of TikTok I do not think of the ban as the first problem facing this app. Why? Because while I applaud TikTok for democratizing online virality and being a new frontier, it’s quickly become as toxic as some of the more established social media platforms.
Some of the toxic behavior on TikTok is evident. This infamous behavior includes popular TikTok creators caught partying in a pandemic, to the many irrelevant feuds between its creators. I respect TikTok for giving a new generation of creators of different backgrounds and identities space. However, I do not agree with how TikTok has been slow, and sometimes absent, to protect or elevate its Black and BIPOC creators when their culture is constantly being appropriated.
What I want to discuss is the countless examples of cultural appropriation of Black culture, and BIPOC culture, when it comes to what has made these top creators the, “top.” Again, I understand the need for apps like TikTok which can be used as tools for socials change, we need to also hold its creators accountable to the same degree we hold other influencers to a standard. I operate within the framework that the personal is political. You don’t need a formal training in star studies or rhetorical criticism to understand that concepts like the commodity fetish, cultural appropriation, and the navigation of race exist in celebrity identity. Think of Kim Kardashian and her many call outs for cultural appropriation.
One of the most political tools we as humans have is our bodies. The way we walk, our dance, our fashion, our bodies have access to languages with its own sets of grammar and style. When the Black Lives Matter movement broke into TikTok there was an outcry that was long overdue. Black TikTok creators and Black culture was being blocked, not shared, and diluted. And non-BIPOC creators and non-Black creators steadily grew their influence appropriating Black culture.
Instead of a TikTok Ban Let’s Talk About Cultural Appropriation
The reason I'm writing this is because I continue to see dance and music that is localized and born from within Black culture being appropriated for the growth of non-Black TikTok creators. In case you're wondering, I am Latino and part of the Latinx community. I raise this point because know the importance of speaking out when I see actions that need to be called out - called out. I also know a thing or two about media representation because I both work in the entertainment industry and my undergraduate training was in rhetorical and media criticism, with a focus on new media. Yup, I have a lot of big words in my vocabulary always ready.
The post that sparked this piece was a duet by two TikTok dancers, Tony Lopez (@tonylopez) and Sarah-Jade Bleau (@sjbleau). As I scrolled threw the comments I saw dozens of people saying how, "cool" they looked and praising them. My problem with the duet and their performance of the song, "100 Racks" is that along with being remixed to have a Caribbean inspired beat the dance itself is stolen from Caribbean culture. I recognized these movements because many of my peers in college studied Caribbean dance and the same movements, gestures, and facial expressions exist in that medium of performance. Both TikTokers call themselves dancers, but what I ask is, "Where is your credit to this dance's culture?" On both creators accounts I have not seen any nods to Black culture which they heavily profit off of. There's a clear difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation and my gut tells me this is blatant appropriation. Without pointing to Black creators who may have first performed the dance, or the sources where they learned some, young people seeing this duet might just think it's just a, "cool looking" dance.
Well sorry to break it to you, the dance performed by not only these TikTokers but by any of your favorites are rooted in oppression and acts of protest. These dances convey a history, meaning, and culture that non-Black creators and non-BIPOC creators are profiting off. The consequence of this dance is that it leaves Black creators without credit and without their own culture to celebrate because it could be seen as out of trend by the time they do it.
The TikTok ban has scared many creators into pushing their fans to other social media platforms to help them maintain influence. In trying to funnel their fans into different content channels many creators are also still maintain their regular posting schedule. In writing this piece the words like patriarchy, heteronormativity, and commodity fetish rolled off my tongue on onto the page. Like all platforms, TikTok has space for transgressive representation. But the problem is that the performance part of TikTok, I’m talking about dance, is being ignored. Altering appearance through getting dressed is just one part of how creators can negotiate their representation in relation to race, class, and gender.
Writing is a process that for better or worse defines who I am. And my writing has cemented itself in themes of identity, politics, and media. I write because I want to be heard. TikTokers do what they do because they want to be seen. I admire the young creatives, younger than me and I'm only 23, who built a platform for themself on TikTok. I also understand that the TikTok ban poses serious questions about free speech. Yet, with the worry that President Trump's ban can impose we need to also look internally at the issues happening within TikTok itself. We need to ask, "How can we hold these TikTokers accountable?" YouTube has gone ahead and demonetized problematic creators. We need TikTok to release guidelines that actually curtail behavior that's problematic and insensitive. Whether it's banning creators or something of that nature - a change in TikTok culture needs to happen.
My writing is not shy of presenting the personal as political. I’m usually pushing out criticism sometimes on the most personal texts; the embodied. Our bodies are rhetorical, and people often forget. Writing about film, the grammar of a TV show, or the cultural appropriation in a TikTok dance has as much merit to raising social consciousness as the person writing for the 15th time about Shakespeare’s sonnets.
I'm curious to know, what are your thoughts on the TikTok ban? Can you think of any examples of the cultural appropriation I'm talking about? Let me know in the comments below or tag me on social media @Willsshowem
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post!
Over the last few years Hollywood has had a rude awakening to the cries of audiences, industry insiders, and creatives saying, “Representation matters!” I am Latino and I have a dilemma with both my passion and profession in the media industry. I love this year’s 2020 Emmy nominations, but I’m also disappointed to see that no Latinx series, talent, or stories were recognized by the TV Academy’s members. It’s very important I make this distinction because people don’t know who or how shows get nominated, and I’m here to tell you how exactly it goes down.
My opportunity to start working in the entertainment industry came after the watershed moment of #OscarsSoWhite back in 2017 when I became part of The Academy’s Academy Gold Internship Program. This was quite literally my golden ticket into being in the know within entertainment. From movements like #MeToo and Latino leaders called for a boycott of Paramount studios after seeing a lack of Latino representation in film, I heard it from within the industry first.
2020 Emmy Nominations: Latinx Shows and Acting Absent
As I advanced in my career, I had a front row seat to other landmark movements calling for representation. And as these moments unfold, they offered both hope and heartbreak to young people like me, BIPOC people, in the entertainment industry. Today another heartbreak moment came when no Latinx show or acting nominees were announced as part of the 2020 Emmy nominations. It saddened me because as a Latino, a storyteller, and a young person in this industry, it was another moment that affirmed that our voices are constantly muted.
Don’t get me wrong, I was proud to see that this year’s Emmys nominations showed progress in both its nominees and its announcement. The iconic Laverne Cox hosted the 72nd Emmy Awards Nominations Announcement that was live this morning Tuesday, July 28th at 8:30 AM PT. To see her reading these nominations, and then be nominated, was special. Then there was the recognition of BIPOC talent across leading actor and actress nominees as well. My heart has a special place for Zendaya and HBO’s Euphoria; Sandra Oh and Killing Eve; and Regina King and HBO’s Watchmen. Honestly, this is a strong class of contenders that speaks to the diversity of talent, stories, and voices housed on the silver screen.
But again, the vote was absent for Latino acting roles. It should be noted that Nadia Hallgreen, director of Becoming; Brian Lazarete and James Lee Hernandzes of McMillion$; and One Day At a Time in the category of Best Multi Cam Editing are part of the 2020 Emmy nominations. The pundits, including myself, felt Rita Moreno had a chance. Starz’s Vida had begun its final season, and most Emmy voters have love for a swan song of a season. This year’s nominees are a sobering reminder that voters, like those in the TV Academy, do not always vote solely based on press and rave reviews.
I know that politics that play a huge part in how voting works. There are explicit and implicit rules we follow in FYC campaigns, yet it comes down to who is in these groups with the power to vote. If this moment in time has taught me anything it’s that simply existing in the entertainment industry as a Latino may not be revolutionary enough. From seeing no acting nominees for Latinos, to having done research and learning of the dismal Oscars won by Latinx filmmakers, I know my work in this industry is just beginning.
In order to get nominated for an Emmy, you must be voted on by your peer group in the TV Academy. That means that behind-the-scenes either not enough Latinx people are in these groups or their stories are being seen as, "too ethnic." I know this because when I worked on my first Latinx directed, produced, and story, the studio tried to pigeonhole it to the U.S. Hispanic audience. I hate to say it but as an insider I know that Latinx stories are seen as different. This country's rhetoric has made it clear how it feels about BIPOC people; we are not welcome.
Seeing and hearing how voters address, or do not address, Latinx films and shows can be disheartening. But it's a reminder that I as a Latino creative, and part of the Latinx audience, must speak up but also show out. We need to tune in to Latinx and Hispanic shows. We need to support Latinx stories and talent by buying tickets and growing their influence. If we want the industry to change and things like the Emmy nominations to reflect America we must be inspired and empowered to be that change. These are my behind the scenes thoughts.
Let me know, who are your thoughts on the 2020 Emmy nominations? Comment down below or let me know by answering on socials and tagging me @Willsshowem
Thank you for reading these Words by Will! I'll see you in the next post.
HOW I Made the decision to study abroad in england
In these difficult times that we’re living through I often reach for a journal full of pages and photos that captured one of the happiest times of my life. This journal is from my experience studying abroad. The polaroids and ticket stubs taped in these pages remind me that my time abroad will always be with me. I will forever be grateful for the forces that helped me find both Norwich, England and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Because while my time in Norwich was short, a piece of my heart will always be in England.
From the seminars taught by leading scholars to the nights getting ready for a Damn Good Tuesday, I cannot write enough about why UEA was perfect for me. While the educational and extracurricular opportunities at UEA ended up enhancing all aspects of my life, I went there almost by accident. Honestly, I studied abroad on a whim!
1. How Study Abroad Benefited Me – Teaching Me to Be a Better Listener
Before I even studied abroad, one of the benefits that became clear is that I became a better listener thanks to anticipating my international experience. Of all the spontaneous decisions I could make in my life, perhaps the best I ever did was deciding to leave the country! So extra, and so very on brand for Will Samayoa. My second year of college, a private liberal art in Upstate NY, I was eligible to study abroad. I attended a 1-on-1 meeting with my college’s study abroad officer to find out what program would suit me. Obviously, the meeting was very productive because I not only applied to UEA, but it was my only option.
Again, before I even studied abroad, I was becoming a better listener. In meeting with the study abroad officer I did come in with points, but I also heard her advice clearly. She told me about the unique character of not only the international partners but also of the cities we’d be living in. “Big but not too big,” she said when talking about Norwich. “Great media programs and renowned professors.” I did more than just research the numbers and sites, I heard from her testimonials of students who had ventured before I did.
In case you may not know, I went to college with a clear vision of working in the entertainment industry. I never wavered in my passion to work in media and I even meticulously designed a master plan to on how to major in writing & rhetoric with a media minor. The study abroad officer knew this, she admired my focus, and she said, “You need to go to Norwich!” I left this meeting and then went to meet with my professors and advisors. I wanted to genuinely hear them. And when I told both my writing and media faculty that I wanted to study abroad at UEA it was resounding, “Yes, Will!”
2. Study Abroad Benefits - Teaching Me How to live in the moment
Since my semester abroad, I stay living in the moment! Before I studied in Norwich, England I had no international experience. While I studied abroad, I learned how to live in the moment meaningfully. Whether my flat mate invited me to go grocery shopping or I was just invited to join a study group, my time at UEA helped me learn how to say, “yes” to new experiences. Little did I know that in my full-time job after college traveling and having those, “OMG” moments would become my new normal.
Studying abroad benefited me in that I learned how to be present in the most spontaneous and amazing moments ever. I can vividly remember every detail of the Oscars red carpet (oh yes, I was at the 90th Academy Awards, more on that later) because I learned how to live in the moment in Norwich. Without studying abroad, I don’t know that I would even have this blog! Yes, that’s right. This blog and my love for social media flourished while I studied abroad.
Part of how I learned to capture the moment was by starting to play with writing and media. The details in my daily walks from the Ziggs to my seminars in places like the Enterprise Centre stay with me. As many moments as I could capture in words or pics I did. This helped me remember the name and pronunciation of every classmate I met. My time abroad pushed me into the unknown, but the city and people of Norwich welcomed me. My best advice is that if you travel abroad worry less and celebrate more. Celebrate yourself, your work to get there, and the moment.
3. Study Abroad Taught Me How to Embrace and Appreciate Different Cultures
I wish that everyone could study abroad because I think it could help people learn acceptance and tolerance. While I was at UEA I listened to voices from people all over the world. From classmates to strangers I met through everyday tasks, I learned how to listen, embrace, and truly celebrate diversity.
In my case, I was an American student studying British media. I figured that I was not an expert in not only these programs, and I was fine with that. Much like my point of learning to listen, I learned how to listen to voices different from anything I ever heard. What I read and saw was unlike anything my studies in America had shown me. In these seminars I had peers from different countries, different ages, and beyond different life experiences from my own.
Needless to say, my study abroad experience benefits include learning how to embrace and celebrate different cultures. I truly became a global connoisseur of media. My latest work trip included working on world premieres at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The films and storytellers I met came from places like South Africa, the Philippines, China, Canada just to name a few. Thank you UEA for teaching me how to respect and cherish different cultures! I’m a better person and storyteller for it.
4. Everyone Should Study Abroad and To Know Why International Students Matter
When I was in college, I remember an established discourse about international students. Candidly, it's not always a fair one too. But being in the U.K., I was considered an international student. I found this super interesting because I consider myself the "norm" and here the norm has nuance things that made me stick out. "Oh, you're so American," I heard.
What does this even mean?! What do you mean I have an accent?! Wait why is everyone driving on the other side?! There are dozens of questions I asked myself. Learning how to embrace different is important. But actually, feeling different is an even better learning experience. At UEA I stood out and I learned how to honor my identities, as an American, as a Latino, and as a son of an immigrant family. I saw how my friends and faculty made my voice matter.
That’s why I came back to the States knowing that international students’ matter. Students from abroad at universities and colleges bring their own insights and experiences that can enrich us. And this is a dialectic relationship.
5. Study Abroad Taught Me to How to Be Okay Being Alone
As much as I write and talk about how my study abroad experience helped me develop friendships, I’m grateful for the personal growth as well. A lot of my fear in studying abroad came from how I went alone at first. In my study abroad program there were a total of 4 of us from my home college. Granted these 4 people would grow to be some of my lifelong friends, there was a 48-hour period where I was alone in Norwich. No one lived on my flat yet and there was no one I knew yet.
I was lucky that UEA lead some mixers for international students. Because in attending these mixers I met more people who would become travel companies and confidants abroad. But I couldn’t always be around people. My flat mates had their commitments and I had to also find a daily rhythm. My days outside of class were long and I found how to fill them with my own company. Whether I went to the gym, read outside, or wrote my blog at a coffee shop, I was as happy being alone as I was in a crowd.
Studying abroad taught me how to be alone but not be lonely. What I believe is that studying abroad in Norwich, England changed my life for the better. I'm proud to write this blog and reflect on my time at UEA, the friends I made, and the experiences that have defined my life.
I'm curious to know, did you study abroad? Or have you traveled abroad?
Let me know on social media where you went! Share this post and tag me with your answer on Instagram/Twitter @ Willsshowem
Here's to #UEADoesStudyAbroad and #VisitingUEA
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post
Author William Samayoa
Marketer by profession and storyteller by passion. L.A. raised, proud Latino, and pop culture enthusiast.