By now you might’ve seen the the news about pivot, the lowercase, humble network for “millennials”. Since our upfront, just a few days ago, it’s been on the WSJ, EW, USA Today, Huffpo, and tons of industry sites.
I’m here in my old stomping grounds of NYC still recovering from a manic week preparing for that event. For me, and all the other people behind the scenes working to bring this network to life, it was a hell of a day. I’m overjoyed by what we’ve made and keep pushing forward to make something incredible happen when we go live on August 1st.
One thing that’s missing from the coverage is what pivot really means. I’m not speaking for the company. I’m not running this by a PR firm. I wasn’t asked by anyone to do this. I just feel like telling my own story about this new channel.
I’m a millennial. I’m also Gen X. It depends on the source you’re citing. I exist in this weird middle ground between generations. I also never considered myself an activist; not until the economy fell apart.
In 2009 I was heading a television network called Illusion (check your local listings) and we were working very hard to build audience. We were working to create content. We were doing sleepless nights and longer days, but the writing was on the wall and against the personal passion of myself and my partners we allowed Avail-TVN to acquire the channel. We knew there were harder times ahead and advertising dollars weren’t going to be any easier to come by. It hurt. I wanted to grow that brand larger. We started the channel from my home in Brooklyn and took it to 10s of millions of homes. It was true democratization of television and I’m not sure anyone had ever done it before or since. I loved Illusion and wanted to do so much more with it, but I knew the time wasn’t right.
Around this time I met the most wonderful woman I’ll ever know and got married, but the state of the world wasn’t getting any better. I made personal pilgrimages to Occupy camps in different parts of the world. I stood outside the Ecuadorian Embassy where Julian Assange was a political refugee. I brought first aid supplies to riots in Anaheim. I wrote essays for Nation of Change. My first novella was a science fiction book about a green and sustainable future universe. I was doing what I could do.
At the same time I was watching This Film is Not Yet Rated, The Henry Rollins Show, and seeing It Gets Better unfolding through Dan Savage. I was inspired by Joesph Gordon-Levitt, whom I’d met at Sundance when he screened Spark. He had started HitRECord, a collaborative web venture for artists by artists that actually shared profits with its contributors. I was stunned and moved, so under a few different names I contributed. I also saw something very special in the movies that Participant Media had chosen to make. I didn’t know anything about their social change campaigns or anything else… just that they “got it”. Things were happening.
By a series of insane coincidences and accidents I ended up at this nexus where all those inspirations were converging. I had landed on the front line of an emerging television network. Something that would become pivot.
Why is pivot so important to me? Because we listen. We’re not chasing profits for the sake of profits and we stick to our guns. It’s not just a network about changes we can all make in the world, it’s a fundamental change in the way media is released. Our content has to be compelling and entertaining, but also move people to do something. Only the power of entertainment media has the ability to allow us to see other peoples’ perspectives. When you watch a movie or a television series those characters you invite into your life become like friends and you start to understand where they’re coming from. If we’re not afraid to show a diversity of ideas we have before us the power not to “educate” but to RELATE; the first ingredient of real and lasting change.
But why “millennials”? Because it’s this generation that is going to inherit the world sooner than we think and they need to be inspired by what we’re all doing together. They need to know that they’re not alone and that we’re all along for the ride. This generation, more than any other, is about teamwork and making connections. Maybe it’s because of the internet and mobile technologies. Maybe it’s because of what they’ve collectively gone through with 14 years of war, 5 years of deep economic strife, and other hardships. They know that we can only make it if we make it together. All of us at pivot are here to listen to those voices and make that change happen. We’re also here to talk back to our audience and show them different points of view.
Pivot has a partnership with Rollingstone (a magazine close to my heart who helped give me a start in the industry), but we also have a partnership with Univision. With Pivot we’re trying to build bridges that no one has built before.
With HitRECord we’re connecting artists from around the world to each other so they can make something beautiful. We then go on to actually give credit and pay the community! That’s a true collaboration and it’s groundbreaking!
With Jersey Strong we’re showing the real story of people on the front lines of making a difference. One of the stars, Jayda, said at our upfront that she’s still an active member of the Bloods, and her fiance is still a Crip. They haven’t left their gangs even though they’re doing great work mentoring in their communities. The reason for this is that if they turned their back on their pasts how could they expect to help these young people growing up in the same way they did? I believe in that. That’s powerful.
Someone once asked me why I don’t consider all soldiers or fire fighers to be heroes. To me, hero is a word that carries serious weight and it goes beyond the choice to serve. We should all want to do our part in whatever way we can. That’s not heroism. I have a friend who was in the Peace Corps and he saw his colleague murdered in front of him while teaching in Africa. Unarmed educators in dangerous circumstances are often faced with this kind of horror. They sent my friend home and he fought for months on end — passing every test they could toss at him, turning down other posts. He fought until he was allowed to go back to that village and finish the work he started with those children. He refused to let his fears make those kids suffer. That’s a hero. My personal goal at pivot is to help inspire people to get active, and then challenge them to be heroes.
Not one day goes by when I dread going to work. I struggle every morning to pull myself up out of bed and push my way through LA traffic because I’m excited about what we’re going to make that day. I’m passionate about pivot and I hope you will be too. We’re going to do great things together. Make sure to call your local cable operator or broadband provider and tell them you want pivot.