Pride Never Ends
The sad reality of the creative industry is that it’s still largely stuck in a vicious cycle. The same ideas, generated by people of the same background, target the same audiences and, against the nature of creativity itself, slowly suffocate precious self-expression.
At MassiveMusic, we believe that the work we do cannot be limited to making things look, sound or read pretty. It’s up to us to break the cycle and put our money where our mouth is.
That’s why, in celebration of Pride month, we decided to host ‘Pride Never Ends’, an event to focus on how to bring queer stories into the narratives of the creative industry. Of course, the place of celebration could be no other than the beautiful city of Amsterdam, one of the historic centres of the LGBTQ+ community, overseen from a bird’s eye view by our MassiveMusic headquarters in the A’DAM Toren.
For that, we invited three talented queer professionals and allies from different ends of the creative industry to comprise a panel of speakers, hosted by our very own Director of Creative Development Cece Wyldeck.
Want to get a feel for the vibe? Check out the after movie below, produced by cultural content production company We are Duffree.
Thomas Nuijten (he/him)
A queer Amsterdam-based filmmaker, he graduated with honours in both BA and MA Film at the Royal Academy of Arts in Gent, Belgium. Over the years, Thomas has developed an elegant visual language, appealing to the emotional and intellectual perspective of the viewer. In his work, he loves to play with openness in narration, contrasts and sound design/music. His work spans from fiction (short) films and fashion films to commercials and music videos.
Intersectionality plays a crucial role in understanding the diverse experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. How do you approach portraying intersectional identities in your creative work to ensure a more comprehensive representation of queer stories?
TN: As creatives, whenever we want to tell a certain story, we need to take a moment to acknowledge: “Is this my story to tell?”. We need to ask ourselves whether we feel we can justify telling that specific story and how we can bring it to life in a way that is respectful and comprehensive.
A queer story is never just a story about being queer. Our identities, and the identities of the characters and stories we bring to life, are not solely queer, as there’s not one way of being and experiencing being queer. But especially with portraying intersectional identities and storylines, it’s important to understand the characters and stories we either bring to life or portray.
In my opinion, the best way to tell a story that we haven’t lived ourselves is by involving people in the process that might have a closer connection to that specific story than ourselves. Both behind and in front of the camera, and through all different stages of the process. Creating space for conversation, collaboration, education and understanding and being open to feedback, criticism and suggestions. Create a safe space to share thoughts, worries and/or experiences connecting to the work. And, also incredibly important, credit the people you involve in this process.
Ane Santiago (she/her)
A creative copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy, and poet from Spain, now based in Amsterdam, she recently discovered her queerness. Graduating from PR and Publication programs of University of Pompeu Fabra and Miami Ad School Madrid, her mastery of verse and thorough feel of language brought her to work on campaigns of the world’s biggest brands. Her 2 poetry books ‘Cartas a Ninguna Parte’ and ‘Retratos de lo Invisible’ had great commercial success in Spain, with the former being the 8th best-selling book in the country for a couple of weeks.
As we strive for greater representation and inclusion, what changes have you observed within the music and filmmaking industries in recent years, and how do you see these changes influencing future creative endeavours?
AS: While we must acknowledge that there’s still a long way to go when thinking intersectionally – these industries, advertising included, are still extremely white, especially when we start looking at senior and management positions. People are starting to understand that cishet white male stories aren’t the norm, and that there’s nothing interesting or creative about telling the same story time and time again and having the same people telling it.
But seeing what Ryan Murphy has done in Hollywood, for example, gives me hope, opening the door to so many queer folks and telling so many beautiful queer stories, whether queerness was centred or not. ‘Pose’ is a great example of this. A show that was super popular, had great traction and also the largest cast and crew of trans people ever in Hollywood, with lots of queer creatives in front and behind the screen.
I saw this tweet the other day about the success of the Barbie movie saying: “Look at what happens when women are taken seriously”. I’m excited to see what happens when queer folks and POC are taken as seriously too.
Mitchell Duffree (he/him)
An Amsterdam-based producer with over 12 years of experience, and a son of 2 mothers. Working with more highest echelon brands than one can count, he also worked on multiple films and series, and is a quadruple Cannes Lions medalist. He is now Executive Producer and Marketing Director at We are Duffree, his very own, purpose-driven production company.
What advice do you have for creatives who want to incorporate LGBTQ+ perspectives into their work and contribute to an inclusive environment within the industry?
MD: Dive into the LGBTQ+ universe with open ears and hearts. Their stories are the heartbeat of authentic representation. Join forces with LGBTQ+ talents and voices, make them co-pilots on your creative journey. Shake up the industry norms, champion diversity like a rockstar and turn your workspace into a haven for open minds and fearless expression 🌈
Can you share an example from your own work where you’ve successfully brought a queer storyline or perspective to life, and how do you believe it contributed to greater representation and understanding within the industry?
Daisy. A few years ago, I made this documentary portrait of Berlin-based artist and tattoo-artist Daisy Watson, in collaboration with her and her community in Berlin, showcasing both her life and her work. The purpose was to highlight Daisy as a person, putting the emphasis on how she’s got where she is now and how she experiences her queerness as part of her and not the only thing that defines her. Of course, her queer experiences resonate throughout the film, and there are most likely certain parts of her life and approach to life that are very recognisable for people from the community. But it’s not only about that. It’s a portrait of Daisy, revolving around her art, her community, the city of Berlin, and what it’s like being a female, a queer tattoo-artist.
We quite often see queer representation in a way that is loud, and – especially in advertising and commercial Hollywood productions – focussed almost solely on the (idea of) queerness of the characters. There’s a danger of falling into the trap of stereotyping when reducing queer identities to solely them being queer. To me, it’s important to show that being queer isn’t the only thing that defines our identity. Yes, we can and should be very proud of it, and we need loud representation, but it’s the whole array of our experiences and all the layers of our personalities that define our identities. We all have different experiences and we are more than just queer.
Nike – The Land of New Football. For this project, we received a once-in-a-lifetime type of brief from Nike for the 2020 Euros. Having noticed that the younger generations no longer connected with some of the most visible and outdated cultural realities of football – racism, homophobia, profit over everything – they wanted to show that while the sport could bring out the worst in humanity, it still had the ability to bring out the best in us. To do it, we decided to put front and centre the people who have traditionally been on the sidelines of football when it comes to representation, and say very loud and clear that the sport belongs to everyone who plays it – except for those who might disagree with this. The campaign featured real footballers from all over Europe, including a male gay couple kissing in passing, with this being the first time two male football players were kissing on prime TV in the UK.
Bugaboo – There’s No Road to Parenthood. Growing up in the embrace of a queer family offers a unique vantage point, painting the world in colours unseen by many. The question: “How do you raise a child in a same-sex partnership?” becomes the tapestry upon which this film is woven. Through its lens, we delve into the intricacies of gender roles, and one persistent inquiry stands out, echoing the most frequent curiosities I’ve encountered in my own life. This cinematic endeavour seeks to entertain, challenge and redefine perceptions.
The panel came together as an intimate and touching experience, with its cosy atmosphere, and every single guest listening with devotion and care. The room filled with applause and cheers, as the remarkable guests got more and more personal and passionate, unveiling thought-provoking insights and coming out with more deeply inspirational words. Among the highlights were Thomas’ “It’ll always be a queer story if I’m the one telling it”, or “A lot of brands focus on hiring but not hearing”, Mitchell’s “If you don’t fit in the company you work for, build one that looks like you and aligns with your values” or Ane’s “Queer stories save lives” after a long, reflective monologue on the painful consequences of still ongoing inequalities.
After the panel, the evening continued with a DJ set by DJ Coco, giving the guests a chance to wash down and digest the freshly served information in the company of like-minded people from Amsterdam’s creative industry.
It would only be right to end with one anecdote from the event. One of the questions from the audience asked whether there’s an existing queer network in Amsterdam that one may contribute to. After looking at each other for about 5 seconds, all panellists agreed that there’s surprisingly no such thing as of yet, after which Thomas half-jokingly proclaimed “We established one this second”, followed by a round of chuckles and thumbs up from the audience. That’s why, from now on, MassiveMusic pledged to not just have an annual pride event, but a constant flow of events celebrating wins and discussing challenges of the queer community.
To conclude this review with the same words as Cece Wyldeck concluded the panel: “The fight is not over, because Pride Never Ends.”