Miami rocks, but Los Angeles offers opportunity


So I'm heading into a meeting with our little team to plan our 2014 strategy. We’re excited about our upcoming TV pilots, feature films and web TV shows this spring, so this meeting is a place to ask ourselves the thought questions that lead to success.

As I coordinated the agenda, a critical question came to mind, the same question that many creative people in the entertainment industry ask: Do we move to L.A.?

I looked at the pros and cons:

Cons: Achieving success in the entertainment industry is tough. Miami is not the entertainment mecca that New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta are. There are no entertainment industry giants to mentor us; no major studios to visit with new creative stuff they might like. Ugh!

Pros: Miami is sweet! It’s got diverse people, great weather, beaches, an ocean that I actually swim in and incredible nightlife. What’s not to love? You got the Heat, Dolphins, Hurricanes, and the best high-chool football in the country. Here’s another little secret — being African American in Miami is the coolest. Hey, we’re basically in the Caribbean. Yeah!

OK, back to the meeting agenda item about the relocation matter. Being a social-media guy, I turned to my Facebook community for feedback as I do each week. My post read:

Today, we chart an ambitious direction for our film, tv and web entertainment company.

So many questions to answer:

• Do we move to LA because of limited resources in South Florida?

• Can we compete with the majors (with limited resources)?

• Can we create jobs, and new opportunities & a sustainable brand?

God has been with us, so we are excited about that for sure!

The floodgates opened. People weighed in from across the racial, age and gender landscape offering various perspectives and insights; all of which were enlightening. Some suggested we leave immediately. Others suggested we leave, but only after extraordinary planning and developing a deep roster of high-powered West Coast contacts.

A Chicagoan suggested we move there. Someone even shared a simple business plan for relocating. I was blown away. This is how social media is supposed to work, right? Real solutions to the brain drain?

At the end of the black boycott of Miami in the early 1990s, the late Jim Batten, the visionary and former Knight-Ridder CEO, helped orchestrate the establishment of an INROADS affiliate in Miami. This was in the mid-90s when Miami’s leaders recognized a mass exodus of black talent leaving for other major cities for greater opportunity.

What nobody mentioned was a deeper concern. It has to do with access. A Cuban friend jokingly said in a later conversation that if I were Cuban, we’d have the next Telemundo. I thought about it. Would I have had more mentors guiding me or more angel investors and funding sources available?

Never mind that. I can’t control it and don’t care to. What I can control is where I choose to compete and where I live.

Skill and talent will always matter, but having access to investors, angels and mentors is a game changer. To be honest, although there are exceptions, it’s hard to find that for a black professional in this city. A few years back, I went to Atlanta and ran into a corporate executive with a major TV network.

She saw something in me, and Woodie, my beautiful wife and partner. She saw something in our company. She became, and still is, a mentor. Why did that not happen in Miami?

What did happen, and still does from time to time, is that a wonderful group of supporters, black, white, and Hispanic, right here in Miami, have blessed us by doing business with us. This has been the case for the past 20 years. I’m thrilled that members of the Hispanic communities have supported our little company. Our office is even in CAMACOL Tower. It graciously allows us to operate our web TV studio and office in their building in the heart of Little Havana.

We are grateful. But now, looking forward, those questions will have to remain on the table and be explored. The brain-drain possibility within our firm is on hold. Yet it continues to apply to those seeking greater access, personal and professional cultivation and opportunity elsewhere, because they simply don’t get exposed to it here.

Tony C. Lesesne is the founder and chief creative officer of Lesesne Media Group Entertainment, a boutique content production and brand creative studio that produces feature films, documentaries and web TV content on its Lesesne Media Group Internet channel.

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