Award-winning director Akil Gibbons joins the Strike Anywhere roster, making this his first official commercial representation. With a background in work for studios and networks, Gibbons’ powerfully affecting films educate and inspire while earning tens of millions of online views.
Gibbons has directed, produced and presented film and television specials for VICE Media, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Google, Sony Pictures, Netflix, BET, and CNN. At VICE, Gibbons hosted and produced documentaries focused on civil rights, capitalism, mass incarceration, and hip-hop culture.
Genealogist Who Tracks Down Modern Slavery Practices is perhaps his most acclaimed piece out of VICE Media with over two million views online. The film recounts the present day story and genealogy of black laborers on plantations across the South forced to work against their will as recently as the 1960s. The impactful film also resonates deeply with Gibbons, as he grew up hearing his mother’s stories from her childhood spent in the Arkansas Delta and of the racialized terror and trauma that the sharecroppers there survived.
Gibbons’ work on the FBI counter-terrorism film (T)ERROR earned an Emmy and Sundance award in 2015 and later served as a cinematographer for the 2017 Netflix Original Get Me Roger Stone. Akil directed and produced his own feature film Paper City – Stop The School to Prison Pipeline and produced an upcoming television series directed by Darius Clark Monroe and Academy Award-winner Seth Gordon slated to air in 2021.
Raised in the city of Atlanta, Gibbons first picked up a camera in middle school, inspired by his frequent visits to Blockbuster and his hero, Spike Lee. Learning of topics through Lee’s films that he may not have grasped otherwise, Gibbons formed his unique critical perspective as a Black filmmaker, fusing narrative and social documentation.
In addition to the partnership with Strike Anywhere, Gibbons continues to work for studios, undertaking projects that are aligned with his social awareness principles. With CNN’s branded division, he is currently working with the network on a three-part series with AT&T, delving into the history of Black engineers who have created essential modern-day technology, from microphones to cellular services.
Gibbons’ most recent project, a short film for Mastercard beautifully demonstrates his strength for working where brands and social issues intersect. The five-minute film spotlights the impact of Grameen America, a non-profit microfinance organization that has assisted women entrepreneurs of color during the pandemic via more equitable access to capital and digital tools.
Asked why he wants to stretch further into the advertising arena at this point in his career, Gibbons explains, “I’ve long worked in the branded world but mainly for networks. I’m excited to flex the style, capabilities and reach that only commercials can offer.”
He continues to say, “Plus it seems like there’s a lot of freedom and synergy between Strike Anywhere and what I’m already doing. And their origin story, with Barry Jenkins (who is a personal hero of mine) and co-founders Justin Barber, Ryan Simon, and Michael Jacobs forming the company right after their first feature films, speaks to the collective mentality that I’m really attracted to. As a community of filmmakers, everyone understands the need to grind.”
Gibbons is part of the Black Filmmakers Collective, composed of over 100 producers, directors, and cinematographers whose initiative Change the Lens is committed to increasing the number of Black workers at all levels of the commercial and music video industry.
“Akil is the kind of filmmaker who tells stories and works in ways the brand world always strives for,” says Founding Partner Ryan Simon. “We share the same ethos, aiming to bring voice to the voiceless and making a difference with creativity. He brings a multidimensional approach to his collaborations, with a point of view that is insightful, focused and connected. We’re thrilled to welcome Akil and create beautiful and timely work together.”