Boris Kodjoe: The Business of Hollywood [Guest Speaker Series]

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By Victoria Murad

“Keep your sneakers tied.” That’s what actor, model and entrepreneur, Boris Kodjoe advised the African Artists’ Association and its members. He emphasized that anything worthwhile takes time, but it can and should be done regardless. The mindset to “keep your sneakers tied” was something he learned from his tennis coach, which to him translates to, “always be ready.”

Kodjoe started as a professional tennis player who came to the USA to train but retired due to an injury. He modelled for some time and though that experience was financially lucrative and provided him the opportunity to travel the world, he knew it would eventually end and he wanted to leave on his own terms.  He landed a role on the television show, ‘Soul Food,’ where he met his wife Nicole Ari Parker.

In spite of his positive experiences with the cast of ‘Soul Food’ whom he described as family, he pointed out that Hollywood can be isolating and lonely, with everyone pursuing their own agenda. He learned early on that it is very important to find something far away from the industry that gives you unconditional love, validation and most importantly, joy. For him, that was his wife and their two children.  “Be sure to find what authentically speaks to you spiritually and emotionally,” he says, “because this will sustain you.”

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Boris Kodjoe’s Advice to the Aspiring Artist

“We haven’t been taught collaboration in this business, but it is the key to being successful and creating projects. We need to collaborate all of the time.”  The 3As members “are all talented, creative people who can achieve so much more together collectively than individually.”

– Identifying, knowing and developing your own brand as an artist is very important. Because he identified the power of his brand early in his career, Kodjoe is able to negotiate effectively and create opportunities for himself. Being in control of your brand gives you independence.

– You have a very unusual, unique set of characteristics that no one else has. Be specific. Who are you? The answer to this question defines your brand.

– Once you establish your brand you must diversify.

Distribution models are changing and the film industry will be totally different in five to ten years. Studios are not what they used to be and production and distribution models will include unconventional media like cell phones, computers, streaming, etc.; these are exciting developments. When it comes to content, there are a few things to keep in mind:

– Content is king. So, control your content.
– Incorporate your personal brand into your content.
– There are so many channels that need your content on a daily basis. Identify what those are.

Getting access to funding is critical. Advertisers will pay for content because they want exposure to consumers.  Data for advertisers is critical and they are willing to throw money at you, especially if you invite them to be part of your content in the beginning stages.  That’s why it’s important to network; find out who is in charge of advertising accounts, build relationships with them, then present your brand and content and partner with them.

Summary: It’s scary to start something new, but just do it. Take the first step, reach out and collaborate with your fellow artist and Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. The best part of preparation is that it’s free.

Boris Kodjoe was a guest speaker at the African Artists Association meeting held on February 1, 2014. Kodjoe is also an honorary member of the organization. To learn more about him, visit

Victoria Murad is a screenwriter and board member of the African Artists’ Association. Follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.