Photos by Jessica Knox and styling by Nikki Tucker
“The win is in the work.”
Faith is how BK Fulton describes the force that motivates him to keep going and to keep helping others as he climbs. “At the end of the day, it is my faith and prayer that helps me get it all done at a very high level,” he says. He wants to make sure that we know he doesn’t do it alone. “The secret sauce,” as he describes it, is a team of passionate individuals who are willing to put in the work to make his vision a success. They are counting on him and he is counting on them. He believes we are all connected in a giant and friendly universe, and it is up to us to bring our best selves as individuals to collectively create a better world. Even in times of uncertainty, BK is hopeful, passionate, and excited about the future of his Soulidifly Productions. More importantly, he is confident that he and his team will have an impact on this country and the world.
His media empire’s mantra is “to create media with a message.” Since its inception in 2017, Soulidifly Productions has released five feature-length films. By the end of the year, Soulidifly will have released a total of eight. Its latest release, 1 Angry Black Man, came at a pivotal time when citizens took to the streets in mass to protest the murder of George Floyd. 1 Angry Black Man has been used as a resource to understand America’s uncomfortable past and the trauma we are still dealing with today. The film, released by Byron Allen’s Freestyle Digital Media, is thought-provoking and essential viewing. Films like 1 Angry Black Man capture BK’s cinematic vision. He believes diverse art can heal. While Hollywood has been scrambling to produce more diverse films for a more diverse world, creating inclusive content has been the driving priority for BK’s Soulidifly Productions from day one. Soulidifly films have been on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV and Starz, among others. Company distribution partners include Lionsgate, Cinedigm, Gravitas Ventures, Freestyle Digital Media, and Urban Home Entertainment.
BK’s vision extends beyond creating more inclusive narratives in films and books. He also aims to teach the next generation of media makers how it’s done. The Soulidifly chief is working with former Disney executive Adam Leipzig to launch MediaU – the first online film school with transcripts and transferable credits from the University of California (UC) System. It’s a big deal. MediaU will launch in 2021 and will allow students from all over the world to access working professionals as they pursue careers in media and film production. “Diversity and inclusion are sorely needed in the film industry. MediaU will reduce the time it takes to earn the requisite training and certifications needed to land a career in the industry,” BK explains. “It will reduce the cost of quality film education and increase the number of people that can access the best media training available.” Those who complete the MediaU programs will receive credits from the UC System. “It’s exciting to be a part of the MediaU journey.”
BK is also one of the lead investors in PreShow.co, which anticipates a launch during the fourth quarter of this year. BK says PreShow will allow people to go to the theaters and pay for their tickets with a virtual credit card after watching a few ads on the PreShow app. Basically, consumers get to watch movies for free, forever. “It is going to be a game changer,” he says enthusiastically.
“My prayer for everyone is that they do their work and go forward guided by their hopes for humanity rather than their fears.”
While audiences have appreciated the range of Soulidifly’s current films, the company has not yet created a film or cartoon specifically geared towards children. That is about to change. Soulidifly Productions is working with the Oscar-winning animation studio Lion Forge Animation (creators of Hair Love) on a Mr. Business-inspired animation series. “We are working with Lion Forge Animation on a series we have been asked to pitch to several networks,” he says. “We will have at least one cartoon or children’s movie in production soon. “Children’s programming is important because when you reach children with positive programming early enough, you don’t have to work so hard later in their lives to get them to unlearn things that could hurt their future.” Before Mr. Business makes his animated debut, fans can purchase the current seven-book series online and soon will be able to purchase his eighth adventure – Video Games. “In the eighth book, I share lessons from a time in my life when I was thinking about running away. I decided against it,” he says laughingly. “Who wants to leave all that fun and love and food at home to go into the unknown? Not me! I stayed with my parents and my dog.”
Within the next year, BK hopes to have a film fund established for Soulidifly. It will include funding for new work and funds for additional marketing of their films. “That will be the next level for us,” he says. “We have been able to successfully make quality programming with bankable talent over our first few years, culminating in a $10 million first-look deal with GoMedia Productions out of Atlanta, GA. The foundation for growing Soulidifly is in place. Beyond the day-to-day work to produce films, write books and manage the company’s other brands (a TV network – SoulVision.TV – and a magazine – SoulVision Magazine), taking on investors and going public is within the realm of possibility for us.”
Soulidifly recently produced BK’s new book, The Tale of the Tee, with co-author Jonathan Blank. The book details a strong friendship that grew out of a series of e-mail communications between the two authors as they discussed the local and global protests that occurred after the murder of George Floyd. The two men try to make sense of where we go from here. The book demonstrates the power of truth and honest conversations to heal.
BK believes change is overdue. He believes we can build the “civil society that our children deserve” but it will require collaboration. One group alone cannot do it. He was pleased to see the NFL apologize and admit that they should have listened to Colin Kaepernick from the beginning of his civil protest. Similarly, he is encouraged by the NBA, Lebron James, and others who are leading and showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter. He shares that he did not expect either of these moments to happen in 2020. He is most proud of the professional athletes for using their standing and their stage for justice. “It means a lot when our leaders and heroes take a stand for people on the margins,” he says. “I think it elevates the meaning of humanity when those with a voice use their standing to advance decency and to help others find their own voice. Their example gives me hope and nourishes my faith.”
BK says the next steps beyond protests that must happen are policy changes. “Tearing down statues is one thing, but you have to be ready to build up statutes (laws and policies) that change society,” he explains. “Our society is one that is governed by rules and laws. In today’s world you don’t have to terrorize with white sheets. If you know how to use spreadsheets, you can disenfranchise people through voter suppression tactics like gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and purging. This is why voting is so important. If people don’t vote, they effectively abdicate their rights. Very little good comes from civil abdication. Citizenship has always been about the right to vote and then actually doing it. A lot of good people risked everything so we could have and exercise the right to vote.”
BK continues to reflect on making America and the world better. “I believe you have to act on what you believe to be true,” he explains. “My prayer for everyone is that they do their work and go forward guided by their hopes for humanity rather than their fears.” He explains that when we see systematic injustice like violence against particular communities or inequitable investments in education for low-income areas, they are the consequences of people acting out of fears and prejudice. “They say . . . ‘don’t you come to my country,’ ‘I have to build this wall . . . ,’ ‘these people are good people and those people are bad.’ This is not leading from a place of hope,’” BK explains. “We need more hope. We need to vote from a place of our dreams not our fears.”
“We have to put less time and money into the instruments of hate and war and go all-in on love and peace.”
BK sometimes gets exhausted by issues surrounding race and what he says are “old problems” that generations have been fighting to resolve since the founding of this nation. “When we can get past these issues, we will be able to do more for the collective good.” He envisions a world that can collectively work to cure cancer, ALS, and rid the world of ailments like Alzheimer’s and dementia. He wants to see a world that prioritizes a higher quality of life for everyone. “It means we have to invest in all of our children. We have to put less time and money into the instruments of hate and war and go all-in on love and peace.”
He’s optimistic that it can happen. “I think we can do it once we realize the value in every person,” he says. “It starts with yourself. It starts at home. We have to learn to feed the good in ourselves and work on our awesomeness. If you are amazed at life, you know that we owe our very best for future generations. Mediocrity has no place. When you embrace that philosophy, it is a lot easier to put your faith into action and do the work required to win.”
BK is an advocate for integration of more diverse history in our schools. “Learning about inventors who looked like me changed my life for the better,” he says. “This is why I know that art can heal.” He names a few African-American men whose contributions are not widely known: Lewis Howard Latimer and Dr. George Franklin Grant. “Lewis Latimer improved on Thomas Edison’s light bulb by creating the carbon filament that provides the luminescence in the electric lights we use in our homes today.” George Grant is the man on the cover of The Tale of the Tee. He invented the golf tee in 1899. “When golfers all over the world drop that tee, most have no idea that an African-American man invented it,” BK says. “There are so many stories like these that get left out of history. They are inspiring and should become a standard part of what is taught to all children year-round, not just one month.”
When we don’t see people as contributors, BK explains, it is easier to rationalize their dehumanization. “It is ok to put those people off in a ghetto if you don’t value them,” he says. “It is ok to put those people off in the slums. It is ok to put those people in an underfunded barrio. It is ok to push those people onto a reservation if you think they don’t matter. They say, ‘These people don’t love our country.’ That is a lie. The more you expose yourself to the truth, the harder it is for discrimination to be tolerated.” BK hopes when people see his films or watch documentaries like After Selma, The Uncomfortable Truth and read books like The Tale of the Tee, Begin Again, White Rage, Caste, and One Person, No Vote they will internalize the lessons and find the courage to fight systemic racism.
“At the end of the day, deeds not words will shape the world we deliver to our children and their children. We have to put our words into action.”
BK finds pleasure in reading biographies, especially those of business leaders. “I’m a person who doesn’t believe in reinventing the wheel, so I find inspiration and learn quite a bit from what others have done,” he says. “I read bios and then develop blueprints and plans for myself.” Even with these blueprints for living he isn’t afraid to try new ideas, and he encourages young people to do the same. “Don’t be afraid of failing,” he advises. “The win is in the work and you have to take small steps in the beginning and then bigger steps later.” He says “the path to your best life isn’t often easy but it’s worth it. Looking at the biographies is just the start.” BK advises young entrepreneurs to “get busy and be inspired by what others have done while adding their personal touch; then just keep going.”
Soulidifly Productions has many initiatives that will help in the fight for social justice and equality. Soulidifly is working with three nonprofits to deliver national programs for youth: Media Mentors, the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation, and Riverside Community Development Corporation. Media Mentors has created a new initiative called “TikTalks” that will invite celebrities like Pharrell Williams and Missy Elliot to meet with school children nationwide to inspire their creativity and expose them to the creative process. Riverside Community is the sponsor of an innovative news service that hopes to update people on what is happening in the social justice space real time. Finally, in projects with the Joan Trumpauer Mulholland Foundation, Soulidifly is working to produce and promote civil rights training and documentaries as well as a podcast with civil rights legends. “We want to highlight interracial cooperation and show how working together leads to a better society,” BK says. “At the end of the day, deeds not words will shape the world we deliver to our children and their children. We have to put our words into action.”
Follow BK Fulton on Instagram and Twitter. To learn more about Soulidifly Productions, visit their website soulidifly.com and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To see recent articles on BK and Soulidifly Productions, click here.