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Leading Men of Film and Television

Savage Brand Enterprises and Gagnant Media Team Up for the First of Many Panels to Come

Article by Becca McCoy

Photography by Becca McCoy

Originally published in SOFU Lifestyle

A crisp January Saturday night was hot inside Atlantucky Brewing when Savage Brand Enterprises and Gagnant Media presented Leading Men of Film and Television.  Hundreds of attendees and media gathered in the Nappy Roots-owned establishment to celebrate, connect, and be inspired by the Leading Men panel of Kevin Savage, Rico Ball, Tray Chaney, and Julian Brittano. 

The red carpet was electric, expertly hosted by Summer Jackson, a multi-talented TV personality and journalist.  SHEEN Magazine, Radio 92.3 HITS, and more were on hand to interview the esteemed panelists, sponsors, elected officials, and VIPs.  Champagne flowed along with conversations as attendees networked and socialized with peers and industry professionals, underscored by DJ Hershey serving up tunes.

Media executive, and publisher of SOFU Lifestyle Magazine, Michelle Taylor Willis took the mic and introduced viral R&B sensation Sean Love for a live performance before cueing up a highlights reel of the impressive body of work of the panelists.  For a generous hour-plus, the panel answered questions from Mrs. Willis and audience members, giving insight and speaking to the journey from actors starting out to Leading Men of Atlanta and beyond. 

Each of the Leading Men began their journeys in different ways: for Kevin Savage, recently seen on Lifetime channel’s Single Black Female, it was church musicals in his hometown of Philly; Julian Brittano found acting through a reinvention of self and while in the background on OWN’s Greenleaf, Oprah found him.  Rico Ball was discovered from his work in the theatre, and Tray Chaney, who is the most recent of the panelists to call Atlanta home, began auspiciously with the five-season recurring role of Poot in the ground-breaking HBO series The Wire.  But the men were forthcoming about the challenges and dark times of lives in the entertainment industry, with Mr. Chaney saying after The Wire ended, his phone didn’t ring for five long years.  During that time, unwilling to give up, Mr. Chaney created his own content in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and sold his DVDs out of the trunk of his car.  This kind of tenacity and GRIT (“Greatness Revealed In Test” – a mantra of Brittano’s) was echoed by all the panelists.  “The dark times will come, but it will depend on how you perceive it,” said Ball, known for his work on the Netflix series Black Lightning.  “Faith is gonna get you through those dark times.”   

Savage, the mastermind behind the evening’s event, reminded attendees that “’No’ doesn’t mean ‘Never,’ it just means ‘Not Yet’.”  He emphasized the importance of identifying your “Why,” the thing that drives you, and warned against tying that drive to things that fade away – like fame and fortune.  Chaney seconded, “Love the craft, trust the process, eliminate the outcome.  Focus on the process and keep going.” 

In offering attendees actionable steps, the panelists recommended industry basics like having good headshots and taking classes, but also offered broader guidance like getting (and staying) prepared and finding community.  Chaney reminded everyone, “Don’t sleep on nobody.  You don’t know who getting ready to pop.”  Ball recommended, “Talk less, listen – keep everybody your friend.”

In a heartfelt conclusion, Savage presented awards to his co-panelists and his event partner Willis, followed by an emotional tribute to his family.  A beautiful, fondant covered three-tiered cake by Black Diamond Edible Creations, decorated in a tuxedo and Savage Brand Enterprises logo, was sliced and served, and VIPs mingled with their gift bags on their arms containing goodies from sponsors Talero Luxury Organic Tequila, CreditHub, and Joistik.  What promised to be an unforgettable evening delivered on that promise.

The success of this inaugural event nearly guarantees more to come, with Savage teasing they’ll take this panel on the road as well as create more in the series, like Leading Ladies of Film and Television.  “We need resources like these for our community to help ensure top notch engagement and professionalism, and to provide inspiration and motivation,” says co-producer Willis.  She and Savage make a powerhouse team, so be on the lookout for the next opportunity to experience a Leading {fill in the blank} event.  Until then, as Savage says, “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”