‘The Mixer’ aims to open doors for BIPOC film and theater talent

Submitted photo Leonard Searcy

​This week, WestBone Productions is hosting its second industry networking event called The Mixer in South Minneapolis. WestBone Productions is a Black-owned theatre and film production company created by actor, producer, and owner Leonard Searcy.

The event serves as a gateway into the film and theater industry and aims to connect “Minnesota’s diverse talent to production houses, casting, talent agents and to one another.”

Searcy got the idea for The Mixer after noticing the inequities in the film world. “Something that I had to realize was, for us as a people, we don’t really know where to get in at,” Searcy said. “We don’t know where the point of entry is. For me, I thought it was necessary to push the envelope. I don’t think anyone else would have done it.” 

Through The Mixer, Searcy hopes to educate more people about all opportunities in the film/theatre industry, even behind the scenes. “A woman who just owns a hair salon—I want her to know; you can do hair and makeup on these sets,” Searcy said.  

Just a few months back in March of 2022, WestBone Productions held their inaugural mixer event in Uptown Minneapolis with great success. The event included a panel of industry giants, networking activities, a live DJ (DJ Miss Britt), and an atmosphere to connect, with the objective of helping participants to find jobs. 

 “The first mixer sold out.” Searcy said proudly, “and it got Black, Brown, and Native folks jobs.” 

Oogie Push is part of Minnesota’s Indigenous community. She landed her first paid position as a production assistant through The Mixer. Quickly after that, she landed her first gig as an assistant director.

This summer, WestBone Productions plans an even bigger event. The goal remains bringing diverse communities together, still with an emphasis on helping people to make actual lucrative connections. “I’ve spoken to a lot of production companies, and I tell them straight up, like, look, if you come here, you are coming here to hire,” said Searcy. “If you’re not willing to take a chance, don’t show up.” 

Sponsors for the August 11 event include Film North, SPNN, Minnesota Film & TV, and Storj. “They’re all sponsors, but they’re also resources,” Searcy said. “That is why it was so important to me that they sponsored so that they could be resources for people going from interest to being able to connect with who they need to connect with.” 

The Mixer will also give attendees the chance to hear from a star-studded industry panel, “Our keynote speaker this time around is Van Hayden, which is huge.” Searcy noted. 

Hayden was hired by Spike Lee to work on “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990) starring Denzel Washington. Other noteworthy projects include “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “Night School” (2018) starring Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart, and the coming-of-age cult classic, “Kids” (1995), to name a few. 

“Also, Michael Starrburry is one of our panelists,” noted Searcy. Starrburry is a writer and actor known for films such as “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” (2013) and “When They See Us” (2019), a timely reminder of the Central Park 5, among others. 

“We’re going to be bringing DJ Miss Britt back; we will be doing speed networking; there will be food for everybody and drinks,” he said. This time around, The Mixer will also feature an afterparty.

To learn more about The Mixer and to register, visit: https://fb.me/e/3gWEi3G67 

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