2021 Visionaries to Watch: Elijah McKinnon, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Open Television (OTV)
Elijah McKinnon is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of OTV – Open Television. Additionally, they are an award-winning strategist, entrepreneur, artist, and advocate from the future.
Elijah uses their expertise in production and health marketing to produce many OTV programs – all of which have either encouraged others to love themselves, uplifted narratives and experiences of sexually liberated Black women, promoted the value of PrEP (HIV prevention pill), and/or explored how OTV artists are rooted at the intersection of art and TV, who all come from a multitude of backgrounds.
Elijah McKinnon Interview
You’ve found a beneficial way to bridge content from underrepresented communities and taboo themes and conversations through Open Television (OTV). How would you describe that formula of amplifying voices of inclusion on OTV?
Elijah McKinnon: I wish there were a formula or secret cheat code to share! Fortunately, the knowledge I can impart on my journey to amplify intersectional arts and artistry begins with listening.
So much of the work that we do at Open Television (OTV) is centered around creating spaces where people whose identity has been marginalized are given the room to breathe easy and share their bravery with us, and ultimately with the world.
I believe that the most revolutionary part of OTV’s model and mission is our commitment to artist development. Not only are we passionate about our artists having the tools and the resources to complete an independent web series or short film, but we’re also dedicated to providing them with a network of care to foster a sustainable career in the film and TV industry.
We meet people where they are, and we don’t shy away from the messy and often unpolished parts of ourselves. Inclusion is more than lofty statements and strategic amplification; it’s about action and accessibility! We are a small but mighty team. We believe in a radically transparent, deeply empathic, and unapologetically intersectional world.
How can creatives use art as a means to overcome adversity?
Elijah McKinnon: Art and media play a huge role in sharing various identities, cultures, viewpoints, and more. This content provides a vehicle that allows us to reach across time and space to learn better ways of coexisting.
There is so much beauty and possibility in seeing one’s humanity reflected on the screen or in a museum. We are committed to ensuring that intersectional representation is accurately portrayed in all stages of production.
OTV is consciously aware that representation does not often lead to acceptance, which is why we have designed a pipeline and ecosystem that nourishes our community of artists alongside their professional goals.
One of the bravest things we can do is honor our truth and create space for us to share the knowledge that we gain from overcoming challenging dynamics.
OTV cultivates the next generation of storytellers and audiences to hold their stories with genuine care. We have released over 100 original series, pilots, short films, and video art to date.
It is a true honor and privilege to be a home and place of refuge for dozens of artists who are ready to own their power and celebrate the very thing that the world is constantly trying to erase our legacy!
What is the future of intersectional storytelling?
Elijah McKinnon: BRAVE! The future of intersectional storytelling is magical, authentic, and tender! It doesn’t ask for permission to share messages fueled by the experiences that inspire us to demand justice and equity.
OTV is an incubator for these types of stories and for artists ready and empowered to share their bravery with the world. We not only support amplifying the stories of intersectional creators, but we also experiment with alternative ways to develop, produce, and exhibit art and television.
Since our inception, we have prided ourselves on being artist-centric; that is to say, our artists are an integral part of shaping our organization and platform.
Unlike many streaming platforms, television networks, and art nonprofits, we have worked diligently and deliberately to remain committed to intersectional artistry. This is what guides our growth and empowers us to build liberatory practices through an anti-capitalist lens.
An example of this can be seen through our contracts and licensing agreements which are 100% non-exclusive. We want artists to thrive by any means necessary, and that type of radical thinking demands that we bury our ego and release control.
What advice would you share with other creatives like yourself who want to turn their creative endeavors into full-fledged businesses and compete effectively in the market?
Elijah McKinnon: While it’s challenging and often profoundly isolating, envisioning a radically brave future in industries fueled by profits has taught me so much about myself and my values.
I don’t have all the answers, but I have gained some wisdom and try to share with emerging leaders and entrepreneurs: never ask for permission to share your excellence with the world. I’m a firm believer that we all have gifts to offer the world, and those gifts bring value to each space we occupy.
From a very young age, we are taught to shrink ourselves; and to take up as little space as possible. This plays a huge role in hindering the beautiful gifts that we were graced with, and It’s up to us to dismantle this cycle, which begins with allowing ourselves to dream.
While successful entrepreneurship requires a laser point vision, benevolence, and the true gift of discernment, I’ve learned over the years that the real magic happens when you create immense and deep space for yourself to get curious, take risks, and manifest the unthinkable.
When I opened my first company fresh out of college almost a decade ago, I am not the business person I once was. I can share that my unwavering commitment to mobilizing ideas and dreaming up equitable solutions with the perfect balance of ease, grace, and grit has remained the same.