By Marshelle Haseley | Photos courtesy of Imari Anderson
There are Millennial creators gaining YouTube and other subscribers by the millions. People who are attracted by their topical and inspiring content. Bodies of content that bring the attention of viewers from all age groups and backgrounds to issues that matter more than how many Instagram followers, we have- or how many articles of clothing we own from the 50th fashion micro-season for the year. It is more about how we show up in the world and less about what we show up wearing.
Our chat with Imari Anderson (@freeimari) gave insight into a brand-new wave of creativity and inspiration. A creative of Jamaican descent, who has profoundly impacted online filmography and digital media.
Imari worked as a filmmaker with the team at Jubilee. Jubilee defines itself as a bridge, to connect and inspire love through the sharing of compelling stories. The team uses platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to share the human-centric content they create to create connections, challenge assumptions, and touch the soul.
He spent a year working there- forming part of a team that created content that gathered over 100 million views, and over 800 thousand new subscribers in that one year.
Anderson defines himself as someone who is working on finding out who he is every day. “Let me put it this way, I am working on trying to remember that every day”. He said, “I try not to identify with the things I do or have done, as who I am. I try to release how others would describe me, or labels to which I could subscribe. I wouldn’t say ‘Imari is a filmmaker’. It feels limiting. It feels more natural to say Imari is a joker, leader- Imari is passionate (sometimes to a fault). Imari is the guy who will debate controversial philosophy with you in the car on the way to the club. Imari is Imari.
In an industry that could create an illusion that everything comes from pulling creativity from the wind, Imari said, thinking is what inspires a lot of his creativity. He said that by subscribing to a certain identity we only allow ourselves to create from that identity. But by being ‘free Imari’, he said, “I’m only limited to create based on what happens to be inspiring me at the time. Notice the nod to my Instagram name”, he said, after which he laughed. Imari believes that life holds within it, unlimited potential and experiences, and he does not want anything holding him back from seeing and knowing as much as possible.
Paternal lineage connects him to Jamaica. Imari gave some insight into how the Caribbean culture contributed to who he is as a creative. Even though his father’s principles impacted him, Anderson still sought to take it in and manifest it all in a way that felt more authentic to him. “There are things that informed my upbringing like certain foods (plantain is my go to) or Caribbean culture, like a strong faith-centred upbringing. But besides the obvious, I’d like to think that from an early age I didn’t want to be defined by things like heritage.”
Anderson continued by stating that with a Caribbean parent comes specific ideals and values. A lot of it he said, came through when he was growing up playing soccer (football). “Ideas like always being the best in whatever you do, pushing yourself harder than the next man, I think these are things that came to me from my dad and through him from my grandfather.”
Another trait he thinks may have something to do with the Caribbean influence, is something he saw in his father, who he described as a proud Jamaican. Anderson said his father has always been big on helping people. “Now that I think of it, there’s probably some overlap in how I saw his sacrifice for kids that he was coaching, who didn’t have the resources- and how I’ve really gone above and beyond for certain projects that I thought could really help people. Even if it was to my own detriment.”
From an early age, Imari wanted to show up in the world as an individual. “That’s not to say my background isn’t valuable, the island approach to soccer is what initially gave me confidence. The island rhythm is probably where I get my dance moves. But I’ve always been of the mindset – ‘this is what came before me, what am I doing next? How am I going to build on it and make it my own?”
PANACHE asked a few more questions to get more insight into the process of what forms a rounded millennial creative.
P: What did you see yourself growing up to become?
I: “A soccer player. Definitely. There’s nothing you could’ve told me before the age of like 17 that would have convinced me otherwise.”
P: What attracted you to filmmaking?
I: “Honestly, when I first found it in high school I didn’t take it seriously. I just thought it was fun, and I wasn’t strongly interested in any related subjects. So I picked that up as my college major and studied it at the University of South Carolina. I got passionate about it there, and I found myself working on projects more than classmates. I’d sneak into the editing room after hours just to work on my own projects. Then, as I started to see the correlation between media and how the world is impacted. I made a pretty dramatic shift towards exclusively making content that I thought the world needed more of. I stopped doing skit shows and music videos, and started making videos for non-profits or for people with really relevant messages. What really attracted me is that it felt like the tool of our time. Something that could be used to either push us forward as a species or keep us distracted and divided. I saw the power of it and felt like if I was going to be in the game it came with responsibility. I’m trying to be more balanced about that now, though, I want to bring some of the original artistic motivation back into how I approach my work. I still want it to be art.“
P: Did you study film? And what is one of your favourite pieces of work?
I: “Yes I did, but most of my knowledge came from a production company I started while I was in college. That’s what gave me the initial real life experience. I’d say my favourite series is the Between Worlds Series. It felt like it embodied what I’m going for as a filmmaker. It has a message (we create better when we work outside of our labels) but it was also just fun and creative to shoot.”
P: How did you become part of Jubilee?
I: “I’ve been a filmmaker professionally for about 6 years now, it feels like 16. When I really started taking it seriously I wanted to make work that I felt like added to the culture and made people better human beings rather than stuff that was unoriginal or counterproductive. This led me to connect with Jason who founded Jubilee a couple years ago. We stayed in touch and when I left my job in the Bay Area last year I sent him a film I was working on and he encouraged me to consider working at Jubilee.”
P: What inspires you?
I: “Life. The different ways we all live life and the fact that there’s always so much for us to learn. None of us have the answers. And so, the people who really just live in constant curiosity, and the things they make, really get me going. I think for me to say ‘I want to make a living making videos that inspire people and encourage them to think outside of the box’ sounds like a pipe dream. People know how hard it is to make it. Being a director and 9 times out of ten even if you make it, you’re making content that you probably don’t believe in, or that is really just about how much money it can make. I love the fact that I committed to this idea, and that there are other people out there who see the value media has to change things up and invest in it. We can really change the world. I think Jubilee is founded on this idea.”
P: What would you tell your 10-year-old self?
I: “Believe in yourself dude. There’s no point not to. Everybody you see is just on a constant journey of becoming themselves, of trusting themselves. Don’t convince yourself that you’re less than what you are. You’re amazing and there’s no reason not to be.”
P: What is likely to be your next move?
I: “I want to explore my creativity. I want to do more writing and picking up more experimental projects. I’m feeling like I have a lot more to express artistically so I’m looking at different ways that can come about – whether its photography, writing, or directing new projects. But first, I’m going to live life. See what inspiration I’ve been missing out on after being so focused for the last couple years. Travel, meet new people, have new experiences. See what other neurons I can get spinning in the noggin and then make some magic with them.”
Imari is no longer with team Jubilee but he will be creating work of depth and authenticity. We look forward to seeing more from this powerful creative.