Producer of All Trades: My Interview with Tori Carter

Social media and marketing expert, Tori Carter, says that she wants to be a part of the evolution of diversity within television and film. From being a force behind the scenes at BET to her new position with 360i, Tori has made an impact in ways people probably wouldn’t know unless you knew her. She would tell that she didn’t see this for herself at all. However, she was meant to be in the position she’s in right now. Her resume, status, and accomplishments continue to expand as she aspires to create her table. Meanwhile, her love, passion, and, knowledge for television and film are shown on display with her platform BLK CINEPHILE. A platform described as the cool kids’ film club. She is a talent whose value, skills, and assets are important in any place or position she wants to be in. I talk to the one and only Tori Carter about her time at BET, what she’s doing now with 360i, BLK CINEPHILE, and much more.

What inspired you to be this social media/marketing guru in the film and television industry?

Nothing because I didn’t want to do this at first if we’re being completely honest. I always knew that I would be in entertainment, but I thought it would be on the journalism side or PR side. When I got to college, I was a political science major because of my mom. However, I very much realized I didn’t want to do that so I switched my major to journalism the first week and I also realized I didn’t want to do that. So I switched to PR and I ended up liking it. My first internship was in marketing and communications, my second one was in PR, and when I got to BET it was in social. When I applied for my internship at Viacom, I wanted to work in PR for VH1. However, I didn’t do well in the interview. The recruiter still thought I was a good candidate, so he told me there was an opening at BET. He sent me the position and it was marketing. Anyways, I ended up interviewing with my boss at the time and he went to the same college I went to. He was very impressed with what I’ve already done. I had a couple of college projects on my LinkedIn and he said, “This is exactly what we need.” Eventually, I ended up at BET. At the time I was in college, I had done a little bit of social on campus. I was the social ambassador on campus and for my step team. I had experience plus we grew up on social so it came naturally to me. I was able to do that internship at BET and, since the team was small, I was able to do a lot. I was able to go on set and capture stuff, market and promote shows, and I was good at it. By the time my internship ended, I went to my boss’s office and asked if I can come back. He told me that the renewal program had passed, but he might be able to bring me back part-time. After that, they brought me back part-time the following semester and I continued working there. Once I graduated, they offered me a full-time position. So BET and social kind of just fell in my lap because it wasn’t something I was pursuing. I always knew I wanted to work in entertainment. I had a strong fascination for pop culture and I grew up watching a lot of movies. However, being in the position I ended up in and where I am now, I did not see this for myself at all.

You were working at BET for more than five years. You started as a Social Media intern and worked your way up to a Senior Social Producer. Tell me about your experience over there and what you learned from them.

It’s funny because the BET Awards just passed and I was a little sad this weekend because I wasn’t there. The biggest thing I learned is essentially social and marketing together. Marketing for a TV show and working at an entertainment brand is different from how you would market clothing or a product. Your goals are to get ratings and you have to figure out a way to spread awareness of your show. Then, you have to get people to engage and continue the conversation. BET just really taught me how to be a really good marketer and listen to the audience’s wants and needs. They also taught me how to be a producer because I got promoted to be one and it was something I didn’t know how to do when I first started there. However, I was able to do it once I left and it made me realize that it’s something I wanted to do. I grew up visualizing what scenes in movies would look like, what a music video would look like, and BET helped me exercise that muscle. It was my first corporate job. Although BET is a different place, all the employees are Black, so it feels like a family at times. You still have to navigate through corporate BS so you have to learn how to advocate for yourself. You have to speak up for the things that you want to do. Overall, I gained a family of friends and connections for a lifetime. They have a joke where they say, “You leave BET, but you never really leave BET.” So many people have gotten let go or left on their own, but they will come back to work on a project. Everyone kind of recycles around so it’s never a goodbye and I’m very indebted to that.

Speaking of BET, the BET Awards happened in June and it’s the first time people attended the ceremony since the pandemic. You were on the team last year when you guys produced the award show at the height of the pandemic. What was the process like last year being a part of that show?

It was an interesting process because it was during the pandemic along with everything that was happening with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. So we’re trying to plan a show that usually is a safe and fun outlet for Black people. However, when Black people are suffering from the pandemic and civil unrest, how do you do that without being tone-deaf and insensitive to what’s going on? You guys saw the show and how it had a lot of elements of social justice. However, behind the scenes, we had a very short window to make a lot of things happen. Usually, the nominees for the BET Awards go out a month in advance and we couldn’t announce it until June 15th. The show was on June 28th so we had two weeks to announce everything, shoot content, do the rollout, and convince everyone it will be a good show virtually. It was hard but very fulfilling. Everyone was proud of that show whether they were posting something on social, producing, etc. The fact that we still get the accolades on how we lead a virtual show in a pandemic, and recognizing not many people were able to top it during that time, was exciting. My ego can be very strong so I’m always happy to know that we did that.

After you departed from BET, you transitioned to becoming an Associate Director for 360i in which you lead the Social Strategy and Marketing efforts for BravoTV and SyFy. How has that transition been for you so far?

Oh my God. It’s been four months and I’ve already done so much. It’s weird because my imposter syndrome hits sometimes. I’m the one being asked the questions of what should we do instead of asking them. In my past role, I was the one to speak up a lot. Now, in this role, I’m getting more comfortable in speaking up because this is the team that I’m running. Also, I realized there were a lot of blind areas that I wasn’t doing at BET that I’m doing now at this job. So I’m realizing that I did it before, but it didn’t look like what I’m doing now and now it has a little bit more structure. The first month was a little rough because it was exercising things in me that I felt I didn’t know how to do. However, I do and it’s because 360i is an agency navigating agency life, working with clients, and making sure they are fulfilled with the content we are presenting them. They are paying us to make them look great so we can’t afford to slack. We’re always trying to better ourselves which can sometimes be a little scary, but it makes me stay on top of stuff.

It’s pretty telling that you have a passion for television and film. Where did your love for TV and movies start?

I am the youngest out of three siblings and they are 12 and 17 years older than me. I had to entertain myself often so my mom and I bonded a lot over movies and TV. We used to go to the movies every year on Christmas. That was our tradition and I enjoyed it. I’m more of a visual person in terms of how I learn, write, etc. I don’t know what it is about movies, but it feels like an outlet to me. I remember when I was in high school and I had a summer job. I would work, go to Redbox, rent two to three movies, and watch them. I even have a huge DVD collection back at home. I would get an actor that I like, research all the films they were in, and watch all of them. I don’t know how to describe it, but I enjoy stories told correctly. Now, the more I study filmmaking and different styles, I don’t like movies that I can guess. I like movies that keep me on my toes and shock me. I’ve always been like this since I was a kid.

You’re also the founder of the platform: BLK CINEPHILE in which you describe as the cool kids’ film club. What sparked the idea for this?

If I ever get the right amount of money and funds, I would love to build it as the film version of Genuis. I want it to be a movie database where it’s annotated, you can look it up, and understand what things mean. I like to talk about films and that was evident for everybody that came into my rooms on Clubhouse. Everyone sees something different. You don’t all see the same thing because it has many interpretations. However, BLK CINEPHILE is also an outlet for me. I’ve taken a little break from me, to be honest, but I do have some ideas on how I want to rebrand it. I hope to bring it back by August or September.

Why is it important for you to be a part of the evolution of diversity within film and television?

It’s so vast and I’m talking about it from a behind-the-scenes perspective. People look at film and TV as there are directors, writers, and actors. Although that’s true, there are also producers, key grips, makeup artists, and all of this. One thing I learned from BET and being on set is that there are so many roles and the cool part about BET is it’s run by all Black people. So I’m seeing Black people manage the stage production, talent, and finance. It’s still an issue that we’re in 2021 and we still don’t see ourselves in every department in a film. I want to be a part of the change for that. I want to see more Black people in these seats making significant decisions and not just on-screen. It’s almost the same idea with sports. There are coaches and players, but there may not be a Black general manager or owner of a team. Those are spaces exclusively Black people have not been in. No shade to Jay-Z, but I don’t want to be a rapper sitting with the head of Paramount trying to figure it out. I want to be the head of Paramount. I would rather be in that position because I don’t want a partner; I want to own it. There’s a video of Kandi Burruss talking about how she partnered with Bravo, Andy Cohen, and the production for Real Housewives of Atlanta. She requested them to use Black production crews and to be able to have that say so is what I want to see. I feel like the more you get people who can have that say so, the more you’ll see evolution and change.

What is your advice for Black women who want to be social media or marketing experts in the television and film industry?

I would say look for opportunities where you can start at a network or smaller production. There are a lot of indie production studios where you can get experience. The cool part about indie production studios is that they’re almost like startups, so you would have a lot of hands-on say with things. For college students, look for internships because most of them could turn into full-time jobs. I could say that a lot of people at BET started as Production Assistant or Intern and have been able to work their way up. If you want to learn some skills, then look up what Neilsen Social Ratings are, follow your favorite network and shows you like, and see how they market it. Try to play around and come up with your plan of what you want to see. It’ll help you to understand how to market shows. It’s different from marketing other products. Sometimes I feel like I give the blanket answers to this question because I wouldn’t say it was lucky for me, but God knew what he was doing. Just know that you will get there and it’s okay to start small. The bigger things are not going away. There’s this girl name Moon, who I am inspired by, and she’s a director, writer, and director of photography. She just got a segment producing job and a lot of these opportunities came to her because she was working on people’s web series and created her own as well. Create the opportunity for yourself because you never know who’s watching.

Follow Tori Carter on Instagram and Twitter

Follow BLK CINEPHILE on Instagram and Twitter

Click on her website here

“being happy is the goal, but greatness is my vision”