Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker Stanley Nelson and Jaqueline Olive set to direct ‘The Color of Cola’ Documentary Chronicling the journey of Pepsi’s All-Black Sales force in the Jim Crow South
The Color of Cola, now in production, will be brought to life by filmmaker and founder of Firelight Films Stanley Nelson, filmmaker Jacqueline Olive, and executive produced by Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions.
The stories of Black pioneers are not unfamiliar, but oftentimes go untold. The Color of Cola aims to elevate one such story exploring a time when corporate America did not include Black professionals, and the Black experience was stereotypically portrayed. The extraordinary efforts of these individuals mirror the courage of many who fought to propel America closer to its aspirations and ideals.
“With The Color of Cola I look forward to telling the story of the first Black sales team established in the corporate world,” said director Stanley Nelson. “This project harkens back to my very first feature film Two Dollars and a Dream, about the amazing life of Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first self-made Black woman millionaire. I was able to touch on Madam Walker’s story again, among other stories of Black entrepreneurship, in a more recent film of mine – Boss: The Black Experience in Business. I see The Color of Cola as a continuation of my past work highlighting the achievements of groundbreaking Black business leaders, whose stories are still underrepresented and often underappreciated in the context of American history.”
Stanley Nelson’s body of work has garnered countless awards and accolades. Most recently, his film ‘Attica‘ is nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature and won the DGA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary. In addition to honors for his individual films, Nelson is a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and was awarded an individual Peabody Award, the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts Sciences, and received the National Medal in the Humanities from President Barack Obama. His feature-length films combine compelling narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail, shining new light on both familiar and under-explored aspects of the American past. Nelson’s recent work includes Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, delving into the life and career Miles Davis, and his most recent film, Attica, opened the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival and debuted on Showtime in November.
“What first attracted me to the project was the opportunity to tell the story of this pioneering sales team of Black men whose work launched an effort at corporate diversity that laid the foundation for meaningfully engaging what has become a trillion dollar Black consumer market today,” said director Jacqueline Olive. “If you think it doesn’t get much more powerful than that, Ed Boyd and his team, in the process, helped open the American consciousness to just how dynamic Black life truly was in the late 1940s, so the throughline of this story to benchmarks of cultural diversity in the present is remarkable. I could not be more excited to direct this film with Stanley Nelson in collaboration with our talented team at All Day Every Day, LAMF, and Pepsi.”
“With ‘The Color of Cola,’ Viola and I were really excited about exploring another story that’s been hidden in the amazon of American history,” said Julius Tennon. “These men had grit, tenacity, and sheer will, being the first black sales force in corporate America. We couldn’t have better directors and partners than Stanley Nelson and Jacqueline Olive to bring this incredible documentary to life. I think we’ll all get a snapshot into what Jim Crow America was like and get to understand some of the challenges that these brave African American men faced.”
Last year, PepsiCo announced its Racial Equality Journey, a more than $570 million set of initiatives over five years focused on increasing Black and Hispanic managerial representation at PepsiCo; leveraging its scale and influence across suppliers and strategic partners to increase Black and Hispanic representation, elevating diverse voices and creators in its content; and working in communities to drive long-term change by addressing systemic barriers to economic opportunity and advancing economic empowerment for Black and Hispanic Americans.
“At PepsiCo, we know that our company can only succeed when our associates and the societies we serve thrive. That’s why we have long been committed to fostering a diverse workforce that reflects our consumer base and society at all levels of the company,” said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta. “This commitment to racial equality is part of our company’s DNA, going back to this our first Black sales team. The legacies of Allen Mckellar, Jr., Jeanette Maund, Harvey C. Russell, and many more leaders in our rich history continue to inspire our actions and serve as a beacon for advancing our journey towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace and world.”
The Color of Cola documentary is co-produced by the Los Angeles Media Fund under the leadership of Co-Founders Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman, and in association with Pepsi’s in-house content studio. Executive producers include Michael Karbelnikoff and Peter Kline for Alldayeveryday, and Mark Landsman.
“We feel most fortunate to have filmmakers with Stanley Nelson and Jacqueline Olive’s vision and integrity in bringing this important yet largely unknown history to light,” said Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman.
This project will elevate diverse voices, and it will also share a powerful piece of American history – inspiring viewers to utilize their collective power to help catalyze meaningful change in our society and for generations to come.
CAA Media Finance arranged financing and will handle sales.
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PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complementary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.
Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Beverages and Convenient Foods by Winning with PepsiCo Positive (pep+). pep+ is our strategic end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability at the center of how we will create value and growth by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for planet and people. For more information, visit www.pepsico.com.
About Los Angeles Media Fund
Los Angeles Media Fund was founded in 2014 by Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman with a mandate to finance and produce feature films and scripted television. The company has since diversified into unscripted, Broadway and athlete management. LAMF financed and produced three films which premiered at Sundance 2020: Shirley, the period drama directed by Josephine Decker and starring Elisabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young and Logan Lerman; Summertime, an unconventional narrative portrait based on the lives and true experiences of a dozen young spoken word poets, told over the course of one day in Los Angeles and directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, and the documentary, Some Kind of Heaven with Darren Aronofsky and The New York Times as producing partners. LAMF also financed and produced Juliet, Naked (Lionsgate / Roadside), The Space Between Us (STX), The Bye Bye Man (STX), and Step Sisters (Netflix), along with the Emmy-nominated basketball documentary Shot in the Dark (Fox Sports), and the Tribeca Audience Award winning and Emmy-nominated documentary, United Skates (HBO). LAMF is currently in production on a nine-part docu-series on the Los Angeles Lakers with the Lakers as its partner, which LAMF is producing for Hulu; Antoine Fuqua is directing. LAMF is nearing completion on a feature documentary on Brazilian soccer legend, Ronaldinho. LAMF is also involved in the production of various unscripted projects through its subsidiary, InventTV and represents many athletes through its sports agency, Beyond Athlete Management. In 2019, LAMF won a Tony Award for the Best Musical Revival of Oklahoma!
About JuVee Productions
JuVee is a renowned Los Angeles based multi-platform production and development company focused on content for consumers in the explosive and global multi-ethnic market. The company was founded in 2011 by Oscar, Emmy, and Tony winning actress Viola Davis and producing partner Julius Tennon. JuVee creates scripted and non-scripted television, film, documentary, theater, and digital immersive content for global audiences. It remains at the forefront of innovation, while developing and producing a library of socially relevant entertainment, defined by quality and inclusion. The company currently has a first-look feature production deal with Amazon Studios on both the film and television side. At its core, JuVee’s philosophy integrates optimal character and story-driven content that has remained the cornerstone of what best entertains audiences worldwide. The company will continue to focus on and produce cost-effective content while offering filmmakers and creative talent a welcomed supportive environment to explore optimal creative opportunities, telling fresh stories reflective of the world as it exists.
About Firelight Films
Founded by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Firelight Films produces documentaries by and about communities of color. Firelight Films productions have garnered multiple Primetime Emmy, Peabody, IDA, and Sundance awards. Among them, the feature films Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre; Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy; Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool; The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution; Freedom Summer; Freedom Riders; The Murder of Emmett Till; and The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords. Firelight Films has also produced notable short films including “The Story of Access” which was commissioned by Starbucks in 2017 for a mandatory anti-bias employee training program, and “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom” commissioned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for its opening night in 2015. Upcoming Firelight Films productions include Attica, about the 1971 prison rebellion in upstate New York, for Showtime; and Creating the New World: The Transatlantic Slave Trade, a four-part documentary series for PBS.
Alldayeveryday is a bi-coastal full-service production company based in New York and Los Angeles. The company has created branded entertainment for Nike, Vans, Lyft, Facebook and Beats to name a few. Alldayeveryday has produced films with Michael Pitt for Rag & Bone and Greta Gerwig for DKNY. Alldayeveryday’s episodic web series Undercover Lyft featuring Shaquille O’Neal, Demi Lovato and the Golden State Warriors, was nominated for a Webby. Recently, Alldayeveryday created and produced the television series Centerpiece for Roku with Rashida Jones Executive Producing. Moments Like This Never Last, a documentary film about Dash Snow, from filmmaker Cheryl Dunn and Vice Films just had its theatrical release with Utopia distributing. Currently Alldayeveryday is in production on a feature length documentary on cryptocurrency with Coinbase with director Greg Kohs. In addition, Alldayeveryday has produced several award-winning documentaries, including Everybody Street by Cheryl Dunn, The New Radicalby Adam Bhala Lough and I Was There When House Was Born by Jake Sumner.