Holly Carter is the CEO and founder of Relevé Entertainment, a production and brand management company that creates family and faith-inspired content. Based in Beverly Hills, California, the company’s production credits include the Oxygen franchise “Preachers of L.A, Detroit and Atlanta,” “Fix My Choir,” featuring Michelle Williams, former Destiny’s Child member and gospel singer Deitrick Haddon and “Kimbleize Me” with Celebrity Hairstylist Kim Kimble. Carter first started out in the entertainment business casting for TV 90’s shows such as “In Living Color,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “Roc.”
The early lessons she learned enabled her to build her own entertainment empire. She’s developed the careers of award-winning stars like Usher and Kirk Franklin, produced a line up of shows on major TV networks such as OWN and WeTV and she’s also the creative force behind Merge, an empowerment and educational conference that merges the worlds of faith and entertainment.
Now, she’s bringing a new wave of content to our TV screens. Most recently she produced “The Next Big Thing,” a music competition series for BET and “Chad Loves Michelle,” a docu-follow about relationships, love and marriage for OWN. Plus, she’s currently developing a contemporary bible-themed anthology series for BET along with her producing partner Queen Latifah.
In the midst of her upcoming conference, we caught up with the wife and mother of two to learn a few tips for pitching networks and what it takes to form a successful collaboration with other powerful women.
You started in television casting for shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Roc,” and “In Living Color.” During that time, what were your biggest lessons learned that you apply today in your business?
My biggest lessons learned are that research is key and building relationships are essential, as well as the importance of checking and rechecking facts. When I first started in the business, the casting director I worked for would always tell me, ‘You don’t have that information? Go find it,’ “You didn’t get that answer? Go get it,” “You don’t know what the information is? Go figure it out and come back to me with the answers.”
You have a track record of partnering with powerful women in media and business such as Queen Latifah and Oprah. In your experience, what are the keys or qualities to successful business collaboration?
The key to a successful business collaboration lies in cultivating the relationships therein. Having honor and respect for those that you work with is critical, but it is also important to believe in yourself. So many times, as women in the business, we feel inadequate or not good enough, but that’s when your faith has to kick in.
Learning how to understand the different personalities, the different ways of doing business, and learning how to respect others is essential. I think the key to working with women is showing honor and having respect for who they are and what they do. When inspiration and aspiration connect, it’s an explosion of destiny. I’m excited to work with both of them. When you partner with the right person, it elevates the game. What have I learned from my partnerships? The importance of following through to completion and not taking anything personally.
When it comes to successfully pitching show ideas to networks and decision makers what are the most overlooked and undervalued tactics for winning a pitch and closing the deal?
Relationships are the currency of the kingdom. In essence, they are critical! When you go in that room to pitch, it should be relationship-driven, talent-based and concept-focused. Another important factor is being careful to manage the relationships in the room. You never want to step on, underestimate, or undermine people. Be careful how you treat the gatekeepers, because tomorrow they are holding the key to the kingdom, and you don’t want them to lock you out.
Why did you create the Merge Conference?
I created The Merge so that more creative people who have a heart for God could impact Hollywood with their gifts. There needs to be more of us in Hollywood, and that is what The Merge is about — equipping the believer to confront the culture by way of arts and entertainment.