Starting with a message and vision is how filmmaker and visual artist Jared Malik Royal creates work that pushes the conversation of race, ownership, and Black representation forward.
His awareness of the power in his perspective as a Black creative came just four short years ago on set for a new TV ad. Royal was subjected to a racial microaggression when someone asked him to "rap" on the spot. As one of the few Black creatives there, that moment was pivotal in Royal's career. The Texas native took it as a sign that it was time to immerse himself in controlling and expanding the narrative for Black people through visual storytelling.
That’s quite the departure from what he saw himself doing as an undergraduate majoring in business marketing at the University of Texas (Austin). At first, Royal didn't see his potential as a Black creative. He started prioritizing living his life filled with people, places, and experiences that forced him out of his comfort zone. Leaning into his love for music, Royal sought out opportunities to connect with artists.
"I never knew that what I do today was possible," Royal says. "Fortunately, through family, friends, and mentors, I’ve been able to find my way."
Royal found his way or, more specifically, his voice through moving pictures. And now he's using the medium to turn the spotlight on other emerging Black visionaries. The power and surrealism in Royal's execution is apparent, with each frame creating a new conversation and perspective.
In the self-described "anti-advertisement" Selling Soul, Royal, as writer and director, explores the dichotomy of tobacco ads from the '60s and '70s that targeted BIPOC communities, while seemingly lending their support to the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Royal, in satirical fashion, calls attention to the media's blatant misrepresentation of Black Americans. Alongside creator Adraint Bereal, Royal co-directed The Black Yearbook, a visual that documents the emotional Black experience of being a student at a predominantly white institution (PWI) in Texas.
Royal also shot multiple scenes for the Calmatic-directed music video for Pharrell Williams and JAY-Z’s track, "Entrepreneur." As the song title implies, the video features successful Black entrepreneurs and all-star cameos. Royal captured Broadway performer Robert Hartwell during a poignant scene of him dancing in front of a home he purchased in cash for $400,000. The house was built by slaves in the 1800s.
Since signing with visual production house Moxie Pictures, Royal has concentrated his efforts on brand campaigns. His portfolio includes partnerships with Mercedes-Benz, Levi's, Outdoor Voices, and, most recently, Comcast Corporation.
A3 Mag had the chance to sit down with Royal to learn more about his vision for pushing the culture forward, being a Black man in America, and the message he hopes to send through his work.
Jared Malik Royal: Above everything else, I hope to create work that’s part of a bigger moment and movement in time. Right now, Black artists are shifting and progressing culture through our work. I want to be able to look back at my contributions and feel proud by making things that are true to me. I hope to inspire others to push the limits of what’s possible and imagine new ways for us to freely express ourselves, defining our values and image to the world.
Oftentimes, our ideas and likeness are co-opted by a brand or company to appear inclusive, while their internal politics or actual intentions are based more in controlling perception than real collaboration. I want others in the community to know we don’t have to settle for opportunities. We can champion our own fates. I want my work to remind other creators that we don’t have to fit inside a box of what any institution or outside force might define us as. Our ideas are more valuable than we can even imagine, and we must work together to manifest them at the highest level. We have to keep pushing for control to create a better way forward.
Your most recent visual is a one-minute spot for Comcast RISE, an initiative that highlights Black entrepreneurs and offers free resources to minority small business owners. What message did you want to send through that imagery? Jomo Fray [DP] and I wanted to communicate the feeling of ownership and excellence that’s often neglected in the images of Black people in advertising. I can remember looking through boxes of old pictures of my family and seeing the ways that they captured each other. There was a special kind of glow they always caught around someone. [For the ad] The zooms are smoothly paced and the colors consistently warm to invoke a sense of comfort or nostalgia, calling back to something that feels tangible or that someone might hold onto forever.
It means upholding the responsibility of innovation, exploration, and ingenuity that’s brought us this far. It means being a part of a legacy of some of the most strong-willed, resilient, and creative people. It’s an opportunity to know yourself, in relation to society, in such a profound way. You’re blessed with a deep sense of empathy, passion for life, and understanding of humanity. It might come with challenges, but, ultimately, it is one of the biggest strengths.
Start with why. The things around us that we question deserve our thoughts and consideration. The more we understand our why, the better we can understand our voice and how to best express it.
Words to your younger self? Keep going.
Words to your future self? Stay inspired.