I first met Roxanne Avent last year during a media junket for the film Traffik. It was a film that helped spread awareness on sex trafficking. I immediately was drawn towards her warm nature and great sense of humor. I already had great respect for her as a producer and film executive and even more now that I know about her charitable non-profit C.L.I.M.B., an initiative to help today’s disadvantaged youth achieve success. The latest film she produced is The Intruder starring Dennis Quaid. I was so glad to get the opportunity to not only talk about the film but to highlight these fantastic organizations Roxanne has created. She truly is one of my heroes for so many reasons.
Jennifer Ortega: Hi Roxanne! How are you?
Roxanne Avent: Hi Jennifer! How are you and thank you for taking my call.
Jennifer: Of course, I have to say Melanie Marquez showed me some pictures of you guys at the premiere from The Intruder and you looked amazing! I love that green outfit.
Roxanne: Thank you, it’s one in a few times I get to dress up.
Jennifer: I love that green though, that’s beautiful.
Roxanne: Thank you, it’s such an important epic moment for us.
Jennifer: Well you guys have done so well and I am so happy every time I see you and Dion Taylor doing something. And besides The Intruder I know you have C.L.I.M.B. which I definitely want to talk about.
C.L.I.M.B.: Community, Learn, Inspire, Motivate, Build
Jennifer: I want to talk about a lot of things so let’s talk about CLIMB first and how you started that. I love that and that you guys are doing that and I think it’s so important. So maybe you can talk a little bit about what Climb does and how you created it?
Roxanne: I mean CLIMB is obviously a passion project of mine, having one of those unfortunate tragedies that happened earlier on in life and being forced to be on the street, you learn a lot about people and yourself very quickly and you don’t often have the resources, the mentorship, and the education or whatever it may be to survive.
So because of that, you turn to the wrong people and you get involved with the wrong people and gangs and drugs and just looking for any type of stability. So I always was just like I’ve just got to give back because I feel like one, I’m a miracle to survive what I’ve survived and been able to be doing what I am doing now, that’s always been a thing for me to give back.
And with CLIMB the biggest thing is creating climbers, you know we are not survivors we are climbers. We climb through adversity. And then you create your own climbers underneath that, but hoping to reach the youth to educate them on human rights and drug trafficking and drugs and guns and racism, all of those things that fall under that banner educating them earlier on so they make the right choices.
And then two, creating the platform for them to rehabilitate. It’s one thing to get out but to sustain that is even harder. So partnering up with different organizations to make sure that they can have a solid future. So that’s kind of what Climb has done, we have been focusing on the sex trafficking really hard just because of what’s going on.
But we are constantly creating different programs that we are going to incorporate – it’s in the infancy stage as you know we just released the Stellar Awards. But yes it’s something that we have been doing for 14 years, from giving away food during the holidays to back to school life camps, there was a Mother’s Day brunch I sponsored. All of these different things that we do, finally I was like I think it’s time to put a name with this and really get a non-profit so we can maximize on the financial side of it to create more opportunities.
Jennifer: I love everything about it, and as you said, even the rehabilitation part and the part that helps sustain it. It’s one thing to help people but to help them to maintain this and to climb further is such a big piece of it too.
you can’t live in the past because if you are looking in the rear-view mirror you will always crash.Roxanne Avent
Jennifer: You are such a great role model, for me as a woman you are a great role model and for anybody, but I think for you to be able to talk to the youths it’s amazing because you are amazing and I love that.
Roxanne: And I mean it’s like you don’t have to have something tragic until you happen, just applying for an interview right and then opening a door through that, it’s like applying is the first step if you get the interview you get it, if you don’t but you have to keep going and you can’t live in the past because if you are looking in the rear-view mirror you will always crash.
Jennifer: That’s true, I mean some of us are our own worst enemies, you know we get in our own ways a lot.
Roxanne: Oh my gosh we are so critical. Woman are so critical of themselves, and to create that stability and support from one another we could really rule the world. So that’s what CLIMB is. That’s what we are trying to focus on.
Traffik & The Intruder
Jennifer: I love it too because like a lot of the film, like you were talking about sex trafficking and of course Traffik focuses on sex trafficking. And so a lot of the films that you are producing have to do with different social issues as well, which is great I always enjoy them and congratulations on The Intruder by the way.
Roxanne: Thank you, oh my God it’s so overwhelming! Have you seen The Intruder yet?
Jennifer: I haven’t but I am going to see it, I am absolutely going to see it this weekend I am going to do a review for one of the outlets that I work for, but I can’t wait. I remember talking to you and Dion about it like when Traffik was just coming out. So I am really excited. from the theater and everybody sees that it’s doing really well, and to see so much press about it it’s great.
Roxanne: Yes, I mean it’s one of those movies where you make the movie for the audience and for the culture. And it’s one of those movies where you really go to the theater for an hour and a half and forget about everything, and watch and be totally engage and screaming at the film. I mean everywhere I go people are screaming and talking the whole time. So it’s just a blessing to hear the feedback and the support that we are getting, and that people had been following us for a really long time it’s just like wow you know.
Jennifer: I am very excited to see it, I know my friends that have seen it have really liked it and enjoyed it – Congratulations on that. And then you have another project that you guys do too – I wrote it down but I guess I’m going to say it wrong on accident. Be Woke!
BE WOKE. VOTE. : A social media philanthropic initiative to encourage nonvoters to vote and young people to discuss political issues affecting our communities.
Roxanne: Be Woke is the initiative that we created for the primaries when we first started that we did a push there interviewing celebrities from musicians to Maxine Waters to – I can’t even remember all of the names, Chelsea Handler and all of these different activists. Just to really get the message out to the young voters who that you have a right to vote and your vote count and it matters.
We rely on that, you know what I mean, so a lot of the youths aren’t educated I mean they don’t even have these kinds of learning systems in schools. It’s not even taught anymore you know, how to vote and what’s your rights are to vote and what it means. So just trying to push that narrative using people that they can identify with to understand what it is they are doing and why it’s important because they are our future.
It may not affect you now but I think some of the youths that we have seen so many people across the country because of shootings at schools or what not, really stand up and understand and create a movement of no tolerance. So being able to continue that work and get these kids signed up. And Be Woke is something that we are doing until the presidential campaign so it’s going to live on forever.
So we have activations like with BET coming up and we are going to have a celebrity dodgeball game, and have voter registration there with booth signing up for the youths. like we are going in.
Jennifer: I agree, my mother is a teacher and it’s frustrating I mean people just don’t know, they aren’t being taught the importance of voting. So now I think people understand a little more now how it’s impacting your life for the next four or eight years and so on, but I do get really inspired when I see young people – it’s horrible when tragedies happen but sometimes these groups of young people are really inspiring to me, because when I see them mobilize and be like no this isn’t right we are not going to stand for this it gives me hope.
Roxanne: Yes, and it’s our job to create that do you know what I mean to create that understanding, and again it all goes back to Human Rights and people not knowing. And that’s like a big thing for me with Climb I really want to try to get a curriculum in the schools from 5th grade to 11th grade and 12th grade so that they can be taught. Then you have sex trafficking as a part of your sex education, along with the visual of the movie Traffik to see how real it is. Those are the kinds of things that you’ve got to do behind closed doors I feel like to make things go.
Jennifer: And obviously before Traffik and before I talked to you and Deon about that film, like I knew about sex trafficking, but I had no idea about what even happened in Sacramento. I remember Deon talking about, I think he was talking about the high school near you guys was sending out letters because a girl got abducted at the mall.
Roxanne: Yes, I mean it’s so active everywhere and I think people like either they didn’t want to know or they weren’t educated enough I mean this has been going on forever do you know what I mean. Now they are just getting more, they are just getting smarter it’s not the traditional kidnapping on the street type of thing.
It’s girls befriending these girls and then once they trust them they get them out the house or go wherever and then that’s it. So it’s everywhere and they lurk around in the malls and they lurk around at parties, they lurk around online you know it’s happening everywhere and where we are at it’s like I mean so prominent that the store owners are even on gaurd.
I was at the mall with my daughter and she was across at the other store, I had bought all of these little things for her and the sales associate was like wow is this for you and I was like no this is for my daughter. And then she was like oh my God where is your daughter, I was like she is across from me but she was like oh my God. She was like, an elder lady and was just terrified she was like I hope you know you need to get her, there have been so many girls get kidnapped from this mall.
Jennifer: My parents live in Gold River by the way so I know exactly what mall you’re talking about. It’s so weird that it’s happening there to me
Roxanne: That’s what people have got to realize and I think that’s why they are being like oh my God what is this again now, you know because it’s happening everywhere in every city in every state to everyone, and minorities are obviously 90% of the victims.
Jennifer: I am so glad that you are putting awareness to that because it is something that so many people don’t really know the scope of it, or when they think of sex trafficking they think of the movie Taken and it happening in Eastern Europe, but no it’s like next door and you have no idea.
Roxanne: Yes, I mean it’s basically people being held against their will that’s what it equates to. If you want to go and sell your body or whatever that’s your choice. Trafficking is not a choice that’s the difference, so if you are being held against your will then it’s a problem.
Jennifer: Thank you for putting light on it. I love that you are incorporating it to the younger generation because they are the ones that are the victims, unfortunately, so we need to know. I’m just such a fan of yours and I just want to know if you have any advice for any other woman in entertainment that want to get into producing or directing or writing?
Roxanne: I mean you’ve got to just keep going and you’ve got to believe in yourself and make your own – like what do you call it. You know you set goals for yourself basically one goal at a time that’s realistic and work that way, opposed to just being like oh my God I need to do this like what are you going to do to get to that, do you know what I mean.
And that’s the patience and commitment that you have to have in the business period, but even more as a woman and a minority because there is a lot of adversity that you have to deal with that most Caucasian men don’t deal with. So it’s tough because you’ve got to really set limits and be vocal about what those limits are when they are broken, because if not then they continue to manipulate to see how far you will go. So really just know who you are, know what you want, know where you are going and don’t let anyone stand in your way, because no one is going to take care of you but you anyway.
Jennifer: That is 100% true thank you for saying that. It’s true once you know who you are and you are comfortable with yourself I always say that’s all that matters.
know who you are, know what you want, know where you are going and don’t let anyone stand in your way, because no one is going to take care of you but you anyway.Roxanne Avent
Roxanne: Take a leap of faith. all they can do is say no and then you can do it again. If I was just going by what everybody else said I would be nowhere do you know what I mean, because people they don’t, unfortunately, everybody doesn’t want you to succeed and they are not willing to help to see you succeed, and we just see things differently because the more you work and the more you spread the love and the support, like the more you get back like we are energy people, so what you give out is what you get back.
Jennifer: And you know there is no one path and there’s no one way to get there. People like to compare themselves to other people but like why? you are your own person it doesn’t matter what they are doing.
Roxanne: Yes, you have different experiences and you have different things that you have to face and you’ve got to figure out the best way. And sometimes often times it’s a lot of sacrifices even things you don’t sometimes want to do to get there but it’s what it is. So as long as you don’t break that code of conduct with yourself.
Jennifer: But at the end of the day like everyone knows if they are being ethical or not.
Roxanne: Yes, it’s kind of like you’ve got to be able to live with yourself you know but you always got to continue to do the work. I am not perfect I am constantly working on myself and I am constantly growing, do you know what I mean and learning and want to learn, so it doesn’t stop do you know what I mean.
Jennifer: I forgot to mention the NAACP Award you were nominated for. This was like a few months.
Roxanne: : Oh my God that was so exciting.
Jennifer: So what exact category were you nominated for?
Roxanne: We were nominated for Traffik for best picture. we unfortunately lost, but to be nominated was a big win for us.
Jennifer: I was so excited when I saw all of the pictures and everything, I had a few friends that were there and I was like yes.
Roxanne: It was awesome and it was funny because the same day I launched Climb at the Stellar Awards, I am like oh my God I can’t believe I am flying to Vegas to launch my non-profit, and then flying back to LA the same day to walk the carpet at NAACP for Traffik it’s just like so surreal.
Jennifer: It’s been so lovely talking with you! Thank you so much, Roxanne!
Roxanne: Thank you Jennifer!
For more info on C.L.I.M.B. site: http://climborganization.org/ instgram: @CLIMB_ORG twitter:@CLIMB_ORG For more info on Be Woke. Vote. site:https://bewoke.vote/ instagram:@be.woke.vote/ twitter: @bewokevote
ROXANNE AVENT (PRODUCER, PHILANTHROPIST)
ROXANNE AVENT: Through movies, music, and television, Roxanne Avent has established herself as a leading producer and executive, whose creative vision and drive has contributed to the success of many feature films, comedy shows, and television series. Alongside director Deon Taylor, Avent formed the film company, Hidden Empire Film Group (HEFG) to bring fresh content to different media platforms.
Avent has developed, packaged and produced an impressive slate of films. One of them, the thriller Traffik, starring Paula Patton, Missi Pyle, Omar Epps, William Fichtner and Roselyn Sanchez release in 2018 by Lionsgate’s CodeBlack Films. The film was nominated for NAACP, Image Award for Outstanding Motion Picture. She also produced the upcoming thriller The Intruder, starring Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, and Meagan Good. The film will be released on May 3, 2019, by Sony’s Screen Gems. Additionally, she produced the comedy feature All-Star Weekend, starring Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Gerard Butler, Eva Longoria, Jeremy Piven, and Jessica Szohr and directed by Foxx.
In addition, to Hidden Empire Film Group, Avent is CEO of Avent Productions, a successful independent film production company that specializes in the production of film, television, video, as well as staging and concert promotions. She also previously worked as a label manager for Taylor Made Muzik, the largest independent record label in Northern California. At Taylor Made, Avent combined her talent in movie production and music as she developed soundtracks development for independent movies. She was recently called by “King of the South” T.I. to produce one of his music projects.
Philanthropic interests are important to Avent, her non-profit organization CLIMB will be announced later in 2019. C.L.I.M.B. Network(CLIMB), is a charitable initiative to help today’s disadvantaged youth achieve success.