Tracey Edmonds Takes You to ‘Vurch’

She tells us about her new digital channel, which offers virtual church from mega-pastors.

Tracey Edmonds (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Tracey Edmonds (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(The Root) — With 20 years of experience behind her, Tracey E. Edmonds knows a thing or two about creating successful TV shows and films. In the ’90s, she and former husband Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds launched the Edmonds Entertainment Group, which produced Soul Food in 1997. As president of Our Films, she released 2011’s Jumping the Broom, a film about love and marriage set in Martha’s Vineyard. She was also the executive producer of the successful reality-TV show College Hill on BET.

Now the award-winning entertainment mogul is taking her vast TV and film experience into the digital realm as president and chief executive officer of Alright TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to faith-friendly and inspirational shows that launches on March 31, Easter Sunday.

In addition to presenting a full complement of lifestyle shows focused on health, relationships and family, the channel will showcase work by some top talent: Vanessa Middleton, a co-executive producer for The Cosby Show, is writing and directing the Web series Walk This Way, which stars Michael K. Williams, better known as Omar Little from The Wire, and Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire. Issa Rae, the force behind popular Web series Awkward Black Girl, is creating a comedy about the inner workings of a church choir.

Edmonds, who developed Alright TV with BET founder Robert L. Johnson, talked to The Root about the challenges of producing for the Web, reaching across the digital divide and an innovative idea called “vurch.”

The Root: How did you get involved with producing an Internet network?

Tracey Edmonds: The idea for Alright TV kind of started from a couple different levels. One is, I’m actually very active on social networking. I really decided to use Twitter for positivity and to help inspire people, and so when I started my Twitter page, I would tweet out these inspirational messages in the morning. The feedback I started immediately getting was, “Thank you so much for your message. It really helped me through my day,” to other people tweeting me inspirational messages to help keep me lifted.

That was one of the things that gave me the idea that people really need to be empowered and need positivity in their lives. Then I had a really wonderful experience working on the film Jumping the Broom. That was a faith-friendly film, but one where we still went for high entertainment value.

We didn’t want to beat people over the head with a message. The idea was to create this digital channel that would really help inspire and uplift people and make people feel good, but at the same time really go for high entertainment value.

TR: What are some of the challenges of producing for the Internet versus film or television?

TE: The budget you have to work with producing a digital series is just a small fraction of what you’ve been used to for television content or feature-film content. So you have to adjust your approach to production when you’re producing for digital. The budgets are much less; you have to figure out a way to produce an entire cycle of a [Web] series over the course of two or three days. But I’ve done independent films before and I’ve done reality shows on pennies, so you adapt what you’ve learned along those ways and kind of apply it toward this.