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Sunwise Sheds Light on Socially Responsible Subjects

It isn’t always easy doing good when you’re in the TV business. But it’s good to keep hope alive.

Sunwise Media, formed by former Bounce TV executives Ri-Karlo Handy and Elverage Allen, has shifted its focus from the multicultural market to doing work that’s socially responsible and hopes to help other businesses make a positive impact.

Sunwise's current documentary project tells the story of "hope dealer" Lucy Hall, who went from homelessness to founding a recovery center. 

Sunwise's current documentary project tells the story of "hope dealer" Lucy Hall, who went from homelessness to founding a recovery center. 

Sunwise’s current project revolves around promoting the Hope Village Project, a drug treatment and rehabilitation program, and shifting the conversation about substance abuse and the opioid epidemic — a subject with which Handy and Allen are all too familiar.

The company has made a documentary, Hope Village: Finding Recovery, which tells the story of “hope dealer” Lucy Hall, who went from being homeless and addicted to founding The Mary Hall Freedom House, a community recovery organization that has helped more than 10,000 women and children.

The film is being shown in several film festivals.

The company is working on a pilot partnership with a local Salvation Army chapter in Bell, California, providing the film, training for staff and supporting documentation about Hope Village and community recovery programs.

Sunwise is looking to find corporate sponsors and distributors for the documentary and is trying to raise money for a feature film based on Hall’s story.

“I think our mission as a company is not only to create good content, but create content that is going to have an impact on our families, our cities, our country and our world,” said Handy, CEO of Sunwise.

“We spend so much time chasing the dollar,” Handy, who had been senior VP of original programming at Bounce and executive-produced shows starring Nick Cannon and Keyshia Cole, said. “I spend that time away from my family trying to entertain people, but I think there’s some entertainment that’s so valuable because it shifts the conversation. And that’s the kind of entertainment we want to make.”

Allen, partner and head of advertising sales, said Sunwise still has a commitment to the multicultural space. “We felt like this was a broader opportunity,” he said. “And to be honest with you, the multicultural space is, I won’t say it’s congested — but there are a lot of players there.”

With more consumers looking to do business with companies that share their values, “I do think there’s a huge business opportunity here, supporting companies that are being socially responsible,” Handy said.

The Hope Village project also has a personal connection. Handy’s father is in recovery, but despite having resources, it took time and effort to locate an effective program.

Allen, who was executive VP of ad sales for Bounce TV and a director at TV One before joining Sunwise, has a nephew who has struggled with addiction his whole life but is now in recovery, holding down a job and living in his own apartment. He’s also got a brother-in-law who went through a community recovery program, but still struggles with addiction.

“I would imagine that a lot of people have someone in their life in that situation,” Allen said.

Allen is looking for national and local sponsors to back the documentary and provide organizations with books and other materials about community recovery programs. Many large companies have foundations to disburse funds to worthy causes.

The effort has been harder than expected, Allen said, but still worthwhile.

The picture has been well-received on the film festival circuit. It was recently shown at the Silicon Valley Film Festival and was a Gold Award winner at the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards.

“You know, people came out crying and saying how watching this film changed their whole perception of addiction,” Handy said of the Silicon Valley screening.

That’s a step in the right direction.