- KENT, Wash.
Specialty outdoor retailer REI has launched Co-op Studios, an in-house content arm. Across films, podcasts, and editorial programs, the studio develops and produces stories that entertain, enrich and explore the power of time spent outside, while complementing REI’s broader climate and racial equity, diversity, and inclusion commitments.
As part of REI’s ongoing advocacy of racial equity and climate action, the studio will prioritize storytelling from people and communities that are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ, women, and any other historically underrepresented groups as well as stories that reflect the positive impact of protecting the environment.
“The outdoors is for everyone, and content is a powerful and relevant way to bring that belief to our members and new audiences,” said Paolo Mottola, REI director of content and media. “We are supporting projects that explore this idea from a variety of perspectives, formats, and, most importantly, from a variety of voices. Our plan is to share and promote stories that encourage awareness, inspiration and celebrate the different ways communities spend time outside.”
With 20 million lifetime members and an established network of existing content, REI, the nation’s largest consumer co-op, is expanding its content efforts to give members more outdoor perspectives and inspire new outdoor experiences.
Co-op Studios recently released The Trees Remember, a three-part, scripted, short film series with titles Movement, Maintenance and Migration, written and directed by Angela Tucker of TuckerGurl, Inc. The series explores connection to nature through the heartfelt stories of three Black women. Set in different decades, the narratives depict their compelling and sometimes humorous journeys of growth and healing in the outdoors.
More film projects will be announced in the months ahead. Upcoming multimedia projects from Co-op Studios include:
- A new podcast series launching in September called “Hello, Nature,” hosted by Misha Euceph, explores the experience of our national parks through the eyes of a Pakistani American. Her quest is to see some of the national parks in 2021, and answer the question, “If the parks are public, aren’t they supposed to be for everyone?”
- New episodes of Miranda in the Wild, a digital series featuring REI employee and enthusiastic backpacker and hiker, Miranda Webster, who shares her knowledge and humor to help break down barriers to getting outside.
- A digital show featuring James Beard award-winning chef, nutrition coach, and avid rock climber, Maria Hines, explores the intersection of nutritious food, outdoor sports, and the environment.
- A relaunch of the Co-op Journal as “Uncommon Path,” a digital publication for its members that unpacks the ideas, issues, and experiences that shape the relationship between people and life outside.
- New REI Co-op Editors’ Choice Awards, a designation honoring top-performing gear and apparel available at the co-op based on field testing, REI expertise, member and customer feedback, and sustainability attributes.
REI has worked to elevate the voices of those who have historically been underrepresented and under-resourced in legacy definitions of outdoor participation. Since the launch of its Force of Nature initiative in 2017, a comprehensive effort to advance gender equity in the outdoors, REI has focused on breaking through the historical perceptions of what being “outdoorsy” means and whom the outdoors is meant for through its storytelling.
Some examples include films Cycle of Ancestry, Pedal Through, Venture Out, Everything to Lose by Pattie Gonia, The Mirnavator, Brotherhood of Skiing, and podcasts “Wild Ideas Worth Living” and “Camp Monsters.” Through its editorial program, the co-op has explored efforts to improve all-abilities access in outdoor spaces, individuals and groups working to make time outside more inclusive, and stories celebrating identity and adventure.
In 2020, Public House Films and TBVE produced, in association with REI, The Dark Divide, a feature film directed by Tom Putnam, starring David Cross, Debra Messing, David Koechner, and featuring music by the Avett Brothers, that explores the healing power of nature. The film was released theatrically in 2020 to critical acclaim and began streaming on Vudu, Tubi, and IMDb TV last month.