Introducing the Outsiders Network
This month marks the launch of the Outsiders Network, the world’s first ever online talent marketplace connecting outdoor-savvy talent and production professionals with outdoor content producers. At the heart of the network is an intuitive portal that allows talent to upload profiles that are easily searchable by anyone needing to hire outdoor talent throughout North America. The site also facilitates all necessary logistics, from booking, to negotiating, to payment and more.
To celebrate the launch, and to learn more about how the Outsiders Network is evolving the outdoor talent sector to better reflect the full range of outdoor participants, we sat down with networks co-founder Holly Fraser, a long-time industry veteran and advocate for diverse representation in a space that’s historically lacked diversity.
Origin: First of all, where did the idea for the Outsiders Network come from?
Holly: I’d been working in outdoor production for a long time, often casting for various shoots, both within and outside the outdoor industry. And the longer I did this, the clearer it became that it was really hard to find people who had the range of skills and experience, both as models, but also as outdoors people. There was a real need for people who were comfortable in front of the camera, comfortable doing the specific outdoor activity, and also just comfortable being outside. It’s a uniquely challenging set of circumstances, and it’s not one that any of the mainstream talent sites were addressing.
Origin: What was the tipping point that compelled you to actually bring the network to life?
Holly: There were a few factors. I’d been chatting with Danielle and MJ (Danielle Kristmanson and MJ Legault, principals of Origin) and getting the agency perspective on what they needed, and it also became clear that meeting the demand for authentic representation of previously underrepresented communities was becoming essential. Beyond that, we saw an opportunity to build a network of outdoor focused talent in locations across North America where outdoor shoots happen the most, and to create a platform that streamlines the search, shortlist and hire process for this industry.
Origin: Talk a little bit about how the Outsiders Network functions.
Holly: Our niche is connecting brands with outdoor talent, and making that process as easy and seamless as possible. We facilitate these connections through the site, where talent hiring decision makers or marketing people at brands can search for talent by proficiency, as well as a number of other self-identified characteristics. It’s important to us that the talent is empowered to decide how they want to be represented on the site, and also how they want to be represented in the projects they’re being hired for. I think there’s a lot of frustration and fatigue related to some of the tokenism that’s happening in this space, and we’re really trying to get to something that feels more honest and authentic.
Origin: Your mission isn’t solely DEI-focused, but that’s obviously a big part of it.
Holly: These days, you won’t find a brief that doesn’t highlight wanting diverse talent. But it’s a huge challenge in the outdoor space, because a lot of marginalized communities have trouble accessing the outdoors, for a whole host of reasons. These people do exist, of course, but sometimes not in a way that feels as accessible as the communities who are often more visible in these spaces. It’s like a feedback loop: There’s less representation, so certain communities aren’t seeing themselves welcomed and reflected in the outdoor industry, and so they are less likely to participate, and therefore are less likely to be represented. And on it goes, and we’re all poorer for it. So yes, diversity is something we’re really passionate about.
Origin: How do you ensure it’s not merely tokenism, and that you’re doing this in a way that fully honors the humanity of all your talent?
Holly: I’m not claiming we’re doing this perfectly, and I think - I hope - we’ll keep learning as we go. But to start, we’ve hired a panel of DEI experts across the four communities we’re focusing on, which are adaptive athletes, the LGBTQ2S++ community, indigenous communities, and ethnicity. We’re also working to educate our corporate brand clients, and asking them to work with us on a variety of initiatives intended to lower the barrier to entry for marginalized communities. And we’ve developed a give back program that lets the entire network select organizations identified by our talent each quarter. We’re committing 1% of our profits to this program.
Origin: You’ve just launched the network. What has the response been?
Holly: We’ve had an amazing response from talent, which is the most important thing. We’re closing in on 400 models and crew, with a huge diversity in skill sets, and across self-identified characteristics. So that’s super exciting, and it causes me to be really optimistic that this industry is on the right track toward accurately and authentically representing the diversity we all want to see. We’ve got lots of work to do, of course, but we’re on the road and that’s really encouraging.