By: Victoria Stevens
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 09/16/2020– Blackmagic Collective is an LA-based group focused on the art and craft of filmmaking, features presentations, panels, and training sessions by expert content creators with the goal of bringing individuals together to network and collaborate on future productions. This year the group created a special program, Future Women of TV, where they selected 6 writers and 6 directors with impressive experience and credits to participate in a yearlong initiative. The program is designed to connect women ready to work in television with top-level executives who can help them ultimately reach their goal of booking their first episodes of scripted tv. I had the honor of speaking to a few of the writers and directors of this program about their goals, obstacles, and how this program has really helped propel them forward in their careers
“This program has been really incredible because we’re networking up — meeting with directors, executives, and showrunners we wouldn’t necessarily have access to otherwise. When we do our individual introductions, almost every single person we meet comments about how impressive and experienced the group is — they have a hard time believing that we aren’t already working in narrative television. Future Women of TV has been really great about getting us on people’s radars, and we can continue cultivating those relationships for years to come,” said Sarah J Eagen, a writer and actor who has a neuroscience undergraduate degree and was the head writer for a Sci Fi Fiction Podcast for Voxx Studios. She has written multiple pilots that have placed in the Humanitas NEW VOICES program, the Austin Film Festival, and more and she also appeared on the final season of THE BIG BANG THEORY.
“I am really enjoying meeting the players in this town in a real, in-depth way,” said Kenyetta Raelyn, an LA based screenwriter and filmmaker who loves to write suspense thrillers, true crime, and period pieces. Last year she won the 2019 ScreenCraft Drama Feature Competition and was a member of Meryl Streep’s The Writers Lab in NYC. She recently got representation with Circle of Confusion. “It is a long-game when it comes to meeting these showrunners, agents, and reps. This program has given me confidence to see them not as gatekeepers, but as fellow creatives that have goals and desires just like I do.”
“To expand on what Kenyetta said, quite a lot of [the women in the group] are not repped yet. And even for those of us who are, this has given us so much more reach — we wouldn’t have met half of these people if it weren’t for Future Women of TV. Having the opportunity to meet these showrunners has given me the motivation to get my elevator pitch right,” expressed director Soma Helmi, who hails from Indonesia, has directed over 16 short films, several web series, and two seasons of the Snapchat original series THE DEAD GIRLS DETECTIVE AGENCY.
As the industry starts to open back up, there are many uncertainties about when upcoming writers and directors will get their chance to get on set. Due to COVID, many productions are choosing to have their producing directors direct episodes over allowing up-and-coming directors to come on board. Plus, with production companies needing to enact rigorous new health and safety standards, there are only a select few shows currently going back into production while others remain in a holding pattern.
“It’s a terrible time to ask to visit set to get to know a specific type of show, because there is no way they can approve it for safety reasons,” explained three-time Emmy-nominee Sharon Everitt, who has directed 125 episodes of unscripted television including THE HIGH COURT on Comedy Central and A LITTLE LATE WITH LILLY SINGH for NBC. The practice, known as ‘shadowing,’ is traditionally how newer directors get a foot in the door. “I think we’ve used this downtime wisely, but it is a difficult reality that production companies are likely going to call directors they have previously worked with – they will be the first to go back to work when things start back up.”
“We are trying not to let it affect us. One of the people we talked to was Karen Horne, head of the diversity and inclusion at Warner Brothers, who said that there weren’t many programs for mid-level writers and directors like ourselves. So, we are pushing through and will not be discouraged,” said director DG Brock, who directed teen drama films for Roger Corman. She won best feature director at the LA International Film Festival for her film, THE MISADVENTURES OF THE DUNDERHEADS, which was picked up by Starz and Hulu.
“We are utilizing this down time wisely. We are having meetings on Zoom, because showrunners are all just sitting at home in the same situation we are in. We have been meeting 5 to 10 people a month, which never would have happened pre-COVID due to people’s busy lives. So, as far as I’m concerned, we have been thriving in this time,” explained award-winning director Kate Rees Davies, who is the founder of The New Hollywood Collective. She has shadowed director Jill Soloway on Amazon’s TRANSPARENT and is in development on an 8-part miniseries about Marilyn Monroe’s life.
As each of these women tackle the changes that are happening in the entertainment business, they adjust their perspectives accordingly. Many of them have to deal with another hindrance that is still affecting the industry — diversity.
“Being a woman in this industry can be a real hindrance. We have so many barriers we have to jump through. The number of women directors that are working in this industry is only a handful, and they keep bringing those same directors back. They use that to up the numbers, when in actuality, it’s the same female directors coming back time and time again. There are some shows that are changing that, but certainly from my experience it seems it’s not moving as fast as it could,” claimed Davies.
“To look on the bright side, I like to think being a woman has given me a certain level of emotional intelligence that helps navigate some situations,” said writer Rund Shami, an assistant on the Disney+ show BIG SHOT. She has written multiple digital series that have won awards at Miami Web fest and was a staff writer for UMTV’s late night comedy show OFF THE WIRE.
“We’re a real community in this group, and we really support each other’s successes — that’s helped us out a lot,” stated Everitt.
Coming from all different backgrounds, these women have so much to offer from their life experiences. Their journeys are all unique and richly nuanced. This program has helped their paths cross, and has opened up opportunities to reach new heights. When asked if they had any advice for future writers/directors, they all provided input.
“Don’t take things too seriously,” said Italian-born writer Elisa Manzini, who is a member of The Actors Studio as a playwright. She has written many features, shorts, and theatrical plays. She has two pilots that she is shopping around and is working on finding distribution for her first feature film. “We are not doing surgery on people. We are entertaining them, so try to entertain yourself first. I learned through the years that the less ego you have, the more people you attract.”
“I once read that the two things you can’t be in Hollywood are dull and desperate. I thought that was good advice. Also, don’t be shy. A lot of writers and creative people are shy and you need to get over that. Get out and meet as many people as possible,” said Brock.
“When I started writing, I was trying to emulate popular shows that I had seen and loved. While that was valuable, I wish someone had suggested that I focus on really finding what is unique to me and my perspective – to hone in on my voice as a writer sooner,” quoted Eagen.
“To echo what Sarah said, I would like to add that at the end of the day, writers need to slay on the page. Hone your craft and do your best work on the page and it will open up a million doors,” said Raelyn.
“Patience is definitely a huge part of this game,” explained Everitt. “If you don’t have the patience to deal with it, then this is not the job for you. If you’re not having fun then you’re doing it wrong. “
To learn about all of the women in the initiative: http://tinyurl.com/FWTVannounce
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Photo Credit: Blackmagic Collective
For more information: https://blackmagiccollective.com