ConQnA: Dramatic Writing Interview Series

I’ve realized over the last year that I’ve gained quite a few screenwriting friends.

Whether just becoming interested or been writing scripts for a few years, I have quite a few friends who at least know what Final Draft is and intend to use it soon. Because of this, because I’d love to have a solid reason for more content on my blog, and because it’s always good to hear about people’s writing journeys, I’m starting a ConQnA series! (I’m a little on how Con worked its way in there…)

Basically, I will interview my friends (and whoever else wants to jump in — email me below) and post their responses here.

I think it will be good to explore what inspired others to become TV writers — and screenwriters and playwrights, because I don’t discriminate against medium (except reality. I middle-key discriminate against reality TV folk). Also, in this #OscarsSoWhite era, it is important to me to highlight my friends of color who want to write for TV and Film (and Theater). Our voices need to be heard as much as possible. The early stages of writing a project is often a great place to begin your diversity and inclusion — by the time it gets to the screen/stage, it feels more authentic.

Next week, I will be uploading these interviews. I’m excited! I’ve already gotten a couple and it makes me so happy that these friends of mine want to support this project of mine. I’m also proud of myself that I finally took the initiative to ask them to do it — something that’s not always easy for me as an introvert and a procrastinator. I’ve made great strides in starting projects in 2016 — which I hope continues (and becomes a lucrative adventure).

If you’d like to be apart of this series, please email me at constance.gibbs@gmail.com. Include ConQnA in your subject so I know what it’s in regards to.

First ConQnA Post next Tuesday! Then weekly after that for as long as I have interviews to post.

Banner stock photo from RekitaNicole.com. Shout out Black-owned stock photo sites!

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Emmys Month: Black at the Emmys (Infographic)

I created this infographic to show some stats I’ve discovered as I researched Black actors at the Emmy awards. I focused on the acting, directing, and writing categories and found some interesting things. In addition to the facts on the graphic, below are some other facts I couldn’t fit on there.

Black at the Emmys

Black at the Emmys (Acting, Writing, Directing)

  • The category with the most wins? Best Writing in a Variety Show (8) (Though, those are split between just 3 people: Wyatt Cenac with 4 from the Daily Show and Chris Rock with 4. Wanda Sykes has two co-won with Chris.), followed by Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama (8) and Lead Actor in a Drama (5).
  • I think Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes are the only black duo to win.
  • Best Lead Actor in a Drama has 5 wins but there hasn’t been a winner since 1998 and no one has even been nominated since 2001 (Andre Braugher was the last in both wins and noms for the category).
  • There wasn’t a single nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy in the 90s. Not one. (Weren’t the 90s the heyday of black sitcoms?)
  • Phylicia Rashad is the last actress to be nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy, back in 1986. Did the Emmy voting committee really not see Tracee Ellis Ross in blackish this year? Or any of the other black actresses in the last 30 years? The last person to win in that category was Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons) back in 1981.
  • Viola Davis in 2015 became the first black woman to win Best Lead Actress in a Drama.
  • There hasn’t been a black winner of Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy since Robert Guillaume won for Soap in 1979.
  • No black male has won Best Supporting Actor in a Drama and there are no nominees this year (2015).
  • No black actress has won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy since 1987, when Jackee Harry won for 227.
  • In acting, there are 255 nominations to date, with 41 total wins.
  • No black actress has won for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama since 1993 (Mary Alice, I’ll Fly Away).
  • I’m waiting for Chandra Wilson or Debbie’s Allen to be nominated for best director on Grey’s Anatomy. One day. So far, only three women have ever been nominated (Debbie Allen back in 1989 among them). None have won.
  • Shonda Rhimes, Dee Rees and Wanda Sykes are the only black women nominated for Best Writing in any category.
  • Larry Wilmore is the only black writer to be nominated for Best Writing in a Comedy. He won the year he was nominated in 2002 for The Bernie Mac Show.

For another great infographic of Emmys diversity wins and fails, check Lee and Low’s Diversity Gap graphic.

Any other notable Black at the Emmys facts that I’ve missed? Comment, tweet or contact me!

Gina Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights and her start in television (I get a covert shout out!)

BTL1Shannon M Houston, writer for Paste Magazine, got to interview Love & Basketball writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood about her latest movie Beyond the Lights. Before the interview, she asked me on Twitter what I would ask Gina. I knew that she wrote for A Different World at the beginning of her career, so I wanted to know if she’d ever return to television. Shannon asked the question and I got a covert shout out and a response! Here’s the quote:

Paste: Your name came up the other night while I was tweeting with Black Girl Nerds during a podcast. One of the co-hosts is a big fan of yours, and she suggested I ask you about transitioning from TV to film, and whether or not you’d consider a return to TV.
Prince-Bythewood: TV was such a great training ground for me. I was very fortunate to have gone right from film school to A Different World. Going to work every day with three black women running the show made it normal for me. Later, I worked with J.J. Abrams, which was amazing. I learned a lot from him. I love TV!My So-Called Life was one of my favorite shows growing up. I love writing it, because I loved watching it. But ultimately, I knew I wanted to get into directing. I wanted that big canvas, so I left after five years.

I will do TV again eventually. I’m actually writing a pilot now, but I’d never attach myself to a show that’s expected to do 22 episodes over five years. I just couldn’t do that. But with TV now, it’s great because you can create shorter seasons, or you can be on the peripheral.Her response makes a lot of sense–she used TV to propel her career into the direction she wanted, but still loves the genre. I wonder what her pilot is about (and how I can write for whatever show it is!) and if we’ll see it on television someday. Something Gina says later in the interview also really resonated with me because it’s something that’s also important to me:

GPB1Prince-Bythewood: When we allow Hollywood to have “black film” as a genre it limits us. They do one film a year with a black cast, and that’s their black film. I want us in every genre—sci-fi, romance, period pieces—that is really my fight.

This is what I want as well. I want black films and TV shows to be seen as more than just the “urban” film/show of the year. Gina mentions that Scandal isn’t a black show–and neither is How to Get Away with Murder–but they have black leads and that often makes people want to dump them into an “urban” category, but that’s not what they are. They are TV shows, political and law shows (however loosely they accurately portray real life haha), with black leads. They don’t have to be shoved into a box that only black people are allowed to unlock. We need more television and film with black stars and we need them in all genres. The Marvel Black Panther film isn’t out until 2017 and Will Smith’s next movie is a con movie (as fun as those are), so when will I get to see a black person leading a science-fiction movie? Or a fantasy film? I need studios to get rid of the idea that making a “black” film or show doesn’t intersect with making a romance or sci-fi/fantasy or period piece. They aren’t mutually exclusive ideas and can still appeal to wide audiences (read: white audiences too) .

I loved this article, love that Gina answered my question, and love that she and I have similar ideas on widening the genres black stars are allowed to lead in. I hope her pilot gets made, but in the meantime, I just hope that she has more films on the way, because I really enjoyed Beyond the Lights and we need more films like it.

For the rest of the article, go here: Gina Prince-Bythewood On Beyond the Lights, and Dismantling the “Black Film” Genre (Paste Magazine).

American TV shows might look more diverse, but their writers aren’t

I haven’t posted in a while, but posts like this need sharing as much as possible. We’ve made some strides in diversity on TV, but it’s not nearly enough for it being 2014. Let’s take the diversity we’re experiencing for the new fall season and support it and applaud it so that we see even more increases in the years to come. Definitely check out this article and share it!

Response: Why the Presence of Black Women in Media is Important for Everyone via The Conversation

Ramou Sarr wrote this article, which I found via justwriteray, which speaks about the importance for representations of black women on television. She bring up some really great points about the need for better representation in the media.

In such a social society, television is one of the things that really brings people together. Many of my friendships and conversations began after I realized someone liked a show that I did. It warms you up to another person because now you have something in common. It’s a strange feeling when you’re left out of a conversation because you’re the only person who doesn’t watch that show. This happens even on social media.

I didn’t even know what any of these people were reacting to, and yet I still needed to watch; I still wanted to be included somehow. That’s the power of television.

[…]

This communal aspect of television is layered, and perhaps the most significant facet of it is the idea that television often acts as an agent of socialization, offering us a glimpse into how we are both different and alike, and informs how we view and interact with one another. Television also has the power to impact how we view ourselves and, by seeing portrayals of people like us on television, tells us how society views us. Children’s shows often have lessons and exercises about diversity and inclusion because most of us want children to know about these things, and yet this portrayal of the world as a diverse and inclusive one is sorely lacking in the current state of television catered to adults.

And we also have to remember that children don’t just watch children’s shows, they watch adult tv shows too. Whether because their parents let them, or they sneak it, or it’s on simply while they’re in the room, kids watch grown up TV as well. Someone in a class about children’s books said that kids only read books about kids their age or older. After a while, kids want to watch adult TV shows and adult TV shows don’t have the same messages of inclusion and diversity, as Ramou mentions, that kids shows do. So kids stop learning the lesson. I’m in no ways saying regular network TV should have lessons or that they all need family values, but there are ways people learn from television. It’s in our homes every day; if there were more people of color on television, adults (and the kids who see these shows too) would have a better understanding of the wider world around them.

In terms of relatability, black women can, of course, establish connections with white television characters, and they do…

White people, and Asian people and Hispanic and every other nationality should find that they relate to black characters too. They shouldn’t (finally have to) create a black princess and then only see black children using that doll. If Rapunzel (who I love dearly) is a universal princess and is found everywhere, then Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas and Jasmine should be too. Same goes for television. Black shows shouldn’t be considered a risk for only drawing black audiences (which is a bigger market than given credit for); plenty of people who weren’t black grew up watching the Cosby Show and Fresh Prince and currently enjoy shows like Scandal. Black should be given the chance to be see as universal.

Representation of black women on television is important because black women are important.

This is so important. Black women often grow up not seeing themselves as important because they don’t see positive representations of themselves in the media. More representation means more people, of all colors, get to see more sides to the black experience: both the ways in which we are unique and the ways in which we are the same.

Black Girls TV Banner 1

Check out Ramou’s full piece here: The Conversation | Honest Talk with Amanda de CadenetThe Conversation.

 

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Link: 2014 is the Year Black Women Take Over Hollywood | Clutch Magazine

“What I love about this list is that it is made up of black women who are content creators. It’s wonderful to have talented actresses in front of the camera, but what we desperately need is more black women behind the camera, shaping the portrayals we see on-screen.  Often times we complain that black folks only get awards for playing slaves, maids and prostitutes/pimps. We can change that! The way we change that is to have equally diverse and talented people back-stage as on-stage.”

This is exactly it. Hopefully if we can get more (black, asian, hispanic, all WoC) female content producers, we’ll be able to see more PoC on our screens!

Click through to read more: 2014 is the Year Black Women Take Over Hollywood | Clutch Magazine

Related:

Blackout: Hollywood

The most offensive statement I’ve heard people make is, ‘If 12 Years hadn’t been released in 2013, The Butlerand Fruitvale would have had a better chance.’ Is there only room for one?” – Scott Feinberg

Oscars’ Insult to Black Movies: There’s Room for Just One (Analysis)

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Quote/Link: Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

Of course it may seem like a no-brainer, but execs told those in attendance that their shows must reflect today’s current and increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural world in order to attract those coveted younger viewers.

Of course the success that Fox has enjoyed with their runaway hit Sleepy Hollow, which has already been renewed for a second season, and other current shows, like Almost Human and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are just some signs of the network’s commitment to its new programming strategy.

Fox TV Says That Diversity Is Just Good Business Sense [Shadow and Act]

At least FOX is getting with the program. I love BK99 and Sleepy Hollow (and a bunch of other people are watching and talking about it) and I am looking forward to watching Almost Human. When you have a diverse cast, you basically double your expected audience, because while I watch plenty of “mainstream” (read: majority white cast) TV shows (and enjoy them), I have more pre-interest in a show that has a diverse cast. I look forward to it more. If Michael Ealy wasn’t in Almost Human (if the character was a white person), I’d perhaps be interested because it’s JJ Abrams, but I would be less interested, less invested, and less likely to watch it. Other people feel the same way. The same goes for Sleepy Hollow. I didn’t know anything about it before it premiered. If I’d heard about it (merely the title), I didn’t really care. I checked it out because I learned there was a black female star. I probably wouldn’t have if Nichole Beharie (or any other black female) hadn’t been the star. Networks really need to pay attention, the success of Sleepy Hollow and Scandal is not isolated to social media, their premises, or even the good writing (because both shows are great, but they’re not perfect). Those things are a factor, but their diversity is what has helped them skyrocket to the hit shows that they are.

Link: Key & Peele explain how they created ‘Substitute Teacher’ – The Week

Interview: Key & Peele explain how they created ‘Substitute Teacher’ – The Week.

But when you bring someone back, you want to make sure it’s not just a cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers version of the original sketch, where you have the exact same gag with different names. It was very, very difficult for us to figure out how to do it. [The concept] really goes back to the difference between the cultures of an inner city school and a more privileged school in the suburbs.”

I really like reading people break down their craft, especially (tv) writers, and especially comedians because I always get so lost in the funny that I forget and then later remember that there is such an intricate science to comedy. Sometimes I’ll hear a joke and then think about how it was constructed (something is said, then the turn or element of surprise at the end) but I’ve never been good at setting up a joke or constructing one myself. I think that if I think about it enough, when the time comes to write one, I’ll have picked up the basics by osmosis and it will become innate.

So reading this is fun for me, to learn how this duo comes up with one of their more popular sketches. It also offers insight into how this particular group works and the way their writing dynamic seems to play out.

Quote: SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog

MG Media: How much pride do you take in the fact that your casts are much more racially diverse than most other shows?

Shonda: I don’t take pride in it at all. I think it’s sad, and weird, and strange that it’s still a thing, nine years after we did “Grey’s,” that it’s still a thing. It’s creepy to me that it’s still an issue, that there aren’t enough people of color on television. Why is that still happening? It’s 2013. Somebody else needs to get their act together. And oh, by the way it works. Ratings-wise, it works. People like to see it. I don’t understand why people don’t understand that the world of TV should look like the world outside of TV.

via SNEAK PEEK at Shonda Rhimes – Black Bloggers Connect™ Official Blog.

No seriously. It’s 2013. Why is it a thing to have a racially diverse show and why is Shonda the only really doing it? Other shows that seem like they have diverse casts kind of still have the token minority who support the lead. They don’t really have leading qualities or episodes of their own. And Shonda is right, her shows are super hits for ABC, and yet no one else has thought that perhaps her casting has helped her get her shows where they are. It’s not everything, but it certainly helps widen your audience.

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5

Black TV 2013: Fall and Winter Preview | Old School 94.5.

Check out this article, which discusses some of the [network tv] shows airing this fall that feature black characters. It’s sad we still need articles like this to point the shows out, but it’s useful. Especially since when I last looked at NBC’s Thursday Comedy Lineup, I did not spy not one black person on the posters (as much as I looove love Parks and Rec, it doesn’t add much for NBC’s lead/co-star diversity).

I am about to watch Sleepy Hollow tonight and as yesterday’s post said, I watched Brooklyn 99 and was pleased by a diverse cast. I am also interested in Almost Human and I already watch Scandal. Glad to see that there is some color on network TV, but it’s a shame that most of these shows the black character is a co-star or supporting, not the main actor/lead character. Kerry and Blair Underwood (Ironside) are leads. The Originals seems to star the black lead, while Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human, and Brooklyn 99 seem to be a dual lead deal thing going on.)

Hopefully, if there are midseason replacement shows, we can get some more diversity on network television (or some break out supporting minority characters who get increased storylines), because it feels like an all-time low right now. (Is Brooklyn 99 the only network sitcom starring a black person right now? With Mindy making 2 shows with minority leads? If there are others, let me know…)

Bill Cosby says:

“I’ve seen this movie before,” Bill Cosby said in a recent interview. “How is it that there are people of color who are CEOs of companies, that are presidents of universities, but there is no reflection of that on the networks? It is arrogance and it is narcissism. Even the commercials have more black people than the programs.”

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/19/entertainment/la-et-1119-black-family-20111119 (Unfortunately the show discussed in this article doesn’t seem to have survived–I haven’t heard much on it–though for me, the title is ineffective to start with. Too long and a bit clunky). 

Even on shows starring white leads, there aren’t characters in these high professions. Can we get that at least? 

Blog quotes:

“Last I read the last African-American/ Black sitcom that aired on a major TV network in the U.S was 6 years ago. 6 years.”

“Black sitcoms were, in many respects, a TV sub-genre that presented to viewers love, respect and fun. And through these sitcom shows, they demonstrated that it was possible to come from and be from an minority group- and STILL be successful and happy without resorting to derogatory stereotypes and buffoonery that elicits the very stereotypes Black people have fought and challenged throughout the years. And of which they continue to do so to this day.”

http://waichingsthoughts81.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-happened-to-black-sitcoms-on.html?spref=tw 

 

Check out this post from a UK citizen’s perspective on black television in America. Even from abroad, they recognize that there is a severe lack of representation of black people on American television, especially the major networks. 6 years is a long time. And that seems to go for dramas too. Not too many dramas on network TV starring black people (and this is me including them as the lead, not as a token but as a focus. Won’t even bother trying to find a drama where there are more than one.) and right now we only have Kerry Washington on Scandal. I just saw an ad for NBC’s Thursday night line up–no black people to be seen. =( 

Is this the summer of African-American Cinema?

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/07/26/sot-san-diego-mayor-statement.kfmb.html

CNN discusses the films written, produced, and directed by African-Americans this summer. Includes “Fruitvale Station” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

26 Minority Screenwriters to Inspire You

26 Minority Screenwriters to Inspire You

Just linking here on wordpress a post I wrote for Amanda’s Aspiring TV Writer and Screenwriter Blog. Minority screenwriters of both TV and Film. Check it out here! Let me know of writers I may have missed!