Entertainment November 24, 2016
When she started to feel uneasy in the lead up to the presidential election about how increasingly divided America was becoming, moviemaker Anna Jones decided to do something about it.
Drawing on her talents and pulling in favors, she wrote and directed a web series, “My America,” that found an entertaining way to dramatize contrasting views in the hope of increasing understanding and bringing people together.
The just launched series has swiftly won support from an impressive group of influencers and now Anna wants to inspire ENTITY readers to create their own content whenever they too have a message to get across.
A Cambridge University graduate who also studied at the Yale School of Drama and went on to run her own theater companies in New York and London, Anna has now moved to Hollywood to focus on movies and TV. She has made six short films and has several projects in development. Here she explains in her own words how she made six-part web series “My America” and how you too can get your own passion project off the ground.
My advice for other content creators is don’t wait, create from what is right in front of you. Trust you have the stories within you waiting to be told and begin. Work out a way to do it as inexpensively as you can. Then work out what you want to say and how you want to say it through the act of doing: through writing, research, conversations, shooting and editing. Find your collaborators through your existing connections and by making new ones. Figure out how you best collaborate with everyone as you go; that includes yourself! Then strive to create a spirit of cooperation, relaxation and discipline that allows everyone to do their best work, you included. Remember to trust your instincts and your story, and follow through on them as you execute your vision. You can watch one of the episodes below.
The great thing about creating a web series is that there are no gatekeepers – you determine the rules: what the idea is, how you tell it, how long it is, etc.
Everything starts with the idea… Followed by the script. A friend of mine who’s a TV writer advised us, make the script as strong as you can, and everything else will follow.
For me, the idea for “My America” started from conversations with my husband, actor/writer Jamel Shawn Davall, about the experiences he was having as an Uber driver – his day job in L.A. since we moved here last year. There were so many interesting exchanges he was part of and/or witness to, we started to think about creating a web series set in a series of Uber rides that we would co-write, he would act in and I would direct. We were also looking for a way to translate our years of making theatre into storytelling for the screen, particularly political work.
When he came home one day and told me a story about a Southern couple breaking into a food fight that turned physical incited by their different opinions about Donald Trump, we decided there was an incredible opportunity to explore this surreal yet relatable event within a dramatic context. From there, we decided to write six episodes set on the five days leading up to the election and on Election Day itself in which the political and personal collide in different ways; and to release it on YouTube across those six days, then leave it up for people to see post-election.
READ MORE: 12 Donald Trump Shockers That Helped Him Win the 2016 Election (VIDEO)
Jamel is from New York, and I’m from London and we have both felt an increasing worry over the increasing talk of a divide in both our home countries over the last year married with a sense of anxiety about the topsy-turvy nature of world events this year. We wanted to tell a story set in a specific environment – six Uber rides in L.A., which also reflected larger world issues. It was important to us to show a diverse range of people and their different versions of “My America”, that would ultimately also reveal where our common ground might lie and point to recognition as the first small step towards a way forwards.
Our friend’s advice was spot on. Everybody who came on board the project on a creative level came on board because they believed in the script. We frequently returned to it across the process: in film, you rewrite in pre-production, in production and in post-production. For us, it was helpful to work as a writing team because we could always go back to each other to provide a creative anchor rooted in trust.
It’s important to be open to all your collaborators. Making films is a collective effort above all. Enjoy the collaborations at each stage of the process and if you have the right person onboard, they will make your project stronger – clearly share your vision and goals, and then allow their creativity to flourish within the structure you’ve set up.
We funded the project ourselves along with crowdfunding through Indiegogo and the voluntary donation of some of the key team member’s time along with in-kind support from Picrow, Inc., the production company behind “Transparent” and other Amazon content.
To help get the word out we reached out to contacts in the industry to spread the word on social media and elsewhere and have had great support from the likes of Amara Karan, an actress in HBO’s “The Night Of,” Alena Smith, a writer on “The Affair” and “The Newsroom,” BBC director Al Mackay and James Corden’s “Late Late Show” supervising producer James Longman.
Whatever your passion is, use your primary skillset to turn it into a passion project and get your voice heard.
You can see all the episodes and read more about the series at www.myamericaseries.com.
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