Today’s television landscape has included popular television shows for Black women like insecure and Twenties. And while those shows have been widely celebrated and enjoyed by the masses for portraying Millennial relationships and dynamics in a captivating way, the stories of Black women in their forties have often gone untold.
Yet Black women in their forties’ are often at the forefront of cultural moments and continue to push unique bounds. Think of: “Beyoncé’s beautiful tribute to feeling the best she’s ever felt on her fortieth birthday. Mary J. Blige killing it at the Super Bowl. Niecy Nash making history posing on the cover of Essence with her wife Jessica Betts. Halle Berry directing her first feature film in her fifties. We have continued to inspire and reinvent ourselves. And simultaneously, have incredible buying power and cultural capital. As an audience, we are a force,” says writer and producer Felicia Pride.
This led Pride to launch her production company HONEY CHILE, which tells and shares stories by, for, and about Black women forty and over–women which her team calls Honeys. The primetime television writer for shows like Grey’s Anatomy and queensugar shares more on founding her production company and the gap she wishes to address in the television industry.
Become A Writer for Primetime TV
Pride started her writing career twenty years ago as a journalist and went on to publish books, but after it became hard to secure additional book deals she leaned into her marketing degree. While living in Washington DC running her own consultancy as an impact producer at thirty-five, she felt burnt out yet had the lingering desire to get back to storytelling. This led her to move to LA with one screenplay at hand that became Netflix’s really love, but also “a plethora of life experiences and wisdom,” the writer and producer notes. Then following a layoff from a role as an executive in film distribution, it blessed her to refocus on the spark that fueled her move from ella to LA, writing ella.
“I had to really get to the heart of why I gave up writing,” Pride shares. She recalls engaging in a great deal of self-work around fear, doubt, and low self-esteem. After jumping into therapy to resolve lingering trauma she expanded her arsenal of self-care tools to include: meditation, yoga, hiking, sister time, and journaling. Those tools helped her recenter herself and her dream of becoming a screenwriter. “I took many writing classes. Got a career coach who focuses on working with entertainment professionals. Joined writers groups–which I’m still in–and really immersed myself in the craft. Writing scripts and working to make them great,” she describes.
Once she felt like her portfolio of work was ready, Pride applied to fellowships and programs and was accepted to NBC’s Writers on the Verge. The experience helped her to land an amazing opportunity on Ava DuVernay’s queensugar, which she recalls was a dream job. That opportunity, coupled with her amazing network of supporters de ella then opened the door for her to be staffed on Grey’s Anatomy.
“It has really been a mix of being ready, timing, working on my craft, working my network, and lots of faith,” Pride shares. In addition to those opportunities, she is currently developing television projects with Netflix and FX and writing film projects for Universal. And at her production company HONEY CHILE, she is excited for the first TV and film slate of projects that will be taken to market in the next couple of months.
Going Independent As A Director And Producer
“Through the making of my first feature, I learned that film, as opposed to television, is really a director’s medium. And I knew that I had stories that I wanted to tell where I’d be involved in the process from start to finish. But I told myself that I couldn’t direct. That I didn’t seem like a director,” the HONEY CHILE founder shares. She eventually realized that the comments were all lies. After a profound talk with herself, she took a few classes–noting classes are her de ella thing de ella–then once she felt ready, Pride developed a story that was n’t too complicated for her first time directing: one location, one day, and two actors. This show then became to tend and went on to win awards on the festival circuit and premiered on STARZ.
And while directing enabled Pride to be involved in sharing of all parts of storytelling, producing also has allowed her to be part of the creative conversation from beginning to end while also ushering in voices for the projects that she doesn’t write. “One of our goals at Honey Chile is to produce television shows and films created by other Honeys,” Pride shares. Her production company de ella will give her a new platform to amplify other Black women writers in their forties’ stories.
Pride’s Latest Project “Chile, Please”
“Chile, Please” is Pride’s first foray into audio. With the launch of the podcast, her team from Ella has explored the pleasures and pains of being Black and women of a certain age. It’s hosted by Pride and her ella good friend, corporate strategist, and fellow Honey, Ivy Grant. And it’s produced by Dianne McGuire, also a Honey.
With podcasts serving as a rapidly growing business, Pride has found there is a lot of room for growth, especially for the Black community. Audio is lowering the barrier to entry for storytelling shared with the HONEY CHILE community. Pride’s goal is to independently finance scripted or unscripted podcasts, own them, and then look to license where of interest. She has found that there are multiple mechanisms for monetizing podcasts (eg sponsorships and merchandise). Most importantly, the production company founder believes: “it will allow us to tell stories and continue to build our community of Honeys.” To that effect, Pride and team are proud of the fact that their average consumption rate–which measures how much of each episode that your audience listens to–is close to 70%, which is way above the industry’s 50% average.
Learning From Past Experiences And Sowing It Forward
Given her former experience, Pride expresses: “it’s interesting because when I first arrived in Hollywood at thirty-five, I came with what felt like several different professional lives. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized how much my work as a journalist and then impact producer/entrepreneur has aided me tremendously in my career and especially now as we are building HONEY CHILE and releasing projects like ‘Chile, Please ‘.”
Some skills she has leaned on from her past experiences to build HONEY CHILE include: 1) Starting and running a business, 2) Launching a number of initiatives during her consultancy work that led her to understand what is required to launch a project, and 3 ) Creating large scale marketing/audience development campaigns for clients. Pride has learned to position HONEY CHILE for its audience first. And by focusing on building a community, she aims to have a greater impact on the lives of viewers.
Pride sharing the following tips for writers who seek to make it independently in the industry:
- Put your craft first: Write, write some more. And then write more. Get feedback on your work. Take classes. Read scripts. Get a handle on your creative process. And try to hone in on what you want to say in your work.
- Find ways to make your work: In her directorial debut, tender, she launched a crowdfunding campaign and wrote the script to be as low cost and producible as possible. And later, her team of ella held a case study in partnership with Black Film Space and released a resource about how they crowdfunded and produced a short film.
- Be versed in the business of creating: Read the trades. Seek out podcasts and articles that share how others are creating independently.
- Develop and cultivate your own relationships with other writers, creatives, executives, producers, and more: So much of Hollywood is, for better or for worse, about who you know, she shares. Many of her opportunities from her have come from her personal network from her. Additionally, Pride runs a newsletter that she founded in 2012 called The Create Daily that helps creatives, particularly creatives of color, to stay abreast of potential opportunities from programs to grants.
In addition, Pride shares tips for those who aspire to be independent producers:
- Be well versed in all aspects of business: By being well versed in all business aspects and aware of the roles people play in it, you can better understand how the roles work together and what it takes to make a project.
- Identify what you’re looking to say to the world: “Producing is hard and often thankless work,” the producer shares. Having a specific purpose that you hold onto helps.
- Networking and establishing relationships: Establishing relationships with financiers, brand executives, writers, crew, talent, and more is really important in your ability to identify, convince, and assemble collaborative teams.
- Continuously sharpen your storytelling sense: You don’t have to be able to write or direct, but understanding the story and how it works goes a long way.