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Hire us. Give us jobs. Choose our takes in the pitch meetings. A Guest Perspective by Jalysa Conway.

Jalysa Conway on the set on American Horror Stories

Hello and welcome to your daily dose of dopeness in celebration of Black History Month. I’m Jalysa Conway, your host for this very special guest blog, and I am hopped up on a lot of coffee right now. As someone going on their eighth year in this crazy film industry, I figured I’d share a little about my quest to becoming a director.


Storytelling has always been in my blood. I came to this industry as a television writer, staffing on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and 9-1-1: Lone Star. And while I love the creative freedom and community of the writers’ room, I also found myself drawn to the fast pace and high stakes of production and set. In my career, I’ve produced every episode of television I’ve ever written, and got the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with some of the most accomplished, talented television directors in our field. Seeing their attention-to-detail, the way they brought the best performances out of the cast, and how they interpreted and built a vision around the words on the page ignited a fire within me. I wanted to be able to bring my stories to life as they did. I’m currently working on honing and developing my skillset as a director with a slate of short films that I’m producing independently.


Being a black filmmaker is the same as being a filmmaker, period. We’re all motivated by the need to get our stories out into the world, to see heroes like ourselves taking down that dragon, metaphorical or otherwise. Being a black filmmaker just means that we have many more facets of our individual life experiences left to tell in the mainstream. The future is looking bright, and we’re on the forefront of it.


Half: How will you change the world?

Hopefully, with one nerdy, awkward, little dreamer at a time. Those are the fangirls and fanboys I make tv and movies for. The blerds who love action and sci fi and fantasy. Who geeked over The Last Dragon and Afro Samurai, because finally, we saw an asskicker in an anime who looked like us. The little bookworm who loved and identified with Hermione from Harry Potter, whose mom had to tell her why she couldn’t go audition for the role in the open casting call because of how she looked (though happily redeemed by the stage play years later). If I can entertain and inspire just one of those kids with the films I make and shows I create — kids like a younger me — then I’ve done my part.


Half: What filmmaker/artist are you inspired by right now?

Gina Prince Bythewood is my Queen right now. I’ve been a fan since Love & Basketball, but what she did with The Old Guard and The Woman King is exactly the type of action film I aspire to direct. She infuses so much emotion with her fight sequences, gripping you on the edge of your seat, pulling you in with the visuals. I’m ALL IN with everything she directs.


From the Ryan Murphy world, I’m a huge fan of another Gina…and that’s Gina Torres, who plays paramedic captain Tommy Vega on 9-1-1: Lone Star. She had my heart as Zoe Washburne on Firefly and was so fierce as Jessica Pearson on Suits. Gina is a powerhouse — such a thoughtful and talented actress who steals the show in every scene she’s in. She embodies her characters with equal parts badassness and vulnerability, and brings a dynamism to strong women who we can’t help but root for. Plus, she’s the nicest person in the world. I can watch her in anything.


Half: How can the industry support Black filmmakers?

Hire us. Give us jobs. Choose our takes in the pitch meetings. Give us the opportunity to show our talent and skills by employing us to helm mainstream stories. Realize how profitable (The Equalizer, Creed, Black Panther, Girls Trip, etc) our stories can be. They’re not the outliers. Statistically speaking, they’re the norm, the trendsetting. Let go of old, skewed, debunked stereotypes (E.g. Denzel Washington would never sell overseas because black people don’t do well in international markets), and come into the 21st century. I guarantee you’ll be more successful that way, and get to experience worlds and cultures you never thought possible. 😊

Director Tessa Blake with Jalysa on set

Jalysa Conway spent five years working as a Cyber Warfare Officer in the U.S. Air Force, she traded in her Top Secret Clearance for a career as a professional television writer. She has written for Grey's Anatomy, Lone Star and Power Book IV: Influence. She is currently in development on a series with Spike Lee attached to direct and EP. She shadowed Tessa Blake on American Horror Stories.


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