The student-led SFTV Storytellers of Color Organization (SOC) will be hosting a series of web panels called “Origin Story: Finding Your Place” throughout March. In this series, screenwriters from acclaimed TV shows will be invited to speak to attendees about their creative journeys. The first panel from this series, “The Voice,” took place on Saturday, March 13, at 12:00 p.m. PST. The tickets for the event were easily accessible (as they were available on a website called Eventbrite) and free of charge.

“The Voice” was hosted and moderated by graduate student Tiffany Ike (who is the director of community at SOC) and consisted of eight panelists—Christopher Derrick, Dahéli Hall, Edgar Momplaisir, Jonathan Curtiss and Michelle Denise Jackson—all of whom have worked on critically acclaimed shows like "Dear White People" and "Blackish," or for popular media outlets like 20th Century Fox.

There was a Q&A box open throughout the session, in which the attendees were free to drop questions for the panelists. The event began with Ike briefly introducing each speaker individually and then asking them to speak about their journeys in the film and television industry. There was no definite order in which the panelists spoke; Ike informed the audience that each panelist could speak when they were ready to. As the panelists spoke, I noticed a pattern in which they talked about their journeys; they began by speaking about their first staffing job and ended with listing their current projects and positions. It was also interesting how some panelists mentioned that they began their creative journey through acting but eventually ended up in screenwriting. Most of the panelists had MFAs from highly regarded film schools, and some of them even taught classes in film schools. A prevalent theme each panelist addressed was the struggle they experienced in the film industry and the overall tough nature of the industry. At the end of the event, attendees were allowed to ask questions directly to the panelists instead of typing them in the Q&A box.

The event ended at 1:30 p.m., half an hour later than expected. This ended up being necessary, as most of the attendees got to speak directly to panelists during the last 30 minutes, thus making the experience more engaging and personal.

In an interview held five days after the panel, Tiffany Ike and Victoria Reese, leader of the Empowerment Committee at SOC, answered questions about SFTV SOC, the Origin Story series and discussed their personal opinions on the film industry.

Ike is a graduate student pursuing an MFA in screenwriting and production at LMU’s School of Film and Television while Reese is a junior English major. Initially, Ike and Reese answered questions about their respective roles in SOC. It was notable that Ike and Reese had strikingly similar responses upon being asked to describe personal experiences and opinions on the panel.

Edgar Momplaisir was the panelist that stood out the most to both of them. While Ike said that she greatly resonated with Momplaisir’s comment on “not spending all your time writing so you can do things to write about” and said that she “appreciated some of his words,” Reese said that hearing Momplaisir discourage unpaid internships was “really inspirational and important” to her.

They also held similar views on the lack of diversity in the children's entertainment industry. Reese remarked that “there’s a huge lack of diversity in film and TV for kids everywhere.” Ike said that she noticed “a decline in representation in children’s television the early 2000s”.

Both of them also regularly watched most of the shows that the panelists had worked on and particularly enjoyed "Grown-ish" and "Dear White People."

Upon being asked how the remaining panels in the series will compare to the first one, Reese said that “they’re going to be similar in the fact that they’re talking about beginnings and origin stories”. The two subtly hinted at their excitement toward the last panel, which focuses on LMU alumni who work in screenwriting. In Reese’s words, “we get to hear from voices who are just like us, going through LMU and out in the world, and hopefully, we will get to be like them one day.”

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