***Every Friday (#FeatureFriday), we will feature an up and coming woman working in film and television who is fearlessly blazing her own path in the world of television and film while proving to the world that anything is possible. This week, K. Nicole Mills had the pleasure of speaking with Shandrea Evans, an LA-based producer/actress and creator of Undecided, an upcoming web series that chronicles the experiences of three best friends as they journey through college as they discover the rewards and challenges of their new independence at Southern State University.
I started my career in entertainment by working at CAA, I worked in the Corporate Communications department, and was responsible for the agency’s PR, and I also had the ability to float around from various departments. I spent time working in the film finance department, film marketing department, the unscripted television department, and I was also granted the opportunity to meet with the partners of CAA in one on one meetings, so for me it was like graduate school for the entertainment industry.
Once I left CAA, I was even more determined to build my career in entertainment. I had been following the career of Issa Rae, and at the time she was new to the digital media space. I saw the amazing things that she was doing with her YouTube series Awkward Black Girl, so I decided to cold call her and email her directly. I told her that I was a fan of her work and wanted to help out in any way that I could. She responded and invited me to lunch. The lunch went well, so she connected me with her business development manager. I was told that they needed a social media PA, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I was able to assist with the production process and everything else. I literally absorbed everything that I could while I was there. Issa Rae has been an amazing mentor for me. Both her and Deniese Davis really took me under their wing and taught me so much about producing.
A few months later, a few people that I met while working at CAA were currently working at NBCUniversal, and they informed me about an upcoming opportunity at the company. I applied, and was offered a job, so at that time I was working for Issa Rae Productions in addition to NBCUniversal.
I currently work in the Compliance and Programming department at NBCUniversal. We are responsible for the compliance and regulations of all of programs across our unscripted network and we make sure that they comply with the broadcast regulations for all of our international territories. Australia is my main territory; however, I am also responsible for Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa.
While I was at NBCUniversal, I came up with the idea for a new web series. I was reminiscing about my college days with a friend of mine, and we were talking about our experiences at Clemson and University of Georgia (UGA). We discussed all of the things that we loved (and didn’t love) about attending a PWI (predominately white institution) in the south. We then realized that we rarely see experiences about black people at PWI ‘s depicted on television. Of course there was ‘A Different World’; however, the HBCU experience is completely different from the experience at a PWI, so we decided to tell this story. There are so many things that go on at these institutions that we complain about; however, if you aren’t willing to do something about it then why complain? We wanted to create a series to depict the honest and authentic stories of those who attended these institutions.
Our aim is not to create a show that is just about race, not just about PWIs vs. HBCUs, not about the haves and have not’s, but it will be a collection of stories rich with choices, lessons, emotions and intimate experiences. We are interested in telling REAL, interesting, unique stories in the subtleties of everyday life in college. These are stories we all can relate to. We wrote a script, gathered our contacts, and started developing this project.
We sent out casting calls on various websites, and I held auditions while I was on my lunch break or at work via Skype or Google Chat. We wound up shooting the concept trailer in Atlanta. Funding was a major issue, so I wound up financing the production of the concept trailer myself, and a lot of the people involved in the production process were friends, family, or people who were willing to work for free. My mom and my cousin were the make up and hair department, my best friends from high school were my production designers, etc. People really came together to get this project off the ground.
The goal was to distribute the concept trailer and use it for a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to shoot the first season. We wanted to raise $20,000; however, getting the word out about the concept trailer has been a little difficult. Despite the difficulties in receiving funding, we are going to shoot the entire first season in Atlanta this summer no matter what. We have received a lot of great feedback on the project, and this has motivated us to keep going. A lot of college students and even current high school students have seen the concept trailer and are really excited about the project because it resonates with their college experience. Receiving their feedback has been a great part of this process.
I have worked on numerous projects as a production assistant or a production coordinator; however, when you’re actually taking initiative to start something on your own it’s an entirely different ballgame. All of the responsibility is completely on you and your team. At times, getting things done seems impossible. There have been many setbacks during production due to scheduling conflicts amongst a host of other things, so seeing things come together has been an amazing process.
Everyone’s journey is different. Our generation is so full of people living vicariously through the filtered lives of others on social media, and sometimes we allow what others appear to be doing undermine our individual progress. Ignore the hype, and just trust your journey. As long as you’re putting one foot in front of the other, everything works out.
Check out the concept trailer to Undecided below!