How This Writer Made it Big and Landed a Dream Job with Ava DuVernay

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Business Elevation Tribe Inspiration

Felicia Pride knows how to tell a story. The Hollywood creative is an author, writer, screenwriter and director and founder of her own production company, Felix + Annie, named after her parents. She’s most widely known as a writer on the Ave DuVernay drama “Queen Sugar,” but Pride also made her directorial debut this year with the romantic drama “Tender.” Coming soon—an erotic romance she sold to Universal Pictures with Will Packer Productions producing. Below she reveals how she shaped a dream career, even after a seven year hiatus from writing:

ET: Your career actually started in marketing. How did you transition from spreadsheets to writing in Hollywood?

While working in corporate marketing, I started writing on the side, which led to to becoming a freelance entertainment journalist. I eventually left marketing and became a full-time author, writing six books. But book publishing dried up for me and I made the fatal mistake—I stopped writing. I fell back on my marketing background and opened a consultancy marketing other creatives’ projects—books, films, etc. I did that for seven years until I got to the point where I wanted to write and create my own projects again. My mentor suggested I move to the biggest market, Los Angeles. And I did that five years ago at the age of thirty-five. When I first got here, I needed a job, so I landed a job in film distribution, which was related to the marketing work I had been doing. I loved my job and was on track to be a VP, but God had another plan. I was laid off from that job and had to get back in alignment of why I moved to LA in the first place. So I buckled down, put my head down, worked odd jobs, and wrote, wrote, and wrote some more so that I could be positioned for the opportunities that were going to come my way. 

ET: What was the “big break” that got you on the track to writing for TV and films?

My first big break was being accepted into the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab. That was a wonderful opportunity to learn from experienced screenwriters and my peers, and provided some “heat” and validation for the industry. The next big break was being accepted into NBC’s Writers on the Verge, a diversity program for television writers. That opened up the television world for me.

ET: How did you link up with Ava DuVernay to start writing for “Queen Sugar”?

Getting staffed on “Queen Sugar” changed my life. It has been such a blessing in my career. And to work on a show created by the force that is Ava DuVernay?!! And under an amazing showrunner, Anthony Sparks? Talk about dreams coming true! I got staffed through traditional channels. My reps submitted my material to Anthony Sparks, he read my work, and I got a meeting. The meeting went really well and then Ava interviewed me. I still remember when she called me to tell me that she was offering me a position on the staff!

ET: What is your writing process like? Do you write early in the day, late at night? Do you free write, journal, paint, etc?

I like to write in the morning, but when you’re on deadline or in a writer’s room, you have to be able to write whenever. So I’ve strengthened that muscle. I also spend the most time whiteboarding, outlining and rewriting. I try to throw up a draft so that I can get to rewriting. And I try to figure out as many story problems in the whiteboarding / outlining phases as I can.  I’ve been taking this writing workshop during quarantine that is essentially all free writing and it has really helped to open me up, so I will be incorporating that into my practice more.

ET: You also just made your directing debut with your short film, Tender. What was the directing process like for you? How was it different from writing?

Writing and directing “Tender” has been a highlight of my artistic career. It has been the first time when I was able to see my vision through from start to finish alongside amazing, talented craftspeople. The directing process was actually quite smooth because I was surrounded by artists at the top of their game—from our cast Farelle Walker and Trishauna Clarke to our DP Ludovica Isidori, our producer Regina Hoyles and our amazing crew. Prior to, I took a bunch of classes that focused on directing actors to the point that I felt comfortable enough to try it. I was so nervous, but I loved it and am itching to get back on set. Writing allows you to focus on crafting the story on the page whereas with directing, you really have to have your eye on the big picture.

ET: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected any projects you have or had in the works? Has it affected your creativity or your work process?

Yes, writers rooms are now virtual, which isn’t ideal, but it is a blessing that they are still continuing. But without production so much is on hold. I’ve managed to stay very busy, developing material, taking two classes. I started an IG Live series where I chat with my creative friends, and am still taking meetings. I also released tender online so that has kept me and the tender team very busy. I do need to rest more, so making space for that.

ET: As a fellow writer, I admire your multifaceted writing career. If you had advice to share to an aspiring writer looking to expand into books to movies, or from journalism to writing for tv, what would you say?

Do it! But make it about the work – so take the classes, read the books, join writing groups, immerse yourself in craft and remain a student. My lifelong goal is to be undeniable on the page. My work may not be for you, but you can’t deny the craft.

Catch up with Felicia on her Instagram page.