Seven Badass Female Showrunners and Creators on Making it in TV: "I’m Fucking Tough. That’s Why My Work Is Good.”
Women are taking over television and film from the inside out — and for female creators and producers in the industry, it’s about damn time. In the past year, the number of women directors, writers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on independent films alone rose to a record high 32 percent of all film screened at various film festivals according to a study done by San Diego State University. Female-run films like Mindy Kaling’s Late Night and Awkwafina’s The Farewell have also screened to much fanfare. And the same thing is happening on the small screen.
Netflix rounded up seven of their most successful, badass female showrunners, creators, and producers for a discussion on how the industry has changed, the obstacles they had to overcome, and how it feels to be powerful women in the industry for a "Put the 'She' in Call Sheet" video as part of the streaming service’s Make A Scene series. Read on below for their perspectives. And watch the full panel discussion here.
Creator, Tuca & Bertie
Comedy queens Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong voice this creator and showrunner’s adult animated series about two female birds in their 30s who live in the same building. She is an award-winning comic writer, who’s known to champion authenticity in the female characters she creates. “It’s really important for me to show how funny women are, and that we’re gross,” she says. “I just really wanted to open up how wacky and strange we are. And it’s not just the men who get to be disgusting and funny, especially in animation.”
Co-Creator, On My Block
The writer and producer is known for her work on A Perfect Murder, Awkward., and now On My Block, the coming-of-age series that won last year’s Teen Choice Award for Choice Breakout Series. Iungerich says that she fought hard to make sure that the inner-city kids on screen were mirrored by her staff. She even made sure that her assistant, Alexi Gonzalez was named associate producer of the show at just 22. “She’s such a badass. I looked at her and I said, ‘You are a producer. I’m gonna make you a producer,’” she says. The creator also says in the panel discussion that she’s struggled with being labeled as “tough” by certain people in the industry. “Tough, to me as a woman, went through this prism of, Oh no. Am I construed as difficult?’” she explains. “But you know what? Fuck it. I’m fucking tough. And it’s good. That’s why my work is good.”
Linda Yvette Chávez
When the creator first started writing, she was told not to write in Spanish or to write about her female icons like her aunts, mother, or grandma. Now, since her Gente-fied: The Digital Series was picked up after airing at Sundance Film Festival in 2017, she’s launching the web concept as a TV series on Netflix — co-executive produced by America Ferrera. She’s fought hard to write stories, including this bilingual comedy set in L.A., that represent her life and the lives of strong, powerful women around her. “I often tell stories about women who I’ve grown up with,” she says. “The women I grew up with were three-dimensional. They were complicated. They were fucking up. They were doing beautiful wonderful things. I always wanted to see that.” In Gente-fied, we will get a taste of Chávez’s vision.
Creator, Dead to Me
VIDEO: Interview with Liz Feldman, Creator of Dead To Me
The four-time Emmy winner (who won for her work writing and producing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show) started out as a teenage stand-up comic. Now, she continues to be an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, hell-bent on opening doors for people who’d like to break into the industry. For her smash hit show Dead to Me starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini (which only launched in May), she insisted on female and queer representation on staff. “When you’re finally the person who gets to hire all the people, that’s the greatest empowerment that you have that you can give to other people,” she says in the clip above. “For me it was absolutely imperative that most of my writers be women. And it was a hundred percent imperative that all of my directors be women and, or LGBTQ. That’s something I learned from working with Ellen. Because before that I had basically always been the only female in the room.”
Yvette Lee Bowser
Showrunner, Dear White People
Nicknamed the “Black TV Show Whisperer,” Bowser has been around for more than three decades creating acclaimed stories about and for the black community. At age 27, she became the first African American woman to develop her own primetime series — the one and only Living Single (co-starring Queen Latifah). But that launch didn’t come without its challenges. She was originally told to take the “unapologetically black and female and fierce” character Maxine Shaw out of the show. But she trusted her gut. “Even though I had everything to lose, I stood my ground. And said, ‘To take Maxine Shaw out of the show is to take a big part of me out of the show,’” she says. Now, on Dear White People, the celebrated satirical series based on Justin Simien’s debut indie film, she’s pushing the narrative on political correctness and much more.
Tonya Lewis Lee
Executive Producer, She’s Gotta Have It
The producer made a name for herself in media by launching Madstone Company Inc., a production house in the late ‘90s focused primarily on children’s content for Disney, Nickelodeon, and more. In 2012, she co-founded ToniK Productions with Nikki Silver focused on TV and film. She has also co-written three children’s books and founded Movita Organics, a vitamin supplement company.
Recently, she seized the opportunity to revisit her husband Spike Lee’s groundbreaking 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It. The film expanded perceptions on and understanding of back female sexuality and explored the issue of sexual assault through lead character Nola Darling, a young, Brooklyn-based artist juggling three lovers and struggling to make ends meet. The film also launched Lee’s directorial career. Lewis Lee came up with the idea to revisit this storyline in a episodic series format. And as executive producer of the series reboot by the same name for Netflix, she is giving the story a feminine edge while tackling gentrification, sexuality, and female empowerment. She says she’s proud to have a voice in this production and that she’s focusing on lifting up other women on her team along the way. “When I first started producing, I was just so happy to have an opportunity that I would almost do it for free,” she says. “And I’m still working on recognizing my own value. So [it’s] really having to learn to stand up for myself and recognize that I’m bringing a lot to this.”
Creator, Family Reunion
DeLoatch is at the helm of the highly anticipated Family Reunion, which will mark Tia Mowry’s return to TV on July 10. The creator is also known for her work as a producer on several series including, Family Matters, Eve, and Fuller House (the reboot to fan-favorite Full House). DeLoatch says that though she has fought hard to earn her spot at the top of her industry, she has been labeled as intimidating. On this she says: “I have the confidence now to be like, 'I have a right to expect you to do your job and not to have to beg you to do it,'” she says. “I want them to be happy, but I want them to do their job, and I’m not going to apologize for expecting them to do it.”
Watch Netflix's "Put the 'She' in Call Sheet" Panel for Make A Scene, here.