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Joy Shannon: “Networking is the best kind of work”

In my narrative feature films, I’m mostly proud of how I portray today’s Black woman. Unlike the restrictive and limited roles of the past that Black women often played — maids, mammies, women without dreams — today’s screenplay writers can create Black women who are broad, ambitious, competitive, successful, and articulate. I’m proud that I too have created multi-dimensional […]

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In my narrative feature films, I’m mostly proud of how I portray today’s Black woman. Unlike the restrictive and limited roles of the past that Black women often played — maids, mammies, women without dreams — today’s screenplay writers can create Black women who are broad, ambitious, competitive, successful, and articulate. I’m proud that I too have created multi-dimensional and exciting Black female characters.


As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joy Shannon, a producer, writer and director of indie feature films. Joy has a BFA from Howard University and an MA in film from The American University, both in Washington, DC. She served as a juror for the Corporation for Public Broadcast (CPB) and was a grant recipient from AFI and WETA. Joy currently resides in Los Angeles and has taught filmmaking to teens who were former gang members and to dyslexic students. Joy’s films include a teen-crime-drama entitled 3rd Generation Female Gangsta, a screw-ball comedy entitled Stuck With Jazz (aka All That Jazzin’), a short comedy called Sexless After 45, a drama called Uptown Angel (aka Rags After Reality) the award-winning My Dead Selfie, a supernatural thriller on race, and most recently an award-winning docuseries entitled After The LockDown: Black In LA.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

Thank you for including me! Before giving my backstory, please allow me to give a current story. I’m a Los Angeles-based indie producer/director and I just completed an award-winning docuseries entitled After The LockDown: Black In LA. We also have an award-winning music video for the theme song, called After The LockDown, featuring Dorian Aleccia, an artist in development at InRage Entertainment. The docuseries has 9-parts and was directed by myself and two family members who are also filmmakers: my nephew, Jonathan Burnett, and his father, honorary Oscar-winner Charles Burnett. Currently, my docuseries and the theme song’s music video are having a successful festival run.

So, a little backstory. I grew up in the Midwest and graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC. I stayed in WDC a little longer, receiving an MA in film from The American University. I made my first indie feature film, a 16mm drama, in WDC and received a home video deal for it. I served as a juror for the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and also received a grant for a short documentary from WETA, (public broadcasting). Shortly after that, I relocated to Los Angeles. In LA, I made two more 16mm features. One is an award-winning teen-crime-drama called 3rd Generation Female Gangsta. My first digital feature, My Dead Selfie, is an award-winning supernatural thriller that’s based on race.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m extremely grateful that my mother gave me a Super-8 movie camera for my birthday when I was in the 5th grade. I’ve been hooked on making films ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

The most interesting thing is all of the ‘Hollywood personalities’ that I’ve met over the years.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Hollywood is full of so many different types, believe you me, I’ve met all types.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So much help has come from those outside of the film industry and I’m blessed to have met them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The great Civil Rights Movement leader, Fannie Lou Hamer’s quote, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” is like breakfast — it gets me going, refuels me, and feeds my soul.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Diversity in film and television is vitally important because:

1. The best stories come from different perspectives, a variety of experiences and cultures.

2. Film and television should reflect the population of today’s society.

3. Diversity is a good investment. All people like to see characters who look like them, characters they can relate to, and characters they feel like they know. People spend money to see those familiar characters.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m very excited about two scripts that I recently finished: a cannabis comedy and a SciFi thriller on ancient Black astronauts.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

In my narrative feature films, I’m mostly proud of how I portray today’s Black woman. Unlike the restrictive and limited roles of the past that Black women often played — maids, mammies, women without dreams — today’s screenplay writers can create Black women who are broad, ambitious, competitive, successful, and articulate. I’m proud that I too have created multi-dimensional and exciting Black female characters.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Networking is the best kind of work. Indie filmmakers need each other’s help. Sharing contacts can help everyone get closer to their own personal goals.

2. A good entertainment attorney is a lifesaver. Contracts can be tricky, and you’ll need someone on your side combing through each page.

3. Volunteer in the film industry where you can, when you can, as often as you can. People need to see your face and remember your name. Opportunities can arise when you leave a great impression. Likewise, it’s an awesome feeling when your name and reputation create a space for you to thrive.

4. Have a balanced life while pursuing your dreams: balance your family life, your finances, your health, and your spirit. These are all important for overall happiness.

5. Have a broad definition of success; it should go beyond getting a Hollywood deal. Have success in treating people right, all people, especially those who don’t look like you. It is important to examine what we are really creating in society and what we will leave behind as individuals and as part of the groups we represent.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be the ‘What Would Jesus Do to Fight Racism?’ movement.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-

Out of all the movers ‘n shakers in the film industry, I’d love to have breakfast with Jordan Peele! I think he’d like my work. I’d love to pitch my ancient astronauts SciFi thriller to him — a different twist on SciFi from a Black perspective.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Please follow me in Instagram: @afterthelockdownfilm and check-out our website: www.afterthelockdownfilm.com

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!


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