Award-Winning TV Pilot Impacted by Strikes, but Still Gaining Traction
By Loukaia Taylor '22
By Loukaia Taylor '22
T wo faculty members from the School of Arts & Humanities scripted, filmed and screened an original television pilot that explores the challenges of being a young Black professor in a predominately white institution.
Donnetrice Allison, professor of Communication Studies and chair of the Africana Studies program, and Aaron Moss, assistant professor of Theatre/Directing, worked to create and film the pilot episode of “Teaching While Black,” a project that is based on Allison’s experiences as a young professor in the 1990s.
“Teaching While Black” has been recognized with awards by the Big Apple Film Festival, Filmteenth International Film Festival and the International Black & Diversity Film Festival (IBDFF), in addition to screenings across the United States, including Los Angeles, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Houston. The awards from Filmteenth and IBDFF are now on display in the School of Arts & Humanities on the Galloway campus.
In one word, both Allison and Moss described the process of finding their leading lady out of more than 3,000 submissions, filming the pilot in 10 days on campus and recruiting both current students and alumni to work both in front of and behind the camera as “fantastic.”
“For me, this was a dream come true – I’ve been wanting to do something like this for many years,” Allison said.
“You have us two people coming together, and there’s an alchemy element to it: we didn’t know exactly how it would all come together with so many hands in the pot and a lot of people involved,” Moss said. “We were just amazed at how much our vision remained intact and how supportive people at the University, actors, technicians and designers who were involved were.”
The plan was then to submit the pilot to various TV and film festivals in order to get the show produced for platforms like Netflix, Hulu or Max, as the pair has already written two episodes and have five seasons mapped out. Considering the awards they have won already and the positive response they received at exclusive on-campus screenings, it seemed like a no-brainer that the show could be available for the world to enjoy fairly soon.
For me, this was a dream come true – I’ve been wanting to do something like this for many years.”
Then, the infamous summer of strikes began.
As hospital workers, delivery drivers, fast food workers and more started to realize their power as collective unions, demands such as better wages and more power in decision-making began to proliferate and resulted in strikes.
It soon spread to the entertainment industry – writers represented by the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike throughout the summer of 2023. Both groups had reached contract agreements by the end of 2023.
Allison and Moss are in solidarity with the union members and hope that the pause on “Teaching While Black” will be just that – a pause in their journey of getting the show on viewers’ screens.
They plan to continue pitching to different film festivals to build momentum and held a screening for Cinefest in Atlantic City in October, which the pair both said was well received by audiences.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to pitch a couple of times during the strikes, but it was really difficult because there's just not any movement that was really allowed. It was kind of just getting feedback. We're going to keep meeting with people and keep leading with a lot of heart and a lot of intellect to share the story, the power of the story and the universality of the story. And hopefully, it'll strike a chord with the right network and distributor, and we'll get in one of the desired networks for streaming services.”
“We're also looking into literary agents, writing agents and all of that to see if we can also get some opportunities that way. So, right now, it's about networking,” Allison said. “The show is funny, and I think people will very much enjoy watching it or even relate to it.”
🎬 Watch the trailer here!