breaking into film industry people of color

Ep114: Breaking Into (and Making It) In the Industry as People of Color | with Mirra Watkins, Ariel Brown, and Isaiah Cary



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Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in?

Have you ever struggled to find role models that looked like you and had similar life experiences?

If you’re a person of color in Hollywood (specifically post-production), the likelihood is extremely high you know these issues all too well…like a likelihood of roughly 99% (as I discussed in a previous episode with seasoned editor and mentor Monty Degraff).

Furthermore, if you are a POC who’s a college student or recent grad, you might be concerned about how the color of your skin could affect the chances of you succeeding in the industry (and if it’s even worth trying), no?

In today’s conversation, I discuss these issues and more with two recent grads and one senior from Temple University in Philadelphia, all of whom are black. Ariel Brown is a senior in the Film and Media Arts Program. Mirra Watkins graduated from Temple 3 years ago and has since moved to Los Angeles and is working as an AE and Editor in unscripted television and digital media. And last but not least, Isaiah Carey is a 2018 Temple graduate now working in the video production world as a cameraman and editor in Philadelphia.

All three of these amazing, talented, intelligent, and hard-working individuals have navigated their way as minorities in a white-dominant industry and have learned some valuable lessons along the way that they have been courageous enough to share with you. Each of them have adopted the unique perspective to turn their struggles into their greatest assets. And each of them has learned that the adversity they face has made them stronger and more capable in their jobs and in life, and ultimately nothing will deter them from achieving their dreams.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Ariel’s deep desire to pursue her passion of the arts through filmmaking.
  • Isaiah’s love of learning and how that led him into post production.
  • How Mirra began building her editing skills as a kid who loved to read.
  • Why Mirra hopes to one day be the next Shonda Rhimes and her passion to tell “real [email protected]#! to people” through films and stories.
  • KEY TAKE AWAY: Being specific and vocal about your desires and goals will open up the right doors and opportunities to get you where you want to go.
  • Isaiah’s dream is to be in a Post Production finishing facility working as a colorist and being part of a team environment.
  • Ariel’s favorite stories show that anyone can do anything they can put their minds to and those are the stories she wants to tell.
  • Mirra’s experience in high school trying to get into the band and the difficulty she had being accepted in a mostly white school.
  • What it’s like to fight for every opportunity including the classes you want to take despite being qualified in every way.
  • Even in Philadelphia at Temple University, the number of black students in post production is less than 1%.
  • Isaiah’s experience with being treated unfairly on his college thesis project and how he handled it.
  • KEY TAKE AWAY: Persistence and perseverance will help you find the right people and places to get the opportunities you want.
  • The problem of gentrification for minorities negatively and the lack of awareness among whites.
  • How Ariel’s family supports her decision to pursue an arts major even though there’s not a clear-cut path to a successful career. They let her know that no one can hold you back. And when you set your mind on something, you can achieve whatever you want.
  • KEY TAKE AWAY: Don’t be afraid to sell yourself and use your stories of adversity to demonstrate your value.
  • Mirra is not looking for a handout based on her race and wants to be hired for her skills, attitude, and love of stories.
  • Advice for hiring managers: Take a shot on those people with lesser experience. They often turn out to be the best.
  • Advice for POC dealing with racism: Just keep going and don’t let it dictate the trajectory of your life.


Useful Resources Mentioned:

Ep115: How to Be So Thorough You Can’t Be Denied | with James Wilcox, ACE

Ep107: Recognizing, Mentoring, and Promoting Diversity In Hollywood | with Monty DeGraff, ACE

Want to Be Part of the Solution but Don’t Know How? Start with Listening.

Ep11: Making It In Hollywood as a “Creative” (What They Don’t Teach You In Film School) | with Norman Hollyn

[FiP] Ep114: What Every College Student (and Recent Grad) Needs to Know About ‘Making It’ In Hollywood, pt1

[FiP] Ep115: What Every College Student (and Recent Grad) Needs to Know About ‘Making It’ In Hollywood, pt2

Episode Transcript

Zack Arnold 0:00

My name is Zack Arnold. I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of optimize yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessive Lee searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits rights or directs you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you. Hello, and welcome to the optimize yourself podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you were inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help Spread the Love. And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer Oh gee, welcome back. Whether you're brand new or you're seasoned vet, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show, and thus the more people that you and I can inspire, to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show. Have you ever felt like you didn't fit in? Have you ever struggled to find role models that look like you and had similar life experiences? Well, if you are a person of color in Hollywood, specifically post production, the likelihood is extremely high that you know these issues all too well, like a likelihood of roughly 99% as I discussed in a previous episode with seasoned editor and mentor Monty to graph and if you want to listen to that, by the way is that optimize yourself.me slash Episode 107 now for Furthermore, if you are a person of color who might be a college student or a recent grad, you might be concerned about how the color of your skin could affect the chances of you succeeding in this industry. And if it's even worth trying. Well, in today's conversation, I discussed these issues and more with two recent grads, and one senior from Temple University in Philadelphia, all of whom are black. Ariel Brown is a senior in the film and media arts program. Miro Watkins graduated from temple three years ago and has since moved to Los Angeles and is now working as an AV and an editor in unscripted television and digital media. And last but not least, Isaac Harry is a 2018 Temple graduate, who's now working in the video production world as a cameraman and editor in Philadelphia. All three of these amazing talented, intelligent and hardworking individuals have navigated their way as minorities in a white dominant industry. And they have learned some valuable lessons along the way that they have been courageous enough to share with all of us. Now each of them have adopted the unique perspective to turn their struggles into their greatest assets. And each of them has learned that the adversity they face has made them stronger and more capable in their jobs and in life, and ultimately, nothing will deter them from achieving their dreams. I don't think there's anything else that can be said at this point other than without further ado, my inspiring and educational conversation with Ariel Brown, Miro Watkins and Isaiah Carey to access the shownotes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview. Please visit optimize yourself.me slash podcast. I'm here today with three amazing current and former graduates of Temple University in Philadelphia. I have Ariel Brown, who's a senior at Temple University in the film and media arts program, you're concentrating and post. I have Mira Watkins, who is currently an editor and an assistant editor in Both unscripted and digital media, who's currently in Los Angeles and you are a graduate from temple in 2017. And I also have Isaiah Carey, who is working in the video production world as a cameraman and editor and kind of a little bit of everything in the video production world in Philadelphia, and you are a graduate from 2018. I'm really, really looking forward to today's conversation, and I can't thank you enough for being here today. So thank you to all three of you for taking the time to be on this podcast with me.

All Guests 4:30

Thank you. Okay, thanks.

Zack Arnold 4:33

So the reason this came about this is a very unusual circumstance. Usually I like to reach out to people and I like to tell their stories and identify something that they've worked on either a project or I've read something about them or I've heard them talk on a panel, and I say, I want to tell this person story. But in this case, the reason that all three of you are here is because I'm assuming your advisor this was your advisor Didi. She reached out to me after I released my interview View with Monty to graph talking about both the editing world but also what it's like being a minority or a person of color in the editing world in the post production world. And we talked about this idea that there's essentially 1% of people in the post production world are black. And that number is somewhat staggering to me. And all three of you on the call today are black, but you're at the beginning stages of your career. I've heard from Monty who's at the top of the top level. And I also recently did an interview with James Wilcox, who of anything is either at Monty's level, or even a little bit ahead of that level. But I want to see what things look like from the ground up, I really want our audience to understand what this journey looks like from the very beginning. And I just want you guys to be able to tell your stories, good, bad or otherwise. So I'm going to start one person at a time because everybody knows in the world of zoom calls, we all talk on top of each other nobody can hear anything and we spend half an hour just me like what what you're muted. Ha Sorry, I can't hear you. So we're going to Try and avoid that I'm going to have us go one at a time. But what I would love to know from all three of you is first, what is it about the filmmaking process, specifically post production that inspires you? And why is it that you decided to choose it as your career path? And I'm going to start with Ariel because you are still in school. So Ariel, introduce yourself and just talk a little bit about what it is about filmmaking and specifically post production that inspires you and the kind of stories do you want to be a part of?

Ariel Brown 6:27

Well, I'm like you said, I am a senior at Temple University in the film and media arts program. What really made me decide to choose my major was the fact that growing up and throughout school, I had been a participant in all the arts that I could get my hands on. So I took fine arts classes, music, classes, theater, choral stuff, band, everything that you can think of. And I wanted to go into something that was my passion in college. And I found that film kind of combines all of those things into one in some way, shape or form and, and so that's why I decided to choose it and specifically post production because I just like how it's this type of puzzle to fit everything together. And it's always fun to go in and see like, how you can create different versions of the same story.

Zack Arnold 7:11

What I find interesting when you ask anybody, specifically younger people about what it is about post specifically, everybody says the exact same thing, the puzzle, we all love the puzzle. So a way that I put it to people that don't really understand it that maybe you've never seen a timeline or they see a picture of a timeline the first time like, Oh my god, it's so pretty. It's so cool, but I don't understand what you do for a living. And I said, basically, editors just play Tetris all day long, but with people's emotions, right, this colored block in this spot, and that spot equals people feeling something and it's this puzzle that we got to figure it out. But we have no box to look at with the answer. Most people are like, Are you kidding me? That sounds like torture. And for the very few like us, you're like, Are you kidding? There is no cooler place that I would rather be so your story sounds exactly like minded. When I first started like so many other peoples do, so I love the fact that you put it that way. So I'm going to transition over to Isaiah. And I would love to know the same answer for you. What is it about the filmmaking process post production telling stories? What brought you to where you are today being a recent graduate of this program?

Isaiah Cary 8:17

I think what brought me here in high school, real different, take as many different classes as we can, I had a studio class, which was basically the morning news brought to you. And we had some projects that we had to do and I always got stuck on editing or hated it or my computer crash, or I was always the longest part. So I spent the most time on it. And spending the most time on it really taught me all the different things you could do. So high school, Isaiah, just new Windows Live Movie Maker and try to put all these clips together, which was a pain in the butt looking back at it really easy, but I always wanted to learn more. And there's so much when you dive into all these programs at different editors using so many different programs. I loved the fact that I could go on to a computer login to edit, and every single day, I could learn something new. That was one of my goals. I was like, if I don't go in here, and I don't want something new, something different, something quicker, faster, I don't want anything new. So I think the idea of just learning something new every day really intrigued me. And the fact that you can control the story, if you don't put something in the right way, if you color something a different way, you add a different song, you you kind of have, depending on what your project is, you have a lot of control in the emotions and in the storytelling that people never really realize until they sit down with like an editor. And I like that power s control slash I can change something in a snap of a finger. And that really got me hooked on editing even more once I learned those skills.

Zack Arnold 9:46

Well, I can tell you already that you're a really good fit for post production because we're all control freaks. We all say the same thing. Oh my god, I just want to get my fingers in and I want to control it and you're not going to tell me what to do with these characters in these performances. I know the dailies better than anybody, right? So you, you definitely have that that sense of I really want to get my fingers in and control it. And it's it's amazing that with my son who's now 10, he's now getting into the editing process, which I didn't push on him at all. But he's starting to get into it. And he's learning the same thing that my wife is also learning watching him learn, which is Wow, you guys really have a lot of control over what we're watching. Everybody thinks we just take out the bad parts and we kind of assemble all the pieces together. But we really help tell the the emotional story and we can be writers and it sounds like you really enjoy that that part of the process of really shaping the person's experience. So you're, you're in the right place as well. So last but not least, we have Mira and you're you're a little bit more seasoned. You're the most experienced person on this call today. So tell me a little bit more about where you are, what you're doing and why you are inspired to be in this industry.

Mirra Watkins 10:56

Right now. I'm doing gigs as a editor in an assistant editor, switching back and forth, I think that's where you kind of end up post grad is trying to get onto narrative. You have to go through just like digital and unscripted. And you have to juggle kind of both those roles until someone gives you that editor shot. So that's where I'm at right now. Um, what got me into filmmaking, I would say was my love for reading and it's connected to my love for reading and acting when I was younger. Reading just like developed my imagination in ways that when I started filmmaking classes, I was just like, Oh, I'm already picturing. I've already built that skill to picture scenes in my head from just being an avid reader, and then acting. I had this love for it, but I didn't think I would make it because not a lot of actresses look like me. So I started taking production classes and at Community College of Philadelphia and it was there that that filmmaking bug hit me. And I was like, holy, I don't have to be on screen. I could be doing stuff behind screen. And it seems more fun to be doing stuff behind screen anyway, but on screen, and yeah, so that's where the filmmaking bug bug hit me. And then when it came to post production, it was just realizing that the fun and joy of building that puzzle as Ariel said, and seeing all of these different takes, and scenes come together in a way that can really gravitate people.

Zack Arnold 12:38

So I'm going to stick with you for a second mirror. Since you are the seasoned veteran on this call. You have a couple of other people that are a little bit behind you in their journey, they might have a thing or two to learn about how to get where you are now, but what I would love to know from all three of you, and again, I'll start with you mirror and then we'll go in reverse order. Where is it that you really want to be what's the plan? Where do you really want to get with Your career is it just being a, you want to be an editor and scripted? Or you want to direct or you want to write? Like, ultimately, what's the real big picture goal? Why are you here?

Mirra Watkins 13:10

My big picture is to be to do projects, whether as an editor, writer, director, and ultimately producer to bring stories, real stories on streaming, and also to provide people with escapism. That's another reason why I also got into film is because I really enjoyed seeing other people's real stories on screen. But also during my childhood, I use phone to escape. And it is such a pure white like what is it wonder that film can provide that for people what at any age, you can just if it's good enough and all the parts align with production, post writing and you can sit down for an hour and a half to two hours and be able to escape and or heal, and that's really my plan.

Zack Arnold 14:07

You want to do it all you want to just produce a direct and write and tell these stories and tell these compelling stories that are also escapism. So does that mean that in like 20 years, this is going to be a really valuable podcast episode when I talk about oh, I was talking to the next Shonda Rhimes way back when, like just right out of school? Right. So this is that the direction that we're looking at?

Mirra Watkins 14:30

For sure. I want to note that I don't want to do all of those things at the same time.

Zack Arnold 14:36

She's got a busy schedule she does.

Mirra Watkins 14:39

But yeah, I definitely. The end goal is to be a producer where I can help others tell their stories and provide healing and escapism for others.

Zack Arnold 14:49

So I definitely want to go to the other two, but I want to stick with this for one second. When you say you want to tell real stories. Talk to me about the stories that you really want to tell with your voice.

Mirra Watkins 14:58

Can I provide examples, usually I can, okay, my favorite films. I go by year, I hate when people ask, like, of all time, because that's really hard for us, folks. But last year, my favorite films were ones, the farewell, honey boy and the last black man in San Francisco. And those are three stories that Excuse My French and you know, my friends like the call, like, like you want to, you want to present real estate to people. That's what I want to do. I want to tell real stories that relate to to a lot of people, but it can still be very specific, and you can get on board and feel for these for these characters for this writing. So that's what i what i mean by real stories.

Zack Arnold 15:42

I love it. So I'm going to sidetrack a little bit then we're going to go to Arial and Isaiah, but there's something that I want to talk about really quickly here and like I told you guys in the beginning, I have no questions. This is just me like yelling squirrel 100 times when I look out the window and we're just going to chat. And the thing that I want to bring up now that I think is really important for everybody to understand is how important connections and relationships are in this industry. You guys are at the very beginning of your journeys. And it's all about the people in the connections and being very specific about what you want. So I'm going to give you an example if you would answer that question. Well, what I really want to do is write and direct and I want to tell stories. Okay, great, so does everybody else. But when I asked you what kind of stories you knew exactly what those stories were, and one of those stories that you mentioned is honey boy. And the editor of honey boy, is in my program, and is a good friend of mine. So how interested would you be in meeting with and chatting with the editor of honey boy

Mirra Watkins 16:40

100%.

Zack Arnold 16:42

Anybody that's listening, Be specific. You want something in the world, you put it out there, I now guarantee there's going to be an email introduction, where you're going to chat with the editor of honey boy.

Mirra Watkins 16:54

Oh man, I'm nerding out already. I'm excited.

Zack Arnold 16:57

All from just sitting and nerding out with me for the last time 10 minutes on a podcast and we've barely gotten started. So now we're going to transition over to Isaiah going back in reverse order. Talk to me a little bit more about the stories that you really want to tell.

Isaiah Cary 17:12

So going to temple and graduating in film with a concentration post, I kind of always just saw editing as a one man team aspect. And it wasn't until my senior year I took a graphics course, I took a coloring course. And I had my internship at an editing house where I learned that all the different roles of editing because in school, you're kind of doing everything or editing or coloring or doing sound. I didn't know that those five six plus other positions of editing even existed until I was a senior until I was in an editing suite and doing those things. So if you asked me today where I'd see myself ideally and dream, it would be an editing house, but working with a team of people. The experience I had in one was phenomenal and to see Someone organized the footage and pass it down to someone who gets a timeline going to someone who's on the Final Cut, talking with graphics and seeing what they need to do to the graphics person coming into your suite and helping you out. So the colorist I would love to be part of that team, I think something that has always stuck with me that I didn't learn till the very end, just coloring and just being able to color grade footage. And I think that, to me, is the most nitpicky and can change a lot, especially with all the technology we have today with cameras, it's pretty crazy how what you're shooting and with the equipment, what you can do and post and change a color wise, so doing something in a coloring day. But with a team, I love the team aspect of it. And as as much as I have control over me sitting there coloring it, I wouldn't be able to do it if it weren't for sound, or work for graphics or for work for someone to put the picture at it together for me. So I think I like the aspect of coloring the most within editing and if I could sit there and have that with the team in my future Whereas like, oh, that would mean a lot. So

Zack Arnold 19:02

cool. So for you, if we were to picture this world that Mira is in where she's either in the room editing or she's writing something or directing that doesn't make as much sense for you, you love the post production facility experience. We have all the equipment and the stages and all the technology and everybody's working together as a team to really finish this thing and get it out into the world.

Isaiah Cary 19:25

Yeah, that is, that's my tree. And that's my goal as well. I'd love to see my future and see something going with. Oh, that's what I studied in school. It's funny, because right now, I'm only doing that a little bit, maybe like 25% of the time. Right now, a majority of my work is actually out on set and in production. So I had no clue what production world was like, until I graduated. And during an editing day, they needed some assistance, and I hopped on set with them. So the past two years, I've kind of been really going on different sets, commercials and being in the production world, which I'm a big advocate of like you got to learn that thing, like if I don't know what that sound person's going through with the cameras person's going through, I don't have as much like heart or story like when I'm editing. That's not till the very end. So right now I've really got to see the whole pickup camera setup camera, build camera, go to location, everything from pa up to being a first AC in the world, in the production world. So I love the camera department. That's right, like, nice too. And that's where I've like, found my happiness, so to say, but I still have a love for editing I don't think will ever go away.

Zack Arnold 20:32

So do you find that you become more interested in production or less interested in production, the more that you do it,

Isaiah Cary 20:39

I find that I'd become more interested just in the different, different aspects of it working on commercials to TV shows, campaigns or even some days on a movie. They're all different. Nothing is the same. You can see that from what type it is to the budget that they have to the crew that you're with and their crew Probably good 60 people that I'm like in and out with within the Philadelphia area, they're like a family. And they have taught me more than I could have ever imagined production wise, which I didn't study any of that in school, I strictly focused on editing, I had three years of regular editing, I had graphics, I had sound, I had color correction. So to me, there was no, there was no production related things. And I chose to take the post production pass, that's all on me. But to see production side of things, when all I knew was the back end, is very eye opening and very enlightening to see that they spent just as much time into it. And when I'm on set, a lot of people know that I came from post production. So very seldom you will hear it, but when you do hear, oh, we can pick certain posts, a lot of eyes turn so like whatever editors are on set or the DI T's and they know what's going on. They're like, excuse me, what was going on exact cuz they know let's wait, let's take five minutes. Let's see what we can do.

Zack Arnold 21:56

Yeah, well, the reason I asked is because I found the more I did Production The more I wanted to be an editor was in my world. So I'm glad to hear that it works for you. And even though people can't hear right now mirrors head is going Yep, Mm hmm. Like she she gets it. Yeah, production, not my world. I want to just sit in my darkroom by myself. Let me do my thing and tell my stories. And it sounds like you've got a nice blend of the the entire world there. So that's great. So moving on to Arial. I want to talk to you about the same question Tell me big picture where it is that you really want to go and the stories that you want to tell.

Ariel Brown 22:29

I'm still kind of figuring it out. But the thing that I'm absolutely in love with right now is animation. So anything I can get my hands on animating is what I'm trying to do. And if long term I could become some type of animator, whether that's 2d 3d composite, or whatever I can get my hands on I'd really love that. But I'd also enjoy doing like a lot of just normal editing work about that first question.

Zack Arnold 22:56

The first part, it's the second part. What kind of stories do you Want to tell what do you want to be a part of?

Ariel Brown 23:02

I am in love with the magic of filmmaking in the magic that you can find within films. So for example, my favorite types of stories are ones like heiau. Miyazaki, his house Moving Castle was one of my favorite movies of all time favorite movies of all time. And I just like the way that it's just these seemingly normal characters that are taken into this almost fantasy world or like, semi realistic fantasy world, and they just go about their lives and how they can progress and persevere through like all these wild situations. Because I really believe that anyone can do anything as long as they put their mind to it. And I've yet to see that fail. So that's the types of stories that I want to show anyone

Zack Arnold 23:45

just being able to do their thing. And it sounds like you're more interested in the actual design aspect of it, meaning being a 2d or 3d animator actually doing the drawing, the compositing the modeling, as opposed to the editing. Is that correct? Yeah. So the reason I'm putting all these together is again, the more specific it is, the more I can start to think in my brain who are who are the people that I could potentially bring all this together? Because I don't want this mirror to walk away and be like, haha, I'm gonna meet the editor, honey boy and Isaiah and Ariel are like, Well, what do we do wrong? So I'm, I'm trying to put all the pieces together to get some of the specifics and see what connections I can help make for you. The reason though, that I want to talk about where you really want to get. And the stories that you want to tell is that I'm sure that all three of you know that making it in this business is really stinking hard. This is one of the most competitive, most difficult industries to make it in. And that's for everybody. But one of the reasons that Didi wanted me to have this conversation with you today, based on my conversation with Monty is specifically what the journey has looked like for you so far through going in undergrad through film school. And now for those of you that are out in the real world, and the challenges that you're dealing with, being very much a minority, not only in General on society. But one of the statistics that I've talked about on multiple episodes now is the fact that in the post production industry, specifically 1%, African American, to me, that number is just like staggering, like, how does that even happen? So I want to really talk to you guys and have an honest conversation about the experiences that you've had thus far. And what are some of the things that you're concerned about moving forwards because all three of you are clearly very passionate. And I haven't worked with any of you. But it sounds like you have the drive. I'm going to assume that you have the talent. And I want to see you guys succeed. But there are challenges that you have already endured, you will continue to endure that I've never endured that I never had to see. I've always considered myself somebody that works very hard. I paid my own dues. I grew up in a small dairy farming community of 400 people in that town of 400 people was seven miles from our house. So going to Hollywood in Los Angeles was as foreign as any idea to imaginable. But I didn't realize that there were a lot of advantages that perhaps I was getting that other others weren't. So I'm going to stay with you, Ariel, since you're still in school. And I was wondering if you'd be willing to share any of the experiences that you've had, it doesn't have to be negative, but just any of the experiences that you've had, that you feel have made this a challenge for you, given that you don't walk into a room and everybody looks exactly like you and has the same experiences as you.

Ariel Brown 26:26

There's been quite a few things that have led up to where I am now. We'll start with, I guess, high school because that's where a lot of my story kind of begins with film. So for reference, I grew up as a military child so I've kind of moved to a ton of different places. I've gone to like eight schools in my lifetime nine if you include temple, and that my second high school that I attended, it was 97%, white, and then 3% everything else and maybe I think it was 1% black. If that So long story short, there wasn't a lot of people that looked like me there weren't any teachers that looked like me. So sometimes it was a little intimidating to try to find someone to help mentor me, help me figure out where I wanted to go in college or maybe, or career path. And I guess the biggest difficulty I faced trying to figure out what I wanted to do was trying to join like all these other arts programs that I kind of mentioned earlier. So in previous schools, I was sitting in like an upper band, and I was trying to do like some high requires, and I was in the theater program, and I get to my new school and my band director doesn't believe I know how to play my instrument, even though he's never heard me play. He doesn't even know what I play. And I asked him if I could audition for the upper band since I was new to the district. I didn't know that you just over the summer when I was moving there. He told me that he didn't believe I could do it and that he didn't think that I would even need to audition because I wouldn't get it. And it took weeks of bugging him so well into the school year when he was finally like Well, okay, if you Want to audition? Let's audition. And I'm just like, at that point, I just told them, you know, it doesn't seem like you guys would want me in that band anyway, so I'm not going to do it. So I transitioned to choir and did a hybrid band choir schedule, and try to progress myself through there through theater. And then eventually I kind of went through my process and with all my classes and stuff, and it was just fighting with like advisors to let me take the classes, I wanted to take them telling me that I couldn't take I can take the theater class, I couldn't take the film class because I didn't have good enough grades yet. I had all A's since like, middle school. And it was it was just, it was an up and down process kind of bad. But when I got to temple, I kind of got to grow and expand on my own. I didn't have people trying to direct my entire life. And I joined a club called wandering studios, I don't know mirror Isaiah, remember that club. It was a big thing. Then I met a lot of people through there and I got to grow and I got to join the executive board and get to try all different types of positions on set. Figure out where I really what I really loved and wanted to do. And I got to make a lot of friends and connections with people that I don't think I would have made otherwise. And I think that coming to temple and getting to network with people and join all these film programs just really let me blossom out of like, that kind of box that my compulsory education experience was trying to put me in and grow from there.

Zack Arnold 29:24

Alright, so I'm going to move on now to Isaiah. And I would love to know a little bit more about your experience. I guess we could we can start wherever you like. But it probably makes sense to start at the university level because you went to temple where Ariel is going now. And for those that don't know, temple is in Philadelphia. So I'm going to assume because you're in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love in the film program, like everybody's just like you and everybody, you know, has the same background and the dirt shouldn't be any of these problems, right?

Isaiah Cary 29:52

Yeah, so for those of you who don't know, Doug University isn't Philadelphia. It's on the north side of Philadelphia. So it's in North Philly, Eastern called Sample time like way back in the day. So you know Philadelphia, you know that North Philly isn't the best part, depending where you're at, but the university is smack dab in the middle. So it's not it's not a Center City campus. So that is some backing. It is the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has taught me more than I could ever imagine. But Temple University, it is a brotherly love University. But it's not exactly that. It is the most diverse campus I've ever been to. I think a lot of campuses have different work. So I think that temple does an amazing job at that. I think that they have something almost someone from every country, like in the business that was like a flag from everyone. So it is a very, very diverse school. But there's a graduate of 40 a bunch of kids, there's a graduate 10,000 plus something like that a graduate there's 40,000 the school I think, but in my post production classes, I was the only black one. And I think in my film when you look at cinematography Sound, I think there may have been five when you look at all the film, so I was the only black when studying the concentration and post. And I think there was by the end of it senior project wise, I think there was 15 of us total. So I was the only one and I was the only editor. So I didn't walk into a room and everyone looks like me. But on campus, I did feel that environment of other people looking like me and feeling comfortable. And it's actually probably something that most people don't realize on a college campus is like once you step off of Temple, it's brotherly love. History has been there before tempos, diversity, and I always felt safe. I always felt comfortable walking along the streets going back home to my house where other students might not feel safe or might think of it in a bad aspect, which is really funny when you look at other universities where they're like in the middle of nowhere, and it's just like that college town and there's no one else sample gives you the flip flop of that for those other bye might feel a little sketched out walking home. So not to say that made me fall on the bed or anything, but it definitely was a row. And I did notice that with it growing. What was the question again? I'm sorry, I'm right.

Zack Arnold 32:11

No, do you you pretty much answered the question. But what I wanted to know a little bit more about now, now that I can picture in my mind, the general demographic of Temple, it's in Philly. But then all of a sudden, you say, Well, yeah, but I was the only black kid that was in the, you know, cinematography or editing. So we get a picture that even in Philadelphia, where you think of all cities, were in a filmmaking or post production department, you wouldn't have the same challenge that you might have in the industry in LA or anyone else, you have all the same challenges. So talk to me, and you don't have to go any more personal than you're comfortable with. But you had an experience specifically with your senior thesis, where you you did not have a good experience. And we're going to assume it was probably because of the demographics that we're talking about. So share whatever Is the you're willing to share about this experience specifically and how it has informed your view of the industry and you know, what you may or may not get involved with in the future.

Isaiah Cary 33:10

Okay, so at Temple, every senior film, we create a short a lot of students on their shorts off to every film is from the whole senior working on it, trying to send us every film festival that you can fundraising all the money that you can. This is basically your credit all across like what you want to showcase all of your years, and what you want to send out to people and say, Hey, I made this hire me, Hey, I can do this, hey, this one this at this film festival, which is a pretty big thing in the industry. For me. I was completely focused on that ready to go going forward. But on my team, so out of the four seniors and a director, cinematographer, producer and myself editor, I was the only black one. And then out of the rest of the students that we hired from pa is to assistance everyone. Again, I was the only black student on that entire project, which spans your whole year. That is your whole senior year. That's the only class I had that. mattered my senior year that I put 100% of my effort into it. The relationship that I had with my director, who was his story, he wrote his script that he was attempting to tell, you didn't have basically the respect for an editor that a director should have, which we were taught, Danny taught us that she was like, some editors aren't going to realize or some directors aren't gonna realize what that story and how to how your role plays in it. But from the start from when we got put together as a team, there was always a missed connection, a connection where my word wasn't heard, and where I wasn't valued for my skill base or the information that I could give to the team. And when it's your word, and you're trying to be a team player, and I played sports my whole life, and you're trying to put everything you can into this project, and you just get completely ignored like ghosted, no texts, you get not sent the invite things that involve the team or gatherings or parties. are like pre production meetings when you're completely ignored. Things start to hit and it's like, Okay, what did I do? Or what is what am I not bringing to the table if they don't want me involved in, I'd like to think that I'm a good editor. I made it this far you have to get accepted in the concentration. So I knew it wasn't my skills. I knew I had an internship at one of the best places you could have in Philly. So something was missing there. And it wasn't until DD kind of brought it to me. And so I took a step back and realized about myself that it was because of my skin tone. It was because of my color, that the cars didn't want anything to do with me. They didn't care that I had the experience didn't care that I knew how to be on set with them how to data wrangle, how to manage their cards, didn't care about that information. They just didn't want me involved. I don't want to say what was the whole team think it was definitely really had the unlike the director. And because he was so hard stuck on his image of his team and this project that he was trying to pursue. So for me that I ended up dropping the project x i graduated college and didn't have a senior project, which is really difficult for me. I still worked and helped on other projects. And canceling my senior project for my health, honestly, because it was getting pretty toxic the communication between each other. And even within the professor's like talking with the students and us and sitting us down. It wasn't going anywhere positive. So for me to step away from it was the best situation at hand. And to realize that it was a factor of who I am. I can't change that at all. It was really disheartening, but it made me grow. As a person, it made me realize that, hey, I don't have this senior project, but I'm gonna go but 110% more into something else. And that's something else was my internship, which led me into the real industry was working in a real post production house and getting that extended for another year. And then being in that editing house and working forward. Now that I looked back at More than a question, I do believe that I was the only black person in that editing house, which looking back at it now that is sad. But everyone there treated me with the utmost respect. I felt comfortable. There was a family and I felt at home. So yes, I was the only black person. But they welcomed me and they made me feel comfortable. And they accepted my skill set and who I was for me. And to me, the rest didn't matter. I was happy to be welcomed. And yeah, it is sad that I was the only black person but I was brought into a family and accepted for who I was. And I'm thankful every day for that I'm still with that those people today. And those people made me who I am today, and I work and grow every single day with them. And without them I wouldn't be here.

Zack Arnold 37:41

So I know this may not be a really easy question to answer because it's a little bit hypothetical. And by the way, mirror, I haven't forgotten about you. I'm still here. We're going to get you next, don't worry. But what I'm curious about is looking at this experience with the senior thesis, and knowing that you really had no control over the circumstance. It's not like you went into this and you realized oh, This guy wants to tell a comedy and I don't really enjoy comedy or I'm not good at cutting comedy wasn't, wasn't about something tangible where you can say either wasn't prepared. I don't have the skill or I'm not a good fit. The only reason this didn't work was because of the color of my skin and I have no control over this. Was there ever any thought that because of that, maybe I just don't want to pursue this career or this direction anymore. Because I know it's not the last time I'm gonna have to deal with this.

Isaiah Cary 38:26

Um, I was depressed. I had my first year of college, I went to a super small school in the middle of nowhere I went for sports, there was like horse and buggies there and I didn't really care about my like, education, career wise, and I realized that's not going to work out. So I went to temple. And I think every senior has like their senior showcase or senior thesis or senior project that they work their entire year for to show. And when I realized I don't have that, and it was canceled. I was depressed and like college students of all time, but I was sad. I never thought Though that I was gonna give up film, I had worked my butt off those all four of my years to get there. And I got the internship and the job that I had and other wonderful opportunities that I knew I had the skill set. I was thankful enough for my mom to make me strong and super confident. I wasn't gonna quit on this, I was a betting thing I was gonna get bigger and better. And that's a glory thing. But for him to see where I'm at and where he's not, that's what motivated and pushed me I wasn't gonna let him put me down. I was going to be the best that I physically could. And for him to look up and be like, wow, I messed up that could have been the editor of my senior project. And I blew it because I he was who he was. So I don't have the personality to quit and I can't see myself ever leaving the industry with the time that I've got it now and going forward, so I wasn't letting him pushing me down. Well, good for you. The one thing I want to point out to anybody that might be listening whether A similar age, similar place in their career or maybe even further along, or somebody that's been trying to do this for 20 years, you went through an experience you had no control over. And I'm really sorry that you went through it. What you didn't do is turn it into an excuse. And I think that's a really important thing that people have to listen to. You didn't turn it into excuse and say, Well, I tried, but I just can't make it because people aren't going to let me You said, No, I'm going to take responsibility for this circumstance. It sucked. I was depressed. Now it's just going to inspire me even more. Now I'm going to work harder. And there's there's no reason based on the cards you're dealt versus anybody else that you should have to work harder. But that's just the world that we live in. Now. I'm hoping that we can do something about that. But the world we live in now is you're probably gonna have to work harder to get to the same place. But you took responsibility for the situation and you didn't turn it into an excuse. That's as a tremendous amount about your character. Thank you. Yeah, it is something in the film world where Working hard and hard work does pay off. And it is something that I learned that it is a very slow staircase to the top. And that you can't give up. You will get where you want to get. But you've got to be persistent. And you got it's a it's a long process, whatever role or industry that you wanted to take, and I've learned that and I've accepted that, and I'm ready to ride this train a whole way until I get where I get and you will learn so much the whole way. But just like you said, you just got to keep moving forward.

Zack Arnold 41:31

I love it. So now we're gonna move on to mirror. Like I said, I promise I didn't forget about you. The reason that I wanted to come to you in this order is that again, you're the seasoned veteran of the group. You've been out in Los Angeles for three whole years now. And I would love to know a little bit more about your experience because everybody in the world that wants to tell stories and be a part of Hollywood, this is where they come doesn't mean that there isn't industry in Philadelphia or New York or elsewhere. There are plenty of industries in the film and video world but if you want to tell how Hollywood stories you come to Hollywood. So I would love to know what is your experience since you left temple and you landed in Los Angeles? As far as you've just come in, you've done the hard work. You've been accepted. You have your peer group, has it been more difficult where you feel like you're struggling to really find people you identify with? What does this look like for you ever since you set foot in LA and you started your career?

Mirra Watkins 42:22

I would say that it looks very similar to how Ariel and Isaiah described temple as he said there that black people make up 1% of posts. So everywhere I've been on either solo in the post team, I'm the one black person I know. In Monty's episode, he said that it took him nine years before he saw another black person and post. Those numbers have improved. I can say in the three years since post graduation, I've come across maybe three or four other metrics. out, like on a on our array of different projects, but it's never, you know, a well balanced representation in these in these teams.

Zack Arnold 43:09

I was wondering if you'd be willing to go a little bit more in depth into one of the experiences that you talked about when we initially chatted off the record, about a pretty uncomfortable moment that you experienced one of your jobs?

Mirra Watkins 43:22

Was this a gentrification one?

Zack Arnold 43:24

Yes, it is, indeed.

Mirra Watkins 43:27

So what I've noticed

in our field is just sometimes a lack of awareness. Is Monti and you guys discussed? I wouldn't say our environments are very hostile. I would say an extreme examples like Isaiah, that happens, but I think racism and discrimination is just so passive aggressive now that we either have been molded to ignore it, or, or we don't even keep it essentially, but in this particular situation, My coworkers weren't aware of just how gentrification affects other minorities and how it's detrimental to them. So they were discussing a neighborhood in Los Angeles that's getting gentrified, as we all know, are you exactly I know that it's happening. And it's happening in Philadelphia, specifically on temples, neighborhood happening across the country. I grew up with that conversation of gentrification, knowing that it's not this great thing. It really puts people out of out of homes and it doesn't build communities who are like people who are already living there. And these particular coworkers, two of them were white men just said that they were there. The neighborhood was getting gentrified, and that gentrifying was great. And I remember just like, looking around, going like Is that a joke? Or is that serious? And there was no laughter? It was just like a pure statement that, you know, it's great. I'm sure I can understand that statement from your texts, your view that for you, it would be great. But for a great deal of people, it wouldn't be. So that's just a situation that I ran into. So again, I don't I don't think I ran into a lot of hostile environments, but I do think that people can be indifferent or unaware. And I would like to emphasize the unawareness part. Yeah.

Zack Arnold 45:34

Yeah, there's there's clearly a gigantic lack of awareness on a societal level. Various conversations like awareness is clearly a big issue in our society right now. We see it in macrocosm and we also see it a microcosm in the film and video world, certainly in the post production world. So what I'm curious about it, I'm gonna stick with you mirror for a second, especially if you have this idea of, I'm going to be the next Shonda Is there anything that's gonna stand in your way?

Mirra Watkins 46:04

Oh, definitely not. Even my route as a, as an editor, you know, as I described, I'm I'm in the digital media and unscripted world, that's not where I want to be. But I took it upon myself that like, I mean, I will stick on this route, but I'm going to start writing and shooting my own stuff. My partner is a director's lash videographer. And we just decided like, we're going to make our stuff because I feel as though that's the only way I'm going to get me as something else than being put in a box of like jeiza, unscripted assistant editor, so nothing's going to stop me from getting to Shonda Rhimes level.

Zack Arnold 46:45

Well, the reason that I ask is, recently I watched a panel that was actually from a couple of years ago but it was talking about this idea of the the very small percentage of people that are people of color or minorities in the post production industry or the filmmaking industry. As a whole, and I honestly don't know why post is why the numbers are so low in post as opposed to other ones I don't, I don't know what the machinations are there. But it was a panel with an audience of largely white males. And one of the white males, and this is somebody who's at a fairly high level, it's in the hiring process that would be able to hire and build teams, said, I really want to be able to build teams of more minorities. But all of the resumes that are handed to me are resumes of mostly white males and some white females, but there's almost no minorities in the pile. And they've done studies to find that there's a really high attrition rate from the point that you either get into school or graduate from school and then over the next five to 10 years, not because there's all this overt discrimination and racism but like you said, it's kind of passive. And there are these biases and people don't even realize they're there. But it causes so many people to say you know what, just not worth it. I have to work so much harder than everybody else. This industry is already impossible to break into. So I'm curious, I'll stick with you first, and I'm going to go over to Ariel. But what are your fears or concerns about going the direction that you want to get knowing that you're gonna have to fight a lot of this uphill battle, and you're competing against other people that without them even maybe even knowing it, they're not going, they're not playing the same game as you.

Mirra Watkins 48:19

I'm not bothered by that competition. And it doesn't deter me from my plan, or my dreams. I do think that anyone that's not a minority, for some reason sees us as the competition. That's why when someone if that the director on that panel were to put out something, a calling for a black editor, or an Asian editor or Hispanic editor, he gets all this flak from non minorities, but he's just trying to give someone that chance. And I don't understand why that's a bad thing. I'm still going do my part and do whatever I can to get seen, I may get lost in that if it's a calling for just an editor. And then maybe I won't, but still I'll network, I'll still make connections and still make it known that this is my plan. And this is what I want to do. And hopefully someone no matter that ethnicity is listening, and wants to join me or help me, but I'm not deterred by by the negative reaction, or were those who, who dominate our industry, I should say, Yeah, I just wanted to say because like, we've been talking about this, like 1% and just how it's astonishing, like how is this only 1% of the post industry being like a black black members, and I'm sure Isaiah and Ariel can talk about students in the film program that compared black students compare to white students, but even there when I was in temple I was one hour. have four or five black students of the whole entire program. And that's in silly product, predominantly black city. And then on the opposite end, one of my best friends who went to a university in Arizona was to one of two out of the whole film program. And if you look at those numbers at the college level, you can kind of see why, when it gets to the industry level, it's still so low. And I think that people don't consider that. We're not generations and generations of college grads, like I'm the first in my family to go to college and gradually, and I have friends who are the first in a second. So, and there's all this systemic racism and discrimination that could is there and that's why these numbers

Zack Arnold 50:48

are so low. Well, I very much appreciate you bringing that up. And the only way to fix a problem is to be able to identify the problem. So I appreciate the fact that you brought that up and I want to turn it over to Ariel now. Because you've been very quiet for a while, which is totally my fault once again, not ignoring you. But you're in the position where you're just getting into your senior year. And you know that you're going to be moving out into the world, you're going to have to do this whole adulting thing soon. Are you planning on coming out to LA specifically, are you still thinking about what your options are?

Ariel Brown 51:21

La has been the goal since freshman year. I'm not sure how fast that process will work out with the Coronavirus, but we'll see.

Zack Arnold 51:29

So are you concerned about what you might experience when you come out to LA knowing the current composition of the industry and what you might have to endure that other people might not have to?

Ariel Brown 51:40

I wouldn't say I'm so much concerned, I know that I'm going to run into some things. It's kind of inevitable at some points. But it's the same like with what Mira said like I'm not gonna be put down by what someone thinks of me. I'm just going to do my thing and I'm going to progress in my skill set and I'm going to trying my hardest to get to where I want to be, even if that takes a little bit longer than it would for other people.

Zack Arnold 52:06

And I think that we've learned from the experience even with your band teacher that you're you're just you're not going to take any from anyone, right? I don't care what you say, I'm going to figure it out no matter what. Yeah, I can respect that. So Isaiah is your plan that you're going to stay in the Philly area and keep doing what you're doing or do you have bigger and better hopes to go to bigger and better places not to Philly isn't a great option. I'm just curious if you have a vision for for something else.

Isaiah Cary 52:30

Yeah, so right now pretty happy until adelphia. I will say that when I was at Temple, there la program is a pretty big program that I did want to go I just didn't plan my schedule outright with transferring and getting there with the senior project and everything. So la like was a dream, but I made Philadelphia my dream and I made it what I wanted to make it. So right now I'm pretty content and happy in Philadelphia. I feel like there's a lot of area and room for me to grow with. is nice. And I'm also an hour train ride to New York and an hour to DC, which are two other huge markets in the area. So it does give me that opportunity from my current house that I could get to New York depending on time of day within an hour or two, and I could get to DC within an hour or two, which definitely opens me up to an even bigger Market to Market myself and I'm happy about that. I'm happy I can do too. Awesome. Well,

Zack Arnold 53:24

I'm I'm glad to hear that you put yourself in the place that you want to be and you have all these various places to go New York, Philly DC or otherwise. I want to end on one final question for all three of you might not be the easiest question, but I want to go back to this idea of you have this person that's hiring. And they're saying I'm not really getting any any minority candidates. I'm not seeing any of those those resumes on my pile of resumes. But then maybe they have a candidate or two. And they always say, well, but it's just about picking the most qualified, it's an even playing field and it's just about picking the most qualified, and you want to make it very clear to them, why you are the most qualified, and how maybe you just being at the same level actually puts you ahead because you've had to work harder to get to the same place. If you were to talk to them and just help them better understand what this process looks like, from your side of the fence, from your perspective, what would you want to say to that person? I'll stay with you Isaiah, and then we'll go back and in reverse order, and then we'll finish up. Okay, these are not softball questions. I'm just throwing you guys right into the deep end.

Isaiah Cary 54:33

Yeah, I someone hiring me. I've been through a lot of interviews. I've had lots of different jobs. So I'd like to think that I do well with interviews. But initially, like we keep talking about this 1% number, and we keep talking about the chance that you have then why am I've not picked why someone else picked a why there's so many other minorities that have the chance and I don't or vice versa think that if you can market yourself, which is a kind of crazy thing to say, if you can sell yourself, and if you can bring something to a table, which I think I bring to the table, why I could change a team or why I can change a production, and what I can bring value wise, or the eager aspect of learning. I think people love to hear that you want to learn and you're intrigued by them, and you look up to them, and that you envy them you want to be them is another good thing that I think has helped me with it. So I think that if you can bring something different to a table, which everyone says and everyone asked, but you've really got to look outside of it, especially with like the current world and what everyone's going through in today's world, like a lot of companies are getting a lot of backlash for their ethnic diversity. And these are some huge like, top companies I would have never thought but because of the steps that people are taking Because of what people are doing, it's now a talk. It's a topic of discussion. Like, we wouldn't be having this chat right now, if people weren't doing what they're doing on a daily world. And now someone's gonna think twice. It's like, okay, I, I scheduled 10 people to interview but only one of them's black. And I hope that person hiring, I hope they take a second and look back and say, What did I What did I do wrong? Or hope these companies take a step back and say, What do I do wrong? And what can he bring to the team? That these other nine potentially are also similar? What is he doing? That's different? What is this story? his upbringing is different. What did he deal with in band camp? What did he deal with? And the senior project that he didn't tell that gives them that extra grind? Because I think everyone wants that job or wants that position. But we have these stories that we don't, we're so used to it that we don't even tell. I think just having our voice heard, being able to tell them I think now or at least Now people will go oh snap, like, he's been through a lot on top of learning everything he's learned or educated himself with. And he can still bring this to the table like, he clearly can keep going. So you have to sell yourself and so don't be afraid to do it, I think is a big thing. Like, don't be afraid, like, Yo, I can do this, this and this. I've been through this hole, and I've dug myself out of it. And I'm ready to keep going. Like, that's not gonna stop me. Keep your voice heard. I think that'll help you with that hiring manager

Unknown Speaker 57:30

as well. I love it.

Zack Arnold 57:32

I love it. So Mira boy, you've you've that's gonna be a hard one to top to top, but I'm going to see if you can top it. So similar question. We're looking at these hiring managers that say they want to bring more diversity, but I just I'm not given any diversity. I'm just all the resumes that are coming to me are all people that look the same similar background, but ultimately, the only job I have is I need to hire the most qualified candidate and not even look at background or Diversity or anything else? What would you say to them? And what uniquely Can you bring to a project with your voice and your experiences?

Mirra Watkins 58:08

Just to clarify, me and the other final candidate or candidates that they're looking at? We're both qualified on an equal level here. Absolutely. Okay. Well, then, I would say,

Zack Arnold 58:22

I'm already excited just based on that. So

Unknown Speaker 58:24

I got to say, I love it.

Mirra Watkins 58:28

This is definitely putting me on the spot. Um, I'm just gonna go with my natural gut reaction to this question and that, you know, it's me in this chair, you know, and hopefully we got to discuss other things. But it's the personality and the vibe and the energy that I provide, you know, if we're all we all qualify, if we all can get the job done, then at this point, it's just who I am as a person. Do you want me on your team? I know I'm friendly and kind and respectful and very deep. told the story is what drives me you know when it comes to filmmaking? So those are things to know. And I don't know if I agree with selling myself because either you want to go with me or you don't either you vibe with me or you don't I'm not looking for a handout just based on my race. I'm happy that I get through the door and I get seen and that means that other people like me get seen as well. But I think at the end of the day, it just it's a matter of vibe and energy. I know that's like a spiritual like type of answer. But that's

Zack Arnold 59:38

Yeah, you don't have to worry about that in this space. Not a not a big deal at all. But the one thing I really liked you said was I don't want to be hired just for the color of my skin. All right, I don't think anybody wants to be the token black hire, right? I hate to say it because it's a horrible term, but let's just be honest, like do and I know we're doing audio only but we can see each other on video like show of hands, who wants to be the top Black hire right? No hands. You want to be hired based on your merit based on what you bring to the table based on your personality based on your skills, your storytelling ability, your work ethic. Nobody wants to be that token black hire. And I think that there are people that believe, well, if I just hire them for that reason, I've done my job, and I've checked off my box, right? That's off my checklist. Nobody wants that. No, buddy wants that. So I think it's really important. If I were to tell one of those people, I'd say, That's not what we're going for here. It's just about having more of an open mind towards more diverse voices and people's experiences, right? That's what we're talking about. So last but not least, now I get to put you on the spot. Aereo similar question. You're going to be going out into the world very soon. You may or may not be marketing and selling yourself. If you're a mirror or Isaiah, you might have a different perspective on this. But ultimately, you're going to have to put yourself out there and you're going to be dealing with this situation, or a lot of times people are going to say it's just about the most quiet Right. So what what can you uniquely bring? What would you tell to them, so they know that you you could possibly be the best fit and what I bring to the project matters.

Ariel Brown 1:01:11

You know, I kind of agree with some things that both Mira and Isaiah were saying. But I really think that confidence is key. I know that I can I know my skill set, I know what I can do. And I know that if someone wants me to do something, or is asking something of me, I can get it done and bring it to the table. I do agree with me. It's, it's, I mean, you kind of have to sell yourself for like putting yourself out there. But also like, if you don't buy with me, and that's the situation that's what it is. But also, I don't know I would. For all these hiring managers that are like asking themselves these questions. I'm not really sure how those resumes get into their hands, whether it's through their connections or whether it's through some clickable button on a website. But I think, I don't know like I would ask them like Where are they? How are they getting these applicants? And how are they coming into contact with all of these people? Is it only put into spaces where there's not many black people or minority people in the first place? To find out about these opportunities? Is it through your connections where it's, say a white person who only knows why people who are only talking about their friends that they know which is fine, but maybe they should branch out and try to connect with more people to maybe broaden the diversity in the industry?

Zack Arnold 1:02:31

I would say that that's very well said. So we're at the point where we're probably going to wrap it up, because we're running a little bit long, but I wanted to I wanted to do this right instead of doing it fast, but I want to just throw it out to any of the three of you could be all three of you could be none of you. Is there anything that we haven't talked about or covered that you want to share before we are done today? You guys can just give me a show of hands and I can pick one of you and we can share anything else that maybe we have missed that you think's important for our audience to listen to and Isaiah, his hand is shot. up in the middle of my sentence. So Isaiah, I feel like you've got one more thing you wanted to share with us.

Isaiah Cary 1:03:04

Yeah, um, I guess the last thing that I'd want to share that, I guess has kind of been a topic of all of my discussion, if anything, if there's hiring managers out there listening is to take a shot on that kid who may not have all that experience, because someone did that on me. And that really helps me. And I think they turn out to be the best one. So don't be afraid to take a shot at it for anyone who's dealt with a racism aspect or a tough aspect that is still through skin color, or is going through something rough is to just keep going and to not let that direct your entire life. Because my senior project, but we had a pretty bad stump, but I kept going forward and I talked with friends and partners and everything. So there's someone out there in your shoes, and there's someone out there in a worse aspect. And you just got to keep keep going through it. So for anyone who's dealing with anything like that right now, I wanted to let that be known because someone helped them reach out to me, made me just someone listening to this narrative story. It'll help them too.

Zack Arnold 1:04:00

Very well said and thank you for saying it's Ariel or mirror any final words and I didn't even have to say it in mirrors Hands up. So Mira, your final words, final thoughts.

Mirra Watkins 1:04:10

I just wanted to put emphasis on what Isaiah said about, you know, that less experienced individual to that hiring manager, you can take that shot. I know you and Monty discussed how, you know, non minority post, people are saying that, you know, less experienced people are getting their jobs. And I go like, well, at one point you were less experienced and someone took a shot on you. So it's okay that someone else takes a hiring manager per se takes a shot on this less experienced person. So I wholeheartedly agree with that too, especially if they have that drive. That confidence that that willingness to learn. It's okay to take that job. I

Zack Arnold 1:04:51

love it. Any final words to add Ariel?

Ariel Brown 1:04:54

I feel like Mira and I say I really somebody stole it from you.

Zack Arnold 1:04:58

Yes, what they said oh, Well, in that sense, we're going to wrap it up. I just wanted to thank all three of you for being here, especially the ones that are on the East Coast because I've totally ruined your Friday night social lives, of which there probably are none in the pandemic. But maybe you still have lives. I don't know, I've been stuck in my house for four months. So who knows. But it's been an absolute pleasure being able to share all of your stories today listening to them, I'm really hoping that these stories, find the right people, and that we are able to inspire some of them as well. And I will put it out there right now that if there's ever a moment in any of your careers, where you have questions where you get stuck, where you're looking to connect with somebody, you now have me as a resource in perpetuity, until I am dead. So until that time comes I'm going to be available to make any connections that I can. I can already think of like I said the one specifically for Mira, I've got an idea for somebody, I can connect you with Ariel, Isaiah, I really want to help you but you're in Philly and you're not coming out to LA so it's making my job harder. So I can't think of anybody specifically now But if there's ever any question you have about the process or you do see an area where I can be a value Do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. So, on that note, I want to thank all of you for being here. So it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Ariel Brown 1:06:13

Thanks for having me. Thank you.

Zack Arnold 1:06:17

Thank you for listening to this episode of The optimize yourself podcast to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one. Please visit optimize yourself.me slash podcast. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane and be well

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Guest Bios:

Mirra Watkins photo

Mirra Watkins

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I wear many hats, depending on the day. I am a Video Editor, an Assistant Editor, a Screenwriter, a Poet, a Podcaster, and a Mental Health Advocate. What I identify most as are a storyteller and an escapist.

Since a child, I’ve always had an affinity for storytelling. Growing up, the library and bookstore was my second home. Such a big love for reading developed my imagination in ways I had no clue would be a significant asset in my writing, filmmaking, and editing. As a teen, my love for film grew out of the desire of wanting to be an actress. I used both novels and films to escape from a depressing childhood, never realizing the connection between the two. An intermediate course in video editing at Community College of Philadelphia was where the two loves collided. Soon after, I continued my film education at Temple University and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my storytelling dreams.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work as an Editor and Assistant Editor in an array of mediums: documentary, commercial, corporate, digital media, and unscripted. I plan to switch to narratives to achieve my dream of editing, writing, and directing stories that help people escape from their harsh realities and help others heal from their heartaches and traumas. Creating and collaborating on real stories, much like my favorite films of 2019 (The Farewell, Honey Boy, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco), is on my horizon.

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Ariel Brown

Ariel's website Follow Ariel on Instagram

Ariel Brown is a student of Temple University Class of 2021. There she is studying to receive her Bachelor degree in Film and Media Arts with a concentration in post production. While finishing her degree she is also working as a freelance filmmaker and animator.

Ariel’s long term goal is to create better accessibility to film and other arts for young, aspiring artists. She believes that art is an amazing outlet for people to flex their creative abilities and that everyone deserves a chance to gain experience in their preferred art form.

In her current endeavors towards this goal, she leads a student-run production organization on her campus, as President. The organization aims to provide more on set and networking opportunities among students throughout the university through a shared love of film.

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Isaiah Cary

Connect with Isaiah on Facebook Follow Isaiah on Instagram Connect with Isaiah on Linkedin

Hi everyone, my name is Isaiah Cary I am a 24 year old bi-racial male currently working in the film industry in the Greater Philadelphia Area. I graduated from Temple University in 2018 with a degree in Film and Media Arts with a concentration in Post Production. I would like to say that I entered the real film world in August of 2017 with my internship, interning at a production/post production house in Philadelphia. I was lucky enough to have that internship turn into my job/career and here I am now. Working on different productions every week for commercials, ads, tv shows, and many more.

In my free time I love to ski and snowboard and that is what got me into filming. Filming myself and my friends at the mountains having fun and coming home and editing when I was younger was the best thing I could think of, so why not go to school for it! Having gone through film school and entering the “adult” world of the film industry has taught me life lessons that I will never forget.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, and the creator of the Optimize Yourself program. He helps ambitious creative professionals and entrepreneurs DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time, your energy, and your creativity so you can produce higher quality work in less time (and ultimately become a productivity ninja). “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people, things, and passions in your life…all without sacrificing your health (or sanity) in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”