INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black


Hello and thank you for having us. A question to both of you: How did you come to choose a career in film?

Donni: I have always been interested in film and television. When I first entered college as an undergraduate student, I majored in English, because I wanted to be a writer, and my minor was film studies. At the time, I wanted to write for film and I especially admired Spike Lee’s work. But life happened. I went to grad school to earn my master’s degree in mass communication and began working as a Teaching Assistant (TA). Eventually, I went on to earn my Ph.D., got married, became a mom, and I have been a college professor ever since, for more than twenty years. But a screenwriting contest sponsored by MACRO Episodic Lab in 2018 inspired me to return to my first love, and the idea for Teaching While Black was born.

Aaron: I actually started my film career on the opposite side of the camera, as an actor. When I was 13, my mother urged me to audition for a theater troupe in Baltimore called the Rising Stars, sponsored by the American Friends Committee. With no interest, thinking I’d never be chosen, I was cast as one of the principal actors in their production. One day, we had a surprise guest director, Kye Secore, star of the NBC television series Homicide Life On The Streets. A few weeks later, Mr. Secore called my mother to ask if he could give me a small part in an episode he was going to direct. This then launched me into the casting pool for all the local TV shows, including HBO’s Emmy Award winner The Corner and The Wire.

By the time I was 16, I’d acted in a dozen commercials and appeared in 8 TV episodes. Later, I took a break to concentrate on my university studies and didn’t return to another successful project until I was in my late twenties in the Golden Globe Award-winning film American Hustle. So, it’s a bit of a complete comeback – starting my career working on a show with an actor turned director for the first time and now Teaching While Black sees me as an actor working as a director for the first time. It’s really been an enriching, all-round experience.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Du Cosby Show à Atlanta, quel est votre point de vue sur l’évolution des émissions de télévision noires aux États-Unis ?

Donni : We were really inspired by the evolution of black television shows. We are well beyond the days of multi-camera recording in front of a live studio audience with laugh tracks. We are also beyond the days of the joke-punch-line writing style. Today we have shows like Atlanta and Insecure that are shot more like films, in various locations, and not just on a soundstage, and the writing style is so rich and nuanced and clever. They offer social commentary and more satirical humor, which is exactly what we have written Teaching While Black.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Which stage of development is your series at?

Aaron: Our pilot being finished just as the writer’s strike began felt like rough timing (to say the least). We were at a stand-still and couldn’t take any meetings to pitch the show. However, now that the good fight has been fought, this seems to be an even better time to be out pitching the show to networks. So, now when the show gets picked up, it will be released in a much fairer marketplace. We have our entire series mapped out–not just for the first episode or first season, but the entire 5 season series. We think networks are going to be quite pleased with the journey we’ll take audiences on. Currently, we’re seeking pitch opportunities and representation.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Donnetrice, how do you feel about being a woman Producer, and do you have any role model/s in the trade?

It feels great and there are so many amazing Black women operating in this space today. I especially admire those women who write and produce. Some of my favorites include Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, and Issa Rae. I truly admire the way these women have also opened up so many doors for more women of color to walk through.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Aaron, have you seen Boots Riley’s I’m A Virgo and if so, what did you think? If not, what is/are your favorite recent TV shows?

Aaron: I have. My first thought was “What?” The show is quite the twist. It’s visually stunning, whitty, and features such a brilliant cast! I’m interested in seeing where the series will go in future seasons.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Which are your favorite films, who are your favorite filmmakers in the Diaspora outside of the USA? Are some or any of them an important reference/s in your approach to your own work and if so, for what reason/s?

Aaron: Some of my favorite films include Spike Lee’s Mo Better Blues and Do The Right Thing, Denzel Washington’s Antoine Fisher, Harlem Nights, and Coming To America. The latter two are simply classics! I simply LOVE Spike Lee’s directing. The way he directs the camera is so pure and emotionally impactful. I think this is why he’s considered one of the most influential directors of the 20th century. I appreciate the way Denzel Washington depicted trauma with such care in Antoine Fisher; it didn’t feel like the usual exploitation of Black trauma scenarios. All of these films inspired my film language and inspired me to tell stories on film. Unfortunately, not many filmmakers in the Diaspora are screened in U.S. theaters. However, I think the popularity of streaming will help change that.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black

Other than Teaching While Black, do you have more up and coming projects together, whether as co-Authors or any other form of collaboration?

Aaron: Teaching While Black has been doing very well in the film festival circuit. We’ve gotten great feedback on it around the industry, and in the film festival circuit in particular. Right now, we’re focused on ensuring the future success of this show through pitching and screenings. Beyond that, there are so many stories we both want to tell. Donni just completed a fascinating novel about her journey discovering her long lost father in Nigeria and connecting with her unknown siblings across the world. The hope is for the novel, once published, to become an adapted series, a la Black Cake on Hulu. And I am gearing up to produce a full-length feature film about one man’s quest to heal his wife from cancer through traditional medicine. We’re creative partners and friends; so even the projects we’re developing separately, we’re always reaching out to each other for honest creative feedback.

INTERVIEW AVEC Donnetrice Allison (Écrivaine/Productrice) et Aaron Moss (Réalisateur/Producteur) pour Teaching While Black


Biography of Screenwriter Donnatrice.C. Allison and director Aaron Moss

Screenwriter Donnatrice C. Allison

Donnetrice C. Allison, Ph.D serves as a Professor of both Communication Studies and Africana Studies at Stockton University in Galloway, NJ. Dr. Allison has been a Communication Studies scholar for more than two decades, and has published several articles and conference presentations on hip hop culture and media portrayals of African Americans. Not only is Dr. Allison a published scholar, but she is also a creative writer, with a passion for bringing realistic Black life to the big and small screen. Her recent short screenplay, A Simple Walk, was a semifinalist in the 2021 Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition.

DIRECTOR, Aaron Moss

Aaron Moss is an American director, producer, and actor best known for “The First Purge” (Universal Pictures) and the 2014 Golden Globe Best Movie, “American Hustle” (Columbia Pictures). Aaron has appeared in tv commercials and voiced the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s national commercials. Aaron is a recipient of a 2011 Connecticut Critics Circle Award (Best Debut Performance) and was a 2018 ArtVoice nominee (Best Supporting Actor). For “Teaching While Black,” Aaron was the recipient of the Best Director award from the International Independent Film Awards (L.A.), So You Think You Can Direct/Act, and Cannes World Film Festival–and received Best Director nominations from the MAGMA Int’l Film Festival and FilmHaus (Berlin). He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. This pilot marks Aaron’s episodic television directing debut.



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