SSD: What are your thoughts on the value of networks (I’m guessing you didn’t get here on your own) and what tips would you give others to nurture their own?
DREA: I cannot emphasize enough how important networking is. I had two mentors back in my radio days who would stay on us about networking and throwing elbows to get our voices heard.
Big shout out to Miss. India and Ms. Robyn for helping to instill that in me.
I’ve learned that in this field, and honestly – in life, it’s okay to be the biggest fish in one pond and one of the littlest in the other (just as long as you’re swimming in both)! My advice to anyone aspiring to expand is [to] go outside of your comfort zone. Find out who your mentor’s mentor knows. See how you can become connected in different cities and states besides your own.
Literally, think bigger than your abilities in your current form and consider what you’d be like further down the road and who that version of yourself would need to know to do the things they aspire to [do].
SSD: What types of stories do you feel need to be told that maybe the world isn’t seeing enough of right now?
DREA: I believe we live in a world that needs more realism. My appreciation for Black Women in the production world truly stems from the strides made to provide a real-life representation of what life truly looks like through a focused lens. Shonda Rhimes has been in the game so long and has helped open the floor for so many needed conversations.
Not just talking about putting black women in power positions – but discussions on interracial love, domestic violence, race discrimination, sex trafficking, disparity gaps, etc. Those real-life heartbreaking tear-jerking raw and uncut moments are what I aspire to use as my fuel to pick up where they are leaving off.
SSD: You mentioned “Black Women in the production world”, Shonda Rhimes, and “they”…
Who do you admire in your field and why?
DREA: If I’m being honest, yes I do have some big names whose work I appreciate and aim to grind and create like. Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, and I’d be a fool to forget Shonda Rhimes.
However, I feel like I am blessed to have friends and associates that are so dope they keep me motivated. As an entrepreneur, you start to understand and feel very quickly what it’s like to be passed over to bigger names, companies, etc. So, for me, although every “great” in the world has some type of come-up story — respectfully seeing and experiencing that part of the journey first hand, watching my friends and work associates overcome trials and tribulations… Yet, they still wake up every day and choose to go get it?!!
I feel like it’s hard not to admire a mentality and lifestyle as such. It inspires me and motivates me during my hard times and/or shortcomings.
SSD: Haha – Time for a scenario…
You get a phone call from Issa Rae, Tyler Perry, and Shonda Rhimes (sorry, Ava – TV show options only in this one), all on the same day, expressing that they want to work with you on a project – and they all have similar start times.
If you can only pick one, who do you take up on their offer out of the 3 and why?
DREA: (I think it’s pretty funny how these are my options to choose from considering my responses to previous questions.) Honestly, as someone who grew up learning life lessons from every last Tyler Perry play and film… and series. It’s going to hurt my heart to tell him that Auntie Shonda and Big Cousin Issa got to me first, and are already waiting to hear back from me.
Between the two [who are left], I think this is a terribly hard decision to make and I’m honestly not sure how I would respond. I would have to get very technical with how I make a decision.
I’d have to know if it’s a feature or episodic? How long production time would be? What would my actual position(s) be? Is there contract renewal included? etc. Because of how BOTH of these women have impacted the game.
They have put so many creators, like myself, in a position to confirm that every idea and vision that God has given is indeed possible because I’m looking at women who look like me and walk in that same purpose, unapologetically.
SSD: Do you consider yourself the “sacrifice everything for your art” type of Creative, or do you feel more “what’s sacred is sacred & that fuels my art”? However you answer, give an example of how that’s shown in your work, too.
DREA: This one is a bit of a double-edged sword at times. I feel like, in this stage of life (because everything is subject to change), I am more of the “sacrifice everything for your art” type of creator. For me, once I get the visual in my head that’s it. My dying wish instantly shifts to getting as much of what’s in my head [out] to be perceived through the lens, the design, the story, etc.
I say it’s a double-edged sword, [though -] because in being so diehard for my work, I will throw all boundaries for myself out of the window (almost).
For example, if I’m working on a project with collaborators and they are, for whatever reason, not holding up their end – I will work every position or part, without hesitation, for the sake of the art (Interviewer’s Note: #Barz). Because I feel like nothing or no one should ever come in between making art as amazing as it can be due to a lack of attention, time, effort, and energy.
But, as I am growing – I find myself battling internally sometimes because it’s easy to lose yourself in the work. Especially when you’re passionate about it. But, in the moment, it’s so important to remind yourself that your mental and physical health should always come first.
SSD: You mentioned “energy” — What do you do to keep your creative energies going?
DREA: So, this is a funny one. If I feel like I’m drained or lacking the very sauce needed to create at the best of my ability, I will more than likely resort to falling off the face of the earth for as long as needed. During my time away, I will binge-watch entire series, stay away from social media and unnecessary communication, and most importantly – spend time in prayer. Can’t forget “eating enough comfort food to feed a funeral.”
SSD: Staying on “energy” — What do you do to recenter yourself from the (I imagine) sometimes “chaotic energy” of your chosen path?
DREA: Safe to say I jumped the gun on the previous question. But to add to what I’ve already stated, I’ll go into a period of reflection. I feel like, during times that seem a bit much and require an excessive amount of energy, self-evaluation is important.
To look at yourself in a time of frustration and confusion — sometimes you realize your growth through how you deal with moments like that. Also realizing that a very small circle is of necessity. The further I grow in my career the more the quote, “Less is more,” resonates with me.
As a certified overthinker, sometimes the easiest way to relax the mind is to eliminate energy that has to be second-guessed when it comes to [the] intentionality in your life.
SSD: Ok – let’s keep it positive, then…
What is something that you’ve already accomplished at this point that you honestly didn’t even fathom being possible?
DREA: December of 2021, at the age of 23, I had the opportunity to serve as the Assistant Director and Creative Producer of a reality tv series. This was big for me for a few reasons. The first being the fact that, by industry standards, I was underqualified for the positions I was paid for. The second being the fact that the seed was sown not even a year in advance for this opportunity.
It was so crazy because I was given the run-around on getting a contract negotiated and locked down for so long that I had just accepted the fact that, “Maybe it just wasn’t for me.” But just being in a position to negotiate and potentially work at such a level was enough to light a fire under me that would keep me grinding through some of my hardest times mentally in my coming of age. Then for it all to actually come to[gether], at the very last moment?!
No matter how crazy the experience was, I am so grateful to have had it. To sit beside and co-construct an entire pilot season, being the youngest (by far) in a position such as mine, really humbled me. To be so far, yet so close, to my dreams and aspirations all at one time was an experience like no other.
SSD: What’s a tip that you’d give someone who sees you, is inspired, and wants to follow in your footsteps??
DREA: Be coachable, become a sponge, never stop grinding, be your own competition, but most importantly, “Stand ten toes on what you believe, who you are/who you are wanting to become, and always go with your gut.”
In the entertainment industry, there are more facades, poker faces, wolves in sheep’s clothing…
HOWEVER YOU’D LIKE TO PUT IT.
So, be aware of your circle and DO YOUR RESEARCH ON EVERYONE.
The sweetest faces and most comforting smiles can be the worst ones. Also…KNOW YOUR WORTH and NEVER SETTLE (unless it is mutually beneficial), because folks love to take advantage and manipulate whenever possible.
PS: EVERYBODY CAN’T GO!
SSD: Ok, last two – let’s bring it home…
What’s it like being on the other side of the camera? How would you describe the thrill of that for you to others who just don’t know that life?
DREA: It is honestly a totally different experience. One of my favorite things to say on set aside from, “YALL LATE LET’S GO,” was that I got to experience the best version of the show.
Raw and uncut.
This is often how I feel going into a majority of the projects I work on: To be able to be one of the first pair of eyes to experience the story is truly amazing.
But – at the same time, it’s a lot of responsibility because being a part of the crew in whatever your role is. It means you are accountable for making sure what’s coming through the lens will be a real representation of what is happening in the room, as well as making sure everything is in its place.
SSD: And lastly – Do you have a specific special moment from your time doing your thing that you’d care to share? What makes that time stand out for you a little more than your other experiences?
DREA: Whew… This is the question that’s caused me to rewrite, and rewrite again.
These past 2 years have been some of the wildest times of my life, both good and bad. I’ve experienced great loss, had one of the most important people ever pass away in my arms – and had to head straight into surgery after.
I’ve lost relationships I thought would last forever. People who claimed to have my best interest in mind ended up hurting me the most, my business went from bringing in a couple thousand in a year to providing me a pretty decent salary for a first go-round.
I’ve met some of the most amazing people who have helped me elevate – not only my thinking – but my work ethic [as well].
And so much more…
So, If I’m being honest, I feel like this [entire] season of my journey has stuck out because it taught me to have a great amount of faith in my Creator and in who He created me to be.