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Producer DaVida Chanel Tells Her Story; What's Yours?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 1, 2013 at 11:39AM

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.
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DaVida Chanel

Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.

I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.

Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?

Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.

Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.

What's YOUR story? You can email me (obensont@gmail.com). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration. 

And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.

It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.

In today's post, producer DaVida Chanel shares her story:

My Story: The Detour

I officially began my career in entertainment in the summer of 2004. I was a student at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law and instead of seeking a position at a top firm or judge's office; my sites were set on Hollywood. I got two interns that summer, one at the Los Angeles Film Festival and the other at Handprint Entertainment; the company ran by entertainment juggernaut Benny Medina. My experiences made returning to Houston at the end of the summer extremely difficult. I was so ready to start work in the industry I could not focus on another year of school. Somehow, I made it through and in June of 2005, I packed up the car and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. 

My first job came in September of 2005. I had met a fellow alumnus of Southern University Baton Rouge who worked for Vincent Cirrincione Associates. She told me she'd look out for me, but I wasn't very confident this would happen. Luckily my pessimistic disposition was proven wrong. After meeting with Vincent for an interview, he hired me to be his assistant. The seasoned talent manager took me under his wing and graciously taught me everything he knew about the nature of the business. My favorite part of the job was reading scripts and providing coverage on projects, which led to my decision to eventually become a creative producer. I left VCA when an opportunity to assist a literary manager/producer arose. I transitioned to the desk of David McIlvain at Brillstein Entertainment Partners in 2007 and it was an ideal position for an avid reader. I was exposed to some of the most amazing scripts floating around town, offer notes and coverage to amazing writers/directors, and assist with the overall mission of getting film/television scripts actually made. This job was perfect UNTIL the writer's strike happened. To make ends meet, I solicited my services as a reader. I got the opportunity to read for Headshell Entertainment and their main actor, Idris Elba. These experiences helped solidify my desire to produce one day and I felt my resourcefulness would allow me to service the economic pinch we all felt as a result of the strike. When the opportunity to return to Handprint as one of Benny Medina's assistants came about, I jumped at the chance. It was a huge risk, as Mr. Medina went through assistants like water. Luckily, I proved myself and made it through the 30-day mark on Mr. Medina’s desk. I thought I was on easy street until October rolled around and the company decided to fold.

For the first time since I was 14, I found myself unemployed! I had strategically and methodically chosen the executive route to becoming a producer to ensure job security. I learned there was no such security and it was time to truly pursue my desire to produce. I had so much great experience in Los Angeles, but had very little hands on production experience. My home state of Louisiana had introduced a highly competitive tax incentive, and production was booming. After waiting my entire life to leave home, I was leaving paradise and returning to the South.

There was no ceremonious return for the hometown girl who had gone and had all of these great experiences. There wasn't even a job as I expected would come quickly due to my wealth of knowledge (no one got that a Hollywood assistant was much more than a secretary!) My first gig was not some executive to lead the state's film industry or a posh position on a major film set, but instead it was an unpaid internship at the New Orleans Film Commission. To supplement income, I worked as a waitress at Houston’s Restaurant. After quite a bit of whining, confusion and shaking my fists to the heavens, things started to look up. While waiting tables, I met a locations director that gave me a shot at working locations on a film. That led to more work and since then I’ve amassed numerous film/television credits as a producer and cast assistant, travel coordinator, production secretary and in locations. I even worked with Oprah Winfrey herself when I was hired to assist one of the producer’s of the upcoming “Lee Daniels The Butler”. In addition to continuing to build my resume and experiences, the culture of New Orleans has awakened my inner artist. I wrote and produced a play, “Hip Hop Is Alive”. The show has appeared in the New Orleans and Atlanta Fringe Festival and is heading to the Chicago Fringe in late August.

I am convinced everything I have done thus far and everything I do in the future is leading to a notable career as a producer of content for film, television, new media and stage. I am grateful for everything that I have learned and every person I have met that has been a generous teacher on my path. My time is currently split between working projects as they arise, writing new material, touring my show and a stint as a talk radio host. Who knew my Hollywood dream would continue to thrive all the way in New Orleans?

I am DaVida Chanel and my story continues to be written...regardless of my address.

VIDEO WORK SAMPLES:

Independence (two minute video re: exonorated after being wrongly imprisoned):


Hip Hop Is Alive: Lyrics Hold A Message:

This article is related to: What's Your Story?


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