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NABJ and BlackCommUnity COMM Week: Navigating the entertainment industry while Black

NABJ x Black Comm

Panelists discussed how they made it in the entertainment industry, their struggles, their favorite parts of their field and tips.

by Annisa Charles

“Being Black is dope. We move culture. We move trends globally and as long as you have that kinda confidence, I’m gonna say ride with it,” said Chrystina Woody Train, founder of Buckshot Marketing, during Cal State Fullerton’s National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Black CommUnity’s COMM Week panel, “Black Success in Entertainment Communications,” on Apr. 24.

Panelists discussed how they made it in the entertainment industry, their struggles, their favorite parts of their field and tips for those who want to make it.</p.

Woody Train’s company’s clientele includes Condé Nast, LL COOL J’s Rock the Bells, Teen Vogue, VidCon, Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat Media and many more. Finding what it is that companies need to be interested in what she has to offer is vital to the continuation of her company.

She loves that she gets to do so many different things, and being able to use her transferable skills instead of sticking with only one thing. Woody Train said networking is essential, but it is also important to be memorable.

“People need to like you and remember you. Go and show out. Don’t be a wallflower,” said Woody Train.

Jonathan Landrum, Jr., the entertainment writer and producer for the Associated Press, said he has worked for AP for almost 20 years. He noticed the outlet reported very little on the entertainment scene, so Landrum moved to Los Angeles and began pitching stories to AP. Once they saw he was a great writer and could continually produce entertainment content, they gave him the entertainment beat.

Landrum said his favorite part of the job is being able to tell stories that have not been told before. Getting something new and unique is important and exciting to him. He said this is why he goes the extra mile when reporting, to get the best story.

His advice for Black students is to stay focused and honing your craft is important. Making mistakes is normal, but continuously doing so and not learning from the mistakes is hard as a Black person because there are not as many opportunities already.

Krandall Brantley is an editor for Fox Sports Radio. He expressed how enjoyable it is for him to be behind the scenes and be able to create content for others to listen to. Brantley talked about how he works at night, so there are usually no bosses there, so quick decisions are made by him.

Brantley explained that while, school is significant, when going into a career like his, companies do not care or look at GPAs or overall grades; they look at experience. He said it’s important to start networking and find mentors now. Gaining experience, skill sets, a portfolio and clips are much more important than having a 4.0 GPA, he said.

Leshelle Sargent, publicity principal for Amazon Studios, started her conversation by simply saying, “Your career starts now.”

Sargent explained how networking now will help students find jobs once they graduate. She said most of her employment was found through connections. But finding connections also means being likable. Sargent said having a good attitude is more important than being smart.

“Your attitude really determines your altitude. People who like you will really work with your potential more than the really smart person with a piss-ass attitude,” said Sargent.

Ahmadou Seck is the vice president of scripted TV for MACRO. Seck turns scripts, books and articles into TV shows. He has to work with directors, producers and actors to be interested in this work for it to be sold to Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max.

Seck said he got into the industry by networking. He moved from Seattle to Los Angeles in 2012, stayed on his sister’s couch and began volunteering at different entertainment-related events and film festivals to get close to people.

He said his favorite part of his job is making someone’s dream a reality. He said it is fulfilling to see their dreams come true based on him turning their hard work into a show.

“For us to then see it coming into action where we’re shooting it for eventually the world to see it afterward, that part is really fulfilling,” said Seck.

Seck advises Black students pursuing the field to find a mentor, an advocate and an ally at the company they are working in. A mentor will give guidance. An ally is someone who will help whenever needed.

“An advocate isn’t a mentor. It isn’t an ally. But this is someone who is aware of you, aware of how dope you are, aware of your attitude, and says, ‘Hey this is somebody that’s great at this company,’ and they are speaking up for you in a room that you’re not in,” said Seck.