The Inc Program

Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re thrilled to not just feature one artist, but six! Inner Voice Artists was able to sit down with the six talented female+ mentees of the exclusive TV writing workshop, the inc program!


Established in 2017 by promising, young TV producers Lauren Coggiola and Sug Lyn Beard, the central focus behind the inc program’s inception was to hone and uplift the voices of six female + TV writers by means of a 15-week writing and developmental workshop that would serve as an incubator for the women+’s TV pilot ideas.


After completing the inc program’s rigorous writing tutelage, the six writers host a table read in which high profile industry executives are invited to both experience and consider their work for potential projects. With each inc program mentee bringing a unique perspective as both an emerging writer and activist to their industry, Inner Voice Artists was fortunate enough to (virtually!) discuss the inspirations and passions behind not only each woman’s pilot idea, but each woman’s identity as an artist.


Sarah Zimmerman, the writer behind “Girls State”, a young adult comedy about a high school girls-run student government conference, credited her bookish childhood with inspiring her to pursue her passion: “I was born and raised on a farm outside of Baltimore, MD. I loved growing up there, but I definitely didn’t gravitate towards the outdoors, so most of my childhood centered around television and film.” 


Though Sarah’s childhood passions revolved around the arts, by the time she had reached university, she had originally planned an entirely different life for herself: I arrived at Vassar College with a vague idea of what I wanted to do... but then I discovered the comedy scene. I found my tribe in sketch and improv comedy, and realized I had a knack for comedy writing. By the time I left school I had decided that I wanted to be a TV writer, and eventually a showrunner.”

As Sarah began fully embracing her creativity, she found it began eclipsing the  more scientific left brained side of herself: “I let go of a lot of my analytical, nerdy side when I jumped into comedy, so I think a lot of my journey as a writer has been learning to re-embrace these traits and incorporate them into my work. I want my writing to embrace and reflect the duality I've found within myself: a creative side and an analytical side.”


What is “Girls’ State” about?

Every year, hundreds of Maryland's brightest high school girls gather at the Girls State Leadership Conference to run a mock state government. When a charismatic slacker decides to run for Governor, it sparks an intense political rivalry between her and the race's odds-on favorite.

As for the tone/feeling of the show, I want it to be like The Social Network meets Schoolhouse Rock.


What inspires you and your creative process?

As I've evolved as a writer, I've realized that my main source of inspiration are the things that frustrate me in the world. Sometimes it seems that most of modern life is feeling powerless to control the systems surrounding you. One of the ways that I channel that frustration is by telling stories that challenge those systems. I came to writing by way of sketch and improv comedy, so nothing I write will be completely serious. But there does have to be an actual motivation behind the project for me to stay engaged and feel like it's adding something to the conversation. Pop culture and comedy at large have an incredible ability to shift cultural conversations and actually change things for the better. That isn't just an added bonus for me--this power to change the conversation is exactly why I want to do this work.


What are the real world political inspirations behind "Girls State"?

The world of “Girls State” was enticing to me as a storyteller and as a political nerd, but I was unsure of how making a political show could be possible in this current environment. Political satire is no longer possible in a world where reality is more absurd than anything a writer can come up with. People are sick of thinking about politics because of what's going on around them--they're disgusted with the way things have unfolded in this country.


So when I thought about Girls State and what I wanted to say, the first things that came to mind were things I didn't want to say. I didn't want it to be a "satire" of current events. I didn't want a character based on anyone recognizable in today's political landscape. What I did want to do was to take the unique setting that this camp affords and use it to address very basic aspects of the political culture in this country. If the camp is literally designed to teach kids about government and American values, what exactly are those values? Are they still working for us? Have they ever really worked?


Why do you think now is an ideal time for young people to watch "Girls State"? What should they take away from it?

I think any time is a great time to start talking about politics and the way most citizens in this country are completely detached from the inner workings of their government (myself included). But the revolution unfolding as we speak has made the topic more essential than ever before. As citizens we can no longer afford to let business carry on as usual; actual change to our society will only come from everyday citizens engaging with their elected officials and holding them accountable.

So much of our understanding of politics is centered around elections, and getting individual people in or out of office. But our officials are not meant to work in a vacuum; they are not meant to work autonomously without citizen oversight or input. There is very little understanding in this country around collectivism or what is required of the citizenry for the system to work.


That said, it is a show about political leadership, not just citizenry. Part of what I want to create with the show is an aspirational text; our culture is overrun with depictions of the corrupt politician, the politician only focused on self-service. We need more examples of good leadership. We need more examples of community-based living rather than individualist living. Pop culture can reflect our world, but it can also offer an alternative path. I hope Girls State can help illustrate that alternative.

I think Girls State is important to remind young people of the power they have, but also to remind older people that youth is a resource, not a liability. Young people aren't just here for us to "mold" them into what we think they should be. They're here as a literal and figurative life force; they give us new perspective and energy. They give us hope. I want to see art that embraces youth not just for their vitality but for their ideas; I want to see art that takes young people seriously.


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging feminist writers like yourself?

Young writers are a resource! We think differently--we have fresh ideas. Invest in us! Hire us!

I think the pipelines for finding writers need to be completely reimagined. Right now, the path to getting staffed is opaque and unpredictable. When we say we want more "diverse" writers or we want to "challenge the existing Hollywood structures" we have to look at this pipeline. The conversation is finally happening in regards to Hollywood assistants, but it also applies to writers. If the only people that can afford to move to LA and spend years making an unstable income are people of a certain class, there will not be more "diverse" voices coming down the pipeline.


Be sure to check out  Sarah's Instagram and Twitter to stay updated on all of her upcoming projects!

Bri Giger began writing during her BFA program in college, with a determined fervor to get her scripts read by “anybody who would take the time to read them.” Bri, a musical theatre artist herself, used writing as an outlet to “highlight the unique experiences as a queer black woman”: “I feel that performers have stories to tell; stories that are from my own life and the stories from the history that formed me. I feel that there are so many untold stories that can inspire not only just black or queer people but everyone. I firmly believe that comedy comes from tragedy making it an absolute honor to make you laugh one minute and cry the next.” With inspirations like Rupaul, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Murphy, “I’m basically inspired by any man who has performed as a woman.”, Bri has a certain talent for telling stories from a character’s personal point of view: “There are a thousand stories to tell from a performer’s perspective!”


What is “Freedom Riders” about?

This Mini-series based on the 1961 Freedom Riders who were remarkable, fearless Americans. They were extraordinary,  ordinary people, young people who took the reigns of history and refused to let go.  As the first Freedom Ride makes its way across the American South, the riders encounter severe  violence. It soon becomes apparent that the drills they were practicing at school will be needed for their survival. There is drama amongst peers as tension rises and the ride becomes more serious. There are moments of levity, too. The contemporary scenes document the law changing in the wake of Brenna Taylor, Ahmed Aubrey, and so many others murdered at the hands of police


What inspires you and your creative process?

I am inspired by black and queer art.  I am inspired by untold stories. I am inspired by people that aren't afraid to push the limit. Basically I just summed up Beyonce...


Why do you think "Freedom Riders" is so topical in today's society?

These heroes need their stories told. I want to highlight what happened on and off that bus. And the chilling fact that this story still remains relevant NOW.


What inspired you to use the 1961 Freedom Ride as a backdrop to your piece?

In 2011 my college put on an event where they screened the Freedom Riders documentary directed by Stanley Nelson Jr.  It blew my mind that this story wasn't in every single history textbook from middle school up. They brought out a few of the original Freedom Riders and the audience applauded and cried and promised to share their legacy the best way we all knew how. 


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging writers of color like yourself?

First of all. I ain't too proud to beg, but I BEG you to share BLACK/POC content. If our content just stays in our community the outreach isn't as large.Challenge yourself to watch more black movies, TV shows, plays ETC. SHARE BLACK STORIES! And for the love of God, please help the fight in arresting the cops that killed Breonna Taylor.


Be sure to check out Bri's website to stay updated on all of her upcoming projects!

Born and raised in Manville, Rhode Island, Molly Savard describes herself as being “the product of three mail carriers… though my mom is the one who truly made me!”. Growing up, Molly always found herself “asking questions, studying people, and naturally, having opinions.”To the surprise of no one, Molly’s innate curiosity led her to pursue a degree in journalism from Boston University. 


It was while studying at Boston University, that Molly “found her people and was radicalized by the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism.” Molly realized that “storytelling could be my primary way of advocating for social justice, and I’ve been writing through that lens ever since.”


What is “Hard Strokes” about?

During the moral battle over pornography in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s, a defiant group of San Francisco lesbians, kinksters, and feminists revolutionize media and their community by launching the nation’s first lesbian erotic magazine. More generally, this is a show about LGBTQ women simply living their lives, rendered with nuance, empathy, and joy. These characters are artists, activists, and businesswomen; kind, brilliant, and conniving; and a conglomeration of myself and the people I know and love. In short, they are human, so I hope everyone can find a piece of and place for themselves in "Hard Strokes".


What inspires you and your creative process?

My writing comes from a place of curiosity about people and the systems and structures that shape our lives. (I also hope to encourage others to question what we know, and to dismantle the systems and structures that oppress us.) I’m outraged at injustice and I believe we can build a world greater than anything we’ve allowed ourselves to dream. Words are the way I know how to communicate and advocate for that.


What inspired you to pursue writing a period piece?

The idea for the project was inspired by a real magazine called “On Our Backs”. Like the magazine in my pilot, it was the first lesbian erotic magazine in the U.S. (Everything else in my pilot is made up.) I was sure someone had already made a TV show about this very rich slice of feminist history—the feminist sex wars and queer women’s role in advocating for women’s sexual freedom—but sure enough, no one had. This was untold history and a show I wanted to watch, so I figured I'd write it.


Modern media is brimming with painful narratives about queer people, why do you think it's so important to visually portray the joyful queer experience?

This is such a great question! And it’s precisely that: There are too few representations in media of LGBTQIA+ people living full lives. There’s the trope of “killing your gays,” of lesbian stories always having sad endings (usually involving death), of trans people only being victims. I wanted to create a show filled with complex, real characters who experience as much joy and success and pleasure as they do sorrow and loss and pain. I also wanted to tell this story because queer people—particularly, everyone but white cis gay men—are often written out of history, even when we’re making it. Hard Strokes is an imagining of what's been overlooked.


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging underrepresented like yourself?

Like other industries, much of Hollywood is being forced to look at its perpetuation of racism and exclusion based on age, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, ability, and more. We need more inclusive hiring practices, meaning we need more showrunners and writers who are Black, Native, non-binary, disabled… basically, everyone who’s never gotten much of a chance should be prioritized. We need to pay writers fairly and we need to pay assistants more. (And give them health insurance and treat them with respect.) 


The Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity is doing incredible work around these issues. They recently released a report on “The State of Inclusion and Equity in TV Writing”, as well as an excellent list of tangible action items for how Hollywood can take advantage of this moment and transform for the better.


Molly is working on curating an LGBTQIA+ online art collective called Alphabet Hour with her girlfriend. (Anyone who's LGBTQIA can submit; please do!). Molly is also doing whatever she can to contribute to the current uprising against systemic racism, police brutality, capitalist violence, and other injustices endemic in this country. Molly started a calendar of local government meetings to hopefully make it easier for people who want to be engaged at the neighborhood, city, and county levels in LA. You can also reach out to Molly on her website!


A native New Yorker, Kesewaa Boateng describes how her upbringing within the city helped her forge her own identity:  “I’m not the type of New Yorker that can give you directions to landmarks off the top of her head, but I am one all the same, to the core. I like concrete, organized confusion, noise, and rhythm. My life journey has been New York City in a nutshell - a chaotic and concerted effort to get where I’m going with style and peace of mind.”


Though Kesewaa studied screenwriting at Yale, she credits her family with being the inspiration behind her most recent writing endeavor: “I learned how to be a real human at home with my mother (an incredible Jamaican woman!) and a large family I could talk about for days and technically pulled inspiration from to write my pilot.”


What is "Time To Start Your Day, Black Woman" about?

A series of kismet events nudge June to make a dire decision about the direction of her life, while her son, Elijah, plans to kill himself by the end of the day and her husband, Warren, struggles to achieve his dreams amidst frustrating cultural gaps that make it nearly impossible.


What real life experiences, if there are any, inspired you to write "Time To Start Your Day, Black Woman"?

“Time to Start Your Day, Black Woman” is loosely based on my sister and her life. She is one of the most legitimately complex people I know, most of that hidden by her extraordinary ability to self-sustain privately. She is a gorgeous flower that seemed to bloom with very little protection and watering from the world, as the quote goes. Her archetype, the middle-aged black woman of mundane, working-class American life, is virtually nonexistent in film and television. For no good reason. The black experience in America is the archetypal hero’s journey. It’s ripe for television and cinema. This show is an attempt to use creativity, history, pain, endless hope, and hilarity to unpack what it’s like to be her, her family member, or her friend.


Oftentimes blackness is explored through lenses that are distractingly heroic, austere, melancholic, sanctimonious, doctored and/or cliched. We need those explorations. The drama of them overwhelms and inspires us until we explode and are left with truths to contemplate in the come down. But sometimes, all we need is the truth. And sometimes it needs to be served to us with irony and irreverence. TTSYDBM is an unfiltered amplification of the honest tragic comedy that it is to be black today. 

Black people across the world are survivors of a long, convoluted and monetized cultural and psychological genocide (slavery and colonialism). Our latest, current day cultures, inventions, and zeitgeists all are simple remnants of trying to cope with this psychologically, socially, and physically, or trying to destroy and overcome it.


How do you use comedy in your pilot as a tool to help convey the modern black woman's experience?

Although I can't speak to the experience of all black women or people, I was attempting to enter into the life of a black woman in a way that would allow viewers to laugh, observe, and even learn. I think most black women are superheroes, simply because we’re forced to undergo the hero’s journey with the least amount of support and liberty, and still come out turning heads if you ask me (hehe).


I try to use comedy the way my favorite irreverent, dry comedies like The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, or Eastbound and Down do—making it okay for viewers to laugh at some of the most derisive or regenerative aspects of the mundane human experience. Comedy can adjust viewers to viewing demographics and experiences that were previously invisible in a way that leaves them open to understanding and empathetic. In this case, the experience is the lives of present-day, working class black Americans and residents, their unspoken cultural nuances, desires and needs, their ways of speaking, social conventions, and the less politicized chips on their shoulders. This is a highly underrepresented reality that’ll be on display without much curation or overt explanation, and lots of hilarity.


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging writers of color like yourself?

Increased visibility is incredible support, so thank you Inner Voice Artists for this Artist Spotlight feature. There are so many ways to support writers of color. From making resources available to studying and equalizing the way black work is published. I think working together to destroy the insidious beliefs constructed and perpetuated is the way to go in the long term. What we’re really dealing with is a war against worth. Racism is nasty and tries its hardest to make its victims believe they are worthless. The best long term way to help is to join the grand fight to deconstruct and destroy racism. Winning that war in itself will allow writers of colors to work and shine, untethered and free of the obstacles they face.


Be sure to check out Kesewaa's Instagram and Twitter to stay updated on all of her upcoming projects!

Growing up in Modesto, California, “it’s consistently ranked in the U.S.’s 10 Most Miserable Cities!”, Rachel Van Nes learned from a very young age to appreciate dark comedy: “Having grown up in a town where my friend's dad found a suitcase full of money and a corpse in a canal and my 4th grade teacher propositioned my teenage aunt into a relationship with her and her husband, you get used to finding comedy in tragedy.”


Most of Rachel’s childhood was spent exploring the foliage of her grandmother’s yard: “Her yard was like my Secret Garden.” Rachel’s creativity was nurtured within the imaginative space her grandmother allowed her to create, in fact she credits her grandmother for fostering her artistic curiosities.


However, Rachel decided against pursuing art professionally and began attending the University of Portland where she studied Biology and Spanish and fully intended on pursuing medical school: “My plan was to do medicine during the day (because med school is SO easy) and then to do comedy at night. Yes, I was VERY naive. I wanted to make a difference in the world and becoming a doctor felt like the right thing to do. However, it wasn’t my passion and I think I would have been terrible at it because I had no love for it.”


Though Rachel believed altering her career path was necessary, for her own sanity, she struggled with the potential selfishness of exchanging her aspirations as a medical professional to that of a full-time artist: “Now, I firmly believe that it’s important to give passionately. My contributions to society should give me life, not suck it out of me. I won’t deny that choosing to be a writer instead of a doctor is selfish, but honestly, especially as a woman, I think I can afford to put myself first once in a while!”


Despite Rachel’s decision to continue her education as an artist, her first attempts in her college career were foiled: “I took one Creative Writing class in college and got a solid B. I tried too hard, used flowery language, said things that sounded poetic, but weren’t true. I thought I was a terrible writer and even worse, was ashamed of what and how I was writing.”


However, Rachel was able to  rediscover her passion through improv and performance: “I initially took a sketch class at UCB to become a better improviser. You know, cross-training! Then, I fell in love with writing instead. I love the math of it. I’m fascinated with what makes jokes work and what makes people think. Breaking it down into a science gave me enough distance to see writing as a skill rather than as being indicative of my value as a person. It’s been a fun ride ever since!”


What inspires you and your creative process?

A lot of my source material comes from my relationship with my family. My mom’s side is full of rough-and-tumble Nevada cowboys and train-hopping hobos whereas my dad’s side is made up of wholesome Dutch Catholic farmers. There’s plenty to draw from. I also pull from my experience as a woman and my sexuality. I’ve done so much therapy and couples therapy, I even see a sexual intuitive! It would be a shame not to include all this soul-searching in my work.  In regards to sexuality, politics, and other “taboo” subjects, I strive to be as open about my experiences as possible. All too often, I’ve thought, “Am I a freak for feeling this way?” and the answer has almost always been no. Until you see your truths reflected in other people, you’re always going to feel isolated and weird. That’s why I think it’s so important to delve into all the nooks and crannies of shame in my writing and, instead of internalizing it, put it out there for all the world to see. Hopefully, it will inspire others to acknowledge their uncertainties, fear, rage and everything in between to know they’re not alone. What is "Possessed" about? "Possessed" is a half-hour horror comedy following Emma, a repressed young woman who agrees to share her body with Lilith- a vengeful demon who was the first “Eve” before she was banished to Hell. Together, they team-up against the patriarchal forces that have defined them including Emma’s her over-controlling mother, a jacked priest, and God himself.


What is the social commentary "Possessed" is making about the masculine and feminine rift we've created within mainstream society?

Mainstream Western society has always prized masculinity over femininity. If I’m emotional, my reasoning is invalid. If I cry, I am weak.To be woman, or woman-like, is considered shameful and humiliating. From day one, the message is loud and clear: Masculinity, good! Femininity, bad.

This way of thinking hurts everyone. As human beings, we are equal parts masculine and feminine regardless of gender. By demonizing femininity, we demonize half of ourselves. Men suffer from this repression as much as women; in some ways, moreso. By fully embodying the idea of demonized femininity in Lilith, Possessed seeks to make a case for why femininity is not as evil as we’ve been conditioned to believe.


On a broader scale, Possessed confronts the dangers of binary thinking. Good vs. Evil. Angel vs. Demon. Men vs. Women. Our world is polarized and full of dichotomies, leaving little room for nuance. In our desperation to be just and righteous, we close our hearts and abandon our curiosity, alienating peers, friends and family, and ultimately parts of ourselves. If you are male, you suppress the parts of you that are feminine. If you believe you are straight, you ignore your queerness. If you’re liberal, you invalidate your conservative family members and vice versa. Binary thinking hurts everyone.


On a more personal level, this is a story about self-acceptance and empowerment. Every character in Possessed suffers from a life controlled by guilt and shame in its many permutations. Our protagonists are incapable of reaching their full potential until they learn how to forgive and empathize with the most inaccessible people in the world: themselves. Possessed shows that true power and transformation comes from our ability to accept and embrace ourselves for who we are, the good with the bad. 


What’s been the most rewarding part of being a writer for you? Do you have any advice for emerging writers out there?

For me, writing is an introspective process that gives me the opportunity to know myself better. I usually go to write about one thing I’m passionate about and walk away from it with a completely different take-away or perspective from my original idea. I enjoy unleashing my subconscious onto paper and seeing what’s there. Even if I’m writing the dumbest comedy I can imagine, there still has to be a point of view. Comedy can’t exist without one. No matter what, I’m saying something, even if I don’t always know what that is when I set out to write. I think that’s exciting! An extreme example of this is that while writing Possessed and exploring my sexuality and repression (in conjunction with LOTS of therapy), I finally discovered and accepted that I’m attracted to women. See?! Exciting!


Don’t let anyone talk you out of believing in your own voice! Everyone has a unique perspective and a story to tell. I struggled to find my own voice for a long time. Early on, I would forget that writing is not an innate ability, but a skill. I would feel terrible about myself, that I wasn’t funny and was an idiot for pursuing comedy-writing. But the good news is, when they start, everyone sucks at writing! Fortunately, you will 100% get better with time and reps and, as an added bonus, you’ll constantly discover more new and interesting things about yourself in the process.


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging feminist artists like yourself?

Everyone should be supporting women, but women especially need to support other women. The lingering feelings of career scarcity for women from past generations is undeniable. I still feel it sometimes. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I only viewed my competition as other women. A win for my friend was somehow a loss for me, even if we weren’t up for the same opportunity. That has to stop! We’re in the Golden Age of entertainment and audiences are craving new stories and experiences. There’s room for all of us. 


Interested in Rachel's writing? Check out the comedic pieces her wrote for The New Yorker, McSweeny’s Internet Tendency, and Reductress on her website!

A Southern screenwriter hailing from a big family, “I was one of 10 children, in fact!”, Tennessee Martin has worked on a variety of successful shows, including FOX’s Lucifer, CBS’s Training Day, and Starz’s Family Crimes. 


Previously the Coordinator of Original Series at Starz, Tennessee spearheaded the “Starz -- Beyond Gender Casting Data”, which gave visibility to Trans and Non-Binary actors in the industry. 

Tennessee has continued to pursue work as a Coordinator currently working at Apple TV+, she hopes to bring television safely back into production during COVID. However, Tennessee’s artistic endeavors extend beyond writing, she co-founded the LadyParts Collective, an all-female theater company, and is currently finishing up post on her first macabre short film “HANGRY” directed by Bola Ogun. Through her work Tennessee hopes to inspire women and queer people to speak up and push back.


What inspires you and your creative process? 

It’s hard to narrow it down, but some of my earliest memories are of the books I read and the characters I grew up watching. I was raised in a secluded farm town with a lot of folks whose parents and grandparents spent their entire lives in that little community with no intention of ever leaving. Books, tv shows and movies made the world bigger for me. They were my window to the world around me showing cultures, beliefs and realities far beyond those I’d been exposed to in my own neck of the woods. 


When I came out as a lesbian in the Bible Belt at fifteen years old, shows like South of Nowhere and The L Word kept me going until I could find a way to narrate my own story. A couple years later, I attended the second oldest women’s college in the country, Stephens College, where I studied screenwriting and learned how to tell those stories bottled inside me through an artistic queer-feminist perspective. I’ve spent the last decade of my career working in supportive rolls at companies like Warner Bros. and Starz, on TV shows like Lucifer and Training Day, and for the last six months I’ve been working in Production at Apple TV+. I write hoping to connect with and help inspire others like me.


What is about "Fried Green Tomatoes" that led you to want to create not only a TV adaption, but a more in-depth fictional extension of the story? 

When I got to college, I was just finding my place in the world as a young queer woman and I had this insatiable hunger to consume as much queer media as possible. I discovered a bookstore that had a small LGBTQ section, and as I fumbled through the selection, my eyes fell upon a familiar title: "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe." 


I’d seen the film “Fried Green Tomatoes” many times growing up and was certain there was no way this Southern classic set in the 1920’s was a lesbian love story... was there?


I took the book home and read it cover to cover, falling in love with Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jameson all over again, and within those pages they fell in love with each other as well. I realized, in the 1990's feature adaptation, much of their story had been straightwashed to appear as a socially digestible friendship. In the book, not only were Idgie and Ruth in love, but the Black characters were far more three-dimensional. Some with entire chapters about them. 


For over a decade, I’ve wanted to retell this story authentically in the way it was written. My decision to expand on the property, with the present-day descendants of these characters, comes from wanting to hold a mirror up to modern society. The story of Idgie and Ruth takes place around 1920, so The Bee Charmer is an examination of the progress we’ve made as a society over the last century, and where we’ve fallen short.


Why do you believe right now is the ideal time in our society to release your TV adaption?

Novelist Fannie Flagg was well ahead of her time with this novel. Only now, in 2020, are queer stories being sought out for cable, network and feature distribution. Stories about BIPOC have proven to be lucrative across multiple platforms. 


What’s unique about this IP is how popular it is already among the Southern and Midwestern communities who don’t know that it is a queer classic. I believe the quaint and familiar characters of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café are a trojan horse through which we will be welcomed into homes across the country. Through  where we can approach the conversations that need to be had most about race, sexuality, ableism, feminism, ageism, etc.


Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting emerging feminist writers like yourself?

Amplifying the profiles and voices of diverse talent is the most critical thing you can do with a platform like yours. And for those with buying and producing power, look beyond your inner circle for those stories you choose to tell. So many talented queer, female, and BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of color) writers are out there living on the fringe -- creating and waiting for the opportunity to tell their story. They’re just not “in the right circles yet.” Welcome them inside. Lift them up. 


Be sure to check out Tennessee's Instagram and Twitter to stay updated on all of her upcoming projects!

Thank you again for your continuous support and kindness in these extraordinary times. Please stay safe!  Lots of love, #Team IVA Interview by conducted & written by Veronica Velez

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