Celebrating Black History on Screen and Behind the Camera

Celebrating Black History on Screen and Behind the Camera

February 28, 2022 An Eastern Diversity Steering Committee Virtual Event

In honor of Black History Month, on February 28 the Eastern Diversity Steering Committee (EDSC) virtual meeting featured the panel discussion, Celebrating Black History on Screen and Behind the Camera. In a conversation moderated by Director Stacey Muhammad (Harlem), Directors Tina Mabry (Women of the Movement) and Jono Oliver (American Soul), 1st ADs Van Hayden (Respect) and Sherman Shelton Jr. (12 Years A Slave) and 2nd ADs Nate Patterson and Elaine Wood (Underground Railroad) spoke about the experiences of Directors and their team members employed on productions about pivotal moments in Black history.

During the conversation, Mabry recalled shooting in the real-life places depicted in Women of the Movement and how she and the crew managed the difficult emotions it brought up. Oliver spoke about his time as a 1st AD on Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters and how his career as a Director has been informed by the film’s reliance on capturing authenticity. Hayden shared his belief that the key responsibility of a 1st AD is to deliver a safe space for the actors. Shelton disclosed how the cast and crew sought to honor the enslaved persons depicted in the setting of Steve McQueen’s DGA Award-nominated feature 12 Years a Slave. Wood admitted that she and the rest of the cast and crew were challenged to keep their emotions in check while shooting a traumatic scene in Barry Jenkins’s DGA Award-nominated mini-series The Underground Railroad. Patterson spoke about the value of having Don Cornelius’ son serve as a resource for capturing genuineness on the show American Soul. Muhammad added that a consistent fact about all of the projects discussed is that they had been directed by Directors who could not only handle the material but would do right by the story.

The panelists also shared their accounts of what it's like to work on sets with sometimes extremely difficult subject matter and also covered topics including making the choice of whether or not to take on projects with challenging historical themes and the challenges of focusing on telling an accurate story while balancing the emotional needs of the cast and crew. The  panel ended with some thoughts on what members can do to focus on self-care.

Following the moderated portion of the discussion, the panelists took questions from the online audience.


Tina MabryDirector Tina Mabry
Mabry’s directorial credits include the feature Mississippi Damned; the movie for television Beast Mode; as well as episodes of the series Women of the MovementPoseGrand ArmyThe PoliticianBlack JesusPowerInsecureQueen of the SouthDear White PeopleQueen Sugar and Futurestates. She took home the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs for her 2016 project An American Girl Story - Melody 1963: Love Has to Win. Mabry has been a DGA member since 2016. 
Jono OliverDirector Jono Oliver
Oliver’s directorial credits include the independent feature film Home; and episodes of For LifeAmerican SoulLincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone CollectorLaw & Order: SVU and The Enemy Within. Prior to becoming a Director, he was an AD on features such as Denzel Washington’s Fences and The Great Debaters, Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, Rick Famuyiwa’s Brown Sugar; and series including Blue BloodsAllegiance and Life on Mars. Oliver has been a DGA member since 1993 and has served as a Co-Chair of the Eastern Diversity Steering Committee and as an alternate on the Eastern Directors Council. 
Van Hayden1st AD Van Hayden
Hayden’s AD credits include features such as Liesl Tommy’s Respect, Nate Parker’s American Skin, Benny Boom’s All Eyez on Me, George C. Wolfe’s Nights in Rodanthe, Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, Nicole Holofcener’s Lovely & Amazing and Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader; as well as episodes of series including The Wonder YearsKenan and Real Husbands of Hollywood. A DGA member since 2000, Hayden has served as a member of the Diversity Task Force, three DGA Negotiating Committees and as an alternate on the Western AD/UPM Council. 
Sherman Shelton Jr1st AD Sherman Shelton Jr.
Shelton’s AD credits include features such as Christopher Leone’s Parallels and Adam Gierasch’s Fractured; as well as multiple episodes of NCIS: New OrleansScream: The TV Series and Suit Up. He also served as a 2nd 2nd AD on Spike Lee’s feature Oldboy and Steve McQueen’s DGA Award-nominated feature 12 Years a Slave. Shelton has been a DGA member since 2004. 
Nate Patterson2nd AD Nate Patterson
Patterson’s AD credits include Barry Jenkins’s DGA Award-nominated mini-series The Underground Railroad; features such as Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me and Ben Shelton’s Candy Jar; as well as episodes of series including AtlantaBrockmireRaising DionGenius - ArethaAmerican SoulGreenleaf and Black Girls Guide to Fertility. He has been a DGA member since 2016. 
Elaine Wood2nd AD Elaine Wood
Wood’s AD credits include Barry Jenkins’s DGA Award-nominated mini-series The Underground Railroad; features such as Benny Boom’s All Eyez on Me, Nate Parker’s American Skin and Justin Simien’s Dear White People; as well as multiple episodes of series including KenanGrey’s AnatomyLuciferBlack JesusHouse and NYPD Blue. A graduate of the DGA-Producer Assistant Directors Training Program, Wood has been a DGA member since 1999. 
Stacey MuhammadDirector Stacey Muhammad (moderator)
Muhammad’s directorial credits include episodes of QueensHarlemGuilty PartyLove LifeFirst Wives Club and Queen Sugar. She has been a DGA member since 2019. 


Eastern Diversity Steering Committee

The Eastern Diversity Steering Committee represents the concerns of Guild members of African, Asian, Native American, Arab-Middle Eastern or Latino descent residing in the East. Committed to improving the employment opportunities, working conditions and the skills of ethnically diverse Guild members, the Committee sponsors workshops, seminars, round-table discussions and networking events to showcase the talents of its members, recognize their contributions and increase their visibility in the industry. The Committee’s current Co-Chairs are UPM Canella Williams-Larrabee, Second AD Sussan Cordero and Stage Manager April Smith.

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