Writer Lena Waithe (pictured below) made waves in the film world as the producer of the independent film “Dear White People” alongside director Justin Simien. Waithe also enjoyed measurable success as the writer of the viral comedy YouTube clip “Sh-t Black Girls Say.” Now, Waithe has partnered up with Queen Latifah‘s Flavor Unit production company for her new series, “Twenties” — but it appears networks are passing on the show because they feel it doesn’t have an audience.
Waithe spoke last week with IndieWire’s Shadow and Act, a blog focused on African-American cinema. Flavor Unit Executive Producer Shelby Stone praised “Twenties” and Waithe explained in the chat how the partnership came about.
LW: My agent sent the script to a few production companies that we thought might respond to the story and the characters. And I was lucky, because a lot of production companies were interested, but Flavor Unit made me feel like they would be in it for the long haul.
And as a young up-and-coming writer, that’s what I wanted. I knew selling a single camera comedy about three black women in their twenties wasn’t going to be easy, but Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, and Shelby Stone made me feel like it wasn’t impossible.
Shadow and Act: What is a pilot presentation? Why did you opt for this route?
LW: A lot of networks read the script and loved it, but they either thought there wasn’t an audience for it or that it already existed. Of course I became extremely frustrated because I knew neither of those things were true. So I realized I had to show these network executives that “Twenties” was one of a kind and that there was nothing on TV like it.
And I figured the best way to do that was to shoot a pilot presentation, which meant we would shoot a few pivotal scenes from the script, edit them together, and give people a sense of how the show would look and feel.
The show, as noted in the video below, is beautifully shot and features “Hattie,” a video blogger, recording random vignettes for her YouTube channel in the pilot opener. After feeling accomplished, Hattie walks outside her humble apartment and gets greeted with an eviction notice.
Watch a clip of “Twenties” here:
Waithe is forgoing the typical crowd-funding route for her show, opting to ask potential supporters to watch the series and spread the news on to their respective social networks instead. Waithe’s feeling is that if enough eyes are invested in the show, it will be easier to pitch the program, which is billed by some writers as a Black version of HBO’s “Girls,” to networks.
Waithe and “Awkward Black Girl” creator Issa Rae have partnered in the past as well for the web-based comedy series, “The Michelle Obama Diaries.” Rae is currently working alongside television producer powerhouse Shonda Rhimes on an upcoming sitcom, and is also developing a comedy with cable giant HBO.