Panelists share ways to succeed in film and TV




Photos courtesy of FAMU SJGC


A sea of eager students from all majors waited in the seats of Lee Hall on Jan. 19, to receive vital information on how to succeed behind the scenes in the TV and film industry.  

Florida A&M University School of Journalism & Graphic Communication’s Francine Huff, professor and Knight Chair for Student Achievement, launched the panel discussion that is a  Knight Chair Speaker Series called: “The Real Deal: Succeeding Behind the Scenes in TV & Film.”

The evening consisted of four talented professionals engaging in conversations surrounding the various ways to succeed in the forever evolving TV and film industry.

Panelists included: actor/writer/director James Bland; screenwriter Sameer Gardezi; former editor and chief at Ebony & Jet magazines and current head of development at Rainforest Entertainment Mitzi Miller and Senior Vice President of Marketing with TVOne Lori Hall.

The discussion between the four covered the important topics of lack of diversity in TV and film, entrepreneurship and pursuing your passion.

The panelists opened the event with encouraging words as a reminder to students that there is not only one way to achieve something. 

“There’s not one type of success. Everyone’s win is going to be different. You need to define, find and fight for your own,” said Miller.

Panelists also spoke about the lack of diversity and black people being represented in the industry.

According to, for nearly a decade, filmmakers have made little progress in portraying more characters from non-white racial and ethnic identities.

“Of the top 100 films of 2014, nearly three-quarters of all characters were white, the study showed. Only 17 of the top movies that year featured non-white lead or co-lead actors.”

Students like Ashlee Monet, a sophomore architecture student from Palm Beach, Fla., shared gratitude for the panelist speaking on diversity issues in the business.

“I thought that one of the most important topics touched was the issue of not being able to have a voice as a minority in the business and how to make it a possibility to find that voice,” said Monet.

Hall stressed the importance of staying true to your intent and true to your perspective.

“I don’t think it’s going to get easier. Our confidence to pushing through gets stronger. It is your job and responsibility, that if you feel compelled to speak up and out against something, to raise the question, you have to speak your truth,” said Hall.

Gardezi agreed and supported that message with words of his own.

“I think the key whenever you’re creating a character or story is to root it in the realness of your own story and journey, and that’s something nobody can take away from you,” said Gardezi.

The event came to a close with questions being asked by the students, and the panelist sharing their tricks to the business.

Jayla Cash, a sophomore architecture student from Las Vegas, NV expressed how the visual representation of people of color in the industry made it real enough for her.  

“Seeing influential Black people in the business and learning the ins and outs of the industry from the panel made it real for me.”

“The key message I took from this panel was that the quality of your persistence will show the quality of your success,” said Cash.