The film industry is slowly evolving into a future that is female. With more women filmmakers and women of color filmmakers coming into the fold, media platforms are giving these incredibly talented artists a voice. TNT is producing in partnership with Refinery29 a platform called Shatterbox. Shatterbox’s mission is simple but essential: to give female storytellers a platform to create powerful, imaginative short films through the female lens.
BGN had that opportunity to chat with multi-hyphenate Janine Sherman Barrois. Janine is an award-winning writer/producer and the showrunner of the TNT breakout hit Claws. She also served as executive producer on the long-running dramas Criminal Minds and ER.
Your short film French Fries was recently screened at Urbanworld, can you share with our readers what the story is about?
French Fries explores a young, hip African-American foodie couple’s fight to resolve communication problems in a modern marriage of six years, four months, and three and a half days. It is a film about a couple struggling to stay married as each of them tries to get their needs as individuals met. Sydney is a successful architect who has put aside her dream of owning her own firm to work for one, while her husband Jason has left his job to go after his dream of starting a VR company. While one is holding down the fort, the other is actually going after their goals, making less money but feeling happier. The film sort of questions what success is and how marital needs and responsibilities can often stifle your dreams and corrode your relationships.
Your film is being featured on Shatterbox, whose mission is: “to give female storytellers a platform to create powerful, imaginative short films through the female lens.” Being a female storyteller is one thing, but creating stories through a female lens is another — why is it important to create more stories with women as leads?
There are so many stories to be told. For so long men have dictated what we saw on screen. They ran all the television rooms and got all of the opportunities. Women have so much to say and it’s time we take center stage in telling those stories. Our view of the world is so layered, and when we don’t have to stifle it by tending to the patriarchy. Our possibilities are endless. And when you look at women of color, I mean, shut the front door. We have been so marginalized, that there are hundreds of voices and missed stories that need to hit the screen. We just need people to help us get those stories on the air and on the big screen. And if we can’t do it within the system, we need to self-finance and do it on our own. We can no longer wait for anyone’s permission. It’s a waste of time.
You have flipped female stereotypes on the TNT show Claws, what compelled you to create these specific kinds of intersectional women on this show?
I didn’t create Claws. Eliot Laurence did, and truly he wrote one of the best pilots I have ever read. When I was brought on to showrun, there was this tremendous springboard to grow from because the characters he drew were so vivid and dynamic. No joke, I think the pilot should be studied by all aspiring television writers. It has been a tremendous honor to write about these women. Each of them is so complicated and nuanced. They are both heroes and anti-heroes. They have vulnerabilities and badassery. Niecy Nash, Carrie Preston, Judy Reyes, Jenn Lyons, and Karrueche Tran will go down in the annals of the great female friendships that we have grown to love on television. They represent female empowerment and the notion of never counting anyone out. They are fighters and that’s what I think people of all ages and races respond to.
I think there is a little unknown fact in Hollywood that TV is where it’s at for women directors. TV networks employ more women than film studios. Why do you think that is?
I’m not surprised. I think inclusion is so necessary. We can no longer let one group monopolize art in any form. That is actually the antithesis of art.
Do you prefer producing or directing?
I love both and hope to direct some TV soon and truly do a film. Things are in the works. Fingers crossed.
“Inclusion rider” is the buzzword now in Hollywood thanks to Frances McDormand’s mention during this year’s Oscars. What is your opinion on the use of Inclusion Riders?
I think it should be mandatory. Once people integrate the arts fully, we can go back to being artists and stop talking about diversity because it will be part of the fabric of the business. Inclusion is all people are asking for. Let everyone have access to the same opportunities. All shades of women and men of color need to have shots. It’s 2018. The boys club is so played.
What’s next for you?
Big things. I’m continuing to run Claws. I’m also currently co-running a limited series for Netflix about the great Madam CJ Walker starring Octavia Spencer and I have a myriad of other projects in development. Great things ahead for this black girl nerd!!
For more information about Shatterbox click here. You can catch up on season 2 of Claws on Hulu and season three will premiere in 2019.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online community for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She's the primary film critic for BGN and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critic Association