Episode 43: From Advertising to Film: Jason Gregory on Waking Up White (Part 1 of 2 episodes)
This week’s guest: Jason Gregory, writer and producer of the film Waking Up White
Who is Jason Gregory?
Jason D. Gregory is a recent film production MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media (Go Knights!). As a child, he recalls that his friends wanted to “be like Mike,” while Gregory’s dream was to “be like Spike.”
He received his undergraduate degree in film from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002 and during his studies, Gregory was selected, twice, as a participant in the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Writer’s Workshop.
In 2010, Gregory founded his own Telly-award-winning, multicultural advertising agency, Gregory Media Group, LLC. Yet, he still yearned for the “business of show.”
Jason Gregory took the plunge to chase his childhood dream and in 2016 enrolled in the MFA film production program where he immediately began writing his thesis project, Waking Up White. Filmed as a television pilot, Waking Up White is the story of a Black family that wakes up White and has 30 days to determine if they’d rather return to their cultural roots or stick with the “new skin” they’re in. Since its development, the pilot script for has been selected as a 2018 Quarterfinalist in ScreenCraft’s Film Fund and Pilot Launch TV Script competitions and a 2018 Semifinalist in the WeScreenplay Television Competition. The television pilot has recently been submitted to various local, national and international film festivals, while also garnering local and regional media coverage.
And because of his commitment to nurturing and mentoring the next generation of filmmakers, Gregory was recently appointed as the president of the Orlando Urban Film Festival; a festival dedicated to promoting and supporting minority films and filmmakers.
In 2018, Gregory was selected to participate in the National Association of Television Producers and Executive’s (NATPE) first Emerging Producers Workshop, where thirteen “emerging producers” where brought together to discuss the future of unscripted, reality television programming. As a result of that workshop, Gregory and the other producers formed 13 Brains; an unscripted, reality television “think tank.” Under the mentorship of Scott Sternberg Productions, 13 Brains develops unscripted, TV concepts and pitches them to networks and streaming platforms. Since its establishment in 2018, 13 Brains has successfully sold its first concept to Netflix, and continues to cultivate and pitch additional programming.
As a graduate student, Gregory was the recipient of the 2019 College of Arts and Humanities Graduate Student Teaching Award and the inaugural Nicholson School of Communication and Media’s Outstanding Teaching Graduate Programs Award. He was nominated for his commitment to teaching his students to “fail their way to success” and is honored to have received both awards.
In 2019, Gregory completed another childhood dream and joined UCF’s English department as a scriptwriting lecturer. In this position, he will continue to mold, mentor and challenge his students to find their voice through the art of scriptwriting.
Finally, Gregory has been married to his wife, Monique, whom he affectionally calls “the girl next door”, for 16 years and they reside in Oviedo, Florida with their two sons, Austin and Miles.
Key Questions answered by Jason Gregory:
- How did Jason’s creative journey begin?
- What are the challenges to being a creative entrepreneur?
- How did Jason build up his own advertising firm?
- Why Jason decided to get an MFA?
- Why is UCF a strong film school?
- How did Jason come up with the thesis of Waking Up White?
Jason Gregory Discusses:
- Opening up his own ad shop
- Challenges of the unknown
- Pursuing a film degree
- How Jason balanced his time in Grad school while still running his ad shop
- Crafting his story
- How Jason strengthens his writing muscle
- How Jason stays motivated
- How to find a mentor and what to look for
Key Takeaways from Jason Gregory:
- Develop a positive reputation in the field
- Create a team of people you can depend on
- Make note of your personal experiences
- Write every single day
- Take calculated risks
- Fail your way to success
- Find a mentor
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Social Media Info
Connect on Instagram:
Jason Gregory – @jaydgreg
FunnyBrownGirl – @funnybrowngirl
Resources for Film and Screenwriting
Episodic Labs: https://episodiclab.staymacro.com/
Script Lab: https://360.thescriptlab.com/
Script Anatomy: https://www.scriptanatomy.com/
Black List: blcklst.com
List of 2020 screenwriting competitions: https://www.wgfoundation.org/fellowship-writing-programs-for-screenwriters-masterlist
Ultimate Film Budget Guide: https://nofilmschool.com/film-budget-template
Screen writing course I took for the Issa Rae competition: https://www.coursera.org/learn/script-writing