Brittani Nichols of Color Creative TV
November 19, 2014 at 5:15 am
Words With Girls is like a breath of fresh air. It’s witty, funny, and the characters are quite memorable so we had to find out a little bit more about the show’s creator, Brittani Nichols. From her improv background to acting in her own series, we get a glimpse at the writer and what inspired this series.
What’s the inspiration behind Words With Girls? How long had you been working on it before Color Creative picked it up?
I think mid 2012, when Words With Girls was really going, was a time when not every single person had a webseries, it was still sort of a Thing. It was definitely hard to break through the fray but I wanted to have something I could point people to because as a writer, it’s very easy to get into your head about–well, everything because you’re a writer–but especially about calling yourself that when you have nothing anyone can see. The webseries was inspired just from being new on a scene and actually being part of a queer scene for the first time outside the confines of college.
From the first draft being finished to the first meeting I had with Issa and Deniese was about a year and a half.
Who are some writers that you admire and keep you on your toes, contemporary or throwback?
No one will ever keep you on your toes better than the people that understand your vision and for me those are people that are not only extremely talented in their own right, but folks I’ve duped into being my friends and have had to listen to me wax less than poetic about what it is I’m TRYING to do so when I’m not doing it, they know how to help. In that regard, Issa Rae, Tessa Blake, and Lauren Morelli feel invaluable to me.
In addition to those dumb dumbs, I pay special attention to black writers that are staffed on shows I love so people like Prentice Penny and Aisha Muharrar are dope and living the dream.
Also, David Caspe, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, and Donald Glover because without their work, I think it would have taken me a lot longer to gather up the courage to move to LA. I mean, I could go on but I’m gonna stop because those answers feel unique and indicative of how special I am.
You’re a comedian and improv artist, right? How much of the filming process was improv or did you all stick to the script?
I think acting and just knowing you have the option to improvise is freeing and though we very much stuck to the script, there are definitely lines that are insanely funny and not scripted because we were able to find moments that felt natural to improvise without straying. Our director, Tessa Blake, was really chill about the prospect of letting all of the improvisers in the cast (myself, Hayley Huntley, Drew Tarver, and Will Hines) improv when it best served the scene. The photoshoot sequence was scripted as just letting Will do his thing and was such a team effort from Tessa, Corbin Reid, and our editor Mark Dashnaw.
You wrote and acted in Words With Girls, what other roles did you play in the production process? Has this had any affect on your filmmaking goals?
I was very involved in the process every step of the way which felt very cool and was a huge learning experience not just in know-how but in approach and management and all of that. If I wasn’t in a scene I was at video village, I was in the edit, I worked with the music supervisors, I was giving notes–I really got to do everything and I feel extremely lucky because it truly felt like the amount of creative control that creators of television shows get (probably more in some cases).
The whole process forced me to step up and become comfortable expressing my opinions and telling people I really care about certain things which initially made me uncomfortable because much of my life thrives on appearing chill but having a constant undercurrent of anxiety coursing through me like a raging river so when I have to convince people of something, I can go from v. chill to v. intense but still in a kind of chill way I like to think.
This pilot has made me a lot more confident in my opinions because I had to fight for certain things and seeing that thing work is such a relief because it’s like, “Oh, ok I’m not entirely crazy.” And on the other hand, I had to learn to let things go because if you get caught up in the minutiae, you hold everything up. It was a lot of knowing when to fight, when to let it go, and when to trust that someone else knows better than you do. I was lucky to work with the people I worked with because we all got along swimmingly and Tessa Blake is a mind reader and would sometimes see whatever bemused face I was making and know exactly what it was that wasn’t working for me. Do I sound like a monster?
No, of course not! Your characters are really interesting, though. What and who did you draw from to develop such memorable characters?
No one else in the world makes sense to me and I think probably other people feel this way but I don’t know if it causes other people the strife that it causes me on a day to day basis. So in a lot of ways, writing is feeding and fighting my own pragmatism because though people don’t necessarily make sense to me, they make sense to themselves and so this feels like some treaty I’ve struck with humanity. It’s my way of acknowledging that everyone is doing things I think are very stupid but I’m sure make sense to them. I think my investment in developing characters is driven by wanting to feel understood and I, Brittani, may not ever achieve that feeling but if people can relate to these characters I’ve created I’m like, “close enough?”
A lot of people in our community are just getting started, what advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry.
There is an extreme lack of outside validation for a lot of the work you will do so know how to feel independently fulfilled and the best way to do that is to have an extreme grasp on what it is you expect from yourself and what makes something good and valuable in your own eyes.
What’s next for you?
I’m performing improv year ’round so that’s a constant that keeps me feeling busy and funny and sane. Other than that, just writing a bunch and trying to stay prepared for any opportunities that present themselves. Probably talking a lot of shit on Twitter.
Do you see why we love her? Words With Girls is smart and just the show for all those college grads with “lofty aspirations” and unsure of what to do with the words and theories they learned in school. The show is the answer to our millennial angst.
Okay, watch it here.
Color Creative is a platform launched by Issa Rae and Deniese Davis to showcase and increase opportunities for minority and women TV writers. If you want to see Words With Girls on TV, vote here!