Joy Cheriel Brown is an accomplished filmmaker, with an MFA in creative writing from National University and a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, where she studied film and English and graduated summa cum laude.
Joy is the founder of Third Person Omniscient Productions, a production company whose mission it is to produce powerful, meaningful, thought-provoking movies, plays, and television shows that enlighten audiences about the human condition, shed light on the meaning of life, and raise the collective consciousness. Her first feature film is currently in development by her production company.
She has served as a screenwriting mentor for the DC Shorts Filmmaking Mentor Series and a panelist for the screenwriting panel at the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council’s Festival of Literary Arts, and she writes for Script Magazine and other media outlets. Joy Cheriel Brown is also the author of “The Secret of Life Through Screenwriting: How to Use the Law of Attraction to Structure Your Screenplay, Create Characters, and Find Meaning in Your Script” which is available on Amazon.
Furthermore, her short film, N.O.S., was acquired by ShortsTV and is also available on Amazon Prime. In 2019, she produced her stage play, Stuck, for the Washington, DC Capital Fringe Festival, and also received Playwright of the Year from ACHI Magazine.
Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is Third Person Omniscient Productions all about?
Third Person Omniscient Productions produces movies, television shows, and stage plays. Our mission is to tell stories that teach people about the human condition, shed light on the meaning of life, teaches people that they are powerful creators of their lives, and to raise the collective consciousness overall with our storytelling.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
When I was 10-years-old, I went to see Home Alone for the first time in the theatre. By this point, I think it was February 1991 (according to my diary at the time), and the movie had been out since like the end of November 1990. When I saw the movie, the theatre was packed—even though the movie had been out for as long as it had. People were seeing the movie for the second or even third time. That movie changed my life. I immediately wanted to become an actor because Macaulay Culkin looked like he was having so much fun, so I asked my parents if I could get an agent. They told me No, so I had to figure out a way to make it happen on my own.
20th Century Fox was the company that distributed Home Alone so I decided that I would write my own screenplay, direct it, star in it, and sell it to 20th Century Fox. I’m not quite sure how I knew that this is how it worked. I’m sure that I must have read it in one of the few books about film making either in my school library or the public library. I then went on to write my first screenplay at the age of ten. I casted my friends and my cousin’s husband. I had a plan to find locations and the equipment needed. However, before rehearsals even got underway, my friends lost interest. I learned from that experience that being 10-years-old, it was simply easier to just write the scripts and I would produce them later in life, or at the time, I was planning to sell them to other production companies.
After that first failed attempt, I wasn’t so sure that I would produce my own movies. So I kept writing, being completely self-taught. It wasn’t till I was 17 that I met an actual screenwriter—the dad of one of my friends had a friend who had sold a screenplay, and this screenwriter agreed to sit down with me after reading three of my scripts. It was a little disheartening because the scripts weren’t as good as I thought they were. I was even doing things wrong in terms of formatting and other basics. But I took the advice of this screenwriter and read the screenwriting book he recommended, “Writing Screenplays That Sell” by Michael Hauge.
I also gave one of the rewritten scripts back to the screenwriter—the one I had liked the most, even though the screenwriter had preferred one of my other scripts, and he said that I had made a 180-degree turnaround. At the time, I was a Senior in high school and I thought that it was a possibility that I might start my own production company, but it was a very vague possibility at the time.
By 2002, I was an undergraduate at Howard University (Kamala Harris’ alma mater) and I wrote a business plan for my production company in my Telecommunications Ownership and Finance class, but I still didn’t know if it would become a reality. I finally formally formed Third Person Omniscient Productions in 2012, I had picked the name of the company in high school. I chose the name for two reasons
- Because third person omniscient is a literary term where the narrator is all-knowing and knows what all the characters are thinking, and since I started as a screenwriter, and I had always wanted my scripts to help make people’s lives better, it seemed like the perfect fit.
- It’s such a difficult word to spell, omniscient, and it’s long, so I figured the name would still be available by the time I was ready to actually start the company—and I was right!
What are your plans, how do you plan to grow this company?
Well, right now, I am working with a sales and acquisitions company that sold my short film, N.O.S., to ShortsTV in 2020. The company got N.O.S included in the Amazon Prime Membership. As of right now, I may have my first investor for my next project, a talented former classmate who has always wanted to executive produce my projects, and I am waiting to hear back from a finance company I had a meeting with about a month ago. These steps are necessary to find financing for my projects since I am completely independent and currently do not have a studio deal or a deal with a streamer—yet—or an agent.
I have 20 projects on my production company’s slate. Most of these projects have at least one draft, many of them have four drafts, and the ones that have no draft at all, have at least a rough outline. My projects include features, TV series, and plays that I am aiming for Broadway, including a musical that I’m very excited about, and I even have plans to write a Dystopian book trilogy that I will later adapt into a franchise. I also have the dream of writing a script for Beyonce that gets her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, which I plan to write when Beyonce is at least a decade older than what she is now.
What was the biggest problem you encountered with your business and how did you overcome it?
There are two things that people say you need in order to make movies—and that’s time and money. For many years, I balanced having a day job while writing and producing my projects. The best thing that could have happened to me, however, was when I was fired from my job as an Academic Counselor at an online University back in 2014. After that, I worked temp jobs and continued to write and produce. At my busiest time, I was a high school English teacher, producing a short, and working part-time at a bridal shop. But that schedule was so grueling—I only did that for two years. Now I dedicate most of my time to writing, producing, and preparing to direct and finally act in my projects.
Finding money for projects was also a challenge. To make my first short, I used my own money and my friend who co-produced it with me also put money into it, and I was a student at Howard University, so they provided the equipment. For my second and third shorts, I got grant money to get them done. Finding money to do the projects has always been the biggest challenge, and production companies don’t quite raise money with venture capitalists the way that typical businesses work. All of the content for my projects is there—the only thing missing is the financing—but I am confident that this is a problem that will be solved as early as this year in 2021. Things are already headed in that direction.
What were the top mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from them?
It was so challenging starting my business. I set up my company on the East Coast in Maryland, in the Washington, DC Metro area. I am outside of the major hubs of filmmaking—outside of California, New York, and Georgia. This was always the plan—to tell stories primarily located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which is the most affluent predominantely Black county in the United States. This is because I felt like we have a very unique perspective and stories that have never been told before, but that didn’t make it any easier.
The small business association was not very knowledgeable on setting up production companies. This issue was frustrating, to say the least, and film school didn’t really tell me how to set up a business. They barely taught anything about that at all. If I had it to do over again, I would have tried to find a mentor through the professional organization I belonged to, which is the DC chapter of Women in Film and Video.
I recommend that people outside of the major filmmaking hubs quickly find accountants and lawyers who are either in Los Angeles or have experience being in Los Angeles, which is ultimately what I had to do. At one point, my tax preparer told me point blank that I was outgrowing him. I ultimately did not find an accountant familiar with the film business in my area. My accountant and bookkeeper are Los Angeles based, and both of my lawyers worked in the industry in Los Angeles at the height of their careers, even though they aren’t based there now. I also recommend reading books about building businesses, even if the books are not in your specific industry.
How do you separate yourself from your competitors?
When I write a screenplay, I do extensive research, I might take 3 months to read tons of books on the subject that I’m writing about, take notes and outline, and then I can write the whole script in like a week or two. Research brings something to my scripts that the majority of scripts out there just don’t have. Plus, I am thorough. My biggest intention with my scripts and projects is just as much to change someone’s life as it is to entertain them. I think most filmmakers just focus on the entertainment value and not actually freeing people from their limiting beliefs, empowering them, and making their lives better.
What is one thing that you do daily to grow as an entrepreneur?
I am always learning something. I have a belief that I don’t need to be an expert in everything but I need to know at least enough about it to hire the right people. For example, in 2019, I took an accounting class with the local community college, in 2020 I took acting classes and a webinar on TV production budgets. Also in 2020, I taught myself about visual structure in order to prepare for directing my first feature. So, daily I am always learning something about my craft. I am a multi-hyphenate—screenwriter, producer, director, and actress—and I aim to be more than proficient at everything I do. I strive for excellence, and I don’t believe you can do that if you are not constantly learning.
It is said that most people never read another book after high school or college. It sounds cliché, but I sincerely believe that readers are leaders. If you want to be a leader, you should read every day. I read a book a week typically, and back in July, I signed up for Mindvalley, and their education courses are called Quests, which take 20 minutes or less per day, and I do one quest after another. Mindvalley is a personal development company. I have learned speed reading, different types of meditation, and how to supercharge my brain, just to name a few, through their platform. So if there is one thing I do daily to grow as an entrepreneur, it is to learn.
What are three books or courses you recommend for new entrepreneurs?
My favorite business books are
- Spirit Means Business: The Way to Prosper Wildly Without Selling Your Soul by Alan Cohen. This book really debunks a lot of limiting beliefs that so many entrepreneurs have that do not help them at all, but hinder them when trying to grow their business.
- Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey. This book really goes into depth explaining how trust makes everything in business go faster.
- To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History by Lawrence Levy. I recommend that women read this book because this is definitely how it’s done in the Boys’ Club, and it’s a good book to read if you’re ever interested in taking your company public.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is one of my own—“Everything happens for my highest good and in my favor.” I am a huge believer in the law of attraction (my book, “The Secret of Life Through Screenwriting” is about my two favorite subjects—the law of attraction and screenwriting) and your reality reflects whatever beliefs you hold. When you look at everything that happens to you as happening in your favor, and that the universe really does have your back, it truly changes everything. When you learn that your beliefs affect what is coming into and showing up in your life, you learn to only adopt beliefs that serve and empower you, and you learn to reject everything else that is causing you to manifest your life on default—a life that you may not want. This one piece of knowledge is the key to success.
How can we get in touch with you?
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