Kristen V. Carter is a screenwriter, television producer, and educator from Newark, New Jersey. She has produced for a variety of cable’s top programs including MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, OWN’s My Mom is Obsessed, and Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. In addition, Kristen has served as a speech writer for Viacom executives, including BET’s CEO Debra Lee.
Kristen has a deep-rooted passion for entrepreneurship and content creation. In 2007, she founded JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC, a multimedia company specializing in writing, production, and consultation services. Through the company, she wrote, directed, and launched the six-episode web series Sellout, a story of an Ivy League graduate’s transition back to the inner-city after his mother’s death. The series, a first for JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC, garnered over 4,000 views during its 6-episode run. Since that time, Kristen has written three feature length screenplays and continues to develop scripted and non-scripted projects for tv, web, and film.
Kristen has won many awards for her professional and social achievements, including the Goldman Sachs Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking National First Place Prize, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship Award for Most Civic Minded Business, and the New York Women in Communications Scholarship. Most recently, Kristen took part in the 2011 Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship.
Whether it’s through screen or stage, her ultimate goal is to inspire the world through edutainment!
Q & A with Kristen V. Carter:
BS: What inspired you to create JazziDreamerEntertainment LLC? How would you describe its success thus far?
Kristen V. Carter: JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC is a media consultation and production company that I created in 2007, due to the number of independent clients I was gaining outside of my full time position. At the time I created the company, I was a show writer for a cable entertainment news show (BET’s The Black Carpet) and was being approached to write scripted tv pilots, treatments, episodic breakdowns, and press kits on the side. I wanted to start building a brand so the move to create a company was natural for me.
JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC has evolved in just the 5.5 years that it’s been established. Initially, I did a lot of media consulting and managed two recording artists – R&B singer Lance Drummonds and Lyricist/Photographer Blue – but as my writing grew, I realized I needed to solely focus on getting my productions off the ground.
BS: You are quite an accomplished screenwriter, television producer, and educator. Do you enjoy one more than the others?
Kristen V. Carter: I believe all three fields go hand in hand. I am very passionate about storytelling and connecting with people so that I can be a vessel to tell their stories in order to inspire others. Screenwriting is about putting a story on paper; producing is about finding out a person’s story and bringing it to life; education is about teaching those around you while sharing your experience and perspective. I am drawn to education because I believe our children need to know that they can achieve their dreams and see people in their community who are doing what they’d like to do.
BS: Describe some of your most important career accomplishments.
Kristen V. Carter: No one accomplishment is more ‘important’ than the other because they are all stepping stones but a few stand out to me; being accepted to the Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship, being selected for a scholarship by New York Women in Communications, traveling the country as a story producer for an OWN/Discovery Health production, and directing my first short film this past month.
BS: At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing? What initiated your passion for writing?
Kristen V. Carter: I’ve kept journals and written poems, songs, and short stories all my life so I can’t even recall when I noticed that I loved writing. I’m curious to know what my mother or grandparents would say in regards to when they first noticed. I began taking my writing more seriously during my junior year of high school, when I signed up for an Expository Writing Course. I realized at that time that I absolutely loved writing and wanted to write a feature film one day.
BS: What are your short-term/long-term goals?
Kristen V. Carter: I am currently editing my first short film entitled First Date, a drama about a woman’s emotional encounter with a ‘familiar stranger.’ My current goal is to complete post-production on the film and begin submitting to film festivals. I also want to complete the next draft of my feature film, and create a production collective which is simply a group of friends dedicated to assisting each other with getting their independent projects completed.
My long-term goals include creating a traveling curriculum where I visit various schools in the country to present interactive workshops on entrepreneurship and activating your goals. I am also actively seeking investors for my production work, so that I can launch a feature film project.
BS: Describe a time when you were faced with a challenging situation and how you handled it.
Kristen V. Carter: In 2009, the recession hit the production world pretty hard and most of the friends and colleagues I knew were sitting at home. That was a huge time of reevaluation for me because that was the very first time I had been faced with real doubt, insecurity and anxiety about my craft. I wasn’t inspired to write at all, and I questioned if I was good enough for my dream several times…finally, it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to get anywhere pouting in my living room. Initially, I was applying to all Writer positions and soon realized that when things shift, you also have to shift. I began applying for non-Production roles everywhere and wound up doing contract work for an international conference. As soon as I stepped outside of the box of ‘Why am I not getting what I want?,’ I started receiving what I wanted. Soon after, I received my first Writer/Associate Producer opportunity, which gave me access to becoming the writer and producer I am today.
BS: What motivates you? How do you motivate others?
Kristen V. Carter: Remembering how much my mom worked and sacrificed in order for me to enroll in every activity I was interested in inspires me. When I complain about how hard I’m working, I remember that she worked three jobs while finishing school. That shuts me up right there…
My family motivates me. My community motivates me. I’ve had nothing but support as I continue to climb and I am so grateful for that.
How do I motivate others? I don’t know if you can know how you ‘motivate others.’ My gut response is just - by being myself and sharing my truth. I believe it’s important to tell the entire story, not just the success but the stumbles to success. And even as I write this, there is still so much further to go so I am thankful to have my community on this journey with me.
BS: What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
Kristen V. Carter: The best aspect of my job is that it never feels like a job. I enjoy directing cast and crew, and laughing on set. It’s just fun. The worst aspect of my job is just the long hours. It’s something you get used to though so it comes with the territory.
BS: How would you describe your style of writing and directing? How do you continue to develop your skills?
Kristen V. Carter: I’m still developing my style of writing and directing, as I consider myself a baby in this game. I love to comment on society with humor. If you can get an audience laughing while sticking some truth in their mouths, I think you’re on to something so I am constantly working on that.
I develop my skills by watching and reading great screenwriters and directors. Learning by observing– (and screwing up and getting back up!) - is the best way to develop skill.
BS: Have you ever been in a Writer’s Group for learning and/or support? Have mentors played a part in your success?
Kristen V. Carter: In 2011, I was accepted into the Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship, a 16 week program for emerging writers in film and scripted television. My class dynamic was similar to a writer’s group where we would turn in material every week and critique each other’s work. Now that the program has passed, my group still meets every other Tuesday to submit all kinds of material – web content, short film, feature, and tv spec scripts. Writers’ groups are extremely important in order to receive honest feedback from fellow writers who are dedicated to the craft and take writing seriously.
It takes a village to raise a child, and I am a firm believer in that. I have many mentors who have paved the way and given me invaluable advice through the years. Mentors are huge is this business because it’s imperative to have someone who can vouch for your work ethic and talent.