In this installment of #Friday5, I’m happy to have the chance to chat with screenwriter & filmmaker, Tequoia Urbina. A graduate of Georgia State University and Northeastern University, Tequoia has over 25 years of experience in TV and film and is dedicated to creating thought provoking and entertaining content. Her latest works are The Sojourner, a sci-fi TV series that she is currently shopping and a short film, Gehenna, now in production. Tequoia is committed to creating characters and opportunities for women and people of color. Representation is important to her and she strives to reflect that in each of her projects. When she is not creating content, she spends free-time with her family and loves ALL things art related.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
Aside from being a parent, creating a story in my head and pulling a team of amazing people together to turn it into a short film. Creation is creation, no matter how short.
What’s a book you re-read over and over again?
One of my favorite books that I have read multiple times and will always be relevant to any life situation, is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I will never tire of learning a lesson about life or myself. It is a truly beautiful story that will inspire you to dream and live life with purpose.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
I’d love to go back in time to the Harlem Renaissance and have dinner with all of the great artists of that era; Billie holiday, Langston Hughes, Ella Fitzgerald, Zora Neal Hurston, Arturo Schomburg, Josephine Baker, Cab Calloway, Augusta Savage. I’d sit and absorb all of the greatness in the room and hope that I can do as much to inspire those that come after me, just as they have.
A place you’ve never been, but is on your bucket list?
I had planned on traveling to Europe this summer with my children to visit family and friends, but COVID put a stop to that. As soon as we can safely travel and are allowed entrance, we’re going. Bucket list or just cabin fever, I need a vacation ASAP!
Who was the greatest influence/inspiration in your career?
One of the required films for students in my film class in middle school was Daughters of the Dust. Julie Dash crafted a wonderful story that’s centered on the Gullah community. It meant a lot to me to see a story being told about a part of my heritage. I felt connected to the story in a way that I had never experienced before. I realized then, the importance of representation and how powerful it is to see yourself reflected in film and television. It is a validation of your life experiences. It says to the world that your stories are important, you matter.
What’s your greatest joy?
Listening to my 14-year-old daughter articulate various steps in the production process. It appears that she has been taking mental notes all these years and I know that if for any reason I am unable to do something, she can step in. That sounds like legacy to me!
Greatest “A HA “ moment?
Asking for help does not make you look weak; it’s actually being smart!
Greatest pet peeve in business?
People who do not keep their word. I was raised on the saying, “word is bond”. If I say that I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. Not many people share that same mentality.
At this stage in your career, what would you consider to be a dream project/opportunity?
I am currently shopping The Sojourner, my sci-fi TV series. It is my dream to have it picked up by the Syfy channel and to work on/produce my own show. I have ambitions beyond that, other shows and features, however, my energy is currently focused on my pilot.
What piece of advice would you give young people just starting out in their career?
I would advise anyone starting out in their career (whether they are recent graduates or going through a 2nd stage career change) if you have a passion, go after it! Never allow naysayers to stop you from living out your dream. I always say that it is not easy to reach the top and that is by design. It is hard to reach the top and most people do not make it because they give up along the way. Don’t give up, even when it seems as though the world is against you, keep pushing, make connections, build a positive reputation in the industry, and continually work on your craft.
One thing I didn’t realize before shopping my scripts is the amount of notes that writers receive and the continued rejection. It is brutal. Get used to it, and do not take it personally. If you are a sensitive person, please consider what I am saying. This industry has broken many people. You must build a tough skin to be successful. It’s not my intention to discourage anyone, quite the opposite. I want people to be informed and better prepared for entering as a creative. Your talent will be tested, but it will strengthen your skills and hone your craft.
That being said, my final piece of advice is amazingly simple, don’t let anyone else define for you what success looks like. If you want to be the next Spielberg or DuVernay, that’s great and work your ass off towards that, but know that it’s OK if you don’t become like them. You get to decide what your version of success looks like, work towards that and you’ll be happier for it.