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"If you want to see transformation within society, you must continue to talk about those things and not just do one movie or show per year that discusses them." — Tre'Shonda Sheffey, TV/film producer, Harbert College alumnae
Tre’Shonda Sheffey loves a good cause and she loves to tell a story. It’s no wonder the 2010 marketing graduate and former Congressional press liaison in Washington found a niche as a freelance film/tv producer to help advocate social issues through mini-series, advertising campaigns, and animated television.
“I told myself, ‘If we really want to continue to explore certain issues and help people, we have that opportunity in the entertainment industry,’” she said. So she left D.C. politics.
“You can continue to talk about important issues through multiple mediums when you have the viewer's attention.”
These Issues include civil rights, racial injustice, sexual assault, social justice, voting protections.
“That’s what’s great about storytelling … you’re able to go there and bring more awareness to the subject matter,” said Sheffey, who co-produced the short film about social status, “The Imperfect Picture,” and the Rising Up social justice series on topics such as activism and call for change. Her film was selected as one of 28 for its worldwide debut at the 2021 Cortinametraggio short film festival.
“Instead of constantly talking about it, you’re able to see that on the screen, whether it’s a movie or a TV show. I think what the entertainment industry has done well, as it attempts to transform its own systemic issues, is to provide space on-screen and behind the camera for issues of racism and abuse to be discussed and dealt with," she said. "If you want to see transformation within society, you must continue to talk about those things and not just do one movie or show per year that discusses them. It’s interesting to see how that storyline continues to play out in multiple shows, especially across different networks.”
COVID-19 presents a plethora of logistical issues on-set. However, Sheffey sees a silver lining. “With the extra time we’ve had, it’s allowed people to create differently and intentionally,” she added. “This opens the window to new possibilities. There’s also more inclusive content that represents female and BIPOC led narratives. That is important as we all look for an escape from the current reality.”
Her latest project being pitching is an animated children’s series, which she hopes will be picked up soon by a platform willing to have larger and thoughtful conversations for a younger age group.
“This is for older children, between 7 and 12,” said Sheffey, who as associate producer, coordinates with the script writers and show creators, ensures logistics are handled and deliverables are presented on time. “The concepts that we are exploring are a bit more mature than for those who watch Doc McStuffins. “No offense to other shows, but our program invites kids into deeper conversations. I suppose that sometimes we believe we can’t speak so openly about things with children. However, our program explores gratitude, happiness and different elements of how we are operating in this world.
“Some people struggle with what to say to their children. There are multiple things happening in the world around us, and kids … they hear their family members talking about these things...but not with them. Our show will invite young ones and their parents to the conversation together, in hopes to foster a safe space for difficult topics.”