If anyone has the blueprint for the art of storytelling it is Mara Brock Akil.
From “Being Mary Jane” to “The Game” and beyond, the screenwriter and producer has created characters that serve as a safe space for Black women to simply be themselves no matter the generation they belong to.
“I used to, you know, hear it, but not absorb it. I think, a little bit of being an introvert, a little bit of being shy. A little bit of modesty,” she told AfroTech ahead of hitting the stage for a panel at Mary J. Blige’s Strength Of A Women Festival & Summit (SOAW). “I don’t think modesty is serving me, or it had not served me then.”
She continued: “What I’m realizing is that my heart is in those shows. All the things I want for myself, all the things that I want for those that I love. For my little girlfriends, my nieces, who weren’t even born at the time. Thinking about the future, what I wanted for me, and what I wanted for you guys.”
As she spoke on the beautiful stories reflected through characters such as Joan, Lynn, Maya, and Toni, the “Girlfriends” creator spoke to the importance of ownership and setting the right price for your work as a creative.
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“I’ve had to learn the balance between all of that love and personal pouring into a project with how to also measure making sure that my value and work is honored,” Akil said.
When it comes to setting a price on your art, Brock Akil emphasized why it is important for the numbers to align before sharing your passions with the vehicle that will be used to share that art with the masses.
In her case, that avenue has been Hollywood.
“Even now we’re in the strike, and a lot of those writers that you see on the line, they just want to tell their story,” she recalled. “You love telling stories so that you practically do it for free, but it’s not free. So you do have to set the measurement about what are the values and learn how to set those parameters first. And then, as a veteran, I’ve learned how to hold on to all of that passion until we line up the numbers so that we can be free.”
On Owning Our Stories
Additionally, when creating work that will remain for generations to come, for Brock Akil it is important to know your worth (and even add tax).
“There are a lot of stories out there that are polluting the waters, but the stories that are properly supported and properly funded and properly executed… they will serve audiences well after I’m gone, after you’re gone. Those stories live beyond us and have tremendous value.”
What’s more, during SOAW, Brock Akil took to the stage alongside actresses Gail Bean, Raven Goodwin, and Brandee Evans for a fireside chat hosted by Marsai Martin where they discussed the current state of storytelling in Hollywood, the power of owning our stories, and more.