Content creator and director Jourdan Guyton does not believe in the word “no.” Throughout her career as an actress and content creator for network television, she longed to see programs that reflected the stories and the faces of women who looked like her. Tired of waiting, she decided to take the reins.
Guyton and a former colleague from her television past joined forces to explore programming beyond network television. In 2017, the pair launched “Two Grown,” a web series that explores the hijinks of two young women of color experiencing the personal and professional highs and lows of life in New York.
“The web series space leaves room for full and vast credibility. You can tell stories that aren’t limited the way they are in mainstream media. It’s a powerful platform for people of color, because it’s not limited in space or duration,” according to Guyton.
When “Two Grown” began, the two co-creators took on multiple roles in front of and behind the camera, along with a small crew. The talented duo wrapped the first season having covered all series expenses, paying everyone, except themselves. To Guyton’s delight, that changed when a Black Entertainment Television executive recognized the show’s intrinsic value and unique perspective, picking up “Two Grown” for its second season.
In sealing the deal, the multifaceted artist took on yet another role: shrewd negotiator. BET won the show, but Guyton retained co-ownership under the BET brand. She acknowledged the bittersweet nature of typical negotiations.
“Pieces of equity are stripped away as you get further into these deals. As a woman of color, one of the blessings is to be able to say that I co-own my content that I co-created and co-produced,” Guyton said.
The “Two Grown” series ignited a spark for Guyton, reaffirming that underrepresented viewers longed for relatable programming, just as she had.
“It came about as a result of drive and determination,” Guyton declared. “We did not want to wait for hypersexual roles, or for characters we had to audition for. We wanted ones we could create on our own. The show gave us affirmation that it was something we could do.”
The experience of creating “Two Grown” has generated opportunities for Guyton to promote other web-based and network TV projects in the wings. This includes a dramatic, short-form series that depicts her versatility as an actress, a comedic teen series, as well as an unscripted, faith-based show exploring soul transformations. She plans to produce these upcoming projects, which feature African American talent. Guyton’s journey has also led to another project, an IGTV series that will help artists like her navigate the road to entrepreneurship and content creation in the digital world. The series is scheduled for release this spring. She shares updates, resources, and event information regarding her “creative universe” via her monthly newsletter, entitled Create. Collaborate. Elevate.
Now thriving in the web series space, Guyton has five tips for aspiring content creators:
1. Become a sponge
Read, watch, and absorb content that is similar to yours. Follow comparable web series, and check out the work of new actors and creators.
2. Create your tribe
Know that you cannot do this alone. Surround yourself with people who can help you. Maintain those connections via phone, LinkedIn, or other social media.
“Remember that nine of the 10 people you are already surrounded by are people who can help you reach your destination,” Guyton said.
“Develop relationships. The industry is built on that,” she added, noting that her team’s current following began with initial fans of “Two Grown.”
She credits that same following with becoming their “community” by sharing and reposting her team’s content.
3. Go for it
Shoot your sizzle, your content, your passion.
“Remember that someone is out there who is waiting to hear your story,” Guyton said.
Showcase your work by sharing your new content on social media.
4. Give back
Support the work of other artists.
“Attend web fests, Urbanworld, and other film festivals that create a space for black people to network with one another,” she said.
In existence for over two decades, the Urbanworld Film Festival has celebrated diversity across the creative spectrum. Show up: volunteer, pitch, introduce yourself, and engage.
5. Just say “yes”
Remain undeterred in the pursuit of your dream. “Remember that a ‘no’ is just a delayed ‘yes,’” Guyton said. “If you hear ‘no’ the first time, you are asking the wrong person.”
To all the naysayers out there, there is a benefit to becoming a change agent, to being the incubator of a new movement for a new age. Guyton is boldly sharing her stories, changing nos into yeses and transforming the web series space in the process.