TELECOMMUNICATIONS – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working Telecommunications
Kaia T. Jones (THF ’15)
Show Runner Assistant to Regina Hicks, Netflix – Overall Deal
What do you enjoy most about your company?
I work under Regina’s Netflix Overall Deal, which means I follow her to whatever project she is working on. I love working with her, because not only is she extremely talented and an amazing mentor, but being in this position allows me to see the entire process of how a show goes from pitch to premiere. Regina is very attentive to detail and precise when it comes to her creative decisions; everything has a meaning and she wants to work with those that hold the same standard. I admire this, because it holds on to the integrity of TV/Film as an art form. It also is extremely important when creating BIPOC stories with authenticity and freshness. As a Black woman whose goal is to be in her position one day, it is extremely important to see this type of Black girl boss energy in action.
In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
Nothing beats working on a production. Being in the mix of something you want to one day create yourself is crucial to me. Not only is it fun and you get to meet a lot of interesting people, but it is a phenomenal learning experience. Being an Office PA I got to see every department in action. If you want to be a writer/director like me, this is important because you need to understand everyone’s role on set; you are collaborating with them! Take the time to understand just how much they have to do to make your vision come to life. So now, as Show Runner’s assistant I have a better understanding of every department and how everything comes together. I want to write for TV, which happens in a writers’ room and at the helm is a Show Runner. I wanted to see how a writers room operated up close, so this was a great position for that. Getting to talk with writers more closely, and see the building of a series in action. Plus, you see all the behind the scenes of what a Show Runner and each department must do to put every episode together. I have a bird’s eye view and I love it.
Has your career path been linear or non-linear?
My path has mostly been linear once I broke into scripted television. Prior to that, I worked in sports for a brief period after graduation. Knowing I wanted to get into scripted, I signed up to work with an entertainment temp agency that landed me some corporate assistant jobs at OWN and Disney XD. Although I was working in TV/Film, I knew I needed to get down to the production level. I took a job as a CBS page which turned into a mailroom gig at CBS Radford (I will say this job taught me everything about networking and how to simply walk in a room and talk to people). From this position, I met an amazing Production Coordinator, Beatriz Chahin, who recommended me for my first Office Production Assistant job. I worked on a couple of pilots after that as an office PA as well and then to Season 1 of the Upshaws. About a month or so after we wrapped, I was asked by the Show Runner if I was interested in being her assistant for her new pilot. I was thrilled, the experience was amazing and I have continued working with her.
How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
T. Howard was a reminder to me that as a BIPOC individual, it is important that we make a mark in this industry and extend a hand to help others like us so they can too. I love that this program caters to that and helps us to make sure we put out best foot forward. I met some amazing peers through T. Howard and it stands as proof to network with those at your level because we all rise in this industry together. Networking is key, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, there is somebody looking for someone just like you. Hone your skills, make friends, and work on projects. Your voice matters — people want to hear what you have to say so CREATE. T. Howard has influenced me to take advantage of every opportunity, to be resilient, and to put my most authentic self forward in everything that I do.
What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?
Personability. They say this industry is all about who you know, yes, but honestly everyone just wants to work with their friends and people that are good at what they do. Even though it could be uncomfortable at first, when I was in the mail room at CBS, I made a point to chat it up with everyone around the Lot. Not only did it just make the overall experience of such a tedious job better, because that studio now feels like a home, but it is also what got me my first scripted production gig. It prepared me to leave a good mark on any project I was continuing on to, and to create lasting relationships within the industry. This is how it is, with every step you pick up something that helps you in the long run. You will get to where you need to be, but most importantly you will get there and be prepared to beast it.
Are you extroverted or introverted? How does this show up in your professional life and how has this trait benefited you professionally?
I would say I am a mix, but lean more to extroversion. I think like most people, when I become more comfortable with an environment, I naturally begin to open up. This doesn’t take long for me though, I am all about making a certain space my own or wanting to be different from those around me. It’s an essential trait for me as a creative. I think this kind of approach is important as it stands for a way for people to really get to know you. Be authentically and unapologetically you; these are the types of voices people want to see in this industry. Being yourself and letting people get to know you is what is going to keep you working, but also what is going help you with your own independent ventures. Whether it’s in an office or in an interview, show them your personality.
Kaia’s Piece of Advice:
My advice to anyone that works on a production, or is trying to, is to talk to everyone – you never know how someone can help you along your journey. As you move through different projects, you’ll see those faces again. This includes people on your level, we all rise together. Be the best at your job, be friendly, and come to learn as much as you can.