Next Gen. Producers in a Shifting Entertainment Industry with Nicole Bryant, Creative Executive

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Throughout the month of March in honor of Women's History month, we will be highlighting trailblazers within the media landscape as well as uncovering how access to technology has allowed the industry to become more equitable for women. 

We had a chance to have a conversation with Nicole Bryant a Creative Executive at Hidden Pictures Media.

Symbonic: How did you get into the Hollywood ecosystem?

Nicole Bryant: I did not know anything about the film industry growing up. I'm from Northern California and my family is working class, not people who would typically pursue the arts. I have always been interested in this world and in movies in particular. It was something I always had in the back of my mind; having a cell phone in my hand, how can I record my friends and make little movies to tell stories. For class projects, I would ask if there was any way I could make a movie instead of writing an essay. I liked trying to incorporate that on a day to day basis, but I didn't really know what a career in film would look like. I didn't really know that that was an option. It was always more of a hobby until I was filling out college applications and I saw that film production was a choice. It was like every single light bulb went off and I could actually do this.

I went to film school at Loyola Marymount University here in LA. I studied film production, which was fantastic. It's a great school. I learned the ropes of different positions within the industry and found that producing was really what I wanted to be doing. Producing can kind of be a very abstract concept until you are actually doing it.

I took the steps that I thought would get me there, which included some freelance onset work and tried to work my way up from being a production assistant. I decided that that wasn't really where my heart was and I wanted to be more involved in storytelling. I went to an agency after college to get experience under my belt, and learn how to work with agents in particular, but also professionals in the entertainment industry at large. That was an amazing experience as well - fast paced, very difficult. After about a year, I went to a smaller production company that had a deal at Disney. I worked there for a little over two years, which was also a fantastic experience and I really learned what it meant to be a producer.

I ultimately decided I was ready for the next step. I heard that Hidden Pictures was launching soon. The head of the company was looking for an assistant, and I applied. I was just excited to be at a brand new company and kind of get in on the ground floor and be working for the principal of the company. I started here when the company launched and was Todd Lieberman's assistant for about three months. After that, I was offered a promotion to be a Creative Executive, so I have transitioned into this role now and it's been wonderful so far. 

Symbonic: Was it a priority for you to move to Hidden Pictures because it was a new company launching? Were you drawn in by the prospect of new opportunities?

NB: Yeah, definitely. 

I had been looking around at a couple different opportunities at the time, but was interested in what growth would look like beyond being an assistant. At that point, I already had three years of being an assistant under my belt.

I was looking for what that next step would look like and what a path to growth might be, especially coming from a very small company where that wasn't necessarily going to be possible. And, yeah, I thought that it could look different depending on the places that I was looking at. Hidden Pictures was a brand new company. I really liked the projects that they as the team had worked on previously and the previous iteration of the company. I thought that it would be really cool and exciting to get in with this group and see what happened.

Symbonic: In your experience, have you been able to work with female producers? With only 31% of  behind-the-scenes producers on major films being female in 2022, have you had opportunities to work with some?

NB: Yeah, that's a great question. Honestly, I have not worked very closely with a lot of female producers. At Hidden Pictures, Carly Kleinbart serves as the Vice President and it's fantastic. She's probably the closest person who I've worked with who is a woman. At my last company, there was a executive who was also a woman, but we were all working remotely for most of the time. We didn't have a lot of face time together. Otherwise, every single one of my bosses has been a man. This is like a fairly new experience for me as well.

I would have absolutely loved to work with more female producers as I was coming up. Frankly, there were not many opportunities for me to do so. I think that's changing. There are more female executives now than there have been probably ever before. It's just a reflection of the landscape as it currently is.

Symbonic: Prior to entering the industry, I'm sure you were aware of the #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite movements. How have those movements shaped your approach to your job and how you interact with different people in the industry?

NB: That's a good way of framing that question. You know it's interesting, especially having worked with so many men and male supervisors in particular. I definitely think that there are good people out there and good humans in this industry. There has been a big shift in terms of awareness about behavior, but also sensing discomfort and when things might not be okay. I think in the past, it was a bit easier to look past those things. In my personal experience, I think working with people who are generally more sensitive to those things has been a blessing.

I think it's harder to get away with stuff now than it ever has been. Not to say that it doesn't still happen. It definitely does. And I don't want to just say something like "oh, everything's changed." The movements have been wonderful. It is still hard for a lot of people, women and men. It's easier to tell who is aligned with those beliefs and to decide where you want to fall. 

Symbonic: Do you have any advice or things you wish you had known when you were first starting out that you would impart to someone else like yourself or interested in getting into entertainment and media?

NB: One thing that I think is super, super important was advice given to me, helpful for women in particular, but also all people coming up in creative industries, is just to maintain conviction. Our business is very much centered around opinions. Movies are so so so subjective, in terms of what people are into, what people enjoy, and what people don't enjoy.

I think that one really, really important thing to remember is it's okay to have creative opinions, and to stand by them. I think having that conviction is very, very, very important. It's a good thing to remind yourself on a daily basis and hold on to because in group settings, when you may not be the person with the highest title, it's still good to remind yourself your creative taste is valid and will contribute to the conversation. 

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Bryant and the Hidden Pictures team are excited about the upcoming release of White Bird: A Wonder Story this August and the recent announcement of a Cheech and Chong biopic. 

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