Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael is the founder of Sunshine Moxie Entertainment and a Black girl from Chicago who was supposed to stay inside her box. Instead, she decided to dream big, live bigger and change the world through visual storytelling. Since 2010, she has written and directed across mediums to tell stories about the objects of her obsession: women of color.
Megan Grogan is the Producer of Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis web series, and Head of Production for Sunshine Moxie Entertainment. In addition to the hit web series, HGQLC, Megan has 3 festival accepted short films (“The Life I Carry”, “The Lot”, “The Weight of Sadness”) and 2 successful Kickstarter campaigns on her resume. Megan’s passion lies in character driven stories that explore the truths of every days lives and promoting strong female characters and leaders in the Film and Television industry.
How did Sunshine Moxie Entertainment get started?
Eliyannah – I was raised by people that started and ran their own school so my foundation and my pre-disposition is to initiate structure and organization when I see a need for it. Once film found me (in college), my journey was something like 1.) Directing is definitely what I want to do 2.) What do I want to direct? What do I want to create? 3.) What companies are focused on telling black women’s stories? 4.) I need to consistently be able to greenlight myself and also greenlight other people who want to tell black women’s stories and other women of color.
Megan – When Eliyannah and I first met it was the creative partner equivalent to love at first sight. A day after we met we had started the conversation of our first film together. We are opposite women in many ways, but not only was I pulled into to the “sunshine moxie” of her personality, but it felt not only did I have some of that same quality but our partnership brought it out of me more. It was clear we both wanted to tell stories of women, stories that are often ignored, and as our work grew, it was clear the foundation of Sunshine Moxie was growing.
Tell us a little about yourself as individuals & what role you play in the project HGQLC?
Eliyannah – I think of myself as a director with a focus on story. It’s the only thing that matters. I’m also a Taurus, a Ravenclaw, an INFP, Southside Chi till I die and a lifetime dreamer.
I created HGQLC, I’m the showrunner and I direct all the episodes. Wow. It’s amazing to look at those words!
Megan- I’m a writer and producer from Detroit, MI (on some days that makes the moxie a little more than the sunshine!), and I care about people and their stories. I like to know what happens in the moments between the chaos. For HGQLC, I actually came on as the producer after the first 2 episodes, which is crazy to think because I feel so much a part of this show!
How big is your production team (and who does that include)? How did you go about finding your team?
Megan – The official Sunshine Moxie production team consists of Eliyannah and I. We have many amazing and talented people who we work with on projects, but when it comes to the core, it’s just us.
Eliyannah how did you come up with the concept for HGQLC? Tell us a little about the project. Also do you feel the need or push for us as indie filmmakers to venture more into the genre of fantasy as women filmmakers?
Eliyannah – Hermione’s quarter life crisis was honestly inspired by my own. First of all, I am Hermione Granger. I’ve never related to a character in a book more than I did with her. Also, In January of 2016, I was (31, not 25 lol) in Park City, Utah volunteering for Sundance Film Festival and I was at such a low & frustrating point in my life. I felt like I was going nowhere really quickly, that maybe I had made some huge wrong turn somewhere and I had no clue how to right it.
I was in Park City legitimately planning to not go back home but to change my flight to Spokane, Washington, change my number, get a job as a secretary and never speak to anyone again. Except my mom, but she had to swear not to tell anyone. It was lunacy. But I was so tired and I was so embarrassed that I wasn’t who & what I wanted to be yet. I was also reading a Hermione fanfic at the time and after I climbed off the ledge, I was on the bus leaving a film thinking about what was I gonna do and how I needed to have fun again working on a project and it just…came to me. I’ve always hated the epilogue, it always rang untrue to me, and I just thought to myself that Hermione had to have broken down at some point the same way that I had. And I thought it would be fun to explore what that looked like.
As far as women and independent filmmakers venturing into fantasy, I think it’s necessary and critical and it must happen. And I think, especially, to see black women at the center of fantasy genre stories. The world needs it. As all of the adjectives that I identify with (independent, black, female) It’s easy to shy away from the genre and for the barriers to be bigger than the opportunities but fantasy drama is my favorite place to be and I didn’t climb out of Chicago’s south side just to play it safe. We don’t do as much magic on HGQLC as I would like because it’s not the focus of the story but that black girl has literal magic and we will show it as often as we can.
The show follows Hermione Granger who’s a 25 year old African American trying to figure her life out. How were you two able to relate to her character and then translate that into your roles as a director and producer?
Megan – I think any women over the age of 25 can relate to the feeling of a quarter life crisis. Wizard or not, magic doesn’t help you figure that out! Watching this character certainly made me more grateful of where I am and what I’ve achieved, but also I think it made me a more compassionate producer. Most of our cast and crew are around this age, and as a producer it’s important to understand the people you are working with in order to get the best out of them and of course for them to get the most out of what they are doing.
Eliyannah – I just really got out of my quarter life crisis, around 32/33, so I directly relate as a director but as the creator of the show and as the studio behind it, I’m glad that I get to put a black girl finding herself front & center. I wish I’d had this show or something like it!
Why did you two decide to pursue independent filmmaking?
Megan- To be honest, I know this sounds cheesy, but I don’t think either of us chose independent filmmaking. No one does really, it chooses you. We joke together because we both have back up plans if we want to give up, and both of our back up plans involve disappearing to some hidden or exotic place and writing some masterpiece to come back with! When you are an artist, of any kind, you see the world in a different way and you can’t stop yourself from creating. The purpose and vision might change, but you will make your creative voice heard.
Eliyannah – I actually think that I’ll always be somewhat independent, even when I’m directing $200 million studio films. Besides that, I agree with Megan. I think it’s as simple as desperately needing to create and making a way to do it. I was created to create and I have to do that, no matter what.
Megan what did a typical day look like for you while in full production for this project?Like a blur! Just kidding! When in production for something like HGQLC it’s non-stop.
Everything we do is low budget, sometimes no budget, which means every person is playing multiple roles. So it’s a matter of going through each department and piece of production and either following up with those people, or in a lot of cases taking care of it yourself because being a producer on projects like this can often mean being the location manager, the prop master and even craft service. Eliyannah and myself both work full time while building Sunshine Moxie, so each project we do takes every minute of every day. I get up at 5:00am and have sent 10 emails before my first cup of coffee, every free second I have while working is sending schedules, booking crew, re-booking crew who have canceled, ordering parchment paper on amazon for a prop, and then am up until 1am sending more follow up emails because I didn’t get off work until 8pm. Some people might think it’s easy to get some people together and make something, but when you care about what you are doing it’s a lot more work. You have to put 100 puzzle pieces together but also make sure your director is getting everything she needs because if the vision isn’t coming to life then what’s the point?
How do you recommend that filmmakers break in?
Eliyannah – Tell everyone around you that you want to be working in film/tv because you never know who they know, create something every chance you got, find a new line of work if you’re not willing to lay it all on the table and don’t be afraid to cry it out as often as you need!!!
Megan – I always hate this question! haha. There’s no right way or no answer. The biggest thing I can say is take every single opportunity, be willing to do anything, talk to everyone, work hard and be available. Don’t be shy or wait for the opportunity to find you, it won’t, you have to make it yourself.
Cost is always a factor how do you fund “green light” projects?
Megan – We see how much is in our bank account.
Eliyannah – *cackles with laughter*
Megan – Honestly though, you just find a way to make it happen. For some projects, we use all of our own money. We’ve used Kickstarter as an option in the past (with success!!) and we’ve been fortunate enough to find a small production company to partner with us in helping to fund some of HGQLC. It’s a matter of putting it all on the table. Some projects that interest people it’s easier to try and find money, but others you just have to believe in enough. We are still paying for some projects!
What is your social media strategy as business owners but also finding that balance as a creative?
A.) Find someone amazing to run the social media accounts for HGQLC.
B.) Panic ever 7-9 days because I haven’t posted to any of the Sunshine Moxie accounts and hope that Megan can figure out Twitter before 2027.
C.) Request that anybody reading this interview and is interested in running the social media pages for a new production company with a focus on centering black women across genres email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 😀
What legacy do you want Sunshine Moxie Entertainment to leave behind?
Eliyannah – I always ask the question, “why can’t I be the Warner Brothers? Why can’t I be Walt Disney?” and I mean it. I want to Sunshine Moxie to be remembered as a pioneering company that revolutionized film and television. 300 years from now, I want Sunshine Moxie to still be at the forefront of telling compelling stories about black women and other women of color in new and interesting ways. If not, I’ll come back from the dead and stage a hostile takeover.
Where do you see HGQLC headed in the future?
Eliyannah – That’s not a fair question for me to answer because I started this show with a solid idea in my head of how long it would be and how it would end and while the past 1.5 years have altered her path there, the ending of the story remains the same.That said, I see HGQLC getting darker in some ways and lighter in others. For me, it’s Hermione’s story but it’s also the story of these 4 young women coming into their own and creating lives they can love. Hermione will have to deal with the dysfunction in her family and we’ll see her navigating the loss of a parent. She has so many parts of her life and her personality that were stopped and put on hold so it’ll be interesting to see how she starts putting the pieces together one by one. What I’m most excited about, honestly, is seeing 2 black girls come of age. That’s one of my favorite types of stories, internal conflict in general, and we don’t get to see black women explore that kind of question on screen very often so I see HGQLC diving head first into letting theyoung, black woman figure out who she is and how she fits in the world.
Megan – That’s not a fair question for me to answer because I started this show with a solid idea in my head of how long it would be and how it would end and while the past 1.5 years have altered her path there, the ending of the story remains the same. I see HGQLC continuing to be a place where HP fans, women in their 20’s struggling, and most importantly African-American women go for comfort, a good laugh and a fresh take on some of literatures favorite characters. It’s an amazing thing that we’ve been able to create a show with a strong black woman as the lead, and have it received so well. Sure, there are people who only want to see Emma Watson, but we are making this show for all of the people who either read Hermione as a black woman, or fantasized what it would be like to see someone looking like them play Hermione. As a white female myself, I have enough people that look like me telling my story, so I’m excited to be a part of a company that takes an opportunity to put women of color in the narrative and in front of the screen.
What’s next for Sunshine Moxie Entertainment?
Eliyannah – I just completed a short film, “We Love Us Cause Ya’ll Won’t” that’s being entered into contests and festivals so hopefully there are some updates for that one soon!
Megan just produced a concert for an independent singer/songwriter here in LA. We have a few films and series in development that we feel very excited to be writing and both of us are generally living up to the mantra of “always be creating”.
We’re planning to be back in production for HGQLC soon and will be announcing any and every new project on our social media and our (coming!!!) website.
Megan – So many things! Sunshine Moxie has never been at a more exciting time than now. We are in the middle of writing our first feature film, a possible 2nd web series, and a podcast! Hopefully by the time you are reading this our first episode will be up for our podcast “With Sunshine and Moxie”, which is podcast for dreamers. It’s the two of us on our journey and podcasting is literally a dream come true for me so just doing it feels incredible! Lots, lots, lots to come from Sunshine Moxie!
How can we keep in contact with you?
Shivawn Hill, is a writer, director and a storyteller at heart. She’s currently in post production with her short documentary film. She believes that one day soon she’ll form the ultimate group of Storytellers who will travel the world to share the stories of creative peculiar people.