Former VP of OWN, Endyia Kinney-Sterns on Pitching, Planning & Walking In Your Purpose

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With the rise of social media, it seems as if everyone wants to be a star. Platforms like YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram have made a countless number of singers, actresses, makeup artists and models seemingly overnight successes. And for many people, their dreams now include having their own reality show or producing their own scripted series. While your social media numbers may get you a meeting with an executive, many people aren’t privy to what it actually takes to successfully pitch and sell a television series that networks want to air and advertisers want to get behind.

Insert Endyia Kinney-Sterns with over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry from VH1, CBS, NBC, HGTV, TV One and BET, the former Vice President of Development At OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network) is openly sharing trade secrets. Sterns recently held the inaugural “Real On Reality Television” workshop at the L.A. Film School which was designed to give industry aspirants the blueprint to creating a great sizzle reel, treatment and pitch for network executives.

The workshop also included a Q&A with “Basketball Wives LA” star Malaysia Pargo who candidly shared the pros and cons of living her life in front of the camera.

Following the immensely informative master class, Sterns spoke exclusively with Directed By DAmour about why she decided to embark on a multi-city tour as well as the importance of making strategic moves on the path to following your purpose.

Endyia Kinney-SternsDBD: Oftentimes, it seems as if executives are too busy and inaccessible when it comes to answering questions about the business. You could have easily kept this knowledge to yourself; why did you decide to reach back and create this workshop series?

Endyia Kinney-Sterns: I get so many questions from people who know what I do who don’t know where to go to get this information and there’s so much to share which is hard to do in passing. Sometimes you only get one shot to get into these rooms and pitch your idea and over the years, I continued to see people that weren’t prepared because they simply didn’t realize what they didn’t know. So as I transition into this new chapter of my career, I have a little more freedom to share and impart knowledge, I’m going to do it because that’s my responsibility. I don’t believe you go through life with over twenty years of experience and not share anything. You can see people who’ve gone through their careers only thinking about themselves and you reap that. Everything I do has to be about reaching back, helping someone else, imparting and giving because if you’re not going to give back to someone else, then what’s the point? So this was a sort of natural thing for me and I’m excited to have the platform to do it.

Change your perception and look at that job you dislike as the means to fund your purpose Click To Tweet

DBD: Once you pitch to a network or production company, it can be difficult to prove that they moved forward with your idea without you. How does someone protect their idea beyond registering and copyrighting their script or treatment?

EKS: In terms of the unscripted realm, you have to realize that the minute you had the idea, so did 200 other people. Most networks won’t take unsolicited pitches. Meaning they won’t take meetings with people that don’t have agents, managers or a production company assigned to them because agents and managers know what’s already out there; they know the flow of content. They know what ideas have been pitched a million times and they can give you feedback on what you can add to make your idea more unique. It comes down to who’s the most prepared, who has the best track record or the most experience.

Sometimes it’s all about making minor tweaks, which could be an addition of talent or getting a hot show runner involved. Sometimes networks are very picky about who they move forward with so it’s not that someone took your idea, another person just packaged it better.

DBD: What personal and professional skill sets did you have to hone in on to be able to thrive in situations where you may have been the only woman of color in a room?

EKS: Growing up, I had a lot of experiences where I was the only woman of color in a room so I’m used to it. What I realized is when you know who you are, it’s not an issue. When you make it an issue, it becomes an issue for other people. When I’m at networks, I’m just me, I come with a clear point -of-view, I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and I’m confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. Regardless of my color or my size, is who I am and what I contribute what you need?

Endyia 2Along the way, people have tried to marginalize me and assume that because I was a black woman, there were limits on what I knew and what I could contribute and those are people you don’t want to work for anyway. That actually happened to me where I had gotten so far in a position and a particular person said, ‘I think you’re good where you are’. And that made me say ‘thank you for telling me, I have to go where someone else can really see my value and my worth’ and that’s the key. That situation reiterated the importance of having confidence, knowing your strengths, knowing how to capitalize off it and finding a place where it fits.

It’s not that someone took your idea, another person just packaged it better Click To Tweet

DBD: If you’re not happy at a job and you want to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor, how do you take the necessary steps to go out on your own when you’re worried about how your bills are going to get paid?

EKS: Change your perception and look at that job you dislike as the means to fund your purpose. As I began to rise in my career knowing that I wanted to do other things, I started developing my plan, putting money aside, gathering my resources, nurturing my relationships and setting up things so that when it was time for me to transition, I was already prepared. There were so many times where I said, ‘I’m ready to jump ship now, I cant take it anymore’ but it wasn’t time. God was showing me that even in the midst of discomfort there were lessons. Don’t leap before you’re ready. Once you have a plan in place, doors will start to open and that’s where I’m at now. Doors have opened, I have great opportunities to consult, do speaking engagements and conferences because I planted the foundation in my other positions.

Originally Published In The LA Sentinel Newspaper

Last modified: Sep 8, 2016