Can you tell us a little about yourself?
NS: I’ve worked in television and film production for many years, producing both scripted and documentary projects. As producer of PBS’ Reading Rainbow and President of On Screen Entertainment, I found my niche for adapting young adult literature. Later, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Tonya, who I realized shared my passion for turning meaningful material into films. Since joining forces, ToniK produced The Watsons Go to Birmingham, based on the novel by Christopher Paul Curtis, The Giver, an adaptation of the Newbery Award-winning novel by Lois Lowry and our upcoming feature, Monster, based on the acclaimed novel by Walter Dean Myers.
TLL: Before meeting Nikki and starting ToniK, I worked at Disney and Nickelodeon and also ran my own independent production company, Madstone Company Inc, where I produced scripted and nonscripted projects for companies such as Disney TV Animation, Nickelodeon, the U.S. Depart of Health and Human Services and OraTV. In addition to producing, I’ve written multiple books, including Please Baby Please and The Gotham Diaries. As an advocate for women’s health, I also founded the online health and wellness platform HealthyYouNow.com, as well as the women’s vitamin supplement company Movita.
What exactly is ToniK Productions?
ToniK Productions is a film and television production company that produces content for the entire family. Our mission is to create diverse, quality, thought-provoking entertainment across all media platforms. As a diverse, women-led company, our different backgrounds and experiences filter through each and every project we produce.
What inspired you to start ToniK Productions?
We were brought together by Viacom 12 years ago to produce the mini-series, Miracle’s Boys. We had an instant chemistry and a shared spirit, and realized that our experiences, techniques and expertise complimented one another’s. From then on, we collaborated together for many years, while also working on projects separately. We always enjoyed working together most, so four years ago, we decided to officially come together as ToniK Productions – a move which got the ball rolling on a number of projects.
How did you come up with the name?
ToniK is a combination of Tonya and Nikki, and we hope our work is a tonic to the world in some way.
Tonya, can you share with us a little about your more recently produced series, She’s Gotta Have It?
TLL: SGHI is a ten-episode series on Netflix based on the film by my husband about a twenty- something year old woman living in gentrified Brooklyn. It’s a timely piece about what it means to be a young woman today, and everyone should check it out!
Your newest film Monster will premiere for the first time during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, can you share with us what led you to create this film?
MONSTER has been an ongoing passion project for us that we’ve carried for over ten years. When we found the book by Walter Dean Myers, we knew this was something we had to make. It’s a powerful, touching and incredibly important story about a teenager who gets caught up in a robbery gone wrong. For one mistake, he faces life in prison. It was important for us to explore the many flaws of our social and judicial system. The movie asks many questions, including: who is protecting Steve and what does justice serve? We collaborated with a diverse group of individuals to tell this story and to say that this young boy’s life matters. Making this film has been a long process, but it is finally made and we cannot wait to show it to the public.
How is being a female in Hollywood behind the camera?
It’s definitely tough, but the challenge makes us work harder. We’re at a pivotal time, and while there is still a long way to go before women are where they deserve, progress is being made. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry as women and to work harder than ever.
What is on the rise for ToniK Productions?
Many exciting things! We are currently developing Agents of Gallagher with Paramount, which we’re thrilled about. We’re also working on the feature Steal Away with Monumental Pictures UK, which recounts the history of the Fisk Jubilee singers. For television, we’re developing Prep School Gangsters, based on the New York Magazine articles by Nancy Jo Sales, as well as an adaption of Tonya’s novel Gotham Diaries.
Do you have any advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Do you have a favorite quote or go to saying? 🙂
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” by Nelson Mandela.