Photo courtesy of Ashley Sky Walker

Harvard graduate and Peabody Award-nominated producer, Aaliyah Williams, is the founder of Just A Rebel — a television and film production company that focuses on telling contemporary stories centering on Black women.

She joined rolling out to discuss recent stunner, Really Love, starring Kofi Siriboe, Uzo Aduba, Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing, and Michael Ealy, which recently debuted in the top 10 films on Netflix.

How did your Harvard education play a role in you ultimately becoming one of the producers on Netflix’s Really Love?
At Harvard, I originally wanted to be a pediatric surgeon, studying psychology. And I was spending a lot of time producing plays and doing a lot of organizational things. While working in business in New York, my scholarship program put on a conference about arts and entertainment and Charles King gave a fireside chat about his life as a super agent. And honestly, that made me rethink my plans. I moved out to LA about 15 years ago and have been working my way through short films and digital and while at macro brought this movie to Charles and said we needed to put money behind it.

What did you think about the script when you read it?
It was beautiful. It was Mel Jones, his directorial debut. So I remember it was a Sunday morning. And I just couldn’t put it down. It really just [captured] the essence of that feeling of meeting someone that you just connect with. And before you even have words around what that connection is, that feeling is there. It also spoke to young Black ambition, something that we don’t see on screen enough.

What are the steps that a student interested in production needs to follow?
Well, if at a school where you’re fortunate enough to have a film program, definitely take advantage. I didn’t, but I was always doing a lot of critical writing around storytelling and narratives. Kids have such an advantage today [with] all of the resources that are available online of people talking about film, and their process when making films. When I moved to LA, I didn’t go to film school. I plugged into the organization film independent, to learn things like budgeting, set etiquette, and [more] and I just worked with people producing short films constantly. People come to producing in different ways, so try every aspect of it so you can understand what your special sauce is.

Any other projects you are currently working on?
My company is called Just a Rebel. I’m very excited about a film that I’m currently getting off the ground, written by Kimberly Nicole Walker and the director is Tiffany Johnson and I’m producing that with Genius Productions, Marcy Martin’s company, who is also starring in that film. And we have a number of television projects that are in development. One is around an HBCU, which is an exciting one, and it is all about a woman’s journey with her sexuality and becoming whole.


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