Creative Spotlight is a weekly feature highlighting Black creatives making trailblazing moves. In this space, your voices are heard and your hard work is celebrated. For consideration for a future feature, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Roni Simpson (Soon-to-be Davis) & Caleb Davis
Occupation: Roni – writer/producer, Caleb – director/producer
Bio: Roni Simpson is the writer and producer of the Tough Love series. Since she was a young girl, she always had a special interest in relationships and how they work, or more-so, why often times they don’t work. She also began writing poems and short stories at just seven years old. So, after years of listening to crazy relationship tales from her friends and family, and of course having her own dating experiences, she decided to build a narrative. Caleb Davis is the director and executive producer of Tough Love. He can also be referred to as the Black Robert Rodriguez considering the number of hats he wears while producing a project. For this series, along with the aforementioned roles, Caleb has also served as editor, director of photography, camera operator, location manager and production designer. He worked extremely hard to properly bring the vision to life.
EBONY: Take us back to the brainstorming room. What inspired the idea/themes for Tough Love?
Tough Love was born out of a desire we had to see more stories onscreen about Black love and relationships. We wanted to see more plots we could connect and relate to. We wanted to showcase Black millennials in NYC chasing their dreams while still trying to balance their love lives.
Also, one of our biggest goals when moving to NYC was to film the city. It’s an amazing backdrop that just adds a ton of production value. We wanted to capture the unique buildings, taxi cabs, massive street crowds, and everything else that makes this insane place the greatest city in the world.
Many of the ideas for the plot came from situations either we’ve been through at one point in our lives or things people we know have battled with. We wanted to show the ups and downs of dating, the obstacles young people have to overcome while on the journey to love, and the internal struggles they have while attempting to figure it all out.
EBONY: Can you guys relate to any of the characters you have cast in the series?
We can honestly relate to bits and pieces of most of the characters in the show. Even if we can’t relate to them at this point in our lives, we’ve been able to relate to them in the past. For example, we notice many of our viewers will say “I’m a lot like Alicia, I’ve been Monica before, but I want to be Jordan.” They all have some element that’s relatable.
EBONY: What 5 goals would you like the series to reach before the end of the year?
- Well we just reached one of our major goals for this year! We were nominated for a Daytime Emmy, so we’re pretty excited about that.
- We want to get sponsorship for the show and begin to build partnerships.
- We’d like every episode to reach 100,000 viewers and more.
- We’d love to be picked up by a network! We’re open to all of them, from HBO to BET. As long as the opportunity is right.
- Whether it’s a network deal and/or sponsors, we just really want to have the proper resources to create a 3rd season that’s bigger and better than the previous two.
EBONY: What advice would you give someone if they asked you about starting a web series?
- Do your research. Make sure you know the ins and outs of production. It’s already difficult to make it happen with a low budget – it’ll be even more difficult making it happen without the proper knowledge.
- Make sure the story you want to create is one you’re extremely passionate about. Putting together a web series requires lots of hard work and diligence. If you’re not passionate about the project, you’ll have no desire to complete it. You need to absolutely love the story.
- Use every resource you can think of. If you’re filming with a low budget like we were, you have to be strategic. Our first season we filmed in one studio apartment and made it look like multiple rooms. We moved around couches, hung up new photos, changed lighting, etc. Use any and everything you have access to in order to add value to the project without spending money you don’t have.
- Get actors who are also passionate about the project. Producing a web series requires lots of long hours, as well as adapting. There’s a ton of “just making it work”. If you don’t have actors who truly believe in the project, it will make the process a lot more difficult.
- JUST DO IT. We don’t want to sound like a Nike commercial, but if you want to create content – do it. There’s an immense amount of tools out there for you to utilize. Pick up a camera, build a team, promote on social media and connect with an audience. It takes a lot of time and energy, but if you have a story you want to share – you’ll do what it takes. There’s never been a time like this where you could create your own content and reach your viewers directly. Take advantage of it.
Check out the official trailer for the Tough Love Series below.