Today we’d like to introduce you to Toni Bullock.
Toni, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and always had an interest in entertainment. But I would say my life changed in High School when I transferred to Marvelwood Preparatory School. My eyes were opened to new opportunities and this is where my love for the arts really blossomed.
When I was 16 years old, I interned at WNYC (the NPR radio station) in their Integrated Marketing and Promotions department. I was the youngest intern at the company but had the advantage of exploring different departments of a radio station. I spent two summers at WNYC and that is where my passion for entertainment really grew.
After graduating from Marvelwood Preparatory School, I matriculated to Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. As a student of Hamilton College, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I decided to focus my studies on Psychology. I was always interested in learning more about the human mind and how we are influenced by our surroundings. Even though I majored in Psychology, my passion for media and entertainment was still very strong. Each summer, I worked in some form of entertainment; During my sophomore year, I landed an internship at Time Inc as part of their STARZ business program and worked on projects for their ALL YOU and INSTYLE magazines.
I found out about this program by visiting the career center at Hamilton and connecting with an alum that worked at Time Inc. You may not always have access or strong contacts in a career that interest you. I want to know how important it is for you to start with the access that you do have. Call your career center, connect with alums and ask for generals to learn more about their path. They may even lead you down another path that could be your calling.
During the school year, I worked at a local theatre company in town. I learned a lot and enjoyed seeing the progression of my hard work, but wanted more. Upon graduation, I decided to write my senior thesis on how advertisers use psychology to persuade their audience. It was my longest written paper (at least 100 pages of research) and my first report where I incorporated my working world experience with my academic career. This paper led me to Syracuse, Newhouse School of Communications.
I went to their intensive Master’s program in Television, Radio, and Film. In the winter, we had a field trip to Los Angeles for a week to network and experience the studios first hand. I immediately fell in love with the city. That trip influenced my decision to move to LA. I loved everything about it, from the beaches, palm trees, studio lots and the energy. I knew this was the place that I had to be. Upon graduation, I came back for a week and networked. I sent about 50 letters to executives at every company I could find online and asked for an informational meeting. I was blessed to meet one executive who saw my passion and determination to work in the industry and connect me with the Head of Production at a studio. That meeting landed me my first PA position on ABC’s final season of SCRUBS. I would say that was the beginning of my TV career.
Has it been a smooth road?
Working in TV or Film is never an easy road. Think of it like the competition show THE AMAZING RACE. You are excited, thrilled to be a part of this challenge and every time you think you’re going to make it, there is a roadblock on the way, but right when you’re about to give up, you get a new reward! Whether you win or lose, it’s an experience you enjoyed and never will regret. Every challenge you learn something new about yourself that makes you stronger than yesterday.
When I started working in the industry, I did not have a big network. Building your circle of people you trust and they trust you is a job itself. Try to find a mentor and a great circle of friends. When times get rough, you have people your corner to support and help you, and remind you why you started this journey.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
TV Producer by day and superhero at night. Hahaha no. Seriously, I am a TV producer working in all genres of TV from the competition, cooking, docu-series, and digital segments. I have been blessed and ever so thankful to work on shows like RED TABLE TALK, BLACK WOMEN OWN THE CONVERSATION, NETFLIX’S RHYTHM & FLOW and THE AMAZING RACE. I enjoy content like RED TABLE TALK it gives you three generational perspectives and how Jada, Willow, and Gammy have very strong different opinions on each topic. The show is super relatable and their honest conversations open your minds to different topics and worlds that you may not be familiar with.
BLACK WOMEN OWN THE CONVERSATION, is a four-part series we have 100 black women in each episode coming together for a town hall to discuss topics like Motherhood, Love, Beauty and Mental Health. Honestly, it’s been a long time coming and I feel honored to be in a room and help produce shows like this. This show gives black women of all ages and walks of life a voice on topics that affect us every day. I enjoy creating content where you feel like it’s an open honest educational experience that can help future generations.
My role on a set is mainly in the field, setting up segments of shoots, interviewing talent and directing cameras. I also have experience working in development creating pitch decks and casting. On weekends and nights, I work with my friends on personal projects producing short films and development projects. We want to create and own our own content. It’s important for you to hone in on your craft and own it. This industry is going to be hard and very different from other career paths. I believe if you don’t give up, don’t lose focus, then you will be successful (whatever that means for you). It takes time for some people, but you have to believe in yourself more than anybody else does. Because there is going to be a lot of doubt. And there’s a lot of downtimes. You just have to decide what other jobs are going to keep you afloat while you’re not working on what you want. Also, focus on yourself and your personal goals. Time moves by very quickly and you don’t want to look back and say did I accomplish everything I wanted to out of this life.
I also started a company called CALLSHEETS 2 COCKTAILS. It is a division of the Women Working in Reality (WWIR) Facebook Networking group. Established in 2017, C2C’s mission is to connect, educate and empower women in media through networking mixers, panel discussions, and educational brunches. C2C includes women who work in various positions across the entertainment industry, from production assistants to publicists and entertainment lawyers to network and digital executives. I strive to have at least 2-3 events a year in NY and LA and as the team grows in other cities.
I believe it’s important to help other women things learn topics like how to balance your finances as a freelancer, networking, negotiating your rate and resume building. A lot of these topics you learn by trial and error, but programs like C2C tries to make the information access easier. I have been blessed to have a great team and partner with brands like Anthropologie and TV production companies like Backroads and Sharp Entertainment. Currently, I am working on expanding the brand in 2020! More information to come. ☺
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the positivity. I’m from a city where people are very straightforward which can be taken as callous, but we are direct and honest. In LA, you can tell someone your wildest dream and they will tell you anything is possible if you put your heart and soul into it. The weather is not bad either! At times I miss the seasons of the East Coast, but I love the beaches and access to hiking here. It’s a great meditation and an escape for me.
LA can be superficial at times. I don’t believe it’s the real Los Angelinos but transplants. Everyone comes here wanting overnight success and will attach themselves to someone they believe is going to help them get there. To succeed you must, be direct, say what you want and move on. Let’s not waste time. Also, LA is HUGE, and the traffic doesn’t help either, but I find sitting in my car is a place for me to decompress and gather my thoughts. LA is what you make of it, it can build you up or swallow you whole. Just don’t lose yourself in the foggy mirrors.
- Website: www.TONIBULLOCK.com
- Instagram: @TONILBULLOCK
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tonibullock/