Empowerment Series: Award-Winning, NBCU Female Forward Director, Lara Everly Shares Important Episode of “American Auto” with AW
The world has changed significantly, over the course of the last several years. Some will say, our country has regressed, while others may argue that it’s not as bad, as it seems. Whatever side you are on, it is important to continue conversations that shed light on difficult subjects.
In order to contribute to the ongoing dialogue, AW is keen on delivering content that is entertaining but also thought-provoking, as well as, inspiring. With the help of amazing guests, we have been able to explore topics that are not always easy to talk about but necessary.
Lara Everly is part of NBCU’s Female Forward Directing Program. She is an award-winning Director, skilled at bringing comedy to unexpected topics. Her political short “Always & Forever” went viral with 26 million views. She had the amazing opportunity to direct an impactful episode of NBCU’s “American Auto,” where the plot revolved around one of the character’s conflicting views about women’s rights in the workplace.
I sat down with Lara to discuss her thoughts and experience while filming the powerful episode, which may be perceived as controversial in today’s political climate.
As a Director, you take a script and interpret the vision of the Writer or Producer through the use of sound, lighting, microphones, props, cameras, and actors. What major challenge did you encounter as a woman, making this episode? This episode was under the spotlight with the network and studio in a supportive way. The show addressed something difficult, it was about abortion rights in the workplace but was cleverly wrapped into the woke culture and different generational views on activism. It is very nuanced, not every day do we take on topics like abortion or abortion rights on network television, so there were many eyes on it. I believe there is some pressure when you are at the helm of an episode like this. Everyone wants to make sure it’s being handled with the correct level of intelligence that this kind of topic requires.
I felt very aligned, having done a ton of work in the reproductive health women’s narrative sphere. So, it felt kismet and serendipitous that this was the story, I got to tell. It just also happens that it was my first episode with network television.
The episode hits topics about corporations taking a position on the right to choose, disavowing political donations, feminism, harassment, and other charged matters that can flare tempers, which we watched happen at the end of it. How was it for you, directing the scene and dealing with these topics? Did you have any concerns going into the project? I did not have any concerns about the subject matter at all, just wanted to make sure that I was striking the right cord for NBCUniversal, Showrunners, and Writers.
I have so much respect for Elena Crevello, who wrote the episode. She is brilliant, I wanted to ensure that I was achieving her vision and making her words pop off the page in the best way possible. It was one of those instances where it was important to get different takes. Oftentimes, the most highly passionate invested, emotional takes are funny but when dealing with this type of topic, it can be too much. I believe it was important to get many takes to have all options in the editing room.
The Oscars took place in March. In the history of these awards, seven women have been nominated for Director, and only three women have received the prestigious honor. NBCU’s Female Forward Directing Program is a first in the industry. Participating directors get an opportunity to shadow and then take the reigns on a television episode. What significance has this program had for you? Why do you think more programs like this are critical to the success of future female directors in Hollywood? I will sing praises for Female Forward all day long and in general, any of the diversity programs. The climate is changing but a diversity or directing program geared toward women or underrepresented communities is an amazing way in.
It is really hard to get that first episode. Ten to twelve episodes may be ordered and it’s tough to get one of those slots. The fact that this program guarantees an episode not just a shadowing opportunity, sets it apart. It is a huge gift, I’m so grateful because it gave me my break into network television and the Director’s Guild.
While things are changing, and opportunities are there, right now, there is a lot of catching up to do.
Do you feel it is necessary to have television programming that tackles difficult subjects? As a Director, what role would you like to play to help encourage these types of stories? I think it’s paramount! Comedy is a real gift. To be able to tackle difficult, tenderizing, and even political topics with humor, you are managing them in a completely different way. You’re bringing it to people’s living rooms in a gift-wrapped way. Viewers are enjoying the ride. It is entertaining and funny, they invest in the relationships and characters but maybe, it also gets them thinking about a topic, a little differently after watching. The content is not didactic, preachy, or dramatic. It may help us to think about topics in a new way when we tackle them through the lens of humor.
We like to end AW interviews with a piece of advice, quote, or mantra to empower others. For anyone facing hurdles while pursuing dreams or goals, can you share words of encouragement to inspire them to keep pushing forward in their journey? I would say, find your community. The people that are down to collaborate and help one another. For myself, I have a mom group that works in the industry. We look out for each other when someone needs something. Having those people that cheer you on instead of competing with you is huge.
The other thing I’d say, we all have a story that is worth telling. Whether you are putting it to pen and paper or working with someone on it, you don’t need to wait for the content to come to you. We are content, living it, right now. Don’t wait for things to fall in your lap. Be proactive about getting your stories told, everyone needs content. Ask around, “What type of content are you looking for? Let me see what I have for you.” I did that with Refinery 29 and Scary Mommy, I asked what were the needs to be met and then pitched content to these platforms.
I watched this episode of “American Auto,” and called a friend after watching it. I walked away from it pondering all the topics and emotions without the heaviness behind the different dialogues taking place within the episode.
We absorb and interpret information in a variety of ways. Everyone likes humor, so why not use it to spark conversations about more serious topics? There should be more appreciation for networks, writers, showrunners, and directors working together to create content that is not only entertaining but leaves audiences with a sense of their affinity for our current reality. The possibility that this type of programming can cultivate more awareness and understanding of social issues offers hope for a better future.
AW is grateful to Lara for giving us a glimpse into the director’s chair, and NBCU for taking on initiatives that have a real impact on society and the rising stars of tomorrow.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.