The Warriors of Liberty City producer refused to be broken by the obstacles women face in male-dominated environments.
Being the only woman on the production team of LeBron James’ Docuseries Warriors of Liberty City, Trishtan Williams refused to let the obstacles and challenges women — particularly women of color — face in male-dominated environments, break her. It only strengthened her will to face these challenges head-on with class and dignity, and through her talents and her dynamic story-telling ability, prove that she deserved a seat at the table.
Breaking Up The Ole’ Boys Network
“I was the only female producer in the field and the only person of color in the field during the filming of the docuseries, so it’s a big deal,” Williams told The Shadow League during an interview on the eve of the 2018 BET Hip-Hop Awards.
“I have a responsibility to other women in this business to stick it out and succeed no matter the setbacks or circumstances.”
“When you grow up in our world you don’t even think in the direction of being behind the scenes creatively and don’t even know we have those kinds of jobs, but luckily for me when I was a kid and we would go to live shows and see the black curtains moving I’d ask my mom what it was and she told me that was the production crew at work. The people who actually make the show. So I was always interested in the behind-the-scenes and how the show was made and not just what I was watching.” Williams said, reflecting on her humble yet fortunate beginnings.
Despite her quick ascension to the top of her profession as an international traveling producer and a pioneer in what is traditionally a white, male-dominated industry, the 31-year-old Los Angeles native and mother of a 10-year old son was not shy about discussing her journey, especially in regards to the challenges women face in this business.
Miami filmmaker Evan Rosenfeld brought Williams into the fold with the Starz docuseries after her impressive production run with projects such as America’s Top Model, CBS’ Summer Dreams NBA documentary and the 2018 BET Awards, where she served as the show’s supervising producer.
Despite her experience, her contributions to the films were attempted to be silenced.
“It was a huge challenge,” Williams told TSL as she passionately reflected on her experience with a director she had to work with as a supervising producer for Warriors of Liberty City.
“The Director was a f**king ass****, excuse my French.” Williams insisted with no hesitation. “I would have to check him in so many different ways and stand my ground…at one point he literally said, ‘me and her are not equal, it’s either her or me.”
“They were like, ‘Do you know what the f**k she means to the show?… Well it’s you (that’s got to go),’ Williams proudly explains.
“And he quit.”
“That’s how challenging it is being a woman. Being an African-American woman and being in a room with white men who feel like I’m not equal to them. So you have to dance around, you have to be strong, you have to know who you are and not be insecure. When they try to push you out the way you gotta let them know I’m worthy too. I deserve to be here. I worked my butt off to be here and I won’t allow your ridicule to defeat me. “
“[The white male-dominated industry] feels like you can have a job, but your title can’t be as high, or you shouldn’t be equal to them, or you shouldn’t have as much say so as they do and at some point it stays in your place and be quiet …and with me being in the position I was in, I didn’t have to stay in my place and be quiet because I’m equal to you.”
What could have been a career-damaging experience turned into another opportunity that Williams crushed like linen.
She says of the last month and a half of the series, “We didn’t have a Director. I was actually directing most of the scenes anyway…Me and Evan, who finally revealed to me that he understood what I meant when I always told him this was a male-driven business and hard on women. We were like it doesn’t matter. It actually made the flow of the production run smoother and we didn’t have people walking on eggshells…the first director had a lot of rules and restrictions, it was difficult when he was there so when he quit I was able to run the production team the way it should have been ran the entire time.”
I want to give a shout out to @Trishtanw who was the superstar producer that I was together with every step of the way while filming this show. Met her while working on a documentary called “Summer Dreams” for the @NBA and @CBS.
The series is produced by James and Maverick Carter through their company SpringHill Entertainment. It follows a season with a youth football program in Miami founded by Hip-Hop pioneer and Executive Producer of the film Luther Campbell a.k.a. Uncle Luke. The film captures the trials and tribulations of growing up in an underserved community while trying to make something of your life and the finished product is largely a construction of Williams’ leadership, vision, and direction.
“When Evan (Rosenfeld) called me in on the project,“ Williams said, “he told me he needed somebody who’s not only relatable but creatively can make sense out of the storyline. And that’s what I did,” Williams told TSL.
(Film Creator Evan Rosenfeld, Uncle Luke, Trishtan Williams on WOLC set)
“I didn’t have a big crew. The way that show looks on TV is like I had four or five different crews, but it was really me going out with two different crew sets every day and the bigger days when we would film the games I would have up to 9-12 cameras with just me. It was a massive, massive ordeal.”
Her task was to capture the essence of the violence-torn community and how Luke’s program is the major weapon being used to chip away at the problem. However, the small Liberty City radius has produced more NFL pros than any other area in the world. And out of that Miami clay, roses grow daily.
“Luke is phenomenal. You have to tip your hat off to him for even creating that program,” Williams said. “Those kids don’t genuinely have anything.”
Williams says the show’s been so successful because of the spirit of the people of the community.
“They are going through it so tough and you wouldn’t have a clue because they are so happy,” Williams said. “They are the happiest people I’ve ever seen to endure what they are enduring. Like the killings. Somebody is literally getting killed every week or getting shot and they’re still out there trying to keep these kids safe in the park.”
“The football team, cheerleaders, tutoring, swim teams, and baseball keeps these kids off the street. The park is like a safe haven where they can go and I take my hat off to Luke and local community leaders for creating and sustaining that program .”
Swift, Quick Comeup
That same resilience, ability to conquer tasks with a smile, ingratiate herself to people and attack obstacles on the job has been the key element to Williams’ ascension in the production game.
“I think also was my work ethic and understanding that no matter how much you know, always be willing to learn more,” Williams said. “I was a sponge. I was always absorbing different departments and information no matter what I knew.”
“Sometimes things can get real hectic and crazy on set and people start screaming, but I thrive under pressure. I’m always smiling. I believe if you’re the person at the top, the energy you give trickles down to everyone else so the energy you give that’s where everybody’s vibes are…that wave pattern, so it keeps the set calm and that approach is how I was able to advance in my career.”
Williams says she started doing production back in 2010.
“My first job was on America’s Top Model. I started as a PA that first season and then the next season I moved up to Associate Producer. Tyra Banks was very busy, but sweet…phenomenal. In terms of her as a boss and how she treated us as a crew–and I can only speak for me–she was excellent to work with and she actually admired my advice and creative input and I liked that it wasn’t just her ideas, she was incorporating our ideas and actually going with it. So it was good working with her.”
Slicing and dicing her way up the latter, executing all jobs impressively and handling any variety of touchy situations has become Williams’ M.O. From giving friendly advice to the world’s leading celebrities, to negotiating with lawyers to get Nicki Minaj on stage at an LA Live event, to her gig as supervising producer of The 2018 BET Awards, Williams has solidified herself as a woman who can put together a Hollywood extravaganza and deal with the various personalities that come with celebrities being in the same space.
“The BET Awards was a big deal and you’re trying to manage personalities, manage crew, manage schedule, manage creative, every element and aspect there is to actually capture the show,” recalls Williams.
Pioneering A Pipeline of Talented Woman In The Field of Film Production
With her life unfolding into one huge entertainment journey, Williams speaks of her future with the optimism, confidence and personal ownership that makes you believe that she will accomplish great things and create a pipeline of talent for women in a film industry that has kept their stories and ideas suppressed for way too long.
“I plan to have a huge impact moving forward in this business,” Williams assured me. “I’ll tell you why. As an African-American girl growing up you don’t see us behind the scenes, creating the narrative or telling it from our point of view and it really touched me when I was out there.”
The little girls of the community would take Williams’ microphone, her ear piece or her walkie talkie and they would say, “This is cool. I want to be just like you.”
“It lets the girls know what you don’t have to be in front of the camera all the time,” said Williams. “No shade or disrespect to the woman who are video vixens, but you don’t have to be naked or expose or degrade yourself to have impact and get attention. I’d rather have an impact this way and be behind the scenes and have control that way and still be respected. Be the head lady that way.”
Staying true to herself, remaining a strong, confident woman who never falls victim to society’s oppressive nature and being able to bring people together has allowed Trishtan Williams to become one of the film and TV entertainment world’s rising production minds. Her plan is clear. Her talent is evident.
And she’s just getting started.