We had the good fortune of connecting with Teresa Jusino and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Teresa, how does your business help the community or the world?
What I hope to do with my production company, Pomonok Entertainment, is to build a business that has the social mission of alleviating and eliminating homelessness baked into its DNA. It’s not a non-profit. It’s what would happen if a production company partnered every production with a homeless advocacy organization already doing the work on the ground to house and care for the unhoused, raised funds for those organization partners, hired from their job programs, provided food, clothes, and showering/grooming services on location shoots for the local unhoused population. It’s what would happen if that production company itself valued people over profit, and ethics over awards and accolades, treating their employees with respect and as valuable as they are. It’s what would happen if a production company bet on the fact that treating employees really well translates to better work. And it’s what would happen if that same production company partnered with others, giving them the blueprint to run their companies the same way and proving that treating people with respect and kindness is actually better for your bottom line. I’m at the very beginning of this journey. I’m going to be launching a crowdfund for my first short film soon (written and directed by me!), and that project is going to be where we build the blueprint for how a “Pomonok Production” will operate. We’re already partnered with the Downtown Women’s Center, who will be the beneficiaries of all profits the short makes, whether that’s prize money or streaming residuals. We also hope to fill some crew positions from their job program. Film productions often ignore the job programs at homeless organizations, but – this is L.A! Of COURSE there are industry people experiencing homelessness. Of COURSE there are unhoused people with production skills. I hope to tap this untapped resource, and encourage others to do the same. Lastly, I hope to create entertaining and inclusive content that makes people see the world in new ways and hopefully understand each other better.
Please tell us more about your career. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Despite what I’m trying to create in Pomonok, I always consider myself a storyteller first. I used to say “writer first,” and honestly, that might still be accurate for the most part. Actually crafting the story itself is my happiest place. However, I say “storyteller” now, because I also get joy from bringing a story to life, whether it’s mine or not. I’m also learning that I get joy from directing, too – so my storytelling isn’t limited to the page. I’m still in the early stages of my professional journey. I didn’t even realize I wanted to be a writer/producer in television until 2009. Before then, I was an actor. I’d gone to NYU for Drama (minoring in English Lit), and spent the first few years out of school pursuing an acting career while holding down day jobs. However, I eventually came to the realization that I missed writing. I’d been a writer since I was old enough to pick up a pencil, and writing has always been like breathing to me, always something I did. I realized that, while I was a good actor, I didn’t have it in me to be a GREAT actor. That isn’t the skill that I was put on this planet to offer. I DO believe I have it in me to be a great writer. THAT’S my gift. And so I started writing terrible spec scripts that started getting less terrible over time. I started reading books on screenwriting, taking workshops, going to panels – and finally, in 2011, I moved to L.A. to be closer to the television industry. They say it takes a good decade to “make it” for most people, and I just celebrated 9 years in L.A. So…any day now? 🙂 In all seriousness, the journey is not easy, nor did I expect it to be. I began pursuing this dream “late” (I was 32 when I moved here! Practically geriatric in Hollywood years!), and it’s taken me this long for me to hone my craft, build a network of professionals to mentor me, and gain the knowledge of the industry and the experience to be ready to take that leap into a writers room. This career is not for those who want immediate results! My first professional writing gig was last year, when I was hired by Joey Soloway to do development work on a couple of projects over at Topple Productions. With four original pilots in my quiver and the experience I have, I’m ready for a writer’s room and for representation – both of which I’m seeking right now.
And, times being what they are, I’m of course not leaving things to others. Now that things are starting to slowly go back into production, and there are safety protocols in place, I’m going to be getting back to producing my own work and hope to be able to shoot my short at the beginning of next year! I’m also working on a couple of other small projects in the meantime. I’ve written short plays that have been produced by a wonderful theater company (shout-out to Force of Nature Productions!), I’ve produced podcasts (check out Finding Felicity!), directed theater, and helped others produce their work (look for the awesome LGBTQ short, “Giving Up the Moon”). I’m not sitting on my hands waiting for other people to let me create. I’m doing what I can with what I have, which is all any artist can do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Aww – remember traveling freely with friends? *sigh* I miss that. So, let’s pretend we can do that again! First, I would suggest that they visit in Autumn or Spring, so it’s not excruciatingly hot, or rainy. To me, September-November or March-May is perfect weather in L.A. One of the first places I’d want to take them is Santa Monica – to walk along the Third Street Promenade and along the Pier and the beach. That might sound “basic,” but when I first moved here from New York years ago, Santa Monica was the first place I lived, and it SCREAMED “California” at me. Whenever someone has visited me, they have the same reaction there, and love it. The Getty Museum is a must. Not only are the art exhibits awesome, but the tram ride to get up to the top of the hill provides a great view, and the building itself is a work of art. There has to be a day where we hike up to the Griffith Observatory from the Loz Feliz side, look around at the Observatory (and depending on my guests, it would either be in time for a Tesla coil demonstration, or an evening look at the telescope), hike down and do brunch at Figaro Bistro, followed by poking around Skylight Books. At some point, I’d love to take them to No Vacancy, which is probably my favorite bar in the city – great drinks, a beautiful, speakeasy-like space, and quality burlesque entertainment! Lastly, I’d want to take them to what has quickly become my favorite quirky destination – The Museum of Jurassic Technology. That place is bonkers and wonderful, and anyone who’s friends with my weird ass will love it.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I absolutely have to shout out an amazing organization called Women of Color Unite, a non-profit founded by my friend (and constant inspiration), Cheryl L. Bedford. WOCU’s focus is in getting women of color in the entertainment industry – both above and below the line, at all levels – IN THE ROOM with decision-makers. Their goal is to get WOC hired, funded, and distributed. Several of the opportunities I’ve had in my own career, whether it was access to mentors, or access to networks have happened because of WOCU. The most recent example of this was when WOCU teamed up with Thuc Nguyen’s amazing Bitch Pack to create the #StartWith8Hollywood effort. They challenged decision-makers in the industry to take meetings with 8 women of color with the intention of forming mentor relationships and really being advocates for them. I participated in the first round of that program and it was not only a great experience for me, but it has already borne fruit amongst its participants, with WOC actually getting jobs. #StartWith8Hollywood did in a matter of months (staffed by VOLUNTEERS, I might add!) what seemingly NONE of Hollywoods D&I efforts have been able to do with any kind of tangible success. So, if this inspires you, give them all your money so their efforts can be sustained long-term. Visit https://wocunite.com/ and hit DONATE.
Instagram: Teresa Jusino on Instagram / Pomonok Entertainment on Instagram
Twitter: Teresa Jusino on Twitter / Pomonok Entertainment on Twitter
Youtube: Pomonok Entertainment on YouTube / Teresa Jusino on YouTube
Facebook: Pomonok Entertainment
First photo – Bonnie Johnson Photography