Kayona Ebony Brown is a filmmaker with Hollywood sized-ambitions living far from that west coast Walk of Fame. The D.C. native residing in Southeast created a project called “Of Music and Men”— a multimedia series that includes web episodes, a short film and literature about working and dating in D.C.
Now, she needs to figure out what it will take to launch it to a wider audience so she can, as she puts it, make it bigger than “Sex and the City.”
Her next step? Working on the set of HBO’s “Veep” to learn the inner workings of a hit TV show while it shoots in D.C. this week. The Los Angeles-based show is filming in the nation’s capital, where the actual show is set, from Feb. 25 to March 3.
Brown is one of three D.C. residents selected out of more than 190 applicants to work as temporary staff on set as a part of an HBO training program. These types of opportunities for an aspiring D.C. filmmaker, says Brown, don’t come around too often.
“This opportunity for a woman of color, plus to be living in a place that is not known for doing what you what to do, this is important,” Brown said.
Brown has been assigned to the production office, working on many of the pre-filming logistics. Wayne Manigo, a military veteran and local comedian and Léo Guillemin, a freelance video producer, are also working in the production department.
HBO recently launched this training initiative as part of its Community Impact Program– an effort designed to provide local residents in the places it shows film production opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
“Getting your gig in this field is often about your network,” said Dennis Williams, the vice president of corporate social responsibility for HBO. “This is about helping people to develop a network of professional contacts to leverage a career.”
Manigo, who co-founded the DC Comedy Writer’s Group, said that over the past few days he’s observed every aspect of the production process, with the full-time set workers allowing him to ask questions along the way.
“If you can take your dream and see what it would look like in real life, this would be it,” said Manigo, who eventually wants to have his own TV show. “I’m just like ‘Wow,’ look at the levels of professionals I get to work with, it’s mind boggling.”
Although the story line of “Veep”– the story of a fictional vice president — is set in D.C., this eight-day filming stint is the show’s most extensive presence filming in the city in its four-season history. The show previously filmed in nearby Baltimore, but ditched Maryland for Los Angeles last year after California offered it $27.6 million in tax credits through an expanded tax program from the state.
D.C. has long tried to woo shows set in the city to actually film in the nation’s capital, but hasn’t had the financial muscle to attract the biggest names. In fiscal year 2016, the city allocated $3.8 million to the Film DC Economic Incentive Fund. “Veep” applied for some of the money a few months ago, and is one of about 10 shows to split the funds. The city’s Office of Cable, Television, Film, Music and Entertainment would not say how much ‘Veep’ received. For a production to qualify for some of the money, it must spend at least $250,000 in the District for pre-production or production-related costs.
HBO is mum on future filming locations in D.C. this week, but so far “Veep” has filmed at Hains Point, DAR Constitution Hall and in the Spring Valley neighborhood, around 49th and Tilden Street NW, among other locations.