Twice a month in Consumed, our Film Independent Fellows take a break from creating to talk about their reading, watching, listening and sometimes even eating habits and what informs their work as filmmakers.
All you have to do is take one quick glance at Project Involve and Producing Lab Fellow (and NAACP Image Award nominee) LaToya Morgan’s recent projects to understand that she lives and breathes politics, and that politics are intrinsic to the media she gravitates toward. Morgan was recently a writer on AMC’s Revolutionary War drama Turn: Washington’s Spies as well as the network’s intense post-apocalyptic martial arts drama Into the Badlands. In addition, she has been recruited to write a biopic of civil rights icon Angela Davis. Even a simple scroll through her buzzing Twitter feed confirms what she says: that, at her core, Morgan is “politics, heart, soul and hope.”
How much time do you actually have to consume the latest TV shows, films, music or podcasts?
My general rule of thumb is that if I’m not in the writers’ room or on deadline, I need to be watching and listening to interesting stories. Even in my idle time, like when I’m driving to and from work. I’m addicted to podcasts. I get my pop culture and comic book fix from the Black Girl Nerds podcast. The history buff and cinephile in me can’t get enough of the You Must Remember This podcast. Any time I can hear stories about Bette Davis, Lena Horne and Old Hollywood, I’m golden.
What’s the last TV show you’ve watched a full season of?
Westworld and The Crown. I love Thandie Newton as Maeve [on Westworld]. She’s beautiful and badass and totally stole every scene she was in. The Crown took me by surprise. I’ve never been that into stories about the royal family, but the show is fantastic. Loved the cast and the insanely gorgeous sets and costumes. Claire Foy is a treasure to watch.
What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
I went to see Moonlight in the theater twice because I loved it so much and wanted to support indie filmmaking. I make an effort to go see films by and about women with strong casts and inclusive representation in front of and behind the camera. The last two films I saw in the theater were Arrival and Hidden Figures—two really cool stories about women and science.
Do you have any writing rituals that help you get into the right mindset to create?
I write mostly in the morning. As part of my ritual, I’ve got to have my cup of coffee, a good rollerball pen and a nice thick notebook or legal pad. Ideas shake loose faster for me if I write on a notepad before working on my computer. There’s something about that blinking cursor that can be intimidating. I also listen to music when I write, mostly movie soundtracks and film scores. I love Elmer Bernstein’s music for To Kill a Mockingbird and pretty much anything Thomas Newman. Sometimes I like something a little more rhythmic and atmospheric. I just finished up an action feature and got a lot of mileage out of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Sicario score.
What’s your “power song”?
My anthem is “My Shot” from Hamilton! I automatically break into song when I hear it. There’s an incredible blend of desire and pathos in that song. It pumps me up and inspires me every time I listen to it. When I face down the blank page, it’s the first song in my writing playlist rotation.
What is your go-to guilty pleasure movie or TV show? What about it comforts or entertains you?
Without question, it’s The X-Files. It’s the one [show] that made me want to write for television. It’s a genre show that refused to be put into a box—it could be heavy science fiction, it could be scary, it could be funny, it could break your heart. At the center of it were two fully realized, three-dimensional main characters that had this almost palpable chemistry. There’s a lot of pausing and rewinding when I watch that show. I marvel at how good it is—Mulder and Scully forever! Filmwise, I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve seen The Abyss a ridiculous number of times. I can recite the dialogue. Apparently, I like my sci-fi with complicated relationships at the center of it.
If you could only follow one person on Twitter, who would it be?
Joy Ann Reid from MSNBC. I’m a politics junkie and Joy is a savvy reporter in a political climate where truth has become pliable and facts are now alternative. She’s tough but fair—the epitome of what a journalist should be. Her Twitter feed is full of everything from Beyonce’s performance at the Grammys to the everyday fallout at the White House.
How do you celebrate or reward yourself after you finish a project?
If I have a meeting or a pitch, whether I think I did well or got the job or not, I’ll go buy myself my favorite mocha. No matter what the outcome, I like to take a moment to remind myself, “Hey, you did that!” When I finish a big project and hand it in, I like to go out and eat somewhere that’s not my living room. Sometimes I even have a cocktail. Usually something with gin.
If a movie were made about your life, who would do the soundtrack?
A Tribe Called Quest or The Roots. Politics, heart, soul and hope—that’s me to my core.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one album, one book and one film what would they be?
I’d go old school and bring Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. All the behind-the-scenes drama of the band falling apart while making it really produced some gorgeous music. My one book would be The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was the first book that awakened my understanding that poverty issues don’t simply cut across racial lines, class and geography play an important part as well. Hands down, my one movie would be All About Eve. I’m a huge Bette Davis fan and this film showcases her at the height of her acting powers. The cast is incredible, and Joe Mankiewicz’s script is one of the sharpest, funniest and most poignant I’ve ever read.
To learn more about Film Independent’s myriad Artist Development programs, including Project Involve, please visit our website. To support our Fellows in all that they do, consider becoming a Member of Film Independent today.