If you’ve watched ALLBLK’s Á La Carte, then you’re familiar with the work of Breanna Hogan. Hogan has been getting much recognition as of late regarding the series, which is a millennial dating dramedy backed by Harlem star Meagan Good. She serves as an executive producer on the project.
While Hogan’s name may be new to viewers, she’s been in the business for some time. She opted to take a chance on her passion for writing and creating outside of her already hectic schedule in entertainment PR in order to get the show greenlit. It all paid off. Shadow and Act recently spoke with Hogan on her work and career.
S&A: What made you want to begin to create content? You already had a busy and successful career in PR. We've seen it done with the likes of Ava DuVernay, but she fully transitioned from PR to content creation.
BH: It’s definitely been a long, slow process. Even realizing that I wanted to create was a journey. I’ve always loved content [and] I’ve always loved stories. Even growing up, I was an avid reader — and even kind of how I got into PR, I knew I wanted to work in TV and film in some way, so I kind of just like fell into PR that way.
A couple of years ago, I was doing PR for a digital series called Giants with a friend of mine. And I just remember seeing at the time, it was kind of the most well-done web series I had ever seen. The quality was great, and just seeing what even the press coverage and the love that we got from it [was great]. It ended up being nominated for [several] Emmys. I just got really inspired. And seeing someone who looks like me, someone who was so close to doing something so, so big – it just felt tangible, and it felt like something I could do.
I’ve always been a writer. I’ve always loved to write. I used to write poetry and I used to write for my school paper. And then the final piece was realizing that I had a story to tell. So Á La Carte is very loosely based on true events in my life.
I was just talking to other people and seeing other girls kind of either be in similar situations or just be in this headspace where they’re starting to doubt themselves, their worth, their confidence and their standards. I just put that all together and decided that I had a story to tell, and I wanted to share my story in a creative way and perhaps with other women, especially Black women. I’m kind of going through the same thing that I went through and having the same journey and heartbreak and kind of losses of self. I just put all that together, and I decided to just write it and tell the story.
How was it to get your first series picked up and be made into a television show? What was that process like?
BH: Everything they say is true. You know how you hear about people saying, ‘Oh, it took me five, seven, 10 years to make.’ That really is the truth. I’m a self-taught screenwriter. It took me a while to even learn how to write for the screen. I think I wrote all six episodes over like a year and a half. And then I started to share with other people– people that I know that went to school for filmmaking or screenwriting– and getting their feedback and making edits and stuff to it. The feedback that I was getting was so positive and people were really standing behind me saying that they really wanted to see this get made, that they would help me in any way they can.
I started to put together a team of people, [including] a lot of people that I went to school with. I knew their work ethic and knew what they were capable of. My soon-to-be brother-in-law had just moved to L.A. and he owns his own production company and was looking to get into original content. So, he normally does commercials and corporate work. Then I got together with my line producer and we put together a pitch for that and we took the time.
We wanted to raise the money to independently produce a pilot. They agreed to finance it and things kind of went from there. We started casting, we went through the whole process. I actually did independently produce a different pilot for Á La Carte. And then, after the pilot, the PR brain inside of me started taking.
I had a screening for it in the summer of 2019, and we had a Q&A afterward. We had an afterparty that was sponsored by Hennessy, so we generated a lot of buzz around the show back then. For the next two years after that, we were just having different conversations with different networks, pushing it out until finally, it came across ALLBLK. And they were interested.
How did you get Meagan Good to be involved as an EP?
BH: Her cousin, Dijon Talton, directed all the episodes. He also came on to direct the original pilot. So during the process, Megan was obviously keeping tabs on what was going on and how the show was coming along and how it got made and all that stuff. Eventually, she read all of the script herself and she read the pitch deck and kind of like my reason for creating a story. [She] ultimately decided that she wanted to get behind it and support it.
Do you feel like having her name attached has been extremely beneficial in the push for the project and getting it picked up by AllBLK?
BH: She was attached as an executive producer right before and when we were in conversations with ALLBLK. I would definitely say just having her support was very helpful because Megan has been in the game for a long time. She is a Black woman and she supports Black women. So it was a natural fit to have her attached to the project. I think it just went in line with the point of which is the story by Black women for Black women. So having her name and brand attached to it, definitely helped.
How are you balancing being an entertainment publicist and a show creator at the same time? I just remember working in entertainment PR, and it was legit 24/7. So what is your secret to the madness?
BH: I’m still learning it. You’re so right. It is legit. 24/7. And I don’t get a lot of sleep, which is something that I’m trying to do better at. [And yes], very much following in the footsteps of Ava DuVernay. Like I was able to do it barely for the time that it took to really get Á La Carte off the ground. But I know for a fact that I can’t sustain this kind of lifestyle. So if I want to be a full-time filmmaker and creative, which I do, I’m going to have to let PR go.
It will definitely still always be a part of my journey and part of who I am and what I know. Any project that I do moving forward, I’ll have that PR brain working, and I’m sure to be involved in the PR for it, but it’s definitely hard. I definitely there were nights and weeks where I was only sleeping for a few hours at a time. It’s definitely not healthy, and it’s something that I can’t even say that I haven’t figured out. It’s something I’m still actively trying to figure out, whether it’s like setting aside certain days when this day I’m going to do PR stuff to say I’m going to do writing stuff. Or another day, it’s important for me to set aside time and really set boundaries for yourself in your work life.
As far as PR is concerned, at some point I have to stop at 6 or 6:30 p.m. or whatever because I have to get this writing done or I have to do other things. It’s definitely about like setting clear boundaries and sticking to them. But it’s still a learning curve that I’m actively working through.
What are you finding to be the pitfalls of being a creative, if there are any?
BH: Especially as a creative of color, it’s like it’s a double-edged sword. We’re in this renaissance where [being a creative] is [more] tangible than it used to be because a lot of people are self-taught. You can create something on your phone– even as a social media influence. There are so many different ways to create and there are different avenues. But it’s also like kind of flooding the landscape of content.
So with there being so many options of content to consume, it becomes that much more difficult for your content to break through all the clutter and for it to get noticed, especially because Hollywood still has very stringent way in terms of breaking through. Even with me being a first-time screenwriter and a first-time creator, it was that much more difficult for me to be taken seriously as someone who could write and who could create. That’s something that I think creatives constantly have to fight against, because it takes experience to get experience. They want you to have the experience to get more experience, but you got to start somewhere.
There’s always a problem finding money to fund your project or finding people to support them in a real way. I think just the pitfalls or people discarding you or discounting you because you don’t have like a huge line of Hollywood credits behind your name. That’s why I think me independently producing a pilot on my own was really helpful, because it’s one thing for me to tell people that I’m capable [and] I can do it, but people are usually very visual and sometimes they just need to see it.
With so much content out there, is it harder for your projects to break through because there is so much competition? But are you also finding it easier to get pitch meetings or to have such conversations because there are so many streaming opportunities outside of traditional cable and television?
BH: I wouldn’t say easier, but I would say there are more opportunities. I’m so grateful now having sold the show and being able to say that it is easier for me now to get in the door with certain people and get certain conversations going. But I would say the fact that there are so many platforms available, there’s definitely more to choose from. People naturally get hung up on the big names– “I want to be on HBO, I want to be on this, I want to be on that.” It is understandable but I think we should, as creatives, look at the landscape around us and look at where the opportunities are. And sometimes, there’s a long journey as multiple ways to get to one place. So even if you want to end up on HBO eventually, there are so many other places to look to, to start in order to get there.
There’s definitely a wide range of available places for content. Because there are so many, there’s kind of competition for eyeballs and for attention for all that stuff that the platforms are looking for content. Everyone’s looking for content right now. Content is king. I think as long as you are really building and producing quality work– because that’s going to set the work apart from everything else– I think there’s definitely limitless potential for where you can get your content made and seen.
What other projects are you hoping to push for?
BH: I think so much of how we, especially people of color, view ourselves, but also how the worldview of us has to do with what is portrayed in the media. I was lucky enough to grow up on shows like A Different World, The Cosby Show, and Girlfriends, where we saw people that look like us, that were educated, that were two-parent households or overall just not a monolith doing other things. And that kind of inspired me. I never felt like it was something I couldn’t do. And I feel like that kind of got lost in content for a little while and it is coming back and it’s getting better. That’s definitely the kind of content that I want to continue to bring because every generation needs to see those kinds of stories.
Á La Carte’s first season is streaming now on ALLBLK. ALLBLK.