Summer Griffiths, Development Executive, Unscripted Television | Los Angeles, CA

Tell me about how you embarked on this  professional journey at such a young age.

I always knew I wanted to work in television and entertainment, but I thought I wanted to be in front of the camera. Opportunities came my way to work behind the scenes and I kept saying yes, which was after some exposure working for people that were on camera and knowing the journey they took. When the opportunities kept coming to work behind the scenes I kept grasping at them and saying yes - and saying yes not knowing where they would really take me.

How did you end up in Los Angeles?

I always knew that I wanted to be in Los Angeles. Well that’s a lie...I didn’t always know that I wanted to be in Los Angeles. After taking maybe 3 trips out here, the vibe worked with me and it was more of just an internal calling as cheesy as that sounds. I didn’t really think much about it.

I didn't give myself time to overthink if is this a good decision to move 3000 miles away. It was my senior year of college that I just decided, “I'm moving across country!” I started looking for jobs out here and low and behold before I graduated, I secured a job as a low-level office PA..production assistant. I didn't know my salary until two days before I started and I was already halfway across the country driving here. It ended up being a job that prepared me for the rest of my career.  It was a company that prepared me for the rest of my career, because it was a job that was for a very unprofessional and unconventional company.


I think it’s important for people to learn that just because it's not your ideal workplace, it's not your ideal boss, or surrounding - take what you can from it. I grew very quickly because I was able to be close with the CEO, who was my boss, because it was a small company. They were creating more masculine and automotive content - the kind of shows that I would never watch, but I knew that I was getting exposure that I wouldn't get at a larger company.

Through my boss there, I was quickly brought from an office PA into development, which I never knew I wanted to do until I was given the opportunity to do so. I endured a workplace that I didn't like at all and I felt beaten down by it. But I realize that I would never have gotten that exposure or grown as quickly, and it was through that position that I was able to lend myself into the role that I how have at Bunim Murray.

 Working in development is something that I didn’t know I would ever want to do. I’m so happy I am in it because everyday is a little bit different and I can be as creative as I want . So many people are now asking me for advice and I feel that I’m at a position now where I can give it. “Is there anything that I should know for this position because it's in a similar department that you're in?”  Yeah I can give you lots of advice because I’m early in my career, but I've been through a hell of a lot because I just kept saying “yes”.

“I think it’s important for people to learn that just because it's not your ideal workplace, it's not your ideal boss, or surrounding - take what you can from it.”

What does it mean to work in ‘development’?

I develop and create mostly unscripted TV shows.

 In my role as a Manager of Development for a television production company, people will pitch television shows to me. Whether it's producers or directors, creative minds will come and pitch new TV shows - usually unscripted reality - and then sometimes I come up with ideas on my own or I have great little birdies around that drop me ideas.

 If I think that it's a good idea, if it's an idea that can sell and I know that there are different networks and a good marketplace out there for it, I will pursue the idea.

 I will share it with my team and if we feel like “yes this is great let's do it!” I will go through whatever legal steps needed, attach any talent that may be involved and then I go through the creative pitch material which entails a creative deck and a sizzle reel.

 A deck is basically a fully fleshed out creative treatment of good photos, fonts and colors, all matched to the aesthetic of what the show would be like. Then a sizzle reel is basically a two to three minute trailer of what the TV show is, introducing any talent that may also be involved in the show, and it's usually done with a voice over narration about what the show is.  We keep it very short and concise.

After what will be a lot of legality and creative writing and production, we usually have about a 10-page deck and a 2 to 3 minutes sizzle that then I will go out and I will pitch that to different networks.

I have usually about 30 to 60 minutes to pitch them a show idea.  There's a lot of no’s - but when you get a yes that's the big victory that keeps me going to the next pitch.  I got a really big yes recently on a show that I was completely married to, that I developed in the over a few months. After you pitch 100 shows in a year and you get so many no’s - when you get that one yes - it’s like uhh that’s why I do this. That’s why I'm going to keep going for the next 100 no’s because there will be another yes.

Snapchat Original Reality Series ,  "Endless Summer" , developed and produced by Summer Griffiths

Snapchat Original Reality Series, "Endless Summer", developed and produced by Summer Griffiths

What responsibility do you feel in terms of the content that you are putting forward for the public to consume especially in working in reality and television.

I feel that I hold a lot of responsibility to viewers and to consumers - and to my to my boss and my peers.

 The responsibility that I feel is that I'm kind of like a gatekeeper in a way when it comes to content.  Personally I want to create content that that inspires and has real substance to it...that isn't just you know trash TV or mindless.

 I want to create content that is very beneficial to the people that are watching it and the people that are behind the scenes involved in it. Content that exposes light on important things that are going on in the world or in technology and pop culture - television that matters.

 The responsibility that I feel is that I am a gatekeeper to good content.

“I want to create content that is very beneficial to the people that are watching it and the people that are behind the scenes involved in it. Content that exposes light on important things that are going on in the world or in technology and pop culture - television that matters.”

Are there particular values that you think should be emphasized? Are there values that you think need to be upheld?

I think that television is getting smarter. Television - however you want to interpret, be it either linear or Netflix. But, I think that it's getting smarter and people are starting to take chances and they are saying NO to shows that reinforce and support things like body

image or very unrealistic aspirational worlds that only exist for the 1%...shows that are making people not in that 1% feel like complete shit about themselves and their lives.

 I mean I’ve been in large meetings with my CEO and executives where we’re all brainstorming new shows - and someone talks about a show that basically was a competition to see which teenagers can win prizes to get plastic surgery.  I didn't think that’s right and I think it’s a really bad message. So I spoke up and asked if that is really the message we want to be portraying to young adults out there..or anyone out there. I got a little verbal smack on the face for it by the person who pitched it, but then I found out later that I got support from my peers for standing up for it. So, I think it's important to speak up and just because you may not be at the top executive level and just because you're a female or anything it doesn't matter. You should always voice your opinion because at the end of the day you’re most likely are going to be respected for it.

You are a young woman in the entertainment industry in L.A. at a time where women are increasingly finding their voices and speaking up for themselves. What other changes are needed to be made or steps that need to be taken to even the playing field even further in your opinion?

Well I think it should be illegal for women and men to be paid unequally who are in an equal position. I think that right now the industry is at a huge turning point with so many women coming forward with sexual allegation stories. I don't think that’s the only turning point. It's the whole pinnacle of women just having a voice in general and I think that a lot of change is about to happen and it's really exciting to be in the midst of the moment.I think that it is a major time for women to be more confident because of all the women coming out about sexual assaults and the pay grade. It’s giving women more of a confidence to come forward and say what they want.

Women who entered this industry maybe 25 years ago had way less opportunities than you have now. Taking that to account, what action can young people like you take to help ensure that things are going to be better for the next generation of women?

It first starts with yourself right? So, I found great connections in the industry, and I found great mentors. People that started as my friends ended up in mentorship roles. For example, I found out I was being severely underpaid at the company I was with for 3 years because I befriended someone who was in an executive role at another company and he told me what someone in my position should be making. Then I befriended someone else who is also an executive role, a female, who offered help in salary negotiations.  So, it when it was time to negotiate for this job, I had the confidence to ask what I knew was fair.

I want to be that person to educate women and men about what they deserve and what they need to be given. It’s obviously not just pay, its creating a good work environment, too. Saying thank you - reinforcing to people that they are valued where they are and using this term “we” more often so that people don't feel like there's a competition amongst the workplace.

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You wake up every morning at 6 am. What is your motivation to get up every morning?

Well my motivation now is just more my routine. I've needed a routine in my life because this was something that I recently discovered over a talk with my mom. My whole adolescence I had no control over my life. I had zero control over anything that was happening in my life until I was about 21. Once I graduated college and I had my own apartment and had my own job,

I realized that I was able to have control over certain factors even if it was the food I was putting in my body, my physique from exercising and the way that my apartment looked - and how much my utility bills were. I was finally able to have a sense of control. So for me getting up at 6-6:30 every single morning and going to the gym before I go to work it gives me a sense of control and gets my gears cranking for the day. I know that I will feel good if I keep my mornings in a routine which I do.

What lights your fire?

I want to succeed and I want to feel good and I want to feel happy. I know that I will be big picture happy - if I keep doing my small picture happy. I know that going to the gym makes me feel good. I know that buying and eating healthy food makes me feel good. I know that doing a good job at work makes me feel good.

I know that when I get to work early and I leave really late and there's only one or two people left in the building, that's one of my favorite things in the world because even if no one knows I did it - I know that I did it, and feeling like I'm working hard and that I'm putting in the time and that I'm giving my employers back what they want from me makes me feel good. I think that if I just keep working hard, if I keep all of my small things that make me feel good - I know that they will lead to my big picture of feeling good and achieving my goal. I think that a lot of it  just has to do with you know manifestation and Law of Attraction. All of those are my motivations because they all just make me feel good.

“I want to succeed and I want to feel good and I want to feel happy. I know that I will be big picture happy - if I keep doing my small picture happy.”

What does it mean to be powerful?

I think being powerful is the ability to influence and ignite change and doesn't have to be big and groundbreaking and Earth shattering. It can be changing someone's behavior, it can be changing the way someone feels about themselves, which comes from the ability to influence. I think that to me personally, being powerful is having the ability to influence.

Describe a moment you felt powerful.

There’s work and then there’s personal. I think that you're powerful when people trust you and there have been times when you know I've been having a conversation with someone in particular who just was at the end of the road and they felt very insecure with themselves. Observing myself on the outside having a conversation and it being my words that convinces this person that they can think of themselves better and that they can work harder and that the Earth isn't shattering. Then seeing them follow through and noticing that the sun is coming into their life, and that they're happy because of a conversation that they had with me makes me feel that my words are powerful and convincing.

I’ve felt powerful when I realized that I’m completely independent. I control my finances and my relationships. I control who I keep in my life and who I don't keep in my life. I control what food I eat and how I work out.

 My older siblings come to me for advice and for help and that makes me feel powerful because I feel completely independent in my own right which makes me feel successful which makes me feel happy.

It's kind of a life lesson.

Yeah it is.

 The lesson is don’t give up. You’re going to get a hell of a lot of no’s there, just going to keep coming. It's no, you didn't get this job, no you didn't get the promotion, no you didn't get that boyfriend. No you didn't get that girlfriend. No you didn't get that apartment. No you didn't get that car and no you did not get those pair of shoes.

Wait. But you did get something! Maybe you did get the raise, you did get the job, or you did get the self satisfying “I accept myself!” Or you did get feeling that your voice was heard in that meeting, your project was picked up, or the promotion was accepted. Whatever it may be. Hell of a lot of no’s, but you got to live for the yes because it will come!

It’s really important to hear that truth and honesty because people don’t see this side of people online or when someone comes across your Instagram and they say, wow she has a sick job. She lives in L.A. Life’s must be so perfect for her.

No it took a beating to get here. Truly, I mean, I’m in student debt because of it, but I got myself out in a way, and in a part of the country that I want to be in, at a job that I had no idea I wanted to be in, with a group of friends that I had no idea I would meet. I’m so thankful and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here, but I think that is a huge thing.  Life is difficult for everyone.

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It’s really important to hear that truth and honesty because people don’t see this side of people online or when someone comes across your Instagram and they say, wow she has a sick job. She lives in L.A. Life’s must be so perfect for her.

No it took a beating to get here. Truly, I mean, I’m in student debt because of it, but I got myself out in a way, and in a part of the country that I want to be in, at a job that I had no idea I wanted to be in, with a group of friends that I had no idea I would meet. I’m so thankful and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here, but I think that is a huge thing.  Life is difficult for everyone.

Do you have a life motto or mantra?

Yeah. Life will just keep shitting on you. I think that for every person individually you will get shat on by life and it will keep hammering you down and it will make it so so difficult to move forward, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and only the people that keep going will see it. You can’t give up.

Ms. Media