Who Is Amber Harris?
Amber Harris is a creative storyteller, a producer, and a social media consultant for independent films and television. Amber has been a freelance writer for over 20 years and is continually acquiring additional knowledge to make her current project exceed the previous one. Amber has an authentic passion for the story and the significance in every project that she takes on. As a Los Angeles native of Panamanian descent, much of her love for the narrative is rooted in capturing experiences that evoke emotional connections. She focuses on female-driven dramas. Thematically, her stories focus on the idea of redemption, with characters searching to be the best versions of themselves, no matter the odds. Amber considers herself fortunate to hone her skills in the areas of content development, editing and several aspects of SEO while maintaining a solid and unrelenting passion for creative writing. "My varied and extensive background in writing, editing and public relations has afforded me the opportunity to work with clients in the political, business, academic, non-profit and entertainment sectors. I can and will write just about anything," said Harris.
Currently, Amber works as a contract writer for the animated series Thomas and Friends.
Her first stint in the entertainment industry was working for Hidden Beach Recordings on the platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated "Who is Jill Scott?" album. This opportunity led her to create press packages and marketing campaigns for local LA artists and independent labels. Soon after, she decided to hone her skills in Writing and earned a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California (USC). Her vast work experience and education allowed her to pursue projects in television and film, where she expanded her network to collaborate with some of Hollywood's brightest professionals.
After completing a second Masters in Digital Social Media, Amber began creating narratives within a digital space as a social media consultant for independent films. This exciting opportunity reignited her passion for filmmaking. While executing programming for business incubators and faith-based institutions focused on serving socioeconomically marginalized populations, she served as a producer for several shorts and independent projects. In 2019, she served as the Executive Creative Producer and was instrumental in facilitating a global educational initiative with her work for the Del York Creative Academy, a Nigerian-based entity that hosted a four-week television and film intensive. She was in charge of liaising between the US and the Nigerian teams and ensuring the daily operational needs of the program were served.
When Amber had a moment to stop, we spoke about her innate love of creative writing, the types of narratives she gravitates towards, and being a social media consultant for various independent films. So, let's get started!
Who sparked your interest in Writing?
My interest in Writing came from necessity. My family didn’t have much money for food and essential items, much less for anything else. Anytime a friend’s birthday would roll around, I knew I couldn’t afford to buy them a gift, so I had to get inventive. I would make cards from scratch, include a poem, or do something creative instead of a conventional present. After years of doing this, I remember the one time I could finally afford to buy a card from the store, my friend was disappointed! She was looking forward to my homemade card! I think that’s when I realized that I was on to something.
As a writer and storyteller - what narratives do you like to focus upon?
As a writer, I primarily focus on female-driven dramas. Thematically, my stories focus on the idea of redemption, with characters searching to be the best versions of themselves, no matter the odds. This is inspiring to me!
What was it like working on the Jill Scott album, and what did it teach you?
Working on the Who Is Jill Scott? album was a GREAT time in my life! Hidden Beach Recordings was a boutique label with HUGE talent so I could be in spaces I probably wouldn’t have been allowed had I worked for a major label. I was on the marketing team and learned so much. During this time Hidden Beach Recordings received pitches for music video concepts, and when I submitted my idea under a pseudonym, they chose it! It affirmed that I had talent for creating narratives.
"I was so lucky to be under the tutelage of these titans in the business, who passed down a few gems that I still carry with me – no one can truly steal your story (they can steal your concept); don’t marry your words, have an affair with them, and Writing is rewriting. My advisor was the late, extraordinary Syd Fields." Amber Harris
Please expand upon your time at USC when acquiring a Masters in Creative Writing. Was the program rigorous, and what was the best advice given?
I had just had my second son when I began the Creative Writing program, so that was a hectic time. I was balancing new motherhood with two kids under the age of two, a full-time job, and this program, but when you do what you believe you are meant to do, you find a way to make it happen.
The Creative Writing program is where I discovered I am a filmmaker. I initially wanted to pursue fiction with the ultimate goal of writing novels. After taking a sitcom writing class, I instantly fell in love and haven’t looked back. One of the best things about the program was that our professors were working professionals, so I had teachers who had produced on Becker, The Cosby Show, Raisin in the Sun, and Gladiator, to name a few. I was so lucky to be under the tutelage of these titans in the business, who passed down a few gems that I still carry with me – no one can truly steal your story (they can steal your concept); don’t marry your words, have an affair with them, and writing is rewriting. My advisor was the late, extraordinary Syd Fields.
How do you like the creative process of being a social media consultant for independent films?
I enjoy the creative process of consulting with independent films on their social media campaigns. Some of the best moments happen when the cameras aren’t rolling. Social media lets filmmakers get audiences invested well before their film is released.
I know you produced several shorts. How did you enjoy being a producer in this realm?
My love for producing has been a pleasant surprise. I only considered myself a producer once I started doing it and enjoyed the process. You need to get creative when working in the independent space because there’s never enough time or money, but you end up working with many great people who love what they do.
What draws you to filmmaking?
What draws me to filmmaking is the ability to create narratives. As filmmakers and storytellers, we have the power to tell stories that allow our audiences to have different experiences, and that is a beautiful thing. I strive to tell stories where people can resonate, even if the experience is beyond their reference points.
Tell us a bit about “Thomas and Friends?”
Thomas and Friends is my first gig in television, and I am fortunate to have my first writing opportunity with a show with such a unique IP. I also couldn’t have asked for a better Executive Story Editor than Craig Carlisle, who has supported my journey.
What important lesson have you learned between your education and work experience?
One of the most important lessons I learned in grad school was giving a note. Simply telling someone, “You don’t get it,” after reading their work, isn’t very helpful.
I learned how to help a writer see how they can strengthen their story, not by saying what I would do because that would be my story. I ask questions that help writers figure out the point they are trying to convey.
If someone asked for advice on getting into content creation and producing entertainment-related content, what would you offer in terms of direction?
Getting in the mix is very important – networking events, online communities, and mentoring programs have been beneficial. I would also start with other creatives needing to get on proof of concept/proof of ability projects (projects where the team is willing to work for free because everyone needs a finished product to showcase their talent).
What was it like to be integral to establishing a global educational initiative with your work for the Del York Creative Academy? This Nigerian-based entity hosted a four-week television and film intensive. Can you expand?
My work with Del York Creative Academy was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Twenty-five creatives from Hollywood taught 250 would-be filmmakers and helped to produce 24 short films, 15 music videos, 15 animation projects, 12 broadcast journalism packages, and 5 VFX projects in 30 days. Remember, we were in a developing nation with limited resources, but our students were outstanding. They traveled hours to get to class, and many of them slept in the building. They were ready and eager to work no matter the circumstances. These young minds told some of THE most compelling stories I’d ever seen, and many have gone on to find tremendous success in their areas of interest. It was a beautiful thing to be part of, and I am definitely changed for the better.
We thank Amber Harris for speaking with Gemma Magazine. We can't wait to see what is upcoming! It will definitely be creative and compelling. To keep up with Amber, follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/amberthewriter/