Diversity is the new buzz word in the entertainment industry and it’s shining a spotlight on talented men and women of color. Shequeta Smith is one of these talented individuals who is beginning to make waves in television, films and fiction. Her graphic novel series “Rayven Choi” is gaining momentum in the fiction world.
Smith began her career in entertainment as a college representative for Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella Records while attending North Carolina State University. In addition to working towards her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Business Management, Smith spent most of her undergraduate years setting up listening parties, autograph signings, and doing local promotions for Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella artists such as: DMX, Eve, Dru Hill, Slick Rick, Jay-Z, Ludacris, and LL Cool J.
After graduation, Smith decided to take a detour from the recording industry to pursue screenwriting. A year later, she was a finalist in the Sundance Filmmaker’s Lab with her very first screenplay. Over the next three years, she would write numerous screenplays and teleplays. Some of her work has been placed in programs such as Nickelodeon, AFI Directing Workshop for Women, and Tribeca All Access.
Smith went on to work on scripted television shows like the CW’s hit, “Everybody Hates Chris,” as well as reality shows, “VH1’s Flavor of Love” and “The Surreal Life.” From these experiences, Smith learned a lot about scripted and unscripted television. So much so that she created her own reality show, “The Ultimatum,” which she optioned to the same production company behind the hit show, “The Apprentice.”
Most recently, the teaser trailer for her comedy film “The Gestapo vs. Granny” was selected as a Top 20 Finalist in HBO’s Project Greenlight. In addition to this, Smith wrote, directed and produced the short film, “The Takeover,” that has been featured in multiple film festivals and has garnered over one hundred and sixty thousand YouTube hits. “Raven Choi” is one of her latest projects which started in 2003.
“’Rayven Choi’ was actually the second screenplay,” said Smith who went to Korea for a study abroad program.
“So when I came back, the story came to me where a girl goes to Korea,” which Smith tied together with and another interesting theme.
“I had been reading a lot at that time…I read this bounty hunting book,” and with an African-American female lead, with Korea as a backdrop, Smith create a unique and engaging story.
“Rayven Choi” tells a story about an African-American girl orphaned and sent to South Korea in order to save her life. Rayven has had to deal with the nightmares of the hitman who murdered her parents in front of her and fearing for her own life. After 20 years, she is ready to face her fears, which leads her back to America to seek revenge on the hitman who robbed her of her family and a happy childhood.
“Since the Blaxploitation era, there hasn’t really been a stand-alone, kickass, black superheroine in film or in comics,” stated Smith. “With ‘Rayven Choi’, I’m looking to bring back the badass black heroine on an international level.”
Released in mid-July, “Rayven Choi” is already a hit with readers reaching number the #1 spot on Amazon’s Hot Sellers within a few days of its release and boasts a perfect five-star rating.
Smith started Rayven Choi Films in 2008 which she envisions producing fun, smart, high concept projects using low to modest budgets. Based in Los Angeles, Rayven Choi Films has already begun to make multiple short films that have shown in festivals all over the world.
“Rayven Choi” is on its way to being a film and is currently in pre-production. It will be Rayven Choi Films’ first production and is actively seeking investors to bring onto the project. The fourteen-minute short film version of the book is set to screen at film festivals this year.
The entertainment industry is seeking out African-American writers, directors and producers to tell their unique stories and perspectives. Smith is one of many who creating Black characters from an African American point-of-view. She agrees that black voices are needed across multiple industries.
“It’s seems like it’s just kind of evolving right now because it hasn’t been that way for a while,” said Smith.
“We’ve been fighting and arguing, trying to make our point that we’re needed or necessary.
“It just seems like now it’s becoming a thing where we’re creating our own content,” which Smith credits to the internet and social media where many up-and-coming talents are getting their start.
For future and present-day writers, Smith had some suggestions on how to get started in writing within the industry. She suggests seeking out extension programs at colleges or joining writers groups where you can be around other writers to critique your work and get exposure.
“Doing workshops—if you’re a good writer, it’s only going to help you sharpen [skills] and once you get there, you’ll know… when you’re ready to get to that next level.”
“Rayven Choi” is available in both English and Korean. The book is now available in electronic format and can be purchased on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo and iTunes/iBook. For more information, please visit www.rayvenchoifilms.com.
Brian W. Carter contributed to this article.