Dayton native earns chance to pitch TV pilot to major studios

Credit: Kenyetta Raelyn

Credit: Kenyetta Raelyn

A Dayton native chosen as one of eight fellows in an inaugural pilot program had a chance to pitch her idea to several major studios last week.

As a part of the Women’s Weekend Film Challenge, Dayton native and Los Angeles-based screenwriter Kenyetta Raelyn pitched her television pilot, “Tenth,” to studios, production companies and executive producers, including HBO, HBO Max, Warner Horizon Television, Comedy Central and more.

While this accomplishment seems impressive enough, this isn’t Raelyn’s first time having her accolades published in the Dayton Daily News. In 1984, she was a teenager chosen to represent Fairview Junior High in Washington D.C. at President Ronald Reagan’s Young Astronauts program. Back then, she wanted to use her enhanced understanding of science and mathematics to her advantage as an astronaut.

Raelyn continued pursuing her love of math and science at Columbia University as an engineering major but ultimately realized she could transform her true passion into a day job.

“It took me a while to believe in my dream, in terms of making it a sustainable career,” Raelyn said. “I believed this doctrine that writing wasn’t something you had to learn — that it wasn’t something you needed to waste money on in school. I think that was it. It was like, if you were paying all this money for an education at Columbia, you should, you know, do the sciences. But my mind and heart reconnected in my junior year, and I switched and became an English major.”

After college, Raelyn began pursuing screenwriting and eventually won a fellowship with Film Independent that involved her pitching a feature to Searchlight Pictures. Admittedly fairly green regarding the inner workings of Hollywood, this deal with Searchlight Pictures fell through and Raelyn lost faith in her path.

At one point, Raelyn started and operated her own bath and body company for a few years until closing the company to pursue screenwriting once again. In fact, she has participated in The Writers Lab NYC, supported by Meryl Streep and NYWIFT (New York Women in Film and Television), and the Guy Hanks and Marvin Miller Screenwriting program at USC Cinematic Arts. She has also shadowed a director in season two of “The Chi” and directed an episode of a new media company web series called “Adversity.” Her awards and honors include the ScreenCraft Drama Screenwriting Contest and a grant for her comedy web series pilot “Day Shift.”

Credit: Kenyetta Raelyn

Credit: Kenyetta Raelyn

Most recently, Raelyn beat out over 700 other applicants to become one of eight women participating in the Women’s Weekend Film Challenge. The pilot accelerator program was founded in 2017 by Tracy Sayre and Katrina Medoff in order to promote gender equity behind the camera and on-screen.

“The scripts chosen for this accelerator run the gamut from comedy to sci-fi to contemporary and period dramas,” WWFC co-founder Katrina Medoff said, in a release. “The one thing that unifies all of these scripts is the pure talent of these writers and their passion for telling women’s stories.”

Prior to pitching their television pilots to major streaming services and production companies, the eight participants attended a three-week intensive training where they learned more about the business side of Hollywood from industry leaders like Elle Johnson, co-showrunner of “Self Made”; Matthew J. Lieberman, supervising producer of “Queen of the South”; Christine Walters, development executive, writer and producer, whose credits include “Tacoma FD” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”; public speaking coach Samara Bay, best known for dialect work with clients Gal Gadot and Rachel McAdams; and entertainment lawyer Anuj Gupta.

Raelyn’s pilot, “Tenth,” is a throwback to the Roaring Twenties. “Set against the 1920s Harlem Renaissance, a wealthy family strives to maintain their immaculate reputation, but long-held secrets threaten to burst their privileged bubble when the patriarch is blackmailed into running for political office,” reads the pilot’s official description.

“The current pilot I’m writing has to do with an intersection of race, privilege, class and immigration status,” Raelyn said. “So, it’s like the pursuit of the American Dream when you have these very unique Americanized boxes we put everyone in, right? Race and class and immigration. I love this time period.”

Apart from simply admiring the 1920s, Raelyn, who is waiting to hear whether any major studios have accepted her pitch, says she also has an affection for “Downton Abbey” and its creator, Julian Fellowes.

For more information about Raelyn, visit her website, Instagram page and Twitter page.

About the Author