Starting from the bottom, Valerie Scoon is now here – at the top of her game.
She can now roll up her sleeves, sit back, not necessarily relax, but enjoy her life and family. By all accounts, the Hollywood executive has all rights to, because if there was one person who had earn their stripes to do such, it would be her. She is the epitome of hard work.
The Hollywod executive has worked with film companies such as Warner Brothers, PBS, as well as Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and recently she made a visit to Barbados. She was in the island as her documentary Grenada: Colonialism and Conflict was being featured as part of theAfrican World Documentary Film Festival at the Cave Hill Campus.
Additionally she also took the opportunity to work with local producer Marcia Weekes on her upcoming feature film now in production, Vigilante – The Crossing.
In an interview with the media, Scoon said that along her journey she never envisaged that she would have achieved so much. To be the executive producer of acclaimed films such as the Denzel Washington directed The Great Debaters, a professor at Florida State Film School and the owner of her very own company True Vision – were all but dreams, it seemed not so long ago.
In fact, these dreams might not have come true had the 49-year-old followed her gut.
As a child, she said she knew she loved movies but she wasn’t a couch potato to the extent that she would simply watch movies for entertainment. Rather she could not watch a film without changing the ending or the storyline sometimes to the disdain of her family.
It was this passion that took her to Harvard University. There was appointed the co-president of the Harvard Film Making Association.
At first it was a hobby but then a friend, who was the fellow co-president, said she was going to move to Hollywood after she graduated to follow her aspirations. Scoon thought about it and decided that she too would go, but after she finished law school.
However, her sister Cecile who sat next to her throughout the interview smiling, discouraged her from doing this. Cecile, an attorney, told her if she attended law school, when she was finished she would be caught up with working to repay a loan and then her dream would all but die.
So upon graduation from Harvard with a degree in American history and literature, she moved back home for one year to raise some money before she finally leapt to her goal.
With no job to fall back on but only aspirations to boot Scoon left the comfort of her parents’ home and family support and moved to Hollywood. The first job she found was a receptionist gig answering phones. She then moved on to the famous Smithsonian Museum in DC where she worked for another year until she landed another receptionist job at a film company.
“I always telling people do more than your job description, it helps. I volunteered to read screen plays and do something called covers. And then gave the producer some critical comments he didn’t ask for . . . on the script he was working on and he liked them. By doing that I was able to leverage and get another job at Creative Artist Agency, one of the largest agencies in Hollywood and [the producer of all the Rockyfilms] was a client there, so I became a cover reader there.
“What you learn a lot in Hollywood, is a lot of time the person you are working for may not be able to reward you with promotions in their company but they can recommend you for another one”.
After “hop-scotching” for a little, Scoon obtained a job working for a well known producer of made-for-TV movies as an assistant – not a very good one, she admitted as she laughed. But after a short while there, he was sacked.
“I said I left my steady job to work for this man, he just got fired, I’ve only been there for a week what is going to happen to me?”
What happened was because her resumé was good she was given an on-the-spot interview and a job was created for her. Using her background of researching and history she worked with screen writers to helped them to develop their story.
“I did that for a little while then got the job at Warner Brothers as an executive producer. From there it was a matter of who you know, or somebody remembered you working on a project and recommended you for something else. I left Warners and went to work at PBS headquarters in Washington. I did that for a couple of years, which I really enjoyed but then I missed movies so I got in touch with Harpo. I was hired for my mind. I was the woman in the background who was going to get the work done,” she said.
Now, onto her biggest challenge yet – raising a family and juggling True Vision – it has been a learning process for her but one which was not daunting.
“When I look back on it I go, I have been doing this for a long time, you do know things or when a student is challenging me I would bring out my resumé. Now though I’m thinking of what is going to excite me next, what is going to engage me next.
“I am proud of how far I’ve come but I am also grateful that I had a family that was supportive of that. [They] never instilled fear in me for moving to L.A. even at the beginning level working as a receptionist. Nobody ever said to me ‘Why are you working as a receptionist, when you can be making so much money?’ I realize now that that was big for my parents . . . . They gave me space when I could have been doing other things so I’m grateful that I had a lot of support,” Scoon said.
And she encouraged other aspirating artistes that the road will not be easy but to study their craft and never be will afraid to let go of something that might be “pretty good” to go for what you want.
“You don’t have to hate something before you can move on to something else,” she advised.