Updated: Apr 14
By: Rashida Ashley
Fresh from the NBCU LAUNCH TV Directors | Female Forward directing program, a program designed to systemically increase the number of experience directors of underrepresented backgrounds in episodic television, Lara Everly has cultivated her expertise to use comedy to disrupt the status quo. As an award-winning director, Lara has directed an episode of NBC's "American Auto," "I Can By Friday," "Like A Mother," and "Heritage Day."Additionally, some of her written and directed work have been seen on platforms such as Disney, Netflix Family, and Oprah.
In this interview, Lara discusses how her experience in the NBCU LAUNCH TV Directors Program | Female Forward program has amplified her trajectory and mission as a director.
Before going into the program, you've had notable projects that have already been showcased. How did you feel Female Forward could further hone your skills as a director?
I really wanted to get into television. I had done a handful of independent pilots and actually did a pilot with Geena Davis while I was in the process of applying for Female Forward. But it's really, really hard to get that first episode and to break into network TV, and I felt like I was on this hamster wheel of digital content which was great, but I didn't know how to uplevel.
I had actually spoken to an alumni from the very first class of Female Forward, Katie Locke O'Brien. She highly recommended it, and she was like, it changed my career. It changed everything. I will never not be grateful. It literally changed my whole trajectory.
What were some of your thoughts and goals going into the program once accepted?
For me, getting that first episode was huge. Beyond that, getting that second episode and that third and, you know, changing the trajectory, that's what I wanted. It's thrilling to be a part of the paradigm that's shifting to include more female directors and people of color and underrepresented minorities and all of that. So I'm just thrilled to be welcomed into that opportunity and into that equation.
I hope that it just keeps going from here, and then I get to tell stories that are very similar to the one that I got to tell for American Auto. I'm super grateful that I got the episode that I got. That I got to handle and tackle social issues, generational issues, gender issues, and all of those things. And that's the content that I live for and strive for. So I hope that I get to keep working in that dark comedy that's willing to take a little bit of a risk, a little bit edgy. Those are the stories that I want to keep telling.
How have the program's workshops shaped your essence as a director?
Well, in full transparency, because I was in the class of 2021, when we got in, all of our workshops were over zoom. It was not normal. I don't think that they are now. So that was its own unique journey. But to NBC and FEMA, for its own credit, they kept with it. The workshops were the same, where you are having really specific crafts for each one. So it would be like talking about posts and talking with TV editors, and then a whole thing about cinematography and how to work with cinematographers as a casting director.
I will say one of my favorite classes was something that we had actually as a class spoken up about and requested, and then Female Forward met the need. Which was to have a whole workshop on Scriptation, which is an app to go green. So instead of having a bunch of paper all the time on set and wasting trees-because, there are so many revisions in a script. Every day you might get a new script with different revisions, and it can be very wasteful. So there's a new app where you can put all of your notes in the script digitally, and then when there's a new script, it'll just transfer all of the notes over to the new script. It'll locate the words and literally take all your writings and photos and attachments and transfer them over. It is kind of like learning a whole new thing. So we were like, can we have a class on Scriptation?
We want to go green, we want to be more environmental, but it's very daunting to kind of learn a whole new program. NBC and Female Forward were like yeah and got one of the people that created Scriptation to teach us how to use Scriptation and what the different tools are, what the different icons are, what you can do with it. That was so helpful. I had some smaller shoots leading up to it. It was a great way for me to be like, okay, I'm going to take my iPad. I'm not going to be like, you know, pen and paper, and I'm going to use Scriptation.
So then, by the time I got to direct my episode, I was using my iPad. From the table read all the way through, [I was] only using the Scriptation. I think I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship with new technologies sometimes, and I think I wouldn't have had the urge to be like no, I'm good. I don't need the script. I'm going to be totally digital. If I hadn't had that Female Forward workshop where someone literally sat down and was like here's Scriptation for dummies, we're gonna walk you through it.
What impact do you intend to make with the projects you take on?
I've always been drawn to female narratives and female-driven stories, and I've also always been drawn to bringing humor and comedy to unexpected topics. That is what naturally winds up happening over and over with my stories and the projects that I'm drawn to or that even find me. I've dealt with some uncomfortable topics or tenderizing subjects. I've worked in the arena of gun safety and fertility, the Holocaust, incarcerated community, reproductive rights, and all that stuff, but most often through the lens of humor. So for me, it's just like a way to approach something from a different angle and in a way that gets you thinking about it in a different way.
It's not toxic. It's not dramatic. It's also healing and cathartic. I think that we process things differently when they're approached that way and when you come at it from a little bit of an angle versus straight on and grip it hard. So for me, you know, I want to be a part of that paradigm shift where we are more comfortable having these conversations and not just sweeping things under the rug, but you know, doing it in a way that's uplifting and doing it in a way that healing doing it in a way that's entertaining. That's what's important to me in my work.
What was the most important takeaway from the program that you knew you had to apply when directing "American Auto?"
Honestly, I just felt the desire to do a great job. I was really grateful that I got into the program and that they took the time to teach us [with] all these workshops and things. There's pros and cons to shadowing before you direct because you are learning the lexicon, the show. You're getting to know the cast and the crew, you're seeing what other directors do. It's so helpful, and also, they see you as a shadow.
Do you know what I mean? Even knows it's your first episode, and they get used to being like, Oh, that's a shadow. Then a couple of episodes later, you're like, Oh, hey, I'm in charge. It's a little bit of a calibration with the crew and the cast because they've seen you around, but they haven't really heard you talk that much. I mean, I took every opportunity I could in downtimes and lunch breaks to get to know people, but as a shadow, your job is to observe. I mean, literally like a shadow.
So all of a sudden, you go from being quite quiet and quite observant to being like, Okay, action! I'm in charge. It takes a think a little bit of like, even if it's unconscious, like a little bit of calibration on everyone's part to be like, she knows what she's talking about. I can trust her. Just taking the confidence and the skills that I have learned through the program, and just making sure that they translated on set so everybody could trust me, and everybody could make that calibration more seamlessly; and be like, yeah, she's in charge. Yeah, it's her first episode. We all know that. It's only gonna happen once, right? You only get your first episode once. So everyone's kind of looking at you alright, it's your first episode. How's it going to go? Not in like a judgy way, but it's just reality. So, you know, you've got to take everything you've learned in your career and through the program and do the work, and be like, yeah, it's my first episode, and you're in great hands.
The Feb 28 episode you directed has much to do with workplace generational dynamics. What are some generational dynamics that were highlighted in the episode?
So in the episode, Katherine, who is the CEO, has to go on a listening tour after a group of the much younger employees, the Gen Z employees, demand that the company stop contributing to pro-life politicians. Then in the middle of that, there's Sadie, who is more in the millennial generation. It was very nuanced. Then there was also Dori, who considers herself to be a young millennial. She kept putting Sadie in the older millennial category.
The show really makes fun of how each generation handles things like the patriarchy. Honestly, Katherine's point of view was, I paid my dues. I had to, like, you know, elbow my way through like all of these men. I wasn't given any break as a woman. I had to kick and fight to get to this position of being a female CEO. And now she's the enemy in these Gen Z eyes. She's like, they have no idea what I went through. They have no idea what I fought for, to get here.
From the perspective of the youngest employees, they're all like, you're the CEO. You make the changes and zero tolerance for anything that isn't just like 100%, the most liberal policy for the company. So yeah, I mean, I think that it doesn't comment on who's right and who's wrong. But even as women, and you know we're all on the same team, there is this generational perspective that's different from, like, my mom to me because of what we've gone through. Even Catherine, who is not playing a grandma by any means-the other day, a friend was talking to me about what a mean woman his grandmother was, and then I started asking questions. Like, what was her childhood like? What did she go through? Blah, blah, blah. It's like, of course, she wasn't mean! You're telling me she had five kids, like whatever it is. The history of women has changed so much, even in the last 100 years. You know what I mean? This woman didn't have rights. She grew up not being able to vote. Of course, she was spicy as F in her final years.
You can't take away the generation that we're raised in. It just becomes intrinsically who we are. So Katherine's point of view was a woman, how she's fought her way through the patriarchy, is going to be completely different than, like, a 22-year-old, you know, and neither is wrong, but how do we bridge the gap to continue to say, hey, yeah, we are all on the same team?
As the issue of women's rights is explored throughout the episode, what critical tensions between generational dynamics vs. women's rights were significant to highlight? Why was it necessary to highlight them?
The episode is so smart because it's commenting on conversations that are happening in real life. Hopefully, the episode also provokes more conversations that are happening in real life. It's this constant, you know, back and forth between media and art and life and reality. I think there is a little bit of this meta thing happening. It was female-written episode, female-directed episode. In the grand scheme of things, I am, and Elena Crevello, the writer, are considered, maybe like a millennial generation at the helm of that episode.
So we're trying to prove our worth as a writer and a director. At the same time, there are the women in Payne Motors, trying to prove their worth and find their footing and figure out how to get people to trust them. So I think there's something meta happening behind the scenes as well as what's in the episode. My point is, every day being a female director, whether you like it or not, a small percentage-there aren't that many of us. Whether you like it or not, you're being a part of a paradigm shift. You're moving the needle a little bit every day towards creating more opportunities for that. So for me, that's part of my story, intrinsically, to tell stories of other women moving the needle or trying to find their footing in a place where they're, maybe, a little bit in hot water or a fish out of water or whatever it is. That's just super aligned because that's literally what I feel every day,
After coming out of the program and airing your first episode with NBCU, what do you hope to see more in film from yourself as a director and your peers?
What really excited me about the episode is that we were able to tackle the topic of abortion and abortion rights in the workplace on network TV. I cannot tell you how many people were like, Oh my God! I was like, Oh, they're going there. People that didn't know what the episode was going to be about, maybe they weren't fully filled in, and they were like, oh, okay, all right, that's cool. So many people have reactions like that. I love that because I think that network TV can get a bad rap for being overly safe or just like really trying to cater to, like, the middle of the road.
I love that Justin Spitzer and the writers pushed for this. They pushed for this to happen. It wasn't the smoothest road. I commend NBC and universal for saying yeah, okay, let's do this. It's okay to take a hot-button topic. It's super current and like in the zeitgeist right now with, like, many heated conversations about it, and we're going to talk about it on our show with our characters that people love and are attached to, and we're going to talk about it on network TV. And that means that what 2 million people are gonna see it whatever it is, you know, that's so cool. What a neat way to bring this topic to the masses.
So you know, I would love to keep working on shows that are willing to take some risks, and I'm seeing it all the time. There are so many interesting things through the female gaze. Whether we're talking about eating disorders, alcoholism, or divorce. All these difficult topics. Now seeing them told through a comedic lens and from a more female gaze. Not like a woman is a victim of male-gaze storytelling, which we were fed so much in the 80s and the 90s. Like, no, this is the antihero. She's a shero. You know, she is a woman, and she's flawed, but she's also having this midlife awakening and going after what she wants in the world. Let's watch her journey from her perspective. I'm just wanting to keep diving into more of that. It really excites me, and I'm so excited that culturally and artistically, there's so much of that out there in the media, tons of it on cable TV, the more it falls into network TV, and we blur the lines between cable and network the better in my opinion.