Created two years ago, District Heat has the streets talking, while growing viewers online. The series joins the list of several lesbian web series taking over the Internet. Shanovia McKenzie who has always had a passion for creative writing is the producer behind the new D.C. based web series.
“Since I was a child, writing has always been a passion of mine,” says McKenzie. So my creativity stemmed from my soul, not from school.”
As season one comes to an end, Tagg took the time to speak with McKenzie about creating a black lesbian web series and District Heat Productions future direction.
Besides yourself, are there other people that have played an important role in making District Heat come to fruition?
Definitely. When I first received this vision, I called one of my best friends. Chantise Martin who is the Director of Photography and Editor of District Heat. At the time, she had just graduated from the Art Institute of Washington. I asked her if I wrote a story, would she be able to film it for me. As you can see, she said “yes”. With no resources or connections, I had an audition call with hopes that I would find diligent people who believed in my dream.
I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I felt like a blind man walking. I had absolutely no idea of how other web series operated. During the audition calls, my now Director of Marketing Deezal, came out to become a part of the production team as a second camerawoman. Deezal also became my biggest consultant. That was my crew. With this small team, and no make-up artist, stylist, wardrobe stylist, and money, we brought my story to life. Actually, let me take that back. I have a four-man team. God. He is the reason behind everything I do. Without him there is no me, and without me, there is no District Heat. I must give him all praises.
Why a web series? And why a black lesbian series based in Washington, D.C.?
I’m a storyteller, a dreamer, and a writer. But, to be able to display my stories, and my thoughts for the world to see were the best gift I could ever have. I’ve always been very private about my writings, and I finally reached a point in my life where I wanted to share them. I wanted to know if others experienced my pain, my struggles, my perceptions of things and my concerns in the black community. There are a few black lesbian web series, but not enough. Some people say lesbian web series are cliché. That comment always puzzles me. There are millions of heterosexual shows, movies, etc. Yet, that is not cliché. I want to be able to give my community a show that they can relate to or at least appreciate. We need options, and that is what District Heat is about. D.C is surrounded by so many artistic individuals. It saddens me when so many of these artists are not given the opportunity to showcase their talent. Now with District Heat, we give only LGBT independent artist air time on our show. I think it’s important to extend the hand to individuals who strive for a higher purpose. I’m a big supporter of my family.
What is the feedback you have received so far from viewers about the web series?
For the most part, all has been positive. The biggest issue I think for our fans is the length of time. Our audience wants more and they will receive that in season two. I check our YouTube comments on a daily basis to learn my audience, their opinions, and just to receive insight on the overall production of the show. It’s very informative and the feedback is always helpful in so many ways.
We noticed that there is a gritty street feel to the web series. The main characters are drug dealers. Why did you choose to go in this direction?
Actually, only one of the main characters is a drug dealer, which is Ali. The reason I chose the street aspect was because that’s the life I saw growing up as a kid. I grew up in Northeast D.C. and they were a part of my external environment. Choosing the street aspect was not me condoning that life, but to show people the other side to these characters who are people we actually know in the real world. Whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member. To understand why some choose this path and possibly grow from this life as they continue to experience the consequences behind the streets. It will either make you or break you.
Why did you decide for your characters to use the “N-word” in your episodes? Have you received any backlash over this decision?
I’ve actually received no backlash over the word “nigga.” Not, just yet. The reason I chose that word is because that is a part of the language for many drug dealers in the black community.
What’s in store for District Heat in the future?
Viewers should look out for season two. In between the conclusion of season two, we will give the viewers some extra content. Not a show, but some things to let people know we are more than just a show. District Heat is an umbrella for many future things to come.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the web series?
I hope the viewers understand my vision and can continue to be supportive. My biggest thing is for people to understand that I am in no way stereotyping all lesbians of color to be a certain way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t touch on other aspects, issues, or other scenarios or characters that others might relate to. With that being said, District Heat Productions has many future projects to come.
The cast will be making an appearance Sunday, July 27 for the White Magic Day Party at Stonefish Lounge located at 1708 L St NW, Washington, D.C. from 5 to 11 p.m. For more information on District Heat and their season finale party, visit the official District Heat Facebook page.