By Stephanie Okun
Welcome, new NYWIFT member Chayah Masters! We are happy to introduce Chayah, who has so much to offer our community. She is a producer and script consultant with an impressive 20 years of experience in the industry. Masters was an executive producer of the Sundance World Premiere drama, After the Wedding. She is a sought-after creative collaborator, who began her career working in production for Miramax (Cinderella Man, The Aviator, An Unfinished Life) and at DreamWorks Animation (The Boss Baby, Trolls, Captain Underpants). In 2018, she launched her shingle, Rumination Road, to develop and produce character-driven content contributing to our world in a meaningful way. Now as a producer with a full slate of films in development, she splits her time between Atlanta and NYC.
We’re thrilled to have her join New York Women in Film & Television and can’t wait to see what she does next.
Chayah, what is your current position?
Producer and Story Consultant at Rumination Road
Can you give us a brief overview of your career in media?
I started out as a motion picture/lit agent’s assistant in Beverly Hills, CA before working in production for Miramax, DreamWorks Animation, and then on independent films as a production coordinator, 2nd assistant director, and line producer. In 2018, I launched my company, Rumination Road, and was an executive producer on the Sundance world premiere, After the Wedding. Presently, I’m producing the thriller, The Undertaker’s Children, and have several projects in active development.
What are three fun facts about you that others would not know just by looking at you?
- I showed Arabian horses internationally as a kid.
- I’ve been to 38 of 50 United States and plan to visit all of them.
- As a licensed realtor in Arizona, I helped a homeowner prevent the foreclosure sale on his home by tracking down the president of the bank who owned the loan over a Memorial Day weekend through LinkedIn and presenting the case as to why he had to stop the foreclosure that was to happen before a sale could be completed. This was in the midst of the 2008 housing crisis.
What were the first influences in your life that led you to becoming a producer?
I knew I wanted to work in the film industry when my dad took me to see Star Wars as a little girl. For a number of reasons, that outing ignited a passion in me for storytelling and filmmaking but I didn’t know anyone who worked in the film industry and we lived in Silicon Valley (Northern California), where computers and tech were the focus (long before Netflix set up shop in my hometown, Los Gatos, CA). It wouldn’t be until I moved to Los Angeles, and went to college, that I met mentors in the film industry who showed me what it meant to be a great producer and collaborator.
While I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of mentors on my career path, three women stand out as having a meaningful influence on how I grew into the producer I am today.
UPM/producer Kelly Kiernan was one of my producing program instructors in film school at UCLA. While I learned a lot from her, one of the things that really stood out to me was that as a producer it’s my job to make sure my director and everyone hired to work on a project have complete support to do their best work. Once we’re greenlit, my team should never be waiting on me to get them what they need. Planning is everything and if I do my job well in development and prep, the production will have its best shot for success.
Former literary agent/manager and producer Victoria Wisdom taught me about development and how crucial it is to find writers who are willing to do the work needed in advance of sharing a script with the market for its best shot at success in getting produced. She was one of the first female lit agents to become a partner in an agency and launched the careers of some of the most revered filmmakers to this day. The lessons she taught me about the business and how to succeed are never far from my thoughts.
And finally, producer Michelle Raimo-Kouyate was a mentor to me in the Women in Film Producer’s Circle. She was incredibly kind and offered me her advice when I was just starting out as a producer that continued to guide me to this day.
Describe your most recent project and then your most favorite project as a producer.
I have three projects that I’m producing at the moment with several others in development. I’ve just returned from launching my thriller, The Undertaker’s Children, at the market in Cannes with my amazing sales and financing team. This project has been the one to highlight my strengths as a producer and remind me why I do what I do. The director and my producing partner are dream collaborators. The writer is a tremendous talent who never shied away from working with us to realize the outstanding script that has been so well received by everyone who’s read it. I recently received a call from an agent who congratulated me on the quality of the writing and story told and said “it has been ages since he audibly gasped when reaching the twist in a script.” It’s been a lot of fun to be part of such a passion project with so many fantastic people to collaborate with on it.
What attracted you to NYWIFT and how might the organization serve you?
I was very involved in Women In Film LA when I lived in Los Angeles. Initially I was selected for the Producers Circle mentorship program and then the following year I participated as a mentor in the Writers Circle in Women in Film and mentored six young writers starting out in their careers. I’m in the process of moving to New York City now and I love supporting, networking, and collaborating with female filmmakers. I hope to meet creatives/filmmakers who share my passion for telling compelling stories and who want to realize films and TV series that contribute to our world in a meaningful way.
What kind of contributions would you like to make to NYWIFT?
I love to be involved. If I can volunteer, I’m happy to do so. If there’s a need for mentors or speakers, I’m happy to offer the benefit of my experience if it’s helpful. When I have a film or TV series shooting, I’d love to utilize this organization to find amazing women to work with. Really, whatever I can do to be of service and help others, I’m happy to do it.
What do you see moving forward for the future of women as media makers?
The sky’s the limit! While we still have a long way to go to realize equality with our male counterparts, the barriers are coming down for females and if you find like-minded, positive people to collaborate with, magic happens.
Chayah Masters is an Executive Producer of the Sundance World Premiere drama, After the Wedding. She is a sought-after creative collaborator, who began her career working in production for Miramax (Cinderella Man, The Aviator, An Unfinished Life) and at DreamWorks Animation (The Boss Baby, Trolls, Captain Underpants). In 2018, she launched her shingle, Rumination Road, to develop and produce character-driven content contributing to our world in a meaningful way.
A member of Women in Film Los Angeles, Chayah was selected for the WIF Producers Mentorship Circle where she worked with producer Michelle Raimo (Silver Linings Playbook) and was then invited to participate as a mentor in the WIF Writers Mentorship Circle where she worked with six female writers over a year to help them develop professionally and grow in their writing careers.
A producer and script consultant with a full slate of films in development, Chayah splits her time between New York, NY and Atlanta, GA and is honored to be a new member of New York Women in Film & Television.
Learn more about Chayah’s next film The Undertaker’s Children, starring 2019 NYWIFT Muse Honoree Ann Dowd.
Connect with Chayah Masters on Instagram at @hiyah_chayah.
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