aprill winney.

los angeles, california.  |  director. mother. wife. script supervisor. daughter. friend.

It was not so long ago that the first openly gay main character came out on prime time TV.  It was 1997 and it was shocking news… for a select few. Ellen DeGeneres was responsible for that trail blazing move. Her brave act shined a light on the country’s feelings towards acceptance and opened the television airways to be a more inclusive environment. It turned out, most of America could care less about one’s sexual orientation. Soon after, came the hit series Will and Grace and then Modern Family.  Now, ABC Family features The Fosters every Monday evening.

The Fosters is a compelling, one-hour drama about a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological kids being raised by two moms. Some reports reveal that there are currently over 1.6 million children in the United States who are in need of a home. I personally believe ABC Family deserves a standing ovation for creating a show that reflects important family values like acceptance, unconditional love, and taking care of one another. Unfortunately, the U.S. still makes it difficult for same-sex couples to foster or adopt. I find it perplexing that a portion of our society would rather see these kids sit in a broken foster care system, than live in a safe home surrounded by people who truly want a family. Perhaps this show will help us all better understand the challenges the 1.6 million U.S. children face. As someone who spent a year of my life with a foster family, The Fosters resonates with me.

It is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to Aprill Winney: a new mother, adoring wife, loyal friend, and Hollywood director. Aprill was born in the Sequoia National Forest in California and attributes growing up in a secluded environment surrounded by books and nature as the catalyst for her love of storytelling.

Aprill went to college to obtain her bachelor’s degree in theater and moved to the windy city to join its popular theater scene. Soon after, she directed part of a women’s feature film collaboration and she fell madly in love. The young director quickly moved to Los Angeles to follow her new found love — the art filmmaking. And for over 10 years now, this storyteller has made her mark in Tinsel Town working as a script supervisor and director. A few of her script supervising projects include Jobs and Lovelace and TV shows such as Arrested Development (Netflix), Family Tree (HBO), and now, The Fosters (ABC Family). It is storytellers like Aprill Winney that open the eyes and minds of viewers around the world. Little by little, they tap on society’s shoulders, and remind us about the possibilities of life. These people make us laugh, cry, and think.

How did you choose your career? In other words, what inspired you to go into a certain direction?

Growing up in the woods as an only child gave me a passion for storytelling and entertaining. We didn’t have cable access or movie theatres so I read books and wrote stories and then acted them out for anyone who would listen. As I grew up, I went from being the performer to being the one that shaped the performance, the director. But it took me a long time to settle on ‘episodic television director’ as a career.

I’ve always been encouraged to follow my dreams, no matter how big. That freedom led me out of the woods and into the world of live theatre and then ultimately to the screen where the world of episodic television really spoke to me. One thing I have learned is that no matter how far down a path you go, if you suddenly realize that it isn’t going to make you happy, drop it, go back to the beginning and do something else. Change your mind as often as you need to in order to find what you love to do. My mother taught me at a young age that it is important to love what you do. There is nothing worse than going into a job every day that you don’t love.

What advice can you give to those wanting to follow in your professional footsteps? Is it necessary to get a college degree? Please elaborate.

There is not ‘one way’ to become a director. There are many. I chose to become a crew-member in order to hone my directing skills, learn the ins and outs of the industry, meet influential people, and keep myself afloat while I climbed the long and fickle career ladder to directing. It’s taken 10 years but it slowly seems to be working (knock on wood).

A college degree is not necessary but being well rounded and intelligent is. So, I would still encourage an education of some kind; be it travel, internships, self-study, or a traditional college education. I think in order to tell stories about real life, you have to have lived a bit and read a lot. Although my degree is in theatre, not film, I’m glad I have that degree. I’m glad I spent those years learning about dramatic literature, story structure, and performance, as well as just becoming the adult I am today.

What gets you through a rough day?

When I stumble upon a rough day, I just break it up into manageable parts. I sit down and make a list of what problems need to get solved and a general strategy of how to solve them. Then I just take it one step at a time and remember to breathe. I think it’s really important to know how to keep yourself calm and focused and organize your thoughts. I also promise myself a nice bath or maybe some ice cream at the end of the day. Knowing that it’s going to end is always a big comfort. I can’t emphasize enough, the power of making a list. I make a to-do list every single day of my life, lists of long term goals, short term goals, lists of chores, lists of groceries, lists of things to be proud of, things I am thankful for, etc. Lists help me gain perspective in every way and help me see massive obstacles as a series of manageable tasks.

Do you have a mentor? If yes, how has that relationship helped you?

I am very lucky to have quite a few mentors. I don’t yet work as a television director full time. My opportunities are still far enough apart that I have to rely on another job to get me through and pay the bills. That job is a script supervisor for film and television. I love script supervising, not nearly as much as I love directing, but it’s a great job. And I get to spend every day on a set, next to a director. So even when I am not directing I am learning from a director and observing the way they approach their job. I meet quite a few people that way and a good handful of them have become my mentors.

Over the years they have encouraged me to ask them questions and given me lots of guidance in becoming a professional director. As the opportunity approached to direct my first episode of TV, I received many offers to call my mentors if I needed help, meet them for coffee, ask any questions, and they have all been incredibly encouraging and supportive. People love to talk about how cut-throat and competitive the entertainment industry is. And it is. But I have found lots and lots of encouragement and support within my community.

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

My best advice on how to live a graceful life is to engage your empathy at all times. As a story-teller and director, this is something I depend on, putting myself in other’s shoes. But I think its great practice in life as well, whatever it is you aspire to. Feeling for one another, engaging our sense of humanity, only encourages kindness, patience, and gratitude. If you are thinking constantly about the experience of others then you are constantly in tune with how your words and actions affect those around you. It’s easy to become so focused and driven that you become calloused. I think it’s very important to avoid that. Stay raw, stay empathetic, stay warm and open and kind.

 j. jane side note:

Aprill ~ congratulations on the birth of your beautiful son!

Learn more about Mrs. Winney’s work at AprillWinney.com

And visit ABC Family to check out her latest project.

A very special thank you to Pamela Robinson for this introduction!

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