Kathleen Cooke recently caught up with one of our Influence Women leaders, Ayanna Anene, and had a conversation on why she stays active in Influence Women and how the INtogether Bible study has been particularly important in supporting her life as she works in the industry.
Ayanna Anene is an event and film producer. Passionate about collaborating with creatives to develop and produce their work, she works as a script consultant with Stage32 and independently to shoot proof of concepts. Starting her entertainment career at The Walt Disney Company, she later joined an LA-based TV and film production company. A multi-faceted creative entrepreneur, Ayanna launched and established an artist residency based in Southern California and formed the core leadership team of a traveling performing arts ministry based in Orange County for several years, producing over 40 original musicals and plays during her term. Ayanna is a Wharton School of Business graduate and a passionate member of The Influence Women Hollywood Chapter.
Kathleen Cooke: Thanks for joining us on this INNER VIEW, Ayanna! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Ayanna Anene: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with the women of Influence Women. I am a film and event producer. I collaborate with writers to improve and produce their scripts. I also consult with artists and creatives of all kinds to develop a strategy for their creative careers. I’ve also launched an artist residency based in Southern California. I have facilitated the Bible study for the West Coast, Central, and East Coast time zones for the past three sessions. It has afforded me opportunities to connect with people in the industry, not only in my city of Los Angeles, but from all over the world. It’s been amazing!
Kathleen: What is the single most important thing you learned from the recent study on Nehemiah? How did it affect your perspective on career and life?
Ayanna: What struck me the most about the Bible study you wrote was how we each have a part to play in the Kingdom of God. In Nehemiah’s day, God gave him a vision to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem rebuilt and restored. Each person was assigned a task. No task was too great, or too small. Some were laying bricks while others were standing guard with swords drawn, staying alert for attack or sabotage from their enemies. Some were working on the east gate, while others were on the west gate. The assignments were different and unique to each clan and family. But each is vitally important.
The entertainment and media space is vast. Some are inspired to be make-up artists, and others are stylists, while there are others who are passionate about editing, acting, animation, writing, composing music, set design, publishing, etc. There are now more channels than ever to reach audiences with a message— from TV channels to streamers, to personal websites, podcast platforms, social media outlets like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and the list goes on. The opportunities are vast; just like in Nehemiah’s day, no one’s role is too small or too large. We are each playing a part in a much larger movement in God’s Kingdom.
It reminds me that what is a desire in my heart is not too large for God to fulfill or too small to be worth pursuing. And neither is the desire in yours. Whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord, and it is an important piece in the rebuilding of His Kingdom on earth.
Kathleen: What makes this online bible study unique to women in the industry and why do they need to join the 6-week series starting Sept 5th?
Ayanna: I think the Bible study is an opportunity to connect with other women who know the unique challenges and opportunities of working in the media and entertainment spaces. It is an opportunity to build connections and relationships and learn from the experiences of women in different facets of the entertainment industry. I am also excited about the new Elijah study this year. We are to be women of fire and discernment, and I believe Elijah has a lot to teach us about that.
Connect with Ayanna:
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow in your faith and career! The INtogether Bible series begins on September 5th at 7 pm for six weeks – one hour in your time zone, or you can join another time zone group if it better fits into your schedule. Dive into scripture and find great connections with other women in the industry who also want to align their work and faith!
Free Registrations open August 1st on the website!
I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to work in the Hollywood film and media industry. The community of believers working in the industry was hidden and suffering from an onslaught of protests done by well-meaning Christians who felt that the programs and content produced in Hollywood in movies and on TV were immoral and evil.
However, there was a remnant of dedicated Christians working in Hollywood. We felt a calling to be here and work within the secular industry and do so with love, care, and excellence even if we had to work in the shadows. God has always left a remnant of His believers to bring light and hope in dark places when others have chosen to run away. As Hollywood industry Christians worked on the many challenging stages, production studios and in offices, things began to change. Relationships were established and rebuilt on the foundations of love and care. Nonbelievers saw Christians as talented, hard-working professionals willing to go the extra mile. They didn’t fall apart when disruptions and challenges happened but instead loved and cared about them personally. The walls of mistrust fell as caring relationships were built. Many began to see God for who He was – a God of love, peace, kindness, and accepted Him into their lives as “The Author and Finisher of their faith” (Hebrews 12:2). There are now Bible study and prayer groups firmly established on studio and production lots and communities of Christian industry leaders who are changing the landscape within Hollywood.
Christian industry professionals began by choosing to pray. Over the years, their numbers grew into multiple groups of writers, musical artists, students and women’s groups who came together to learn to be leaders of God’s love. Most importantly, these groups allied together and stayed connected to the larger community through events like the National Day of Prayer, the Biola Media Conference and other significant community events.
We saw our individual job placements in the industry as more than just a paycheck. We saw ourselves as God’s lanterns of light and His salt of the earth. We labored to rebuild the walls of love, hope, and friendship. Through the efforts of many groups like the Hollywood Prayer Network, Master Media, The Influence Lab, and many others, Christians in Hollywood have become a large, vibrant and active community that is respected and trusted to intelligently and gracefully engage on moral and cultural questions without condemnation.
It was how Nehemiah led.
Nehemiah prayed and then rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days when others had failed. The walls he built were for protection, but they were also necessary to create a united faith community. Nehemiah understood he was an enslaved person within a foreign culture (Hollywood’s culture is often alien and not agreeable with Christian values, morals and beliefs). Yet, he became a trusted and mindful leader. His account of the journey of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is a book to be studied for all Christians wanting to rebuild their communities where God has placed them. His leadership is a lesson on how today’s Church – the body of Christ needs to lead in a world that disdains the word “Christian” because of its history and past poor leadership practices. Just as Nehemiah did, Christians working in the Hollywood industry recognized that it must start with prayer and personal engagement with God and those they work for and with. It begins with building individual relationships at their places of work and learning to be compassionate, mindful leaders.
How do we lead today in Hollywood and the world?
We continue to love, care and live authentic lives. I love what U.K. evangelist Canon J. John says, “None of us have it together, but together we have it.” First and foremost, it’s about how much we care, because people don’t care how much we know or what we believe until they understand how much we care. “
Each person in Jerusalem rebuilt their personal wall first. They accepted their leadership role and rebuilt their relationship with God one stone at a time. Then, they physically rebuilt the walls, not outside of their neighborhoods or places of work, but at their own home. They weren’t trained construction workers but were priests, merchants, jewelers, masons, craftsmen, artisans, and women who cared. The words “next to him” were used 20 times in the 3rd chapter of Nehemiah. It takes the whole body of Christ to rebuild the walls of our culture. There are lists of responsible leaders who worked on the walls and repaired the gates written in the book of Nehemiah.
Today each person in the Church is indispensable. Each must share the responsibility to repair the walls around them. Covid has changed and disrupted the physical places we are living and the places we work in many ways. Atlanta is now the new “Hollywood South,” and new media and entertainment hubs are in Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Vancouver, and Canada with lots of production still happening in New York, England, Germany, Australia and India. God is enlarging the tent of Christians working in media and entertainment. We each have our place to build the walls of unity and love as never before, and those places are people who are sitting across the desk from you or standing next to you on a production lot.
It takes one person at a time. It takes you!