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The Edutainer: Dr. Tyrha Lindsey-Warren

by Wacoan Magazine

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

A: I started my career in Los Angeles. I started out at NBC in their children’s programming department. I spent the bulk of my time out there working in the TV film department for Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment. I always say, I worked on a whole bunch of movies you’ve never heard of, but a whole bunch of TV shows you have, like the last season of ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ ‘In the House,’ ‘Mad TV.’ Then I received my MBA at Claremont Graduate University, at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management.

Then I ended up in New York City. I was the director of marketing for United States Tennis Association. I went on to be the public relations director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Then I oversaw all communications for UniWorld Group, which is one of the top multicultural advertising agencies. In 2012, I started my Ph.D. at Rutgers Business School.

I grew up in [the performing arts] in Cincinnati. I started ballet and piano and voice when I was 3, and when I was 8, I went to the School for Creative and Performing Arts. A lot of famous people have come out of our school, like Sarah Jessica Parker, Nick Lachey, who was my partner in our musical theater group. I just have a strong background in entertainment, arts, theater.

Q: You grew up as a performer, so what led you to behind-the-scenes careers in the industry?

A: My dad wouldn’t let me major in theater at Northwestern University. I ended up seeing this TV show called the ‘Ebony/Jet Showcase.’ And that particular episode was talking about film and TV writers, directors, producers of color behind the scenes.

I told my dad, ‘Hey, I can go to Northwestern, one of the top film schools in the country and major in producing. It’s business.’ And he [agreed].

Q: How did you end up in Waco?

A: I interviewed for a clinical assistant professor of marketing at Baylor and received the position toward the end of 2016. I started at Baylor in fall 2017.

Q: Do you feel like being an educator is wildly different than the other positions you’ve held in the various industries?

A: Yes and no. Because I primarily teach seniors — I teach advertising and also a class of digital marketing — I’m preparing them to go out into creative fields. But for me, since my students are primarily Gen Z, it’s not enough to just be at the front of the room and speak to my students. I call it ‘edutainment.’

I have a whole research stream in edutainment because that’s what my students are used to. They’re used to learning from what’s on YouTube, what’s on TikTok, what’s on Snapchat. And so, in my classroom, my students get a branded edutainment experience where they get a little music, video — I even sing on the first day, because that’s my audience. With my students, an educator has to be very multidimensional and an edutainer.

Q: This year was the inaugural Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, which you founded. Why did you want to bring this event to Waco?

A: My team and I have been producing international film festivals since 2013. My family’s nonprofit, GB Lindsey Family Charitable Fund, actually runs the film festival.

At the top of 2019, I was observing the Waco landscape and really noticing that people and cultures are really siloed — quote, unquote — in Waco, and my husband, Sidney, and I found ourselves the only African Americans in numerous situations, whether it was for entertainment purposes or business purposes or fundraising dinners or gala dinners. We’re not used to that coming from New York City, LA, Chicago. So, I thought perhaps a film festival could be my small contribution to the Waco community to bring people together.

We’re dedicated to empowering the creative spirit, serving with heart and celebrating all. And that ‘celebrating all’ aspect is, with leveraging film and storytelling, to open the hearts of our attendees.

So perhaps we’ll look at each other a little better, treat each other a little better, give each other the benefit of the doubt more and maybe love on each other a little bit better.

Q: What types of films and how many films did you screen at this year’s festival?

A: Believe it or not, we received 1,688 submissions from 109 countries all around the world.

We had three different areas: feature films, student films, as well as short films. Out of that 1,688, we selected 68. We ended up showing 72 films because we also had some Hollywood movies.

Q: What is the Champions Award, and who were this year’s recipients?

A: These are individuals who are exemplars of innovation as well as good disruption in TV, film, the performing arts and entertainment industry. We gave our inaugural Champions Awards to David Littlewood, Kevin Sorbo, Sam Sorbo and Gina Neely.

Q: What can you tell us about next year’s festival that’s already in the works?

A: We’re adding an animation category, which I’m super excited about.

On July 31, we’re kicking off the new season with a first annual community barbecue. It’s a free event, open to the Waco community. We’re going to screen movies. In December, we’ll have our second annual toy drive. Then February 4-6 will be our 2021 festival.

I’ve already invited four films that I saw at the Sundance Film Festival.


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