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Stella with the World on Her Shoulders

An original TV pilot


Stella with the World on Her Shoulders

An original TV pilot


the story

When a young, African American woman loses her job and apartment in New York City, she is forced to return home to her family in the suburbs. While there, she keeps her true intentions hidden and observes how much their lives have changed without her. 


Stella Teaser Trailer

Stella Teaser Trailer

Stella with the World on Her Shoulders is one of two pilots put into production through the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Advanced Television course for 2017. In the Spring on 2016, the show-runner, Sidney Butler was chosen by NYU faculty to put her pilot into production. In the Summer of 2016, the script was re-drafted, a director was attached and an executive producer was brought on board.

The Will and Jada Smith Foundation, awarded this pilot a $10,000 production award. With a crew of about twenty students, all with designated roles and responsibilities, this pilot started production in Fall of 2016. From September to December, this crew crafted schedules, shot listed, casted and performed a full-on bootcamp to bring this story to life. 

We would also like to acknowledge our faculty supervisors Harry Winer (Veronica Mars, Felicity) and Vondie Curtis Hall (Daredevil).


The Crew

The Crew


Sidney butler

Creator & Writer

Sidney Butler is a recent graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she majored in film and television production and concentrated in screenwriting. While at Tisch, she was awarded Best Undergraduate Short Screenplay at the 11th Annual Fusion Film Festival, and was one out of twenty students chosen to study abroad through NYU’s Screenwriting in London Program, where she wrote her first feature film. Her writing has been published in Interview Magazine, The Light Leaks and on Medium. Most recently she was awarded the prestigious Sundance Ignite Fellowship for 2018. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she is the writer’s PA for the Untitled Grey’s Anatomy spinoff. Her work can be found at


chris cole


Christopher Cole is a writer director from Rancho Cucamonga, California. His work stands at the intersection of hip hop, comedy, and race relations, and he is a contributing writer for HipHopDX, where he has interviewed the likes of Migos and Jamie xx. Chris’s past film work has been featured on MTV, The Fader, Vice, and Pigeons & Planes. In addition, Chris has worked in production for multiple commercial companies in New York City. His work can be found at


natalia rivas

Executive Producer

Natalia Rivas is from the San Francisco Bay Area and an aspiring entertainment professional who is a recent graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in Film and Television and double minoring in Producing and Business Entertainment at Stern. She is an experienced producer with a history of lead producing numerous documentaries, narratives and experimental films, TV pilots, music videos, and promotional material. Skilled in Field Production, Avid Media Technologies, Entertainment Law, and Film/Television. 

She has worked at a variety of companies including The Film Sales Company, New York Women in Film & TV, Pentimento Productions, and the MidPeninsula Media Center. She also interned in Shanghai, China for Dell and San Kou Branding & Advertising.























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Alexandria Churchwell is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch studying both theater and business entertainment. Most recently, Alexandria can be seen in the new web series HEY U UP? now streaming on YouTube. She will make her directorial debut later this year with the new web series IT'S NOT YOU coming to Vimeo this fall. As well as acting and directing, she is currently residing in Los Angeles working with Disney Imagineering.

Michael Gaines 


"William Frazier" 

Michael W. Gaines obtained a MFA in Theater with a concentration in Acting from Brooklyn College in 2014.  Since graduating his credits include - FILM: WONDERSTRUCK starring Julianne Moore, and Michelle Williams, directed by Todd Haynes; GAME NIGHT (Actor/Producer on this short film). THEATRE: WHEN WE WAKE UP DEAD (New Workshop Theater); Gi60 (New Workshop Theater).

Makhila Cooke



"Millie Frazier" 


Makhila Cooke is a 16 year old actress and dancer from New York City. She is primarily a dancer but also enjoys acting. She currently trains at the Harlem School of the Arts and Alvin Ailey American dance theater. This is her first film and she is more than excited to be a part of it.

Joshua David Scarlett





Joshua David Scarlett. Recent credits include A FEW GOOD MEN at The Gallery Players and Walk Hard at the Metropolitan Playhouse. This summer he will be performing at various parks in repertory productions of MEASURE FOR MEASURE and HENRY IV, Part 1 with Hip to Hip Theatre Company. He also recently made his TV debut in a supporting role on the Discovery ID show I, WITNESS Joshua studied at SUNY Purchase, earning two degrees – one in Theatre Performance and another in Playwriting/Screenwriting. He looks forward to going wherever theatre, film, and TV will take him and is honored to have worked with such a amazing cast and crew for Stella.

Rome Neal




Rome Neal the Artistic Theatre Director of the Nuyorican Poets Café theatre program. Mr. Neal received an Obie Grant with Café founder Miguel Algarin for excellence in theatre. Over the years he has received five Audelco Awards for his direction of Pepe Carril’s "SHANGO de IMA" and Samuel Harp’s "DON”T EXPLAIN" Mr. Neal also received two Audelcos for his acting: one for Lead Actor in Gabrielle N. Lane's "SIGNS," and one for Solo Performance in his critically acclaimed "MONK," by Laurence Holder. Neal also received the National Black Theatre Festival's coveted Lloyd Richards Director’s Award.

Nathan Heinrich



"Birthday Dad" 

Nathan Heinrich is a New York film and stage actor.   Born into a 6th generation California farming family, Nathan graduated with degrees in both Landscape Architecture and Botany. He operated his event design and production company on the West Coast for 10 years, before relocating to New York to his pursue his true loves, writing and acting!


Gayle Samuels



"Karen Frazier"

Gayle Samuels' recent television appearances include Judge Rand on Bull, Tim Daly’s attorney on Madam Secretary, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright’s social worker on The Americans, a school superintendent in the pilot trailer for Obsidian Sky and a cougar mom in the award–winning comedy web series Q’s One Night Stands. She was thrilled to have worked with director Kasi Lemmons and alongside stars such as Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker in  BLACK NATIVITY. She earned a Best Actress nomination from the Connecticut Critics Circle for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL and most recently received rave reviews for her stage portrayal of Rose in August Wilson’s FENCES.

Jarell Pampan



"Brian Frazier" 

Jarell Pampan made his acting debut in THE LION KING, Jr. in 2016.  Finding his passion in the role of Young Simba, Jarell has gone on to study at CPSM Musical Theater camp in the summer of 2016.  Jarell appears as Brian in “Stella with the World on her Shoulders” by Sidney Butler, an NYU Student Film. Jarell is an avid reader who enjoys learning different languages and dialect to perfect his craft.  Jarell has been accepted and in the Fall will be entering 10th grade at New World School of Arts (NWSA) Miami Florida to continue and perfect his acting skills and love for Musical Theater.

Lee Knorr




Lee Knorr is a veteran stage, screen, voiceover actor and print model who lives in Washington, DC. She travels far and wide to audition, rehearse, perform and film.  

Alex Najarian 




Alex Najarian is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch, receiving her BFA in Drama. While in school, she trained at The Department of Dramas's New Studio on Broadway in musical theatre and at the department's Stonestreet Studios in film acting.  Favorite credits include PRINCESS BARBARA IN THE APPLE TREE (NSB), NORMA IN CARRIE: THE MUSICAL (Peregrine Theatre Ensemble), and originating the role of Lily in the world premiere of THE BATTLE OF PERRYVILLE (NYU StageWorks). Keep an eye out for Alex in several upcoming short films to be released this year, including her as the title role in MIA, directed by Alyssa Bennett.

John O'Hara




John O'Hara was born into a performing arts family, and has been acting and performing music on and off for the past 10 years. He has appeared in series, commercials, independent films, and produces music spanning multiple genres.

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Special Thanks

To everyone who gave time, money & motivation to this pilot

Special Thanks

To everyone who gave time, money & motivation to this pilot

Harry Winer, faculty supervisor 

For being with this story from the beginning and assisting this team from preproduction to postproduction. 

Vondie Curtis Hall, faculty supervisor 

For being on set with us everyday and dedicating precious time to this story. 

Dennis & Karen Tomsheck 

For donating their beautiful home as a backdrop as "Stella's house." 

Robyn & Kenneth Joseph

For donating their beautiful home as a backdrop for the "Mansion Party" and letting us use their car for transportation and as a picture vehicle in the show. 

Marsha McKeever, post-production faculty supervisor

For organizing the editing & sound editing process so that it went as smoothly as possible.

David K. Butler MD, post-production sponsor

For his kind donation for post production work to help this project be seen at festivals around the country.


Additional Crew Credits 

Thank you to those who spent long weekends hauling equipment to the Upper East Side, traveling with us to Connecticut & enduring long editing sessions in the Post Production Lab

Composer, Lillie McDonough

Songwriter, Ryan Andrew

Maxwell Geoffrey, Colorist

Ryan Carrión, Sound Mixer & ADR Engineer

Jeremy Liguori, ADR Engineer

McKenna McFadden, ADR Supervisor

Dante Capone, Dialogue & Foley Editor

Mei Liu, Dialogue & Foley Editor

Hayley Livingston, Dialogue & Foley Editor

Max Phillips, Dialogue & Foley Editor

Ranmi Lee, Dialogue & Background Editor

Matt Morris, Dialogue & Sound Effects Editor

Roman Fusco, Dialogue Editor

Jiho Kim, Dialogue Editor

Dhruv Shiva Rao, Assistant Editor

Cale Brooks, Assistant Editor

Ben Defieux, Assistant Editor

Lewie Kloster, Assistant Editor

Babs Laco, Assistant Editor

Luke Palter, Assistant Editor

Ryan Wolf, Assistant Editor



Jasmine Chang, B Cam Operator / 1st AC

Alison Hale, 1st Assistant Camera

Jenny Chan, 2nd Assistant Camera

Kyle Hamilton, Gaffer

Tim Toda, Gaffer

Maxwell Geoffrey, Gaffer

Grace Giffune, Key Grip

Nick Deveau, Best Boy Electric/Grip

Eli Kravetz, Grip

Grip, Ruben Zaccaroni

Sonia Tagare, Boom Operator

Nora Bode, Boom Operator

Lily Li, Script Supervisor

Tafka Baez, Art Assistant / Decorator

Andrew Muhart, Set Dresser

William Planey, Wardrobe

Ally Schmus, Production Assistant

Robert Gordon, Production Assistant

Zach Weinstein, Production Assistant

Amanda Lettieri, Production Assistant

Nora Bode, Production Assistant