We sat down with Jenna Mack, Creator and Host of In the Grey, to talk about visual storytelling, being human, and experiencing interactions in multi-dimensional formats.
Tell us a bit about your background and where you came up with the idea for In The Grey?
I lived abroad for almost ten years after graduating from college because I was curious to experience people and customs that were different from my own. Those years abroad were instrumental in broadening my awareness about the world around me and lead me to a job in television as a producer on Charlie Rose. While there, I was captivated by the interview series format.
Immersed in media, I noticed that a lot of other platforms were telling current events and news media stories in very two-dimensional formats. Black or white. This or that.
But there is always more to the story. I believe that life is lived in the grey, not in the absolutes. I wanted to create a platform that reflected this belief, where the layers of who we are and what is going on in the world around us could be explored in a more in-depth and compassionate way. This would hopefully cause a shift - however slight - in perception, encouraging people to look at each other and the world with more nuance and ultimately more empathy.
Why do you think now is the time for a more nuanced form of visual storytelling, and how do you hope to accomplish this with In the Grey?
I believe we are living in a time where it has never been more critical to understand and value what it means to be human in the face of great fear, such as terrorism, and increasing automation, thanks to technology.
I think it is vital therefore that we begin to soften the boundaries that prevent us from looking in the eyes of another human being and seeing their humanity. In the Grey is an interview show that is meant to be experienced, not simply watched. We film with a cinematic, documentary sensibility that encourages people to understand with their hearts, not just their minds.
In the Grey explores the unexpected sides of topics that people otherwise think of as black and white. Can you give us some examples -- and why do you think this approach matters? How do you hope it will impact public dialogue?
One of our first topics is around transgender men. Interestingly, you don’t see a lot of transgender men in pop culture or entertainment, the conversation is often around transgender women. From that perspective, we really saw a hole in the discussion. Transgender is a subject that challenges and questions what people typically think of as male and female.
We hope our interviews will help broaden perception so that the next time someone reads a story about or sees a transgender individual there will be more compassion and understanding, not judgement and criticism.
What is unique about visual storytelling and how do you think it differs in impact from text-based content?
Visual storytelling is what connects people to the story. That’s critical to In the Grey. As the interviewer, I’m on camera with the people I’m interviewing, which means the viewers get to see us interact and connect with each other. There is a value in seeing that exchange on camera that I think is missing too much in news and in documentary storytelling. What's left is often a narration of facts, and that’s not what we think life is really about. The power is in the human connection, and you can’t fully feel that if you don’t see someone sharing with another person.
As a media entrepreneur, what have been some of your biggest lessons learned to date?
There have been a few! But the one greatest lesson learned is that nobody knows what it is you want to create better than you and nobody can bring that creation to life better than you. Trust yourself, follow your intuition, and have the confidence to be the voice you’ve been waiting to hear.
Who in the media inspires you and why?
Charlie Rose is an inspiration of mine. He started his own show twenty plus years ago with the belief that uninterrupted and in-depth conversation has value. And Diane Sawyer. I had the pleasure of speaking with her recently about In the Grey. I am inspired by her generosity, authenticity, and her ability to connect. She is the real deal.
ABOUT IN THE GREY - In the Grey is an interview series that explores the unexpected sides of people and topics we think we know. Moving beyond a “black or white” perspective, the show reveals life’s complexities, what truly defines us, and what ultimately connects us. Peeling back all the layers, that’s where we find In the Grey.
Jenna Mack is the creator and host of the interview program, In the Grey. She is an experienced producer who was responsible for cultural segments on Charlie Rose, featuring renowned actors, writers, architects and designers. During that formative time at the acclaimed PBS broadcast, Mack’s vision for In the Grey took shape.