WFAA+ show aims to change how Black, minority voices are depicted


There’s no shortage of hard-pressing issues covered in “Frame of Reference,” the new, limited-run scripted series from Dallas’ WATZS Productions on WFAA+.

DALLAS — Kachelle and Kalisha Zachery, the Tulsa-born sisters behind the Dallas-based film and television production studio WATZS Productions, took five years to write, develop and start shooting their latest project, “Frame of Reference.”

Now Kachelle, the writer and director half of the duo, and Kalisha, the executive producer in the pair, hope their long-gestating vision will find the right audience as their eight-part scripted series makes its limited-run premiere on WFAA’s Roku- and Amazon Fire-available streaming app, WFAA+.

And rather than mind the long-winding road it took for “Frame of Reference” to earn its full release, the Zachery sisters are embracing the way it shaped their project.

“We’ve coined ourselves the Mandelas of media,” Kachelle said. “What inspires me so much about Mr. Mandela is that he spent 26 years in prison and did not come out of there bitter. That’s the impact I want WATZS Productions to have — that no matter what we create, [we want to] make people better because they watched it.”

Specifically, the women behind WATZS Productions are on a mission to change the way Black and minority voices are portrayed on your TV screens, using first-hand knowledge to inspire the themes across eight “Frame of Reference” episodes.

“As the writer of this series, I let my memories guide every scene, every character,” Kachelle said. “A lot of people ask me like, ‘How did you come up with all these characters?’ Life. Just living in real life.”

From colorism to prison reform to living life as a Black American, there’s no shortage of issues covered in their latest drama.  

“When you see people that look like you, it affirms you,” Kachelle said. “And that’s why I think it’s so important that I did that in the series. I don’t think we give enough credit to visual media. It’s powerful. And then, when you see yourself, and you see yourself balanced and portrayed correctly… we are very nuanced people. We are not monolithic. There are layers to our existence. I think it does even more change agent work.”

Understanding the power of storytelling, WATZS Productions hopes to dismantle stereotypes, one story at a time.  

“What I really want is audiences that don’t look like me, and you to be able to see that and get that lens into that we’re all human,” Kalisha said. “If you remove the skin, the color we still have is the same human emotions. I just want to make sure that they can relate that we’re the same.”

As a production studio, the Zachery sister utilize three core principles — integrity, patience and respect — to guide them along the way.  

“What led us is those characteristics, that we think everybody should have when you’re doing anything,” Kalisha said. “And it’s held us true as writers and directors when we’re dealing with humans. You don’t know what people are facing when they walk through the door of your production company that morning. and you want to be a place of calm.”

“What we believe is that the real change doesn’t happen until we show up — and showing up is not just our bodies,” Kachelle added. “It’s our character. When the character of a person enters the room, it should shift everything where you feel the integrity of that person. I wanted to show that it’s OK to allow ourselves to be completely vulnerable with our community, with each other. Because we tend to want to front a lot. So I’m hoping that [the show] introduces conversations, where somebody could be like, ‘Man, I was just thinking about you today — you want to go out and get a cup of coffee, and just talk?”

And how was it as sisters working on this production?

“I really want to dispel the myth that families can’t work together,” Kalisha said. “Yes, it is hard. Yes, we do have a difference of opinion. But we do have words. [And] we say, ‘Safe place, no judgment.’ So that’s our way of saying that this is a time for us to be able to speak on something. The beauty of our working relationship is that we know how to stay in our lane.”

Staying in their respective lanes, but adding a few stops along the way, hoping to school the rest of us with a lesson on empathy, compassion and respect. That’s what the WATZS are going for with “Frame of Reference” — available now on WFAA+.