Knowing that decision-makers at various development stages would need to be convinced that this style of storytelling has an audience, Ito stacked the City of Ghosts production team with people who understood her vision. From there, she did her best to cultivate a creative environment that allowed them to try ideas that upheld and added to that vision.
"There had to be this sense of freedom to present an idea and freedom to finesse that idea. Somebody also has to understand from my perspective [as the showrunner] that when you don't want that idea, that's got to be okay, too," explains Ito. "I feel really grateful for everybody that worked on the show."
With post-production taking place during the lockdown in 2020, most of Ito's watch-throughs took place from her desk at home. The moment she played an episode, her two young children would crowd in front of her to watch. Each time they did, she felt reassured that she and her team captured their key demographic.
"Of the top 10 rewards of doing it, it's been really fun that they were kind of the first people that got to check it out," says Ito.
CITY OF GHOST'S GROWING AUDIENCE AND ACCLAIM
With no assurance that a second season would be greenlit, Ito moved on from Netflix in March 2021 and took several months to reflect on the experience and what might come next.
"I was trying to get straight for myself what I wanted to do and talking to people to see what kinds of things were going on," says Ito. "Just like other places, you change over time as you evolve. So it was kind of this thought of like, 'Well, I gotta figure out where the new place is that maybe is more aligned with what I'm into doing.'"
Ito's care in developing the story, production team, and style of City of Ghosts has resulted in a show that continues to gain popularity and attract accolades. In October 2021, City of Ghosts won a 2021 Preservation Award from the L.A. Conservancy. In 2022, the show also won a Peabody Award and two Emmys. The show has also garnered a nomination for a GLAAD Media award, and continues to receive praise in the form of fan art.
"It's nice to have proved it," says Ito of her storytelling style. "The entire thing feels like me. I didn't have to dim the aspect that's good about the stuff I do."
Ito has since directed a music video for the punk band The Linda Lindas for their song 'Why,' developed and directed a short called Mall Stories: Atilla the Grilla on Epic Games' Unreal Engine that was funded by an Epic MegaGrant, and has joined Apple TV+ on an overall deal. She's also excited to see people who worked on City of Ghosts pursue their own projects.
"When I see other people making stuff where you feel like you've helped that person have confidence or inspired them to try to do something that they might not have done before, it means a lot," says Ito.
This profile originally appeared on ThePopverse.com.