In this episode we speak with Sade Sellers, an LA-based filmmaker who was named an ABFF TV One Screenplay Competition Finalist, Outfest Fusion Winner, and ATT Create-a-Thon winner. Her first feature, The Root of Things, is currently in production.
Sade talks about her decision to leave college and move to Los Angeles in pursuit of becoming a filmmaker. With just a few suitcases and a fervent dream, Sade set out to make a life for herself in Hollywood.
We ask Sade about her finding the courage to make her own path, the role that competitions have played in her success, and how to make noise in your field of art, something she’s passionate about because “no one is going to hand you your dream.”
As always, this episode features the following music: Aspire by Scott Holmes, and Purple Light by Blue Dot Sessions.
To learn more about Sade visit: www.sadesellers.com or follow her on IG: @sadesellers and Twitter: @IAMSadeSellers
Listen to Episode 3 below or on the following podcast platforms:
Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Google Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Podbean, PlayerFM and Blubrry.
Enjoy the episode and remember to Create & Connect!
The Biggest Influence on Your Success
What does it take to believe in yourself? And how do you stay focused once you realize success is a marathon–not a sprint? I spoke with filmmaker Sade Sellers about risk-taking, self-promotion, and that fateful trip to Disney.
Narrator: 00:00 Meraki to do something with soul, creativity or love.
Narrator: 00:06 Welcome to Meraki Mentors, a podcast featuring women who create. We interview creatives from every field and around the globe to discuss art, risk taking, and what it means to live a creative life. Here's your host, Candace Howze.
Candace: 00:24 Hey everyone. In this first episode of Meraki Mentors, we're talking to writer, director, and actress, Sade Sellers. Sade a is a Michigan native who's making waves in Hollywood as a filmmaker. Her story is not only inspiring, it's absolutely necessary for anyone who' standing at the cusp of their dreams. One of the main points that I learned from our discussion was just how important it is to believe in yourself and create your own opportunity and to remember that every successful story has a ton of bloopers, so don't be discouraged by where you are in your journey, but hey, don't let me spill all the good stuff. Have a listen and find the stories that speak to you. Welcome to Meraki mentors. This is your host Candice House, and I'm so excited that we have the wonderful opportunity to speak with shoddy sellers today. Who is an amazing writer and director and actor as well, um, in the past year or so has been particularly successful for her. She was a finalist for tv one screenplay competition and she was also named in a t and t createathon winter this year. So first and foremost, I just want to thank you for joining us today.
Sade: 01:39 Hi. Thank you for having me.
Candace: 01:41 Yeah, I will just definitely start off by saying that I love, I'm supporting and just like watching the work of becoming independent artists and filmmakers and I think it's just great to how these platforms and social media where we can find each other and indefinitely offer support along this whole journey.
Sade: 02:02 And same for you. Um, this podcast has been a journey for you. I had been watching it for the last few weeks and I'm really impressed and proud and supportive and excited because it's definitely needed and we need to saturate this industry with as much talent, black talent, especially as much as we can.
Candace: 02:21 Yes, definitely. And um, I'm so glad you mentioned that because a friend of mine has shared an article that I read earlier and there's a museum in Arizona and they just, um, they curated an entire exhibit. It was like 50 different works of art and they were all women and it was really interesting because the museum's director was saying how, you know, when you go to museums, like in the US and Europe, there's only like three to five percent of the artworks represent it were made by women and of course even less like women of color. So it's just really interesting seeing that people are starting to kind of become aware of this and trying to break those norms of it.
Sade: 02:59 Yeah. And I, um, to that notion, I was reading an article today on Amazon that said one out of four bucks while only one out of four books are actually written by women of color that come out. Um, and that's, that's kind of unfortunate. And the funny thing, not funny, but the sad thing about that is when I was in college almost 10 years ago, the statistic was the same. So we haven't grown at all and 10 years at least in the literary industry. Um, and I think this, this is what's happening now, is a renaissance emerging of a for women and for black women in particular. Um, I'm happy to be a part of it, but I've also super jealous of the artists in the next 50 years who get to reap the benefits of all of our hard work that we're putting in now. They'll have no idea what their films with the films that didn't have black female leads as, as characters. Like no, when I grew up, that wasn't a thing which is really exciting. But also it's like damn, if I was just born 50 years later, I would really be in the middle of that. Yeah. It's, yeah, it is crazy that they'll have a, an entirely different reality, but that'll, that'll be a good thing.
Sade: 04:19 It will be a good day. I'm jealous of them. I'm excited for them. Um, because I know for me growing up those representations weren't there and the fact that little girls and boys growing up today and get to see that and they'll think it's so normal is outstanding.
Candace: 04:38 It is, it's, it's fantastic. Um, yeah, so I will, I'll definitely start this off by just saying that, um, I found your work, I can't even remember, I want to say earlier in the year, um, it was definitely through something I was reading about the TV One screenplay contest and for everybody out there basically, um, tv one, they have an annual contest. Um, I think it's usually around the end of the year, screenwriters will submit a script and they'll choose three finalists who get to attend ABFF, which is the American black film festival. And a winner is chosen that has their film produced for TV one. So I guess we can start by you just kind of explaining like how you entered the contest and just that entire experience.
Sade: 05:23 Yeah. So the TV one annual screenplay competition is only three years young. I was involved in their third year, which is actually really great for me because that's my lucky number. That's the number I feel more connected to his three. So it felt really meant to be. Um, but so when I found out about the competition, I was perusing online just in the. When I tell you I was in the bottoms of my bottoms, I was at the bottoms of my bottoms. I was so frustrated with my career, with myself. I had been in for nine, eight years at the time and was sitting on my couch, just woe is me. Why isn't this happening? Why am I not making in this industry? I'm doing everything right. And then I stumbled upon the TV one competition and they said, okay, we're looking for full length features for a TV format.
Sade: 06:17 And the competition ended in three days. The competition opens in February to be exact. And it had been up for awhile, but I had just found it online three days before the deadline. And I sat there and I thought, well, three days I can't write a whole feature in three days. I'm not going to answer this, and then I sat there and thought, well, what are you doing for the next three days? Nothing doing nothing. You're doing nothing but sitting here and crying, so why not try it? And I tried it and I thought it was the worst thing in the world. And uh, I stayed up for three days straight just tweaking it and fixing it and still thought it was crap, but I sent it in just on a just because I stayed up for three days a matter of principle. It was going to be submitting.
Candace: 07:01 It wasn't just going to be wasted.
Sade: 07:03 Exactly. It's like this will mean something. Someone will see this. It doesn't matter who. So I sent it in and then I completely forgot about it. It, you know, usually when I'm really excited about a project that I really love, I'm checking on it every day. Like, okay, check my email. Maybe they sent it to me, maybe I got it. I know I got it. This is a good thing. And then I usually never get it for this project. I completely put it out of my mind, which probably helped me because I just thought, there's no way I'm going to win this. I have never written a full feature. I'm not a writer. I'm not. I'm not anything. I'm just doing it for fun. Just doing it to say that I did and two months later I was interning at a casting office for a casting director because I.] that's what I would do as an actor. If I wanted to get auditions, I would intern first and then they would call me in.
Sade: 07:57 And I got a voicemail from tv one saying that my screenplay made the top three finalists for their competition. And I thought, God, how bad were the other screenplays that this, this made it. That was my first thought, like, God, everyone else must have been terrible and, and you know, that's not great to think about yourself, you know, putting that self doubt on you. But it was my first project, so I was being realistic. Like it couldn't have been that good. Everyone else just had to be super bad. Like, and that's what I thought. So they flew me out to Miami in June and I went to the American black film festival, which I didn't even know existed and I'm telling you when, when I say be American black film festival should be on the level of Sundance and con. It is amazing. It is black artists and beauty everywhere, all different shapes and sizes and that's what my sister and I just kept saying like, look at all these beautiful black people in different sizes. So we even feel self conscious, like we just feel like we can just be and it's so nice and although I didn't win, um, they still option my scripts, which means they bought it and they plan on producing it.
Candace: 09:07 That is amazing. That's awesome. Congratulations.
Sade: 09:11 Thank you. And the person who did win, his name is Tim folsom and his film premieres in two weeks on tv one. So it is a real competition. It's not like some bs for publicity. They bought it, they produced it. They even allowed him to direct it and it will be on tv one.
Candace: 09:30 That is, that's incredible.
Sade: 09:32 Yeah. I don't know any other competition like that. That's insane.
Candace: 09:36 I don't either. Like I remember, um, yeah, I remember when I read it I was just like, what it like this should definitely be everywhere. I hadn't even heard of ABFF before this anyway. And I was just like, what? Like this is amazing.
Sade: 09:51 Yeah, they've been um, they've been doing this festival for over 20 years and, and I was like, why is this not a big deal? Like this should be like a Sundance, like all the movies that. I mean if you look at their past history, Ava Duvernay has premiered for a movie there. So has, Ryan Coogler, um Tiffany Haddish had her first film premiere there. So it is, it is an, it is an accelerant. It is a, what is the word? It's a really high quality. Y'all forgive me. I know English. I'm just having trouble.
Candace: 10:26 It happens to all of us.
Sade: 10:27 Yeah. It's a really great film festival and it's in Miami and you know, I'm. The only thing I'd say is like, Ooh, that heat, that humidity was not made for us, but got to get the braids done next year and I'm going to call it a day.
Candace: 10:43 Exactly, exactly. Um, I think it is, first of all, just really amazing when you talk about, um, you know, that you saw this contest, it was like a few days before the deadline. Um, I can't even tell you how many times that's happened to me. Like even as a writer, you know, so many things. It's like there's no way I'm going to do this in time. I'm going to try it. The story that always stands out to me was, um, when I first read about a Sylvestor Stallone writing Rocky and the, he wrote it in like three days or something like that was crazy. So I have personally found that sometimes when you are applying to competitions you're able to force yourself or push yourselves to do things in ways you didn't think was possible. So how. Yeah. How influential would you say applying to some of the contests that you've applied to has kind of helped your development as an artist?
Sade: 11:41 Well, TV one personally, they changed my life. I will be forever indebted to them because just off of that one confidence of making a finalist that pushed me to be like, okay girl, maybe you can do this.
Sade: 11:54 And then I started entering all sorts of different competitions and then I started placing and then I started winning and I was like, why was I not doing this before? Because I was self doubting myself because even before I submitted, I was like, that's not gonna happen. Right? So these, there's so many competitions out there, which is what I, I never knew. But they're literally giving away money and opportunities and especially for black women. Um, there's so many. And if you're not submitting to them, you're not doing all you can to make it in this industry. Because what I found out is it's not even about the people at the top of the network, you know, even if you don't place, there are writing assistants. There are other assistants reading all of these scripts and they may see them and go, this is, this is a good one, like probably not going to win our competition, but let's hold on to this.
Sade: 12:42 So it's about, it's about just having your work be seen and especially most of these competitions are free. I don't enter competitions where I have to pay because I just don't have it like that. No. The competitions that I enter our free and they give out money. So I think for anyone out there who's kind of like rolling their eyes, like, oh, competitions. Like I know there's a, there's a hesitation with writers and filmmakers about competition because they don't want their ideas stolen or they don't want to lose their ideas. Yeah. And I'm like, well, here's my advice is when you're, when you see a competition, don't give your best away. Don't give the project you've been working on for 10 years and slaving over like that. I would not do that. You know, when I see a competition, the first thing I do is I look at the guidelines.
Sade: 13:31 I say, what do they want? Okay. They want 90 pages. Okay. It has to be a thriller. Okay. They can't have mentioned any of this. Okay. And I really write a script curated towards that competition. That's what I do. So I, I write the best script that is actually for what they want. Um, so that way, not only do I gain a new script because they don't pick me. Cool. I got another script under my belt, but I'm not wasting some of my best on a competition that maybe, um, doesn't deserve it because a lot of the times the agreements in these competitions is like they own it and you can't sell it and you can't do anything with it. So my advice to writers out there, especially as right towards the guidelines, right towards what they're asking for it, save your best and work on it. Don't give that away. But stop being so concerned about, oh, copyright, this, copyright that, register your stuff, do your due diligence, read the contracts and start submitting. Having people see your work.
Candace: 14:28 And I think that's great. Like I never thought about that, but what great practice that you're getting by, like you said, entering things, tailoring it to it and constantly giving yourself new material. It's almost like you're giving yourself an assignment in a sense.
Sade: 14:43 That's exactly what it is. It's literally like being in school and having a writing assignment and because at the end of it, like when I started with TV One that was my first script and then I started entering competitions. I didn't win all of them. There's a handful that I didn't even place, but now I have like five or six scripts that I can go back and rework and eventually hopefully submit them to somewhere else. So even if you don't win, you're still winning because you just finished a script. You have a finished product. So
Candace: 15:11 Yeah, that alone is just a tremendous accomplishment to even have anything on the page at all. Yeah, and I think it's important to you because even as you get, you know, more involved in your career, there's gonna be instances where someone is gonna ask you to do something and you have to be able to know how to respond to what people are asking you to produce.
Sade: 15:32 Yeah. And so deadlines are. I mean every writer will tell you when you get a deadline, the first few days is like cleaning the house, do some groceries, maybe exercise. You are the most accomplished person outside of your writing life when you have a deadline because you are so afraid to even begin that you're like, it's going to be bad, but my advice is to just get past the first draft. You know, it's going to be bad, you know, it's not going to be great. Get past the first draft and, and try not to procrastinate. But actually I find procrastination really nice sometimes because I'm just like, I know what I'm doing. And then my house gets cleaned, you know?
Candace: 16:11 Exactly
Sade: 16:11 Luckily this is great, but yeah.
Candace: 16:15 Yeah. It's a win win
Sade: 16:16 And if you treat start treating, competition's not as like, oh, I have to win, this is the end all, but like this is a good practice for me. This script is due in a week. Can I write a script in a week? Can I make it good? Because that's what real world writing is. You get a deadline an egregious deadline from a production that's like, this needs to be done by tomorrow and you're like, okay, well I guess we're staying up all night and then you get it turned in. Ah. So start treating it like that. Like you are already a writer.
Candace: 16:45 Definitely. Definitely. So I guess you know, if we were to circle back, how were you first kind of inspired or introduced to the idea of working in the film industry?
Sade: 16:58 We would go all the way back to when I was about eight years old and I watched. This is going to sound really lame. I watched Jurassic World, uh, Jurassic Park: The Lost World is the second. It was the sequel to Jurassic Park. I'm sure everyone has seen it. They all know, but that was the first time sitting in that theater was the first time as a kid that I was like, oh, I want to do that. Like I didn't even know what it was called. I was like, I don't know what those people this screen or doing I don't know who made this or like how it gets put together, but I know that's what I want to do and I remember leaving the theater as a kid and walking to our car in the parking lot and kind of like looking over my shoulder, pretending there is a dinosaur there and that was it.
Sade: 17:43 That was it for the rest of my life. I was like, this is what I'm going to do. It's going to be film. And from 8 years old now into 28 years old, 20 years. It's been a very long stretch. By no means did it happen fast. Was I ever discovered? It's been a long, slow crawl to even get to where I am right now and I know the next 20 years will probably be even slower. Hopefully not.
Candace: 18:09 Hopefully it'll go by very fast with a lot of fun things,
Sade: 18:13 But that movie really just sparked my interest. I started looking up directors and actors and what it was to be in the film industry and I grew up in Lansing, Michigan and that's the farthest away from the film industry you could ever feel. Um, and I just remember thinking like, I gotta go, I just, I, I can't. This town is not going to do it for me. And I had my sights were set after high school. I was like, I gotta go is, we're going to go no matter what. So I can't even believe I'm sitting here right now.
Candace: 18:44 So coming from, okay, having this really deep seated passion, hailing from Michigan. So you graduated high school, what is, what is the next thought? Are we, are we thinking all right, we're immediately going to LA, are we thinking we need to start acting, film school? What's on the corner?
Speaker 4: 19:02 The, I will say most of my decisions in life, we're based out of fear and that's probably why my slow crawl has been so slow as I've gotten older. I've learned to release that fear and a lot of opportunities have come my way, so when I was 17 I actually graduated from high school and I only applied to one college. I only applied to Michigan State University because that's where all my friends were going because it was in my hometown. I was too afraid to even consider going anywhere else, like the idea of living in LA or New York or anywhere besides like where my mom and my best friends were was not an option. So I got into Michigan State and I thought, okay, well you're going to go to college because that's what you have to do. Ah. Everyone goes to college and that's, that's important. My, my family, they are immigrants so my mom's side, they're from Belize.
Sade: 19:49 So my mom never went to college. Some of my uncles and aunts did, but my mom never did, but she. So she. She is a businesswoman. She created her own business and ended up very well without it. But that was her dream was to see her children go to college. So now I'm in school for all the wrong reasons. I'm in school because of my friends, I'm in school because my mom, it's important and I'm in school because I felt like I had to be, um, and I knew very early on I was miserable, just miserable. So Michigan state at the time, I don't know if it's changed, but they didn't offer it film program. They only offered telecommunications, which is like newscasters, like, cause that's all we had in our town. Local newscasters tell the weather, you know, things like that. Um, they had a few select courses for electives of like Film 101.
Sade: 20:39 And I just remember being in Film 101 class and watching like Hitchcock and learning about pans and wipes, and thinking, "I want to do this! I don't want to go to any other class! I don't care about math. I don't care about history, I don't care about all that stuff. I just want to be in this class for the rest of my life." But that wasn't an option.
Candace: 20:59 Exactly.
Sade: 21:00 So my sophomore year of college I was really, really in a deep, deep, dark place. I was unhappy. Yeah. I was in a sorority and I had a boyfriend and I are good friends and I had my mom and my family and I'm a job and on the surface, very blessed, very lucky but miserable, horribly, horribly miserable. And then it wasn't until, um, my boyfriend and I at the time we decided we were going to drive to Disney world from Michigan on a spring break and I saw a billboard that was like "Open Called Casting at Disney" and I was like, oh my gosh, I want to go to that.
Sade: 21:38 And I called my mom and I don't know why I was 18. I could have went on my own, but I called my mom because I'm very close to her. And I was like, can I go to this, this casting mommy? And she said, "No". She's like, "Absolutely not. No, you can't do that. Go to Disneyland or world and bring your butt home." Like you're not going into that casting and I kid you not. That was the moment. I said, "Oh yeah, I'm dropping out of school and I'm moving to LA." And I'm like, "I don't want to. I don't want to miss these opportunities just because like I can't and when we got back from Disney World, I started. I made plans so fast. I was gone within a month. I, my boyfriend at the time. who was really sweet, gave me all of his frequent flyer points to give me a one way ticket, one way to Los Angeles.
Sade: 22:23 I packed one bag and I went with the excuse of, Oh, we'll look at film schools, you know, I'm going to look at film schools, but I knew I never was going to go to film school. I just knew I was like, I can't sit in a class. I got to be out there. So my mom actually flew with me and it took a lot of convincing. I mean, we didn't talk to each other for weeks because she was like, "You're not dropping out of college. You're not moving across country., But I think, and I'll always thank her for this, for being just the most amazing woman. After the initial shock, like passed. She was like, well, if this is what you're going to do, let's do this. Right? So we went and we looked at all these film schools, beautiful film schools, but they wanted like 80, 80 grand a year.
Sade: 23:05 We don't have that, we're not doing that.
Candace: 23:08 No
Sade: 23:08 And I wasn't ever going to go to them anyway. I went for the free food and the tours, um, and it just made me more excited to be in LA. So when the time came to go back home, my mom was like, "all right, we saw and we did". And I was like, "Yeah, I'm staying". She's like, "you're going to stay?" And I was like, "yeah." She said, "you only got one suitcase". I was like, "yeah, I'm good. I got it. I got what I need." And I ended up doing some background on TV shows and movies and making money. And then she, she felt good enough to go home to say, okay, I think she's good, but if my mom had not been that person to be like, okay, yeah, I believe in you, let's, let's go together. I would still be in Michigan. I'd probably have a kid or five now miserable. So, um, I owe her everything. Everything
Candace: 23:57 That's, that's so special because, and I was talking to someone just recently and we were saying how important that community is to you when you're making those big leaps, regardless of where that, you know, support is coming from family, friends, you know, somebody on twitter forever. All of those little moments or words of support really makes a big difference because making those leaps, you know, you have your doubts, but you also have that inner passion that drives you where you know you're making the right decision.
Sade: 24:30 Yeah. And I, I'm. The only difference with my story is like we didn't come from money, but I came from a very loving family. My aunt let me move in with her and sleep on her couch. My cousins helped me get my car and, and taught me about La. My mom, she would sleep. This is I, I remember this. I want to cry thinking about it. I got my first background job on a movie called Easy A that was starring Emma Stone.
Candace: 24:57 Yes!
Sade: 24:57 Yeah. I remember that? I've never seen it to this day because I'm terrified to see myself. I'm like, I'm not watching that, not going to see it, but um, it shot an Ohi which is super far from La, like three or four hours from La and my mom was in town. She was like, okay, well they booked you for like two weeks and you're making. I was making some good money on that movie, so why don't we treat it as a mini vacation? She drove to Ohi with me and got us a hotel and while I was working on set she was sleeping in the car and talk to the crew and like eat crafty. Just hang out on set while I was working and then take me home and taking me back at 5:00 AM and like the next day, like,
Sade: 25:38 When I think about that now. And I was only 19, why would she ever let me do that? I don't think I'd ever let my child do that. I'd be like, are you insane? Go get a real job. But she knew I like I wanted to be there and I had to be there. And um, so when I say yeah, I didn't come from money, I didn't come from education, but I had a amazing support system. I did. And I think if you got one of those things that's great educations, great, money's great. But having a support system is like, oh, and it doesn't have to be your family, friends, you know, dogs, whatever you got, just find something, find someone else outside of you that can believe in you. If we're lucky you can. Not all of us get that.
Candace: 26:23 That's very true. Did you know in light of having all these people there and around you, was there ever a moment where you felt like you had like a wake up call or like a doubt where you were like, oh, maybe I shouldn't be here. I should do something else. Like
Sade: 26:37 Every day, every day for the last 10 years, yesterday, today, right now, every night people don't believe me when I say that I cried from the moment that my mom left me in my apartment alone until yesterday. I cry every night because I'm like, is this gonna work out? Did I just waste 10 years of my life or a day when I first started? I just move across the country. Did I leave my family, at the time. My brother's, I have twin brothers who I love, like they're my own. They were really young and I was like, you're gonna miss all the stuff you're going to. They were babies. I was like, "you're going to miss the walks, you're going to miss steps in school." And I was like, "Do I? Is this worth it?" So I cried everyday and everyday still I think there's a moment in my day where I go, "Damn, did I make the right decision? Because I could. I could go back home and I could have a career. I could like I, I'm a smart girl could go back to school, I could do all these things, but I know I want to be. I had my worst day being in this industry would be, is my best day, is that makes sense. Like the moments of doubt in my worst times are better than the best days and when I wasn't doing this, so
Candace: 27:50 That's awesome.
Sade: 27:52 I don't know when it will ever stop. I don't know.
Candace: 27:55 I think, and I feel like everybody who is some type of like creative has those moments. Like you said, it happens often. It's not always like, oh, this one day I had last year. It's, it's all the time when you're sitting there wondering "when is this, when is that moment gonna happen?" Or "when will you know the rest of the world, see what I feel that I'm capable of" in a sense?
Sade: 28:17 And I have to remind myself. I'm like, it is happening. Like you've sold scripts, you're directing and you're doing everything you wanted to do, you're just not at the level yet that you wish you were. But I can't cry and say it's not happening. It is happening. I'm just at, this is not where I want to be, but it reminds me every time I say that, it reminds me of a quote from the Sex and The City 2 movie, which is random, but um Carrie asked Charlotte, like, are you are, uh, like how, how often are you happy? Like you're happy everyday. She does. Not all day everyday, but yeah, every day. And I'm like, that's me, not all day, but every day.
Candace: 28:58 Oh man, I can't, I can't think of, um, yeah, a better way to describe that.
Sade: 29:04 Yeah. And obviously I haven't, you know, we all have our moments,
Candace: 29:07 We do.
Sade: 29:07 But when I look at my, my life where it's at now, I'm like, yeah, this is, this is exactly what I wanted to do. I'm, I'm very happy that I am here. And I stayed." um. Was it really hard?Absolutely. But I'm so grateful for those moments of struggles in moments where I'm like, "Ooh, we're not eating today" or the moments where I'm like, "I want to go home," you know, because it makes it all worth it. I wouldn't want anyone to hand it to me. It makes it so much, so much more valuable when you know, you really like clawed through this earth and get your dream to come true.
Candace: 29:44 Exactly. I'm seeing that, you know, you're writing, you were doing acting as well. Do you currently have an agent? If you do, would you say that that's like important for someone who's starting out and how did you go about it?
Sade: 30:02 Ten years ago? I would say, "yeah, you need representation across the board. You're not going to make it without it." Now, I don't have a literary agent. Everything I've sold I've sold on my own. Um, I'm not even in the union because that's expensive. Who can join that? Acting wise, I do have a manager and I just recently, my agent just shut her doors. But my. But I do have a commercial agent and they give me auditions and stuff still. But a lot. I would say 90 percent of my opportunities I found on my own. So if someone asked me now I'm no, because the thing about agents is they're great for connections, like if they know casting directors and stuff. But what I like to warn people is don't think you can get an agent and you sit back, kick your feet up and you're like, "Okay now I wait for all the auditions to pour in" because that's what I thought. I thought, "Okay, I got this agent. So the auditions are coming everyday." No. Agents can only do as much as you give them. So if you're not updating your head shots or your reels or if you're not writing and submitting, you know, and putting yourself out there, they have nothing to promote. So even though you have one, it doesn't mean crap at the end of the day if you're not doing your work.
Candace: 31:13 And I'm so glad you said that because I've, and I've had this talk with friends and you know, they're like, oh, "I need an agent, I need this." And it's always from that perspective of "Oh, I'm going to give him a few things and they're going to do the rest for me. And they're gonna put me out there. And show everybody what I'm like"
Sade: 31:29 Yeah, I never that. Never that. Every time I email my agent with news, she's like, "What? You're constantly doing stuff." I'm like, "Yeah, girl!" And when she emails me back with an audition, I'm so grateful. Thank you so much. This is great. But I don't expect, you know, just because she emails me audition. I know I have to do the work. I know I have to study the lines. I know I have to do the scene work and that's it. But it's never that you, you, your agents need you. They don't make money without talent, but they can't sell you if they've got nothing to sell, so you can't kick your feet up and expect them to do all this work. And I know a lot of actors' complaint, "Oh I'm going to break up my agent. She hasn't submitted me for anything." Has she? Have you submitted yourself or anything?"
Candace: 32:13 Mmhmm
Sade: 32:13 Like, it's hard being an agent, there are a lot of actors out here who are really lazy, so it's really hard. I check in with my manager and agent, um, at least a few times a week. I send out newsletters, I invite them to my panels and my premieres. I tell them what I'm doing and it helps them when they're pitching me. So like, hey, you should really put this girl on your show. She's done this, she's done that, you know, rather than, hey, you should put this girl in the show. She looks like everyone else that has already been submitted to you. So you got to still do the work. Even if you have an agent, it doesn't mean anything. Do your work, get work without your agent and keep all the money.
Candace: 32:54 Exactly, exactly. That's important part. When you do hear about opportunities or like you find things on your own, where are you usually finding that? Is it like through the grapevine? I saw it on Instagram?
Sade: 33:09 Oh man, I'm everywhere and anywhere I can, but I will say 99 percent of it is social media. Especially twitter. Surprisingly.
Sade: 33:22 I hate social media so much so I get because I'm an older millennial, so I remember when like aim, like we had aim and stuff, but uh, that was just to chat with each other. I don't like it, but I do it because there's so many opportunities on there. For instance, Macro which is owned by Charles King, it's his production company. They're hosting a writing competition, which I still need to submit for. I'm procrastinating. I'm due in August and they announced it on Instagram and Twitter. And, for me, I always tell artists, I'm like, if you're not online, I don't care. Like I say, out of the politics and all of the like trending stuff because it is annoying. I get it. It's horrible, but I had a conversation with Ron Howard on Twitter. Where else could you do that?
Candace: 34:13 Exactly!
Sade: 34:13 Like I tweeted him like, "Hey, how's the production on your movie going?"
Sade: 34:18 And he's like, "Hey, it's good. How are you doing?" I'm like, "Are you kidding? You're Ron Howard. You're talking to me like we know each other. So one of my twitter I use just for for business and connections. I follow every director, every writer, every. Not so much actors, but showrunners, definitely producers, production companies, and then when I see them, like for instance Justin Semen of Dear White People, he wrote on his twitter just yesterday, Hey, I'm crewing up for my new film. Go join my facebook group and submit a resume. Now look, I actually auditioned for that film and I didn't get the role, but he has some PA and director assistants role open and I would love to learn more about behind the camera stuff because that's what I'm doing more of now. So just by him posting that on his twitter, did I submit and hopefully I'll get an interview and I can work on this production.
Sade: 35:11 So when I say social media is important and that's what it's important for it because there's so many quick resources there. Lino, Lino Waithe is really active on her twitter. She is really active and supportive, which is great. Ava is really active on her twitter. I'm always like, how does she have time to even like, comment on any of this stuff and give us advice and, and talk to us. She's, she's written me a few times and I'm like, this is what I'm saying. Like you're so busy, but thank you. Um, so there's a whole community of artists doing the things you want to do out there. Now it's different. Don't go out there pitching them, going like, Hey, I got a movie like that. I don't know, don't, don't do that. But listen and wait. Like when, when they say, Hey, we've got this competition, hey we've got these opening, then you need to jump on it. So I would say social media is how I find 99 percent of all of my work.
Candace: 36:07 Definitely. And I, I agree with you that I was like all of the social media platforms that twitter is probably the best at finding opportunity. Like even I look at myself sometimes as like a freelance writer, there's always like a magazine editors and people saying, hey, pitched this to me, you're looking for this,
Sade: 36:26 Always. "Hey, we're looking for this diverse women for this." If I was interested in blogging, writing articles, I wouldn't commit to that stuff, but that's not for me. That's for others. Exactly. So there's tons, tons of opportunities out there, but you just got to stop, like fighting with the random twitter holes to actually find. Take a moment to breathe. Exactly. I don't engage, I don't engage in that stuff. I'm strictly looking for work. And Facebook actually for the indie circuit has been really good. I know everyone clowns on Facebook, I keep it mostly for my family because they're older and they, they like it.
Candace: 36:26 Yeah
Sade: 37:03 But when it comes to any work, um, a lot of sets that are crewing up, um, and need directors and stuff, if you've got the ability to work for free for a few days, then I would say do that if you don't have the ability to just know that facebook is mostly going to be free work, volunteer style. But yeah, I found, made so many connections with Facebook as a female filmmaker groups. There's black women filmmakers groups. There's tons of things on acebook and then I just follow the groups that I look at my feed and there's so many opportunities out there, you guys. There's literally, people are begging you to help them.
Candace: 37:39 So they are, they are. And it's um. Oh Gosh. I wish I remembered. But I know Angie Thomas, who of course is the author of the book, "The Hate You Give", which is going to be a film.
Sade: 37:53 "The Hate You Give". Yeah, I'm super excited for that. She's on twitter. She's super active.
Candace: 37:58 Yes. And she said that she found a lot of her first, like literary agents and people who just kind of helped her when she was writing this story off of, it was either facebook or twitter. I can't remember which one, but yeah, that was like how she found a lot of the people that helped her with that. So yes, you made it.
Sade: 38:17 It's a thing now social media is a double edge sword. It is. I think one of the worst things that happen in society just because we don't have accountability and where it's still new. So extending with speech gets blurred and we're like, what do we protect? What do we don't? Um, but it's also one of the greatest tools for creative too, to have to get their work out there and not only but also to find work. Absolutely. Definitely. Yes.
Candace: 38:43 So in thinking about this, I know that you, over the course of this time in la, started your own production company. Um, Best Sellers, ha ha, amazing title.
Sade: 38:58 Took me like Two seconds to think of the name.
Candace: 39:04 No, that's great. And I love when people have these really like witty and like just ingenious plays on their names. I think that's, that's so catchy. So how did you kind of come mentally to this idea that, hey, I'm starting my own production company. How, how has that whole experience been?
Sade: 39:22 Well, the, the the conception of bestsellers has been a, a long time coming. But I, I officially made it an LLC when I actually, this is so random won, uh, the grand prize on Let's Make a Deal.
Candace: 39:38 Oh my gosh. Is that the Wayne Brady show?
Sade: 39:40 Yeah, the Wayne Brady show.
Candace: 39:42 I love that.
Sade: 39:43 And this is why I love living in LA. So a friend of mine invited me to the show and he's like, well, I can't come. Can you go to the show with my, my other friend who's visiting? And I said, sure. The show, I've never been. My grandma loves that show. And I went out and I bought a duck costume because I was like, I want to be something really fun. And also a big costume to hide my belly. Like I didn't want to wear anything tight and I get to the show and the producers pull me aside and they're like, "hey, we like you, we're gonna, we're gonna put you on the floor."
Sade: 40:13 And I said "Cool!" And I got to the floor and then I won the first prize. I was like, "oh, that's cool to treadmill. Never use it, but it's good." They really picked the wrong girl for that treadmill. But then I ended up winning the mega prize and they were like, you can trade the, the treadmill for a mega prize. Well you don't, obviously you don't know what the prize is, so you're taking a gamble and I'm like "Sure! I don't care. It can't be worse than a treadmill." And it turned out to be a speedboat and I was like, "It is worse than a treadmill! I hate the water. I hate the beach and I just kind of. Their episode is online and I think you can find it somewhere on my instagram maybe, but if you look at my face, I'm not crying because I'm happy.
Sade: 40:55 I'm crying because I'm like, "where the hell am I going to put this boat?" I'm so devastated. I go, what am I'm mad? Um, long story short, I ended up finessing a deal, which I don't know if this is legal or illegal, but I think it's highly frowned upon. Um, I finessed the deal with the boat company. It was Kinda like, Hey, "I don't like the ocean. I can't, I live in the desert. I can't have this boat. Can we just trade these for money?" And I actually went with it. I didn't get the full price of the boat, but I got a lot more than I thought I was gonna get so sold the boat back to them. They made like a double profit, which is terrible, but good. Good for me. And then I opened up the production company. I filed all the paperwork and paid for the licensing and the copyright and all of that with the money that I won. And that was because I was like, I'm so sick of watching bad movies that I'm just going to make movies I want to watch and they're going to have my name on it and then I'm going to hire a team of women and mostly black women to write and direct and to DP and act and the. And then we made our first short, like a month after that and then its just been going ever since.
Candace: 42:08 That is, that is the most insane story. That was like the most random, but entertaining and incredible
Sade: 42:15 Just random experience. Um, but everything happens for a reason. Had I not won the money on that show, I never would've been able to afford all of the licensing and stuff for the company.
Candace: 42:29 Absolutely. Um, what kind of, what kind of shorts and projects have you all made so far?
Sade: 42:38 We've made an array of shorts ranging from Drama to Comedy to Thriller. I'm really, into thriller, so that's where I like to focus most of our shorts on. Um, we've also made some Youtube series, but the most important thing about our shorts is that it's all starring minority women of Color in the leads. Like that is like non-negotiable for me and I'm not even in them. Like I don't think I've even, I've acted in one and I wasn't even the star. So when I put my films together, I'm not even casting myself. And then I'm looking for other talented minority actors out there who may never have gotten a lead role that's not, has nothing to do with their race before, you know. For our first project, Plum, it was a horror film about an imaginary friend who like comes back 20 years later to haunt the little girl that she used to follow around as a kid.
Sade: 43:30 And I was like, it's gotta be an Asian actress. And I refused to make it an anyone else. And we found a remarkably talented Asian actress. I don't even know why she agreed to be a part of the film. My name is Andy Park. She's insanely talented. And she would tell me, you know, Asian girls don't get these roles. Like we don't get lead scary like badass roles like this.
Candace: 43:50 That's true.
Sade: 43:50 And I was like, "I know," that's why I wanted you. And she's been, she's been in a couple of other shorts of mine, but she's just so crazy talented. I can't wait to see what else she does. I'm so glad we got her early on because I know she's going to be something big and I can say, "I knew her before all you guys did."
Candace: 44:12 Absolutely. And I always like to, you know, ask everyone and of course, as much as you can, what kind of projects and work that you have coming up that you're excited about. I know you're starting your production and your first feature of course,
Sade: 44:30 I am. And we have our live table read where we just kind of a chance for everyone to meet all of our cast and our producers and we can hear the script out loud and take awesome notes. Um, that production is called the Root of Things. It's about, it's a character driven story about an Indian man who ends up living with a black woman who does hair and they bond over their cultures and uh, set in 1996, which is really cool. Um,
Sade: 45:02 And it shoots in. Oh my gosh, it only two weeks and less than two weeks? A little frightening. And my first year, my first full feature and it only shooting for seven days, so we literally got about 80 pages worth of material to shoot in seven days. So I'm really jumping into this feature thing. Um, but I, I heard Tyler Perry shoot shot like Acrimony in seven days, so if he can do that, I know I can do it, but he also had like the money and um, but that's why I just keep telling myself, I'm like, "well, Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry did it girl, you can do it too, but you gonna have to get some sleep, you know, before then." So it's going to be a lot of work. But I'm super excited our cast is wonderful. Our crew is wonderful. Um, I, it, it's a story I believe in. Um, it's a story I've never seen on screen before. Uh, it's like Bollywood meets a Spike Lee, A Spike Lee joint, so it's really cool and I'm, I'm nervous as hell, but uh, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it.
Candace: 46:07 That is fantastic. So, and I know you just mentioned we can follow you at Sade Sellers. Is that your, is that like your name on like instagram and twitter as well?
Sade: 46:16 Yeah, I'm on twitter. It's, @IamSadeSellers because I had SadeSellers and then I deleted it but then I couldn't get it back. Long Story. Um, Yep. On twitter and instagram. Uh, I'm, I'm really active on that too. I'll answer questions. People have sent me their scripts to proofread and I do it when I, you know, when I have time I do it. Um, I send back little notes as well.
Sade: 46:41 I'm all about keeping the positivity though, like I don't want to hear any negative comments if you ain't got another nice to say I'm going to mute you and then we'll call it a day. But yeah, follow me there.
Candace: 46:53 The other kind of asset, and this is my favorite part because it's like a bunch of random questions that I ask everyone Meraki picks. Yeah. So the first one is, what song is currently stuck in your head or like you can't stop listening to?
Sade: 47:10 "The light is coming" by Ariana Grande.
Candace: 47:14 I have not. Have I heard? I probably have heard it, but it's just not coming to me, but I love her.
Sade: 47:19 Yeah. I'm loving this whole rollout of this album. It's smart. It's a good songs. She's making good quality pop music. I really like her.
Candace: 47:26 Yes. I, yeah, I love. I love listening her, so I will. Yeah, I'll definitely make sure that I check that song out.
Sade: 47:33 Yeah, it's different, but I like it.
Candace: 47:36 What? Okay. Question two: What is a restaurant that you think everyone in the world should go to and you cannot pick a chain restaurant.
Sade: 47:47 Really? Yeah. Okay. In that case there is a little spot in Burbank called Pinocchio's and uh, it's an Italian restaurant slash market. They sell basically all the ingredients they use to make food. So they make their own gelato. They make their own spaghetti and pastas and Lasagna is. And then you could go to the market and get the same pasta and sauces and meats and stuff. It's really cool.
Candace: 48:12 Oh, that sounds amazing.
Sade: 48:14 Yeah, they're only in Burbank.
Candace: 48:18 Um, did you have a, like a chain restaurant in mind?
Sade: 48:23 Yeah, so I was going to say Porto's. Porto's is as a Cuban style restaurant they're technically. They only have three or four locations and they're only in California, but it's a chain technically. Um, they do tamales and, and, and chicken croquettes and meat pies. And then they have a whole bakery with highs and company. I was just there this morning getting coffee. They have amazing coffee. Um, anyone who knows me knows I love Porto's. I'm there almost every day.
Candace: 48:51 That sounds amazing. Like I'm hungry just thinking about it. Um, I've got to definitely say obviously since you're in film, like what is, this is such a hard question. I hate when people ask me it, well, what's your favorite? What were some of your favorite films? Because I'm sure you don't have just one.
Sade: 49:08 Yeah. You know, when I was in film school, my teacher, we asked the same question and you would hear the answers. They would go, like, um, "Hitchcock, obviously anything or anything by Spielberg," you know, all these really high profile films. And til this day I will say my favorite film of all time is My Best Friend's Wedding. I just love that movie. I can watch a thousand times and I never get bored and I know every line and I know every beat, but it's amazing. And Julia Roberts, you know, and my aunt and I, my aunt Julia and I we're enamored with her. We think she's like the last great movie star. She's just. Everything she did was so on point. So My Best Friend's Wedding is always at the top of my list.
Candace: 49:54 Yes.
Sade: 49:54 Personally. I just saw, gosh I've seen so many movies. Um, nothing really came up this last few months that I've been like really dying for. But I really want to see. Sorry to Bother You. I haven't seen that yet and that's on my priority list.
Candace: 50:08 I want to see it too and I am, I follow Tessa Thompson on twitter and she's been tweeting about it and I'm just, I'm dying to go.
Sade: 50:16 Yeah, I think that will be a venture I do this weekend with my movie pass. I'll finally get to see it because I've been so busy working, but I'm only hearing great things about that. But yeah, your favorite movie doesn't to be some artistic, like dramatic piece. It could be whatever you want your favorite movie. So
Candace: 50:34 Definitely, definitely. Um, okay. So last but definitely not least, what is a quote or a piece of advice that steers you just kind of drives you?
Sade: 50:48 Oprah, says every, every advice is from Oprah.
Candace: 50:53 Yes.
Sade: 50:53 Oprah is a big advocate for just trying your best and that's what she always says. Not, not their best, not his best, not her best. Not Beyonce's is best because that's, that's nobody's best.
Candace: 51:07 No
Sade: 51:07 That's ridiculous. That's not even her worst, but your best. And that's that. I think that's the caption on my instagram or my twitter and it's just like I'm just trying my best and every day I end the day with did we do all that we could have done today? And if it's yes, cool. We get a cookie, if it's no, you still get a cookie, but you will try a little harder to tomorrow. That's it.
Candace: 51:28 Awesome. It has been just the greatest pleasure talking to you today.
Sade: 51:34 Thank you. You too. This is fun.
Candace: 51:36 Yes. This was so much fun and I just thank you for sharing so many of your stories and just being so honest with us and yeah, this is, this has really been a joy.
Sade: 51:48 Thank you. Yes. I'm so excited to hear the rest of your series. This has been really fun for me. Uh, talking about myself. That's the best. You're great.
Candace: 52:01 And that's the thing. I wish that I wish more people were more like transparent and open with their, with their stories and how they got going because that's the only way we learn is through our own experiences and everyone else's experiences.
Sade: 52:16 Yeah. I mean, my friend Shaun, he says information was meant to be shared that kept. So that's what we should do.
Candace: 52:22 Absolutely. I can't, I can't think of a better note to end on.
Sade: 52:26 Yay. Thank you so much for having me. This was really fun. Um, everyone keep listening to the podcast list all the guest list and they all look amazing.
Candace: 52:35 Definitely.
Narrator: 52:41 You've been listening to Meraki mentors, podcasts with Candace Howze. We're honored you chose to spend your time with us today. To learn more about today's guest or the podcast visit Meraki mentors podcast.com.