It doesn’t have to be a huge production to encounter huge ego problems. I held an audition once in a farmhouse next to a cornfield which was advertised as a micro budget film and later had someone accuse of me deceiving him about the caliber of the production. It is not the glamor or fame that creates ego problems it is people who refuse to accept accountability for their actions.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jasmine Deanne Andrews.
Jasmine Deanne Andrews is a screenwriter, director, and the published author of Sullied Bride. Her IMDb credit includes the 2021 feature film Natalie’s Abortion and 2019 feature film The Curse of EVE, where she won in the category of Best Director in the World Music and Independent Film Festival (WMIFF). Natalie’s Abortion also received accolades for Best Cinematography, Best Actress, and Best Actor in the WMIFF in 2021. She is an award winning screenwriter, receiving 2nd place in the 2018–2019 Virginia Production Alliance Screenwriting Competition for Natalie’s Abortion. Jasmine is passionate about women’s issues and is devoted to filmmaking as an art. She is deeply involved in the community and created her production company, Sullied Bride Productions, in order to give women the opportunity to, “Tell our stories ourselves.”
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in a rural area of Virginia where there was literally nothing to do all the time. Going to school and the grocery store were the big activities. So I quickly had to learn how to entertain myself. As a child, I learned how to use my imagination to make something exciting happen in the cornfield in front of my house and I wrote about those adventures in my first stories. Those stories became my first training in creative writing.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I finished high school early and in that awkward time before college started I had a lot of spare time at home watching television and movies. As a teenager, it seemed daunting to write anything longer than a three page book report. However, as I was watching those programs I found that no one seemed to represent me. I had already received a creative spark to write a story and I realized that if I wanted to see something different in movies and television I would have to do it. I looked at the story I had started and decided to take myself seriously enough to complete it. From then on I wrote with the intent that this wouldn’t be another childhood tale to pass the time, but a serious work that would send a message to the world.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
All of the bloopers when filming have been funny, but one of the funniest moments was when shooting the wedding scene for The Curse of EVE. The wedding cake had been stored in the freezer and wasn’t thawed out completely for the scene. So when the actors were supposed to be cutting the cake they were struggling to get the knife through it. But this minor struggle helped turn the scene into something romantic because instead of smashing the cake in the actress’s face, which would be the equivalent of smacking her with a block of ice, the groom had to tenderly feed it to her.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Getting to know the entire cast and crew has been one of the best experiences of my life. I could go on about all of their talent, drive, and devotion forever, but one person in particular who stands out is my cinematographer, Aaron R. Sampson. He is also a filmmaker and my neighbor, four minutes down the street from my house. Both of us had been pursuing film for a long time and completely unaware of each other until our social circles merged with the making of my first feature film, The Curse of EVE. When we met we clicked like we had known each other for years. Aaron always has great stories about life and adds a much needed element of comedy to whatever we’re doing. It makes me laugh every time I think about the fact that we’d only been four minutes away from each other for years before discovering each other.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The person I am most grateful for is my mother. She is the producer for my film projects professionally and literally. My mother is my first reader when it comes to the things I write. As a teacher she edits and insures that the theme of the story is conveyed. She is a strong support, encourager, and mostly the voice of reason. As a director I can have these fantastical visuals for a scene and my mother is right there to make sure no one gets killed in the process. For one scene in The Curse of EVE when the bride is trying to escape from her wicked husband I had this great idea about her trotting through the open field at night. But my mother was right there to point out that in the country at night there are subject to be coyotes, nine feet snakes, and all sorts of catastrophes waiting in the field. Irony would also make sure that a rare bear would happen to wonder out of the Dismal Swamp and eat a crew member. So as the producer, my mother found a perfect location in the city that looked country enough for the visual impact and saved everyone from everything that would have gone wrong in the country field.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a lot of ‘favorite’ quotes but one that fits my life and film career is Proverbs 16:9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” I tend to make a lot of plans. Some of them go exactly the way I outlined and others seem to take me in an entirely different direction than where I started. Sometimes I feel discouraged by the sudden course changes, but this Scripture is always a comfort to me that I can make plans, but God and His Son Yeshua (Jesus) are always guiding my steps.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity is so important in the entertainment industry because it helps people accept themselves for who they are, it enables the viewers to see people who are different as people, and diversity breaks stereotypes. Before I started kindergarten I remember watching daytime television with my mother and I would see commercials with beautiful models flipping their wavy blonde hair. All the positive associations with those advertisements made me want to achieve that same look. However, as a woman of color with curly textured hair looking like the women on television would be impossible. With diversity there is representation of a variety of women of different backgrounds and hair textures. True diversity does not condemn the image of wavy blonde hair, but shows a wide range of beauty among each group. Diversity breaks stereotypes. When a film is diverse it portrays characters of different backgrounds as real people. Not every person of color is a thug or struggling in poverty. Not every white person is a racist or middle-class. When creating films I always make to point to include a diverse cast because I know that had I seen more positive representations of curly textured hair I would have come to appreciate my unique beauty earlier. Viewers would have a better understanding of people from different ethnic backgrounds if there were more portrayals of educated and intelligent people of color in the media. I would like the younger generations to have the ability to see themselves diversely represented in the entertainment industry.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I am working on a hybrid film and book project. The film will be a mini serous based off my upcoming novel Quince Marshall is my Father. I’m really excited about this project because it combines two art forms I love. The novel tells the story of three bi-racial children growing up in an abusive home as well as the hidden struggles of many other underrepresented minority voices. It shows the complexity of African American issues with respect to colorism, identity, and abusive child rearing practices that are typically viewed as normal in the black community. Representing this story in film will give audiences a visual experience of abuse and help them understand the hindrances a victim may face when trying to escape, why it may take so long for someone to leave an abuser, and the best way to help someone who is experiencing intimate partner violence. The film also provides the joy of not having to read. On the other hand, the novel version of Quince Marshall is my Father is a first person narrative that places the reader in the mind of the characters. It gives the reader an intimate experience with the events in a way that film cannot so people of all backgrounds can gain insight into the experiences of these diverse bi-racial characters.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
The aspect of my work that makes me the most proud are all the collaborations that take place during the production process. Small businesses benefit from the publicity of having their businesses featured in a film. Actors are able to network and connect with other people for new projects. The unique experience of filmmaking creates the type of bonds that wouldn’t be found in other environments. Through these bonds people share their stories and leave a small piece of themselves in every part of the production. I’ve taken on a lot of serious topics in filmmaking with the productions of The Curse of EVE and Natalie’s Abortion, but ultimately the films end with a message of triumph in how to overcome these issues. The connections people share with these films means that when the character is able to overcome their situation, everyone involved is able to overcome their situation as well. This makes me really proud of the collaborative work that goes into creating a film.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. People will fight to censor your work…at every level. The first step to creating anything is a dream. And very similar to Joseph in the Bible, when you share your dream with your family they will throw you in the pit. The people who are closest to you will crush your dream with discouragement and nay-saying. If they can puck out your dream at its inception then it will be censored before it even leaves your head. I was completely taken by surprise at the level of hate I received from my own kin for pursuing my dream. But even if the resistance is expected the hurt is real. That pain cannot be allowed to rule your life. The best way to handle it is not to focus on it and push for your desired outcome. After you get pass the initial rejection from family members the industry has a way of censoring filmmakers with silence. Many production companies will not consider producing a film unless creative control is rendered to their company. One production company I approached demanded major changes to the material and also charged an inordinate amount of money to begin production. These financial and artistic barriers are obstacles that censor films. If your work is controversial, like my film Natalie’s Abortion, it is censored with silence. To overcome this obstacle you have to be prepared to produce your film independently. This is a lot of work, but once you get on your feet the greatest reward is the ability to use an unfiltered voice. Lastly there are the haters. If your work is different from other films haters trash it as weird. If it fits a mold haters trash it as derivative. Nothing will ever satisfy a hater. Their only objective is to turn you into one of them — a mean-spirited, spineless, shiftless person. No matter what the haters say always remember that you had the boldness and drive to actually put yourself out there and accomplish something different rather than hide at home doing nothing.
2) Folks will go out of their way to waste your time. People will get involved in your project just to quit in the middle. Getting a group of people together and focused on a singular task is one of the most difficult things to do in the world. People have to juggle their work schedules, kids, and personal lives. So to maneuver around all of these variables for ten to twenty people to film makes every minute equivalent to 60 ounces of gold. And then I had a main actor show up for three days and then quit. Not only did the actor quitting in the middle jeopardize the continuation of the project it also put the production in the negative. The footage of him could not be used for anything since he quit and all the previous scenes with him would have to be reshot. It would have been better if he had never showed up at all and wasted everyone’s time. This actor was well aware of the impact of his role and the amount of damage he did by not showing up, but he didn’t care. No matter how small your production is don’t think that you are not worthy of honest devotion. Just like gold is tested for genuineness, test people for genuineness too.
3) It doesn’t have to be a huge production to encounter huge ego problems. I held an audition once in a farmhouse next to a cornfield which was advertised as a micro budget film and later had someone accuse of me deceiving him about the caliber of the production. It is not the glamor or fame that creates ego problems it is people who refuse to accept accountability for their actions.
4) Do not be overly pessimistic, but it is fine to assume people will lie to you. In the film industry everybody claims to know someone who is well connected. Once someone claimed that he had an entire studio of professional equipment and he knew several local filmmakers. I had two long lunch meetings with this man where he talked constantly for two straight hours. It was by the second meeting that I found out that the professional equipment he claimed to have was from the early 90’s and he didn’t know if the cameras turned on. Afterwards he proposed I ride up to the capitol alone with him to meet someone. I declined. Not only did this man waste my time with two long meetings of fruitless talk, but he proposed something that could have put me at a serious level of risk. Don’t follow every lead someone says they have.
5) No one is owed any favors. As a small independent filmmaker sometimes it may feel as if you have to prove something to people. This may take the form of doing work for free on other projects. Once, I worked as the videographer for an entire campaign because I was so happy someone took me seriously enough to ask for my services. The promise of publicity and exposure from the campaign cost me all the time and gas money I spent filming and editing promos for a period of six months. Then, after the promised exposure failed to pan out these same people who I worked for without payment, wouldn’t give me an ounce of support once I got my own project started. Always remember to be polite and kind, but be confident enough to charge for your services and occasionally say ‘no’ to requests.
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
I am an independent filmmaker. This comes with the disadvantage of having to work harder to get the films before an audience but the major advantage of being an independent filmmaker is being able to maintain the artistic integrity of the project. The film, Natalie’s Abortion, would be a hard sell to anyone just based on the title alone. However, the goal of creating the film was not selling it to a market, but to tell the unshared story of a woman who has to deal with a rape related pregnancy, abortion, and the constant bombardment of society’s unsolicited opinion about her decision. The story shows the ultimate triumph of a rape survivor as she finds her own voice and takes the power back in her life. Producing this film from the point of view of critics or financiers would only lead to censorship. I believe the viewers deserve more than that. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when someone told me that I was taking on all the issues that the church wouldn’t even touch, but issues that needed to be exposed. Too many people have been shut down by the things that society avoids talking about, so I will continue to put in the extra work to tell those types of stories.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start a movement to bring good to a large group of people I would encourage them in the motto of Sullied Bride Productions, “Telling our stories, ourselves.” Whether someone’s story is funny or sad, carefree or serious, that story can be told. People need to be heard. People need to care about those little moments in each other’s lives that set them apart as individuals. Right now there is a narrow group of people who are pushing the same narratives and dominating over everyone. I would like people to be empowered to take back their own voices. Often people have approached me wanting me to write their stories for them, but if I write it, it would become my story. It wouldn’t be empowering for me to tell my version of your story. In truth “you are the only one who can tell your story.” A movement where people feel confident enough to take themselves seriously and believe in their own worth is greater than anything I could do on an individual scale. Regardless of whether or not someone is involved directly with Sullied Bride Productions they can always take to heart the message of, “Telling our stories, ourselves.”
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to have a private lunch with Halle Berry. As the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress she not only represented her great talent and beauty, but in her acceptance speech she took the time to recognize all the other African American women who were paving the way in the film industry. For that I always admired her as a humble and gracious woman. Halle Berry is also a domestic violence survivor and I would want to talk to her about the many different ways we could utilize film in advocacy for this issue. And in one of my most ambitious dreams persuade her to make a cameo in one of my films!
How can our readers further follow you online?
Book Sullied Bride https://www.amazon.com/Sullied-Bride-Jasmine-Andrews/dp/1629984949
Spotify Film Soundtrack Natalie’s Abortion https://open.spotify.com/album/3hd8oHsYXi6omsNNQdnH9l?highlight=spotify:track:7KYXHkO9RDSTf2I1N4iLVJ
You may follow Jasmine Deanne Andrews Social Media on:
Facebook @sulliedbride https://www.facebook.com/sulliedbride
Twitter @sulliedbride https://twitter.com/SulliedBride
Instagram jasminedeanneandrews https://www.instagram.com/jasminedeanneandrews/
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!