Interviewed by Summer Smith
In honor of the upcoming April 10th LUNAFEST event, a film festival highlighting women filmmakers, the Junior League of Long Beach (JLLB) has created the LUNAFEST Women in Entertainment Q & A Interview Series. It features interviews pairing JLLB members making a difference in the Long Beach community with women making a difference in the industry.
For our second interview, JLLB member and LUNAFEST Event Chair-Elect Summer Smith will be interviewing Sarah Feeley, director and producer of Raising Ryland, a documentary that will be screened at the 2016 JLLB LUNAFEST Film Festival. The film takes an intimate look inside the transgender experience as lived by a 6-year-old boy and his loving parents. Sarah will be participating in the Q & A filmmakers’ panel taking place directly after the screening. The panel will be moderated by JLLB President-Elect Virginia Zart.
Sarah Feeley is also the creator and executive producer of My Side of the Sky, a breakout Hulu Spotlight series, and has worked on the Corpse Bride, PBS’ documentary series This Emotional Life, the documentary TV series The Freedom Files, the movie Warcase, and a variety of commercials. In addition, she writes for film, television, and advertising.
Summer Smith joined JLLB in 2013, ready to roll up her sleeves with other committed and caring women, and eager to take advantage of the leadership development opportunities the league has to offer. Summer’s day job is in non-profit fundraising and administration for an outpatient behavioral health care provider, servicing foster care youth in Long Beach and surrounding areas.
Summer Smith (SS): What is your current job/title (along with top projects in your career) and what was your first job in the entertainment industry?
Sarah Feeley (SF): Filmmaker. Top Projects: Raising Ryland, My Side of the Sky, Iraq for Sale, and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. My first job in the entertainment industry was a paid internship at Hanna-Barbera.
SS: What does your typical day look like?
SF: It depends on the day. Every day is a little bit different. I could have an early call time and be on set or in the field. I could be losing track of time writing, editing, or creating. I could be in back-to-back meetings trying to sell a project. I could be leading my team through a difficult production or creative challenge. I could be managing the health of my business.
SS: What are three key aspects of your job (e.g., producing, developing relationships) and what are three qualities that are key to being successful in it (e.g., persistence, flexibility)?
SF: Three key aspects of my job are creativity, abstract thinking and connecting-the-dots. Three qualities that are key to being successful in the entertainment business are drive, resilience, and optimism.
SS: What is your favorite part of the job?
SF: I have two favorite parts of the job. The first is getting the greenlight, and the second is seeing the impact my work has on audiences. All the parts in between are exhilarating, excruciating and wonderful, often at the same time.
SS: Who or what inspires you creatively?
SF: I recharge every week by getting out on a trail and reconnecting with nature, myself and the love of my life. I am blown away by the staggering beauty of this planet and amazed at the sights I can see by exerting some effort. Our hikes are an excuse to daydream for hours on end. They are also a lot like the entertainment business. Each project is a slow, hard climb that takes a lot out of you. But, the payoff can be beautiful and that makes it all worth it.
SS: What advice would you give to women who want to work in the industry or do what you do?
SF: Dream big and go for it! Keep an open mind. Stay curious. Work hard. Have integrity. Ask for help. Help other women. The pay gap, opportunity gap and power gap are real. Become aware of the explicit and implicit biases that are holding you and all women back and change the system. Be bold. Be brave. Be yourself.
Find out more about Sarah Feeley below.
Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Sarah_Feeley
This interview was edited by Rachael Rifkin, a Public Relations member of the Junior League of Long Beach. She has been in the league since January of 2012 because she believes in positive community programs. When she’s not doing JLLB activities, she’s a ghostwriter/personal historian who blogs about the traits we inherit and the qualities we find only in ourselves.