Q&A with JADA SILVERSTEIN
Jada Silverstein is a young actress and filmmaker from Long Island who recently started her own independent film production company Offbeat Films. The company’s short films Behind Bars and Speak have earned a series of awards and nominations from the Indie Short Fest, the New York International Film Awards, and the Boden International Film Festival. During our interview, Jada's films were also selected for Oniros Film Awards. Behind Bars went on to win "Best Sports Film" and was picked to be screened publicly this month. Speak was also a finalist for "Best Experimental Film". With a feature film on the way, Jada’s impressive work with Offbeat Films seems to be gaining momentum with every project.
Jada has wanted to be an actress since she was young, but her schedule was kept busy due to her involvement in competitive gymnastics. The films she has seen throughout her life have inspired her to start filmmaking, but more specifically, her experience working with a teacher during a filmmaking program is what prompted her to really fall in love with the process. The parts Jada found most difficult about starting her own company were things regarding the legal process, as well as picking a name. The name Offbeat was chosen after Jada and her mother created a list of values she wanted to convey through her company, mainly focusing on giving a platform to more “offbeat” or unconventional projects. She also believes the name Offbeat describes her in a way, making her synonymous with her company.
I spoke with Jada on March 31st about her experiences as an emerging artist in the film industry.
ALLY: So, not only did you start this incredible indie film production company, you kind of do it all in terms of the film world; acting, directing, producing, screenwriting. Which of these roles do you feel like you gravitate towards the most?
JADA: Yeah, that's a hard question. I've said this a lot, acting has been what I've always wanted to do since the time that I was little… and that was all I thought I was gonna do. I thought that I was just gonna act and that was gonna be my life. But shortly, soon, quickly, I discovered that it is really hard to get acting jobs.
You have to be right place, right time. There's just a lot that goes into it. And I've always loved writing. I write poetry as well, like spoken word and just normal poetry and I kind of started screenwriting when I was younger, just like playing around with it. But I never really saw it going anywhere. It was just kind of the thing that I did. And I just got tired of waiting around and waiting for something to come to me. So I decided to make my own things. I have a lot to say and a lot of stories that I wanna tell. And I got tired of waiting for somebody to tell them for me. So I decided to really dive into learning about screenwriting, learning about directing and producing. And the more I did it, the more I learned and I realized that nobody is going to do it for me. And nobody's gonna sacrifice their own their own like goals and dreams to help me with mine. So I have to do it for myself. And that means learning everything. Learning how to produce, how to direct, how to edit, how to raise money for my films, how to, you know, just, I have to learn the whole thing.
ALLY: Wow, that's honestly bad*ss <laugh>
JADA: <laugh> Thank you.
ALLY: Especially, I mean as a woman in the film industry, you know, there's not always as many opportunities. So the fact that like you were bold enough to create your own opportunities is just so awesome. It's honestly so inspiring. So some background on me, I actually, I just graduated from SUNY Cortland and during my time there I actually interned at a film festival called Blackbird International Film Festival in Cortland, New York. I don't know if you've heard of it, it's kind of small, but I was a student judge. So I'm telling you this because I got to see the kinds of submissions that were coming into these festivals and a lot of them were so impressive. I would always be absolutely blown away because you could kind of tell that most of them were lower budget, but the way that it didn't negatively influence the art at all was so insane. So I know that your films have been nominated for a bunch of these kinds of festivals and award ceremonies and so I was just wondering if you could tell me a little bit about your experiences with that?
JADA: Yeah! So, so far the film festivals that we've got accepted into, now with Covid and everything, they've been online. So we're still waiting on a lot of them, cuz the process takes a while. Like you submit to festivals and you don't know for like, months after. So we still have a lot that we're waiting on, but the ones that we've gotten into and the ones that we've won awards at, they've all been pretty much online. Our films haven't been screened anywhere yet, so the ones we've gotten notified for have been just like award categories. Basically like the judges watch your films and then they award you. And the ones who are like the top, small percentage gets screened publicly and we don't find out whether we get screened publicly until months later. So it's all kind of, it's all kind of a waiting game.
ALLY: Ooh okay. Wow, the tension must be constantly building.
JADA: Yeah. <laugh>. But getting those emails and seeing that we've been accepted to, to a lot of festivals that are like IMDB qualifying and stuff has definitely been really rewarding to all of us to kind of just see that our hard work is being recognized in that way. And we're hoping that our film gets to be screened and we can kind of share it with the world in that way. Either way we're gonna have a premier, we just have to wait for it to go through the cycle because if you premiere it publicly before, it isn't eligible for a lot of film festivals.
ALLY: Oh, I didn't know that.
JADA: Yeah. Yeah. So we kind of have to wait it out and see where it's gonna get accepted and when we can screen it and everything. So it's like I said, like it's all kind of a waiting game, which is definitely hard.
ALLY: That's interesting that it affects the scheduling of everything. I feel like that's something that a lot of people don't know about. But anyways, looking at your website, I noticed that you also offer a series of acting classes. So what has it been like working with other actors and assisting them with their craft?
JADA: Yeah, so as I'm sure you can see on the website, I work with children mostly cuz that's kind of what I've done my whole life. I was a one-to-one aide at a preschool and I worked in childcare a lot, so working with kids is just something that comes easily to me and I believe that's what I'm most qualified for, in a way. Like I know kids and I know how to make things interesting for them while they learn and develop. So a lot of my films also have young actors in them. So a lot of people have been asking for one-on-one lessons over Zoom because in-person's always hard with children in school. But working with them over Zoom has been really fun for me. We've done a lot in terms of character development and explaining building character. Kids have a huge imagination, so you kind of have to use that to work together with them, to build a background for a character in a way that they can understand so they can kind of embody that character. I don't believe that acting is like playing pretend, but <laugh> for kids, it kind of falls in that world, you know? Where it's like, oh, I can live in this imaginary world and I can be this person and I can explore all these different parts of this person. And explaining that to kids and seeing how much fun they have exploring the character, that has been really rewarding and fun for me to watch because as a child, I struggled a lot and I think seeing kids being happy with what they're doing is super important to me.
ALLY: That's such a sign of a good director though; being able to communicate with whoever you're working with in terms that they'll understand to get the best performance from them. I can so see how that would help with every other field that you're doing, <laugh>.
JADA: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, it's so important as a director to be able to communicate with your cast and crew to be able to healthily communicate because when people aren't happy, you don't get good results. And also like, I don't know, people deserve happiness.
ALLY: So, I know this tends to be a difficult question for any movie lover, but what would you say some of your favorite movies are?
JADA: That's a good question <laugh>. It's a tough one. Okay, I have this thing when I was working with that producer, every week he would ask us what movies we'd watched and we'd have to say the movies and say what we thought about them. So I have this list of movies that I've just like been writing down.
Um, oh that's so funny. Um, I like, literally just as we're talking, got a notification that both of my films were, um, picked for another festival.
ALLY: Oh, no way. Oh my gosh. Congratulations!
JADA: Thank you. Um, sorry, just a little distraction. So I absolutely love Aubrey Plaza. I love her movie Black Bear. It was actually a huge inspiration for my first feature film and my latest film Destiny's Window. Black Bear was a huge inspiration for it. Just Aubrey's character in it. Psychological thrillers are my favorite. This might be a cliche answer, but I love The Conjuring movies. I just watched them recently for the first time. Like, especially the first and the second one, they are quality horror. Let’s see, what else? Oh, back to Aubrey Plaza, but I loved Ingrid Goes West.
ALLY: Oh, that movie's so good.
JADA: Right? Oh my God. Okay. I don't know that many people that know that movie.
ALLY: Oh, it had Elizabeth Olsen in it. I was watching it <laugh>.
JADA: <laugh> Yeah. It's so, it's so good. And I love Girl, Interrupted. This is so weird to say, but it's like a comfort movie for me. <laugh>.
ALLY: No, I feel you. I do <laugh>.
JADA: Girl, Interrupted is a big part of me figuring out my life. So that's definitely a great one. I'm saying all depressing movies, but those are a few of my favorites. I'm sure that I'm missing a lot and I'm gonna be mad about it later.
ALLY: Are there any filmmakers whose work has influenced the kind of movies you create?
JADA: I know she mostly makes tv shows, but Phoebe Waller Bridge. She's amazing and she does everything; she acts, she writes… It's who I want to be. My favorite films are indie films, so i love watching different upcoming indie directors making their way and telling different stories, making interesting choices with the camera work and bold choices in the writing. It's so interesting to look at people's choices. I like when people do things differently.
ALLY: I love that, too. And you definitely see it more with the indie directors too because I think that they're less worried about appealing to massive audiences so it allows them to be more bold.
JADA: Yes, 100%.
ALLY: What can audiences expect from you and Offbeat Films Production in the upcoming months?
JADA: Yeah so we have three films coming out… we're filming one in April, one in May, and one in June. It's three short films and they're all in the thriller genre. Like psychological thriller; super fun, super interesting. One of them, which we are really excited for, is kind of a spoof of horror movies. It's a new thing for us, going into that kind of comedy and satire. We're excited to explore that because that's something that I haven't really explored before. I think it's going to be a fun one to shoot. Our film in June is a cast of all kids and its a horror movie, so it will be fun to film. It will definitely be hard <laugh> but it will be so rewarding. It's an interesting story and it's a different story so we’re excited for that one.
ALLY: Alright.... last question. What advice can you offer anyone looking to break into the film industry?
JADA: Just do it! It's obviously easier said than done, but I think my advice would be don't wait for anybody to give you something. Just go out and let your voice be heard and tell the stories you want to tell. Do it for you.
Blog by Ally Roberts