This Is My Story: A Filmmaker's Journey

This article was originally published on May 15, 2018 on Cinephile's former website.

Today I sit in an insurance office wishing, hoping and praying for my job circumstances to change. It's been 3 years and 3 months since I've been working as an administrative receptionist and all I keep wondering is how did I end up here so long? If you're reading this you're probably wondering who I am and why would I want my career to be different? Let me introduce myself.

My name is Sheena Vaught. I am the writer for this blog and I am also a filmmaker. It took me a while to concretely decide on filmmaking being my choice as a career path. Honestly, when my mom made the suggestion that I consider going into the film studies program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, UNCW, I thought it was absurd! I was 23 years old, just finishing up at the local community college (after taking a 2 year break), I put on my sensible hat and said no to the idea and declared myself as a math major. Oh, but I could not escape the thought of film.

I've always loved film. I remember when I was young going to the 99 cent movie theater and afterwards discussing the film in the car on the way home. It was exciting. I always found myself writing, dreaming and imagining. When I truly loved a film I really wanted to learn more about the process of how that film was made. My family learned very quickly when buying me a DVD, to buy one that had the commentary from the filmmakers. I would look at the locations and go online and read everything I could about the film and how it was made.

But filmmaking as a career?! Pipe dream! After orientation at UNCW, taking my math placement test and meeting with my math advisor, I could not shake the idea of film from my mind. I went home and walked around my room, pacing back and forth, talking to God like I always do. Saying "Lord I can't do this! I can't go into film!" I was being level headed and with a degree in math I knew I could secure a good paying job right after college. My heart wasn't in it, I remembered my junior year in high school after the passing of my grandmother, Letha, and I knew then I didn't want a "regular" job per say. At that time I didn't know what my path would look like, but I didn't want to spend my life doing something mundane. While in my pacing on my room floor, clear as day I heard The Lord question me with "Why not?"

Let me explain something to you all really quick, I'm a Christian, I've been saved since I was 11 years old and I have been in contact with God through prayer since before I gave my life to Christ. He always asks me questions when I am inquiring about something or He'll say something that most would consider sarcastic, but that's been my relationship with Him. So, when He asked me "Why not?" I could not answer His question, because at that moment He challenged my faith.

I went back to UNCW spoke with different people in the film studies department and worked hard to become a film studies major. I began UNCW fall 2009 and I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Film Studies in December 2011. Yay for me! In the summer of 2012 I found myself on set as an extra in the movie Safe Haven, 2013, and also spending the summer cleaning beach houses. I had an experimental film and a documentary under my belt from school and I was working on my next documentary about North Carolina Artist Ivey Hayes. I was in financial turmoil chasing my dream.

My mom had another suggestion. She suggested me going to another community college due to the focus of the film program getting their students on set. It didn't make sense, but I went anyway and sure enough after working on a student film as a script supervisor I got a job on a feature film working as a script supervisor a week after the short film wrapped. Script supervising became my main job on set. The job only intrigued me, because I got to work next to the director and see first hand the stress and decisions they had to constantly make. I did my part and was happy to learn, but then the jobs left town. The film tax incentives sunset came and were not renewed in North Carolina. Times got hard and I had to come to the realization that working in film as I knew it, was over.

I moved back home, humiliated, pride hurt and broke. I found a job at a local scrub retail store and after 6 months on that job I began working my current job making a little more money. I stayed with the scrub store for 6 more months working only on Saturdays. I worked on one feature film after the tax incentives left the state, but the only sets I've been on since have been my own. My film family have made the exodus to Atlanta, New York, LA and Louisiana. People who knew me in the film realm ask me what I do now and I tell them and they always respond "that's such a waste of talent."

They don't know how many times I've found myself overwhelmed in tears sitting at the front of the office, having to dry my face before a client comes through the door or before my boss or co-workers come walking up front, so they can't witness my inner pain. I wonder why am I not more thankful that during all this time I've had a job? I have a roof over my head, food to eat, car to drive, clothes, breath in my lungs? I've even prayed for God to please take this desire away and to stop the stories from filling my head. But the stories still come, so I write the ideas down and hope maybe one day?

It can become unbearable to witness bad filmmakers getting money to make their terrible projects, but then I can't hate on them, because they have a hustle and connections that I don't. Also I can't hate on someone living their dreams, I mean how unfair is that? I would never want them in my situation, but do what gives them joy.

I recently made a trip to Atlanta, tried to setup appointments before going, never hearing back, but my room was booked and there was a strict cancellation policy, so I went anyways. I met up with one of my friends who works in film and she helped me the best she could. I reached out to the contact and I haven't heard back. I reached out again and haven't heard back. I feel like I am being blocked from film in every way imaginable. I've tried to find other creative jobs and have sent out over 100 resumes, but the silence of the rejections makes me think am I good enough?

This knack I have for storytelling will not go away, film will not go away. I love imagination, anything world building that creates limitless bounds, that's where I go. Childlike wonder lives inside of me and I ponder on my dreams and I get really excited. Then, I wake up and I'm still sitting here in this office.

Please visit my website & IMDB to learn more about me:

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