Filmmaker/Novelist, Cas Sigers Beedles, has been a film and TV “lifer”, having worked in show business since the 90’s. But her journey has not been one of privilege; in fact it has been the opposite. Here, we learn about her latest TV movie projects and how she came to be a movie producer.
What inspired you to get into the entertainment business?
I started in this business back in 1999 as a costumer. I went to North Carolina State University for costuming, although I wanted to go for writing. My dad, who happens to be a mathematician, felt that I should get a degree in something else. During my time working on film sets as a costumer, I ended up writing my first novel.
While I was working as a wardrobe supervisor on a film called, “Fair Game,” I met and worked with Terri J. Vaughn and gave her a copy of that novel. She in turn gave it to her agent, and the two wanted to turn my novel into a television show. That’s what took me out of books, and transitioned me into film and television production.
I moved out to L.A. and got an agent, but they wanted to take the lead character and change her to something other than African American because, they felt she didn’t “sound black”. That was my first real experience with “the business.” So in 2004, Terri and I decided to join forces and start our own production company, Nina Holiday Entertainment. I still write novels, and I just released my seventh one titled, Chimwala, this August – along with “Girlfriends Getaway 2.” It’s been a great month!
What is Chimwala about?
It’s about a 15 year-old girl from Malawi who has to go into an arranged marriage to help her family. She finds herself in a terrible situation, fleeing from that only to find herself in America involved in the sex trafficking world. She thought she was coming to America for a domestic job and had no idea what she was getting into. Through it all she perseveres, but she was angry with God the whole way through, only to realize that all of these journeys helped her find her real purpose in life. She ends up helping so many women who had been through the same situation.
Did you experience any challenges getting your projects off the ground when you first formed Nina Holiday Entertainment?
Yes, there were challenges with getting projects made but, no more than anyone else whose trying to (produce movies). Of course, there is the very real challenge of being an African American female production duo, in a field that is not dominated by us. You don’t see a lot of our stories represented, and that was our biggest hurdle at Nina Holiday. We have pushed and pushed to try and tell our stories; and not tell our stories from a “black experience,” because we are just women who happen to be African American. We cry, we laugh, we have difficulties conceiving, and finding a husband like women of all races. Our stories are often so generic and predictable because, the Hollywood engine seems to always want to make our stories into these “urban” ‘hood’ struggles? This was the primary reason we started Nina Holiday; because, we wanted to change that.
We moved our company from LA to Atlanta and connected with Brad Siegel (formerly from UPtv) who took a chance on our first script; which wound up being the first TV movie on UPtv. We were learning the process together, and the movie did really well. After that, we ended up doing nine film projects with UP. Then Brad told us he was leaving UPtv and we were like, “Awe, man!” Then, we found out he was moving over to TVOne and we were like, “Yay! We get to keep our mission alive.”
We’ve been able to tell these great stories with African American women in lead roles. Of course, we want to continue pushing forward and get some stuff into theaters, but the TV market is a huge market that people sleep on. It’s the market that changes our youth and our culture. We didn’t understand that at first, but then we started getting responses from people whose lives we were actually touching through our stories. We saw the impact we were having and realized we needed to keep using this platform. It’s been a great journey so far.
I moved out to L.A. and got an agent, but they wanted to take the lead character and change her to something other than African American because, they felt she didn’t “sound black”. That was my first real experience with “the business.”
Girlfriends Getaway 2 premieres on Saturday, August 29th at 8pm. How long did it take you to write the sequel and how many revisions did you have to do?
Oh my gosh, it was a lot. Roger Bobb, is the director and he and I did Girlfriends Getaway in Trinidad. We knew we had something and while we were shooting the first one we started thinking about what the sequel would be. Around October 2014, I actually started coming up with some ideas. Roger and I always wanted to do a film like National Lampoons Family Vacation and so our script was off the top, silly, crazy characters, and we thought it was the funniest thing. We submitted it to TV One and at the time the office staff was extremely busy and half of them read it. They passed it around the office and in the meantime I’m making revisions on the script because in my head I thought we could make it better. Fast forward to February 2015, we were looking at locations and we’re shooting the film in April. Finally TV One had a huge office meeting and they were like, “This is not the direction we want to go.” I was like, “What? Are you guys playing with me, what do you mean?” [laughs] They said, ‘It’s not that we don’t want the script because it’s hilarious. However, it’s so far from the first one, we want to stick in the vein of the sister love. We appreciate your creativity but no ma’am.” [laughs]
(video courtesy TVOne)
So literally from February to the end of March, I rewrote the script within a 2 weeks span and submitted about 3 drafts. The initial rewrite was a very rough draft because I needed to see if that was even the right storyline. They loved the story idea and it was a matter of polishing the story and flushing the characters out because we were shooting at the beginning of April. Everyone got the final draft when we got to Puerto Rico at the table read. [laughs] Roger and I just laughed because that’s what we get for trying to do too much. I love comedies and anything with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and I was like we can be silly. It’s rare that you see pretty brown women being silly on the screen. I love Regina Hall because she’s gorgeous, yet she’s so goofy and silly and we [women] normally don’t get these time of opportunities. If we’re pretty then the character is bougie. For instance, my favorite role from Gabrielle Union in Deliver Us From Eva because she really is funny in person and she finally got the chance to be funny on screen. Pretty girls can be funny, we don’t all have to be overweight, or funny looking. That’s how Girlfriends Getaway started because we want to show pretty women being funny with real friendships. It was important to show us [women] supporting each other, respecting our decision making, and loving each other through our mess.
In terms of the character, Vicki, I was very much that woman. She has it together before she got married and has to learn how to share and adapt. I think there are so many single black women that come into relationships like, “I got this, I don’t need you. I want you and I love you but I don’t really need you.” That humility that we have to learn. Finding somebody that loves you is beautiful and special but I think we run the men away a lot of times. We put that wall up because we don’t want to be hurt. But that wall has to come down and we have to learn that men’s voices matter and that they do care. You can’t just run things and I had to learn that lesson as well in my house and I learned from my mother who has been married for 50+ years that there is so much power in humility and not to boss your house. I don’t boss my house, I run my house and my kids but I produce everything outside the home, so that when I step into my house I work with my husband as a unit. I think that’s what Vicki’s lesson was in Girlfriends Getaway and it came across in this wedding. She is still operating as one person instead of thinking about the two of them making decisions together as a unit. That’s a very valuable lesson that I think that independent women who get married late in age have to learn.
You have a lot of excellent tips for writers on CasSigers.com. When it comes to the business side of things versus the creative, what do you wish you knew then, that you know now?
Oh, a whole lot of things. I wish I would’ve studied the business side more when I was younger because, I didn’t have a plan; I was just figuring it out as I went along. I also wish I would have networked more and not let the creative stuff get in the way of that. Another thing I wish I had done is valued money more, because I blew a lot of money. I was spending money with no purpose for it. We (African Americans) don’t really teach our kids this kind of stuff, so I didn’t know anything about investing, life insurance policies, or anything else like that. I wish I had listened to my other friends from other cultures who were investing and networking.
I was very fortunate to grow up in an era of the big budget music videos that people like Hype Williams and Chris Robinson were making. I was writing music video treatments for those big budget music videos. I remember being in the New York scene around people who were artists, and others who were businessmen. I now look at the path of the one’s who were businessmen like, “Wow!” For instance, Daymond John was the businessman, and his partners were the creatives at FUBU. Now that I am aware of that, Terri and I are doing some things differently. Although we are still creative, we now approach our business very differently from how we did things in the beginning. At first, we just wanted to get our projects out so, being strategic is something that I had to learn as I got older.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I have another project called, “Welcome To The Family”, that will be airing on Saturday, September 26th on TVOne. It’s a very interesting family reunion with some extreme family characters.