"I do believe we should have more stories about women up on the screen." - Amber Sealey
Multi-faceted. Relevant. Fearless. If three words could be chosen to describe the work of Amber Sealey, these might fit the bill. Call her a producer, director, writer, mentor, wife, or mother, she could be playing all of these roles to the fullest on any given day. Indiewire called her “one of the most promising directors of female-driven stories working in the U.S. today.”1 Ask Amber and she’ll say: “…I just feel like I’m a filmmaker… yet you can’t deny that it’s really important politically and socially to say I’m a female filmmaker… to help support other female filmmakers.”
Born in England and raised in Santa Fe, NM, this independent filmmaker has been a integral part of the L.A. entertainment community since returning from England in 2008. Amber’s recent critically-acclaimed feature, No Light and No Land Anywhere (released on iTunes on March 27, 2018), was executive produced by her friend and former UC Santa Cruz classmate Miranda July and stars UK-born Gemma Brockis as Lexi.
In Amber’s words, No Light and No Land is about a “woman unmoored from society… and relearning what family means.” She says the title is a “a good metaphor for the lead character Lexi… [whose] life is completely falling apart … [so] she decides to go on a voyage looking for her dad. Ultimately it’s about finding herself and finding family in places you didn’t expect.”
No Light, Sealey’s third feature, debuted at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival and won a Special Jury Award. From there, it went on to receive the Indie Vision Breakthrough Feature Film Award at Twin Cities Film Festival and garnered recognition in dozens of other independent film festivals.
Amber insists that she doesn’t consciously set out to tell stories about women but admits it tends to happen because she finds them intriguing and finds distinct, female voices are lacking in the filmmaking landscape. Choosing to lead by example, Amber made the decision to employ the talents of women, hiring a cast and crew that was 87% female and reinforcing her belief that more women need their stories championed both in film, and in the real world.
Relationships also play a major role in Sealey’s work. According to the producer/director/writer (and frequent lead actor), her first two films were both “raw and very intimate.”2 Amber explains, “My films [tell] very human stories; real people going through real intense stuff and [experiencing the] kind of universal emotional feelings that I think we all have.” Although her projects are initially scripted, some of Amber’s best cinematic moments are improvisational, stemming from her years of theatrical training.
Sealey confesses that her first feature, A+D (available through Vimeo On Demand), was basically a self-driven experiment to identify which aspects of the filmmaking process she’d find most appealing. Amber found that every aspect was thrilling. “I loved the writing. I loved the whole production. I loved the post-production.” Fittingly, this point of view gave her the much-needed endurance considered vital to a functioning indie filmmaker.
Despite themes that often confront failure directly, critics are overwhelmingly captivated by her films. In fact, according to critics, Amber’s first film release, A+D, was “a charm”. When it premiered at Montreal World, the Montreal Gazette found it:
“Edgy, anguished, funny… The acting is astonishing.” As an actor herself, Amber is able to offer unique insights into the craft and continues to hone her skills by teaching acting classes and coaching sessions. She revealed: “My favorite thing about filmmaking is working with the actors… because …. as an actor I’m really passionate about performance.”
Distributed by FilmBuff, her second feature, How to Cheat, premiered in 2011 at the Los Angeles Film Festival to reviews by Huffington Post that described it as “laugh-out loud hilarious” and IndieWire proclaiming it “defies expectations.”3 The latter also noted that “Sealey manages to buck innumerable conventions, which makes her career worth tracking.” A portrait of the messiness of modern marriage, How to Cheat was duly awarded both Best Narrative Feature and Best Actor at Oregon’s BendFilm Festival. The uncomfortably true yet funny story features the brave acting talents of Amber as Beth, and Ken Osbourne as her husband is currently available to view from many sources including YouTube.
Amber explains that independent film, while intoxicating, is not always easy -- physically or financially: “You have to be willing to do a bunch of things in order to get your budgets put together.” As both with a wife and mother of two, finding balance can be difficult. But she believes it is important to show her children what it takes to passionately pursue one’s dream. And while there are no simple answers on the workings of a creative career, the support of her family is paramount.
Of note to other aspiring filmmakers, Amber says there are ways to overcome financial challenges faced when trying to get a project off the ground, including tapping into crowdfunding sources like Indiegogo. For No Light, consulting producer Miranda July, along with producers Alysa Nahmias and Drea Clark, assisted Sealey with organizing a campaign that went on to raise $35,000 to cover post-production costs. Plus, belonging to a credit union rooted in the entertainment industry makes sense as well.
Amber tells us that she and husband “decided that we wanted to join a credit union following the last big mortgage crisis. We were really disturbed to learn about what …. the big banks were doing and how they contributed to that… [and] we felt like it was important to bring our money more local and smaller.”
As No Light and No Land Anywhere hits the screen, Amber continues on her uncompromising career path while striving to make the overall industry better for women. She's been selected to participate in the Women In Film’s Mentorship Program where she has been given the opportunity to nurture, guide, and advise the emerging entertainment community’s talented women. And as the movement for female equality within the industry continues to gain momentum, there is no doubt that Amber will be there, front and center.
Which means you can expect First Entertainment to be right here Amber, supporting your efforts and accomplishments both on and off the screen.