Salisbury native has green light to make a mark in Hollywood

Salisbury native has green light to make a mark in Hollywood

Salisbury native Shequeta Smith is looking to break into feature filmmaking after making the top 20 in HBO’s “Project Greenlight.” (Andreas Branch Photography/The Charlotte Post)
Salisbury native Shequeta Smith is looking to break into feature filmmaking after making the top 20 in HBO’s “Project Greenlight.” (Andreas Branch Photography/The Charlotte Post)

By Ashley Mahoney
Special to the NNPA News Wire from The Charlotte Post

A Hollywood breakthrough does not come along every day for a Salisbury native.

With the return of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to HBO’s “Project Greenlight,” Shequeta Smith topped thousands of other filmmakers by making the show’s Top 20 with a rap bio video and a concept trailer for her latest project “The Gestapo vs. Granny.”

The feature film focuses on an elderly woman, Agnes Monroe, who causes trouble everywhere she goes, and continuously gets herself kicked out of multiple nursing homes.

“My grandmother (Sallie Mae Smith) was kind of like a troublemaker,” said Smith. “I would just imagine her being inside of a retirement home and how it would be if she were, which is how I came up with the concept.”

While Smith did not make the final cut, the experience served as inspiration to focus on her next move. As the sole woman and the only African-American to make the top 20, Smith’s progress represents a swing at the formidable boys-only club, also known as Hollywood.

“There are some women that get through, but we’re the least likely to get hired,” Smith said of the dynamic for women writers and directors. “It’s very interesting that I was the only female solo director there. I’m hoping it changes in the next couple of years, but I’m working myself to try to make it happen on my own.”

A 2001 alumna of N.C. State University, Smith earned a degree in sociology and a minor in business management. Based in Los Angeles, Smith formed Rayven Choi Films in 2008, where her brand objectives center around producing comedic, intelligent, and unique projects on a smaller budget. Her credits include experience as a writer and director on “The J.H. Gunn Project” in 2009, “The Takeover” in 2013, and “The Gestapo vs. Granny” in 2014.

“I don’t think people realize how open it is right now with the Internet and being able to release projects on your own,” said Smith. “I wanted to release (‘The Takeover’) online so I could build a following and just so I could test the waters out there of what was possible. For me, that’s what I’m moving toward—independently releasing things and building up my audience.”