We had the good fortune of connecting with Deborah Ray-Sims and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Deborah, why did you pursue a creative career?
I did not realize I was a creative until much later in life. Along the way there were signs, but I ignored them. I explored different artistic lanes, but I was not really aware earlier on. I love music which became very noticeable early on. In kindergarten I had a traumatic experience. I remember crying kicking and screaming when my mother took me to school my first day. I guess I was experiencing some kind of detachment syndrome since I was away from home for the first time. It was not until I heard sounds coming from a nearby sandbox that I stopped crying to look. The teacher had put musical instruments like a drum, a triangle, and a tambourine in the sandbox for kids to play with. I immediately ran over to the sandbox. The sounds made me feel much better. The next encounter with being a creative came when I was in 3rd grade. I was in an art class and assigned to draw a flower. I drew a flower blowing in the wind. The teacher pulled me aside to look at the picture and smiled. Then the teacher put me in a corner away from the other kids. I didn’t know if I had done something wrong, but I noticed the other kids drew static pictures of the flowers. I was confused at the time, but I think the teacher recognized that I may have head some unique talents. As I look back it’s clearer to me now. I later took up playing clarinet and flute in middle school, and played in the school band. At the time I did not realize I was experimenting with being creative and didn’t think of it much, I just enjoyed playing an instrument. By the time I entered high school I did not think I had the talent to further commit to playing an instrument and I had also heard that being in the band at the high school I went to, was really tough. I was afraid so I didn’t audition. While in high school I struggled to find an artistic comfort zone until I stumbled on being in a high school play. Since I was in the performing arts curriculum at the school we were expected to be in at least one play. I was more excited about “how” the play was put together behind the scenes, than the play itself. At that moment I had an epiphany and felt creating was something special. I did not know how special until I studied filmmaking in college and found my artistic niche. I finally appreciated the importance of telling stories using film. I could combine my love of music with pictures, sound, and writing. In college I was able to make a short film, which further confirmed to me I could really do something being a creative. I later became a local television producer and writer where I produced programming for PBS. These programs not only entertained but inspired and educated audiences. I found being able to create is a basic human instinct, that can impact humanity and help humanity stay in touch with its feelings allowing for growth. While working for PBS I had the opportunity to produce a documentary in Dakar Senegal West Africa. This was my first time visiting Africa, which changed my life and how I felt about the world and my place in it. Later I received an opportunity to work and live in Lagos Nigeria, where I trained media professionals in broadcasting. Inspired by my living in Africa. I am now on a path to elevate my craft of writing and filmmaking to develop and film stories about the African diaspora. Today, I’ve completed a screenplay drama called A Delicate Balance, and embarking on making my first feature film.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve always had a passion for films. I remember being scared to death from a horror film I saw as a young child. I thought how powerful the medium of film is and how someday I would make a film that had the power to impact an audience. As a young adult in my twenties I came close. I made a short film for a film class I had in college. This was my first attempt and it felt good. It focused on the sounds and sights of my hometown, Detroit, called “Home.” I went on to pursue my dream working in television as a local TV Producer and writer, but held on to my ultimate dream of making a feature film. I knew some day I’d make this movie. As time grew on I eventually married and focused on my family, and as they say life got in the way. I still managed to create some independent videos to keep my skills developed, and made videos for small non-profits and weddings, but my itch for making a feature film kept gnawing at me. I knew I would make this feature, but it would need my undivided attention. So I waited until my child left the nest and I jumped into my dream of writing and directing my feature. I’ve written the script and now working on a business plan to get financing for the film. I’ve also produced a short film called CHOICES which gained attention at several film festivals and won several awards, which is now streaming globally on Zuzu . It’s been an exciting journey and I’ve learned so much along the way, and continue to learn. When starting work in the television industry I had to overcome many obstacles, but I saw these obstacles as opportunities. Though I graduated from college with a degree in radio, television, and film, I first worked as a secretary at a radio station where I was the secretary for sales agents who were my peers in college. However, I volunteered for free at the local public television station (PBS – Detroit) after work, and eventually was hired and later promoted as a producer and writer, for two of the programs at the station. Working at the station jump started my career in the industry, and I learned a lot about production, producing and writing TV shows. I’ve learned that patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to making a feature film. There are many moving parts that need the support of many different people and collaborators, coming from a myriad of disciplines. I have been very fortunate in having very talented people reach out to me for support, advice, and love. I can now look back at the journey I’ve been on more clearly since my early career days working in local television as a Producer – Writer to have been worth it. Everything I’ve learned, experienced, and was exposed to during this long journey, has prepared me to realize my goals of making a feature film.

What sets me apart from others is my determination and passion to write stories with intercultural themes from the African diaspora. A passion screenplay project I’ve written is a love story entitled A Delicate Balance, that is under development to be produced as a feature film. It is inspired by my time living and working in Nigeria. These kinds of stories have been waiting to be told and are timely in today’s global space. There is so much that can be learned from different countries and cultures. Telling these stories gives a glimpse of what other parts of the world experience when interacting with other countries such as America.

I am most proud of sticking to my guns to actually do the things that I love to do. Although it is a long arduous uphill climb the journey is worth it, and is the most important part, which brings me joy and happiness.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I have eclectic tastes and so do many of my friends. I love to experiment with different food and cultural cuisine. I feel eating is the spice of life, and there are so many spices in the world. I can be as comfortable at a high class restaurant as I am at a local neighborhood kitchen. Some places I’d recommend to my friend is Scotts Seafood Restaurant, Louisiana Heaven, II Fornaio, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, and Queen Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant. I love Greek, Italian, American, African and Asian food, just about everything. I’m always searching for a new taste and culture. I love the arts and music, so I definitely would take my friend to music concerts (jazz, neo soul, reggae, hip hop and R&B) and probably to the theater to see a stage play and a film. I’d also throw in a basketball game as I like sports too, but mainly basketball. I’d also recommend checking out the Brick House Gallery Art Complex that features fine art, spoken word, poetry, film and music from African American artists and others in the diaspora. For sightseeing and shopping I’d recommend San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf (boat rides on Pacific Ocean), Santa Monica Blvd., and Venice beach in Los Angeles, 13 mile drive, Carmel and Mendocino. To top it off I’d take my friend to the Pacific Ocean, either northern or southern California will do, as it’s all so beautiful. It’s the best place that I like to hang out. It’s where the ocean, the earth, wind, and warmth of the sun meet in total balance.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A huge shout out goes to my Mom, may she rest in peace. She knew earlier on that I was creative even though I didn’t. She would always tell me get that diary out and write. Also I had a speech class in high school and my Mom would always hover over me when I had my speech assignments. She had a flare for the dramatic and would always take me to theatrical productions at the local theater. She was a taskmaster and every time I wrote a speech she made sure I presented it with passion. My daughter, sisters and brothers always have my back, and cheered me on when I made my first short film. I can’t say enough about my filmmaking coach Tanya Kersey, CEO of Breakthrough Filmmakers Success Academy,  founder and Executive Director of  the Hollywood Black Film Festival  who is totally invested in my professional growth as a film entrepreneur. Tanya has been my guiding Angel in Hollywood, and provides the tools that help me navigate the television and film industry more clearly and proactively. I’ve also found a great group of professional filmmaking industry executives, of what I call virtual advisors who are my tribe on the Clubhouse app, that continually support my efforts. Other filmmakers and writers have been huge inspirations in showing it can be done. I’m also inspired by their personal journeys. Many filmmakers come to mind. I am inspired by Ava DuVernay because she tells stories that are personal and there is always a human dimension, and is always giving back to community and bringing up other aspiring film makers along the way. I also resonate to stories that Malcom D. Lee writes because he is a master at directing and writing for ensemble casts, and human relationship themes.
I’m attracted to Spike Lee’s work because his work allows audiences to think, and it is usually thought provoking. There are many more like Ree Dees, and Barry Jenkins who has a sensitive touch and good rhythm as directors. Most of all I am guided and inspired to create by the creative source, God.

Website: https://www.deborahraysimsfilms.com

Instagram: deborahraysims

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah-ray-sims-m-s-pmp-350a386/

Twitter: @deborahraysims

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/deborahraysims/?fref=ts

Youtube: Trailer for short film – CHOICES https://youtu.be/dPdOWZSTIsk

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