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May 2, 2017

Open Letter to John Singleton

By Sheldon Candis

Often you will hear the old adage, “Hollywood is all about who you know.” We hear it time and time again. Somewhere in the middle of my journey of becoming a filmmaker, it hit me: this is an incomplete statement. The entire back half of the sentence is missing. The most crucial part to anyone in Tinsel Town ever getting the opportunity to live out their film nerdom dreams exists within the back half of this statement:

“Hollywood is all about who you know…Who is willing to help you!”

We often candidly joke about our SCA Mafia and how powerful our mighty network is. Well, believe me - the power of the force is a most magnificent one!

After making my first film LUV, which debuted in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival, I get a random call one day from an unknown yet familiar voice:

“Sheldon, I saw your movie, it’s really good man.”

“Um, thank you very much, but I apologize I have no idea who this is.”

“It’s John Singleton. I’m proud of you. Taking you with me.”

“Ah, ok. But where are we going, John?”

“TV. Just be ready.”

A big part of my dream to be a filmmaker and my journey leading to SCA was inspired by George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, and John Singleton. Sure enough, John kept calling. He called during what was the most challenging moment of my career thus far. After Sundance, you go on what they call the “Water Bottle Tour.” In short, everyone in town will meet with you, they will offer you water, but they won’t offer you a job.

Ringing…Ringing…

“Sheldon, I’m doing People vs. OJ with Ryan Murphy at FX. Come shadow me.”

Months later, John called again.

“I’m shooting the pilot of my new FX series Snowfall. Shooting in Pasadena tomorrow. See you in the morning.”

And then that one important call we all dream of:

“I created a Film Noir detective original series about a powerful African-American woman in Oakland. It’s called Rebel. You’re directing episodes 7 and 8. Told you to be ready.”

You can have all the talent in the world, but you still have to be chosen.

Thank you, John Singleton. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for taking me with you.

Fight On Forever,

Sheldon Candis BFA Production ‘03

Rebel premiered March 28th on BET. The show stars Danielle Truitt, Mykelti Williamson, and Giancarlo Esposito. Episodes directed by Candis will premiere on May 2 and May 9.