In the Spotlight: Saba
Updated: Oct 9, 2018
You only meet someone like Saba once or twice in your lifetime. He is a gifted creator who can succeed at whatever he sets his sights on. From being a multi-award winning and produced screenwriter to a polyglot, he knows what he is capable of. Saba uses his vast array of expertise to not only create his own work but help others reach their maximum potential as well. I am thrilled to introduce you to him. This is Saba…
I was born in Nimes, France. I studied acting at the Conservatory of Dance and Drama in Cannes and performed in France for many years before moving to the United States in 1996 to become a member of the Martha Graham Dance Ensemble. After presenting my own productions with the Saba Dance Theater for ﬁve seasons and receiving the Bessie Audience Award for best performance in 2004 I decided to pursue my dream and passion as an actor.
Since 2006, I have appeared in many independent movies, television shows, and major productions such as Cédric Klapisch's "Chinese Puzzle" and "Men in Black ." In 2010, I started Cloudy Sky Films, an independent ﬁlm production company based in New York City, where I had written, directed, and produced various shorts.
Sherry's Kitchen (a ﬁve-episode series), Snow (Feature Film) and SAM the VAMP a comedy about vampires in recovery are available on Amazon. Between my ﬁlms, screenplays, and shows, I have received many awards from around the world.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
Back in 2001 with my dance company, I had to write my first stage play to make sure the show was well balanced. The following 5 years, I wrote for the stage, and it’s only in 2010, that I really dove into screenwriting. I had the chance to work at School of Visual Art with my friend and mentor Bill Hopkins. Assisting him in directing and screenwriting classes was enlightening. I also assisted classes with Ela Thier and Jeff Goldberg, and the total of all these years of repeating the same things to students led me to become a screenwriter and a script doctor. Founder of Cloudy sky films.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
Bill Hopkins was my acting teacher and within six months realized that I was a director and used me in his classes at School of Visual Art on New York City. He is the best human in my life. He always had the right words to support me and make me grow. After the actors and dancers who worked for me for 5 years off-Broadway, Bill is the first to believe in me and to inspire me as a screenwriter, director, actor, and producer. The way Bill worked on the fly with actors and crew, set an example for never giving up and always do the best you can with what you have.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
Once I started writing a lot, I was amazed to hear comments on my writing. Many people were surprised that a French guy, who never studied English and moved in the US at 24, was able to write something good. Lynn Nack, was a dance student of mine and as an editor, had accepted to read my scripts and pretty much anything I would throw her way. To me, the fact that she thought I could write was mind-blowing. Joe Eck, a renowned writer in Vermont, was a huge help in my writing as well, as he also encouraged me to pursue writing and to remain as true to my heart as possible.
Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
2010, I was tired of waiting for roles as an actor, and I had been writing scenes for my friends in New York City when I decided to write Sherry’s Kitchen. Now a 5 episodes series on Amazon, it started as a 28 episodes outlines over what I hope would be 2 seasons. At the time, Logo thought that the format didn’t work for them and that really put me down. I finished the 5th episode and buried the whole thing until resurrected in 2016 for Amazon. Since then, I write with structure and limit my productions to what makes sense to me. No more writing if not needed.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
If I make a project, script, short or feature film and I can talk about it for the following 2 years at the film festivals, I consider it a success. Success for me is making something I will always be proud of, even when the haters will express how better it could’ve been. I’m extremely dedicated to this art of making films, and I am involved in all the project I partake with. No one can say I do things half fast. At one point in the project, I am able to let go and say, that’s it! No more work will make this any better!
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
I get up at 7AM every day and the first thing I do is drink a large glass of water. Turn on the computer and phone to see what’s ahead. After a short half an hour of seeing what people have done overnight, I do a 30 to 50 minutes stretch, yoga, exercise to make me feel better.
My day job is making movies. Some days I will write for 12 hours in a row and realize I can't feel my fingers anymore. Translations and voice-overs take a good chunk of my month as I have been doing this for years as well and I have many recurring customers. Other days I spend 5 hours on skype sessions talking to people around the world on how to better their screenplay, stage play or recut their movie.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Listening to people talk and watching them do pedestrian things is my way of creating strong characters. I read so many screenplays that by page 3 I know if it’s gonna be a fun ride or a who is that character again??? Being a screenwriter also made me dislike many, many, many movies I see from Hollywood and from the indie circuit and I’m usually pretty good at pointing out what could be fixed to make a film better.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
My biggest challenge has been to stop writing a screenplay when they just don’t work. I would like to fix it and get it sold, but sometimes, I just have to admit that this one has no future, so I start a new script… I know that’s messed up and not the typical process of a screenwriter but I guess that’s who I am. Although I am very prolific.
Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?
I remember the time I received an email from the Nichols Foundation saying that my feature script was between 1500 and 2500 out of 8500 screenplays that year, I felt so proud. After all, I am French and English is my fourth language, so I was thrilled! I won 4 awards with that script! That confirmed to me that I was in the right field.
Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?
How they are working, and what can I do to motivate them to get a script doctor. Not me necessarily, but I cannot tell you how many films I have seen and thought it could have been really good if they had taken the time to share their scripts with professionals and improve their scripts following the notes they would receive. For every single film I have produced, I had the script doctored by at least 3 people, and I did a table read of the last fixed script and still changed it again. It takes what it takes to make a good film, but you can’t do it alone. Trust your peers and embrace notes. If you don’t receive good notes, it’s because you’re not asking the right people.