Film Producer Sarah Haas: Advocate For Heartland Storytelling And Women In Film

When I interviewed Sarah Haas, she had just biked to work. In Missouri. In February. Sure, it has been a mild winter, but she even bikes on cold days. Why? There’s no free parking near the office where she’s currently working with the True/False Film Fest, in Columbia, Missouri. She figured out biking would result in less time outside than walking from where she would have to park a car. It’s this kind of logic that makes Sarah a natural fit as a film producer.

The actual job description can run the gamut based on the project, but in general the producer oversees the entire production of a project from script to screen. Here’s how Haas describes her job: “At the beginning, I do a process called ‘the breakdown,’ which grounds every element of the script in something real. So you have a list of locations, a list of characters, a list of props, and even down to, ‘This shot describes a scene from above, so we might need a crane or a drone.’ From there, it trickles out into bringing those things into reality.” Haas thrives on working with a director and refining the vision of the story into practical elements.

The St. Louis native is putting her producing skills to good use. She is currently working with a web-based company that is in the production stage of a series of short documentaries that will focus on issues and culture in the heartland. “Typically, the media that we consume is made in New York or L.A.,” she says. “The storytellers from the heartland aren’t heard very often.” Haas wants to help amplify those voices, and it’s part of the reason she settled in Nashville instead of heading to one of the coasts. “It’s really exciting to be in Nashville, where the arts are already appreciated. To wrap film into that tradition is fairly effortless,” she says. Her enthusiasm is evident when she talks about the infrastructure for film that’s growing in her adopted city, bolstered largely by the successful television series, “Nashville.” “I find that I am attracted to places that are in that growth stage. I really like the idea of development.”

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Photo by True/False Film Fest

Haas also works as the festival manager for the Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri, which solely features projects directed by women. According to the latest statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film at San Diego State University, women directed only 7 percent of the top 250 grossing films of 2016. Haas was shocked when she first heard about this discrepancy a few years ago. She’d seen many talented women directing amazing projects through her work with Citizen Jane, and she remains determined to help change the bleak statistics. To achieve this, Haas is committed not only through festivals, but also by volunteer work, namely with a website called TheDirectorList. The website is a database of more than one thousand female directors who have the skills and experience that would qualify them for a job as a director of a TV show or feature film.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when asked what she envisions for her future, she says, “I want to work with a female director as a producing partner. Whether that be a really good short film or music video or feature film, I want to find that partnership.”

Cover photo by Kenzie delaTorre 

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