HUMANS WE HEART: SADÉ CLACKEN JOSEPH, FILMMAKER AND PRODUCER
When looking for the person to direct Issa Rae in our “What Are You Made Of?” video, we had to get it just right. Lucky for us, we found Sadé Clacken Joseph. The NYC-born, LA-based filmmaker knew exactly how to tell Issa’s story, and we couldn’t be prouder to have worked with her and her team of creative geniuses. We also became, um, a little obsessed with her cool confidence and so-fun-to-talk-to personality (not to mention a seriously amazing sense of style), so we asked if she’d be game for a quick chat. She was—yay!
Hi Sadé! Mind if we start with a few getting-to-know you Qs?
Coffee order: I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I start my mornings with an oat milk matcha (very LA, I know).
Tell us a little about your background and how you ended up where you are now.
I grew up as a Caribbean-American in the Bronx. As a child I was always writing music, taking photos and making documentaries—but as a child of immigrants it was not encouraged to pursue the arts as a career. When I graduated from Columbia University, I was introduced to the world of television and landed a job working at ABC on The View. I eventually decided to follow my passions and moved to LA for film school in 2015 and have been doing it ever since.
What are some of the movies that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
The Lord of the Rings Special Edition Trilogy behind-the-scenes featurettes. Watching Peter Jackson direct, listening to the actors’ commentary and learning how film is made sealed the deal for me. I was officially obsessed with filmmaking after those films.
Let’s talk about the Issa shoot! What was your favorite part of the day?
My favorite part was being around Issa’s energy. Her smile is infectious, and each take I had her improv was a guaranteed laugh. I also loved that the set was very Black and diverse. Seeing other women and people of color in the crew was such a beautiful experience.
Do you have any advice for young filmmakers who are starting out in the industry?
The sky’s the limit. There’s no better way to learn than by practicing. Start where you are. Pick up your phone and make something. Your voice matters. Be intentional with your art and think about its purpose. Try and learn all the different aspects of filmmaking, don’t tie yourself to one thing. It will not only make you a better filmmaker overall, but you may also find you like a specific role you didn’t expect.
Finally, since this is our Humans We Heart series, who’s someone you admire?
I have a deep admiration for all my matriarchs. The older Caribbean women in my family, such as my mother and aunts, are all artists in their own right, even though they never had the chance to pursue art formally. My paternal grandmother was the go-to dressmaker/seamstress on her small island, working 24/7 to provide clothes for everyone and often for free. My maternal grandmother was a basket maker and raised 13 of her own children and took in dozens more. She walked for many miles every day, on foot, to carry them the lunch she prepared so they wouldn’t go hungry at school. My matriarchs have held down their families and built community in remarkable ways. I believe they possess a different kind of strength. As a filmmaker, I feel privileged to carry on their legacy and have their stories inform my work.
Thanks Sadé! Check out her amazing video with Issa Rae here. And hey, we want to see what you’re made of. Take a pic in your Madewell best and share it on Instagram. Tell us three to four things that make you who you are—from the silly to the serious to the surprising—in the caption, plus tag @madewell and use the hashtag #everydaymadewell. Can’t wait to see what you’re made of!