What I love the most about Filmmaking is the wild, heart-thrashing feeling of “Can I pull this off?? Only one way to find out!” That, and finishing and sharing a script for the first time. Seeing what resonates with people, especially which parts make them laugh, is the best part of being vulnerable with your work and putting yourself out there.
My name is Shane King Zackery. My pronouns are they/them. I’m a queer black filmmaker, writer, technologist, entrepreneur, and general creative person based in Oakland, California. Before I self-advocated for an engineering apprenticeship at one of my former companies, I was a Sales Development Representative (new even to that position after being laid off from my job working with online creators). Before that, I was an office manager. Before that, I was an intern and a working college student. But, believe it or not, before all of that, I was a filmmaker.
As someone with strong values around diversity, equity, and inclusion, it felt important to me to work in an environment that was aligned with my personal values and where I wasn’t the only person who looked like me in the engineering department. Micro-aggressions in the workplace are real and have long-lasting effects on one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I was inspired by the feedback from people I trusted who worked at the company at the time, and how closely the company fit my personal must-have list. This was a real list that I updated as I interviewed with different companies and fine-tuned over time – iteration, iteration, iteration!
I moved to California in 2010. I made a promise to 8-year-old me that I would make it to Los Angeles (and I’m an Aries, so I’m stubborn!). I landed at a great school in Southern California, hated LA, and moved to the bay in 2014. After a couple of years in Berkeley, I headed to Oakland once I felt cool enough – I’ve been here ever since!
Outside of work, I love going to the comic book shop, playing video and board games with my friends, reading, learning, and writing like it’s going out of style. I write movies, songs, poetry, essays, and short fiction – anything that helps me tell a story. I’m also cultivating a love of, and connection to, nature. Find me under a really cool tree or on the shores of a lake, river, or ocean out there, probably just sitting, breathing, or listening to the wind.
I first became interested in Filmmaking when I was in elementary school – I begged my Nana to buy me a camcorder that I had seen in a paper advertisement from Circuit City (Any ’90s kids remember Circuit City?). We didn’t have a lot of money, so she put it on layaway. Every few weeks, we would go in and pay down $20 dollars off the balance. In my head, I would do the math to calculate how many weeks were left until I could take it home. One morning, weeks earlier than anticipated, I walked into my room, and there on the bed sat the camcorder in its brand new box.
One of my biggest filmmaking inspirations is Julie Dash, because of her lasting legacy as a trailblazing, multi-talented black woman in film and the arts (Did you know she also directed the music video for Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason?). I also love Roberto Benigni because La Vita è Bella is a movie that still visits me without warning many years after seeing it for the first time. I also love Kurosawa for his endurance and role as a gateway to Japanese cinema. Finally, I love every filmmaker from an under-represented group in mainstream cinema telling stories and disarming gatekeepers.
In college, I directed a short documentary about the ghosts on campus. I also directed some short trailers in defense of programs like indigenous studies and black art. Since the pandemic began, I’ve mostly been working on writing, studying cinematography, and updating my camera kit. Soon, I’m going to be a PA (Production Assistant) on a set for the first time in a long time, and I’m really excited. It’s important to never lose passion for sweeping the floor!
One of my favourite filmmaking experiences was when I was a PA on the set of this music video for a spoken word artist. My job was mostly to pick up food for lunch, help the prop and wardrobe departments, and generally be a helping pair of hands. I was focused on photography at the time, so I brought my DSLR camera with me. I ended up taking most of the stills on set and was able to capture some really beautiful images as the project came together. Later, the director and some of the dance performers added them to their portfolios. I don’t think that music video ever made it out of post-production, but I have artifacts to prove that I added value beyond making sure the catering arrived on time. It was an extremely important lesson for me. Showing up is half the battle. Being helpful to others on their journey is a gateway to manifesting your own passion.
My future goal with filmmaking is to build and support diverse casts, crews, and production studios. I want to create tech that lowers the economic barrier to filmmaking and advances sustainable filmmaking practices. I also want to tell queer love stories. Finally, I’ll always want to work with my ridiculously talented friends on stories that we love.
For me, strong writing and creative problem-solving skills have been extremely important to both my hobbies and my job. There are many ways to make a film and there are many ways to build a product. It’s not just about the tools you have; it’s about how you apply them to the task at hand. Most importantly, both are a team sport!
I definitely think my filmmaking and technological career have benefited each other. Becoming an engineer made me realize how truly possible it is to create something out of nothing. Finding success and joy in making things with code gave me the conviction I needed to commit to finding my way in film. I wouldn’t be as dedicated to filmmaking as I am today if I hadn’t decided to teach myself to code and make the jump professionally. Also, coding is way cheaper than making a film, while still being extremely creative. Comparatively, if I didn’t have this deep motivation to do such a hard thing as making films, it probably would have felt way more daunting to think that I could become a successful software developer without a computer science degree. One dream begets the other.
There is always more than tech. As far as the matter of being in tech OR being creative, it’s actually an and, not an or. Just like we share code and build applications that will be used by people all over the world, it’s important as technologists to feed our other creative passions and share them far and wide. It’s also so important to live a full and authentic life. It will inspire you more than reading or watching someone else’s work ever will.