A few weeks ago, Atlanta Film and TV had the opportunity to chat with 17-year-old actor Donny Sadler, who also is on the teen advisory board for re:Imagine/ATL. re:Imagine/ATL is the “education and workforce solution to train and connect talented young people to the creative industry.”
Atlanta Film and TV: Could you give our readers some background on who you are and what you do in the film and television industry?
Donny Sadler: I’ve been an actor in the film industry, ever since I was about 12 or 13-years-old. The majority of the time, I’ve been acting, and recently I’ve been involved in directing and photography. I’ve been getting exposure in every aspect of the filmmaking business, just to be sure that I have the best chance of getting a job here because I know that being an actor and getting a job as an actor is tough, and can be very challenging!
Atlanta Film and TV: When did you discover your love of acting?
Donny Sadler: I’ve been acting in plays and musicals in school and church ever since I was five-years-old. Back then, I enjoyed all the fun of the production, and I loved watching TV shows! That’s when I said, “you know what would be cool? If I was on a TV show!” I remember imagining myself on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or whatever I was watching - and I started acting from there. Ever since then, I’ve been learning more and discovered it’s not just “I want to be an actor because I want to be an actor.” You have to think a little bit more about what you want to do within the industry and know that there’s a story that you want to share. When you’re first starting as an actor, you’ll start small and you do a few short films here and there. You’ll work with people who have the same ambitions as you. These same people will also start small, and they too, have a story that they want to show and you’re there to help each other out. Being an actor isn't all about you, it's about helping each other out. It’s a bigger piece to the puzzle, which is the entire film.
Atlanta Film and TV: How did you get your start in the film and television business?
Donny Sadler: My first real on-set experience was working as a featured extra, on The 5th Wave and I worked as an extra with my mother on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. Other than that, I haven’t gotten many big roles on TV and film but, I have, however, helped out a few of my friends with their short films and also helped make a few short films. I was Director of Photography with re: Imagine/ATL and created a music video for their camp Green Room.
Atlanta Film and TV: For our readers who may not know, what is re:imagine/ATL, and how are you involved in it?
Donny Sadler: re:Imagine/ATL is a non-profit, educational organization, where the focus is equipping the next generation of storytellers and caters to those who are ages 11 - 24. It’s wide-ranged because they want to help as many young storytellers as possible get into the media business. It’s not just film and television acting, it’s screenwriting, filmmaking, sports and esports broadcasting, sound design for music, and so much more!
I’m involved specifically with re:Imagine/ATL’s teen advisory board. We help with the one-day three-hour crash course, planning the International Film Festival, and help those working with re: Imagine ATL get a better understanding of what our generation wants to learn and focus on.
Atlanta Film and TV: How can someone become a part of re:Imagine/ATL?
Donny Sadler: It’s pretty simple to get involved. The best way is to look for and sign up for their crash courses. Even if it's something you’re not as interested in - like when I first started, I was solely focused on acting. But, I helped out with the crash courses and thought it was cool to learn more about making costumes and finding good shots. Also, you can follow re: Imagine ATL on social media, like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Also we have an Instagram live that we do every Friday called “Lunch Club” which is where we find a different person in the industry, and a member of the teen advisory council interviews them. Be sure to tune in and check it out!
Atlanta Film and TV: Is acting or working in the entertainment industry, something you could foresee yourself doing once you graduate from high school?
Donny Sadler: I plan to go to college and want to focus on Sports Media and Broadcasting. I’ve always been intrigued by the broadcast side of sports, whether it be doing play-by-play, or shows talking about topics in the sports world. I will also keep focusing on acting, and keep up my training and work hard to improve my abilities. Also, I am working on creating some films of my own. I’ve got a few projects in mind that I’ve always wanted to film. I’ll also be looking for internships and keeping up with my musical abilities.
Atlanta Film and TV: How do you juggle school, extra curricular activities and your acting career?
Donny Sadler: I am homeschooled, which helps me out a lot. My mom also helps, and we manage to schedule my acting around my classes that I attend in-person, as well as the classes I do at home. For extra-curricular activities, I go to a homeschool orchestra class, where I have played the viola for the last 6 years. I’m also a member of our church praise band where I play both the electric and acoustic guitar, as well as sing. Right now, I’m not involved with any sports, though I’m looking at trying out basketball so I can keep myself active and in-shape. Plus it’s something that I think would be a lot of fun.
Atlanta Film and TV: What piece of advice would you give to someone your age, wanting to pursue a career in acting?
Donny Sadler: The main piece of advice I’d give to someone my age, wanting a career in acting is to not give up. Depending on your age, you’ll either get more or fewer auditions. Especially, if you’re my age (16 - 17) you’ll probably get auditions, but it’s less likely that you’ll book them because 18-year-olds can work all day and those who are 17 and under, have a specific time frame that they’re allowed to work. Casting Directors will always lean towards hiring people who are over 18-years-old to play younger, rather than hiring someone my age or younger. But, don’t ever give up! You gotta keep at it, and keep working on your craft. Take as many acting classes as you can, and take in as much information as you can. Also, be sure to keep your other interests too. Don’t just leave everything else, to pursue acting. Make sure if you are involved in a sport, keep up with the sport. If you’re a musician, keep up with that because acting shouldn’t be your only goal. Lastly, remember that it doesn’t happen overnight, because you have to work your way up. And whatever you do, don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way!