While she never dreamed of having her own company, she had an innate curiosity about the behind-the-scenes professionals who brought big film productions to life.
Hailing from the small town of Inkster, Michigan, Sneed had questions about the inner workings of the film industry and what it took to become a producer. An embarkment of answers to those questions would start her journey into the film industry when she was accepted into Michigan State University’s language arts program. A program that offered a comprehensive curriculum encompassing various communication arts, including film production which later proved to be transformative, opening doors she never anticipated.
And that also afforded her an internship at Vibe Magazine under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief MiMi Valdez. This experience in New York City exposed her to the world of magazine production, honing her skills and igniting her passion for the behind-the-scenes work.
While this opportunity offered a career as a Hip-Hop journalist, Sneed found herself captivated by the production aspect of magazines. She quickly realized the pivotal role of a production assistant in every production. In fact, most executive producers’ first request is often, “Do you know a good production assistant?”
Following her time at Vibe Magazine, Sneed pursued an opportunity that led her to Los Angeles. There, she became connected with Streetlights, a program designed for marginalized individuals seeking entry into the film industry. This program offered comprehensive training in all aspects of being a production assistant. To this day, Sneed remains affiliated with Streetlights, recognizing the transformative impact it had on her life at just 21 years old.
Infected By the Production Bug
The production bug had bitten her, as she discovered fulfillment in the creative, business, and service aspects of the industry. It was a perfect blend of her passions and talents, driving her to pursue a career in film production. “ A competent PA knows that it is all of the above; getting coffee, answering calls, understanding that you must be able to recover quickly. Yes, you are gonna mess up, but can you recover quickly?”, Sneed gleefully asserts. A production assistant is gaged by knowing that you must accomplish many simple tasks, at one time. Knowing that you can handle all of those said tasks at once is what makes or breaks you. “So if you can get the coffee order right, now maybe I can give you a ask task sheet”, she says. Sneed can make these requirements because as she says, “I have definitely fulfilled all of these requirements to make it to where I am today!” Michelle believes that this knowledge has made her a good producer because she understands what it takes to be a production assistant.
“Most people don’t understand the value of being a PA. Being a production assistant affords the opportunity to actually decide what you want to be in the industry because you get to see everyone else’s role, whether it is director, writer or actor. You get a clear perspective as a PA”.
Sneed’s journey is a testament to the power of curiosity, hard work, and seizing opportunities. From her humble beginnings, she worked her way up from a production assistant to assume leadership roles in the industry.
Her story is an inspiration for aspiring professionals in the film industry. It serves as a reminder that with dedication, determination, and a willingness to learn, one can transform their dreams into reality. From working behind the scenes as a production assistant to leading major productions, Sneed has carved out a remarkable path, proving that big dreams are achievable with perseverance and unwavering commitment.
From PA to President: Michelle Sneed’s Journey in the Film Industry
Before her tenure at Tyler Perry Studios (TPS), Michelle Sneed gained valuable experience as a production assistant (PA) in Los Angeles. Working as a PA for five to six years, she explored various roles in writing and development, discovering her true passion. While she occasionally ventured into different areas, Sneed always found her way back to development.
TPS became the pivotal point in Sneed’s career, propelling her to new heights. Over her 14-year tenure, she witnessed the studio’s astronomical growth, despite its smaller scale compared to major studios like Disney. It was at TPS where she caught the bug to establish her own production company, driven by the experiences and opportunities she encountered.
Sneed fondly recalls the remarkable embrace TPS received from the state of Georgia, particularly in regards to tax credits. As the studio led the way in productions, Georgia sought guidance from TPS on conducting business and maximizing the benefits of tax credits. The state listened and implemented the suggestions, contributing to Georgia’s success in the film industry today. Sneed takes pride in being part of the influential team that helped shape Georgia’s thriving film landscape.
As an industry veteran, Sneed also takes credit for training and nurturing a new generation of production assistants in Atlanta. Many professionals currently in the industry, who relocated from Los Angeles or New York, received their training and opportunities through TPS. Sneed recognizes the significance of providing access to the marginalized Black community in the film industry, empowering individuals and contributing to Georgia’s economy.
Being an outlier is a source of great pride for Sneed. At TPS, she experienced a wide range of responsibilities, including production, marketing, cataloging, music management, and collaborating with music labels. The studio provided her with invaluable experiences on multiple levels, including live stage plays and grand events, offering a unique perspective.
After 14 years at TPS, and serving as President of Production in her final four years, Sneed accumulated the necessary expertise to embark on her own production company. Embracing her outlier status, she recognizes that it affords her the best of all worlds, combining diverse experiences and perspectives.
Reaching New Heights: A Few Good Women Productions
With the success of Tyler Perry Studios (TPS) and her role in its creation and development, Michelle Sneed found herself contemplating how she could expand opportunities for others aspiring to pursue diverse careers in the film industry. She wanted to create a space that reflected her vision and provided marginalized communities with a platform for their talents. Inspired by the Marine Corps slogan, “A Few Good Men,” she decided to name her production studio A Few Good Women Productions.
When Sneed googled the name, she discovered it was available, cementing her decision. As one of the few women executives at Tyler Perry Studios, she recognized the stark gender disparity in leadership roles, a reflection of the broader film industry’s lack of female representation. Being the only woman in the room brought about unique challenges, with men often conveying their thoughts differently in her presence. Sneed navigated these situations, consciously balancing her femininity and professionalism while ensuring she was seen and respected as an executive.
Raising capital for her production company, A Few Good Women Productions, Sneed candidly acknowledges the awareness of her identity as a woman and, more specifically, as a Black woman. The perception of her being a woman and a woman of color influences how others view her efforts to raise substantial funds, even to the extent of daring to raise $100 million. While she recognizes the support she has received, she also acknowledges the unique challenges she faces due to societal biases and stereotypes. “I have have never been so aware that I am a woman and a black woman on top of that”.
Sneed’s vision for A Few Good Women Productions breaks new ground in the industry. She strives to challenge the notion that women of color primarily serve as talent rather than creators and decision-makers. The uniqueness of her company’s mission and objectives sets it apart, making it a pioneering endeavor that even industry powerhouses like Oprah and Shonda Rhimes have yet to undertake.
As Sneed forges ahead in her journey, she remains undeterred by the obstacles she encounters. A Few Good Women Productions represents a groundbreaking venture that aims to shatter barriers, elevate underrepresented voices, and reshape the industry’s perception of women of color. By leading with determination and tenacity, Sneed is setting a powerful example and opening doors for future generations of diverse filmmakers and storytellers.