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How to be a multimedia polymath — screenwriter / producer / director / novelist / Concordia BA alumna...

Shanna Roberts-Salée, BA 09, has Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron on her CV, too!
April 5, 2019
By Toula Drimonis

Shanna Roberts-Salée “I knew I wanted to write, film, and direct films, but my time at Concordia solidified that decision for me,” says Shanna Roberts-Salée.

Shanna Roberts-Salée, BA 09, always knew she was attracted to the world of filmmaking — and when she graduated from Concordia with a degree in Communication Studies and a specialization in video production, she was even more determined to follow that dream.

“When I finished John Abbott College, I was 95-per-cent convinced that I wanted to pursue film studies,” she says. “I knew I wanted to write, film, and direct films, but my time at Concordia solidified that decision for me.”

The Pointe Claire native, who also played varsity rugby with the Concordia Stingers, is one of those people who learns best when she jumps head first into a project and experiences the process herself.

“Theoretical classes were interesting,” she says, “but the hands-on editing and being involved in a project from start to finish is what gave me the drive and the confidence to know what it is that I could actually do.”

While still at university, Roberts-Salée entered the DOC SHOP competition, an initiative for emerging filmmakers. Her first documentary Over The Top (2009) was co-produced by the NFB and CBC as part of that competition and two more of her projects were screened at the Montreal World Festival in 2009.

“Participating in the DOC SHOP competition gave me the push and the motivation to want to know even more about the filmmaking process,” she says.

Upon graduation, Roberts-Salée took a year off to travel. When she returned, she found work as a production assistant for the popular television series Smallville, which required her to move to Vancouver.

“Those were very long, tiring work hours,” she says, “but my time there was a great learning experience.” When the show ended, she moved back to Montreal.

Every experience is a learning experience

Shanna Roberts-Salée, BA 09

If filmmaking wasn’t enough, in 2015, the ever-energetic Roberts-Salée published her first novel, The Lying Juilliards, through independent press Thought Catalog Books.

She also developed and produced two seasons of a web series called Mistakes Were Made, which earned her a number of independent film awards.

“Working on that series was so much fun,” she says, “because I wrote all the scripts, edited, produced, and acted in all of the episodes. I learned so much.”

She continues to work as an assistant director in film and television productions. Longshot, starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, was one of the highlights, and she recently wrapped up working as an assistant director for the historical action drama film, Midway, directed by Roland Emmerich.

“I keep delving into new things, to see what I’m most interested in,” she says.

The next step for the Concordia alumna is to develop a sitcom-format TV series and pitch it. She’s also trying to secure funding to write a feature-length film.

In the meantime, there’s nothing she won’t jump into if she sees it as a learning opportunity.

“Often, the self-taught process is the best way to learn,” she says. “You see your mistakes right away.”

However, she doesn’t consider a moment of her education without purpose.  

“I really enjoyed the program,” she says. “My time there gave me the foundation — the confidence to say I have the tools to go out there and move forward with my dreams.”

Mistakes Were Made “Working on Mistakes Were Made was so much fun,” says Roberts-Salée, who wrote, edited, produced and acted in every episode of the web series. “I learned so much.”

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