Cassie Self is a single mother of 3 starring in the PureFlix streaming female-centered “Sweet Inspirations” available Feb 1st. This film follows Cassie’s character (“Maggie”) as she and 3 of her fellow empty-nest-aged ladies pull their resources to save a private women’s shelter from foreclosing. Working alongside powerhouses like Natalie Canerday (Sling Blade) and Southern starlet Lauren Sweetser (Winter’s Bone), Cassie Self brings her real life struggle to balance family and taking care of her community in this inspirational and surprising film.
I have had the pleasure of working alongside Cassie Self years ago and even stayed at her house with her and her hilarious kiddos back when bringing features like these to film in her neck of the woods in Northwest Arkansas was still her goal for the future. Cassie was foundational in jump-starting the filming opportunities that companies like PureFlix and Rockhill Studios and even HBO depend upon today. While recovering from a divorce and putting her 3 kids through grade school with freelance work, she kept her dream of a filmmaking haven alive. This was when she developed the non-profit that would be the beginning of Fayetteville’s namesake film festival that has flourished into it’s 10th year this past Fall. Sitting down with her, I was able to get an update about what has happened since her investment in the community took off:
Jennica: Cassie, tell me about what has been going on in the Arkansas film scene now-
Cassie: So much has happened since filming my first movie in Fort Smith, AR back in 2006, and the inception of the Seedling Film Association and what is now the Fayetteville Film Festival. Aside from all the grass roots artists growing this film festival that is in it’s 12 year, we have seen super star, Geena Davis, link arms with the NWA community and her Institute on Gender in Media, to launch the Bentonville Film Festival. This festival, only in year 5, is the fastest growing in the nation, with plenty of star power. We have had companies like Purpose Pictures, Rockhill Media, FlyDog pictures, Skipstone Pictures and more shoot successful features on our rich landscapes. We’ve had companies like Kickstart Entertainment, Mutiny FX and Rockhill Studios decide to make this area home. The Arkansas Cinema Society has brought fabulous filmmakers for networking events to Central Arkansas. Rockhill Studios, the first Sound Stage, opened in 2018 after they determined this area has viability if given proper infrastructure and has fought hard for the state rebates to stay alive. The rebate program here attracted HBO to film their 3rd season of True Detective which has been huge for the area. All of this has opened people’s minds to the immense potential of digital media creation as an industry in Northwest Arkansas.
Jennica: Now that your daughter is in college in New York and your 2 boys are in high school, how are you feeling about all of these big life changes?
Cassie: It all happened too fast! I related to the women in this film. Some were empty nesting and some were battling with the loss of relationships. Having been through a divorce over 10 years ago and raising my 3 children, who were young at the time, it wasn’t hard to find my purpose as a mom. Figuring out how to work and live and be there investing my time in them first was my sole priority. I didn’t think about life beyond it. Now I have my daughter across the country studying, and boys who are so completely independent and driven, my time and energy are much less needed, or wanted. 🙂 Just like the women in the film, I certainly feel the struggle of redefining my meaning and purpose and finding the permission to move forward.
Jennica: As a fellow actor and parent, I’ve been a big fan of yours for a long time. Watching you continue to find ways to be involved in your artistic community as well as take care of the needs and foster growth in your own family unit has been inspiring. In this film, you juggle and try to inspire your gal pal group to dig deeper. In what ways did you feel you did or didn’t relate to this lead character?
Cassie: Hahaha…. You inspire ME! I love how you balance your passion with your kiddos. SO much respect… Anyway, I related to my character in a real way. Let’s get honest…. I used to work for a mega church as a Creative Arts Director for years before my divorce. I loved my church family and experienced very deep community. We cared for each other, lifted each other up in prayer, provided meals in times of need, all the things you can imagine in a rich church environment. Things did change going through my divorce, and I realized how it can become a bubble of taking care of each other and not noticing the needs of those outside of that church circle. Maggie was certainly torn by that as well. Recognizing that their community outreach was actually more inreach, done in vain, she fought to help people see beyond themselves and their circles.
Jennica: Tell me about the relationship of the women! Including your experience with Director Brittany Yost-
Cassie: Whoa! I loved getting to work with all the amazing women on this set. Our Executive Producer, Kerri Elder, is such a strong woman. Out of the 4 producers, 3 were females. Our director was a first timer and female, Brittany Yost, and the lead cast was almost entirely female! (The exception being Dean Cain, who was an absolute dream) Brittany spent time with each character, dove deep with us and created an empowering set to work on. Working with the ladies of the cast, including Maria Canals-Barrera, Lauren Sweetser, Verda Davenport, Natalie Canerday, and Katherine Forbes, was like joining a comedy improv troupe and group therapy all at the same time. I’ve never laughed so hard or shared such intimate moments on a set. I believe Brittany set us up to share that kind of relationship through her leadership before we even started shooting.
Jennica: When/where can we see “Sweet Inspirations”?
Cassie: Sweet Inspirations will be released on February 1st on Pureflix.com.