Aileen Sheedy has worked on movies about everything from clowns to coming-of-age stories. Yet in college, she pursued a degree in computer science, after deciding that her dream of being a writer was frivolous and impractical.
But the heart wants what it wants. Today, Sheedy boasts an eclectic filmography, having served as a director, producer, script supervisor (on Sitra Achra, about a cursed video game) and more. It’s all part of her passion not only for film, but the collaborative process.
“Sometimes I arrive with a specific idea in mind, but then someone else has a better one,” she says. “It’s so rewarding when someone gets inspired by something I’ve created.”
Sheedy’s interest in film was piqued by a class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that combined music, audio and video. She enjoyed the video side of things so much that she decided to dual major in computer science and the closest thing to film that her engineering school offered: Electronic Media, Arts & Communication.
After her first and last job in computer programming, Sheedy co-founded her production company, Pencil Ink Productions. Now the sole owner, she specializes in commercial shoots, actor reels and live event documentation—work that she says the detail-oriented world of coding helped prepare her for.
“If you forget a semicolon, it’ll break your whole program,” she says. “With a call sheet you have to make sure everybody knows when they’re showing up, what pages we’re shooting, what props are supposed to be there.…I learned that kind of detailed thinking from coding.”
For Sheedy, being on set feels like home. “It’s a really addicting energy,” she says. That energy has carried her through a decadelong career that has extended into long-form storytelling (she’s the creator of the forthcoming web series The Cloisterham Case Files, based on Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood).
Other upcoming Sheedy projects include Sonder (an aerial circus short that she produced and directed in collaboration with Cerberus Circus Society), and Freedom, WI (a dark comedy feature film she co-produced with Portland director Molly Preston).
Even with an impressive array of projects ahead of her, Sheedy refuses to get too comfortable. “My advice is to stay humble and always keep learning,” she says. To this day, she watches how-to videos, reads industry books, and analyzes films. And she encourages people that are breaking into the industry to be open to any job, even if the pay is next to (or actually) nothing.
“In Portland, there are a lot of low-budget, DIY projects with a ‘I’ll help you if you help me’ attitude,” she says. “This type of collaboration feels unique to the film industry, and especially to Portland.”