Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Jada Merritt works as an Assistant Director and Production Assistant for the film and television industry in Oklahoma and around the country. Her credits include working on projects such as “Stillwater”, “American Ninja Warrior”, “Golden Arm”, “The Unbreakable Boy”, and “Killers of the Flower Moon”. Her first choices when visiting crafty are usually a big apple and some Cheez-Its.
How did you get started in the film industry?
I was going to school at Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) for film production, and a classmate I had met gave my info to a UPM on a small Lifetime show. I day-played on that for a week or so, met the right people, and I kept getting gigs from there.
Did you have any formal education or training related to the film industry before starting?
I have a Certificate of Mastery in Film Production from Oklahoma City Community College. I also attended NGP’s Summer Film Workshop (now under the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma (FEIO)) as a student a few years ago.
Did you have any formal education or training related to your specific department on-set?
No, haha, AD work is very much about learning on the job. I wish I’d taken a class on AD’ing though!
What are some of your most recent successes (credits or accolades) related to your career in the industry?
I just wrapped as a staff PA on “Killers of the Flower Moon”, which I spent most of 2021 on. I also recently worked on both Lionsgate features that came to OKC late last year and earlier this year, “Unbreakable Boy” and “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story”.
What has your career in the state’s film industry taught you?
Perseverance. It’s also largely improved my problem-solving and interpersonal communication skills.
What is the highlight of your career thus far?
Wrapping what has been the biggest project of my career, “Killers of the Flower Moon”, was such an eye-opening experience; words can barely describe it. I learned more than I could have ever imagined, and the crew really became so close during those 6-7 months we were out in Bartlesville/Pawhuska. I made friends that I’ll have for life on that show.
What is your favorite aspect of working in Oklahoma’s film and television industry?
That everyone knows almost everyone. We’re all so interconnected; it’s almost impossible to not have friends/colleagues that know mutual contacts. It really builds a sense of community and solidarity.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone starting their career in Oklahoma’s film industry?
Take care of yourself. Mental and physical burnout are silent career killers. As a self-proclaimed workaholic, it’s so easy to get lost in your daily/weekly workflow and forget to eat, sleep, or enjoy life properly. Take at least an hour or two a week to do something (non-work related) you truly enjoy on your days off. Cook yourself dinner, take a nap, go to the park, ride your bike— whatever makes you happy! It helps tremendously in the long run. Also, drink water.
How does someone in your field/department best promote/market themselves to those hiring in your industry?
I find that, regardless of skill or experience level, being able to get along with the people you work with and having a generally positive attitude often gets you recommended and rehired. That’s not to say that you can’t have the occasional bad day, because we all do! The energy that you give off to others really says a lot. That goes for all departments, not just ADs.
Are there any local film organizations, resources or events that have been beneficial to you in your career?
The Oklahoma Film + Music Office, Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC), and the Film Educational Institute of Oklahoma (FEIO)—formerly NGP hosted — workshops have all contributed to my training and meeting some of the best people to learn from and work with.
What’s the one item you can’t live without on-set, and why?
My Walkie Woogie. It’s a custom surveillance earpiece for walkies that’s made with nylon thread. It’s infinitely more comfortable than the normal, plastic coil and it adjusts to my earlobe perfectly. Most of the time, I forget that it’s even there.
Would your career be impacted without the state’s film incentive program? If so, how?
The state’s incentive program has affected my career immensely, since it draws in so many projects of all tiers, genres and budgets. Without so many shows coming to the state, I wouldn’t have been able to meet as many wonderful people as I have, as well as not being able to find work without them.
Where do you see yourself – AND – Oklahoma’s film industry in the next five years?
In a few years, I hope to be a registered member of the Directors Guild of America as a 2nd AD, working in Oklahoma, around the country, and internationally. Oklahoma’s film industry will continue to grow exponentially for years to come, hopefully as the home to a few great studios and entertainment companies.
What are you working on now or next?
At the moment, I’m working in Oklahoma and Texas as 2nd 2nd AD on a low budget thriller titled “Deadland”. I’ve got a couple other shows hopefully lined up for the future, but nothing set in stone yet.