Sarah Ullman Delivers A Bounty Of Ace Ads On Gun Reform With Her PAC One Vote At A Time

Photo: Brinson + Banks

Photo: Brinson + Banks

Meet Sarah Ullman, a young filmmaker on a mission to curb gun violence in America.  Showing just how dedicated Ullman is to leverage her PAC, One Vote at a Time, Vogue writes that her political ads helped flip 10 of the 15 seats Democrats picked up in the Virginia statehouse in 2017. 

In 2018, One Vote has signed on to work with 250 candidates in 10 states, including Stacey Abrams, who is running for governor in Georgia and the first-ever black woman gubernatorial candidate from a major party in United States history. In North Carolina, Ullman is excited about attorney Anita Earls, who is campaigning for a Supreme Court seat after helping to challenge the state’s redistricting laws. 

Ullman interned for House Rep (D-Conn) Chris Murphy in 2009. Living in Los Angeles, pursuing a career as a young director in 2016, Ullman listened to Murphy's 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. 

As a familiar cycle of thoughts and prayers set in, Ullman felt helpless and angry. “I just was tired of feeling that way,” she says. She took to her Facebook page, asking her mostly film-industry–related friends and acquaintances, “What if I made campaign ads for people who are supportive of gun safety? Who’s with me?”

In setting up the PAC, she had a little legal help from Joss Whedon, whom she met though a producer friend and who sits on Everytown for Gun Safety’s Creative Council. Ullman recruited an entirely female team (“[Some people] asked, ‘Can you find a female grip?’ And I’m like, Watch me”) and headed to Nevada, funded mostly by donations from friends and family. There, One Vote made a video supporting a state background-check measure, which passed. “I realized if my video was able to convince 10 people, would be able to convince 100 people, anynumber of people, it will have been worth it, because in that background-check initiative, every vote mattered,” Ullman says.

Ullman recruited her all-woman team of about 11 women , based in Los Angeles, crowdfunded $37,000 and headed for Virginia, where she perfected their process.  Ullman and a team of four staff members set up a studio in an “activist house” in a chosen state. Invited candidates stop by to film their ads. “We’re able to process people through our studio much faster than we would if we were to go on location,” Ullman explains, while clarifying that they do also venture out to film subjects in the candidates' districts. 

Postproduction is handled by seven women based in Los Angeles. “We give them the treatment that I would give any clients in L.A.” In addition to the donated time and use of the best film equipment, she continues, they also benefit from One Vote’s “expertise in helping them shape their message and figure out how to translate what they already are talking about or what they already know into video.”

Because of their single-issue focus, Ullman acknowledges her PAC might not agree with candidates of every issue. There is one issue on which Ullman will not compromise: all candidates must be prochoice. Speaking in terms that even Trump can understand, Ullman says that with an all-female PAC, “ain’t nobody got time for antichoice Democrats, if we’re super-real about it.”

Responding to concerns about burnout, Ullman says, “The only thing that keeps me sane right now is knowing that I will be able to look back at this time and know that I did everything I could possibly do. Like, I am doing everything that I have in my capacity, every tool I have in my toolbox I am using right now, to make a difference.”