Where are you from, where are you located now, and what are your ties to WV?
I was born in Charleston; lived multiple places in Kanawha, Putnam, and Cabell counties; and for the moment, my stuff is in southern Louisiana. I still have family members and several friends and colleagues in West Virginia, as I’ve made several trips back for production work.
What was your first job in film production and what was the experience like?
I’ve generally worn multiple hats, so my first paid jobs in production were as Talent Coordinator for WV Lottery spots produced through Image Associates LLC, and as a Production Assistant both for the Paramount feature “Super 8” and for the Degree for Men “Chain of Adventure” webisodes with Bear Grylls. As a maker of short films, I had already produced, written, or directed multiple pieces that previously screened in welcoming festivals across North America, but the opportunity to develop and stretch my organizational and problem-solving skills – and to be exposed to productions of every size and shape – was refreshing, energizing, and sometimes terrifying in all the right ways. But I enjoy the mechanics of production just as much as the artistic side.
What was your last job and what were you responsible for?
I last worked as a Location Manager for the upcoming independent feature “What the Night Can Do,” which filmed for several weeks in the WV counties of Greenbrier and Monroe, and for one day in Virginia. I scouted and secured locations, maintained relationships with property owners, business service providers, and city and state government officials in WV and VA, organized departmental paperwork (releases, check requests, etc.), and had the support of my fantastic WV-based team of Mr. Sascha Tykocinski during production and Mr. Stephen Hanson during pre-production. You can see a portion of my film industry work history at www.imdb.me/samholdren.
While I still wear multiple hats in production – as I have producing credits on a few upcoming works – I have a special place in my heart for “Locations.” I’ve always had wanderlust and a natural curiosity about new places, and I’ve always been endowed with a sense of authority and trust by others seeking thoroughness, and sometimes direction. I play parent, therapist, advocate, diplomat, neurotic, ethical voice of reason…all to make sure each production can earn and maintain the trust of the entities willing to work with us. But most of all, I enjoy exploring different environments, even in my free time. So if you see me somewhere in the United States photographing your town – as I’ve been doing in multiple states already – you’ll know why.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in the film industry?
First, know your industry. Understand there are many different types of jobs, and that media production comes in several forms, each with their own needs and speed for execution. No two productions are alike; you will not start at the top; and there will likely be gaps between gigs (so learn how to budget your finances). Second, respect your industry. Being professional means so much more than just getting paid. It’s in the quality of your work and the respect you earn from others through kindness and word-of-mouth. Third, know yourself – meaning, understand who you know you are versus who people think you are. You will meet nurturing, hardworking people from many different places who remember what it was like to be “green” in the industry. You will also occasionally meet people working both above and below-the-line who aren’t very professional and/or who may not necessarily operate in ethical ways. Such is life. Know your limitations, and don’t feel you have to become a terrible, fake person in order to work in this industry. Just learn to empathize with those people.