10 Questions for Star Film’s Emerging Director Sam Sterling-Court
Sam Sterling-Court has taken her much-deserved place as a director at Star Films. After spending 3 years as a researcher Sam moved to Star as an aspiring director with ninja-like research skills. Quickly proving herself as a force to be reckoned with, Executive Producer Ksenija Strydom Micic announced at the beginning of 2020 that Sam would officially join Star as a full-time director. By February Sam had already directed TWO commercials (making us seriously question what we’ve achieved in the last two months). We asked the 26-year-old (yes, 26!) 10 of our most burning questions.
1. IDIDTHAT: Let’s start with a classic – who has inspired you the most to become a filmmaker and why?
Sam: My two dads – one is a theatre director and the other works in the corporate world and they could not be more different. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household that encouraged free creativity but also equally emphasised the discipline and craft of what the imagination brings. They are also both white so the way they move through the world is very different from how I move as a black woman, and yet I was raised to love my blackness and femininity and to embrace what makes me different.
2. IDIDTHAT: Go dads! You completed a 4-year degree in journalism at Rhodes, which means you probably could have been a part of The Daily Maverick WhatsApp group by now, but you moved into directing instead. How has journalism helped you as a director?
Sam: Journalism expanded and stretched my mind. The environment forced me to gain a certain knowledge and perspective and journalism has turned out to be the spine of everything I do. It helps me develop a language and a discipline in how I explore things, but it also made me want to be a filmmaker even more.
3. IDIDTHAT: Why a filmmaker?
Sam: My one dad is a Theatre Director so I grew up in that world and it was just inevitable that I would end up here. My hope is to show South African identity in a way that it hasn’t been seen before. As a black woman who grew up in a Eurocentric household in South Africa, I’d like to think that my voice occupies a unique space. For me, it is more important to see people who look like me, black people, black women in spaces and genres of cinema where we have not previously been seen or been at the forefront of. I want to make work that speaks to that idea. There are so many worlds and genres and stories that I’ve wanted to see myself reflected in and becoming a filmmaker will allow me to do so.
4. IDIDTHAT: Complete the sentence: My first feature film will be named ‘The…and the…’
Sam: “The Sandwich and the Patriarchy.” I would love to make a film that mixes genres. Something like a heist in space maybe.
5. IDIDTHAT: We’d watch that! Another hard-hitting one – what is on your ‘Continue Watching’ list on Netflix right now?
Sam: I just finished “Sex Education” season 2, which was brilliant. I would encourage everyone to watch the documentary series “They Gotta Have Us”. I still have to watch “End of the F***ing World”. There is so much to see, so little time. But these are good problems to have.
6. IDIDTHAT: Ha, they sure are! Okay back to it – how did you first make contact with Star Films?
Sam: I had been a researcher for over 3 years and I knew I wanted to direct but at that stage I was surrounded by a lot of male directors and I felt that I needed to speak to a female director doing what I wanted to do. So I contacted the incredible Cindy Lee who was kind enough to meet with me. I wanted advice on getting from where I was to where she was. It went really well and she introduced me to the rest of the Star team.
7. IDIDTHAT: Thank you Cindy! So why Star Films?
Sam: Their array of directors are diverse – a group of individuals who are all pushing to do interesting work. I felt like it would be a place where I could learn and grow to cultivate my own voice. Star Films is a company that embraces change, wants to innovate, supports their directors and values the vision and collaboration of filmmaking. There is so much that I want to do, and at Star I feel like I’m at a company that wants to be on that journey with me, wherever it takes us.
Sam Did That (Already)
Sam and her team at Star Films started this year kicking and screaming and in less than two months this emerging filmmaker has already directed a commercial for Metropolitan AND Bob Martin.
METROPOLITAN ‘GET UP’
BOB MARTIN ‘Superfoods’ Episode 3
Sam on Metropolitan: As a millennial myself I felt that I completely understood this brief and how it should be received. We didn’t want to use millennials in a decorative and patronising way, but rather speak to them honestly about money. I cast via social media and then just had real conversations with them, asking certain leading questions to provoke answers that I needed to craft the story.
Sam on Bob Martin: King James involved me from the initial brainstorming sessions on this which meant I could really work with the agency all along the creative journey. They had the story of what they wanted and I brought the visual language of how to achieve it. It was a great collaborative process.
8. IDIDTHAT: What is something that will surprise people about you?
Sam: Hmm, I guess that when I was a teenager my dads broke up and have subsequently gotten married to two other men, so now I kind of have 4 dads.
IDIDTHT: Dads for days! We love it.
* IDIDTHAT: Okay, Ksenija, briefly over to you. As Sam’s Executive Producer, what first excited you about her joining Star?
Ksenija: I’m pretty new school, but I really appreciate the old school way of process and prep. I appreciate directors who put in the time in research – it allows for the honing of treatment skills as well as learning from senior directors. Sam puts in the time and by the time she gets on set nothing has been left to chance. She has a very academic approach to filmmaking, so prep is very important to her and it’s really refreshing to see this kind of directing.
9. IDIDTHAT: Okay Sam, back to you, do you agree?
Sam: Haha, yeah I guess. I come from theatre so I have an ingrained structural approach. I love prep and believe that so much of the success of the work lies in how well one prepares. I want to push and create work that is as creative and bold as possible. I love that creative process of discovery and innovation. Equally, the minutia and structure behind how that comes about are equally important to me. I love the knots and bolts of it all. I am a fierce planner and welcome challenges and constraints. I am a stickler for time, and for me, there is always a more efficient, more time economical way of doing things so that more time can be spent in service of the creativity.
10. IDIDTHAT: *Jaws on floor* And just to confirm…you are ONLY 26?
Sam: Haha, yes!
IDIDTHAT: We bow down!
Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder
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