In The Campfire Light

Samantha Michelle


1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

Spring 2018 I was commissioned to direct/ produce a docu-style promotional film for “The Lost Warhols” exhibition here in NYC benefiting God’s Love We Deliver.

2) How did you get into directing? 

Once upon a time, for a hot minute, I built and ran a vintage shop--The Treasure Chest--off the lobby of a luxury hotel up in Toronto. It was a pretty spirited place (serving whiskey in tea cups in its nod to the roaring 20s and prohibition) and so it was important to me that our commercial materials enchanted and entertained, that they were narratively oriented, and stamped by the ethos and energy and white lace, purple mohair, and leopard print-adorned shop. I first stepped behind the camera to shoot this "shoe film" (fashion film), set in the hotel, which featured exclusively legs and feet (its subjects below the hips) as it told stories of feminine strength and raucous misadventure whilst marketing an English heritage brand/ British shoe designer the shop launched in Canada.

3) What is your most recent project? 

Last year, I wrote and directed a short In The Campfire Light, which we shot here in NYC. It’s a story that came out of a frustration with the sound-bite-obsessed quality of the "me too" movement and a respective aim to complicate and expand the conversation of exploitation in the entertainment business, begging the question of what happens to our sense of volition when under the influence of our dreams. With subtlety, I wanted to paint a portrait of an active and engaged female protagonist, illuminating her journey in pursuit of external approval, working against her own self-doubt, as she moves directed by the mythology of the American dream and its defining worship of determination and hard work.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

I love to create the space for others to play--it’s really my favorite thing... getting to build and design this unbound, immaterial playground where my collaborators can thrive, experiment and grow as they give their energy and talents to what we create together. I love being responsible for setting the tone and vibe of our shared experience, for demonstrating and insisting upon compassionate and encouraging leadership in even the most "stressful" of circumstances. I feel like it’s my own little microcosmic chance to re-write the many, widely abound wrongs of authority and guide the gang with respect, love, and trust in our community.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

I have very strong instincts so when it comes to making decisions, the choice often feels intensely clear, but sometimes it doesn’t... so when, on occasion, the gut’s got nothing to offer, it can be a little disorientating as the question then travels up to the head where it gets twisted and turned and pulled in all these different directions. The challenge then becomes navigating input the and intel on offer, and grounding the matter in the context of the big picture.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

At the moment, I’m directing a documentary on the late, great Terry de Havilland - London’s iconic "rock & roll shoe cobbler," an unsung hero of the fashion industry and an unlikely pioneer of female empowerment. I’m also currently developing a TV show, a sitcom of sorts inspired by my experiences as a globe-wandering DJ. I’m also very excited by the advents in advertising and would love to further explore working in branded content as well.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 

Suppose I’m a mentee on the market! Though I do have some amazing pals in the industry who I turn to and lean on and I’m ever indebted to those generous, loving soundboards.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

Cameron Crowe. There’s so much heart on screen. And his use of music is completely brilliant.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

Almost Famous, as per above. As far as TV goes, I loved Girls and Fleabag.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

I grew up in Toronto, but at 17, I moved to NYC, at 21 to LA, and at 22, to London - where I spent much of my 20s, made my first film and also kicked off my career as a DJ, specializing in 60s and 70s soul, rhythm and blues, funk, disco and rock & roll.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

Pre-pandemic, my work in music took me around the world as I perform at festivals and large conferences--the likes of Cannes Lions, World Economic Forum, Nexus, Glastonbury, Burning Man, TIFF--and for brands such as Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Saks Fifth Avenue, WSJ, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, GQ, so no doubt, sitting tight in a single spot has offered a fresh and unique perspective. This vantage point has brought forth a real careful and critical consideration of the sorts of projects I want to be giving my time to, and why. And more than ever, I’m grateful for my creativity and happy to have chosen this path of telling stories, building community, and lifting spirits.


Contact Samantha Michelle via email