Oh Pep!’s “Tea, Milk, and Honey”
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
The first piece I directed professionally was the PSA “Bound” for Healing TREE Nonprofit in 2018. It was a piece shedding light on trauma bonding in a domestically abusive relationship.
2) How did you get into directing?
It’s been a long and interesting route. In 2010 started the William Esper two-year acting conservatory. After I graduated, I started producing my own projects so that I could give myself opportunities to act. In turn, fell in love with producing. I learned a lot on set. Seeing everything that went right and everything that went wrong made me realize I needed to focus on pursuing stories that I felt the desire to tell, no matter my role in the project. But I also kept writing along the way. After attending the Women’s March in Washington, with the hope of being a part of history and of capturing it on film, a strong desire arose in me to tell the stories I had been writing over the years. This led me to Bound, a story where I felt the urgency behind the cause. Then, Tea, Milk, and Honey, a MV shot on spec. The artist picked it up and subsequently asked me to direct their next one. After Tea, Milk, and Honey things have sort of begun to snowball, especially as I get more and more comfortable pitching on jobs and finding my own opportunities to direct.
3) What is your most recent project?
I just wrapped a music video for the artist Jenn Grant. Right now, I’m currently in pre-production for another PSA about a woman dealing with the process of seeking help as a sexual assault victim.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
I was recently at a Q&A where director Yorgos Lanthimos was addressing his most recent film The Favourite and he said that the process of being a director and making a film is grueling. I agree wholeheartedly. But, for me, it’s also one of the most fulfilling art forms, making it all worthwhile. My favorite part of the process of being a writer/director is definitely the inception of an idea and then finding it in the writing. I also love the process of working with other artists that are brought onto a production and seeing how they elevate the project far beyond what you could have ever imagined. From the cinematographer to the production designer to the makeup artists to the actors, seeing how their contributions inform a story is always incredibly rewarding.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Like I mentioned it’s a grueling process. You never feel like you have enough time or money and the feeing of being rushed is not particularly enjoyable.
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Up until recently I operated in my own space with my own stories and let them determine the focus of what form they would ultimately be expressed in. Although more recently I’ve been asked to work in the commercial space more explicitly. It’s exciting because I believe it allows directors to grow in their process through the sheer volume of differing projects you take on and the people you work with. You also have to get really good at telling a story within a very small amount of time. Genre-wise, I drift more towards pure narrative story telling. Tea, Milk, and Honey and Bond are two pieces that encapsulate my style of storytelling. But, being hired to do more commercial style pieces has been a fun and rewarding stretch outside of my comfort zone.
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?
I feel like a few core mentors are entering my life right now. I have been getting a lot of support recently from filmmakers and storytellers who’s work I have admired for so long. But prior to this moment it really has been me and the films that have inspired my work and the filmmakers who brought them to life. Though I have not been able to have personal relationships with these masters, their work has advised me and my outlook on the craft. Cassavetes’ documentary A Constant Forge in the criterion collection was a huge inspiration to me and the type of community I wanted to cultivate in order to make films.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
That feels like an impossible question to answer but the first two that come to my mind are Tarkovsky and Cassavetes. Tarkovsky because of his deep dive into the metaphysical themes and Cassavetes for his relentless need to explore the aspects of life and relationships that most people were unwilling or interested in exploring during his time. More specifically Cassavetes’ approach to his art and pursuit of story. The importance he emphasized on working with a community of artists with the same goal.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in CT. My parents are Italian Americans from the Bronx. For some reason I like to tell people that. I played sports my whole life, having two older brothers that enabled me to develop some sort of athleticism. I went to college for business but realized it wasn’t the area of work I wanted to pursue. So, I expedited my college degree and graduated in three years from Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. Afterwards I came to NYC where I took a summer course at the William Esper Studio. I loved it so much that I ended up taking the full time, 2-year conservatory program. Between those two years I spent the summer abroad in Spain. I have been acting, writing, and producing ever since 2012. I recently deciding to go full force into directing. Now I’m going to allow life to write itself because I honestly couldn’t have predicted being here.
Contact Samantha Scaffidi via email