Student Feature: Senior Sam Smith
Early on at Loveland High School (LHS) Sam Smith’s ability caught Photography Teacher Jim Barrett’s eye.
“We have a photo contest every year at LHS and it is open to all high school students,” said Barrett. “Most of the time it is entered by students that have taken Photography. Sam entered the contest as a freshman. The contest is judged by students in the photo classes and the Art Department staff and school principals. Sam’s work stood out to all involved. He won.”
Sam Smith – a Tiger since kindergarten – has been racking up accolades as a photographer, writer, journalist and filmmaker ever since. His passion for “sharing visual art that is both personal and universal” is evident. For this special feature, Sam shared what drives that passion – and offers younger Tigers some advice on how to make the most of their Loveland experience:
Loveland City School District (LCSD): Your creative work has put Loveland Schools on the map in larger forums - can you tell us about the awards you have earned so far, and what projects you are currently involved in?
LHS Senior Sam Smith (SS): Really, 2016 graduate Dean Parker put Loveland Schools on the larger map in my opinion. Many of my now closest friends met on the set of his film, Regret. There, we discovered a group of like-minded creatives and formed Loveland Film Club and a filmmaking community in Loveland. Dean introduced me to a lot of awards, people and film festivals that I would have otherwise never known about.
On the set of Regret, I received an email that I was a finalist for the Overture Awards, which is the region's largest arts contest. I went on to speak about my work and have it displayed at the Aronoff center. From the 100 entries from different schools (each with their own vetting process), I was awarded First Place - something unusual and flattering for a sophomore.
I've been named Best of Category at Golden Lions Film Festival, Best Cinematography at Blue Ridge Young Filmmakers Festival, Best Cinematography at Premiere Film Festival, Best Editing and Cinematography and second overall in 2016 72 Hour Teen Film Challenge, Best Cinematography and third overall in 2017 Teen Film Challenge, Best of Show at Exposure: Montgomery Photo Show 2017 and 2016 student winner, National Film Festival for Talented Youth official selection and official selection and nominee for Best Cinematography and Best Director (for a film I assistant directed with Senior Stone Taul) at the All American High School Film Festival.
At festivals like the All American High School Film Festival, pieces from Loveland have begun to dominate Ohio submissions. Loveland filmmakers have had their work shown on IMAX screens at the AMC in Time's Square and the historic King's Theater in Brooklyn. This year, three out of the five Ohio nominations at the festival were from Loveland. I shot four out of the eight total selections from Ohio, and Loveland students have collaborated with directors of six of the eight Ohio selections.
I'm currently writing a narrative film, editing behind the scenes for a proof-of-concept for a friend's film, helping finish an experimental drama I did cinematography on, editing an experimental film I helped make for someone's poetry-based film project, planning and running Loveland Film Club, putting together a new photographic portfolio about life after death and working for Loveland Magazine.
(LCSD): What is your personal favorite creation (please include photo, if applicable) and why?
(SS): I think right now my favorite piece is the music video I made for 2016 Loveland graduate, Ryan Mangan.
Delusion was a huge undertaking in very little time, and it was a chance to explore a genre of visual art I really enjoy. I had a lot of creative freedom and got a chance to utilize a technique I'd been experimenting with for a while. All the glitchy holographic effects were done in-camera frame by frame, and the entire film was shot in just two days with almost no crew. I spent most of my free time for about three months afterwards trying to piece the film together and get everything timed and looking just right. In the end, I'm pretty happy with the experimental semi-narrative told through the visuals and music. It's not perfect, and every time I watch it I find new flaws. But I think that's what pushes me forward as an artist and lets each piece be better than the last.
(Readers can access Delusion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLkVJTBoOlU&feature=youtu.be)
(LCSD): Who has inspired you at Loveland Schools to stretch yourself artistically and achieve the success you've achieved?
(SS): I've had a lot of inspiration in Loveland Schools. My biggest inspiration has definitely been from other students. Dean Parker really showed me how to have an idea and keep the forward momentum to make it a reality. Stone Taul, Sam Sauer and Jon Parker started the film club and have offered creative minds to bounce ideas off of and to inspire.
Teachers have also really inspired me at Loveland. Creative writing teacher Mrs. Borchers created a classroom atmosphere that allowed for honest expression and gave me confidence and momentum as a writer and as a person. Physical science teacher Mr. Laughman really showed honest and genuine interest to his students and would take time after class to talk about art and even how some of my photos related to concepts in physics. Strings teacher Mrs. Bierkan has watched me grow for the past eight years and helped me find an expressive artistic outlet. English teacher and now librarian Mrs. Bosse has been very encouraging of my art and writing, and helped teach me how to organize my thoughts in a way that other people can understand and feel-- the basis of good art. Art teacher Mrs. Woodruff took time to personally encourage my creative endeavors and offer feedback.
Lastly, photo teacher Mr. Barrett has done so much for me as a student and artist. He gave an immediate and excited "yes" to the prospect of a Loveland film club and has critiqued, taught, pushed and helped me plan my photographs and films. He's watched me grow as an artist and has always been encouraging and excited about my projects-- he's come to art shows and stayed many collective hours after school to help me prepare photographs, critique work and supervise the film club. I really appreciate what he's done for me and for Loveland's visual artists. He's a dedicated teacher who really wants to help students achieve their creative potential.
(LCSD): What advice would you offer to younger students who are interested in creative pursuits - what should they be taking advantage of as they progress through Loveland Schools?
(SS): My biggest piece of advice is cliche and easier said than done, but it's this: get out there and do it. Make art. The only thing holding you back is you. I'd heard it a million times, but it really took seeing the creative peers I found at Loveland making art for the notion of doing to sink in. Take electives that interest you and put everything you have into art you make for school - don't just see it as an assignment, see it as an excuse for authentic self-expression. More than anything, surround yourself with creative and interesting people. There will always be an artistic community in Loveland. Take advantage of it.
(LCSD): If you could design your ideal future - what would it look like?
(SS): In a perfect world, I'd go on to make a living doing cinematography on narrative films and music videos, maybe supplementing some income shooting interesting commercials. I'd have the opportunity to bring my own visual style to the table and work somewhere interesting like LA or New York doing what I love with creative and driven peers.
(LCSD): Is there anything else you'd like to add?
(SS): Art is a form of expression, and in some ways a coping mechanism. Good art transmits an idea, an emotion. It transmits something personal. And visual art has the ability to speak above words and to say what there aren't words for. I really enjoy trying to share something that is both universal and personal. I try to share art that means something, art that has a purpose. If my images create a reaction, emotion or inspire thought then I feel that I've succeeded.
Want to see some of Sam Smith’s work? Visit the following websites:
Photo caption: LHS Senior Sam Smith (Photo courtesy of Lauren Questell)