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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: SAMANTHA LABELLA (BA ’19)

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SAMANTHA LABELLA

How did the skills you learned in Cinema help you in your current job? (what are you doing right now?)

I don’t think I would have my job if I wasn’t a student worker in Cinema. Currently, I work at The Criterion Collection’s front office along with some shadowing work in their Film Restoration department. The basic receptionist skills, inventory management, and knowledge of film history all came from my time at VCU. Criterion reminds me of working in VCU Cinema because its a tiny close-knit family dedicated to every facet of filmmaking: from production, distribution, and preservation of history

What’s your favorite Cinema summer intensive memory?

My favorite summer intensive memory has to be driving in the Grip Truck with The Girls on various sets over the years. G&E is personally not my thing, but I’ve never laughed more in my entire life than those bonding sessions in the cab of a box truck when we were all sweaty, disgusting, and driving home from set at 3am. That, and when I handmade a “couture” witch cloak for my best friend’s movie out of shower curtain liner, string, and a poncho (check it out in Macbreezy)!

What’s the most important aspect of Cinema?

The most important aspect of Cinema is the ability of choice when it comes with working in a collaborative environment. The agency that Cinema provides allows students to create art that they are proud of, make mistakes that they can learn from, and work together as a team to foster friendships and a creative atmosphere. You’re here at film school to test the waters of what you want to say as a filmmaker, or how to help your friends and classmates pull off their own individual choices. That saying teamwork makes the dream work is true!

What was your favorite movie you saw for the first time through Cinema?

My favorite movie that I saw through Cinema has to be John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under The Influence. We saw this in Cineclub which is a little weekly screening just for the freshmen. I remember being so moved that I researched all that I could about Cassavetes and Rowlands, watching all of their movies (Love Streams is now my favorite movie of all time). I even was a little dweeb and sent articles to my entire class for further research about the filmmaker. A week after we watched AWUTI, I rented a DSLR from the library and made my first short film. It was a crappy little thing, but I’ve been trying to consistently create ever since.

How was the transition from school to the working in the industry?

Transitioning from Cinema to work in the industry was the scariest thing that I’ve done, but I’d say it’s worked out for me. Throughout school, I’d work various jobs on film, tv, and commercial sets. VCU Cinema really set me up with the connections on that one; it was all alumni that would reference me. I got my share of organizing paperwork, locking up sets as a PA, and driving crew members around. After I graduated, I immediately moved to New York without a job. I spent a few weeks applying to everything that was available (because if I didn’t find something soon, I wouldn’t be able to…..live), got an interview with Criterion, and I am grateful that every morning I take the subway to my dream job! I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that it worked out.

We couldn’t be more proud of Samantha!

In addition to scoring a killer job literally WEEKS after graduating — her short film “Here Lies Beatrice” –  just took the Best New Filmmaker award at the Brooklyn Shortie Film Festival!

Samantha and producer Kat Docolovich (BA ’19), with mentorship from Prof. Virginia Bertholet, won the School of the Arts Dean’s research grant, in addition to a successful fundraising campaign, to create the work!