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Student Wins Best Director Award at Sundance Film Festival

This is a picture of Sam standing behind a camera man, directing a film.

Multidisciplinary studies senior Sam Thompson aspires to be the best writer and director in Hollywood, and with a Sundance Film Festival award under his belt, he’s on the right track. 

In January, Thompson, along with two former WVU students, wrote, directed and filmed the musical, “The SunDANCE,” a coming-of-age story that pits the indie film industry against Hollywood. The five-minute short film earned him the “Creative Mind Best Director Award” at the renowned Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.  

“If I want to make a living out of it [film,] getting awards is important,” said Thompson. “Having this award on my résumé is a building block that will help us get more money for the next project.”  

Thompson a native of Shamong, New Jersey, earned the opportunity to produce the award-winning musical after his audition tape was selected out of 2,000 entries. As a result, he received one of just eight spots in The Creative Mind Group’s Sundance program, an initiative dedicated to finding the next generation of filmmakers.  

Thompson always knew he wanted to be in the entertainment industry, but wasn’t sure where to start. He might’ve missed his opportunity had he not stepped out of his comfort zone and joined WVU’s Film Club, now housed in the College’s Media Innovation Center. Thompson shared his first script with the club, which led him to seriously consider a career in film. 

“I saw a poster for a film club meeting, and it took me three months to go,” said Thompson. “From that point on, I fell in love with writing, directing, being on set and the whole process. It really grabbed me and never let me go.”  

Since joining the club, Thompson has served as an intern at the Cannes Film Festival in France and produced valuable work for his portfolio. One of his recent productions, “Castro,” screened this past February in New York City. The film won the Young Filmmaker Showcase at the Sarasota Film Festival and was named a semi-finalist in Los Angeles CineFest. In 2016, his film, “Do It for the Finger” won a Jury Award at Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival.  

Thompson says WVU and the College of Media have played a big role in his personal narrative. 

“My classes at the College of Media have helped me to develop my writing style,” said Thompson. “And my professors and advisors have given me the support system to do what I love.” 

In the future, Thompson hopes to use film as a conduit to shine a light on important issues such as women’s rights.