“I actually joke that video ruined my life,” says Sara Sampey, Interact’s Lead Videographer and Editor.
As a young adult, Sara’s grand plan was to become a robotic engineer or programmer. She led her middle school to take first place in robotics competitions, and her ultimate dream was to make it to Carnegie Mellon University.
But then, she signed up for a video internship, and the rest is history.
“I always had a camera on my hip to document everything around me ,” Sara recalls. For her, video is the perfect medium to express her creativity with the science of stories.
Our Paragon award-winning videographer is best known for leading the video team and working on all stages of production. She wears the hats of producer, director, videographer, photographer, and editor to craft creative solutions for our clients.
But there is plenty about Sara that you probably don’t know…
As a kid, Sara’s career aspirations also included becoming the first female president, a detective, or a cake decorator.
Sara says she’s from the East Coast, but her husband argues it’s really the Midwest. Can you guess her home state?
In her free time, Sara has been putting her marketing skills to use doing creative direction and photography for small businesses.
She also likes to visit coffee shops, play board games, and collect vinyl records.
She’s a community college alum where she currently serves on the Visual Media program’s advisory board. Can you guess which school it is?
Early Inspirations for Sara Sampey
“From very early on I made it my goal to never let my gender or age to get in the way,” says Sara. From acing her STEM classes to pursuing her love of art and storytelling, Sara has always worked hard and kept pushing.
Our visionary videographer grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she says there is a great mix of cultures from the East Coast, South, and Midwest. “And to settle an argument with my husband, Pittsburgh is East Coast, not Midwest!”
Sara’s friends have described her as laid back. But, her close family would say she’s high strung. “So, take that as you will, I guess!” she jokes.
Western Technical College Alum, Advisor, & Advocate
Sara earned her Visual Communications Associate of Science and Visual Story Telling Certificate from Western Technical College, near our office in La Crosse, Wisconsin. By the end of her time there, Sara says, “I felt that my skills were quite sharp.”
The VIP of video says she had always planned on going to a two-year school.
“My dad had done that,” says the community college enthusiast. “It was always talked as the smart choice in our home.”
Sara had already been working a few years in the video industry before she returned to school. But, she took college as an opportunity to hone and broaden her skillset. And, with scholarships and help from her parents, she was able to graduate debt-free.
Staying Connected to Community College
Though she graduated in 2015, Sara still stays connected to her alma mater. She serves on the advisory board for their Visual Media program where she helps inform the college about industry practices and evaluate curriculum.
Recently, the veteran videographer helped the school complete a three-year program overhaul. And annually, she gives students feedback from an industry perspective. Plus, she keeps an eye out for fresh talent looking for a start.
According to the alum, “Everyone on our video team since I’ve started [at Interact] has graduated from that program.”
Creative Genius at Work
Want to know how a videographer thinks? Then get ready to take a deep dive into Sara’s creative process.
First always comes brainstorming. “Once I get filled in on the project and objective, I like to sit with the information for a while and let ideas just pop in and out of my head.”
After the percolation process comes planning her favorite ideas. Sara might execute a storyboard, draw a flow chart, scribble on a piece of paper, or design a mood board.
With a vision firmly in place, Sara then allows the idea take over. “It’s letting the edit be what it is,” she explains about going with the flow. “As you start, the edit often begins to edit itself and become its own… It often ends up being even better than the idea.”
The creative thinker says she can see the idea in her head. Her job is just helping the pieces be where they need to be.
As for the nitty-gritty intricacies of video craft? Sara says that’s an industry secret. ????
Marketing that Makes a Difference
For Sara, there’s nothing better than being creative and doing what she loves every day. The cherry on top is working as part of a dynamic team to do good in the world. In fact, making meaningful videos are a major part of her satisfaction at work.
According to Sara, “So many marketing companies advertise kitchen gadgets, garbage snacks, or other products that don’t inherently lend anything to an individual’s happiness or everyday life.”
On the other hand, her work at Interact helps make a positive impact:
“I’m proud to make ads that are meant to help students find a way to better their lives.”
What Sara loves about two-year colleges is how learning real-world skills trumps an expensive piece of paper. Whether she’s visiting her alma mater or on set at another community college, she takes a lot of pride in being a passionate promoter.
“I always like seeing the changes and improvements to campuses and classrooms,” says the story maker. “I have hope that as I see those changes and we make videos for colleges that the students’ lives and futures get better and brighter each year.”
Nothing beats believing in what you do. For Sara, crafting video isn’t just a passion but a higher calling in higher ed.
“I think we do really great work. It’s an amazing feeling when the client loves what we’ve made.”
Proudest Achievement: a Great Gatsby-Style Holiday Video
One of Sara’s crowning creations is the 2020 Interact holiday video. Not only was it fun engaging with coworkers, but Sara says, “It was also an incredible stretch of my creative muscles.”
Sara Sampey’s Star-Quality Production
The challenge? Our 2020 holiday video was the first where the team wasn’t creating work for a community college directly. It wasn’t an ad, corporate, or even an informative video. “So, right there that was fun and exciting to work with the team on a completely different project.”
The piece was also scripted, with a complete narrative written and storyboarded long beforehand. Plus, there was acting and blocking out scenes, work Sara hadn’t done since her college days.
And talk about problem solving. For the principal shoot, Interact only had the venue booked for eight hours. But when the team blocked out all of the scenes and turn around times, the production day was estimated at 12 hours.
”So our challenge was to stay on time and when possible, get ahead of schedule,” recalls the versatile videographer. “And what do you know? We came in at eight-and-a-half hours with set up and tear down.”
The second hurdle to overcome? Interact employees are totally not trained actors. For Sara, that meant it took a lot of directing to make sure everyone came across naturally to get good takes.
The video was also shot at two locations. So perhaps the most difficult piece of all was matching the California office shoot to the principle one. Sara recalls, ”Making sure the look and feel was as similar as possible was really tough.”
The team came up with a simple solution: The Oceanside office ended up shooting on the windy office roof in the dark!
Hot Off the Press!
Ready to be inspired? Check out some of Sara’s recent work for Gulf Coast State College. Upbeat with striking footage and a catchy tune, doesn’t it make you want to enroll at community college?
Sara Sampey on the Community College Stories that Matter
With 12 years of video industry under her belt and five years of marketing, Sara has a broad skill set and the creativity to craft visual stories. For her, the dive to do more comes from her passion to showcase the amazing possibilities available at community college. After all, that’s where her own dreams came true.
For Sara, telling the incredible stories of everyday heroes at community colleges is her MO.
“My current motto is, everyone has a story. Hear it.”
Blog written in collaboration with Rachel Rosen-Carroll, Interact Copywriter.For fun, Rachel reads style guides and the dictionary. (She prefers The American Heritage Dictionary… We wouldn’t make this up.)
When she isn’t writing feature stories about inspiring community college alums, she’s working on her YA novel, short stories, and poetry, and she has been published by various lit journals. Ask her questions or suggest word nerd blog ideas at email@example.com.