We had the good fortune of connecting with Samantha Bozin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
So for some background info, I studied acting and film at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) conservatory program in New York City. The program at AADA was amazing and I am so grateful I went there, because it really set me up for success to be a working, thriving artist after graduation. During my time at AADA, so many of my teachers said over and over again, “create your own art” because it’s the easiest way to make connections and get your foot in the door in this industry. After I first graduated in 2018, I didn’t really think much of that advice and instead worked my butt off to search for preexisting acting gigs in the city. Overall, I was pretty successful at auditioning and booking gigs, and I am so grateful for every opportunity I was given to act, but I still felt a sense of unfulfilled passion. I wanted to create art for social change and talk about subjects that were important to me personally, like medication affordability, dealing with loss and grief, and the American political system. I had all these ideas, but had no idea where to find gigs like this through auditions. And then I remembered the advice my teachers gave us over and over again: create your own art. So, in the beginning of 2020, I wrote and directed Life in a Vial, my (first ever) film about type one diabetes and insulin affordability that sorta catapulted my career as a film director. After filming Life in a Vial with some of my actor pals, but before I could even start editing the footage, COVID-19 hit the US. At the time, I was living in NYC in one of the areas most impacted by COVID in the entire country. Being immunocompromised, as I have had type one diabetes for 20 years myself, I had to get out of the city. So, I ended up moving back home to Denver, and started working on editing the Life in a Vial footage in the beginning part of quarantine. Life in a Vial debuted worldwide in May of 2020, and it was a huge success! Not only did the film get recognition at multiple international film festivals, but through the proceeds of my film, I was able to raise over $300 which will be donated to advocate for affordable insulin in the US. By creating my own art for the first time, I was able to educate people and make an actual difference in the world, and the feeling I got from that is something I can’t even begin to describe. It’s so incredible. And because of Life in a Vial’s success mixed with my growing passion to tell impactful stories, I decided to create Fentress Films. I remember sitting at my computer all day long the week after Life in a Vial came out, just brainstorming, planning, and creating content for my new company. It was so exciting and I just dove head first into this whole new world of being a small business owner during a pandemic. When designing my website and social media, I made sure to come up with a clear brand or mission for Fentress Films: to tell the stories of underrepresented topics and groups. Having a clear mission was easy for me, and I think it’s important for any small business owner because it’s what will make your business unique amongst a sea of other small businesses. Knowing your niche is everything! And so once the company was up and running, I started writing new scripts and planning new projects that would be conducive to a COVID world. My first quarantine-made project is Dangerous Discourse, a film I wrote and directed about young people navigating political conversations with their friends. To make sure that the cast/crew was safe, I did everything for the project virtually on Zoom, including casting, rehearsals, filming, and post-production. Over 1200 people worldwide applied to act in the film, which was an amazing and unexpected turnout (although with COVID, practically every artist is out of work these days). I ended up choosing three actors from different parts of the US to join the cast. The film was a huge success, not only because I planned for it to premiere just as people were voting for the 2020 presidential election and the film spoke about important political topics, but because I opened up a new door within my business to connect with artists from all around the world. So because of Dangerous Discourse, the mission of my film company changed to: telling the stories of underrepresented topics/groups while making theatre/film accessible to people all over the world, despite the pandemic. So after Dangerous Discourse came out, I decided it would be the best business move to work on more Zoom projects. I started a seasonal event called the Fentress Readings, which is a night of virtual staged readings of new plays/films featuring actors from around the world. For the Fentress Fall Readings, we worked with twenty actors on four scripts all written by women. And as time has gone on, we have gotten more and people reaching out to us to act in the readings, so we have added more scripts each time to work with as many people as we can! The virtual readings have really catapulted our reach and expanded our network, which is awesome! And so then I thought, why not expand even more? So, I came up with the concept for the Fentress Fanzine, an arts magazine geared towards celebrating art and connecting artists from all over the world. I ended up interviewing twenty actors and filmmakers from around the globe to be featured in the magazine. When the first edition came out, I got a ton of people sending me messages about wanting to be interviewed for the next edition. So, again, creating the magazine has expanded the company so much, which is really great, because I love that I am able to bring a sense of connection and unity to people during a time of loneliness and isolation. And being able to give artists opportunities to work or showcase their work during a time when physical film crews and live performances are shut down is just so so wonderful. So, while the pandemic has been extremely challenging for me in a lot of ways, with having to leave my home and friends in NYC and move back to Denver where I only knew my immediate family, it has also been a really positive time in my life because through this isolation, I have created a company where I get to connect with people all over the globe by sharing impactful art. I could have sat back during the pandemic and just worked on surviving, as many people are doing. And hey, that is 100% valid. This is an incredibly uncertain and challenging time for everyone. But for me, I knew that this newfound isolation was going to be the push I needed, and it was. I have spent every day since quarantine working on Fentress Films, and in this time, I have produced two award-winning films, hosted an international film festival, directed nine virtual readings of new works, launched a magazine, worked with over 200 actors from around the globe, and best of all, gotten to tell stories that mean the world to me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My entire life, I wanted to be an actor. I never even considered the possibility that I would fall in love with directing. I have been acting and singing since I was a toddler, and I even studied theatre in college. Studying acting at a conservatory in the epicenter of live theatre and TV was brutal, but in the best way possible. I learned so much and pushed myself really hard to soak up everything I could. I often spent 16 hours a day at school, taking classes, working on my homework, practicing dance choreography, or rehearsing scenes. AADA helped me find my niche as an actor and helped me fine tune my skills, but more than anything, AADA helped me prepare for the real world. I learned to be my own business in a sense, because if you want to make a living as an actor, you have to be the CEO of your own company, and that company is you (your body, your face your talent, and you hard work). When I graduated, I auditioned and auditioned, “selling myself” to casting directors, applying to unpaid gigs just to get my foot in the door, and working multiple jobs to earn a living. It was tough, but my training prepared me to be a working actor because I knew what to expect and how to persevere through the challenges. And all that training has come in handy with Fentress Films too because I have learned how to handle the high pressure of running a company all on my own, I have learned what works in the audition room and what casting directors are looking for, and I have gained a network of incredible artists and friends to collaborate with. The most challenging time in my journey was when I had just finished writing the script for Life in a Vial. I remember being like “oh my goodness, I have to film this as soon as possible” because I was eager and passionate (but maybe a bit naive as to what it would take to create a fully produced film). I had no clue where to start, but within two weeks time, I hustled hard to gather a cast, a film crew, and props, and then we filmed it! But it was my first time directing anything ever, and it felt like there were a million things to do (probably because there were). I remember the night before filming, I stayed up for 38 hours straight, working on finishing touches with the set, making sure the costumes were all ready to go, and setting up the “craft services” for the cast/crew. The film had a $0 budget, no joke! Being a type one diabetic, I have a ton of medical supplies that came in handy as props (like needles, alcohol swabs, vials of medicine, the list goes on), and then I used items around my apartment to create a hospital room (including a futon couch that resembled a hospital bed, sheets that I taped to my apartment ceiling to create an ER patient room, etc). Plus, since most of my family works in medicine, they were able to send me lab coats and hospital gowns for the costumes. I also created tons of prop medical records, a replica of a hospital ID bracelet, and a fake IV setup. And then when the actors showed up to film, it was just me and a crew of two other people running the entire film set. In the end, I worked as the writer, director, camera operator, costume designer, props master, executive producer, colorist, sound mixer, editor, and publicist. It was a lot. And that leads me to the biggest lesson I have learned from working in the arts: you have to be a jack of all trades or a master of none, especially when first starting out. I had to do it as an actor when I first graduated and I am doing it now with Fentress Films. But the good news is, with all that hard-work and nonstop pressure to do it all, as time has gone on, a lot of the pressure has been taken off my shoulders because I have been able to collaborate with more artists. Plus, my productions actually have a monetary budget now, which helps immensely, haha! But I think having to go through the challenge at the beginning of “okay, how am I going to wear all these different hats to create a piece of art worth watching despite having no funding whatsoever, all while also prioritizing my mental/physical health” was a beautiful gift. It taught me a lot about independence, perseverance, and sacrifice, which is a lesson that I think can transcend to any field of work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite places to just hang out in the city are Hudson Gardens and the Denver Highlands. These spots are so perfect for leisurely walks and just lounging around in the fresh Colorado air!! Plus, if you need to find a good place to take photos in Denver, both of these places are great options because of how beautiful the scenery is! One of my all-time favorite spots in the city is Dazzle, the jazz and blues club! The atmosphere in there is unlike anything else! Growing up, my mom and I would go to Dazzle to eat dinner and watch jazz artists perform… it was incredibly inspiring. Every time I went, I left with this urge to create art. I think it really made an impact on who I am as an artist and I love bringing my friends there whenever I can. Plus, the food and drinks are great too!! Also, one of my favorite Denver eateries is Maria Empanada! They serve authentic Argentinian and Spanish food, and it’s the best! I grew up surrounded by the language and culture, and even lived in Spain as a teenager, so going to this restaurant always makes me so happy! I have taken a few friends there before, and it was so fun teaching them about the culture, food, and language! Another really fun place I love going to is Deer Creek Canyon! Technically, it’s in Littleton (not Denver), but it’s so worth the short drive!! Growing up, my family would go there to hike and explore nature. The views are insanely beautiful and it’s one of the easiest ways to experience the Colorado mountains without actually driving all the way up to the mountains, haha!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am so incredibly grateful to all of the people in my life who have supported both me and my career! The list goes on and on, but if I had to thank just a small handful of people who have made the most impact on my creative journey, it would be: my parents (of course), my grandmas, my Papa, Miles Thompson, Ms. Peaches, Lofudu Tshumamboya, Sedariest Hammond, my brother Blake, Mr. Drown, and Zenon. Each of these people has played a huge role in helping me build my confidence as a performer by mentoring me and supporting my creative endeavors. And when I started Fentress Films, they were all there for me and supported every decision I made to create virtual art during the pandemic, no matter how wild it seemed at the time! Another important part of my success and passion has been due to the American Diabetes Association’s Camp Colorado and the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes. As I mentioned, a lot of my artistic work is centered around advocating for diabetes, and these two organizations have made such a huge impact on my life and are part of the reason I am so passionate about advocating. Thank you to the BDC and their staff for always being there for me, both as a patient and as a person. And thank you to the ADA’s Camp Colorado and the entire medstaff crew; y’all have been with me from the very beginning, starting back when I was a little eight year old camper to now, being a medstaff for five years in a row! Volunteering at diabetes camp is always the highlight of my year and I consider camp my second home. I usually work with 10-12 year olds and my campers are the most inspiring, courageous, and fun people I have met, and they have really impacted my life (and my art). Big shoutout to Ali Moore, one of my previous campers who I have mentored and been friends with since 2016. She has inspired me so much with her compassion for others, her courage when it comes to living boldly with T1D, and her amazing artistic ability! I have gotten to collaborate with Ali on some of my artistic projects with Fentress Films, and it’s been awesome getting to see her shine!!
Other: IMDb where people can check out the titles I have directed: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm11579482/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
headshot – J. Demetrie Photography