Filmmaker Friday Featuring Will Sampson

An Insiders Perspective On The Creative World of Filmmaking

With hundreds of careers and opportunities, the filmmaking industry can be a unique experience for a filmmaker. Filmtools decided to take a deeper look into the world of a Filmmaker. This week, we had the opportunity to speak to Filmmaker Will Sampson about his work. This is what he said:

Where are you from?

Will Sampson: Murray, Kentucky

How did you get interested in Filmmaking?

Will Sampson: When looking ahead at careers and colleges I knew doing something I enjoyed was very important to me. In school, I had been active in the TV Media Class , led by an incredible teacher, Michael Delaney. But it wasn’t until I went to the Paducah, KY Film Festival that I really saw the possibility of making a living making movies. I think my mom was hoping the film fest would get the itch out of my system but, fortunately for me, her plan backfired, and it couldn’t have worked out better. I really do get excited on set every day, no matter what it is I am filming, because I love being behind a camera. I am grateful to be making a living doing something that fulfills me creatively, and is a lot of fun too.

What inspires you?

Will Sampson: A lot of things: the music I listen to, the places I travel, the city I live in, and the people I meet all inspire me. I am inspired by my personal experiences: my struggles and my successes. Also, I’m lucky to have a great group of inspiring peers, cinematographers like Idan Menin, Carissa Dorson, and Pierce Cook.

What is your role typically on set?

Will Sampson: I split my time between cinematography, operating steadicam, and aerial work.

How did you break into this industry?

Will Sampson: I went to film school at Florida State University and moved to Los Angeles after graduation. Started as an intern, became a PA, and quickly realized I hated working in an office. I decided to take a risk and to freelance full time in the camera department. FSU has a very strong alumni network, and I often work with previous classmates. I am fortunate that a few directors offered me opportunities to test and hone my skills, including Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Shane Spiegel and P.R. Brown.

You walk onto set, what three items do you bring with you?

Will Sampson: A Lenser P5.2 flashlight, a Kershaw Ember pocket knife, and a Spectra IV-A light meter.

When you walk onto set, what’s the first thing you do?

Will Sampson: Find crafty. If anyone answers anything else they are lying.

How do you balance your work with life?

Will Sampson: It is tough for sure. The past few months I have had very few days off and have missed a lot of friend’s events. Fortunately most of my friends are in the industry as well, so everyone is pretty understanding of the demands on my schedule. You have to make hay while the sun shines, as they say. My girlfriend, Lexa Payne, is also in the industry, and knows the odd hours and no sleep that can come with it. To keep ourselves sane, we set aside two weeks every February (usually a slow time for me) for some international travel. I always come back creatively rejuvenated, refreshed with new ideas, and ready to work. We try not to bring too many cameras with us…

How important is networking in this field? How do you go out and find these people?

Will Sampson: Networking is not only important; it is an essential part of this business. A few years ago I opened a creative space in Silver Lake called Power House. It houses over 30 freelance film professionals including directors, editors, writers, producers and production designers. It is a great network of people to be able to talk to and bounce ideas off of, as well as work together on projects. One of the producers I work with the most, David Lawson, occupies an office right across from my desk – which pays off when I’m the first person he sees after a job becomes available. I’ll add that word of mouth goes a long way in networking, this is a big little town and if you are good at what you do, word will spread.

What advice do you give to people working in this industry?

Will Sampson: A positive attitude and a great work ethic are the two best qualities you can have in our industry. At a young age my dad instilled in me the belief that a hard days work is nothing to be scared of. Let’s face it; our chosen field of work can be extremely grueling – physically and mentally. Having a positive and hard-working person beside you on set makes all the difference towards a safe, fast, and productive day. Those types of people inspire those around them and are the ones who get hired back. I am always amazed when I am on set with people who complain a lot, or seem like they are miserable, or like they would rather be somewhere else than here. No on likes to be around that kind of attitude! My advice is to find a position you enjoy doing and pursue it with all you got. Do not accept a job you know you won’t like doing or work for a rate you will be unhappy about if it means not doing your best work 100% of the time.

How do you deal with challenges on set?

Will Sampson: Things don’t always go the way we want on set. I always try to approach challenges with an open mind. Whether it is running out of time or a limited budget there is always a solution to be found if everyone is willing to bend a little. Some of the work I am most proud of has been done with very small crews that just work extremely efficiently. As a result of some of these small crew sizes, I have tried to make myself a bit of a one-man band in regards to my projects. I do steadicam and aerial work and personally own a lot of the equipment I like to use the most often. This allows me to head off a lot of budget challenges by being a one-stop shop for productions.

Do you have a piece of essential gear that you don’t leave without?

Will Sampson: Most recently I have fallen in love with the Cinema Gadgets Dolly Mate paired with their magnetic plate and clamp. I can put everything I need in there and have it close and safe on set.

Where can people follow you on social, or check out your work?

Will Sampson: You can follow me on Instagram – @willandaway and check out my past and present

work on my webpage:


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