“Try as many different things as possible, and then pursue the ones you love. You’ll know you love it because you can’t get your mind off it, and you spend all your free time doing it or improving at it.”– Sammi
When you were younger, what did you think your life would look like?
I had always been the kid who was dreaming about their future career. From a pretty young age, my parents drilled into me going to college. What I was going to go to college for changed over the years. Originally I was going to be a vet, so much so I would watch vet operations on the animal channel so I would get used to the blood … I never did.
After that, it changed from being an animator, to writer, actor, but closer to end of High School I thought I should go to law school. Not to be a lawyer, just so then I could do whatever I wanted without a lot of limitations. Ultimately I dreamed of a world where I would love going to work, make a real difference, and eventually have a family.
Though, marriage and starting a family was always on the back-burner. Even when I dreamed of what adult me would be like, I was always so focused on work that I didn’t even get married till mid-20s (which seemed so old at the time and I laugh at the idea now). It wasn’t till my senior year of high school I even thought being a movie maker was a dream of mine.
How did the dreams for the future change?
My dreams for the future kind of never really changed, just the path I take to get there did. I think I was really focused on getting a high paying job when I was a kid, which is why I wanted to be a vet, because it paid well and I was obsessed with animals at the time.
As time went on and I really saw that my creativity could also make me a lot of money, I was more willing to shift to a more creative career. That’s when being passionate and working hard was the focus for how I would get to my dream. The dream has always been to be influential, make a good living, and love what I do. I think when you get older and leave the safety of college is when the dream morphs into something you don’t expect.
When you’re in college, you still get to dream about your future, and it feels more attainable because you are learning how to achieve it. When you graduate though, life will make achieving the dream seem almost impossible at times. That is how dreams change.
What were some pivotal moments that led to where you are today?
Well, background on where I am at currently — I am living with my parents in Colorado and currently unemployed. I have been for the last six months. I like to say I’m in the time of my life where everything sucks, but it’s the turning point for me. You know how every great success goes, they are stuck in a pretty life-crushing situation and then they take that one chance and everything changes! The pivotal moments that got me here are sometimes depressing, but I’ll share because I’m sure someone out there might need a little reassurance too.
I got fired from my job, after working there for a little over three months, randomly. I was never given a warning that I could get fired, and I wasn’t told that I was on a probation period. They had reasons to fire me, not really solid ones, but reasons that I can see how they would justify firing me. How that whole thing went down is another story, for another day. I got fired right before Christmas (thank God I did most of my Christmas shopping already), so I was really looking forward to going home for the holidays.
My mom has a really bad lung condition, that is stable now, but one intense sickness and she could endure some permanent damage. My dad constantly is gone for long periods of time for work, and the rest of our family lives 3-6 hours away from my mom. I was already kind of nervous about her living alone as is, but I really tried to not think about it too much. Ultimately, after I came back to California, I started thinking that moving back to Colorado might be the right choice. A little over a month later I left California. I felt like maybe I needed a new start and I really wanted to be there for my mom and I was still doing some side remote work.
It felt like the right choice, even though career-wise it was a major step back. So one could say I’m at a really pivotal moment right now in my life, and the next decisions will really set a trajectory for the next five years.
What are you learning right now?
I don’t know how true it is for a lot of other career paths, but definitely for film careers, you can go a million different directions and reach the same goal as someone else. That was good to know for me, but also overwhelming, because there were people who had the same or less schooling and were miles ahead of me. We are really obsessed with a particular life pace in our culture that if you are not hitting certain milestones at certain ages you do feel like a loser.
With that births a thought process that can lead to you giving up on what used to motivate you. I’ve learned that. There are a few other lessons I’m learning the hard way. First off, go your own pace. There are people well into their fifties or sixties who “finally” get married, or finally have a career they love, or finally get that big break. So if you are not a child prodigy, that doesn’t mean you have nothing left to offer. Sometimes you have to take the scenic route before you get on the right path. Second, take opportunities when you have nothing left. I do have a problem where I personally fear any level of success. That has been a problem my whole life, which is part of the reason I rarely share my creative work. It’s very self-destructive in that way and I have to struggle every time I post about creative achievements.
Now I have nothing left really, so I need to start biting the bullet and offering myself up to some opportunities. I have had people contact me, or I’ve gotten emails from some pretty influential people, but I never jump on them. Honestly, I’m learning how to jump even if it means I may not land properly.
What do you love about your life in this moment?
What I do love right now is all the time I get to spend with family, and all the friends I have been able to see in these past few months. I found out my best friend’s parents were a little upset that I barely made time for them when I would visit for holidays in the past years.
Well, I lived in California the last 6 years and especially in the last four years most of my visits were no longer than a week long. I already have a big family, and during holiday seasons my whole time is usually jam-packed with family oriented things. I got used to not even telling people outside of my family I was coming, because I wouldn’t have time for them anyway.
So when I learned they were sad that I stopped popping by to say “hello,” I started making a point to visit to them every time I blew into town. I’ve even spent a whole week with them and helped set up for a party they were hosting. I forgot that to them, I was family, and I forgot that they were family for me too. It’s been eye-opening being involved with my family again and being around more often.
What brings you joy/fills your soul?
Ever since I learned how to hold a pencil, I have been drawing. It was something I never could really shake. I loved drawing cartoons in particular. I would spend hours trying to re-create characters I saw on television and I would make my own characters to play with. Soon I was making my own comic books. When I was in fifth grade, my aunt bought me a book on how to draw Japanese style cartoons (like Pokémon).
I was hooked and was constantly practicing on any piece of paper I could get my hands on. I would go through stacks of paper like it was water, and my notebooks from school had more pictures than actual words. Even to this day if I have to sit and take notes or follow along with a piece of paper, there will be at least a few doodles on it by the end of the presentation. Around high school is when I started declining from drawing as much. I was more focused on having friends and being liked than on developing my art.
Art also didn’t seem like something I should pursue professionally, because I felt like I wouldn’t be good enough to make a real living out of it. Most people didn’t even know I could draw in college, and I didn’t advertise it either, unless we needed it for a class project. I love storytelling, which is why I decided to become a filmmaker instead.
My business cards say, “Writing is a talent. Directing is a passion. Editing comes naturally. Storytelling is the goal.” Storytelling has always been the goal and is the thing that excites me the most. It just comes in the form of drawing graphic novels, writing, directing stage plays and creating films. That’s why I’m such a nerd about animation, and had an affinity for filmmaking and enjoy going to plays. I love experiencing a riveting story and being moved by someone’s journey.
If a kid walked up to you asking for advice and you not have a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
Try as many different things as possible, and then pursue the ones you love. You’ll know you love it because you can’t get your mind off it, and you spend all your free time doing it or improving at it. It may not become a career, but don’t deny yourself from the few joys life lets you have.
What do you wish everyone knew about working in social media and living in Colorado?
If you want to work in social media for a company, just know that no one knows what you are supposed to do. All these companies want it, but barely any of them know what they want from it, much past getting more followers. If you have ideas, just know they won’t listen to you for a long time.
If you want to work a video content maker job for a company, it’s basically the same as being their social media specialist. These companies all want it, but don’t know what to do with you. One big issue I dealt with when applying for those jobs was companies wanted you to make these elaborate videos, but hire only you and pay you minimum wage.
Both of these jobs are newer to the business industry, so most companies don’t know how to pay you, or what your responsibilities are much past the obvious.
As for living in Colorado, don’t live here — we have enough people moving here as is. That’s a joke! Ultimately if you want to live on the Front Range (Denver area), it’s not much better housing costs than California right now. West Slope (Grand Junction area) is cheaper, but there is not as much job opportunity on that side of the state.
Also, if you are interested in an animation career, start learning to storyboard. Apparently there is a shortage of storyboarders.
How can readers connect with you?
First I have my website that you can see my film work, which is sammileedavis.com. This also has a connection to my YouTube and Vimeo videos if you’re interested in watching some films and projects I worked on.