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WVU Film Club president wins best director award at Sundance Film Festival

Sam Thompson, left, won Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Thompson and his team Mikey D’Amico, cinematographer, Sam Thompson, producer and actor, and actress Katy Luek .

Sam Thompson, left, won Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Thompson and his team Mikey D’Amico, cinematographer, Davis Rohrer, producer and actor, and actress Katy Luek made the film “SunDANCE,” a five-minute short musical, in one week. 

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Last month, Samuel Thompson, a West Virginia University senior multidisciplinary studies major from Shamong, New Jersey, brought home The Creative Mind Group best director award as a part of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Thompson was selected from among thousands of global entries as one of the eight finalists to participate in The Creative Minds Sundance program. The selection process included the submission of a two-minute film to a panel of industry professionals consisting of independent filmmakers, story-writers, cameramen and other media professionals.

“Sam is such a stellar filmmaker,” said MacKenzie Breeden, administrative manager at The Creative Mind Group. “We love him here at CMG.”

Mikey D’Amico, a former WVU student from Weirton, worked as the cinematographer; Katy Lueck, a New York University graduate was the actress; and Davis Rohrer, a former WVU student and member of the West Virginia Army National Guard from Marlton, New Jersey, served as the team’s producer, and performed alongside Lueck in the video.

D’Amico won best cinematography and Lueck won best performance for the musical.

Once the team arrived in Utah, they were provided with everything needed to make a five-minute short film in one week. Thompson, chosen as the writer and director, decided to try something different — a musical. In less than a week, the team wrote, filmed, edited and submitted “The SunDANCE,” a coming-of-age story that pits the indie industry against the world of Hollywood.

“As soon as I knew I was selected, I knew I wanted to challenge myself and my team with something none of us have done before. Make a musical,” Thompson said. “Davis, who was chosen as our composer; wrote, performed and recorded all of the music and sound effects. So it's all original lyrics and music.”

“I spent hours carefully crafting every shot, character movement and color palettes,” Thompson said. “The fewest cuts I had, the better. Since it was a transitional period in the character’s life, I wanted to emphasize transitions by making sure each one was different and furthered the plot.”

Established in 2004, CMG’s mission is to find the next generation of talented film and television professionals and usher them into the entertainment industry by providing international film programs at the world’s most prestigious film festivals and markets. The Creative Minds Internship Experience provides college students with an opportunity to work intimately with top-tier film studios, production companies, and media outlets, and the Filmmakers/Directors Lab provides students with a platform to showcase their talents via the creation of short films.

“I am grateful for the support and advice given to me by Dean of Students Corey Farris and funding from SGA,” Thompson said. “Without their help, I would not have been able to raise the $2,200 needed to travel to Utah and participate in the competition. WVU students are fortunate to have University backing and support – support that has the power to change futures and help pursue dreams.”

Thompson’s previous film “Do It for the Finger” won a Jury award and editing award in the 2016 Movie Campus MovieFest, the world’s largest student film festival, and he has served as an intern at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France.

In addition, he was invited and attended last week an independent filmmaker’s networking event hosted by Sublime Universal at Robert De Niro’s prestigious Tribeca Film Center in Manhattan. The event titled “Catfish Shorts” features a collection of specially selected films for the U.S., United Kingdom and Canada that have strong female involvement in key roles.

The WVU community will have the opportunity to view “The SunDANCE” and other short films created by the WVU trio on Thursday (Feb. 16) from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Gluck Theatre of the Mountainlair. Thompson, D’Amico and Rohrer will also be on hand to discuss their experiences and answer questions. 

The WVU Film Club meets on Mondays at 8 p.m. in the Mountainlair.

The annual Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States, showcasing new work from American and international independent filmmakers. This year’s festival took place January 19-29.



Jason Broadwater, Student Life Communications; 304.293.5811


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