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Meet Sarah Kaufmann of SarahK. Work in Burbank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Kaufmann.

Sarah, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I actually think about this a lot, “Which decisions and events led me to where I am right now?”, “Where even am I?”. If I told my 15-year-old self that I would be in Los Angeles, working as an editor, director, graphic designer, and photographer, I would have thought I went insane. I’m from Germany, Los Angeles is literally the other side of the world. And at 15 years, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life and didn’t think I had enough talent to pursue any creative career.

I know we’ve all had our rough times in high school. For me, it was being bullied into a repressed and depressed wallflower. I literally spend all of my free time in front of my PC, teaching myself to use GIMP (does anyone even still know what that is?) to manipulate pictures, and cutting my favorite movies and shows to my favorite songs to create ‘music videos’. Who knew my depressed activities would lead me to my career later in life?

After graduating with 16, I wanted to study acting, since acting class was the only thing to boost my confidence and hours of watching blooper reels from sets made me think acting meant having a reason to laugh every day. My mother, pragmatic and smart as she is, urged me to “learn something practical first” which had me lost and frustrated. After a few weeks of self-pity, I decided to try and make one of my hobbies into a job. This led me to study graphic design and receive my vocational degree. When I completed the three years of studying, I told my mom “Mom, I did your thing, now I’m doing my thing.

She couldn’t find a way to disagree, so we started to look at acting schools. Our search led us from Berlin to London to Los Angeles. I had never before left the country, sat in a plane, or lived by myself, though my decision to come here and study had me do all three things at once (and it was a shock to my anxiety-system).

I started a Bachelor’s program for acting but quickly realized that, as freeing as the classes were and as much as they boosted my confidence, remembering lines and channeling my repressed emotions in front of strangers wasn’t my thing. Though the other side of the camera was calling me. I switched to an Associate’s degree in filmmaking and, after some obstacles, graduated with my Associate’s degree.

And I got lucky, I was hired straight out of college as a full-time editor by my company and have been working there since July 2018. This is, unfortunately, holding me back from concentrating on my other passions but I am sure I will get back to them soon. For now, I am putting my life goal of becoming a music video director on hold, until I reach that sweet spot between having the money to pay my bills while also doing what I love.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I honestly don’t know a single person who could answer this question with a ‘yes’. As I said before, depression and anxiety made their way into my life early on. And as much as acting and being thrown into the cold, Los Angeles water helped, they weren’t the cure to anything. I still struggle with anxiety every day, and my self-doubts also make things harder.

Though my absolute worst time here in Los Angeles was one year after switching my degree program. It was a devils circle that almost took me down. Old habits and anxiety started acting up again and made me miss classes every week. The guilt and stress made me fall back into a depression which had me lose all self-confidence and jeopardized my relationship, which in return made me even more depressed. I took two semesters off school trying to figure myself and my life out and when I finally had enough confidence to go back to school, my life was changed for the better by the people I met in my new class. These people supported and believed in me enough for me to break the circle and finally move in the right direction.

Please tell us about SarahK. Work.
SarahK. Work is the name I use to get all my different work areas under one roof. It is not really a company in its own, it’s more of an alias people can think of when they need any of the creative work that I offer.

When I first came over here, friends and classmates definitely knew and relied on me most for my graphic design and photography (thank you, mom). They always asked me to help with their film posters, websites and business cards. They also liked to ask me for headshots or just fun photoshoots in general. Graphic design has helped me personally in my projects as well, I saved a lot of money not having to outsource graphic works for my films and person.

One of the things I am most proud of is my thesis film, Ellie & Ray. A WW2 drama about a young woman and her mental journey after finding out her boyfriend died on the battlefield. I wrote, produced, directed, edited and sound edited the short film. Unfortunately, it’s still stuck in the finishing stages of post-production but I can’t wait for it to get out into the world and finally be submitted to festivals. I am immensely proud of it for so many reasons. I also love the poster I created for it.

The other thing I am very proud of is that every single one of my projects that I wrote and directed, has a female protagonist. This was not even something I actively planned, it just happens to be what I know best. On top of this, I am the lead editor for a show, called “The Nest”. A talk show, centered around usual taboo topics that are important to women, such as periods, body hair, body image and anxiety, hosted by Missy Modell. No matter what professional ups and downs are waiting for me, this show will always be that special achievement that I can look back on.

What sets me apart is that I know myself very well, I know exactly what’s in my skill set and what is not. I know my strengths and weaknesses. My time at my job taught me many things about myself and my workflow. I am a very efficient worker and am fast while detail oriented. I also am a very visual person, most of my strengths lie in visual concepts and design and I am very excited to finally put those skills to use when my first music video directing job comes up. Every time I listen to a song I love, I have a music video in my head, finally getting the chance to produce and direct them, is my career goal.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Technically, I should say “nothing”, because I love where I am right now. But the future will show me what my mistakes were.

I do think about the famous “what if” a lot though. Specifically about “What if I hadn’t ‘wasted’ any money on the acting program?” While the acting program helped me overcome many personal obstacles, it did take a significant chunk of money out of my parents pocket (who sponsored me until I could make my own money), that ultimately kept me from pursuing a Bachelor’s in filmmaking. Most jobs and even visa programs require a Bachelor’s degree in your field of study. Hadn’t I spend money on two semesters of acting and six months of rent, I would have had enough money to get a Bachelor’s in filmmaking instead. I would have graduated at 23 with a vocational degree and a Bachelor in my pocket. I could have worked for a year to earn money, and possibly get a Master’s later on. All this would have made the rest of my time here a lot easier, easier to find a job, easier to get a visa to keep building my career here.

On the other hand, though, I would have never met any of my closest friends, the people who support me without limits, who lift me up when I’m down, who helped me through one of the worst times of my life, my second family. Without them, who knows if I had even stayed in Los Angeles during my depressed phase.

It’s always difficult to wish to change the past, without knowing where those changes would lead you. I believe everything happens for a reason and so I try to work with what I have and believe that I am on the path to where I belong.

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