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Meet Simon Sager

Today we’d like to introduce you to Simon Sager.

Simon, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up creating stories in the woods in Flagstaff, Arizona. I would concoct elaborate narratives, cast my siblings as helpless little lords and ladies (and such) and proceed to save them. I was the keeper of the narrative, telling them exactly what to say and where to stand–creating images to be captured in our young minds. I should have known then and there that I was meant to do nothing else besides tells stories and direct film.

But my journey into filmmaking was much prolonged.

I was very afraid to explore my own story for a long time. As a gay child growing up in a very conservative household I had a lot of fear about who I was and how I acted. My more effeminate qualities were shushed, my natural tendencies in the way I expressed myself were discouraged and my sexual awakening was forbidden. I rejected myself and refused to accept who I was. This took the wind out of my filmmaking sails for many years.

I decided to attend college and study public relations and video production. It was in college, free to explore my own independence, that I learned to embrace my story and my identity. I went into working in marketing and exploring telling stories about brands. But this quickly felt shallow and unfulfilling to me. I was still not expressing my truth. I was still not sharing stories that meant something to me personally.

Graduate school proved to be the perfect segue into finally embracing my voice as a storyteller. I learned the techniques to put what was in my mind on the page and on the screen. I learned that my passion is telling stories that help other people embrace their identities. Finally, for the first time in my life, I felt heard, seen and allowed to express exactly who I am.

My journey in filmmaking will continue. Now that I’ve tasted this there is nothing else that could satisfy me. I am one of the lucky people who has found their passion. Here I’ll be, now and forevermore, colliding into other people who want to share stories. Together, we will enrich the tapestry of humanity through filmmaking.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would not call my road smooth. It certainly hasn’t been as impossible as some, but it has been rife with many struggles.

The biggest struggle I have encountered along my journey has been establish my identity. For much of my life, there has been a war waging inside of me. My family is very conservative and Christian. These things are not bad and in fact they made my family some very loving and generous people. However, my identity as a gay man, my political beliefs and my understanding of religion has always been odds with the rest of my family.

I covered up a lot of who I am for the majority of my life. My identity crisis has taken some pretty intense turns. I’ve endured religious rituals, much ridicule, sexual harassment and found the end of my rope in some very dark places inside of myself.

I have always been good at achieving things, but I have never been great at accepting things about myself. Art and filmmaking has given me an outlet for these things. I have come to realize that these struggles make me who I am. I had to go through them because they are part of me. I no longer need to feel guilty about who I am but am allowed to celebrate it.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an independent filmmaker. I work as a director, writer, producer and 1st Assistant director.

What makes me different from other filmmakers is my dedication to compassion in all things. Filmmaking is exploring and sharing part of your soul and it is important that this be done with compassion. Whether it is in my own films or in films where I am part of a team, I seek to lead with compassion.

This compassion also translates into the end product. The entire purpose of filmmaking is to help us empathize with those we might not otherwise come across or understand. Through filmmaking we are able to spend intense moments with others. If the filmmaker approaches each subject, each story with a sense of compassion that will inevitable trickle into the viewing experience as well.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I am very proud of completing production on my most recent film I wrote and directed called “The Assessment.”

We faced many, many challenges and overcame them all to tell an important, timely story about immigration. We were constantly told that the scope of our production was too big, that the goals were unachievable and that the narrative would resonate with anyone.

However, the people I got to collaborate with believed in the story and the process just as much as I did and we were able to show the naysayers why the project is special. All the while we challenged filmmaking norms and push the boundaries of what modern cinema looks like.

Despite financial hardships, production issues, scheduling setbacks and last second changes we were able to unite as a team and create something truly beautiful. I am so proud and honored not only to get to show the end result but to have been part of the process in creating it.

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Image Credit:

Images by: Alex Iseri, Shayne Faye and Ryan Murtha

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