We had the good fortune of connecting with Samantha Becker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Kindness is an endurance sport. So often in my career, I felt I came in second — whether in a role or a negotiation, or a deal — because I value kindness as much as intellect or talent. The most supportive thing anyone ever said to me was in the midst of working on a commencement speech: “You’re as kind as you are smart.” And something about it was just immediately valuable to me. Everything landed. I felt like I needed to bottle the sentiment and take it with me whenever I had self doubt, but I also thought it was a good metric to lead by in whatever business I was going to create going forward. And I think over the years, the way I’ve treated people is something that has been returned to me. Perhaps not in the moment, because there is always going to be a faction of people who believe kindness is weakness. So in the moment, you might not feel its importance. I call kindness an endurance sport simply because it does require patience and certainly a leap of faith — in yourself and in others. It’s about doing things not for reciprocation but because they matter, and because they will be remembered and hopefully repeated by others. Can I draw a direct line between an act of kindness and my bottom line? Maybe not. But I certainly look at the relationships I’ve formed with people because we showed each other grace and kindness, and there are returns on that. You want to spend more time with those people. You want to create with those people. You want to be successful together. And that becomes a beautiful two way street.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I named my company EPIGRAPH because I wanted it to be a nod to my twin’s company, FILMOGRAPH. Because we collaborate often and it felt good to have a pairing like so many other things in our life. But I also named it that because an epigraph at the beginning of a novel is often a very telling little quote. The one at the beginning of The Great Gatsby has this whole legend behind it and it’s fantastic. Fitzgerald was sort of mocking the whole literary world and their willingness to believe in the great new thing and he manufactured the quote and the author that serves as the prologue in Gatsby to prove his point. For me it is a nod to one of my favorite novels, certainly my favorite historical time period, and the inside jokes authors have with themselves. While I was still in college, I worked for Chris Moore, Ben Affleck, Jeff Balis, and Matt Damon on Project Greenlight and even before that as PA on a film while I was in high school. After I graduated from film school at USC in 2004, I worked in post production at Amblin as an assistant to Marty Cohen. I was promoted to post production coordinator, which is where I met Steven Spielberg, working in that position on both War of the Worlds and Munich. He then hired me to be his second assistant. I became his first assistant, associate, and then associate producer over the time I worked for him. I really feel like my time at Amblin is where I first learned a love of speechwriting and where I was just able to return to my love of writing in general. Our days were of course rooted in the films we were making but whether it was press materials, speeches, or helping streamline script coordination, edits, and drafts, so much of my job had to do with the written word. And I loved that. I loved helping other people find their voice. I loved editing releases. I loved proofreading and I loved taking things from the page and seeing them come to life, whether in a news story, on camera, or in a book. Amblin was this incredible place where executives were philanthropic and where people like Steven were world figures. He wasn’t just a filmmaker. He created the Shoah Foundation. He was politically active. He was a humanitarian. And while I was there, I really got this idea that there was a way for me to merge my film education, my career in film, my love of politics and history, and writing — particularly speechwriting. I wanted to bring it all together — and at Fenway I was able to do that. We worked for politicians. We worked for foundations, for people in Silicon Valley, and for people from my network in Hollywood. So when I branched off to start my own company, the goal was simple. Create a professional brand and story that is all about page to performance. Everything starts on the page. A political speech. A screen play. An op-ed. A taped video and more. I wanted to create a multidisciplinary word studio where everything we do starts with text but can be taken to whatever medium you need. Since my personal goal has always been to write in multiple mediums, this was perfect. One day you’ll find me editing a letter from a CEO and the next can be helping write someone’s expert course, someone’s voice over for a script, and so on. The dream clients are the ones that recognize my love of design and writing. In 2019 and 2020, I worked with Lisa Borders for a project for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and it required both writing, art direction, and then bringing those together. So we collaborated with my brother’s company, Filmograph, to create the artwork I envisioned and to accompany the text I helped draft for the presentation and official report. It’s a beautiful blend of all of it because in the morning, you can be giving notes on Pantones and hex codes and then in the afternoon, you’re working on paragraphs, line edits, or drafts from scratch. I think the biggest challenge that comes with what I do is that a lot of people don’t know that a company like mine exists. If you’re a ghostwriter, that’s true for many gigs where you step in to punch something up or write something under someone’s byline, which of course I do in a lot of places. Commercial campaigns. But it’s also true that a lot of people really don’t think about the time and energy that goes into writing the wide varieties of content. Whether it’s a campaign for a website or a politician or a movie, or it’s a series of tweets, press releases, or corporate statements, they aren’t really aware that a company like mine, that can really serve a lot of formats and durations, exists.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Sunset Tower for drinks and dining. I love a mix of Old Hollywood, a dirty martini, and a scene. I will never take for granted the pink upholstery, zucchini chips, the warm glam of the lights, or the turkey chili again. I miss it. Like a lot. I love having people at the roof of my place. I live in Hancock Park and the architecture in our area is wonderful. Walking down the same streets as a lot of early Hollywood, again, is very creatively inspiring for me. My morning walks are long and they are where I get some of my best ideas. So I’d probably want to take a friend along those footpaths. Botanica for great food (particularly the Sage-Pistachio Pesto and Heirloom Bean Tartine. My god, it’s good. Bar Cart provisions is delivering homemade cocktails during the pandemic and it’s pretty wonderful. I can’t wait for Cinespia to come back at Hollywood Forever. I love taking out of town guests to cemetery screenings. It’s a truly special part of the city. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have been very fortunate when it comes to mentors, particularly with my parents and my siblings, so it’s difficult to narrow this down. Of course the person I look to the most is my twin brother, Aaron, who runs our sister company, Filmograph. We are each other’s sounding boards for pretty much everything in life, so it’s pretty great when that happens on the professional front as well. There are many people who took chances on me (too many to count) and for that I am always grateful. Elizabeth Daley, Chris Moore, Marty Cohen, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Jon Favreau, and Tommy Vietor. They all really believed in me and my abilities as a writer. And that will always mean a great deal to me. My office is littered with the artifacts of the people who have really been that foundation. Over the years, and before his passing, Marty Cohen would send me children’s books because he knew of my love of reading, how much I was inspired by Harold and the Purple Crayon, and he really thought there was this tremendous value in children’s literature reigniting adults’ imaginations. He died suddenly last year and I was devastated. So this library I have built up over the years because of his thoughtfulness now means so much more. When I went to work for Steven, the first movie poster hanging over my desk was an authentic, original Norman Rockwell of The Magnificent Ambersons. After more than a decade with him, and when I left Amblin to become a speechwriter at Fenway Strategies, he gifted it to me. It now hangs behind my desk. Writing with it there reminds me of when I first saw the movie in film school and of when the poster hung near me in my job at Amblin. I have this feeling it’s just always going to be this safety blanket, this reminder of one of my favorite painters gifted to me from one of my favorite humans.
Instagram: @sambecks and @epigraphcompany
Other: Wrote this article: https://ew.com/movies/2017/09/22/stephen-kings-it-is-a-parable-for-life-under-donald-trump-guest-column/
Wrote this article: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/aleppo-retweets-arent-time-address-bystander-effect-guest-column-956621 https://livingstandard.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LS-Issue-01.pdf https://www.teamusa.org/News/2020/August/18/The-Borders-Commission-An-Independent-Panel-Chartered-By-USOPC-Releases-One-Year-Progress-Report
Entertainment Weekly (for IT article) The Hollywood Reporter (for Aleppo article) Already credited directly in links I provided on that page.