Class of 2010: Q & A with Sam Wunderl

Name: Sam Wunderl
Hometown: Southlake, Texas
Major: Radio, Television and Film (now known as: Film, Television and Digital Media)  

Why did you originally choose your major?

I chose it because I have always been interested in film and wanted to study it from an academic perspective. I originally thought that I wanted to be a director, but I realized while I was at Texas Christian University that I was more interested in the history and criticism of film. 

What is your favorite movie?

I have worked in foreign films, independent films and horror films so my interests are across those genres. The movie that got me hooked into film was a horror movie called Evil Dead II. I saw it in high school and the first Evil Dead film was like a do-it-yourself project. It was filmed by a bunch of people in their early 20s in Michigan. It was like every film kid’s dream of having a small amount of money, making a movie on their own and then having it become a huge festival hit that everyone saw. It was truly inspiring. A more recent favorite movie of mine is The Handmaiden. It has everything: violence, humor, history, intrigue. I admire movies that have all these different aspects.   

What are some of your previous work experiences?

I inadvertently stumbled into my career path. I was a music director at KTCU, TCU’s FM radio station, and I used connections there to get my first internship at The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien. I moved out to Los Angeles and when the show ended three weeks after getting there, I went to work for Jimmy Kimmel Live. At the end of the semester, I realized I didn’t like living in Los Angeles and I had always wanted to live in New York, so I moved there and got a job through my KTCU connections once again. The job was at Advanced Alternative Media but my heart was still in the film industry. Eventually, I got a job at Sony Pictures Classics as a technical coordinator. I got this job simply because I was interested in Pedro Almodovar. At the time, Midnight in Paris was a huge movie and every other candidate for the job talked about that while I stood out because of my interest in Almodovar. I ended up working in the public relations and marketing side of film, which wasn’t intentional at all but I ended up loving it.

After Sony, I went to work at AMC Networks, and they started an exclusive horror movie streaming service called Shudder. It gave me the opportunity to be hands-on with directors and producers being the marketing and public relations manager. I then started working at Gunpowder & Sky, in the independent film side, as the director of public relations. They had just acquired a film called Her Smell with Elizabeth Moss and I helped get her nominated for her first Gotham and Spirit Awards. The company got their first nominations as well. I just recently left that role to move back to Texas and I am now looking for jobs in Dallas. Once I turned 30, I felt too old to live in New York.  

What’s your favorite work experience?

I worked on Whiplash, which won four Oscars. We had no idea that this movie was going to do that. It was so satisfying. When I worked at Shudder, we talked to the Sundance Film Festival and they agreed to let us sponsor a party for the midnight section (all the horror movies). I was responsible for the planning of this big party for all the industry people. I spent months doing this. I never had so much responsibility and it went remarkably well. I had no prior experience in event planning, but I was passionate about it and cared enough to execute it well. It was a good lesson for me.  

What skills did you gain from your experience in the College of Communication?

I got better at the critical analysis of films. I finally understood what makes movies good and bad and how to express in words how I feel about movies. As a part of the student film making association, we would make movies, which taught me that I was ill-suited for actual filmmaking, but I learned the value of working together and collaborating on a set. The true value I got in a college experience was I learned how to be responsible for myself, maintain a schedule and become independent.   

What was your favorite class at TCU?

Any class with Dr. Joan McGettigan. She is wonderful.  She teaches critical analysis of films and is wellversed in film history. Every time I took one of her courses, I was always happy to be there. She is one of those professors that you could just sense their enthusiasm, which helps make the class enjoyable. It was so motivating to be around someone who cares so much and wants to share their love of something.  

What do you miss about Fort Worth?

I miss the Modern Art Museum. I would always go to Magnolia at The Modern on Sundays as a study break. They would play movies at The Modern, they were usually Sony Pictures Classics which is funny because I got a job there. I loved the Botanic Gardens too.

When you’re not working what do you like to do for fun?

I have a French bulldog that I have fun with, and I have also really gotten into cooking now that I have a bigger kitchen. I used to cook out of obligation because it was so expensive to eat out in New York. I like going to concerts and movies. I probably go to the movie theater at least once a week and in the busier movie seasons, I go two to three times a week. I probably see 100+ movies per year.   

Do you have any advice for life after undergrad?

Every job I got came from me being passionate about the company and the work they did, so have passion. Also having a natural curiosity about things helps you keep an open mind when working different jobs.