A rising star in the world of modern comedy, Samantha Hale is a powerhouse of creativity and storytelling, connecting the world and all ages with the power of music. With a background rich in creative talent, Samantha does it all—stand-up comedian, filmmaker, and also published author. By finding inspiration (and inspiration finding her), Samantha is able to create tangible ways to inspire others—a unique and powerful combination that pushes her work forward.
When asked what the most important word in the dictionary is, she answers without hesitation, "Inspiration. I need to feel it to feel anything. And in order to move forward with anything in my life, whether it be a creative endeavor or a relationship with a loved one...I need to feel inspired to see it through."
As filmmaker, her first documentary Map the Music occurred incidentally (she had never been to film school) and debuted on the Documentary Channel. The film dives deep into the profound connection that exists between music and listener, how this power affects us and why. The film includes candid, behind-the-scenes encounters with Imogen Heap, Cary Brothers, Zoe Keating, Rachael Yamagata, Jim Bianco, Kate Havnevik, and many more.
When Steve Bicknell, owner of London-based publishing company Maverick Publishing, saw the film, he contacted Samantha unexpectedly, asking if she would be interested in writing a children's story about the same topic. A few months later, Samantha reached a new and very young audience with the importance music plays in our lives, with her new book Sparkle's Song.
Samantha was born and raised in LA, the city where she bases her work. She comes from a long line of actors who have been in the area since the 1930s—her grandfather, Alan Hale, Jr., is perhaps best remembered as "The Skipper" on Gilligan's Island. She is currently working on Map the Music 2, the follow-up to Map the Music. The second installation in the series explores the connection between music and love.
She is relatively new to the world of comedy—3 years doing stand-up—carefully crafting her set before heading out on the road. Her material comes from many sources—observations about self and the world, stories from her life.
As Master of Ceremonies for the upcoming Ladies Rise Up and Rock event, Samantha made some time to talk with us before the show.
Q&A WITH SAMANTHA HALE
How did your career in comedy begin?
I was at the Laugh Factory one night for "The Women of Chelsea Lately," and I was so intrigued and terrified at the same time that I knew I had to try stand up. I wanted to experience what it was like to be on stage with only a microphone. I tend to gravitate toward things that scare me, strangely enough.
Who are some of the best modern comedians in your opinion? Who were your inspirations?
Well, my main inspiration would be Lisa Sundstedt, who created Pretty Funny Women, which is the longest-running all-female comedy show in the country. I do many of her shows. She has worked with many of my favorites such as Chelsea Handler, Tig Nataro, Maria Bamford, and more. And of course Louis CK is brilliant.
Where does your flair for comedy come from and what inspires your material?
I try to write as many observational jokes as I can, but I tend to talk a lot about people in my life and things that happen to me. All comics write about things that piss them off, or make them anxious, or quirky things about themselves or their family. Thats where comedy comes from.
How did you get into filmmaking?
Well, it kind of...happened. Never intended to be a filmmaker or went to film school. But when I lost my dad, my way of dealing with it was going to concerts and using music as therapy, and as I went to more shows I realized I wasn't the only one doing that. And I wanted to document that, so I bought a camera and asked for help from filmmaker friends and made it up as I went along. Got my first movie out of it!
What inspired your first documentary, Map the Music? How did the opportunity to debut on the Documentary Channel come up?
My need for music inspired the first film. And I had a friend who made a documentary on the Hotel Cafe Tour, which I helped on, who had her film picked up by the Documentary Channel...so I thought I would submit Map the Music as well. And sure enough, they liked it, and premiered it on their channel.
Tell us about your second film, Map the Music 2. What inspired the material for this? What can viewers expect?
After taking a chance on love and recovering from heartbreak, I set out to explore the connection between music and love and why so many songs are inspired by it. Following along with some of my favorite artists, and talking with people from all walks of life, I try to uncover the mystery of what that connection truly is. Artists include Amanda Palmer, Joshua Radin, Lissie, William Fitzsimmons, Civil Twilight, Zoe Keating, Charlotte Martin, Brother Sal, Levi Weaver, Chris Pierce, and more. With performances from Tori Amos, the Hells Belles Burlesque, SHEL....
In addition to all of this, you're also a published author. How did writing a children's book come about?
Yeah, that is still crazy to me. A man who owns a publishing company based out of London [sent] me an email saying he loved my film and was looking for new young authors who are passionate about something to come up with stories. So he asked me to write about music, and together we released "Sparkle's Song," about a little girl who finds a magical forrest of talking instruments. It was a great opportunity that came to me, and I am so grateful for that.
If you could have your way with time, space, and material, how would you create an ideal situation for your creative work?
I hate to admit it, but if I could have my way with finances I would be so much happier. [Laughs.] Documentary films and stand up comedy can be quite challenging to make a living at, so if I didn't have to worry about bills and being financially responsible I would be so much more free to create how I truly want to. But I'm doing alright and am grateful for the opportunities I have had.
Who and what inspires you personally?
Growing up I had so many idols and people who inspired me I can't even tell you...I was looking for inspiration externally, and now I am at a point where I am looking for inspiration from within. So it might sound cheesy, but I try to put myself on a pedestal now, as opposed to someone whose work I admire but have never met. Thats part of what Map the Music 2 is about. Loving yourself.
How do you balance having so many creative outlets in your life?
It's challenging. I tend to bite off more than I can chew because I am interested in so many things. I try to focus on one project at a time, and then when things slow down in one area, they pick up in another. It's definitely a balancing act! I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up [laughs]. But my priority now is my film, and it will get most of my attention. Comedy I do for me, and if anything serious comes of it then great, but if not I will still do it for me.
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