From the streets of Manhattan, up to Babson, and back to the boroughs of New York City, Sammy Dane ’15 has observed and experienced a range of cultures in his years as a documentary filmmaker.
On the heels of completing a project two years in the making, Dane has embarked on a career of storytelling, and hopes to one day galvanize his viewers by way of perspective, and influence them to act through film.
“My goal is to find more of an intersection between compelling storytelling and driving people to action,” he said. “I want to show you someone else’s lived experience, and through that, change the way you look at the world.”
An Abstract Entrepreneur
Dane grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and started making documentaries in high school at the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies. The subjects of his films varied from graffiti to graduation rates at neighboring schools.
“Documentaries are a great way to tell these stories and embed myself in these communities,” Dane said. “It was my entry point to understand these worlds that I was intrigued by, I wanted to understand why not everyone has the same opportunities that I had.”
As a posse scholar, Dane learned about Babson through interviews with the Posse Foundation. Though he explored studying film at colleges and universities throughout the country, he decided on Babson due to the support he received through the College’s Posse partnership.
“They thought Babson would be really good place,” Dane said. “I knew I had this amazing group behind me.”
Dane attributes his organizational behavior, emotional intelligence, and negotiation skills to Babson.
“Understanding myself and what sets me off, reading the room that I’m in, that’s what so much of this work is,” Dane said.
He also considers himself somewhat of an entrepreneur.
“I’m a freelance filmmaker, I need to think of myself as a business,” Dane said.
Since graduating, Dane has produced documentaries in stints with HBO, Elite Daily, and most recently Vox Media. He also previously won a New York Emmy Award for a documentary on policing in New York City.
Dane’s most recent project is a collaboration of hip hop and criminal justice in the feature length documentary, 16 Bars. The film chronicles rehabilitation efforts in a Virginia jail, where inmates write and record music with Grammy award-winning artist Todd “Speech” Thomas.
Last year, members of his posse attended a special New York festival screening of 16 Bars.
“They’re still some of my best friends, I see them all the time,” Dane said.
He also is working to have a screening of the film at Babson sometime in the fall.
Dane hopes to direct his own documentaries in the future and prompt his viewers to see the world differently.
“If I see it through film, I’m a different person because of it, and then it’s really in my hands to act on it or just let it sit there,” he said. “That’s how my perspective has changed about so many things.
“I know I have something to say, but I want to be ready to say it in the best possible way.”
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