Samuel Smith operates a camera out of the back of a truck in San Diego, California. (Photo by Savannah Braswell)

Since leaving Loveland in 2018 for the prestigious New York University, Sam Smith has been cinematographer on numerous projects including Crimson Ties, directed by Francesca Scorcese.

A slash of Edward Hopper-esque smoggy evening light outlines a working-class mother, hunched over a sewing machine. A split composition: out of focus in the background of her 1956 New York tenement apartment, her children hug their father.

Bobby, 11, donning a school uniform, stands over the camera with a note in her hand. A low angle, wide-lens shot might indicate confidence. But not here. The note fills the frame and holds the power. Her body looks awkward and distorted—her hands are too big, torso too long, head too small.

These are two images from Heartbreak on Murray Hill, a short film to be photographed by Loveland local Samuel Wright Smith. The movie is the true story of the director’s (Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter) grandmother’s childhood breakup in 1956 immigrant NYC. Samuel Smith will act as the eyes of the film, sculpting light, movement and framing.

For as long as he can remember, Samuel Wright Smith has had a camera glued to his face. When he first found himself in the tight-knit Cincinnati film scene, he was only 14. Smith spoke about his roots:

“Making a film takes a village. I am indebted to organizations like The Cinedepenent Festival, The Underground Academy, Loveland Magazine, the Overture Awards/Artswave, and the many Cincy mentors and patrons of the arts. Cincinnati offered the impetus to realize my dreams. It feels fitting that my biggest project yet is about community.” 

Since leaving Loveland in 2018 for the prestigious New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Smith has been cinematographer on numerous projects including Crimson Ties, directed by Francesca Scorcese, which premiered at Tribeca. In 2020, at only age 19, he published a photo book titled Abandoned Cincinnati through Fonthill Publishing.

Samuel Wright Smith is the author of Abandoned Cincinnati, a 2019 photo/commentary book available in Cincinnati bookstores and online through Amazon. The book explores the history, beauty, and implications of Cincinnati’s vacant structures.

Recently, Smith shot a feature film with the Secoya indigenous community in the Ecuadorian rainforest. His work has garnered attention at other major festivals including Nashville Film Festival and Beverly Hills Film Festival. 

For Heartbreak on Murray Hill, the crew will build a replica 1956 tenement apartment. Smith describes the style as “warm realism”. Pulling inspiration from American Realist painters, he intends to create a style that is bold, believable, and magical.

Heartbreak on Murray Hill is the story of 11-year-old Bobby and her first breakup in 1950s NYC. It is based on a true story.

Heartbreak is set to be one of NYU’s most ambitious thesis films ever. Seeking an indie budget of $150k, the film is fiscally sponsored and donations are tax-deductible.

“Writing and photographing for Loveland Magazine in high school opened my eyes to the possibility of meaningful work through the lens of a camera. I owe so much of where I am to David Miller, the LM publisher. So many peers, teachers and community organizers in the Loveland community gave me the push to pursue my dreams. I can’t believe that this is my life now. Living off of art seemed impossible once. But thanks to community: here I am,” said Smith.

“Sam started as a Loveland Magazine Intern while he was still attending Loveland High School and soon was paid for his skillful work. I was still able to hire Sam a few times for special projects after he went to NYC to study. Since the day we were first introduced his photographic eye and writing has always seemed magical,” said Loveland Magazine Managing Editor, David Miller. “I cannot wait to see this new film and really wish the team success in securing the funding they need and do hope the Loveland and Cincinnati community will support Sam’s career.”

In the living room, Bobby’s mother sits at her sewing machine, working away at someone’s dress. Just then, the door opens and her husband Jack Earley comes in and sets down his bags. Jack is a kind-faced, weary-eyed man with a stiff posture and sweat-stained polyester suit. He greets his children. – Illustration by Colin Sevely-Ortiz; One and Other Productions
Barbara Earley holds a note in a catholic schoolroom. She has just been asked to read the note to the class by her teacher. It reads “Dear Bobby, I don’t want to go steady anymore”. – Illustration by Colin Sevely-Ortiz; One and Other Productions
American Realist painter Edward Hopper is a chief influence on the visual style of Heartbreak on Murray Hill. Smith and team will work to emulate the bold but tender color, lighting, compositions. (Edward Hopper: Girl at Sewing Machine 1921 CC Wikimedia)
The childlike color palette, composition depth and lighting from this Lady Bird frame (2017) has been a source of inspiration for Samuel Wright Smith and the team on Heartbreak on Murray Hill.
The lighting in this scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Pt II (1974) will inspire Smith’s night interiors in the protagonist’s tenement apartment. – Paramount Pictures
A still frame from CapulĂ­, a feature film directed by Juliana Pallares and photographed by Samuel Smith. The film follows an indigenous woman as she returns from her home in the city of Quito, Ecuador to her long-lost community in the jungle.
Samuel Smith handheld-operates shot on the Ecuadorian feature-length film CapulĂ­. by Manuel Pallares

DONATE and SUPPORT the Production of Heartbreak on Murray Hill

Learn more about Heartbreak on Murray Hill and meet the team

Learn about Director Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter

Director Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter

Find Samuel Wright Smith’s work here

Watch this promotion for the film CapulĂ­, which Smith recently shot in the Secoya indigenous community in the Ecuadorian rainforest

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