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I have to get this out there before I absolutely forget: Sam Maclin is the only reason why I enjoy great bands such as Why?, cLOUDDEAD, Sufjan Stevens, and Bright Eyes. When I transferred to Austin College back in 2005, I wanted to meet people that had an entirely different but eclectic approach to life. The more they knew, the more I could learn. I figured I could find at least one person at AC that exhibited these traits.

Thankfully, I was right.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeSam in Videotape
There’s this new band (movie, book, magazine, television show) that you simply need to check out.

Sam is one of these people. Meeting Sam and spending time with him turned out to be a hell of an adventure, and one that is truly unforgettable. He loves to make people laugh and has done so quite often. While at school, there was never a dull moment with the guy, and he always looked for new things. I find, as I write these exposés, that just about every single one of these guys liked new things and new people. New experiences — I think that’s why we stuck around with each other.

Sam and I roomed together in an apartment about ten minutes away from campus, which doesn’t sound too far to most. However, you have to understand Sherman. It’s a surprising town, but not because of everything you can find within its modest borders. I say surprising because…well, it really was a surprising kind of place. Drive ten minutes in one direction and it is a completely different part of the world. This is the feeling one got where we lived. Don’t take my word for it — you can ask Ty or Daniel. They would tell you the same thing. It really did feel different. Ty would come over to the apartment on any given Saturday to ‘get away from it all’. I could try to explain further, but one really needs to live there in order to understand.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Moving on. Sam and I lived together, right? Well it was about that time when I was composing the story for a project code-named The Rodham College Incident. This would eventually become the story for Videotape, but I didn’t know that yet. Actually, I didn’t even know where to start. I had never written a feature-length script. This is where Sam came in.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeSam is seen laughing on the other side of a window

Sam had just finished a summer job working for the Weinstein Company. The guy spent most of the summer summarising countless script submissions for the decision makers. He had a very unique perspective, as he knew better than any of us what sold in Hollywood. We weren’t looking for a formula. I didn’t want recycled goods. He didn’t want just a guaranteed sell. We wanted a piece of art that could still be marketed.

Whatever we did, we just wanted it to go somewhere.

As people have responded to early cuts, there has been overwhelming praise for the story itself. While it has undergone a lot of changes since we collaborated in 2007, it did start somewhere. I’m glad that, of all the people I knew, it was him.

courtesy of Andrew YorkeSam walks down the road with Ty and Daniel
(from left) Sam Maclin, Ty Gibson, Daniel Thomas Phipps

Sadly, it has been a while since I have seen Sam, but I suppose that’s the way the cookie crumbles after college. With text messaging and Facebook, we still send each other random web sites and occasionally a good joke. But not a day goes by when I don’t think of Sam and the challenges we both conquered. He is a valued colleague and a great friend. Not just to me, but to every one of us.

We Might Have Known

What sells in Hollywood is unpredictable, and those script summaries are the best hope of many writers. I recall Sam mentioning a script which he thought was absolute crap. He also said that a number of people at the Weinstein Company were raving about it. These scripts are tagged for genre and story points, by the way, not judged for quality. I asked him what was the story, and he said it was about some pompous girl with an over-expanded vocabulary who gets pregnant in the middle of nowhere. I agreed that it sounded pretty rancid.

Several months later, we saw this crap script win the Oscar for Best Screenplay. It’s a good lesson: One can't always judge a script by the summary. Sometimes, you have to take a chance.

Sam Maclin is currently living in the LA area. He listens to Why? and loves riding bikes. «»