Samuel Brandes, a junior film student at Ohio University, has a passion for puppetry and filmmaking. Brandes intertwined his two interests to give him an outlet for self-expression and creativity.
As a child Brandes bonded with his grandparents over a shared love for filmmaking, and his grandfather even lent him a VHS camcorder from the 1980s. Although Brandes only used this video camera once, it left a lasting impact on him.
Following his parent’s divorce, Brandes sought out a way to calm his mind. His stepmother took him to the International Silent Film Festival in Mansfield, Ohio, in 2014, where he entered his first contest.
Each year, The International Silent Film Festival holds multiple contests across the globe for young filmmakers to submit films without spoken dialogue. The films are judged based on five categories, with the winner earning a cash prize.
Although he was unsuccessful on his first try, he had found his passion.
His stepmother also introduced him to the Muppets and has been an avid fan ever since.
I liked Sesame Street growing up before I met her, but she introduced me to the Muppets, and I loved them and I still love them,” Brandes said. “And so, puppets have always been important to me.”
Brandes continued honing in on his editing and producing throughout high school. During this time Brandes began experimenting with puppets and other art pieces that he uses for props.
His hard work paid off in his senior year, as he won the regional final of the International Silent Film Festival for his film titled “Colorless.”
When Brandes started college he began exploring his gender identity after a partner told Brandes that he did not seem very masculine nor feminine, but somewhere in between. Since then, Brandes and his friends have joked that “[He] is more of a muppet than a man.”
“I kind of adopted that (a muppet) as my personality,” Brandes said. “It wasn't really something I had to adopt, though. It was already who I was.”
For his sophomore year film, Brandes decided to expand upon this concept. The main character of Brandes's film is a gender-dysphoric sock puppet.
The film focuses on the sock puppet and the recent breakup it is going through, which mirrors Brandes own experiences. Currently, Brandes is still working on editing the film following critiques in class.
“This is something for me to learn from…I learned what I could from the shooting experience,” Brandes said. “So, now I'm learning as much as I can from the editing experience using the footage I have because you can't always reshoot.”
Brandes said it is important for him to find happiness and confidence in what he produces creatively.
“When you're shooting, it's like, you have an infinite amount of like paints and colors and art supplies to make whatever and then once you make it, that's what you have,” Brandes said. “And then when you get to editing, it's different.”
A collection of Sam Brandes’s films are available to watch here