InclusiveU Student Sam Clark ’24 Brings His Dreams to Life Through Los Angeles Immersion Experiences

Sam Clark ’24 has known since he was 9 years old that he wanted to be a film director when he grew up. After a family trip to Egypt where his dad took hours and hours of video, Clark found himself enthralled by the footage and the ability to tell stories through film.

Sam, Robin, and Anna.
Sam Clark (center) poses with Robin Howard (left) and Anna Proulx at the LA semester wrap event. (Photo courtesy of Sam Clark)

When it was time for him to choose a college, Clark was interested in Syracuse because not only did it boast one of the top-ranked film schools in the country but also because of its InclusiveU program, offered through the Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education in the School of Education. InclusiveU, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year, offers one of the premier opportunities in the country for students of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities to experience college life in a fully inclusive setting.

The decision to attend Syracuse was one of the best he ever made, Clark says. He’s spent the last four years studying the craft of filmmaking through his coursework, primarily in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

For the past two semesters, Clark has taken advantage of the Syracuse University Los Angeles (SULA) immersion programs, getting a flavor of life on the West Coast and “in the industry,” as he would say.

“LA has been incredible,” Clark says. “Every morning I go to my internship and then at night, I take awesome classes with professors who have been in the industry and who know the ins and outs of working in the media and entertainment fields.”

In spring 2023, Clark participated in the Newhouse LA semester and interned with Doug Robinson Productions (founded by fellow Orange alumnus Doug Robinson ’85) on the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot, where his duties included reviewing and evaluating scripts, shadowing production assistants on set and listening to pitches for future projects.

Sam and Doug.
Clark and Doug Robinson (left) of Doug Robinson Productions at an LA-area event (Photo courtesy of Sam Clark)

“He [Doug] took me on the set of an ’80s flashback show called ‘The Goldbergs’ and I learned about the art of production, editing, and sound mixing,” Clark says. At night, he studied acting, writing, and production through his Newhouse coursework.

Notably, he also found professional and industry mentorship under Robin Howard, Director of Newhouse LA. “Robin has been awesome about giving me many opportunities in LA, from going to industry premieres to teaching me about pitching and helping me to attend PA [production assistant] bootcamp, which was hugely valuable,” says Clark.

“Sam is truly a shining light, a fantastic young man!” says Howard. “Everyone here has been deeply touched and inspired by his journey with us. It is a gift to know him.”

When faculty and staff affiliated with the VPA LA Semester saw how enthusiastically Clark was embracing the Newhouse program and all he was learning, they encouraged him to remain in Los Angeles for the fall semester through their immersion program. Clark got another internship, this time as a development intern with The Gotham Group, a talent management company, where his duties include listening to and evaluating clients’ pitches and their potential to become a movie or TV production. “I can’t say too much about the types of projects I’ve been working on, because it’s kind of classified,” Clark says with a grin.

His fall 2023 coursework encompassed a filmmaking senior project, a scriptwriting class focused on episodic dramas and a networking class, which he says has been his favorite class of the semester. “SULA has been helping me out with the alumni community in Los Angeles and making connections with people who may be able to help me in my future career, hopefully with getting a job in the industry,” Clark says. “I have especially appreciated Anna Proulx [VPA Program Director for SULA] and the many opportunities she has given me as an InclusiveU student, including facilitating my attendance at several film festivals.”

Sam, Alejandra, and Sam.
Clark (center) hits the red carpet with film directors Alejandra Vasquez (left) and Sam Osborn at AFI Fest, organized by the American Film Institute. (Photo courtesy of Sam Clark)

“Sam embodies the spirit of SULA—a positive attitude, a willingness to try new experiences, an openness to network and introduce himself, and a strong work ethic,” says Proulx. “He has touched this program in so many positive ways, and we are honored to be a small part of his learning journey.”

Clark’s senior film project draws inspiration from the 2023 Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes—the plot involves artificial intelligence taking over an actor’s career. He says he has learned a lot about pitching his own projects through his internship at The Gotham Group, and he hopes to get a job as a production assistant after he graduates in May. Ultimately, he aspires to achieve his dream of becoming a filmmaker, and while Clark is not sure if he’ll remain in Los Angeles or return to his hometown of Philadelphia, he knows his time spent at SULA has set him up for future success.

“Sam is the epitome of what you want to see in a college student,” says Sam Roux, Academic Coordinator with InclusiveU in the School of Education and Clark’s academic advisor. “He is acutely aware of college’s transient nature and hustles every day to get the most out of this experience. The guy is a total rockstar.”

Rockstar, yes—and hopefully someday a big-time movie director too.

Originally published by SU News