Exceeding Expectations in Film and Production
Before he graduated in December 2022, digital media production alumnus Sam Teyssier had already racked up some impressive credits: He’d worked on television shows including “American Rust” and “A League of Their Own,” as well as Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award winner “Cha Cha Real Smooth.” These experiences — which he began seeking out in his hometown of Pittsburgh during the summer of 2021 — have prepared him for post-graduation life.
Teyssier, ‘22, first joined sets as an extra so he could make connections for the roles he was trying to get: COVID safety assistant, and eventually, grip — someone who assists with cameras and lighting.
“I was a COVID safety assistant on the first season of ‘American Rust’ in the summer of last year,” Teyssier said. “Before that I was an extra and that’s how I got to know people and that was the whole plan.”
His job as a COVID safety assistant involved having to make sure everyone on set was following social distancing guidelines, wearing masks and other COVID-19 workplace policies. He said it often made him out to be the “bad guy,” but gave him experience on sets nonetheless.
“You have to do it your way so that you have a job once COVID is over,” he said. “Your bosses don’t really care how the job is completed, they just want (COVID-19) to be over with.”
That experience prepared him to take on the vital role of grip.
“Nothing would really get done without grips, everything is kind of integral on set,” Teyssier said. “There’s some departments (that) are not as essential but I really think grips are essential, and it’s hard too — the name doesn’t give it justice.”
Christopher Knoblock, lecturer in the School of Media and Journalism, described Teyssier as a “relatively quiet student,” who got moving fast in the digital media production program.
“I would say that he has positioned himself, at his young age, better than most of any of the other students I’ve seen at this university,” Knoblock said. “I’m very impressed with how he has just really gone for it.”
Other credits on Teyssier’s resume include “The Mayor of Kingstown” and “The Chair,” both of which were also filmed in Pittsburgh.
“He positioned himself so well that when he started working as a grip, after that he began to accrue the hours you need to join a union as a grip,” Knoblock said. “When you join a union, there are so many different departments that you need to specialize in for that union.”
Teyssier submitted his papers to join the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E) union in October 2022 — something that would allow him to continue earning additional industry credentials.
While his union papers were being submitted, Teyssier worked on his senior project, which consisted of a three-part narrative podcast series focused around student stories. He said he balanced a lot of his time between classes in Kent and working in Pittsburgh, but he maintained his grades and everything worked out.
Teyssier said he felt proud of his work. He created a four-part audio project close to triple of the required length. Although his background is on sets and creating audio, he’s considering a career in scriptwriting for video games.
“I really see that as an emerging field,” he said. “It’s already like three times more profitable and I feel like more companies are going to keep investing, so I think there’s going to be a lot more opportunities like this.”