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The Layers of Savanah Leaf

By Deserae E. del Campo

The Layers of Savanah Leaf

By Deserae E. del Campo
Class of 2014, Psychology Major

She’s an Olympian, a photographer, a director, a writer, and most recently, a Grammy-award nominee. Savanah Leaf, ’14, sees no boundaries. An accomplished student athlete for the women’s volleyball team at UM, Leaf also played the sport at the 2012 Olympics in London.

She has worked with well-known artists in the music industry and is currently directing a documentary. In this interview with A&S News, she talks about her inspirations and her Grammy-nominated project with the artist Gary Clark, Jr.

A&S News: You dominated in women’s sports at UM. Now you’re a Grammy-nominated director. What drives you?

Leaf: I genuinely believe that I can accomplish my goals, and that's an exciting thing to have boiling in your spirit. I see myself as extroverted introvert. I like to be by myself a lot and learn when no one is watching. At the same time, I like to compete and be around people who are more experienced than me and who can inspire and teach me.

A&S News: The cinematography in “This Land” is jarring with a locale reminis­cent of the Antebellum South. How did you know that this was the direction you needed to take to create this Grammy-nominated video?

Leaf: When I heard the song and spoke to the artist, Gary Clark, Jr., I knew the cinematography and visuals had to be somewhat surreal. We wanted to bring new conversations to the table. With that in mind, we were able to create a more dream-like space for the camera to live in. The way the camera moves throughout the piece is a reflec­tion of how it feels to dream as a child in the South, affected by society's expectations and the historical landscape.

A&S News: Do you want your work to change people’s perceptions and connections with the world around them?

Leaf: I don't know if I can truly change people or the way they perceive the world, but I think that I can inspire thought-provoking visuals that can stimulate discussion. That’s the goal: To inspire conversation around uncomfortable topics. It’s also to make people feel less alone in the world. My films often deal with my personal experiences, so I’m reaching out to others who might be feeling similar.

A&S News: What inspires you and why?

Leaf: I think the world around me is my biggest inspiration. It's the rela­tionships I have with my family, friends, and part­ners that have inspired so much of my writing. It's my personal experiences and the experiences of those closest to me that make me want to write. It's the current state of the world and global politics. It's also how I interact with society and the things that affect me on a day-to-day basis.

A&S News: What’s your next big project?

Leaf: I’m releasing a short documentary that I co-directed with my close friend Taylor Russell. The documentary is about women in Sacramento, California, who are raising children in difficult circum­stances, whether it be through drug addictions or financial difficulties. The film is close to my heart, because it also talks about adoption and foster care, which Taylor and I have a unique connection to.