Sam Esmail graduated from the AFI Conservatory in 2014. Since then, he’s directed a feature film and created a hit television beloved by critics and viewers alike. Here’s our interview with the AFI alum.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Sam Esmail. I was born to Egyptian parents in the lovely city and state of Hoboken, New Jersey. After going to New York University, I came to the sunny skies of AFI to continue my film education and deepen my massive student loan debt. Upon graduating, I slummed it with odd jobs for awhile until I landed two screenplays on the Black List. I wrote and directed my first indie feature, COMET, which came out last year through IFC and now have created my own show, MR. ROBOT, on the USA Network. Good news: I am very close to paying off my student loans.
How did you transition from your undergraduate studies to AFI?
It was very immediate for me. I knew I wanted to continue making films and at 21, unless you were rich, you just didn’t have the opportunity to spend your days concocting stories and shooting them.
Can you describe an important moment in your career at AFI?
My second cycle project was an adaptation of “A Perfect Day for Banafish,” a great short story by J. D. Salinger. Due to his strong beliefs against film adaptations, I knew the AFI experience would be my only shot at making this. I am still very proud of it.
What was your breakthrough project after leaving AFI?
I wrote a feature (script) called “Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations” which landed me on the Black List and quickly got me representation.
Do you collaborate with other AFI Fellows?
Big time. The best part about AFI was the people. On my feature, I hired Annie Spitz, an amazing production designer and good friend. When I started my television show, I hired four AFI Fellows on the writing staff.
What’s your next project?
I am very close to finally making “Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations.”