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Filmmaker Zoe Samton ’24 Discovered Her Passion Through Dwight's Inspiring Community

Zoe shares how her love for film, debate, and more blossomed at Dwight, fueled by the school's international community of classmates and teachers.

Driven by creativity and a love for her work, Zoe's approach as a filmmaker is deeply rooted in exploring emotions through visual storytelling. These skills were on full display during her final project at Dwight —  Zoe's film about saying goodbye left a lasting impact on viewers during the IB DP Film Showcase, powerfully stirring genuine emotions in her audience.

“Seeing how the emotion that I wanted to provoke was provoked in people I don't know, by people whose kids I don't know at all, that was definitely my biggest accomplishment at Dwight,” said Zoe.

It was a truly poignant moment for Zoe, who had built up her filmmaking skills — along with debate, Model UN, and basketball — since coming to Dwight in grade 9. These passions were all amplified by the supportive community of Dwight’s students and teachers. The school's international perspective also enriched her understanding of storytelling, allowing her to see the world through diverse lenses.

Zoe's journey into filmmaking began when, after taking two years of Digital Media, Film Teacher Kevin Rosenberg suggested she take HL Film in grade 11. This simple suggestion was the spark for fueling her transformation into an emotionally moving filmmaker. Her final bow at the Showcase marked the culmination of her remarkable journey — writing, shooting, directing, and editing her own films.

"I really like to use filmmaking as a craft,” Zoe said, “to really look at the cinematography and mise-en-scéne of a film. And that's everything you see on screen. It's the colors used in the background that help portray a character's feelings."

Zoe’s film craft was significantly influenced by Mr. Rosenberg. He created a space where she could freely express her love for film, offering an open and supportive classroom environment that truly fueled her passion.

"Teaching Zoe for the last four years has been incredibly rewarding.” Mr. Rosenberg emphasized. “Her filmic literacy grew remarkably, influenced by the French New Wave and auteurs like Coppola and Linklater, leading her to develop a distinctive style that beautifully integrates still photography."

Just as she fell into filmmaking, Zoe was introduced to debate by her Dwight friends and teachers. Though she joined hesitantly, she eventually progressed to leading as the debate captain.

"If you ask any of my teachers or friends, they'll all say I'm very argumentative, and I like to talk a lot. But, I was unsure about joining debate at first." Zoe acknowledged. “But our coach, Mr. [Shane] Hansen, convinced me in junior year. I instantly fell in love with it and wished I'd joined in freshman year!”

After being inspired by her supportive Dwight community, she then formed a supportive community of her own around debate, even renaming it "Debate Club" to foster a more inclusive atmosphere. The fiery debates in which Zoe partook garnered great appreciation from her peers — made even more special by taking first place at the East Coast High Schools Public Debate Program’s Second Meet last year with her debate partner and friend, Kumayl Badami ’24.

"I love being able to have those 'gotcha' moments with my friend, Kumayl, then going up to the stand and knowing that I’m tearing down my opponent. When we were given the trophy for the number one team….I really loved that moment." said Zoe.

Whether winning in debate or basketball, or crafting emotionally driven films, Zoe spent four extremely fulfilling years at Dwight. But her greatest fulfillment came from the unwavering support she was given for all her pursuits from her teachers, including her Quest teacher, Amanda Katagiri.

"Ms. Katagiri has helped me so much,” said Zoe. “Balancing being debate captain and then all the other extracurriculars I do with my IB classes was so hard. But, having that extra support and also having such an amazing Quest teacher like Ms. Katagiri has really helped."

Now, Zoe's experiences at Dwight have prepared her for her next chapter at Brandeis University, where she plans to major in film and minor in international relations — a passion that sprang from being part of the international community at Dwight and developing a knack for global politics here, through Model UN.

Looking ahead as a filmmaker, Zoe envisions creating character-driven, coming-of-age films that resonate with young audiences. Specifically, she aims to portray girls' experiences authentically and relatably. Her vision reflects her commitment to storytelling that transcends boundaries and inspires meaningful connections.

"It is bittersweet to see Zoe graduate,” said Mr. Rosenberg. “Her progress has been remarkable, and I will miss her energy and enthusiasm. I am thrilled she has found a genuine passion for film and hope she'll stay in touch with the Dwight community."

As she embarks on new adventures, her creative spirit and determination are sure to leave a lasting legacy of cinema for audiences around the world.