Samantha MacAdam knows a thing or two about breaking into the ever-competitive Canadian film and TV industry, especially at a time when BIPOC voices remain underrepresented.

Named as a “One to Watch” by Playback, the Guyanese-Canadian film director and screenwriter already has some buzzy credits under her belt. She directed two recent episodes of the iconic This Hour Has 22 Minutes and an episode of the Toronto library comedy series Shelved

Getting to this point wasn’t easy—she credits the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices program for playing a role in jumpstarting her career as a director and screenwriter. The initiative offers opportunities for underrepresented creators across Canada, helping connect them to the right people to move their projects forward.

 After going through the program, soaking up knowledge, and making invaluable connections, MacAdam has plenty of projects on the go. Comedy and horror are her niches: she also worked on the CBC Gem series Virgins, and she will direct her first horror feature film in February. Her current work spans both TV and film, as she continues to flex her creative muscles in both screenwriting and directing. 

We were curious to hear more from MacAdam about breaking into the Canadian film and TV industry, the origins of her love for film, and more.

Why were you first drawn to screenwriting and directing?

The unsexy truth is, growing up, I didn’t have a lot of friends until college. Like many kids, I had my fair share of childhood trauma/issues I was working through, basically alone. So, TV shows and movies were my absolute lifelines and escapes. I’d literally spend all my time watching and then fantasizing because my fantasies were much more exciting than my real life. Without knowing it, that’s when I became drawn to writing and directing. 

What was the first film or series you saw that made you realize the power of film, or really made an impact on you?

Empire of the Sun, The Power of One, and La Bamba were the first films I watched at the age of 8 (way too young) that really impacted me. They opened my eyes to a lot of things I never knew about the world and made me change my perspective on life. However, I didn’t realize the power of the medium until I was a teenager and fell in love with the series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Watching Sarah Michelle Gellar on repeat made me feel empowered, and that’s when I realized how the medium can truly impact its viewers.

What do you think makes a great comedy series?

Relatability and honesty. I personally love all comedy rooted in truth. Whether it’s characters in a small, everyday situation or insane ones, what always gets me is, It’s funny because it’s true. If I can relate to why they are doing something, regardless of how awkward or absurd, that always makes me laugh.

Can you tell us about your experience with the Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices program? What were your biggest takeaways?

My experience with the program was during the pandemic, and having the creative outlet and access really saved me during those scary times. What I really loved about it was the access to individuals and invaluable panels and discussions. The knowledge gained from the industry insiders and connections made still serve me. 

My biggest takeaway was a job! A showrunner saw my profile, and from there we connected, leading to me directing a CBC Gem series—a pilot along with three episodes. The spotlight they put on your project and the words of encouragement and program support really drove me to keep going.

As a writer with many comedy titles under your sleeve as well as horror, what are some other genres you’re curious to explore?

I have been into horror for a long time, but now I am getting to direct it on a much bigger scale, which is great! Another genre I’m definitely interested in is the superhero one. Again, I am a lover of Buffy and a BIG MARVEL nerd, so I’d love to jump into that next!

What do you think is missing in Canadian TV & film right now? 

More studio-level movies directed by Canadians, done in Canada. The list of big-budget American films and series made in Canada is endless, so we have the talent, and Canada is a great and completely doable place to shoot. My hope is that this will happen sooner than later, hopefully with tax incentives and new studio spaces, such as Ryan Reynolds’s new one coming up in Markham. 

What advice would you give to women or other underrepresented creators who are entering the industry?

The advice I would give is as best you can, set yourself up for this industry. Enlist help from your partner or family if you’re lucky enough to have that. Get support for childcare, so you can carve out time to work on your craft. If you don’t have anyone, get super focused on what you want, and around your 9-5, early mornings, late nights, work on your craft. It’s hard, but if you love it, it doesn’t feel like work and even if it’s just 30 mins or an hour, here and there, it all adds up!

Lastly, make a short! Something to showcase your unique voice. Go the grant route, and failing that, go the friends and iPhone route. Again, it’s super tough, but a short is the best way to showcase yourself and get you started.

Can you tell us about the projects you’re working on right now?

One project I am on the last stage of pitching on is a super fun high-concept horror film (I hope I land)! The other film I am set to direct is a raw, funny coming-of-age, music-infused indie set in Niagara Falls. My personal IP projects I am developing are two features: a bold female lead comedy and a horror. I just directed two episodes of the Canadian classic, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which was ridiculously fun! Funny enough, I did the Halloween episode, so I got to utilize my knowledge of both genres!