Amy Seimetz has been making her mark on the entertainment industry for quite a while now. The thing is, it still seems as though every single time she pops up at a film festival with an independent gem, that’s the cue to open the floodgates and unleash the think pieces about how she’s “breaking through,” “on the rise,” “the new It Girl,” or however you’d like to phrase it. But the truth of the matter is, she earned those designations long ago and made the most of them. Now it’s about time Seimetz is widely recognized for the filmmaker she’s become – a deeply passionate, dedicated, and experienced creator with a unique voice and a firm understanding of what it takes to bring a story to screen both in front of the lens and behind it.
Towards the end of a full press day in Austin at SXSW, where her new movie Pet Sematary celebrated its world premiere, Seimetz went back to the very beginning. Her parents aren’t in the industry. Her mother is a speech pathologist and her father worked in real estate, so making a living in Hollywood seemed like a reach. She admitted, “As a kid, I would always say, ‘I’m gonna be a writer,’ but I would be a doctor, and I would have a whole other career.” She filed away her dream of becoming a writer as a hobby, and who could blame her? She laughed and noted, “I didn’t really make a living doing it until my late 20s. Not even then, my early 30s.”
Until then, she would support herself with other jobs including work as a nanny and as a seamstress, but she also heavily relied on her on-set life to get by. When she was in her mid to late 20s, she was living set to set. “I would go on a set and I would either produce or act in something, and then I’d have my own set, but that was really the only way I was eating, was because I would be on a set because they had craft service. At home I had nothing, but as long as I could make rent and get on a set, I could eat.” Seimetz added, “The idea of being an artist for a living didn’t click until I started actually making a living. I just thought, ‘I’ll be a poor artist for my whole life,’ and then you’d book a TV show and you’re like, ‘Oh, you can actually make a living doing this and not go bankrupt.’”
So check the “make a living” box off Seimetz’s list, but it’s also abundantly clear that she’s not one to settle for a decent wage. She’s got lofty creative goals as well, and they aren’t specific to being an actor. “I accidentally am an actor, accidentally, and that was because I started as a writer and a filmmaker. I was cheap, and I also didn’t have to explain things to another actor, and I had very weird ideas.” For that reason, she decided to act in her own films. Things got a little more serious for Seimetz in the acting department when she made a short film that was accepted into the Sarasota Film Festival. She attended and started networking with other filmmakers, who were pleasantly surprised to hear that she had acting experience. “They were like, ‘Oh, you act too.’ And I’m like, ‘Kind of, I don’t really know what I’m doing.’ But they didn’t know what they were doing, because we were all so young.” Seimetz continued, “So, I grew up with other filmmakers acting in their films, in their shorts, and then continuing to make my own work as well.”
And keep in mind, we’re not talking about big-budget studio films like Pet Sematary here. Seimetz was getting involved in feature films that had budgets of around $10,000. “Whenever I would meet people at film festivals, I would be like, ‘Let me know when you’re doing your next film. I’ll come and hold a boom.’” Seimetz clarified that this didn’t come from an opportunistic drive, but her eagerness to learn. “It’s so good to learn your craft through other people and being on set, and I just wanted to be on set and learn how other people did it. Not just as an actor, but also as a filmmaker, learning how to capture good sound or I would camera op for Silver Bullets for Joe Swanberg. I camera oped and helped boom, and produced for him.”