A love of film and photography led a Bradford High School graduate to the high-profile theatrical stages of Chicago and Buffalo — with a break to help out during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in between.
Sarah Potter, a 2015 BHS graduate, is a production videographer/photographer for the Alleyway Theater in downtown Buffalo, which is about to begin its new season with “The Magnolia Ballet”. She is also working on a short film and she is writing a play inspired by frontline healthcare workers at Bradford Regional Medical Center and Erie County Medical Center (NY).
“I briefly gave up my artistic career to help my hometown community for almost two years,” she said. “I worked in intensive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also worked a little at ECMC in the emergency room when I arrived in Buffalo, but recently gave up to resume my career in the arts .
“Although it was hard to leave health care, I know it’s the right choice,” she said.
After moving to Buffalo, Potter saw a show at Alleyway. “I was like, ‘I have to work with these people.’ I was fascinated by what they were doing in Buffalo, so I reached out and (Alleyway Executive Director) Chris Handley greeted me almost immediately.
For the short film project, which has an LGBTQ+ theme, she is collaborating with James Stover, a professor and close friend at Bowling Green State University.
“He was doing a show a few years ago and we connected and I ended up photographing and filming for him on a show that’s now released called ‘Wilkes,'” Potter said. “From there, it led us to do a short film called ‘Teacher Fight’ which I directed and showed at a few film festivals nationwide last year.”
She has also done film work on “98 degrees west – Zamir discovers Bourdain’s America.” Zamir Gotta was a close friend of the late Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, author and travel TV star whose popular “Parts Unknown” series originated on CNN. Bourdain, who traveled and filmed episodes in vast and diverse locations around the world, died by suicide in June 2018.
“It’s a wonderful story, and the cast and crew are some of the best people I’ve ever worked with and met,” Potter said.
The current busy schedule follows filming and photography experiences in Chicago for various theaters including The Goodman, Hubbard Street Dance, Red Tape and a wide range of independent theaters.
“Chicago has a huge, crazy, intricate, loving, once-in-a-lifetime theater scene,” Potter said. “It is the best work and the best passion that I have ever known and loved.”
She worked on a Red Tape Theater production of “All Quiet on the Western Front” which won multiple JEFF Awards – the highest theater awards in Chicago.
Potter said she had her first glimpse of fulfillment in theater work during her senior year at the University of Toledo in Ohio, when she wrote and produced a play, “The Binding.” .
“It took a long time to put this show together, and I’m forever grateful to the cast and crew who made it possible,” she said, noting that the project was nearly derailed when a professor objected to a major movie skipping the theater. .
“It wasn’t even a play involving academics, it was something I wrote one night and wanted to stage for the community,” said Potter, a 2019 Toledo graduate with a degree in cinema and in English. “A group of students had read it and wanted to be part of it and we went down to earth running.”
The one-night-only play sold out.
“We had to set up seats near the technicians on the balcony. It was so packed,” Potter said. “We did this thing, and even though we had people trying to stop us, we pushed back and the result was really something special.
“The moral of the story is to do what you are passionate about and don’t let anyone stop you because they will try.”
Asked about her early influences that led her to study film, Potter first credited her parents, Randy and Theresa Potter.
“When I was about 5, they let me play with a Polaroid camera, and I was constantly running around the house taking pictures, and that love just kept growing,” she said. . “They supported me through everything and there was never a question of ‘practice’. So if anything, I owe them.
Bob Neumann taught Potter in his high school television production classes.
“I took the four years from him and everything he taught me about storyboarding, editing, camera gear, etc.,” she said. “I always reach out to him for any projects/ideas I may have and to fly drones with him on occasion.”
Potter also mentioned Laura Wood, who taught English at BHS.
“I hated writing, I hated literature, but her class really opened me up,” Potter said of her sophomore year. “She is an incredible and influential mentor and person, and I know she has inspired hundreds of students as she has for me, but more importantly, she taught them the love of English I wouldn’t write stories if it wasn’t for her.
Potter said she chose Toledo for college — not her mother’s first choice because it was ‘too far’ — because she liked the campus and it offers digital and analog film studies .
“I think both are important to being a filmmaker, to understanding how they work separately and separately,” she said. “If anything, analog film practically teaches you a lot about trial and error – a light meter is your best friend, don’t think otherwise.”
She also said that she was also influenced a lot by two teachers on how she sees and shoots film today.
Looking ahead, Potter said she has a genuine interest in pursuing higher education, possibly even a doctorate. She said she had “always wanted to teach” and will definitely continue to write, direct, film and possibly publish in the near future.
“I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true: don’t give up on something you’re passionate about — ever,” she said. “A life in the arts is worth living, because people need it as much as they need oxygen.
“Create, create and create,” she added. “You’re going to have people telling you it’s not worth it, or you’re not good enough, and you need something practical.”
Meanwhile, those same people have favorite movies, books, and music – produced by someone.
“My hometown never asked me questions, so go for it,” she said. They will support and support you along the way.