Everyone has a happy place. A patch of land, sea, or mountain where everything makes sense. A geographical and emotional pin, where the past, present, and future can connect easily or meaningfully. For the nomadic cinemaphotographer Sam Moody, the man behind Db’s Pack Heavy, Chase Light series, his happy place has no map coordinates. Instead it is the precious time he carves out of his hectic schedule to reset.
“I’m kinda homeless. I’ve been on the road basically for the last seven or eight years non-stop, and even before that I moved around a lot,” says Sam Moody. “I can’t say I have a deep physical connection with a single location. My life doesn’t work that way.”
Moody grew up on the East Coast of the United States with his parents living 700 miles away from the rest of the extended family. From a young age he became familiar with 10-hour road trips each way to see his uncles, aunties, and cousins. Later in his teens, his parents divorced, and his dad moved every year. There were no regular vacations, instead, Sam would do road trips with his old man in a 1967 VW bus.
“Dad documented fucking everything, and still does,” says Moody. “He took photos and he filmed every aspect of those road trips. It was instilled in me that you went on road trips and you documented all the bullshit that you were doing.”
A keen surfer, as soon as he was 16, he got his driver’s license and would skip school to take mini surf trips. On the East Coast, you must work hard for your waves. Moody would chase hurricanes up and down the coast to get his fix. Eventually, he moved Florida and then California where he took up surf filming.
He started working with Stab doing small amounts of freelance work towards the end of 2016 and signed on full-time in the middle of 2018. In a hectic next three years he was responsible for films and series including Andy Irons & The Radicals, Stab In The Dark, Stab High, No Contest and Go Easy On The Zambezi, among others. He has recently gone freelance working under his CLUBMEDSUCKS label.
“With the Stab work, I didn’t have any time off. I worked on Christmas Day. At one stage, I didn’t see my family for 18 months because I didn’t take a vacation," says the 27-year-old. “My happy place became the times when I could reset.”
The best way to do that was through physical exercise. Moody practices Muay Thai boxing, and when that is unavailable, runs. “You are not thinking about work when all you are doing is concentrating on breathing oxygen on a run,” he says. “And when I’m sparring or fighting if I start thinking about work, I’ll get kicked in the head.”
He describes the euphoria of coming out the other side of a punishing piece of exercise. When he’s overcome the mental and physical adversity of doing the exercise, he finds clarity.
“I’ll often get up at 4 am and do an hour’s trail run and it makes me a calmer person during the day when I'm shooting,” he says. “Because one thing I have learned is that everything always goes wrong when you are filming.”
His other form of reset comes with time with his partner Leonie. She is currently finishing up an Undergraduate Degree in Persian Studies at Oxford, UK before planning to do a Doctorate back in the States. The pair have travelled extensively together, but such is their hectic schedules, time together remains precious.
“Look, it sounds cheesy, but my happy place is whenever I’m with her, as again it's a nice time to reset. I find it difficult to step back from work mode, or travel mode,” Sam says. “So those times when I’m sitting on my living room floor with her, playing backgammon and drinking gin and tonic out of a can, that’s a just real special place to be.”
When we talked to Sam he was in Hawaii, shooting with Craig Anderson for a DB Wasted Talent collaboration. After that is finished he was heading back to Oxford and Leonie, before six months of new filming projects kicks off in the New Year. For the in-demand and ever-moving filmer, his life doesn't look to be slowing down.
“I just sold my car and bought a $40,000 camera, and I can barely look after myself let alone a kid, so it doesn't look like I’ll be settling down anytime soon,” concludes Moody. “I love it that way. And I’ll continue to find time to reset and get in those happy places. It’s those times that make everything else possible.”