Savanah Leaf: A Few Of My Favourite Things
The Academy filmmaker (and former Olympian) talks us through the essentials of her creative space, including bedside necessities, an energy-filled windowsill and an all-important camera.
The creative-types that have filled the digital pages of A Few Of My Favourite Things in the past have all been impressive in their own right, but it's rare that one can boast to have been an actual Olympian.
Following her experience as part of the 2012 GB Volleyball team, Academy director Savanah Leaf has forged a path as an accomplished filmmaker and photographer, with her work weaving art and creativity with a deep humanity and poignant social commentary.
We caught a few moments with her to chat about the essential items in her creative space, including a stash of postcards and pictures, a positivity-inducing piano and something to catch her many dreams.
One of my favourite things in my apartment is my keyboard. About a year ago I started reteaching myself the piano through YouTube videos.
It’s such a beautiful thing to practice playing an instrument — it’s unlike anything in the world when your muscle memory takes over and you can just feel the flow of the music.
Learning the piano has also really helped with my creativity in film.
I think in the modern age, there’s this feeling of wanting to be ‘the best’ at everything we do. I am very much like that, and sometimes that can become stressful and debilitating.
But the experience of learning a new song is very much about embracing the fact that you are bad at it from the start. You can get better, but ultimately it takes time and you have to accept that with a lot of patience and an understanding of the process. It’s very humbling and quite meditative.
It’s become a great outlet for me.
Honestly if I ever feel overwhelmed or like I’m running out of creative ideas, I just sit at the keyboard and learn a new song, then generally I come back refreshed with this new viewpoint.
The Windowsill Energy
I haven’t done enough research to know if this is proper Feng Shui, but I love these pieces on my little windowsill.
I feel like it brings positive energy to my home and to my workspace.
Each piece has a special resonance for me, and makes me feel present in my day-to-day: my sister found the shell; Tupac gave me so much light in my teen years; my mum got me one of those crystals; and the rest are just bits and pieces from friends, or things I've found and liked.
Each little piece has its own story, so it helps me start my days with a positive outlook.
Most of my favourite ideas have come to me whilst I sleep.
I’ve always been very ‘awake’ while I’m sleeping.
For example, If I have a nightmare and I’m running away from someone who’s trying to hurt me, I get to a point where I’m like ‘wait this is only a dream, don’t be scared’ and then I wake myself up.
It’s quite weird, but also empowering.
Ultimately that’s why I’m so obsessed with dreamcatchers, because I feel like in a way they guide my dreaming.
These days, I try encourage dreaming on projects to see if it can bring me bigger or more soulful ideas.
The Little Bedside Book
When I get an idea in the middle of the night I tend to jot it down in a little notepad beside my bed.
For example, in my film the ayes have it, I remember having a very vivid dream of a black boy crying from his third eye.
It was such a strong image in my memory.
So I wrote it down, and I just knew I had to put it in a film.
The Postcards, Pictures and Quotes
These are all the things I’ve been meaning to put on my wall, but haven’t gotten around to yet.
I’ve picked them up in my traveling. I like to just grab bits of inspiration wherever I am, or from whomever is in my life.
You probably see a lot of Picasso and Basqiat there, both of them have inspired me. They both had this obsession with the human anatomy which I definitely connect with.
I think I have a similar fascination, which you could probably see in a lot of my work.
This is going to sound terrible but I was never really into reading growing up. I was more into music and sports, and just kind of hated the act of sitting still to read.
Once I left home I realized how important it is and how inspiring it can be.
It all started with psychology books, and learning how and why people are the way they are.
Then it became me figuring out how to be a director — so I read tons of books on that.
Then it was all about me learning about other artists and seeing parallels in our lives even being from completely different spaces in time.
oday I sort of read all sorts, but with a focus on biographies and novels.
These are some of my favorite vinyls.
I don’t really have a large record collection, but I definitely love the ones I have. Especially when I’m writing.
I hate playing music from my laptop when I'm writing because it can be distracting picking what song to play next. Whereas, I usually just throw on a Nat King Cole vinyl and it just creates the perfect writing environment for me.
If the house was burning I’d probably take my camera.
It’s been through so much with me.
It’s also where I started. I used to take lots of photographs and little videos on the professional sports teams I would play for, like in Puerto Rico lots of the fans would follow my little videos. Then when I got injured I started taking more photographs.
I would ask my friends to take pictures of them so I could practice my craft.
I would be searching to find weird compositions and lighting, then I’d see how those photographs would make people feel.
I think it’s the perfect way to keep developing as an artist, and challenge yourself to take some risks without doing a whole film production behind every potential idea.
The Bedside Box
Every night I burn some incense and meditate a little bit over the big ’S’ that my sister made for me (even if it’s just for a few minutes).
I remember Kobe Bryant once said something like ‘every successful person in history meditated, so why wouldn’t you’. That little thought stuck with me.
To be my best self I know it’s what I have to do, even if its just taking five deep breaths.
It's all about doing what you need to do, in order to be the type of thinker, partner, friend, sister, daughter, role model that you want to be.