Samuel Thivierge has been incredibly busy since graduating from Acting Essentials and the Acting for Film + Television program. The talented actor, originally from Quebec, recently played a sniper in the Chinese action film Wolf Warrior. But Thivierge isn't just waiting for acting opportunities, he's building them for himself. In addition to performing, he runs a production and distribution company in Quebec and is working on his first feature film as a producer.
We had a chance to ask him some questions about his time at VFS, Wolf Warrior, and what he's up to next. Check it out!
Where are you from originally? What made you decide to come to VFS?
Samuel: I’m originally from a small town called Saint-Félicien in Northern Quebec. I grew up in a fishing lodge where I spent most of my childhood and developed most of the skills that define me today. When I turned seventeen, I was still searching for my purpose in life. Meanwhile, I went to work construction with my two brothers in Whistler, BC for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. One day while surfing the web, I ended up on the VFS website and it instantly caught my attention. Film has always been a passion for me, but it never felt like a realistic possibility. After some research, I believed and dreamt that I had potential and I quickly decided to enrol myself in the Acting Essentials program. Since the day I moved to Vancouver to start my film career at VFS (August 25th 2008), I never looked back.
What was your time like in the Acting program?
Samuel: Fun, really great and the perfect introduction to the film world. But also really tough because English is my second language. The other English students had a head start, but I was born with a strong work ethic and did not miss a single class. I slowly managed to learn the language. The teachers were good, understanding, and passionate about their craft. Most of them are my friends now. People can perceive this business differently; I had to choose what worked for me and sometimes leave the rest. During weekends and evenings, I was actively involved in small productions to gain as much experience as possible. Some were not really supportive of me working on productions while studying at VFS so I kept quiet about that, but I wanted to learn as fast as possible. I was serious about making it, which helped after graduating. VFS helped get me to where I am today with the combination of lots of hard work, lots of dedication, patience, and, of course, luck.
How did the program prepare you for life as an actor and a producer?
Samuel: It gave me all basic the tools I needed to understand what it was like to work in the industry. It gave me the opportunity to practise, try, and make mistakes in a safe environment. VFS also allowed me to play, learn, and develop relationships with classmates. The reason why I became a producer is mostly a matter of opportunities, control, knowledge, and money. I’m very business oriented.
We heard you have a substantial role in the film Wolf Warrior – congrats! Can you tell us what the film is about and what the filming process was like for you as an actor?
Samuel: Thanks! The film is about a Chinese Special Forces soldier (Wu Jing) who is expelled from the army and joins a mysterious troupe of insurgents known as the Wolf Warrior. In the film, I play the part of the sniper, one of the main antagonists alongside Scott Adkins. My part was interesting because the lead character (Wu Jing) is also a sniper, so there’s a strong connection between our characters. But of course, as an antagonist, I’m the one who looses in the end.
The filming process was great but a real challenge! A couple days of filming became 20 something days for my character. The fact that I’m a physical actor, able to drive all sorts of vehicles and handle firearms, really played in my favour. But, curiously, it’s the color of my eyes that became my best asset. People were telling me I was special because of the color my eyes, and my strong and passionate work ethic really helped. I got to meet a few military commanders. One of my favourite scenes was when I was in the box of the army hummer truck followed by two military helicopters. It was unreal and I refused to be doubled for that. It was the biggest set I got to be on to date and, during the filming of those scenes, I can say: I wasn’t acting, I was reacting!
What are three rules you live by?
Samuel: This is a really good question. Currently, where I am today, which might change in the future, I would say: making a good product, making money, and having fun.
Can you tell us a bit about your production company? What’s it called? How did this begin for you?
Samuel: My production and distribution companies operate under SMT Features, but they are numbered companies. Once we’re ready to hit a major market with our next production, we’ll make sure to create a brand that’s bilingual and easily recognisable.
We have produced and completed one feature film so far and, through a long and complicated process, we were able to bring it to the market and generate enough capital to surpass the invested production budget. We worked really hard to achieve that and I'm proud of our team.
The major reason why I went behind the camera is mostly because I didn’t like relying on others and waiting. I wanted to create opportunities. After a while, I had to make a choice: stop or push harder. I was fortunate enough to have had gathered great knowledge while working on several films to understand the basics. Without taking a course, I managed to understand the business side of the industry by knocking on doors and not being afraid to fall. I still have lots to learn but my confidence in my abilities is quite strong now.
Currently, we are in the process of making our first major motion picture with recognisable names. The working title is “Identity”. It’s still a difficult process to secure enough to green light the production and I’m working day and night to get there. Our business plan is in place and our strategies to distribute are solid and lucid. There are always surprises but we are confidant in our skill sets, in our team, and with our approach: humble, conservative, ambitious, and professional.
I’m still only 25 years old, so I have to work around the fact that some people believe I’m still too young…but I’m okay with it.
What projects have you developed? What are you working on now?
Samuel: After graduating from VFS, I’ve worked on several projects, including: Plastic Protocol (2010), The Odds (2011), and Dominate Gene (2011). Soon after, I began off camera work and made my first directorial debut with the short film, Love Lost (2011). Then I wrote, produced, edited, and starred in the short thriller, Dead Simple (2012). In the same year, while building my acting resume, I was quietly writing my feature film, La fille du Martin (2013) and I ended up directing, producing, editing, and starring in it. We premiered the film at the Montreal World Film Festival where we were nominated for a Golden Zenith Award. While polishing up the film for distribution, I starred and produced in a second feature film, The Road To Tophet (2014). Soon after, I was invited to China to play in the blockbuster, Wolf Warriors (2015). It made its way to the top of the Chinese box office taking 85 million US in the first three weeks of release.
We are currently working on our first major film, the one that was mentioned in the previous question. We are working on others but those are still a long wait to go. Aside from that, we’re always seeking new ideas. On the acting side, I hope to work more in the Chinese market and in the French market (Quebec and France) over the next couple years. My schedule can always fit interesting projects in and we are constantly looking to work with new and great partners. Of course, working in the English market would be fantastic, but it’s flooded with amazing talent. Who knows, I believe a great career is ahead of me and the best is yet to come.
Can you tell us about your first French major motion picture? What’s the VFS connection?
Samuel: It’s a thriller/drama based on a true story. The main subject matter is center around identity fraud, but it’s also about mentorship, confidence, and love. My approach for this project can be compare to Catch Me If You Can. I’d like to stick with the light side rather than dark while staying honest with the main character’s vision. We want to push our cinematographic style with massive shots. It’s on an international level; the story happens in a few countries. One of the reasons we chose this story, aside from the script, is where we intend to distribute the picture. We believe there is room for this kind of genre so we want to take advantage of that. Also, it’s going to be really fun to shoot the film for us. We are three brothers working together and we like to push our boundaries - everything is considered to create this project as big as we can!!
How important is it for young artists to diversify their talents?
Samuel: Everyone is different. It really depends how passion is driving each artist. There is no problem focusing on one main talent. In some cases, me for example, yes, it was and is very important and highly beneficial to diversify my skills in order to give clear direction and to also determine the path of the company. Sometimes, my vision and the way I operate might be different than a typical union film set and over the years we’ve developed faster and cheaper ways to get from A to B while keeping the same outputs. From an idea on a napkin, to a film playing on a DCP in theaters, to paying back investors, there is a lot to know. And I still don’t know enough. But as a result, it made me able to understand what the film industry is driven by…
There is a difference between people who work on films and people that create the films.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Samuel: Break the rules, try to define your own style, don’t be afraid to take risks, and go knock on doors. The more you do, the more it will pay off. Create projects that you believe in and stick to it. Surround yourself with people that share the same vision. Aim high. Be realistic. Once you know you have knowledge, things will be more specific, your confidence will slowly grow, and you’ll be able to convince people to follow you.
See you around!
Thanks, Samuel! We wish you all the best!