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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Otterbein Alumnus Sam Jaeger debuts film

NBC’s ‘Parenthood’ cast member Sam Jaeger and wife Amber star

Sam Jaeger ’99, an Otterbein theatre graduate, is a star on the hit NBC drama “Parenthood.” This week he brought his independent film, “Take Me Home,” starring his wife, Amber Jaeger (also an Otterbein alumna), to Columbus. Sam Jaeger wrote, directed and starred in “Take Me Home,” showing at the Arena Grand Movie Theatre through Oct. 27.

While at Otterbein, Jaeger worked at Raisin Rack on the corner of Schrock and Cleveland in Westerville. About one-third of the film was shot in Ohio. While filming in Westerville, the crew stayed in the Otterbein Commons Apartments. Many of Jaeger’s professors and friends from his Otterbein days appear in the film.

Coming from Perrysburg, Ohio, why did you choose Otterbein as a college destination?
I knew I wanted to go into acting since age 13. I had been accepted into a couple of acting conservatories, but I liked Otterbein because art should be a reflection of what you learn in life. I saw conservatory training as something where the art majors were only surrounded by other art majors, and I thought they were neglecting the college experience and outside world. I liked how Otterbein had other things to offer other than just theatre.

What activities were you involved in at Otterbein, and how did Otterbein prepare you for an acting career?
I wasn’t involved in that many activities. I was kind of an anti-college student. I also was a film nerd who watched a lot of movies. That occupied a lot of my time.

Otterbein gave me confidence, and I think every career is based on confidence. Otterbein helped me learn how to cope with rejections. I had great teachers, some of the best, which I used in “Take Me Home.”

If there’s one thing you could take from Otterbein to Los Angeles, what would that be?
One a.m. donuts. My favorite thing to do was walk around Westerville late at night, which was so comforting to me.

You were quoted as saying that the NBC hit show “Parenthood,” in which you star, has gripped people like no other project you’ve worked on. What did you mean by that?
Most shows on TV are crime dramas. You can pick them up and let them go pretty easily. “Parenthood” gets under people’s skin. People identify with the struggles of the characters, people make bad choices on the show like in real life and people find it comforting to watch other people make similar mistakes.

Do you prefer acting in films or TV so far in your career?
I don’t have a real preference. Movies afford you the opportunity to travel, and they are a finite experience. I enjoy the opportunity to get to know people who become like a family to me. I try to make it a concerted effort to appreciate wherever I am as best I can. We learn the most from the situations that challenge us.

Your film “Take Me Home” has won critical acclaim at many independent film festivals. Were you surprised by the reaction to it?
I was surprised, but the awards were the ones that I had hoped the movie would get. I wanted to make a movie that had hope and took people places, and wanted people to see the movie as a journey across the U.S. I couldn’t have asked for much more based on audience response.

How did the “Take Me Home” project come about? What is the film’s takeaway? What did you learn?
I once drove from New York to LA when my friend and I moved to LA together. I like America’s landscape. A large part of this country isn’t seen in movies. I knew I wanted to show that landscape in film. I started writing “Take Me Home” about 7 1/2 years ago and we started filming 2 1/2 years ago.

“Take Me Home” is about finding the right person for you and not trying to force it to happen. I wanted to share with people what I was going through at the time, and what it means to be married — which is a theme throughout the film. It’s about being in your mid-20s and trying to figure out where you fit in the world and where you want your life to go.

I learned that I don’t want to be the writer, actor and director on a film ever again. It was challenging. I could do two out of the three, but by doing all three jobs, I was free labor to myself.

What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud that we did it, we persevered, we made a movie that had a very small budget but you wouldn’t know it watching it. It’s a pretty large film and I think it still has the spirit I set out to capture.

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