Day in the Life: Hannah Sink-Hamza, Creative Director
Jan 23, 2017
“I had a weird start,” explains Hannah Sink-Hamza, creative director at Centerline. “I feel like a lot of people I work with studied marketing in college, and that was their focus, whereas for me it was not. I started as a filmmaker.”
Interested in how Sink-Hamza, a creative director with no background in marketing, ended up at Centerline?
“I think, actually, my first mentor would have to be my mom. She was the first one that, when I told her I wanted to switch majors from journalism to film – the moment most parents would be like, ‘Oh my gosh, no. Go get a degree that you can actually do something with,’ she was 100 percent supportive. She told me she believed in me, and that I should go after my dreams. She gave me the wings I needed to go fly.”
And fly she did, but not without the help of some other jedi-like influences.
“I’ve had some really amazing mentors. I met Joan Darling when I was studying at UNC- Chapel Hill. She is an Emmy award winning director, actor, and professor. Joan was the one that opened my eyes to the idea I could really become director, and that I could do it as a female,” Sink-Hamza explains. “She really helped me marry the technical aspects of directing with directing actors. ‘Devil is in the details,’ she would always say. Joan taught me how to draw the best performances out of my actors, and that process made me fall in love with directing. Over the years I’ve continued to take courses with her, and we’ve kept up.”
“Michael Bruce Adams is a fantastic, generous screenwriter and script consultant. I was in the process of getting ready to direct my first feature film in South Africa, I was 26 years old, and I had written an adaptation of a book called Kaffir Boy. When we met at a directing workshop, I was going through another round of rewrites after nearly 3 years of development. Adams was so generous – I was talking to him about my project, and I think he saw something in me. He saw that I was hungry, and out of the goodness of his heart offered to mentor me. Over the course of a summer, we would Skype every day for four, five, six hours. He really prepared me for not only the rewrite process, but the directing process. It was probably the most intense mentorship I’ve ever had.”
Sound like the stuff that dreams are made of? You’re right. But before she could kick off the film, life through her a curveball.
“From there, I was getting ready to go make this film in South Africa, and – to make a very long story short, I ended up being bitten by a tick and contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which took me on a three year sabbatical where I didn’t work at all. I was in and out of hospitals and very, very sick.”
But in the process of getting better, another mentor and cinematographer, Alton Chewing, gave my information to Centerline. So, really, I landed in marketing because of a mentor.”
Sink-Hamza started as a director, eventually moving into the roles of associate creative director and now creative director during her five years with Centerline.
“I started in a director position, which was very focused on my skillset at the time and not marketing. It’s funny, though – I quickly learned a lot of those skills. I had the foundational understanding of how to tell a story, but I didn’t necessarily understand marketing or campaign-thinking. Over the years, though, after doing hundreds of customer references where you’re digging and trying to figure out the content and the story, by osmosis, really, I’ve gained a really deep understanding of brand and content marketing.”
Learning principles of marketing on the fly was a challenge, but one that Sink-Hamza was ready for. She was also not surprised to be the only female director or, now, the only female creative director.
“It’s challenging, and I don’t know all the reasons as to why – but the last statistic I saw said that only 7% of directors are female. I do wish there were more females in the field, and because of this I make sure to look around me and see who I can bring up with me, who I can mentor. I’m actively mentoring creatives at Centerline through specific projects or positions. I love the power of mentorship, I look at my career and how important mentorship has been for me. It’s people taking a chance on you, and that’s huge.”
Her advice for aspiring creative directors, directors, or any confused film majors? Simply put, she believes in seizing the day, in making your life extraordinary.
“One of the best pieces of advice I got after graduation was so simple, and it sounds silly, but it was just, ‘If you want to be a director, go make films.’ It’s so true! Especially now with the access we have to technology, it’s really about taking initiative and going out and doing it. How do you get someone to take a chance on you?
“I took that advice. I made a short film and submitted it to a competition to find ‘America’s Next Great Director,’ a show called On the Lot, and I got on that show. You need to go out and make opportunities for yourself. Go write a story. Go write a film. Go to lynda.com and learn about animation, seek out a mentor. Learn all these things and then start creating. Build up your portfolio. Give yourself the opportunities that other people won’t give to you.”
A Few of Hannah’s Favorites:
Favorite Movie: “Can’t say I have a favorite movie, but the first movie I remember seeing as a kid that elicited a visceral reaction from me was The Power of One.”
Favorite Documentary: “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”
Favorite Director: “Ron Howard and Mira Nair.”
Favorite Actor and Actress: “A few that I would love to work with are Dev Patel, Denzel Washington and Natalie Portman.”
Favorite Movie Line: “‘I’ll have what she’s having.’ – When Harry Met Sally”