Sam Fathallah is known around the Linn-Mar High School community as “the video guy.”
Considering the camera he nearly almost always has handy and the more than 150 videos on his YouTube channel that boast a collective 124,000 views, it is clear how he’s earned the moniker.
His signature style is now well-known on campus.
At first, though, it was met with some skepticism.
“He brings in this video and it is incredible,” says Linn-Mar teacher Debra Connerly, who taught Fathallah as a freshman. “He had a pencil floating in midair at one point, there was money traveling across a sofa, and it had wonderful music and sound effects. It was just incredible.”
The video was a stop-motion animation film to promote a fundraiser at school, and Connerly wanted it to be played on the in-school video service. But “some people weren’t wanting to believe he really did this,” Connerly says.
“I had to somewhat go to bat for him,” she says, remembering how she compared the sofa and carpet visible in the video in question to the settings of other films Fathallah had produced to prove he’d really made it.
Now Fathallah, a junior, often produces videos — like a commercial for Spirit Week or about issues such as bullying — for the school’s administration. Other movies showcase Fathallah’s introspective, creative side even more. Some — “Fall,” “Love,” “Create” — are beautifully simple. Others, like “Homecoming” are amusing and sweet. Still others are mesmerizing and intricate, such as a stop-motion movie featuring Legos morphing into shapes and dancing to music.
“I remember growing up and listening to music and in my mind, I would close my eyes and I would see a picture, I would see visuals or action,” Fathallah says. “It is the idea of listening to music, getting a feeling, and then making that feeling real.”
One of his favorites is a video he shot two years ago. In “Youth,” he films his then 7-year-old cousin’s responses to philosophical questions such as “what is time” and “what is life?”
Truly, Fathallah doesn’t need much of an excuse to make a film. He draws the line at doing one for someone else’s class project, though he did make a movie for a friend’s business.
Betsy Losen, a senior at Linn-Mar, hand makes soaps, lotions and other items for her online shop Betsy Body Shop.
One Wednesday night after school, Fathallah recorded Losen mixing, setting and packaging the soaps. By the end of the night, the commercial was complete.
“I was amazed with just how fast he can piece things together so beautifully,” she says.
His peers aren’t the only ones taking notice of his work. Fathallah also has been successful entering videos — and placing — in statewide contests, a recent win being a second-place finish in the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association video contest.
While the accolades are nice, Fathallah says he enjoys the emotional impact his videos have more.
“Filmmaking has given him a deep perspective on our youth,” says his mother Sue Fathallah. She points to one of his film’s entitled “Dream,” in which he crowd-sourced answers to the question “What is your dream?”
Of course, ultimately, her own dream for her son is that he is happy.
“I want to see him go where he will be the happiest,” she says. “Some people tell me he should go to film school, well, I can’t tell Sam where to go.”
He isn’t sure yet, either. Wherever he ends up — be it doctor, engineer, movie producer or none of the above — one thing is certain: Fathallah will surely detail every step of the journey through the lens of his camera.