The comedic drama The Samuel Project is about a teenager (Ryan Ochoa) who gets to know his grandfather Samuel (Hal Linden) for the first time when he makes him the subject of a senior year animated art project. With dreams of becoming a professional artist, the teen discovers that his grandpa, a Jewish dry cleaner, was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany by a young woman when he was a boy. After hesitating, Samuel agrees to tell his story for the project—a story he hasn’t told in over 75 years. In the end Eli’s project makes the finals in a countywide art showcase where he unveils his animated ‘Samuel Project’ with the help of his unlikely friend Kasim, an electric guitar wielding school misfit. And after decades, three generations of Eli’s family finally connect with one another.



One of the themes in The Samuel Project is that immigrants are a part of all of us to some degree, and those immigrants all have unique stories to tell. Some of those stories are about escaping extreme suppression in life or death situations, and some are simply about trying to achieve the best life possible. Samuel’s story is no different and really a combination of the two. He happens to be a Jewish immigrant from Germany—orphaned after losing his family to Nazi capture in WWII.

Experiencing survivor stories first hand as they were being recorded by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation as the director’s assistant, and raised as the son of an Italian immigrant himself, TSP director/co-writer Marc Fusco became enthralled with one curiosity: How are the current generations of grandchildren and great grandchildren of those survivors affected today? Aside from the obvious answer of existence, what else is happening there? What goes on in a family dynamic where such memories are avoided and not passed down or even spoken about?

When producer Steve Weinberger brought his cousin and author Leslie Schwartz, a holocaust survivor, into a conversation with Fusco, the germ of a story began to develop and the two filmmakers were inspired. After Weinberger presented a new art project angle for the main teenage character to Fusco, and with the help of fellow screenwriter Chris Neighbors, The Samuel Project was born.

“There’s someone right in front of you whose story needs to be told.”


—Mr. Turner, The Samuel Project


One of only six films in the last ten years to embrace San Diego as the main setting of the story, The Samuel Project was shot entirely in or around the city and is the home of Eli, his school, and Samuel and his dry cleaning business. Over 70% of TSP’s crew was from San Diego County.