TV presenter and Gruen panellist
What I'm watching: Two things, one by choice and one not by choice. Not by choice: The Vampire Diaries (Netflix). My two young girls are obsessed with vampires. I don't want to like it, but I'm so sucked in now. I'll be getting ready for bed and hear something, then I'll go out and say, "what happened?" The problem with that show is they all die and come back to life. So you go through the whole emotional thing of they're dead and then next week they're back because they're vampires. By choice: The documentary series The Vow (Foxtel) about NXIVM, a sex cult in America that involved a couple of high-profile Hollywood actresses. What I find fascinating is that it starts from how the founder, Keith Raniere, lured them in and the techniques he used. He had a thing called "collateral" — anything from a naked photo or a video of you saying "my husband abused me" — then whenever you tried to release yourself from the cult, he would have that to force you back in. It's truly fascinating how smart, intelligent people get lured into these cults. My mind is totally occupied by The Vampire Diaries and The Vow and they couldn't be any more different. The Vow is definitely scarier, for sure.
Todd Sampson has been keeping up with The Vow and The Vampire Diaries, listening to Bob Dylan and writing a novel.
What I'm listening to: I've been listening to Bob Dylan for 40 years. I probably listen to Time Out of Mind, his comeback album from 1997, every day. At the time, everyone thought Bob Dylan was done — he hadn't done any music for many years, people said he'd had his time as a folk singer and was no longer relevant. Then he comes back with Time Out of Mind, which is a smash hit and amazing music. I spend the rest of my time listening to podcasts. At the moment, it's The Drive with Peter Attia. He's a medical professional really into the latest, cutting-edge stuff about the mind and body. I've been listening to one about sleep and basically how three nights of poor sleep has the ability to lower your IQ. It's not really taught as a skill, yet it's so important for your health.
What I'm reading: Tim Winton's The Boy Behind the Curtain and Louis Theroux's Gotta Get Theroux This — I hate the name. Both are autobiographies. Tim Winton's writing is so brilliant. He arguably is the best we have in this country and one of the best in the world. For Louis Theroux, I relate to him as a filmmaker and I see his book as helping me be better at filmmaking. He has an incredible ability to get the story without putting himself in the middle. Louis does no pieces to camera, he finds these people and just gives them enough space to say too much. He didn't start as a filmmaker. His awkwardness and weirdness, what became his trademark, were things he was embarrassed of in the beginning.
I wrote a novel during the pandemic: It was inspired by two things — my mother dying and by free time and not filming. I started to write about fear, which is something you could say I specialise in, the ability to manage anxiety and fear in situations. That was a new hobby — or therapy. It's not something I've always wanted to do, it's just something I tried my hand at. It may never see the light of day, my kids may read it. I don't know.
I unwind with: Meditation. One of the things I've learnt over my time is that in the cultures I've studied and reported on, most of the extraordinary ones have some form of breath practice. I recommend everyone learn some form of meditation; just from a science perspective, breath is incredibly powerful.
COVID-19 has shifted my thinking: Now I appreciate being around people. I'm not super social. I don't go to events. I don't go to parties. I'm pretty much with my family, that's it, that's all I do. And this reminded me of the importance of opening up to others, it has changed that for me. When the introverts are complaining about being alone, you know you've got problems! Todd Sampson appears on Gruen on ABC and iview.