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  • Q&A With New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Carolina Sosa

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    Carolina Sosa graduated in 2017 from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. Since then she’s been hard at work on Trumphobia, a feature-length film that originally started as her thesis documentary.

    Carolina is one of many notable alumni and faculty to hail from the NYFA Documentary School, including instructor Kristen Nutile, who edited the Oscar-, Peabody-, and Emmy-nominated Heroin(e) on Netflix, and RBG’s director of photography and NYFA Documentary professor Claudia Raschke. Ranked as a top documentary filmmaking school for the past eight years, holding a coveted spot on The Independent Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers, the New York Film Academy’s documentary program aims to prepare students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films. Carolina Sosa

    Only 27, Carolina has already amassed several awards and honors for her work in documentary filmmaking. She received the award for Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script, and Film Festival and the Award of Excellence from the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards for her documentary short Exit the shelter. She was also invited by CinemaFest 2014 to adapt movies for the blind and deaf after directing Okurelo Cine in 2013.

    It was no surprise, then, when NYFA alum Carolina Sosa recently received a $10,000 grant from the Rogovy Foundation, an organization that works “to build a more enlightened and harmonious planet,” and supplies grants to documentaries and other “highly targeted projects which will have a measurable impact.”

    Recently, Carolina spoke with the New York Film Academy about her film Trumphobia, her time at NYFA, and other projects she is currently working on:

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Carolina Sosa (CS): I’m from Uruguay, I’m 27 years old, and I got a Fulbright scholarship to study a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, and NYFA was the school that gave me the highest tuition award from all the schools that I have applied; also the program was located in Los Angeles.

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on documentary filmmaking?

    CS: I like to use art as a tool for change. I believe that reality is often more fascinating than fiction, and I want to dedicate my life to tell true stories that inspire, promote justice, and can make a difference in this world. And also, because I love to travel and share my view with others.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Trumphobia?

    Carolina SosaCS: Trumphobia: what both sides fear (tentative title) is a feature documentary about the political division in the United States and how Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric increased that division with the help of the mainstream media. On one side, he gave strength and safety to his supporters and, on the other side, he imposed fear and anger on his opponents, which led to major confrontations, protests, and counter-protests across the country. Trumphobia analyzes the reasons for the political division, provides a moving description of Trump’s supporters along with the people who are most affected by Trump’s policies, and proposes empathy and compassion for all as a possible solution to the turmoil. The documentary has the participation of the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, New York Senator Michael Gianaris, Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics George Lakoff, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior Peter H. Ditto, six hate crime victims and witnesses from both sides, representatives of major organizations, many of Trump’s supporters and opponents, and includes footage from more than thirteen debates, marches, and protests across six states.

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Trumphobia?

    CS: The documentary started as part of my master’s thesis. I was looking for a subject matter right when Trump got elected, and I thought that making a documentary about a current topic that affected millions of people was worth my long work. Especially because I wanted to portray both sides of the story — his supporters and opponents — and I wasn’t seeing much about the right side on the media, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to make a documentary that actually tried to be objective when it comes to politics. The good thing is that most of the crew was international, so we all had an outsider perspective that allowed us to listen without immediately judging. And the one thing that got my attention the most was the articles about hate crimes related to the election and the violent confrontations between people, so it’s not about Trump’s policies — it’s about critical thinking and how moral values determine our worldview. I believe we are all biased, and we need to be more empathetic with others to overcome our differences.

    NYFA: How did you find out about the Rogovy Foundation grant?

    CS: Thanks to NYFA, I became a member of the International Documentary Association and, through their website, I searched for all the grants that I could apply and that’s how we heard about the Rogovy Foundation. We have applied for more than ten different grants, it’s a long and tedious job to prepare all the documents and materials for each grant, but it was worth it because we got their Miller / Packan Film Fund for the postproduction of our film, and they have been very supportive. Moreover, the IDA accepted our project and they became our fiscal sponsor, so that’s also good news.

    NYFA: That’s great news! What are your plans for Trumphobia?

    CS: For the thesis, I made the first 20 minutes of the film and, since September 2017 when I graduated, I have been working on the 90-minute version. It took me a lot of time because I started working as an editor right after school, and so I have been very busy. But I have never given up, even without money or with a full-time team, I truly believe in the message of the movie and I’m very proud of the result so far, thus we are still working on it. We shot the movie during a year almost and there is always a new thing with Trump, so it takes a lot of work to edit many hours of footage and do constant research, but we are almost there. We are planning to have a final cut that we can send to the Sundance Film Festival in September, and then really finish the movie in October. After that, we will send it to more festivals and try to find online distribution immediately.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    CS: For the 1-year project of the school, GuangLi Zhu and I made a short documentary about the killing of pets in animal shelters, called Exit the shelter, and I have been promoting that short as well. We received the award of Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival and an Award of Excellence at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and we are still waiting to see other festivals’ results. GuangLi was one of my classmates and he is back in China now, but I have partnered with the LA Animal Services and other shelters, so we recently did a screening of the short and a fundraising event to help the pets in two different shelters. Meanwhile, I work as an editor, producer, and cinematographer at Dame Dash Studios; right now I’m editing a documentary about a trip to China for them, but I’m also working as a camerawoman for Harrison Engle (former president of IDA) for one of his documentaries. And every once in a while, I work freelance on other small projects. I’m a workaholic, I work eight hours (or more) at my job every day, then I get home and I work four hours on Trumphobia, and on the weekends it’s all about Trumphobia.

     

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Trumphobia, or your work in general?

    CS: The documentary department at NYFA was very helpful with my project Trumphobia. Since the topic was so urgent, they allowed me to borrow the equipment in November 2016, while all my other classmates shot their thesis in June 2017. I pitched the project when Trump got elected and I asked them if I could travel across the U.S. in the winter holidays so I can shoot what I needed, and with almost no bureaucracy involved they said yes, so I’m always thankful for that. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and the resources that I needed when I asked for it, because I shot through the whole year several times and they never said no. I can imagine that this could have been very different in other schools. NYFA gave me the tools that I needed to feel prepared to shoot across the country with little resources.

    Carolina SosaNYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    CS: My advice to new students is to think big, work hard, go to all the events, conferences, and workshops that you can (even the ones that are not related to your degree); go out, meet people, build your network, and apply to as many grants, scholarships, and festivals that you can — you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to receive, and what you are going to learn.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Carolina Sosa on her recent grant and looks forward to the completion and distribution of Trumphobia and Carolina’s continued career!

    Interested in learning documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here!

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    August 2, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1940

  • “Documentary” Magazine’s Spring 2018 Issue Highlights New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking School

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department is one of only eight film schools honored in the prestigious “Documentary” Magazine, the official publication of the International Documentary Association (IDA), in an article exploring the advantages of pursuing an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    In reading the article titled The MFA Considered: A Sampling of Programs that Tackle the Current Marketplace by Akiva Gottlieb, one of the ways that NYFA stands out among the other programs explored, is expressed in the sentence: “Within two weeks of the first class, students will be making films.” None of the other programs make this claim.

    NYFA also offers the unique opportunity for a bi-coastal MFA experience. Students can opt to spend their first year studying in New York City and the second year in Los Angeles, or may opt to spend both years in LA.

    As NYFA New York City Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift notes, NYFA’s degree and conservatory programs are guided by the principal that students “learn to make documentaries by making documentaries.”

    Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels concurs, noting, “The most important element of making documentaries is story. Our students are not just hands-on with equipment, they’re researching, they’re out in the community, they’re finding that story.”

    Two years of intense research and production culminate in a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. NYFA also stands apart in offering an intensive Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory on both coasts. This allows students the alternative of finishing their studies in One-Year, should they opt to earn a certificate, and 36 transferrable hours, rather than the advanced degree.

     

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  • New York Film Academy Documentary Program Chairs Interviewed in IDA’s Documentary Magazine

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    Poised as the training ground for the next generation of leaders in this field, the New York Film Academy’s Documentary School was featured in the Fall 2017 edition of Documentary magazine, the biggest international documentary magazine and a publication of the prestigious International Documentary Association (IDA).

    In a wide-ranging conversation about NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory, NYFA Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels and NYFA New York Chair of Documentary Andrea Swift gave a wide-ranging interview to Documentary magazine’s Tom Gianakopoulos, in the Doc University section. Gianakopoulos also teaches screenwriting at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles’ youth programs.

    Sonora Bartels told Documentary readers that NYFA’s hands-on learning style sets it apart: “Students at both campuses hit the ground running, and that first semester is a doozy. Right off the bat you have camera classes; you have directing classes; you have sound and producing classes—all of the practical instruction.”

    Andrea Swift agreed: We are very story-focused and, as mentioned earlier, our structure comes from the guiding principle that you learn how to make films by actually making films. The beating heart of that is telling a story.”

    The Documentary interview also spotlighted NYFA’s inclusion in the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the Top 25 American film schools, as well as major alumni successes including Raphael Neihausen’s Academy Award-nominated “Joe’s Violin” and Muhammed Hamdy’s Oscar-winning “The Square.”

    The New York Film Academy Documentary programs have embraced a global worldview since their inception. “If you do documentaries because you want to learn about the world, come to NYFA,” Sanora Bartels told Documentary. “You will learn about the world around you right here in the classroom, where you will figure out how to work with other cultures very quickly.”

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  • International Documentary Association Virtual Reality Event at NYFA LA

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    This past week the New York Film Academy sponsored a special event for members of the International Documentary Association (IDA) at the NYFA’s Los Angeles Campus. Entitled, VR 101 for Documentary, the workshop was moderated by VR Director and Cinematographer Celine Tricart and featured speakers from ground-breaking VR production company The Emblematic Group, and a VR camera demo from AbelCine, a leading provider of equipment and services to the production, broadcast and new media industries.

    IDA Event

    Virtual Reality has been threatening to conquer the gaming world for decades but new cellphone technology used with inexpensive VR viewers like the Google Cardboard have allowed for first widespread distribution of Virtual Reality projects, particularly documentaries. Platforms like the New York Times, OpDocs, Jaunt VR and Frontline VR, are releasing new material often called “immersive journalism.” The goal of NYFA’s VR Workshop was to allow IDA documentarians to “look under the hood” of VR to begin to understand what it takes to direct, produce and edit in this new medium.

    In VR and all 360-degree formats virtually all the film grammar developed over one hundred years of “flatties” or 2-dimensional films do not apply. No cutting to a close-up or a wide shot, in fact not much cutting at all for fear of inducing motion sickness in the viewer. All the “tricks” filmmakers use to direct the attention of the viewer are not possible in a 360-degree universe where the viewer decides what to look at when, and to some extent for how long.

    ida nyfa la

    Using sound and light to direct the viewer’s attention, defining the difference between 360 video and VR, and creating a new cinematic language were key talking points for the speakers. Senior Producer of The Emblematic Group Cedric Gamelin and Marketing Manager Ivana Coleman expounded on the possibilities of storytelling in this new medium, showing the audience examples of the Emblematic Group’s work in both live action and animated VR documentary shorts. Nicholas Samero and Sean George of AbelCine demonstrated a number of different VR cameras, from the 2-camera Kodak 4K 360 to the 8 -camera Nokia Ozo, and the 24-camera Jaunt VR.

    The afternoon was spent in a NYFA edit room where Tricart took participants through the post –production workflow for VR that includes downloading the media from all of the cameras, stitching the images from the various cameras together, editing scenes together, and outputting the edited media. Then each participant was able to view the VR scenes they had cut together.

    nyfa ida vr

    Barbara Multer-Wellin, Chair of Documentary for the Los Angeles campus recommend checking out the Op-Docs Video Channel, Jaunt VR, and Frontline VR to begin exploring Virtual Reality Documentaries. Multer-Wellin has already begun to include elements of VR in her classes and hopes to expand the program soon.

    When asked what she learned from the presentation Multer-Wellin said, “We (filmmakers) are used to having a lot of control. In VR, you’re giving the audience the control with the ability to make cuts themselves with their eyes. This is exciting but it is also kind of scary.” Celine Tricart said she loves VR because. “It’s like the very beginning cinema. All the rules have been thrown out the window and we’re making it up as we go along.”

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    April 14, 2017 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 3204

  • Independent Spirit Awards Liked ‘Birdman’ Too

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    birdman

    The big story about this year’s Oscars winners may very well be what else they’ve won—namely, the Independent Spirit Awards. The ceremony, as usual, was held the day before the Academy Awards, and rewarded films with smaller budgets and not supported by Hollywood’s largest studios. The show typically has a looser, more fun vibe where its celebrities mingle and goof off, similar to the Golden Globes. This year’s show was hosted by Fred Armisen and Kristen Bell.

    Like the Academy Awards, Birdman walked away with Best Feature. However, in one of the biggest differences from the Oscars, Richard Linklater was awarded Best Director for Boyhood. Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons all foreshadowed their Oscar wins with acting awards, though Michael Keaton scored the win he couldn’t get Sunday for his starring role in Birdman. Citizenfour presaged its Best Documentary Oscar with a Spirit Award win in the same category. Even the Best Cinematography and Best Editing awards mirrored the Oscars, going to Birdman and Whiplash, respectively. Best Foreign Film winner Ida also got its Spirit Award equivalent for Best International Film.

    With nearly every major winner of the Spirit Awards going on to win their categories at the Academy Awards this weekend, the Oscars overwhelmingly went to films not directly produced or financed by the major studios. Is this a sign of the times, a decentralization of film’s powerhouse auteurs, or just a fluke? Evidence seems to point to the former—after all, five years ago Spirit winner The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for the Best Picture, but only time will tell. Basically, let’s start the 2016 Oscar predictions!

    Here’s a full list of the winners:

    BEST FEATURE

    Birdman
 Producers: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

    BEST MALE LEAD

    Michael Keaton, Birdman

    BEST FEMALE LEAD

    Julianne Moore, Still Alice

    BEST DIRECTOR

    Richard Linklater, Boyhood

    BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

    Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

    BEST SUPPORTING MALE

    J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

    BEST SCREENPLAY

    Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

    BEST DOCUMENTARY

    Citizenfour
 Director/Producer: Laura Poitras

    Producers: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

    BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

    Ida (Poland), Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

    BEST FIRST FEATURE

    Nightcrawler
 Director: Dan Gilroy; Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

    BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

    Justin Simien, Dear White People

    BEST EDITING

    Tom Cross, Whiplash

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

    Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

    JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

    Land Ho!

    Writers/Directors: Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens; Producers: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

    LENSCRAFTERS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD
  The Kill Team, Director: Dan Krauss

    PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD
 Chris Chison

    KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
 H., Directors: Rania Attieh & Daniel Garcia

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    February 23, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4029