In this edition, Tío Louie interviews filmmaker-professor Sonia Fritz (América). The interview took place at the June edition of the Prime Latino Media Salón (presented by Tío Louie, HOLA and United Latino Professionals-New York) on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at Meridian 23 Bar and Lounge in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood.
Sonia Fritz proudly lives in Puerto Rico for 27 years as a narrative and documentary filmmaker, as well as a tenured Professor in the Communications Department at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan. She was born in Mexico to a German father and Mexican mother. As she shared in our interview, “these varied cultural backgrounds have given me a lens to see life and subject matters from multiple perspectives.”
She has directed over 25 documentaries and the feature film América with Lymari Nadal in the lead role, as well as Edward James Olmos and Tony Plana. Her recent credits include co-directing Chapters 1 and 2 of the PBS series "Latin Americans", which won the 2014 Peabody Award. Her present projects in development are two documentaries, Lighthouses of Puerto Rico (Faro) and a documentary on an all-female mariachi band, Flor de Toloache, while also developing a feature film, Marina’s Secret World (with support from the Dominican Republic and Spain).
While currently on break from teaching at the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, she spent the month of June at NYU and took a two-week seminar on Directing Actors at HB Studios with Jack Garfein. She was absolutely bowled over by the experience and as a film director working with actors I started my questions in this arena.
• Cite some examples that he engaged the group in that struck you most. I liked how he directed the actors. I liked how he would point out how they could make scenes better and based on his recommendation you would see a difference. For example, he would show that there are three different types of body positions when lying down sleeping. There is the nightmare, someone going to bed drunk, and a happy and tranquil sleep. He would demonstrate it first with the assistance of an actress to convey his point.
• As a director, when you work with actors, what do you expect from them? I want them to immerse themselves completely into character and to have a good relationship with their other actors– to be team players. Inevitably, they are the face of why people buy tickets at the box office.
• How much freedom do you give your actors in the interpretation of their role or do you guide them step-by-step? I prefer that the actor propose first. The actor is an artist who will fulfill their proposal. If it doesn’t complement the other actor with whom they are interacting, then it’s my job to finesse it.
• What do you seek from an actor when casting? That they can carry out the character I have envisioned in my script.
• What turns you off about an actor in a casting session? When I feel that they’re false. It’s better to feel something fresh and real. I like to work with a casting director and get feedback too.
• Having worked in both genres, which is your preference: documentaries or narratives? I love them both. I love each for what it brings to the table. Docs are real people and you watch a situation develop in front of your own eyes. A narrative calls me because it permits me to work with actors and imaginary situations – especially my next proposed film that involves a magical transport.
• Lastly, what are your $0.10 for narrative filmmakers? Follow your instincts. If you are passionate about the story, follow your instincts in any capacity that can include dealing with actors, location, crew, to who you align yourself with in a project.
[Photos in this blog courtesy of Sonia Fritz and Tío Louie. To see more photos of the Prime Latino Media Salón event for 2014, click here.]