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Sheila Sofian '81
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Award-winning Documentary Animation Filmmaker
Professor, University of Southern California


Sheila is a Professor at the University of Southern California (USC), with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film and Animation from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Fine Arts in Experimental Animation from the California Institute of the Arts. Previously Sheila headed up the Animation Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was Chair of the Animation Program at College of the Canyons (COC) where she created two Associate of Art degrees and three Certificates in Animation.


To date, Sheila has completed six independent animated films and one feature length film. All of her films are based on human rights and social issues and employ a hybrid of documentary and animation. She says, "My love of documentary filmmaking is related to my love of sociology and human rights issues."


Sheila has taught painting-on-glass and documentary animation workshops internationally, has developed curriculum and coursework for documentary animation production, has served on a panel on animated documentary at the International Leipzig Festival in Germany, and was keynote speaker at a documentary animation conference at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2011. Her films have exhibited at several International Animation Festivals, including Annecy, Ottawa, Hiroshima, Zagreb and Barcelona. Her freelance work includes animation for the feature film Closetland, titles for the feature film 10 Things I Hate About You, The Strip and MTV.


The world premiere of Sheila’s live action/animated feature film, Truth Has Fallen about wrongful conviction in the US, took place in November 2013. The film took ten years to complete and features live interviews along with 20,000 individual paintings-on-glass.


Sheila has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, the Roy W. Dean Film Grant, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Women in Film Foundation and the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, as well a residency at the MacDowell Colony. 


Her Awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CineToro Film Festival in Colombia,  Best Animated Film and Grand Jury Prize, New Orleans Film Festival, Best Animated Film, Humboldt  International Short Film Festival, Best Animated Film, Ojai Film Festival, First Prize, World Animation Celebration, First prize, Animation, Central Florida Film & Video Festival, a CINE Golden Eagle Award, Grand Prize, International Festival of Non-Professional Cinema, France, a Student Academy Award, and Best of Show Award, New England Film Festival.


(Updated April 2017)


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