By Tammy Reese
Meet longtime NYWIFT Member Maria Soccor! Currently, Maria is writing, directing, and producing several documentaries:
- Freestyle Music: The Legacy, a documentary about the freestyle music artists from the 1980s and 1990s
- Sybil: In Her Own Words, which she’s directing and co-writing with Dr. Patrick Suraci; Suraci wrote the book about Shirley Mason, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, painted in six different personalities, and eventually was cured
- And Maria is also writing and directing Tille, a documentary about the late Tillie Bing Bryant, documenting her journey in the 1960s, as a civil rights activist who participated in lunch counter sit-ins, until her recent death in 2023.
As an actress, Maria is an original cast member of The Mannequin Diaries, written by Brian Wiggins and directed by Tony award-winning Trazana Beverly. Being back on stage has opened Maria up to her humble beginnings as an actor, and being an actor is what she loves the most.
Maria recently attended the 2023 Cannes Festival where we spotted her with our CEO Cynthia López at NYWIFT’s panel event “Women Storytellers from the Arab World – Supporting, Training and Showcasing Emerging Filmmakers” in partnership with the Royal Film Commission – Jordan and WIFT GCC. At the panel, NYWIFT and RFC – Jordan announced their new collaboration, “Hakayaha: Stories of Women in Jordan,” funded by the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. The initiative will train and mentor aspiring female filmmakers from across Jordan, and fund, develop and produce serialized work in the form of docu-series and narrative series.
Let’s dive in and hear all about Maria Soccor’s Cannes experience.
What sparked your interest to attend the Cannes Festival 2023?
What sparked my interest in attending Cannes 2023 is of course, it’s Cannes and the French Riviera! It is the one extraordinary celebration of film, AR/VR and so much more… The networking, meetings, great events, parties, and premieres, all appeal to me and everyone else, but the most important reason to attend is because you meet so many professionals in one centralized location. That is exciting!
This year it was the panels I participated in that brought me to Cannes, one being NYWIFT’s first panel at Cannes – A Conversation About Women Storytellers from the Arab World; at AMPAV — The Art of Movie Music; Sam Levinson’s — The Idol premiere; Frédéric Tellier’s — L’ Abbé Pierre — Une Vie De Combats; and of course, being a guest of Campari is always a special benefit!
At the Marché du Film, Cannes Docs is truly an extraordinary place to be for documentary film professionals! Although they are new, they are gaining such momentum and I feel a kinship with this new division at Cannes.
We understand you were a panel moderator. Please tell us all about it.
As a producer who has done global productions, there was some invaluable information that was discussed during my first panel and I was so proud to be a part of it. It all started with Winston Baker, who are the leading entertainment industry curators of the world, and the panel: Bladerunner Culture & Blue Planet Sci-Fi Film Festival Present: China Summit In Association With Winston Baker.
It was a true privilege to moderate such distinguished filmmakers and producers, while Winston Baker celebrated their 15th anniversary as a company, and their 13th year at Cannes. I was so impressed with the session and how it went since every single panelist gave the audience so much information. Bravo to Winston Baker, a woman-owned company!
What were some of the best screenings and events you attended and why?
By far, L’ Abbé Pierre — Une Vie De Combats was one of the best screenings I attended. French cinema is something as an actor and filmmaker that I have always revered. This film reaffirms that in every way! Also, in a post-pandemic world, we would benefit from another Abbé Pierre who advocates for the poor, the homeless, and refugees.
I also found the events and sessions organized by Cannes Docs to be highly informative. This program is headed by Pierre-Alexis Chevit who does a tremendous job of bringing the documentary industry together as a whole with his team.
What is your over goal when you attend a huge festival like Cannes?
My overall goal when attending the Cannes Film Festival is to meet people in the industry that I can work with or at least, build strong relationships with.
As a member of NYWIFT, what do you enjoy most about being a part of our community?
Being a Leadership Circle member means everything to me, so therefore I enjoy every part of NYWIFT. Advocating for women in film and TV has been a mission for me on so many levels. I remember when I first heard of NYWIFT and at the time, I thought about how hard I had to work to become a member.
A few years later, when NYWIFT was under the leadership of former Executive Director Terry Lawler, I met her, and she was one of my proposers. [Editor’s note: At the time, members needed to be sponsored by another member within the organization. Now they just need to provide professional references.]
Instantly, I found my safe place of media sisters, where we can rely on each other and most importantly, feel safe in an industry where we are not always protected.
Keep up to date with all things Maria Soccor online:
NYWIFT member Panayiota Pagoulatos returned to Cannes a second time this year to attend MIPCOM, where she was pleased to find celebrations of women and diversity in entertainment, and to preview several exciting new TV series.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Judith Davis shares her experiences from her second ever trip to the Cannes Film Festival - which included a stop by the WIFTI party with The Hollywood Reporter presented at the Campari Lounge!READ MORE
NYWIFT Member Panayiota Pagoulatos shares memories from her trip to Cannes 2022 - her first time back on a plane since 2019! She met with WIFTI leaders from all over the world and shared this sage advice: "If you find yourself at an international market or film festival—whether it’s the first or the fiftieth time—look for your people. Whether a business partnership comes out of it or not, staying connected, sharing your experiences, and hopefully learning a thing or two, that’s the pulse that will help keep you going in this tough-as-nails industry."READ MORE