Sheila M. Sofian: Filmmaker & Associate Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts

My NativeAdVantage:


Sheila M. Sofian creates films that investigate social issues utilizing a unique hybrid of animation and documentary. She has produced, directed, and animated six short independent animated films. Sofian recently completed production on “Truth Has Fallen”, a feature length animated/live action documentary about people wrongfully convicted of murder and flaws in our legal system that led to these injustices.

Sofian’s films have exhibited internationally, including MoMA, Annecy Animation Festival, Hiroshima International Animation Festival, Zagreb Animation Festival, and CaixaForum in Barcelona, Spain. Her films are distributed educationally and in home video markets

Professor Sofian has taught painting-on-glass and documentary animation workshops internationally at several institutions including the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, Tokyo University of the Arts, the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, China, the University Of Buffalo and the Kansas City Art Institute.  She developed curriculum and designed coursework for Documentary Animation Production and has written on the subject.

Professionally, Sofian’s freelance work includes animation for the feature film "Closetland", titles for the feature film "10 Things I Hate About You", “The Strip”, and MTV. She has also worked as staff animator for Metapa, Inc.

Sofian holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. She was head of the Animation Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1992-1997. Sofian chaired the Animation Program at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita from 2001-2006. Sheila Sofian is currently an Associate Professor in the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, School of Cinematic Arts, at the University of Southern California.

What do you do best?

Re-interpret stories that inspire me.

Through my chosen medium of animated documentary, I interview people who have powerful stories. I then interpret the soundtrack in a creative manner, using a variety of animation techniques. I think of it as translating the stories of others into a creative medium that hopefully allows audiences to better empathize with the storyteller.

What makes you the best?

I don’t think I can claim to be the “best”, but I am persistent in my pursuit of advancing this art form and finding new ways to best interpret stories I feel are important. I work hard on my films and on my teaching, and enjoy both.

How will you stay the best?

The qualities I admire most in people and aspire to in myself are integrity, empathy, and compassion. I hope to bring those qualities to my work.

Animators must be tenacious, hard working, and constantly learning new technology in order to stay relevant. My goal is to utilize animation in a way to best communicate a point of view and personal experiences. I hope to push the boundaries of animation and documentary to educate audiences and to move them. Ultimately my goal is to continue to explore the affect of images on narrative, and learn to enhance the meaning of the spoken word.

What are your aspirations?

Personal: To inspire my students, travel the world, and enjoy my life with my husband.

Business: To impact audiences with powerful stories and to distribute my films effectively to a wide audience.

What fascinates you?

Human behavior and what we are all capable of in extreme situations.

Favorite Motto:

"What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger."

Favorite People:     

David Fain , Yvonne Anderson, Amy Kravitz, Jules Engel.

Favorite Places:

Colombia, Japan    

Favorite Products:

Cruelty-free fair trade products.

Current Passions:

Making chocolate.