SOCDOC - MFA Social Documentary Film

SocDoc Blog

Happenings in the documentary film world and within the School of Visual Arts MFA in Social Documentary Film Community

Open House December 10

dec copy. info session flyer 450px

Turn your curiosity and activism into a career in non-fiction!

Come by and meet our faculty and alumni, tour the facilities, and see if this might be the right program for you!

December 10, 6-8pm
SVA – MFA Social Documentary Film
136 W. 21st St., First Floor, New York City
RSVP here.

Can’t attend this one? Get in touch to schedule a personal tour or call to have all your questions answered!

Doc NYC showing 17 films from SocDoc alumni & faculty!


Did you see the slate for Doc NYC this week? What a line up! The festival’s Artistic Director Thom Powers (& SocDoc faculty member) and the rest of the team have done an amazing job curating together some of the best documentaries out right now. We’re thrilled to find some of our alumni and faculty work there, as well as a showcase we curated of our students’ work. We’re also hosting a panel on Cinematography, and a breakfast for passholders — hope to see you there!

DOC NYC Doc U: SVA MFA SocDoc Showcase!
4:30 PM, Fri Nov 13 | IFC Center
THE WONDER WORKSHOP (dir: Amitabh Joshi; producer Erik Spink) (faculty/group3)
H. NAGANO (dir: Miwa Sakulrat) [BFA Film!]
18 SECONDS (dir: Nori Mizukami) (Group4)
NO MORE SAD (dir: Alex Budman) (Group4)
PELE, MY PARADISE teaser (dir: Antonella Carrasco) (Group 5)
RAY VALENZ: FIRE BREATHER (dir: Lizzie Minges) (Group 6)
LAST DAYS OF DOMINO (dir: Yuqi Kang) (Group 6)
OLIVER (dir: Lacy Wangen)(Group 6)
TIDE TO STONE trailer (dir: David Hoon Newman) (Group 5)
SISTER JOLIN teaser (dir: Siyan Liu, Danni Wang) (Group 5)

Dir: Craig Lowy (Group 2), World Premiere
Cinematography by Raul Santos (Group 1) & Lucas Smith (Group 2); additional cinematography by Lindsay Lindenbaum (Group 2). Co-edited by Lucas Groth (Group 2). Sound by Shannon Romines (Group 2) and Yuqi Kang (Group 5).
Elizabeth Streb’s Brooklyn-based Extreme Action Company trains for a breathtaking spectacle in London.

Director: Katherin Machalek, Adam Golub
Edited by Chelsi Bullard (Group 7)

Closing Night – ONCE AND FOR ALL
Dirs: Michael Epstein (faculty), Dyllan McGee, World Premiere
Bao Nguyen (group1) cinematographer

Dir: George Butler, NYC Premiere
Cinematography by Tom Hurwitz, ASC (faculty); first AC Jenni Morello (Group1)

directed by Stanely Nelson
Sound by JT Takagi (faculty)

Director: Sarah Fishko
Cinematography by Tom Hurwitz, ASC; first AC/Gaffer Jenni Morello

Director: Liz Garbus
Jenni Morello, First AC


Masterclass: Cinematography
Sat. Nov. 14; 11:30am
featuring Maro Chermayeff (department Chair), cinematographers Tom Hurwitz, ASC, Axel Baumann (faculty) and Mira Chang, and Juan Martinez from Sony

2016 Admissions Info Sessions

Make Films | Make Change with an MFA in Social Documentary at SVA – Apply Now for Fall 2016!

Our award-winning faculty mentors and collaborates with our students as they gain the skills to create significant, relevant documentary in this two-year graduate program. Our alumni have won Student Academy Awards and Student Emmys, been broadcast on TV and distributed theatrically in the US and abroad, and shown at festivals worldwide. Join our community, and find your voice!

Join us for our Fall 2016 Admissions Information Sessions an opportunity to meet the department chair, faculty and recent alumni students.

Information Sessions
School of VISUAL ARTS – MFA Social Documentary Film
Saturday, November 7th from 11am-1pm
Thursday, December 10th from 6pm-8pm
RSVP is required; use the links above.

Info sessions are at the School of VISUAL ARTS MFA Social Documentary Film department:
136 West 21st St., First Floor
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212.592.2919

We are looking for the next generation of non-fiction storytellers – you need not have prior professional experience, but you must have a passion for filmmaking, strong story ideas, and a desire to fully immerse yourself in the industry and art of documentary filmmaking.

You can also contact us to set up an individual department visit or Skype session.

For More information:
Tuition and Fees
Application Information 
Department Application Requirements 
For more information and to apply online, visit 
To request more information about this program, visit:

Fall 2015 Screening Series

Looking forward to a great year for our Process and Style Guest Lecture Series full of exciting filmmakers! Stay tuned for updates about December screening. Process & Style is primarily for current SocDoc students, but if you would like to visit just email mfasocdoc<at> to reserve a seat.


all screenings are Thursdays, 6-8:50pm unless otherwise noted

Sept. 17 – Screening:  First Cousin Once Removed
Directed, produced, and edited by Alan Berliner; cinematography by Ian Vollmer
Speaker: Alan Berliner (2012; New York Film Festival; HBO)
Portrait | Personal | Alzheimer’s Disease / Health | Poetry

*Sunday, Sept. 20, 5:30pm – SVA Alumni Film Festival: Thank You For Playing
At SVA Theater, 333 W 23rd St
Free/Open to the public: RSVP Required here:
Directed, produced, edited, and written by David Osit (SocDoc class of 2011) and Malika Zouhali-Worrall; Cinematography by David Osit (Tribeca Film Festival; PBS “POV” broadcast 2016)
Portrait | Cancer / Health | Video Games

Sept. 24 – Screenings:  Body Typed series (USA, 2009, New Day Films): Wet Dreams and False Images (Sundance Film Festival); The Guarantee; 34x25x36 (SXSW, PBS “POV” broadcast)
Directed, produced, and cinematography by Jesse Epstein
Isle of Flowers (Ilha das Flores) (Brazil, 1989; Berlin Film Festival; New Directors/New Films Festival); directed by Jorge Furtado, edited by Giba Assis Brasil; cinematography by Sergio Amon, Roberto Henkin
Speaker: Jesse Epstein, director
Short Films | Body Image | Satire/Funny | Political

Sept. 25-27 – Thesis Showcase – SVA Theater
Reception: Saturday Sept. 26 8:30-10:30pm
At SVA Theater, 333 W 23rd St
Free/Open to the public
Screening schedule & RSVP:

 *Monday, Sept. 28 3:30-5:30pm – Marcel Ophüls Masterclass
At SVA West Side: 133/141 West 21st Street., Theater / Room 101C
RSVP required:
French documentarian Marcel Ophüls is best known for his epic films exploring the effects of war: The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) and Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (1988), for which he won an Oscar. For this Masterclass, Marcel Ophüls will be in conversation with Thom Powers, documentary programmer for Toronto Film Festival and SVA MFA Documentary faculty. This event is free and is open to the SVA community at large.
War | Social Justice | Interview-based documentary | Classic Documentary

Oct 8 –Kristian Gonzales leads: Color Correcting in Media Composer

Oct. 15 – Screening: “Soundbreaking” Work in Progress
Series Produced and Directed by Jeff Dupre and Maro Chermayeff. A Show of Force Production. (PBS Broadcast 2016)
Speaker: Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre
Music | American History | Archival | TV Series

Oct. 22 – Screening: Cutie and the Boxer
Written, directed & cinematography by Zachary Heinzerling; produced by Patrick Burns, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Zachary Heinzerling, Sierra Pettengill; executive produced by Kiki Miyake; edited by David Teague (2013, Sundance Film Festival; Radius-TWC (Weinstein Co.); nominated Academy Award, Best Documentary, Features)
Speaker: Zachary Heinzerling, director
Portrait | Process | Art | First Feature | Oscar Nominee

Oct. 29 – Screening: The Immortalists
directed by David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg; written by Jason Sussberg; produced by David Alvarado and Kate McLean; cinematography by David Alvarado; edited by David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg, Annukka Lilja (2014; SXSW; self-distribution theatrical release)
Speaker: David Alvarado, director, producer, editor, cinematographer
Alvarado & Sussberg’s new film now in production, a biopic of loved children’s science tv host, Bill Nye, just became the most-funded documentary on Kickstarter, raising $859,000+ from 16,800+ backers. We’ll talk about this process & the new film as well.
Portrait | Science | First Feature | Self Distribution | Crowdfunding

Nov. 5 – Speaker: Susan Lacy, HBO Documentary filmmaker, Creator of PBS’ “American Masters”
Susan Lacy will share clips from her work-in-progress documentary for HBO as well as from her previous films.
After nearly 30 years as Executive Producer of the acclaimed AMERICAN MASTERS series (which she created for PBS in 1986), Susan Lacy formed her own company, Pentimento Productions to focus solely on directing and producing. Her first film with Pentimento is set to premiere on HBO in 2016; the first project in Pentimento’s exclusive multi-picture deal with HBO. Susan’s previous films were all part of the AMERICAN MASTERS collection. Most recently she directed and produced Inventing David Geffen, earning the series the 2013 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series. She wrote, produced, and directed Judy Garland: By Myself (2004 Emmy award for writing and nomination for directing, the series’ Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series); Joni Mitchell: Woman of Heart and Mind, Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note (representative episode for the series’ Emmy win in 1999 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series); Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval; and Lena Horne: In Her Own Voice. Over the years, AMERICAN MASTERS has garnered unprecedented awards – Susan earned the series 71 Emmy nominations and 28 wins, including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series, in addition to 12 Peabody awards, 3 Grammy Awards and a nomination, and an Academy Award and 4 nominations.
Works-in-Progress | Biopic | Public Television | Broadcast Executive

Nov. 12 – DOC NYC
Screening of the premiere of a centerpiece film at the 2016 DOC NYC Festival

Nov. 19 – Screening: Evolution of a Criminal
Directed by Darius Clark Monroe; produced by Darius Clark Monroe & Jen Gatien; executive produced by Spike Lee and Jay Kubassek; edited by Doug Lenox; cinematography by Daniel Patterson (2014; SXSW; PBS “Independent Lens”)
Speaker: Darius Clark Monroe, director
Personal Narrative | Crime & Justice | First Feature

Dec. 3 – Screening: High Tech, Low Life
Directed cinematography and edited by Stephen Maing; produced by Stephen Maing and Trina Rodriguez; co-edited by Jonathan Oppenheim (USA/China, 2012; Tribeca Film Festival; PBS “POV” broadcast; limited theatrical release via Argot Pictures)
Speaker: Stephen Maing, director
China | Political | Technology  | First Feature

Emmy Wins for our Faculty!

Richard Hankin, Zac Stuart-Pontier, Caitlyn Greene, Shelby Siegel, editing team of THE JINX at the Emmys

Congratulations to the SVA MFA Social Documentary Film faculty and their films who were at the Creative Arts Emmys this weekend! Richard Hankin, Supervising Editor for HBO Documentary Films’ THE JINX won an Emmy for outstanding picture editing along with Editor Zac Stuart-Pontier and Co-Editors Caitlyn Green and Shelby Siegel. The show also took home an Emmy for best Documentary Or Nonfiction Series, and was also nominated for Emmys for Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Sound Mixing, Outstanding Sound Editing, and Outstanding Cinematography in the Nonfiction Programming category.

And, CITIZENFOUR, also broadcast by HBO, won Exceptional Merit In Documentary Filmmaking. The film was also nominated for Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Cinematography, and Outstanding Picture Editing in the Nonfiction Programming category. Faculty member Kirsten Johnson was a cinematographer for the film, which previously won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

For the News & Documentary Emmys: cinematography faculty Axel Baumann was nominated for his work on MISSION BLUE (Netflix); the film was also nominated for Outstanding Informational Programming-Long-Form and won an Emmy for Best Editing.

Director Ross Kauffman‘s E-TEAM was nominated for Best Documentary as well as Outstanding Coverage of a Current News Story-Long Form, and Michael Epstein is Senior Producer and Director of the PBS/AOL series MAKERS, which was nominated for Outstanding Historical Programming-Long-Form.

Thesis Showcase, Welcome Class of 2017 & more!

Check out all the news from the department including the 5th Annual Thesis showcase, meet our newest class of documentarians, free screening of alumni film THANK YOU FOR PLAYING, SocDoc faculty with new films at IFP’s Independent Film Week and more! Click here to read the newsletter.

Applications for Fall 2015 Still Accepted


Please email or 212-592-2919 for consideration.

Tribeca ’15: “Thank You For Playing” to air on ‘POV’

Tribeca ’15: “Thank You For Playing” to air on ‘POV’

3 days ago by Kevin Ritchie (Real Screen)

Thank You For Playing

PBS doc strand ‘POV’ has picked up the U.S. TV rights to Thank You For Playing (pictured) ahead of its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival next month.

Directed by David Osit (Building Babel) and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Call Me Kuchu) and coproduced by ITVS, the film follows indie video game developer Ryan Green as he creates an adventure game called That Dragon, Cancer about his experiences raising his terminally ill son. The directors examine the empathetic power of art, how technology can help in the grieving process and the wider implications of using video games to document human experiences.

Thank You For Playing will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17 and the filmmakers will participate in a Tribeca Talks panel on April 18 – the same day the game will be available to play at the festival’s Interactive Playground. Screening times and locations are listed on the festival’s website.

‘POV’ will air the film during its 2016-2017 season. The doc strand’s 28th season kicks off on June 22 with Out In The Night.


Read more:

David Osit is a 2011 graduate of the MFA SocDoc program. 

SocDoc at The Tribeca Film Festival

SocDoc at The Tribeca Film Festival

Bao Nguyen’s (SocDoc ’11) filmLive From NY the new Saturday Night Live doc will open the 2015Tribeca Film Festival in April. Alumni Caleb Heller (cinematographer), Ben Nimkin (sound), David Osit (editor), Natalie Ruiz Tofano (production coordinator) played major roles in the production team. Go SocDoc!More information on the film and the festival. 


 For tickets and more info.

Thank You for Playing co-directed and co-written by David Osit (SocDoc ’11) and Malika Zouhali-Worrall will be featured in the World Documentary Competition. The film follows Ryan and Amy Green who have been working on That Dragon, Cancer, a videogame about their son Joel’s fight against that disease. Following the family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create a moving testament to the joy and heartbreak of raising a terminally ill child.

Pulitzer Center Film Series at Paley Center: ‘The Abominable Crime’

Pulitzer Center Film Series at Paley Center: ‘The Abominable Crime’

The Abominable Crime, the award-winning documentary on homophobia in Jamaica by director Micah Fink (SocDoc Faculty), kicks off the Pulitzer Center’s film series at New York’s Paley Center for Media on Tuesday, April 21. Free and open to the public, but RSVP requested—please reserve your seat today. Reception follows screening and panel.

Join our mailing list

Keep up with the School of Visual Arts MFA Social documentary program by joining our mailing list.

  • Playing to the beat of the clients drum of coursehellip
  • Shoot edit Coffee Repeat chelsibullard  flyinggiant saturday ngo svahellip
  • day one complete NGO SEASON socialdocumentary activism trans transgender lgbtqihellip
  • The final day of docnycfestwhat a great run this yearhellip
  • We met legendary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman nymediacenter ifpfilm last night!hellip
  • Grad school lessons dont forget to call striking! gradschool gafferhellip
  • Super fun docnyc DocU showcase with our students  alumshellip