Congratulations to alumna Sofia Sondervan for her work on the film, “The Letter Room,” which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action) at this year’s Oscars. It tells the tale of a lonely corrections officer, played by Oscar Isaac, who is assigned to a prison letter room and finds himself entangled in a prisoner's private life.
The short film, written and directed by Elvira Lind, with a running time of 33 minutes, was a unique experience that has paid great dividends. “Sometimes the biggest reward is in the smallest package,” said Sondervan, on her Oscar nod as the producer of the film. She has previously produced feature-length films, most notably “Cadillac Records,” which won the Black Reel Award for Best Film in 2009, and which was nominated for a Golden Globe and seven NAACP Awards.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Sondervan moved to Atlanta with her family when she was in the tenth grade. Missing her home country and fearing that her English was not good enough, she planned to go back to the Netherlands for college. At the insistence of her journalist father, however, she applied to NYU, and got accepted into the School of Continuing Education, a former iteration of NYU SPS.
It turned out to be a fortuitous and life-changing experience. She earned an associate degree in 1993 from the School’s ground-breaking, two-year General Studies Program (today the Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies), which was heavily focused on the humanities and philosophy. “What an incredible program that was,” she recalled. “I graduated with a very strong social studies base,” she noted. This not only improved her English language skills, but gave her extensive grounding in a broad range of subjects. She also gave up on thoughts of returning to the Netherlands.
While at SPS, Sondervan took some production and writing classes at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, which led to her interest in directing film. She ultimately earned a BFA in Film and Television at Tisch.
Sondervan went on to produce work for ContentFilm, Pressman Film Corp, Sony Music, Miramax, and, most recently, Dutch Tilt Film. She is a member of the Producers Guild, and she teaches several undergraduate and graduate classes in producing at NYU Tisch and at The School of Visual Arts. Her upcoming projects include a film on Little Richard and a TV series for Fox.
Her advice to students: Make the most of your time in school and take part in all of the incredible opportunities you can. Never look down on a project as being too small. Maybe that’s the lesson of “The Letter Room.”