California State University, Northridge Cinema and Television Arts student, Sara Sims, is a Student Academy Award semifinalist for her thesis documentary “#2276”, an idea developed from the discovery that she had 10 half-siblings.
At 17, Sara’s twin sister took a genetics test and discovered that both her and her sister were conceived via a sperm donor.
Wanting to share her story, Sims submitted the idea during a competitive pitch process for the CTVA documentary thesis projects. The result is a film that explores the idea that nature and nurture both play a role in building bonds and connections with those we consider family. The documentary includes interviews with Sims, her twin sister, their father, the donor and five of their 10 biological siblings.
“There are three messages I really wanted to share,” Sims said. “One, everyone has a place or a group of people that they fit in with. It might take a while to find them, but once you do it will change everything.”
“Two is more related to the parent-child dynamic; you never know the full details of what your parent or guardian has gone through but your family is important no matter the relationship that you have with them,” Sims said. “Take the time to get to know what they’ve been through and it’ll really help you re-evaluate what you’ve been through.”
“Three, the donor conception message,” she said. “There’s such a big and negative stigma around donation and donor-conceived people. It’s a necessary thing, people or families need it, and it shouldn’t be such a taboo topic.”
Students in the documentary production option of the CTVA program must develop a thesis project and work with their classmates to create and produce the piece. Once Sim’s team completed their project, faculty advisor Judy Korin encouraged them to submit the piece in the documentaries category of the Student Academy Awards, an international competition hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Sim’s documentary was one of 63 semifinalist films selected out of 2,443 submissions. Finalists will be announced on Thursday, August 17, and the winning entries will be announced in October.
The documentary option is the newest of the Cinema and Television Arts programs – 24 students are admitted each semester based on their portfolio submissions. The program focuses on preparing young filmmakers by teaching them the technical and creative skills used for non-fiction storytelling.
“With such an interview-led documentary, it’s hard to predict exactly what people are going to say,” said Sims. “The idea that you go in with, especially in documentary, is going to change no matter what. You just have to go with the flow, gather your interviews, and re-evaluate what you want your audience to take away from the story.”
Sims served as the producer and co-director, along with other co-director Samuel Barnett, of “#2276.” Editing was done by Makenna Cordiano, Ryan Galvez and Julie Garcia. Director of photography was Jonathan Park, sound was done by Peter Mozeh and the original score was by Miranda Clark – all CSUN students.
“I want to commend the student filmmakers,” said Korin, an assistant professor of documentary in the CTVA department. “It’s not easy to tell complicated stories in a short film, and they really showed a great dedication to their art form by creating a story that was emotionally very real, satisfying, moving and relatable.”
For more information about the CSUN CTVA documentary option visit the website.