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Interview with Maria Soccor: “Being successful is being happy and doing what you love.”

Multi-award-winning film director, writer, producer, stage and film actress, dancer, and poet—these are just some of Maria Soccor’s roles. Known for her award-winning feature documentary, Lords of BSV, Maria Soccor has proved herself to be a passionate and accomplished artist displaying her versatility through film, theatre, and television.

From her childhood, Soccor was influenced by her father and mother’s example. As a child of an immigrant, Maria saw her mother’s struggles firsthand, navigating her way in a new country. It was her mother’s endurance and her father’s core values that inspired Soccor to pursue her wildest dreams. From an early age, she realized the importance of saving money, working hard, and always making bigger goals for herself.

In the eighties, Maria Soccor saw Tootsie, a movie that would be remembered as the first film she ever watched with her father who was an avid film-lover. This was just the beginning of her appreciation for the world of film.

One filmmaker she studied and appreciated when she was younger was Akira Kurosawa for his symbolic use of light and shadows throughout his films. More recently, Soccor’s been inspired by Japanese actress and filmmaker Kinouyo Tanaka for her groundbreaking social content for women. Some of her other favorite filmmakers include Kasi Lemmons, Ken Burns, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, and Sophia Coppola who have inspired her to take risks in her own work with different styles and forms of cinematography, storytelling, and direction.

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Starting as a dancer and actress, Soccor shifted into the filmmaking world in her twenties after being diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, causing a problem with the rate of her heartbeat. After being unsure how this would affect her career, she backed away from dance and the stage and took on more film and television roles along with filmmaking. After receiving a cardiac ablation in 2018, she is now back to performing in addition to her filmmaking career.  

“It’s great as a filmmaker to be able to write content and stylize it yourself. [I get to] call the shots and really build a beautiful picture. That’s what I want to do: I want to tell great stories that touch you in here [the heart], about people, real people,” Soccor said in our interview.

As a producer, director, and writer, Maria Soccor has worked on many titles including shorts like Play HouseCinemacomaLoveseat SoundstageProphet in E minor, and Kicks in addition to her documentary Lords of BSV and many others currently in production, like feature documentaries 2 B Me, The Boys of 742, Sybil, Tillie, Gentrify This!, and Freestyle Music: The Legacy. 

When I asked Soccor why she was inspired to pursue film she said, “Because I have an acting background, I was always in front of the camera, and as I got older, I realized the possibility of becoming a filmmaker, [creating] socially relevant content for women and ordinary people. Just telling great stories really brought me to learning lenses and learning how to become a filmmaker, where I am still a student of it all. I have a sincere and faithful passion for film on all levels.”

In addition to her love for film, Maria Soccor talked about her love for people. One of her favorite parts of filmmaking, especially with her documentaries, is how she can connect with different people and their cultures and lifestyles. In one of her films, Lords of BSV, she was able to work with amazing dancers and capture their inspiring stories. The purpose of this film was to tell a positive story about Brukup dancers in Brooklyn, New York, and give them a voice through her award-winning documentary.  

“The best experience when you go into a project is that you get to know people, you become challenged, and you learn how to cope with the obstacles. I really love working with people, and I think this is also why I love my industry—this is all I do. But that is the best thing: there’s nothing better than meeting people and completing a project from beginning to end. I love doing projects with people.”

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In our interview, Soccor also talked about one of her most rewarding accomplishments: winning Best Director of a Feature Documentary for Lord of BSV in 2015 at the Madrid International Film Festival. Despite being in the film industry for over twenty years, Soccor was shocked by the outcome of her feature documentary. She remembers being excited about her nominations but wasn’t expecting to win Best Director of a Feature Documentary, especially since she was up against major documentarians. She learned through this film that her use of original footage instead of archival footage was a defining part of her filmmaking style.

She realized that her style is what set her apart and helped her win many more awards for Lords of BSV: “It was very special to me because it was the beginning of something that helped shape me as a filmmaker, because of the style. I couldn’t figure it out. I have an ensemble cast, and it’s really big. But that’s what I like to do, and those are the stories I like to tell. It’s about a group of people or a thing that brings a group of people together.”

In addition to winning Best Director of a Feature Documentary for Lord of BSV, Soccor also was honored as Best Producer at the International Achievers Awards in London and was named Emerging Director at the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival 2015.

Lords of BSV was also awarded the Jury Award for Best Documentary and Best Cinematography In A Documentary Feature at the London International Film Festival; Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival; Best Music in a Feature Film at the Madrid International Film Festival; Best Documentary at the Filmmaker International Film Festival Marbella 2015, Milan International Film Festival 2015, 2015 Visionfest Film Festival in New York City, and the Rahway International Film Festival 2015; The Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature Film at the Hudson Valley International Film Festival 2015; and the Jury Award for Best Documentary at the Long Island International Film Expo 2015.

In our interview, Soccor talked about how after losing her father in 2018 and coming out of the pandemic, she learned the importance of focusing on the people around her and the things she loves to do.

“The pandemic crippled my industry completely,” Soccor commented, identifying with many artists. She recalls losing a TV opportunity in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. Instead of losing sight of her goals during this difficult time, Soccor hunkered down in her home office and began to create.

“I started working on projects. I thought, there has to be something that will come out of this. I didn’t want to come out of the pandemic with nothing. So, I worked, took master classes online, and was able to accomplish directing and writing a few more documentaries.”

She was able to tune in her creativity, and at such a time of uncertainty, she hustled and dedicated herself to her craft. Soccor also was able to get involved with multiple online acting opportunities developing a play with American Playwright Rosary O’Neil at the prestigious Actor’s Studio titled, The Reluctant Vampire, including auditioning and performing for the production of Mannequin Diaries, written by Brian Wiggans and directed by Trazana Beverly, a Tony award-winning actress at The Liberty Theater. Maria Soccor loves acting and is excited about the opportunity to do it again, after getting a new manager, Tracey Eggers for her upcoming opportunities in theater.

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“Theater is wonderful. You’re rehearsing and constantly slipping into a fiction in the moment when you really get to work with the director. You have time, and you have a beautiful space to work with. It’s continuous. You’re really living through something in the moment.

“Whereas [in] film, you have to come so prepped and ready as an actor. Once you slip into fiction when you’re doing a film, it’s a beautiful experience. For me, it’s therapeutic. It’s letting the day go and letting everything personal go behind me and leave. You can just block out everything and be that [character] and live through that truthfully.

“They are two very, very different processes, but they both have the same outcome: you’ve really created something by yourself, or with people and your director, that’s truthful. It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s all about the preparation.”

In addition to her acting opportunities, Soccor had much time to write during the pandemic. She was able to shift into writing more narrative styles, like her World War II project. She was also able to start filming more documentaries, like Tillie, which is a civil rights piece, and her next big documentary, Freestyle Music: The Legacy.

“During the pandemic, those two plays, the documentaries I wrote and directed, and the film I wrote—the pandemic was a great time for me to hunker down, focus, and find a different avenue to work. I’m so glad I did because I was able to come up with more projects that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do had I been in that everyday rush, finding the next thing.”

Soccor has many exciting opportunities and projects coming up, but her biggest project is her recent film in production, Freestyle Music: The Legacy. This documentary follows trailblazing Latino artists from the Bronx and Spanish Harlem who created a new style of music in the 1980s and 90s, spreading to Miami, LA, and around the world.

“The film covers the producers, artists, DJs, and record executives, and really shines the light on all of them. With the hustle it was before, I don’t think they always had the opportunity to be recognized, and they should’ve been recognized by major magazines or had more global recognition. I hope this film not only documents [these artists], but I want people to know who these people are and what freestyle music is. It’s a documentary I wanted to make.”

This documentary has an all-star cast with many individuals influential to freestyle music like John “Gungie” Rivera, DJ Little Louie Vega, George LaMond, Betty Dee of Sweet Sensation, Judy Torres, Corina, Cynthia, Brenda K. Starr, Aby Cruz of TKA, Robert Clivillés of C+C Music Factory, and more stars to be announced.

In addition to this documentary, Maria Soccor will be attending this year’s Festival de Cannes for Fairytale where she plays the role of Megan.  With many new projects coming up for Soccor in her career, she is optimistic and happy about the future.

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When asked about her amazing success, this is what she said: “It was always important to me to raise the bar for myself. I was always aspiring higher and higher and higher. I think the testament to my success is my father who instilled great morals, values, and virtues in me– who is an amazing, amazing man. He passed away in 2018, but he is always in my heart. He taught me how to be self-reliant.

“And I think it was always the focus I had to always reach higher, and I’m still working and reaching for higher things. My success, truly, is that I am safe, secure, healthy, and happy. I get to pick the projects I want to do, and I get to be an actor. I’m just so content with my life, and that to me is success. Find what you love to do, seize it, but really, just be happy. Being successful is being happy and doing what you love.”

Follow Maria Soccor on her social media accounts below.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MariaSoccor 

IG: @iammariasoccor https://www.instagram.com/iammariasoccor/?hl=en 

Twitter: @Maria_Soccor https://twitter.com/maria_soccor?lang=en IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1391723/

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