Filmmaker Advice: Ramona Diaz

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CAAM is proud to have been a part of Filipina American Ramona Diaz‘s ascent from aspiring filmmaker to seasoned director. CAAM has funded several of Diaz’s documentaries through the Media Fund department, including Imelda and The Learning. Diaz has also served as a mentor in the CAAM Fellowship Program. Here, she reflects on how CAAM and CAAMFest have played an important role in her career as an Asian American filmmaker. Since 1982, the annual festival has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema. Submit now and join us at the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American films.

Ramona Diaz on CAAMFest:

Filmmaker Ramona Diaz. Photo courtesy of the filmmaker.

Ramona Diaz.

My first feature length documentary, Imelda, was the closing night film of the festival in ’04. I was a very special night. Everyone at CAAM (then NAATA) made me feel so appreciated and CAAM folks went out of their way to make sure I had a great festival experience. In a year that started at Sundance and ended at the IDA Awards, CAAMFest stood out as one of the best experiences of the year. I’ll never forget it.”

Diaz’s tips on submitting to film festivals:

Don’t be shy about calling the festival and asking to speak to a festival programmer. They may be too busy to talk to you, but do it anyway. You might end up talking to an assistant who might take an interest in your film—you just never know. Or maybe the programmer will take your call. Like I said, you just never know. And use your network. If you have a friend who knows any of the programmers, ask him or her to reach out to their friend and tell them that you’ve submitted your film, just a heads up kind of email. Festivals are so inundated with submissions, it helps to get on their radar.”

Ramona Diaz is an award-winning Asian American filmmaker best known for her compelling character-driven documentaries that combine a profound appreciation for cinematic aesthetics and potent storytelling. Ramona’s films have demonstrated her ability to gain intimate access to the people she films—be they rock stars, first ladies, dissidents, or teachers—resulting in keenly observed moments and nuanced narratives that are unforgettable. She has received funding from major agencies such as ITVS, the Sundance Documentary Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Institute, and CPB. Diaz’s credits include Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (Tribeca, Silver Docs Opening Night, San Francisco Closing Night, Audience Award Palm Springs, Independent Lens, distributed by Cinedigm); Imelda (Excellence in Cinematography Award, 2004 Sundance Film Festival, IDA Award, Independent Lens, Film Forum); The Learning (POV, IDA nomination); and Spirits Rising (Student Academy Award, Director’s Guild of America Award). Diaz is a graduate of Emerson College, Boston and holds an MA in Communication from Stanford University.

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