Director Marika Sonja Cotter graduated from University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts Cinema-Television Production undergraduate program in 2011.
Since then, she has been writing, producing and editing her first feature-length film, an adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy As You Like It set in modern-day San Francisco. On November 30th, she completed the final cut of Love: As You Like It, and is now in the process of submitting it to festivals around the nation and abroad.
In 2003, at the age of sixteen, Cotter began interning with film critic Jan Wahl at KRON 4 News in San Francisco. Wahl challenged Cotter to think critically about her media consumption, and encouraged her to study and analyze every aspect of a film from its performances to its cinematography to its writing to its product placement, and more.
The two years spent with Wahl at KRON 4 were incredibly inspiring for Cotter. Not only was she exposed to live television production, a professional environment with which she quickly fell in love, but she also grew in her knowledge of film and filmmaking, and realized that filmmaking was the profession that she wanted to pursue.
After graduating high school in 2005, Cotter took a year off to work at her high school as an administrative assistant for the Alumni Affairs department and as a music teacher. She took some filmmaking classes at a local junior college including a 16mm production class, which she almost failed due to a lousy group pairing for the final project (an important lesson which made her realize the importance of collaboration and getting along with your crew).
Despite her poor performance the semester before, however, Cotter was determined to continue learning about filmmaking and signed up for more production and theory courses in the spring of 2006, including a Video Production on Location course for which she later won an award (documentary short about her grandmother's experience during World War Two in rural Finland).
By mid-2006, Cotter realized that the only way for her to really start learning about media production was to shut her textbooks and get her hands dirty by actually working the entire production process from pre-pro all the way through post. As a result, she dived into her first film that summer, an eleven minute adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, a project from which she learned a great deal.
The fall of 2006 brought Cotter's first semester of college at Pepperdine University where she worked the soundboard of the school's news station and volunteered for various filmmaking activities around and off campus. She decided, however, after the first semester, to return to the Bay Area and go back to junior college, where she felt like she had more freedom to study production and actually produce.
From the spring of 2007 through the fall of 2008, Cotter studied at College of Marin and took online courses through UC Berkeley in Shakespeare and sociology. While at College of Marin, she took production classes with Grant Kennell, whose course she had nearly failed in 2006. Kennell took Cotter under his wing and provided her with a thorough education in the full production process.
With his encouragement and guidance, she created a pilot episode for a web series called They Call Us Kids, and handled everything herself from writing to casting to shooting to sound mixing. Production was a step-up from A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, and she enjoyed the opportunity to have learned from her previous beginner mistakes and make adjustments like, for example, using a boom mic instead of trying to do ADR!
In 2007, Cotter also began a video production internship with the San Francisco Giants, an incredibly valuable experience where she learned to pull and run cable, camera assist, and operate camera professionally and efficiently.
During this time, Cotter developed an appreciation for precise and calculated camera movement and composition, which she has carried with her to this day and tries to apply to her filmmaking whenever possible.
Through her internship with the Giants, Cotter started working for a commercial production company called Versus TV where she assisted Emmy Award-winning DP Scott Duncan, an inspiration to Cotter in terms of both his work and work ethic.
Cotter worked with Duncan and Versus TV from 2007 through 2010 on various projects, and had many interesting adventures in filmmaking including having to change batteries with one hand while holding onto the cameraman with the other as he continued to slide dangerously close to the edge of an open door while the executive producer, who was driving, laughed maniacally and insisted that it was perfectly fine to barrel down the Santa Cruz Mountains at 60 mph with the van wide open, especially if it meant getting the perfect shot.
From fall of 2008 to spring of 2011, Cotter worked as an assistant curator at the Warner Brothers Archives, interned at Smart Entertainment in Beverly Hills, and attended USC SCA's production program, creating six more short films.
In April 2011, a month before graduating, Cotter began writing Love: As You Like It and worked on that steadily for a full year and ten months while balancing other jobs like teaching violin, working at a local movie theater, selling sausages at supermarkets, and building websites.
With her film now complete, she is currently submitting Love: As You Like It to festivals, and writing her fourth feature-length screenplay which she hopes to produce over the next few years.