Connecticut | Females in Film | Film School & Education | Interviews | Vermont

Interview with Maria Clinton, Documentary Filmmaker and MFA Student at VCFA

30 Mar , 2015  

Written by Catherine Stewart | Posted by:

Fellow female filmmakers discuss work, life, and more in this new series, Females in Film. For this installment, NewEnglandFilm.com writer Catherine Stewart talks with documentary filmmaker Maria Clinton, a student at the Vermont College of Fine Art.

This series of articles will feature interviews with established and emerging female filmmakers living and working in New England, as well as prominent industry figures from our region. Filmmaker Catherine Stewart discusses distribution, finding work, making connections, and handling collaborations, along with whatever else comes along. We encourage you to join the conversation here on NewEnglandFilm.com or on Twitter using #femalesinfilm.

Originally from and currently living in Westchester, New York Maria Clinton is pursuing an MFA in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). “I graduated from Fairfield University in 2013,” she explains. “My focus was in Communications and Film and Television. The journey has been simultaneously rewarding and full of unexpected discoveries about my interests and desired career pursuits.”

Clinton always knew she had an interest in working in media, but wasn’t able to find her niche for some time. “At Fairfield University I began a project named Stand For that used media, a news program format, to educate the college community about humanitarian crises and social justice initiatives that received little if any attention.”

Since attending the VCFA she has been working on a cinema vérité first person short documentary, titled Side by Side. “After coming home from college my life was quickly turned upside down and I was grounded in reality,” says Clinton. “After rearranging some of my original desires and plans to move away from home I became an integral part of three generations of African American women that are now rebuilding their lives together under one roof after the men in our lives failed to uphold their promises.” This deeply personal situation has become the center of her current work at the VCFA and it is clear when discussing her role models where her future path may lead. “There are so many talented filmmakers but one that immediately comes to mind is Sarah Polley. One of my favorite documentaries is the Stories We Tell. As a director I think she is incredibly authentic and courageous.”

Clinton is currently developing her craft in the MFA, and it appears to have been a hugely positive decision in her life to choose to return to education. “I have immensely enjoyed my time at VCFA,” continues Clinton. “While I feel like I’ll never arrive, per se, as a filmmaker and artist but rather continue to evolve and grow, I really believe that my filmmaking journey has begun to take shape at this graduate school.” Clinton believes it is this course, it’s shape and structure that has help her find her niche. “Even just, in my first year here I have learned so much. I have been mentored by so many knowledgeable advisors that are not only educated in the art of filmmaking but also continue to work in the field.”

Always with a desire to return to education, Clinton never imagined that the experience would be as enjoyable and inspiring. “The time spent in Montpelier, Vermont during residency is always a pleasure and an oasis from the hustle and bustle of New York life. However, most importantly it is an opportunity for me to be connected with a vibrant community of students and faculty. I continually return home energized and ready to tackle my work with a new perspective.”

After hearing more about Clinton’s experience I have been thinking about opportunities that help us grow, expand our horizons and give us time to reflect on our practice. Finding those experiences are not always easy however I believe they are necessary no matter which stage we are at in our careers.

When we are not looking forward in our careers, it’s often important to look back at the starting points in our journey as filmmakers. Clinton can trace her current work to her early childhood, and in particular two female family members in her life. “I remember at a young age watching 60 Minutes with my grandmother,” Clinton remembers fondly. “ From that time a love grew for broadcast journalism spilling over into a love for watching documentaries. I grew up around a very creative family, my aunt especially who wrote and directed plays for both adults and children, I think subconsciously had an influence on me.”

Clinton’s earliest film memory is of winning an ITV award in 8th grade for reporting as a broadcast journalist. “As I look back on it now my response was quite hilarious. In my adolescent mind it was as if I had won an Oscar. I gave my acceptance speech, thanking a long list of family members and God first, that was life changing for me.”

You can learn more about the Vermont College of Fine Art at their website. Look out for future articles with more students and staff at the VCFA as part of Females in Film here are NewEnglandFilm.com.


You can learn more about the Vermont College of Fine Art at their website. Look out for future articles with more students and staff at the VCFA as part of Females in Film here are NewEnglandFilm.com.