• News

Q+A with Rising Stars Rory, Amanda and Rosalina

December 2022
Our own Amanda Hillsberg Arya and Rory Thost were both recently named Insider’s Rising Stars of the entertainment business: young standouts who are creating powerful storytelling for today’s audiences. Meanwhile, Rosalina Jowers was awarded ADCOLOR’s Rising Star: an up-and-comer under the age of 30 whose “brilliance, determination and shining personality makes them stand out as a leader.” Huge congrats to all three!
Q. Can you tell us your job title and what it actually means?
ROSALINA: My role is the Director of Communications & Film Marketing. I support the strategy development and execution of our film and impact campaigning. In collaboration with our partners, our team identifies opportunities to creatively amplify the artistry of our filmmakers and the advocacy efforts of our partners.
RORY + AMANDA: We’re Directors of Documentary Film, overseeing creative development and new projects for the documentary feature slate. A typical day can include reviewing new material, watching each version of our films as they progress to completion, taking pitches, participating in film forums and looking over our slate of films with the rest of our incredibly talented doc team. We’re a small group and we work together to support our films all the way from development to release.
Q. Participant’s films always seem to ‘see around the corner’ on the world’s most pressing issues. How do you see these stories contributing to positive change?
ROSALINA: Progress has come from the tireless efforts of people – from Chairman Fred Hampton to Vice President Al Gore – fighting to tell the truth about our history, present and future. These stories have shifted the narrative around whose voice matters and what justice looks like, creating opportunities to rewrite the future for generations to come.
RORY + AMANDA: When evaluating projects, we’re often looking to explore stories beyond the news cycle, systemic problems to be brought to light. This allows for a meaningful longevity within the relevance of the project. While we try to “see around the corner”, we also examine issues that have been in plain sight for quite some time. Documentary is a medium that deals with real-world problems and the potential to blend film and journalism, lending these films to impact. We trust our filmmakers to build meaningful stories that make audiences see their world in a different way. The film becomes a tool to make an audience think – what can I do now? That essential question is the first step towards real-world impact.
Q. What’s your favorite part of the job?
ROSALINA: My favorite part of the job is working to tell the stories of the people behind the camera (filmmakers, production teams) and those who deserve to be in front of it (activists and advocates).
RORY + AMANDA: Meeting filmmakers with fresh perspectives and stories that make us look at the world differently. We’re constantly taking pitches and reading new material, and it’s an immense privilege to work in a role that allows you to learn everyday. Our tastes are complimentary but different which makes collaborating and bouncing ideas off one another a fun and enriching experience.
Q. Rory and Amanda: What is it about documentaries that drew you to that genre of cinema?
RORY + AMANDA: Their ability to change as they go. The spontaneity and the fact that you don’t have a script to work from. We feel nonfiction has traditionally been placed in this specific box and we want to push against that, as the genre is expanding now more than ever. There’s so much room to play and lift up brave voices that are experimenting with the form.
Q. What would you say is the most important skill you’ve honed that enables you to be particularly good at what you do?
ROSALINA: Patience and grace.
RORY + AMANDA: Well you’re always growing and learning new things as the business is in a constant state of change. No one film is the same so we’d have to say flexibility, the ability to listen, not be so staunch in your thinking. Seeing a film on a page, way before it’s actually a film, requires you to open your mind and imagine what it could be.
Q. Is there anything in your personal life or upbringing that you think has contributed to your ability to find the urgency and nuance when telling stories?
ROSALINA: I grew up with an immigrant Filipino mother and a Black veteran father. Despite how biases and inequity framed how they were treated, they always fought to tell their truth, emphasizing the importance of how collective memory – and intentional erasure – can either advance progress or perpetuate division.
RORY: Coming out of school, I originally wanted to become a journalist but pivoted to film. Documentary soon became the perfect intersection of those two passions.
AMANDA: My journey has been far from linear, but I’ve always been deeply curious and passionate about understanding the world around me – and documentary became the ground to explore these different worlds.
Q. Can you tell us what kind of projects you’re excited to be working on right now?
ROSALINA: I’m incredibly proud to be working on DESCENDANT, which we launched a campaign for around the film’s release on Netflix.
RORY + AMANDA: We had such an exciting fall festival season with the release of All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, A Compassionate Spy and Lowndes County: The Road to Black Power, alongside the continued rollout of Descendant. These films have been on our slate for years and seeing them come to life and be embraced by audiences has been a gift. Now we’re looking to the new year and pushing through several projects on a range of hard-hitting topics that we have in development and production.