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Scholarship recipient to enter unique film-criticism program

Monica Castillo will study at USC’s journalism and film schools, and be mentored by LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan

Monica Castillo
Monica Castillo won the Sony Pictures Fellowship, a scholarship to study film criticism. (Photo/Stephanie Ramones)

Monica Castillo has been selected as the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s first Sony Pictures Entertainment Fellow.

Castillo was awarded a scholarship from Sony Pictures Entertainment, which that she will use to study film criticism as part of USC Annenberg’s Masters in Arts Journalism program.

A joint venture between USC Annenberg and Sony, the fellowship is the university’s first program specifically designed for film critics. Castillo will take classes at both USC Annenberg and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She will be mentored by Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan and advised by Sasha Anawalt, director of the USC Annenberg Masters in Arts Journalism program.

There aren’t many other programs that offer this level of flexibility, specialty and access to mentors.

Monica Castillo

“I always learned by experiencing, by freelancing, by learning how to pitch the hard way, by learning how to write,” Castillo said. “And this program mixes things that I really wanted to study most. There aren’t many other programs that offer this level of flexibility, specialty and access to mentors.”

Future of film criticism

Turan, an adjunct professor at Annenberg, saluted USC and SPE’s investment in the future of film criticism.

“It’s a kind of recognition of the ongoing importance of film criticism that I think is very commendable,” he said.

Castillo, 25, is a self-taught film critic, who found her passion for film criticism while studying molecular biology and biochemistry at Boston University. She covered films for her college paper and co-founded the Boston Online Film Critics Association. She is currently a Brooklyn-based entertainment reporter for International Business Times. For over five years, she has also worked as a freelance film critic.

Unique perspective

A first-generation Cuban-American, raised in Tampa, Fla., Castillo said her perspective as a Latina offers audiences a different viewpoint.

“It’s part of who I am. It’s how I relate to things. It’s how I watch media. It’s how I am able to criticize it, sometimes,” she said.

“Monica has shown that she cares about the field as a whole,” Anawalt said. “She looks forward, not back. Her writing is clear and thrilling, because she has ideas – her own ideas. We can’t wait to work with her.”

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Scholarship recipient to enter unique film-criticism program

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