Returning to The New School as the School of Media Studies’ 2018 Dorothy H. Hirshon Director-in-Residence meant a lot to Sean Baker, award-winning filmmaker and director of the Academy Award-nominated film The Florida Project.
In 2000, Baker took Avid editing courses at the School of Media Studies. During those courses, he not only advanced his craft, but he also met his long-time co-writer and producer, Shih-Ching Tsou, a 2010 graduate of the MA in Media Studies program. Together, they wrote and directed Take Out, a documentary about undocumented Chinese immigrant workers in New York City, which became their first of many films together.
"The New School holds a special place in my heart — it is where I studied non-linear editing, which has had a profound effect on how I make films," Baker says. "I have always held The New School in high regard for its progressive thinking in the approach to education and the wealth of talent that I observed in the student body.”
During his time as Director-in-Residence, Baker spent four days working with Media Studies students and sharing advice with them through a series of master classes, discussions, and film screenings.
“It’s interesting to be in this position (as a teacher), because, generally, I don’t like giving advice—everyone has their own journey,” Baker said in an interview during his time as Hirshon Artist in Residence. “What I usually tell students is that they're about to set out on this journey, and it will be very unique and different from that of every other filmmaker. There’s no set formula.”
Following his success on The Florida Project, which, after it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, won or was nominated for several awards during the 2017 award season, Baker was awarded Best Director of the Year by the New York Film Critics Circle. His directing credits also include other award-nominated titles including: Tangerine (2015), Prince of Broadway (2009), Starlet (2012), and Take Out (2008).
“It’s amazing to see how far The New School has come; it was always a prestigious place to study, but now, 15 to 20 years later, everyone talks about it as a real destination,” says Baker.