Sofiya Gorya ’04
Yaroslavl, Russia/Virginia Beach, VA

Sonya Gorya ’04 from Yaroslavl, Russia created a fantastic video about her experience on the FLEX Program with the support of a FLEX Alumni grant.  Relax and enjoy the video at

Below is an interview with Sonya about her experience taking part in the FLEX Alumni Grant Program and her very interesting career path!

Sonya, tell us the story of how you made this video “A Charmed Year” about your FLEX experience: The idea came to me when I went to visit my host family in 2010 – already my second visit back. They had given me the charm bracelet at the beginning of my exchange year and added charms throughout the year. When I came back to visit we added more charms. I t is really easy, when people ask me what it is…I can explain describing all the things I love using the charms. It was also useful to not forget details. It turned out to be a kind of “show and tell” and I realized I could use it to make my video.

Could you tell us about your FLEX Alumni Grant: It was a small amount of money only $300. I spent this money to pay a professional animator. I also bought materials from which I made small model sets to help create the animation. I also rented a camera.

Please describe the creative process of making the video: First I started with a story board and then asked my very good friend who is an animator to make the moving bracelet. I did it in bits – not really systematic. When I found something and remembered something I would get inspired…piecing it all together was a bit of a challenge. Of course it could have lasted at least four hours if I had put everything in there that I’d wanted to include!

What are you doing now? I am a fifth year at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) film school in Moscow. I have really great class mates who helped me, especially with the moving photos. They helped with advice and also encouraged me and gave me feedback. They helped me shooting the first shots when I am actually in the video.

Besides university, I have a job at the Animation Studio “Pilot,” where we basically make cartoons, music videos and advertisements. It is really exciting, since that is what I have always wanted to do and I have a great team. It’s a dream job. Sometimes we have tough times. I really like to go to work – which is really important. I have been there for five years already. I started out as an animator, then artist and art director and have now climbed to director. In this role I’m in charge of more people – two artists, four to five animators and one “compositor/editor.”  In the company we have 20 people in our claymation group and we are one piece of the agency’s work.

What comes next, Sonya? Since it is my last year in university, I would like to try find an internship abroad in a bigger company. I would like to try something new – maybe Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network – and then come back and share it with my studio. We have great artists but we can definitely improve our organization and management. We need to improve our business skills.

Sonya Gorya ’04, student at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) film school in Moscow

What do your families (Russian and U.S.) think about your profession? My dad probably thinks it is a girly thing to do. He’d prefer that I were a lawyer or found a husband. My mom is really excited. My host family is my biggest fan. They showed their appreciation for my work even though I was just starting.  They hung my pictures on the wall. They really helped me to gain self esteem and believe in myself.

What do you think about alumni reactions to your video? I’m, really glad that people are commenting on the video. The feedback and comments on the Internet show that I met the goal I was aiming for – I was hoping for this reaction. People could associate with my character. It is great news – even the boys. The fact that guys reposted it shows me that it works!

In closing, I want to say that the FLEX Grants Program is a great thing. It is my second time applying for and winning a grant. My first one was for the Charity without Boarders project. I also made a film about a group of Americans doing volunteer work in my town in Russia. It helped me professionally in filmmaking and here it is the same thing. I had a great time doing it and it wasn’t hard work. And there are tons of things you can think of. You should first think about not only how your project helps the community, but find something that you really enjoy doing, because that makes it a success. You put your effort into it because you really care about it.”