Reader Profile – Sonia Helman

Name: Sonia Helman

Camera: Panasonic NV-GS65

Editing Platform: Adobe Premiere Pro, Canopus Imaginate, Pinnacle DV500

Microphone: Two TEAC stereo mics

Other Gear: Two Manfrotto tripods, a dolly, several DIY lights

It all started in Rosario, Argentina, when I was 12. My parents gave me as a birthday present an 8mm silent Yashica Yashimat zoom film camera (Super 8 film was already on the market, but I got this one). When I turned 15, when most girls forget their childhood toys, I bought the book – How to Make Better Movies, by Myron Matzkin. I learned to edit my films with small scissors, so I could cut out all of the out of focus and badly lit shots, and then I started to learn camera moves and techniques.

Fast forward some years. I married a man who is – not surprisingly – a fan of making movies. He even has introduced me to a new term – video camera. I was studying art by then, and we made our first video together: a documentary on classical guitar music.

Time passed, and I finished art school with a documentary on Lola Mora, Argentina’s first woman sculptor. This video was projected to the public several times, and slowly the jobs came in, mostly documentaries and videos for the University, the Town Hall, the Sculptors’ Center, the Biochemical Guild, and more. This was in the 1990s, and we worked with a super VHS camera, two Panasonic FS88 S-VHS decks and a mixer.

But as years and the technological changes went on, we knew it was the right time for us to purchase a computer. I am good at reading English, so I bought about ten copies of a magazine called Videomaker at a second-hand shop, and that was it. Thanks to your advice, we bought a good computer for its day, and we even won a 1-year subscription to Videomaker magazine via an enews contest… and we’ve been buying the magazine ever since.

Some years ago we shifted to a 1-CCD digital camera, and now, we’re heading for the AVCHD, since we have won prizes in documentary making and we want to make our docs the best ever.

Last year, I found a photo of women voting in a newspaper dated from 1934. I was very surprised, women could not vote in Argentina until 1952. I discovered that in my state, there was a short-lived constitution allowing women to vote there. I recently won an award for best documentary from this subject, simply because I did not overlook a photo from an old newspaper.

My husband and I have a ritual: when we travel by car to Buenos Aires, while sipping mate (our national drink) I read aloud to my husband the latest Videomaker, translating to Spanish. We both appreciate the hands on, down-to-earth explanations it gives. And so we expect to go on, doing our best, having fun together, making better docs and loving the challenges.

Sonia Helman – Sharing her Love of Making Documentaries

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