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Junebug Sonnenberg’s favorite FDM Classes Focus on Diversity in Film

Junebug Sonnenberg

Like many students at University of California, Santa Cruz, Junebug Sonnenberg chose to come because of location. When looking at colleges they decided to pursue film, but weren’t interested in living in Los Angeles.

As a member of campus Sonnenberg is part of the African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT) and Rainbow Theater, while working at the Cultural Arts & Diversity Resource Center (CADRC). “They really do so much for student retention, especially students of color on this campus,” says Sonnenberg. “It's really been a joy and an honor to be a part of these spaces and to also be able to lift up other students' spaces.”

Before coming to campus in 2020, Sonnenberg grew up with their parents and one sibling in San Diego. Their passion for the arts comes directly from their parents; Sonnenberg’s mom is a theater director, and their dad is an art director for movies. “My dad used to commute every single day to both be a part of me and my siblings' lives, and also work in L.A. and do the job that he loves to do.” The daily commute from San Diego to L.A. is two hours both ways.

While Sonnenberg’s dad was often in Los Angeles working, their mom would take them to the shows she was working on. Sonnenberg remembers assisting their mom in the theater and gaining a lot of experience about how to be a director. “When I was able to explore my own interests, I actually fell into stage managing,” says Sonnenberg. They credit experience in assistant directing for helping them understand their role as a stage manager and how to interact with directors. Sonnenberg has stage managed productions on campus including AATAT’s recent performance of Clyde’s.

However, they chose to study film in spite of their deep knowledge of theater. “I didn't have a lot of film experience or ways to access how to learn or become part of the film industry,” they say. “Even though I still love theater and want to participate in it in any way that I can, I needed more knowledge in film.”

Some of Sonnenberg’s favorite experiences in the Film and Digital Media department are taking classes that focus on diversity in film and look at the wider scope of film and the world. They note classes like Race on Screen and Gender and Sexuality in Film. While they appreciate classes on more technical aspects of filmmaking, the classes on theory and inclusivity “affect my life as a black queer person, and can intersect with film because film is art.”

Going into the future, Sonnenberg is unsure of what they want to do after graduation. “I just want to continue to be creative in whatever way that I can,” they say. “I want to be able to both participate in film and theater.” They are also once again looking for a change of place and are considering moving outside of California for the first time, possibly to Atlanta or New York.

Looking back on their time as a student, Sonnenberg most appreciates the community they’ve found. “My first year was completely online, and even doing a play online I felt how strong the community cared about keeping students of color on campus and doing what they love to do,” they say. “That's why I really genuinely cannot stress enough that AATAT and Rainbow and CADRC spaces matter.”