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USC Annenberg Names First Sony Pictures Entertainment Fellow

Monica Castillo is awarded a scholarship to study film criticism

Entertainment reporter Monica Castillo has been selected as the University of Southern California Annenberg’s first Sony Pictures Entertainment Fellow, USC announced Tuesday. Castillo was awarded a scholarship from Sony to study film criticism as part of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Masters in Arts Journalism program.

This joint venture between Annenberg and Sony is the first program of its kind for film critics.

Castillo, a Cuban-American from Tampa, Florida, said her passion for film criticism began while studying molecular biology and biochemistry at Boston University. She covered films for her college newspaper and co-founded the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Castillo is currently a Brooklyn-based entertainment reporter for International Business Times and a freelance film critic.

“I always learned by experiencing, by freelancing, by learning how to pitch the hard way, by learning how to write,” said Castillo. “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.”

After years of learning on her own, Castillo is looking forward to formal education from industry experts. The 25-year-old, self-taught film critic will take classes at both Annenberg and the School for Cinematic Arts.

She will be mentored by Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan and advised by Sasha Anawalt, director of the Masters in Arts Journalism program.

“I could not be more pleased,” said Anawalt. “The best way to build the next generation of critics is to give them a meaningful connection to seasoned professionals from whom they can learn.”

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