Soraya is a storyteller.
Maybe this comes from a steady dose of folklore and mystery woven in the desert of Tucson, Arizona where she was born and raised. Maybe it’s from the morning drives to school, when her French-Moroccan mother enraptured Soraya and her twin brother with stories of her travels from around the world. Maybe it’s from living in a home surrounded by countless books, and PBS as the only channel on the TV.
Whatever the cause, it is in her DNA. She finds she speaks in stories, as they help her relate to just about anything or anyone. This — and manifesting sand dollars when she’s walking on the beach — she believes, is her superpower.
And for most of her life, Soraya knew that whatever she wound up doing, it would combine the self-generating ingredients of curiosity, a sense of adventure, and passion she felt deeply. Despite attending an extremely intense STEM-focused high school, Soraya managed to convince the school board to start a photography and film program, the latter of which Soraya taught. It was around this time a burgeoning obsession with surfing and the ocean surfaced, so going to a film school with access to the sea became non-negotiable. She would later be accepted into the University of Southern California’s BFA Film & TV Production program with a full scholarship.
While in film school, Soraya pushed herself to absorb, create, and fail as much as possible. Her junior year, she created Salt Water, an experimental short which went on to screen at nine festivals around the world, and won the audience award at the Lift-Off fest in Los Angeles. The next year, Soraya took a leave of absence and sailed a 134’ Brigantine for 40 days in the Caribbean Sea, researching the oceans and climate change along the way. Throughout this once-in-a-lifetime passage, Soraya created her first independent documentary, Where the Water Takes Us. She partnered with companies like the American Sailing Association, AquaTech Imaging Solutions, Mountainsmith, Khala Cloths, and The Avasol Foundation to help bring the story to life, promote sustainable lifestyle changes, and encourage other young women to pursue storytelling in the outdoor / environmental niche.
Soraya also worked as an intern at Farm League and then moved on to serve as Head of Production at Lukas Dong Films, a boutique production company creating high-end branded content in cities around the world.
Outside of filmmaking, Soraya’s photography has led her down a number of interesting avenues, awarding her opportunities such as gallery showings at Breakfast Culture Club in Santa Barbara and Art Share in Los Angeles, as well as magazine and calendar publications.
Soraya is also an avid surfer, climber, skier, sailor, and writer. She has traveled to 16 countries (and counting) and speaks fluent French.
Now a recent honors graduate from USC, Soraya is focused on directing and producing stories she is deeply passionate about telling. She has an affinity for themes revolving around resilience and solution-oriented ideas for the environment. Currently, she is in development for a feature doc on Angela Madsen, a Paralympian and marine veteran who will be the first person to row solo across the Pacific Ocean. The film will be released in 2020.
American Sailing Association: Filmmaker Soraya Simi Talks About “Where The Water Takes Us”