Sonja Piper Dosti

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About Me

My journey in Hollywood

Before I really knew and loved God, I loved stories.  It didn’t matter if it was a book, film or TV show, I loved escaping to a world created by others.  My parents didn’t have much money for entertainment, yet my best memories are of my family attending the drive-in theatre to watch Bruce Lee movies, or anything with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, John Travolta or by Stephen Spielberg or Sidney Lumet.  I remember watching the TV classics like MASH, Dallas, The Cosby Show, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and The Twilight Zone, among many others.  I was the latch-key kid: TV was my babysitter, film was my inspiration.

By the time Star Wars was released, I knew with absolutely certainty I would someday move from New Mexico and follow the sunset to California to work in the entertainment business.  At first, I thought I would act, so I took many acting classes as a teenager, but eventually, I wound up studying literature, film and creative writing at Mills College in Oakland, CA.   When applying for internships, I discovered Francis Ford Coppola had an office in San Francisco.  By God’s grace, I was offered an internship with academic credit after submitting a resume and interviewing.

As an intern, I did everything from transcribe interviews between Francis Coppola and subjects he interviewed for script research to organize live dramatic readings with actors of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which Coppola directed.

After spending a year as an intern at Coppola’s AMERICAN ZOETROPE, I was offered a job at the L.A. film office on the Culver City Sony lot where I read numerous screenplays and wrote coverage and notes on various projects we had in development for Coppola to produce and / or direct.  I worked alongside both Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Bling Ring) and Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom) on projects they were developing for both film and TV.

After American Zoetrope’s deal at Sony ended, Michael Lynton (current CEO at Sony Entertainment) hired me to work as a creative executive at Walk Disney’s HOLLYWOOD PICTURES.  There, I listened to hundreds of pitches and read screenplays and soon-to-be published novels for possible film adaptation.  My development slate included Jack (Francis Ford Coppola, director), GI Jane (Ridley Scott, director), Firelight (William Nicholson, writer/director), and other major film releases.  I recommended the purchase of spec scripts and pitches to develop for the studio and wrote script notes for The Negotiator (F. Gary Gray, director) and other film projects in development.  I read and recommended the unfinished manuscript of The Horse Whisperer for film development; Robert Redford starred in and directed the screenplay adaptation.  On behalf of the chairman, president, and senior vice-president of the studio, I wrote script notes for directors and writers.  I also created lists of writers and directors for each project as well as a competitive development report.  My position included attending film festivals to identify new writers, directors, and actors for future projects.  As the executive who worked with the Disney writers fellowship program, I mentored Maria Jacquemetton, Emmy-award winning writer of Mad Men, and shepherded her screenplay, Billboard Bachelor, which was later produced and starred the Olsen twins.

Walt Disney closed down the Hollywood Pictures division at the zenith of its success.   As a result, a fellow co-worker and mentor had moved to television and hired me to work at ABC as a director of drama development and current programming.  During that year, we listened to approximately 300 pitches and purchased 50 of them for the development season.  I gave both verbal and written script notes to writers, producers, and studios and also developed and supervised the production of one-hour pilots and series such as Elmore Leonard’s Maximum Bob, Fantasy Island, Prey, Vengeance Unlimited, and C-16.

After my time as a network executive at ABC, Imagine Television wooed me to become its VP of development and current programming.  This was one of many highlights in my entertainment career as I had the opportunity to work with writers and directors who were always on my “wish list” when I was a film exec at Hollywood Pictures:  JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves on Felicity, Aaron Sorkin on Sports Night, David Lynch on Mulholland Drive, among many others.  When I later became a senior VP, I gave notes to producers Howard Gordon, Evan Katz, Bob Cochran and Joel Surnow on 24.  I also developed The Inside, a pilot to series with writers Todd and Glenn Kessler (Damages) and Academy Award winning director, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty), based on an article written by Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty).

After my time at Imagine Television, I did the unthinkable in Hollywood and took a year-long sabbatical.  I felt I had only experienced life through the eyes of Hollywood since college, so against the advice of many industry veterans, I took a year off to pursue other interests and live a life outside of the tinsel tower.  I took graduate courses in theology from Reformed Theological Seminary while teaching kids of all ages as a substitute teacher at a school in Los Angeles.  But the best part of my time off was getting married to my husband.

Around the time my husband received an acceptance letter to pursue his second master’s degree in seminary, I was approached about taking on the Senior VP of Drama position at Universal Television.  In my tenure there, I sold 20 scripts to major broadcast networks, 5 of which became pilot orders, and three of those became series:  American Dreams and Mister Sterling, both at NBC, and Robbery Homicide Division, created by Michael Mann, for CBS.  I hired showrunners, staff writers, directors, line producers and approved key production personnel for series and pilots.

I continued to work in television development and current programming until two events occurred within 2 months of another: my husband graduated from seminary and my first-born son arrived.  Soon thereafter, my husband received a job offer to work as a pastor a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles.  I was at a crossroads.  By this time, I felt the tug to pursue something more related to my faith, yet I was heartbroken to not work with the wonderfully creative writing and directing community I had known for many years.  After much prayer and deliberation, our family decided to pursue full-time ministry.  Though I have spent most of my time in ministry counseling, leading and teaching women, and working with city and faith leaders, I have never strayed too far from my Hollywood roots.  I offer my feedback and notes on film and TV treatments, scripts, and novels to many in the business as well as developed my own screenplay and TV series.

My Faith Journey

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but heard the Gospel from a stranger when I was 8.  From that point forward, I knew I was a sinner who needed a Savior.  Unfortunately, my parents’ subsequent divorce and a lack of church attendance meant my faith stayed in arrested development.   It wasn’t until I graduated from college, moved to Los Angeles, and joined a church and Bible study that my faith began to grow.

For the next 15 years, I walked on a tightrope, precariously balancing my growing faith while working in the entertainment industry either in film or TV.  I was blessed to have bosses and co-workers who respected by devotion to church service on Sunday and my weekly Bible studies.  I started to view my position in Hollywood as a mission field, though I knew I wasn’t always the best representative of my faith.  Nevertheless, I wanted to represent Christ in an industry that often didn’t understand the Christian faith.  On several occasions, I had to speak up about incorrect and one-dimensional stereotypes, as they outweighed the complex and often humble Christian community I have ministered to and known for many years.

Despite leaving Hollywood to go into ministry, I have remained active in film and TV as various friends, both in Hollywood and in the faith-based world, have solicited my feedback, notes, and help on various projects with faith-based themes.  As more faith-based projects become successful, both Hollywood insiders and people outside of the industry are capitalizing on and becoming very interested in projects related to faith, Christianity, the Bible, and God.

Because I continue to get requests to advise and consult on such projects and the fact that I’m in a unique position having had many years of legitimate experience in both Hollywood and now in faith-based ministry, I have formalized my services by creating this website targeted for faith-based projects.

My desire is to help faith-based writers make their projects more accessible to both secular and faith-based audiences without compromising their vision and message.  Many of the recent successes of faith-based projects have alienated critics and secular audiences—my hope is to help future faith-based writers bridge the gap.

Similarly, if anyone in TV or film wishes to develop faith-based projects but doesn’t want to alienate faith-based audiences, I would be available to provide insight to that as I currently minister to a racially and socio-economically diverse people of faith who love to watch TV and movies (a perfect cross-section of a faith-based audience).

I’m excited to see my many years of film and television experience work in concert with my current position in ministry.  I’m also combining two of my great loves: faith and stories.

In my non-existent spare time, I love to read different genres of books, go to opening night for every Star Wars, Marvel and DC film with my family, and write.

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