It’s not easy to pigeonhole filmmaker Marissa Aroy ’95. She’s coordinated lighting for Good Morning America, followed addicts for HBO’s Rehab series, and filmed potential jumpers off the Golden Gate for the documentary The Bridge.
Aroy, however, has become best known for her own productions, which often explore society’s marginalized members. Her film, Sikhs in America, a PBS documentary she produced and directed with her husband, Niall McKay, won an Emmy Award this past fall for its portrayal of this often misunderstood religious community. Her upcoming documentary, The Delano Manongs, was inspired by her heritage and tells the story of Filipino farmworkers who challenged the racial and labor status quo in 1960s California.
“These socially conscious works are particularly gratifying. The films help bring into focus people and cultures deserving of a greater voice,” says Aroy, who owns and runs the production company, Media Factory, with McKay in Oakland, California.
Next up? A horror film, of course.
“I know it’s a departure,” she laughs. “But I enjoy all types of film, and I don’t want to be locked into making a certain kind.”
Below, Aroy calls the shots on the following questions:
What is the most satisfying moment in your professional life?
That period when we’re completely in sync with filming a subject. Getting everything right is a rare occurrence.
In your personal life?
Meeting my husband and filmmaking partner, Niall McKay.
What is your best BC memory?
On Sunday nights, my friends and I would take turns making dinner for each other, and dessert would be a surprise. Good times.
What is your next goal?
Make a horror film à la Army of Darkness. Lots of blood, inventive ways of dying, sick jokes. The antithesis of documentary.
What is one thing everyone should do while at BC?
Get out and explore Boston! I never fixated on getting a fake ID and sneaking into bars.
How have you changed since graduation?
I haven’t changed that much, actually. My hair is still long, I still want to lose the same 10 pounds, and I would still be wearing flannel and baseball caps if I could get away with it, which I can’t.
What was your favorite BC class?
Ramsay Liem’s Asian American studies class. It was a revelation for me to read about the immigration experience, and the lessons I learned in that class are still relevant to my work in documentary film.
What is the secret to success?
Self-delusion. Take it three times a day before meals.
Where is your favorite spot on the Heights?
What would you do if you were BC president for a day?
Place cushions on those hard wooden chairs in Bapst.
What was your first job?
One of my first jobs was at a video rental store. I watched anything I wanted during my shift, and it gave me a taste for art house films.
Where did you live freshman year?
Hardey Hall on Newton Campus. I’m still traumatized by the bathrooms.
How do you relax?
Watching movies and taking a walk in the woods near our house.
Why did you decide to attend BC?
I wanted to get far away from my overprotective parents, and BC was prettier than any of the other campuses I toured. Yes, really mature reasons for going.
What do you look forward to each day?
After getting done with the administrative tasks of having a production company, it’s always the creative stuff that I really look forward to.
What was your favorite BC activity?
Jujitsu. Practicing it gave me so much self-confidence, awareness, and physical discipline. It’s one of the few physical activities where men and women are equal based on their ability and belt and not because of their size. Thank you, Nick Theodorou [Class of 1994]!
What is something your friends don’t know about you?
They know everything, as does anyone else who’s befriended me on Facebook.
How much can you sing of the BC fight song?
Wait, does it start, “For Boston, for Boston…?” Or “Lean to the left, lean to the right…?”
Who would play you in the film version of your life?
Johnny Depp is capable of becoming anybody, so I’m pretty confident he could play a Filipino American woman. Plus, I’d enjoy advising him on the role.
What was the best meal at the BC dining hall?
Wow, honestly? All I can remember are the chocolate chip cookies and the frozen yogurt machine.