Julie Sokolow

In 2011, independent filmmaker Julie Sokolow noticed offbeat writer and artist David Matthews frequenting Pittsburgh’s record stores and coffee shops. She was surprised when he approached her with the idea of making a film about his nontraditional 20-year quest for love and his diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome at age 41.

Today, Aspie Seeks Love, a film Sokolow produced, edited, directed and even composed a soundtrack for, is touring festivals and receiving outstanding reviews. Awarded Best Documentary Feature Film at Cinequest 2015, the film was profiled by The Huffington Post as “engaging, funny, thought provoking and emotive.”

Aspie Seeks Love is playing April 25-29 at the Harris Theater.

“Having just finished my film and having it play at Harris and Row House (Cinema) – that feels really great and everything is coming full circle. I’ve always wanted this to have a real run at a Pittsburgh Filmmakers theater,” said Sokolow, 26, who grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Garfield.

What was the inspiration for Aspie Seeks Love?

I was just going about my normal day in Pittsburgh and saw someone who intrigued me just naturally while I was thinking about the next film I wanted to shoot – and then that person contacting me and saying you should make a film about me. That just felt like the perfect way to kick off a project.

When I met him (David Matthews), I loved his sense of humor. We just clicked right away in terms of sensibility. I think it’s hard for creative people to know if they’re investing their time right. If there’s a lot of stress with projects being hard to fund and there’s just the intellectual and emotional energy and the hard work that you put into a project. You want to make sure it’s the right one.

What’s the best thing going in the city right now for Pittsburgh filmmakers?

Being here for 10 years and watching Flight School Fellowship develop as a program—it’s a career development workshop for artists (Sokolow was in the program in 2011). That was really helpful to me and that was located at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. They would have nine sessions over the course of nine weeks and they teach you how to make budgets and how to do artist statements and apply for grants and create an LLC and just so many things. But mostly they give you the confidence to stand up for yourself as an artist and say “this is a valid profession and our society enjoys consuming art and film.” Flight School has been really helpful in championing artists and also the Creative Development Grant (part of the Investing in Professional Artists program) that Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation do together. I got one of the first grants (for Aspie Seeks Love). It’s hard for me to imagine having the courage to try to direct, produce, edit and score a film myself without that kind of support (Sokolow’s grant was for $10,000).

Hope for the future?

(To continue) my little crusade for the arts and filmmaking where I feel artists and filmmakers work really hard on their projects. I see a lot of hardworking artists in Pittsburgh and we need support.

What does innovative filmmaking mean to you?

I’ve listened a lot to guys like Mark Duplass and Joe Swanberg talk about their filmmaking process and basically I agree with them. For the last five years there is no excuse for not making a film. If you want to make a film, go shoot it with your iPhone. The primary things are going to be character, who you are putting in front of the camera and the story. With documentaries you have the opportunity to show people who aren’t always in front of the camera and show how important their stories are. That’s innovative – telling new stories.

Favorite thing to do in Pittsburgh

Taking long walks. Probably every day I walk to get out of my hermit-like editing phase and take a break. So filmmaking is odd in that way, you’re very social with who you’re shooting, and you’re very isolated when you’re editing. Taking walks around the city is essential to my mental health – and also going to Clothes Minded with my friends in Bloomfield.

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.