Now available to stream on Netflix: Filmmaking alum Pavitra Chalam co-directs the new, inspirational documentary Rooting For Roona about a child named Roona with an advanced form of hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid builds up in the brain resulting in an enlarged head and can also cause brain damage.
Roona quickly becomes known all over the world after images of her go viral. Not long after, Roona is admitted to one of India’s premier private hospitals in the nation in New Delhi to undergo surgery for her condition. In the documentary, Chalam and co-director Akshay Shankar chart the incredible story of Roona and her family as the young child goes through a life-altering surgery to combat her birth defect.
Documentary film poster for ‘Rooting For Roona’ (Netflix)
Chalam and Shankar aim to create public awareness around the issue of congenital healthcare and bring birth defects to the forefront of the public conversation. Chalam has previously directed documentary shorts Anamika: Her Glorious Past, Indelible, and Maanasi – ‘of Sound Mind.’
NYFA Alum Pavitra Chalam with Roona
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking alum Pavitra Chalam on her latest directorial achievement and encourages everyone to check out the new documentary now streaming on Netflix.
Watch the full trailer for the new documentary below or click here.
We hear it all the time, “write what you know.” As a journalist, Spanish native Miguel Ángel Parra was all too familiar with that phrase and went from applying it to his work as a journalist to becoming a screenwriter writing stories that reflect pockets of his own life.
After he lost his job in January 2019, Parra realized it was time to make his dreams come true and focus solely on screenwriting. He also credits the many “voices that have been silenced along the way throughout history” to being the driving force behind wanting to make people listen to those stories as a screenwriter.
Enrolling in the 8-Week Screenwriting program at NYFA finally allowed Parra to learn how to improve crafting the structure of his scripts and how to write better dialogue for his characters, crediting instructor Dennis Green as being the driving force behind learning new techniques.
While studying at NYFA, Parra wrote his screenplay for The Pink House, which has since gone on to win screenplay contests in the Madrid International Film Festival (2020), the LGBTQ Toronto Film Festival (2020), the All Genre Screenplay Contest (sponsored by Amazon, 2020), and become a semi-finalist in the Nashville International Film Festival (2020).
“It [The Pink House] is my first feature film script and I wrote it in English! When I came back to Spain, I translated it into Spanish and rewrote it several times,” shared Parra. “During the quarantine, I finished it and translated into English again in order to be able to submit to international competitions.”
NYFA screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra
The Pink House is a dramedy that, while humorous, is also a story about the abandonment suffered by LGBTI seniors. “The young activists who fought for the LGBT rights in the late 70s in Spain are nowadays men and women in their 70s and 8os and most of them don’t have a home to live in, as they were rejected by their families or have lost their couples,” explained Parra about his award-winning script.
“It is a story that needs to be told. In my country we lived 40 years of dictatorship, with a hard repression on these people, so I felt that I HAD to thank them for their fight somehow because, thanks to them, we have the rights we have right now.”
Parra hopes that audiences, especially the younger generation, will be able understand that the story is about having the rights and freedoms of today “because someone fought for them.” Since Parra has submitted his script to multiple festivals and competitions, he has received incredible notoriety and shared that the positive response is overwhelming.
“Being my first feature film script, it is quite exciting to see that people (and jurys) like it. It’s been an honor to see The Pink House selected at the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and reaching the semifinals, or being one of the Best Unproduced Scripts at Madrid International Film Festival, or seeing my script published and sold on Amazon thanks to the All Genre Screenplay Contest. I never imagined something like this would happen. “
As for what’s next for the newly minted screenwriter, Parra’s upcoming short film The Eternal Angels was shot in August and is expected to premiere at the Seville European Film Festival in November. Parra also revealed he recently wrote a play that he hopes will open in January a TV pilot called The Golden Boys, a renewed, gay remix of the popular TV show The Golden Girls, which has already shown interest with a production company.
Miguel Ángel Parra on set for ‘The Eternal Angels’
New York Film Academy would like to thank Screenwriting alum Miguel Ángel Parra for taking the time to share his journey on writing his first feature film script and the importance of telling the stories of those who have been silent for a long time. NYFA looks forward to seeing what is next from Parra and wishes him the best on his upcoming short film The Eternal Angels.
I had the pleasure of teaching Jeffrey Lay (BFA in Game Design) in several Game Design classes at the New York Film Academy here in Los Angeles. When he graduated, I had heard he got a job as a level designer at Square Root Studios. I recently found out that Square Root Studios had a new game on Kickstarter, so I contacted Jeffrey to find out more about it.
Scott Rogers (SR): Hey Jeffrey! Congratulations on launching TitanReach on Kickstarter! How did you join Square Root Studios?
Jeffrey Lay (JL): Hi Scott! Thank you very much. Funny story, I was in the middle of working on my own project, which was also heavily inspired by RuneScape, however it formed into a more idle-passive (mobile) version due to my limited coding experience. After a few weeks working on it, I saw a Discord post about the game and joined these two guys from Australia, both experienced programmers, and thought the idea was perfect. Now we’re now at about five to six developers.
SR: What can you tell me about TitanReach?
JL:TitanReach is an old school type MMORPG (an online role-playing video game) that focuses on skilling systems and action combat in a massive fantasy open-world with unique quests and a warm social experience! The game is heavily inspired by RuneScape, which had a very warm and calm feeling for it’s skilling system, along with great music, and was a “happy place” you could go to; which we’re combining with the nice warm environment.
SR: I think we all could use a “happy place” these days! What makes TitanReach different from all of those other MMORPGs that have come out in the past?
JL: The biggest adjustment for us is that we’re using action combat, which will be the contrast to it’s skilling system.
SR: What are your job responsibilities at Square Root Studios?
JL: While I’ve been part of TitanReach, I’ve focused on:
Level Design: Concepting out areas including the level design of Glimmermoore, the tutorial village, which is seen in the Demo.
Game Design: Coming up with the game world & environmental design, content design such as the Slayer Skill with all its details, skilling bosses, mini-games, along with combat design, economy and other various content coming down the line.
Project Management: Throughout the earlier months, this included checking developers are doing their tasks and prioritizing what needs to be done. This also includes finding other issues that need to be addressed although we have someone else who has since filled this position, though I still do some of it.
Marketing: I worked a lot on creating the Kickstarter campaign, including the written part of the Kickstarter. I’m also in charge of reaching out to various blogs, websites and content creators to gain exposure.
SR: It sounds like they keep you pretty busy! Why should someone back the TitanReach Kickstarter?
JL: We are being as open to the community as we can be in terms of our development.
We’ve released a free demo for anyone to play to see the exact stage we are in, which comes with its bugs and issues (ignore the quest). That demo is continually being patched each week for the community to see how fast we can turn around bugs and add some rough content in a week’s time for people to play around with.
With more time, these things can then be cleaned and polished. By backing us it will guarantee the cost of us continuing working on the project in order for us to deliver a polished, nice game. Having gotten this far with a penny, we’ll be able to focus full-time on the project.
The biggest benefit for backing us right now is that our Alpha/Beta is unlike most other companies (being 3-10 days) will be throughout the months of the game’s development stage (meaning months of playtime throughout those stages), although a player’s progress will be wiped at game launch, as we don’t want any unbalanced values (economic-abuse) to be transferred over to the official launch like what has happened with the dual universe beta to launch.
SR: That sounds like a good idea. Too many games have had issues with that in the past. What are some of the issues you find in games nowadays?
JL: An issue we see in games nowadays is that they are overwhelmed with Microtransactions (MTX) that bring an unfair advantage to many other users, although it’s understandable why they do it. We want to remain free from MTX, which gives a player any unfair advantage such as gold/xp rates or other unfair benefits. We try to level out the field and give everyone the same chance!
SR: That sounds really fair! I think your players will really appreciate that. So, where can we find out more about TitanReach online?
JL:Our Kickstarter has a lot more information along with our other social media! Feel free to join our Discord of over 12,500 Members and check out our website here!
SR: Thanks Jeffrey and good luck with the game! JL: Thank you!
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Game Design alum Jeffrey Lay on his new game TitanReach and wishes the Jeffrey all the best on the kickstarter campaign.
On September 29, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with writer/director and NYFA Filmmaking alum Antonio Campos to discuss his latest hit movie on Netflix’s The Devil All The Time with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.
Antonio Campos’ other notable feature directing credits include the Sundance sensations Christine, starring Rebecca Hall, and Simon Killer, starring Brady Corbet. His debut feature Afterschool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Caméra d’Or and Un Certain Regard awards. In television, he directed the pilot of the USA Emmy-nominated series The Sinner and served as an Executive Producer for the first season of the anthology series. He has other credits both in Film and TV as producer.
Tova Laiter (Left) and Antonio Campos (Right) for the NYFA Q&A-List Series
Laiter opened the discussion with the NYFA alum by asking him about how he first got into filmmaking “I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker for a long time and it really started at New York Film Academy,” remembered Campos. He shared a humorous account of how he was too young (13!) to take classes so he posed as a 16 year old so he could take a 6-Week Filmmaking course at NYFA.
“For six weeks I was living this other reality and my parents were comfortable with me staying up late to edit,” he joked. “My first short film I did at NYFA called Puberty and I remember this moment where I was so nervous to watch the film with an audience that I stayed in the projection room, and I didn’t know how people were reacting. Afterwards, I saw my father crying because he was so proud and it was validation and support that I could feel, so it’s one of the most important moments for me as a filmmaker.”
Antonio Campos (Left) and Rebecca Hall at ‘Christine’ screening (Photo Credit: Variety)
Campos then rooted himself in the indie film world, solidifying himself with hits like Martha Marcy May Marlene, which he produced, along with Afterschool and Christine, which he directed. “I made Christine and, in a lot of ways, it led me to getting The Sinner. That became a success and changed the perception of me as someone who can make things work beyond the art house. That’s just patience and letting things organically happen.” To the question of what contributed the most to the success of the movie, he attributed it to the fact that he always takes his time with the script, even if everyone else is impatient. That’s why it takes him four years between movies but ultimately, they get the response he intended them to have.
Laiter then asked Campos to share more on the making of his hit film The Devil All The Time, which Campos adapted from the original novel and co-wrote with his brother. “The characters felt familiar, but also specific in how he [the author] was rendering the characters and getting into their heads to go to these places with awful people,” revealed Campos.
Antonio Campos shooting ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)
“It’s an interesting movie to have gotten the wide reception it has. It’s a very disruptive film emotionally. When I talk about the movie, it should feel like you are breathless for two and a half hours until you get in the car with Arvin and then you can catch your breath,” explained Campos.
With The Devil All The Time boasting a star-studded cast with the likes of Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, and more, one audience member asked Campos how he selects actors for his projects. “I like actors that take big swings and make strong choices, along with actors with distinct faces,” he replied. “I ask myself, ‘how do I feel when I meet them,’ because I will be spending a lot of time with them.”
Antonio Campos (Left) with Robert Pattinson (Right) on set for ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)
Campos also reminded the directors in the audience to “always make your actors feel seen and heard” and reminded the actors in the audience to communicate with other actors on what they need and that a good actor “likes to be around other actors and feed off that energy.”
With a stacked cast of celebrity actors in his own film, Campos shared that, regardless of star power, his film is, ultimately, character-driven and was “calibrated between people who were more well-known with other character actors or people you may have never seen before.” When it came to casting his film, he shared that he “knew that this film was very different for how we were approaching characters,” and it required the balance of both known and unknown performers, all of whom shine in this ensemble film.
In one of the last questions of the night, one student asked for tips on how NYFA students can make the jump from student to a seasoned professional in the industry. Campos had this to share with the audience:
“Everyone’s career is different and times out differently. Always expect that things may take longer than you expect, but keep your network of friends and collaborators close. In my case, it was about being open to getting involved with other filmmakers and their processes to make their movies. Keep making short films before you make your feature. Always try and be working. Short films are such a safe place to make mistakes and learn. Put yourself out there and submit to every film festival and embrace the networking aspect of being a filmmaker. You can be the most talented filmmaker in the world, but if you cannot convey your film into concrete terms, people will not be able to understand your vision.”
Antonio Campos (Left) with the cast of his film ‘Afterschool’ at NYFF (Photo Credit: Godlis)
As for what’s next for Campos, the writer-director reveals that he is adapting a comedy piece, as well as a new drama series starring Hollywood heavyweight Harrison Ford. “It’s called The Staircase, based on the documentary on novelist Michael Peterson,” he shared. “I’ve been working on it in some capacity for ten years and it never quite worked as a feature, so now it is going to be a series and it’s set up with HBO Max.”
Campos closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the enjoyable discussion and wished NYFA’s next generation of filmmakers the best of luck for their future projects.
New York Film Academy would like to thank director and NYFA alum Antonio Campos for sharing his time and filmmaking experience with NYFA students and alumni, and looks forward to his upcoming projects including The Staircase.
To watch Campos’ recent film, The Devil All The Time, the film is available to stream here on Netflix.
To hear the full conversation, click the video below our watch on our YouTube channel here.
One of the long-anticipated films of the summer, Bill & Ted Face The Music, starring Keanu Reeves (John Wick) and Alex Winter (The Lost Boys) was released everywhere on VOD and in select cinemas on August 28, 2020, with NYFA alum Alex Lebovici as a producer.
The free-spirited and beloved characters Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) from the original films Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), make their epic comeback in the Bill & Ted series’ biggest film yet, which has been hailed by critics and is being called a “Surprise Summer Hit.”
Film poster for ‘Bill & Ted Face The Music’ (Produced by Alex Lebovici)
The long-awaited film was originally shot in 2019 and was slated for a full theatrical release. Like many indie films and blockbusters alike, the film opted for VOD and limited theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the weekend of its release, it was the top-rented film on FandangoNow, Apple TV, the iTunes Store, and Google Play. Fandango also announced that despite being released for only four days, the film held the most popular spot on their most rented list for the month of August.
NYFA producing alum Alex Lebovici at a NYFA Q&A event
Lebovici, who produced the film, posted photos from the production on his Instagram and recalled how the film was such “a blast” to make. “I can’t believe it,” he shared. “This was by far the most challenging experience of my life but I’m blessed to have an amazing family who supported me through it all.”
Lebovici was also an executive producer on The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019), Academy Award-nominated Denzel Washington drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Who We Are Now (2017), and The Clapper (2017). Lebovici will be an executive-producer for King Fury 2 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender, which is currently in post-production.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate the Producing alum on his latest success with the release of Bill & Ted Face The Music, and looks forward to hearing more about the upcoming release of King Fury 2.
After graduation, it’s straight to set for many alumni; but for others, it means a new era of innovation injected into the film industry by bringing in new, incredible stories to new audiences. MFA Producing alum Janek Ambros decided to do just that by starting up his own international production company, Assembly Line Entertainment, which has already had films appear in festivals all over the world including Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
“When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I took a production company course at NYFA,” recalled Ambros. “It was in that class where I created the company logo, and the type of company I’d want (heavily inspired by American Zoetrope). Seven years later, we’re on a very similar path that was outlined in class – starting with shorts and moving on to high-end festivals like Sundance and TIFF, with more development focused on projects we make from the ground up. It’s testament to NYFA’s goal of learning by doing.”
Janek Ambros (Right) at TIFF for Assembly Line Pictures’ ‘Human Capital’
Assembly Line Entertainment already boasts an impressive filmography, including 10,000 Saints (Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld), Human Capital (Maya Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Alex Wolff), and documentary Imminent Threat (Dir. Janek Ambros), among others.
“We’re excited to be working on a new large slate of movies going into 2021 that we’re producing with our new Head of Production, Kahlilah King,” shared Ambros. “From traditional narratives to social impact docu-series, we [Assembly Line Entertainment] have many projects that are adapting to the ever-changing landscape of distribution.”
Alex Wolff (Left) and Maya Hawke (Right) in ‘Human Capital’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)
Some of those upcoming projects slated for release includeMondo Hollywoodland (Dir. Janek Ambros), animated political satire First New Nation, an untitled birthing docu-series (Written by Khaliah King), and Sixties, a digital campaign on social media that features 60-second films from countries all over the world to highlight new developing directors.
Another upcoming project is feature film Hey, Johnny, directed by Ambros and produced by fellow NYFA Producing alum Robbie Leacock, who previously also produced Imminent Threat, serves as the executive producer the Sixties project, and is writing and producing upcoming mockumentary series The Flat Tyres for Assembly Line Entertainment.
Robbie Leacock (Left) on set of ‘The Flat Tyres’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)
After graduating from NYFA, Leacock started at Potboiler Productions as a producer’s assistant before moving up to assistant producer. He later served as an associate producer on Netflix’s The Red Sea Diving Resort before returning to the U.S. to join producing partner Janek Ambros at Assembly Line Entertainment. “We were always told that the relationships you build at film school are the ones that will last throughout your career, and this proved to be so true,” revealed Leacock. “We now have our first TV series in the works (The Flat Tyres), a satirical comedy about a gang of hijackers from the townships, for which we are currently shooting on location in Cape Town, South Africa.”
With a slate of upcoming projects and new opportunities for Ambros’ production company, 2021 is set to be the biggest year yet for Assembly Line Entertainment and the NYFA alumni, who are working to create character-driven projects for audiences that reflect modern society.
Assembly Line Pictures Founder Janek Ambros
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Alumni Janek Ambros and Robbie Leacock on their upcoming projects with Assembly Line Entertainment and looks forward to hearing about new projects as they develop.
NYFA also encourages readers to check out Assembly Line Entertainment’s Instagram account, where their project Sixties will officially be launched. For a full list of the company’s productions, click here.
Assembly Line Entertainment Founder: Janek Ambros Producer: Robbie Leacock
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Issa Rae is set to star in the upcoming COVID-19 era comedy film Coastal Elites, slated to air on September 12, 2020 on HBO and HBO Max.
In 2020, Rae has already starred in The Lovebirds, The Photograph, and her own HBO show, Insecure, which was nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards. It was also recently announced that Rae will work with Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions on new film Sinkhole; a film about female identity and themes of perfection, which just Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions for
The Filmmaking alum’s latest project, Coastal Elites, is a satire film that follows the lives of five individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as they navigated their new reality. In addition to Rae, the star-studded cast includes Bette Midler, Dan Levy, Sarah Paulson, and Kaitlyn Dever.
NYFA alum Issa Rae as Callie Josephson in HBO’s ‘Coastal Elites’
In Coastal Elites, plays well-connected philanthropist Callie Josephson, who runs in the same circles as Ivanka Trump. When asked about her upcoming role, Rae explained that it took a lot of research to get into her role but the script was “just incredible to read and immediately resonated” with the NYFA alum.
The series is set to premiere on HBO and HBO Max on September 12, 2020 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
New York Film Academy looks forward to seeing talented alum Issa Rae in her upcoming role in Coastal Elites as well as hearing more about filmmaking alum’s upcoming project, Sinkhole.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) is thrilled to announce that Filmmaking alum Antonio Campos will release his upcoming film, The Devil All The Time, on Netflix this September.
Film poster for Antonio Campos’ upcoming film ‘The Devil All The Time’
The film, co-written and directed by Campos, boasts a star-studded cast including Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Riley Keough, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, Bill Skarsgård, and many more. The film follows young Arvin Russell (Holland) and his family as they encounter a backwards preacher (Pattinson) and the other seemingly tainted cast of characters in this drama-thriller.
The initial trailer for the film was released in mid August and is already receiving a lot of buzz from excited Netflix subscribers and film critics across social media.
Campos, who studied filmmaking at NYFA in the late 90’s, is a fully fledged executive producer, director and writer. Previously, Campos has directed the critically acclaimed filmed Christine, indie film After School, many episodes of The Sinner, for which he is also an executive producer, and served as a producer for Martha Marcy May Marlene.
NYFA alum Antonio Campos
Following the release of The Devil All The Time, Campos has been announced to direct The First Omen, as part of The Omen horror franchise, though the project is still in development.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking alum Antonio Campos on his upcoming film The Devil All The Time and encourages everyone to check out the film when it arrives on September 16, 2020 on Netflix.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Anatolii Panchenko (Анатолий Панченко) has plenty to celebrate as his first major acting credit is in one of the biggest TV shows in France — Le Bureau des Légendes (a.k.a The Bureau).
Poster for season five of ‘The Bureau’
The political spy thriller television series, The Bureau , was created by Éric Rochant and produced by TOP– The Oligarchs Productions and Canal+. The series follows agents of the DGSE (General Directorate of External Security), France’s principal external security service. Panchenko appears in the latest season as Alexis Bakatine, a young, promising counterintelligence agent.
The New York Times named The Bureau as a NYT Recommendation, calling it “a stylish foreign espionage thriller” and “easy to binge.”The Times also hails the thrilling series as “one of the smartest and most authentic-feeling procedural espionage series anywhere in the world.”
Anatolii Panchenko as Alexis Bakatine in ‘The Bureau’
The first season received favorable reviews worldwide and won several awards. The sophomore season of the series also received much discussion as one of the best television seasons ever produced in France. The third and fourth seasons, respectively, aired in France beginning May 22, 2017 and October 22, 2018, and were also met with critical acclaim.
The first episode of the fifth season was originally slated to close Cannes Series 2020; being out of the competition itself. However, due to the public health crisis, the Festival de Cannes was pushed to October. The season went on to air in France on April 6, 2020, and is now available on Amazon Prime and Sundance Now.
Anatolii Panchenko (Middle) in ‘The Bureau’
Panchenko’s worldwide acting debut is in one of the most gripping seasons of the series yet. The NYFA alum also reveals that his character has an “interesting story arc and connection” with Malotru, the star of the show played by Mathieu Kassovitz (Amélie).
New York Film Academy encourages everyone to check out Anatolii Panchenko in the critically acclaimed series and would like to congratulate the NYFA alum for landing his first-ever acting credit; NYFA looks forward to seeing what is next for the international performer.
When Dylan Greenberg first came to New York Film Academy (NYFA), she was nine years old; one of the youngest students NYFA had ever enrolled at the school. In fact, due to NYFA’s program age restrictions, it was not common to have someone that young attend such an intensive program. However, Greenberg wowed NYFA early on with her film Ankh, which was inspired by director David Lynch, and the NYFA alum has never looked back since.
Greenberg has gone on to direct the films ReAgitator: Revenge of the Parody, Glamarus, Wakers, and Amityville: Vanishing Point. Her third film, Dark Prism, was covered internationally by VICE, Rolling Stone, and Flavorwire, among others. She has also been featured in PAPER Magazine and has directed music videos for James Chance and the Contortions, Mac Gollehon, Pastel Confession, and many others.
Greenberg’s next project is set to release this year and is described as a supernatural martial arts movie. The film, Spirit Riser, stars Amanda Flowers, Cherie Currie, Kansas and Parker Bowling, Lynn Lowry, Jesse Yungbei, Patti Harrison, and will be narrated by the Tarantino-favorite Michael Madsen (Kill Bill Vols 1& 2, Reservoir Dogs).
The New York Film Academy was able to get the scoop on Greenberg’s upcoming film and discuss the NYFA alum’s career as a director, actress, and a creative, who has a strong collaborative nature and a keen sense of originality woven into the fabric of any project she touches.
Photo Courtesy of Dylan Greenberg
New York Film Academy (NYFA):What made you want to come to NYFA? Have you carried any learnings with you into your career?
Dylan Greenberg (DG): I wanted to come to NYFA because at the time I was the only little kid in my neighborhood who seemed really interested in film, especially offbeat films. It was a way for me to find other kids with my interests. Most of the kids were older than me as I believe the classes went from ages 10-13, but it was the first time I was in a room with other children who shared my passions. At NYFA, I learned that realizing your vision is sometimes a fluid effort, and part of that is the understanding that what ends up on screen may not be exactly what you originally pictured. It was also the first time I walked through the process of writing, pre-production, shooting, post and a premiere.
NYFA: What have been some of your career highlights so far?
DG: One of my big career highlights was when the trailer for my third feature film Dark Prism was covered internationally by VICE, Rolling Stone, Flavorwire and others. I was 18 at the time and that was the first time I saw my work get relatively mainstream attention. Another highlight was seeing a music video I directed for Sam Huber, on the True Groove Records Label, air on national television in Finland, on the YLE network. Those were two big firsts for me and encouragement that I was going in the right direction.
Dylan Greenberg (Right) and Lloyd Kaufman (Left) on the set of ‘Shakespeare’s Shitstorm’ in Albania
NYFA: Can you tell us more about your collaborations with Troma Entertainment?
DG: I got my first job right out of high school working in the Troma offices. In fact, I was still in high school when I started working there. So, it was pretty great being 17 and 18 and having your first job in the field you wanted to be in. I was basically in charge of creating and editing the majority of their internet content while I was there, as well as special features for their Blu-rays. I’ve since become a freelance music video and commercial director, but continue to collaborate with Troma. Recently, I starred in their upcoming feature film Shakespeare’s Shitstorm, which is a super obscene, epic adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Photo Courtesy of Dylan Greenberg
NYFA: Can you tell us more about your role as a full time music video and commercial director?
DG: A big reason why I’m able to work as a music video director full time is because of my third feature film Dark Prism. When it got all the press it did, it caught the attention of True Groove Records, who hired me to direct several music videos for them when for others that might have seemed like too much of a risk because the only music videos I had really done before were for my own music. As a result of my work with True Groove, who I still work with to this very day, I was able to get work with many other clients. I learned a lot of networking skills, as the truth is there are many artists in New York City that need a video that both looks one of a kind and is in their budget. So, once I had some more videos under my wing I could send it as examples of the kind of work I do.
I fill the niche for “weird but engaging” videos, as I’m known for very colorful, in your face visuals. However, I’m able to shoot in any style the shoot demands, and last year when I directed my first commercial to air on CBS, NY1 and News12, I was asked to take a more conventional approach. It was for a disco mega-concert, and because of the commercial, it sold out within a week or so! They actually didn’t have to air the commercial for as long as they thought they did because the tickets sold so fast. I was really proud of that, and again I have True Groove Records and Tomás Doncker to thank for that.
NYFA: In addition to your career as a director, you’re also in a band. Can you tell us more about that?
DG: I’m in a band called Theophobia, which I feel is very similar to a lot of my film projects. In fact, my band mate Matt Ellin was, and is, also a big part of my film projects and has created music for my feature films since they were a teenager. Initially, the band started when my solo song and self directed video “Mia” became an unexpected success and premiered in PAPER Magazine,so I decided to tour the song around New York and promote it at clubs and local television stations. I wanted to have a guitarist and a lot of my friends as backup dancers to make it very theatrical, and I asked my friend Matt to be my guitarist, since they were already such a close collaborator, and I always felt like they were a total whiz kid. At a certain point, we both realized we had such a mutual love for music like Sparks, the work of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf, and we realized it would just be so much more fun to make it a collaborative effort where we contribute an equal amount of ideas, and shine the spotlight on each other. I feel like besides synthesizers and vocals, I also “play” the video, because video is a big aspect of our performance.
I program a lot of the synthesizer elements into video that plays behind us, and then we play along with that. Our performances and music are super theatrical and we act our shows out like an improvised play, we deliberately act like clowns and try to get a reaction out of the audience, we sometimes physically fight each other on stage and one time I brought a Christmas tree into the venue in the middle of the performance. It’s really cool to get to direct videos not just for my own music but for OUR music, because whenever I create anything I immediately have a visual image of what I want it to look like, so it’s so cool to get to bring that to life. Definitely one of my favorite parts of music is making music videos. I‘ve watched 80s music videos non stop since I was a kid and found Pop Up Video on TV, so music videos are really my whole life.
NYFA: Some directors choose to subvert a personal style or auteurist approach to directing, but that doesn’t seem to be your approach. What would you say makes something a “Dylan Greenberg” project?
DG: I would say, that in terms of my feature films, many consider them giant music videos. I have a lot of music from all different kinds of artists in my films, and almost always have at least one scene where someone actually sings a song within the film. Like my music videos, my projects are super colorful and in your face. I use a lot of fisheye lenses after falling in love with Hong Kong action cinema and Scott Shaw’s Zen filmmaking. I try to get really dominant with the colors red, blue and green and try to shoot in colorful locations with colorful people. My new film Spirit Riser has a lot of music, and musicians in it such as Dorian Electra, Cherrie Curie, the late Alan Merrill, and of course music from True Groove. That’s my seventh feature film, and will likely see a premiere in October. It’s so long I might have to split it into two movies, actually!
Photo Courtesy of Dylan Greenberg
NYFA: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
DG: Oh my goodness, so many! As I mentioned before, I have a feature film called Spirit Riser coming very soon starring Amanda Flowers, Cherie Currie, Kansas and Parker Bowling, Lynn Lowry, Jesse Yungbei, Patti Harrison, and it’s narrated by Michael Madsen! The only way to describe it is a supernatural martial arts horror fairytale. It’s got music, animation, live action, the Statue of Liberty coming to life and destroying New York, giant talking hands, and ghosts!
Furthermore, I have a short film called The Bathtub, which is actually the first short I’ve directed since I was a teenager that doesn’t also serve its primary purpose as a music video. It took me three years to make with Khloaris and I consider it as big of an achievement to me as one of my feature films.
We shot the entire project on green screen and we then built all of the sets as miniatures, keying the actors in frame by frame. It’s so cool, because for the first time ever I got to literally build a world from the ground up, out of paper and cardboard. The point wasn’t to make you believe the miniatures are full size or hyper realistic but rather to make you believe the actors really live inside these boxes, ride the train high above them, and interact with these surreal wacky environments. It’s truly an experience and it stars Bob Bert of Sonic Youth, who also contributes music to the film. We were supposed to premiere it in March at WFMU, but obviously that got delayed. It will be coming soon, though! New York Film Academy would like to thank Dylan Greenberg for taking the time to share more about her directorial style and passion for creation. NYFA encourages everyone to check out Greenberg’s upcoming project Spirit Riser, when it is released later this year.