The Haitian-American filmmaker attended NYFA’s One Year Conservatory Program in Producing and then became a digital video producer for BLUR, a tech startup with an in-house production team. There, he directed, shot, and edited dozens of ads for the digital space. He then moved to the independent film world where he currently works as an Assistant Director.
Also a Dj (DJ Hanzi), Augustave’s storytelling journey has taken him from the art of spoken word, to the stage with his one-man show The Lost and Found and now to the screen with his latest project Before I Knew; a visual poem depicting the subtle and not so subtle ways Black men come to the realization that they are seen as less than human.
While working on the film, Augustave was introduced to sound mixer Edward Morris II, who worked on Before I Knew. After having started to mix the sound, Augustave found out that Morris’ cousin was Elijah McClain, a young Black man who was killed by the police and whose story broke to the media when Before I Knew was in post-production.
Augustave is also co-producer on a documentary feature film The Forgotten Occupation which examines the United States’ occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 and the negative impacts on Haiti’s current political climate.
As DJ Hanzi, Augustave founded the popular and growing sober-curious dance party, Reprieve. “It’s part Funk, part House, part Pride, very Black and ALL Love,” shared Augustave. “It’s defying the misconception that no booze & no drugs = no fun.”
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Hans Augustave on his powerful short film Before I Knew and encourages readers to watch and have their own discussions about the short film.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Tendo Nagenda recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about what viewers can expect from Netflix originals in the age of COVID-19, showing that the streaming service giant is not slowing down and ready to provide viewers with more content in the next couple of years.
Nagenda, who studied Filmmaking at NYFA in 1999, went on to become the VP of Production at Walt Disney Studios, where he was involved with titles like Queen of Katwe, A Wrinkle in Time, and Dumbo, among others, until he was nabbed by Netflix in 2018 to be the new VP Original Films. In Nagenda’s new role, he explained to The Hollywood Reporter that Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film Da 5 Bloods was the first film he gave the greenlight to at Netflix, followed by Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg, and fan favorite The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron.
Tendo Nagenda for ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ (Photo Credit: Phylicia J. L. Munn)
In his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Nagenda shared that right now, with the pandemic in mind, “there are still going to be plenty of movies that people will want to see in the theater. I just think that there is also going to be an awareness that there is a super-high-quality film available that might or might not be in theaters.”
Enter Netflix. The streaming platform has seen tremendous growth since the pandemic hit, accumulating 10 million subscribers in the streaming service’s second quarter, growing the global user base to 193 million. Ultimately, restrictions and safety have caused more people to turn to streaming services in general to consume all the media they want.
As a company, Nagenda revealed that Netflix has shown no signs of slowing down due to the pandemic. “We have a lot of runway, definitely through 2020 and part of 2021,” he shared. “We want to get to work and back into production just like everybody else, and we want to get through this year. We’re still in pretty good shape.”
(L-R) Lena Waithe, Tendo Nagenda, Ava DuVernay, and David-Oyelowo (Photo Credit: Trendy Africa)
As for what’s next from the popular streaming platform, it is still in high competition with heavy-hitter Hollywood studios that have their own intellectual properties (IPs) and catalogue of directors to choose from. “We have to concentrate our efforts on finding people of that talent level that we can work with as early as possible and then get them to make movies only for Netflix,” explained Nagenda.
Still from Nagenda’s first film with Netflix – ‘Da 5 Bloods’ (Courtesy of Netflix
“We’re looking at big, broad-audience, PG-level adventure films as something that we want to get into. Something along the lines of the first Star Wars, or Harry Potter 1 and 2. A lot of family live action, fantasy, spectacle movies that we think are big and can play great.”
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate the NYFA alum and Netflix executive on his recent feature in The Hollywood Reporter and looks forward to seeing upcoming original titles like The Gray Man (Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans) spearheaded by one of NYFA’s very own.
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
Things usually slow down over the course of the Summer. But that wasn’t the case for the NYFA Broadcast Journalism department, or many of our graduates.
Starting in late July, Evgenia Vlasova and myself co-taught NYFA’s first Moscow Journalism Summer School (JSS). Thanks to support from the U.S. State Department, we were able to offer an intensive three-week course-of-study to early career Russian journalists along with a number of current university students.
It was a real challenge, seeing as we had to conduct the entire workshop online with participants spread out over seven time zones. While classes started for Genia and me at 7:00 AM in New York, it was 2:00 PM for students in Moscow and 6:00 PM in Siberia. (The Siberian students regularly finished classwork after midnight!)
The stories the workshop participants created were nothing short of spectacular, covering a wide range contemporary topics. And no two were the same. Everyone approached their topic with their own personal style.
NYFA alum George Colli, who many of you know from the NYFA website, lent his experience and perspective as well. He spoke from the point of view of someone who knows what it takes to create compelling TV news stories under tight deadlines. (And now he has a beard! A look many of you reading this know I always find fashionable…)
Other grads graciously agreed to “drop in” on our Zoom sessions as guest speakers. Among them was Karen Hua, who “called in” while covering an out-of-control wildfire in Southern California for KGET in Bakersfield.
Starla Sampaco is a news anchor at KCTS, the PBS station in Seattle as well as an entrepreneur building her own digital platform.
And Gillian Kemmerer, who has firsthand experience working in Russia covering sports, business, and the business of sports.
Other NYFA Broadcast Journalism grads have been busy too. Isabella Faria is now a reporter at CNN Brasil. She came to New York to learn to shoot and edit, used those skills to get a job in the video department of Brazil’s largest newspaper, was hired by CNN as a producer, then promoted to an on-air position. She wrote to me: “You know I can’t thank NYFA enough for all the incredible classes. They sure helped me to get where I am now “
And speaking of Brazil (OK… Brasil) Livia Fernanda got a challenging assignment back in August. She had to explain the U.S. Presidential Election — in particular, “political conventions” — to her viewers.
On a far more serious note, Celina Liv Danielsen covered the violent reaction to the recent shooting of an African-American man multiple times by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin for TV2 in Denmark.
Georgia Hammond is working on a series of video essays about the people of Strathbogie Shire, in the Australian state of Victoria, and their efforts to combat the loneliness and isolation that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, Turkish alum Esra Ozturk is an example of how, after you study how to make TV news, you might find yourself in a job in which you are interviewed on TV news. In this case, on TRT World, the global English-language service of Turkish Radio and Television.
In a classic case of “write what you know,” recent alum Nick Venuti, from the Fall 2018 AFA Filmmaking class, drew from his past when developing ideas for his thesis film, Buffalo Scientists. “Thinking about what it would be like if two of my childhood friends attempted some big crazy thing and picturing how it would play out” was his inspiration. “They always had big imaginations and typically don’t think things through,” Venuti said, ”so I thought it would make an entertaining movie. From there, I just started thinking, how could I turn it up a notch? What if the clerk (main character) was our favorite high school math teacher, Mr. Hughes?”
The result is Buffalo Scientists, a quirky dark comedy, that had its world premiere at the Dances with Films festival in Los Angeles on August 28, 2020. Director of NYFA’s Film Festival Department, Crickett Rumley, caught up with Nick to talk about the film right after his first screening and before his second with the well-known indie festival.
Crickett Rumley (CR): Congratulations on getting into Dances With Films! Tell us a little bit more about your film.
Nick Venuti (NV): Buffalo Scientists is a comedy about an ex-history teacher named Bill Peterson. Bill works at a convenience store in Sacramento run by his egotistical manager, Carl. After Carl leaves for the night, 2 masked men, Jeremy and Alan, enter to rob the store. During the robbery they recognize Bill as their former high school history teacher. After reminiscing about the past, Bill decides to join the boys on an adventure into the night.
CR: And what a bizarre adventure it is. It must have been so much fun to direct. What was your favorite thing about directing it?
NV: It was the first film that I felt like I was really the director. I had such an amazing team with me on set that for the first time ever I didn’t feel like I had to micromanage every aspect of production. I could focus solely on directing. I got to spend so much more time with the actors than I ever have. I love doing almost everything on set, but it was so cool to experience being just the director for once.
Film poster for ‘Buffalo Scientists’
CR: Did you experience any challenges in making the film?
NV: I think the most challenging part for me, and for a lot of people is the final 5% of post-production; when the energy and excitement of being on set and seeing the first cut is over. It is hard to work in that final stretch where you have already seen the film 50+ times and you still need to watch it two or three times a day just to clean up all the small glitches and hiccups. You start to fall out of love with the film a little bit after seeing it so many times. After crossing the finish line, all the fun comes back with festivals and showing people for the first time, but the hardest part is definitely locking the film.
CR: I agree. I think all artists get tired of their work at some point, and that’s when you have to dig in even deeper. What was your biggest takeaway from making the film?
NV: I learned how awesome it is to have a producer helping. I could not have done it to this scale if I didn’t have my producer (and NYFA Alumni) Andrew Reyna. I handled all the paperwork and logistics for my previous films, so I didn’t realize how much a great producer frees you up to focus on the creative aspects until this project.
CR: Let’s back up a little. How and when did you decide to go into film?
NV: I am from Binghamton, a city in upstate New York. I started looking into film when I had a stop motion project in high school. I loved directing and writing the project so much that I took some film courses at my local community college. My teacher saw I was really passionate about the subject, so he recruited me to drive down to the Everglades to work on a project for the school. I had to live in a tent for two weeks as we had to shoot a documentary for a local news station. At this point I still barely knew how to turn on a camera, but I loved every second of it. When I got back, I started looking for film schools. I knew I wanted to try and make a career in film, so I began looking for a school that could help me do just that. I discovered the New York Film Academy, went to New York to check it out and knew it was the place for me. I went to the New York City campus for the first year and liked it so much I decided to do my second year at the LA campus.
CR: Do you think your education at NYFA and the work you did here prepared you for a career in filmmaking?
NV: I think NYFA does an amazing job at throwing you straight into the deep end and just having you try to see what you can do. I believe just two months in we already had four films under our belts. This made it so easy to experiment and try things that I would never have done otherwise. We just constantly had to make new films and got to see what worked and what didn’t. It was tough making a new film every week but it was essential in helping me to build my own style and voice.
Nick Venuti on set with actors
CR: Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who helped or inspired you?
NV: There were so many teachers that helped and inspired me: Lea Brandenburg, Ben Cohen, Brad Sample, Joe Burke, Crickett Rumley, and Richard D’Angelo all impacted me more than they could ever know. There are many more but those in particular stood out.
CR: Thanks for the shout-out! Much appreciated. So, this is your first film festival with Buffalo Scientists, and Dances with Films is such a great place to get started. What has it been like to work with them?
NV: Dances with Films has been absolutely amazing. The festival has to be online this year due to COVID-19, but they are working as hard as they can to get it as close to the real thing as possible. They have virtual lounges and panels, and everything is live. It all helps it to still feel special even though we can’t experience being in Los Angeles and in the theater. Dances with Films has gone above and beyond with this as an online festival.
CR: What were you looking forward to about your screening?
NV: Before the virus, I was really looking forward to finally sharing the film with everyone in The Chinese Theater on the big screen and getting to meet the other amazing filmmakers in our block. Unfortunately, the whole festival went online, so that dampened the excitement a little, but it still was a pretty cool feeling knowing that lots of people from all over the world were watching.
CR: You moved back to New York after finishing your degree at the LA campus. What are you up to these days?
NV: I’ve been keeping busy since getting out of school. I have directed a few local commercials, was DP for a feature film in January, shot a couple music videos for local artists, and I have been getting consistent editing work on the side. Currently, SUNY Broome hired me to direct and shoot virtual field trips for the college and I have been working on scripts for future projects. I am also waiting to see how Buffalo Scientists does in festivals and if there is any interest in a feature version of the film.
CR: Back to Dances With Films, when is your next screening and where can we get tickets?
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.
The Caped Crusader returns in a new adaption from the Cloverfield and Dawn of The Planet of The Apes director, Matt Reeves. The film will feature a star-studded cast including: Robert Pattinson (Batman), Zoë Kravitz (Catwoman), Colin Farrell (The Penguin), and NYFA Filmmaking alum Paul Dano in his most anticipated and career-bending role yet as The Riddler.
NYFA Filmmaking alum Paul Dano as The Riddler
While fans of the franchise have already had a preview of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman for many months now, the recent DC FanDome event premiered a teaser trailer for the upcoming film giving fans their first glimpse at Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, The Penguin, and The Riddler.
Fans are already excited for the film, with the trailer revealing the dark and unhinged world of Gotham and villains like Dano’s Riddler having a huge hand in the chaos as Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne tries to find his footing as the masked vigilante.
A note for Batman from Paul Dano’s character The Riddler
When asked about Dano’s character, Reeves had this to share: “Paul Dano plays a version of The Riddler that no one has ever seen before. What he’s doing is, I think, going to blow people’s minds.” Dano’s performance is already being applauded by fans from the trailer alone, with many taking to social media to share their excitement for his upcoming performance, which has similar undertones to the late Heath Ledger’s Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Daniel Day Lewis (Left) and Paul Dano (Right) in ‘There Will Be Blood’
In addition to The Batman, Dano has already had an impressive acting career at 36 years old. Dano won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance for L.I.E. and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a cast in a Motion Picture for his role as Dwayne in Little Miss Sunshine; he was also nominated for a BAFTA Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for There Will Be Blood. His other notable credits include Prisoners, Swiss Army Man, The Emperor’s Club, and The Girl Next Door, among many others. He also made his directorial debut with Wildlife in 2018, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.
The Batman is expected to be released October 21, 2021 and will also feature NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory alum Alfredo Tavares, who is announced to be playing the role of a forensic expert.
Watch the full teaser trailer for The Batman below:
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.
Having “Guest Speakers” for instructional classes isn’t unusual. But it is unique when the guest calls-in from the middle of a raging wildfire she is covering in Southern California…
NYFA alum Karen Hua
Late Monday, after putting in a full day at KGET in Bakersfield, NYFA alum Karen Hua was sent to cover a wildfire burning out of control. It meant doing live shoots that evening, sleeping in the station SUV, and doing more live shoots Tuesday morning.
NYFA alum Karen Hua
She found time to share with the NYFA Broadcast Journalism Summer School participants what it is like to work as a multimedia journalist (MMJ), the challenges of meeting deadlines and how it really is a very small world. (Her roommate is a reporter at a rival TV station in Bakersfield.) If you want a role model, someone who embodies contemporary TV journalism in the United States, I can’t think of anyone who better fits the bill than Karen. Note she is wearing high-visibility fire gear…
Fifteen years ago I created a documentary that still remains special to me…
Still from ‘So Very Far From Home’
August 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. It also marks the 75th anniversary of an amazing rescue. During the final days of World War II, small groups of specially trained American troops parachuted into prison camps in Japanese-occupied China, liberating innocent children, their parents, teachers and friends. They had been imprisoned for the “crime” of being American, British, Australian and Dutch, confined to camps where hunger, disease, brutality and despair were their everyday companions.
‘So Very Far From Home’ title card
These are the real-life stories behind Steven Spielberg’s epic film “Empire of the Sun,” as told by those who actually lived them.