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  • Michael Staininger on Directing His First Feature

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    Imagine being in charge of a 2 million dollar feature film, written and produced by the same guy who wrote The Crow. Your only experience is from directing a student film at the New York Film Academy. That is exactly what director, Michael Staininger was going through when he was thrown in front of 150 crew members on set of The Tomb. Luckily, he had the hands-on training from NYFA to prepare him for the real world. “Diving into filmmaking from day one, being thrown into the cold water with very little previous experience, that is what prepares you for the real world; and the madness which will await when you step onto your first feature film set. The ability to make one hundred plus mini and big decisions per day, mostly based on instinct and preparation, is what will set you apart from the competition.”

    Michael was born in Vienna, Austria to an upper middle class family who expected him to pursue a career in business. But, like most creative filmmakers, he gradually began seeking adventure, searching for the unexpected, rather than pushing for the obvious. Michael used his imagination to open horizons and create new worlds through the moving image. From there, and a few viewings of Braveheart, Michael’s fascination with the magic of film was born. Directing became his path in life.

    So, how does a boy from Vienna end up directing a $2 million film in Los Angeles with producers George Furla and Randall Emmett? 

    George Furla was one of my first producer acquaintances in the first year I moved to LA. We understood each other right away and tried to put something into the pipeline. It took several efforts (4 projects didn’t happen) and a little more than a year until the first draft of the “Ligeia” script, which distributors later renamed The Tomb, went through the Emmett/Furla Films office. They started my career. The main reason I signed on to do the film was because I’m such a big fan of The Crow, which “Ligeia” screenwriter John Shirley also wrote. John Shirley really understands darkness and mysticism.

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  • Pietro Schito on Cultivating Ideas

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    Oscar-nominated actress Emily Watson with Pietro Schito on the set of Little Boy 

    “Ever since I learned what screenwriting was, I have always wanted to do that,” explains screenwriter Pietro Schito. “That’s the most important thing for any movie. That is where the message is.” While studying in his native Milan, Pietro’s first short film, Horror Kitchen, won a national contest at the Future Film Festival in Bologna. Shortly after, he left for Mexico to work for CSPC Filming the Ineffable, an international project working with young filmmakers. He was about ready to return to Italy when he received a scholarship from CSPC.

    Pietro decided to attend a 1-Year Screenwriting course at the Universal Studios campus in 2010. “The program was great and all the instructors were too,” he says. “I loved it. They push you to the limit. It was tough but worth it. The workshops and teachers are hands-on and thought provoking. [The instructors] have a real connection with the students. If we had problems or questions they were always available for consultation.”

    After graduating from New York Film Academy, Pietro found steady work as a script consultant. He also landed an internship with Metanoia Films. “One day, having lunch with the producer, I got to pitch my movie,” he explained. He shared his project 98.Vocho, a story he had developed while attending New York Film Academy. “As soon as he heard the story, he was really interested and asked if I was ready to pitch to directors. I got to pitch it several times in the Business of Screenwriting class, so I had some practice. They took me to [director] Alejandro Monteverde. He said I had an original plot, solid characters and structure. He also told me that my style of writing reminded him about Life is Beautiful, and I was really happy to hear that because Life is Beautiful is the movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker.” Pietro worked on a 20-page treatment and pitched it to another producer at Metanoia. The producer said, “If everything is like this, we’re going to produce your movie.” They asked him to stay on with the company to develop the project. But Pietro decided to follow his heart, and went back to Mexico to get married. “I thought I would lose the opportunity of my life,” he says.

    After returning to Mexico, Pietro wrote the pilot for an animated TV series called Maria Bambina. He also worked for a Spanish television series called Mi familia y yo, and has an animated feature called Lucha Rooster in development. He found out that Metanoia Films was working on a big-budget period film called Little Boy, and that they would be shooting in Baja California. Pietro was brought on as a writers’ assistant. He soon found himself assisting the director as well. Then he was  asked to film and direct a making-of documentary to be featured on the Blu-ray release.

    Inspired by the paintings of Norman Rockwell, Little Boy is a period piece about a boy who believes he can bring his father back from World War II. It stars Sean Astin, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin James, Emily Watson, and Michael Rapaport. “It was an amazing experience, being there and seeing the process,” says Pietro.”They were really happy about the work I did, helping with outlines and reviewing scripts and storyboards.”

    Since wrapping the film, Pietro has been offered a job with Metanoia Films. “They invited me here for a staff position in writing and development,” he says. “I’m really happy being back in LA with that company. I like the way they think and organize their team. It’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s just the beginning. They have a lot of projects in development.”

    Pietro offers the following advice for students thinking about New York Film Academy: “Have an idea. Come here with an idea. Work as much as you can. The story you have in your heart: cultivate it. And don’t be discouraged by Hollywood.”

    Emily Watson and Pietro Schito with Jakob Salvati, star of Little Boy

     

    Pietro Schito working with director Alejandro Monteverde and producer Eduardo Verastegui on the set of Little Boy
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    May 30, 2012 • Film School, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6431

  • From a Roman Garage to Successful Filmmaker

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    Luigi Benvisto was born in Varese, Italy with dreams of filmmaking and New York City. After discovering his passion while shooting short films on his digital camera, Luigi moved to Rome to try his luck in the Italian film industry. “For two years I lived in a garage with a bed and a bathroom, but kept shooting projects. One day I shot some casting videos for actors in a different way than usual; instead of recording just the actor saying the lines, I created a short movie where I was introducing the character and the actor was saying his lines. The actor wasn’t selected, but the producer called me saying that what I did was amazing and he gave me the possibility to direct and shoot the backstage of the feature movie they were shooting. I worked on set with actors like Valeria Golino, Alessandro Haber, Andy Garcia, and director Mario Monicelli. It was a very exciting experience. From there, I moved to Cinecittà where I discovered the New York Film Academy.”
    Luigi attended the 8 week film workshop summer program in Rome. After completing the course, Luigi was awarded a scholarship from famous director, Bernardo Bertolucci, to continue his NYFA education with a one year film-making program in New York City. “Not only does NYFA teach you how to become an expert in your field, it also shows you how to build relationships, friendships and industry collaborations. The program is intense, but I like it that way. It teaches you to work under stress and control the situation even when everything is going wrong – which is basically what happens on set in the real world.”
    Currently, Luigi balances his schedule between teaching at NYFA and working on set. Luigi just finished a feature thriller, which is being shopped around to distributors. He wanted to share the exciting cast with us, but was told to wait until the film acquires distribution. He recently started his own production company,  Jack Boar Pictures, which produced a documentary called The Paper House: Report. His next projects include a production in association with Lima Charlie Productions and a feature about the life of actor Mickey Rooney, that he will shoot in Minnesota at the end of the year.
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  • Is New York Film Academy a College?

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    Many times people ask me “Is New York Film Academy a college?”. For the sake of time, the answer is yes. But if you have the time, you may be interested to learn a little more about what we offer.

    When we first opened our doors in 1992 our film school was referred to as a “filmmakers boot camp” because of our intensive and hands-on filmmaking training offered no college credit at that time. Today, we continue the same intensive and hands-on training while offering college credit and degree programs as well.

    New York Film Academy offers Associate, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degree programs at our three domestic campuses in New York City, Los Angeles, and South Beach, Miami.

    New York Film Academy offers MFA degrees in the following areas of study:

    New York Film Academy offers MA degrees in the following areas of study:

    New York Film Academy offers BFA degrees in the following areas of study:

    New York Film Academy offers BA degrees in the following areas of study:

    New York Film Academy offers AFA degrees in the following areas of study:

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    May 13, 2010 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 12745