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  • Financing Your Indie Film and Developing an Audience

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    Rohit Gupta is a Mumbai native who came to the United States over 12 years ago. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Rohit didn’t have “the slightest idea about filmmaking” until he joined the New York Film Academy  for a 4 week film workshop. Realizing his passion for the craft, he extended his stay and enrolled into the one year conservatory program. Rohit was an MBA graduate who came from a family of entrepreneurs. He decided to take his shot in an “unstable” industry and fell in love. The film assignments he was working on for classes became inspiration for later works. Another Day, Another Life was shot in seven hours, edited on his laptop, and completed on a $100 budget. His first feature film Life! Camera Action was shot in ten days with a two member crew on a Panasonic DVX 100. Rohit has claimed that his rounds on the festival circuit, including the Short Films Corner at Cannes, has resulted in over 100 awards and accolades internationally. Talk about independent success on a micro-budget!

    As an independent filmmaker, Rohit has compelling views on cultivating an audience and working with financiers to distribute your film. Rohit credits his success to his drive and ambition. He has an optimistic outlook in a field with many pitfalls and setbacks. “There is nothing more or less to it than just doing it now. With pure excitement, love and compassion in your heart, all will fall in place magically.” For any aspiring filmmaker, the most important thing is to keep an open mind. He advises current students to think of the possibilities, explore them, and figure out what they ultimately want to do. “The fun is to create something with what resources we have on-hand than worrying about what we don’t.”

    THE AUDIENCE. Speaking with other filmmakers from all over the world, the anxiety is the same. “What is the audience going to like?” Rohit is critical of those who worry too much about the audience’s reception of the product–to the point that it affects the process of creating the product. The audience, he says, won’t know what they like “until they see it.” Some worry too much about audience expectations that there is a choke hold on creativity and productivity. Many aspiring filmmakers say their biggest hurdle is the lack of resources. Rohit believes with technology at our fingerprints, everyone is able to do what they want. Find opportunities everywhere. How you take advantage of the resources at NYFA is solely your initiative in the end. As he says, “No one is to be credited or blamed but yourself.”

    FINANCIERS AND THE REAL INVESTMENT. “It’s not the creativity that needs to chase the finance, it’s the other way round!” Don’t waste your time with financiers if they don’t step up after your first meeting. Never give up your creative control just because someone is investing in your project. Be committed to execution without financial pressure. Unless you do this, you won’t know what you like about what you do and why. Only when you feel strongly about the work will your audience connect. This is the definition of success. Asking for advice from those who never made a feature film is a great way of finding reasons for not doing it. Learn from and collaborate with those who’ve objectively achieved a level of success that you can relate to. There is nothing like being original. If you try to make everybody happy, you will lose yourself. In the end, if you are happy, then everybody around feels the energy and, in turn, feels happy, too. It’s just like doing everything else. There is no mantra to it. Learning is a constant phenomenon and the beauty is no amount of learning will ever be enough.

    What do you think about Rohit’s views? Tell us if you agree or disagree with him on Twitter! And if you want to find out more about the filmmaking program, please request info here!

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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.

    Continue Reading

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  • Marko Nabersnik’s Path to Success

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    Director Marko Nabersnik attended an 8-week Film Workshop at New York Film Academy in 1996. His first film, Rooster’s Breakfast, won numerous national awards and became the biggest box office hit of the year in his native Slovenia. The film won the CBS Critics Award at the Southeast European Film Festival in Los Angeles and was also the official entry from Slovenia for the Academy Awards. He recently completed his second feature film, Shanghai Gypsy, which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Market.

    “My childhood dream was to be a filmmaker,” says Marko. “I read an article about NYFA in Cinema, the German film magazine. Two months later I flew to New York. This was [before] the internet, so the best way to get real information on the NYFA was to board a plane, cross the Atlantic, and go there to learn first-hand. After my first day, I knew already that NYFA was something special.”

    “Surrounded by the inspiration and atmosphere of New York City,” he continues, “You pick up direct knowledge of filmmaking from prominent professors and guests within the film industry. The study process was intense. There were students all over the world. In my class alone, I interacted with future filmmakers from Italy, Spain, Japan, Germany, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We helped each other, explored the beauty of storytelling, and shared experiences about the unpredictability of shooting on original locations.”

    “When I came back to Slovenia from New York, I was determined that filmmaking would be my destiny. Whenever I found myself in the dilemma of choosing the next step for my filmmaking, I would remember a quote from Adam Stoner, our directing class professor: ‘Filmmaking is constant exploring and learning. Don’t forget the fun and passion which is hidden in that process and don’t get lost only because you have more questions than answers!’ Today I am a professional filmmaker and a professor. I teach at our national film academy, the Academy for Theater, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. I still recall the time I spent at NYFA and the endless inspiration the Academy gave me. NYFA gives you knowledge and builds your self-confidence.”

    Marko at New York Film Academy in 1996

    Marko in 2012

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    June 13, 2012 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4885

  • International Documentary Association Hires Rocio Mesa

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    Sabine Sighicelli is the Chair of Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios campus. A documentary writer, producer, director, and associate producer, she has worked in the documentary field for 12 years for National Geographic Television, AMC, Foundation for World Arts, UCLA Intercultural Center, Women Make Movies, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Home Planet Productions. Her award-winning documentary The Passionate Life of a Father Painter aired on PBS/KCET in 2001. Her film about composer Robert Een, Be Warned! is featured in the DVD collection of the Foundation for World Arts. She recently completed principal photography on her feature documentary “Breaking in Two, sponsored by Women Make Movies.

    Rocio Mesa determinedly pushes her cart packed with equipment down the New York Film Academy hallway. Dressed in her usual 50’s attire and cat eye glasses, she is heading to West Hollywood, where she will film Ondi Timoner (Sundance-winning director of Dig! and We Live in Public) and Marina Zenovich (Director of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, among many others) at the International Documentary Association Doc U event. Rocio graduated from the One Year Documentary Filmmaking program in December 2011. “My parents were afraid about my future in the US because I was doing really well in Spain. They didn’t want me to be working as a waitress just to reach the American dream,” she confesses. But waitressing doesn’t seem to be in store for Rocio in this lifetime.

    I introduced her to Amy at the International Documentary Association (IDA) – one of the most prestigious documentary organizations – and  soon after, Amy called me to tell me she and everyone at the IDA were so impressed with Rocio that they had decided to hire her as the producer, director, and editor of the Doc U series for the IDA’s Youtube Channel and archives. These events bring together some of the most highly sought-out people in the non-fiction industry. She also manages the department in charge of taping all IDA-related events. This is no surprise to me or to Rocio’s instructors, since she’s always taken the bull by the horns, and accomplished more in a year than most students are able to do in two!

    Rocio grew up in the Spanish town of Granada in Andalusia. She received a BA in Communication from the University of Seville in 2005, then went on to test her skills on several documentaries, commercials, and TV shows before landing a job on one of the most acclaimed TV shows in Andalusia, about traditional Spanish folk music. Her career was off to a good start, yet her real dream was documentary storytelling.

    She came to the New York Film Academy thanks to the Talentia Grant – a grant given exclusively to promising professionals by the Government of Andalusia. It was immediately clear in the One Year program, that Rocio was a high-performing student. From her character film, Almon Loos, the Rocking Barber, to her social issue documentary, Traffic in LA Sucks! (selected for the Burbank International Film Festival) to her One Year Final Documentary, Orensanz, the portrait of an illustrious Spanish artist who lives in a synagogue, Rocio has stamped every film with her unique vision.,Right after graduation, she was off and running: an internship at Interloper Films, Ondi Timoner’s production company; a job at the IDA; freelance editing gigs with various clients; directing gigs for Meltdown Comics and the web series Authentic Los Angeles… If the project stirs her interest, she will take it on.

    Last but not least, she’s currently our new favorite editor in the post production department, where, among other things, she has completed the editing of the documentary student reel, and a behind-the-scenes of the Young Storytellers Foundation’s collaboration with the New York Film Academy teen programs. Rocio will be with us until she returns to her native Spain. We cherish every moment we still have with her!

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program, click here.

     

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  • Showing The World Your Truth

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    Fito Pardo graduated from New York Film Academy in the late 90’s. Since then, he has gone on to direct short films and music videos, has worked as cinematographer on over 30 projects, and has found success as a photographer for publications worldwide, including Marie Claire, Vogue Japan, and National Geographic.

    Though he had loved films since his youth, Fito got little support when he expressed an interest in learning filmmaking. At his father’s insistence, he postponed his dreams of studying filmmaking. “I studied Administration for probably 6 months in one of the best universities in Mexico, and after the first 2 months I just knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. Eventually Fito started writing to film schools for information. After winning a partial scholarship to New York Film Academy, Fito was on his way to Manhattan. “I studied in NYFA between 1995 and 1997,” he says.

    “My experience was amazing. I had no idea how to use a film camera, so the workshops helped me understand what I was getting myself into…. At NYFA I learned how to write a script, how to be a cinematographer, how to be a producer, and how to understand all aspects of film. After NYFA, I worked with some Mexican production companies, opened my own production company called La Alcachofa Films, and started directing some interesting videos in Mexico. I directed some music videos… and did a couple of commercials for BBDO, Lowe & Partners, and some other agencies.”

    Fito shot his first feature film, El Fuego Inolvidable, last year. The controversial project explores the complicated state of politics in Mexico. The film has played at festivals and college campuses, with great responses from audiences. They are currently working on a distribution deal.

    “I am still in pursuit of more goals,” says Fito. “When I was working for National Geographic, I knew I accomplished one of my goals, but knew that it wasn’t it. My first feature film got the award of Best Mexican Film at the 2011 Oaxaca Film Festival, but I want more. Since I was kid, I always wanted to move people…. I have a condition. I am a stutterer, and I have been watching the world with different eyes…. All my life I have been limited in expressing my mind. Sometimes people don’t get it and just can’t wait for me to talk, so they go away. I think I show the way I see the world through my eyes, without my mouth. I believe this is what moves me: To show the world what my mind sees.”

    To learn more about our filmmaking program, click here.

     

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  • 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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  • Evelyne Binsack: Defeating Mt. Everest and Reaching New Heights

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    Evelyne Binsack Rock ClimbingDocumentary student Evelyne Binsack was already a celebrity before attending New York Film Academy. In 2001, she became the first Swiss woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. She also spent four months crossing Antarctica to reach the South Pole. She is the author of Expedition Antarctica and Steps on the Edge, and has been featured in a number of documentaries about her adventures. She speaks 3 languages and is also a helicopter pilot. Until our interview, she didn’t know that she had been named as Switzerland’s fourth most famous person – not bad, considering the poll included musicians, politicians, and movie stars!

    Evelyne said she discovered her love of the outdoors in her native Switzerland. “A friend of mine took me to the mountains near home. I fell in love and thought that’s what I want to do: [be] outdoors having adventures.” At the time, Evelyne was a runner competing in the 800 and 1500-meter dash. “That was something very different — fighting against each other. In mountaineering, you’re fighting together. You can’t fight against each other. That’s something that impressed me, the contrast.”

    Evelyne found New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking program years later. “I was Googling in Europe,” she said. “Everything was three years for film programs, or… [very short] crash courses. What can you learn in one week? I decided to come here. I really enjoy the program… but as a country girl, it’s [hard] being in the city. Here, people live for the weekends, and Monday they feel like [crap]. Friends in my country don’t have this attitude. Most of my friends do what they love. They risked things to do what they love and they’re more happy. To see that people are just working for money, it hurts somehow. Take more risks and be passionate for what you do!”

    Despite the urban setting, Evelyne says she has already learned a lot in her first few months of school. “[Documentary instructors] Wendy Apple and Reuben Aaronson are great. They’re all fabulous. They have [a lot of] experience and it’s great to listen to them!” she said. She has already been putting her new knowledge to work as well. She explains, “I’ve been giving [lectures] for 10 years, and that’s how I make my income, but I didn’t know why some stories [wouldn’t] work. For my speeches it’s very helpful to know about structure and character arc. It helps me to understand why one story is good and why another story doesn’t work.”

    Evelyne admits to missing her adventures, saying, “I don’t like the word addiction, but somehow I’m addicted to the mountains and to climbing. I’m part of nature. If I’m not part of nature, I feel empty. It hurts.”

    After finishing the Documentary Filmmaking program at the end of the year, Evelyne will return to Switzerland, where she will plan for her next big adventure. “I want to traverse from Alps, cross the Caucuses, and find out stories about the sacred mountains of the Himalayas.”

    Check out a recent feature on Evelyne Binsack that aired on Swiss television, and get a behind-the-scenes look at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus!

    Evelyne Binsack Alps

    Evelyne Binsack Summit

    Evelyne Binsack Swiss Alps

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  • New York Film Academy’s Student Spotlight: Ana Paula Manzato

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    Ana Paula ManzatoAs we mentioned before, New York Film Academy is proud to be in lovely Rio de Janeiro. Throughout the week we’re showcasing our wonderful NYFA Brazilian students. Today we spoke with Ana Paula Manzato to catch up on her experience thus far at our Universal Studios, Los Angeles campus.

    How did you find out about NYFA?

    I first found out about NYFA on the internet and looked further to learn more about it at the STB (Student Travel Bureau) in Brazil. Then, I e-mailed NYFA with my inquiries and got the information that I needed.

    What attracted you to NYFA?
    The school structure, the location, the talks that the school offers the students, and I found Gabby Egito’s blog on the internet with plenty of information about the school. Some pictures that drew my attention to the school even more.

    What was your journey to NYFA from Brazil? What is your story?
    I studied Advertising and Marketing in Brazil and participated in so me activities and projects at the university. I took part in the production of a video clip that won three awards, including best picture. Since then I have been interested in film, photography, and production.

    What has been your NYFA experience?
    My journey has been intense and excellent! We learn all about the production of a film, from inserting a roll of film into the camera, up to its final edition. We produce our own films, screenplays, and cast our actors. The teachers are great, attentive and always willing to help us.

    To people in Brazil who want to come to NYFA, do you have any advice?
    If you want to learn more about filmmaking, NYFA is the right place. With outstanding structure and excellent teachers, we can really learn all there is to know about filmmaking. You learn something new every day and you are in close contact with different cultures and people.

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  • New York Film Academy’s Student Spotlight: Aldo Filiberto

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    MFA Film student Aldo Filiberto recently finished work on his thesis film, The Fortune Theory. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Aldo first came to NYFA in 2006 for an 8-Week Filmmaking program. He liked it so much, he decided to return in September 2009 for the masters program.

    Aldo describes the film, The Fortune Theory, as a coming-of-age drama. He explains, “It’s the story of an emotionally disconnected millionaire, who drifts through a systematic routine of job interviews, searching for an understanding of life and his workaholic father.”
The character, Morris, is ultimately forced to take a job writing fortunes in a fortune cookie factory, where he will have to face his own inadequacy in order to ultimately accept himself, those around him, and defy his father.

    aldo

    “I worked on the script for 8 months,” says Aldo. “After several table readings, the script was ready and we jumped into production. It was ambitious for the budget we had, but our excitement overcame our fears.”

    Aldo cast John Terry in a supporting role in the film. The celebrated actor is best known for his roles on Lost, ER, 24, and in Full Metal Jacket. Says Aldo, “He has tons of experience and worked with Kubrick! On the set he was very nice, hard working, and loved his job. He was great.” The project will also feature a score by Goya-nominated composer Pablo Cervantes.

    The film’s crew included a number of New York Film Academy students and alumni. Says Aldo, “Making a movie is a collaborative experience. You need to relate to other people to help you shape your vision, and school is a good place to create a network of people you can trust.”

    He also credits NYFA staff for their help, saying, “Instructors like Adam Nimoy, Crickett Rumley, James Rowe, and Lydia Cedrone have always been helpful. The school has been supporting me. The greenlight procedure helps you set up a schedule and deadlines. They really make sure that you’re ready to do it so you don’t end up wasting your money, or even worse, someone else’s money.”

    The Fortune Theory is currently in post-production. Aldo is in discussions with sales agencies and plans to hit the festival circuit in the next year. He explains, “This is the exciting part. Shooting it is just the beginning.”

    Actor John Terry with Aldo Filiberto

    Actor John Terry with Aldo Filiberto

    Aldo Filiberto directing a scene

    Aldo Filiberto directing a scene

    Aldo Filiberto talking with an actor

    Aldo Filiberto talking with an actor

    Aldo Filiberto with his crew

    Aldo Filiberto with his crew

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    March 6, 2012 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5014