The Spring 2016 MFA Cinematography students at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles completed their Production Design workshop last week, spending two days building a three-room set. They worked on a soundstage at Burbank Studios, famous as the home of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, among many NBC Studios productions. The class painted and dressed the set to incorporate a high level of detail, then rigging a 50’ translight backing of the New York skyline to complete the illusion. The translight will be seen outside the set windows, lit for both day and night at different points in the story.
This workshop was part of the Production Design course in the MFA Cinematography program, taught by instructor Francis Pezza, whose credits as an Art Director include “Outbreak,” “Dante’s Peak,” “Big Fat Liar,” and the original “Miami Vice” TV series. In addition to learning the fundamental concepts of production design, the students worked throughout the semester on designing a set that fit the needs of an original short screenplay.
The script was written by NYFA directing instructor Anthony Cook, whose credits include writing and directing the independent feature film “Wal-Bobs,” and producing the upcoming Lionsgate series “Dead House” for actor and former NYFA student Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor and executive producer Kevin Hart. For this workshop, Cook wrote a story about an obsessive-compulsive man who must defend his carefully manicured apartment from a trespassing mouse.
Once the set was completed, the students shot for three days on stage as the final part of the Cinematography Practicum class. The project was photographed on the Red Dragon digital cinema camera, allowing the cinematographers to shoot in 6K and utilize a RAW image workflow.
Cinematography instructors Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC, Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC and Rick Greenwood joined the class on stage for the shoot days. They offered guidance on lighting and blocking the scenes, helping the student cinematographers to realize the story and make best use of the intricate set. Richmond showed the students one of his trademark techniques for creating transitions in camera, teaching them how to use nets and dimmers to recreate one of his signature visuals from films including “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
With guidance from their instructors, the MFA students leave this workshop with an understanding of what it takes to build a professional set, and how to shoot it. Having completed their final Cinematography Practicum shoot at New York Film Academy, the students will incorporate these ideas in their work as they begin their MFA Thesis Films next semester.