For many passionate filmmakers, one of the greatest challenges is bringing a film to life in spite of budgeting hurdles. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Directing instructor Joe Burke recently set a great example with how to execute a clear, enteratining, artistic vision on a shoestring budget with his newly released comedy, Another Cancer Movie. Check out his film, and his insights on indie production for NYFA students, below.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to teach at the New York Film Academy?
JB: I started out making films at a very early age. I was eight years old when I first picked up the camera, and I haven’t put it down since. I studied film and acting all growing up, and eventually went to film school in Chicago, followed by grad school at the American Film Institute in LA. Once my career began to start growing after grad school, I found myself getting to a point where I really missed the film school setting. Hollywood can be a crazy place, and a lot of the “business” side of things can unfortunately interfere with the artistic side, and it can be very frustrating. It’s very easy to lose yourself in it all. For me, it was very important to reconnect to the fundamentals of why I really wanted to be a filmmaker, to reconnect to the actual craft and art of it all. I decided to pause on my career for a moment, and shift my energy back to film school. I love being in the classroom, both as a student and as a teacher.
I was thrilled to join the NYFA staff and teach Directing. I love teaching. I love making films. I love inspiring my students, and even more so, being inspired by them.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or memories from your time teaching with us?
JB: I am very proud of the students I have taught. I have come across many talented young filmmakers who I see very bright futures for: it’s always inspiring to witness. I have found myself many times taken aback by the power of some of my students’ work. Those are my favorite memories.
NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most? What kind of stories are you most passionate to tell?
JB: I love telling stories on film. For me, it’s all about capturing the heart and sole of people, of characters. To shed a light on both the drama and natural comedy that exists in all our lives. I love human stories that are grounded and relatable. I love making an audience truly feel something. I naturally lean towards humor, because I think a strong sense of humor is so important in life — but it has to come from an honest place. That’s why it’s funny; because it’s true.
NYFA: For our students interested in making their own shorts outside of school, what is your best advice about producing on a shoestring indie budget?
JB: My best advice would be write a film around a location that you can shoot at for free. If you have a location(s) you know you are able to shoot at, write your movie with that in mind. It’s what we did with Another Cancer Movie, as well as what I have done with many of my films — including our last one, House Sitting, and even my first feature Four Dogs.
Also, find friends you like to work with and trust. Build your community of people who will be there for you, and work for you because they believe in what you’re doing. Don’t feel the need to pay everyone the big bucks early on. Work with people who understand you have a tight budget, just make sure to feed them well! Great food on set goes a very long way. And of course, keep a very positive and fun energy on set. As the filmmaker, you must set the tone on set to keep everyone in good spirits. It’s a team effort, but the director is the leader.
NYFA: What’s next for Another Cancer Movie?
JB: Another Cancer Movie just had its world premiere online. We’re stoked to finally be releasing it. This is a very personal movie to us, and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any other projects upcoming you can tell us about?
JB: Right now, the big focus is developing a TV show with a buddy of mine. I can’t talk too much about it at the moment, but it’s an exciting project for us. I am also working on a couple of other screenplays, and acting in a few fun projects as well.
Thank you so much for having me be a part of this. For those folks who would like to keep up with what I am doing, they can find me on Instagram/Twitter @joeburkefilm and my website joeburke.net