New York Film Academy Alumni Alon Juwal has been on a veritable tour with his short film, “Visitors,” which has received nominations from the Newport Beach Film Festival, Phoenix ComicCon, USS Film Festival, New Hope Film Festival, and the New York City International Film Festival.
Juwal received the award for Best Director of a Sci-Fi Short at the New York City International Film Festival and an Honorable Mention at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. The film has earned numerous nominations including Best Sci-Fi Short at Phoenix ComicCon and Best Student Short at the Vail Film Festival.
“Visitors” follows characters George, Cole and Kayleigh, an estranged family who come together at a remote and isolated farm. Cole and Kayleigh find themselves facing a series of strange events and a group of uninvited visitors with mysterious and sinister intentions. An old, forgotten bond rekindles, and a once broken and divided family begins piecing itself together in order to survive, overcome and become whole again.
“‘Visitors’ was basically my way of fusing all of the sci-fi films I grew up watching as a child adding a bit of a personal twist and eventually creating something that is truly unique and original,” Juwal said in an interview via email. “I wanted to make something that felt truly authentic, and in order to do that, I had to find the strength to expose my deepest feelings. Even a thriller needs a bit of a personal touch to fully connect with a viewer, so my personal touch to the story was the complex relationship I have with my father, and how his separation from my mother affected our family.”
That relationship became the guiding light for the film. Grounding this film in a core that would touch viewers was Juwal’s main goal. “‘Visitors’ is a sci-fi thriller on the outside, but on the inside, it speaks of values such as family, loyalty and most importantly, forgiveness,” Juwal said. “When people leave the cinema, I don’t want them to think about aliens or tractor beams. Instead, I hope they will be thinking about their families.”
His impressive festival run was influenced by a gambler’s spirit: “You can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket.” He narrowed his focus to festivals that had the science fiction genre at the forefront of their thinking. “I carefully chose festivals that I believed showcased emerging talent (and) had the power of pushing our film forward.”
Through all the screenings, conventions, and conferences, a lot of hands are shaken. Each handshake usually comes with a note about the film. All that criticism has worn down many great filmmakers but Juwal takes it all in stride. “When you make a film you are sometimes blind to many of its shortcomings. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot from every single screening. It’s always great to hear a positive comment, but the negative ones are the ones you end up learning from the most, and they are also the ones that make you grow as an artist.”
Lessons learned and classmates met at the New York Film Academy were instrumental in the completion of the project. Juwal reflected, “My time at NYFA taught me many things, but most importantly, it taught me the power of collaboration. I have many shortcomings as a director, and I fill those shortcomings with talented people who complete me. In the case of ‘Visitors,’ many of these people were my classmates.”
Juwal’s next film, “A Golden Heart,” will tell the story of an 11-year-old boy who, after learning of his mother’s illness, sets off on a journey to find a rare flower that is rumored to have magical healing powers. Look for “Visitors” on Amazon Video Direct once the film has completed its festival circuit. To follow the film’s progress, follow “Visitors” on Facebook.