NYFA Grad Wins Best Director for ‘The Duck Diaries’

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Duck DiariesDigital Filmmaking Graduate, Matt Twomey, recently won the Best Director award at the NYC Independent Film Festival for his feature documentary, The Duck Diaries: A Cold War Quest for Friendship Across the Americas. The Duck Diaries is a true-life intercontinental adventure about the importance of intercultural outreach in a troubled world, and the astonishing power of a never-say-die spirit. The story is about a group of young American guys who, in 1961 at the height of the Cold War, took it upon themselves to spread Yankee goodwill in Central and South America. For the 27,000-mile journey, they acquired a surplus Army amphibian “Duck.” But the vehicle wasn’t quite up to the seafaring they intended to get them from Panama to Colombia, and they ended up marooned. Fortunately, President John F. Kennedy took an interest in their mission. “In making it, there were numerous times when I met dead ends, blind alleys, and technical catastrophes,” said Twomey. “I needed to take inspiration from the very story I was telling.”

Matt grew up in West Virginia and set out for Tokyo, Japan after graduating college. After he came up with the idea for the documentary, Matt left Tokyo to come study at the New York Film Academy in Union Square, New York City. He wanted to be in New York, and NYFA offered an intensive workshop in digital filmmaking that he could squeeze in before his production. “Having had no background in film, my NYFA course was a good, hands-on primer in the basics of camera, lighting, sound and editing. Somehow my fellow students and I each managed to make three shorts, which is the best kind of learning.”

Matt continues to showcase his film at a variety of film festivals. “It’s been extraordinarily gratifying to witness the crowd response to my film. I had an incredible turnout for the screening at the NYC Independent Film Festival, and I was floored to win Best Director — there was such great competition among both narrative and documentary films. In Mexico, at the Oaxaca Film Festival, I met so many great filmmakers.”

Matt is now developing documentary shorts, one specifically focuses on the fossil fuel divestment movement that is growing across the country. He is also interested in partnering with other filmmakers in a collaboration or in a collective. “The best documentaries are truly more compelling than fiction, and watching them can change a person’s perspective or even spur him into action. I hope to keep discovering and telling such stories.”

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