New York Film Academy Australia Filmmaking Instructor Joshua Belinfante recently screened his short documentary “Requires Review” at the prestigious Los Angeles festival Dances With Films Festival.
With an eye for the eccentric and surreal, Belinfante is a filmmaker and photographer who has self-produced numerous short films, crewed on feature films, TVCs, TV shows, music videos and stop motion animations in Australia, Europe, and Asia.
“Requires Review” follows Björn Lindqvist, a “self-confessed world’s best town planner” who draws attention to urban planning issues by places placards around Stockholm that say “Granskning Erfordras” — in English, “Requires Review.” Sign bearers from around the world have begun copying Lindqvist’s strategy, even at such famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Westminster, the Austrian Mountains, Canals of Amsterdam and even the Opera House, Sydney.
We had a chance to catch up with Belinfante and hear his reflections on his recent experience at Dances With Films, and learn what inspired his film “Requires Review.”
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what drew you to become an instructor at NYFA Australia?
JB: I’ve been making films since I was 12 years old. For me, filmmaking is more about putting a part of myself into a work rather than trying to get something out of it. Having said that, the balancing act between art and entertainment is a constant struggle of anyone in film today. I currently work in TV as a post production media manager as well as an independent film producer/director. I operate my own production companies Belinfante Photography and FineSilver Media, where I shoot, produce, edit and direct content for various clients.
I was drawn to becoming an instructor at NYFA because I wanted to give something back to the next generation of hungry filmmakers. Perhaps there was something I could show them that I was never told when I was in film school. I wanted to teach them the most relevant skills & know-how to help get them a foothold into the film & TV industry.
NYFA: As a filmmaker and photographer, how does your approach to your work change in different mediums?
JB: The medium is always the message. Whether I am taking a photo of someone or making a documentary about someone, you are always trying to capture the essence of the individual. Part of that process involves communicating a value, belief or an aesthetic to an audience. If I am making a docu-fiction or a narrative drama I will still approach the story with the same eyes and the same questions. What am I making? Why am I making it? Who am I making it for? What do I want them to get out of it? Is what I am making real, or unreal?
NYFA: What would you say is your teaching style as a film instructor?
JB: I always hone in on the needs of each individual learner. Having been trained as a teacher since 2008 I am aware of how to facilitate an environment for learning. Everyone learns differently, some through listening, some through reading, but for most people it’s getting up and doing and making mistakes.
Unfortunately a lot of industry professionals know their craft back to front but struggle with communicating this in a way that is understandable for students from all walks of life and backgrounds.
I encourage making mistakes and failing spectacularly so that you can get back up your feet, dust yourself off and try again. Most of the time your failures fuel you more than your successes.
NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?
JB: My favourite NYFA moment would have to be when I taught a mature age student named Paul. At the start of the course Paul couldn’t use a mouse on a computer. By the end of it he was directing films on a RED camera. I gave him a lot of extracurricular work to do and he went from strength to strength. Most people wrote Paul off due to his difficult past and Paul-Hogan-Crocodile-Dundee kind of approach to life. I’m happy to report Paul has been making some great projects since finishing up at NYFA. I regularly keep in touch with our alumni too.
NYFA: Can you tell us what inspired your film “Requires Review”?
JB: I have always been aghast by poor town planning in global cities. What’s town planning, I hear you say? Well it’s otherwise known as urban planning, and it’s all the things that make a city keep spinning. The architecture, transport, public utilities etc. I was curious what the problems would be in a seemingly perfect city like Stockholm.
I had a script, I just had to find a town planner to interview. Which proved quite challenging! But, rather serendipitously I eventually met a mysterious urban planner in the national library in Stockholm! We spent a few hours discussing all the horrible things we hate in cities, and the next day we made the film.
NYFA: How was your experience at Dances With Film?
JB: Dances with Films was such a beautiful experience, meeting filmmakers and like-minded people from all over the world. Being welcomed with open arms by people you’d never met before was truly touching. Every day of the festival there was an industry meetup, cocktail session or a screening to attend. It was a great boot camp and introduction to the LA filmmaking scene. And a breath of fresh air from my day to day life!
NYFA: Would you say your time within the NYFA community was at all helpful in your experience creating this film?
JB: One thing I will say is that when I arrived in LA, it was a happy accident that some of our acting students & teachers from Sydney were studying & working at the NYFA LA campus. It was pretty surreal that they were able to attend the screening and came out to support “Requires Review” and all the other filmmakers at the festival. The NYFA community shone through there for sure.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
JB: I’m currently working on some TV shows for Australian ABC and SBS TV networks. I am also in development on a TV series based on “Requires Review” as well as several other independent productions that I filmed in Bangkok and Sydney.
NYFA: What advice would you give to your students who are seeking to find the path to screening their own films in a festival like Dances With Film?
JB: Know what your film is, why you made it, and what you want to get out of it. Is your film going to be a calling card for you as a director? DOP? Writer? How can you best use this film as a stepping stone?
NYFA: Is there anything we missed that you’d like to share with the NYFA community?
JB: I always take the attitude that you are always an amateur at your profession. The second you believe you are a professional that knows everything you shut yourself off to curiosity and a desire to learn more. You also shut yourself off from learning from those around you & your own experiences. Never stop being inquisitive and learning!
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Joshua Belinfante for sharing a bit of his story with our community, and congratulate him on his recent successes!