Professional director of photography and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Cinematography instructor Suki Medencevic, ASC, ASBiH, SAS was recently profiled by American Cinematographer magazine.
In 2010, Medencevic joined the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), the cultural, educational, and professional organization founded in Hollywood in 1919 to bring together professional cinematographers for advancements and advocation of the medium. In 1920 the ASC founded the magazine publication American Cinematographer, which focuses on art and cinematography and in its first 100 years has evolved to cover everything from foreign films to music videos. In their June 2019 issue, American Cinematographer showcased Medencevic in its Close-Up feature, interviewing him in a comprehensive Q&A format.
Medencevic has worked steadily in the film industry since his first feature film job in 1994, both shooting and working in the camera department for numerous features, television shows, commercials, made-for-TV films, and documentaries. While still working professionally, he currently teaches cinematography students at New York Film Academy’s Burbank-based campus.
Medencevic’s colleagues in NYFA’s cinematography department are thrilled to see ASC profile the talented artist, and weren’t at all surprised he was chosen for their Close-Up feature.
“Suki is incredibly versatile as an instructor,” says Mike Williamson, Associate Chair of Cinematography at NYFA-Los Angeles. “He brings a high level of technical sophistication to the program, no doubt informed by his role as a member of the ASC Technology Committee. Recently he’s helped us develop the curriculum and integrate new material into some of our lighting classes.”
Williamson adds, “Suki has a strong connection with his students, and we’re pleased to have him as a member of our faculty.”
The Q&A in American Cinematographer covered several topics. Medencevic spoke about first studying the art form in Belgrade, Serbia from renowned European cinematographers, before delving into his transition to working professionally in the American film industry.
Additionally, Medencevic cites Jaroslav Kučera, Vittorio Storaro, Chivo, and Roger Deakins as his favorite cinematographers, and the films Apocalypse Now and Enter the Dragon as two films that made strong impressions on him as a child. He also relayed some advice he once received from another professional cinematographer: “‘If you want to be a cinematographer, don’t waste your time doing anything else.’”
New York Film Academy congratulates Cinematography instructor Suki Medencevic on his recent profile in American Cinematographer Magazine and encourages everyone to read the full interview here.
Following his recent write-up as one of the Rising Stars of Cinematography in American Cinematographer magazine, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Cinematography graduate Egor Povolotskiy returned to visit NYFA Los Angeles to present a feature film that he photographed.
Gold Dust is a feature-length adventure film about two treasure hunters searching for gold in the desert, who accidentally uncover a smuggling operation. Egor described it as a “family movie,” referring to both the story’s theme of friendship over material wealth, as well as the process of making the movie with a tight-knit crew that came to feel like a family by the end of the shoot.
Egor praised writer and director David Wall for the strong script and excellent performances in the film, and for creating an atmosphere of collaboration. Wall was also present for the screening, along with many members of the cast and crew who came out to participate in the NYFA Guest Speaker Series event.
Following the screening, Povolotskiy took part in a Q&A session moderated by Associate Chair of Cinematography Mike Williamson. He discussed some of the challenges of making this project on a low budget, and his desire to work quickly to maximize the time available on set. Povolotskiy offered praise for his crew, many of whom he first worked with during his time as a NYFA student, noting that he could not have achieved the look of the film without their hard work.
He offered advice to the Cinematography students in attendance, speaking about the importance of finding good crew members and trusting them to do their work without micro-management. He also discussed some of the technical challenges of the film, including his use of classic “day-for-night” techniques for the massive night exterior scenes in the desert.
When asking questions, many of the NYFA students in attendance raised topics like how to break into the business, what films have inspired him, and how to pick the best visual approach for a project. Povolotskiy answered their questions, and reminded the students that the cinematographer must create visuals that support the actors and the story, and not merely create pretty pictures. He discussed the importance of picking good projects with strong scripts, rather than looking for projects with big budgets.
Since graduating, Povolotskiy has photographed eight feature films, and continues to collaborate with fellow NYFA alumni — including many producers, directors, and crew members. His films have played festivals in many countries, and have won awards such as the Festival Trophy and Audience Award for Best Short Film. In addition to working as part of these successful teams, Povolotskiy himself has collected several nominations for his work as a cinematographer. He has two wins for Best Cinematography at the Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival and the WIND International Film festival. He has photographed major actors including Malcolm McDowell, Chris Hemsworth, Steven Bauer, and Eric Roberts.
Povolotskiy’s next feature film stars Taye Diggs, John Cusack and George Lopez.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Egor Povolotskiy, director David Wall, and the cast and crew of Gold Dust for sharing the evening with our student community.
American Cinematographer magazine, the official publication of the American Society of Cinematographers, recently spotlighted the meteoric rise of New York Film Academy MFA Cinematography grad Egor Povolotskiy in it’s Rising Stars of Cinematography piece.
In an issue that also features ASC giants like the creative minds behind The Last Jedi, American Cinematographer highlights how Povolotskiy’s pathway to success in Los Angeles was paved in large part through his NYFA connections.
First, Povolotskiy points to his NYFA instructor and mentor Mike Williamson, and later to fellow NYFA alum and line producer Mariietta Volynska, who hired the cinematographer for his first project post-graduation, based on his NYFA thesis.
Since then, Povolotskiy has padded out his already impressive resume with three wins at the Rochester International and Voya Film Festivals plus another four nominations for his short film We Are Enemies.
Nowwith eight features and almost 60 short films under his belt, we had a chance to hear from Povolotskiy about his experience working on the riveting thriller, Gold Dust, and his own journey behind the lens.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
EP: My journey starts back in Russia. I was at university getting my first master’s in artificial intelligence. Somewhere in the middle of my education, I started taking pictures of my friends and becoming interested in photography in general. I realized that AI was not that interesting for me anymore, and I started growing more as a photographer. (I still finished my masters though!)
During university, I was working as a photojournalist as well as a wedding and family photographer, shooting for Marriott Hotels in Moscow. I was also an official photographer of Russian Association of Motorcyclists. Bikers and their bikes were involved in film productions, and for me it was always magic to see how films were done. So the next time I saw them on set, I called the president of this association and asked him if I could stop by and take some pictures just for myself. It was a shoot of a son of one of the most famous directors in Russia, with the biggest production company. I ended up being hired as bts [behind-the-scenes photographer] after my first day on set.
After working for three years as bts and 2nd unit, the producer asked me one day if I wanted to DP a film. I refused, and told her that I would first get my education. … I had a sense of framing and lighting, but I didn’t know anything about being a DP at that time. Being a DP is not just framing and lighting. A DP is a storyteller, a head of a department, a set runner and problems solver — that’s became a definition of my job now.
When I was choosing a school I was really afraid to go overseas, but my wife supported me, saying that everything was going to be how I wanted. My parents also gave me big support. My DP friends recommended NYFA as a possible school — hands-on and not that expensive. I was choosing between London, Lodze (in Poland), and NYFA, and I choose NYFA in the end.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time as a NYFA student?
EP: As for favorite moments — I really don’t know, because it was great overall. … Every project I was shooting, I was trying to do better and bigger than my previous project. I still have warm feelings about NYFA and mention it where I can. I was also TA-ing sometimes between projects. By the time I graduated, a lot of people at NYFA knew me already. But I was still afraid of what would happen after school, how I was going to find a job. But right at two weeks after my graduation, I booked my first feature film as a DP!
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your experience shooting Gold Dust?
EP: That was a fun experience. I went to an interview and I usually talk first, but here I was kind of shocked that the director took the initiative. He ask me, “What’s wrong with you Russians, you shoot so differently?” I really didn’t know what to answer. Later when we became friends he told me that he hired me because of the way I told him that I like to shoot fast. David Wall — a true director, in my understanding of what that means: great powerful leader, a captain of a ship. …
We were actually blessed to have a desert with its very different looks — breathtaking sunsets, rain, heat — we got everything taped. We got a great “family” film by the end.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your prep process before you start working on a film?
EP: I read the script as the “dumbest person,” meaning that everything should be clear for me. If I have any questions, there’s going to be a person [in the audience] who will ask the same question. Then, myself and the director talk about the story in general. … In most cases I’m able to tell what kind of film the director sees in his mind. I do a beat breakdown of a script, and we decide if the film needs to be stylized or not. Then I build visual arcs based on developing the character and style of the film. Usually I give a couple of options to the director, if he gives me freedom. I prefer collaboration over the projects were I have no creative influence — every film is a part of myself.
… I remember at NYFA we had some sort of test. If the director wanted a shot, but the producer was not giving him money, which side you will take? There are always two [out of three] things you have to choose: not expensive, good or fast. The secret is you can combine all three, actually!
Being a collaborator with understanding of storytelling is a great help for a director, if you’re fast. … You have to stay in the budget, and then the producer will always love you. Learning how to use visual tools (composition, lighting, movement, editing, color grading), how to be a leader, how to delegate to your crew and build a shooting process so the crew feel safe, comfortable, respectfully treated — it is huge work.
…Being a DP you’re learning not only about other people, but also about yourself.