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  • Meet NYFA Cinematography Instructor & ASC Member Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

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    At New York Film Academy, the faculty is an incredibly talented group of artists that teach the next generation of filmmakers and creators all while being active members in their industry. For NYFA Cinematography instructor Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, ASC, this is no exception. 

    Maddox-Upshaw has lensed fan-favorite shows like Empire, Snowfall, Tales, and On My Block, to name a few, and teaches 35MM, Advanced Lighting, and Stage to Screen for Actors in NYFA’s Cinematography department. 

    Maddox-Upshaw first got interested in the world of lensing and cinematography when his sister Kyla got him on set as a Production Assistant for a Hype Williams music video when he was 19 years old. “I saw how the Cinematographer worked with everyone and created such beautiful images and I already liked photography,” he shared. “I was like, ‘I want to do what he does’ and I set out to learn what I could even though my college didn’t have a film program and really no film studies.”

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    From there, Maddox-Upshaw notes that the documentary film Visions of Light inspired him even further to pursue a career in cinematography, and the NYFA instructor began picking up work between his Boston hometown and New York City while continuing to further his education in cinematography. His work for commercial clients like Ford, Allstate, and HBO, to name a few, helped develop working relationships which led Maddox-Upshaw to eventually work alongside visionaries like Spike Lee and Matthew Libatique, ASC.

    He provided VFX additional photography on A Star Is Born, and worked on the second unit for Straight Outta Compton, both shot by Libatique, and shot additional photography on feature films Grown Ups 2, Beyond the Lights, and The Circle. Maddox-Upshaw also served as the director of photography (DP) for Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Hello Beautiful: Interludes with John Legend, Fixed, and more.

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    Recently, Maddox-Upshaw was recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and was welcomed as a member of the ASC. The distinguished honor is one that names Maddox-Upshaw among the legacy of celebrated directors of photography over the last 100 years.

    “Becoming part of the ASC has been a goal of mine since the time I really started to study and read American Cinematographer Magazine and watch Visions of Light when I was about 20 years old,” revealed Maddox-Upshaw.

    For his students and aspiring cinematographers, Maddox-Upshaw encourages them to study more than what’s on the other side of the lens to become a good DP. 

    “Study the art of understanding good screenplays. understand the Black and White of the page so then you can make the correct emotional decision from what is written. Try and watch a movie a day; it makes a difference after a couple of years of doing it. You can recall so much and understand why certain things in cinema work,” Maddox-Upshaw explained. 

    No one can dream bigger for you. You have to enjoy the process of your own journey you should want to be on set and learn from other people. You can learn this on your own and don’t be afraid to make mistakes especially in a learning environment.”

    In addition to teaching at NYFA, Maddox-Upshaw recently photographed Season 6 of the Fox drama Empire. Additional credits from Maddox-Upshaw include season three of the FX drama Snowfall, season two of Netflix’s On My Block, and season one of the Netflix comedy Huge in France

    New York Film Academy congratulates Maddox-Upshaw on his recent induction into the ASC and is excited to have the opportunity for Maddox-Upshaw to continue to teach NYFA students about what it means to be a director of photography.

    To learn more about NYFA’s Cinematography programs, click here

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    February 23, 2021 • Cinematography, Community Highlights, Diversity, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1229

  • Gold Dust Screening and Q&A with Cinematographer Egor Povolotskiy at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    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.

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  • American Cinematographer Spotlights New York Film Academy Cinematography Grad Egor Povolotskiy

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    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.

    Now with 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.

    Egor Povolotskiy via IMDB

    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.

    Egor Povolotskiy Cinematography reel summer 2017 from Egor Povolotskiy on Vimeo.

    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.

    Gold Dust film poster via IMDB

    NYFA: Are you working on any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?

    EP: As for future projects, I’m prepping a film with Richard Friedman (NYFA instructor), a TV series with Cyril Zima, and a mystic feature film with Alex Babaev.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Egor Povolotskiy for taking the time to share a part of his story with our students.

     

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  • Birdman Wins Top Cinematography Award

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    birdman cinematography

    This weekend, Emmanuel Lubezki picked up the American Society of Cinematographers Award for Best Feature Cinematography for his work on the Alejandro G. Iñárritu film, Birdman. Lubezki also made history, tying the record of most ASC wins with Conrad L. Hall, with an impressive four victories in the category. Lubezki won previously for shooting the Alfonso Cuaron films Gravity and Children of Men as well as the Terence Malick film The Tree of Life.

    Like Gravity, Birdman features long takes that are not just tricky for actors but for cinematographers who must carefully choreograph and execute the shots. Birdman seamlessly edits the long takes to give the impression the film is one extended shot for the entire feature.

    The win gives more momentum to Birdman as it heads into the final stretch of the Oscar season. Many consider Birdman a close second favorite to Boyhood, with the competition hard to predict outright. With the ASC win, Lubezki has a solid chance at scoring the Oscar for Best Cinematography, though he faces tough competition from the other contenders, with Ida, Mr. Turner, Unbroken and The Grand Budapest Hotel competing in the category.

    Among the other ASC awards given out, Boardwalk Empire’s Jonathan Freeman beat out presumed favorite Game of Thrones for the television prize, and Barbra Streisand accepted the annual Governors Award.

    If you dream of maybe winning the ASC Award one day, check out our cinematography school programs here.

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    February 16, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 4552

  • Industry Guests Advise NYFA Los Angeles Cinematography Students

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    Mike Williamson

    While the fourth semester MFA Cinematography students prepare to shoot their thesis films, they are also being prepared for life after film school. As part of the “Navigating the Industry” course, instructor Suki Medencevic, ASC reached out to his colleagues to find guests to speak to New York Film Academy Los Angeles students about starting their careers in the film business.

    He got a great response, bringing in major industry players including recent Academy Award nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, ASC (“Nebraska“, “Pursuit of Happyness“, “Walk The Line“), producer and visual effects guru Brian Rogers (“Godzilla“, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“, “Green Lantern“), writer and director Nick Castle (“Major Payne“, “Dennis the Menace“, “Hook“), cinematographer Jacek Laskus, ASC (“The Devil’s Arithmetic“, “The Guardian“, “Parting Glances“), assistant director Alexa Sheehan (“Saw“, “A Love Song for Bobby Long“), and many others.

    Students received valuable advice on getting into the business and asked questions about the current state of the industry. The intimate class format allowed the guests to speak freely, sharing advice and stories from the many films they’ve worked on.  The Cinematography School in Los Angeles is grateful to our guests for sharing their wisdom, we look forward to seeing our students join their ranks soon!

    Mike Williamson
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    April 7, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 4583