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  • Louis Mole Talks About NYFA’s Documentary Program

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    Documentary graduate, Louis Mole, sits down with us to discuss his experience at the New York Film Academy.

    “It is such a hands-on intensive course, and it really drills into every single aspect of the filmmaking program from directing to producingphotography, and editing.” said Louis Mole. “You come out of the program with the fundamental expertise of every single aspect of making a film – which is so unique.”

    Immediately after graduating the New York Film Academy, Louis went to Singapore and worked on 2 series. One of which was Asian Swindlers, a six part series about Asian conmen, in which Louis wrote 3 episodes and oversaw the edit.

    After Singapore, Louis came back to New York where he currently works for the production company behind the Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winning Documentary, The House I Live In.

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    February 28, 2013 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5893

  • Finding Luck With ‘The Lucky One’

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    Filmmaker Bala Balakrishnan graduated from New York Film Academy in 2010. Shortly after graduation, he wrote, produced, and directed a short film called The Lucky One. It made the festival rounds in 2012, and proved to be a hit, winning 8 awards in competitions across the nation.

    Bala works as a software engineer during the day. Like many people with day jobs, he decided an Evening Filmmaking program would work best with his busy schedule. “I was always interested in film,” says Bala. “After I had my second kid, I said, ‘I don’t want to be sitting in front of a computer all the time.’ It was my childhood desire to tell stories. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll go take a class.’ I invested and it paid off.”

    He began commuting to New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus from nearby Orange County. As he puts it, “You start from the beginning, and get hands-on experience.” The Evening Filmmaking program covers writing, directing, cinematography, and editing – all the building blocks for getting started in filmmaking.

    After graduation, Bala decided to start work on a short film. Working around his day job, he wrote a story about a young boy whose parents would rather spend time on their iPhones than taking care of their child. Like many filmmakers these days, he turned to Indiegogo to fund his 18-minute short film. Bala started production in the summer of 2011, working with a number of his New York Film Academy classmates.

    Since its completion, The Lucky One has played numerous festivals across the nation, and just won its eighth award last week at the California Film Awards. Bala Balakrishnan is currently working with a screenwriter for a feature length action thriller, in addition to two other feature length scripts.

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  • Michael Staininger on Directing His First Feature

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    Imagine being in charge of a 2 million dollar feature film, written and produced by the same guy who wrote The Crow. Your only experience is from directing a student film at the New York Film Academy. That is exactly what director, Michael Staininger was going through when he was thrown in front of 150 crew members on set of The Tomb. Luckily, he had the hands-on training from NYFA to prepare him for the real world. “Diving into filmmaking from day one, being thrown into the cold water with very little previous experience, that is what prepares you for the real world; and the madness which will await when you step onto your first feature film set. The ability to make one hundred plus mini and big decisions per day, mostly based on instinct and preparation, is what will set you apart from the competition.”

    Michael was born in Vienna, Austria to an upper middle class family who expected him to pursue a career in business. But, like most creative filmmakers, he gradually began seeking adventure, searching for the unexpected, rather than pushing for the obvious. Michael used his imagination to open horizons and create new worlds through the moving image. From there, and a few viewings of Braveheart, Michael’s fascination with the magic of film was born. Directing became his path in life.

    So, how does a boy from Vienna end up directing a $2 million film in Los Angeles with producers George Furla and Randall Emmett? 

    George Furla was one of my first producer acquaintances in the first year I moved to LA. We understood each other right away and tried to put something into the pipeline. It took several efforts (4 projects didn’t happen) and a little more than a year until the first draft of the “Ligeia” script, which distributors later renamed The Tomb, went through the Emmett/Furla Films office. They started my career. The main reason I signed on to do the film was because I’m such a big fan of The Crow, which “Ligeia” screenwriter John Shirley also wrote. John Shirley really understands darkness and mysticism.

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  • Producer Chris Brigham and His Road to "Inception"

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    Chris Brigham NYFAChris Brigham isn’t your typical “Hollywood” producer, which comes as a surprise, considering he produced global blockbusters such as Inception, The Aviator, and Analyze This. He doesn’t even live in Hollywood.“New York is a great place for a producer right now, especially with the tax breaks. There are more shows here now, which means more jobs.” Aspiring filmmakers looking to develop stories, however, should still consider Los Angeles. Everyone’s path will be different. It’s up to each individual to recognize which is one’s true calling.“Not everyone will have the chops for this business.”

    As the guest speaker for our Q&A on Thursday, Chris shared with us his journey from a P.A. in New York to the Hollywood powerhouse he is today. Hustling his way to the top, there was much to be learned in terms of film production. Most importantly, he learned quite a bit about dealing with people, which is something he credits to the Teamsters.The motto? “Money talks. Bullshit walks.” New York is a ‘show me’ city where you have to back up what you’re saying. Chris realized his ability in handling people and their problems was a valuable skill in the industry. Soon he began finding steady work as a line producer.

    So what is a line producer? “It’s a critical job. You are the eyes and the ears managing the movie. Being a line producer demands entrepreneurial skills.”Highlighting some of the details of his job, one learns it’s not your typical 9 to 5. Being a freelance line producer requires a lot of travel, networking, and wisdom to find the right project. “It’s better to work on quality projects but it’s a lot of hard work.”

    His recommendation for filmmaking success? “Get your foot in the door. Make phone calls and start out as a P.A. on set.” Eventually you’ll build a reputation and, who knows, you may end up waking up one day with a call from Christopher Nolan’s team to work on Inception. Luck may play a part, however, this game is a foot-race and the last person standing is the one who makes it in this business. Whether it’s writing, directing, acting or producing, there are thousands of people trying to do the same thing you want to do. The key is not losing sight of your dreams.

    What about maintaining a family and some sort of normalcy? Chris recounted some of his struggles balancing career and family. He recalled a shoot in Montreal where he drove six hours to see his wife and kids on the weekends. Character is indispensable. It seems kindness, too, can pay off in a business with a bad reputation for its conceited personalities.

    Twitter was abuzz for Brigham’s appearance. Irrefutably, the most submitted question of the night was “Is film school worth it?” In response, Chris cited his very first film class in college learning about Fellini and Kurosawa. It sparked his passion for the craft. He encouraged our students to collaborate, build bonds, and sustain a network. In this industry, it’s crucial to meet the right people. Create a foundation for yourself. Film school is what you make of it.

    After the Q&A, Chris handled individual students with personal questions, ranging from “Can I meet Christopher Nolan?” to “How do I get my screenplay funded?” Chris stayed for a good 45 minutes afterwards, patiently handling questions and proving to us how integrity can go a long way.

    Chris Brigham Q&A at NYFA

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    March 5, 2012 • Producing • Views: 8844