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  • 3 Emmy Nominations for “A Girl in the River,” Edited by NYFA Master Class Lecturer Geof Bartz

    “A Girl in the River” has been nominated for three Emmy Awards, including Best Documentary and Best Documentary Short. The HBO documentary was edited by New York Film Academy’s own Master Class Lecturer and Curriculum Advisor Geof Bartz.

    Directed by Sharmeen Obaid, executive produced by Sheila Nevins and Tina Brown, and produced by Lisa Heller, the film follows the story of one woman who survived an “honor killing” attack in her native Pakistan.

    Geof Bartz is Supervising Editor of HBO Documentary Films. “A Girl in the River” marks Geof’s 12th Emmy nomination (with five prior wins). The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, which marked Geof’s fifth Oscar, and director Sharmeen Obaid’s second. It’s an incredible awards season journey that, perhaps even more remarkably, has made a real-world impact.

    First they won the Oscar,” observed NYFA New York Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift. “Then they won the DuPont. Now, the Emmy nomination. Yet the most important and satisfying part of all, is that ‘Girl In The River’ actually inspired the Pakistani government to reconsider their laws.”

    The New York Film Academy will hold a master class with Geof Bartz in early August that will include a special screening of “A Girl in the River.” The film will also serve as a jumping-off point for student instruction and exploration.

    “We’re all looking forward to watching the movie with Geof and discussing the intricacies of creating Oscar-worthy docs,” noted Andrea Swift.

  • NYFA Instructor Heather Mathews Visits Popcorn Talk’s NYFA Hour

    NYFA_Thumbnail_2017_07_06On Thursday, July 6, New York Film Academy Instructor and Documentarian Heather Mathews sat in the hot seat on Popcorn Talk’s NYFA Hour. She spoke about her latest project, “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America.” The film has been making waves since screening at Outfest last July. Since then, LOGO picked up the film for a special screening.

    Director Tiffany Rhynard had been filming for two years already. Rhynard met the film’s subject, Moises Serrano, by chance when collaborating with a friend, and instantly felt a connection.

    Serrano’s harrowing story as an undocumented immigrant was one that needed to be shared with the rest of the world. The fact that Serrano was also queer and DOMA was still in effect helped bring an eye to the intersectionality many undocumented people have to face daily.

    When Mathews heard about Serrano, she instantly knew she wanted to be a part of telling his story and signed on to edit the project. Her first task was to try and figure out the best format to tell the story, but the decision to do a feature or a television show wasn’t clear immediately.”We didn’t know what it would be until I was deep into watching footage,” Mathews explained, “About two months, when I realized it would make a feature.” 

    “We picture-locked just in time for Outfest,” Mathews began. “Right before Tiffany arrived I had lunch with David Michael Barrett, a really good queer filmmaker. We were trying to remain positive and stay out of the [political] fray, but he sat me down and had a real heart-to-heart with me.”

    Mathews pitched an idea to Rhynard and the powerful intro to the film, of a recent anti-immigration, rally was born.

    To watch the NYFA Hour tune into Popcorn Talk on YouTube every Thursday at 4 p.m. PST. You can catch up on previous episodes with amazing guests like film critic Peter Rainer, who discussed the legacy of Marlon Brando. Catch “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” on LOGO, August 3, 9 p.m. EST/PST.  

     

  • New York Film Academy Instructors Selected for Sundance Documentary Labs

    In a world where social media has inspired millions to document their everyday lives, it becomes more and more important to recognize the exceptional craftsmanship and diligence of professional documentary filmmakers. Few accolades and distinctions have quite the power to delineate excellence as selection and participation at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Edit and Story Labs.

    This June, the New York Film Academy is proud to celebrate the achievement of our own Documentary Editing Instructor Kristen Nutile, editor of  the film “Warrior Women,” which has been selected for this summer’s Sundance Documentary Labs. Directed by Christina King and Dr. Elizabeth A. Castle, “Warrior Women” follows Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter Marcella Gilbert, a civil rights-crusading Lakota team, through the grassroots protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline, also known as #NoDAPL, in Standing Rock, North Dakota.

    Warrior Women_1

    Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter Marcella Gilbert, of the film “Warrior Women.” Photo by John Larson.

    “Sundance is, of course the gold standard in the film world,” explains New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Department Chair Andrea Swift. “They select very few films for their prestigious Labs, films they believe will be important and among the best of the best. Of course we already knew Kristen belonged in that category and are thrilled that NYFA’s Documentary Filmmakers work with her and faculty of her caliber everyday.”

    Acceptance into the Sundance Documentary Labs is not only one of the independent film industry’s most prestigious honors; it is also a resource, providing filmmakers with an opportunity to continue to develop and deepen their projects during post-production in a richly exploratory and dynamic creative space at the Sundance Mountain Resort. The Sundance Institute website explains, “DFP Creative Labs are unique, artist focused residential retreats that bring together a community of world-class documentary directors, editors and producers from around the world.”

    Kristen Nutile is quick to point to the collaborative nature of this work and applaud the directors of the film: “This is a film that I’m very honored to be working on. But, it’s the directors’ film and that success is really all theirs!”

    The New York Film Academy also congratulates two of our Master Class instructors, who have also been selected as directors at the Sundance Labs: Petra Costa (“Impeachment”) and Marilyn Ness (“Charm City”).

    Stay tuned to hear more about “Warrior Women” at Sundance Labs from NYFA Instructor Kristen Nutile, coming soon.

    June 21, 2017 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Film Festivals • Views: 2262

  • Brazilian Women Rock Behind the Cameras

    Gabriela Egito is a New York Film Academy alumna living in Los Angeles, with a Masters in Film from Brazil. She has three short films running the festival circuit worldwide, with two winning prizes, all produced during NYFA’s film making program in 2011. In addition to doing Brazilian outreach at NYFA, she writes a blog called Brazilian Girl in L.A. about her cinematic adventures in the U.S.

    2012 Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival winners Clarissa Campolina and Sara Silveira with the festival jury

    According to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women make up 24% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on domestically-produced feature-length films appearing at top U.S. film festivals. Does that sound low? In fact, it is substantially higher than the 16% of women who worked on the 250 highest-grossing films last year. But to the south in Brazil, the reality is quite different. Despite lacking official statistics on gender issues, judging by the films selected for the Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival, held early this month at the Egyptian Theater, women are rockin’ behind-the-scenes in Brazil.

    Of the 22 films screened at HBRfest, 17 have women in one or more key-positions. The feature-length winner, Swirl (Girimunho), was directed by film making partners Clarissa Campolina and Helvécio Marins Jr. Interestingly enough, three other films in competition were also directed by couples – men and women sharing the command on set. Director Clarissa Campolina doesn’t see these partnerships as unusual, saying, “We are all friends. Some of us attended film school together. We don’t think much of gender –we are all filmmakers.”

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    June 21, 2012 • Academic Programs, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 3788

  • The Art of Impact with James Lecesne

    James Lecesne is an Academy award winning filmmaker, teacher, and philanthropist. It’s been an exciting time for James with a Tony nomination for The Best Man and soon after that receiving the role of Dick Jensen opposite James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. However, we especially commend James on the release of his book The Letter Q, a passion project conceived to inspire the youth of America and to raise proceeds for The Trevor Project which he had founded in 1998. We had a chance to speak with James about his inspiration for the book and his teaching at the New York Film Academy. He also shared key insights into the craft of storytelling and how the industry landscape has changed for LGBTQ artists. Don’t forget to get connected with Mr. Lecesne on Twitter and learn about his impact in the arts.

    What was the inspiration for The Letter Q? You’ve already contributed so much to LGBTQ youth, and this book seems to be a continuation of your work with the Trevor Project. 

    Two years ago Dan Savage launched the phenomenally successful It Gets Better Project as a way of spreading the word to young LGBT and Questioning young people that the Trevor Project is there for them 24/7. As the only nationwide suicide prevention and crisis intervention helpline for LGBTQ youth, our organization receives over 30,000 calls a year. Not all of them are rescue calls, but each call establishes a life-to-life connection with a young person who is asking important questions. We provide an ear to listen and the encouragement to be who you are. The idea for the The Letter Q came from Sarah Moon, my co-editor. When she was a teenager, she was lucky enough to be surrounded by adults who shared their stories and their wisdom with her – sometimes in the form of letters, and as she says, “It didn’t seem quite fair to me that I should have been the only teenager to get wonderful letters to carry around.” Soon after coming up with the idea, Sarah approached me about not only writing a letter to my younger self, but also donating a portion of the royalties from the sale of the book to the Trevor Project. Together we compiled a wish-list of authors and began to write to them, ask them, stalk them. The book seemed to fit so perfectly with my own desire around that time to provide young people with tools to help them get through their difficult years. We had been exploring ways to help young people “make it better” right now. And the minute Sarah proposed the idea for the book, I knew we were on our way.

    Has your teaching at NYFA helped inspire your work in some way? Reading the bio on your website, teaching plays a strong role in your career. What are the most important lessons you impart to your students who aspire to make it in film and theatre industries? Have students ever surprised you with their insights in the art and craft of telling stories?

    Teaching is a way to not only give back some of what I’ve learned, but also a way for me to continue learning about story. Storytelling, in any form, is hard work; it requires honesty, courage, craft and above all determination. But it can also be a mysterious and mystical experience, a means to enlarge and enlighten not only the storyteller, but the audience as well. For each of us, it happens differently, the idea comes in the form of a hunch, a worry, an inkling a fear, or sometimes as a fully formed brainstorm; but however it happens it always arises out of something that we happen to believe. We might not be able to articulate what it is exactly, but something in us knows, something in us feels for a truth that we need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    James as featured in the New Yorker.

    Stories are the blueprints of our passions told in code, the urge of something within our selves that is itching for resolve, the reliable and readable map of our beliefs. Leif Finkel, a professor of bioengineering at UPenn, once wrote: “Our cortex makes up stories about the world and softly hums them to us to keep us from getting scared at night.” I’m no professor of bioengineering, but I heartily agree. Of course, a good story does more than that. Stories hum not only for ourselves, but for our audience as well; their song transforms the muddled and often conflicted experiences of living in this troubled world into something valuable and enduring for us all; they are the means by which we can pass our wisdom along to future generations. The results are always surprising, or at least they should be.

    What are your thoughts on representation in the media regarding the struggles that independent filmmakers face as sexual minorities? How do you see the industry landscape for LGBTQ artists? Has it changed at all since you started as a young artist compared to the present day?

    When I was a teenager, the world was a very different place. I grew up without ever hearing the word homosexual spoken, I didn’t know a single gay person, there were no role models to whom I could look for encouragement or guidance. One of the great accomplishments of the LGBTQ community is this idea that we are not just here for ourselves. We have a responsibility to pass along our history and our pride to the next generation. Young people who are struggling and coming up in the world should not have to figure this out by themselves. Of course, there is still a ways to go in terms of achieving equality. Look to places like Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Iran. Or right here at home to see what happens to certain people when they express themselves fully. But as Kate Millet, the revolutionary feminist recently pointed out —- gays and lesbians have achieved so much in a matter of mere decades, while women have been struggling for centuries to change things. To hear the President of the United States declare that the love of gays and lesbians is equal to that of their fellow (heterosexual) citizens, is certainly proof to me that the world is changing. More change is possible — and needed.  And I believe that by encouraging people to tell their stories, teaching them how to do it in the most exciting and engaging way, it will make for a better world.

    James with Daniel Radcliffe for The Trevor Project.

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program at the New York Film Academy, click here.

    June 11, 2012 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2919

  • Evelyne Binsack: Defeating Mt. Everest and Reaching New Heights

    Evelyne Binsack Rock ClimbingDocumentary student Evelyne Binsack was already a celebrity before attending New York Film Academy. In 2001, she became the first Swiss woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. She also spent four months crossing Antarctica to reach the South Pole. She is the author of Expedition Antarctica and Steps on the Edge, and has been featured in a number of documentaries about her adventures. She speaks 3 languages and is also a helicopter pilot. Until our interview, she didn’t know that she had been named as Switzerland’s fourth most famous person – not bad, considering the poll included musicians, politicians, and movie stars!

    Evelyne said she discovered her love of the outdoors in her native Switzerland. “A friend of mine took me to the mountains near home. I fell in love and thought that’s what I want to do: [be] outdoors having adventures.” At the time, Evelyne was a runner competing in the 800 and 1500-meter dash. “That was something very different — fighting against each other. In mountaineering, you’re fighting together. You can’t fight against each other. That’s something that impressed me, the contrast.”

    Evelyne found New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Documentary Filmmaking program years later. “I was Googling in Europe,” she said. “Everything was three years for film programs, or… [very short] crash courses. What can you learn in one week? I decided to come here. I really enjoy the program… but as a country girl, it’s [hard] being in the city. Here, people live for the weekends, and Monday they feel like [crap]. Friends in my country don’t have this attitude. Most of my friends do what they love. They risked things to do what they love and they’re more happy. To see that people are just working for money, it hurts somehow. Take more risks and be passionate for what you do!”

    Despite the urban setting, Evelyne says she has already learned a lot in her first few months of school. “[Documentary instructors] Wendy Apple and Reuben Aaronson are great. They’re all fabulous. They have [a lot of] experience and it’s great to listen to them!” she said. She has already been putting her new knowledge to work as well. She explains, “I’ve been giving [lectures] for 10 years, and that’s how I make my income, but I didn’t know why some stories [wouldn’t] work. For my speeches it’s very helpful to know about structure and character arc. It helps me to understand why one story is good and why another story doesn’t work.”

    Evelyne admits to missing her adventures, saying, “I don’t like the word addiction, but somehow I’m addicted to the mountains and to climbing. I’m part of nature. If I’m not part of nature, I feel empty. It hurts.”

    After finishing the Documentary Filmmaking program at the end of the year, Evelyne will return to Switzerland, where she will plan for her next big adventure. “I want to traverse from Alps, cross the Caucuses, and find out stories about the sacred mountains of the Himalayas.”

    Check out a recent feature on Evelyne Binsack that aired on Swiss television, and get a behind-the-scenes look at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus!

    Evelyne Binsack Alps

    Evelyne Binsack Summit

    Evelyne Binsack Swiss Alps

    March 20, 2012 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3477