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  • Oscar Nominated Editor Discusses Cutting Best Picture Winner ‘Birdman’

    douglas crise

    Editor, Douglas Crise

    New York Film Academy students gathered in the school’s own Los Angeles theater this week for a screening of the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture Birdman followed by a Q&A with Douglas Crise, the Oscar nominated editor of the film. Crise received an Oscar nomination for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel in 2007. He has since cut John August’s The Nines, starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy; David Schimmer’s Trust, starring Clive Owen; and Nicholas Jarecki’s Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere which has received much critical acclaim. His collaboration with filmmaker Harmony Korine on Spring Breakers—which stars James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens—has been talked about as revolutionary. Doug just received a BAFTA nomination for is work on Inarritu’s Birdman starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA LA’s Dean of Students Eric Conner.

    It is often said that the best editors make their cuts “invisible” to the audience, stitching shots together in just the right so that the audience can lose themselves in the story and not focus on the filmmaking craft. Douglas Crise achieved this in a very literal way with Birdman—the vast majority of which appears to be all one shot, but in reality is composed with many, many edits. These cuts are nearly impossible to see at all, even with the trained eyed. So how many cuts were there in Birdman? This has been a topic of hot debate, and while the number of cuts have been kept secret but the team, the special effects department had spilled the beans and said it was 100, which Douglas didn’t deny. This is compared to the 30 definite edits planned before the shooting of Birdman.

    To cut together the best film possible, Crise had to dig deep down and use every trick in the book, and even invent many himself to make the impossible possible. For instance, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu would like Michael Keaton’s performance at the beginning of one long shot and Edward Norton’s performance at the end of it. Douglass would have to dig deep to think of solutions such as rotoscoping Michael Keaton out of the first shot and laying him onto the background where Edward Norton appears in the next shot until Keaton walked offscreen and the second shot took over completely. Douglas Crise enjoyed working with Inarritu because the demanding director always pushed him to do his best work, and to achieve levels he originally thought impossible.

    douglas crise

     Crise discussed his contrasting, yet equally fulfilling experience, editing Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. Whereas Birdman required working within strict limitations, Douglas was called upon to nearly rewrite Spring Breakers in the editing room. He moved things around out of chronological order, laid dialogue and sound over scenes from the footage of other scenes, and worked from a rough outline instead of a detailed script. Harmony’s approach to Crise was more relaxed, as the two discovered the story together from the footage. Having worked so well with two iconic directors whose working styles are at different ends of the spectrum Douglas has exhibited how creatively flexible he is.

    Douglas Crise gave NYFA students a unique and important insight into the post production process. We sincerely thank Mr. Crise for taking the time to visit us and look forward to seeing his next critically acclaimed editorial work.

    March 10, 2015 • Digital Editing, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4815

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Wins Best Producing and Directing Awards

    Spyros KLast month, New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking graduate Spyros Kopanitsas was awarded the Best Producing Award at The Madrid International Film Festival for his year one short film,  Level 2. Shortly after, he was awarded with the Best Director Award at the Downtown Film Festival in Los Angeles for his thesis film, (Z).

    Level 2 was his year one film during his two year MFA degree and only his second attempt at writing and directing a dialogue based short story. The film is set in a futuristic world where people are plugged into a networking platform video game called “The Place.” In this world, a humble boy asks out a rather high-status girl, but when he doesn’t have access to her level, he has to try and hack his way into the virtual bar they are supposed to meet at.

    His thesis film, (Z) is again set in the not so distant future where individual’s uncontrollable behaviors can be formatted by extreme and invasive measures by a German corporation, called (Z) Corp. In the film, we follow Nico, a raver junkie who wakes up one morning in his apartment only to realize it won’t be an ordinary one.

    Spyros came to us from Athens, Greece, and decided to go for his Master’s degree at NYFA Los Angeles after attending our 8-week filmmaking program in New York City. “I enjoyed the full hands-on practical approach to film and decided to do a two year MFA degree in the Los Angeles,” says Spyros. “The training at NYFA was very valuable in terms of producing and directing, especially in directing, which is the field that intrigues me the most.”

    He currently has a few projects in development, adding, “My goal as a filmmaker is to participate in productions that will entertain the eye and tickle the brain.”

    Level 2

    Behind the scenes of Level 2. Far left, former students Ioanna Sourmeli (make-up) and in the middle, Edrei Hutson (UPM).

    September 17, 2014 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2922

  • NYFA Welcomes World War Z Director Marc Forster

    marc forster

    Marc Forster with Tova Laiter

    Wednesday night, the New York Film Academy hosted a full house at Warner Bros for the screening of World War Z with Director Marc Forster brought to us by Producer Tova Laiter. His work includes smart character-driven films (Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) as well as stylish studio blockbusters (Quantum of Solace, World War Z) and he has been nominated for an Oscar several times. His film Finding Neverland is beloved by many and received 7 Oscar nods. He also made The Kite Runner, Machine Gun Preacher and several other films. His actors also do well under his guidance. For example, his third film, Monster’s Ball, earned Halle Berry an Oscar.

    Marc grew up in Davos, a winter resort in Eastern Switzerland. He decided at the age of 14 or 15 that he wanted to become a filmmaker, though his doctor father and family thought he would “come to his senses” and go into academics eventually. Good thing for Marc, he never did come to his senses.

    forsternyfaNYFA student, Krishna, asked Marc what was the most important part of the filmmaking process. He said it all mattered, but that pre-production is very vital. He added that, “there are different challenges for different projects, it depends on who the key people are involved. I make films in a very Swiss manner, very prepared…and pre-production is the most important.”

    Marc never puts the meticulous work involved in directing a film to rest. He admits that he has a vision, which caters to every detail including color, wardrobe, haircuts and lighting. “You are only as good as your last film,” says Forster. Though, he added, “I’m not a guy who just goes out and shoots.”

    He also told the audience to try and have thick skin as, “not everyone is going to love your work, you just have to get used to it.”

    Another student, Pablo, asked Marc about the degree of collaboration he gets into with actors. Marc said, “I love actors and it’s all about collaboration. You have to start at the beginning and really discuss the character.” Actors work differently. He has been lucky and has great relationships with many successful actors. He added that sometimes you simply have to, “do takes until you are both happy.”

    Asked by a filmmaking student what’s the best way to get started in today´s filmmaking world, Marc suggested one of the following:

    • 1. Make a commercial reel
    • 2. Make documentaries
    • 3. Try to make a small feature and get it into Sundance or Cannes

    And for all of them: Know what is personal and important for you. Do something original and interesting.

    Marc noted the importance of maintaining his cool on set. “Once on set, there is nothing you can do except stay focused.” He told a story of getting a bad toothache while shooting on an aircraft carrier, only to be driven to a barn after wrap for a procedure, then to get up at 4 am and resume shooting. Stay focused.

    On staying true to yourself and your vision, Marc said, “I don’t like branding myself…I do what I am passionate about. I try to continually challenge myself and I like making films that are dealing with the human condition.”

    Truly, an inspiring filmmaker.

    November 8, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking • Views: 4624

  • Finding Luck With ‘The Lucky One’

    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.

  • Interview with Director Robert Zemeckis

    The New York Film Academy had a chance to speak with A-list director, Robert Zemeckis! Robert Zemeckis owned the 80’s and 90’s with his classic Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. Zemekis earned respect from critics and colleagues, while grossing quite a hefty penny at the box-office. His direction of Forrest Gump won him an Oscar for Best Director. It’s pretty safe to say that the filmmaker has established himself as one of the elite directors in Hollywood.

    The New York Film Academy offers many workshops and programs for those wishing to learn film direction.

    October 31, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 4028

  • NYFA Filmmaker Nominated for Student Academy Award

    Documentary Filmmaker Nancy Hanzhang Shen is in charge of New York Film Academy’s Chinese Social Media and works as a liaison with Chinese colleges. Her latest documentary film Why Am I Still Alive was a finalist for the US Student Academy Awards®2012 and Winner of Best shorts Documentary Festival 2012. The film has screened at the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International in New York City, White Sands International Film Festival 2012, and the China International Education Fair on Cultural & Creative Industries Exhibition. The film is currently screening at New York City Independent Film Festival 2012.

    Here are just a few words of appraisal from respected industry professionals:

    • “What a beautiful, heartbreaking film. Exquisitely done, and my heart aches for the film’s subject.”— Ilene Starger, member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
    • “The film is a wonderful piece of work. It deserves to be really widely seen.” —Tom Hurwitz, ASC Four Academy Awards for Best Full-length Documentary
    • “You didn’t give up! That is what it takes to be a filmmaker. You are only one person and you can and will make a difference.” — Maryann Deleo, ACADEMY AWARD winning filmmaker (Chernobyl Heart)
    The NYC Independent Film Festival will screen the film at the Producers Club on Sunday, Oct 21st, 2012.
    The Producer’s Club is located at 358 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036 (Between 8 ave and 9 ave.)
    For tickets and more information, click here.

     

     

    October 17, 2012 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2605

  • Whatever Happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

    Francis Ford CoppolaLast week was the 40th Anniversary of The Godfather. I don’t know if you saw it but the AMC channel aired it repeatedly during the week. Watching those films again, it made me wonder…

    Whatever happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

    The Godfather was a huge influence. I mean everyone went to see it. I remember I had a friend who was ushering at the movie theater and would sneak me in. It didn’t even matter what part of the movie you came in at, you’d just watch it from there to the end. Sometimes I’d even stay to watch the beginning of the next show. We used to refer to the film as, “the Beast.” That’s how much respect we had for it. A few years later, as a film student, Scorsese became my guy (he was the filmmaker that made me want to be a filmmaker.) The Godfather was still the benchmark and with all due respect and deference to good ol’ Marty, he never made “The Beast”.

    Coppola followed up with Apocalypse Now. The stories about making that film are legendary—the enormous amounts of money, equipment, and insanity that went on in the jungles. But whether you like the film or not, you can’t help but be impressed by the enormity of the undertaking and the execution. It is unquestionably the work of a master filmmaker. And then… What? What happened? He never again fulfilled the promise of his early films. It makes me sad. What went wrong? Where did Francis Ford Coppola jump the shark?

    It started with a film called One From the Heart. You’ve probably never seen it. Few people have. It was a musical fantasy set in Vegas, and even though it pioneered some video-editing techniques, it was a disaster with audiences. Then there were The Outsiders and Rumble Fish. It seemed to us as young directors as the work of a desperate filmmaker who lost one audience and was trying everything he could to connect with a new one. Next he tried a Godfather knockoff, The Cotton Club. An epic crime drama, it even had the same sort of violent montage at the end. A pale imitation and another box office disaster. And finally, Godfather 3, the last ditch effort to recapture past glory. I don’t even have to tell you what a disappointment that film was.

    How did such a great filmmaker lose his way? Was it the disappointing loss of Zoetrope Studios? In 1969, Coppola decided to buck the studio system, which he felt had stifled his artistic vision. He created Zoetrope to fund off-beat films by first time directors. It didn’t work. Was it the pressure of paying off the huge financial debt in which he found himself? Coppola has declared bankruptcy three times. It’s not easy holding onto a personal vision while digging yourself out of a financial hole. Or was it the tragic death of his son? Personal tragedy has a way of putting ambitions of glory in perspective. In the end, perhaps it was just the unimaginable pressure of having to equal something as great as The Godfather.

    The Godfather

    It’s hard not to reflect on the somewhat tragic trajectory of his life. Early success does have its pitfalls. Compare the careers of directors like Spielberg and Scorsese. They all started out at the same time. They were part of an avant-garde group of filmmakers that were revolutionizing Hollywood. But where Spielberg and Scorsese are viable, influential, Academy Award nominated filmmakers to this day, Francis Ford Coppola has sadly vanished from the scene. I can easily imagine him filled with deep satisfaction and appreciation of what he’s accomplished. I can also imagine him with deep regret at what could’ve been. Ultimately, I’d like to think that with age comes perspective, if not wisdom, and maybe even acceptance. What do you think? Every filmmaker has to come to grips at some point with this issue of art and commerce. How have you handled it? Or how do you envision handling it? I’d like to know.

    Click here to learn more about the filmmaking program.

    March 16, 2012 • Filmmaking • Views: 6475

  • New York Film Academy’s Student Spotlight: Aldo Filiberto

    MFA Film student Aldo Filiberto recently finished work on his thesis film, The Fortune Theory. Originally from Palermo, Italy, Aldo first came to NYFA in 2006 for an 8-Week Filmmaking program. He liked it so much, he decided to return in September 2009 for the masters program.

    Aldo describes the film, The Fortune Theory, as a coming-of-age drama. He explains, “It’s the story of an emotionally disconnected millionaire, who drifts through a systematic routine of job interviews, searching for an understanding of life and his workaholic father.”
The character, Morris, is ultimately forced to take a job writing fortunes in a fortune cookie factory, where he will have to face his own inadequacy in order to ultimately accept himself, those around him, and defy his father.

    aldo

    “I worked on the script for 8 months,” says Aldo. “After several table readings, the script was ready and we jumped into production. It was ambitious for the budget we had, but our excitement overcame our fears.”

    Aldo cast John Terry in a supporting role in the film. The celebrated actor is best known for his roles on Lost, ER, 24, and in Full Metal Jacket. Says Aldo, “He has tons of experience and worked with Kubrick! On the set he was very nice, hard working, and loved his job. He was great.” The project will also feature a score by Goya-nominated composer Pablo Cervantes.

    The film’s crew included a number of New York Film Academy students and alumni. Says Aldo, “Making a movie is a collaborative experience. You need to relate to other people to help you shape your vision, and school is a good place to create a network of people you can trust.”

    He also credits NYFA staff for their help, saying, “Instructors like Adam Nimoy, Crickett Rumley, James Rowe, and Lydia Cedrone have always been helpful. The school has been supporting me. The greenlight procedure helps you set up a schedule and deadlines. They really make sure that you’re ready to do it so you don’t end up wasting your money, or even worse, someone else’s money.”

    The Fortune Theory is currently in post-production. Aldo is in discussions with sales agencies and plans to hit the festival circuit in the next year. He explains, “This is the exciting part. Shooting it is just the beginning.”

    Actor John Terry with Aldo Filiberto

    Actor John Terry with Aldo Filiberto

    Aldo Filiberto directing a scene

    Aldo Filiberto directing a scene

    Aldo Filiberto talking with an actor

    Aldo Filiberto talking with an actor

    Aldo Filiberto with his crew

    Aldo Filiberto with his crew

    March 6, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3698