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  • Five Viral Videos That Changed the World

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    Andrea Swift is the department chair of Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. She has written, directed, and produced many projects, having been awarded the Scriptapalooza TV Award, Silver at the Chicago International Film Festival, a DGA award, and many others. Her PBS Documentary “In the Life” was nominated for an Emmy three times.

    Has a viral video ever really changed the world? Even a little bit? How?

    As the latest crew of NYFA Docsters begin their first cyber film, I am once again updating my list of must-see viral videos for them to consider. It’s always a tricky list to compile, and even trickier to narrow down. YouTube’s greatest hits make a good starting point. In at least one key respect, they clearly “worked.” Hundreds of millions of people have watched and shared Charlie Bit My Finger and The Evolution of Dance. There’s something to learn there, and something to learn from Waka, Waka (This Time for Africa) and other uber viral music videos.

    Perhaps virally successful corporate advertisements have even more to teach. Somehow the makers of The Force, for example, got well over 50 million of us to willingly watch a Volkswagen commercial without the pay off of “real programming” around it. And then they got us to “share” it with to our friends. That’s an even higher bar to clear. Yet they did it.

    However, the real Holy Grail for us social documentary types is the movie that changes the world – at least a little bit. Not an easy feat. If it was, everyone would do it. Still, I propose that there are several viral videos, mostly micro-docs that have managed to pull it off.

    5.)  Crush on Obama: This one’s been on the cultural radar for four years now. In their combined incarnations, Obama Girl videos have scored over 120 million views.  And while it seems silly, many in the mainstream media have identified Crush on Obama as a key influencer in the 2008 elections, and beyond. Perhaps the greatest take-away for aspiring viral game-changers is its success as a “meme.”[1]  In fact, in 2010 Newsweek named the video the #3 biggest meme of the decade.

    Elaborating, The New York Times wrote, “That video probably had more to do with shaping Obama’s complicated public image — young and exciting but maybe a bit shallow — than any Internet appeal devised by the candidate’s own aides.”

    I have to admit it’s especially warm in my mind because its director is upstairs teaching a Viral Video class for the Doc students right now. On the other hand, he’s there because it was already warm in my mind.

    4.)  Susan Boyle – Britain’s Got Talent: This micro-doc pulled from a television show, tells a great, authentic story that makes the cyber world laugh, cry and share again and again. For the viral doc-maker, I´d say the major take-away here is story. As the old adage goes, “a great story, well told” is pure gold in any medium. And a great, well-told, cyber-sized, underdog fable hits our biological “share” button like one of those little rubber reflex hammers.

    Granted the first chapter of this particular viral video-making story is luck.  Well-produced luck, I would argue, but still, luck. Even so, her performance would have been a tree that fell in the woods had the producers not met that lucky occurrence with the skill to recognize it, shoot the story beats as they happened, and then carefully recreate them so their audience could experience the moment as if we were in the room the moment it’s going down. Even with all that, however, it would have been a tree that only fell on British TV if someone hadn’t excised the exact arc of that perfect cyber-sized story, uploaded it and set it free to spread itself through our socially networked cyber psyche.

    But what game did it change? It certainly didn’t help elect a president. Someone who’d been marginalized was laughed at and then became an international star. Her game certainly changed, but more to our point, the whole pop culture game changed with it – just a little bit. That story shamed us for the initial pejorative response we probably shared, at least a little. And it opened our hearts and minds to the possibility that a woman who is not young and not so physically attractive could still be worth listening to, could even have a place in the modern Pop Pantheon. It´s hard to measure the exact impact of that change, but by integrating Susan Boyle into our pop iconography, our collective-self image grew just a little more complex, and ever so slightly less scornful.

    Susan Boyle's viral video

     

    3.)  Playing for change, “Stand by Me: This little documentary is my all time favorite viral share. “But that’s a music video,” you say? It is. It’s also a micro documentary.  I only argue this about the original Playing for Change video, Stand By Me. The others really are just music videos. Good music videos, but still, just music videos. “Stand by Me,” on the other hand, tells the story of the making of itself, and consequently the story of the project and its meaning. That’s what lifts it out of the realm of simple music videos and into the arena of viral micro-documentary.

    More importantly for this list, I argue that in rhythmic, gentle ways that are difficult to quantify, that musical documentary changes the world by changing us.  It tells a story that moves us – both emotionally and physically – which helps it work its simple meme deeper and deeper into our consciousness: all our divergent, wonderful cultures can play together and when they do, our global jam session can become transcendent.  We aren’t “others.” We make magnificent music together.

    And being a story with a great beat, and a meme we can sing along with, Stand by Me can reinforce that change, and inspire its propagation, over and over again.

    2.)  KONY 2012: Scoring over 100 million views in less than a month and spawning spin-offs and backlash videos which have generated almost as many views themselves, it is easily the viral video story of the year. Like Zietgeist before it, KONY 2012 demonstrates the incredible power of the web to spread ideas and create movements, along with its absolute lack of controls for testing a video’s validity or veracity before allowing its entry into this burgeoning engine of our collective consciousness. On the other hand, it also demonstrates the new, highly democratic forum that, if stimulated, creates a remarkable after-the-fact control for both the validity and veracity of the memes we launch into cyber space.

    That video’s career also demonstrates the power of simplicity in this realm, as well as our potentially ruthless response to being initially taken by a video what we then start to feel is a gross oversimplification, propaganda or self-promotion. Personally, I found the later pre-arrest video of Jason Russell almost as heartbreaking the original video. Yet I have to confess to feeling a teeny, tiny wave of schadenfreude as well. But why?

    There was an almost classical Greek symmetry to this flash tragedy playing out before our cyber eyes. Here a well-meaning hero sets out to save the world. But his hubris taints his self-told tale with just enough reckless oversimplification and self-aggrandizement that its instant mega-success breeds a near immediate aftershock of denunciation. And the laceration of that backlash wounds him so intensely that it sends our hero out onto the street, naked and beating the ground, seemingly driven mad by the extremity of his near simultaneous fame and mass rejection.

    It’s a cautionary tale for would be viral world-savers. However, read carefully, the story of the KONY 2012 video, can also light the way for making cyber media that matters. I rate it an unparalleled success, though perhaps not in the exact form its maker intended. April 20th will not find me graffiti-ing in favor of increased military support for a regime that now kills people for being gay; nor wheat-pasting in support of American military adventurism in Africa.

    But it did get us talking about KONY and the Jacobs of the world.  It did get young America interested in the mass kidnapping, rape and forced soldiering of children in central Africa. It did create an atmosphere that led the ratings-driven American media to devote the kind of airtime to the human toll of central African turmoil that it usually reserves for freeze-frames of Lindsey Lohan’s underwear, or purported lack thereof.

    So regardless of how many people hit the streets on April 20th, it’s already changed the world – a little bit. It could arguably have changed it more and more lastingly, and caused significantly less pain to its maker, if he had been a little more careful with his facts and little less certain that he knows best for Africa. But the equivalent of one in three Americans listened to Russell’s idea for a full 30 minutes, shared it, and spent an hour or two considering it, arguing about it, telling other people. And as a culture, we decided, at least, that what happens to children in Uganda, matters to us.

    1.) It Gets Better: You may remember that in 2010, American news reported four gay teen suicides in rapid succession. Each boy had clearly acted in response to relentless bullying. Trying to form a response, the nation could only seem to mutter inchoate disapproval.

    Meanwhile two men, Dan and Terry, decided that they had to reach out the hundreds (maybe thousands) of other teens who were experiencing similar fates. The men sat on their couch, in front of their home video camera, making a low quality, YouTube message-in-a-bottle for those kids. In it, they just shared the stories of their own terrible, humiliating experiences being bullied as teenagers, and about the thriving lives they have built since. With their stories, they offered the simple hope that “it gets better.”

    Well, the rest is history, that video tore around the internet spawning countless replications and morphing from a simple, unassuming offer of hope into a national rallying cry for reform. Hollywood, the Secretary of State, even the President stood up to be counted in their own, It Gets Better videos. And reform we did. State after state and school district after school district has changed its laws and policies. Anti-gay bullying is no longer simply swept under the rug of the collective cultural consciousness, with a “kids will be kids” wave of the hand. Like any other form of violence, it is now a crime.

    This one changed the world, in obvious ways – both political and cultural.

    And the big take away? For me, there are a few. One is that the law of unintended consequences is turbo-charged in cyber space. Set an idea free in the wilds of that vast neural network and there’s no telling what it will do. But the nature of your initial offering is crucial. It may replicate and morph and go places you never could have guessed but all of that will be defined by the essential nature of your meme. In this case, the voice of that selfless, authentic, first person “true” story carried throughout the entire movement it spawned and moved people to truly change themselves, and thus to change their policies.

    So what do you think? Have I convinced you that viral video can change the world – a little bit? Which videos would be on Your Top 5 list?


    [1] When Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, he wanted a word like gene that conveyed the way in which ideas and behaviour spread within society by non-genetic means. Since then the word has been picked up to describe a piece of information spread by email or via blogs and social networking sites. A meme can be almost anything—a joke, a video clip, a cartoon, a news story—and can also evolve as it spreads, with users editing the content or adding comments. Common collocates in the Oxford English Corpus are spread, pass, and transmit: as with the Internet sense of viral, meme uses the metaphor of disease and infection.

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    April 2, 2012 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2524

  • New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Marshall Lewy

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    Marshall LewyWriter/director Marshall Lewy is riding the success of his film California Solo that was an Official Selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Writing for the Huffington Post, film critic Marshall Fine described it as “a touching drama… that gives that marvelous actor Robert Carlyle a great character part into which he can sink his teeth.” Total Film said, “An unexpected gem, Solo features a stunning central performance from Carlyle – perhaps his best since Trainspotting’s Begbie – and don’t be surprised if this turns up during the 2013 awards season.”

    “It’s about a British ex-rocker living in California who had some immigration trouble,” Marshall explained. “Robert Carlyle has a lot of friends who were like that. He knew a lot of those guys and really connected to the story. It was my dream to have him in it…. He’s a very generous actor…. I relied on him to bring a lot to the character, and he did, and so much more.” The film also features Danny Masterson and Alexia Rasmussen. Marshall, who graduated a short-term filmmaking program at New York Film Academy and now teaches at the Universal Studios campus, also wrote and directed the 2007 romantic comedy Blue State, starring Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin. California Solo is his follow up film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.

    “[Sundance] is a pretty amazing place to premiere a film,” says Marshall. “I had been before but never with a movie. It’s fun to hear the reaction of such film-loving crowds.” His wife surprised him, showing up to Sundance with their 1-month-old daughter, Beatrice, who joined him on stage to introduce the film. “I got to introduce my two babies! I like to tell people that I spent 2011 pregnant with two babies,” he joked.

    Marshall attended New York Film Academy’s NYC campus in 1998. He recalls, “It was my first time with a film camera…. It was my first immersion in shooting. It was something I always wanted to do and it was a really great experience.”

    He went on to get his MFA from Columbia and began teaching at New York Film Academy in 2008. Of his teaching, he says, “Students can be really inspiring. It’s really fun to go into a classroom and talk about ideas and the most basic elements of filmmaking. It reminds me what’s really important about the craft of it.”

    In addition to teaching classes in directing, screenwriting, and directing for actors, Marshall is currently working with Peter Sarsgaard on an adaptation of the book Born to Run. He is also starting production on a film he wrote called Exodus, writing the screenplay for a project called Santiago, and pitching a TV show.

    California Solo will be playing festivals in Nashville, Cleveland, and Philadelphia in the next couple weeks, and Marshall’s team is in the process of closing a U.S. distribution deal. You can keep up-to-date on the film’s news by visiting the Facebook page.

    California Solo

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    March 28, 2012 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5037

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

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    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

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  • New York Film Academy’s Student Spotlight: Ana Paula Manzato

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    Ana Paula ManzatoAs we mentioned before, New York Film Academy is proud to be in lovely Rio de Janeiro. Throughout the week we’re showcasing our wonderful NYFA Brazilian students. Today we spoke with Ana Paula Manzato to catch up on her experience thus far at our Universal Studios, Los Angeles campus.

    How did you find out about NYFA?

    I first found out about NYFA on the internet and looked further to learn more about it at the STB (Student Travel Bureau) in Brazil. Then, I e-mailed NYFA with my inquiries and got the information that I needed.

    What attracted you to NYFA?
    The school structure, the location, the talks that the school offers the students, and I found Gabby Egito’s blog on the internet with plenty of information about the school. Some pictures that drew my attention to the school even more.

    What was your journey to NYFA from Brazil? What is your story?
    I studied Advertising and Marketing in Brazil and participated in so me activities and projects at the university. I took part in the production of a video clip that won three awards, including best picture. Since then I have been interested in film, photography, and production.

    What has been your NYFA experience?
    My journey has been intense and excellent! We learn all about the production of a film, from inserting a roll of film into the camera, up to its final edition. We produce our own films, screenplays, and cast our actors. The teachers are great, attentive and always willing to help us.

    To people in Brazil who want to come to NYFA, do you have any advice?
    If you want to learn more about filmmaking, NYFA is the right place. With outstanding structure and excellent teachers, we can really learn all there is to know about filmmaking. You learn something new every day and you are in close contact with different cultures and people.

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  • Whatever Happened to Francis Ford Coppola?

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    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.

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    March 16, 2012 • Filmmaking • Views: 10211

  • New York Film Academy’s Silu Yu Shines In China

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    Silu YuActress Silu Yu (余思潞) has found success after finishing New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Acting program in New York City. She explains, “After graduating in 2009 from NYFA, I moved to Los Angeles for work. I got my talent agent after an audition and I was very lucky to been approved by the SAG union after working three months. Due to family reasons, I moved back to China in 2010 and was signed by Star Shining International Talent Agency through a friend, one of the top talent agencies in China, and started the first steps in my acting career in China.”

    Since then, Silu landed a role in the big-budget Chinese feature film Scheme With Me. She is also currently in production on 30 episodes of the television program Shanghai Forest. The young actress has a hectic schedule, going from the set, to media interviews, as well as doing promotion for her recently-completed film.

    In an interview via email, Silu explained the difficulties of working in the film industry in China. “In Hollywood, the camera speaks for you,” said the actress. “The talent agency selects the idea candidates who may match the characters then you still need to go through an official audition to get the role. In China, you not only need an audition but also need a personal network and relationships.”
    “I really enjoyed myself a lot while I studied at NYFA!” said Silu. “Due to the culture and language difference, it took time for adjusting to others. I learned during this adjustment period and the lessons taught me so much about myself. Don’t lose confidence or question your appearance and flaws. A real artist will affect the audience with her soul and spirit, not just simply her looks.”

    Silu went on to share her thoughts on acting. “People always say that a good actor must be good at lying, but I think a good liar is not really a good actor. A real professional actor is performing the truth even truer than the truth. If an actor couldn’t believe the situation himself, how could he persuade the audience?  Being actors, we need to feel it from our hearts and make an authentic performance for the audience. So, don’t think we are liars!”

    Chinese readers can keep up with Silu’s growing success on Baidu and her official fan site.

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    March 14, 2012 • Acting • Views: 4485

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

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    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

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    March 6, 2012 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5124

  • 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: 6630

  • New York Fashion Week Meets NEON Americana

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    NEON Americana

    New York City is often considered the matron metropolis impacting creativity and commerce throughout the globe. Many of our students do indeed pursue the career path illuminated by those glorious Hollywood lights. A peculiar breed of cinematic visionaries, however, has appeared in the arts and cultural scene seeking opportunities outside of movie studios and inside the illustrious world of New York high fashion. One student has stepped forward as arbiter of a brave artistic movement in a cultural age saturated by faux-freedom and endless hipster posturing. Steep Daniels (Cinematography ‘11) is spearheading the vision of NEON Americana.

    “NEON Americana represents a new breed of young people, a new way of living. We are freed from social constructs, breaking through into the life they’ve always dreamed of. It represents the new way of living in which its vibrant characters charge through life, never taking ‘no’ for an answer—inspired to be the biggest, best version of themselves. They envision a post-apocalyptic America. One in which a lone television set appears to be the last one left after a cataclysmic event of epic proportions. We look inside the screen to find the next wave of Mankind: the NEON generation.”

    As its name implies, NEON’s visual aesthetic is unapologetic in its brightly bold nod to the American spirit. Canadian-bred and hailing from Toronto, Steep exudes a passion which is reminiscent of the unabashed artistic ambition now seen as legend. The sort of creative character—a purity long lost—made famous by the Mudd Club kids in the late 70’s. The young Basquiat as graffiti artist SAMO. A sprightly Glenn O’Brien decades prior to his arrival at GQ magazine. Creatives fueled by youth and an earnestness, they were making their mark with a devil-may-care attitude of art trumps artist. When NYFA produces filmmakers like Daniels who conjure this golden nostalgia through a splashy collaboration with celebrity designer Stevie Boi, we want the student body to stand up and take notice. Stevie Boi’s ascent in fashion is remarkable. Backed by endorsements from pop culture icons Lady GaGa and Madonna, Boi is garnering acclaim for his ability to create drama through his designs. Therefore it is fascinating that he is becoming a character player in the vast NEON universe, a film series about artistic redemption in the heat of dystopian despair. The first subject of this series, Boi collaborated with Daniels in order to proclaim a new world order in the creative arts. “I’ve wanted to do a fashion film with a big artist for a long time and wanted to work with someone who represented a new form of fashion,” said Daniels.
    Daniels has enlisted fellow NYFA students Sandra Stakic (Documentary Filmmaking ‘12) and Markus E. Mueller (Cinematography ‘10) to assist in building the NEON brand. Stakic is working on a nonfiction film documenting the creative process of Daniels while Mueller acts as Director of Photography for the project. Stakic credits Daniels for the concept and execution of NEON. As she explained, “It’s his energy which draws people. His willingness to collaborate inspires others around him to be creative.” Becoming friends on their first day of classes at NYFA, the graduates credit the NYFA faculty for inspiring their drive to succeed. “Andrea Swift was incredible. The documentary students became a family in the end. There was healthy competition and a total respect for the filmmaking process,” says Stakic. Recounting 18-hour work days, Daniels credits department chair John Loughlin for teaching him how to “connect the dots” and to stay focused on storytelling no matter the chaos being wrought on set. He also described a creative process unhindered by the oft-cited idea called financial compensation. Everyone involved, including set designers and actors, were not paid. As Daniels explained, “We did it for the passion of being creative. Boi came to Toronto on a bus to work on this film and told me that he was inspired by our willingness to bring everything and ask for nothing.”
    Daniels is entering the New York arts scene in full force. NEON Americana will be screened during the Stevie Boi show for New York Fashion Week tomorrow on February 9th. He is also a part of SPiN New York’s annual Valentine’s Day benefit for M.A.D.A on February 14th hosted by the prince of Madagascar and actress Susan Sarandon. He designed the ping-pong table to be auctioned in order to raise proceeds for the foundation. Daniels is committed to expanding the NEON movement to include creative collaboration outside of the world of fashion. Working for passion with no promises, Steep Daniels never expected to have his art become a centerpiece for a designer deemed as the next fashion icon by Vogue Italia. He is living his vision aimed at shifting the paradigm of creativity and commerce.
    We encourage students to think outside of the box. How far can your creativity go? Will you take the necessary risks in order to create something greater than yourself?

    NEON Americana

    NEON Americana

    NEON Americana

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    February 9, 2012 • Acting • Views: 3851