From his early childhood, Indranil Banerjee remembered watching Toy Story, Jurassic Park, Satyajit Ray’sGupi Gyan Bagha Byan, and James Cameron’s epic film Titanic. He recalled how, as a kid, crying when Jack died, imagining himself proposing several times to Rose and talking with his friends at school about why his mom had to close his eyes at the theatre inseveral scenes of the film. It was movies that excited Banerjee at such a young age, and that captivation for filmmaking continued as he grew up.
Photo courtesy of Indranil Banerjee
“When I grew up, I understood that film was something that was very attractive to me. , I started doing photography and slowly started learning about film and camera,” shared Banerjee. “From there, I began to comb through the filmography of some of the world’s best filmmakers.”
The likes of James Cameron, Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and more inspired the aspiring director. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino inspired Banerjee to learn storytelling through camera tactics, while Satyajit Ray taught Banerjee how characters can come to life and music can elevate each story.
Film poster for “The Chase”
After attending film schools in the UK, France, and the U.S, Banerjee’s sister told Banerjee about New York Film Academy (NYFA), where Banerjee enrolled in an 8-Week Filmmaking Workshop at the New York campus.
The filmmaking alum has directed the short film The Chase, which was recognized at the prestigious Los Angeles Cenefest. His other shorts include The Mirage, Trinyani, One Night Stand, and Hello. Banerjee also directed Bahannoborti (52), a television film for one of the most highly recognized Bengali channels inKolkata, India.
Film posters for Banerjee’s anthology series “4 Shades of Leap”
Now, the filmmaking alum is changing the way India is consuming horror, by launching the first horror anthology miniseries. 4 Shades of Leap is a series of four shorts that are about five minutes each. “The Idea Came in my head at the end of 2019. It was winter and me and my cinematographer Tuhin Dasgupta were having coffee in my terrace and discussing the new Indian Hindi-language anthologyhorror film on Netflix called Ghost Stories.We then planned to do our own research on some actual horror events in Kolkata, India.”
For one month, Banerjee and Dasgupta talked with individuals, visited many abandoned houses, and began forming the script for four individual stories based on real-life incidents. “As a filmmaker, I wanted to make this extremely natural and as real as I could. I used various cinematic elements asa poignant part of each and every tale; the shadows in the first episode, the rain in the second, the match cuts in the third, and the faces of various animals in the last episode.”
Banerjee behind the scenes
Banerjee and his crew finished filming the series just before the pandemic and the series has been met with critical acclaim and such a huge response that the series will return for a second season.
“People like to watch spooky, but there is a difference between Ghostbusters and Insidious. All I can say 4 Shades Of Leap will Just take twenty minutes from your life to make you feel the various waves and stages of horror, with all four episodes based on real incidents. So, you will definitely enjoy it, and, yes, you will remain in shock.”
New York Film Academy recognizes the incredible achievement of filmmaking alum Indranil Banerjee and his latest project 4 Shades of Leap. You can watch the horror anthology on Amazon and Apple TV.
On Friday, October 26, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Lifetime’s Killer Under the Bed (2018), followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Jeff Hare; producer, Ken Sanders; director of photography, Brad Rushing; and stars, Brec Bassinger and Madison Lawlor. The event was moderated by NYFA instructor, David Newman.
Hare is a writer, director, and filmmaking instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, and has been working as a director of thrillers for the Lifetime channel for the last few years (A Lover Betrayed, Psycho In-Law, Nanny Killer).
Sanders is a prolific producer for the Lifetime channel who has accumulated over 60 movie credits in the last 30 years (Accused at 17, Double Daddy, Stalked by My Doctor).
Rushing’s career as a director of photography began with some small features in the 1990s then expanded into the music industry with music videos for Eminem, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Blink-182 and more. Rushing then moved back to film and television, and ultimately made his way to the Lifetime channel where he now works as a DP on many of its thrillers.
Bassinger is an actress known for her roles in ABC’s The Goldbergs and Nickelodeon’s Bella and the Bulldogs and School of Rock. Lawlor is an actress known for her roles on TNT’s Franklin and Bash, Netlfix’s Dear White People, and the film, Daddy Issues (2018). The film also stars Kristy Swanson, eponymous star of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Moderator David Newman opened up the Q&A by asking about the inspiration for the film. Producer Ken Sanders explained that he was approached by the film’s writer about producing a movie about a voodoo doll; Sanders knew that there would have to be more meat to the story to get executive producers interested, so he began thinking about the topic.
Sanders then remembered a TV movie from his childhood that “terrified a generation” called Trilogy of Terror; in this film, the protagonist struggles to escape from an evil doll she purchases at an antique shop. Sanders decided to combine the voodoo concept and the evil doll concept into one, and, in a sense, remake Trilogy of Terror for a modern audience. It was important to him, though, that this film appeal to “multiple markets” and not just a “hardcore horror audience.”
Newman went on to ask the panel about how they handled their tight shooting schedule — the Killer Under the Bed production team only had 14 days to shoot a feature-length film, which is less than half the time that most features take to shoot. DP Brad Rushing advised, “Be prepared… Meticulously know what you’re doing… [Have] contingency plans… and good communication with the producer and the director.”
Rushing added that he and director Jeff Hare had worked together before, and were largely on the same page aesthetically when it came to the look of the film.
Newman inquired about how the team made the voodoo doll come to life onscreen. “Most of the doll’s motion was actual[ly] mechanical,” said director Jeff Hare, “it’s trying to keep that aesthetic of that 70s stuff [that] scared us… we tried to keep as many effects as we could practical and we also stole the whole Jaws thing of trying to keep it hidden for as long as we possibly could.”
“I think oftentimes what you don’t see is a lot more frightening,” added Brad Rushing, “because the audience fills it in with their own imagination and personalizes it as their own boogeyman.”
The New York Film Academy thanks Jeff Hare, Ken Sanders, Brad Rushing, Brec Bassinger, and Madison Lawlor for sharing their insights about making an independent thriller on a tight budget and in a short timeframe!
Congratulations to the New York Film Academy MA Filmmaking graduate, Alexander Babaev, whose horror feature debut, “Bornless Ones,” premieres at the DTLA Film Festival in LA on Sept. 22 at 9:30pm.
“Bornless Ones” tells the story of Emily (Margaret Judson), her fiancé (Devin Goodsell), and two friends, who move into a remote house with Emily’s crippled brother, Zach (Michael Johnston). After spending a single night in the house, Zach begins to heal, but in turn reveals a force that creates the most horrific night anyone could ever face.
“We shot ‘Bornless Ones’ right after I graduated from New York Film Academy,” said Babaev. “The way it happened was sort of a miracle. I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about filmmaking as I am.”
Directed by Alexander Babaev, produced by NYFA alumna Mariietta Volynska, and shot by NYFA MFA Cinematography Grad, Egor Povolotskiy, “Bornless Ones” became, for the three of them, the beginning of a solid professional friendship.
“Even though we all knew that feature film was our next step, this next step felt painfully far away from the point we were all at until someone said, ‘Hey, my friend has a house where we could potentially shoot. Why don’t we write something?’ And I did. I wrote a script. We lost the house, but we found funds and got another house.”
Soon after “Bornless Ones” was shot, Babaev, Volynska and Povolotskiy were invited, as a team, to work on a new feature, Culture of Fear. The premier is scheduled for 2017.
“I think the biggest thing NYFA gave me was the courage to believe in myself, to believe that everyone can make a film no matter who you are or where you came from,” said Babaev. “I’m very proud of this film and I believe that the new wave of filmmakers — people like me and hundreds and thousands of other young filmmakers — are the future!”
What started out as Thomas Della Bella’s final thesis film at New York Film Academy has now turned into a feature horror film coming out in theaters and iTunes worldwide on August 5th. Written, directed and edited by Della Bella, The Remains stars Todd Lowe (True Blood), Samuel Larsen (Glee), Nikki Hahn (American Horror Story), Lisa Brenner (The Patriot), Brooke Butler (All Cheerleaders Must Die), Hannah Rose Nordberg (General Hospital) and Ashley Crow (Minority Report).
With the NYFA BFA graduate’s film due out in a week, we thought we’d ask him a few questions about his film and his career as a filmmaker after NYFA.
Congratulations on THE REMAINS! Can you tell us how this film come about?
The Remains is the feature length version of my final year thesis short film Open House. I graduated the BFA Filmmaking program in late 2013 in Los Angeles. I knew going into my thesis film that I wanted to make a short film that could be used as a proof of concept for a feature. So, essentially, I wrote a 15 page mini-feature that followed a family that moves into a Victorian house. I broke the script down into three traditional acts with every 5 pages constituting Act I, II and III. So in the final 13 minute film you get this really cool and fast paced haunted house story.
Now, at the time I had an internship at Blumhouse Productions. Blumhouse is the pinnacle of horror and thriller movies out here and I knew from very early on that one day I wanted to be involved with these filmmakers. Some of their titles include: The Purge, Insidious, Paranormal Activity. As I was interning and PAing for them, I was in post production on my thesis film. Once the film was finished, I sent it around the office to everyone I became friendly with. The following day, a co-worker who watched the film called me over to her desk to tell me how much she loved the film and how she was impressed with the quality of the film.
Now let me also mention, the budget of the short film was $5,000 that I raised via Kickstarter. However, the tools that NYFA provided allowed me to elevate the short film to looking like a much bigger budget film.
The co-worker introduced me to an independent producer at the time named Eric Fleischman. I met with him for lunch a few days later and pitched him the feature version. About three months later, the movie was green lit through Eric Fleischman and Sean Tabibian’s genre production company Diablo Entertainment. From that point, we were off to the races. Everything fell into place at rapid speed and the movie was produced on a shoestring budget.
In your own words, what is your film about?
The Remains is, at its core, a homage to the haunted house horror genre. The film follows John and his family after they move into an old Victorian house after the passing of his wife. Soon after moving in, his two youngest children find a chest in the attic that contains a bunch of antiques. From that point on, an item attaches itself to each family member and slowly starts to possess each family member while pitting them against each other.
The themes I explored are all based around the crumbling of the family unit and the idea that you would do anything for the well being of your family.
Were there any influencers that got you into the horror genre?
Yes! Stanley Kubrick by far has to be one of my biggest influences. The Shining is one of my all time favorite films and you will see references of that in The Remains. I was just always blown away by the moodiness and composition of his films and I really wish I had a chance to meet him. But, specifically, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon are my favorites.
I’d also have to say that James Wan and Leigh Whannell are huge influencers of mine. I grew up watching the Saw franchise and those films always left an imprint on my brain. But, I don’t think it was until Insidious in 2010, when I was in my early film school years, that I realized these are the types of films that I want to make and these are the people I aspire to someday work with.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
Thinking back to your time at NYFA. Do you believe your experience prepared you to write, direct, and edit the feature version of THE REMAINS?
Yes, 100%. I learned so much doing my 1 year in NYC and 2 years in LA with the NYFA education model. From the very first day of class, they put a camera in my hand, and honestly, the best learning is by doing. And that is exactly what you do while attending NYFA — you make films. I was very lucky to have such an amazing class that really worked together to make fantastic art. I am still very close with most of my classmates and I hired a few of them to work on my film! I’d also like to point out that many of my teachers at NYFA were extremely supportive of anything I wanted to do or try. I think they definitely helped gear me up to jump into a movie as a first time director.
Was there anything interesting that occurred on set that you’d like to share with us?
Probably the weirdest thing about being on set of The Remains was that fact that we shot the short film at the same house. There are two or three scenes that are exactly the same and untouched that we were shooting for the second time. And it was just a very weird sense of deja vu while doing those scenes. But, we shot the film at this amazing 129 year-old house that had the most fantastic home owners ever. They basically let us take over their house and do whatever we wanted, twice in a row, and that was such a positive experience.
Going back to the fact that the house is now 129 years old…it was just an incredibly creepy house. The second you look at the house from outside you immediately think to yourself, it’s haunted. But, I do remember on numerous occasions that the grip and electric departments were always rushing to get out of the house when we wrapped up every night, because the house is that much creepier at night. There were one or two reports of things moving around on their own, but, for my own sanity, I’ll blame that on the production assistants.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to shoot their first feature?
My biggest piece of advice would be to make a short film with the goal of a feature version behind it. This way when you write the feature version, you have this amazing proof of concept to show potential investors and producers. Also, students should take advantage of crowd-sourcing sites like Indigogo and Kickstarter.
The best move I made early on was getting an internship at a company I was truly interested in. Interning lead to set work and, honestly, I learned the most while working in a production office and being on big budget sets.
Be sure to check out The Remains in theaters and iTunes August 5th!
New York Film Academy students were treated to a special screening of the groundbreaking, and box office record making, indie horror film Saw and participated in a Q&A with the film’s producer Oren Koules and cinematographer / NYFA instructor David Armstrong. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.
In 2003, Koules made an almost one million dollar investment with partner Mark Burg to produce Saw. By 2011 the Saw franchise had earned roughly 870 million at the box office. The movie, shot in a mere 18 days, was a very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience according to Oren and David Armstrong (cinematographer of Saw I through VI). The luxuries of a studio movie were nowhere to be seen on this film set. They would often have to get a shot in one take because of time or resource restrictions. However, the run-and-gun nature of making the film, coupled with the fact that Oren was betting everything on an idea he simply believed very strongly in, was an exhilarating experience that made him feel alive.
Producer Oren Koules
Oren Koules’ story is one that defies Hollywood logic. At the age of thirty-one Oren decided to become a Hollywood producer and he moved to Los Angeles. He tried to get a job as an assistant, but without any industry-related experience, nobody would hire him. However, Oren let none of that deter him and decided instead to just go straight for his goal. Koules was introduced to former Los Angeles Times reporter, Dale Pollock, and the two formed Peak Productions soon after. Together, they packaged films that began getting studio attention for their undeniably good and cutting-edge taste. After landing deals they began producing films like Mrs. Winterbourne and Set It Off. The early success of Peak Productions led Koules to a job as the Senior Vice President of Production at Paramount Pictures. In 1998, Koules and Mark Burg founded management / production company Evolution Entertainment. They produced the Denzel Washington-led thriller film, John Q, which was released in 2002.
Evolution Entertainment was also responsible for the production of Two and a Half Men starting in 2003. At this time Oren forged a relationship with Charlie Sheen. Having starred in a string of B-movies, Sheen’s Hollywood value had dropped. Oren saw a new future for Charlie—as a TV star. He convinced Sheen to stop making movies for six months to neutralize his image and until his former representation contracted ended. After that, Koules signed him to Evolution Entertainment and he maneuvered Sheen onto his iconic role as Charlie Harper on Chuck Lorre’s Two and a Half Men and became an executive producer on the show. Not bad for Oren having only arrived to Hollywood a little more than a decade before!
Producer Tova Laiter, Oren Koules, and David Armstrong
When asked what advice Oren had for filmmakers just starting out in the entertainment industry, his message was simple: “Just believe in yourself.” This wraps up the experience of meeting Oren Koules in so many ways. The man exudes the calm, confidence of a do-er. Oren’s journey through Hollywood has been a steady, determined march as he manifests his goals. His example helps one to truly believe that the key to success is found in believing.
We sincerely thank Oren Koules and David Armstrong for speaking at the New York Film Academy and wish them continued success in their careers!
Every low-budget horror filmmaker’s dream is to have his or her work seen by producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Whiplash). In the case of New York Film Academy alumnus Chris Lofing, this dream was transformed into something even bigger than he could have imagined. On July 10, his debut feature The Gallows, co-written and co-directed by Travis Cluff and produced by Jason Blum, will be released nationwide and in over 50 countries.
Chris and Travis gave New York Film Academy’s students a sneak preview of The Gallows, and discussed their movie’s journey from a micro budget to 2,700 screens.
In 2010, the future horror auteurs met while making Chris’s NYFA thesis film. This wildly ambitious project had a tight budget, necessitating Chris’s shooting in the more affordable city of Fresno. A call for stuntmen led to his meeting Travis Cluff, a recent champion on ABC’s Wipeout. Soon after their first collaboration, Chris and Travis discovered they were perfect teammates and created their own company, Tremendum Pictures.
For several years Chris and Travis produced commercials and industrials, but always had an eye on making feature films. Inspired by a tragic high school tale Chris heard from his father, The Gallows was born. The plot (no spoilers, we promise): Several years ago, a high school student named Charlie was killed in a horrific accident during a performance of The Gallows. Cut to present day and the school is resurrecting the failed play in an attempt to commemorate the tragedy. When a few students break in one night to stop the production, they discover that Charlie’s “performance” is far from over.
Embracing the found-footage style employed in films like Paranormal Activity, Travis and Chris have created a horror film which is scary and remarkably grounded, featuring a cast that comes off as real high-schoolers trapped in a truly horrific situation. Chris and Travis explained that they did not write a traditional script, but instead used an outline, which allowed the actors to better inhabit their roles and sell the film’s realism.
When Travis and Chris initially shot their film, they could afford only one location: a beautifully gothic theater in Fresno. Once they posted their trailer on Youtube, people in Hollywood began to take notice and the calls came rolling in. Major production companies reached out including Management 360. Suddenly the filmmakers who were by their own description “sleeping in their van” while visiting LA were a hot commodity. All of which culminated in a meeting with the modern day godfather of low budget horror, Jason Blum. The producer hosted a screening of their film that was met with a rapturous response. Realizing they had the potential for a wide release, the filmmakers (now teamed with Blumhouse Productions) went back to work.
With a larger – though still minute – budget, the filmmakers could now shoot scenes in an actual high school. The crew got a little bigger, but the do-it-yourself attitude remained the same. However, one major change occurred in the recasting of a principal role, which necessitated filming most of the movie a second time. With every new cut, the filmmakers realized there was still more they could do and continued to shoot more material.
Dean of Students Eric Conner with the filmmakers and his students
Once the film was finalized, New Line & Warner Bros. came on board to distribute The Gallows. As the directors explained, The Gallows is the lowest budget movie to ever receive such a wide opening weekend release.
Chris said the work he did at NYFA in directing so many different projects and having to be a “do-it-yourself” filmmaker gave him the preparation needed to get The Gallows made. After riding his bike every day next to Warner Bros. en route to school, he’s now got the privilege of seeing his own movie’s poster adorning the Warner Bros wall.
Last month, rising genre screenwriter David Chirchirillo joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class, entertaining students with his journey of how this film student originally from St. Louis, Missouri ended up writing the 2014 cult shock-horror hit Cheap Thrills and, until very recently, working as the Head Writer on Playboy TV’s The Playboy Morning Show.
Chirchirillo went to Columbia College in Chicago where he took a horror screenwriting class and ended up reading the script for Deadgirl by Trent Haaga, his 2008 horror hit. A fan of low-grade horror and Troma movies, Chirchirillo’s professor was friends with Haaga, and in his last semester put the two in touch. Chirchirillo became his production assistant upon moving to Los Angeles.
“Cleaning up fake blood, going on food runs, whatever they asked of me really,” is how Chirchrillo described his early experiences working as a PA. A naturally friendly, funny and outspoken guy, it wasn’t long before people in the industry got wind that Chirchirillo was also a writer. “I, of course, was willing to write for free when I started, and made it known that I’d be willing to be fingers on a keyboard.”
He soon met writer/director Chad Ferrin who was looking for a writer for an original idea entitled, Dances With Werewolves. Chirchirillo jumped all over it and wrote the script – which is a Civil War-era werewolf movie about a group of Confederate POWs who escape a Union prison camp and soon encounter a tribe of shape-shifting Native American werewolves with an insatiable blood lust.
He also impressed Trent Haaga himself who had written a draft of Cheap Thrills, and attached director E.L. Katz. Katz wanted a fresh take on the script, and after Katz and Chirchirillo had lunch, it was clear they shared the same vision for the script — which was to make it a crazy, satirical dark comedy (it was originally written as a more straightforward thriller). “Remember: this is a comedy,” Chirchirillo had to remind his collaborators.
Indeed it is. It’s a mind-blowing balls-to the-wall horror comedy that has received some amazing reviews, and currently stands at an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the story of a scheming couple, who pin two struggling friends against each other in a series of increasingly twisted dares for money over the course of one unforgettable evening. Premiering at the SXSW film festival, Chichirillo described the euphoric feeling of watching crowds react to the movie, “It was like doing a drug. It was probably the best moment of my career… thus far.”
Chirchirillo went on to talk about some other experiences he’s had as a professional writer. “Every time I write, I learn something new. Once it’s done, it becomes the struggle of having it become a movie, where I learn more. I have a tendency to overwrite in the beginning, but it’s all part of the process of what helps me find the best version of the story.”
Chirchirillo also had some advice on choosing reps, as he himself has hired and dropped folks over the years in his search for agents and managers who grasp his unique voice, “Pick your reps carefully. Don’t be in a rush to go with the first guy. Find someone who gets you and what you want.”
Chirchirillo then entertained students with his insane directing experience on the low-budget horror film, 616: Paranormal Incident. “Let’s just say it was a 9-day shoot on a shoestring budget, and due to other less than ideal circumstances brought on by the production, I ended up directing it under a pseudonym. But director Duke Hitchcock is really, really proud of it,” Chrichrillo joked.
He also spoke about his experience writing a comedy morning show for Playboy TV, which spawned from him first working as an editor first for the network. “I got lucky, and a lot of it came down to timing, but it was a really fun gig.” Chirchrillo wrote and oversaw the comedic bits for the newsroom-based comedy show. “It was great. We would bring in tons of special and celebrity guests, and the people at Playboy had a great sense of humor and there’s not a lot of egos. It was just about having fun and putting on the best show we could.” They wrote a different show every day of the week — an impressive feat in its own right.
Closing out, Chirchrillo offered some final words of wisdom to the aspiring NYFA screenwriters. “Outline. For a long time, I didn’t, but it really helps. Also, check out Dan Harmon’s 8-steps to Structure. That’s been really helpful for me.” On getting hired on assignments, Chirchirillo reminded the room, “Give them what they want, of course, but remember nothing has to be dumb, and it can all come from you. Find your way to address the note, that’s how you’ll do your best work. And do whatever you need to get your movies made, because that’s what it’s really about: getting movies made.”
David Chirchirillo, who also wrote a segment for ABCs of Death 2, is currently writing the psychological horror thriller Eli in addition to other projects. He is repped by Bellevue Management and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
For some people, Friday the 13th is a day to stay clear of ladders, keep umbrellas outside, and avoid mirrors and black cats at all costs. For others, it means marathons of one of horror’s most famous faces: Jason Voorhees. Who would’ve thought machetes, hockey masks, and dozens and dozens of stupid teenagers would make such a great cinematic combination? Since the original Friday the 13th in 1980, the Jason series has spawned nine sequels, one TV series (and another in development), a crossover, and a reboot. If you’ve only got time to watch five Friday the 13th movies tonight, here are the five best you could choose:
1. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
It seems quaint now that the producers of the Jason series thought Friday the 13th Part 4 would be their last movie. After all, could they really expect audiences to watch the same movie over and over every couple of years? (The answer is yes, yes they could.) Considered the best of the series, The Final Chapter distills the series to its fundamentals and executes them (pun intended) flawlessly. It also includes a pre-George McFly Crispin Glover, the “death” of Jason Voorhees, and a haunting final scene where Corey Feldman alters his appearance to appeal to Jason’s inner child.
2. Freddy vs. Jason
The final shot of Jason Goes to Hell showed Freddy Krueger’s claws reach out of the soil and pull Jason’s mask down with him. It was originally intended as a joke, but fans took it very seriously and demanded a crossover film. In 2003 they got it, a slick, nonstop horror that wasn’t afraid to make fun of itself. Combining the dream elements of Freddy’s Nightmare on Elm Street series brought Jason to strange new places, including a look into his subconscious. It also ended with an all-out war between the horror titans, something no Jason fan should miss.
3. Friday the 13th
The one that started it all, 1980’s Friday the 13th introduced us to the idea of teenagers at a summer camp getting picked off one by one. It also introduced us to Kevin Bacon, but didn’t give us enough time to get to know him. While its sequels may have honed the series strengths, the original has possibly the best climax, with a now-infamous plot twist and a haunting scene in the middle of a lake that can still harvest nightmares.
4. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Jason may have been finally killed at the end of Final Chapter and replaced by a lackluster copycat killer in Part V, but it was Part VI that introduced the supernatural, super-strength unstoppable killing machine most people associate with the character. Jason’s body is dug up and struck by lightning, granting him immortality. It’s not just Jason that is infused with more energy though, as Part VI is bigger than all of its predecessors, involving shoot-outs and car chases. Unable to be killed, the film ends with Jason chained to the bottom of Crystal Lake, staring off and waiting for the next sequel.
5. Friday the 13th Part 2
The first sequel in the series, Part 2 introduces an adult Jason Voorhees for the first time, dispatching a new crop of teenagers. The kills were already leaps and bounds more creative than the previous film, showing the series was willing to learn and grow. It’s also remarkable for being the last film before Jason finds his iconic hockey mask. Wearing a sack over his head with just one eyehole, Jason resembles the Dark Knight series’ Scarecrow, but is just as haunting as with the hockey mask, if not more.
While Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason X, which takes place on a spaceship in the far future, are not good movies, they are inherently watchable, playing with Jason’s already pop culture status in fun ways. Both are worth watching. Other weaker films worthy of note are Part VII, where Jason fights a telekinetic psychic; Part V, featuring a copycat killer; Part III, where Jason first finds his hockey mask and also takes an axe to the face, and The Final Friday, where Jason is ambushed by the FBI and finally goes to Hell. So, pretty much all of them are worth a watch, except of course the Michael Bay-produced reboot from 2009. Which isn’t that terrible, really… So, yeah, just watch them all. It’s safer than walking under any ladders today.
Want to make your own horror film franchise one day? Check out our filmmaking program here. After all, Saturday the 14th is still available…
On November 25th, 2014, screenwriter and New York Film Academy writing instructor Dan Kay swung by our Business of Screenwriting class to regale his story of how he went from a kid growing up in Larchmont, NY to a rising Hollywood screenwriter, whose movie Pay the Ghost, starring Nicholas Cage, is currently in post-production.
Kay grew up on the east coast and was always a lover of independent cinema. “Movies like Clerks, The Brothers McMullin, solid independent productions, these were the movies I looked up to and wanted to initially make,” Kay recalled. Kay studied English at the University of Pennsylvania, and upon graduation got his first movie into production, which he also directed, the indie Way Off Broadway about five recent college graduates who take a crash course in life as they explore the dynamic conflict in friendships, sex, love, and betrayal. Kay credits the movie getting made to indie producer Richard Perello, whose Cataland Films which financed the film has since gone on to produce all of the comedy troop’s Broken Lizard’s productions (Super Troopers, Beerfest, etc.).
“Traveling with the movie, as it played the festival circuit, is still one of the most memorable times of my career,” Kay remembered. Way Off Broadway played in over 30 film festivals and won the Grand Jury and Audience Award Prizes at the Westchester, Stony Brook, and Waterfront Film Festivals. Small Planet Pictures picked up theatrical distribution and the IFC Channel picked up its TV rights.
Kay spent his first few post-college years in New York, working production and post-production jobs at night so he could write during the day, something he adamantly recommended to our writing students. “In my opinion, you want to allow yourselves the maximum amount of time to write and crank out new material, so it’s best to get a job that allows you to have that precious block of time.” Still, it wasn’t long before Kay realized he needed to move out to Los Angeles. “The independent scene was changing and wasn’t as thriving in New York as it had been. There were fewer jobs…” Kay headed out west, where he soon found representation.
Kay’s first writing assignment may surprise some, as it’s outside of the spectrum of what he’s now known for working on (mainly thriller, action, and horror movies). It was Disney’s Tinkerbell 2, a straight-to-DVD animated children’s title. “Even though it was outside the realm of what I would normally do, I had to find a way to get excited about it, and put myself into it, something you always need to with your writing,” Kay explained. Kay was working hard on the script and Disney was planning a whole slew of sequels, which Kay had already mapped out, but when there was a regime change at Disney Animation, they scrapped the whole endeavor, including all of Kay’s work, a lesson Kay didn’t soon forget — “Some things are beyond your control, especially Hollywood company politics, and as a writer, you have better get used to that and not take it personally. And keep writing.”
Next up for Kay was his horror/thriller Timber Falls, his first foray into the thriller genre he’s now becoming increasingly known for, about a weekend of camping in the mountains that becomes an excursion into hell for a young couple, because of the grotesque plot hatched by the deranged locals. Kay spoke pretty frankly about the evolution of this project, “Basically the director (Tony Giglio) who came on rewrote my script. On the poster is a man with a hatchet blade threatening a scared, bloody woman – yeah, neither of those characters were in my initial screenplay,” Kay remarked, getting a few laughs. “It was in the era when ‘torture porn’ was increasingly popular due to movies like Saw and Hostel, so they transformed it into one of those,” Kay shrugged. He explained this is pretty common. “At some point, a director is going to make changes to your story – it’s inevitable. Sometimes they’re drastic alterations as was definitely the case here.”
Nicholas Cage on set of “Pay the Ghost”
However, since Timber Falls, Kay has had increasing levels of success in the thriller genre. In 2007, Kay set up Details at Paramount Vantage with then rising (now-uber) horror producer Jason Blum, which tells the story of a daughter who disappears after uncovering a demonic force that only she can see, and the father who stops at nothing to bring her back. And it was actually back in 2010 that Kay initially set up Pay the Ghost, originally with financier SKE (Sidney Kimmel) and director Dennis Iliadis (Last House on the Left). The script tells the story of loving couple, whose young son is mysteriously abducted Halloween night, who one year later begin to sense his presence in frightening ways.
Despite all the elements in place, however, this incarnation of Pay the Ghost never came to be and it was only when the script went into turn-around and financier Voltage Pictures and Nic Cage came aboard that it regained momentum, which happens sometimes, Kay explained. In the interim, Kay kept writing and has a host of other projects in development as well, including the tech-thriller I.T. with Pierce Brosnan attached to star and John Moore (A Good Day to Die Hard) attached to direct. Kay has also ventured into TV, something he recommended to NYFA’s students, setting up his supernatural thriller pilot Diabolic with eOne. “There’s been a seismic shift in the film and television landscape, and it definitely behooves young writers to try their hands at both,” Kay advised.
Kay closed out with a wise piece of advice on how he comes up with his ideas. “You have to remember that a good idea can really come from anywhere. And in the idea phase, it’s a fragile thing, so don’t stymie yourself early on. Let the idea grow, as you really never know what it might become…”
Kay is repped by APA and New Wave Entertainment. Pay the Ghost is currently in post-production and slated for next later this year. Kay lives in Los Angeles and teaches writing at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles.
Last week, acclaimed director, Peter Medak visited New York Film Academy Los Angeles after a screening of his 1980 horror film The Changeling at Warner Bros. Studios theater for an in-depth Q&A with Tova Laiter and students. As a first assistant director, Peter worked with legendary British film directors Sir Carol Reed, David Lean, Fred Zinneman, and Alfred Hitchcock. As director, Peter Medak’s 1972 film, The Ruling Class, starring Peter O’Toole, was nominated for an Oscar. His other works include The Krays, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg with Alan Bates, The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Mandy Patinkin and Salma Hayek, and Romeo is Bleeding with Gary Oldman, to name a few. In television he has directed episodes of iconic series such as Breaking Bad, House, The Wire, and Hannibal.
Peter had a rocky upbringing growing up Jewish during the Nazi invasion of Hungary and the events that followed. He spent much of his childhood years inside his family’s apartment, unable to attend school because the threat World War II and the subsequent occupation of Soviet Forces posed. He would often look through the keyhole in the apartment’s door, struggling to see what little he could of the outside world. The few films Peter was exposed to were magical to him and ignited his imagination. His aunt was a world-famous traveling opera singer who visited Peter often and gave him a camera and some film as a present. Peter was hooked on filmmaking from that moment on. Later Peter and his family fled to England as refugees. His aunt was able to help him get is first filmmaking job as a trainee in an editing room. He eventually moved up the ranks to work as an assistant director. However, Peter always had ambitions to direct. His big break ironically came when he made one of the biggest mistakes of his career. Peter had failed to call an important actor to set one day. The producer was furious and made Peter admit his mistake to the director himself. Instead of firing Peter though, the director simply coached him on how he could do better next time. The director inquired about his accent and Peter informed him that he was a Hungarian refugee. Admiring his perseverance in the face of adversity the director promoted Peter the very next day to second unit director and his directing career began.
Peter’s 1980 film The Changeling is regarded as a masterpiece in the haunted house/thriller genre. The director admitted the script gave him chills the first time he read it. He couldn’t put the screenplay down and the material actually frightened him. Peter said that a script that can affect you so profoundly is gold and you should pursue is relentlessly. Throughout his life, Peter has always had an intimate connection to the paranormal. He believes in ghosts and confesses to having seen them. Peter’s experience with the supernatural has informed his filmmaking within the subject. It’s not the ghost that you see up close, right in front of the camera that’s frightening, because it never happens that way. It’s always a glimpse of something that you catch in the corner of your eye that makes the hair on your arms stand up. To that effect, Peter suggested that to show a ghost on film you could fog up a room and wait until only ten percent of the smoke remains. It’s not the effect that’s in your face but the subtle hint of something there that’s scary.
Peter Medak went on to entertain students with stories from his legendary career and share invaluable advice he’s gained along the way. It was a privilege for all attending to be in the presence of and learn from such a master of his craft. We look forward to seeing what this brilliant mind produces next.