Earlier this month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) invited 842 new members to join its rankings, including Oscar-nominated New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking & Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron.
de Meuron was previously nominated in 2017 for an Academy Award for the short film he executive-produced, La femme et leTGV. de Meuron hails from Switzerland and first enrolled at New York Film Academy in 2009, taking several workshops, including in Filmmaking. He followed his short-term studies with NYFA’s 1-year Conservatory in Cinematography. His latest project, sci-fi epic Megan (co-produced with Giuseppe Mercadante and Olcun Tan and directed by Greg Strasz), recently won a Telly Award for its proof-of-concept short. It’s no surprise the highly talented filmmaker has been tapped to join AMPAS.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the body of producers, directors, screenwriters, actors, and other filmmaking industry leaders. Every year, AMPAS members vote on the Academy Awards embodied by the iconic golden statuette, Oscar.
Over the past few years, due to a demand from the public to catch up to to the current cultural landscape, AMPAS has been inviting more women and people of color to diversify its body, which has been historically dominated by white men. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this year’s 842 invitees include members from 59 countries, half of whom are female and 29 percent of whom are people of color.
Invitees often include previous Oscar winners and nominees, as well as up-and-coming Hollywood stars. The 2019 list of invitees includes directors Jonathan M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), and performers Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Sterling K. Brown, Gemma Chan, Tom Holland, Claire Foy, Will Poulter, Lady Gaga, and Adele. “I am incredibly humbled and grateful to have been invited to join the Academy as a member of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch,” de Meuron tells NYFA. “It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of this organization of which many filmmakers, creatives, and executives belong to that have influenced as well as inspired me—and continue to do so.”
New York Film Academy is incredibly excited for Filmmaking & Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron and congratulates him on his invitation to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking and Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron can add another award to his mantle—his short film Megan was a Silver Winner at the 40th Annual Telly Awards.
de Meuron hails from Switzerland and first enrolled at NYFA in 2009, taking several workshops, including in Filmmaking, before following his short-term studies with NYFA’s 1-year Conservatory in Cinematography. Since then, he’s been hard at work making award-winning projects. In 2017, he executive-produced the short film La femme et le TGV, which earned an Academy Award nomination.
Megan, a short film that also serves as a proof of concept for a feature science fiction epic in the vein of J.J. Abrams’s popular Cloverfield series, was a Silver Winner in the General – Online category. The proof of concept features breathtaking action bolstered by perfectly executed special effects, including a harrowing helicopter crash and the appearance of a colossal, ominous spaceship.
The short was directed by Greg Strasz and produced by de Meuron, along with Giuseppe Mercadante and Olcun Tan. Megan previously won four awards at the 2018 Pitch to Screen Film Awards: Best Proof of Concept, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, and Best Editor, as well as Best International Sci-Fi Short at the 2018 London International Short Film Festival.
“I am deeply honored, proud, and humbled that my team and I won a Telly Award,” de Meuron says of Megan’s Silver trophy. “This came as a complete surprise since companies like Disney, Lucasfilm, Netflix, Paramount, Viacom, CBS, DC Entertainment, and so forth were also honored for their work in various categories. We share the Silver Winner Award with CBS in the category 2019 Online: General Viral.”
The Telly Awards were founded in 1979 to recognize achievements in local, regional, and cable television commercials with non-broadcast video and television programming included shortly after. The Telly Awards have kept up with the times and now embraces media content that can be seen on all screens—from the theater to your smartphone. This also includes awards for VR, television commercials, web series and branded content. This year’s event had a record-breaking amount 12,000 entries, of entries, from from all 50 states and five continents.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) congratulates Filmmaking & Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron on the success of Megan and its Silver Winner Award at the 40th Annual Telly Awards!
Back in 2009, the New York Film Academy awarded a Tuition Grant to a passionate young filmmaker from Switzerland, Jean de Meuron. While at NYFA, de Meuron got a full scope of the movie-making landscape, studying filmmaking, screenwriting, and cinematography at both the New York and Los Angeles campuses.
Now residing in Los Angeles, de Meuron was recently Executive Producer on the short film “La femme et le TGV,” directed by Timo von Gunten and starring César Award nominee Jane Birkin. The short film, which was inspired by true events, was nominated for a 2016 Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Category!
We had a chance to speak to our former student before his big day at the Academy Awards this upcoming Feb. 26th, 2017.
Congratulations on your film’s Academy Award nomination! In your own words, what is “La femme et le TGV” about?
“La femme et le TGV” is a charming tale about a lonely woman who, through poetic and thoughtful letters, connects and builds a close relationship with a TGV train driver that passes her house at 190 mph every single day. As the two anonymous souls share their worlds by writing to each other, one fateful day the train does not pass her house, leading her to embark on a journey away from the place she calls home in search of that lost connection.
How did this film come about and how did you become involved with the project?
Our director, Timo von Gunten, read this incredible true story in a Swiss tabloid about a woman who’s been waving at the passing TGV train for many years from her balcony. He immediately fell in love with the whimsical nature and tone of this true story: A woman and a man writing letters to one another without ever meeting in person — or at least for the first couple of interactions. A huge inspiration for Timo has always been “Amélie” — and I think this is quite apparent in his work, as far as the visuals and camera blocking are concerned. However, Timo has such a strong style and visual sense on his own, so he puts his own stamp as a director, infused with elements from the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Wes Anderson.
I met Timo while I was a Jury Member at the Basel Gässli Film Festival, where I saw his short film that he had directed. I was immensely impressed with his visual flair, mise-en-scène, sensitivity with which he directed actors and staged scenes, as well as the color palette, soundtrack and edit. There was a filmmaker at work, who I considered a true artist that caught my attention. During the festival, I approached him, complementing his work and saying that I would like to work with him very much. The rest, so they say, is history.
How did you attach Jane Birkin to the project? And what was it like to work with her?
Timo tells this story best, so I extend the courtesy of having him share his thoughts here, as he as the director, worked most closely with her:
“First of all, I had to write a screenplay that was emotional, touching. I have a very good friend, a casting director and acting coach in London, who helped me to pass on the script to Jane’s agent. What I didn’t know, of course, and I was quite lucky — I have to admit that — the topic of solitude resonates so much with her. She just fell in love with the story. She called me up and said wants to do it. However, the funny thing was, first she said, “I want to do it, but I can’t because I’m not supposed to ride bicycles anymore.” And as you know, the film has loads of biking scenes… Working with Jane was quite an extraordinary experience because she has this inner beauty still kept alive. She’s quite fragile but very, very truthful. That’s what’s really great about her.” — from Timo von Gunten’s interview with ScreenPicks (Alfonso Espina) – Interview: Timo von Gunten Talks About ‘La Femme et le TGV’
I would add that Jane has this incredible generosity and gentle kindness that I witnessed while we were attending the Locarno Film Festival, where she was awarded the Golden Leopard for her Life Achievement.
Can you tell us how you found out about NYFA and the Tuition Grant?
While I was a student at the New York Film Academy, NYFA founder Jerry Sherlock, who had always been very supportive of me, suggested that I should apply for the Tuition Grant — as I had done several short films during my studies that did the festival circuit. While applying, I put all of my passion and dedication into my application materials, meaning I went above and beyond by presenting a strong package. When I was awarded the Tuition Grant I was very proud.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to produce this film?
Certainly. I always liked the New York Film Academy’s philosophy and educational approach of “learning by doing.” The practical experience enabled me to gain a very sophisticated understanding of physical production, and all its challenges that come with it. As my favorite filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg, once noted, “Filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” That being said, with director Timo von Gunten and my producing partners Giacun Caduff and Bela Böke, we had a wonderful synergy of complementing components, as we each could rely on each other’s strengths and interests.
Jean (on the right) attending the Golden Globes
What has been the reaction of your team, knowing you have a one in five chance of winning an Academy Award for this short?
I think every filmmaker aspires for his or her work to be critically acclaimed — some more than others of course — but in the end, storytelling is also entertainment, and as such we thrive to speak to, emotionally engage and captivate an audience. The reaction has obviously been overwhelming, however, we won’t define the success of our film solely on awards, but also on how the story resonates with our audience and how we are able to touch and move people. It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be considered for Academy Award consideration and we are infinitely grateful.
Why do you feel your film deserves to win the Academy Award? What makes it so unique?
Tough question. I think every film that has been nominated is there for a reason and deserving of such an accomplishment. What makes “La femme et le TGV” unique — at least as far as I am concerned — is its fairytale element that makes this story not only very charming and uplifting, but also relevant and meaningful. Our story, more than ever, is timeless because of the fact that although developed between written letters, most people of several generations (young and adult) can relate to our protagonist’s journey where, in the digital realm of things, loneliness and longing for something, are huge components of our daily lives.
Where would we be able to see this film?
“La femme et le TGV” is currently available on iTunes.
Are you currently working on any other projects you’d like to discuss?
Yes, I am currently developing a feature film with Timo and my producing partner Chady Eli Mattar, who, like myself, worked for prolific and immensely gifted producer Scott Rudin — a true industry icon. The film is called “The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower” and tells the true and epic tale of a charismatic con-artist, Victor Lustig, whose journey culminates in pulling off the biggest scam in the history of mankind — selling the Eiffel Tower — ensuing in a manhunt across the world that threatens to tear apart his beloved family.