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  • NYFA Grad’s “The Remains” To Be Released Worldwide

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    the remainsWhat 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.

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    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.

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    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!

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    July 29, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6439

  • Oscar-Winning Creature Creator Alec Gillis Screens His Directorial Debut ‘Harbinger Down’ at NYFA

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    This month, New York Film Academy students were treated to a special horror film event, getting a firsthand look at the art and science of classic horror film effects. On hand to explain this “tra-digital” approach was Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics, who, with his partner Tom Woodruff, won the Oscar for Death Becomes Her. Alec was joined by star Camille Balsamo, who graciously flew in from a shoot on CSI New Orleans to join Alec and cinematographer Benjamin Brown, who also served as editor and sound designer on the picture. Mark Sawicki, Chair of 3-D Animation and Visual Effects at our Los Angeles campus, was the moderator for the evening.

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    Mark Sawicki with Alec Gillis, Camille Balsamo and Benjamin Brown (Photo by Enrico De Conti)

    According to Alec, Harbinger Down was created for the fan base that loves traditional creature effects as seen in classic films such as Alien, The Thing and Predator. During the digital revolution, traditional creature shops began to see more and more of their work replaced by computer graphics (CGI) at the large studios. Through the Internet, Alec learned that there is a huge fan base that objected to what they perceived as obtrusive tampering with a special art form. As a result, Alec decided to give this underserved audience what they wanted and create an old school creature makeup effects film with effects all done on set in an intimate performance with the actors.

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    Alec Gillis (Photo by Enrico De Conti)

    Working on a Kickstarter budget that was the highest ever garnered by the crowdfunding giant, the film still needed to be put together by modest means. Sawicki recalled how both he and Alec got their start on the film Galaxy of Terror while working with Roger Corman’s studio, and Harbinger Down reminded him of the fun tribal style of filmmaking that they both enjoyed so much in the 80’s. Camille agreed with that idea and remembered that simple tricks were used throughout the film to simulate being in a frozen Arctic environment. To mimic frosty breath clouds the actors would inhale a safe smoke concoction, hold their breath and release on their first line after “action.” The scene looked freezing cold even though it was shot in the heat of the day in Chatsworth.

    Benjamin stated that the sea of clouds that the space capsule roars through was actually a big set of cotton, fashioned and lit to look like clouds. Much of the lighting was strung LED fixtures that could be run without generators. Everything was fine unless a makeup person turned on a hair dryer and tripped the breaker. Though the film was storyboarded throughout, both Alec and Benjamin worked in a “run and gun manner” to accommodate the opportunities and limitations of the set ups.

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    (Photo by Enrico De Conti)

    Alec charmed the crowd by bringing one of the baby whale puppets used in the picture to the stage and demonstrated the ease of creating a performance in real time with the realistic puppet. He also praised co-producer Camille for handling the challenges of finishing the film for distribution. Camille added that once a distributor is found there are at least a 100 deliverables that need to be accounted for — such as closed captioning and pan and scan — to have a proper package. She mentioned that few filmmakers take this expense and effort into account when they create a film.

    The audience was delighted with the film and expressed a yearning to explore these tangible, traditional and magical methods of creature creation in their own films. Many thanks to Alec, Camille and Benjamin for keeping these special film crafts alive.

    Harbinger Down has been released in theaters and is now available on Pay Per View. See it now…if you dare!

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    September 24, 2015 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 4274

  • Award-Winning Commercial Filmmaker Transitions to Feature Film

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    BrunoWith years of success in the commercial directing world, including a “best advertising” award at the Garden State Film Festival for the commercial Flanm by Coca-Cola and several awards for the advertising campaign Big Shake that has been a viral success on the Internet, New York Film Academy 8-Week graduate, Bruno Mourral, has decided to venture into the world of feature filmmaking.

    Bruno had been working as a professional prior to enrolling at NYFA, but wanted to truly hone his skills over an 8-week summer program. “It helped me strengthen my knowledge of filmmaking,” said Bruno Mourral. “I mostly made good contacts in the filmmaking industry. They gave me the opportunity to partner up and create Maninhat, a production company based in New York City. We worked internationally with several big brands such as Sony, Sports Illustrated, Nissan and others.”

    Since 2005, Bruno has had the idea for his feature, Kidnapping Inc., which he initially intended to have a rather serious tone. During his time at NYFA, he went ahead and worked on an idea for a short-film revolving around the theme of Kidnapping. Though, his tone shifted to that of a dark comedy.

    Last year, Bruno decided to team up with two screenwriters to help him develop a feature based on that short story. “The experience of working with two people who shared the same ideas and passion was great. This helped me bring the movie to a whole other level. Today, we are very pleased with the Kidnapping Inc. script.”

    Based on actual events, Kidnapping Inc. is a dark comedy, satirizing the Haitian society’s epidemic of kidnapping. The movie is about two deliverymen working for the largest kidnapping corporation in Haiti. While delivering the wealthy senator’s son, the duo foolishly misunderstand each other and one of them ends up killing the boy. Trying to fix this mess, they stumble upon the senator’s son look-alike, which sets them on the craziest kidnapping of their lives.

    Bruno is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, in which he hopes to raise $150,000. To learn more about his fundraiser, CLICK HERE.

    If he raises the funds to film the feature, his goal is to introduce the film to several festivals and find distribution deals to make this movie accessible to the world. He also wants this movie to be a premiere for the rebirth of the Haitian film industry.

    Watch below for a sneak peek of Kidnapping Inc.

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    November 11, 2014 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5283

  • NYFA Alum Raises 70k For First Feature

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    Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 12.28.06 PM

    Abigail Schwarz and Nicola Scandiffo

    New York Film Academy alumni, Abigail Schwarz, will be shooting her first feature film, Those Who Wander. The independent comedy, written and directed by Schwarz, is about growing up, growing apart and getting lost along the way. The project recently raised $70,000 through Kickstater and is gearing up for production. Signed on to the project thus far are producer Nicola Scandiffio, executive producer James Frey (Bestselling Author, A Million Little Pieces), cinematographer Elisha Christian (Save the Date), casting director Adrienne Stern (ASC Casting), Emmy Award Winning actress Anna Holbrook, and countless others.

    Abigail is currently still casting and looking for crew in NYC and LA, and the project is part of the SAG Ultra Low Budget Indie Agreement for low budget feature films.

    If you would like to be involved in the film in any context, please contact wanderproduction@gmail.com.

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    July 22, 2013 • #WomenOfNYFA, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5087