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Hands-on-Moviemakers

Hands-on-Moviemakers

Articles - Education

New York Film Academy students
Students take part in a New York
Film Academy acting course.

Deeming itself the “hands-on film school” since opening
its doors 10 years ago, the New York Film Academy has been dedicated to the belief that “a top-quality education in
filmmaking should be accessible to anyone with the drive and ambition
to make films.” Though the film boasts its lineage as the alma mater
of many Hollywood moviemakers and their families (with Steven Spielberg’s
son and Sergei Eisenstein’s son being just two of their attendees),
the school is dedicated to helping anyone interested in cinema-famous or not-achieve
their cinematic potential. Just how widely the backgrounds of their
students differ is evidenced by the two individuals interviewed
here: Don Boner, a 59-year-old information technology professional
from the Midwest, and Peter Cohen, a 26-year-old former production
assistant and short moviemaker, discuss their NYFA experiences.

Jennifer Wood (MM): When did you first begin
attending classes at NYFA, and how many classes have you taken so
far?

Don Boner (DB): I attended the four-week workshop
in April, 2002. The four-week workshop covered all aspects of film
production.

Peter Cohen (PC): I did the one-year directing
program starting January, 2001. I did the one-month acting program
in September, 2001. They also created an advanced program for me,
which I just finished.

MM: What has been your favorite class, and why?

DB: All classes and instructors were great,
but I especially liked the directing class that Bryan Norton taught
and the production class that Heng-Tatt Lim taught.

PC: Probably the general directing classes,
as this is most specifically relevant to what I want to do-direct.
But I found all the classes really useful, as everything (lighting,
sound design, etc,) is important to a director-and they covered
all of that.

MM: When deciding on a film education path, what
led you to NYFA? What were some of the major concerns and considerations
you had, and how did NYFA address those?

DB: I narrowed down my choice to the summer,
six-week workshop that NYU offered or the workshop that NYFA offered.
Because the four-week workshop started every month, I selected NYFA.
I had some concern about my age-that is, being able to keep up physically
with the rigors in regards to a six- or seven-day study week.

This is a true story: on the last weekend we were
shooting, we worked all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A cold
front and moved into NYC and on Saturday and Sunday it was cold
and damp. Sunday we walked all over the East Village shooting this
person’s film. On our way back to the apartment where I was staying
a young man from India turned to me and told me that he was beat
and looked forward to soaking in a hot tub. I turned to him and
said ‘Wait 30 years and then tell me you’re tired!’ (He was 30 years
younger than me.) So I was able to keep up with the ‘kids’ in the
program. I remember my directing instructor telling me I wasn’t
the oldest person to take classes at NYFA by a long shot.

PC: A number of people recommended the NYFA
to me. When the president of the University College London Film
Society and a director who I was working as a production assistant
for said I should go (Philip Goodhew, who directed the features Intimate Relations and Another Life), I thought
it seemed like a good option. Also, I checked up on all the top
films schools and this seemed the most intensive and hands-on.

MM: In
one sentence: why New York Film Academy?

DB: NYFA offers a convenient, accelerated exposure
to all aspects of film and digital production as well as acting
and other aspects of the film business.

PC: I like the NYFA because it is very hands-on
and the instructors are great.

MM: You’ve talked about specific instructors, but
how would you rate the overall quality of instruction at NYFA? They
refer to themselves as a “Hands-On Film School.” How else have you
seen that claim play out in your own experiences there?

DB: The instructors were all terrific. They all had impressive credentials as well as real world
experience. On the first day of class I had a camera in my hands
and shot some footage, learning about focus, setting the aperture,
etc.

PC: It’s very hands-on. You get your hands
on equipment the first day. You get to direct your first short film
in the first week. There is a huge amount of equipment-I never had
the problem that I wanted to shoot but there wasn’t a piece of equipment
available. The instructors are great. They are all working professionals,
so they know the industry well. They are all very enthusiastic.

MM: How would you describe the general philosophy
of the school, its students and its staff?

DB: The school, that is the instructors and
staff, all want each student to succeed in their efforts to learn
about film production.

PC: Again, it’s just a hands-on film school
with high quality instruction.

MM: The NYC moviemaking community is famous for
being a very tight-knit group. What sort of effect do you think
NYFA’s location has on its students-and the creativity and/or inspiration
of those who attend classes here?

DB: Of course NYC is a great place to find
locations, stories and inspiration. I used some great aspiring actors
in my films. NYFA found me a wonderful apartment near the school
and close to all the action of Union Square and the East Village.

PC: Union Square is a good location and there
are so many facilities nearby. It feels very much in the heart of
things.

MM: What are you hoping to do with your film education
in the future? How is NYFA helping you address those goals?

DB: That’s tough to answer. I am not sure if
moviemaking will be a vocation or an avocation. All I know is I
am hooked on moviemaking. I’ve written, produced and directed two
short films and one feature since returning to Indianapolis last
May. My education didn’t end at the NYFA-it started there. With
each project and each filmmaking book I study, I continue the process
of honing my filmmaking skills.

PC: I want to launch myself as a full-time
director immediately. And the NYFA has given me everything I need
in order to do that. They even did these useful classes on ‘Life
after the NYFA.’

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