What are your options when you decide to go to film school? Many people would automatically say you’d be best served going to Los Angeles or New York City. Keith Sensing, executive director of the International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT), is hoping to change that. IAFT, located in Cebu, Philippines, offers a variety of programs on moviemaking, including classes on acting, sound design and everything in between. The school provides instruction to students from a wide variety of countries, enabling each learning moviemaker to gain different perspectives and create different films than he or she would if all the students were from, say, Hollywood.
Founded in April of 2004, IAFT affords its students access to a sound stage and post-production facilities, and its students have gone on to work on films developed by the IAFT’s parent company, Bigfoot Entertainment. Recently, Sensing answered MovieMaker’s questions about the benefits of going to film school in Southeast Asia, as well as its relationship with Bigfoot Entertainment and how it benefits IAFT’s students.
Josh Elmets (MM): Being located in Cebu, Philippines, the International Academy of Film and Television must attract a diverse array of both students and faculty. Can you talk about that?
Keith Sensing (KS): IAFT’s students come from all over the world, including India, the United States, Germany, Australia, Canada, Korea, Bhutan, Switzerland, Seychelles, Slovakia, Russia, Ecuador, the Netherlands, England and Ireland, as well as [the] many local Filipinos [who attend]. Our mentors also come from various countries across the world, so they bring a variety of perspectives on film and the entertainment industry that broadens students’ experiences and helps them build a wider global network in the industry once they graduate.
MM: The IAFT is located at a different crossroads of cinema than a film school located in Hollywood. What are some of the benefits of attending film school in Southeast Asia?
KS: IAFT’s vision has always been to cultivate the next generation of global filmmakers, which we believe means nurturing an international perspective on the industry. Our mentors have extensive experience all over the world, and therefore provide a diverse look at various filmmaking styles and experiences outside of Hollywood, as well as inside the Hollywood system. Classes are small and the campus is its own community, both of which foster a lot of collaboration and personal attention.
Our school appeals to students who are seeking an education that will set them apart from people who have a strictly Hollywood background, and [appeals to students] who have a desire for adventure, expanding their breadth of experience and building an international network of contacts.
Additionally, cost and hands-on experience are two other advantages of IAFT. Our competitive tuition and very low cost of living makes IAFT an affordable option [versus] U.S. film schools in particular. Plus, all of our students have the opportunity to participate in real projects going on at Bigfoot Studios and graduate with complete demo reels.
MM: Granted the IAFT is relatively young, can you talk a little bit about what some of your more distinguished graduates have gone on to do in the world of film and television production?
KS: Our graduates have been taking advantage of the global relationships they built at IAFT to work on a wide variety of projects all over the world, and we strongly encourage our students to submit their work to festivals. One recent graduate actually worked as a second assistant director on Deep Gold, a Bigfoot feature film, while still in school, and continued on to work as a second AD on another Bigfoot feature after graduating. Another former student has been working steadily as an actor in upcoming films Disarmed, My Lai Four and the new Bigfoot feature Victim Of Circumstance, and has recently landed roles in three more features as well as commercial work.
Many IAFT graduates have gone on to write, produce and direct their own films, which have won awards at various festivals worldwide, including most recently the New York City Short Film Festival, WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, Chashama Film Festival, Asiana International Short Film Festival and the International Student Film Festival Písek. Other graduates have worked on feature films that have played at the Cannes Film Festival.
MM: What does IAFT offer with regard to both studio and location shooting? Which have students tended to favor?
KS: IAFT students love to explore and shoot footage for their student films at various locations around Cebu, including the markets, beaches, villages and jungles, which ranges from visually stunning and exotic to gritty and stark. We find that the local culture and landscape of Cebu and surrounding islands uniquely inspires students and informs both their stories and actual filming. Additionally, students also can have access to one of our sound stages where they can build their own sets with lighting and sound.
We encourage our students to shoot in studio settings as well as on location, because both are skill sets that are necessary to succeed as filmmakers.
MM: Does tuition cover any production costs for student moviemakers?
KS: As a full-time students, our young filmmakers have free access to IAFT’s high-end digital cameras, grip and lighting equipment and sound gear. Additionally, the school is located at Bigfoot Studios, which encompasses a whole production campus, including sound stages, mixing and editing suites and supplemental facilities. All of our students have access to these amenities for their school projects for an additional fee.
MM: What is the IAFT’s relationship with Bigfoot Entertainment and how does it benefit your students?
KS: The International Academy of Film and Television is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bigfoot Entertainment, which is an international entertainment company producing independent films for the global marketplace. The company finances and develops feature films, documentaries and reality TV shows, many of which have received industry accolades, festival awards and have been distributed throughout the world.
Since Bigfoot Entertainment produces many of its projects at Bigfoot Studios, complete production facilities located in the same location as the IAFT campus, our students have the unique opportunity to participate and work on “real world,” big-budget projects and witness firsthand how professional films, TV shows, commercials and other projects are created from start to finish. Additionally, sometimes our alumni go on to work on Bigfoot projects after they graduate.
MM: Does the IAFT have a relationship with the Cebu locals? If so, how might that translate into opportunities for students? Are students encouraged to intermingle and incorporate the local culture into their projects?
KS: Some recent IAFT students have gone on to produce their own television shows that have aired on local stations in Southeast Asia. Many of our students find stories in the local culture here that they utilize for their storytelling, too.
For more information on the International Academy of Film and Television, visit www.filmschool.ph.