For Jerry Sherlock, nothing compares to hands-on experience–the thrill of moviemaking while holding the camera and playing with fire. So he founded the New York Film Academy in 1992 with the hope of offering all ranges of artists the opportunity to get quality instruction in the heart of the indie scene. The facilities offer one-year and shorter programs as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees (only in the Universal Studios location), exposing their students to a variety of cinematic styles and the wisdom of many successful industry figures.

Andre Ward (MM): Recently you added 30 Panasonic AG-HVX200 P2 cameras to your stock for students to use. How important do you think it is for moviemakers to keep up with the latest technology? Or is technology overrated when it comes to learning the craft of moviemaking?

Jerry Sherlock: As a school educating future filmmakers to be the best, most creative filmmakers they can be, we feel we must make sure we’re exposing students to current technologies. However, it is true that technology will not make you a great filmmaker. If someone tells a fantastic, well-told story with a home movie camera, someone will want to see that film.

While we introduce our students to new technologies, we make great attempts to have them understand that the most important part of any film is the story. Without a good story and without an understanding of how to put shots together effectively to tell that story, you can’t make a good film–no matter how great the camera. That being said, the P2 system is great! We have had students shooting, uploading and editing on the set due to the P2 pipeline.

MM: With a booming indie scene, there are many quality film schools in New York; what makes the New York Film Academy stand out from the pack?

JS: Firstly, I don’t know if any other institution approaches filmmaking with the philosophy of “learning by doing” in the same way we do. In every film program, students have a camera in their hands on day one, and they’re shooting their own short film within a week. Secondly, our curricula are the best you can find and we’re continually revising them to be better and better. And in this mix is our faculty; we work hard to get instructors who love the craft, have fantastic backgrounds and experience, are very much involved in the industry and, on top of it all, can teach. The combination of these things makes the students’ experience at the Film Academy one that would be hard to match elsewhere.

MM: With New York being so diverse, it has a lot to offer moviemakers. How do the programs take advantage of the city to offer students something unique?

JS: We encourage location shooting as much as possible on both students’ own shoots and during in-class exercises. The richness and variety of locations in New York City is unparalleled, and we want our students to take advantage of that. There is nothing like shooting on the streets of Manhattan, in the greenery of Central Park, in the historic neighborhoods of Harlem, in the gritty urbanity of the Meatpacking district, in the cultural wonderland of Chinatown, in the hustle and bustle of Wall Street. These backdrops help shape characters and stories, and inspire creativity. It’s been said before, but there’s no place like it in the world.

MM: A lot of notable figures in the industry have passed through the school to share their wisdom with students. Who have been some of your favorite guest speakers in the program and why?

JS: I appreciate every professional who comes through the Film Academy doors to share with our students his or her knowledge and experiences in the industry, so it’s hard for me to say which among them were my favorites. The list includes names like Paul Haggis, Thelma Schoonmaker, Kevin Kline, Brett Ratner, Laszlo Kovacs, Ben Stiller, Philippe Rousselot, Jon Voight, Kenneth Lonergan and it goes on and on. Each one has such wonderful insights and stories to share, and I thank them for selflessly taking time out of their schedules to speak at the school.

MM: What do you see in the future for the New York Film Academy; how will the school continue to grow?

JS: The Academy continues to expand both our programs and our facilities. Most recently, we have joined forces with NBC News to offer truly unique programs in Digital Journalism, and in February 2008 the doors will open at our newest year-round film school in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This past year we were invited to teach programs in Budpest, Bilbao, Sol, Shanghai and at the Guggenheim Museum among other locals.

Regardless, we have one mission for the future, and that is to continue to dedicate ourselves to offering the best possible education in all of the filmmaking crafts.

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