When you have dreams of becoming the next Wes Anderson

A first-person account of the International Film Institute of New York’s Five-Week Summer Film Intensive


We can spend a lot of time daydreaming and talking about future plans, but taking action is what will change our lives. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to press pause on life and pursue your interest in film, we welcome you to the International Film Institute of New York. While directors have taken various paths to success (Ava DuVernay, Mira Nair, Wes Anderson to name a few), they have all gone on record about how important it is to learn and absorb as much as possible to get started in filmmaking. IFI offers intensive professional training in a classroom setting to introduce students to the world of moviemaking. Our short term five-week program revolves around STORYTELLING, which is the ability to properly translate the written page onto the screen. Every student will graduate with a final film and the foundational skills necessary to continue working towards a life in film. Instead of us telling you about the experience at IFI, we decided to have an alumna share her thoughts.

Meet Zena from Cairo, Egypt who was a 2016 Summer Filmmaking Intensive student. Zena joined us at Sarah Lawrence College in June for five weeks of screenwriting, directing, lighting, camera tech, casting, editing and production courses.

Why did you choose IFI?  I’m still in high school in Egypt, but I sought out a true filmmaking experience to explore the parts that I found most interesting. I wanted to take my first film course with IFI to learn everything about filmmaking – how it works from writing a screenplay to production and screenings.

What did you work on at IFI?  I wrote my first-ever screenplay, and it was such a cool experience. It is about a guy who is Schizophrenic and makes clay figures. He believes they are real people, but they’re not.

How was your experience making your first film?  It was exciting. I was excited and anxious about the screening of my first film. We worked on it for a long time, so it was fun to share it with other people and see/hear their reactions.

What was the most difficult part of filmmaking for you?  I kept looking over my footage. I’m a perfectionist, and I always want to do better. But, the thing is that most people don’t see the mistakes that you do in your own work. So, the most difficult part of filmmaking for me was seeing my mistakes, knowing what I would improve next time, and accepting it. In the end, I put together the footage that would be the best for my first film.

To see Zena’s and other films from the 2016 Summer Filmmaking Intensive click here.

Our 2017 Summer Filmmaking Intensive (June 25 – July 28) is already filling up. To secure your spot or ask questions, visit www.nyfilmschool.com.


4 Filmmakers Envision Their Art Post-U.S. Election


Well, we weren’t expecting 2016 to turn out this way, but our wheels are turning. If we look back at some of the biggest and most notable films of the past year, there has been no shortage of heated political cinema, inspiring features on social issues and thought-provoking documentaries to get us through this election. These films have laid the groundwork for topics we’re likely to explore in greater detail in 2017 and beyond. Our IFI community took note of a few standout works – in no particular order:

  1. Ava DuVernay’s “13th
  2. Michael Moore’s “TrumpLand
  3. Oliver Stone’s biopic “Snowden
  4. Michael Bay’s war film “13 Hours
  5. Nate Parker’s “Birth of a Nation

Now, the question becomes “Where do we go from here?” As a whole, our IFI community has had time to digest the U.S. Presidential election results and to realize there will be a greater role for us in the coming years.

When we stepped away from reading Facebook feeds, angry tweets and bogus news stories, we chatted with a few IFI instructors to ask “How might the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election influence your work as a filmmaker?” Overwhelmingly, we heard that everyone is inspired to create new art and “hungry” to make a statement with it. You will see from their responses below that we are going to make MORE films that stand for something. We are going to raise our voices louder as a film community and lift up our fellow Americans through our art.

  • “My work has always been spurred by the identity politics of immigrants and minorities in America. Who are we, where are we, what defines us, etc. Although I’m disappointed about the outcome of the election, I’m glad that the harder questions we need to face and ask about ourselves, as people struggling to coexist in this thing called America, is coming to the forefront. There’s a great deal of work to do if we want to live up to the ideals of this country. I think you’ll find a lot of new, unheard voices in these troubling times. Hopefully one of those will be my own.”Stephen Lee, Directing Instructor
  • “Well, I think we’re past the point of ‘might.’ Throughout history, there have been moments where art is needed to bring to the surface whatever reality is trying to subdue. We find ourselves in such a moment. Trump appealed and brought to light America’s worst impulses. Now, it’s on the rest of us to show, to prove, that this is not all what America is. This is a time when we’re called on to do things we may not have done before. This is a time to write and film outside of our comfort zone. This is the time to tell stories that make us connect, because God knows we need to strengthen our empathy for our fellow men. And, it is a moment to make a statement. Not only in the stories we tell but also in how we treat those who work with us in order to make those stories into film. It is time to improve our art and us, ourselves. So today, more than ever, I’ll try harder to be a better person. We stand together; we stick up for the vulnerable. Today, more than ever, stop judging, be kinder, feel empathy, respect women, stop being racist, stop being a bully, stop being homophobic, listen more, argue less and make good art. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” –  Jesús Alarcón, Directing Instructor
  • “The uncertainty surrounding President Elect Trump’s agenda – what he has said he will do, what he really intends to do, and what he is actually able to do – makes it unwise for me to speculate about how my work as a filmmaker will be affected in the next four years, specifically. Generally speaking, filmmakers have the ability, and therefore the duty, to inform and hopefully educate, to entertain and hopefully inspire, and to seek out and amplify otherwise-underrepresented, credible voices. The election was engulfed in misinformation; where we were owed thoughtful discourse, we were instead distracted with name calling for our entertainment; and, credible voices – underrepresented or otherwise – were awash in a sea of much louder, angrier voices. My most recent work, and the work I hope to do moving forward, seeks to help educate children by encouraging them to reach beyond borders and to learn about cultures outside of their own. The anti-intellectualism embodied by the election stands counterpoint to my work and reaffirms the need to take seriously the duties involved with filmmaking.”Stephanie Serra, Producing Instructor
  • This election influences my work on both a creative and a monetary level.  Creatively, I am hungry to edit more truthful factual media and put it out there. I am eager to use my work as both an outlet to express myself, but also a resource to learn more. Something that is clear to me is that I did not really understand my country or what problems that others face are causing so much irreverence and hate speech. And so every day I look to see the footage we take or Americans and listen to them. I also have this unique opportunity to be working at a news organization during an administration that is rather closed to the media and this presents an interesting challenge. Monetarily I must make decisions that will secure my future – this presidency will not be friendly to freelancing. Therefore – I am making choices to move towards more permanent positions in order to secure health insurance and proper tax rates.”Danielle Beeber, Screenwriting Instructor

Without question our community of artists have turned into activists, armed with the power of the pen and the lens. We are hopeful people will come together to support one another, accept each other and keep the American spirit alive and flourishing.