Starting Point: A Short Q&A About A Short Film’s Journey to Festival

Oh, what a difference a year can make! It hasn’t yet been a full 365 days since filmmaker Sirada Tritruengtassana first walked onto the campus of Sarah Lawrence College to attend the International Film Institute of New York’s summer filmmaking course. In the months since “graduating” from the five-week intensive film program, Sirada has hit the ground running with her short film that was created in the summer of 2017, entering it into several international festivals.

In the Q&A below, #IFI caught up with Sirada the weekend of her film’s debut at the International New York Film Festival in Manhattan (and, she won Silver!!!).

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  1. Why are you a filmmaker?  I love telling a story. For me, making a film is like projecting my dream into moving pictures.
  2. Can you describe your film in three sentences?  I think three sentences will reveal everything in my five-minute short film. So, I  will give you three words : a girl, invisible, and murder.
  3. What was the best thing about making your film?  The best thing is my team. They are so awesome. I became friends with them in such a short time because we had gone so much together during the shoot. Without them, I don’t think I could have made this film happen.
  4. What was the worst thing about making your film?  Well, every shoot has its own struggle. My struggle was my first actress walked away from my set before we even began shooting. It was hard for me, but it also made me learn how to adapt with the situation and keep going — even without the lead actress. I think I have become a good problem solver after that [experience].
  5. Why did you decide to enter your film in INYFF? Are you planning to enter it into any other festivals?  Actually, I have entered my film, Invisible Murder, into a lot of festivals and INYFF is one of them. I chose this festival because it supports minorities in the film industry – both female and international filmmakers.
  6. What are the next plans for you and your film?  I’m still waiting for some festivals to reply for this film, and my new film that I just made this year. I’m also planning on making a new film this July. It’s going to be different from my current films and relating more about my tradition and culture.
  7. Who is your filmmaking inspiration?  don’t think I have anyone in particular. Anyone or anything can inspire me to make film.

If you’re considering a career in film or pursuing an interest within the industry, IFI has several summer courses to suit your needs. Visit www.nyfilmschool.com to learn more about the Five-Week Summer Filmmaking Collective, One-Week Introduction to Filmmaking and those with very little free time, the Two-Day Introduction to Filmmaking.

New York City vs. Los Angeles – The Filmmaker’s Conundrum

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New York City owes a lot of its glamorous, iconic status to film. From King Kong climbing the Empire State Building to Robert De Niro’s You talkin’ to me? in Taxi Driver, the greatest city on earth is great in part because filmmakers have flocked here for generations to imprint New York in all its loud, proud glory on celluloid for generations to come. After all, New York City is a movie in itself – a rom-com walk in Central Park one moment, a Woody Allen gabfest the next, and navigating the crowds near the Rockefeller Christmas tree during the holidays can quickly turn into a nightmarish thriller.

But for the second year in a row, blockbuster movies filmed in New York have declined.

Of the top 100 highest-grossing domestic feature films released in theaters last year, only six were made in the Empire State, according to a study released May 23 by nonprofit organization Film L.A., whose mission is to keep production in Los Angeles. The number, which is down from seven the previous year and from a peak of 12 in 2014, puts New York in sixth place.

Georgia had the most top-grossing motion pictures with 17, followed by the United Kingdom with 16 and Canada with 13. California hosted 12 blockbusters, which put it fourth.

So what’s behind the trend?

“New York has become a TV town,” Film L.A.’s lead researcher, Adrian McDonald, told Crain’s New York. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The budgets on many one-hour shows rival that of large movies.”

According to the study, the state has so much television production that overall it ranked second in total film and TV production spending with an estimated $5 billion to $6 billion after California, where an estimated $30 billion is spent on production annually.

020.JPGIndeed, the sheer variety of production in New York City is what keeps Misael Sanchez, founder and director of the International Film Institute of New York based in the city that never sleeps. He lived and worked in L.A. for a two-year stint in 2011 and ‘12 before returning to New York.

“My personal experience with the two towns is a perfect example of why new opportunities seem to be opening in New York,” Sanchez says. “New York is more than movies. It has fashion, advertising, corporations, health organizations, small businesses, theater, all looking for content. Filling that production void is what called me back east.”

So where should an aspiring filmmaker put down roots – New York or L.A.? It’s an age old question that Sanchez fields from students every year.

As a film professor I spend quite a bit of time discussing with my students the opportunities related to staying here or moving out west,” says Sanchez, who spent 15 years as a professor and director of production at Columbia’s Graduate School of Film before moving to Sarah Lawrence College to teach film production.

“Both cities offer incredible opportunities in the television, film, and theater industry. L.A. is known for being the heart of the film industry but New York has always been a city for independent filmmaking. Everything about the city’s resources lends itself to the smaller budget projects,” he says. “That, in turn, provides opportunities for up and coming filmmakers. In addition, being in a town where everything is relatively close to everything else makes networking and meeting others outside of your field much more accessible.”

The other driving factor behind production location is simply the bottom line: New York’s $420 million annual tax-incentive program is a huge attraction, but it only covers so-called “below-the-line costs” such as crew salaries and production expenses. The tax incentive in Georgia offers 30% on the entire movie budget, including star salaries, and has no annual cap.

But when you need to set a story in New York, there’s no substitute for the real thing. And New York City’s scrappy reputation means it will always be home for young, hungry artists.  

“I do feel that the best is yet to come,” Sanchez says. “More opportunities are on the horizon as film professionals continue to call New York City and the surrounding cities home base. Los Angeles will always be a huge part of what makes the film industry but New York is what will keep the torch alive and moving into the future.”


Misael Sanchez: Founder and director of instruction at The International Film Institute of New York, currently working in collaboration with Sarah Lawrence College. BFA, New York University. Certificate in Producing, The New School. Recent production credits include a feature-length documentary, Last Call (director and cinematographer), now in post-production and producer on the feature-length narrative, Central Avenue, scheduled to cast Marisa Tomei and Lorraine Bracco. A book-in-progress on cinematography lighting techniques is titled Lighting Tricks and ShortCuts. Staff member, faculty member, and head of the cinematography concentration at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Division, where he supervises students on thesis productions. Past work includes four one-hour specials on Latinos in the media for network television, short documentary projects, films, music videos, and industrials. SLC, 2009–

 

 

 

Inside An IFI Workshop: Acting For Film

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On a recent sunny, spring day in New York City, a pack of fresh-faced young actresses were busy honing their craft. Up a creaky set of stairs and past a white door to a sun-filled second-floor downtown acting studio, rows of young women wearing matching black T-shirts sat in plastic chairs intently watching as, two-by-two, they took turns performing scenes they had memorized overnight. Bright Australian accents filled the whitewashed studio.

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The group of 20 young drama students had traveled all the way from Sydney, where they study at the independent, all-girls MLC School, to participate in an International Film Institute (IFI) workshop on acting for the screen. It was part of a larger two-and-a-half week tour of New York City and Los Angeles that would take them to Broadway plays, Lincoln Center, behind the scenes at Hollywood studios and inside the offices of talent agents and other industry professionals.

IFI instructor Magdalen Zinky gave the girls direction while Kate Montgomery, who teaches camera at IFI, operated a camera trained on each duo’s faces.

“Thank you both for your micro-expressions,” Zinky complimented two girls after they finished a scene from the movie Juno. “There’s a lot going on right here, a lot of facial expressions and raised eyebrows.”

IMG_2640.JPGZinky explained the difference between film and stage acting.

With stage acting, it’s a full-body experience where the emotions have to show through the entire body, whereas with film acting, the main action of it happens in the face. Of course, the body is still important, but the camera is genius at picking up micro-expressions, and that’s where the actor’s focus needs to be.”

Lisa Jinga, head of drama and dance at the MLC School said the dance and drama tour took them three years to plan, and when their tour company asked what they wanted to do, she knew she wanted her girls to have an acting for the camera experience. Naturally, they reached out to IFI, which specializes in teaching every aspect of the film industry, from directing to on-camera work, to aspiring film professionals from all over the globe.

“On  film, every little nuance, glance on your face, it’s much smaller-scale realism,” Jinga said, echoing Zinky. “It’s what happening in your heart and showing on your face. It’s a different interaction with the audience. We want (our students) to get the idea of perfecting the smallest movement.”

The arts, drama and entertainment are very popular programs at the school, where students put on large scale productions, but hands-on, real-life experience of a lesser-practiced skill is invaluable, Jinga said.

“We try to teach them what we call the director’s ‘vision’ for stage and film,” Jinga says. “You’re coming into a partnership with the director, but you’re the interpreter of the vision. It’s valuable experience to work with a director. You’re in the real world and you have to be on time.”

IMG_2590Sabina Tom, 16, relished the challenge of learning a scene overnight and performing for a real-world director the next day.

“I feel like it’s really cool getting to work with people who do this for a living, to work with industry professionals,” Sabina said. “It’s an experience a lot of people don’t have, so I’m grateful.”

It was worthwhile experience for the visiting teachers at the workshop as well, said Kate Caron, the Head of Grade 7 at MLC.

IMG_2645“What’s really valuable for us as teachers is watching the way the directors are working with the girls,” she said. “All the things we say to them over and over, ‘You have to be off-book,’ asking them to improvise, it’s not just us being persnickety. It’s great to see little things being reinforced in a professional environment.”

New York City, itself, is a wonderful acting laboratory, Jinga added. Touring around the city over the past few days, she had pointed out film locations from Gossip Girl territory on the Upper East Side to the famous streets of Little Italy where many Godfather scenes took place.

“I thought it would be great to do some film work here in New York where so many iconic movies have been set,” Jinga said. “To think about Midnight Cowboy, one of the first films to shoot on the streets of New York, not on the back lot of a studio, New York to me is the home of where those films took place. “I’m walkin’ heeyah!” she hollered, doing her best Ratso Rizzo impression.

“This for them is a completely new and different experience and where else would you want to do it than New York? It’s an authentic experience,” said Caron. “You come here and there’s a sense that, ‘Wow, these are real professionals, this is really happening,’ and they rise to the challenge.”

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Mac McCown, a 16-year-old drama student at MLC said she appreciated learning from two women on the other side of the camera lens during the day’s workshop. “The numbers of women in the film industry are so disappointing. It’s so important especially at this young age to see women working in a male dominated profession,” she said.

“We can relate to them and think, ‘We can do that,’” added her classmate, Emma Rutherford, also 16.

Zinky gave the girls a glowing review.

“They did marvelously!” she said. “I was impressed with the overall quality of the students’ commitment and their level of professionalism both on screen and off.”

Jinga pronounced the day’s workshop a success, as well. “It’s been absolutely fantastic,” she said. “It’s opening (our students’) eyes and it’s so different than what we’ve done in previous workshops. They got a very personal, intense experience.”

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In addition to our summer courses, IFI offers short term seminars and special programs in New York City. Wonder what goes into making a film? Considering going to Film School?  Is filmmaking for you? Our One-Week programs are designed as a comprehensive overview of the process of making films from script through Screening. Along with our
informative seminars, we also have the opportunity to create special workshops and sessions for interested students and visiting groups. All of our courses are presented by film professionals in their respective fields. http://www.nyfilmschool.com