What to Look for in a Film Program

Students Share Why They Chose IFI

Once a year, The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) gathers future filmmakers from all corners of the globe for five weeks of intensive filmmaking.


The students who enroll range from curious newcomers to the self-taught and experienced. Every summer, they assemble on the leafy campus of Sarah Lawrence College, just outside New York City, where staff at IFI give hours of instruction and hands-on training.

There they receive the tools, skills and confidence to continue on their filmmaking journey.

So, why should you come to IFI? Our students say it best. Here’s ten reasons why, out of all the film schools and courses to choose from, this year’s crop of students say our program was the right fit for them:


“I want learn more about directing, screenwriting and also technical stuff that I haven’t gotten the chance to learn back in my country. I’ve taken a few film classes at university but I’m going to take it more seriously in the coming year. (IFI) has helped me realize I really want to focus on film.” – Sirada, 20, Thailand.

“I know I’m interested in film but I don’t know if it’s a hobby or a career … I think [IFI] is the best scenario to (figure that out) in because you’re actually doing it. It’s a pretty deep crash course.” – India, 16, Shelbyville, Ky.

“I’m self-taught so I’m here to hone my craft and learn the right way.” – Alex, 25, Dallas, Tx.

“I wanted to switch it up and come to New York, that was a big draw.” – Liam, 18, Fairfax, Va.

“I found [#IFI] and it’s close and I just thought I might as well do it now before college just to see if this is something I want to do.” – Alexa, 17, Scarsdale, Ny.

“IFI welcomes people from all over. I was interested to study filmmaking in the U.S. to see how other people write, direct and edit.” Ariana, 25, Peru

“I’m really, really, really interested in this field, and I want to be a part of it. I just really want to learn.” – Harry, 14, Stony Brook, Ny.

“[IFI had] so much of what I wanted to do: Being able to make films and being able to use the real equipment and learn the real methods and strategies and figuring out ways to express my ideas.” – Matthew, 16, Scarsdale, Ny.

“It’s fun finally learning how to do hands-on stuff [in film].’” Chelsea, 17, Bronx, Ny.

“To get to be involved in everything, to see what it’s really like and to get as real an experience as possible, that was an absolute selling point for me.” – Tom, 16, Red Hook, Ny.

IFI is currently accepting students for its 2017-2018 Winter Schedule offering one-day seminars and multi-day courses. Early registration for IFI’s 2018 Summer Filmmaking Intensive will be posted at http://www.nyfilmschool.com soon.

The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com

Is Film School For Me?

Back to school with IFI

As the sun sets in the sky ever earlier and a chill creeps into the air, it signals the time has come to head back to school. But, with the end of carefree summer days comes the excitement and back-to-business buzz of fall. Sharpen your pencils because International Film Institute of New York (IFI) founder Misael Sanchez is here to take you to school on the benefits of studying film. Whether you’re a teen testing the waters, a passionate filmmaker considering a graduate degree, or an adult looking to learn a new skill, Misael’s got you covered from immersive courses to film school, and how to evaluate the options:

What are the benefits of attending a film school?

Misael Sanchez: First, it is an opportunity to completely immerse yourself into something you are passionate about and be able to devote 100% of yourself to making films. Of course, if you are attending an undergraduate program that requires you to complete other degree requirements you’d still have to balance, that’s still an amazing opportunity. Second, you surround yourself with like-minded individuals working toward the same goal. Yes, it is fun gathering your friends and making them act and work behind the camera for you. But, in film school there is no arm twisting. You fuel each other’s creativity and spend several years developing relationships that will last long after graduation. This is definitely the one aspect of school that I have witnessed be the greatest benefit. And lastly, some might consider this the most important, you get to work with faculty that have been in the field for years and can provide you the support and guidance to find your voice. Equipment and facilities, to me, do not make a film school great. Yes, it is nice to work with good cameras and have lights and sound production resources, but to base your choices on what school to attend based solely on that is not something I would encourage.

Misael WorkshopWhat advice do you have for younger students (i.e., teens, undergraduates)?

MS: My advice to young people considering film as a career is to make sure this is right for you before committing time and money. Filmmaking is not cheap. Tuition alone is enough to send you to the ER. On top of that, you have the costs associated with your projects followed by years of trial and error to make it all come together. Find a way to explore what film has to offer. Consider short term programs to test the waters. It is definitely not all about the red carpet. Filmmaking is a job that takes commitment.

What advice do you have for older students (i.e., adults, graduate candidates)?

MS: There is also something very interesting about adults entering the field. There is a very strong desire to succeed and make it happen fast because you are not a recent college grad and you believe you have more experience to make it happen. My biggest advice for adults is to leave the ego at the door and take in the experience. As adults we pretty much know who we are and what we want to express about ourselves and the world we live in. Make every effort to open your mind to different interpretations of your world and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Allow for mistakes. Most of all, allow yourself to let someone else show you something new. Maybe it won’t be as groundbreaking as you might want but it will be different.

What are some other programs or courses available without the full-time commitment of film school?

MS: Aside from our immersive IFI courses that cover all aspects of the process from script to screen, there are other degree programs that could offer opportunities. Researching and making sure a program fits your needs is key to a positive experience. Online direct student reviews are a great way to read about what others have experienced. Filmschool.org is a great third-party website where students give honest reviews of their experiences. It is where we tell our students to go when we have inquiries about our classes. Also, when communicating with the programs, you should feel like you are being respected as a prospective student. There are never too many questions and the answers should flow. From my perspective, when we discuss our courses with students we see it as an interview process that goes both ways. Are we right for you and what you hope to get from school and are you right for what we provide? We never hesitate to tell a students that maybe our curriculum is not what they need right now. Or, perhaps, you need something longer term.  Best we tackle these questions before you register to make sure our time together is fruitful and a pleasant experience.

The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com 

Seminar at New Rochelle High School

Last month, as part of our continuing series of information seminars, Misael Sanchez, our Founder and Director, held a tutorial at New Rochelle High School in Anthony Stirpe’s film class. Under the heading “Fundamentals Of Lighting,” the wide-ranging session covered the following areas: Situating Your Lights (where to put them); Appropriate Equipment (matching tools to project scale); Creativity (making the most of materials on hand); and Lighting As Story Element (incorporating lighting as a story element). IMG_6366Also touched upon was the subject of choosing the right college that led to Misael engaging in a one-on-one with a student concerning methods of researching options and making the best decision. The reaction to the seminar was, according to two attendees, highly positive. Rebecca Dubin said, “I had so much fun . . . I learned so much. Thank you, Misael,” and Megan Maria stated, “I am currently trying to figure out exactly which area of film I want to study when I get to college. This was an amazingly informative session. After talking to Misael, I have a clearer picture of the areas of film that interest me. I am more excited than ever.” An overview and the effectiveness of the seminar was offered by teacher Anthony Stirpe: “I teach film to ninth and twelfth graders in New Rochelle, New York. When looking for a group to partner with, it was clear the International Film Institute of New York was the best in town. I was amazed with the significant experience that Misael Sanchez created for my students. It was a fantastic hands-on seminar, and the students were enthralled with his exciting and dynamic presentation. I hope that this is the beginning of something great! I can’t wait to have them back again to work with my students.” Further seminars are definitely in the future. As Donella Alanwick, Managing Director commented, “It’s always great when we have the opportunity to visit schools and meet students who are looking to further their studies in film and media.”

College Mentorship Seminar Held In January

IMG_5444On the evening of Wednesday, January 14th, IFI held a free, thanks to the sponsorship of Abel Cine, College Mentorship Seminar with the aim, as Misael Sanchez, Founder and President, stated, “To help young filmmakers make informed decisions that can affect their entire academic experience. The fact is a bit of information goes a very long way when deciding on film schools especially with tuition and related expenses bring what they are.”

The components of the seminar, along with several parenthetical comments by attendees, consisted of an overview of the script to screening production process (“Looking forward to making films”-Elizabeth), a summary of the differences between West Coast and East Coast filmmaking (“I was enlightened about certain misconceptions I had coming in”-Rachel), the professional elements of an application portfolio, an essential list of what NOT to do on an application, and fundamentals to consider once a student has been accepted and how to make the best use of time in a program (“I found everything so helpful. You answered even questions that I didn’t have. Thank you so much for coming up with this seminar”-Angeliki”)

In retrospect, the seminar was a ringing success since the endeavor, as Donella Alanwick, Managing Director, avowed it “gave students a invaluable sense of control over the application process.” Plans for further seminars are in the works.

Program Alum Wins Young Arts Award

Timothy Vaughn, who participated in our summer 2014 intensive course, has been selected as a 2015 National Young Arts Foundation Merit Winner in both Cinematic Arts and Writing: Screenplay for Play or Video.

The prestigious awards, with thousands of entrants, are sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Program and winning encompasses, among other benefits, regional meetings, master classes, exhibition opportunities, and use as a credential on college and scholarship applications.

We congratulate Timothy and appreciate his kind words when notifying us of his awards: “This gives me yet another opportunity to say ‘Thank You’ to all of you for your guidance, support and encouragement during the IFI intensive this past summer.”

Film School Basics


Our New Logo

Why am I doing this? What do I know about this?  I’ll tell you.  One year working at a film workshop program, three years teaching at a top liberal arts school, 12 years running my own film program, and 15 Years working and teaching at one of the top graduate film schools in the country.  Having that varied experience at these different institutions, I think, makes me realize one thing…this can all be done differently.  What do I mean by that?  Well, that’s why I started this and will continue until my entire thought is processed.  Every program has pluses and minuses.  Each has something it does great. Some have great instructors, some great facilities, great marketing, great curriculum, but none have been able to take the best of what is out there and been able to weave it all together.  I’m not saying it can be done but I do think it can be something that we should be strive for.  I’ve seen the good and want to bring the good forward.  But what will it take?  How can it be done?  One thing I do know for sure is this… Eliminate Bureaucracy!  Too many cooks in this arena is the worst thing that can happen to a film school.  But that is something I will cover later.  This is just the beginning.  In the end my actions will speak much louder than this page.  The school I have been running for the past ten years is a testament to my quest for a program that offers students an experience that provides a complete and seriously productive filmmaking environment.  Where I go from today is what excites me.