The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Financially Hobbled for Life” in which they talk about film school graduates who leave their programs $100K – $300k in debt. Now these were master’s degrees, but this problem impacts graduates at all levels.
It’s. Not. Worth. It.
No one in the film and media industry cares about a fancy degree. They want people who know how to function on set. You can get that experience without going into massive debt. So don’t trade your future for those Film Schools.
We succeed when you succeed. It’s been our driving force for the 20 years we’ve been educating students.
Whether you’re interested in Directing, Cinematography, Screenwriting, Editing, Sound Recording, Producing or VFX. We teach you how to work in every area of the film/television industry, while allowing you to specialize in your preferred path.
If you would like to know more about our school and programs, come check us out in one of our Open Houses.
Jamaal Green, a former DFA student – completed both the first year and advance program in filmmaking. We spoke to him about what he’s working on, and how his experience at the school helped to shape his career in film.
“We had access to equipment from day one which was huge and we also had some really good instructors. I wouldn’t have advanced, technically and skill set wise if I didn’t go to DFA and also because the people that I met there.”
How has DFA prepared you for life after grad?
“DFA helped me organize as a filmmaker. It helped me to be a self starter and to keep pushing, that was huge. Going there helped me realized that it’s not just going to happen for you and that you have to really push it. DFA really gave us a lot of tools, and how well you did there was up to you. They gave you everything you needed. We had access to equipment from day one which was huge and we also had some really good instructors. I wouldn’t have advanced, technically and skill set wise if I didn’t go to DFA and also because the people that I met there. The networking was huge. I still keep in contact with a lot of the students that graduated around the time I was there. I’m still do productions with one of my classmates. We have a small production company called MG Cinecraft.“
What are you currently working on?
“My main focus right now is a web series, The concept started when I was still at DFA and web series was kind of a new thing. One of our assignments was to create a web series and so I created something, which back then was called “Chronicles Of A Profiler.” As of now its been revamped and it’s just called “Chronicles Of.” It’s basically an ensemble crime thriller about a bunch of different characters in different locations spread across the region between New York and Philadelphia, and how their lives intersect when total corruption takes over. Everything kicks off when a string of murders that starts happening throughout the tri-state sets of a chain reaction that starts to expose all the things that’s been going on politically and socially in the underbelly for a while.”
What has the response been like to “Chronicles Of?”
We just recently participated in the Winter International Film Awards in New York. We won best web series. It’s been long time, we actually started full production, maybe two years ago, and we’ve been in post production for the last year or so. Finally we took the first episode and entered it into the film festivals. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well we’ve done. We’ve also been in the New Jersey Web Fest, which we did well in, and as a result of how we performed there we got a direct selection into the Apulia Web Fest in Italy in May. We will be showing at the Garden State Film Festival on March 28th and also in the Miami Web Film Festival on May 14th. We’re still waiting to hear back from some others, and we’re just now starting to enter the other episodes as well. We’re very happy with how it came out.
We have eight episodes that are about 15 minutes each and a finale that’s about 45 minutes. So when it’s all together is a two and a half hour long feature. I’ve written enough to do four seasons, depending on how it’s received. The ultimate goal is to flip it into television.
Stayed tuned with Jamaal, MG CineCraft and Chronicles Of here –
Some people are more interested in what goes on behind the scenes than others. In the film industry there are many careers and positions one might strive to achieve. Digital Film Academy based in Manhattan, New York knows what it takes to become a successful expert in multiple aspects of filmmaking including Editing, Cinematography, Lighting, Animation, Sound Production, Visual Effects and more. Digital Film Academy was established in 2001 by film producer and director Patrick DiRenna in the historic Film Center Building in Manhattan. Since that time, the school has turned countless graduates into independent filmmakers or actors with new prestigious careers.
From graduates who starred in blockbuster Marvel films, such as Chadwick Boseman, to several graduates who worked on films commissioned by Netflix, Digital Film Academy has numerous success stories. People interested in film or television can easily work on their production skills through courses at our school. Our institution is known as one of the leading art & design colleges in New York City with a focus on film. People searching for filmmaking classes online can experience and observe our courses in action and make sure it’s the right fit for them before making a commitment. Digital Film Academy has achieved global recognition and was also named ‘Best Film School in NYC’ by Village Voice.
One of the unique advantages of going to Digital Film Academy,
is that you get a head start on your career after graduation, which includes free
lifetime usage of their state-of-the-art video equipment and facilities.
The programs at Digital Film Academy do not put a strain on
students in terms of tuition and the school provides many resources to boost
the new careers of graduates. Courses include Film History, Screenwriting, Directing,
Cinematography, Video Editing, Career and Portfolio Development, Producing, and
Our instructors and students use industry-leading software to train with such as Avid Media Composer, Pro Tools, Adobe Premiere Pro, Davinci Resolve, Maya 3D Animation, and Movie Magic. Anyone with an interest in photography or filmmaking can advance their skills easily using Digital Film Academy’s refined curriculum.
Students are taken through hands-on training with the critical
theory and foundation that transforms beginner level film students into professional
filmmakers. The One-Year
Digital Filmmaking Conservatory is a popular course offered by the
university. Digital Film Academy continues to be the innovative force behind
new filmmaking professionals breaking out in the industry.
Behind The Black Panther: Film School Founder Recalls Early Days Of Chadwick Boseman
Travis Bean, Forbes Contributor
When Patrick DiRenna talks about what makes for a great performance in a film, he speaks of emotional clarity; facial expressions; screen presence; controlling the audience.
But going beyond the mere components of acting, DiRenna views a great performance as a result of great filmmaking: the camera is in sync with the actor; the characters are well- developed; the direction is dictating the performance.
At the Digital Film Academy, that’s what DiRenna hopes students will learn: filmmaking is a team effort. And with that mentality, you can go far in the industry.
“You can make it big,” says DiRenna. “That’s what Chadwick did.”
Yeah, that’s right. Patrick DiRenna, the president and founder of Digital Film Academy in New York City, is talking about that Chadwick. One of his former students, the star of Black Panther—Chadwick Boseman.
With a new slew of future filmmakers set to attend the academy this September—with a second location opening in Atlanta due to attendance growth—DiRenna is looking back on what prepped the school’s most well-known graduate for success in the film industry.
DiRenna, a mentor to Boseman at the time, taught the upcoming star of 21 Bridges “acting for directors.” DiRenna saw the confidence behind Boseman’s performance and knew he had the potential to break out.
“He came here talented, focused, sharp,” DiRenna says.
That poise would certainly take Boseman far, but DiRenna says the actor’s willingness to learn and grow as a performer while attending the academy is what set him up for success.
“Thurgood Marshall is no slouch,” DiRenna says, recalling one of the many prominent African American figures Boseman has inhabited since graduating from Digital Film Academy. On top of portraying the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice, Boseman played Jackie Robinson in 42 and James Brown in Get On Up.
“For me, from a tactical point of view, it’s about who they are,” DiRenna says. “These are three historical figures with big differences between them. If you really want to become these characters, you have to really be willing to take it on.”
Boseman’s versatility and range doesn’t surprise DiRenna, who remembers Boseman as a spot- on student. “Serious and not overly formal,” DiRenna describes Boseman, who has the range of Gary Oldman and the screen presence of Keanu Reeves. Boseman’s capacity to occupy Thurgood Marshall or James Brown goes beyond the ability to mimic those men’s gestures, movement and tone—DiRenna says it requires a quiet, steadied occupation of their being.
“I remember his face and the level of concentration in his eyes. You could see internal processes working,” DiRenna recalls. “At that time he was building himself. I could see he was putting the pieces together.”
But not everybody can find success because of their gripping screen presence. And, really, Boseman’s striking performances are benefitted by the players around him, DiRenna claims. Filmmaking is a collective experience between many professionals working together—and DiRenna’s academy strives to get all those different players ready for the industry.
“My example for all of this is The Godfather,” DiRenna explains. “Al Pacino does next to nothing in the film. But he’s got the face; and then you surround Michael Correlone with all the characters; if he’s still, the camera is moving. There’s all this activity going on.”
DiRenna believes that collective experience at the Digital Film Academy is truly what sets every student—not just Boseman—on a path towards realizing their careers. Alumni like Brad Bailey win awards for documentaries like Hale; alumni like Shaun Dawson nab managerial roles at digital platforms like Vimeo; alumni like Pavel Kercle work on visual effects for huge films like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World.
DiRenna’s goal is for the Digital Film Academy to not only coach students while attending school, but set them up for the future. That way, you can find jobs and make money like Boseman did—like Bailey and Dawson and Kercle did.
“This is the only school in the world when after you graduate, you have free access to our equipment forever,” DiRenna says. “That’s how you make money. Forget filmmaking—we’re talking digital filmmaking as an industry.” “
When Andrew Rottkamp entered college at the University of Delaware, he was a finance major.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I picked finance,” he jokes. “But I had a feeling right from the beginning that it wasn’t the right program for me.”
Luckily, when his junior year rolled around, he wound up taking an art class that focused on video.
“I had so much fun. Outside of the class, I began shooting films. I felt like ‘this is what I’m supposed to do,’” he says.
He made a plan to go to film school after leaving the university and began researching his different options.
“The DFA looked like it had much better value for the money,” he says. “In some cases, it cost 50% less than other schools, and actually had better reviews than they did. When I visited, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I learned about how it was so easy to check out equipment. I was sold!”
Rottkamp was able to enter into the Advanced Digital Filmmaking program, thanks to a motocross video he had made with friends in college just for fun. Once he began the program, he realized his favorite part of the process was directing. As an extremely visual filmmaker, he gravitated toward finding the right visual elements to express a script.
“Learning how to manipulate and break down a script in class was incredibly helpful,” he says.
He had an unforgettable filming experience while shooting his thesis film – and one he doesn’t plan to replicate anytime soon!
“In my short film, a man finds his best friend dead in the woods. A battle breaks out. In the end, you realize it was all inside a video game,” Rottkamp explains. It was a cool concept, but one that required the use of a BB gun.
“We were only using BB’s, but still, someone called the cops,” he remembers. “The police showed up and wrote us up for having a firearm. We had to go to court! The judge went easy, and there were no repercussions, but I learned a valuable lesson about getting permits to shoot.”
Unfortunately, the project is abandoned until getting the proper permit. But the hold-up hasn’t held Rottkamp back in his career.
“After graduating from the DFA in December 2014, I realized I really needed to build my portfolio, so I threw myself into freelance work for a year,” Rottkamp says. “I shot weddings, too. On one of those wedding jobs, the friend I was working with had a connection with someone at HBO, and asked if I might be interested in applying for a job there. Absolutely!”
Rottkamp took on a temporary position at the popular network in January 2016, analyzing metadata for on-demand content. “I definitely feel that the DFA helped make me the right person for that position,” he says. “I knew all about transcoding, workflows. Exactly what they needed.”
Then, in June 2016, HBO offered Rottkamp an official position doing “Master Control,” where he monitors the outgoing feed for live TV. In the long run, he hopes to be involved in content creation.
Meanwhile, he creates content by continuing to make his own short videos outside of work. His favorite, a music video he’s currently wrapping up, is for a song called “Little Sister” by Terry Little, for which he created the basic storyline.
Additionally, his experience working with camera gear has inspired him to build an online store selling designer camera bags. “It’s been an incredible learn-as-you-go experience,” he confides. You can visit it here at:
Rottkamp plans to continue to grow the online store while also making more short films and staying on at HBO. His days as a finance major a thing of the past, he is now “Doing what (he’s) meant to be doing.”
When we look at the names of cinematographers working on commercial films, we will find it a difficult task to spot a woman credited as one. Women make up barely 2% of cinematographers in the industry. There haven’t been any female cinematographers who were nominated for an Academy Award. That’s not cool. In fact, the numbers are downright astonishing. These are surprising statistics that will, hopefully, motivate more women and girls to look into this creative field as a career and make some positive changes.
Is it hard to get it in the door? Of course it is. This is true especially for commercial films. Most female cinematographers (past and present) break into film work with documentaries. Many stay in that genre due to a genuine preference for it and, others, due to the amount of bias against women who move to work in other areas of filmmaking. And like any profession that has been, historically, bent to favor one social or gender group, it will be hard to change the numbers. But it’s not impossible to do it. And the great thing is you won’t have to start on a road where there is an absence of footprints. Fortunately, there are women who have already been hard at work paving the road for your arrival in the film world as a cinematographer.
Brianne Murphy, best known for the film Fatso and television series Highway to Heaven.
Although there are many men (and some women) in the industry who think of cinematography as a ‘man’s job’, Brianne Murphy did not let this bias stop her from pursuing her passion for working with cameras. Murphy got her start in the field working as a still photographer. From there, she graduated to numerous projects in television and film. Murphy’s work was so good it could not be overlooked by her male counterparts. In 1980, she became the first female member of The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).
Ellen Kuras, A.S.C. – known for her critically acclaimed work on the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Other notable women have been hard at work clearing out brushes of bias and showing that cinematic cameras favor no gender, such as Ellen Kuras, best known for working with Spike Lee on He Got Game (1998) and Summer of Sam (1999). Her most critically acclaimed film is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
Amy Vincent. She is an ASC member and the cinematic talent behind such films as Hustle and Flow and Eve’s Bayou.
Amy Vincent was the cinematic talent behind Oscar-nominated film Hustle and Flow. She also worked her camera magic on the stunningly beautiful film Eve’s Bayou – a powerful film about an adulterous man seen through the eyes of his young daughter. It was also directed by a woman, Kasi Lemmons.
The above are just a few incredible visionaries who have worked and currently work as cinematographers on the small and big screen. It would be awesome to see more women follow in their footsteps and even go beyond what they have achieved. Life is about progress. And, who knows, maybe someone out there reading this article will be the first ever woman to win an Academy Award for cinematography in a motion picture. If it’s cameras and motion pictures you love, all you have to do is follow your heart’s passion.
To read more about the wonderful women mentioned in this article, click on the following:
Alexander Felix took a long road to Hollywood, but on the way, he kept his focus on his end goal: to write amazing screenplays.
He credits his writing success to his real-life experiences and his filmmaking background. A graduate of the Digital Film Academy, he recalls his time there as extremely important because it taught him to see things visually. Being able to “visualize what the end product needs to look like” is more important in the world of screenwriting than people realize. It’s certainly helped garner Felix much-deserved attention.
Felix also notes that the DFA is not a super-expensive school, but one that has “a solid curriculum and (where) everything is very hands-on.” His experiences with directing and cinematography while in the program were inspirational, and he remains open to one day directing his own work.
After his time in NYC and with the DFA, Felix felt ready to make the move to LA and pursue his writing – but fate had other plans. On a cross-country drive, his car broke down in Michigan, prompting an extended stay in Detroit. It wasn’t what he’d planned, but it wound up being a blessing in disguise: while there, he finished writing the Detroit-based Where Angels Die. Being in Detroit, he was inspired by his surroundings and able to location-scout as the script took shape.
Angels was his seventh feature script – and the one that brought him enough attention to propel his career to the next level. It garnered a rave review from Script Shadow, and before he knew it, Felix was talking with some heavy hitting agents and managers. He soon signed with two CAA agents, no small feat. A great two-part interview with Script Shadow gives more detail on this experience here.
Now, Felix is truly about to enter the big-time. He’s been officially brought on to adapt Vicious, a V.E. Schwab novel about two pre-med students who discover how people can develop superpowers, with intense consequences. Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s production company, and Story Mining & Supply Co. bought the rights to the book last December and, among others, Ridley Scott will be producing.
This may be the film to help turn Felix from a promising newcomer to a Hollywood VIP. Stay tuned!