Tag Archives: Digital Film Academy

5 Keys to a High Concept in Film

If you work in film, you’ve most likely heard the phrase “high concept.” This is Hollywood’s ultimate buzz phrase, the Holy Grail for producers. It’s so important, 99% of producers will make a deal with a writer who has a genuine high concept, even if their writing is terrible.

Why? Because it’s easy to sell a high concept, and unless a producer can sell a film, it’s useless. Writing can always be improved, fresh drafts written… but if a high concept isn’t there to begin with, the script probably isn’t marketable.

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So now that you know how important a high concept is, how do you get one?

Below are 5 keys for creating your own high concept:

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  1. It has to be unique (without being weird).

There’s a fine line between unique and weird. A true high concept needs to be something never seen before. However, it can’t be a case of “We’ve never seen chimps roller skating in space, so that’s a high concept.” It has to be a unique idea that’s both interesting and conventional enough to achieve #2 on this list, which is:

big audience

  1. It has to appeal to a wide audience.

Again, a high concept has to be marketable. To be marketable, it needs a clear and wide audience. Could you have a unique concept about an 80-year-old woman in a rest home? Yes, but it probably wouldn’t appeal to many people. That’s not to say you couldn’t make a great niche film – but, by definition, it wouldn’t be a high concept.

When it comes to audience, clearly aim for ONE of the 4 quadrants: men over 25, men under 25, women over 25, women under 25.

get it

  1. You must be able to say the idea in one line and have the listener “get it.”

Again, it’s about marketability. To pitch a film, you need a logline: one sentence that sums up your story. If you have a true high concept, that one sentence gives the listener a very clear idea of the movie, from start to finish. If someone in the industry asks what your film is about, and you need a full minute to explain, it’s not a high concept. If you can say it in one sentence and see their eyes light up, it is.

high vs. low

  1. Use a genre other than drama.

High concepts are almost never dramas. That’s because dramas are more about execution than they are about concept. In essence, they are the epitome of a “low concept:” a story more concerned with subtlety and character development.

Try to think of a successful drama in the past ten years that was a hit. Most at least partially fall under another genre, like comedy. If you think of a recent hit that was pure drama, chances are, its logline doesn’t sound very unique, even though its execution was great. Dramas are generally serious and/or depressing. That doesn’t make for an exciting-sounding idea that has producers come running.

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  1. You need a story – not just a hook!

If you come up with an amazing ‘hook’ – a cool idea that’s not yet a story – people will be interested. But a hook by itself isn’t enough to be a high concept. It’s only the beginning of one.

To really flesh it out into a high concept, it needs some kind of story. For instance, the movie Saw was a huge hit and a high concept. But the logline couldn’t say: “A serial killer makes victims torture themselves to survive.” Ok, it’s interesting, it’s a great hook… but it’s also vague. Where does it go from there?

Look what happens when it changes to: “After two men wake to find themselves chained in a filthy basement, they realize they’ve been kidnapped by a gruesome serial killer and will have to torture themselves if they want to live.” Now it’s a high concept! We can see the whole story: beginning (waking up), middle (figuring out they were kidnapped by a serial killer and what he wants them to do), and end (deciding whether or not they’ll torture themselves). The genre is a clear horror/thriller, and it’s also clear that this will work for a wide audience. A producer can sell this.

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Now that you know how to create a real high concept, start brainstorming ideas! A concept that fits all of the above criteria isn’t easy to come by, but if you do – it’s money in the bank.

What movies did you think were genuine high concepts? Let us know in the comments!

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

Alumni Spotlight: Joe Rodman

When Joe Rodman first entered the Digital Film Academy, he planned to become a director. It was only through the hands-on experience he got filmmaking that he realized his true calling was editing. “I fell in love with editing. You get to really see the story take shape in the editing room,” he says.

It’s a realization that has served him well. Since graduating from the Advanced Digital Filmmaking program in June 2015, Rodman’s editing has opened up multiple career opportunities – including work on the 59-minute film Grave-Digger, a selection of the upcoming 2016 Madrid Film Festival and recent award-winner for Best Supporting Actor at France’s Nice Film Festival.

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Rodman also received a standing ovation for his work at the film’s premiere in Tribeca.

The film was shot using four different cameras, including the DFA’s Red camera, courtesy of Rodman. (The school’s policy of allowing students free lifetime access to equipment after their graduation helps them land jobs and get more experience, and also benefits their employers.)

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Rodman knew early on that he wanted to have a career in film. While in high school, he began shooting  1 to 2 minute films, his favorite of which remains Starbound, a Star Wars parody shot entirely with a green screen. He also became certified in Adobe Premiere CS6 and mastered After Effects. After graduating and having a brief summer job at the Sagamore on Lake George, he continued his film education at the DFA.

In Rodman’s words, “coming (to the DFA) opened my eyes to so much more.” In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of cinematography, he also learned about screenwriting, film budgeting, scheduling a shoot, and sound. Perhaps his most painful lesson came when, while shooting his thesis film, he didn’t bother to slate – AKA, click those sticks together at the beginning of each take. The end result was hours spent trying to sync his image and sound.

slate

“It was painful, but the benefit is – I’ll never skip slating again!” he jokes.

At least he found a silver lining in the people he worked with on the film, particularly fellow students Lindsay Watson and A.J. Rodin. Watson was Rodman’s 1st A.C. and Rodin, his Director of Photography. “They were my left and right hand,” Rodman says.

It was also while shooting his thesis film that Rodman connected with Chris Cohen, the actor who would land the lead role in Rodman’s short and later write, direct, and star in Grave-Digger. The two developed a great working relationship, and Rodman lived with Cohen and his girlfriend for a month at the beach while editing the movie.

Grave digger image

“I didn’t care about going to the beach at all,” he laughs. “In fact, I didn’t go once. I was so engrossed in the editing process.”

The film was actually Rodman’s first time using Avid to edit.

Rodman always has a film job in the works. As a consultant at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, he shot two weeks’ worth of conferences. Until recently, he was completing an internship with Emmy Award-winning producer Linda Yellen, where he edited the trailer for The Last Film Festival, the final film of the late Dennis Hopper. He also worked on the feature film Broken Ones, which had a budget of $200,000.

dennishopper lff

Next up on his list? A trip to Madrid, to see Grave-Digger at the Madrid Film Festival… but knowing Rodman, this won’t be an excuse for a vacation.

Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

Student Spotlight: Joseph Perez

When Joseph Perez was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2011, following a five-year stint in Japan as a mechanical engineer, he wasn’t sure what would come next. It was pure luck that he had a friend working as a Production Manager at Chloe Productions who, when he heard of Perez’s return, offered him a two-week gig chauffeuring producers around town.

Quickly, due to Perez’s winning attitude and work ethic, that two-week gig blossomed into much more. He was soon given the responsibility of picking up celebrities, including Stevie Wonder, John Travolta, and the entire cast of Welcome Back, Kotter as part of their TVLand Awards appearance. The first time Perez got the chance to step onto a set and see all the equipment, he was hooked.

http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Back-Kotter-Season-3/dp/B00T73AQ7I

“With my background as a mechanical engineer, it was all the equipment that really got me excited,” Perez says. Determined to learn what he could about the technical aspects of filmmaking, his early education consisted of learning from apps like the Grip App.

His job driving celebrities and producers led to on-set opportunities, and Perez soon found himself working on such notable shows as Love & Hip Hop Atlanta and New York for VH1, the MTV Awards, and MTV’s World Stage with the Black Eyed Peas. He was racking up experience in reality television, but found himself yearning for something more cinematic.

When asked about working in reality TV, Perez laughs. “It’s not scripted, but it is staged. Most people don’t recognize the difference,” he explains. “Something may have happened earlier in the day, and then the stars will sit down and be told to re-enact it.”

http://more-picture-online.com/love-and-hip-hop-atlanta-cast.html

Wanting to work in a film medium was part of what drove Perez to consider film school. Additionally, he wanted to learn the lingo of filmmaking and gain a better understanding of the art-form. “I didn’t know what blocking was until I came to the DFA,” he remarks. When he learned his GI Bill would pay for film school, he was sold.

When Perez found the Digital Film Academy, he was eager to take part in such a personal program, where students receive one-on-one guidance from teachers who are also industry professionals.  He initially signed on for the One Year Digital Filmmaking Conservatory, and has currently gone into One Year Advanced Digital Filmmaking.

In addition to completing a short film that will be released at the end of the month, Perez has spent the past year amassing countless hours of footage for his Cure of Violence documentary, a passion project that grew out of his interest in two of his friends’ work as “violence interrupters” in the Cure Violence Project.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cure_Violence

“If they see young kids getting into trouble, they intervene,” Perez says, explaining how the “violence interrupting” concept works. This unique approach to addressing street violence and teaching kids better ways to resolve their issues has been credited with having saved thousands of lives and having restored faith in public health strategies.

When asked about his long-term goals, Perez notes that he wants to start his own production company and become a member of the Director’s Guild of America. He also wants to do more screenwriting. Perhaps harkening back to his days in the military, Perez has developed a clear strategy for reaching his goals.

From his time in the Navy, to working in reality television, to film school, Perez has come a long way and lived a fascinating life. We can’t wait to see what he does next!

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Blog by: Sara McDermott Jain

Film Fest: 4 Things Learned (That Made Me a Better Filmmaker)

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For the past year, I’ve been organizing a film festival. Every thing every one warned me about is true: it did take over my life, it is a ton of work, and I am seeing films in my sleep at this point.

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But there are a lot of perks that nobody mentioned, and right at the top of the list is the fact that, watching all those submissions, I learned how to better submit – and even make – my films.

Basically, submissions fall into the following categories:

  • Gotta have ‘em (about 5%)
  • Keep ‘em away from me (about 5%)
  • Wish I could put it in, but it wouldn’t make sense because of X, Y, and Z (90%!)

So, to help you get your films into that top 5% of guaranteed-to-make-the-cut, here are a few pointers I picked up:

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1.  KEEP IT SHORT!!! I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before – I’ve heard it before, many times. But until I put together my final schedule, I didn’t really GET IT.

If a submission’s 3 minutes long, it’s easy to fit in. If it’s 10 minutes, still pretty easy… once it gets to be over 15 minutes, it starts to become impossible. And this rule goes for features too! If it’s 60 to 90 minutes – I can work with it. But 2 hours? Unless it’s INCREDIBLE, I can’t justify it.

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Most screening blocks are two hours long. If you submit a two-hour film, you’re asking me to schedule ONLY your film for an entire screening block. If there’s an equally worthy film that’s 90 minutes and lets me fit in a few shorts, too, well… that’s that.

2.  Be Original. You’re thinking: “I am original!” Well, the way you execute your story might be original, but make sure the story’s really original, too. How many other films about angst-ridden teenagers are there going to be? I definitely made cuts based on the fact that multiple films were telling basically the same story. Films telling stories I hadn’t seen anywhere else stood a way better chance.

3.  Consider Your Audience. Most people don’t bother to check out a fest’s mission statement, but they should. It’s just not worth the time and money it takes to submit to something where, even if you are great, you just don’t fit their vision. In the final hour, there’s always way more films the programmers wish they could schedule than they have time for, and they’re going to be looking for any reason to help them make a tough decision.

4.  Cover letter. I’ll be honest – I’ve never written a cover letter when submitting to fests. And I’m not alone, because neither did about 80% of our submitters. I guess people figure that their films speak for themselves? But now that I’ve been on the other side of it, let me drive this home: COVER LETTERS MATTER. Not if they’re just a repeat of your film summary, but if they tell us why you want to be part of OUR festival. If you’re the only one out of ten possible films to reassure us that you believe in our mission and, if selected, will attend and promote the festival – it’s going to nudge you toward a yes.

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There you have it – my top 4 pointers. If you follow these, I promise, your chances of being accepted at any fest will go up at least 50%.

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And if you’re curious to see what made the cut for our fest – check us out at http://www.princetonindependentfilmfestival.com!

Written By: Sara McDermott

DFA Films the 11th Annual Women’s Business Leadership Conference

When the National Minority Business Council recently asked Digital Film Academy to record the award ceremony at the 11th Annual Women’s Business Leadership Conference, we were honored to film the proceedings. NMBC The NMBC is a non-profit corporation which dates back to 1972. They are very active throughout the tri-state area and across the USA, providing business assistance, educational opportunities, and seminars to hundreds of businesses with a particular focus on those minority-owned and women-owned. As part of Women’s History Month, the NMBC chose to honor Randy Joy Epstein with the Muriel Seibert Award for her work as a business consultant and growth strategist.

Randy Joy Epstein
Randy Joy Epstein

A little background on The Muriel Siebert Leadership Award: This award is named after Muriel ‘Mickie’ Seibert, the First Woman of Finance and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Siebert was an outspoken advocate for women and minorities in industry. Sadly, she passed away in 2013.

Muriel "Mickie" Siebert
Muriel “Mickie” Siebert

So, who better to carry on the legacy of women in business than Randy Joy Epstein, a business strategy and planning consultant, expert speaker, and writer. Randy is also the producer of the TEDx Times Square event. You can view the keynote speech below, filmed live at BNY Mellon in downtown Manhattan by our own Digital Film Academy graduates, Mr. Richard Lanzillotto and Ms. Shaun Dawson. In addition to NMBC President John Robinson and members of the board Dawn Henning and Ben Jones, the event was attended by a roomful of female CEOs and leaders of women-owned companies, running the gamut from general contractors (Armada Building Services) to crowd-funding experts (Plum Alley) to media production companies (GingersnapNYC). New York City government was also in attendance, with Ophelia Gabrino, Executive Director of Corporate Partnerships and Education, representing the City’s Business Development Division.

Digital Film Academy would like to congratulate NMBC on their 11th Annual Women’s Business Leadership Conference – and well done to Randy on receiving this very special award!

 

By Digital Film Academy Blogger Tom Griffin

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The 52nd New York Film Festival

Ladies and Gentlemen, are you ready?

In exactly 3 days, the city of New York is going to be taken over by film, and we couldn’t be more excited. The 52nd New York Film Festival kicks off on September 26th and it will bring the power of cinema to the city that never sleeps all the way until October 12th. With over 2 weeks of world premieres, award winners, retrospective screenings, spotlights on emerging filmmakers, panels and galas, the 52nd edition of the acclaimed film festival has everything it takes to be the greatest so far.

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Founded in 1963, as the auteur theory and European cinematic modernism were crashing upon the shores of American film culture, the New York Film Festival continues to introduce audiences to the most exciting, innovative and accomplished works of world cinema.The non-competitive festival, sometimes abbreviated as NYFF, was established by Amos Vogel and Richard Roud. The films are selected by one of the world’s most prominent film presentation organizations: the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Gone GirlBen Affleck, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Lisa Barnes
and David Clennon in ‘Gone Girl’ from director David Fincher

This year’s lineup will include some of this year’s major Oscar contenders, including Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher’, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner’, David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars’ and this year’s Sundance winner Whiplash’. They join the already-announced opening film Gone Girl’ from director David Fincher, centerpiece gala selection Inherent Vice’ from Paul Thomas Anderson, and closing night gala selection Birdman’ from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in the lineup.

Check out the festival’s trailer:

If you’re interested in learning more about the 52nd NYFF’s schedule and showtimes, click here.

by DFA Marketing & Social Media Manager Carol Mazzoni.

Women Cinematographers: A Look Behind Her Lens

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 MurphyBrianne 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 2Ellen 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 VincentAmy 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:

Learn more about Brianne Murphy.
Learn more about Amy Vincent.
Learn more about Ellen Kuras.

If you would like to become a cinematographer, start your journey at Digital Film Academy. Visit https://www.digitalfilmacademy.edu or call (212) 333-4013.

by DFA Student & Blog Writer Mary Stokes.

The Director Auteur

The entertainment industry has tons of creative energy flowing through it. The public may hear stories of how most people who get involved in it desire to work in an area they are not hired for (e.g. the actor who wishes to be a director, the gaffer who would like to be a cinematographer, the extra who would like to have a supporting or lead role, etc.). However, what if one position can maximize its creativity so that it becomes the dominant voice in (and over) all creative roles on the set? Would this be welcomed in the industry? Or shunned? Where you fall in this opinion may depend on who you are in the industry. If you’re a director who subscribes to the director auteur theory, you would most likely be an advocate for this singular dominance of creative expression on a project; however, if you’re a cinematographer who is used to being the creative voice on how the camera’s positioning and/or lighting needs to be to evoke ‘just the right’ mood, you may not be as comfortable with the idea of working with a director auteur who expects to have maximal (or close to maximal) input in all areas of film production, including specific ideas and instructions on how camera positions and lighting should be done.

TruffautFrançois Truffaut, 1955

That brings us to the question you’re probably asking yourself: What exactly is a Director Auteur? Auteur is the French word for “author”. The term “director auteur” was first used by François Truffaut, a French critic who became a celebrated filmmaker in the 1950s. Truffaut believed that, although a film has many components (and players) in its production, the true author of the work is the director. To Truffaut, a film’s vision (if executed well) should be dominated by the style of the director to such an extent that it minimizes any appearance of collaboration with others (including the cinematographer, set designers, etc.) who work on the film. Truffaut believed that when this is achieved it is the highest level of professional expression by a director.

TarantinoQuentin Tarantino, Photograph: www.LevonBiss.com

Is the director auteur theory at work in the film industry today? It is. In fact, presently, it is the dominant style of filmmaking. Many of the directors of the past several decades have been auteurs. We recognize their movies, not because of the cinematographer or screenwriter attached to the project, but because of the style of director. For example, Quentin Tarantino is one of the most famous modern auteurs in the industry. His films are instantly recognizable by both movie audiences and critics. And this is a fact in spite of Tarantino having used a few different cinematographers (such as Robert Richardson for Inglorious Bastards and Django: Unchained; Guillermo Navarro for Dusk to Dawn; and Andrzej Sekula for Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs) for his projects. Tarantino, as a director auteur, is able to stamp his movies with his own distinctive style that dominates the film.

AllenWoody Allen, 1977 at Coney Island, Brooklyn. Photograph: Brian Hamill/Getty Images

Although numerous directors with east coast backgrounds chronicle city life, many would agree that no one has achieved as much of a distinctive style in doing so than Woody Allen. His films count as another example of the work of a director auteur. His quirky, neurotic, humorous and character-driven movie style penetrates most of his work (e.g. Crimes and Misdemeanors, Deconstructing Harry, New York Stories, Hannah and Her Sisters) in such a way that when audiences and critics see it, it is undeniably a ‘Woody Allen’ production.

When you’re approaching your next project, consider whether or not you would like to approach it as a director auteur; and whether or not it’s a project you are allowed to exercise the authority of that position. For example, if your film is funded (and developed) by a well-known studio and you are a director who is not well-known, chances are you will have to collaborate with others who, at times, may (if they are big name actors or studio execs) have more influence than you in the overall style of the film. That means the best chance an up and coming director has to establish a distinctive voice with his films is in the independent world of filmmaking. There are less people above you to answer to and, as a consequence, it allows you more freedom to turn a script into a film that frames you (and your vision) as its primary author (or “auteur”).

Now go out and direct the next film that will have people discussing the newest director auteur in the business!

To learn more about the Auteur theory, click here.

To learn more about French director François Truffaut, click here.

by DFA Student & Blog Writer Mary Stokes.

Student Work: 'Assigned Sex' by Shaun Dawson

Obsessed with the art of storytelling since she learned how to walk and talk, Shaun Dawson followed a very unique path before she landed in the world of filmmaking. She was a surgical technologist for 7 years in the US military, when her dream of becoming a storyteller became more concrete. The experience of providing aid to earthquake victims in Haiti, in January 2010 spurred her on. It was at that time that Shaun met a journalist who also served as a major inspiration to her to really pursue filmmaking as a career choice.

Shaun Dawson

After studying for a BS in Marketing followed by an MA in Communications, Shaun decided it was time to master the art of visual storytelling. She enrolled at Digital Film Academy and hasn’t looked back since.

Her new project, ‘Assigned Sex’, tackles a very important subject and it has been highly anticipated among the LGBT community. The documentary unveils the hurdles that gender-variant individuals face and forces society to bear more responsibility. The piece follows five transgender individuals as they break away from America’s more traditional gender roles. The project was successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter and is now about to be released to the public. Here, Shaun tells us a little bit about her campaign journey, project and future.

Assigned Sex 2

DFA Blog: Tells us the biggest secret of your successful crowdfunding campaign. What really worked?
Shaun Dawson: Defining your target audience is essential. Once I pinpointed my target audience, the rest was a breeze. I’m pretty sure I’m part of every online LGBT community now. LinkedIn was a huge resource. Over 70% of the donations were driven by LinkedIn.

DFA Blog: What was your main challenge with the campaign?
Shaun Dawson: The biggest hurdle was the courage to actually start. Kickstarter is all or nothing, which is discouraging for most people. Keeping my team motivated and staying positive throughout the entire campaign was definitely a challenge.

DFA Blog: How were you first made aware of the alarming statistics on attempted suicide among transgender individuals?
Shaun Dawson: I met a transgender individual who began his transition during my freshman year of college. We were close friends in the early stages of his transition, but, as it progressed, he began to isolate himself. His social isolation and depression eventually led to several suicide attempts. By the beginning of my sophomore year, he had completely cut me off because he felt as a cisgender individual I could never understand him. Little did he know, I actually really wanted to understand. I, then, began following transgender individuals who shared their journeys on YouTube and realized that most were severely depressed with suicidal thoughts.

DFA Blog: What else made this project a must for you?
Shaun Dawson: The current peak in transgender-based hate crimes across the country.

DFA Blog: What is the most moving story for you from the documentary?
Shaun Dawson: One of the cast members of the documentary is an elementary teacher here in New York City. He is very passionate about his career. He agreed to be a part of the documentary because he felt that venting would be therapeutic during his transition. His biggest fear is for parents of his students to question him as a teacher. Watching him progress over the past year and a half has been very moving.

Assigned Sex 1‘Assigned Sex’ was written, directed and shot by Shaun Dawson and edited by another DFA student, Richie Lanzillotto Jr.

The documentary will be released to the public on OCTOBER 16, 2014. Stay tuned!

Connect with ‘Assigned Sex’  on Facebook & Twitter:
www.facebook.com/ASSIGNEDSEX
www.twitter.com/ASSIGNEDSEX

by DFA Marketing & Social Media Manager Carol Mazzoni and DFA Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain.

July 30th DFA Student Screening!

July 30th turned out another series of exciting, diverse short films from DFA students at New York City’s Anthology Film Archives!

Patricia Olivera and Silvan Friedman in The Dawn.
Patricia Olivera and Silvan Friedman in The Dawn.

First up was The Dawn, a film written and directed by yours truly. Despite his very sheltered point of view, the five-year-old protagonist pieces together the fact that his beloved mother has killed his father. The biggest challenge of making this short was working with such a young child, although hopefully his youth and innocence serve to create that much more of an impact once you realize his life will never be the same.

Ananya Sundararajan
Ananya Sundararajan

Next there was In the Bedroom, a short by Ananya Sudararajan, who also co-wrote and acted as DP for another short film in the line-up, Jam. In the Bedroom was more experimental than the other offerings. The camera remained in one position the entire time: at the foot of the bed of a couple whose relationship is on the rocks. This served to make the viewer feel almost as if they’re spying on a real couple from a hiding place, rather than watching a short film. After the male lead fails to perform in bed, he takes his anger and frustration out on his girlfriend; however, she’s the one who gets the last laugh.

Filmmaker Pauline Gefin (right).
Filmmaker Pauline Gefin (right).

Next up was The Potluck, from frequent screening contributor Pauline Gefin (and Jam’s sound recordist!). In the course of 9 minutes, the audience sees a very strained relationship between three former friends, and how catty two of the girls are toward the third, Victoria. However, when the hostess, Ashley, begins choking, she’ll find out who she can really count on. The short packs a great visual punch at the end, when Ashley puts a photograph of her and Victoria in a place of pride on her shelf.

Kaylyn Scardefield and Joseph Ernest in Jam.
Kaylyn Scardefield and Joseph Ernest in Jam.

Jam, the fourth short, came from Nacho Diaz-Guerra. This piece served to keep viewers guessing as different details were revealed. The three characters meet when young Alice buys back her grandfather’s watch from a pawnbroker and his friend. It’s clear that both Alice and the pawnbroker’s friend, Luke, have strained relationships with their father figures. In Alice’s case, we hear one side of a tense phone call; as for Luke, we witness his older friend’s constant badgering. In the end, Alice and Luke form a bond – and take a small revenge on society.

African masks.
African masks.

The last film of the evening, Thousands: Sonnets of the Sun, was also the longest at close to 29 minutes. This film, from Lucas D. Oliveira, was ambitious not just in terms of length but in subject matter. A true coming-of-age story, viewers were treated to an intimate look inside the mind of a young boy, Tolo, as he struggles to understand nothing less than the meaning of life and his place in it. His father, an African mask carver, has taught him the stories behind the masks, and how masks would be used in special ceremonies where children became adults. Of course, these ceremonies aren’t common in Brooklyn, where Tolo lives – but that doesn’t stop him from exploring their power and doing what he feels he needs to to get to the next level in his life.

Congratulations to everyone who screened! I’m looking forward to what’s next to come from this group of my fellow filmmakers.

By Digital Film Academy Blog Manager Sara McDermott Jain.

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