“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
– Rita Mae Brown (not Einstein, I checked)
Everything around us is constantly changing, and that’s never been more true. I’ll throw another quote at you:
“For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled”
– Bob Dylan
The best way to succeed is to be on the forefront of change. And that’s what we’re doing. Digital Film Academy is always on the lookout for how we can change to better serve our students. We’ve pivoted to a hybrid learning environment that allows our busy students to do most of their classes remotely. We bring our seasoned professors to you, wherever you are.
We’ve designed an entirely new Associates Program that gives you equipment to own (yours forever, no joke), included in the tuition. That means that as you’re building your portfolio, working on school projects, or working with clients, you’ve got everything you need. You become your own production company. When you’re learning the equipment you have it there, in your hands. We did this because it’s the best way for you to learn and that’s our top priority.
We’ve adapted our hands-on classes so that we can still deliver the essentials, while keeping our students safe. We just finished our intensive 3 week summer classes that had students performing in real life scenarios. From shooting walk-and-talks in Central Park to dramatic dollys in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen.
Our mission is and always has been to prepare you to make money and we’re always looking for new ways to do that better.
Maybe it’s time you think about making a change?
Come to one of our Open Houses and see if we can’t help you take a step in a new direction.
I’m a firm believer that everyone is capable of making really great media. So where does all the bad media come from? Limitations. People are limited by budgets, availability, time, weather, and global pandemics. The thing stopping us from making great media isn’t a lack of ability. It’s the outside pressures pulling at our attention, telling us “no”.
So how can DFA help?
We help you overcome the limitations in a number of ways. With Pre-Production, making sure you know exactly what you need and how to get it. DFA students have access to professional equipment for life. So even long after you’ve graduated you’ll still be able to use our equipment for Production, reducing budget limitations considerably. And finally through Post-Production. In response to Covid-19 DFA has made our cutting-edge computers accessible remotely online. So you can edit in Davinci Resolve, Avid, Pro-Tools, After Effects, and many other softwares from the safety of your own home, and your client can dial in and go over the project with you live, from anywhere in the world!
When you study at DFA you have every resource at your fingertips to turn yourself into a lean mean filmmaking machine. Someone who can navigate the hurdles in your way to deliver clean powerful content.
If you’d like to find out more, please join us for an Online Open House (complete the form to add your name to the guest list, then watch your inbox for the confirmation email) Thursday February 18th @ 1pm EST, or check us out online at any of the links below and see if we’re a good fit for you.
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.
When he was only in high school, Jimmy Zdolshek’s video production teacher encouraged him to participate in “SkillsUSA,” an organization that sponsors a competition to promote career and technical development. When the short Zdolshek completed within 6 hours as part of the contest went on to win 1st place, Zdolshek says it was one of the best moments of his entire life. The short then moved on to the National competition, where it placed 13th.
“I knew then that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says.
Settled on his future career, Zdolshek began to search for a school that would help take his filmmaking to the next level, without breaking the bank.
“I didn’t want to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt,” he laughs. “Also, I wanted real hands-on experience, freedom to work with the equipment.”
When he discovered the Digital Film Academy, it was the perfect match. The school’s low tuition, coupled with its policy of allowing students free access to all equipment needed for a shoot both during their schooling and after graduation, made it exactly what Zdolshek was looking for.
Additionally, given his background in film, Zdolshek was able to enter the DFA’s One Year Advanced Digital Filmmaking Program. This was another factor in his decision-making.
Currently at the DFA, Zdolshek is developing two short film projects that he wrote. For the one, “Stay Your Course, Young Man,” he was thrilled to get the rights to the music of the same name by Sylvan Lacue and Jon Bellion. Getting rights to music to include in his films is a skill that he began developing even with his high school projects.
“It’s not as hard as most people think,” he says. “A lot of the bands I like are more underground. I get their emails and we work something out. Most bands are willing to compromise, especially if you’re working without a budget!”
In other areas of his career, Zdolshek has gotten to see more significant budgets at work. He just completed an internship with Market Road Films, working on National Geographic’s Explorer, the longest-running documentary series in history. While there, he got to do development and post-production work. He also got to work on Blood Antiquities, a series about ISIS trading in the Western market.
“One of my favorite things was when I got to handpick the stills from Blood Antiquities to send to the network for the IMDB page,” he says. “I got to work closely with the director.”
Just this past month, he began another high-profile internship, this time with Backroads Entertainment, which creates shows that have been featured on channels like A&E, MTV, MTV2, E!, the Travel Channel, Lifetime, and more. Recently, he got to put together a playlist for famed rapper 50 Cent.
When asked what advice he would have for filmmakers just starting out, Zdolshek says: “Just get your ideas off the ground. Sit to write, go into production, and execute it the way you want… Work as hard as you can, watch and read as many films and scripts as you can, and make as many things as you can.”
“And, oh, remember,” he adds. “Film comes first in life. Film first. Food second.”
To view the trailer to Zdolshek’s short Sleepwalker, please click here.
There’s never been a better time to make short films. Not only do most film festivals have short film categories, but platforms like YouTube have made it possible to actually monetize shorts.
Particularly if you’re just beginning your film career, there’s no better way to start than making a short film. This film can become your calling card, helping you get into festivals, make connections, and find meaningful work in the film industry.
So what do you need to keep in mind when making a short film?
1. What do you have?
First, take a look at what you have. It’s extremely hard to get funding (other than what you’re putting up) for a short. This is ten times as true if it’s your first. As a result, you’re going to want to look at what you already have at your disposal. Unless some kind of cool set is available for free, set your story someplace easily accessible. Unless you have a friend who’s a special effects or make-up whiz and willing to work cheap, don’t plan for a lot of special effects. Look at what you have and be creative with how you use it. After you make it big, then you can make a film that has everything you want!
2. Tight script
What makes a short film shoot last for days and days while the budget goes through the roof? Tons of locations and tons of characters. More locations and characters mean more traveling, more set-ups, and more coverage that you need to get. If, instead, your script has one or two locations and one or two characters (and comes in under ten pages), you can get it shot in one or two days.
3. Storyboards and shot lists
Don’t think you can arrive on set and just wing it. Filmmaking is a complicated medium, and one that requires a lot of collaboration. To that end, everything will go more smoothly if everyone has the same, clear set of guidelines to follow – and if all the shots have been thought through in advance. Create storyboards to go along with the script so that everyone can visualize what you need, and top it off with a shot list listing the shots you need to get. You can check them off as you get each one and be sure not to leave the set minus what you came for.
4. Get the coverage!
It’s every filmmaker’s nightmare. You’ve spent time and money to shoot your film only to realize in the editing room that you didn’t get enough coverage. Coverage refers to getting enough shots to be able to edit the film together in a way that appears seamless. If you haven’t gotten enough coverage, you might find there’s no good way to edit together two shots without it jarring the audience. Shoot wide shots, medium shots, close-ups, and inserts of various objects – along with whatever other clever shots you come up with! That way, you’ll have lots to choose from.
5. Put it all together
Editing can be a brutal process, so make sure your footage is clearly organized so you can find what you’re looking for. This will save you from wasting lots of time. Each minute of finished film will take hours to edit, so be mentally prepared for that fact. And if you do make it to this point only to realize you didn’t get what you needed to put together a decent short film, chalk it up to a learning experience, get back out there, and shoot, shoot again!
Can’t wait to see what you come up with in your short films. If you have any other tips/suggestions, leave them in the comments!
A great character makes or breaks a film. It’s also what will get a major star to agree to sign on to a project.
Having written a great character is money in the bank, so here are three helpful tips to help make yours the best they can be!
Don’t make them too much like real people.
People tend to think super-realistic writing equals good writing, but there’s a difference between a film that “feels” real because it hits you emotionally and a film that feels real because it could be a home movie of two people having a boring talk.
One thing about real people and real life: they use a lot of filler. What percentage of your life actually has something HAPPENING? Are your friends riveted if you tell them you: Got in your car, turned it on, went down the street, made a left, went to the grocery store, and got eggs? No? Ok… then why should a screenplay give this much detail?
Additionally, “real” people tend not to talk in a super-exciting way. They make a lot of chit-chat and often dance around their real point. In a cinematic world, you want people who are clear about their wants and put it out there. This drives the drama.
To that end:
Limit their traits – and make every line stem from a trait.
In real life, people have tons and tons of traits. You could sit down and list your traits – and easily fill a page. The more traits someone has, the more complicated they are.
While you do want your characters to be complicated, too many traits will dilute them to the point that they come across as vague. Yes, this might make them more ‘realistic’ – but it will also make them boring or confusing… or both.
Good characters should have no more than four core traits, and every action they take and word that comes out of their mouths should reflect on one or more of these traits. This delivers characters who are clear and memorable. Four core traits – and one clear thing that they want. That’s it.
Make your descriptions count.
When a character’s first introduced, the introduction should be short and to the point, so as not to slow down the reading. However, just because it’s short doesn’t mean it shouldn’t pack a punch. Make those descriptive words count!
Also – avoid describing anything physical that doesn’t give a trait. A huge complaint in the industry is that female characters tend to just be described as “beautiful,” or described in an overly specific way, like “LENA, 20s, short black hair and big green eyes.” This tells nothing about the character and limits the number of actresses who fit the description. Also, unless it’s important that the character be ugly for some reason, don’t worry – a beautiful woman will likely be cast anyway!
Instead, use physical traits that DO tell you something about the person. For example: “PENELOPE, 18, hair out of place and too much in her backpack, stumbles down the hall.” What do you know right away about Penelope? She’s awkward, a bookworm, doesn’t care too much about her looks… You get a lot more than you would from “PENELOPE, 18, brown hair and blue eyes. Beautiful.”
Those are the top three tips for writing great characters. Let us know if you have any others in the comments!