Audiences all over the world are becoming more interested in watching foreign films and TV series. With that in mind, we ask: What’s the power of effective storytelling?
In September of 2021, we saw Netflix’s South Korean series Squid Game become the number one streaming show on the platform with season two already in the works.
There’s a general increase of interest in international foreign films for all ages. To name a few: Parasite, Spirited Away,Ponyo, and Earwig and the Witch from Studio Ghibli.
Is meaningful storytelling more important than a language barrier?
At Digital Film Academy, we believe in the power of storytelling. Our goal is to give you all of the tools necessary to succeed in film and media. We empower you to become your own production company, fulfilling your own goals and working towards your dreams.
At DFA you will learn Cinematography, Editing, and New Media Technologies, to mention a few of the classes. With the help of your instructors, you will look at film work of the past to build the foundation for your successful future.
We are proud to have many international students join us for our film and media programs. DFA is approved to issue I-20s to international students.
Conveniently, we have locations in New York and Atlanta. With hybrid classes you will be able to attend at either of our campuses or online anywhere in the world.
“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.
My name is Patrick Direnna. I am the President and Founder of Digital Film Academy.
Thank you very much for joining me for a few minutes. Let’s discuss briefly what’s going on in the world with the Coronavirus, how that affects everyone’s life, what people are doing and not doing and how it affects the importance of media.
Very important now, more than ever, to be able to create professional grade media and get it to the public as people are consuming more and more and media become more monetizable.
But most important is what you DO at this time. And what you do WITH this time!
So firstly, stay safe. Keep your loved ones safe. Be smart and keep your hands clean. Keep all those around you that you care about safe, first and foremost.
Now beyond that use this time to hone these skills, because when this is over the time is going to be ripe for the right media. Those who are ready to deliver it when the bell rings are going to do very well. Those who only then start studying at that time and then 7 or 8 months later it’s going to be old and there could be something else going on. So use this time wisely! Don’t just do nothing. That would be the worst thing. Hone your skills. Right now the demands are going to be less, so it’s time to actually get your skills in order and then as soon as this is over and as soon as you are ready, you’ll be able to produce meaningful, powerful, monetizable media.
And you’ll have free access to equipment.
Our programs start May 11th 2020. Everything is on schedule. We’ve switched over to online.
We’re in very good condition there. The students are live online, so they’re with each other, they’re with the instructors. Everything’s moving forward and after they graduate they have free access to equipment for the rest of their life.
.Just like YOU will have! So they’re going to be hitting the ground running
So don’t shy away, make sure you move forward. Always!
Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it and stay safe.”
Sign up now to attend our LIVE ONLINE Open House event 3 days from now on Saturday April 4th at 3pm.
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.”
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!
You know the regular school open house drill: sit in a chair with some strangers, hear a few words from a professor about what you would do in his class, maybe hear some success stories about former students…
The DFA is all about getting students working in film – and their open house on Saturday, March 8th from 3-5pm in NYC is no different.
At this totally free event, attendees won’t just get to see the facilities and network with current/former students and professors. They’ll also take part in three hands-on demonstrations:
Directing Demo: Ever dreamed of commanding your own set as a director? Taught by Patrick DiRenna, the President of the DFA, this directing crash course gives attendees the “magic formula to create the perfect shot.” Guests will learn how to set up two different, dramatic SteadyCam shots and will also be taught the primary functions of a director.
ADR (Additional Dialog Recording) Demo: Imagine this: you’ve yelled “Cut!,” you’re bursting with excitement over what you filmed, and you get into editing – only to discover that the sound is a garbled mess. Something went wrong – so now, is your project dead?
Absolutely not, because you can replace that original dialog – if you know what you’re doing! Guy Mor, the DFA Director of Operations and an audio wizard, will show you how to both replace bad audio and record audio for animation… the best part? Attendees can take part in a fun exercise, re-recording audio for famous movie lines such as “Hasta la vista, baby” – and enjoy the results.
Avid Media Composer Demo: Two things are hot right now in the world of film: Avid Media Composer, the most widely-used non-linear editing program for professional film, and the Red camera. (In fact, most DFA grads report being able to easily find work after graduation thanks to their continued free access to the expensive Red camera through the DFA membership program.) In this demo, DFA Equipment/Facilities manager Corey Christian works with both, showing how to load footage from the Red camera into Avid Media Composer and use the software to create a perfect final image.
If you’ve ever considered a career in film, what are you waiting for? Come to the DFA Open House to make connections, learn tricks of the trade, and see if you’re ready to take the next step to “monetize your media!”
October 23rd was the most recent in a proud history of evenings that celebrate DFA graduates’ work. As each semester draws to a close, the Digital Film Academy screens student projects at the Film Anthology Archives, an impressive venue in NYC whose name also carries quite a bit of weight.
The experience of getting to see their work on the big screen is often mind-blowing for students.
These nights typically feature a wide range of work across different genres, and the 23rd was no exception. The audience was treated to a documentary trailer, the first episode in a new web series, a video Kickstarter campaign, two innovative short films, and a music video.
Three of the filmmakers were in attendance, so I got to chat with them after the show.
First up for my Q&As was Rich Lanzillotto, the creator of the short film Stood Up. The film, which goes inside the troubled relationship of two New Yorkers, offers viewers an unsettling ending. Unlike the other filmmakers in attendance, Lanzillotto shied away from directing his own piece. His long-term goal is to become an editor, so he focused on the editing and producing of Stood Up, which he co-wrote with his step-brother. The directing reins were handed over to another DFA student, Joseph Leon Stein.
Next up on my journey through filmmakers was Mari Kawade, whose web series 2ndAve is garnering lots of well-deserved attention. Three episodes are already online and have received more that 17,000 views, no small accomplishment. Maho Honda and Tsukasa Kondo, Kawade’s two lead actors and co-producers, were also in attendance.
The show, which features a new-to-NYC Japanese actress (Honda) and her homo-sexual roommate (Kondo), has developed a strong following of immigrants. “We knew the show would have a strong reaction from other Japanese,” Kawade says, “But we didn’t expect the massive reaction from other immigrants.” 2ndAve’s storyline, which features, among other things, the struggle of living in a foreign country and trying to build a creative career, showcases characters that anyone can relate to.
The third filmmaker was Linda Ainouche, an Anthropology PhD with a passion for documentaries. Her documentary-in-the-making, Dreadlocks Story, was presented in the form of a trailer. The subject is fascinating: the documentary explores the connection between India and Jamaica, how India influenced Jamaica’s Rastafari, and the movement which led to the proliferation of dreadlocks. The finished film will delve into how this is a result of India and Jamaica both being oppressed by Britain at the same time, and how their resulting connection is one positive thing to emerge from this oppression.
Ainouche is currently organizing a crowd-funding campaign to help finance the next stages of her research. Of the DFA, all the filmmakers stressed how the support and experience offered during their classes made their films possible. The DFA membership, which allows free access to film equipment, also made it possible to do these films with little to no budget. Those filmmakers who were unfortunately unable to attend were Jamaal Green, whose Kickstarer campaign trailer for the dramatic, psychological web series Chronicles of a Profiler was screened; Christopher Delao, who directed the surprising short film The Room Next Door; and Jimmy Negron, whose music video “Anthem” for the group Chameleon packed a powerful punch. The following projects are available to view online:
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