NYC diary Four Weeks at the New York Film Academy


March 28, 2002 Arrived four hours early, because I was able to catch an early flight out. No one at the apartment to let me in until about 10:00. Had a good Falafel dinner at Rainbow Falafel and met Mik, Very large loft apartment which also his office, he has interns working there who are also in the film business. Mik has worked as an actor and cameraman and producer and director. The apartment did not have lots of pots so I got one to cook my oatmeal and boil my water in.

March 29. There was a pre-orientation where we were taken to lunch. The class is very Cosmopolitan, two people from Belgium, one from India, one from Spain, one from Holland, one from Turkey, one from Canada. The course is very intense. Tomorrow we start at 9:00 AM and our last class ends at 8:30 PM, next week we have classes until midnight! I will produce/direct 3 very shorts films and work on at lest 6 other films as assistant cameraman and Gaffer. My first film can be no longer than 60 seconds. My last film can be about 4 minutes. I write the script for each play I direct. We do our shooting on the weekend.

I am staying in a great neighborhood, Union Square, lots of NYU students, and families. I have had a couple of great meals here.

That night I went uptown to the upper Westside to have dinner with Dave and Ronda Koteichuck two old friends that I had not seen in over 29 years.

March 30. I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a special exhibit. I roomed around the upper Eastside looking for locations to shot my first 60 second picture. I also went to Time Square.

March 31. I went to the lower Eastside looking for Yonah Shimmel to have a knish but because of Passover they and other places were closed. But I did find Katz’s Deli for a good breakfast. Stayed in the lower Eastside for a couple of hours.

April 1, I really screwed up. I thought Daylight Saving time started Sunday but it didn’t so I was at the school at 7:15 thinking it was 8:15. A long day a school where we were introduced to the camera. I had so Thai food for dinner.

April 2, another long day, we went outside a shot some exercised on the camera, each person rotating the different jobs. Director of Photography, Assistant Camera, Talent. Later we worked with lighting that a Gaffer would do. I also saw some final films of those in the one year program. Had some good Pizza for dinner.

April 3, Today we were introduced to Production. We divided into six man crews and were to shoot a 75 second that showed suspense. Our crew was very difficult . We had a very weak director and the Director of Photography was against everything we tried. Our film was about two people taking a test and who were working on it as the test time was ending. I was the teacher and I walked backed to the two taking the test three times every time I would turn my back to walk back to the front of the room they would ‘cheat’ and pass each other papers. On the third time I caught them.

It took us over three hours to just ‘agree’ and setup. We were running out of time so we shot the take. My guess is it will likely not be exposed correctly and the focus may be wrong. We get to look at the film tomorrow. AMC was taping us and I will likely be on AMC when they do a show about the school.

The film test we did outside yesterday did not turn out all that well. They were very under exposed, but the instructor told us some of the problem was the Labs. Some of out test the focus was off. But we did have a few good test, and we were they only group to ‘Slate’ each scene.

Yesterday I had a small blister on my left foot and I put a ‘patch’ on it, it may have been a small piece of glass that I stepped on. Anyway after my shower I tried to changed the patch and pulled off some skin. The foot really hurts, but I put some gauze on it and I am going to soak it before I take the patch off, and put a large bandage on it first before the patch.

April 4 We studied writing and had our second I shoot, my first film this weekend. I can’t wait, we work in teams and I am the ‘token’ male, in an otherwise all ‘girl’ crew. Each person will write and direct one film and the other folks work doing other things. I know I will be the ‘talent’ on at least two of the films, probably why they selected me, they needed a male to act in their films.

April 5. Today our film crew, four ladies and me did our first real shoot. Joelle, from Holand, Sita and Marina from Spain, Marianna from Penn, but raised in Germany. We shot one short film outside and one inside. It took us all day. Sita is a very dominating person and I am not sure I will work with her again. Sunday we are going to shoot the other three films. On the outside I was a dirty old man trying to hit up on ladies as they sat close to me in the park. The film ends with me being sad after my pick-up attempts fail.

Friday night, after returning home at about 8:00 PM I went to a party one of my Professors had for his eight week graduating classes. All of my teachers, so far, hold master degrees from NYU and all have taught, or still part time there as well as New York Film Academy. All have also worked on major features films as well as other projects.

April 6 Saturday was an off day, because we were shooting in a bar on Sunday. I did my laundry, went uptown for a hour or so, and meet Ronda at her office close to city hall, and it turned out close to our Sunday shoot, for a great Thai dinner and companionship.

April 7, the big shoot, we meet at about 10:00 o’clock and shot my film first. Sita and I were at each other, she would not let me checkout the camera even thought it was my film. Sita ended up controlling the other three scenes we did. I did not get to DP and I was really pissed off. We got my scene shot in about one and half hour and took the rest of the day to shoot the inside scenes. In one film I was a guy who was being booted by a gal. Late Sunday night Kim, who was in town, and I meet for a glass of wine.

April 8 Well maybe there is poetic justice, or Karma The film that Sita ‘directed’ was spooled at the lab. My film, that she DP, and AC was way under exposed. It looks like it is a night scene. Today were introduced to editing, We will work on a flatbed. Most editing today is done on computer. We also had a special guess lecture on directing. I selected the take for my one scene film.

April 8 Well maybe there is poetic justice, or Karma The film that Sita ‘directed’ was spooled at the lab. My film, that she DP, and AC was way under exposed. It looks like it is a night scene. Today were introduced to editing, We will work on a flatbed. Most editing today is done on computer. We also had a special guess lecture on directing. I selected the take for my one scene film.

April 9 We had another directing class and divided into groups, I am in a new group for my film this weekend. Only one of the original other persons is working with Sita. We also had another writing class and I am working on my final film. My new Crew is Vandana, from India, who was living in Singapore for the last two years Joelle, who is not from Holland as I had thought but Switzerland, Alejandro, from Mexico.

April 10, We had another production class, and shot a film. The one we shot last week that was suppose to have suspense, was kind of lame. Today we did one on intimation, I was the gaffer. Not sure how it will turn out, I think it missed the mark. I went back to the editing room, I did four takes of my mise-en scene, so I used one of the takes that was not so under exposed to turn in for class review. I got back to my apartment at about 10:00 PM today, a really long day.

April 11, We had another editing classes to help us spot difference editing techniques in films. We also ‘previewed’ our films on the Big screen. There were some good 45 second films. One I liked showed two people playing chest. You saw a man and what looked like a woman but we only saw the hand. The man won the game and shook hands with the looser who turned out to be the Grim Ripper. Despite everything I said about Seta, one film she DP turned out real good. The other one she DP’, the one I was in was not bad, it is ‘scary’ seeing yourself on a fifty foot screen. I worked on my treatment of my final film, A music & Montage when I got home. Tomorrow we will shoot my Continuity film, about a man a woman having an argument. We are shooting in my bedroom, it has very contrasting walls, one is brick, one is drywall. I will set the room to be almost bare to give the setting a feeling of emptiness.

April 12, After checking out our equipment, the crew walked the one and half blocks from the school to my apartment. We did the shoot in my bedroom. I found out that with my eyes it is hard for me to DP, everything looks a little burled even though it is focused. So Vandana DP (Director of Photography), and while she was not as bossy as Seta on the set. I get my rolls back late Monday so I will see how they turn out. I don’t think anyone really understood lighting so I worry about the exposure not be correct. I should have enough good stuff to cut a 90 second continuity film. We also shot Alejandro’s film in the kitchen.

April 13, We filmed Vandana and Joelle film today mostly in Central Park but some footage was shot on the side walk in front of my apartment. It was a very long shoot and we did a lot of walking in the park. After the shoot I started looking for talent for my final film. April 14, A day off ! Kind of. I went down to the village searching for locations, but I guess the last two and half weeks were catching up to me. I ended up coming back to the apartment, after walking through a street fair and purchasing some spice and a picture for Suellen. After a couple of hours rest I was almost good as new. I called some actors, and one called me back and agreed to do the shoot Friday. I am also looking for a Director of Photography because the folks in my new group are all novices.

April 15, Today we had another lighting class, Lighting is a very difficult thing for novices to grasp. I do not understand how you use a light meter to help you set the F stop, a meter can’t tell you what to set, its just an aid. We also had an editing class and went over how to edit site and sound. I got my film back from my shoot and it is not too bad, it’s a little over exposed maybe by ½ a F stop. I worked on editing it until after 9:30 PM. I hit the Stinebeck again early tomorrow.

April 16, Today I another Directing class and writing class. I also had individual consultation with both instructors to review my final three-minute music film. My script violates almost every ‘rule’ my Directing said. “ Don’t use your own music, don’t use flash backs, either make the film a narrative or a ‘music video’ using montage. Well I am using a song I wrote, and produced, and performed, my ‘story’ is a narrative, with montage, but like a music video the visual starts when the music starts and ends when the music ends. I finished editing my second film, I still have a lots about doing cuts. I worked until midnight working on my script.

April 17, I woke up about 30 minutes before the alarm went off I went and tried to tighten my second film up in the editing room. By 9:30 I was done just as the rest of the class arrived to start. I had some releases copied for my actors to sign and I located someone to by DP (Director of Photography) and worked on my shot list. I had a Production class, I really like the instructor, he is very ‘hard’ on the class, always questions ‘WHY’ and while it puts you on the hot seat when you are called on it does drive home his points. I also had a Directing Actors Class.

April 18, We screen our Continuity Films today. Technical my focus and brightness was very good, better then it looked on the Steenbeck. Some of my cuts (edits) could be tighten and my film could be shorten some. I will try to reedit it tomorrow night. I have yet a new crew for my shoot this weekend. Alejandro returns from last week, and Sammit, from India joins Nick, from NJ. We are going to shoot my film Friday. I have two actors and someone to DP the Film. My guess is we will be working all day Saturday and Sunday filming the other three films.

April 19, We had a six hour shoot today. My two actors Jessica Hendy and Michael Bernstien were very good. Sammit ended up DPing my film, the person I wanted DP was sick. Sammit took his time and I will know Monday evening how the film turns out. I need to shoot some montage shots of the city to fill in. Everyone worked real hard and in the end that is all you can ask for. We still have three more films to shoot tomorrow and Sunday although only mine is a narrative film. As we were shooting our last shot I in Central Park it started to rain, by the time Alejandro and I made it back on the subway to Union Sq it was pouring down. Luckily the camera case and the AC case kept all the rain out. My real work starts Monday evening when I get my film back and I start to edit.

April 20, We were rained out today, but Sammit did get about half his footage shot. We are starting very early tomorrow because we still need to shoot two and a half films!

April 21, Today was the shooting day from hell. We all met at my place at 8:00 AM and we returned at 6:30 PM. In between we walked lugging the camera, tripod, AC case maybe 8-10 miles! It turns out I am staying 10 blocks from the VNU office, maybe someone reading this will buy my lunch this Friday?? Sammit finished his film in about 3 hours, Alejandro, and I couldn’t tell where his film was going, took lots of ‘still’ shoots took about 4 hours, and Nick, who just setup his camera and shoot heads for ten seconds each took about 2 hours, Then Sammit decided he needed to shoot another roll and Alejandro decided he wanted to shoot another roll, by then it was raining and 5:30 or so. I had planed to shoot some cutaway shots but I will try to get them in the morning. I may have to go around tomorrow begging for any exterior out takes to finish my film.

April 22, we checked in our equipment today and sent the film off to the lab. I also had another class with Tim Naylor, who is a cinematographer that stays very busy. My film had some focus and exposure errors but I believe I can edit something together.

April 23, We had our last writing class and Budgeting class today, I was in the edit room until after 9:00 PM trying to get a ruff cut. Tomorrow I have a consolation with my editing teacher.

April 24, Sara, my editing teacher offered some good ideas and my ruff cut, while looking amateurish, is better than I thought it would look. We preview the film tomorrow, I need to re-splice a couple of cuts in the morning. After super I walked from 17th St down to Time’s Square, stopping at the Empire State Bld and going to the Observatory, I think it has been almost 30 years since I went to the top. I also got a student ticket to see RENT.

April 25, Today was my last day of classes. We preview our music films. My film showed better than I thought. The exposure problems distract some from the story, but folks told me they liked my film. There were a couple of ‘cute’ funny films. One person dressed up in a rabbit suite and had a small rabbit toy on a chain, anyway someone ran over the small rabbet in a car, who turned out to be George W. We also had a sound class, and then my four weeks a school were over. After walking back to my room in the rain I felt very depressed. I am sure that will pass in a day or two. I got a ticket to see ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged’ Sat. night.

April 26, After doing my laundry this morning I went downtown I purchased a ‘cheap’ VD Camcorder to use to try to hone my skills in my share time when I return. I also went to ground Zero. I was just north of the WTC. I have never felt so much sadness before; it was like an emotional fog pushing down on me. A Buddhist mock was chanting as he beat his drum in unison with his chants. All the building around me were being repaired and there were barricades everywhere and temporary facilities for the recover workers. I don’t think I will ever forget the sorrow I felt. That evening I went uptown to see Rent a very powerful play. What a Day!

April 28, My Metro card expired so I know it’s about time to leave. This morning Dave and Ronda Koteichuck treated me to breakfast at Kiev, where I had a Blintz, The neighborhood has a lot of Russian and Eastern ‘Block’ residents, we notices lots of people walking dressed up carrying pussy willow, and decided it must be Orthodox Easter. After breakfast we down to the lower eastside and I visited the Tenement Museum and a Tenement at 97 Orchard Street that housed a succession of immigrant groups until 1933 when it was ‘condemned’ It has been restored to look like it did in the early and late 20’s. I will get to see Dave and Ronda again in July in Nashville, there is a ‘Reunion’ of SSOC, Southern Student Organizing Committee, a student civil rights group we were active in, taking place over the holiday. I am looking forward to attending and seeing folks I haven’t seen since 1969. Dave and Ronda dropped me off at the Frick Collection where one of my instructor told me to view the painting for there ‘lighting’ It was an excellent of a ‘correctly’ light frame. Tomorrow I start packing and leave New York Tuesday morning, I will miss the city and all the people I befriended at the school but I am so happy I had the opportunity to have all the experiences I had. So for now I bid you farewell, and thanks for taking time read my journals.

April 29 I guess everything was catching up with me, I was very tired. I did get down to Yonah Shimmel for a knish and had a good India dinner, I also took some subway footage, and did my laundry.


My final movie at NYCFA