Do you have an unfulfilled childhood dream? If you’re anything like me, this dream has kept you up at night. Recently, my dream came to fruition – at least for the day – when I was invited to attend a masterclass hosted by New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Mumbai.
NYFA is one of the most popular educational institutes in the world for aspiring filmmakers. Attracting students from all over the world, this organisation has been synonymous with world class education since 1992.
In the India campus, located in Mumbai’s Lower Parel area, currently acting and filmmaking workshops are being conducted, the duration of which varies from 1 week to 8 weeks. After these workshops, if a student is willing to continue on to the long-term programmes at any of the international campuses (New York, LA, Miami), the institute will make arrangements to include the fee already paid here in Mumbai, as a part of total tuition.
After a recent masterclass by Senior Executive Vice President David Klein, I sat down with him to talk about NYFA’s expansion in India and the craft of filmmaking.
23 years ago when you joined the film academy, it was just an 8 week programme, which is what it is now in Mumbai. Are you planning on introducing longer term programmes?
I think that by next spring, I’m hoping, we’ll be able to offer longer term programmes, maybe our one year programme, or our semester programme. From what we’re understanding, it seems that Indian students want the longer programmes. I think people are waiting, just kind of letting the short term workshops run for a little bit. Let people get familiarised with the film academy, and then do the long term.
You have an entirely international faculty. Do you think you might ever want to involve people from Bollywood to maybe come a do a masterclass?
I’m eager to have some of Bollywood come to the Film Academy, both in education and in personnel. I want to have some people here who would be able to talk about the experience, especially with our actors. Last year in the states, we had 190 students that came from India to study with us. Thirty-four of those 190 were actors and the rest were in the other disciplines. There is a huge growing filmmaking industry here in India.
I think there are Indian students who come to us who want to stay entrenched in their culture, they want to talk about their experience of their community, their lives, and they want to combine that with a slightly more western style of storytelling. That’s what I think students are interested in learning from these American-based filmmakers who are working in the Hollywood system. A system that is making films that have been reaching globally, since its inception. Bollywood has an extended reach too, beyond India for sure, but you know, in the United States if I want to see a Bollywood film, I have to go and find it.
We don’t market ourselves very well.
It’s a question of whether they believe if it’s going to be attractive to the American audience. Is it going to be attractive to the European audience? I don’t know. Maybe it would, but we’re not even seeing it. Maybe there is something to the fact that there is a tremendous love for the song and dance part of Indian film, a certain love for that within certain regions of the world. But when you incorporate music and dance into the film for other markets, maybe you have to adjust it slightly so that people respond to it the way that you want them to. Music performance in film is having a resurgence in the American world.
Speaking of musicals, that’s also something you do at NYFA.
Yes, we do musical theatre. The faculty is almost entirely Broadway artists. But we’re doing something a little bit different, we’re teaching traditional Broadway, traditional theatrical performance, and then we are teaching theatrical musical performance for film. We are the first school to be doing that. If people do the 2-year conservatory, then in the second year, an original screenplay musical is written for them, the students go into the studio, they record their own voices and then they get on to the set and they perform to playback to their own voices, they have to be able to sing.
In the two decades-plus you’ve been doing this, a lot has changed in the way we consume content. With the advent of the internet, a lot of information is available to me online for free. Has that changed the craft of teaching filmmaking at all?
It’s added things that we have to talk about. Learning how to use the online world to your advantage as a filmmaker, that’s something that we talk about in our producing programme. This is now a whole new way of getting your film seen, get your film distributed, there’s a little bit more opportunity. There’s different type of work that is now done expressly for the internet. The web series is something new. People have different expectations and different ways of viewing material on the web. It’s shorter, it’s in little pieces, it comes over a period of time. So, the same stuff with a slightly different bend to it, and how you use that.
Talk a little bit about tech. AR, VR, 3D etc. Do you continuously upgrade the tech that you teach at NYFA?
Yeah. So we are teaching VR in two ways. VR for narrative filmmaking and then we’re teaching virtual reality for game design. I am blown away by VR. We have a whole course around this, a lot of it is about technology.
Finally, what is it that you would want to say to Indian students who want to be a part of this experience?
If you have any thoughts that you want to do it, reach out to us, is what I would say to any student. Just by communicating with us doesn’t mean you’re making a commitment to do it. I don’t want anybody to just jump in without properly thinking about it and planning it. If you think this is something you want to do, don’t wait. People are scared sometimes to say ‘I am going to go into the film industry’. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to make a three year commitment. Start small! Do a workshop and then when you love it, you say ‘I have to do this’. And the fact of the matter is, you decide to go into film making and you think, ‘Okay I want to be the next great director.’ That’s not the only place for you to go. As you mature as an artist, you’ll realise there’s so many other places for you in that industry, other than just being a great director. I believe if you love something, you will figure out how to make it work for yourself. Your passion will allow you to keep going.