Hazuki Aikawa makes films that might make you uncomfortable. They tackle subjects that confront norms and may make you squirm in your seat. When a tsunami hit Japan in 2011, she made a series of experimental films encouraging people to listen to the sounds of the carnage. Her work is always provocative. And for good reason. Hazuki is not only challenging our preconceptions and biases ⎯ she’s also challenging her own.
It took seven years from the time Reed Morano graduated from NYU’s film school to the time she worked as a DP on the Academy Award-nominated film Frozen River. Seven years to begin making the work she wanted to make. Which is why when we asked her what advice she’d give to a young filmmaker, the first thing she said was perseverance.
If you we were to list all the reasons why you should listen to Lenore DeKoven’s advice about becoming a better director, it would take a long, long time. So we’ll just list a few: Lenore has worked as a director and producer in theater, film, and television. She has taught at UCLA, NYU, and Columbia, and has been a member of Columbia University’s Graduate Film division for more than 20 years. And on top of all that, she wrote a book, Changing Direction, that has been recommended by everyone from Ang Lee to our good friend Salomon Ligthelm.
Lately, there is a movement toward highly constructed, pristinely executed “nonfiction” films. These films capture real people, real places, and real stories with a heavy imposition of cinematic techniques. If you talk to these directors, they freely admit to directing events, doing multiple takes of supposedly spontaneous moments, and generally making up stuff. But then there are directors like Elizabeth Lo, an NYU grad who’s pushing her work in the opposite direction: messier, less narrative-driven, raw. Her films have been featured in Sundance Film Festival, Short of the Week and she’s been named as one of the ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine.
Reinaldo Marcus Green was a lot of things before he was a filmmaker. Promising athlete, master’s level educator, family man. He worked on Wall Street before, during, and after the 2008 financial collapse. And only then did he decide to study film at NYU under the guidance of legends like Spike Lee and Todd Solondz. So you could say Reinaldo has seen some things. But, more importantly, he has something to say about it.
There’s no secret formula for getting great performances from your actors. Just kidding — yes there is! And Adrienne Weiss knows all the ingredients. After beginning her career directing plays at Yale, Adrienne has gone on to write and direct feature films (her first feature premiered at Sundance); coach directors on feature films and for shows like Girls, 30 Rock, and American Horror Story; and teach courses at NYU and Columbia on how to direct actors. She is also the founder of DirectingActors.com, teaching private workshops that give directors the tools they need to get great performances from their actors. So, yeah, she knows what she’s talking about.
Matthew Porterfield, a 39-year-old filmmaker from Baltimore, Maryland, has written and directed four feature films, including Hamilton, Putty Hill, I Used to Be Darker, and the soon-to-be-released Sollers Point. His work has been screened at acclaimed festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, and the Berlinale. And in 2010 he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. It’s an impressive CV for any filmmaker, let alone one who claims, for the most part, to lack ambition.
There’s no easy way to make a film. The process is incredibly long and complex with a thousand unmarked pitfalls along the way. Sometimes you learn by falling into them. Sometimes you learn by having someone else point them out to you. Which is why we called our friend Adrienne Weiss, an accomplished filmmaker and coach who’s spent the past decade teaching up-and-coming directors at NYU and Columbia. What advice did she have for directors, we wondered. What did she wish someone had told her?