Fresh Out Of Film School — New Directors To Watch From NYU Tisch School of the Arts, 2019
Here are eight directors whose NYU thesis projects are already getting them awards attention.
Now that the summer season has officially begun, it’s a perfect time to highlight the work of filmmakers who are making the transition from film school student to professional. Many of the best film schools in the country hold their own student showcase or film festival at the end of the school year, to celebrate student work and even dish out awards and prizes.
This week, we cover the most prestigious film school on the east coast: NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Each year NYU holds the First Run Film Festival, an awards ceremony that honors the best in graduate and undergraduate productions that year.
While most film school programs only offer their students exposure, NYU gives out cold hard cash. Over $50,000 in prizes are given out, offering the winning students more than enough to begin their next project. This particular festival’s legacy also adds to its reputation. Throughout NYU’s storied history, many major auteurs, including Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch, have been featured here.
Here are the major winners of the 2019 First Run Festival at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
King Awards Undergraduate — 1st Prize
“Champions” —Dir. Alfonso Morgan-Terrero
Logline: A Bronx High School Baseball prodigy struggles with feelings of unrequited love from his closest companion and teammate as he prepares to leave home for the first time.
Director Alfonso Morgan-Terrero brings his experience of a Bronx-centric upbringing to this winning film. Citing such diverse influences as realist panting and the films of Edward Yang, Morgan-Terrero and his pair of DPs no doubt brought a very sophisticated style to this short. Morgan-Terrero is also a world-traveler, and one can tell that his handle on multiple viewpoints and perspectives went into a film that is still partly autobiographical.
He is already at work on his next project, Verde. This feature looks to be more ambitious (and perhaps kickstarted by the accolades in this one). It follows three young Dominican men as they deal with the repercussions of a botched gold mine robbery.
King Awards Undergraduate — 2nd Prize
“Silhouette City” — Dir. Poulomi Mukherji
Logline: A shadow accidentally separates from the young boy it belongs to and ends up in stranded in New York City. Over the course of several years, the shadow learns to become it’s own being in the bustling city, but struggles with its desire to reunite with its human self.
Poulomi Mukherji is a bit of an artistic renaissance woman, with strong abilities in animation, direction and storyboard artistry. She has already worked independently with huge clients like Spotify, NBC Universal and Yale. But her film work remains a very personal part of what she does, and Silhouette City is a fine example of this. Just from the trailer’s soundtrack alone, you get a sense of the space and atmosphere Mukherji is creating with her special approach to stop-motion. Equal parts playful and emotional, we cannot wait to see her next narrative film (when she finds the time between juggling all of those other creative projects).
King Awards Undergraduate —3rd Prize
“Dirty Blonde” — Dir. Razieme Iborra
Logline: Spending her life in a cigarette-stained trailer and forced into her mother’s ring of prostitution, Shaye Rankin longs to escape the dirt of her upbringing, quickly finding herself caught between the only family she’s ever known, in exchange for the men she dreams to know.
Ever since coming to NYU from her birth town of Massillon, Ohio, Razieme Iborra has been ready to break out in a big way. Before getting a prize for Dirty Blonde, Iborra has already made some stunning work, including the gritty portrait of a life in Body Electric. She continues her theme of gritty stories of women in tough life situations with Dirty Blonde. In this film she continues to work out a certain New Hollywood aesthetic (high grain and earthy tones), though this time she chooses a wider frame on which to compose. Iborra currently acts as the Creative Producer for the agency Rebel Motion and is readying a narrative feature — which we fully expect to be embraced by the larger festival community.
King Awards Graduate—1st Prize
“Dunya’s Day” — Dir. Raed Alsemari
Logline: Abandoned by all her household help, Dunya fights to throw the perfect graduation soirée.
Dunya’s Day is one of the few films on the list to already find success in other festivals. Winner of the Sundance Short Film Jury in International Fiction, this short finds the perfect blend between historical and modern sensibilities. Perhaps taking a cue (knowingly or not) from the recent The Favorite, Alsemari injects new, colorful life into a story of those of royalty and power. Based in both New York and Saudi Arabia, Alsemari has already made four great shorts, including a documentary and a film in 16mm. We can’t wait to see what Alsemari can do with even bigger budgets in the future.
King Awards Graduate — 2nd Prize
“Palm Trees and Power Lines” — Dir. Jamie Dack
Logline: Sixteen year old Charlotte ambles through a listless summer day when she’s followed home by Tommy, an older guy. Tommy helps her escape her loneliness, but after betraying her trust, Charlotte must decide what matters to her most.
The NYU King Award is only one of a long list of accolades for this intimate drama. With a wordless opening three-and-a-half minutes, Dack proves her ability to create and sustain intrigue and tension from the get-go. This is one of the greatest virtues of a short film (and one of the hardest to pull off). Luckily Palm Trees and Power Lines isn’t just a stylistic exercise. With sly direction that shows rather than tells, aided by fantastic performances from the two leads, this emotionally-involving storyline keeps you intrigued from moment to moment, unsure of what will ultimately transpire.
Dack’s hyper-realistic sensibilities also lend themselves well to documentary, which she has also directed. Though the numerous festival invites already confirm it, this is a major talent with a real eye (and heart) for character-based cinema.
King Awards Graduate — 3rd Prize
“K.I.N.G.” — Dir. Rashad Frett
Logline: A troubled Caribbean teen ventures into an unfamiliar city seeking a bond with his estranged father.
Sharing the same DP as Palm Trees and Power Lines (Alejandro Miyashiro), Rashad Frett nevertheless treads his own cinematic path. Being a first-generation American who was deployed to New York City on 9/11 has shaped his experiences of the world and humanity in unique and lasting ways. To make sense of these experiences, as well as his heritage, he turns to film. We’re glad he has. Frett already won the Director’s Guild of America Student Film Award last December, so this placement is yet another confirmation that he has the directorial chops to really break into the independent scene and beyond. Read more of his story here.
Wasserman Directing Award For Undergraduate Film/TV
“The Boy” — Dir. Kyle Sims
Logline: The neighbors gather to usher a young boy through a strange ceremony.
Kyle Sims is a freelance editor with quite an imagination. The Boy is an experimental short with a sense of paranoia and dread reminiscent of a Rosemary’s Baby. He has made two other shorts before this one, one a creepy take on home video footage and childhood birthdays, the other a Truman Show-esque exploration on the limits of our reality. All three films are equally strange and quirky — each in their own way. We hope he stays true to this vision as he continues.
Wasserman Directing Award For Graduate Film/TV
“Lefty/Righty” — Dir. Max Walker-Silverman
Logline: The death of the family patriarch brings a young rancher and his daughter together. Even in places where words don’t count for much, there are things that need to be said.
In the vein of a Sam Shepard, Max Walker-Silverman uses his filmography to explore the mythos (and the psychology) of the American West. Max himself is from rural Colorado and has experience as a cowhand. With Lefty/Righty, he has constructed a thing of beauty. It was the 2018 winner of the Kodak Vision Award, and we can see why. With its wide vistas and thick celluloid grain dominating each frame, the film feels like it just got pulled out of an old family box and played to revisit old memories.