Student Spotlight: George Nicholas’s films ANTIGONE, SOAP N SUDS, and 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME


Current VCFA MFA in Film student, George Nicholas’s short experimental documentary ANTIGONE, a twelve minute meditation on life, death, presence, religion, family, emptiness, and light centered upon the death of the filmmaker’s beloved Mother, has several scheduled screening this Spring (2018).  Nicholas created this film while here at VCFA, and writes,

I spent the first two semesters working on an experimental documentary about my mother’s death from cancer in 2014.  I had made brief overtures at starting the film before I arrived at  VCFA,  but I’m glad that I continued it while here, or I would have given up on it for the potential scale of it and the gut-wrenching emotional journey that met every editing session.  With the good advisement of some truly wonderful faculty, and the keen insight of a fellow student… I was committed to finishing it, and it had its world premiere at the Cyprus International Film Festival in Paphos, Cyprus in June (2017), where it received the Nostimon Imar Award, an award given to the film that best embodies the sense of “nostimon imar,” from a passage in Homer’s Odyssey, loosely translated as “the day of the sweet return to one’s homeland,” a film for the Greek and Cypriot diaspora.

ANTIGONE also screened at the 2017 8th Bridges International Film Festival of Peloponnesse and was nominated for best documentary at the 2017 Kerry Film Festival, Killarney, Ireland both in October of last year.
In 2018 (so far!) ANTIGONE will screen at:
  • Three Rivers Film Festival, Pittsburgh, PA, (2018 dates not yet posted) Three Rivers Film Festival only accepted 10 shorts, and ANTIGONE was one of them. Nicholas calls his return to Pittsburgh a  “bittersweet homecoming, as most of the 8mm footage was shot there in my childhood and before.”



Additionally, Nicholas’s short animated film, SMOKE N SUDS, also completed while here at VCFA, will have it’s world premiere at the 13th Athens ANIMFEST in Athens, Greece, March 15 – 18th, 2018! SMOKE N SUDS is a lo-fi animated film (reminiscent of early Jim Jarmusch) that follows two punks who meet at a laundromat in late 80’s Hell’s Kitchen NYC.

Finally, 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME, a film that Nicholas helped produce and was the DoP of, had its world premiere at Cinequest in San Jose on March 3rd, 2018.

Horror Society writes of the film, 7 SPLINTERS IN TIME is an intricately constructed, visually arresting, graphically exotic and groundbreaking lo-fi sci-fi detective story that mashes up Phillip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler.

Congrats George, we are thrilled for you!


George Nicholas is an award-winning New York – based filmmaker and director of photography. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to first-generation Greek immigrants, picked up his father’s love for photography at age 7, and wrote and directed his first play at 11. He studied drama at the University of Texas, Arlington, moved to NYC in 1998, worked as a sound technician for Off-Broadway Theater and as a roadie, working with bands like the Rolling Stones, before moving a bit north to attend the Conservatory of Film at the State University of New York at Purchase, where he graduated with a BFA in Film Production. He has worked as a cinematographer professionally since 1992, and his work has been shown worldwide on air and in festivals. George has produced and directed music videos, including Elizabeth Cook’s “Sunday Morning,” which aired on VH-1, GAC, and CMT. His 2004 short film, “Exact Fare,” won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, and his most recent film, “Antigone” won the Nostimon Imar award (for films of the diaspora) at its premiere at the 2017 Cyprus International Film Festival. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Radio, Television, Film at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, and prior to that taught at and was the Technical Director of Film and New Media at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He currently resides in Mamaroneck, New York with his wife, Marie, their son Peter, and two cats. He is a bassist and vocalist for the J.D. Southard Band and the upright bassist for The Quarter Moon. Nicholas will graduate from VCFA MFA in Film April 2018.

Student Spotlight: Tamara Perkins’s film LIFE AFTER LIFE screening at the GMFF, plus a teaser of her newest film

LIFE AFTER LIFE, a film directed and produced by current VCFA MFA in Film student Tamara Perkins, will screen at the Green Mountain Film Festival  this March (2018). LIFE AFTER LIFE will screen twice at the GMFF, once in Essex Junction (March 18th, 6:45-9:00pm) at the Essex Cinemas, and a second time in Montpelier (March 18th, 12:00-2:30pm) at the Pavilion. GMFF has partnered with the Community Justice Center of Essex and the Community Justice Center of Montpelier. At both venues, a q&a discussion is planned after the film with the filmmaker along with several other local voices with insights into the topic of re-entry post-incarceration, including: a Reentry Coordinator from the local Community Justice Center (CJC), a Parole Officer from the Department of Corrections, Formerly incarcerated person(s), Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Volunteer from the local CJC, and (at the Montpelier screening) the Deputy Defender General of the State of VT.

LIFE AFTER LIFE  follows the stories of Harrison, Noel, and Chris as they return home from San Quentin State Prison. After spending most of their lives incarcerated, they are forced to reconcile their perception of themselves with a reality they are unprepared for. Each struggles to overcome personal demons and reconstruct their fractured lives. Grappling with day-to-day challenges and striving for success, they work to reconnect with family and provide for themselves for the first time in their adult lives. Told in an unadorned verite style, we experience the truth of their heartaches and triumphs. As their stories unfold over weeks, months and years, the precarious nature of freedom after incarceration in America is revealed.


With 25 screenings, panels, and healing circles that have reached over 4000 people in CaliforniaIndiana, Michigan, PennsylvaniaWashington, Vermont, and Texas (with recent calls to bring the film to Florida, Hawaii, New York and North Carolina), LIFE AFTER LIFE has been generating dialogue and fueling advocacy across the country, even inspiring some colleges/universities to teach to the film.

The Green Mountain Film Festival is presented by Focus on Film, a 34-year-old central Vermont organization whose purpose is to provide public film showings of cultural, social, and historic interest, to sponsor discussions of such films, and to provide an opportunity for independent filmmakers to exhibit their works. The festival enters its 21st year with continued dedication to bringing the best films from around the world to central Vermont.

We are so excited that LIFE AFTER LIFE will be here in Vermont at the GMFF, and look forward to the important and impactful dialogue the film and subsequent talks will bring to our local community.

Additionally. Tamara’s new film, THE WAITING LIST (working title), is getting under way. Check out the teaser below! More footage and info will be coming soon.

More about Tamara:

Tamara Perkins uses film as a vehicle for change, pulling from her work in restorative justice as a grief support facilitator, speaker, and non-profit director to found Apple of Discord Productions in 2006. Tamara’s 2013 TEDx talk, ‘Life After: Embracing our Common Humanity’ explores her experience as a crime survivor. Life After Life received a Media for a Just Society Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and is selected for the following film festivals: Justice on Trial, FilmFest52, New Haven, and GMFF.


Student Spotlight: Jason Rosenfield

Current VCFA MFA in Film student Jason Rosenfield discusses his recent appointment to the Board of Governors of the Television Academy, representing the Documentary Programming Peer Group; his past service as governor (2006-2012) representing the Editors Peer Group; and his background that brought him to film and television.

Aja Zoecklein: Briefly, can you talk about the organization of the TV academy and your role there over the years?

Jason Rosenfield: I first began serving on the Executive Committee to the Editors Peer Group around 2003. After a couple of years, I was then asked to run for governor. I was kind of nervous; I’d never done anything like that before, but I was enjoying it, so I ran. Much to my surprise I was elected and I served three terms as a governor of the editors peer group from 2006 to 2012.

The experience was tremendous and it was a big deal for me, because it got me out of the editing room, literally and figuratively, and opened me up in a way that I had never really experienced before. When you’re in that room as a governor and you’re sitting on a committee with a studio executive, a camera person, a makeup artist, an actor [from the other peer groups]—you’re all just Jason and Jane and Bob and Stephen and you’re trying to get a job done, that editor label isn’t even there. So it kind of brought me out of my shell. The editing room appealed to me because I could just close the door and shut the world out, but this changed me and opened me up. I had a great time.

I decided to switch peer groups mostly because I wanted to be more involved in the documentary community. Since 2012, editing documentary features has been my primary occupation. I felt like I had contributed everything I had to the editors peer group. (I am still a hybrid-member though—I’m still a member of the editors peer group, but you have to pick one that’s your primary group.) Just this past year actually, the executive committee members asked me if I would run for governor again. I said yes because I like being in the room and I like what it does for me. I like the camaraderie. And, as I said, I wanted to do more for the documentary community. This was a way to do it.

AZ: Can you expand on some of the goals and initiatives you were part of as a member of the editors peer group?

JR: There were a number of things. First, there really wasn’t any kind of an opportunity for editors to meet each other who were working in television, so we created that opportunity. For example, American Cinema Editors (ACE) has an event every year prior to the Oscars called “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” where they put the five nominated editors on a panel at the Egyptian Theatre in L.A. to talk about their films and how they got into the business and how that particular film was cut/all the challenges involved. The event sells out every year. We wanted to emulate that for TV editors and that’s how “Prime Cuts” came about.

We produced a lot of individual panels and symposiums. There was one evening event which was called “Life and Death in the E.R.”—E.R. a double entendre for both editing room and emergency room. We put show runners and editors from three shows—a drama, a comedy, a documentary—that were focused in hospitals up on a panel to explore how they each approach the same subject in different ways.

There were panels that just focused on the different genres of reality television. There was a huge panel—the last one I did with that peer group—that we did at the United Artists Theatre downtown where J.J. Abrams moderated a panel with Transparent show runner Jill Soloway, Jeffrey Tambor, their lead cinematographer, and a couple of writers… It was an evening called “Anatomy of an Episode,” which I had been nursing along with one other editor on the committee for a long time. The idea of that was to take one episode from concept, to writer’s room, to production, to post, and finally to air and see what changed along the way. The impetus for that panel was how so many people in the other crafts—whether cinematographers or actors or writers—will come to the editors and say, “Whatever happened to my shot? Whatever happened to my close up? Why did you drop those lines and dialogue? What happened to this scene?” We realized that people really didn’t know what happened to their stuff once it got into the mill of the post-production process, so we created this panel to sort of cover that. We managed to attract 1,500 people for this gathering, which was insane for a peer group event at the academy, usually you’re lucky to get a hundred people.

So, the stuff we are doing is professional development, as well as networking opportunities and social gatherings so that the community [of editors] feel like a community a little more.

AZ: Although your post does not begin in the documentary peer group until January 2018, what sort of areas do you anticipate working on?

JR: The documentary peer group is something very different, which I didn’t really quite grasp until I started getting involved with it. The documentary peer group, from what I’ve seen so far, is made up of documentary filmmakers—meaning the producers/directors who are out there actually making the films/shows—but also development and programming executives from the big outlets: HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Discovery, National Geographic. These are above the line people so their concerns are very different. I’m the alone below-the-line-guy in this mix which is really interesting for me, because once again, it really expands my horizons. I can’t go in there and say “hey, let’s do something about how to edit a documentary” because they’re not interested in that, that’s not what their members want to know.

We are planning a series of events in the next 12 months—one in L.A., one in New York, one probably up in San Francisco, and one other possible location sponsored by one of these major streaming services or cable networks. The focus will be on how do you get your doc made: How do you get it financed? How do you raise the money? How do you get it distributed? What are the networks looking for?

So, it’s really more about the marketing and sales end of it and just, really, what do you do when you have an idea and how do you get to the final product… It’s a very different mindset, which for me is fascinating because I’m not simply doing the same things that I was doing before. It’s like a whole brave new world. Even though it’s not what I do for a living it opens me up to a whole other level of the business, which is why I got involved in the academy in the first place.

AZ: Incredible! While I’ve got you, tell me, how did you come to film editing in the first place?

JR: It was kind of a circuitous route. I went to University of Pennsylvania without any clear intentions. Architecture was on my mind, but I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do. Unfortunately, only three weeks into my freshman year my father got sick and I had to drop a bunch of courses and I was back and forth the rest of the school year. At this time, I retreated into a theater group at Penn—it’s where I found my refuge. I was harboring this secret passion—from when I was 11 years old and my parents took us to see West Side Story on Broadway—that I really wanted to be a performer, specifically, a dancer. At the end of the year [my father] died and we were deeply in debt. I had to leave school and get a job because there was no money to pay for school.

So, after five or six years of traveling, living in San Francisco and getting involved in the 60s, I ended up on a commune in northeast Vermont in a little town called Franklin. And, long story short, one day a group of people are going to visit friends at Goddard College (just down the road from [VCFA]!) and I went along for the ride. I ended up meeting this man and his wife who were running the dance program there. He was an ex-Graham dancer. We got to talking and he said, “do you want to come here and work with me? I can find you a place to live and get you a job on campus. I need guys.” So I did that. I lived in Vermont for about a year and a half working with him. I then decided to go to New York City and try my luck. I danced for a number of years, but I had injuries that were preventing me from getting anywhere near where I wanted to get to so I finally decided I needed to find something different.

Among the many part time jobs that I had supporting myself while I took dance classes, was a job with a guy who rented editing equipment so I was always watching what they were doing. One day I went out with some friends and made a little movie with a girlfriend who was a dancer recovering from an injury and taking a private dance class. When I sat down and started cutting that film, I started realizing that what I was doing was choreography and that I was able to dance now, again. That’s really how it all went.

AZ: Thanks Jason! Always a pleasure to chat with you. We can’t wait to hear more!

More about Jason:

Jason Rosenfield, ACE, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning film editor recognized for his storytelling skills in character-driven long-form documentaries, feature films and television series. Jason’s narrative credits range from Robert Altman’s classic Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean to the improvisational television comedy Free Ride. His documentary credits include the Oscar-nominated Blues Highway, HBO’s Emmy-winning Memphis PD and Teen Killers, Dick Wolf’s groundbreaking NBC series Law & Order: Crime & Punishment and CNN’s The Seventies. Over the last four years he has collaborated with three-time Oscar-winner Mark Jonathan Harris on Netflix’s award-winning Lost for Life and Swift Current, both directed by Joshua Rofe, and Harris’s own Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine, which has received numerous festival awards and will be released theatrically in winter 2018.  He is currently serving as Supervising Editor on a 4-part Amazon documentary miniseries for executive producer Jordan Peele and creators Joshua Rofe and Stephen Berger.

Jason also serves as a story and editorial consultant and currently has two films in post-production and one on the festival circuit, winning awards from San Diego and San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain. Additional production awards have included an RF Kennedy Award, DGA Award, Peabody Award, several Emmys and Emmy nominations and prizes at American and international film festivals.

In 2001, Jason was elected to membership in American Cinema Editors [ACE], an honorary society of distinguished editors.  He has served as Associate Director of the ACE Board and was recently elected to his fourth term as Governor of the Television Academy, where he has developed and produced numerous symposiums and ongoing panel series. Jason is an Adjunct Professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in the graduate and undergraduate programs. He has taught at Columbia College – Hollywood, is a mentor at the Stowe (Vt.) Story Labs Screenwriting Workshop and has taught abroad under the auspices of the American Film Showcase and U.S. State Department.





A MURDER IN MANSFIELD, a documentary produced by current student John Morrissey, at IDFA and DOC NYC

A MURDER IN MANSFIELD, a documentary film produced by current MFA in Film student John Morrissey, had its European premier at IDFA this past November (2017).  Directed by Barbara Kopple, A MURDER IN MANSFIELD also premiered in the U.S. at DOC NYC.

Now 38, Collier Boyle returns to his home town of Mansfield, Ohio, where as a 12-year-old boy, he was a prosecution witness in the trial of his father John. The elder Boyle was charged with the murder of Collier’s mother Noreen on New Year’s Eve 1989. After the trial, John was found guilty and Collier lost touch with every member of his family except his manipulative, narcissistic father, who still exerts power over him. To come to terms with his past, Collier revisits the places and people that were significant at the time: his childhood home, his high school, the court, the head of the investigation, his adoptive parents and his mother’s best friend, culminating in a confrontation with his father in prison. Collier’s memories come to life in the video reports of the trial in 1990, family photos, the heartrending letters he wrote to his father as a teenager, and shots from a drone flying above the snow-covered city. A Murder in Mansfield is a sensitive portrait of a brave man struggling to free himself from the burden of the past, revealing the far-reaching effects of a violent crime.

To read more about the film check out these great reviews by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

John Morrissey also spent time this last November (9-16, 2017) mentoring 12 filmmakers who were competing for grant money at the Malatya Film Festival Platform in Turkey to a great success.

Process. Patience. Passion: Alan Berliner, October 2017 Residency Recap, Special Guest

The VCFA MFA in Film residency week is always an inspiring time for our students, and this past October was no exception. We were lucky enough to have the brilliant and affable Alan Berliner join us as a special guest. As is the usual format with our special guests, Alan gave a lecture in addition to a screening of his film with a q&a period following.

In his lecture, Alan shared wisdom about his filmmaking process, editing and what it means to be, as he says, “a collagist.” We viewed and discussed clips of his past work (WIDE AWAKE, EVERYWHERE AT ONCE), and got a special sneak peek of his newest (top secret, 40-years in the making!) project. Berliner provided candid and compelling insights into how he approaches his art and the creative process. Just a few pearls: trust the process, play, detour, and consider the “spectrum of revisions” by looking at things at the molecular level, in which he states, “I make molecules. Put them together. I’m making compounds…Everything has meaning.”

Below is an excerpt (teaser!) of his lecture for a small taste of what we were so fortunate to experience from his visit:

For those familiar with Alan’s work, specifically elements showcased in his film, WIDE AWAKE, you know about his copious collection of “subject matter” and the meticulous ways he catalogs all of these pieces he has gleaned from the world in his studio space in Manhattan. To get an idea the New York Times gives a brief description:

…Stacked on metal shelves that line two walls of the studio are hundreds of color-coded film cans and boxes. Red denotes black-and-white 16-millimeter footage; orange, sound; yellow, 16-millimeter color; blue, his family’s home movies; green, others’ home movies; violet, found photographs from around the world; gray, slides and transparencies. “It’s spectral, you see,” Mr. Berliner said.

Elsewhere along the shelves are subsections of emotional ephemera: discarded photo albums, love letters, suicide notes and journals, some found in flea markets, others in the trash. Cabinets are filled with wooden objects, pieces of carpet, flipbooks, toys, kaleidoscopes, zoetrope strips. Things for cutting. Things for pasting. Things for labeling. Things for measuring. A file cabinet is marked with the names of birds. Open a drawer, and the corresponding call rings out.

… Would he describe himself as obsessive? Pause. “Of course,” he said. “I’m not afraid of that word.”

It was fascinating to hear Alan discuss his “Living Laboratory” in detail while viewing his work, both in finished form and in rough cuts. Berliner is, above all things, an artist married to his “process, patience, and passion.”

For the screening Alan brought his film, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED. Trailer is below:

In a 2013 article in IndieWire, Berliner writes about viewing his films with audiences,

For me, watching my films along with the audience has always been a necessity — an intrinsic part of my understanding of what it means to be a filmmaker.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always seized the opportunity to be a fly on the wall inside the real-life laboratory for which my film was intended: a group of perfect strangers intimately gathered in a dark room to watch something I’ve just spent years of my life putting together.

…I’ve always believed that finishing a film is just “the beginning” of the end of my filmmaking process.  I say “the beginning of the end,” because this new (and exciting) phase in the life of the film initiates a critically important part of my creative process — the chance to observe audience response as a way of gleaning insights both about my film and about filmmaking; things I’ll take with me when it’s time to make the next one.

About his film, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED, Berliner tells Documentary Magazine,

“The other thing about the film,” Berliner explains, “is that you start out doing one thing, and then because it’s just part of life and it’s just the way the mind works, you end up going to some other place and doing something else, or realizing something else, or getting insights that take you to other places. I made a film about the memory loss of a man who had a lot that he both needed and wanted to forget. At the end I say, ‘You are in a film, and millions of people are watching and you can say anything you want.’ And what does he say? ‘Remember how to forget.’ And in context, what he’s saying is what is true in life: If we couldn’t forget, we would all go insane. So forgetting is a very, very powerful force in both sanity, and in keeping the world in perspective.

Visit Alan at his website to learn more!

The New York Times has described Berliner’s work as “powerful, compelling and bittersweet… full of juicy conflict and contradiction, innovative in their cinematic technique, unpredictable in their structures… Alan Berliner illustrates the power of fine art to transform life.”

Alan Berliner’s uncanny ability to combine experimental cinema, artistic purpose, and popular appeal in compelling film essays has made him one of America’s most acclaimed independent filmmakers. Berliner’s films, FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED (2013), WIDE AWAKE (2006), THE SWEETEST SOUND (2001), NOBODY’S BUSINESS (1996), INTIMATE STRANGER (1991), and THE FAMILY ALBUM (1986), have been broadcast all over the world, and received awards, prizes, and retrospectives at many major international film festivals.  Over the years, his films have become part of the core curriculum for documentary filmmaking and film history classes at universities worldwide. All of his films are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

 In 2006, the International Documentary Association honored Berliner with an International Trailblazer Award “for creativity, innovation, originality, and breakthrough in the field of documentary cinema.” Berliner is a recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and Jerome Foundation Fellowships and multiple grants from the NEA, NYSCA, and NYFA.  He’s won three Emmy Awards and received seven Emmy nominations.

Or, as Alan might prefer:

Alan Berliner spends every day alone in a room with his stuff, trying to tell stories.

The Voyeur, Revealed: An Interview with co-directors Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, PART II

Part II of our interview with co-directors, Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, on their new documentary, Voyeur. Voyeur premieres on Netflix December 1, 2017. To read the first part of this interview head on over here.

AZ: How did this film change from your original story line, especially in light of the controversies regarding fact checking/Talese’s denouncement and subsequent redaction? Were there any “oh shit” moments that came up in your filming where you had to drastically shift course?

Kuory: Well, Gay tried to the cancel the film a few times. It’s always complicated and it’s not uncommon for documentarians to have trials with their subjects. Gay’s a combustible figure and there were times when it was a long long process. We tried to make our intentions clear throughout, but to be honest,  we barely knew each other when we started this thing, and had to put ourselves in the shoes of a subject and trust them and have them trust us. Issues come up, you work to smooth them out, and you know, a lot of stuff hits the cutting room floor–maybe it wasn’t relevant to the story, or it’s a very interesting idea that just couldn’t fit in the 90-95 minute format. A lot of different things… but we made it…

Kane: I think it’s what makes the film so unique feeling because even though we got in with Gay, the fact was, when we started, there was zero guarantee that we’d ever meet the Voyeur. We shot for months before meeting him, and it was all Gay who figured out how to get us out there to meet him, and then during that time–2 ½-3 years–we could only access Gerald through Gay. And then of course, with the New Yorker involved, and the book deal, it is amazing to everyone that we were able to remain under the radar and that all these outside corporate and business interests didn’t really get in the way or try to stop us, which is always a worry, especially with a high profile writer.

AZ: Now that the film is finished and out in the world, how do the two men feel about the the final product? Do they like the film?

Kuory: Yeah, yeah, I think so… We obviously wanted to show both Gay and Gerald the film before our world premiere at the New York Film Festival. We rented a private cinema for Gay and Nan Talese, his wife, and some of his book publishers came, and it was definitely a tense cold thing, not a lot of laughter happening, but, ultimately at the end of the day, he, you know,  clapped. You could tell that he felt, not conflicted, but that it was a tough watch for him. He consistently said that it’s a very honest film although he didn’t love a lot of what’s in it, it’s raw, but he respects it because he respects non-fiction. He said it was “tough, but fair.”

And similarly Gerald, we also rented a cinema…We had to fly out to Denver because Gerald doesn’t travel. Anita was there, and his son was there, actually. And, they laughed a lot. [Laughs] For them it was also similarly tough. We went out to dinner afterwards, and Gerald said it was really tough to watch certain segments, but again, he only thought we did a good job. It’s funny–this got a laugh at the world premiere– because one of the things he said was that it was very “professionally done,” and everyone laughed.

AZ: Josh, you worked on this film while pursuing your MFA in Film at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. How did being in the program at the time help shape the outcome of the final product and your trajectory as a filmmaker in general?

Kuory:  Myles and I had been making movies together for a long time, but I was interested in getting my MFA so that I could  teach full time. Looking around at different MFA programs, the VCFA model attracted me because of the low residency component and its affordability. I also recognized a lot of the faculty members. In the program, I was able to work with some amazing filmmakers that I had already known about and respected. I was familiar with their work and it was just really great to have the opportunity to sit down and bounce ideas and to workshop different cuts during a time in our project when we were waiting around for the article and the book to get released. It was a really good opportunity to kind of develop the footage we had and really understand what we had.

Another big thing that came from my time at VCFA, was one of my faculty advisors, Jeremiah Zagar–who Myles and I had both known prior to my time at VCFA, but I had the opportunity to work with him in the program–when he first saw our 14 minutes fundraising trailer, he was really excited. He, and his colleague Jeremy Yaches, came on board as executive producers and were both instrumental in helping us creatively get the film to hit its potential. They also connected us with Impact Partners who became our main funders…our creative team just really started to expand at that point and hit another level.

AZ: What’s next for you?

Kuory: We don’t know! [Laughs] Everyone thinks we’re trying to hide ideas from them, but we’re not. We have a laundry list of things and some of them are good, some of them are OK, and some are maybe…who knows? We’re meeting again this weekend.

AZ: Thank you both for taking the time. Congratulations on Voyeur’s Netflix premiere and we can’t wait to see what your next project will be!


Voyeur is now available to stream on Netflix!. Check out the trailer:

The Voyeur, Revealed: An Interview with co-directors Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, PART I

Voyeur follows Gay Talese — the 84-year-old giant of modern journalism — as he reports one of the most controversial stories of his career: a portrait of a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos.  For decades, Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: strangers having sex. Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: What does a journalist owe to his subjects? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? Who is really the voyeur?

Voyeur, co-directed by Josh Kuory and Myles Kane, premiered at the 55th New York Film Festival in October 2017 and will be launching on Netflix December 1, 2017. Koury, an alumnus of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Film program, worked on this film as part of his thesis project while attending VCFA.

An excerpt of this interview has been published on New England Film.


Aja Zoecklein: Having seen an earlier version of the film, and now having seen the final version, I was blown away by the differences: how tight the final cut felt and how much more compassion I had towards the players, especially the Voyeur. Can you talk about your editing process over the last year or so to help the story along?

Josh Kuory: The biggest changes that we made, besides general tightening up and refining, was adding additional visual treatments: some more recreations, and a little bit more on the miniatures. Mostly to help get us into the mindset of the characters–especially Foos in the attic and connecting him to that world a little bit, almost as if living in his head. We also added a lot more around when the miniature set starts to fall apart to reflect the overall arc of what is happening in the story. On top of that, we had the opportunity to work closely with Netlix and got the film in front of a lot more people to start that feedback and refinement process.


AZ: To borrow from a line in the film, “when you hold onto stories, things change.” You spent years of your lives with Talese and Foos and there really seemed to be a sense of friendship and camaraderie amongst you all — at one point, Foos says “I love you guys.” While there are multiple layers, the film is really about the relationship of these two–very real — humans, and to the juxtaposition of parallel lives in a specific point of time. How did the act of making this film change the story for you, or did it?

Kuory: Just generally in the way that Myles and I work as co-directors… my wife, Trisha Kuory, the producer for the film, and I, we were spending a lot of time with Gerald and his wife, Anita, and then Miles spent a lot time with Gay. So, I’ll just talk a little bit about our experience with Gerald. It’s sort of like what happened in the film, the more we get to know Gerald the more we started to understand him and empathize with him. Not forgive him for what he did, because I think that’s unforgivable, but just sort of understand him and understand the dynamic between him and Anita –who is, as far as I’m concerned, the most innocent, and likeable, and interesting…that’s just me maybe, but I don’t know…

Myles Kane: No, it’s definitely not just you. I mean she’s like the star at every festival. I think she’s a conduit for the audience because she’s an innocent, and obviously the smallest personality in the room. I think some of her comments are surprising, but also sort of cathartic because she often says ultimately what’s actually going on and speaks truthfully, even if it’s just calling her husband a creep. She’s the human empathetic face that the audience needs.

You mentioned, working with these “two humans”– I think that’s a good way to put it–because that’s definitely how Josh and I always like to try to approach our characters in production, approaching them as “humans,” meaning they’re flawed, they’re real people. In the edit we weighed them both equally. The nature of the format is you expect the subject to be portrayed as the victim and the journalist as the perpetrator, but we weighed them equally, and they’re both flawed and both likable in some ways. It was definitely a challenge, but I think that’s why it took four plus years to make this film, it takes time to peel back the layers.

AZ: Talese writes, “Most journalists are restless voyeurs who see the warts on the world, the imperfections in people and places.” The most compelling aspects while viewing this film were the times where you and your team are visibly present, either in reflective glimpses (Foos’s glasses, a window, a computer screen) or in that tense scene with Talese near the end of the film where we can hear you in dialogue with your subjects. Did you know early on that your role needed to be present in the film for the most impact, or did it evolve into necessity?

Kuory: Our filmmaking style is very much to record and to capture as much as possible, in order to give us a lot of different options to layer the story or discover new angles in the story during our post-production. So we had a lot of footage that included us, partly just because of how we shoot,  and to some degree, by accident. Very late in the process we discussed amongst some of our creative peers the idea of bringing ourselves in as a third layer of voyeurism,  the audience then being the fourth layer. Once we started to realize that we were integral to the story we felt it was our duty, or not our duty really, but just that it was important to implicate ourselves here too, because we’re not blameless either.

Kane: Everything we’re hearing about Gay Talese’s career and his approach to journalism is a constant echo to what we do. It was just so clear that we’re all cut from the same cloth in terms of our desire to try to portray the truth, dramatize the truth, make these works out of non-fiction. Like Josh said, it became necessary at some point. If we if we’re going to make this sort of somewhat critical movie about a journalist, successes and flaws, we need to certainly tip our hat to the fact that we are maybe guilty of the same things.

AZ: I loved this idea of toying with perspective, who is looking in/who is looking out… you achieved this truncated POV visually by obstruction and looking through things, as well as camera angles. Can you talk a little about manipulating visuals to convey greater meaning and metaphor?

Kane: Similarly to what I was talking about with the whole kind of journalism parallel, the camera here is obviously the ultimate voyeuristic tool. We, as documentarians, and people in general, are so aware of the camera which for some reason seems to have more power than just the eyes. Stylistically there certainly was a choice in terms of shooting–in both their houses, they are both collectors,  there is  just so much stuff!–it presented itself naturally that you would constantly see them surrounded by many things, or be able to look at them through things. In the edit it proved to be a great element because our film is not a heavy handed essay, we are mostly letting our character tell their own story. So, that was sort of a subtle way for us to make this commentary without using sound bites from other people or other mechanisms to convey the point. It weaved the layers together underneath the main storyline.

AZ: The miniature model of the motel was an essential component to telling Foos’s perspective of omnipotence in a way that literal reenactments would not have effectively been able to. How did the idea come about?

Kane: While we hoped this would be a present day story, we knew early on that a big part of it was past-tense, and we would need to have some sort of recreation happen. Reenactments are par for the course with documentaries, but as a result, are also open to criticisms. We were very conscious of not wanting it to stick out or feel overly falsified or dramatized. So that was the first thing, and then we also really wanted to have something that felt like it was it was more than wallpaper so to speak, not just this kind of literal visualization. The miniature thing came up after we had seen these photos stills of miniatures in crime scene photography and there was something attractive about bypassing using actors to play every moment. Being that the motel itself was sort of a character in the movie, we thought, why don’t we just use the architecture and the space as sort of the main set and use props and lighting and all that to invoke? Knowing that Gay and Gerald are such good storytellers we knew that we could, luckily, rely on them a lot to tell the story. They are both very colorful speakers.

Kuory: Right, and as the film progresses, the model–this perfect memory that they have–is starting to fall apart at the seams and becomes more fragile. And you realize that the model stands in for the truth of the story in many ways…

Kane: Truth can be elusive. Certainly it would feel solid. You think it’s one thing and then you realize it’s not, it’s a model. It speaks to the artificiality of facts, how they can so easily just suddenly dissipate.

Stay tuned for Part II of this conversation! Voyeur premieres on Netflix December 1st, 2017, don’t miss it!

Alumnus Jay Koski’s (’16) THE PEPIE LEGEND, to screen at FlyWay Film Festival

Alumnus Stewart Jay Koski’s thesis project, THE PEPIE LEGEND, was picked up for the FlyWay Film Festival in Pepin, WI (2017).

Full-time folklorist and book author Chad Lewis reveals a 150-year-old legend that continues to resurface in modern day. In an attempt to solve the puzzle of this long-sought legend a $50,000 reward has been offered for indisputable proof of this Midwest lake monster. Filmed entirely on location.

As a supplement, here is a fun little article about Chad Lewis and Pepie from the Lacrosse Tribune.

Congrats Jay!

Alumna Martha Gregory’s short, THREE RED SWEATERS, wins Best Documentary at Aspen Shortfest

VCFA alumna Martha Gregory’s (’16) short doc, THREE RED SWEATERS, has been screened at several venues this last year–winning Best Documentary at the 26th Aspen Shortsfest!

THREE RED SWEATERS features a documentarian exploring the way that we remember and record our lives through the lens of her grandfather’s breathtaking, Alex Colville-esque 16mm home videos. The Aspen Film website describes Martha’s work as “deeply personal yet universally relatable—particularly in the age of social media.” The award praises Martha, “this inquisitive director,” who “gives new life to what was once thought lost forever through the use of photographs and conversations.”

Athens International Film Festival
TIFF Bell Lightbox monthly shorts program
Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival

Fangle Magazine published a great article leading up to the Athens International Film Festival featuring Gregory. Here is an excerpt:

“Three Red Sweaters” is a film about how people’s memories may be changing with the ability to record every moment of their lives. Gregory said the idea began as a question for how memories and images, such as photos or film, influence each other.

Gregory said for this film, she interviewed a lot of people, friends – the cobbler in her neighborhood, other filmmakers – but found her most compelling story though her grandfather.

“He kept yearly family albums stuffed with his own photographs from every holiday, birthday, family event and non-event, every trip or vacation etc. and he had a trove of 16mm film he shot in the 50s, 60s and 70s,” Gregory said.

Gregory interviewed her grandfather many times over the course of a few months, but noticed deterioration in his health that pushed her to change her methodology.

“It became apparent to me that he likely wouldn’t live to see the finished film,” Gregory said. “I decided somewhere along the way to use only his 16mm footage as a way to deepen our collaboration and examine my questions through his footage and his experience as a man devoted to preserving memories through images.”

Like O’Shea, Gregory said that her love for film can be found in her formative years, as she started shooting in elementary school. But, Gregory enjoys film for the twists it brings into her life.

“As I’ve worked on other projects and formed a personal community of friends and mentors who are artists and filmmakers, the more social aspects of filmmaking and the fact that a film can be an opportunity for community building have reinforced my commitment to the art form as a way to explore our worlds, build connections and relationships and tackle relevant issues, ideas and problems,” Gregory said.

Going forward, Gregory has plans to finish a film on how feminism in Nicaragua is an effective tool against the dictatorship, as well as continue her role as film studio manager.


Alumnus Josh Kuory’s documentary, VOYEUR, premieres on Netflix December 1st, 2017

MFA in Film alumnus Josh Koury’s (’16) documentary feature VOYEUR will premiere on Netflix December 1st, 2017.

Koury co-directed VOYEUR with Myles Kane. VOYEUR follows Gay Talese — the 84-year-old giant of modern journalism — as he reports one of the most controversial stories of his career: a portrait of a Colorado motel owner, Gerald Foos.  For decades, Foos secretly watched his guests with the aid of specially designed ceiling vents, peering down from an “observation platform” he built in the motel’s attic. He kept detailed journals of his guests’ most private moments — from the mundane to the shocking — but most of all he sought out, spied on, and documented one thing: strangers having sex. Talese’s insatiable curiosity leads him to turn his gaze to a man accustomed to being the watcher, exploring a tangle of ethical questions: What does a journalist owe to his subjects? How can a reporter trust a source who has made a career of deception? Who is really the voyeur?

VOYEUR was Koury’s thesis film while attending VCFA. While he had shot much of the footage before embarking on his MFA, Koury credits the film program’s faculty for focusing his project and ultimately helping him complete the film.

We had the exciting opportunity to interview Josh and Myles about the film and will be posting our conversation with them next week. Stay tuned!