Alumna Emilie Upczak’s (’15) feature film, MOVING PARTS, makes the festival rounds


MOVING PARTS, the narrative feature film, directed by VCFA aluma Emilie Upczak, premiered at Denver Film Festival in November (2017). MOVING PARTS also played at Havana Film Festival in December (2017) and San Francisco Indie Film Festival in February 2018. MOVING PARTS was produced by  John Otterbacher,  with music composed by Rafael Attias, both also VCFA MFA in Film alumni (’15).

Synopsis: After being smuggled into Trinidad and Tobago to be with her brother, Zhenzhen, an illegal Chinese immigrant, discovers the true cost of her arrival.

About the film, Upczak tells Sydney Levine of Medium, “The movie has taken shape in a way I feel very excited about, from the storytelling to the acting to the cinematography and score. I’m also proud to be telling a story about life experiences that are not commonly represented: that of immigrants, the disenfranchised, the desperate, or another way to view them: the strong.” To read more from this interview pop on over to Sydney’s blog.

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 Ken Raimondi (’15) is a 2017 TOYA nominee!

Congratulations to VCFA’s own Ken Raimondi for his nominiation to the 2017 Top Outstanding Young Americans Program! Part of Ken’s nomination package included the work he did here in the film program at VCFA. 

The Top Outstanding Young Americans program (TOYA) is one of the oldest and most prestigious recognition programs in America. Annually since 1938, JCI USA has sought out young men and women (under the age of 40) who best exemplify the finest attributes of America’s youthful achievers.

Every year, JCI USA recognizes the accomplishments of ten individuals who are truly outstanding, and 2017 is no different. Through an intense judging process, these ten individuals being honored as recipients of the JCI USA Top Outstanding Young American recognition are truly accomplished in their fields, in giving back to their communities. These ten individuals represent the best of the best and individuals we should strive to emulate in our everyday actions. Each Honoree has shown a commitment to that hope, reminding all Americans that no problem is too difficult when handled with grace, ingenuity, courage, and determination.

The JCI USA Class of 2017 Top Outstanding Young Americans Honorees include:

Caitlin Crommett, 23, Speaker/Trainer, CEO, DreamCatchers Foundation, North Hollywood, CA
Jane Cummins, 40, Founder/CEO, The HEART Program, Houston, TX
Chinh Doan, 27, News Anchor/Reporter, KETV, Omaha, NE
Senior Master Sgt Benjamin S. Garrison, 37, United States Air Force, Germany
Earl Granville, 34, Staff Sergeant US Army (Ret.) and Public Speaker, Scott Township, PA
Maggie Henjum, 31, Owner/Founder of Motion, St. Louis Park, MN
Sam Kuhnert, 25, Co-Founder, NubAbility Athletics, Tamaroa, IL
Kenneth Raimondi, 36, Producer/Director, Schertz, TX
Christopher Ulmer, 28, Founder, Special Books by Special Kids, Neptune Beach, FL
Senator Tony Vargas, 32, Nebraska Legislature – District 7, Omaha, NE

Keep up to date on Ken’s work at Story. Told. Productions and on his vimeo page.


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!

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!