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.

Dan Schrecker, current film faculty member, nominated for a VES award for his work on MOTHER!

VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Dan Schrecker, has been nominated with his team for a Visual Effects Society Award for his work as Visual Effects Supervisor on the Darren Aronofsky film MOTHER!. They are up for the award for Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature, along with fellow nominees from the films DARKEST HOUR, DOWNSIZING DUNKIRK, and ONLY THE BRAVE. The 16th annual VES award will take place February 13, 2018. The full list of nominees can be found here.

VCFA’s MFA in Film program screened MOTHER! here in Montpelier at our October 2017 residency. It was such a treat to have Dan here to talk with us about his work and the film.

To read more in detail about the VFX of MOTHER!, check out this great interview with Dan by vfxblog from September 2017 .

Congrats Dan!

Dan Schrecker is an award winning visual effects artist and animator. He is the Creative Director and Visual Effects Supervisor at Look Effects, Inc., with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, Canada and Stuttgart, Germany.

Dan earned his Master’s Degree from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and his BA in Visual and Environmental Studies with a focus on Animation from Harvard University. Dan was nominated for a BAFTA Award in 2011 for Best Special Effects for the film BLACK SWAN and for Visual Effects Society Awards for BLACK SWAN, THE WRESTLER, THE FOUNTAIN, and FRIDA. His work includes being Visual Effects Supervisor on WARM BODIES, MOONRISE KINGDOM, LIMITLESS, BLACK SWAN, PRECIOUS, THE FOUNTAIN, FRIDA, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, and Darren Aronofsky’s MOTHER!. Through his career Dan has supervised and created visual effects, designed titles and motion graphics, adding to his expertise in multimedia and interactive formats, traditional cel animation and claymation.

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.

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.