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.


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.

Writing is Writing: An Interview with Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson

Current VCFA MFA in Film faculty member, Annie Howell, along with her co-writer and co-director Lisa Robinson, discuss their film CLAIRE IN MOTION (now available to stream on Showtime), their co-writing process, character development, and how film can be vehicle for change.

Aja Zoecklein: How did you first meet and when did you begin your collaborative teamwork?

Lisa Robinson: We met at NYU grad school, but didn’t actually make any films together there. After we finished school we had both written our own features and were trying to get them made but financing was taking a while…we had a conversation about an idea and decided we should make a web series together. It was called SPARKS and was eventually syndicated by the Sundance Channel, which was great. We had fun with it. We would each write an episode and kind of piggyback off each other. From there, it kind of naturally evolved into making a feature, SMALL, BEAUTIFUL MOVING PARTS, which was partly based off the series.

Annie Howell: When we made CLAIRE IN MOTION, I was living in Athens, Ohio and teaching film full time at Ohio University. As soon as I landed I was like “oh, this could be a really interesting place to make a film.” Lisa visited, and I would send her pictures, and that was one of the jumping off points, just thinking about this interesting town that is not as often seen on screen.

 AZ: What is your writing process like? How do you structure your writing as collaborators—together in a room, separate, both?

AH: We typically write independently, swapping and sharing ideas. For the two features, for example, we would have this really long running text/blast email conversation that never stopped! (laughs) Which is great because it’s what the writer’s brain does anyway, but you are just sending it off to another person. We both like having our assignments, agreeing on what that is, and then coming back together with the results. We had a couple of times when we would sit in front a whiteboard together to figure out whatever challenge was in front of us.

AZ: Do you write differently knowing that you will be directing the work?

LR: I don’t think we write differently because we’re directing. The script has to communicate to not just us, but to our actors and to the rest of the crew. It needs to be just as transparent in terms of what we’re trying to do as it would be otherwise. The prep is actually the really important partwhere the writing is changingbecause you are starting to manifest the stuff, physically: you’re picking locations, costumes, actors… It’s such a crucial part of the translation; it’s at that moment the writing gets pulled into the directing space.

AH: I agree, the writing doesn’t deferwriting is writing. We probably have our producer’s hat on a bit: Is this possible? Can we write for a location that we already have? But, consistently, the writing has to work first.

AZ: The characters in CLAIRE IN MOTION are so well-fleshed out. I never felt like anyone was behaving inauthentically or outside of their spectrum of responses. As writers you get the fun task of people-ing your world, how do you go about writing your supporting characters?

AH: For this film, again, it was really informed by this particular town, and also our shared knowledge of the world of academiaa lot of that world is the personal and the professional mixed togetherand so we brought those instincts, impressions, and experiences to the table. Often it’s so challenging and difficult to understand your protagonist and to keep searching for that thread or theme. Supporting characters can often come much quicker, which helps to build that confidence in the writing. In this case the place that she is in and the people around her are just such an important part of the story…

LR: Since Annie was teaching and living there she had a lot of interesting encounters and specifics to bring to it. Since I was further away, I brought a more abstract mental state to it, more along the lines of, what is Claire going through and what kinds of characters would trigger her or bring out parts of her psyche? Those two things combined helped create some of these character.

 AZ: While part mystery/thriller, CLAIRE IN MOTION really tells the story of a woman who is faced with the reality that, in truth, you never can know somebody entirely, and that, perhaps even more importantly, that lack of recognition extends to yourself as well. What prompted you to explore this subject matter in the way you did? Did you know going in that you wanted Claire’s evolution to start at x and end at y?

LR: We knew we wanted her to go through a tragedy and have to grapple with that uncertainty, and letting the viewer grapple with it as well. We weren’t quite sure how we were going to do it, or even what the tragedy was going to be,  but we were interested to see how that uncertainty shifted her identity. We set out to explore a character in a place in her life where she is comfortableshe’s a little bit older, not in her 20s anymore, has a sense of who she is and what her life is going to beand we wanted to upset that, let that run out, and see how she shifts and changes.

AH: We also had some time in the writing process to really chew on a number of different scenarioswe played quite a bit with it in terms of plot, running a lot of what-ifs. We have a strong shared value that we want our audience to have their own experience, so we weren’t going to wrap everything up neatly. The persistent interest in theme being: the not knowing of life and how that can surprise you; what you learn from it and how you might be damaged by it; and inevitably, how you have to just keep going.

AZ: In light of the current state of the world, how do you see filmmaking as an art form shaping and/or informing us as humans?

LR: There’s a lot of exciting films out there right now. GET OUT is a really amazing example of a film that is surprising and exciting in terms of genre, subtext, and choices…So, I’m still really excited about stuff I’m seeing every year. Film is such a powerful medium because it hits people on multiple levels at once. Unfortunately, that means film is related to propaganda, to Facebook, and to all this discussion about fake news. It is just such a powerful force that spreads out in all these different mediums, but, I still think it’s a great tool for change. We see films like MOONLIGHT or LADY BIRD, these are very particular voices that are getting widespread attention. It’s so great.

AH: A well-crafted visual story provides this opportunity for identification, empathy, complication of stereotypes, and personal introspection that’s unlike or dissimilar from the other other ways in which those things happenwhich is, through actual physical relationships with other human beings. When you have the ability to silently interact with othersby that I mean, the charactersit’s a totally different process of growth. These stories are important for any person who is interested in evolving, and I am glad we can do that in different types of waysthrough literature, through cinema, through just observing and watching.

AZ: Thank you Annie and Lisa!


Annie J. Howell is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Howell’s first film, co-written and co-directed with Lisa Robinson, was SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, followed by the duos second feature, CLAIRE IN MOTION. In 2016, LITTLE BOXES, a film written by Howell and directed by Rob Meyer premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it sold to Netflix. The script for LITTLE BOXES is the recipient of an IFP Emerging Narrative Award for Best Feature and a San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation grant. Howell’s other credits include a short for the vanguard ITVS series FUTURESTATES, as well as the web series SPARKS, also created with Robinson and licensed to the Sundance Channel.She teaches in the MFA in Film program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as City College, and has also been a member of the faculty at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, Ohio University’s MFA in Film, and at The New School, where she was the Founding Director of the Graduate Certificate in Documentary Media Studies Program.

Lisa Robinson is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Her credits include the feature films CLAIRE IN MOTION and SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS, both written and directed with Annie Howell. Robinson has directed several episodes of television, including the Emmy award-winning A CRIME TO REMEMBER and the series FUTURESTATES, that had its series premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. Robinson has written and directed several award-winning short films. She also works as a screenwriter and wrote MIND BLAST, an IMAX film for the Blue Man Group. She is the recipient of the Martin E. Segal Prize, the Mitsubishi Digital Media Lab Award for Excellence, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Robinson is currently  Associate Professor of Film at LIU.

Student Spotlight: Lex Lybrand’s thesis film, MAYBE SHOWER

Current MFA in Film student, Lex Lybrand, just dropped the trailer for his thesis film project, MAYBE SHOWER. Written and directed by Lybrand, MAYBE SHOWER stars Kelsey Thomas (SUMMER LEAGUE), Rachel DeRouen (GLASS), and Megan Simon (INDOOR CAT). With Carlos O’Leary (THE TROLLS), Jeff Pearson (HOME REMEDY), Nathan Ehrmann (THE TROLLS), and Caitlin French.

Ash, Shannon, and Wendy are all late. You know… LATE. As their collective anxiety grows, they band together to face their fears, confront the potential fathers, and egg a car or two. All part of the world’s first MAYBE SHOWER.

On October 26th, 2016, Lybrand wrote the following on the “Maybe Shower” blog, and we just had to share it here because, well, it brings us great pride:

I’m sitting in a dorm room in Montpelier, Vermont just a couple of days before Halloween. There’s snow on the ground, I can see my breath in my room, and I’m almost out of coffee. I haven’t been this happy in a very long time. 

This is the last day of my first week at VCFA’s MFA in Film residency. I entered this program with no idea what I would work on while I’m here… but now I know. I’m excited to announce that I have begun work on my next feature screenplay, and I plan to take it from conception to reality during this 2 year program… This is gonna be fun.

MAYBE SHOWER will screen this April at our spring residency and will be hitting the festival circuit soon. Visit the MAYBE SHOWER site to learn more. We can’t wait to see this one! Congrats Lex!

Check out the trailer below. (See if you can spot another one of our talented students in the film, Mr. Kris Atkinson. We love to see our people crewing for each other!)

(Lybrand photo courtesy of George Nicholas)

Student Spotlight: Mark Schimmel’s KILL THE LIGHT

Current MFA in Film student, Mark Schimmel, just dropped the trailer for his new 22 min. narrative short film,  KILL THE LIGHT. Check it out below!

Cheryl, a mysterious woman left for dead on the side of the road is found by Ray, a county sweep who picks up road kill. Together they unravel the mystery of Cheryl’s haunted past.  

Directed by Schimmel (The Originals, Operation Snowplow, Geppetto’s Secret), KILL THE LIGHT features Coburn Goss (Man of Steel, Superman vs. Batman).

Other credits for KILL THE LIGHT include:
Written by Lee H. Ross (Downloading Nancy, Benjamin Troubles)
Cinematography by William R. Nielsen (Chicago Fire, Sirens, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll)
Music by Angelo Panetta (Creedmoria, Mad Town)

To learn more about Mark and his work visit his website.  Also, check out the great article with Mark on MovieMaker about shooting a short and the filming process for KILL THE LIGHT.


We look forward to seeing where KILL THE LIGHT screens, and of course, what’s next for Mark!

Student Spotlight: Louisa de Cossy, Nasty Women Film Fest New England

VCFA MFA in Film student Louisa de Cossy, working with a team of women in her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, helped to organize an exciting new film festival: Nasty Women Film Festival New England. The inaugural Nasty Women Film Fest took place this past November (2017) at the Ely Center for Contemporary Art. All proceeds from the event benefited Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE), Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), and Make The Road CT.

Louisa de Cossy worked as organizer, advisory and technical support to the NWFF. In her words, de Cossy describes the initiative:

Nasty Women Connecticut is a collective of artists, activists and curators living in New Haven,
CT. In the Spring of 2017 we came together and welcomed the community to submit works of
art to an open call for works of art at the Institute Library in New Haven. It was at this incredibly
successful event that the idea to create a film festival in New England emerged, again bringing
diverse voices within our community, while utilizing the arts as the vehicle of communication.

This Film Festival would focus on issues affecting those on the fringes of our society; women,
Immigrants, LGBTQ and black community. This year NWCT (Nasty Women CT) teamed up with
ArtSpace City-Wide Open Studios which was based on the theme of “Fact vs Fiction.” Along
similar lines, the Nasty Women Film Event encouraged all film submissions to represent real
stories and experiences which centered or touched on the themes of women and LGBTQ issues,
racism, immigration and refugee issues. The organic growth of this Festival came to fruition
with support from the Arts Council, The Ely Center of Contemporary Art and ArtSpace. Our
primary focus and a goal we were able to realize was raising community awareness and funds
for Planned Parenthood, IRIS and Make the Road CT.

It was the spirit of collaboration and shared intent that fueled us throughout this process. One
of our main objectives was to show others how doable it is to run a Film Event in one’s
community and to bring people, young and old, together for discussion, art-making and
screenings. By giving voice to those who are disenfranchised and often silenced or
misrepresented, we sparked dialogue and critical conversation, while raising money and
awareness about issues we face firsthand.

(NWNH) invited all New England film makers, experienced or novice, to participate in our Nasty
Women Film Event, the first in North America. We included 15 films in total out of 65
submissions and screened these on opening night– as part of the project we also filmed
testimonials of what it means to individuals to be a “Nasty Woman.” We filmed these interviews
with members of the New Haven community during Open Studios. The film exhibition which
included these testimonials, provided a forum for communication about critical challenges
through the medium of moving image.Film-making is a critical agent of social change, and the
NWNH Film Event offered an opportunity for artists of all ages to share their voice, art, and, stories
in an open and inclusive forum. We plan to continue to foster community, raise awareness and
build this movement by hosting the film event each year and continuing to archive similar
testimonials which we will bring to colleges and universities in the coming year.

The full list of organizers include:

Luciana McClure, Lead Organizer
Debbie Hesse, Lead Organizer
Louisa de Cossy
Trish Clark
Abbie Kundishora
Laurie Sweet
Carolyn Paine
Valerie Garlick
Megan Manton

The Arts Paper published a great recap of the first night of the festival with the following quote from Lead Organizer, Luciana McClure:

I think right now, considering everything that’s happening from the current administration, there’s a need for solidarity … a need for people to feel that their voice matters. I think having the film fest allows people to hear other stories. It allows us to create a dialogue, engage with people that might not think the same way, might have different upbringings or just be different in a sense that we might not understand. We grow up watching films, it’s always been part of everyone’s life. People sit down and watch movies together. Storytelling and filmmaking has been part of our world for generations. It’s bringing people together, and I think it’s a positive way to bring people together in a common space to share ideas.

To learn more about this incredible collaboration visit their website. We look forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for Nasty Women Connecticut!

Faculty member Annie Howell’s film, CLAIRE IN MOTION, now on Showtime. Howell’s LITTLE BOXES also available to stream on Netflix.

Annie Howell’s 2016 film CLAIRE IN MOTION, co-written and co-directed with Lisa Robinson and starring Betsy Brandt (of Breaking Bad), is currently available to stream on Showtime. The film premiered at SXSW. Annie Howell is a faculty member of the VCFA MFA in film program.

CLAIRE IN MOTION is the second feature film from filmmaking team Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell. Exploring a short period of time inside one woman’s life-altering crisis, the story begins three weeks after math professor Claire Hunger’s husband has mysteriously disappeared, the police have ended their investigation and her son is beginning to grieve. The only person who hasn’t given up is Claire. Soon she discovers his troubling secrets, including an alluring yet manipulative graduate student with whom he had formed a close bond. As she digs deeper, Claire begins to lose her grip on how well she truly knew her husband and questions her own identity in the process. Claire in Motion twists the missing person thriller into an emotional take on uncertainty and loss.

Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell have crafted a transfixing, thoughtful thriller — where the directors’ deft maneuvering around the intimate performance of Betsy Brandt keeps you glued to the screen.
— Oakley Anderson-Moore, No Film School

What can one say about a film as perfect as Claire in Motion? With a script that subtly explores the realm of emotional conflict, and powerful performances from its ensemble of actors, the movie is a gentle tour-de-force about trauma and healing …. One emerges after its brief 80 minutes as if from an intense, cathartic dream, haunted and challenged by its raw truths, perhaps, but made all the stronger for them.
— Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail

Howell also wrote the screenplay for LITTLE BOXES (2016), starring the late Nelsan Ellis and Melanie Lynskey. LITTLE BOXES can be viewed world-wide on Netflix. The film premiered at Tribeca and was the largest sale out of the festival in 2016.

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!