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.

Faculty member Josephine Decker’s film, MADELINE’S MADELINE, dubbed a “mind-scrambling masterpiece,” premiered at Sundance ’18

MADELINE’S MADELINE, a film written and directed by VCFA MFA in Film faculty member Josephine Decker, made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, January 18th-28th, 2018. MADELINE’S MADELINE was selected in the NEXT category, which Sundance distinguishes as, “Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling… Digital technology paired with unfettered creativity promises that the films in this section will shape a “greater” next wave in American cinema.”

Synopsis: Madeline got the part! She’s going to play the lead in a theater piece! Except the lead wears sweatpants like Madeline’s. And has a cat like Madeline’s. And is holding a steaming hot iron next to her mother’s face – like Madeline is.

IndieWire, has called MADELINE’S MADELINE a “mind-scrambling masterpiece… one of the freshest and most exciting films of the 21st century.”

Check out this great clip of Decker and her cast discussing the film at Sundance:

It’s always exciting when a filmmaker who has generated acclaim on the festival circuit finally lands at Sundance, whether it’s Sean Baker with “Tangerine” or Andrew Bujalski with “Computer Chess.” This year, one of the notable directors making her Sundance debut is Josephine Decker, the experimental filmmaker whose intense psycho-sexual thriller 2013 “Butter on the Latch” was a sleeper hit on the circuit. Now she’s in NEXT with a somewhat more traditional movie, “Madeline’s Madeline,” a reportedly hypnotic drama about a young woman keen on landing the lead role in a rather unorthodox theater piece. The cast includes Miranda July and Molly Parker, but the titular star is New Jersey native Helena Howard, who may be a genuine Sundance discovery. “It’s a concentrated storyline and she really pulls it off,” Groth said of Decker’s direction. “It looks different from her other films but her authorial voice comes through as well.”
-Eric Kohn, IndieWire



Decker has received previous acclaim for her films, BUTTER ON THE LATCH and THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY. Congrats Josephine! We can’t wait to see MADELINE’S MADELINE!

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)

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.

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!

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 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!

Soren Sorensen’s MY FATHER’S VIETNAM screens at Oldcastle Theatre Company


Current MFA in Film student Soren Sorensen screens his documentary film MY FATHER’S VIETNAM at the Oldcastle Theatre Company in Bennington, Vermont, November 10th, 2017 at 6pm.

A personal documentary about a public subject, My Father’s Vietnam personifies the connections made and unmade by the Vietnam War. Featuring never-before-seen photographs and 8mm footage of the era, My Father’s Vietnam is the story of three soldiers, only one of whom returned home alive. Interviews with the filmmaker’s Vietnam Veteran father, and the friends and family members of two men he served with who were killed there, give voice to individuals who continue to silently carry the psychological burdens of a war that ended over 40 years ago. My Father’s Vietnam carries with it the potential to encourage audiences to broach the subjects of service and sacrifice with the veterans in their lives.

Watch the trailer below!