Since I was ten I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker, writing and directing my own films. However, it’s been a long path for me and after graduating from college and spending several years in New York City, I decided that later was better than never and started looking at evening programs around the city that would allow me to realize my dreams while still working full-time.
I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I wouldn’t just be studying the history and theory of film, but actually shooting my own projects throughout the semester. In the fall of 2012, I enrolled in the New York Film Academy’s 1-Year Evening Filmmaking program and things just haven’t been the same
On my first day of class, I was blown away by the sheer diversity of my fellow students and how driven everyone was. So many had taken a similar path as I had, following a more traditional, “safe” path while still holding onto their dreams of working in film.
Our primary instructor, Bryan Norton, was a gift; he treated each of us like we were in a class of our own and must have spent more time than he was supposed to, counseling us and giving insight from his own professional experience, helping us chart a course that each of us is currently on.
How do I describe the program? One word: INTENSE!
Spending three nights a week in the classroom, learning everything from directing to screenwriting, sound editing to documentary filmmaking, I was pushed out of my comfort zone of film
noir into a much broader world of storytelling.
Every weekend was spent both working on my own films and assisting my fellow students as we worked in small groups, constantly alternating roles and learning every aspect of a film set. It was
hard to believe that I had never held a boom before or served as an assistant camera operator and the course gave me a new sense of ambition that had been dormant for too long.
Over the year I completed seven projects and worked on an additional fourteen short films, which was certainly exhausting, but so rewarding. I don’t know how, but I found the time to complete my final twenty minute film, “Country Boy”—in the final week, I probably got 10 hours of sleep!
But as crazy as that must sound, it truly was rewarding. I felt like I became part of the NYFA family and ended up getting offered to work in the marketing department here, reaching out to other potential students who are so similar to me and be able to honestly tell them that this school will change their life. I’m now working on another short film that I plan to submit to Sundance next year. Balancing a full-time job and what is practically a full-time education isn’t for everyone, but if you truly want
to work in film, you couldn’t pick a better place.
Nicholas Zurko is an aspiring filmmaker whose films are inspired by his rural upbringing. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of Grinnell College and the New York Film Academy.