San Francisco Film School students talk about their experiences in digital filmmaking and why FilmSchoolSF is one of the best film schools in the Bay Area. Read about our Filmmaking Programs and Filmmaking Training

Grad Uses Kickstarter to Raise $20,000 for his 2nd Feature

Many FilmSchoolSF graduates go on to work on feature films as producers, writers, directors, editors, cinematographers and practically every crew position possible.  For some of our graduates, the ultimate goal is to write and direct their own independent feature film. David “D” Silva (Digital Filmmaking Program Class 10) is just such a graduate. A musician and filmmaker, D., like many independent filmmakers, decided to use Kickstarter to raise money for his second feature film.  Check out the Kickstarter campaign for his feature, HONEYPOT, about a female heavy metal rocker seeking revenge on the men who killed her father.  We are very proud of D. and hope you will support his filmmaking efforts.

Check out the Kickstarter here:



Interview with Keith Curry, Jr. – Veteran in 18 month Filmmaking Program

Keith Curry, Jr. shares about being a U.S. Veteran, Filmmaker and student in the 18 month Filmmaking Program at FilmSchoolSF. The challenges and opportunities for Veterans to tell their stories and develop new creative careers in entertainment:

“Who really cares about veterans? They all say “Thanks for your service” but they don’t know what they are thanking me for. They don’t have a clue. But another veteran does. And the more people get to this kind of work – when you do have a voice, when you have a camera, when you work on a project and give a veteran’s point of view in that project – the more they help American population really understand what a veteran does, so people can be more engaged with us. The more veterans can pick up a camera, pick up a pen and write a screenplay or a script, the more people can really understand who we are as people.

My name is Keith Curry Jr. and it will be till the day I die but the day I raised my hand and joined the military I became a different person. My parents don’t understand me, nobody understands me. So we have to really find ways to get people to understand what we are coming from. For me that’s the most exciting gift that I can give to anybody. This is the way you can make a living, and while you are making a living you are not out breaking your back anymore, and at the same time you can apply yourself and contribute back to society by giving us a voice. That’s what fires me up.

The truth is that if you want to go to college, you either need to be very smart or play a sport and get a scholarship, or you have to get a student debt, or until recently you have to join the military and go to war and get your college paid for. So the price of my school was over 38 months of combat time. That was the deposit for my education.”

Watch the video to hear the rest of Keith’s story!

SFSDF Grads crew on Sundance Winning Feature Film

FRUITVALE, a drama based on a real-life shooting at an Oakland BART station, won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Ryan Coogler wrote and directed the movie, which was produced by Academy-Award winning actor, Forest Whitaker. The movie filmed in the San Francisco Bay Area over the Summer, and a number of recent SFSDF graduates worked on the award-winning movie as part of program coordinated by SFSDF and Fog City Pictures.

One of those graduates, Class 13 alumni Tyrone Hutton, watched the Sundance Festival awards live via streaming video. “I felt like I was almost there. You get that adrenaline rush and an overflow of emotion – happiness, nerves and relief all at the same time. I wanted to jump up and start yelling when FRUITVALE won!” Tyrone had enjoyed a successful career in the high tech aerospace industry before deciding he wanted to become a filmmaker. He joined SFSDF’s 15-Month Digital Filmmaking Program in 2011, working during the day and going to school part-time in the evening. “It’s amazing to be recognized for your hard work. You put your heart into something, and to know that your peers enjoyed it and were appreciative,” say Hutton, “it’s an amazing feeling.”

Tyrone worked for six weeks on FRUITVALE as the Assistant Production Office Coordinator, a key position, and reported directly to the films’ producers. Other SFSDF grads who worked on the movie were Robbie Gomez, who also worked in the production office, and David Yee, who work on set in the Art Department.

SFSDF is the only school in the country that offers students in its’ Digital Filmmaking Program the unique opportunity to work with professionals on feature films shot in and around San Francisco. FRUITVALE is the 9th feature film in the past seven years that SFSDF students and graduates have worked on as part of this program. SFSDF Founder and President, Jeremiah Birnbaum, explains, “Giving our students the chance to work with professionals on a real movie set is a huge advantage for them. They get incredibly practical experience, contacts in the industry that often lead to jobs, and a credit on a feature film.” Birnbaum adds, “I’m so proud of the students that worked on FRUITVALE. For their first feature film experience to be this successful is fantastic.”

Previous SFSDF students and grads have worked on feature films that have been shown at festivals around the  world, released in theaters, and on DVD and VOD.

Aspiring SFSDF Indian filmmakers find a voice at International Film Festivals

FilmSchoolSF Indian filmmaker Naga Sridhar Kataru’s short film, Boxed In, completed its premier last month at the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. Our filmmaker couldn’t be more pleased that The Festival deemed his entry in the top 4% of films submitted!

Here is the festival program:

Naga came to SFSDF in 2010 for the 5-Week Digital Filmmaking Workshop, then decided to a sabbatical from the software industry to learn filmmaking and completed the 12-Month Digital Filmmaking Program. He describes always wanting to know what went into making a film, like an engineer wants to see inside of something to understand how it works.

He loved Film so much, he quit his high-powered software job to pursue filmmaking full-time.

Filmmaker says,

I am fascinated by how visuals and sound affect human emotion. All my films have roots in social, cultural or spiritual issues that intrigue me. They serve as a platform upon which I build my story. Sometimes it may be obvious to the viewer, other times it may not be.”

We’re proud of Naga’s achievement!

And, Navjyot Bandiwadekar, a recent graduate of SFSDF’s 12-Month Digital Filmmaking Program, is excited about his film “Emma” being nominated for an award at the 2013 Jaipur Film Festival! More about Navjyot’s film in a coming post!

Congratulations to our Indian filmmakers Naga and Navjyot on their accomplishments!

Moonlight Sonata – A Feature Film

Moonlight Sonata Travels to Cannes Film Festival and More…

Moonlight Sonata screened at the famed CANNES FILM FESTIVAL last week to a positive and appreciative crowd. Near the same time, on the other side of the world, the film played at the Big Island Film Festival in Waikoloa, Hawaii. These come after great showings at the Honolulu International Film Festival where the film won the coveted Big Kahuna award for Excellence in Filmmaking, and a fantastic world premiere at the California Independent Film Festival. Moonlight Sonata is excited for its next big showing – a spot at the Staten Island Film Festival the first week of June.

Moonlight Sonata writer/director Celik Kayalar and others were interviewed by after the California Independent Film Festival.

Check out the interviews with Celik Kayalar and Moonlight Sonata Line Producer, Milena Grozeva-Levy.

Have a look at the Moonlight Sonata website to see the trailer, photos and more.

‘Moonlight Sonate’, FilmschoolSF’s 3rd Feature Film announces wrap of principal photography

“MOONLIGHT SONATA”, our third independent feature film at FilmschoolSF by the Fog City Pictures, has wrapped its principal photography on October 31st, after 5 weeks of shooting in the Bay Area ( in HD, Digital Format ). After completing a few pickup scenes, the film will be edited for submission to prestigious Film Festivals and will be prepared for wide theatrical release.

Celik Kayalar, PhD, the director of our “Film Acting Program” at FilmschoolSF wrote, directed and executive-produced the psychological thriller. The producers were Jeremiah Birnbaum, the Founder of Fog City Pictures, and Milena Grozeva-Levy, one of our Digital Filmmaking Faculty.
“Moonlight Sonata” is the story of a privileged San Francisco family, the difficult moral choices its members make and the consequences they have to face, told in the genre of a modern psychological thriller with surprising twists and turns along the way, all culminating in a cliff-hanger climax.

The production boasted a large and highly talented and accomplished cast and crew from San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Sam Chase was the master cinematographer on the set, visiting from New York. Cast members included distinguished Los Angeles actorsM.J. Karmi and Irena A. Hoffman as the female-leads, and Sita Young, P. David Miller, Nate Reese and Ann-Marie Jolly featured in major supporting-roles.

The esteemed San Francisco actor & director Warren David Keith was cast as the male-lead who also teaches one of our “Advanced Film Acting” Classes at FilmschoolSF.  Two of our other Film Acting Faculty, Celia Shuman and Brian D. Scott also had supporting roles in the movie.

Twenty-two of our own Acting Students at FilmschoolSF were among the cast members of “Moonlight Sonata” ( all speaking-parts ). Several of the 22 were major supporting-roles that took many days to shoot. Here are all their names, in no particular order:

Taren Howes, Edith Reiner, Maggie Grant, Kay Ewing, Aimee McCrary, Jinnifer Jacobs, Goldie Chan, Joan Laqui, Hueiyen Tsai, Ashley Allen, Katrina Gimenez, June Barnard, Sarah Leight, Daniel Will-Harris, Micci Toliver, Tony Williams, Marshell Harwell, Roy Hylton, Vincent Leddy, Brendan Sweeney, Nate Duncan and Johann Schiffer.

A few of our Acting Students had non-speaking parts: Chris Leidecker, Mauro Pivi, Michelle Grey, Dawn Green ( Eli Kramer: his scenes are still to be shot ). In the pickup scenes we plan to shoot soon, another four small roles will be cast among our own Acting Students, as well.

Sam Chase, Director of Photography on FilmschoolSF’s 3rd Feature Film “Moonlight Sonate” delivers one last weepy thanks and farewell

Hey Everybody,
I just wanted to deliver one last weepy  thanks and farewell. I had a great time and having spent the last two days getting caught up on dailies I was floored by the quality of our footage. I think it was a worthwhile and challenging experience for us all.

For the pros Moonlight Sonata was a chance to remember that filmmaking doesn’t always need to be a money-driven cutthroat world and for the students it was an unmatchable opportunity to get a genuine feel for what it’s like to work in the business – not parking crew cars (that was my first job in the biz) or fetching coffee,  but as a propping, camera assisting or editing.

Several of you even walked away with marketable skills and/or even jobs. Pretty cool. It was a great chance for us all  to learn as well as improvise. Watching the footage from scenes we shot in the woods I was struck by the beauty of a gentle  mist floating through the dappled light and thought “how lucky I was to get  a misty day”… then I remembered Heather chicken-scratching the dusty trail to get that effect. What we lacked in resources we made up in heart and you all had that in spades.

I couldn’t have been more impressed with each and every one of you – you’re professionalism and your dedication blew me away. I wish you all the greatest success in your work and your lives and encourage you to keep at whatever it is that fills your dreams. Stay in touch and keep smiling.

All The Best
Sam Chase


Andrea P., a grad of Class 11 from the one-year program, is still pinching herself over her recent film job. Hired as the 2nd Assistant Director for the feature documentary, “City of Light”, Andrea found herself in the midst of an ambitious, fast-paced shoot.

Her job description?

“I had to talk to everyone. I couldn’t hold back. If I had to talk to the Director or the D.P. or the make-up artist about timing, I had to push to expand my boundaries.”

Did she enjoyed the work?

“I didn’t sleep much, but I didn’t mind. I needed to accept I would make mistakes, take them in stride and move on. It was overwhelming, frustrating, challenging and thrilling. It was a great feeling. “

With this job under her belt, Andrea gets to build on her SFSDF education and prior film experiences. We’re thrilled for her! Go, Andrea!

San Francisco Digital Film: Saturn Rising

san francisco digital filmAnother San Francisco Digital Film School alum is out there making it happen in the Bay Area digital film scene. This time, we’ve got Garry Bowden of Class 7 of the San Francisco Digital Film School 1-Year Filmmaking program and his newest digital film, SATURN RISING. Shot in a few spots in San Francisco, Garry leveraged everything he learned at San Francisco Digital Film School – and then some – to bring together a great team and run a solid shoot. Writer, director, producer and fundraiser, Garry did it all.

About the film:
Saturn Rising is the story of a young woman, Olivia, who must confront how her life is going to change after she finds out she is unexpectedly pregnant. It’s based on the astrological concept of Saturn Return which says that between 27-30 people transition into Act II of their life. Meaning by that age you’ve experienced everything you’re going to and now since you have seen virtually every situation there is your life is now determined by the choices you make. But before you can proceed into Act II their is a major conflict/situation to deal with. In Olivia’s case it’s her pregnancy and the story is about how she faces that news.

Word of Garry’s efforts got around quickly and soon San Francisco culture/deal-making operation ScoutMob reached out and asked for an interview.

It was during a drive down Fulton that Garry says he was struck with the idea for Saturn Rising’s plot. In a city as inspiring as San san francisco digital filmFrancisco, a lighting idea really can strike at any time. He wrote the script in one night and has spent the last five months raising money, filming, tying everything together in post-production and getting ready to share it with the city, which just happens to be this Friday at The Roxie. It’s the second short he’s made about San Francisco life and says he has plans to make at least four more. He feels lucky he’s found a talented group of people to work with so he doesn’t have to make a move down to Tinsel Town: CONTINUE WITH THE INTERVIEW

Of course, Garry counted on a top-notched crew which, not coincidentally, consisted mostly of San Francisco Digital Film School alum.

– Alex Fletcher (Class 7, 1-Year), DP
– Harmony Nichol (Class 7, 1-Year), Art Director
– Peter Lee, (Class 10, 1-Year) Set Designer
– Dave Malloure, (Class 10, 1-Year) AC
– Khen Shomron, (Class 6, 1-Year) Grip
– Staci DeGagne, (Class 3, 1-Year) Color correction

SATURN RISING will be screening Friday, April 18th (7:30 + 8:30) at the venerable Roxie Theater in the Mission. More than a simple screening, Gary enlisted the talented musician duo of WILD CHILD to play a few numbers and will be featuring poetry by Jonathan Hirsh ahd Bill Taylor. Art by Cassadra Cellini will be on display and tea service is courtesy of Om Shan Tea.

Tickets are a paltry $10 – you should go!

FilmSchoolSF Alum Earns a Job At Beau Bonneau Casting

california film school job opportunitiesMore good news; another SFSDF alum earns a job in San Francisco’s competitive media economy.

SFSDF Class 10 graduate Katie Koch was recently hired for a 3-month stint by Bay Area casting leader Beau Bonneau Casting to help with Extras. With a talent base of over 15,000 people, the company fulfills the need for high quality talent for film, commercials, television, industrials and print.

What are you working on now at Beau Bonneau?
“Right now we’re casting a period film about Ernest Hemingway with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, that’s going to be on HBO. The most exciting part of the job is getting to help pick the people who are going to be extras in a film. It’s like I’m helping cast a big movie.

Any other film side-projects?
I just finished filming my first short film (GOLDEN GIRL) after graduating. I was the writer and director, SFSDF alum Harmony Nichol was the producer, SFSDF alum Sean Sullivan was the DP, SFSDF alum Keren Hantman was the AD, and a bunch of other SFSDF graduates we’re the crew.

california film school job opportunities

Katie Rocks Pink – On-set of GOLDEN GIRL (photo: Harmony Nichol)

FilmschoolSF Grads Work On Feature Film

The point of going to film school is to make movies and work in the business. After powering through hours of class and endless days on set learning the basics, it’s nice to know that when you leave FilmschoolSF that you have the skills to go directly to working on a feature film. Recently, a large number of past, current and future FilmschoolSF students worked together on a feature film titled “US“.

We’re not certain but we believe that this is the biggest non-FilmschoolSF project to ever pack in so many FilmschoolSF students and alumni.

Bay Area entertainment portal StarkInsider picked up the story:

Local filmmakers Sam Hancock of Umbrage Entertainment and Michael Navarra of 3½ EGOS Productions, have assembled a cast and crew consisting of many of the Bay Area’s finest talent for their first feature film Us. Principal Photography begins November 20th, 2010, and will be completed by December 16th, 2010.

Us was selected as a semi-finalist in the Slamdance 2010 Screenwriting Competition. It is a dark, gritty, romantic drama about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities), who struggles to find love while battling self-destructive impulses that threaten to end her life. Written in conjunction with leading Bay Area psychologist Dr. Matthew McKay (co-founder of New Harbinger Publications and author of over 30 non-fiction books on mental health), Us endeavors to get behind the myths and misconceptions and tell an honest story about the challenges of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. More…


We asked Producer/Assistant Director Keren Hantman about the shoot.

“For me the most challenging part was 1st ADing such a relatively big crew. This is my 2nd feature working as 1st AD and I’v ADed lots of shorts, but this was the first time I had to manage a 25 people crew. There were some moments of frustration, but what’s great about working on a 20 days shoot is that there’s enough time… By the 2nd half of the shoot it felt like conducting a very well trained orchestra. Everyone was playing their instruments in unison and perfect harmony. We had a highly professional crew and I would love to work again we some of these peeps.

The greatest thing about working with the school’s alumni is that we all know and feel comfortable with each other. So when those stressful, tense moments that naturally arise when working on a shoot come along, we can offer strength and support to one another… and many moments of laughter… We’ve formed a strong, creative and supporting community of filmmakers.”


Victoria Ponce (Class 3) – Producer
Keren Hantman (Class 7) Producer – Assistant Director
Tyler Kowalski (Class Eight) – Production Designer
Harmony Nichol (Class 7) – Art Director
Staci Degagne (Class 3) – Editor/DIT
Heather MacLean (Class 4) – Location Manager and Associate Producer
Dave Malloure (Class 10) – Grip
Alix Holsten – PA
Tim Huls (5-Week Workshop) – Production Coordinator
Ariane Wu (Class 13) – 2nd AD
Anthony Bonaparte (Class 11) – Assistant Editor + Grip
Beltran Luque (Class 10 – Grip
Peter Lee (Class 10) – Grip
Ryan Gomez – Grip