The campus is small and cozy. Trees and greenery dot the landscape, providing a sense of calm and tranquility that at first causes a visitor to miss the underlying energy that permeates everything. The New York Flim Academy's (NYFA) Abu Dhabi campus is a place for budding filmmakers or curious minds to come and learn the mysteries that surround the making of movies.

Michael Unger, chair of Filmmaking Programmes, spoke to Gulf News about the academy and his views on filmmaking during the academy's recent open house.

"The programmes at NYFA are designed for people with little or no film experience. There are full programmes as well as six or eight week programmes for people to try out," he said. "That way, they can determine whether or not they want to continue because the programmes are intensive and expensive. They can also come to the Open House, which we have monthly every third Saturday. People are also welcome to drop by anytime during the week to speak to a staff member or even sit in a class and observe."

Confronting the stereotypes

NYFA decided to open a branch in Abu Dhabi because of the interest in bringing filmmaking to the region. It would not only allow people to show their talent but also help them translate their concerns or their interests into a visual format. That way, instead of the international film industry simply bringing their works to the Middle East, the region could reciprocate and tell their stories to the world.

"Students here can help debunk the current stereotypes that are being shown in the media about Arabs and Muslims. They can use the techniques they learn to film the genres they are interested in through different perspectives," Unger said. "Students here come from various international backgrounds, allowing them to interact and learn about each others' views on different topics. But they must be careful about certain things, such as the marketability of their movies if they want to screen them to a wide audience."

A form of art

According to Unger, filmmaking is an art form, not a science. It is not the technology or the equipment that makes a good movie, it is what a person wants to say and how he says it. In Hollywood, studios hire the best screenwriters, directors and actors but if the story is not interesting then the film will fail. Filmmaking is not easy. The nature of film is sometimes a feeling of resistence. No two films are alike so they must be approached differently to make sure they succeed.

"Students also learn the different approaches to film. One is technically-driven, which is what Alfred Hitchcock used. Another is process-driven, which Francis Ford Coppola used to direct his films," Unger explained. "Filmmaking is first a collaborative art form. Students not only form close bonds with each other but also with their teachers, which is nice and could be handy in the future."

In order for students to be able to film, the academy received blanket permission from the Abu Dhabi Government to film in any location they want. But if they wish to film outside the city, some places still require additional permission. Students are also given the option of transferring to any international NYFA campus, which would help them expand their experiences and inspire their creativity by being exposed to various environments.

A little motivation

"The one thing that I would like to say to all those prospective students out there is this: Filmmaking is not only about being creative, but also about being passionate about the whole process," Unger said. "Yes, you will feel frustrated and insecure - that comes with the territory. But if you really want to be a part of the film industry, then you have to trust your desire and see how far it can take you."