Friday 17 January 2020

Interview with Nathan Pfaff

What would make someone who has a quickly growing career in the film industry give up everything to go live in Africa? That was the question that inspired director Nathan Pfaff to create Film School Africa.

A Hollywood casting director leaves her lucrative career behind in order to teach filmmaking to youth in an impoverished community in South Africa. In an environment resistant towards art and film, the students learn the true power and impact of storytelling.

Katie Taylor leaves a quickly growing career in the film industry in LA in order to teach film to youth in an impoverished township in South Africa. Thinking it will mainly help give the students skills and knowledge towards employment, she quickly realizes the students use their films as a means of self-expression and as art-therapy. Follow the students of FSA as they experience the joy and hardships of filming in the most unlikely of places. Learn the power of story and how film can transcend culture and color.

From Global Digital Releasing, Film School Africa premieres On Demand TODAY.

How did you get started in filmmaking, sir?

I’ve always loved filmmaking since high school, but it wasn’t till I pursed film work in Los Angeles that I really started to love the documentary side of the industry and decided to pursue that.

Lot of support along the way?

Yes, I have been very blessed to have always been supported by friends and family on all my filmmaking endeavors.

And this is your first movie?

Yes, this is my first feature length film. I wanted to have a feature film under my belt and gain all the experience that comes along with that, and it is something I am quite proud of. I have also made a short documentary in university that won a student Emmy in 2014 called The Advocate.

How hard was it to put together – in terms of structuring it, getting the money to make it, and so on?

I went to South Africa and filmed the staff and students of the film school for three months before coming back to LA and editing the film in my apartment for a little over a year. Not being able to just go back and shoot more footage probably helped narrow my options in terms of structuring it, and made it less complicated. But I was confident in what I had gotten. Being involved with the whole process helped me get an overarching skeleton of the story early on, but I continued massaging and tweaking it for quite a while.

I didn’t seek any external funding for the film, until the end when I created a GoFundMe to help fund the soundtrack composing and film festival submission fees. It was very much just a personal, passion project for me.

Did you learn a lot about the business world- and things you weren’t aware of – making it?

Absolutely! From the beginning, learning more about the business side of filmmaking was one of the things I was most interested in learning. This film has taught me a lot, and I know I still have infinitely more to learn, but now I feel I have a much better overview of the whole process.

How did you land distribution? 

To be honest, I was just playing the festival lottery and hoping to get an offer at some of the film festivals I screened at. But when that didn’t happen, I simply did internet searches and got recommendations from friends. Simply reaching out and submitting applications got me a producer’s representative, which in turn got me a distribution company. And once again, that was part of the process I was glad to learn. I knew once people saw the film they would love it. It was just a matter of getting people to actually watch it and take it seriously.