Louis Fantasia: Looking for China’s ‘Golden Eggs’ of film
Having produced and directed more than 150 plays and operas worldwide, Louis Fantasia, chairman of New York Film Academy, says he is now focused on hatching “golden eggs” by educating the new generation of Chinese producers, cinematographers and scriptwriters at his academy.
With a population of 2,000 students at its Los Angeles campus, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) had more than 200 Chinese students enrolled in the 2014-15 school year and Fantasia believes they will make a difference to the future of filmmaking in China and US.
“We have these extremely talented Chinese students who come here with not only language skills but also the understanding of both cultures, and learning about Western production,” he said. “The abilities they have learned are going to change the landscape of film production and co-production in both countries, and I am excited about being able to make it happen at our institution.”
He said that as interest in the NYFA grows in China, working hard to continue strong relationships in China remains important.
“We have a fully staffed China office that works closely with all of our Chinese applicants and students. Our Chinese representatives visit schools all over China giving lectures and presenting workshops, introducing the school. We run several programs in cooperation with different Chinese colleges and universities that allow their students to finish their education here. We provide them with the best of both worlds.”
Fantasia said that Tom Friedman, a columnist for the NY Times, once wrote that no two countries that had a McDonalds ever went to war with each other. His thinking was that by the time foreign investment gets to the point that McDonalds and others are coming into the country, each has too much to risk for armed conflict.
“I would hope the same was true for two countries that make a movie together. Any two countries that could share the same stories, find the same audiences, work through their governments’ regulations together, etc, would be well on the way to better understanding each other and avoiding conflict,” Fantasia said.
The most important thing Chinese students learn at NYFA is the primacy of story. They also learn to begin, execute and complete a film — and market it. Because of the hands-on nature of a NYFA education, students learn through experience, not just in the classroom. Learning Hollywood narrative — and the business of Hollywood filmmaking — will deeply influence how films are made in China in future generations, especially when the academy has the industry’s latest cuttingedge equipment and technology, he explained.
Fantasia believes the Chinese film market in the US will continue to grow at a steep rate, as partnerships develop and expand.
“More and more people are interested in what’s happening, what’s new and current, on the other side of the world, and what better way to share that than through the common language of film,” he said.
Born into a middle class Massachusetts family in 1949, Fantasia was expected to be either a lawyer or a doctor. He chose not to follow the “rules” but to pursue his dream of conducting. After nasty reviews hit his first musical Paradise Lost and Found, Fantasia decided to go to graduate school to learn how to write and direct plays. He attended NYU and completed his degree at Cal Arts with a fellowship at the American Film Institute. With his persistent efforts, Fantasia became the first American to direct on the reconstructed Globe stage in London, and became a Shakespeare scholar and theatrical director.
An acclaimed Shakespeare scholar and theatrical director, Fantasia spent the last 30 years in teaching at USC, Juilliard, Deep Springs and now the New York Film Academy.
He let on a little “secret” about the Chinese student entity at NYFA: Ren Chong, a rising star of TV and movies from China, is now studying for a master’s degree at the Academy. And Fantasia expects more stars like him will be coming from China.
Louis Fantasia, chairman of the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles branch, thinks that joint film production between Chinese and American artists is a good way of building bridges between cultures.