Louis Fan­ta­sia: Look­ing for China’s ‘Golden Eggs’ of film

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By QI­DONG ZHANG in Los An­ge­les for China Daily

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.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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.

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