Director, photographer, and aerial cinematographer Randy Scott Slavin has created the first-ever drone film festival. The New York City Drone Film Festival, which takes place in NYC on February 21, 2015 was created to “celebrate the art of drone cinematography.” I spoke with Slavin about the process of putting together the festival which is, as of today, taking submissions.
Slavin created the festival after a short film of his, featuring aerial drone footage of New York City, went viral. Noticing an increasing interest from audiences in drone footage, coupled with a frustration over the focus on legal and ethical issues surrounding drones, Slavin said he wanted to create a festival that showcased the artistic work of drone pilots. Slavin says of drone cinematography, “I want to normalize it and I want to showcase what’s awesome about it…I think the majority of drone pilots really are focused on getting beautiful footage. That’s what it really is, ultimately.”
As a filmmaker, Slavin says, drones are one of the most exciting new camera tools and they offer a stunningly different approach to cinematography. “The most exciting thing about drones-the reason I got into shooting with them-is because as a director, there’s nothing more exciting than camera movement…it’s like, 'Holy shit. I can put this camera anywhere I want in 3-D space as long as I can fly it there. That’s amazing.'”
The technical skill that goes into drone operation is something Slavin wants to celebrate with this festival. “In order to shoot well, there’s so much technique that goes into it. You can get the drone up into the air and do whatever stupid thing you want, but in order to get really beautiful footage…you really have to know what you’re doing.” Films submitted to the festival will be awarded prizes based on achievements in categories like beautiful visuals, inventive use of equipment, and technical skill.
The festival is in its very early stages, with its venue, prizes, and jury members to be announced soon. Slavin says some of festival’s jury members will be experts in the drone world; others will be experts in the world of filmmaking. While he cannot release the details of who will sit on the jury just yet, Slavin says “I want people who submit films to have their work seen not only by the audiences but by people that can potentially help their careers.”
“Putting the challenge out there” with this festival, Slavin says he wants to see people’s best footage. “I’ve seen some amazing things, and I want to see more. I want to see inventive ways of telling stories.” Submissions have minimal criteria: all films must be shot primarily using drone/UAV equipment, and must be 5 minutes or less in length.
Submissions are open for the first time today (August 11) and will continue to be accepted until November 30. You can submit work here.
Keep an eye on the festival’s website, as Slavin will update regularly on the specifics of the festival.
Graphic courtesy of Randy Scott Slavin/NYCDFF, used with permission.