“People have never seen the inside of a volcano before. But drones have gone there,” the filmmaker says of the airborne, remote-controlled computers. “There are so many ways these technologies can be used for good.”
That’s why Slavin founded the New York City Drone Film Festival, which has just announced its lineup of screenings at the prestigious Directors Guild of America Theater in Manhattan on March 7.
As far as Slavin knows, the festival is the first of its kind. A team of six selected 35 short films for the screening, divided into categories ranging from landscape and narrative to architecture and travel. All the films, of course, were shot with drones.
“I want this to be the place to see and be seen when it comes to drone cinema,” Slavin says, adding that he wants New York to be the Cannes or Berlin of the drone world. The films, selected by a panel of four festival organizers and two independent judges, include work from artists from all over the world.
“We really didn’t know what to expect … there’s a lot of good stuff out there,” says Stuttgart, Germany–based filmmaker Florian Fischer, who directs drone films with a small, labor-of-love production company, Behind the Mask. Fischer and his partners sent seven short films to the festival. Four were accepted. “We definitely didn’t expect that.”
One of those films is this “dronie,” or a selfie made with a drone, starring Michael Kugler:
In dronies, cameras start close on their subjects, then zoom out revealing the whole setting. Fischer, whose dronies will soon be featured at Germany’s prestigious Museum of Applied Art in Frankfurt, explains: “It’s always revealing something interesting by flying backwards.”
Over the last several years, drone technology has been more associated with more controversial topics than aerial selfies — stuff like targeted airstrikes in the Middle East (and unexpected landings on the White House lawn), rather than film or art. But Slavin, who also makes his own drone films like the one below, wants to change that.
“We want to take the word ‘drone’ out of the mud and make it awesome and friendly,” he says.
Slavin can often be found flying his drone on Long Island or on Manhattan basketball courts, where onlookers are typically more intrigued than scared. “Whenever I fly my drone, people want to touch it, they want to see it, kids want to fly it,” he says.
Part of that plan to improve perceptions about drones involves actually giving some away to filmmakers, as well as audience members.
No more tickets remain for the screenings, but those in attendance will have an opportunity to take home a drone of their own. Twenty-five “baby drones” made by Blade, a leading manufacturer, will be raffled off during the festival. Slavin says he may even give away some larger drones. “The idea that somebody comes in as a fan and walks away with a huge drone? That’s exciting to me,” Slavin says. “The prizes are crazy. That really was my intention, so people can spend all year next year working on their films so that they can submit.”
So will people at the after-party be flying their new toys?
“No,” says Slavin. In fact, the entire festival will be a no-drone-flying zone. “Everybody should take the drones they win and fly them at home.”
Watch trailers for all the films we could find on the next page.
Noway I missed “R” from Lukas Sygula (not found online).
Superman with a GoPro from Corridor Digital on YouTube.
Himalayan Aerials by Jonathan Miller on YouTube.
Blocking from Michael Kugler, Behind the Mask (not found online).
Stranded from Michael Kugler, Behind the Mask (not found online).
A video posted by Mike Welsh (@skycandystudios) on
Spooning in the Spoon from Michael Welsh on Instagram.
Mt. Bromo from Laudrick Samuel Parulian (not available to public online).
Opening Sequence For A Feature Film from Ben Tewaag (not found online).
Adriatic from Mike Gisselere (not found online).
Jinxi Welcomes Yo from Pierre Haberer (not found online).
African Flight from Kevin Maor (not found online).
Showreel 2014 from Mike Gisselere (not found online).
DJI Phantom Flies Into Volcano from Shaun O’Callaghan on YouTube.
The Ridge from Danny Macaskill, Cut Media, and Stu Thomson on YouTube.
Mexico City International Airport from Above from Tarscicio Sanudo on YouTube.
100% Extremely Drone from Allison Hunter (not found online).
I Won’t Let You Down from OK GO on YouTube.
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