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The Manhattan Film Institute Kicks Off Second Summer Camp For Aspiring Film Buffs

Chelsea Katz

Founder Tony Spiridakis & Acting Faculty Wendy Makkena work with Manhattan Film Institute filmmakers. Photo: MFI)

This is not a summer camp for kayaking and bonfires.

The Manhattan Film Institute, spearheaded by director and screenwriter Tony Spiridakis and Lisa Gillooly, gives students from different generations the opportunity to work with film giants such as Tony Goldwyn, Bob Krakower, Shannon Goldman, Chazz Palminteri and Joe Pantoliano. This year's summer camp from June 30th to July 14th will bring 23 aspiring directors and even more actors and screenwriters to Peconic Landing for a two-week crash course on writing, acting, directing and making it in the film industry.

"We don't have a secret form-- it's a very challenging, competitive world," Spiridakis said referring to the film industry. "We know that world... When they leave, we hope they think 'It could happen to me if I work hard enough.' That's a takeaway for them."

They chose to host the program on the North Fork because they all had houses there. Also, Spiridakis has been spending summers on the North Fork since he was born.

Spiridakis teaches acting, directing and writing at Chapman College. Last summer, he and Gillooly brought together the faculty to start the summer camp for young screenwriters, directors and actors. The faculty has been working together for more than 30 years, all in different capacities. They have directed each other, performed in each other's movies and acted together.

This year's program technically started three months ago as writers drew up their ideas and started setting pen to paper. Directors help out as they get scripts ready to go through Spiridakis, Goldman and Krakower. The trio then has to unanimously decide which scripts are worth producing.

When they arrive at camp, the screenwriters, actors and directors have a text analysis where they sit down and read the script. The actors in the program each get featured roles in two short movies and are cast based on their auditions for the camp. Then they get to filming.

"It's the same way you would do on an episode of Law & Order," Spiridakis said.

After shooting wraps up, the groups divide into intensive workshops. Palminteri works with the "campers" to improve their audition techniques. Goldwyn goes over the relationship between actors and directors on the set. Krakower helps actors translate what they've learned about stage productions to film productions.

At the end of the two weeks, MFI shows the films in Greenport. After that, the participants can take what they have produced with their teachers and find financing to make it a feature-length film. They could also enter them in festivals like Sundance.

For Spiridakis, one of the benefits is returning to Hollywood positive, refreshed and excited to work. He calls his students "amazing, creative forces of nature." It also helps that as a Hollywood buff over 50, he can better understand what current 14-year-olds want to see when they go to their local multiplex.

"We're making things happen for two weeks and we don't have to answer to anyone but ourselves," Spiridakis said. "I don't think there's a better incubator."

For more information about The Manhattan Film Institute, visit them online at www.manhattanfilminstitute.com.

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