Meet Isaac Needleman, Film & Video Instructor with the Digital Filmmaking and Video Productions program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute in Orlando, FL. His industry background starts back in 2000 when he was in the US military.
Needleman attended Defense Information School, located in Fort Meade, MD. It’s claim-to-fame is that famous news anchor Dan Rathers was also once a student there. The person that the main character from “Good Morning Vietnam” was based on, also went to this school.
When Isaac was a student there, he learned video journalism, video broadcasting and radio programming. The next thing he knew, he’d spent 10 years of active duty in the service, filming service members located all over the world. His job was to tell their stories.
After completing his military duties, he moved to Los Angeles, CA. There, Needleman attended film school. During his time as a student, he shot many short films, commercials and music videos. Then, he found his way back at home, in the State of Florida.
Isaac Needleman: The Art of “Capturing” Stories
Needleman says he’s always loved “capturing” stories on film. And, that’s what inspired him to get into the filmmaking business. He believes each person has an interesting story to tell. So, it’s always been inspiring to be able to capture those stories on camera, through photographs or written words.
He enjoys getting people’s stories “out there” so others can learn about them. Isaac says he’s always enjoyed working behind the camera. It’s there that he enjoys the “moments of life.”
Some of the people who inspire Isaac Needleman include Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and David Fincher, the director of the movie “Gone Girl.” He likes to watch the works of filmmakers like them, and see what they did and how they did it. This makes the instructor challenge himself to see if he can shoot the way they did.
He then goes out and attempts those same shoots. Needleman experiences it their way, then tries to “one up” them, as the F.I.R.S.T. Institute instructor puts it.
From Teaching Soldiers to Teaching Students
Isaac always enjoyed training young sailors on how to make films and do video productions in journalism back when he was in the military. So, eventually he felt the need to teach what he knew to students as well. He believed he could inspire them to become filmmakers and make great stories.
So, when he saw an ad that said F.I.R.S.T. Institute was hiring, he jumped at the chance to apply for the job. Somehow, he says, he got lucky enough to get the job as a teacher. Now, he works to inspire both the young and the old, that come through the school to change their lives.
What Students Learn in the Digital Filmmaking and Video Productions Program
When students come to F.I.R.S.T. Institute, they learn the basics of filmmaking. They learn everything from screenwriting to cinematography to after effects. The job of the administrators and instructors at F.I.R.S.T., is to get the students entry level positions once they graduate from the Digital Filmmaking and Video Productions program.
That’s why Needleman inspires his students to learn the basics first. Once they do that, all they have to do is expand upon that knowledge.
The instructor says he’s very passionate about screenwriting. That’s his favorite part of the program. He’s been doing it since 2000, learning it through various ways. For him, screenwriting is where the story begins. If you start your project with a good script, you’re going to have a good movie as well.
If one of your shots is out of focus, no one will really remember that. But, having a good character is very memorable for viewers. That’s why it’s so important that his students work on writing scripts. They work on their scripts, pretty much the whole time they’re at the school.
The students even learn to workshop the scripts, which is done several times throughout the course. Isaac says he really enjoys diving in and finding out what their stories mean and what their stories need to say. He finds interest in things like the difficulties the characters face.
Needleman: Good Work Ethic is Most Important in the Filmmaking Business
Isaac tells us that the main thing he hopes his students learn from him is his work ethic. If you really work hard and commit to what you want to do, you’ll succeed in the filmmaking industry.
People remember the “out of the way” things you do in this business. Be the first to show up on the set and the last one to leave. Help people clean up and put things away. Even if you’re the director on the set, you don’t just idly order others around. Instead, you listen to their opinions while working right along with them.
So, he hopes his students at F.I.R.S.T. Institute pick up on these types of work ethics and learn from them. This will help them to grow from there.
Networking is Key to Filmmaking Success
Isaac Needleman encourages any student who wants to stay in contact with him after graduation to do so. Thanks to social media, he’s had F.I.R.S.T. Institute alumni contact him with offers. They say they’d love to work with their former instructor on upcoming films or other projects.
So, when he does come up with projects, he sends messages to these people to see if they want to work with him. The F.I.R.S.T. Instructor notes that the film community is really small in Orlando. That means it’s very important not to burn any bridges. Plus, you need to keep building your local professional network so it continues to grow.
The F.I.R.S.T. Institute Music Video Production Project
One of the projects the Digital Filmmaking and Video Productions students take part in is a music video project. They must work with an artist to complete the video… from start to finish.
The students give the artist their ideas for the project. Then, they work directly with musician to plan and set up the shots. For one project, a group of students came into the F.I.R.S.T. Institute studio, and transformed it into a bedroom suite for their music video.
These students worked on their video project from start to finish. They even edited the project themselves at the end. Needleman thinks this is a great project for his students because music videos give you creative control. Of course, just like with anything else, there are rules.
But, when working on music videos, he says, those rules get to be broken. This allows the students to really have fun when they shoot them.
Advantages of Being a Student at F.I.R.S.T. Institute
Needleman advises that if you want to learn everything from cinematography to after effects, the Digital Filmmaking and Video Productions program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute is great for you. Students learn the basics of filmmaking there. They go over “everything,” the instructor says.
F.I.R.S.T. students learn cinematography, audio, screenwriting, after effects and more. Isaac advises students to come into the program with an open mind, and prepared to put in some work. From day one, he tells his students that filmmaking doesn’t happen just during class time hours.
Filmmaking happens on the weekends with fellow classmates, and after class during discussions about movies and scripts. When students get together on the weekends to check out equipment from the school to shoot their own projects, filmmaking is happening.
So, when you come to F.I.R.S.T. Institute, “prepare to shoot.”