DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

Film & Video Production: A Constant State of “ACTION!”

Course: Film & Video Production

DMA Instructor: Neal Dhand

Education: The University of Chicago (Major: Interdisciplinary Studies, combining Film Theory and English Literature). Master of Fine Arts degree: Rochester Institute of Technology; Rochester, NY (Major: Film and Video Production)

Professional Portrait: Filmmaker Neal Dhand has six short films and several music videos under his belt (like his video for the band SPiN, which aired on the Fuse Network). But now the writer/director’s credits also include “Second-Story Man,” his first full-length feature film. Since March, it’s been playing the festival circuit throughout the U.S., scoring good reviews and being chosen as an Official Selection at the Indie Spirit, Cinequest and 360-365 film festivals – and prompting discussions of a distribution deal. Neal demonstrated his versatility by helming “Second-Story Man” as the film’s director, co-producer, co-writer and co-editor. He also has impressive teaching credentials, having served as an adjunct lecturer at Ithaca College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester. A dedicated student of cinema’s past who’s working hard to become part of its future, DMA Instructor Neal Dhand is definitely someone who’s going places.

DMA Courses: Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects

DMA Campus Locations: Harvard, Drexel and Swarthmore

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Filmmaking has never been bigger, more complex or more thrilling. And if you ever wanted to learn film production, you’ve never had a better time to do so. DMA Instructor Neal Dhand can tell you all about the excitement that accompanies making a movie, because he just directed a full-length feature film that’s now getting lots of notice on the festival circuit. After that, who knows? Perhaps his movie, “Second-Story Man,” will be coming soon to a theater, DVD or a video-stream near you. (Visit www.secondstorymanmovie.com for info.)


Film director and DMA Instructor Neal Dhand makes a point while shooting his new feature film, “Second-Story Man.” The tense crime drama involves would-be bank robbers, and was shot on location in upstate New York.

As he has in past summers, Neal will again be teaching DMA courses in Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects. Each course involves a whirlwind of activity, and that suits the filmmaker fine. “I like the DMA’s energy,” he says, “And the energy the students bring to it. It’s a great combination of fun and technical know-how. In past years, some of my favorite parts have been when we’ve gotten really creative and experimental with film techniques.”

Neal’s formal training in film (including a Master’s degree in Film Production) makes him the perfect instructor for DMA’s digital filmmaking courses. He understands the key components of filmmaking that make movies work, which he lists as “great acting, interesting camera moves, tight editing, and beautiful sound and music.”

His DMA courses are hardly dry “Film Theory” classes, either. Students enrolled in Neal’s courses receive hands-on instruction in actually holding and operating a movie camera. In addition to shooting film, students learn how to cut and assemble footage using Final Cut, the industry standard in editing software. Young Spielbergs-in-training also get instruction in directing – including directing short scenes as well as directing scenes for use with special effects. Because, let’s face it – no modern course in film production would be complete without training in the creation and use of special effects. In Neal’s classes, students use After Effects to explore green-screen/compositing techniques – the same special effects that allow movie stars to do the impossible and appear to be posed against any kind of background you can possibly imagine.


Shooting any kind of modern studio-quality film requires state-of-the-art equipment and professional personnel. DMA’s Film Production programs show you the ropes and help get you started creatively.

As Neal explains, imagining’s the easy part. “A ‘green screen,’ is used for many shots. Using software like Final Cut Pro and After Effects, our goal is to take away the green background and replace it with something else. We want to make it look like our characters are somewhere else entirely. This isn’t as easy as it might sound. We need to pay careful attention to things like costuming and lighting. Then, once we have everything set up, we go in and ‘key’ the shot to get rid of that green background.”

It’s tricky technology, but green screens and After Effects can give directors an infinite number of possibilities when shooting. “The fun things about shooting and trying effects like this are all the possibilities,” Neal says. “If we want, we can place the characters anywhere, as long as we can either find that place ourselves, or find an image of it somewhere.”


These days, film directors have to be as comfortable working in front of a computer as behind a camera. As shown in this production still, director Neal Dhand checks a shot via a laptop.

Digital Media Academy students get to experience the possibilities first hand when they take the creative ride of their lives in DMA’s filmmaking summer camps and two-week filmmaking academies. As DMA Instructor Neal Dhand puts it, “The film industry is dominated by people who know both ends of filmmaking: behind the camera, in front of a computer…and everywhere in between! We’ll be experiencing some of all of that, this summer.”

Tailor-made for young talents who have a love of movies and are eager to master actual production techniques now, DMA’s programs vary by age and prior training. But no matter your level of interest and experience, there’s something for every type of aspiring filmmaker at Digital Media Academy.

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