May 13


The First Day

The First Day

Say CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of THE FIRST DAY JURY LEVEL COMPETITION. First and second place will receive $3,000 and $2,000 cash prizes, respectively. All three Jury Level Winners are now in the final round of competition for funding of their feature film. Check out their winning entries – and past Jury Winners – on our WINNERS CIRCLE page.

First Place: At First Sight by Sahra Bhimji of the UK
Second Place: Ten First Days by Matthew Kalish of the US
Special Jury Finalist: Kind Op Maat by Chris Zomer of the Netherlands

May 13

Congrats to Fresh Start Entry Level Winners

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The following lucky (and talented) filmmakers have managed to pull it off again – these are our ENTRY LEVEL WINNERS for FRESH START! Each will receive a $500 cash prize for winning, plus the offer of $1000 in funding, should they choose to submit to the Jury Level round of this competition. Well done, ladies and gentlemen, well done!


Tuan by Nguyen-Anh Nguyen of Canada
Run Purple Run by Natomada of Brazil
2 km From Bjuv by Mans Wide of Sweden
Diary of a Jerk by Maxime Pourbaix of France
Morning Jog by Renata Yagolnitzer of the US
1hr. N A Kidz Life by Dominic Boubert of the US
Gimme 5 by Salomon Azkenazi of Mexico
It Was Only Sex by Joe Wihl of the UK
Plant by Jordan Harris of the US
Wildcard by Opiate Films of the UK


Fourth Wall by Jakrin Juangbhanich of the UK
Stain on Sidewalk by Adam Schlacter of the US
Fight Court by Punch Farm of the US
Maria Maria by J.M. Harper of the US
Beneath a Cloudless Sun by Gaz Won of the UK
The Silent Departure by Michael Wong of Hong Kong
Crepes by Nina Rac of Croatia

Fresh Start

Fresh Start

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May 13

Filmaka’s Ten Commandments Wins Webby for Best Drama Series

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Filmaka received some really big news last week – THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LA VIDA LOCA won the WEBBY AWARD for BEST DRAMA SERIES. We are very excited about this huge honor, not only for ourselves, but also – and primarily for – the creative team behind the series: Luis Bernal Salazar, Rodrigo Lopez Aldana, and Arturo Gonzalez Alonso. We have gotten to know these guys very well over the past two years. They really poured their hearts and souls into the creation of this web series – almost getting arrested and worse – so this honor is hugely deserved.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll recount the journey of the series from inception to its current success. This is only the beginning for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and our talented filmmakers from Mexico City. More on that later.

– Jason Zachary Haikara (three names in honor of the tres amigos with three names)

May 13

Mexico’s Sergio Valdez visits Filmaka

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Over the past few months, all of us at Filmaka have gotten to know Sergio from his short films and chats on Facebook. Sergio is a two-time (!) finalist of Filmaka’s feature film competition so we were very excited when he e-mailed us to say he was coming to LA from Mexico to visit friends.

Sergio Valdez

Sergio Valdez

Carolyn (Gray) and I took Sergio to lunch at Monsieur Marcel, a French restaurant (naturally) in Farmer’s Market. We figured he didn’t want Mexican food, even though it was the week of Cinco de Mayo – which Sergio told us was just a reason for us gringos to drink more tequila. Well, he was more diplomatic than that.

The highlight of Sergio’s visit to Filmaka was definitely his meeting with our founder Deepak Nayar. Deepak always enjoys meeting Filmaka members and, as you can see from the photo, they really hit it off. Deepak encouraged Sergio to start thinking about feature film ideas, since he has made it into the final round.

Sergio always looks so brooding in his Facebook profile photo and in his films (he’s also an actor) so it was great to see that he’s a really engaging guy with a great sense of humor.

While he was in LA, Sergio also spent time with Filmaka star member Varda Hardy and her family – they have gotten to know each other the past year and are considering a collaboration.

Anyway, this is my first blog as myself so I will try to wrap this up without being too wordy (too late?). Sergio, it was great getting to know you and we look forward to seeing more of your creativity.

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May 11

Jonathan Newman Documentary

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Filmaka member Jonathan Newman, winner of our Ford Mustang Stories competition, takes on a tour of a film studio and talks about his experiences with Filmaka.

Apr 23

Filmaka Member Pierre-Olivier Thevenin’s debut feature film opens in over 100 theaters

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This is a big week for 2007/2008 Filmaka Feature Film finalist Pierre-Olivier Thevenin as his first feature film HUMAINS opens in over 100 theaters in France. He received this directing assignment because the producers at La Fabrique de Films watched his Filmaka short films “Yum, Yum” and “Thanksgiving.” The films had been forwarded to La Fabrique de Films by Thomas Augsberger, a Filmaka co-founder.  In fact, Pierre-Olivier had to pass on participating in the final round of Filmaka’s feature film competition because he was in pre-production for HUMAINS.

Congratulations Pierre-Olivier!

Plot summary: A team of several researchers travel to the Swiss Alps to investigate a scientific discovery on human evolution. The trip, however, turns into a deadly fight for survival when the team crash into a gully and find themselves falling prey to someone…or something.


Filmaka has interviewed Pierre-Olivier about making the film and his experiences with Filmaka:

How were you selected to direct Humains?

“Humains” was originally a 30-page script written by a French and a Swiss scriptwriter. This was then presented to the producers, Franck Ribière and Vérane Frédiani, who appreciated the originality of the concept and decided to ask the two scriptwriters to give them the first complete draft.
Subsequently, they approached my colleague and me to direct the film, having already worked with us on the special effects of their previous film. Of course, the fact that they saw the two short films I directed for Filmaka greatly helped in my being chosen.

How did your Filmaka short films help you get this assignment?

The producers were already very familiar with the concept of Filmaka, and helped out by promoting Filmaka to their contacts. In return, Filmaka drew their attention to my two short films, “Yum Yum” and “Thanksgiving”.
Thanks to the two films which really amused the producers, and the strong recommendations of Filmaka, they were finally won over and hired me to direct the film.

How much time did you have between getting the assignment and the beginning of the production? We understand you had to pass on participating in the final round of Filmaka’s feature film competition.

There was a lapse of almost one year before we began the production, mostly due to the numerous financial and administrative difficulties. We had considered quite a number of countries for the shooting, including Canada, France and Romania, but the film was finally shot in Switzerland and Luxemburg.

Tell us about Humains.

Following an important scientific discovery that could question our understanding of the evolution of Man, Professor Schneider and his son leave for an expedition to the Lötschental valley in the Swiss Alps, accompanied by a young palaeontologist, the professor’s favourite student.
Along the way, they meet and travel with a family of tourists who are there for the famous Lötschental carnival and its Tschägättäs.
The seemingly fun trip then takes a very unexpected turn….

I would classify this film in the adventure genre for the general public. It has a bit of humour and action and a touch of fantasy.

What did you find most exciting and challenging about directing your first film?

The biggest challenge was in adapting a story written by many hands in which there were many heterogeneous elements. As a result, the story has a certain unique adventure feel to it that makes it amusing without being comical, and exciting but not scary.

In addition, the actual shooting of the film was not without its own difficulties, mainly because most scenes were shot outside at different locations in the forest/mountains. Consequently, drawing up the work plan to fit everything in and transporting all the equipment to the various locations (some of which were inaccessible to vehicles) proved to be somewhat of a headache.

What was it like attending the premiere and having a packed audience react to your film?

It was rather intimidating actually, especially when we had to present the film in front of hundreds of people. However, the Q&A sessions were far more enjoyable and I could see that the moviegoers were really interested by what they had just seen.

Humains opens wide in France this week. What’s next for the movie?

There are 112 copies of the film that will be distributed across France. For comparison’s sake, a blockbuster usually has about 600 copies, and a small film has between 20 and 70 copies.
As you can see, Humains is in the lower-middle range, but I think this is reasonable as it’s my first film.


How did you find out about Filmaka?

Well, actually, I received a mail one day promoting the Filmaka site and decided to take a look. At the beginning, I must admit that I had doubts over the seriousness of the site, mainly because the prestigious jury, complete with financial rewards for winning short films and a promise of a long feature for the final winner seemed too good to be true.
But when I studied the details of the competition, I realised that it was really a serious one and decided if I wanted to direct a short film, it was now or never.

Tell us about your short films Yum Yum and Thanksgiving.

Yum Yum is my first short film and I spent one Saturday afternoon writing the script. I then took the following week organising everything and getting people to come (at short notice). The weekend after, I shot the film with the actors who were friends of my mother’s and who were into theatrical acting. The filming was very fun, especially since I made the actors eat lamb brain and pork intestines….

Thanksgiving had a more complicated filming process, as I wanted a cartoon-like look to it, so as to make it even loonier. As such, I had to have an entire set made with recycled wood and stuff. The problem was that the day before the actual shooting, the set was far from being finished, and even with the reassurances from the set decorator that all would be finished the next morning, I had my doubts.
Unfortunately, the next morning, as I had feared, the set was only half-finished. As a result, I had to reorganise the work plan and shoot the angles where the set was finished, while the unfinished portions were being built (just beside us).

How did the experience in shooting your short films help you when you directed your first feature?

It helped me learn how to manage a team of actors and technicians and gave me a bird’s eye view of the entire film making process, beginning from scriptwriting to shooting the film and ending to the final mix.

Any advice for Filmaka members?

The three-minute limit is a real challenge for the recounting of the story. You should treat this limit as an exercise to show that you know how to tell a story within three minutes, while still staying creative. And if you fail, no one will blame you, because you’re competing with yourself and not with others. Just try again and again, until you succeed!


What are your future plans?

For Humains, I co-directed a script that I didn’t write. While it was interesting and enriching in itself, this experience made me really want to write the script as well for my next project.
So I’m currently developing my ideas into a script that I will direct alone.

Apr 20

Please congratulate your fellow Filmaka members, Luis Bernal Salazar, Rodrigo Lopez Aldana, and Arturo Gonzalez. Their Filmaka original webseries THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LA VIDA LOCA just received a Webby Award nomination for Best Dramatic Series! The leading international award honoring excellence on the internet, the Webbys were hailed by the New York Times as the “Internet’s highest honor.” There were over 10,000 entries from over 60 countries worldwide so this is an awesome achievement.

But Luis, Rodrigo, and Arturo need your help! In addition to the Best Dramatic Series that’s voted on by the Webby organization, there is also a People’s Voice Award category….this is where you come in.

Go to

Sign in and register. You will receive a password via e-mail. Once signed in, go to “Online/Video”. Then scroll to “Drama Series.” Select TEN COMMANDMENTS. Get your friends to vote. Post on your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter pages. Tell everyone you know to vote for this deserving and groundbreaking webseries. Your support will shine through when the winners are announced in New York City next month.


Finally, be sure to catch all the episodes as well as interviews and photos at

TEN COMMANDMENTS is a riveting, dark tale of two brothers competing for power in an international gang – based on the real-life gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).

Apr 06
Rodrigo Lopez Aldana and Luis Bernal Salazar with The Guild's Felicia Day
Rodrigo Lopez Aldana and Luis Bernal Salazar with The Guild’s Felicia Day

Last week, filmmakers Luis Bernal Salazar and Rodrigo Lopez Aldana travelled from Mexico City to Los Angeles to attend the 1st Annual Streamy Creative Arts and Awards Ceremonies.   Their dramatic Filmaka web series THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LA VIDA LOCA received a nomination for BEST ARTISTIC CONCEPT.   THE TEN COMMANDMENTS was the only non-English language web series to receive a nomination – in any category.    While in LA, Luis and Rodrigo met with Deepak Nayar (Bend It Like Beckham, Lost Highway) and the Filmaka team as well as a television and movie production company.

At the Streamys, Luis and Rodrigo walked the Red Carpet, conducted press interviews, and mingled with web celeb Felicia Day, who took home Streamys for Best Actress in a Comedy and Best Comedy (The Guild).  Felicia also stars in the hit web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog which won several awards at the event.

More photos of Luis and Rodrigo at the Streamys can be found on THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LA VIDA LOCA Facebook page.  The episodes can be viewed on Facebook and on

     Continue reading »

Mar 21

Filmaka Original Web Series “Ten Commandments” Receives Streamy Nomination!

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HP_Com_butcher_knifeWhat would you do if your brother founded a local clique for an international gang? Beat ’em? Or join ’em? How about a little of both?

Watch the stakes go up as the bodies start falling. In THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LA VIDA LOCA, two brothers lock in a battle of wills to see who will find justice – or vengeance.

Filmaka’s original web series, inspired by the real-life gang Mara Salvatrucha (or MS-13), just received a STREAMY AWARD nomination for BEST ARTISTIC CONCEPT for a Web Series. Witness this vision from the minds of Mexico’s LUIS BERNAL SALAZAR, RODRIGO LOPEZ ALDANA, and ARTURO GONZALEZ.

Mexico City’s Luis and Rodrigo are heading to LA this week to attend the awards ceremony and to meet with Filmaka.

Mar 21

Jonathan Newman is the Grand Prize Winner for our Ford Mustang Story competition! You can see his winning film “Father’s Day” and other winning Mustang Story films, at

Hear what Ford Mustang Stories Grand Prize Winner Jonathan Newman had to say about his experience of the competition…


Filmaka: What kind of response has “Father’s Day” received?

Jonathan: It has been overwhelming. When you enter these things you always expect it to be a bit of a lottery, and you never expect to win. Sandy Grushow from Filmaka graciously introduced me to a few people around town and I secured a top agent at ICM. I have since met with some pretty powerful people and companies around Hollywood who have all really reacted strongly to my work, and I have a pile of scripts to get through. My only other submission to Filmaka, Swinging with the Finkels, made it to the last two to be turned into a series for FX network, and although didn’t make it, is since being turned into a feature film by a major player.

Filmaka: What inspired your Ford Mustang Story?

Jonathan: I felt the key to bringing this film alive would be to focus on the human element. Rather than making a ‘commercial’ it was more important to make a ‘film’. One that focussed on real people and real emotions. The Mustang is a much loved and cherished vehicle by mustang owners and enthusiasts. It is clear from the reaction I have received from mustang owners that have seen the film that they relate to the story of cherishing a childhood dream. At its heart, Father’s Day is about having that childhood dream fulfilled, relayed through the simple bond between a Father and Son – a father who has perhaps given everything to his son, even though he has perhaps not had very much to give.. and conversely, a way for the son to say ‘thank you’ in a way that hits the heart.

Filmaka: What attracted you to the competition?

Jonathan: Initially, the fact that all I had to do was write a good script ( as opposed to going out and shooting something with no money), meant that I could use my skills without any financial outlay to possibly advance to the next stage. Second, its’s JWT. JWT is big, and they are international, and even I know them over here! And third, it’s FORD, one of the biggest car manafacturers in the world. What wouldn’t attract any sane individual to something like this?!

Filmaka: What was it like to attend the LA International Auto Show?

Jonathan: Wow! Amazing. The reveal event was incredible. FORD and JWT did an amazing job of putting that together. It was literally like a rock concert ( Aerosmith, not Madonna). They had some incredible stunt driving, all the legends of Mustang over the past 50 years were present. The guys from JWT deserve an award for organising that event. They were very generous in bringing me out to LA for the event and I was so pleased to be a part of it and proud of my film screening there.

Filmaka: Any advice for other filmakers who are thinking of submitting to Filmaka?

Jonathan: Script, script, script. Second, read the brief carefully. Submit what is requested of you. Third, pull out the stops to make your project of the highest production value possible. Cast good actors, shoot on a good format. Get someone else to produce it for you. Have your own choice.

Filmaka: What’s next for you?

Jonathan: Where do I start? It’s been very busy for me recently. In the first instance, I will be shooting the next film(s) for Ford and JWT (possibly more than one!). Those will be on pretty enormous budgets, which is great to get the chance to make something of real high end production value and possibly even use celebrities to star in it. That will shoot in LA in the New Year. The canvas is blank and JWT and Ford have given me great creative freedom as to the script and the creative elements. It is a real buzz to be able to shoot a film for one of the biggest ad agencies and car manafactures in the world. A real sense of pressure to,as I want to deliver something that they are both very proud of exhibiting.

Next, I have two feature films that are scheduled to shoot next year, one shooting in London and the other in Puerto Rico – they are currently being cast as we speak.

There are also new opportunities coming my way regularly, and the door is wide open for the future. I just have to pick which door to walk through…

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