SARATOGA SPRINGS – Most people might balk at the idea of a weekly commute from Ballston Spa to New York City and back, but for one area student and her family, it could not be more exciting.
Alexandra Bretz-Aguirre, a freshman student at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, is currently enrolled in New York University’s (NYU) prestigious “Future Filmmakers” workshop, where she currently spends her Saturdays learning the ways of cinema from the university’s faculty of film industry luminaries. Hitting the road on Friday, Bretz-Aguirre and her mother, Catherine Bretz, stay the night in the city before her lessons, which run from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Following that, they head back home straight away, getting in late on Saturday night.
It can be an exhausting process, but it is one that Bretz-Aguirre is happy to undertake if it allows her to follow her dreams.
“I like, leave Friday, come back Saturday night,” Bretz-Aguirre said. “But we’re always excited. It’s worth it.”
Bretz-Aguirre’s dream to attend NYU began when she was 10-years-old, visiting the city with her mother. After noting the university’s purple flags, she and her mother went to the Tisch School for the Arts and were given a tour. Since then, she was driven to one day attend the school. Frequently, she would browse the university’s online program listings, passing the time and looking for anything that sparked her interest. That spark came when she found the Future Filmmakers program. She was intrigued right away.
Bretz-Aguirre’s love for film grew in tandem with a love for photography, both of which were passed down from her father, Oscar Aguirre. She and her family had also always been film buffs, with a particularly affection for the work of director Hal Ashby. She has been practicing her photography since she was 13. Considering this love of film and her desire to attend NYU, the Future Filmmakers program looked like a huge opportunity for her.
According to Bretz-Aguirre, the process for applying to the program involved a lot of essay writing. Some of the prompts included “How do you think filmmaking is encouraged in your world,” and other more general ones that were meant to give them a sense of the applicant as a person. There was also an interview portion that came later on in the process, wherein the interviewers discussed various images and their meanings. Two days later, Bretz-Aguirre saw an email in her inbox with the best news she could have hoped for.
“I was screaming,” she said. “I was doing my homework, and I was checking my email, and I saw [the word] ‘accepted.’”
Bretz-Aguirre’s parents noted with particular pride how competitive the admission process had seemed. Indeed, she is one of only 14 high school students from the tri-state area accepted into the program, and within that group, she is one out of only two freshmen.
In the program, Bretz-Aguirre is learning from some of the brightest talents in the film world. These include the likes of Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development at HBO, and Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas. In one standout lesson, her class was instructed by film editor and frequent Spike Lee collaborator Samuel D. Pollard, who showed the class “Mo’ Better Blues” without sound to show them how the images on their own tell the story. Bretz-Aguirre found this to be particularly illuminating.
Lessons began on the first weekend of February. All of the film projects that Bretz-Aguirre and her classmates work on must be silent, so that they can focus on conveying meaning purely through images. The lessons and projects also stress the collaboration at the heart of filmmaking. Her class has worked together with other NYU workshop classes, including the “Future Dramatic Writers” and “Future Dancers and Dancemakers.” She was immediately fascinated with the tasks given to her on their first project, which involved finding actors and scouting for locations.
“It was so interesting,” she said.
Moving forward from the 12-week workshop, Bretz-Aguirre plans on continuing to explore filmmaking. She hopes to make a film all on her own someday soon, and she is hoping to establish a film club at the Waldorf School. And while she stressed that this was not necessarily the only end-goal for her, she said that she could see herself pursuing a career in the film business.
“I love it,” her mother Catherine Bretz said. “I love to see her involved with the diversity of the program and the craft.”
“We’re amazed at her dedication and focus,” her father Oscar Aguirre said. “It was her initiative that drove this.”