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SARATOGA SPRINGS – Jon Dorflinger wants to bring “Hollywood to Saratoga.”
Since there is no film academy within 150 miles of Saratoga, Dorflinger decided in March to start one of his own, using his background as an English teacher, writer, and his work in production for several high-profile films to found the Saratoga Film Academy.
The Saratoga Film Academy caters to students between the ages of 8 and 18 and there are currently summer classes open for enrollment, but they are filling up. While there are two free classes for middle and high school students starting June 29, there are also classes like Stop-Motion Animation Workshop and Producing a Superbowl Commercial, which begin later this summer.
Dorflinger is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience in filmmaking, having worked on films such as Seabiscuit, Team America: World Police, Memoirs of a Geisha and The Terminal with Tom Hanks.
“I wanted to give the students a hands-on experience and focus on them developing their ideas into stories. By using just basic equipment, they can create something people will react to.” Dorflinger says.
At the Academy, students learn about cinematography, screenwriting, producing and directing to tell a narrative, which Dorflinger emphasizes is the “key to any great movie.”
“From day one, Elijah totally fell in love with the filmmaking process,” said Virginie Poritzky, whose son took a film class with Dorflinger. “He has learned the different techniques of modern digital filmmaking, from acting and shooting to editing. In a relatively short period of time, Elijah has acquired specific skills that have allowed him to express a variety of emotions through some short films he produced. Jon has been not only a great teacher but a true mentor for Elijah.”
Dorflinger grew up in Saratoga before leaving to study journalism at St. Michael’s College and then going to the University of Southern California and finishing the screenwriting program at UCLA. After 10 years of working in film and teaching in Los Angeles, where he was named Teacher of the Year at the Los Angeles Unified School District, he came back to Saratoga to share his experiences and knowledge with the whole community. Starting with an afterschool program teaching film at The Saratoga Independent School, Dorflinger realized he had enough interest to create a school of his own after parents and students began asking about future classes.
“I thought, ‘I’ve really got something here.’ And the kids go crazy for it,” he says. “It really starts with educating kids, getting them interested. Growing interest can only bring in more and better resources. I see it as more than just a school. It’s an opportunity to do something great for the community.”
Dorflinger’s other main goal is to help expand the independent film industry in Saratoga and create a film market in the area for local artists to potentially sell their work to studios.
“If studios see resources here, that it’s easy, it’s affordable, we’re going to see more productions here as well,” he said.
When Seabiscuit was filmed locally, it generated $2 million in revenue for Saratoga. The Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford provided 300 jobs to local residents during it’s filming here.
Through the Saratoga Film Academy and his connections to the film industry, Dorflinger wants to build upon Saratoga’s growing support of the arts and create an environment locally where artists, like musicians, filmmakers and writers can thrive and make a living. He is starting by teaching his students to “think of themselves as entrepreneurs as well as artists,” so they can market their talents using today’s technology. He has further plans to create opportunities for students outside of the classroom, such as auditions and internships for those interested.
Dorflinger’s current project is trying to establish a kid’s film festival, which would showcase his students’ work as well as local kids who have a passion for film.