David Newman ’15 can often be seen traversing Vassar’s campus, messenger bag on his shoulder, going from location to location but always orbiting the Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film. He may be quiet and thoughtful, but you can be sure what’s on his mind.
“He’s always talking about movies,” wrote Adam Ninyo ’16 in an emailed statement, co-treasurer of Vassar Filmmakers Club with Newman.
David is a film major with artistry in his blood. His mom is an art historian and his dad is a photography and film enthusiast, and the budding filmmaker cites his upbringing as being flushed with art in its many forms. His love of film, however, was decisive from the start—a cohesion of his many artistic influences.
“I actually got into filmmaking in middle school school through theater. I was really into it in elementary and middle school and wanted to be an actor or director. The summer after 8th grade I wanted to go to this acting program at the New York Film Academy, but my mom suggested that I take their two week movie program,” wrote Newman in an emailed statement, adding, “It was one week of acting and one week of filmmaking. I went in thinking I would love the acting classes and tolerate the filmmaking classes. Two weeks later I was in love with filmmaking.”
The film lover arrived at Vassar knowing he wanted to study film, and was quick to declare his major before the end of freshman year. What he didn’t know was that he would not only deepen his understanding and expertise in the subject throughout the years, but specifically develop an interest in film sound design. “Over the past couple years I’ve gotten really into doing film sound…I would say [I find] creating and designing the soundtrack [most rewarding and enjoyable]. It’s something that is not taught much (not much in film schools outside of sound programs/concentrations), so trying to look at a film, even at the screenplay stage, and help figure out how sound could improve the film can be exhilarating. Also, since audiences don’t pay conscious attention to the sound in the same way they do the visuals, I can work in ways that the visuals couldn’t, especially in a narrative film,” wrote Newman.
Sam Plotkin ’15, one of David’s closest friends and his housemate this year, spoke to his friend’s interest in sound technique. “If you want David in a nutshell, all you need to know is that he’s extremely dedicated and passionate about the art of sound in film, and all that that encompasses,” wrote Plotkin in an emailed statement.
Nicole Glantz ’15, a fellow member of Vassar’s Filmmakers Club’s executive, pointed out the creative home space Newman currently inhabits, which is comparable in tenor to his artistically-driven early home life. “He lives in a very creative TA. Two of his housemates are also filmmakers, and one [Plotkin] is a musician,” Glantz wrote in an emailed statement.
In terms of David’s larger approach to film and filmmaking, he finds interest at the intersection of technology and creativity; besides film, he says he has always sought out the exploration of a variety of subjects, including math and anthropology, and even considered double-majoring in art history or anthropology along with film. However, he feels the concentrated focus on a single pursuit has opened up a wider range of intellectual possibilities.
“On the production side, film lives at the intersection between artistic creativity, technical knowledge and business. I’ve always found myself drawn to the STEM fields as well as the creative arts, so the idea that one can’t exist without the other interests me. In film, you have to be able to know how to achieve the result you want (technology), but you also need to know what it is you want to get (creativity),” wrote Newman.
The primary challenge of filmmaking for Newman is something unexpected, coming from the pains of collaborative creation and the search for true ingenuity when beginning a project. “While most filmmakers I’ve heard praise collaboration, for me working extremely closely with other people, all with their own agendas, clashing ideas about the project, ways of working, personalities, and levels of experience, is probably the most challenging aspect of filmmaking. And while the act of creation is exhilarating, it’s hard. I’ve found that I don’t like screenwriting, partially because I find that just can’t create something from nothing,” wrote Newman. Nonetheless, David is seen as occupying a key role in the film department at Vassar, perceived as an influential and central force in several organizations, and as a voice for promoting the celebration of cinema.
“As a member of Vassar Filmmakers’ Exec board and the Film Majors Committee, David plays an integral leadership role in Vassar’s film community. He truly cares about providing more film opportunities for Vassar students, and dedicates his time to make this possible. [He] is positive, hardworking, a great team member, and takes initiative,” wrote Glantz. At the base of David’s studies and wide knowledge—he counts directors as diverse as Luis Buñuel, Martin Scorsese, and Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer as being among his favorites—is a desire to tell stories and shape narratives that people can connect with, and views his position as an artist as secondary.
“While film (and storytelling) does definitely hold a place within the more traditional modes of art like painting and sculpture, I would call myself a storyteller before calling myself an artist. That is not to say that I never consider myself an artist, it just usually comes second and all depends on the film I am working on,” wrote Newman.