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LIU Brooklyn’s Jon Navarro Dives Into the Future of Film

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As an award-winning filmmaker working toward his M.F.A. in film at LIU Brooklyn, Jon Navarro is used to having great collaborators as he crafts his features.

For his latest project, however, Navarro has a new voice in the mix: his audience.

Navarro – who earned his B.A. in Media Arts from LIU Brooklyn in 2014 – was named in December as one of three finalists in the Vista Project, a new competition for student filmmakers sponsored by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). The Brooklyn native is putting the finishing touches on a 10-minute film short that will be influenced by audience members, who will make key decisions about the plot of the film using their smartphones, building audience engagement by allowing viewers to influence the action on the screen.

“It’s been very stressful, but at the same time rewarding,” said Navarro, whose work will premiere in March at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, where the top two shorts will be selected for wider distribution and cash prizes for their creators. “There’s been a lot of sleepless nights, just trying to get everything turned around in the aggressive time frame they gave us, but it’s been rewarding, in that it’s expanded my perspective on how I approach the whole creative process, and I think I’m going to use this process more moving forward.”

While much of Navarro’s work is rooted in his heritage – films like The Gypsy, Enlisted, and The Opposite of Romance are culturally relevant works, true to his own experiences – he is no stranger to projects that incorporate new technologies to tell his stories. In October, his film Soledad was chosen as an official selection of the SMPTE Student Film Festival in the category of “Best Use of Mobile Device or Tablet to Convey a Story – Narrative Short.” The honor took Navarro to Hollywood, where the film was screened at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

“It was fun,” Navarro said of seeing his work play in the storied venue. “We ended up with a film that I’m really proud of because initially, I didn’t expect much out of it. With a lot of student projects, it’s just something that we do for the class, but this one was a little bit different. There was a good reaction from the class, and it just felt different, so I decided to submit it to a bunch of festivals. So far, we’ve gotten into every festival that we’ve submitted it to, and we’ve been nominated for multiple awards at every festival.”

Navarro also puts his skills into practice as a Digital Media Manager in the New York City Comptroller’s office, crafting videos, graphics, and other digital media projects that articulate the Comptroller’s agenda. Still, while his work for the City ensures that he maintains a firm grasp on the present, the skills Navarro continues to hone at LIU have him ready to build and explore the future of film.

“It’s changed my perspective on what can be done or what tools can be used for telling a visual story,” Navarro said of his LIU education. “I had never even conceived of using a mobile device for serious cinematic use, and after my Mobile Cinematography class, it expanded the gamut of my arsenal, so to speak.”

Posted 02/02/2017

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