Celebrating the New York City Drone Film Festival


This past February a historic event took place at the Director’s Guild Theatre in New York City: the world’s first film festival focused solely on aerial cinematography. The festival is called the New York City Drone Film Festival (NYCDFF) and was proudly sponsored by DJI.

To celebrate the festival and the many talented cinematographers who showcased their films as part of it, we talked to the founder of the festival and three of the festival’s winners.

This is what Randy Scott Slavin, NYCDFF founder and himself an avid aerial cinematographer and a long-time DJI user, told us about his initiative:

I started my aerial cinematography career using the first generation of the DJI Phantom. I would wake up very early and go shoot my favorite places in Manhattan before people were out and about. The resulting film was Aerial NYC, which went viral when I published it online. The great response led me to want to submit it to a film festival.

After an exhaustive search I realized that there were no drone categories in existing film festivals nor any smaller festivals dedicated to drone filmmaking. That’s when I got the idea to start my own! Drones have had major PR issues and I really want the festival to show people what an amazing creative tool they can be.

—Randy Scott Slavin, founder of  New York City Drone Film Festival 

Next up are the winners in the Dronie, Travel/Landscape and Audience Choice categories, all of whom used DJI products to create their winning films.

Dronie Winner: Floating by Florian Fischer

Floating was shot off the coast of the Island Eleuthera in the Bahamas using a DJI Phantom 2. It shows us how the relation between ourselves and the world around us changes by moving closer and then back out again. We experience the journey from far away to very close to a human floating on the surface of the ocean. This gives us a feeling of loneliness and the open space around us. We would never have been able to accomplish this shot without a drone. Being able to find the person far away on the ocean was only possible with the drone’s live HD view. Shooting from 6 ft. up to 2,000 ft. would not have been possible with any other tool that we are aware of.

—Florian Fischer, cinematographer at Behind the Mask

Travel/Landscape Winner: Koh Yao Noi by Philip Bloom

I hadn’t planned making this film. I was on holiday in Thailand and had brought my DJI Phantom 2 with me as a companion to my regular camera. I had intended to only use the Phantom 2 for a few select scenes, but changed my mind after the first time flying it. Seeing the new perspective and the freedom of a flying camera was just incredible.

My favorite moment in the film is, after the long forward-tracking shot of the tidal mudflats under the stilted village, the little children who kept running alongside my aircraft after having been so mesmerized by it. This was one of the most memorable filming experiences I’ve had in over 25 years and one of the favorite films that I’ve made.

—Philip Bloom, independent filmmaker at Philip Bloom

Audience Choice Winner: MEX Airport by Tarcisio Sañudo

I was commissioned by the air traffic controllers at the Mexican Aerospace Navigation Services (SENEAM) to create this video of the Mexico City International Airport for their anniversary dinner. The controllers were themselves surprised to receive permission for this video, as airports are by necessity very restrictive of nearby aircraft activity. I was allowed to shoot on the condition that all the pilots present at the airport at the time agreed, and that I stay in communication with the control tower at all times. This is how I could create such a rare film. It was without doubt one of the best experiences of my life, made possible thanks to my DJI F450.

—Tarsicio Sañudo, aerial videographer at postandfly

*DJI encourages all creators to be aware of local laws and regulations, and to fly safely and responsibly when creating their work.

Do you find the New York City Film Festival as exciting as we do? Submissions for the 2016 edition of the festival open in August. Get ready!