The Berkshire International Film Festival is celebrating its 16th birthday this year, and to do that, we’d like to honor some of our new filmmakers. For our Filmmaker Four article series, we sent some of our BIFF first-timers the same set of four questions—the answers, of course, are delightfully different.
Nick Canfield is a Director and Cinematographer from New York. He has developed an intimate observational style which he learned over several years as filming partner to legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles. His camerawork can be seen in documentaries such as IRIS, THE FIFTY YEAR ARGUMENT, BORN TO FLY, and IN TRANSIT; and has premiered at festivals including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, and Tribeca. Working on the camera teams for a range of projects such as MAKING A MURDERER, he has had the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of subjects and filmmakers. His first feature film, THE REVEREND, premiered at DOC NYC 2021, and was the Audience Award winner.
What was your first experience on a film set?
I had been hired by a documentary filmmaker to be a PA on a documentary about education for PBS. On the first day, the director didn’t like the sound person so he fired him and gave me the job. I learned on the spot and afterward did documentary sound for a few years. It was a great introduction to two important parts of filmmaking: getting good sound and being an eternally positive and collaborative member of a film crew.
What was the first film you directed/wrote?
The Reverend is the first film I have directed. It was over six years in the making, counting the time we had to wait to premiere the film because of Covid. Filmmakers often start with a short as their first film, but Reverend Vince’s story was something that really spoke to me and I knew there was a feature there. Plus I wanted viewers to sit and enjoy some unique and amazing gospel music.
Who is your favorite filmmaker?
My favorite filmmaker is the legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who was my mentor and for whom I was filming partner for several years. The Maysles Brothers were pioneers of Cinema Verite, or Direct Cinema as they preferred to call it. Their intimate observational approach allows the viewer to feel within the scenes, and get to know the characters authentically. The Maysles Brothers made such famous documentaries as Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens, and Salesman. I work in a similar style in my own cinematography.
What are you working on that no one knows about?
I’m currently working on a short documentary about a historic 100-year-old ski jump in Southern Vermont. Five Seconds To Fly is a portrait of the community of small-town volunteers who put on a world-class competition, and the jumpers who take on this incredibly daring sport.