In 2014, Randy Scott Slavin and his wife Julie Slavin, both graduates of New York University, established the New York City Drone Film Festival (NYCDFF). Six years later and the NYCDFF is considered one of the top annual drone events. For Randy, his passion has always been the photography and cinematography aspects of the world of drones. His drone skills gained notice after the release of his short film “Aerial NYC” that was filmed with a GoPro Hero 3 attached to a DJI Phantom. Randy has won many awards for his still and aerial photography. His drone work has been featured in commercials, TV specials, films, music videos, and more.
Though the event is named after NYC, Randy and Julie’s home, it is actually held in Jersey City, NJ at the Liberty Science Center. Dedicated to sharing the ever growing world of science and technology in an engaging and entertaining forum, the Liberty Science Center became a perfect place to host the NYCDFF. As described on NYCDFF’s website, “The New York City Drone Film Festival is the world’s first event exclusively dedicated to celebrating the art of drone cinematography. The festival offers an international platform for filmmakers from every corner of the globe to exhibit their work in front of industry professionals and the drone community.” Of course, being held in a science museum means that the event incorporates a lot more than just drone photography and film.
The event that takes place over two days, highlights all the ways that drones are being used on a daily basis. In the science center are exhibits that show how drones are helping getting jobs done in fields like agriculture, inspections, security, rescue and police work, scientific research, and more. When Ian Frazier of The New Yorker magazine attended in 2016 he was surprised by how many young people had crowded the Liberty Science Center for some of it’s more exciting drone exhibits. “Kids of many ages and ethnicities packed the exhibitions of drone battles (not much contact, but plenty of crashes), drone races (more crashes, but some actual racing, on a course set up on the museum grounds),” he wrote. But, clearly the climax of the festival are the films that have been submitted.
The submitted films are projected in the center’s 150 seat Imax theater. The massive screens enable viewers to feel like they are in the film themselves, totally immersed. The festival’s submission categories are for drone films in extreme sports, landscape and architecture, freestyle FPV, news and documentary, narrative, and more. Some of the 2019 winners included the short films “Moablaster 2- The Storm” by Airblanster, “A Different Perspective” by Marcus Moller, and “Burning Man- The Build” by Matt Emmi. Besides the recognition and accolades this competition brings to those involved, winners receive some top drone gear as well. What makes this festival so exciting is that as technology progresses, the submits from Drone Operators get better and better each year. The 2020 NYCDFF is set to bring forth some of the most phenomenal drone photography and cinematography yet.
While what the 2020 NYCDFF will look like in terms of social distancing has not yet been made public, but the event is still set to take place on July 25th and 26th. However, there has been one major change for the festival with the announcement that “In early 2020, The New York City Drone Film Festival was acquired by AirVuz.com, the premier website for drone video content. To celebrate the acquisition submissions to the 2020 New York City Drone Film Festival are free when uploaded to AirVuz.com.” The deadline for submissions is May 25, 2020. Regardless of how and where the festival will be held, it helps shine a light on some of the amazing things people are doing with drones. As Randy said, “I’m tired of drones being synonymous with questionable legality, FAA regulation. I want to celebrate the art of aerial cinematography.” He went on to say, “Drones have become the go-to tool for filmmakers to add mind-blowing camera motion and production value to their work. The NYCDFF brings the most impressive filmmakers together from around the world to show their work on the big screen and award their skills and creativity.”