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  • From Doctor in Saudi Arabia to Acting Student in Los Angeles

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    Often creative individuals are afraid to take the necessary steps toward becoming a working artist, especially those who have found a comfortable life in another professional industry. One of our newest students put fear aside and decided to pursue his passion for acting. As a doctor in Saudi Arabia, Abdulhakeem Jomah still felt that something was missing in his life. After learning about a friend who had taken up filmmaking at New York Film Academy and another in the producing program, Jomah became more and more interested in our hands-on programs. Ultimately, his decision was to enroll into NYFA’s MFA Acting for Film Program in Los Angeles — stark contrast from being a doctor. We decided to have a brief chat with the new student, as perhaps his story could pave ways for others looking to break into a creative pursuit.

    What ultimately made you decide to go from being a doctor to pursuing acting at the New York Film Academy?

    I’ve always been into acting as more of a hobby — coming from a militarily academic family very much eliminates an academic pursuit of the arts right off the bat.

    I suppose my tipping point was when a group of amateur actors, led by an ambitious director, took a pretty daring chance (considering the highly traditional playing field) in staging an all English, localized adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. In which I would play the lead, McMurphy.

    It was a hectic eight months of rehearsal at one of the local college auditoriums where we were meant to stage it. And not three weeks before opening night we were shut down by the government.

    We were in shambles for a good while, but a private benefactor took up our cause. He gave us his estate to use for our play.

    And for one night, we did two shows, to two explosive standing ovations. The energy was electric. The aftermath very positive, and the pleads for more thrummed through the following year.

    Seeing that energy, that positivity, the fruits of our near nine month struggle come to fruition, we weren’t paid, we did it because we loved it and it was ALL worth it, and I’d do it again, a million times over.

    That, is what made me realize that this is what I needed to do.

    Have you acted in anything prior to the play: professional or otherwise?

    Aside from the play I mentioned earlier, nothing professional.

    Abdullah Kurashi, the aforementioned production student, and I have done a lot of shorts together back in Saudi. Ranging from Joker impersonation videos for local competitions, to completely random, often psychotic shorts. Only because we loved doing it.

    Is there an actor who inspires you?

    I can mention oldies all day, but there are actors that have a deep, personal methodology that I respect and one day hope to attain that discipline.

    Christian Bale, is at the top of that list. His methodology is absurdly dedicated and there’s nothing I didn’t love him in.

    Jake Gyllenhaal was the star of the first movie I ever called my favorite (Donnie Darko), and has ridiculously come into his own recently with Nightcrawler and Prisoners.

    But most recently, Oscar Isaac has really won me ove with Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ex Machina — he’s just a cool guy.

    What do you hope to achieve with your training at NYFA?

    I’ve no illusions of living the American dream and making millions. I have a genuine, embedded love for the craft. If it were about the money, doctors make tons of it. I’d stick with that and call it a day.

    There are artists in the Middle East that CAN’T go public with their art out of fear or scrutiny, it’s a taboo. And I want to change that. We can only perform after jumping through a million and one hoops, and even then with restriction.

    If nothing else, I’m hoping this move will inspire my fellow artists in the trenches and foxholes to come out and show the world what we have, and perhaps in doing that, shed light and awareness on all other issues that, if addressed and abolished, could better our home.

    And I’d love to say I was at the vanguard of that movement.

    May 7, 2015 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3003

  • Comic Characters Get Cast


    It’s a big day for fans of comic book adaptations, or for that matter, fans of Glee, Game of Thrones, or the recent Lifetime biopic of Aaliyah. Bryan Singer used his Twitter account this week to announce the three young stars of his latest X-Men sequel, X-Men Apocalypse. Apocalypse will be following the series reboot in Days of Future Past with a 1980s setting and starring returning cast members Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.

    However, the series will be recasting its original characters—Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey. James Marsden, Halle Berry and Famke Janssen are out, and Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Sophie Turner are in. Sheridan is best known for his roles in Matthew McConaughey vehicles Mud and Joe, Shipp starred as Aalyiah in the Lifetime biopic and Sophie Turner has been winning over more and more fans as determined survivor Sansa Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

    Don’t worry if you’re more of a DC than a Marvel fan—there’s news for you too. Supergirl, a new CBS series with elements of a police procedural (because it’s CBS, duh) has found its lead—Melissa Benoist. Benoist is best known for Glee, and has found a more serious audience recently with her role in Best Picture nominee Whiplash. Superman’s younger, blonder cousin should be showing up on TV sets this September.

    Finally, if that’s enough news to satiate your comic book appetite, there have been a couple of not-quite-casting stories this week. Marvel is supposedly courting 12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor for a “leading role” in their upcoming Avengers installment, Doctor Strange, which already has Oscar nom Benedict Cumberbatch set as the magician superhero. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Jake Gyllenhaal has taken himself out of the running to replace Tom Hardy, who recently dropped out of the leading role of DC’s Suicide Squad. The follow-up to this summer’s Batman V. Superman, Suicide Squad focuses on a team of supervillains who must save the world. While the production is struggling to find a new star, it’s now rumored that Ben Affleck’s Batman will make an appearance with Jared Leto’s Joker at some point in the film.

    And that’s all the comic book movie news there is… for the next twelve minutes.

    January 23, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 1793

  • Kooky Kaiju: A Look at Some of Godzilla’s Most Outlandish Monsters

    Godzilla and Momoko Kôchi on the set of Gojira

    When it was announced that the latest reboot of the Godzilla franchise would center around the film’s titular character battling other creatures, you could almost hear the collective shriek of excitement from fans around the world. After all, with the exception of the original 1954 Gojira and 1998’s unfortunate US version, Godzilla has tended to serve as an ally, albeit a destructive one, to the human populace against invading monsters. Over the past sixty years, Godzilla has encountered numerous foes and friends that have ranged from the imposing—King Ghidorah anyone?—to the downright silly.

    Gojira is a landmark film not only for its stark commentary on the effects of nuclear warfare—after all, it came out nearly a decade after the US dropped nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima—but it also helped to usher in the modern disaster film. However, with the massive success of the original film, Toho Studios soon found themselves with a franchise that needed additional kaiju—the Japanese term for monsters—to entertain their increasingly young fan base. While Roland Emmerich’s critically-panned Godzilla sought to take the film back to its roots, old and new fans of the iconic kaiju were understandably elated with the announcement that Godzilla would be returning to the screen to combat a terrifying new species of kaiju known as M.U.T.O (which stands for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and save humanity in the process.

    While the new film, which opens today, aims to amp up the intimidation factor of the new monsters as they appear in both eight-legged and winged incarnations, looking back at six decades of Godzilla movies reveals a veritable rogues gallery of often laughable kaiju whose campiness has only grown over time. To celebrate this return to form, we decided to take a look at some of the more outlandish characters that have crossed paths with the green monster.

    King Kong

    King Kong and Godzilla destroy building during battle

    In what was probably a no-brainer for Toho studio execs, Godzilla’s third outing featured the classic American monster super-sized to make a worthy opponent for his much larger enemy. While undeniably hokey, King Kong vs. Godzilla remains the most profitable Godzilla film in Japan.


    Mechagodzilla from the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

    First introduced in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, this robotic re-imagining of the green monster has made a number of appearances in subsequent films and is one of Godzilla’s most effective enemies, whose nearly indestructible “Space Titanium” outer shell and “Space Beam” laser has helped him win several battles.

    King Caesar

    King Caesar in a scene from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla

    Also making his debut alongside Mechagodzilla, this unusual beast combines elements of a dog, lion, and reptilian flesh to create an ally that helped Godzilla defeat Mechagodzilla through his speed and fighting skills. Unfortunately, his corny costume is not one of his special abilities.


    Godzilla battles Hedorah the smog monster

    Also known as the smog monster in 1971’s Godzilla vs. Hedorah, this nasty creature got its name from the Japanese word hedoro, which can translate as slime or vomit, an appropriate name given that this extraterrestrial kaiju derives its powers from pollution and attacks its opponent by spewing damaging sludge.


    SpaceGodzilla in a scene from Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

    Not to be outdone by Mechagodzilla, this alien doppelganger somehow managed to best its predecessor in sheer silliness thanks to the awkward crystals protruding from its shoulders and dubious “space powers” that helped to make 1994’s Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla a camp classic.

    Baby Zillas

    Baby Zillas from Roland Emmerich's 1998 adaptation of Godzilla

    Wait, Godzilla can procreate? And his/her babies look like Jurassic Park’s velociraptors on steroids? Though previous films had featured the monster’s offspring, Emmerich’s sequel-baiting ending to his 1998 film was more of a nail in the coffin for any moviegoer to take the film seriously. Here’s hoping that the 2014 film avoids such cheap gimmicks.

    May 16, 2014 • Filmmaking • Views: 1722

  • ‘Midnight Cowboy’ DP Screens ‘The Panic in Needle Park’

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    NYFA Cinematography Chair John Loughlin with Adam Holender

    This Tuesday, the New York Film Academy in Union Square welcomed cinematographer, Adam Holender. His most notable credit is Director of Photography on the 1969 classic, Midnight Cowboy, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. Adam suggested we screen another classic from 1971, starring the then unknown Al Pacino. The Panic in Needle Park is a stark portrayal of life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in New York City’s “Needle Park.” The film was a part of the early 1970’s cinéma-vérité. Adam’s use of hand-held cameras, real-life urban location, sounds and lack of traditional soundtrack set the tone for a new style of realism. According to Adam, the film was shot primarily on-location in forty-three days.

    Living mere blocks away from the main location of the film up on 71st and Broadway, Adam and his director, Jerry Schatzberg, spent months in New York City diligently preparing for production. “Pre-production is the most important part of the process,” said Adam.

    Coming up in a time when film was meant to be gritty and real, Adam admits digital filmmaking is the obvious wave of the future. “If people have something to say, it really doesn’t matter if it’s digital or film,” admitted Adam. Though, he does feel a certain loss of intimacy between the cinematographer and the actors’ performance when shooting digitally as opposed to 35mm.

    When asked by a student if he typically criticizes his films or often thinks about “going back and making changes,” Adam said, “Your work is really never finished. It’s only abandoned.” Wise words from a DP with a long and successful career in the industry.


    April 10, 2013 • Guest Speakers • Views: 2987