Documentary Filmmaking
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  • Assembly Line Entertainment Founder & NYFA Producing Alum Janek Ambros Shares Exciting Slate of Upcoming Projects and Collaborations with Fellow Producing Alum Robbie Leacock

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    After graduation, it’s straight to set for many alumni; but for others, it means a new era of innovation injected into the film industry by bringing in new, incredible stories to new audiences. MFA Producing alum Janek Ambros decided to do just that by starting up his own international production company, Assembly Line Entertainment, which has already had films appear in festivals all over the world including Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

    “When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I took a production company course at NYFA,” recalled Ambros. “It was in that class where I created the company logo, and the type of company I’d want (heavily inspired by American Zoetrope). Seven years later, we’re on a very similar path that was outlined in class – starting with shorts and moving on to high-end festivals like Sundance and TIFF, with more development focused on projects we make from the ground up. It’s testament to NYFA’s goal of learning by doing.”

    Janek Ambros (Right) at TIFF for Assembly Line Pictures’ ‘Human Capital’

    Assembly Line Entertainment already boasts an impressive filmography, including 10,000 Saints (Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld), Human Capital (Maya Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Liev Schreiber, Alex Wolff), and documentary Imminent Threat (Dir. Janek Ambros), among others. 

    “We’re excited to be working on a new large slate of movies going into 2021 that we’re producing with our new Head of Production, Kahlilah King,” shared Ambros. “From traditional narratives to social impact docu-series, we [Assembly Line Entertainment] have many projects that are adapting to the ever-changing landscape of distribution.”

    Alex Wolff (Left) and Maya Hawke (Right) in ‘Human Capital’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)

    Some of those upcoming projects slated for release include Mondo Hollywoodland (Dir. Janek Ambros), animated political satire First New Nation, an untitled birthing docu-series (Written by Khaliah King), and Sixties, a digital campaign on social media that features 60-second films from countries all over the world to highlight new developing directors.

    Another upcoming project is feature film Hey, Johnny, directed by Ambros and produced by fellow NYFA Producing alum Robbie Leacock, who previously also produced Imminent Threat, serves as the executive producer the Sixties project, and is writing and producing upcoming mockumentary series The Flat Tyres for Assembly Line Entertainment. 

    Robbie Leacock (Left) on set of ‘The Flat Tyres’ (Photo Courtesy of Assembly Line Entertainment)

    After graduating from NYFA, Leacock started at Potboiler Productions as a producer’s assistant before moving up to assistant producer. He later served as an associate producer on Netflix’s The Red Sea Diving Resort before returning to the U.S. to join producing partner Janek Ambros at Assembly Line Entertainment. “We were always told that the relationships you build at film school are the ones that will last throughout your career, and this proved to be so true,” revealed Leacock. “We now have our first TV series in the works (The Flat Tyres), a satirical comedy about a gang of hijackers from the townships, for which we are currently shooting on location in Cape Town, South Africa.”

    With a slate of upcoming projects and new opportunities for Ambros’ production company, 2021 is set to be the biggest year yet for Assembly Line Entertainment and the NYFA alumni, who are working to create character-driven projects for audiences that reflect modern society.

    Assembly Line Pictures Founder Janek Ambros

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Alumni Janek Ambros and Robbie Leacock on their upcoming projects with Assembly Line Entertainment and looks forward to hearing about new projects as they develop. 

    NYFA also encourages readers to check out Assembly Line Entertainment’s Instagram account, where their project Sixties will officially be launched. For a full list of the company’s productions, click here.

    Assembly Line Entertainment
    Founder: Janek Ambros
    Producer: Robbie Leacock

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  • NYFA Documentary & Producing Departments Welcome Film Producer Christopher Leggett Who Encourages Developing Tangible Skills & Saying “Yes”

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    This summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with the talented Producer Christopher Leggett to discuss his current success with multiple films and projects in recent distribution, including Ask Dr. Ruth, Mike Wallace is Here and Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf’s award winning, screenwriting premiere.

    Producer Christopher Leggett, along with Rafael Marmor, is a controlling partner at Delirio Films, a production company with a long list of award-winning films, both documentary and narrative, and several compelling non-fiction television series on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, The History Channel and NBC, to name a few.

    NYFA instructors Sanora Bartels (Top Left) and Roberta Colangelo (Top Right) with Christopher Leggett

    The Q&A was conducted by Los Angeles Chairs of the Documentary and Producing Departments, Sanora Bartels and Roberta (Robi) Colangelo, respectively. They were excited to speak with the producer, who has a very active and successful record with both documentary (where he started) and narrative filmmaking; his credits are a testament to the importance of storytelling, regardless of genre.

    The discussion focused on how to make the transition from film student to filmmaking professional and the most important aspects of a successful professional career. Leggett was generous with his time and inspiring with his answers.

    His advice to students in film school was to work on their tangible skill sets and noted that, for him, that includes editing: “I was a swimmer in college…so I had a little bit of the athlete mentality of just constantly doing the work was really important right out of school.” He went on to say that while you’ll have a lot of uncreative, “grunt work” to perform, “everything is a stepping-stone at that level.”

    Leggett (Far right) on a press junket for ‘Ask Dr. Ruth’

    Once he mastered the technical level of the work and had something tangible on his resume, he knew he had to move on from the secure job and get himself out into the world networking in order to use his storytelling skills picked up in school. He also acknowledged the importance of internships during school, which allowed him to maintain professional relationships that he would reconnect with after getting some experience under his belt.

    He also used his connections in the competitive swim world to differentiate himself as a filmmaker. In other words, he understood that he needed unique access to a world outside of filmmaking in order to tell stories that he was uniquely qualified to tell. This allowed him to pitch an idea to NBC, get hired and move up the rungs of the ladder at NBC Universal where he worked on Against the Tide and began cutting his teeth as a producer.

    Of his time at NBC, Leggett reveals that “when you’re in an organization like that, there are a lot of boundaries… your job goes from here to here [hands about six inches apart]…and I think good people are constantly pushing at it to try to get more responsibility.”

    This desire for more responsibility caused Leggett to develop his own project, The Short Game. He admitted that he did this while employed by NBC and because golf was not yet an Olympic sport, it did not pose a conflict of interest and he was able to see it through. He called it his “side hustle.”

    Leggett (Left) at New York premiere of ‘Mike Wallace is Here’

    His practicality and go-getter attitude spills into his philosophy around “luck,” which he believes is presented as an opportunity, but you have to say yes. “I learned early in my career not to be scared that I don’t know what I’m doing. So luck happens when you say yes.”

    Talking to him about his producing philosophy led to an interesting discussion around titles versus ego versus the very real job of the producer, Leggett shared: “The Producer’s role I feel is so vast,” he explained. “You are an essential person to have birthed this project into the world.”

    With this, he shared how he transitioned from documentary to narrative filmmaking, something many find difficult, but his message was all about the work and he stressed the importance of business relationships built on trust and the ability to speak the same “language.” He eventually created Delirio Films based on relationships and the desire to help filmmakers evolve.

    Alma Har’el (Left) with Christopher Leggett at the Tribeca Film Festival

    Because Leggett is already pushing the boundaries of budgets on his documentaries, transitioning to traditional scripted narrative filmmaking came naturally. He chose to produce Honey Boy based on a past relationship with Alma Har’el and, again, he stressed the importance of trust and their mutual belief that they were “soldiers of cinema” who get things done.

    When asked how he chooses the artists on his team and how he defines which relationships are important to develop, he had this to say:

    “I do think that a lot of the directors that I respond to have strong opinions, are collaborative but have strong opinions! I’m not going to push them over. They have their take and I can try to poke holes through their take, and they will come up with solutions, not put up walls.”

    Leggett also shared additional advice to grow and develop your skills and become a talented professional:

    “I said yes to a lot of things and then I googled later what I said yes to….you learn so much by just being in it. You may not want to be an editor but learn it. You [as a student] have a great curriculum that leads up to a thesis film. Embrace that and try to learn every sphere when you’re doing the thesis film. You’re going to have so many more tangible skills.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Christopher Leggett for sharing his time and expertise with NYFA students and guests on developing tangible skills and saying “yes” to projects and opportunities to be a great filmmaker and producer.

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    August 26, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 533

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum Drama del Rosario Awarded ‘Juried Prize’ in The 2020 PBS Short Film Festival

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    In late July, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario received one of the two awarded prizes for the 2020 PBS Short Film Festival. The documentary filmmaking alum caught the eye of voters and the prestigious Jury for the competition and ultimately received this years ‘Juried Prize’ for his film In This Family

    Del Rosario was awarded the prestigious prize by eight jury members, who selected the NYFA alum’s film as their favorite out of all the festival selections. In addition to del Rosario’s film, all festival selections are available to the public to watch online.

    ‘In This Family’ film poster

    Del Rosario is a Filipinx documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the 2019 BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant for his documentary film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You), which touches on sexual assault trauma from a gay couple’s perspective. The NYFA alum is known for creating documentary films that challenge the Filipinx Catholic background and he has worked with many international names including BeBe Zahara Benet (Winner, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 1) and Sophie Sumner (Winner, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 18). 

    His latest documentary, In This Family, is a twelve minute short film that chronicles what happens after del Rosario’s teach outs him as a gay man and includes recordings of his family’s reaction to the news.

    “Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students,” shared del Rosario. “I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools.”

    Del Rosario also credits NYFA alum Naya Rivera, who tragically passed away in early July, as a source of inspiration for his short film. “In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character, Santana Lopez, was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera.”

    The NYFA alum also shares that this documentary is an important release in his native country as it is produced by Cinematografo, which is under the Filipino production company ABS-CBN International. “It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard!” His full statement can be found below.

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    WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!!!!! 🎉🔥✨💕😭🎊⭐️🏆 My documentary film “IN THIS FAMILY” is officially the JURY WINNER for this year’s PBS Short Film Festival! This is so huge coming from a very, very stacked jury! 😱 Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students. I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools. ❤️ Furthermore, showcasing this documentary at this particular time has been special to me for two reasons… 1️⃣ First, this documentary is executive produced by Cinematografo, which is under ABS-CBN International. As a lot of people know, ABS-CBN and Philippine media in general are not in a good place right now because of Philippine politics. It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard! 2️⃣ Second, I am extremely touched by all the messages from Glee fans regarding the recent death of Naya Rivera. In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character Santana Lopez was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera. ❤️ I am incredibly honored to receive this award. Thank you so much to CAAM (@caamedia and their superstar team @czarinagee, @akolaurenlola, @livinproofsf, @gracehwanglynch, @krakauer, @sushboy34 ++) for believing in my film as your official entry and for always supporting my career as a documentary filmmaker. Thank you so much to PBS (@pbs) for putting together an amazing film festival with an amazing film line-up and jury. And most of all, thank you so much to my family for continuing to change and grow. I would not be where I am right now had you not powered through the discomfort of growth and change. ALL MY LOVE! 🏆💕

    A post shared by Drama Del Rosario (@dramadelrosario) on

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario for his latest achievement and looks forward to what is next from the talented filmmaker. 

    To watch the full documentary, view below or click here

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Earns Several Nominations for 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was once again represented in this year’s nominations for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, announced Tuesday, July 28 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

    NYFA alum and ‘Insecure’ creator Issa Rae (Right) and Jay Ellis (Left) in Season 4 of ‘Insecure’

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Issa Rae was nominated for her second ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series’ Emmy for her performance in the HBO series Insecure, also created and executive produced by Rae. In total, Insecure received eight nominations including its first-ever Emmy nomination for ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’ and a nomination for Yvonne Orji for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.’

    Fan favorite series Stranger Things continued to capture viewers, receiving eight nominations including ‘Outstanding Drama Series.’ NYFA Filmmaking alum Eric Demeusy previously earned an Emmy in 2017 for creating the now iconic title sequence for the show. The series also previously starred NYFA Board Member and Master Class Instructor Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner and featured NYFA Acting for Film alum Matty Cardarople.

    NYFA guest speaker and ‘The Mandalorian’ creator Jon Favreau

    Competing with Stranger Things for ‘Outstanding Drama Series’ is the Disney+ Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian. Created by NYFA guest speaker Jon Favreau, the series received a whopping 17 nominations total for the newcomer streaming platform. The popular space western also features Rocky star, Carl Weathers, who previously spoke at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for Industry Lab panel discussion. Disney+ also picked up a nomination for ‘Outstanding Short Form Animated Program’ with Forky Asks a Question, featuring the voice of actor and NYFA guest speaker Tony Hale.

    Documentary film poster for Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’

    Easily one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year was Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness, which received four nominations in the Emmy documentary categories including ‘Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series.’ Creating the cohesive and gripping storyline for the documentary was NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales, who served as co-editor for the popular Netflix series.

    NYFA Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars in ‘Vikings’

    Also nominated this year was History Channel’s Vikings for ‘Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role,’ which stars Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars. Better Call Saul screenwriter and NYFA guest speaker, Gordon Smith, was also nominated for his writing for the series episode “Bagman.”

    This year, Netflix beat out HBO’s previous record for the most Emmy nominations to date with 160 nominations, with HBO trailing behind at 107 nominations total this year, though HBO continued its success with dystopian series Watchmen leading with the most Emmy nominations for any show this year in 26 categories. The newly established mobile-only streaming platform Quibi led the short form Emmy nominations this year with 10 nominations across the five short form categories, making it the most of any platform.

    (UPDATE 7/30/20) The Television Academy has officially announced that the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys will be held completely online, with host Jimmy Kimmel, the Emmy producers, and a prominent team of technicians working closely with each of the nominees to ensure the ceremony will still be streamed at the highest caliber possible for TV’s biggest night.

    The Television Academy also noted that nominees can follow the dress code “Come as you are, but make an Effort!,” noting that many of the nominees span across the globe in different time zones, with many tuning in at extremely late hours with the ceremony still being held at its normal Pacific Standard Time. An excerpt from the letter addressed to the nominees can be found below:

    “If you want to be in formal wear, we’d love that, but equally if you’re in the UK and it’s 3am, perhaps you want to be in designer pajamas and record from your bed! We want to work with you to style your moments, but want you to guide us on your levels of comfort – where you want to be, who you want to be with, what you want to wear etc.

    In the forthcoming days, Jen Proctor, our Talent Producer and her extraordinary team at Cultivated Entertainment will be reaching out to you to start talking through the details.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all the nominees for the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys and looks forward to the ABC broadcast of the virtual ceremony on September 20, 2020, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

     

    Here is a list of some of this year’s Emmy Award nominees:

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

    Eugene Levy, Schitt’s Creek – Winner
    Anthony Anderson, Black-ish

    Don Cheadle, Black Monday
    Ted Danson, The Good Place
    Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
    Ramy Youssef, Ramy

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

    Catherine O’Hara, Schitt’s Creek – Winner
    Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
    Christina Applegate, Dead To Me
    Linda Cardellini, Dead To Me
    Issa Rae, Insecure
    Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

    OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES

    Schitt’s Creek – Winner
    Curb Your Enthusiasm

    Dead To Me
    Insecure
    The Good Place
    The Kominsky Method
    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

    What We Do In The Shadows

    OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR FOR A COMEDY SERIES 

    Schitt’s Creek, Andrew Cividina & Daniel Levy – Winner
    Modern Family, Gail Mancuso
    Ramy, Ramy Youssef
    The Great, Matt Shakman
    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino
    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Daniel Palladino
    Will & Grace, James Burrows

    OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

    Succession – Winner
    Better Call Saul

    The Crown
    The Handmaid’s Tale
    The Mandalorian
    Stranger Things
    Killing Eve
    Ozark

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

    Mark Ruffalo, I Know This Much Is True – Winner
    Hugh Jackman, Bad Education

    Jeremy Pope, Hollywood
    Paul Mescal, Normal People
    Jeremy Irons, Watchmen

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

    Regina King, Watchmen – Winner
    Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere   

    Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America  
    Octavia Spencer, Self Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C.J. Walker 
    Shira Haas, Unorthodox 

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Watchmen – Winner
    Dylan McDermott, Hollywood
    Jim Parsons, Hollywood 

    Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend 
    Jovan Adepo, Watchmen 
    Louis Gossett Jr., Watchmen

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE

    Uzo Adub, Mrs. America – Winner
    Holland Taylor, Hollywood

    Margo Martindale, Mrs. America
    Tracey Ullman, Mrs. America
    Toni Collette, Unbelievable
    Jean Smart, Watchmen

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

    Daniel Levy, Schitt’s Creek – Winner
    Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    William Jackson Harper, The Good Place 
    Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
    Sterling K. Brown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maise
    Mahershala Ali, Ramy
    Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

    Annie Murphy, Schitt’s Creek – Winner
    Betty Gilpin, GLOW

    D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place
    Yvonne Orji, Insecure
    Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    Marin Hinkle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
    Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live
    Cecily Strong, Saturday Night Live

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

    Jeremy Strong, Succession – Winner
    Steve Carell, The Morning Show

    Jason Bateman, Ozark 
    Billy Porter, Pose
    Brian Cox, Succession
    Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

    OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

    Zendaya, Euphoria – Winner
    Olivia Colman, The Crown

    Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
    Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
    Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
    Laura Linney, Ozark

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

    Billy Crudup, The Morning Show  – Winner
    Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul 

    Bradley Whitford The Handmaid’s Tale
    Mark Duplass, The Morning Show
    Nicholas Braun, Succession
    Kieran Culkin, Succession 
    Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
    Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

    OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

    Julia Garner, Ozark – Winner
    Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

    Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
    Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
    Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale
    Fiona Shaw, Killing Ev
    Sarah Snook, Succession
    Thandie Newton, Westworld

    OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM NONFICTION OR REALITY SERIES

    National Geographic Presents Cosmos: Creating Possible Worlds – Winner
    Between The Scenes – The Daily Show

    Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Presents: Pandemic Video Diaries 
    Pose: Identity, Family, Community
    RuPaul’s Drag Race Out Of The Closet

    OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES

    Last Week Tonight With John Oliver – Winner
    The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

    Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
    Jimmy Kimmel Live!
    The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

    OUTSTANDING VARIETY SKETCH SERIES

    Saturday Night Live – Winner
    A Black Lady Sketch Show

    Drunk History

    OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE

    Bad Education – Winner
    American Son

    Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones
    El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
    Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend

    OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES

    Watchmen – Winner
    Little Fires Everywhere

    Mrs. America
    Unbelievable
    Unorthodox

    OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SERIES

    The Last Dance – Winner
    American Masters
    Hillary
    McMillion$ 
    Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness 

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  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Director Tânia Cypriano and NYFA Student Jude Washock for a Q&A on Groundbreaking Documentary ‘Born to Be’

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    On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a live video Q&A with the talented documentary filmmaker Tânia Cypriano to discuss her much admired and trailblazing documentary film Born to Be. Cypriano was also joined in conversation by NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory student, and consultant for the film, Jude Washock. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Director Tânia Cypriano has been working between her home country of Brazil and the United States for over thirty years. Her films and videos have won international awards including ‘Best Documentary’ at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Fespaco in Burkina Faso. Her work has been shown in the world’s most prestigious institutions including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Hong Kong Arts Center, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.

    (Clockwise) Tova Laiter, Tânia Cypriano, and Jude Washock for Q&A Series

    Her television credits include documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, NHK in Japan, GNT in Brazil and Channel 4 in England. Cypriano has co-organized a series of films with the MoMA, the Anthology Film Archives, Exit Art, the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and the Grazer Kunstverein in Austria. She has also previously worked on productions for Bill Moyers, Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

    Dr. Ting walks with one his patients in the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery wing of Mount Sinai Hospital (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano’s latest documentary, Born to Be, follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City —where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people can have access to quality transition-related health and surgical care. The film received critical acclaim upon its original release in the 2019 festival circuit and was hailed by Variety as “a lively and moving documentary,” and “a film that distinguishes itself with a sensitive, human portrait” by Hollywood Reporter.

    A patient awaiting consultation from Dr. Ting (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano remembers wanting to make this documentary after hearing about the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York from her producer, noting it was “a historical moment for New York City, and also for healthcare.” After deciding she wanted to do this documentary, Cypriano recalls staying in the clinic and documenting the surgeries with the crew, noting how many of the characters in the film “understood the importance of that moment [of filming] because these surgeries were just made available, and the importance of them was so great to the [transgender] community.”

    Washock, a SAG-AFTRA member and NYFA student who served as a consultant for the film, explained that his role was “to ensure that the stories being told by the characters, who were receiving surgery, were portrayed in a humane way and were not damaging or exploitive.” Consultants like Washock are especially important for documentary filmmakers so they can ensure they do the subject matter, and story, justice.

    Dr. Ting posing with one of his patients (‘Born to Be’)

    One student asked Cypriano how she was able to compose herself during the documentary shoot. “It was a tough one,” she recalls, “I think that is why I chose to live outside of my family because it was emotionally draining, but nothing compares to what I imagine Dr. Ting goes through because he is over there listening to those stories everyday.”

    Film poster for ‘Born to Be’

    In addition to discussing the film, Cypriano also encouraged NYFA students to tell stories because they can. “You have to put yourself out there, work hard, be patient, and persevere. If you hang in there, you can do it.” Washock, who got involved in the project just by talking to Cypriano at an event added, “put yourself out there and have conversations with people and just talk, you would be surprised.”

    Washock also encouraged students in the New York City area to look into volunteering or becoming a member at IFP (Independent Filmmakers Project), where Washock praised his experience there networking and attending informative panels.

    Cypriano thanked Laiter and the NYFA students for joining the call and also extended gratitude to NYFA student Jude Washock for joining the conversation.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Tânia Cypriano for sharing her time and expertise with the students and NYFA Acting for Film student Jude Washock for sharing his experience as a consultant on Born to Be. NYFA also encourages everyone to keep an eye out for the forthcoming theatrical and streaming release of the film.

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  • Student Spotlight: Documentary Film Student Richard Brookshire Pens Article Featured in ‘New York Times Magazine’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Film student Richard Brookshire recently wrote an article for New York Times Magazine about his experience serving in the army as a Black, queer man, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and what he has been doing to bring Black stories to life as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

    NYFA reached out to Brookshire to continue the conversation from his New York Times Magazine article and to discuss his experience as a Black documentary filmmaker, his upcoming short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0, and the future of Black stories in the entertainment industry.

    Richard Brookshire, with his mother, Natacha, at his graduation from Army basic training in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    Before pursuing filmmaking, Richard Brookshire served as a combat medic with the 170th Infantry Brigade in Germany, and later Afghanistan. At this time, Brookshire recalls his closeted sexuality due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and also remembers being one of a few Black soldiers in his 40 person platoon. In his article for New York Times Magazine, Brookshire wrote:

    Through Brookshire’s personal encounters, the experiences of his loved ones, and witnessing modern events of racial inequality unfold (like the horrific shooting of Trayvon Martin), led Brookshire to join the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter and to co-found the Black Veterans Project, a racial equity and archive initiative created to shed light on systemic racial inequities within the U.S military (both historic and present).

    Brookshire’s interest in racial injustice led also opened up another area of interest; film. “I recognized how the medium of [documentary] film was the perfect space to merge my background and skill set to capture Black American life for future generations.”

    “Film is one of the most powerful forms of propaganda we have in retelling histories and cultivating a public imagination around how we see ourselves as a society and our shared humanity,” says Brookshire. “Just as it can do harm, it can also harness good. It can expand our collective understandings, give us a window into lives far different than our own, and equip stakeholders and activists with powerful narratives to drive necessary and provocative awakenings around injustices across societies.”

    Brookshire during an Army National Guard, Upstate New York in 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    After Brookshire’s four year old niece passed away last year, he says it was the motivation he needed to study the documentary filmmaking craft. “NYFA felt like the perfect place to gain expertise from leading filmmakers in an intimate intensive program geared toward teaching me the fundamentals,” says Brookshire. “I credit NYFA alum, Clyde Gunter for persuading me on what NYFA had to offer.”

    Brookshire notes that documentary filmmaking can change or broaden an individual’s perspective. “It only takes one mind to begin planting the seeds of change and revolution. We are in constant evolution as human beings, and we must not shy away from harnessing the power we have to inspire each other to do better, to be better and to create new systems that reflect a reality that is informed by the shared understanding of our common humanity.”

    As a filmmaker and activist, Brookshire turns to creators like Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates for imagination, creativity, and unforgettable storytelling. “I always joke with my friends that if Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates had a director baby, it’d be me.” He notes that Spike Lee has always taken incredible care and consideration “in capturing the splendor and hardship of Black American Life.” As for Henry Louis Gates, Brookshire claims Gates “has created unparalleled works that dive deep into the overlooked African American histories.”

    Brookshire being interviewed recently at a protest at the Manhattan Bridge (Photo Credit: Dexter Philips)

    For his next project, Brookshire tells NYFA that his short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0 will explore “five Black artists surviving the COVID-19 crisis in the days leading up to the riots.” In his essay film, Brookshire describes it as an exploration of “Black folk who find freedom within and access planes in their creative imagination to allow a spiritual awakening and healing outside of an anti-Black society.”

    While the country continues to address various systemic racial prejudices and injustices, the entertainment industry has its own work to do too. “The archive is full of Black histories and Black life to tell. The diaspora is rife with untold and unexplored characters and circumstances,” says Brookshire. “If we are to bridge the long-standing racial divide, we must create spaces for Black stories to exist, and not just those that retell Black traumas (which has been a primary avenue for Black filmmakers write large).”

    He continues to note the importance of Black documentaries and their ability to show “the vastness of our humanity and experience,” and urges the conversation of ownership with Black storytelling; “who owns Black stories is just as important as who tells them.”

    In addition, Brookshire shares that mentorship cannot be overlooked either. “Sharing resources and knowledge creates pathways to opportunity,” he says. “The reason the canon of documentaries is lacking relative to Black stories is because, for far too long, film was an exclusive space and, in many ways, it still is quite a privilege to be able to do this sort of work.”

    New York FIlm Academy would like to thank Richard Brookshire for continuing to share his stories and insight as a Black filmmaker and encourages everyone to read his New York Times Magazine article and to be on the lookout for his upcoming short Boukman’s Prayer 2.0.

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    June 30, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 675

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum’s Documentary Film About Life Changing Meditation Technique Selected for the New York Lift Off Festival

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    In addition to having his film selected in the New York Lift Off Festival, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Naman Goyal is using his latest documentary as a means to educate others during the global Coronavirus pandemic about a unique meditation technique that could assist individuals with their mental health in such unprecedented times. 

    Naman Goyal, who hails from India, graduated from NYFA’s One Year Filmmaking Conservatory  in 2010 from the New York City campus. The Jaipur-based filmmaker is now gaining media attention surrounding his feature documentary The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra (revealed), which portrays a unique meditation technique that is having a positive impact on hospital patients and others seeking healing. 

    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Naman Goyal

    The docu-film explores an alternative healing method, otherwise known as “’Energy Healing Meditation Technique” and its founder, Guru Ram Lal Siyag. This meditation technique is said to build up the body’s immune system and generate antibodies that could help fight off bacteria or even a virus. 

    Goyal completed filming the documentary in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. “Initially, I only wanted to make a half an hour film on this topic, but as I started researching, the project just expanded into a feature film and one and a half years just flew by,” shares Goyal. The docu-film, includes interviews from doctors and patients who benefited from the Energy Healing Meditation Technique both physically and mentally. Some patients interviewed even included former cancer patients who experienced significantly reduced cancer recovery times. 

    When the global pandemic hit, Goyal knew his documentary would be an informative resource for Coronavirus patients seeking healing. “I started sending clips of my documentary to patients in Wuhan (China), Daegu (South Korea), Milan (Italy), and New York City through Facebook,” says Goyal. 

    At the time the pandemic reached Goyal’s own city of Jaipur, India, he showed the meditation technique to a Coronavirus patient, who recovered a week after beginning the meditation, along with their prescribed medication. Goyal then reached out to another patient in Jodhpur City, who also owed their recovery to the meditation technique. Goyal has since been interviewed by a number of news outlets including India’s CNN-News18 about the technique featured in his documentary (Video below with English subtitles).

    Goyal’s docu-film  has already attracted festival attention and has been selected to appear in the upcoming New York Lift Off Film Festival. Goyal reveals the film may have an official release in September 2020 and shares that he is in talks with the U.S. Department of Health (NCCIH and NIH), who are looking at the possibility of doing a clinical trial with the meditation technique. 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Naman Goyal on his forthcoming documentary film The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra and looks forward to upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.

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  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum, Mollie Moore, on Her Journey as a Documentary Filmmaker and the Importance of Storytelling

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Mollie Moore is a filmmaker and cinematographer from South London, who is currently based in London and New York City. She has worked for renowned production companies such as the BBC, PBS, ITVS, Human Love LTD and DNA Films on various projects. Her films have gone on to be screened at festivals all over the world, with her work taking her to multiple continents. With her background in cinematography, Moore’s work pushes the limits of visual poetry through non-fiction storytelling, while also weaving in important themes that highlight the LGBTQ community and forced migration.

    From a young age, Moore was always involved with the theatre world and, when it was time to go to college, she travelled instead to South East Asia, India, South America and many other places while working as a crew member on fictional film sets. “I realized the vast possibilities of storytelling and the importance of capturing the beauty of the world we live in and the stories within it,” shares Moore. “Documentary felt like a natural marriage with my background in theatre, storytelling and my passion for exploration and the people I met along the way.”

    This realization brought Moore to New York, where she studied in NYFA’s 1-Year Conservatory Program for Documentary Filmmaking. “It was a course that I could give all of my attention to, whilst getting maximum in-person time to learn in a creative and hands-on way,” she explains. 

    Film Poster for ‘A Word Away’ (Dir. Mollie Moore)

    Her thesis film, A Word Away, premiered at the Camden International Film Festival. A Word Away centers around a young man named Cosmo, who is from South Sudan and now resides in the U.S, who share his journey of migration through the medium of poetry. For Moore, it was important for her to find “a new way of telling a story of migration, through a more intimate and personal lens.” At the film’s premier, Moore recalls that having Cosmo and his family present was a very important moment for her as it was their stories being told and seen. “Documentary filmmaking should always be seen a collaborative process between the filmmaker and the people sharing their stories.”

    After graduating NYFA, Moore also worked on festival favorite Paper Thin, a documentary about a young transgender womxn starting a new life in New York City after having to flee the persecution of LGBTQ+ persons in Russia. Not long after, Moore worked as the cinematographer for the short film, Mama, a personal story between a mother and daughter (dir. NYFA alum Lucia Florez), who look into their past to try and reconcile their relationship after years of difficult conversations and opinions about sexuality.

    Mollie shooting in Peru on set of the film ‘Mama’ (Dir. Lucia Florez)

    These films, and others with similar themes, are ones that Moore says she holds “very close to my heart and with a lot of passion.” While Moore identifies with these topics on a personal level, as a filmmaker, she explains that these stories are crucial to share. “I think shedding light on topics and communities that have often been massively misconstrued and discriminated against through violent acts of oppression and injustice is of huge importance.” For those that have a platform to shed light on subjects and real world issues in an objective, honest way, it can be a privilege. Moore says, “we must share it [the stories of others] and give voices to those whose realities have often been silenced throughout history.”

    Moore is currently working as a filmmaker on the artist Marc Quinn’s public art project, Our Blood; a multi media public artwork that focuses on the refugee crisis all over the world. The art piece will premiere outside of the New York Public Library in 2021, but for now, Moore and others involved on the project are continuing their filming in London and New York City. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to thank NYFA Documentary alum Mollie Moore for sharing more about her work as a documentary filmmaker and encourages everyone to check out her work and keep an eye out for the Our Blood project, once it has been unveiled in 2021.

    To keep up with Mollie Moore, check out her website here or follow her on Instagram.

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    June 17, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 756

  • New York Film Academy Alum Finished Second Place in Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough PSA Competition

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Natalia Bougadellis’ public service announcement (PSA), “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition. Bougadellis, who attended NYFA’s Teen Filmmaking program in Los Angeles and an intensive 6-Week Filmmaking workshop in New York, worked on the PSA under her female-run production company Blue Slate Films.

    Bougadellis is a director and cinematographer, who hails from Athens, Greece. Her critically acclaimed film, The Owls, (available on Amazon), has played in eleven countries and over thirty film festivals, winning the prestigious Zoe Award at LifeArt Festival, “Best Student Film” at Miami Independent Film Festival, and “Best Student Filmmaker” at America’s Rainbow Film Festival Presented by HBO.

    Natalia Bougadellis behind the camera during filming

    Bougadellis is also the Executive Director of The Great Griffon, a non-profit organization founded to bring awareness and support to LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream entertainment. Bougadellis also co-founded her own production company, Blue Slate Films, with female filmmaker Emory Parker, in 2017 and continues to produce cutting edge projects for high-profile brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Calvin Klein, and Pepsi, to name a few.

    Her PSA, “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, acquiring almost 48,000 votes and over 200,000 views. Though Bougadellis’ PSA did not come in first place, Gov. Cuomo announced in a briefing that New York state will still air the PSA.

    New Yorkers from the PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)

    Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit NYC, Blue Slate Films (Bougadellis’ production company) was gearing up to shoot their very first feature film, Whirlpool. “As a small business, we were really affected by this,” says Bougadellis.

    When Bougadellis and her production partner [Parker] saw Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, they knew they had to get involved. “We saw the PSA competition as an invaluable opportunity to showcase our talents and stay creative throughout this time, while also spreading a message crucial to ending this pandemic.”

    Bougadellis explained that they [Bougadellis and Parker] wanted to use this opportunity to tell true stories about real New Yorkers. She recounted that their vision was to show raw emotion for each individual portrayed in the PSA. “Our eyes can tell amazing stories, so we focused on faces and eyes to show how powerful human connection can be.”

    For Bougadellis, the journey of filming this video around NYC and Long Island was heartfelt and sincere. “We had no script for this video,” she says. “All answers were spontaneous and came from the heart. Emory [Parker] then worked on editing the piece and bringing it all together.”

     

    Still from PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)

    Beyond the stories of the individuals featured in the PSA, Bougadellis hopes that those who watch the video understand that wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting oneself. “Wearing a mask means respecting your fellow New Yorkers and caring about them, as well,” she remarks. “The sooner we can all cooperate to control this situation, the sooner our city will be able to return to normal.”

    During these times of social distancing and self-quarantine, in addition to their PSA, Blue Slate Films has also launched a digital series, The Slate, featuring artists, experts, and entrepreneurs that seek to make a difference in their respective industries.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natalia Bougadellis on her inspiring achievement, which highlights a crucial global message for all, and encourages everyone to check out the PSA and to keep an eye out for Blue Slate Films’ forthcoming film Whirlpool.

    To watch the full “You Can Still Smile” PSA, click here or watch the full video above.

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  • NYFA Alum Wins ‘Best Feature Film’ at Visions du Réel Competition for Her Film ‘Puntasacra’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Francesca Mazzoleni’s documentary feature length film, Puntasacra wins the ‘Sesterce d’or la Mobilière’ (Best Feature Film) at the 2020 Visions du Réel competition, held virtually from April 17 to May 2.

    ‘Puntasacra’ (Directed by Francesca Mazzoleni, courtesy of True Colours)

    Mazzoleni atteneded the 4-Week Music Video Workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in 2017. In addition to Puntasacra, Mazzoleni has directed feature film Succede and short films 1989, L’etoile de Mer, Lo so che mi senti, Nowhere, and Il Premio.

    Puntasacra, her latest feature, is a documentary that tells the story of the inhabitants of Idroscalo di Ostia, a coastal outer district of Rome and the last portion of habitable land at the mouth of the Tiber, Punta Sacra. With half of the community’s houses destroyed by a fire in 2010, the documentary navigates the daily lives of the coast village’s inhabitants and naturally portrays the conversations between neighbors surrounding communism, familial secrets, and community altercations.

    The film was one of 14 feature-length documentaries that were selected for main competition in the prestigious Swiss festival, Visions du Réel, in Nyon (this year online). After winning the Sesterce d’or la Mobilière with a cash prize of CHF 20,000 (£16,657), top Italian sales distributor, True Colours, acquired sales rights for the film.

    Mazzoleni, who could not be there in person to accept her award since the ceremony was held online, made her own award from the items in her home and thanked her ten-person team, with whom she “shared a very complicated and wonderful adventure”. She also thanked the community of Idroscalo di Ostia who gave her the confidence to make her film. She closed her Instagram acceptance speech by telling her followers, “our journey begins today, be patient, the cinemas will reopen.”

    Francesca Mazzoleni behind the scenes of her film ‘Succede’

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesca Mazzoleni on the success of her latest documentary film and her recent win at Visions du Réel, and encourages everyone to check out Puntasacra when it becomes available in theaters or online.

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