Community Highlights

  • President of Paramount Television Amy Powell Holds Q&A at New York Film Academy Los Angeles Screening of Hit Show The Alienist


    The New York Film Academy welcomed Paramount Television President Amy Powell to its esteemed roster of Q&A guests this week. Director of the Q&A Series at NYFA Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Powell began her career as an intern for Ted Turner. She went on to create the marketing campaign for Paranormal Activity and produce the 3D Justin Bieber film Never Say Never. Now, she’s the president of Paramount Television, the one who has brought 13 Reasons Why, Grease Live for Fox, and The Alienist to screens everywhere.

    Based on a Caleb Carr novel of the same name, Paramount Television bought the rights for The Alienist 20 years ago. Yet when they acquired the rights, they were only in the filmmaking business, and the project proved too ambitious for a two-hour film.

    The Alienist was a perfect book for us to conceptualize for television,” Powell explained. “In fact, nine out of 10 of the shows we produce are based on literature.”

    Books play a huge role in Powell’s life. Even with two kids, a full-time job, and all the globetrotting she does for her shows, she still reads two books a week. Recently she bought the right to the Margaret Atwood trilogy Madd Addam as well as George David-Roberts’ Shantaram, a book she’s obsessed over for years.

    Laiter asked Powell why novels make such great television.

    “Books create the roadmap for depth of character,” Powell began. “They create set pieces and story arcs that are robust in nature. The ability for a screenwriter to come into a world that a novelist has envisioned allows them to create a visual patina on top of the depth of character that already exists.”

    Powell is an innovator. She created a marketing campaign for Paranormal Activity called “demand it.” At the time, Paranormal Activity was a small budget horror film. After its successful screening at Slamdance, the studio knew they had a potential hit on their hand.

    The “demand it” strategy began with a website. Powell would call up movie bloggers from all across the country and send them screeners of the film, they would write a review, and the fans would get excited about the movie. Fans were then directed to a link where they could demand the movie come to their city.

    Powell then personally called movie theaters and asked, “If we sell out your theater will you screen this film?” No one turns down free money. Once the theater agreed, local fans rushed to get their friends and families to buy a ticket so the theater would sell out.  

    The final touch to “demand it” was Powell’s; she arranged it so that the film only screened at midnight, making it feel more like a special event. The timing also meant that moviegoers left the theatre terrified at 1:30 a.m. — greeted not by the sun, but by pitch-black night. Fans leapt onto social media to tell everyone about the experience.

    Paranormal Activity went on to make $107 million.

    During the Q&A, one student wanted to know what Powell thought the future of television looked like, considering new tech like neural networks and quantum computing.

    Powell answered, “The shared experience of enjoying the paranormal and the scare and the thrill of being in a packed audience, that community sense of fandom is going to come to an end.” Instead, Powell projects that the experience will be more personalized. Exactly how that will come to be is unknown, but she encouraged students to study and explore VR and AR storytelling formats.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Powell for taking the time to speak with our students.

    Be sure to watch the last episode of The Alienist on Monday 3/26, or 13 Reasons Why, originated by Selena Gomez; Maniac directed by Carrie Fukunaga and starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill; Catch 22 directed by and starring George Clooney; Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski; and Shooter produced by Mark Wahlberg and starring Ryan Phillippe and Omar Epps.

  • Algee Smith Holds Q&A at New York Film Academy Los Angeles Campus


    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles African and Black American Club (ABA) held a special screening of Detroit on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Special guest speaker and actor Algee Smith was in attendance to give a Q&A after the screening. ABA Club President Furaha Bayibsa and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree moderated the event.

    Bayibsa opened the evening by asking Smith how he got the job on Detroit.

    The actor explained, “I was in rehearsals for the New Edition Story when I got the call from my agent to audition for a Kathryn Bigelow project.” At that point, the title of the film had not been released. Smith had no idea what he was agreeing to, but his agent was insistent he needed to go.

    Detroit depicts events that took place at the Algiers Hotel two nights after the Detroit Riots during the summer of 1967. With the news media’s lens turned to police violence in 2017, the timely historical drama created a national conversation.

    The audition process for the film was a unique experience for Smith. After a first audition with Casting Director Victoria Thomas, Smith was invited to come back and audition for Bigelow. At a mansion in the hills, Bigelow held a second, more unique, audition.

    Bigelow directed behind a camera that Smith described as “old.” She asked the actors to sit in a circle and sing a song. Then, she told them, a police officer would burst in and throw them against a wall. She asked the actors to respond naturally at that moment. “She was trying to capture authenticity,” Smith said.

    Though the character Smith plays (Larry Reed) is a living human being, Smith didn’t meet the man and inspiration for the film until after production had wrapped. When asked what his preparation for the role was Smith joked, “worrying and being nervous. I couldn’t call Larry or talk to his family. I had to rely on understanding the energy of the time period by researching the reactions of citizens to the event at the time it took place.”

    During production, Bigelow relied on the element of surprise to get the most authentic reactions from her actors. Several of the actors playing police officers were given a script, but those portraying the hotel patrons did not receive a script. This gave the police officers in the scene total control. Everyone else could only react.

    Smith explained, “She just threw us in there. … We didn’t know what would happen after that.”

    Because of the surprises on set, the actors connected much more deeply to their characters’ lives.

    “Even after leaving the set, I took a lot of that tension with me,” shared Smith. “The hotel we were staying in looked like a prison. There were bars on the windows and heavy locks on the doors.” Smith said it was challenging to leave the experience behind. “It was tough for me every day.”

    When it was time for the Q&A, one student asked for Smith’s insights as a person of color in Hollywood today, asking, “How do you stay motivated when you’re profiled or rejected for a role because of your race? I think a lot of the Black actors at this school think about the discrimination they might face in the casting room once they graduate.”

    Smith was candid with his response. “I don’t know if there were parts that had been kept from me because of my race. There very well may have been. Sometimes you hear casting directors say, ‘Oh, you were amazing in the audition, but we’re going with someone else,’ or, ‘we’re going in a different direction. ’ But you’ll never really know the reason why they made that choice.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Algee Smith for taking the time to speak with our students. See Smith next in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon and The Hate U Give, coming to theaters soon.

  • UploadVR Highlights New York Film Academy VR Faculty Member Hugh McGrory’s Company Datavized


    New York City-based startup Datavized Technologies, Inc. is a media studio focused on Virtual Reality production and consultancy. The company, founded by New York Film Academy Virtual Reality Instructor Hugh McGrory, combines the immersive power of virtual reality with the seamless delivery of the mobile web. Datavized strives to build smart but accessible ways to experience cities. “At Datavized we build proprietary software tools using WebVR — virtual reality experiences that run on the web,” McGrory summarizes.

    McGrory and his company were recently featured in UploadVR, a leading digital virtual reality publication that was founded in 2014 in San Francisco. The article discusses Datavized opening beta access for their product after three years of development as well as the company’s presence at Data for Development Festival.

    Datavized Yellow Taxi

    Datavized NYC Yellow Taxi Example

    Datavized’s web-based drag and drop tools allow users to effortlessly turn spreadsheets into interactive 3D maps. The map above allows users to pare through country-by-country life expectancy between the years 1800 and 2015. Below is a map using NYC Yellow Taxi trip data that allows users to fully immerse themselves in New York City. In March 2018, the company announced plans to release a virtual reality air pollution visualization at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Festival in Bristol, United Kingdom. In December, Datavized appeared at the United Nations Environment Assembly.

    Datavised Earth NYFA

    Life Expectancy Over Time Worldwide

    McGrory explains the appeal of his company’s tools: “The technical baseline is already there with WebVR being part of web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and on both Android and iOS for phones.” He continues, “But people don’t see it yet because they’re still viewing the web on 2D screens. The next step is tools and content for the immersive web.” McGrory excitedly describes the future of the medium, “This intersection of 3D, VR and the Web is exciting. He cautions against making rash comparisons to other recent technological advances saying, “This is not like moving from film to tape or VHS to DVD. It’s a big leap that’s more comparable to the transition from radio to TV.”

    As for any concerns about Datavized working better on certain devices compared to others, McGrory explained to UploadVR, “Datavized has been coded from the ground up for optimal performance across devices.”

    McGrory is currently a faculty member for the New York Film Academy’s New York campus. He is an award-winning director/producer and his past projects include serving as executive producer for Northern Ireland Screen/UK Film Council’s Deviate project and as filmmaker in residence at CINEMA Microscopy Lab, Yale University School of Medicine.

    See a video of Hugh McGrory discussing data science, VR, and more below:

    To learn more about NYFA’s VR programs, visit the virtual reality program page.


  • Face 2 Face by New York Film Academy’s Matt Toronto Now on Netflix


    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto has just signed a two-year deal with Netflix to stream his film Face 2 Face.

    Together with his brother Aaron, Toronto wrote Face 2 Face about growing up in the age of social media. The film screened at the Manhattan Film Festival and had its premiere at the Edmonton International Film Festival, where it won the jury award for innovation.

    The movie follows two teenagers, Teel and Madison, who rekindle a childhood friendship online. Soon, they begin sharing their lives over the internet as a means of coping with the typical problems of adolescent life even though they are at opposite ends of the popularity spectrum. Madison in an A-list party girl, and she takes pity on Teel, the social outcast, vowing to help him win friends on social media.

    As their relationship deepens, Madison falls for Teel. She forces him to confess the hidden cause of the bullying he faces. His admission sets off a sequence of events that ultimately motivates Madison to expose her own secret. This digital coming-of-age story examines some of the most pressing and difficult social issues facing teenagers today.

    The story was inspired by a vacation Toronto took with his family years ago. While directing a play at the University of Utah, Toronto would FaceTime his wife and kids every night before bed.

    “At one point, the thought struck me,” Toronto said, “If we were talking about something interesting, this could be a movie.” That was when he decided to write a movie that takes place completely over video chat.

    As a professor working with young people, Toronto saw the effects social media had on his students. “I was working with young people all of the time. I could see how they interact with technology,” he said. “Teenagers seemed like natural choices for the heroes of the film.”

    As he dove further into the script, he decided to reach out to his brother, a counselor who has treated many people struggling with the same issues that Madison and Teel face in the script. “Aaron was able to bring a real authenticity to the characters and their development,” Toronto said. “But one of the most important inspirations came from a close cousin of ours who suffered in much the same way that Madison does in the film. We made this film in her honor.”

    Face2Face | New York Film Academy

    Some of the issues that the film focuses on include bullying, sexual identity, suicide, and sexual abuse. Raising awareness was a vital part of the filmmaker’s goals, but Toronto described a realistic and honest portrayal of friendship as the true heart of the film: “The film is about the power that friendship has to help us change, to help us become better people, and to help others as well. I hope the movie will inspire people to be friends. We can all be better friends to anyone who needs one. That’s the kind of thing that changes lives.”

    Toronto credited his time with the New York Film Academy to opening his worldview. The diversity of the school’s student body, in particular, had a profound effect on him. “I learn every time I teach,” he said. “That diversity has brought new insights and perspectives that I might never have found. Each student expands my point of view on the world and on the craft.”

    As an Acting for Film instructor stepping behind the camera, Toronto was able to bring a lot of the lessons from his classroom to the set. “My experience as an actor and an acting teacher are both essential to my work as a director. Actors are the humans that give life to the characters in a script. My background allows me to participate in that process with skill and compassion. I see my actors as designers.”

    To any actors looking to make their debut behind the camera, Toronto offered this advice: “Learn the craft of directing.”

    Matt Toronto | New York Film Academy

    NYFA Acting for Film Instructor Matt Toronto

    As intense as it is to learn the craft of acting, it’s equally important to focus on the details of directing. Toronto warned that it takes years to master directing, but there’s no better time to start than now. “The best actor/directors are the ones that respect both crafts, and put in the effort to grow as artists and storytellers throughout the entire process and on every project.”

    Toronto is working on several new projects. He’s keeping it a family affair, working with his wife to develop three television pilots and a feature, and working on two features with his brother, Aaron Toronto. Though it’s thrilling to see his film as he scrolls through Netflix, Toronto says that hasn’t been the most rewarding part.

    “About a week after it was released,” Toronto began, “I got a message from a viewer through the film’s website. In it, she shared that she was a teenager struggling with depression. She had been planning to commit suicide, but after watching Face 2 Face, she decided she wanted to live. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Knowing that our film had helped someone in such a profound way is worth more to me than all of the artistic accomplishments in my entire life. That’s what art is all about.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Toronto on all of his hard work. Face 2 Face is now available on Netflix in the U.S.

  • Asset TV, Coffee Time, GeekWire, and Latin America’s Largest Newspaper Feature Broadcast Journalism Grads

    Want to get a top job in Washington, DC? The secret is to get interviewed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism grad Gillian Kemmerer … OK, maybe that’s not the way. But it seems to have worked for President Trump’s new economic advisor.

    Gillian is anchor as well as head of programming at Asset TV, which is out to become the “go-to” source for business and financial news. Plus, she even got a mention last week in an item by legendary New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. I think that is a first for NYFA!

    Meanwhile, there is more great news from Brazil…

    Paula Varejao’s wonderful series Tá na Hora do Café (Coffee Time) is back for a second season on Globo’s satellite channel. Paula has traveled around the world looking at the culture and traditions that surround this most beloved of breakfast beverages. She wrote, via Facebook:
    “É hoje a estreia da segunda temporada do Tá na Hora do Café, dessa vez pelo mundo! Às 22h30 no Mais Globosat (canal 544 da Net). Olha um pouco do que vem por aí!”

    (Today is the premiere of the second season of Tá na Hora do Café, this time around the world! At 22:30 pm on the globosat (Channel 544 of the net). Take a look at what’s coming!)
    Staying in Brazil … OK, Brasil … Last week I heard by email from recent NYFA grad Isabella Faria.
    A lot of things happened in the last few months so I’ll try to sum everything up! When I was finishing the workshop in NYC, a job came up. The description was simple: “You will shoot some stories and edit videos for the biggest newspaper in Latin America, Folha de S.Paulo.” I said: “Why not? It is exactly what I have been doing for the past two months.” I applied and, one week later, I was back in Brazil talking to my future co-workers … I’m really happy and thankful for the job and for the workshop. Thanks to NYFA, I am at the biggest newspaper in Latin America.

    Here is one of her stories, about the high price of public transportation in São Paulo. Isabella edited it herself! As she did this story about the 50th birthday of the most famous dance company in São Paulo.

    See, newspapers aren’t just newspapers anymore…

    Finally, I heard via Facebook from Summer Session grad Starla Sampaco. Who, among her many talents, “speaks” emoji…

    “Hi friends! Very excited to announce that I’ve accepted an offer to host and produce videos for GeekWire. Check out the pilot episode of GeekWire’s new online show, TLDR.
    It’s a quick daily rundown on all things tech
    .” 🎥🤓🤖
  • Stand Up for Women! Comedy Night at New York Film Academy Los Angeles


    As part of Women’s Week at NYFA, which was created to celebrate and highlight women in the Entertainment Industry, the Acting for Film department sponsored a night of eight amazing stand-up comedians in a show called Stand Up for Women! Each comedian did a very funny 10-minute set to a packed house of over 100 NYFA students.

    It was a hilarious night — the level of talent was amazing! Students were impressed with the different personal styles of each comedian and how each was able to use their own creative voice in a unique way. Our guest artists covered topics from politics to parents, from women’s rights issues to the struggles of being an artist in this industry.
    Comedy is a great way to teach and each of our artists brought a unique lesson to our students.

    The evening was also a benefit for Women Helping Women (WHW), non-profit organization with the mission of providing unemployed and underemployed women the skills and resources they need to get and keep a good job. WHW job seekers depend on the generosity of clothing donors in the community to support their job search. Attendees were asked to bring an item of clothing for donation to the organization.

    Stand Up for Women! featured an all-star lineup of comedian guest artists, including:

    Lisa deLarios – (host) – Lisa has toured the country, featuring for Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Anthony Jeselnik, and Maria Bamford, among others. She was showcased on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and has been a frequent guest on Doug Loves Movies.

    Laura House – Laura is a headlining comedian who has performed on HBO, Comedy Central, and NBC, and starred in MTV’s Austin Stories. She has written on the Emmy-winning shows Mom and Samantha Who and the BAFTA-winning Secret Lives of Boys, as well as Nicole Byer’s Loosely, Exactly, NicoleThe George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Blue Collar TV, and more. 

    Jackie Kashian – Jackie is a comic whose new album, I Am Not The Hero Of This Story, was the #1 comedy album on iTunes and Amazon. She is in the 12th year of her podcast, The Dark Forest, and has a new podcast on the Nerdist Network called The Jackie and Laurie Show.

    Jena Friedman – Jena is a comedian, writer, filmmaker and political satirist who recently appeared on Conan. Her Adult Swim special Soft Focus with Jena Friedman aired in February. She has been a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. ​

    Kate Willett – Kate tours nationally and internationally, has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening, and recently taped a Netflix special. 

    Vanessa Gonzalez – Vanessa was recently voted “Best Stand-up Comic” in the Austin Chronicle readers’ poll and created and stars in the Mas Mejor web series Ms. Vanessa.

    Jessica Sele – Jessica is a stand-up comedian who tours across the country and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and SF Sketchfest. She was written about in Huffington Post.

    Ellington Wells – Ellington is a filmmaker and comedian who hosts the monthly stand-up show Blackberry Jam and has worked on television shows such as Insecure, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Baskets.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank each and every one of these incredibly talented and funny women who came to our Los Angeles campus. We truly appreciate your giving our students the chance to Stand Up for Women!


    March 19, 2018 • Community Highlights, Entertainment News, Guest Speakers • Views: 286

  • New York Film Academy Alum Alex Kahuam’s So, You Want to Be a Gangster? on Amazon Prime


    New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking alum Alex Kahuam’s latest feature film, So, You Want to Be a Gangster?, is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

    Alex Kahuam directing So, You Want to Be a Gangster? via IMDB

    Shot in just three weeks, the dark comedy was inspired by the work of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Kahuam credits his education at NYFA and the amazing crew he met there for his success.

    Kahuam wanted to explore a black-comedy action film.  So, You Want to Be a Gangster? is a film about an unsuccessful actor named Victor, whose friends decide to enter him in a poker tournament to cheer him up — not realizing that the American mafia controls the game. When a fight breaks out, Victor is kidnapped and trapped inside a warehouse with the leader of the Yakuza and the head of a Mexican cartel.

    “I wanted to make something similar to my idols,” Kahuam says, pointing to his influences. “They make fun of reality, but at the same time manage to have some sort of political or moral message in the end.”

    For a true homage, Kahuam filmed So, You Want to Be a Gangster? in the same style as his cinematic heroes, implementing long takes.

    Long takes are challenging for a number of reasons: The actors have to nail every line of dialogue and every part of the blocking, the lighting has to be perfect throughout the entire shot, and crews will go through multiple tests to make sure everything runs smoothly.

    With such a short production schedule, Kahuam had to think and move quickly.

    “We didn’t have that luxury of time but we were able to manage,” explains Kahuam. “You have to be able to show your cast and crew that everything is okay. As the director, you’re the captain. Everyone is looking at you.”

    Kahuam says he was driven by this challenge. “We had long, complicated action scenes, stunts, pyrotechnicians, blood, makeup, prosthetics, squibs, etc. All those things that I just mentioned take a lot of time to coordinate and execute. I think the cast and crew did an awesome job. I’m really happy with the results.”

    Kahuam credits his education at NYFA with his ability to cope with the demanding schedule.

    “NYFA really instills two things in its students,” he says. “The first is teamwork. The second is to use the time at school to make mistakes.”

    Kahuam went on to explain that making mistakes in a safe environment allowed him to learn more quickly: “When you’re making a feature, you don’t have time to make mistakes. You can only rely on the team that is surrounding you.”

    Kahuam has been excited to share So, You Want to Be a Gangster? with audiences around the world. Now, distribution with Amazon has allowed him to attain this goal.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Kahuam on all of his success. We look forward to the next project!

  • Celebrating Craig Caton-Largent’s 1st Anniversary as Chair of 3D Animation & VFX at New York Film Academy Los Angeles


    Craig Caton-Largent has just marked his first anniversary as Chair of 3D Animation & VFX at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Campus. Caton is renowned in the film industry for his groundbreaking VFX work on beloved blockbusters including Jurassic Park, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Big Trouble in Little China, Edward Scissorhands,  Apollo 13, Tangled, and more.

    To celebrate Craig’s anniversary, we’re sharing some highlights from his first year as chair of the Animation School at NYFA Los Angeles. Here’s looking forward to another great year!

    Building Community

    At Home

    This year, the NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation School created an art wall and added a display cabinet to show off student work. The wall was a wonderful encouragement and inspiration for 3D Animation & VFX students as they worked on their showcase projects, creating a great talking point in the community and sharing their work with others. It was a great to share all their hard work with the rest of the NYFA community!


    It’s been a big year at the NYfA Los Angeles Animation School — this year we’ve seen a 283% increase in student enrollment in our 3D Animation & VFX programs!

    On Social

    The NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation & VFX School also joined Instagram this year! Follow “nyfa_animation_gaming” and join the conversation!

    Alumni News & Credits

    It’s been a great year for our NYFA Los Angeles 3D Animation &VFX alumni! Here are some inspiring stories:

    • BFA grad Jessica Chung is the Winner of the LA Livescore Film Festival for Best Original Score for her animation short, Sushi Man.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Alex LoRusso isurrently working as an FX Artist at Scanline. Her 2017 major film credits Include Justice League, Pirates 5, & Alien Covenant. She also recently worked on Suicide Squad and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Soraia Malaquias is working as a 3D Generalist at TNF Visual Effects. Her impressive list of 2017 film credits Include: American Gods and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
    • 1-Year Conservatory grad Gabriel Fernandez currently works as a Production Assistant at Eight VFX.
    • 1-Year Conservatory alum Ujala Saini is a VFX/Post Production at Electric Theatre Collective.


    There have been a lot of special events to celebrate this year!


    Chair Craig Caton’s new animation software Animservo was announced, and NYFA conducted the test phase. The announcement was broadcast live, then received over 20K views in the first hour.


    SIGGRAPH is the world’s largest, most influential annual conference and exhibition in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Chair Craig Caton gave demonstrations during the course of the convention at the Faceware Technologies booth.

    Motion capture data from Faceware’s Analyzer and Retargeter software was output to an animatronic goblin using Caton’s new animation software, AnimServo.

    Media Lab

    This year also saw NYFA Los Angeles’ launch of the the Media Lab, to create opportunities for students and instructors to collaborate on research projects.

    The first project was testing Chair Craig Caton’s animation software Animservo. With testing successfully completed, Animservo has now be become available at  

    Matt Sheehan has been given directorship of the Media Lab and there is an exciting list of topics coming up … stay tuned!

    Industry Guests

    The New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker Series saw a number of incredible animation and visual effects artists visit to share their insights with NYFA Los Angeles Animation School students.

    Amy Lawson Smeed, lead character animator of Disney’s Moana, came for a special screening and talk with Chair Craig Caton. That’s not all — NYFA alum Hanna Johansson then had a chance to meet with Amy personally to discuss her reel!

    Amy Lawson Smeed

    Byron Bashforth, character shading lead of Disney’s Coco, revealed more Disney magic in an intimate Q&A with Chair Craig Caton.

    Byron Bashforth answers questions about Disney's Coco at NYFA LA

    Byron Bashforth

    Head of Research and Development of DreamWorks Animation, Jeff Wike, was another honored guest, who treated Animation School students to a remarkable industry insider perspective on the innovation and inspiration behind much of today’s most cutting-edge animation.

    Jeff Wike atNew York Film Academy Los Angeles

    Chair Craig Caton-Largent and Jeff Wikes at NYFA Los Angeles

    Jason Liles, the Lead Actor in Netflix’s DeathNote, gave Animation School students an inside perspective of what it’s like for the actors working on the other side of motion capture technology.

    There are many exciting projects as we move into Chair Craig Caton’s second year of leadership — stay tuned for more. Congratulations, Craig, on a remarkable 1st anniversary!


  • The Greensboro Four Remembered on February One with New York Film Academy Faculty Filmmakers


    “February One” marked the 58th Anniversary of the Greensboro Four sit-in, and the producers, director, and editor of the award-winning short film, The Counter: 1960 were invited to North Carolina A&T to participate in a commemorative celebration.

    The day culminated with a screening of the film, The Counter: 1960, produced by New York Film Academy’s Chair of the Industry Lab and Producing Instructor Kimberly Ogletree, edited by NYFA’s Leander Sales; directed by Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, and co-produced and starring Ashley Jackson, daughter of Reverend Jessie Jackson, to commemorate the protest in 1960. The story chronicles three WOKE students who are frustrated by police killings of unarmed black youth and wanting to contribute to positive change, the students experience time travel, finding themselves seated at a lunch counter in 1960 which sparked more civil rights sit-ins across the nation. This is the first award-winning short produced through the NYFA Industry Lab.


    In 1960, Jim Crow was the law and segregation was enforced. The flourishing five & dime store Woolworth’s sold inexpensive merchandise to the working middle class but African Americans were only allowed to shop there. Four apoplectic college students from North Carolina A&T decided that, when it came to segregation, enough was enough.

    Committed to making a change, they walked up town and sat down at the F.W. Woolworth “whites only” lunch counter and politely asked to be served. When they were refused, these brave young men remained in their seats. This event immediately sparked national attention. The action of four courageous young men added fuel to an already burning fire, with hope that this injustice would right a wrong through a nonviolent Civil Rights protest — which was only one of many that were spreading across the rural south.

    Hundreds of students, churches, civil rights organizations and members of the community joined the six-month-long protest. And on July 25th, 1960 the Woolworth department store chain ended its policy of racial segregation in its stores across the southern United States.

    New York Film Academy digital editing instructor, Leander Sales, remembers the racial tension in North Carolina: “I grew up in this and that’s what keeps me strong and focused.”

    The anniversary celebration at North Carolina A&T began with the laying of a wreath beneath the bronze statue of the Greensboro Four: Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain (Deceased), David Richmond (Deceased) and Ezell Blair. The event was well attended by the news media, students, young children from nearby elementary schools, and community residents, all present to honor the men.

    The day continued with a packed campus auditorium celebrating the civil rights movement with a panel of A&T students discussing the state of African Americans in 2018.

    After the assembly, a march from North Carolina A&T to the F.W. Woolworth museum was organized.

    As Kimberly Ogletree commented, “This is a monumental moment in my life. As I walk the same path as the Greenboro Four walked I can feel the anxiety they must have felt, because ultimately those young men had no idea if they would leave unscathed and alive because police brutality was an everyday occurrence in the rural south.”

    Once the march arrived at the Woolworth’s, the group was taken on a tour of the museum, where they were able to see the original counter where the sit-in took place in 1960. The celebration continued as The Counter: 1960 filmmakers shared their “February One” experiences and pitched their film on the campus radio station WNAA 90.1 FM, followed by the screening of the film.

    Every seat was filled in the theater and the film was very well received. The panel discussion was educational and informative. As these men were remembered, the celebration paid homage to their sacrifice to stand, sit, kneel and march on. They will forever be remembered in history as the Greensboro Four.

    The New York Film Academy’s Industry Lab in Los Angeles, California provided production services for the short film, which is currently receiving film festival accolades worldwide.


    March 12, 2018 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 712

  • Amina Zaher in Vogue Arabia, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and Jute Magazine


    This Women’s History Month, we’re very excited to get to share stories from the incredible #WomenOfNYFA in our community, and right now the spotlight is on New York Film Academy (NYFA) grad Amina Zaher.

    Zaher has been working up a storm as a fashion photographer, with her work appearing in Vogue Arabia, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and Jute Magazine, among others, throughout the Middle East. She took the time to sit down with the New York Film Academy Blog and share her journey from corporate management to the glamorous world of high fashion and lifestyle photography.

    Check out what she has to say…

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    AZ: Well my journey started similarly to any student graduated from business/marketing, headed directly to corporate life. First I started working for Microsoft Egypt for five years as a project manager, then Danone Egypt for another three years as well.

    Within these eight years I used to love photography, but had no idea what I could do with that passion. I used to study photography and retouching through Youtube tutorials, sometime by online courses, and I never thought one day that I might become a full-time photographer — it was only a dream (that I was extremely passionate about)!

    Bit by bit, having many test shoots done with other talented friends in the field (as I was still not sure what kind of photography I want to settle into, but used to have conceptual/fashion sessions), I started getting proposals — not payed, for sure, but some local magazines were interested in collaborating together.

    That’s when I realized that the dream might come true, but I would have to really study. We had many good photographers in the market, and I’ve always thought education is the best way to be up to competition.

    I applied for NYFA in 2014 and it was the experience of a lifetime. It made me first realize that I’m crazy about fashion photography, and also that I’m interested in street and documentary photography. I learned that I can try to use those to compliment my photography mood and compositions, and how important is it to know more about the history of photography!

    Then I came back to Egypt, resigned from corporate life, and started my photography journey. I’d travel every once and a while to a different country with a different culture and try having test shoots there (India, Dubai, the U.S.), and I never stopped studying, as much as possible.

    NYFA: Why photography? What inspires you most?

    AZ: I’ve always felt that I need to make art in some way, and realized that I love to capture portraits of people wherever I’m at. Also I’ve been crazy about fashion since I was a kid, and I used to ask my mum to get me magazines all the time.

    Lately when I started reading about photography I was obsessed with the idea of using lights and shadows to create an interesting image. To me it was very similar to drawing.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    AZ: A lot!! Haha … I was super lucky with my TAs and classes. I was broken hearted the day I left NYFA — they were super helpful extremely kind, and I’ve always felt that they believed [in me]. They even gave me the opportunity to have a test shoot on my last day!

    I also remember once we had to shoot random people in the streets and ask them about their stories … it was so much fun.

    One of the great things that I’ve learned from NYFA is how to get inspired, how to read about great photographers work, and learn the story behind every piece, I used to get attached to these artists.

    NYFA: You’ve done a lot of high-profile fashion photography work, published in Vogue Arabia, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and Jute Magazine. Congratulations! What advice would you offer fellow NYFA students who dream of seeing their own work in such publications?

    AZ: Dream big, guys! Dreams do come true!

    But first work extremely hard, and never think “I’m already good enough,” because there’s never enough in this field. Do as many test shoots as you can, it’s what makes you learn best.

    I never stop stalking talent to collaborate with. Last month I caught a model in Philae Temple, dressed her up with my own outfit, and had a 10-min test shoot that got published in a local magazine.

    Nothing is impossible.   

    NYFA: What inspired your Major Tom editorial shoot?

    AZ: The idea of Major Tom was inspired by the great David Bowie. It was about a girl receiving a phone call about David Bowie’s death and having a very glamorous breakdown.

    NYFA: Do you have a signature style or favorite equipment you are always sure to use? What do you like to experiment with in your work?

    AZ: I Use Canon 5D Mark III with 85mm or 24-70. Shadows, composition and colors are always what I like to experiment with.

    NYFA: What has surprised you most in working as a commercial and fashion photographer?

    AZ: Actually, I never thought that I working as a commercial and fashion photographer would make me realize I can’t stop studying! It’s funny how fast this field can be with new techniques, equipment, moods that you have to keep up with — not only that, but you must be proactive and come up with your own new identity and creativity. It’s endless.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in terms of the work you are doing now?

    AZ: NYFA is the one thing that pushed me and made me realize that I have to let go of corporate life and move on with my passion. NYFA showed me new aspects. I learned that I don’t have to be a street or documentary photographer to get inspired by that work.

    For example, it made me realize how much I loved the “dirty framing” technique when we were studying street photography, and I used it a lot in fashion. Also pictorialism and juxtaposition were really inspiring to me.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AZ: Just had three new shoots published in Vogue Arabia, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, and Jute magazine.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    AZ: Only that I’m still dreaming really big! I hope someday I will be shooting for brands like Chanel, Prada, Gucci, and Vogue worldwide. It’s still a very long trip, and I will be working Hard for it until I earn it one day. Who knows?