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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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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts SAGindie Executive Director Darrien Gipson on the State of the Industry During Covid-19

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    The New York Film Academy recently hosted an Industry Speaker session with the Executive Director of SAGindie, Darrien Gipson. Students and Faculty from all NYFA campuses attended as Gipson addressed the state of the industry during Covid-19.  With all sectors of the industry focused on returning to work, it was a prescient discussion moderated by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman.

    Gipson spoke of the various protocols that are being proposed once production resumes. While a certain degree of uncertainty prevails, and as the industry awaits government guidelines, a consensus around various parameters is formulating.  They include reduced crew sizes, staggered work hours, “pods” of crew alternating on set, various departments working timed shifts, longer days sanctioned by the unions, strict enforcement of social distancing, personal and set/equipment sanitizing regimes, monitoring for symptoms, and isolating actors.

    NYFA Producing Chair Weisman with SAGindie’s Darrien Gipson

    On a positive note, various “silver linings” are beginning to emerge from the current environment. Smaller productions with lower budgets, like student films and web series, are going to find it easier to handle the logistics and flexibility required to move forward. There will be a great hunger for projects as a result of the freeze on production in effect since March. 

    The smaller productions that can proceed at a quicker pace than the larger, more cumbersome projects will be better positioned for distribution. Gipson cited that a smaller number of “starry” submissions to festivals like Sundance will enhance the chances of less high profile films obtaining top-tier festival launches. Streaming platforms and other distribution entities will be seeking more product than ever. These observations connected with the NYFA audience as the conversation made it more apparent that there has rarely been a better time for emerging producers, filmmakers, writers, and actors to create content for a voracious audience. 

    The New York Film Academy has a long standing relationship with SAGindie, and thanks Executive Director Darrien Robbins for her insight and generosity. SAGindie is an invaluable resource for the NYFA community, as they not only assist in navigating the various paths forward working with the Screen Actors Guild, SAGindie will also offer guidance on a host of matters from financing to festival strategies, and more.  SAGindie welcomes NYFA students who would like to reach out and learn more. 

    For more information on SAGindie and how to contact them click here.

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    June 2, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 629

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Golden Glove Nominated Actress Beanie Feldstein

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    On Monday, May 11, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with Golden Globe American actress Beanie Feldstein on the occasion of the national release of her latest film How to Build a Girl, in which she has a starring role. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Beanie Feldstein grew up with a love of theatre and the arts, which led her to pursue musical theatre and eventually a career in acting. “I was obsessed with musicals,” she tells Laiter. “It was all I ever wanted to do [to perform]. I did community theatre my whole upbringing.” After her senior year of college studying Sociology, Feldstein decided to begin auditioning for acting roles and eventually landed her first speaking role on Orange is the New Black in 2015 followed by Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Female Brain, and the HBO pilot for The Devil You Know; launching Felstein’s screen actor career.

    Tova Laiter & Beanie Feldstein discuss Feldstein’s prep for her latest film ‘How to Build a Girl’

    Feldstein’s SAG nominated performance in Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-worthy Lady Bird that Feldstein cemented her rise to prominence. That same year, she starred as Minnie Fay in the Broadway revival of Hello Dolly! alongside Feldstein’s hero and Broadway legend, Bette Midler. The musical went on to receive a Tony Award for “Best Revival of a Musical” and Feldstein received critical acclaim for her performance on the live stage.

    Feldstein was then cast in the highly anticipated film Booksmart, which served as actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut and Feldstein’s first role with top billing. The role earned her a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and the film went on to win the 2020 Independent Spirit Award for “Best First Feature.”

    Beanie Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan in ‘How to Build a Girl’

    Following a screening of the film’s trailer, Laiter opened up the Q&A by commenting on how Feldstein was able to nail her British accent and asked her how she first came to be involved with the production.

    Feldstein read the script for the film while she was still performing onstage for Hello Dolly!. As she read the script, Feldstein recalls that she couldn’t help but feel that she knew this character. “She loves the world, she loves to write, she really is a giving and imaginative spirit, and I just knew her even though I grew up in Los Angeles and was born in the ‘90s. Caitlin’s writing is so deeply felt and it sparkles.” When Feldstein called her agent back, she remembers telling him, “I’ve never been more scared of anything in my life, ever, but I HAVE to try.”

    After co-starring with Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart, Feldstein remembers being really nervous and excited all at once for landing the starring role and leading the entire cast for How to Build a Girl. “I thought, ‘What do I want the crew and the cast and Coky [Giedroyc] to remember me by?’ Then I remembered I’d rather be kind than good in a scene.”

    Saorise Ronan (left) and Beanie Feldstein (right) in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Ladybird’

    A filmmaking student then asked Feldstein how directors can better work with their actors when on set, to which Feldstein responded, “the greatest gift all of the beautiful and incredible directors that I have worked with have given me is a feeling of stability and calm.” Feldstein then recalled her time working with Olivia Wilde on Booksmart and how Wilde would say, “sets are like construction sites.”

    “Stay very calm and clued into what they [your actors] are doing and what they are feeling because there is so much beautiful chaos on a set, especially when you are in a time crunch,” Feldstein replied. “The greatest gift you can give is to just say ‘it’s you and me, I’ve got this, and I’m here for you’.”

    Feldstein on set during the filming of ‘Booksmart’ with co-star Kaitlyn Dever

    Feldstein then concluded that, overall, no matter what role you play on a film set, take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, and if you lose a job, put yourself in another person’s shoes. “You might be perfectly right for something, but if not, it’s the other girl or guy’s best day of their lives. If you don’t get something, it’s the best day of another person’s life.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the gracious Beanie Feldstein for sharing her time and expertise with the students and encourages everyone to watch her latest starring role in How to Build a Girlnow available to stream, and to keep an eye out for Feldstein as Monica Lewinsky in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Impeachment, which has yet to start production.

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    May 18, 2020 • Guest Speakers • Views: 316

  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Hosts Lunafest: Short Films By, For, About Women

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    On Saturday, March 7, New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) had the pleasure to once again host Lunafest, a series of films by and about women for the Zonta Club of Burbank. Crickett Rumley, NYFA Director of Film Festivals, moderated the event. Lunafest was also attended by Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer and Council Member Tim Murphy. 

    lunafest 2020

    NYFA Acting faculty Lee Quarrie, NYFA Film Festival Director Crickett Rumley, LADY PARTS writer/director Jessica Sherif, NYFA MFA Filmmaking student Jumanah El Shabazz, NYFA Filmmaking alum Roshni “Rush” Bhatia

    In order to combat the underrepresentation of women in film, Lunafest was created in 2001 as the first all-women traveling film festival. Since then, the festival has opened opportunities to more than 150 women filmmakers, giving them the recognition and platform they deserve. In addition, Lunafest travels to nearly 200 cities annually, raising funds for local women’s causes. This year, proceeds from NYFA’s presentation of Lunafest were allocated to Zonta Burbank, a volunteer organization working to empower women through service and advocacy.  

    Following a screening of the short film program, Rumley began a guided conversation where students and panelists had the opportunity to talk about the films. Students from all backgrounds saw themselves in the stories, and even felt uncomfortable, in good ways–they had moments of realization, moments of uplift, and moments of inspiration. 

    NYFA previously hosted Lunafest in 2019. Panelists included members of the campus Film Festival Club, including its president, Jumanah El Shabazz; NYFA alum and recipient of the Zonta Wings Grant, Roshni “Rush” Bhatia; NYFA Acting Faculty and Academic Adviser, Lee Quarrie; and Director and Producer of the Lunafest-selected film Lady Parts, Jessica Sherif.

    Speaking on the relatability of the films to both students and Zonta Burbank members alike, Rumley shared, “Lunafest is such a strong program, and it was fascinating to see how the films reflected audience experiences.” She continued, “Not only was the dance in Ballet After Dark beautiful to watch, the protagonist’s determination to survive trauma spoke to women of all ages. And Zonta members who have been breaking glass ceilings for decades were heavily impacted by PURL because the main character faced such an uncomfortable, if not hostile, all-male workplace that she had to overcome.”

    lunafest 2020

    NYFA alum Roshni “Rush” Bhatia and Jessica Sherif, director/producer of LADY PARTS

    The writing and emotional impact of the films pierced through to everyone in the audience. NYFA student Nadiia Pavlyk-Vachkova, stated, “I invited my friend, a director from India, and I wasn’t sure that he would endure 90 minutes of content devoted to women. But all the films were so strong and well done that we got the impression we were watching Oscar nominees. After the performance, we discussed the funny and tragic moments that we both learned from.” 

    New York Film Academy thanks Lunafest, the Zonta Club of Burbank, and the panelists for joining us for such a successful event and sharing it with our students.

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    March 18, 2020 • #WomenOfNYFA, Film Festivals, Film School, Guest Speakers • Views: 886

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Writer, Actress, and Director Naomi McDougall Jones to Discuss New Book ‘The Wrong Kind of Women’

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    On March 3, the Cinematography Department at New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) New York campus was extremely excited to welcome Naomi McDougall Jones to kick off the celebration of Women’s History Month with a frank and remarkable conversation on the condition of Women in Cinema, Television and the Entertainment Industry at large. 

    Naomi McDougall Jones is a talented actress turned screenwriter. Out of the necessity of writing characters and stories more in line with the female perspective, she began to explore that longing, which was hard to find in an industry dominated by the male approach. With the realization that the issue was bigger than simply finding the energy and commitment to write such stories, she became an activist initially with her viral Ted Talk and subsequently published her book The Wrong Kind of Women – Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the God of Hollywood

    Naomi McDougall Jones introduces book ‘The Wrong Kind of Women’ at NYFA New York campus

    Jones recently brought her wisdom and years of deeply documented research to a room full of NYFA’s very own community of filmmakers, actors, producers and many others involved in the industry. One of her first points, looking at the room and the people that came to the presentation, was how, when looking exclusively at film schools around the country, one would assume the problem of representation for female filmmakers doesn’t exist. Female filmmakers, in this definition, meaning the whole group in front of and behind the camera. Female filmmakers consist of slightly more than 50% of the population of today’s cinema educational world, but after analyzing the data, there is a deep discrepancy between the rich, diverse crowd who graduate from colleges and film schools around the globe versus the space that women actually fill in the industry itself. 

    The exhaustive research conducted by Jones for the publication of her book present numbers that are deeply troubling as they show that women represent only a minimal part of the directors hired by producers. These numbers show slightly better in television, however, but in context, this is due to the fact that the main professional figure of a TV show is not necessarily the director, but the show runner, which tends to lean overwhelmingly male. 

    Jones proceeded to explain, in detail, the principal obstacles filmmakers encounter in their quest to break into an industry that seems designed to keep them at bay, all the while white male privilege continues to prevail in the industry. Jones recalled experiencing this firsthand when getting her first feature length film made. The film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, was created out of her motivation for creating a female-driven story. As a female screenwriter and producer with a solid project in her hands, she thought it would have been at least possible to gather enough support within the industry to find a way to produce the movie. She was, unfortunately, wrong. 

    Naomi McDougall Jones discusses the film industry with NYFA creative director Liz Hinlein

    The reality of her situation kicked in faster than she thought and she found herself and her team of female creatives in a limbo, where the already complex process of financing and producing her first feature turned out to be exhaustingly more difficult due to the people in charge of the industry, the so called “Gatekeepers.”

    The lesson she learned at that time was difficult to swallow, but refreshing, as it taught her not to doubt her own talent, but instead focus on the lesson involved. Like so many women before her not having the space or voice they deserved, she began to understand the true nature of the problem. Hollywood is a system based on an “inside” and “outside” structure, similar to a high school cafeteria, where you have options for where you’d like to sit, but can only sit at the table where you are allowed to sit. It’s a system where you immediately know who the “cool people” are- those that are admired, watched and followed by the generic population. 

    In Hollywood, the “inside” world is dominated by cis white males and, for an extremely long period of time, their judgment, support, and approval has been the only way to cross the room and take a seat at “the table.” Fear of being quickly thrown “outside” and losing your spot in the “golden” and “glamorous” world of Hollywood has often pushed aside anyone willing to disrupt the status quo and change the modus operandi of the system. 

    As a result, the movie-going audience has been so accustomed to viewing stories from a male perspective that the risk of pushing for a different one can cause people to be expelled from their seat at “the table” or, rather, pushed to the “outside.” At the same time, the fear of failure has reduced, if not blocked, the possibilities for women to break into the “inside” crowd.

    Naomi McDougall Jones tells audience about the “Inside” and “Outside” Hollywood structure 

    It is an extremely complex topic, which Jones synthesized and captured in front of NYFA faculty, students, and guests in a well attended and even better discussed event. The questions from the audience went from “what can male allies do to help change the system” to “how film schools can better support their female students to allow them better opportunities for success.” Jones left a profound mark on those willing to listen, opening their eyes to what has been her experience and, along with her, the experiences of thousands of women before and after her. 

    Jones also ended the discussion with several reasons to be hopeful. While none of the principal publications in the industry (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc.) have dedicated a single line to her book, it has been the subject of several important discussions and articles on several platforms from NPR to the BBC, the Washington Post and even Playboy Magazine. Jones even mentioned that one of the largest corporations and producing entities in the world of television has made her book a required reading for their original content writers.

    The main takeaway of Jones’ presentation has been the necessity for women and minorities to “never let the system tell you your values” and she pushed the students to trust their artistic talent, dare to be radical, and to not sell themselves short, while always finding new ways to push into a deeply troubled industry.

    NYFA Cinematography Chair Piero Basso and Naomi McDougall Jones

    New York Film Academy thanks Naomi McDougall Jones for celebrating the launch of her new book and for discussing the important topic of jobs for women in film with our NYFA students, faculty and guests for Women’s History Month.

    Her book is available for purchase online and can also be found at NYFA’s New York campus library.

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    March 16, 2020 • Cinematography, Diversity, Guest Speakers • Views: 1047

  • Editor at Large for Special Projects at ‘TIME’ Paul Moakley and Magnum Photos’ Moises Saman Lead Discussion with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Students

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    On Friday, February 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted, along with Magnum Photos and Mana Contemporary, Magnum Photos photographer Moises Saman and Editor at Large for Special Projects at TIME Magazine, Paul Moakley. Both presented highlights from their body of work at NYFA’s New York campus and screened TIME Magazine’s documentary short, The Capital Gazette Won’t Be Silenced 1 Year Later, which was directed and shot by Saman, and produced by Moakley.

    Moises Saman, a member of Magnum Photos, began his career at Newsday, covering the fallout of the 9/11 attacks. Throughout his career, he spent most of his time in the Middle East, shooting monumental moments of conflict like the Iraq War, the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Civil War. “As a journalist, I’m a product of the time I’m living in,” he said when asked about his professional career and motivation for visual storytelling.

    Saman opened the discussion by recounting the start of his career in the newspaper industry. “It meant working really fast,” he says, emphasizing the constant deadlines and, at times, the personal sacrifice it took to get a story out. He then went on to describe how engulfed in his work he had become as a photojournalist, being constantly on the road 12 months out of the year. That kind of dedication, however, produced his stunning photographs capturing moments in time, like an image of a boy with a hunting rifle running through a sandstorm or another image he displayed of a man taming an Arabian horse, looted from one of Saddam Hussien’s palaces in Baghdad.

    Moises Saman (Left) and Paul Moakley (Right) speak with the audience | Photo courtesy of Cecilia Collantes, Magnum Photos

    Saman also discussed developing a professional relationship with Paul Moakley. Moakley, Editor at Large for Special Projects at TIME Magazine has managed TIME’s visual coverage of breaking news, presidential elections and key franchises such as TIME’s Person of the Year and TIME 100 for the past decade. Moakley was always interested in Saman’s work, but it took both of them at least 20 years until they ended up actually working together.

    Moakley opened up to the audience about how the professional relationship between himself and Saman evolved over the years from photographer and editor to producer and director. “It is incredibly cool when we work together,” he says, “it’s not a transaction, it’s a relationship.”

    Moakley, who recently worked with climate activist Greta Thunberg for the TIME’s Person of The Year for 2020, recalled when he asked Saman to shoot the TIME Person of the Year cover for 2018. This particular assignment meant Saman having to fly 30,000 miles around the world to shoot 18 people for 4 covers. This was the year TIME profiled “The Guardians and the War on Truth,” acknowledging slain reporter Jamal Khashoggi, imprisoned reporters Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, Rappler founder Maria Ressa, and the entire staff of the Capital Gazette.

    Saman recalls meeting each person he photographed saying, “for me, the people on these covers, especially the two women (the wives of the two imprisoned reporters), had experiences I related to. It was an intimate experience for me.”

    Moakley and Saman then screened their documentary short about The Capital Gazette reporters one year after the shooting that plagued their newsroom and took the lives of five of their colleagues. Moakley and Saman recalled that this experience, for them, required the utmost amount of trust and time to cultivate the relationship with the paper. To this day, The Capital Gazette has not let any other outlet other than TIME profile them on such a personal level.

    New York Film Academy thanks Magnum Photos, Moises Saman and Paul Moakley for taking the time to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience with students and guests of NYFA.

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    March 9, 2020 • Guest Speakers, Photography • Views: 1022

  • Developing Animated Series: The Creators Society Speak At New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Thursday, February 20, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host The Creators Society in a panel of both creators and development executives sharing their expertise on developing an animated series. Mike Blum, founder of Pipsqueak Animation, moderated the event.

    Creators Society 2020

    The Creators Society is a group of passionate, like-minded members of the animation community who work in the fields of film, TV, commercials, visual effects, VR/AR, and gaming. Last week’s panel included: writer, creator, and story editor, Emily Brundige; Executive Producer on Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles, Michael Shawn Lewis; Cartoon Network’s Vice President of Development, Nicole Rivera; Executive Producer, President, and Co-Chairman of Yeti Farm Creative, Frank Saperstein; and Sr. Director, Animation Development at Nickelodeon, Daniel Wineman.

    After sharing their career trajectories, Blum opened up the Q&A by asking, “How do you know if you have a good idea? What is the difference between a good idea and a sellable idea?” 

    Brundige shared, “I only decide to develop an idea into a show if it has legs to generate lots of stories. If the character can drive plenty of stories or if the show concept creates an engine where you can see lots of stories generating, that’s how I know I’ll have something there.” 

    When asked about the best way to decipher what ideas the market wants, Saperstein advised, “The best advice I can give to a newcomer is not only know your audience in terms of who your ultimate audience is, but know the audience you’re going into a meeting and pitching for.” 

    Creators Society 2020

    To that point, Rivera added, “If you’re not sure what people want, you can always ask for a general meeting before you share all your ideas, because everyone is evolving and looking for different things, so making that connection and vibing before you pitch something is really helpful.” 

    Speaking to the development executives in the room, Blum asked, “What for you are the elements that separate a good idea from an okay idea?” 

    Rivera began by stating, “Definitely character–a character or relationship that feels really specific and can lend itself to lots of comedy and conflict coming from these characters being together, regardless of the world or situation. Then, a world or situation that feels very special will be an additive to those characters.” 

    Lewis chimed in, “From the creative side, when I’m playing with my show and my world and my characters, I feel like there’s a connection that is genuinely mine. I’m not trying to pretend that my character is expressing something that isn’t me. Finding that character–whatever that may be for you–if it’s genuinely yours, that is so much more interesting to watch.”  

    Blum then opened up the Q&A to questions from the audience. One attendee asked, “Has there ever been a moment during a pitch when you notice that you’re starting to lose the interest of the executives, and what did you do to reel them back in and salvage something that may not be going the way you want it to go?” 

    Brundige responded, “Sometimes you or your idea just aren’t a good fit for whoever you’re pitching to, but I’ll usually just try to keep it brief if I feel it’s not going well. However, if you feel like there is something that they’re responding to, such as a character or just something they really laughed at, then you can riff more on that thing and just follow their lead.” 

    New York Film Academy thanks The Creators Society for joining us and sharing their expertise with our students.

    Creators Society 2020

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    March 6, 2020 • 3D Animation, Guest Speakers • Views: 837

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes MFA Screenwriting Alum, Black Film Allegiance Co-Founder, and Monkeypaw Productions Development Manager Elon Joi Washington

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    On Friday, February 21, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed NYFA MFA Screenwriting grad (Class of ’18) Elon Joi Washington, Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions, and co-founder of Black Film Allegiance. Terah Jackson, ABA Club co-advisor, screenwriting instructor, and NYFA LAS instructor, moderated the event.

    elon joi washington

    Washington is a screenwriter and story analyst with a passion for shedding light on untold narratives. She studied English, Film and Media at the University of Florida, Film and Television at Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated from New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting program. She is the founder of the Black Film Allegiance, a virtual platform promoting collaboration and creative opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers. Additionally, Washington currently works as Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions. 

    Following a quick clip of Washington promoting the Black Film Allegiance, Jackson opened up the Q&A by touching upon the students’ interest in Washington’s screenwriting background. He asked, “This idea to become a writer and move into film, when did that start for you?” 

    Washington shared, “I always enjoyed writing. In undergrad I would do open mics as different character roles, and that’s what I started falling in love with character work. I was an English major with a film and media concentration and towards the end my school let me do some production work and I really enjoyed it. But, I was always more interested in what was on the page because it’s where I felt most comfortable creatively.” 

    Jackson then asked what type of stories Washington found herself most engaged in. She replied, “I like stories that revolve around social events and messages that matter to me; especially things that are quite researched. The genres I enjoy are docudrama, horror, psychological thrillers; however, I will do a sci-fi if there’s a bigger message attached to it, but it has to be grounded in truth with something that I know is happening today. Then, I’ll elevate that story in some type of way through a genre like horror.” She continued, “If there’s a research component, that’s usually the part that will draw me in and then the bigger message and character come after.”

    elon joi washington

    Speaking on her time at NYFA, Jackson asked, “Looking back, what were the opportunities here at NYFA that prepared you for what you did after school?” 

    Washington answered, “There are so many resources here that I appreciate, partially because it’s so intimate here and the professors are so hands-on with your growth professionally and as a student. Part of what I appreciated was that opportunity to have one-on-one meetings, even as an alumna. The access you have as alumni is unparalleled. ” She continued, “Also, what you do with the network you’ve built here can really change the course of your post-grad experience. Just having a community and being here created such great connections for me.”

    The Q&A then opened up to student questions. One student asked, “When you submit a script to Monkeypaw Productions, what is it they’re looking for in order to move forward with a story?” 

    Washington responded, “In terms of what Monkeypaw looks for–it’ts genre, underrepresented voices, and a focus on social issues of course, but in a way that’s fun.” She added, “When you’re dealing with difficult issues, you don’t want it to be like medicine, you want it to be rewatchable. It’s always that component, which is a very specific formula and very difficult to find.”  

    New York Film Academy thanks MFA Screenwriting alum Elon Joi Washington for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!

    elon joi washington

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    March 2, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1265

  • ‘Trauma Therapy’ Screens at New York Film Academy (NYFA) With a Special Q&A

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    On Friday, January 17, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted the creative team behind the thriller Trauma Therapy. NYFA producing student Oksana Chester moderated the event.

    Trauma Therapy

    The panel included producer and Head of International Sales at Glass House Distribution, Michelle Alexandria; writer, actor, producer, and Head of Acquisitions at Glass House Distribution, David Josh Lawrence; director and writer, Tyler Graham Pavey; award-winning director of photography, Pascal Combes-Knoke; and actor and musician, Chase Coleman. 

    Following a screening of the film, Chester opened up the Q&A by asking writer, actor, and producer, David Josh Lawrence, “What made you want to write this film and was it hard for you to allow people to change your vision of the film?” 

    Lawrence shared, “Tom Malloy and I wrote it together. I was watching I Am Not Your Guru, which is supposed to be a documentary, but it’s more propaganda to sell Tony Robbins tickets. So I thought, before Tony Robbins was Tony Robbins, who was into him and what kind of things was he teaching. So we took a character like that and gave him a more sinister thought behind what was going on. That was what started it.” 

    In regards to allowing other people to change his vision, Lawrence stated, “The film is told three times. It’s told on the page, then it’s told in production, then it’s told in editing. You do have to let go of what the film once was because of finances and things getting cut.” He continued, “Things change from your original idea and trusting the people that you are with to make a decision that will not affect the film in a negative way is very difficult thing, but it’s one of those things where you do what you can to make sure that the story stays true to what you started off with.” 

    When asked about what piece of advice the panelists wish they knew before they started in the industry, Combes-Knoke expressed, “Take risks and pursue the projects that are more meaningful as opposed to the money. Specifically when it comes to cinematography, try not to get complacent with something you know is going to work. Try new things, use new tools, try different lenses you’re not comfortable with, because you’ll find happy accidents.”  

    Trauma Therapy

    Chester then opened up the Q&A to the student audience. One student asked, “Since you guys are independent, how involved are you in each step of the process?” 

    Director Graham-Pavey shared, “It really depends on the relationship with the individuals. The more you trust the people doing the job, the more they’re telling you as opposed to you telling them. I think every project is different, but in this one I did a cut of the movie then turned it over and they finished it up nicely.” 

    Combes-Knoke added on, “Tying all this together, a majority of directors I’ve worked with would shoot every shot for every angle for the entire scene because they don’t know what they want, and Tyler was great about knowing what shots he wanted—and frankly we couldn’t have made the film in any other way. We had such a short schedule to shoot all those pages out.” 

    To close off the Q&A, the panelists were asked what keeps them motivated. Coleman replied, “Getting to see how I created something that affected people in a great way. That’s what’s so fun and amazing about creating art and creating change in front of someone. When it inspires them to do something better with their life, that’s what keeps me motivated.” 

    When asked what advice moderator Oksana Chester wished to impart on her fellow NYFA students, she shared, “My biggest advice to anyone new to this industry is don’t be afraid to meet new people, or go to different events, or apply for internships. If you want the world to know who you are and see your talents then you must be the one to take those hard, first steps to show the industry why you’re here and why you matter.”  

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the creative team behind Trauma Therapy for joining us, and sharing their expertise with our students.

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    February 28, 2020 • Film School, Guest Speakers • Views: 1188

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes ‘The Black Godfather’ Producer Nicole Avant

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    On Tuesday, February 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Nicole Avant, former US ambassador and producer of the award-winning Netflix documentary The Black Godfather. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event. 

    Tova Laiter & Nicole Avant

    Nicole Avant produced The Black Godfather after collecting stories about her father, Clarence Avant, who has held significant influence on dozens of the world’s most high profile entertainers, athletes, and politicians. The film charts the exceptional and unlikely rise of Clarence, who became a powerhouse negotiator amid extreme racism in America, a music executive whose trailblazing behind-the-scenes accomplishments impacted the legacies of icons such as Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

    Nicole Avant was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to be the 13th Ambassador to The Bahamas. On September 9, 2009, she was sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, becoming the youngest as well as the first African American woman to hold the position. Avant’s successes in The Bahamas earned her a nomination for the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service. 

    Following a screening of The Black Godfather, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Avant how she started in the business. Avant shared, “My parents made me do every kind of job all my life and one time my father said he had gotten me an internship at Warner Bros. television. He told me I should learn all the different types of business because all of entertainment is one business, so it is important to learn the different facets.” She continued, “So I went and did the internship and I have to say, I loved it and I learned everything. I went to work for all the different departments and met so many people that helped me understand the business.”  

    Producer Nicole Avant

    Laiter then asked Avant how the documentary came to fruition. Avant revealed, “This documentary happened because I was trying to figure out a way to tell my dad’s story. I said something to my husband [Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos] one day about how I wished there was a way to tie in sports and movies and television and activism and civil rights and all these elements into a character and film. He then pointed out that the character I had just described was, in fact, my father.” 

    Speaking about her director and collaborator Reggie Hudlin, Avant expressed, “I knew Reggie for a very long time and we would talk about African American history and get frustrated that no one really understood our history and no one had seen documentaries on us or knew enough. It was always simplified to ‘all Black people in America live this way, eat this food, and do these specific things’ and it would drive Reggie and me nuts. Therefore, I figured he would be a great person to direct this documentary.”  

    The Q&A was then opened up to students. One student asked Avant, “What do you think are the most important changes for the African American community in the entertainment industry since the beginning of your father’s career.” 

    Avant imparted, “The biggest changes and the most important changes were putting people in a position of power where they could therefore make decisions and control their destiny and in turn, open the door for other people to come in.” She added, “When I was younger, Billboard used to have the Top 100 charts and the Black charts. They used to separate them all. It was really important for my dad to say ‘Why can’t Black people and women be in charge of certain departments that are run by only one type of person? It should be everybody.’ So I think the most important thing is that you started to see more people of color, in general, really having high-level positions that they otherwise would have never had.” 

    Laiter concluded the Q&A by thanking Avant for coming amidst a very busy Oscar season. Avant remarked, “I was really looking forward to this night more than anything else, because humans have to tell stories to each other and connect with each other and I think these events are very important.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to thank producer and former US Ambassador Nicole Avant for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!

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    February 21, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 898