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  • NYFA Welcomes VR Software Architect Chris Bobotis

    Last week, the New York Film Academy welcomed well-known VR artist, Chris Bobotis, to speak to students in our new VR program.

    chris bobotis

    Bobotis is the Co-Founder and 360/VR Software Architect at Mettle, which introduced 360/VR plugins that have been widely adopted by leading companies world-wide, such as The New York Times, Time, CNN, HBO, Google, youtube, Discovery VR, DreamWorks TV, National Geographic, USA Today, LinkedIn, The Ellen Show, BuzzFeed, Conan 360, Framestore, Google, Jaunt VR, GreenPeace, Care, UBER, RYOT, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Apple, and Facebook. Independent filmmakers and youtubers have also widely adopted the toolset available through Mettle, shaping the content that is available through YouTube, FaceBook, Samsung, and other 360/VR viewers.

    Founded in Montreal as a production studio by Chris Bobotis and Nancy Eperjesy in 1992, the team of artists and programmers who have consistently embraced art and tech, and pushed forward the notion of empowering artists with digital tools, developing software by artists for artists.

    Chris Bobotis

    Drawing on a vast experience of production and post-production workflows, Bobotis leads the development of all Mettle software. SkyBox 360/VR plugins are the most complete set of Cinematic 360/VR production tools available for Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro, and include a VR Player for Oculus RIFT.

    Chris generously spent a couple of hours lecturing on the theory of creating successful VR experiences, as well as demonstrating very practical how-to lessons with the software, which is used in the NYFA VR classrooms.

    At the end of the event, Bobotis offered an award to the best student VR project. Stay tuned!

    March 24, 2017 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1301

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna’s “Frisky” Gets Distribution from Gravitas

    friskyShot on a mere five thousand dollars, 8-Week Acting for Film alumna Claudia Pickering’s film, “Frisky,” was recently digitally released by Gravitas — which happens to be the same distribution company who distributed her former NYFA instructor, Adam Nimoy’s Spock documentary — in the US and Canada.

    The Sydney-born filmmaker began her foray into filmmaking through acting, which led to creating comedy sketches, short films and webseries’, the first of which was a music video titled “Sebring,” which included Danny Trejo, who choreographed and performed a synchronized dance for the clip.

    “Acting and directing involves a lot of switching between head spaces, and a lot of trust in your cast and crew,” says Pickering. “Having a very intimate understanding of each scene really helped the process of going between ‘acting’ and ‘directing’ modes. As an actor, I could feel when we had hit the right emotional moments in each scene, but the issue was, I couldn’t see whether we’d nailed the shot. Fortunately, I had a wonderful relationship with our cinematographer, Christiana Charalambous, and trusted her that when she said she got the shot, we were clear to move on.”

    Pickering has now written and produced two feature length films, ‘Frisky’ and ‘Winning Formula‘, of which she directed the former, and both have received international festival success including Official Selection at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, Best Feature Film at the 10th Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles, Best Comedy Feature at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Director’s Choice for Best Feature Film at the Austin Revolution Film Festival. Pickering won the 2015 Tropfest Tropvine competition with a stop motion animation of a giraffe telling a dad joke, and regularly creates sketches with her comedy troupe, Frothpocalypse. She is currently developing several projects through her company, Cliff House Productions.

    Frisky

    “My experience at NYFA LA was nothing short of life-changing,” said Pickering. “With incredible teachers such as Adam Nimoy, the course not only taught great acting techniques and theory, but also gave me a solid practical and theoretical foundational understanding of filmmaking. Additionally, I met some wonderful lifelong friends, one of whom, Anna Bennett, I went on to form a comedy production company with.”

    Her most recent film, “Frisky,” involves two young women who move back to San Francisco, where they had met on exchange years earlier. However, their high career aspirations quickly become sidelined by their sexual interests. While wildly crass and charismatic in their public personas, they are in fact fundamentally at odds on many levels. Their opposing beliefs surrounding responsibility and romance, combined with their close quarters while crashing in an acquaintance’s living room, find them thrust onto a fast track to discovering what their friendship is really made of. Based on true events, “Frisky” is an honest, tongue-in-cheek look at what it is to be a woman in the limbo years between college and “the real world.”

    “The film is based on my real life experiences moving from Sydney to Los Angeles — the first and most emotionally potent time was for NYFA — then from LA to San Francisco,” says Pickering. “The emotions, the the friendships, the flings, the near-misses, and the life-long lasting love for people and places. I was living in San Francisco, waiting for another feature film, ‘Winning Formula,’ to go through post production in LA. I was working as an architect to earn some money, but was really becoming disillusioned by the whole profession as I’d sit at my desk and fantasize about stories I’d like to make into movies. One night, I was invited to attend the test screening of a film that a friend of a friend had made on virtually no budget with a six month turn-around. The film was such a joy to watch — so honest and funny — and had been shot on a DSLR camera just like one I already owned and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’ I checked my savings account balance that night, quit my job the next day and started writing ‘Frisky'”

    For more information about how to download or stream, “Frisky,” please visit the website at friskymovie.com.

    March 24, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 850

  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Stars in “The Little Mermaid” Musical in São Paulo

    ana luisa pretoAfter graduating from the New York Film Academy, Musical Theatre alumna Anna Luisa Preto returned to her home country of Brazil where she was cast to play the Little Mermaid in “The Little Mermaid: The Musical.” The musical’s first season was at Teatro das Artes in São Paulo, and is now playing at “Teatro Jardim Sul,” also in São Paulo.

    “I have always loved musical theatre, and when I saw the opportunity of auditioning for NYFA’s Musical Theatre program, I was immediately interested,” said Preto. “After researching about the course, the place and the professionals involved I fell completely in love! NYFA has changed the way I approach and study a song or a scene. With what I learned there, I have much more material to work on the performances.”

    Preto says the Little Mermaid was a very special character in her life as a child, especially being a redhead. “It was one of those stories that you do not think will happen to you…until it happens,” she recalls. “I didn’t know about the auditions, in fact, I lived in another city during that period. A friend that I hadn’t spoken for a long time had moved to São Paulo and sent his material to this musical and in the middle of the material was a duet that we recorded when we studied together. The production saw the material and decided to look for me! I almost did not believe it when I saw the producer’s message calling me audition for the mermaid in São Paulo. In the end, I went to do the test and, on the same day, I received the answer that changed the course of my life at that moment.” She became the Little Mermaid.

    ana luisa preto

    Since graduating, Preto has also performed as the character of Cassie with the Company Project Broadway in Highlights of Chorus Line at the “Teatro Guaíra,” in Curitiba.

    “My goal is always to overcome myself,” she says. “Learn something new with each class, or work and be able to put it into practice. I have no idea what my next character will be, but I look forward to more of this amazing world of musicals!”

    March 23, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1349

  • NYFA Cine Students Enter the World of Virtual Cinematography

    New York Film Academy Cinematography faculty member and author Mark Sawicki introduced his VFX students to the concepts and step by step process of how to create a virtual set extension that combines on set lighting with virtual lighting in post. The technique was used to great effect in the box office hit “Dr Strange.”
    green screen

    Original green screen set up on the NYFA stage.

    The method involves the clever integration of properly photographed stills coupled with a green screen foreground. The stills are specially processed in Photoshop and then delivered to After Effects to create a synthetic 3D space of texture maps on Polygonal surfaces that can be manipulated in space and time. Mark’s students were instructed to take exacting notes of their lighting and camera set up when they shot the green screen element, so they could take that information and do follow through virtual lighting with computer graphic light instruments and materials.
    virtual set

    Virtual set added.

    Once the footage was processed the students met in post where they were introduced to the strange world of the virtual set. Sawicki gave students a hands-on experience demonstrating lighting simulations where boxes have to be checked to allow shadows to fall and spotlights can defy the inverse square law or even create a light that “darkens” a room. Even Doctor Strange would be challenged in such a world.
    virtual lighting

    Virtual lighting added.

    Sawicki feels it is extremely important for the Cinematographers of today to get a grasp for lighting on set and in the computer, so that they have control over the look of their imagery every step of the way and also have a feel of when they can save time on set by enhancing or modifying lighting in post. NYFA stands out as one of the few schools on the globe that takes their students beyond the envelope to explore the strange and exciting world of virtual lighting.
    green screen

    Final Effect

    March 22, 2017 • 3D Animation, Community Highlights • Views: 1273

  • NYFA Movie Musical “Streetwrite” Premieres at The Cutting Room

    On Sunday, March 12, one of the New York Film Academy’s newest movie musicals, “Streetwrite,” held a very well attended premiere screening at The Cutting Room in Manhattan. The film was written and directed by Blanche Baker, an Emmy Award winning actress and Senior Faculty member of the New York Film Academy, and shot by Piero Basso, an award-winning Director of Photography. The performers in the film consisted of an international cast of talented Musical Theatre students working alongside NYFA’s faculty and staff of professional artists.
    streetwrite

    Using street art as a focal point, Baker’s film examines the various ways people struggle to express themselves in situations where free speech is curtailed or suppressed. It also explores how certain kinds of expression can be repressive to individuals.

    Following The Cutting Room screening, there was an engaging panel discussion, which included David Klein, NYFA’s Senior Executive Vice President; Issues of freedom of expression in film, journalism and the world of academia were explored by J. R. Brandstrader, a veteran print and broadcast journalist; Deborah Carroll, executive producer at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; Blaze Coyle, filmmaker, focused on women and social justice; and Christa Salamander, Syrian media specialist and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College whose current book project is on the Syrian TV drama industry.

    streetwrite team

    For those who were unable to attend The Cutting Room premiere, there are a few more festival screenings to come.

    The RiverRun Festival, based in Winston-Salem, NC, will be holding a screening on Saturday, April 1. After the screening there will be a talkback moderated by the producer, Dale Pollack.

    Cinemonde, the private film series at the Roger Smith Hotel, will be screening the film on April 5 at 7pm.

    “Streetwrite” will then screen at the Manhattan Film Festival on FridayApril 21 at Cinema Village and at the NYC Indie Film Festival on Friday, May 5 at The Producer’s Club.

    For a look at more photos from The Cutting Room premiere, visit our Official Facebook Album.

    March 22, 2017 • Acting, Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 330

  • NYFA Veterans Treated to “Hacksaw Ridge” Screening with Mel Gibson

    The New York Film Academy Los Angeles welcomed Academy Award-winning director, Mel Gibson, to screen his Oscar-winning film, “Hacksaw Ridge,” to an audience of student military veterans. Associate Chair of Acting, Christopher Cass, and Veteran and MFA Acting for Film student Ron Ringo moderated the evening.

    mel gibson

    photo by Kristine Tomaro

    The Q&A began by asking how Gibson first came across the project, “Hacksaw Ridge.” “It was given to me three times by Bill Mechanic,” said Gibson. “He used to run Fox. He really has a passion. He loves film. I’ve never met a producer who was a big mucky-muck but was also willing to really get down in the trenches and get his hands dirty.”

    Gibson said working on this film was different than any other project before it. He is typically accustomed to creating original content or transforming a story from another medium to film. Desmond T. Doss’ story left a significant impression. Telling it correctly was a huge responsibility.

    “There were tears on the page,” Gibson said. “Among the Medal of Honor Recipients, Desmond was the guy. I mean, who goes into a place without a weapon? Generally, recipients do something incredibly courageous in an instant. Desmond was premeditated. He kept laying his life on the line, again and again. He’d crawl into enemy fire to get anyone. That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

    Gibson frequently uses military veterans in his films. He stated that there were Rangers in “We Were Soldiers” and vets in “Black Hawk Down.” “There’s something about marshaling a film crew and the chain of command and the difficulty — the ferocity of what it all takes to get a large number of people together that is kind of like a battle. You have this logistical way of trying to put things together. You have to have a general and a captain and Sargent. On a regular film, this is your First A. D. and the Director. They have to keep everyone’s morale up. Many people on set are veterans.”

    When it came time to for the Q and A portion of the event, one veteran stood up and asked, “When you’re preparing for a role or working with an actor do you listen to music to help set the mood?”

    Gibson responded, “I think music is very important because music transcends logic. It goes straight from your ear to your heart. I did an acting exercise when I was nineteen or something like that. You had to walk up to a person — could be a spouse, a brother, or a friend — and you’re never going to see that person ever again. And you’re saying goodbye for the last time.

    We all did this exercise, and everyone’s laughing and joking around. Then our instructor says he’s going to try out something different. He plays this soulful sort of Bram’s violin thing and we all had to do it again and everyone starts crying. I was amazed. It struck me how transcendent music can be. Music informs a lot of things. Almost everything you do filming wise is rhythmic whether it has music or not. Storytelling has a rhythm and a pace. Your heart, the sound of the ocean, it is all music. So, yes, I think it’s important.”

    mel gibson at nyfa

    photo by Kristine Tomaro

    Gibson also spoke about his first time on set as a director. The night before he was nervous, so he called up Clint Eastwood. Treating the student to an impersonation of Eastwood giving the advice, Gibson said, “Just say action and cut.”

    BFA Screenwriting student and Marine Corps veteran, Patrick Stinich had this to say about the experience, “It was an honor to watch this incredible true story brought to life in a very powerful way. You could tell that Mel Gibson really cares about what drives men that choose of their own free will to wade into the hell that a combat zone can become. I respect him very much as a storyteller, a director, and as a man for that. The 212-seat theater provided those of us who have served our country in a time of war a really intimate and rewarding experience with one of the film industries’ finest. Thank you for the opportunity to attend this event. I learned a lot.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Gibson for volunteering the time to speak with our veterans.

    “Hacksaw Ridge” is now available on VOD and DVD. Gibson will be starring in “The Professor and the Madman,” and “Daddy’s Home 2” later this year.

    March 21, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 2361

  • NYFA Grad’s “The Dawn” to Screen at Kuwait Film Festival

    The DawnKuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei’s short film, “The Dawn,” was very well received at the ADASA Festival and is due to screen at the Kuwait Film Festival soon, and possibly play in local Kuwaiti movie theaters thereafter.

    His film is about a young boy, Bader, who wants to go fishing with his father. The father, unfortunately, has to cancel the trip due to a work commitment, which leads Bader and his friends on an adventure to find out what it is that the father actually does.

    Al-Qenaei had a chance to talk with us about his film and his experience as a filmmaker in Kuwait.

    What brought you to NYFA, and what led you into filmmaking in the first place?

    I’ve always had a passion for film and theatre. My childhood was spent on stage, and therefore the performing arts were always something I was fond of. After a while, I began writing plays as opposed to acting in them. I found a joy in that. Film was a new medium for me. It involved less dialogue and more to show. It was a challenge I was keen on exploring. NYFA was on the top of my list, and it being in NYC, a hub for creatives, made it all the better.

    What is the current filmmaking scene like in Kuwait?

    Kuwait has always been one of the strongest in the region when it comes to the arts. True, there was a period were things became idle and a lack of interest in the industry was prevalent. But now, the means in which a person is able to broadcast their work are a lot more accessible. Therefore, talent is being recognized and the scene is more inspiring now than ever.

    Did you shoot this film during or after NYFA?

    After my time at NYFA. I actually met with members of the Ministry of Youth Affairs of Kuwait whilst in NYC, at a conference for Kuwaiti students abroad. They asked me to submit a storyline for a short film that I had written, in the hopes that the Ministry may fund it. And they did, which was lovely.

    Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?

    Most definitely. I did an 8-week screenwriting course at NYFA. Before then, my comprehension of story structure and screenplays in general were terribly primitive. So much so that I had never been able to actually complete a screenplay before the course. The instructors and students also helped me with my biggest challenge whilst writing: making it more about showing the emotion than having the characters speak it.

    Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei

    Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei

    Have you screened this film elsewhere, or will you be in the future?

    This is the first official, public screening for the film. It is due to be screened at a few more soon, and then maybe into our local theaters here in Kuwait.

    What do you hope to achieve with this film?

    The most gratifying thing for me is when people watch films coming out of Kuwait and are proud that these are local productions. There’s definitely a stigma here, that all works of television or film are mainly social dramas that tend to highlight the negatives of society. We generally tend to sway away from the neutral let alone the uplifting. So I want this film to show that we have a diverse selection of work in the region, all representing different ideologies and mindsets. Representation is key.

    Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?

    I am. It is in the very early stages at the moment, but it is definitely a project that will be a lot more challenging than a short film, but all the more gratifying and fulfilling. Watch this space. And thank you for your time!

    March 20, 2017 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1286

  • NYFA Hour Chats with Acting for Film Instructor Ken Lerner

    New York Film Academy Acting for Film instructor Ken Lerner was the most recent guest on NYFA Hour. Lerner brought great advice from his acting class The Business of Acting and personal stories from his journey including shooting “Happy Days” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

    The New York Film Academy Hour is a weekly podcast hosted by Joelle Smith and Pegah Rad on The Popcorn Talk Network. A prestigious alumnus or highly touted faculty member gives a mini master class each week on their cinematic specialty.

    Lerner discussed comedic acting by highlighting moments from his career including playing the lawyer who is stabbed in the back in “Running Man” and the Snicker’s commercial for which he won an award.

    When asked about how he prepares for his roles Lerner had this to say:

    “When I was younger I did really a lot of research. I would call up hospitals if I was playing a doctor or a heroine addict. I even went to a friend who’s an obstetrician and watched. I asked cops if I could do a drive around. They said no, but I tried. I once played an army guy on Project X. I went out to the air force and watched the guys work. You pick up things. I did the research, that’s what I advise my students.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Lerner for coming on The Popcorn Talk Network to discuss his career. You can watch Lerner in episodes of “This is Us,” “Legion,” and “Feud: Betty & Joan.”

    March 17, 2017 • Acting, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 441

  • NYFA MFA Documentary Student’s “The Incursion” Featured on KTLA TV

    With over ten years of experience in both the communications and production industry in Jamaica, Sasha Gay Lewis set out to pursue documentary filmmaking by enrolling in the MFA Documentary program at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles. Lewis has directed, produced, filmed, edited and written a number of documentaries and commercials in Jamaica, Belize, and California.

    sasha on ktla

    Her most recent documentary, which was highlighted on KTLA TV in Los Angeles, is called “The Incursion.” The documentary is an immersive experience that chronicles the events of that deadly day, the emotional drama and personal trauma the residents’ endured and its lingering effects on their lives today.

    On May 24, 2010, a joint police/military operation called “Operation Garden Parish” and famously known as “The Incursion” was launched in Tivoli Gardens — a Jamaican inner-city community described as the ‘mother’ of all ghettoes — to capture the notorious and untouchable drug lord, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. This search climaxed in a deadly clash between the security forces, residents and supporters of Coke, resulting in over 150 civilian deaths. For many of these residents, Coke was a protector and provider. He gave them jobs, created social programs for the children, and took care of the elderly.

    “I was in Jamaica working as a journalist and a producer and at the time the facts about the raid didn’t add up for me,” Lewis. “The journalist in me prompted me to investigate further and the more I researched, the more I wanted to know. It is said that as a documentarian you pursue the things that makes you upset and / or curious about and this was it for me.”
    the incursion

    Still from the documentary “The Incursion.” The Incursion examines the 2010 government raid on an inner-city community in Jamaica that resulted in the death of 150 people.

    Additionally, the victims were being told that their experience was false and that they deserved what they got. Nobody deserves to experience such acts of injustice and violence. The fact that it was carried out by those whose job it is to serve and protect is asinine and a dereliction of duty.

    In 2016, an inquest into the operations of the security forces revealed that the events of May 2010 left enduring physical, psychological and emotional scars on the residents of Tivoli Gardens and that although the operation of the security forces was justified, the manner of its execution by the security forces was “disproportionate, unjustified and unjustifiable.”

    sasha gay lewis

    Director and Producer of the documentary film “The Incursion,” Sasha-Gay Lewis on location in Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica with subjects of her film.

    “I would not have been able to create this documentary without coming to NYFA,” said Lewis. “I was always a storyteller, but through courses such as directing and writing the documentary, I was able to strengthen my storytelling, directing, and producing skills. This was a documentary seven years in the making and being able to workshop it for an entire year made all the difference.”

    “We are living in a story driven world where stories connect and in many cases provide release and healing,” she added. “I am happy that through all the support afforded to me by the Documentary Department of NYFA, I am able to make my contribution even as I pursue my passion and what I believe to be my purpose. I could spend the rest of my life doing this.”

    “The Incursion” is in the final stages of post and will be complete by the end of March 2017. The trailer will be out the first week in April 2017, and it will start its festival run shortly after.

    March 16, 2017 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1919

  • NYFA Los Angeles Meets with “The Magicians” Creators

    The Creators of Syfy’s “The Magicians,” Sera Gamble and John McNamara visited the Los Angeles Campus of the New York Film Academy this past week to screen an early episode of their critically acclaimed hit show. Students from all departments were in attendance.

    the magicians

    The duo gave a lot of advice about working in a writer’s room. For example, the team was asked if they had a favorite character. They said picking a favorite would be impossible but they knew for whom they could write the best dialogue.

    Everyone in the writer’s room gravitates toward the character that best represents them. Though, McNamera said these feelings change from week to week. McNamera stated, “I think Sera really writes Quinten very well,” to which Sera responded, “You are Margot.”

    Casting “The Magicians” ranges from quite easy to challenging according to the show’s creators. “Hale Appleman was the only Eliot. I’m positive Jason Ralph was the only Quinten,” said McNamera. But according to Gamble, there was some back and forth with the studio. “We did have a little song and dance. He came in right away. Jason was on ‘Quantico,’ which is the project we worked on right before this. We already knew him. Everyone thought that guy was amazing.” But they wanted to keep auditioning people just in case. Eventually, they realized they had the right guy all along.

    the magicians

    One student asked about the process of adapting the book series “The Magicians” to TV. “The first thing you try to tease out is what is the conflict in the literary text. What if I took two characters in the book who’ve never met and I put them together? How does the conflict work now?” McNamera stated.

    Gamble echoed that thought stating, “It’s a very instinctual process. Every adaptation is different. There are things about this book that really lend it to a visual medium. The way the author describes the arduousness of using fingers for magic, we were able to interpret that really well.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ms. Gamble and Mr. McNamera for taking the time to speak with our students. You can watch “The Magicians” every Wednesday on Syfy.

    March 15, 2017 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 560