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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Holds Q&A with “Affairs of State” Director and Cast

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    On Monday, December 3rd, the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of Affairs of State followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, producer, Stephen Israel, and actors, David Corenswet and Nate Walker, moderated by NYFA Producing Chair, Roberta Colangelo. Affairs of State explores the extent to which one man is willing to take risks to progress his career in Washington D.C.

    Director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, is known for directing A Country Christmas Story (2013), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000). Producer, Stephen Israel, is a former VP of New Business Development at TBS, worked in strategic planning at Warner Brothers and spent four years as a management consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He is known for producing Blood, Sand and Gold (2017), G.B.F. (2013) and I Do (2012). Actor, David Corenswet, is a Julliard graduate known for his roles in House of Cards, The Tap and Elementary. Actor, Nate Walker, is known for his roles in Homeland, Bottom of the Barrel and The Maladjusted.

    Colangelo opened up the Q&A by inquiring about Bross’ inspiration for the film. Bross shared that he and Todd Cudworth, the film’s writer, were inspired by the ruthlessness of the “game” of politics; the original script, written in the early 2000s, was based on the tactics used by the Republican party to discredit President Bill Clinton– and the Democratic party as a whole– in the public eye in the late 90s. Bross said that Cudworth asked himself, “What if the Democrats got really ruthless, just matched the tactics of the Republicans who seemed to be pretty much willing to do whatever it [took]?” However, as America moved closer to the Trump presidency, the script evolved.

    Ultimately, Bross and Cudworth wanted to bring attention to the world of politics rather than make an argument about a specific political party as contemporary politics is so consumed by polarity. Producer Stephen Israel assisted with the blurring of the political binary in through the characterization of the protagonist’s boss, a political candidate named John Baines, “We took a lot of trouble to play…Baines’ politics down the middle,” said Israel, “We tried to make him a conservative who could appeal to liberals.”

    Colangelo noted that sex is used by the main character of the film, Michael Lawson, to gain power in the political sphere and asked how Bross navigated the sex scenes from a storytelling perspective. “I never like to shoot anything gratuitous,” said Bross, “Every scene in every movie should have a purpose…and this movie, ultimately to me, is about the exchange of power, sex for power.” Bross discussed how the sex scenes in which Michael is with Mrs. Baines, his boss’ wife, and the sex scenes in which Michael is with Darcy Baines, his boss’ daughter, were shot and edited differently to give different effects; Michael’s scenes with Mrs. Baines are focused on the exchange of sex for power whereas Michael’s scenes with Darcy are more romantic and idealized.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eric Bross, Stephen Israel, David Corenswet and Nate Walker for sharing their perspectives on storytelling and working in the entertainment industry with our students.

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    December 7, 2018 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 237

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Q&A with “The Goalkeeper” Director Rodrigo Patiño

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    On Thursday, November 29th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of The Goalkeeper followed by a Q&A with director, co-writer and former NYFA instructor, Rodrigo “Gory” Patiño, moderated by Marlene Dermer, co-founder and former director of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

    Patiño is a Bolivian actor, writer and director. He earned an MFA in Film and Television at Chapman University in California and later returned to Bolivia where he co-wrote and directed La Entrega, a 10-episode TV series about human trafficking. This series inspired the film, The Goalkeeper, which has now been chosen to represent Bolivia at the 2019 Academy Awards. Patiño’s most recent film is Pseudo, a political thriller about a taxi driver who steals the identity of a passenger who turns out to be a mercenary.

     

    Dermer opened up the Q&A by inquiring about the writing process for The Goalkeeper. Patiño shared that one of his co-writers, Camila Urioste, is a novelist who had done extensive research on human trafficking in Bolivia; she helped him create and write the series, La Entrega, which ultimately led to the production of The Goalkeeper. “Eight girls disappear every day…and that’s what’s reported.” said Patiño. Patiño added that he and his team interviewed a high-profile activist in Bolivia, a mother whose daughter went missing, and she shared a multitude of stories with them that helped to shape the film.

    Patiño and his team added a layer of complexity to the issue of human trafficking by forcing the main character of the The Goalkeeper, a father, to make extreme and tragic choices in the hope of paying for his sick son’s surgery; the father ultimately decides to sell a young girl into sex slavery in order to pay for his son’s surgery and he must deal with the consequences of his decision. “We [ask] the audience, ‘How far would you go to save your son or daughter?’” said Patiño, “We wanted to provoke a dialogue.”

    Dermer went on to ask the audience if they had any questions for Patiño; one audience member wanted to know how Patiño and his writing team navigated having the main character of the film, the father, make the disturbing decision to sell the girl to human traffickers as that could quickly turn the audience against his character. “We were conscious that this [was] an anti-hero story…but, believe it or not, we had some people that said, ‘Yeah, but he had to save his son!’…We wanted that dilemma.” said Patiño.

    Another audience member asked Patiño what his advice would be for aspiring filmmakers. “Write, write and write,” said Patiño, “because people are hungry for content.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Patiño for sharing his knowledge about the epidemic of human trafficking in Bolivia and his advice for young storytellers.

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    December 5, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 228

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Lujein Ashi

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    Lujein Ashi is a filmmaker, graphic designer, and storyteller who works for Saudi Arabia’s leading oil company, Saudi Aramco. In August, Lujein completed the 4-week Filmmaking workshop at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus after winning a scholarship with a 1-minute video. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) met up with Lujein to find out what her experience was like with the program, and what her plans for the future include.Lujein Ashi

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): So, how did your interest in coming here start? 

    Lujein Ashi (LA): I’ve always loved filmmaking stories since I was a child. I told stories to my sisters before we’d go to sleep, stuff I’d make up. I remember there was one moment that really stood out to me in my life. I went to watch Lord of the Rings in the cinema. I was with my friends. When we left everybody was so happy, but I felt sad. I didn’t understand it then. I understand it now. I felt like I was on the wrong side of the screen, like I was the one who was supposed to be giving people that feeling, not people giving that feeling to me. So, stories have always been a part of my life. 

    When it came time to choose what I wanted to study in college, I had to choose something that was practical. In the Gulf, we don’t have many opportunities for film, but then the New York Film Academy came to Bahrain to do a promo. I went and I just sat there and listened to [Dean of Enrollment Services] Tami Alexander do the presentation. She was really sweet. 

    I told her one day I’m going to come — hopefully, if it’s meant for me — and I signed up to their newsletter. I think it was like a month or two later, I get an email saying there was an opportunity for two scholarships for Saudi students. They want to encourage Saudi filmmakers because they’re opening cinemas in Saudi. 

    I saw the email late. I had two days to come up with my 1-minute video. I’ve never done a film before, but I knew I could write. So I wrote a script really fast and I did a very little video. I must have done something right, because she contacted me and told me I was one of the two students that got the scholarship. I was really, really happy. I cried hysterically.

    So I came here. It’s been a crazy four weeks. It’s just so amazing, the collaboration that you have with people… people that were strangers to me on Day One are like really close friends. There’s nothing like it, really. It’s everything I thought it would be, and even more.

    NYFA: Why did you choose the city of Los Angeles?

    LA: I think there’s no place better to learn filmmaking than in Los Angeles because it’s the hub of worldwide, excellent movies. It’s where the Hollywood industry is. Universal, Warner Brothers… all of these places, they’re all here. So there’s no place better to learn filmmaking.Lujein Ashi

    NYFA: What did you learn about filmmaking?

    LA: It’s all about story, that’s for sure. If your story is weak, then it doesn’t matter what you’re going to do. It’s not going to be something that touches people. Also technically the camera is your eye. You need to be one with the camera. You have to look through it, and if you don’t like what you see then you’re not going to like your movie. 

    I mean, it’s not like people can imagine what you meant, you know? So you have to be aware of the technical stuff. Which [at first] was very hard for me, because I’ve never touched a camera before, but Charlie did a really good job teaching us.

    NYFA: Is this something you want to continue doing? What’s your plan after this?

    LA: I found my heart here. I really did. It’s an amazing thing to find. People live their whole lives trying to find that thing they love. I think that’s the key to a happy life. I really feel like I found it here. I’m really going to try and do my master’s in this. Hopefully, then I could just do this for as long as I can. 

    NYFA: Do you see opportunities opening up in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain? 

    LA: Yes, for sure! Especially with the opening of cinemas, the government has been opening different entertainment entities trying to open things up to the people. I think there’s definitely going to be a demand for that. It’s going to be an exciting time for Saudi.

    NYFA: As Saudi opens up, is there a place there for you? Do you see yourself working there?

    Lujein AshiLA: I don’t know. I mean, sure, if there’s a place for me in Saudi to make great movies. I would love to. I mean, it’s my country. But to me, my geographic location was never something that was important. I’m very multicultural. My father is from Saudi, my mom’s from Lebanon, I lived in Baghdad, and I’m married to a Palestinian. I come from very different places, so I never felt like I belonged somewhere. Sometimes it’s a disadvantage, but sometimes it’s an advantage. Wherever you are, you feel like you can just connect with people because you’re from everywhere, basically. 

    So yeah, I mean, I could be — for example— in LA or in New York or anywhere with like-minded people, trying to do the same thing, just doing what we love; ultimately making somebody feel something. That’s why we go to the movies, right? Because we want to feel something! I could make somebody feel like Lord Of The Rings made me feel or Game of Thrones or any of these shows that have changed me so profoundly. It just amazes me how somebody could get that feeling out of you. It’s so satisfying. 

    NYFA: You mentioned two high-fantasy titles — is that kind of your thing?

    LA: I love fantasy, yeah. I mean, I love getting out of the real boring world and leaping into somebody’s imagination. That’s something out of this world! 

    NYFA: Why do you think stories are important?Lujein Ashi

    LA: I think they make people feel empathy for one another and understand each other on a level that maybe we don’t. In real life, there are a lot of issues that, when a film sheds light on them, could actually bring people closer together. You know, I think arts and filmmaking have the capacity to change people’s lives, to change societies and to open people up.

    Truthfully, it’s fundamental for our growth. It’s fundamental for us to connect and to see the point-of-view of other people. If I saw it from your perspective, which is what film lets you do, maybe I’ll be able to connect with you and understand you.

    The New York Film Academy wishes Lujein Ashi the best of success with her future endeavors, and hopes to see more of her amazing and beautiful stories in the near future!

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    December 5, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 200

  • Recent Success For New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.

    Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes. 

    In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.

    It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.

    Ben Cohen

    Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC

    Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.

    Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.” 

    Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”

    Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come! 

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses Wins Best Cinematography Award

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    Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses has won several awards for her various film projects since attending New York Film Academy (NYFA), and last October, she added another. At the 8th Annual International Film Festival Manhattan, Lineses earned the Best Cinematography Award for her music video, Atareek.Jameelah Rose Lineses

    The 2018 International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM 2018) opened on October 17 and ran until October 21, with its awards ceremony held on October 18 at the Philippine Consulate in New York City. Lineses screened Atareek at the Producers Club Theaters, just a few blocks from Times Square. Saudi Vice Consul of the Saudi Arabian Consulate, Mazin AlMouallimi, was in attendance at the event.

    Atareek is “a journey to the colorful streets of Old Balad” that explores “the beautiful history of the city’s rich culture and heritage.” It was the only film representing Saudi Arabia at this year’s festival, and was shot, directed, edited, and produced by Lineses, who was assisted by her mother throughout the shoot.  

    Lineses picked up a lot of the skills necessary for filmmaking, from pre-production through post-production, at the New York Film Academy, which she first attended in June 2011 when she enrolled in the 8-Week Filmmaking workshop. Two months after that, she deepened her studies and attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s New York City campus.

    Atareek was filmed in 2017 entirely in Jeddah during the Atareek festival and is the third production Lineses has made that features Historic Jeddah. Her previous films, Historic Jeddah and Our Journey to Hijaz, have garnered significant praise from multiple festivals in the last several years. 

    In addition to Atareek, Lineses worked on two other films that were Official Selections at IFFM 2018. She was Associate Producer on Reunion as well as Assistant Director, Editor, cast member, and one of the producers of Mindanao. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses on her film Atareek and her latest award win!  

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    November 30, 2018 • Cinematography, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 331

  • 1st Annual New York Film Academy Photo Alumni Portfolio Review

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    New York Film Academy’s Photography school recently launched its first annual New York Film Academy Photo Alumni Portfolio Review. This year, thirteen of our Photography alumni from around the world gathered at NYFA’S Los Angeles campus for an evening of food, feedback, and networking with top photo industry professionals. 

    NYFA Photography alumni prepared printed portfolios and came ready to discuss their work and post-graduation photo goals. Our esteemed reviewers included: Photo Agent Jen Jenkins from Giant Artists; Producer and creative consultant, Mara Serdans; and Patti Silverstein from Elemental PhotoArt. 

    The evening began with an informal discussion with the review committee. Graduates asked about industry standards for portfolio presentation as well as for insight about the next steps they could take to continue their career path. The reviewers also discussed each of their photography journeys.

    After the group discussion, both the alumni and reviewers sat down to a delicious Mediterranean meal, and had fun goofing off in our NYFA Photo Booth. The vibe was informal but also productive and rewarding. The evening concluded with each student meeting with a reviewer to get feedback on their personal portfolio projects. 

    1st Annual New York Film Academy Photo Alumni Portfolio Review“To be able to hear first hand about your work from people working in the photo industry is the best way to grow and learn as an artist,” says NYFA alum Tanya Gawdi. Gawdi is also the guest alumni editor of FAYN Issue #4. “It was a wonderful networking opportunity and it’s always amazing to be back at NYFA.”

    Patti Silverstein, one of the guest reviewers, was also pleased to be there, stating: “I was so happy to have been invited to participate in the NYFA Portfolio event! It was such a fun evening meeting and reviewing the work of a very talented and passionate group of photographers.”

    Silverstein continued, “The event was really well organized and relaxed, with just the right amount of time for socializing and for reviewing.” 

    The New York Film Academy thanks the guest reviewers for their valuable input and congratulates the Photography alumni on their fantastic work!

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    November 29, 2018 • Community Highlights, Photography • Views: 418

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Update – November 27, 2018

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    Lots happening at NYFA over the past couple of weeks, and away from NYFA too. The September 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop students graduated earlier this month. There they are below, along with instructors Daniel Hernandez and Evgenia Vlasova. The graduates come from (left to right) New York, Ukraine, New Orleans, Norway via London and Brazil. The instructors are originally from Mexico and Russia, although I believe they are now citizens of Brooklyn.

    The day after graduation, the 8-week and 1-year students got a behind the scenes tour of NBC News. Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC contributor as well as Chair of NYFA’s Veteran’s Advancement Program, showed them how a network news operation works. In the picture below, they are on the set on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
    Later they were on a “live” set, for an up-close and personal look at the production of AM Joy, withJoy Reid. Then they went to the control room where the program was being assembled, and sent out “live.”
    I think everyone found the tour fascinating, even though we weren’t able to visit the Saturday Night Live set. Apparently a number of the sets for that night’s show were still being built.
    Evgenia Vlasova made some news last week too. She was back home to Khabarovsk, in Russia’s Far East, to see her family for the holidays. And she was also back on-the-air, on the morning show that for many years she hosted and co-produced. Who says “you can never go home.”
    And as far as I know, Genia is the only person in the Russian Far East with a NYFA hoodie. But who knows, maybe she will recruit some potential students…
    Summer Session graduate Mariana Janjacomo has been busy as well. She writes: “Back in Brazil, I’ve been working as a freelance journalist for a lot of media companies… When I was in New York, I got to interview three Hollywood stars for the Capricho website, it is the biggest website for teenagers in Latin America. Lights and camera were already set-up, but it was very challenging to interview them in English. My questions were in the final version of the video too, so I’m glad I had to a chance to practice that kind of interview at NYFA.
    Among the stars she interviewed were Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, who are appearing in the film A Simple Favor.
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    November 28, 2018 • Broadcast Journalism • Views: 280

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Gonzalo Martin Stars in “Life is Strange 2”

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    gonzalo martinNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Gonzalo Martin might agree that “life is strange,” especially since he nabbed the lead role in Square Enix’s highly-anticipated video game, Life is Strange 2. Square Enix is the Japanese developer and publisher of wildly popular games Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Dragon Quest, among others. 

    The episodic graphic adventure video game, available on nearly all major platforms (including Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and macOS), is the sequel to the smash hit and critically-acclaimed Life is Strange, originally released in 2015. That title has sold over 3 million copies to date.

    The newest entry released its first episode in September 2018, with the last of five episodes set to come out in 2019. Life is Strange 2 was developed by Dontnod Entertainment (Vampyr, Twin Mirror) and has already been nominated for several gaming awards and won the Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Ping Awards.

    Life is Strange 2 tells the story of young brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz, who are on the run from the police. The game is a third-person story adventure, with dialogue trees and gaming decisions
    affecting the story and future episodes.

    Gonzalo Martin stars as lead protagonist Sean Diaz, who the player controls throughout the game. Martin is an Acting for Film alum from the New York Film Academy, having attended the AFA program in 2015, and has previously been a part of the Academy’s admissions team. At NYFA’s acting school, Martin was given both practical experience and a hands-on education to develop his skills as an actor, with training from a faculty of experienced actors currently working in the industry.

    Previous acting roles of Martin include BuzzFeed Murder Mystery Stories, and the films I’ll Be Next Door for Christmas and When It Rings.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Gonzalo Martin on landing the lead role in Square Enix’s Life is Strange 2! 

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    November 28, 2018 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 283

  • “One Night in Miami” Stars New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting Alum Kieron Anthony As Cassius Clay

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    Last October, One Night in Miami premiered as a new Miami New Drama production at Miami Beach’s Colony Theatre, starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting Alum Kieron Anthony as legendary fighter Cassius Clay.

    The play was written by Kemp Powers and staged by Miami native Carl Cofield, associate artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem. It imagines the events of February 25, 1964, after Clay had defeated Sonny Liston and won the World Heavyweight Crown. After the fight, Clay was joined at the Hampton House Motel Room by three other famous men of color — Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Malcolm X. 

    Kieron Anthony as Cassius Clay

    Leon Thomas III, Esau Pritchett and Jason Delane listen as Kieron Anthony’s Cassius Clay (standing on bed) recounts his victory over Sonny Liston in “One Night in Miami.” Photo by STIAN ROENNING

    While only the surviving member of the foursome, Jim Brown, knows what the men really discussed that night, One Night in Miami postulates what could have been happened when four such prominent personalities are confined in a small room after such an incredible evening. The play, which takes place during Segregation, also incorporates important themes of race and religion in the 1960s.

    Kieron Anthony plays the pivotal role of Cassius Clay, who the day after the night depicted in the play would announce his conversion to the Nation of Islam. He would change his name and be known by for the rest of his life as Muhammad Ali. Of his performance, Christine Dolen wrote in the Miami Herald that Anthony “conveys the young champ’s joyous confidence as he reenacts moments of his life-changing fight for his famous friends. He dials up the rhetoric and swagger when he goes outside to speak with the reporters who finally track him down, but with his friends he’s willing to show he’s still grappling with embracing and declaring his faith.”

    Anthony graduated from New York Film Academy South Beach’s 1-year acting conservatory in 2015. As part of an extremely diverse student body with classmates from around the world, Anthony received an educational experience unique from other acting schools in Florida, focusing on hands-on experience from faculty members currently working in the Miami acting scene.

    Yves Arispe, NYFA South Beach’s Director of Housing and Student Services, called Anthony’s performance “natural, believable, relatable as he delivered on every beat,” and that, “Kieron’s performance makes NYFA South Beach proud!”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting alum Kieron Anthony on his stellar performance as Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami!

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    November 27, 2018 • Academic Programs, Acting, South Beach, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 351

  • Q&A With New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Claudio Casale

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    Claudio Casale is a busy filmmaker, but recently he found the time to speak with New York Film Academy (NYFA). It was here that he attended our 8-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2017, where he quickly added an arsenal of skills to his already impressive filmmaking prowess.

    “Claudio was one of those students a teacher is so happy to have in the class,” tells his NYFA directing instructor, Thomas Barnes, continuing, “brilliant, passionate, original, and supportive of his colleagues.” 

    Claudio has been incredibly productive since finishing the Filmmaking workshop, working on all sorts of different projects—short films, feature films, narratives, documentaries. In the summer of 2018, he achieved a career highlight when his documentary My Tyson won the MigArti Best Documentary Award at the Venice International Film Festival.

    Claudio Casale

    Claudio Casale

    Claudio spoke with NYFA about that film and win, as well as filmmaking in general, working in documentary, and what lies ahead for him:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy? 

    Claudio Casale (CC): I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. I graduated in Business Management, and at 22 I took two years abroad, mainly in India and Southeast Asia, where I started filmmaking constantly. Many shorts later, NYFA was the first proper education I received on filmmaking. I was mostly self-taught and I joined the 8-week program to gain experience on set dynamics and directing actors. 

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film My Tyson? 

    CC: My Tyson is a 15-minute short doc on Alaoma Tyson, an Italian teenager born in Italy from Nigerian parents. Today, at 18 years old, Tyson is the Italian boxing champion in the youth heavyweight category. Patience, his mother, sews traditional clothes for the Nigerian community in the Roman suburb they live in.

    As Tyson trains for his next match, Patience tells him the story of their family, revealing ancient rituals, financial struggles, and a severe migration experience. 

    My Tyson premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival where it won the MigrArti Best Documentary Award. 

    NYFA: What inspired you to make My Tyson? 

    CC: Migration is an issue worldwide, from the US all the way to Australia. In Europe, Italy is the first port of arrival for the majority of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Maghreb. As many filmmakers of my generation, I felt the need to take a stand on this issue, by offering to the audience a perspective that might get lost in the news cycle. Observation and research was key, as I had to find the story – and therefore my inspiration – on the field: I spent five months with Alaoma Tyson and his family before shooting a single frame. 

    NYFA: How did you get your film involved with MigrArti? 

    CC: MigrArti is a yearly call made by the Minister of Culture in Italy (MiBAC). The production working with me on My Tyson had to submit a detailed dossier for our project. MigrArti can be very competitive, and I was honoured that our project was among the selected ones. Watching our short doc premiere during the 75th Venice International Film Festival was really emotional, and I feel grateful that the Jury awarded My Tyson as MigrArti Best Documentary. 

    NYFA: What are your plans for My Tyson after Venice? 

    CC: We are sending out My Tyson to festivals, as that’s a great way to receive professional feedback and connect with fellow filmmakers. I would be delighted to personally attend international festivals as well, so to see by myself how different audiences relate to the story.

    On the other hand, in Italy we are planning screenings solely for migrants, thanks to the cooperation of NGOs such as ARCI Solidarietà Onlus. Bringing cinema to places where it usually hasn’t belonged, like migration centres and public schools, is a duty as well as a chance to test the impact our little film may have on people we can’t reach with a traditional theatrical run. 

    Then, at the end of the festival distribution, at least in Italy we are working to have a selected theatrical distribution, likely paired with a feature documentary. 

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? 

    CC: In September, I was in Sicily to direct a narrative short film in 35mm, Inshallah, about to enter post-production. Also, I have a feature documentary in creative and financial development, in which I will invest most of my time this year. It’s a project I am very attached to and I can’t wait to get myself on set to shoot it. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on My Tyson, or your work in general? 

    CC: Among the lessons I received at NYFA, two came particularly handy in this project. First, as director you have got to leave the camera to the operator! As many native-digital filmmakers, I also grew very attached to the camera body (I was my own operator on my first shorts). It wasn’t necessarily easy to delegate that, as it is an act of trust toward the operator, especially on a documentary where things happen out of script and must be captured instinctively. 

    But at NYFA, I learned to do just that: trusting the crew I work with and delegating everything that may distract me from the scene. In some projects I would still be my own operator of course, but thanks to NYFA I could recognize that My Tyson wasn’t one of those cases. 

    Second: directing actors! I find the method taught at NYFA to be extremely effective. Honestly, that module alone was worth the whole course for me. With time, I changed it a little to adapt it to documentaries, where you don’t direct actors but subjects, so the relationship is more subtle and the non-actors’ spontaneity is the first priority and must always be protected. I believe that directing actors and non-actors is what ultimately makes a director great, and that’s something hard to learn without seeing some experts at work, either by joining a school or by being on set as 1st or 2nd AD. 

    NYFA: Do you prefer working in narrative or documentary filmmaking? 

    CC: When I started shooting, I had only narrative filmmaking in mind, and frankly I still look forward to direct a feature narrative one day. Documentary happened by chance, yet for the moment I found my little niche here. 

    As for today, I certainly prefer working on documentary filmmaking for a variety of reasons: first, it’s cheaper, so development and pre-production are generally quicker compared with narrative. Second, you can easily practice rhythm and pace with a running time of 52 minutes or longer, a key area of learning for any aspiring director. Last but not least, documentary today is wide open to visual experimentation, an ideal condition for me. 

    NYFA: What differences or similarities do you find between narrative and documentary filmmaking? My Tyson

    CC: Comparing short films only, in my opinion the key advantage of documentary filmmaking is the level of experimentation it allows. I honestly find narrative short films too rigid sometime, as nowadays the pressure to deliver the highest possible production value risks to overpass the focus aspiring directors should be putting into the storytelling. 

    After all, short films are the only tool we have to discover who we really are as visual storytellers. The similarities between narrative and documentary filmmaking are more than one could tend to believe: year after year, more documentaries are shot with a real cinematic language in mind. And I believe that’s one of the reason behind today’s boom of documentaries: many narrative storytellers are getting into documentary, shaping it with their own tools. 

    On the other hand, generally speaking, narrative filmmaking may allow for a wider freedom of expression, especially if you get to write and direct your own script. In conclusion, I would suggest students to be open to both forms, as for different reasons they are equally important in the early stage of a filmmaker’s career. 

    NYFA: What other advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA? 

    CC: If you are a total newbie on filmmaking, be ready to run and absorb everything you’re told. Raise your hand and ask your classmates for help, as at the end of the day, it’s all about the teamwork. 

    While If you have some filmmaking experience already, as I did, be ready to put everything you know aside. Don’t let your previous knowledge block you from learning further. Be open and receptive, and you will take something new and essential with you every day. 

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

    CC: No questions about the Deli down in Battery Park? I must admit, sometimes I miss that sushi! 🙂 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Claudio Casale for his time and thoughtful answers, and looks forward to seeing what inspiring films he comes out with next. We sincerely hope he comes back to New York for a visit sometime and has some sushi from the Deli downstairs! 

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    November 26, 2018 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 383