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  • MFA Acting Grad’s Award-Winning “Treintañera”

    tamara bunkerMFA Acting for Film alumna Tamara Bunker wrote, co-produced with NYFA alumna Adrenia Kemp, and acted in her New York Film Academy thesis film, “Treintañera.” Since completing the film, “Treintañera” has screened at several film festivals, having been crowned Best Comedy at the Official Latino Short Film Festival 2016, Best Student Film at the Los Angeles Movie Awards 2016, and Award of Merit Special Mention at the Latin/Hispanic – Best Shorts Competition. The film most recently screened at the Studio City Film Festival 2016.

    “I learned most of what I know about film at NYFA, in the classrooms, on set with filmmaking students, and doing production workshops,” said Bunker. “I had some amazing teachers who helped me find my voice as a writer and as an actress. They made me believe in my ideas; they supported them and helped me improve them.”

    The film is a short comedy about a young Mexican-American woman who lives with her Mexican Abuela (grandmother). She is torn between love and her career; she is soon to turn thirty, and is beginning to believe that there is something wrong with her because she hasn’t found a man she can relate to. She is persuaded by her Abuela to have a quinceañera party on her 30th birthday to help her find the man of her dreams – as both her grandmother and mother had done. On the same day, she gets offered her dream job.

    treinteraThe most challenging aspect of the production for Bunker was writing a relatable story that could be told in nine minutes, and creating empathetic characters.

    “I wanted to write about something I understood — women,” said Bunker in regards to writing the screenplay. “I was inspired by women in general. I was also inspired by what it means to be a young woman today — the social pressures that still exist, the barriers, the problems women have to face in order to reach their goals. I have friends who want to get married and have children, and some who don’t. I wanted to show that women have the choice to do whatever they want, and be whatever they want to be. All paths have to be acceptable and possible.”

    tamara bunker

    Bunker also wanted to express the importance of the family in Mexico, and the Mexican traditions. “I wanted to tell a funny story that would embrace these aspects of Mexican life, and would show how important they are both in Mexico as well as in many parts of the US,” she added. “The quinceañera party seemed to be a perfect setting to illustrate these varying facets.”

    Bunker is currently working on the feature of “Treintañera,” writing a horror web series, and directing a NYFA acting thesis film this month.

    November 3, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1747

  • Rose McGowan Talks Directing and Gender Inequality

    This Wednesday, the New York Film Academy welcomed “charming” actress and director Rose McGowan to its New York campus. Following the screening of her short film, “Dawn,” McGowan spoke candidly with NYFA Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby, as well as NYFA’s Short-term Filmmaking Chair, Jonathan Whittaker.

    rose mcgowan

    After literally being discovered on a street corner, McGowan made her film debut in the 1992 Pauly Shore comedy “Encino Man,” where she played a small role. Her performance as Amy Blue in the 1995 dark comedy film “The Doom Generation” brought her wider attention, and received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. McGowan then appeared in the 1996 hit horror film “Scream” and starred alongside Ben Affleck in the 1997 coming-of-age feature “Going All the Way.”

    Later, she appeared in several Hollywood films, including “Devil in the Flesh” (1998), “Jawbreaker” (1999), “Ready to Rumble” (2000), “Monkeybone” (2001) and “The Black Dahlia” (2006). In 2005, McGowan played Ann-Margret alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Elvis Presley in the CBS miniseries “Elvis.” In 2007, she starred in “Planet Terror,” part of the double-feature film directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, “Grindhouse.” The following year, she starred in the crime thriller film, “Fifty Dead Men Walking.”

    Since the age of five, McGowan has had a fondness for classic cinema. Realizing that her true passion lies in filmmaking, McGowan decided to pursue the craft of directing. “There were no directors that looked like me,” said McGowan. “The gypsy experience of [directing film] was appealing to me.”

    Her directorial debut short, “Dawn,” made its critically acclaimed world premiere at Sundance Film Festival. The film is a disturbing tale of a young girl’s budding sexuality and one’s desire to experience the unknown. Dawn, played by Tara Barr, is a quiet young teenager living in Kennedy-era America who longs for something or someone to free her from her sheltered life. When she strikes up an innocent flirtation with the boy who works at her local gas station (Reiley McClendon), she thinks that he is perhaps the answer to her teenage dreams. Though when she invites the boy and his friends into her otherwise cloistered world, she gets a lot more than she bargained for.

    “I definitely gained a sense of confidence as a director,” she said. “I learned I was wearing the pants that fit me for the first time.”

    McGowan says the film was partially inspired by the classic Robert Mitchum film, “The Night of the Hunter” while some of the aesthetics of her 1950’s period piece was influenced by the original 1960’s Disney film, “The Parent Trap.”

    rose mcgowan

    “A lot of filmmaking is to make the least amount of mistakes as possible,” said McGowan to room full of acting and filmmaking students. “A painter gives thought to each stroke, so why not you.”

    McGowan stressed the importance of actors and filmmakers to know and be confident in their worth.

    She warned young actors venturing into the field to be wary of being controlled by those in higher positions and encouraged those who are oppressed to speak out.

    She’s also incredibly devoted to empowering women in film and television, stressing the overall gender inequality in film.

    McGowan has many projects in the works, including a feature and a pilot for Amazon Studios. She’s also expressed interest in directing a “Dawn 2.0,” which she says will be shot using VR filmmaking.

    October 28, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 2765

  • NYFA Student Directed Play Series Presents “Dracula”

    It’s that time again. Halloween is around the corner and the New York Film Academy’s Student Directed Play Series is getting in the spirit of things. This week’s play is “Dracula.”

    dracula

    “Dracula,” famous for introducing the vampire Count of the same name, is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse. The battle between Dracula and a furious group of men and women, led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing, begins and no one is the same after.

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    Jonas Olsen, Fall 14 BFA, adapted the work for the stage. “I want to do something different, something that’ll make you laugh, cry and scream,” Olsen said. “Who better to help me with that than the epitome of evil, Dracula?”

    dracula cast

    Dracula will premiere in the Kaminski Theater on October 27th and 28th at 7:30PM and October 29th at 1:30PM.

    October 27, 2016 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 1296

  • NYFA Instructor Joe Burke Stars in Romantic Dramedy “Dependent’s Day”

    With gender equality being ever more present in today’s modern relationships, the upcoming film, “Dependent’s Day,” tackles this theme after the leading woman claims her boyfriend as a dependent on her tax returns. Directed by Michael David Lynch, the romantic dramedy stars New York Film Academy Los Angeles Directing instructor Joe Burke, along with actress Benita Robledo. Outside of his teaching, Burke has appeared on the critically acclaimed Showtime series “Ray Donovan,” as well as the popular Disney show “Dog With A Blog.”

    depedents day

    We decided to have a little chat with the actor, filmmaker, and NYFA instructor, to find out more about his upcoming film, which recently received a glowing review in the LA Times.

    Congrats on the film! How did this role come about for you?

    The role of Cam in “Dependent’s Day” came about through a mutual friend. Writer/Director Mike Lynch was preparing to make a new short film and was looking for a lead actor who would be perfect for his project; and our mutual friend Josh Staman (also in the movie) recommended me to Mike. At the time, Mike knew me more as a filmmaker, not as an actor, but still invited me in for a table read after Josh’s recommendation. So I met with Mike, and actor Benita Robledo, and we did a table read of the short film Mike had written. We ended up improvising on top of the short film script and exploring the material a bit (which was a lot of fun). After one thing led to another, Mike quickly decided this idea was not meant to be a short film, but something bigger.

    After exploring the idea of making a web series, we landed on going out and making a feature film two months later. I personally knew Mike Lynch before “Dependent’s Day,” and was actually an extra in his student thesis film yeas ago. But I think that’s a great story, and one I always share with my students, because you never know who you might meet in film school and later collaborate with down the road. And to go from being an extra in one project to the lead in the next (10 years later), just shows how much you need to trust the process and stick with it.

    Dependent’s Day Trailer from Michael Lynch on Vimeo.
    Can you tell us a little bit about your character and his role in “Dependent’s Day”?

    I play the role of Cam in “Dependent’s Day.” He’s our hero character that we follow through the film (as flawed at times as he may seem). But he’s a dreamer. And a guy going after his dreams in Hollywood. Something I can certainly relate to…we all can. And he struggles on finding the balance of how to both go after his dream while stepping up his game in his relationship with his girlfriend, Alice (played by Benita Robledo), who is the breadwinner of the relationship. Cam is a very sweet character with a big heart, and though he doesn’t always make the best decisions at times, he is certainly trying to do his best in life and figure it out. It’s a really hilarious and heartfelt role, and I had a blast playing it.

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    behind the scenes of “Dependent’s Day”

     

    You seem to have such a camaraderie with Benita in front of the camera? What’s the secret?

    Working with Benita Robledo was great. We hit it off early on at the table read and found a great rhythm for these two characters. I think the key to developing a great chemistry with your co-stars is to really allow yourself to dive deep into the world of the character. To really feel like you’re in the characters shoes and to be grounded in all your decisions. Even for a comedy like “Dependent’s Day,” we always wanted to play it ‘real and honest.’ And another big key factor is to truly listen. The art of ‘listening’ as an actor is super important. It keeps you on your toes and allows you to react naturally in the moment to what’s going on. I always say keep it authentic. Mike, Benita, and I had a really fun time bringing these characters to life.

    Do you consider yourself primarily a filmmaker or actor? Or both?

    I definitely consider myself both a filmmaker and an actor. I have been doing both since I was a young kid. I did focus a bit more on filmmaking in college, but I truly enjoy both so much that I wouldn’t be able to do just one. And on “Dependent’s Day,” I was still in a position to bring my filmmaker side to the project, collaborating closely with director Mike Lynch. I am co-producer on the film, and also had fun helping develop the story and edit the movie.

    HOUSE SITTING from Joe Burke on Vimeo.
    I write and direct a lot of my own films as well, and most recently I wrote/directed a new short film titled “House Sitting,” which I also starred in. So working behind the lens and in front of it at the same time was really an exciting challenge and something I look forward to doing a lot more of — as well as looking forward to more awesome opportunities to play great characters and collaborate with other talented filmmakers on their projects.

    Do you believe it’s important for young filmmakers to understand and perhaps get some hands-on experience as an actor?

    I think it’s so important for a young filmmaker to understand the process of acting. I think the more you understand acting, and have some experience being an actor, the better director you will be. Also, having directing experience will make you a stronger actor. It all goes hand-in-hand. But I think getting strong performances is the most important part of making a movie… and in order to really achieve that, you have to have a really strong grasp and understanding on what the process of acting is all about. You have to really know how to communicate well with your actors. I would encourage every young filmmaker to take a couple of acting classes and learn that side of it. It’s very valuable and will make you a much better director.

    So when can we see it?

    We put a lot of time and energy into making “Dependent’s Day” and we can’t wait for everyone to see it as soon as it releases on VOD October 18th.

    October 13, 2016 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1395

  • NYFA Student Stars in Iceland’s Oscar Nom for Best Foreign Film

    “Sparrows,” an Icelandic film that stars current New York Film Academy student Atli Oskar Fjalarsson, has been chosen by the Icelandic Film & TV Academy as Iceland’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the San Sebastian Film Festival.

    sparrows

    The dramatic film is a very delicate, anthropic coming of age story about a 16 year-old boy who is forced to move away from his mother in the comforts of the city, to a tiny secluded fishing village in the middle of nowhere. There he must live with his father and try to fit into a rugged society of skewed social norms.

    Ari is an innocent choir boy from the city. His life is turned upside down when he’s forced to leave his home and move to his father that he barely knows, in a place that he left behind a long time ago. It’s hard for him to find footing in this new environment where no one seems to understand or relate to him. Through a series of events, Ari is forced to grow up fast and make decisions that will shape his character forever.

    “Rúnar Rúnarsson, the director, is an old friend of mine,” said Fjalarsson. “We did a short together when I was 14 years-old called “Two Birds” that went on to become a critically acclaimed festival gem, and to this date is one of the most awarded shorts ever made.”
    A few years later, Fjalarsson reconnected with the director and the two began chatting about upcoming projects. It was at that time that Rúnarsson mentioned his film, “Sparrows,” which he was in the middle of casting for. At the time, Rúnarsson was having trouble filling some of the teenage roles.

    “A few months later I did a commercial with Rúnar’s wife, where I shaved my beard clean and cut my hair,” recalled Fjalarsson. “Then the idea first came to light. He called me in for a meeting and took some pictures. He sent the pictures to his producers in Denmark and that was it. I got the part.”
    Fjalarsson hopes the film will take people on a journey and show them a glimpse of a world that is unknown to them while still remaining completely relatable.
    In addition to “Sparrows,”Fjalarsson is currently signed on for two features that are in development; one of them is French and the other one is American.

    September 27, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2474

  • “Meet the Parents” Screening with Jon Abrahams

    New York Film Academy was proud to welcome actor, producer, and now, director Jon Abrahams to their Los Angeles campus. Students from both the high school and teen summer program were in attendance. The comedy classic, Meet the Parents, was screened after which Tova Laiter, producer of The Scarlet Letter and Varsity Blue, and Christopher Cass, Associate Chair for Acting for Film Studies, conducted an interview with Abrahams.

    jon abrahams

    Abrahams began his career when he was still in high school. He was discovered in Washington Square Park when filmmakers, Harmony Korine and Larry Clark, were casting their film Kids. Abrahams wasn’t their first choice. He was selected to play Steven after the first actor cast was arrested. Upon release, parents and school systems alike were outraged by the films’ perceived message, but Kids would later become a cult classic and the standard by which all gritty coming-of-age stories would be judged.

    From there Abrahams went on to star in films such as House of Wax, Scary Movie, Meet the Parents, Mourning Glory, and Hitchcock. He’s also had a long established career in television. Some of his roles include Jerry on Masters of the House, Zach Fischer on Boston Public, and guest appearances on Boston Legal, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, The Astronaut Wives Club, and The Mentalist.

    abrahams

    When asked about his preparation Abrahams described going to acting class like going to the gym. This work ethic was cultivated when he was still in high school. At his performing arts school, he would spend time after classes doing improvisational work with a teacher. The result, he was able to, “…better flex his (acting) muscle.”

    He’s a fierce student having not only studied with The Groundlings but also with famed acting coach Margie Haber.

    Abrahams revealed he’s recently taken a turn at directing. After being named the guardian of both his cousin’s children and his best friend’s children, Abrahams began thinking, “What if, god forbid, something should happen to both my cousin and best friend on the same day and I’m suddenly the guardian to three kids?” Abrahams, having grown up in Tribeca, still had some unresolved issues about 9/11 that he wanted to explore. His writing partner thought perhaps the two ideas could be combined to tell a story. They were able to secure an investor for their human-interest piece, a rare feat. They’ve just begun the festival application process and are hoping to sell the film later in the year.

    abrahams

    Next, it was time for the students to ask questions. Makayla, a student in the high school summer program asked, “What tips do you have for high school and college students wanting to get a start in the industry?”

    “My tip is do anything and everything that comes your way. I’ve always had a kind of blue-collar approach to acting. I like to work. I like to punch in and out.” He continues, “And no job is too small, for me. I love movies. I grew up watching movies all the time. I always will remember the guy who had one line in the movie, if they were really great. So, you know, don’t have an ego about it. Also, don’t hold it all so precious. Do something. Be bad at it. You’re going to do something else. You’re going to grow. No one is expecting you to be a high school actor be the most wonderful actor ever…”

    “Work really hard, but to come into it and be a perfectionist in the first gig, is silly. Look at it as you’re going to be working for your whole life. Do anything and everything. Student films, commercials, whatever. Work extra so you know how a set works. And then, stick around. I think Clint Eastwood said, ‘Don’t go to lunch. Stay around the crew during lunch. Figure out what they’re doing. Know what lens they’re using. Knowing these things is great. Just learn. Just be there to learn. The best schooling you can get is working.’”

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    Later another student inquired about how to get back up after one has performed poorly. Abrahams responded, “I once had someone refer to making a movie as boxing match. If you lost the second round you can come back tomorrow shoot and do another scene. That’s round three. You could win round three. You could win round four.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Jon Abrahams for his time. You can learn about Abrahams’ forthcoming film by clicking here.

    September 21, 2016 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2852

  • MFA Acting Alumna Wins Best Leading Actress at United International Film Festival

    JuliaMFA Acting for Film alumna Sabrina Percario wrote and starred in the short film, “Julia,” which has performed quite well at several film festivals. Thus far the film has screened at United International Film Festival, where Percario won Best Leading Actress; Los Angeles Cine Fest, where the film was nominated for Best Short Film and Best Original Song (also composed by Percario); Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, where the film won Jury Mention for Best Short Film; and the Glendale International Film Festival, where the film is in the running for Best Student Film.

    “Julia” is about a grieving woman, Sarah, who cannot dare to leave home and study abroad until her mom visits and encourages her to follow her life’s passion. From there, Sarah has to choose between her grief and her dreams.

    “I wanted to do a tribute to my mom, Olga ‘Julia’ Gomes Percario,” said Percario. “She always believed in me and doing this movie was my way to say how grateful I am for everything she taught me in life.”

    julia

    Sabrina Percario wins Best Actress at United International Film Festival

    Percario’s mother passed two years ago and her film provides her point of view of how she dealt with the tragedy.

    “Once I accepted that she was dead, I understood more about life and how she wanted me to pursue and live my dreams,” says Percario. “For me it was really hard to leave my family and move to another country and be in Los Angeles…alone. What I wanted to say with this movie was: it is important to grieve and to accept death, but once you do that you are free to live your life and to follow your dreams.”

    The film also provided Percario with a platform to improve her writing skills while also creating a character that best suits her acting abilities.

    “NYFA taught me different acting techniques and assisted me during the development of my thesis,” said Percario. “During my MFA at NYFA, I learned how to be present in the moment — to connect with the other actor and react in a genuine way, instead of anticipating the reaction.”

    Percario is currently working on her first feature film, which is inspired by “Julia.” The temporary title is: “Julia – My American-Brazilian Jewish Mother.” Percario and her team plan to start filming in the beginning of 2017.

    September 15, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1735

  • Filmmaking and Acting Workshops Held in Beijing and Shanghai

    This summer, the New York Film Academy held Filmmaking & Acting workshops in both Beijing and Shanghai, China. The workshops have drawn a growing number of international students who want to live and learn in China, where the entertainment industry is growing exponentially.

    Students were able to learn the various aspects of the filmmaking process, including writing, directing, acting, editing, and lighting a set.

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    “The instructors were quite helpful and always ready to help you with your specific project,” said Enna, a student who grew up in British Guiana. “It was great to have industry standard equipment to work with and bring our projects to life.”

    china workshop

    “I will definitely choose New York Film Academy,” added another student, Steven. “I think it’s very hands on, very practical; it will help me get started.”

    Many of the students had the same sentiment as the event was a tremendous success, with many attendees committed to pursuing their education further at the Academy.

    September 8, 2016 • Acting, Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Study Abroad • Views: 2446

  • NYFA Alumnus Directs Hillbilly-Horror “Tuftland”

    Roope Olenius, who graduated with his BFA in Acting for Film from the Los Angeles campus in 2013, is currently working on his directorial debut Kyrsyä – Tuftland, in Finland.

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    Kyrsyä-elokuvan kuvaukset.

    Honoring films like The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby, the Finnish film discusses current topics such as women’s rights, man’s relationship with nature and young people’s difficulty to find their way into the work life. The story revolves around a young textile student, who takes on a summer job at a secluded and totally self-sufficient town. The cast consists of upcoming actors like Veera W. Vilo, Saara Elina, Ari Savonen and Enni Ojutkangas who have become known as the faces of the new wave of Finnish genre movie with films like Bunny the Killer Thing and Backwood Madness.

    “In addition to the fact that the story discusses extremely important topics, it does it with a very raw and objective voice, which for me was very fascinating from the get-go,” said Olenius. “It was important for me to tell this exact story at this point of my life because it really allowed me to throw my questions into the film and at the same time transform myself into a better person. Even though the story is fictitious (and in ways goes over the top), it points out some mindsets and behavior patterns that currently take place in Western countries and especially in Finland, which for me was a way to connect with the story. The possibility to make a film that has the potential to challenge the audience to think about their own values and opinions in life, is, for me, the whole point of filmmaking.”

    roope

    Kyrsyä-elokuvan kuvaukset.

    Olenius, who has consistently worked as an actor in his home country after graduation, is also producing the film and responsible for the adapted screenplay, which is is based on an original play of the same name by Neea Viitamäki. Kyrsyä – Tuftland is currently in production and set to premiere in 2017.

    “My training at NYFA has helped me enormously in terms of understanding all aspects of filmmaking and how they play together in a film production,” said Olenius. “Even though I studied acting, thanks to the versatile program I attended, I already had a good understanding of filmmaking after graduation and, therefore, the potential to pursue the making of this film after working only few years in the industry. Studying acting for film in Los Angeles has given me resourceful tools to get cinematic and true performances out of the wonderful cast of this film, which I believe will really make this film extraordinary.”

     

    September 5, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3682

  • MFA Acting Alumna Featured in Video with “The Rock”

    ionna meliCan you smell what “The Rock” is cooking? Well, if you can’t, check out the new teaser video created by Studio71, which announces his new YouTube Channel. The video stars MFA Acting for Film alumna Ioanna Meli, and has now received over 1.5 million views.

    After submitting herself to a breakdown for the part, Meli received a call from one of the producers saying they watched her demo reel and wanted to know if she was interested in accepting the part. After a thorough explanation of the role from both the producers and the director, Meli was sold.

    “It’s the first time that I’ve been involved in a project that has reached hundreds of thousands of people within a few hours — and now over 1.5 million views,” said Meli. “I was surprised how fast the news spread across the world; articles started popping up right away, the video was being shared on social media by Dwayne Johnson and his fans, and I was getting messages from friends asking if ‘it was really me in that video The Rock shared on Instagram’! It was very exciting, and slightly overwhelming, I’m not going to lie.”

    The YouTube channel, which launched July 18, will feature Johnson’s own videos, a scripted action series, as well as highlight projects from his production company, Seven Bucks Productions.

    Meli also directed the film “A Little Part of You,” which received Best Short Film as well as Best Actress in a short film at New York City International Film Festival, Best Student Short at California International, and was well received in Madrid and Ioanna’s hometown of Athens, Greece.

    September 1, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4529