• Ken Lerner’s “Friends” Reunion on ‘The People Vs O.J. Simpson’

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    David Schwimmer and Ken Lerner in the premiere of ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” (FX)

    If you’ve been watching FX’s popular new mini-series The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, you may have referenced another 90’s moment outside from the infamous Simpson murder trial. If not, what you TV buffs should have noticed is New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film instructor Ken Lerner reuniting with David Schwimmer—both appeared on a Season 9 episode of Friends titled “The One With the Soap Opera Party.” Ironically, Lerner plays attorney Howard Weitzman, who is ultimately replaced by attorney Robert Kardashian, played by Schwimmer.

    Coincidentally enough, Lerner guest-starred in the one-off “Friends” role as a professor who traps Ross (Schwimmer) and then love interest Charlie (Aisha Tyler) in a less than enthusiastic conversation. Not to worry, Lerner is merely showing off his acting chops here—he’s actually a captivating teacher at the Academy.

    Kudos to Mr. Lerner, who will also soon be appearing in the Mike Judge, HBO series Silicon Valley.

    February 11, 2016 • Acting, Entertainment News • Views: 1553

  • NYFA’s Industry Lab Teams up with Mattew Modine, Tisha Campbell and Others

    The New York Film Academy’s Industry Lab is a student­ run production entity supervised by NYFA faculty. The Lab serves as a professional starting point for its student members, providing real world experience while preparing them for life after graduation.

    Over the past year, Lab members have produced professional projects for multiple companies, including Warner Bros., Red Light Management, and The Young Storyteller’s Foundation.

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    Recently, the Industry Lab had the opportunity to work on several exciting projects with industry professionals. Here is a breakdown of what they’ve accomplished:

    Short Film with Actor Matthew Modine

    Members of NYFA Industry Lab had the opportunity to work with Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises), who directed his latest short film, Super Sex, starring Ed Asner (Disney’s Up!, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Kevin Nealon (Weeds, Saturday Night Live), and Elizabeth Perkins (Miracle on 34th Street, Weeds), along with Ruby Modine (Plastic Jesus, Merry Xmas) and Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite, The Alamo).

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    Matthew Modine and Kevin Nealon

    Director of Photography, Julio Macat (Home Alone, Pitch Perfect, Miracle on 34th Street) interacted closely with all the Industry Lab members giving them an opportunity to talk about working in the industry.

    Working alongside seasoned professionals as key crew members such as: Mara Topic who worked closely as associate producer with producer Joe Toronto (Howl, Classless, Engagement), Joann Wong who worked as set decorator with production designer Danielle King, and Allyson Manno who filmed behind-the-scenes footage alongside Frank Masi (The Hangover, Troy, Armageddon).

    The members of the Industry Lab were treated as professionals while still having the opportunity to gain close insight and experience from both crew and cast.

    Tisha Campbell Music Video “Steel Here

    The video was directed by Viktorija Pashuta, who is considered one of the foremost fashion music video directors in the country. Shot in a Los Angeles warehouse in one day, Industry Lab members were given an insider’s look at how music videos are produced on a professional level.

    “Tisha was great to work with, and really cared about her crew,” said NYFA Instructor Craig Ross, Jr.

    Other key crew members included:

    • Samuel McKnight – Director’s Assistant
    • Keline Kanoui – Assistant Producer
    • Giulia Governo – 2nd AC
    • Badr Farha – Assistant to the Production Designer
    • Kraig Dane – Best Boy Electric

    “Fierce” Social Content for Music Artist Chenelle

    Lab members created content for music artist Che’Nelle’s Youtube channel for her song “Fierce.” In it she tells us why she’s “fierce” and wants to know why other people might think that about themselves. The video is a street interview session shot outside the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, in which people are asked, “What makes you fierce?”

    Industry Lab member Ferid Hasbun was chosen by the client (Sara Olea, Che’Nelle’s manager) to direct from a treatment that he wrote for the project.


    Other Industry Lab members on the project included:

    • Mara Topic
    • Yiqing Yong
    • Valeria Costa
    • Li Yang

    “When Red is White”

    This short film, which is entirely in Portuguese, was shot in two days at a very old home in Los Angeles. The story is about two people making love for the first time since they’ve been struck with blindness. Thalia Ayala Shares, a huge star in her home country of Brazil, plays the lead in this short film, which was produced by NYFA students and alumni—the crew was made up of our Industry Lab members.

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    • Aditya Patwardhan – Director
    • Helena Sardinha -1st AD
    • Anup Kulkarni – DP
    • Joanne Wong – Grip

    Overall, the New York Film Academy Industry Lab continues to help students and recent alumni hone their skills while beefing up their portfolio with pertinent credits. We look forward to many more challenging projects in 2016!

    February 10, 2016 • Acting • Views: 1321

  • Sanzhar Madiyev Stars in Russia’s Highly Anticipated ‘Zaschitniki’

    In 2011 “Kazakhfilm” studio sent a group of young filmmakers to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles for a 4-week Filmmaking Workshop. Among them was an aspiring actor and director named Sanzhar Madiyev. Now, Madiyev stars in the neo-noir superhero film Zaschitniki (Guardians) directed by Sarik Andreasyan. The film was listed in the Top-20 most anticipated Russian movies in 2016.

    “I liked the enthusiasm and the atmosphere at NYFA, so in one year I decided to come back and take the 8-week Acting for Film Workshop,” said Madiyev.


    Since then, he has developed a very impressive acting career in both film and television, including Khod Konem (Armenia/Kazakhstan) directed by Gor Kirakosian, The Way Home (Kazakhstan) directed by Rashid Suleimenov, the TV series Marco Polo (USA), Hunting the Phantom (Kazakhstan) directed by Marina Kunarova, Amanat (Kazakhstan) directed by Satybaldy Narymbetov and, most recently, Married at 30 (Kazakhstan) directed New York Film Academy alum Askar Bissembin and Zaschitniki (Russia) directed by Sarik Andreasyan.

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    Madiyev initially found out about the open casting from his friend and decided to submit photos and resume. For the second round he was asked to tape and send a scene. After that he was contacted by the production office and invited to Moscow for a meeting with director and producer. This personal meeting resulted in him being cast as the lead character Khan. Khan (Windman) is a member of the group of superheroes altering and augmenting the DNA in order to defend the homeland from supernatural danger during the Cold War.

    On working with Sarik Andreasyan, Sanzhar Madiyev said: “This is a case when the work becomes the pleasure and leads into a friendship. I like his directing style—he is very calm and unruffled, and it gives strength, especially during heavy scenes.“

    Sanzhar Madiyev also directs music videos and short movies when he has a break between acting projects. In the future, he would like to direct his own feature but he believes that there is the right time for everything. He is grateful for the useful advice he has received from the talented professional NYFA instructors: David M. Wexler, George Russo, George McGrath and Bruce Ducat, who he still keeps in contact with.

    The New York Film Academy is very proud of Sanzhar Madiyev, and we look forward to seeing him on the silver screen!

    February 4, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2270

  • NYFA Students Launch Web Series Tackling US-Arab Racial Conflicts

    aymenAlArabiya, the largest and most respected Middle Eastern news outlet, has given a huge boost to the social media efforts of a group of New York Film Academy students who have teamed up to create the thought-provoking web series, SargoWithin one week of airing on YouTube, the series trailer reached over 100,000 views and interest continues to grow.

    Filmmaker Aymen Khoja (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaker) has written and directed the web series about a young Saudi guy who is kidnapped by two dim but dangerous men. The audience must ponder: ‘Will he be able to find his way to freedom or arrive home in a box?’

    The series tackles relevant topics such as U.S. and Arab racial bias and racial profiling.

    Khoja, in development at NYFA for his first feature film, Shoot, has assembled a team of currently enrolled NYFA students for the series. Working both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, NYFA students are:

    • Creator, writer/director AYMEN KHOJA (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaking)
    • Producers MUHAMMAD ALAWI (Fall ’15 BFA Producing) and ALMOTAZ ALJEFRI (January ’13 BFA Filmmaking)
    • Actors MAAN BIN ABDULRAHMAN (January ’13 BFA Filmmaking) and JUSTIN LIGHTFOOT (May ’14 BFA Acting)
    • Social media TALHA BIN ABDULRAHMAN (September ’13 BFA Filmmaking)

    The AlArabiya interview can be viewed below:

    Congratulations, NYFA students on your outstanding collaborative effort!

    February 3, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1554

  • Eka Darville: From Down Under to Hell’s Kitchen

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    Eka Darville

    As an Australian actor on the up and up, Eka Darville’s career has certainly progressed from the days of the Australian TV series Blue Water High. Eka currently appears as Malcolm Ducasse in Netflix’s smash hit Jessica Jones, which is based off the Marvel comic series.

    Recently, Darville visited the New York Film Academy Sydney campus to discuss with some of his fellow Aussies the finer points of a career in the United States. Topics such as the difference between a manager and an agent were explored, as well as the importance of securing a good publicist (and what they actually do).

    Having worked with some of Hollywood’s heavyweights, such as Krysten Ritter, Rachel Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Stephen Lang and Terrance Howard, perhaps the most important insight that Darville shared was the work ethic required to “make it.”

    A number of questions about working on shows such as Vampire Diaries, Steven Speilberg’s Terra Nova, Spartacus and Power Rangers were also answered, allowing students insight into their favorite TV shows.

    At the end of the session, Darville was kind enough to take some photos with the Q&A guests. The New York Film Academy would like to thank him for his generous donation of time.

    January 25, 2016 • Acting, Entertainment Australia, Guest Speakers • Views: 1234

  • NYFA Screens ‘Jack of the Red Hearts’ with Director and Cast

    As a champion behind women and diversity in film, the Bentonville Film Festival, founded by actress Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater, crowned the film Jack of the Red Hearts with its first “Jury Award.” The independent film was written, directed, shot and produced by women—something the festival and the New York Film Academy have been advocates for.

    As such, NYFA Battery Place hosted a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with director Janet Grillo, as well as actors Scott Cohen and Taylor Richardson. The discussion was moderated by NYFA Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby and Short-term Filmmaking Chair, Jonathan Whittaker.

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    Jonathan Whittaker, Glynis Rigsby, Taylor Richardson, Scott Cohen and Janet Grillo

    In the film, up and coming star AnnaSophia Robb portrays “Jack,” a tough teenage runaway on the lam from her parole officer. The conniving street kid brazenly impersonates a trained caregiver and forms a unique bond with an 11 year-old autistic girl named Glory, brilliantly played by newcomer and guest Taylor Richardson, who played Annie on Broadway. The child’s desperate mother Kay (Famke Janssen) bonds with the young impostor as a surrogate daughter she can actually converse with. When the deception is exposed and the cops descend, loving father Mark, played by our guest Scott Cohen, struggles to hold his family together as the pieces of this puzzle are reshuffled into a new, satisfying whole.

    “As the mother of a child on the Autism Spectrum, I well know the challenge to ‘change the things I can,’ while struggling to ‘accept what I cannot.,'” says Grillo. “The passionate fight for your child’s fullest life can deplete your own life into a hollow shell. When we meet Kay, the mother in Jack of the Red Hearts, she’s at the precipice of losing all she is, as she fights for her child to become all she can. Meanwhile, Jack, who has known nothing but loss, is fighting to hold onto the only thing she has left—her sister. What they don’t know, but soon discover, is how much they need—and help one another. Their unpredictable bond is at the core of this film. As they come to identify with each other, we identify with them. And grow our hearts a bit larger.”

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    Janet Grillo

    Director and guest speaker, Janet Grillo came onto the project after being pursued for the director role by producer Lucy Muckerjee-Brown due to her film Fly Away, which also focuses on autism. Grillo recalls reading and loving the script on June 23rd and two years later, to the day, she was filming what she read.

    When it comes to working on set, Grillo says, “If you’re very prepared, you have the freedom to be flexible.”

    “It really helped that the movie was filmed chronologically,” added Richardson. “I was able to understand the progression of my character.”

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    Taylor Richardson and Scott Cohen

    As for the father in the film—played by actor Scott Cohen, who can be seen in Showtime’s new series Billions—he too found the story to be a bit personal, having dealt with some of the challenges of autism in his own life. “I feel blessed to be able to use my own history in bringing the character to life, and also learning things that I didn’t know.”

    As our moderators and students would agree, there are numerous stand-out performances in this award-winning indie film. If you’re looking for a movie of substance, without the need for violence or explosions, be sure to check out Jack of the Red Hearts in theaters on February 26th!

    January 22, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1943

  • Nika Nova: From Russia with Love for the Arts

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    Nika Nova at NYFA Los Angeles

    With over 100,000 social media followers and close to 7 million views on her Youtube channel, the former New York Film Academy Summer Camp student Nika Khargiyanova from Moscow, Russia is better known under her singer/songwriter, model and popular video blogger pseudonym Nika Nova.

    From a very young age, Nika excelled in almost everything she participated in: ballet, modeling, singing, dancing, and acting in theatre productions. After winning several beauty pageants and talent competitions, her first major accomplishment was when she was voted the Grand Prix winner in the prestigious “Young Pearl of Europe & Asia” competition. Soon after, she was voted “Miss International” and the winner of the coveted “Miss Fashion Of The World,” where she was crowned by famous designer, Pierre Cardin. At the age of 11, Nika became fascinated with video blogging, which was beginning to become very popular with young people across Russia. Utilizing Youtube, she created and produced her own talk shows called “What’s Up, Stars?” and “What’s Up, Teens?”—a spin on American talk shows.

    As creator, producer, writer, editor and host of the show, Nika would interview famous Russian artists and actors. It didn’t take long until Russian teens found the Youtube channel, making it a major hit.

    Soon after, in the summer of 2013, Nika traveled to Los Angeles to study Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. There she focused on creating and producing film while studying at the world-famous Universal Studios. After her training at NYFA, her newly created “What’s Up, Stars?” grew enormously popular all over the Internet. In 2014 “What’s up, Stars?!” was officially accredited by the main television channel of Russia, “First Channel,” which produces such well known shows as “The Voice” and “Voice Kids.”

    In the summer of 2015, Nika returned to NYFA to study Music Video Production and Acting for Film.

    Today, Nika works with songwriters and producers from all over the world, including Russia, USA, Australia and the UK. At the same time, fashion Moscow magazine OOPS did a spread on Nika for their October, 2014 issue.

    Nika has exploded into the music scene and there is nothing standing in her way. Recently, she took part in Grammy Award-winning composer Laura Sullivan’s project called “900 Voices.” She sings both Russian and English, and she is on a mission to be the first Russian female recording artist ever to break through the competitive Western music market. At the moment, more than 200 radio stations play her music, but her dream and major focus is to not only break into music, but television and film as well.

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    Nika Nova on Hollywood Blvd.

    Despite her busy schedule, NYFA recently had the opportunity to catch up with the former summer camp student to ask her a few questions about her blossoming career.

    We know you must be very busy with your singing/songwriting, modeling and video blogging. Can you tell us a little more about the projects you are currently working on?

    Yes, I am always working on something creative. I am interested in everything that is related to music videos, vlogs, songs, videos, and, of course, my program “What’s up, Stars?”

    We know you have a very large fan base. How do you manage your time to work, study and also stay connected with your followers?

    Since I can remember, I have always lived like this. But this year is pretty complicated for me, because I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for college. But I can’t stop to writing songs, shooting videos and communicating with my subscribers. They are watching my work and can see how much time I spend editing my videos and writing my songs. And I’m so glad that my followers are understanding in the fact that I can’t always respond in time, even though I try. They are always with me and supporting me.

    What made you decide to study at NYFA?

    At age 11, I started to get involved in video blogging. I wrote scripts, filmed on my unprofessional camera, and I had to master the editing program Final Cut Pro. I’ve got thousands of subscribers and I really like to create my own videos, but I don’t have enough professional training. My dream was to go to NYFA. When my parents saw my passion in filmmaking, they supported me; and when I was 14 years old, they realized my dream and I went to New York Film Academy. It was hard to believe, but it happened!

    You attended a few of our programs. Did you have a favorite and why?

    After completing my first course, the quality of my projects improved greatly. I began to position myself not only as video blogger, but also as a singer. I began to try to shoot and edit my own music videos.

    Some of which won “Academia Music Awards” (LA) as a singer and as a video producer .

    So, in 2015, I went back to study Music Video Production and Acting for Film.

    It’s difficult to choose which program I like more, because I’m interested in everything. Each course has its own specifics.

    What was most memorable about your time here at NYFA?

    Of course, it was amazing to film and to be filmed at the world-famous Universal Studios! This was an amazing opportunity because you feel like you’re part of the Hollywood film industry—the world’s best!

    Students have the unique chance to shoot their projects on a studio where major blockbusters have been filmed.

    Also, I like to communicate with students from different parts of the world, and now I have a lot of friends from all over the world and we still communicate today!

    During your time here, what was one of the most valuable things you learned?

    I learned that creativity can bring people together despite differences in religion, politics or even nationality.

    How have you used your new skills to help you with the projects you are currently working on?

    Practical projects taught me a lot. During the courses, I had an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a director and an actor in castings and on set. Now I’m more confident in my videos than I had been in the past, but I would still like to learn more and more!

    Would you recommend any of your programs to others interested in attending and why?

    Yes, I’d recommend NYFA for sure! In any creative profession it is very important to practice. NYFA gives you this opportunity, and any student can realize his or her most ambitious projects!

    And most importantly, at NYFA you can learn any of the major creative professions related to film, television, digital technology and media space.

    From conception to full realization, with a modern technical base, we have the opportunity to attend master classes of the most famous (and Oscar-winning) actors and directors.

    What do you have planned for yourself in 2016?

    One of my latest projects was a music video for the Russian song “Набери,” which I produced. I shot this together with friends but took an active part in the assembly of the project, as well as generating ideas. Now I’m preparing another song, in which I wrote the music for, and I’m already thinking about a script for a new movie. I plan to work on some new projects with “What’s up, Stars?” and release my music album “With Love from Moscow.” And finally, I hope to have an opportunity to return to NYFA once again.

    Any advice you can give to teens looking to grow their career in the performing arts?

    Believe and fight for your dreams! And never ever give up.

    January 21, 2016 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2421

  • Prolific TV Director Mary Lou Belli Brings Her Acclaimed Sitcom Workshop to NYFA

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    New York Film Academy students received a special treat when Emmy award-winning TV director Mary Lou Belli taught her acclaimed sitcom directing and acting workshop at the school. Mary Lou has been directing television for over 20 years and the shows she’s worked on include NCIS New OrleansMonkHart of DixieWizards of Waverly PlaceSister SisterCharles in ChargeGirlfriends, and The Game, to name a few. She has co-authored three books, “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” “Acting for Young Actors,” and “Directors Tell the Story,” with fellow DGA member Bethany Rooney.

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    The theater was packed with filmmaking and acting students thrilled to learn more about the art of sitcom. Mary Lou first lectured, sharing crucial sitcom concepts and vocabulary, and then brought groups of volunteering students to the stage where she paired them off to run classic sitcom scenes. Mary Lou critiqued the students’ performances using the concepts and vocabulary she taught them, and had them run the scenes again and again until they perfectly popped like any comic gem you’d see on television. She also cycled in and out filmmaking students to shadow her as director and jump in with their own scene critique and reworking when called upon. The energy in the room was high and students raced to the stage to be the next to participate. The audience cheered and burst out in laughter at every scene iteration.

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    NYFA students were also happy to discover that the curriculum and experience that they received is very close to what they saw from a world-class sitcom director.

    We sincerely thank Mary Lou Belli for imparting her wisdom on to us and look forward to the next wonderful TV show she directs!

    January 18, 2016 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 1026

  • NYFA Welcomes ‘Bread and Butter’ Director Liz Manashil

    Liz Manashil

    Recently, the New York Film Academy welcomed Liz Manashil, who directed the award-winning indie, anti-romantic comedy Bread and Butter. The film stars Lauren Lapkus, SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and former NYFA guest speaker Micah Hauptman.

    Manashil screened the trailer to our students and discussed the difficult process of crowdfunding and casting. Manashil wore multiple hats on the project, including writer, director, producer, and casting director. She even had to rewrite the script to make the project affordable and raise the money. Once the money was mostly in place, she was able to go after the cast she wanted for the film.

    Manshil went on into detail on how she obtained VOD/digital distribution for the film and how that process worked. Afterward, students asked a variety of questions, ranging from what were the most popular perks on her Kickstarter (blueberry bread baked by her parents) to what did she learn from the project (to write something that’s even cheaper to produce next time).

    After learning a few lessons about indie filmmaking, it’s no wonder Manashil is currently working on an indie sci-fi feature with one location.

    January 12, 2016 • Acting • Views: 1122

  • Cossi Bros Produce Leaning Towers of Pisa Doc

    Italy’s Pisa has always been a fascinating city and includes much more than just its famous leaning tower. That is why two former New York Film Academy students, brothers Andrea and Matteo Cossi, set out to produce the documentary The City of Miracles: The Leaning Towers of Pisa, which was intended to be one of a series of documentaries about the unknown monuments of Pisa. The Cossi brothers were co-producers, directors and filmmakers in collaboration with Archimedia Communication and Pisa is Movie (City of Pisa’s film commission).

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    Cossi brothers filming in Pisa

    While the documentary describes how the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa was built, it also showcases the lesser known leaning towers of Pisa. The 18-minute film presents other architectural jewels of Pisa, including the Tower of St. Nicola, the Tower of San Michele degli Scalzi (the tower with the largest slope in the world), The Bell Tower of the Church of St. Francesco, and the famous Tower of Hunger of which Dante Alighieri wrote about in Dante’s Inferno.

    “Thanks to NYFA we learned incredible tools and developed the skills that brought us to a career in filmmaking,” said Matteo Cossi. “Even though becoming a film director is a never ending process, the New York Film Academy really helped us in becoming better filmmakers.”

    The filmmaking brothers are currently working on a fantasy, horror feature. Over the next few months they will be shooting a social drama series and a short movie while continuing to work as jury members at the Miami Independent Film Festival.

    January 6, 2016 • Acting • Views: 1467