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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna Esther Van Zyl Stars in “Life After Her”

    From South Africa to New York to the Madrid International Film Festival to promote “Life After Her,” it’s been a busy year for NYFA Acting for Film alumna Esther Van Zyl — and she shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Since co-writing and creating “Life After Her” with fellow NYFA alumnus Guilherme Festa, Van Zyl has been been juggling travel with production and acting work (including two upcoming episodes on Netflix’s “Killer Instincts with Chris Hansen”).

    We had a chance to catch up with busy alumna to hear some of her insights on life after NYFA, from producing original work to inhabiting characters.

    Life After Her – Trailer Legendado from Gui Festa on Vimeo.

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

    EVZ: I grew up in a small fishing town called Gordon’s Bay about an hour outside Cape Town, South Africa. I discovered performing in preschool, when I sang my first solo, “Silent Night,” as a four-year-old in a Christmas revue. I became addicted, and did everything I could to be onstage … By 5th grade I was writing, directing and starring in my own plays.

    I had always, since those childhood days, had this very vivid dream of moving to New York to become a world-class actress in film and theatre. I’ve also always wanted to study in a New York acting school … I first did a BA in Dramatic Arts and Psychology at Stellenbosch University, where I trained primarily in theatre, and towards the end of my last year I heard that the world-famous New York Film Academy were hosting auditions in Cape Town — and offering talent-based scholarships.

    I jumped at the chance, and heard very soon afterwards that I had received a scholarship to do the conservatory 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Three months later (on 21 January 2015) I was on a plane to New York, and I started in their class of winter 2015. The whole thing was quite literally a dream come true.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    EVZ: There are so many. I was very lucky to be placed in the most fantastic class I could have asked for — by the end of the first week, we already felt like a close-knit family. Our class was Winter A, and we very cheekily called ourselves “The A-Team.”  We also had fantastic teachers, and I have moments from each class that will always stick with me, especially ones that turned out to be personal acting breakthroughs for me that I recall on set/stage to this day.

    One such moment that really stands out was in an Acting for Film class with Zachary Spicer. It was a day we were filming scenes, and I was dreading mine — it was a monologue by a slightly unhinged writer who gets thrown out of a café because she can’t stop talking to herself. I had no idea how to play the character, or the scene…

    I remember calling Zach over and saying to him, “I don’t think I can do it, Zach. I feel totally out of control.” And he said, “Well, how do you think your character feels?”

    And that’s when I realized that acting wasn’t about doing something, “performing” a set of behaviors a certain way — it was more about truly letting go and allowing yourself to exist exactly as you are in a moment, not caring about what it looks like. Being in control of being out of control. I did the scene and told Zach afterwards, “I don’t even know what I just did. I feel like it was just a mess, it can’t possibly be good.” He told me to watch it back and tell me if I still felt that way. Punch-line to the story: that’s the only scene I filmed at NYFA that is in my current acting reel. You can see it online, here.

    NYFA: Coming from South Africa, what surprised you most about studying at NYFA in the U.S.?

    EVZ: The very international diversity of the student body. In my class, we were four South Africans, two Brits, four Brazilians, one Scotswoman, two Swedes, one Canadian and only one New Yorker. The other classes, including the other programs — directing, writing, photography, musical theatre — were the same.

    And what I loved about the structure of the system at NYFA was the cross-pollination between these programs. The directing students cast the acting students in their films, and actors could team up with photographers to build their mutual portfolios, etc. This in-built pre-industry networking was actually what I feel helped me get the material I needed to prepare me for the industry once I left school …

    Also, the film that I co-wrote and starred in that is this year doing so well at festivals, “Life After Her,” started out as a passion project for me and one of the directing students I started working with regularly, Guilherme Festa. It became his final film project, and we filmed it the week after I graduated from NYFA.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow international students preparing to study at NYFA?

    EVZ: Make the most of the time you have at NYFA to build your network within the school. The students studying acting, directing, writing, cinematography alongside you will also enter the industry alongside you as professionals, and you will most likely work with them. If you’ve built strong relationships, that’s the beginning of your oh-so-important network in your career.

    NYFA: Your film “Life After Her” features an emotionally intense story and was accepted to some major festivals. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    EVZ: It took eight days to shoot the 28-minute short film, which was done in locations all over New York and Brooklyn, ranging from Coney Island to Central Park. We all got very little sleep, sometimes shooting until late into the night and having very early call-times. The exhaustion made things harder, but funnily that actually helped me — most of the time — to drop into the emotional spaces the story required. When I’m that tired, I care less, and that usually makes me feel freer and more spontaneous. We also had the most amazing gift of an acting coach on set: Anna Cianculli, one of the best teachers I had at NYFA (she taught Meisner), who became a mentor to me …

    It was one of the most intense and challenging weeks of my life. But it was also one of the best weeks of my life. Playing the lead character in a film I had helped write the story for, shooting with an incredible crew (Gui had arranged to bring a professional crew he knew and trusted to work with on the film from Brazil) in my City of Dreams.

    One of the most poignant moments for me was standing on the edge of the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park at sunset, filming the scene where Rachel scatters her best friend’s ashes into the East River and dances off into the sunset with her new boyfriend. I remember looking at the New York skyline and thinking, “You’ve made it. This is the dream. You’re actually living it.” And I don’t think you get to feel that kind of high unless you are prepared to go through the really scratchy, difficult, chaos-moments, so a part of me feels strangely but truly grateful for the rough parts as well.

    NYFA: What advice can you give to our acting students for preparing for intense roles, and intense festival tours?

    EVZ: “You can never spend enough time thinking about your character,” Rachelle Greeff, a wonderful South African playwright, once told me during rehearsals for a play back home. And I think that’s what really made me secure in this role, at the end of the day … It also helped me to stop trying to think of Rachel as “transforming into someone else” — but rather, trying to find my own essence in her life story — what would “Esther” be like in Rachel’s set of life circumstances? I believe that way of thinking can help make one’s performance more personalized and authentic.

    [The film’s director, Gui Festa] has attended more of the 2017 festivals than I have (I think “Life After Her” has screened at 7 so far), and he was at Cannes Short Film Corner with it before it went to the Madrid International Film Festival, which is where I went, as I’d been invited to the awards night with a nomination for “Best Actress in a Short Film” (and as a co-writer with Guilherme Festa and Anna Cianculli for “Best Original Script”).

    Being at an international film festival of that caliber was an incredible experience. You meet so many surprisingly like-minded creatives from all over the world and get to inspire one another and build your network of potential future working relationships. The whole thing is quite tiring, and you have to make sure you plan your sleep hours in between the schedule of films you want to see, as well as sight-seeing, and then still have some stamina left for all the parties! I wished afterwards that I had planned better in advance so that I could have had a better balance of everything. I was quite exhausted afterwards, so my first week back in New York I spent knocked out in bed!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for your current work?

    EVZ: My time at NYFA taught me so much. Not just about acting as a craft, but also the actor’s lifestyle, which can be the more difficult part. I had never had any experience in film acting before NYFA, and being in such an intense course where you are acting on screen and watching yourself back more days than not really stimulated me to grow and hone my on-camera technique quickly. And funnily enough, my best teachers were the ones that started teaching me how to let go of my ideas about techniques and all the work I thought had to go into acting; on camera, it’s all about being very real and present, working with whatever is happening with you at that moment. It totally transformed my entire way of thinking about acting, and the lessons I learnt there — many of them very profound life lessons — are the ones I know I draw from in auditions, on sets, whenever I work.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on?

    My experience with “Life After Her,” which I co-wrote and was very involved in developing in the early stages especially, and the success it is garnering, has shown me how possible and wonderful it is to create your own work. So one of my main focuses right now is writing and developing a few upcoming projects with other amazing filmmaking folk I’ve grown to know and love working with, to produce film content — short films, short series, leading up to bigger projects like features. My dream is to be developing and producing beautiful, well-told stories with a trusted team of like-minded creatives and good-hearted people. It’s amazing to get to act in someone else’s stories, but there is something extra special and fulfilling about getting to bring your own stories and visions to life.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed you’d like to talk about?

    Some of the other work I’ve been doing since graduating from NYFA has included working with a theatre company called BrickaBrack, of which I became one of the core ensemble members of the New York branch soon after graduating. We got together once a week to “jam” and workshop productions, which we performed in the city. One of our plays, “On the Flip Side,” was part of the HERE Arts Festival in 2016. I had recurring appearances as a variety of characters on a comedy web series, “Neem’s Themes,” which has won several awards at major international film festivals this year. I also appeared on two episodes of the third season of the Netflix series, “Killer Instincts with Chris Hansen.” I believe it is set to come out in October 2017.

    I spent some time in South Africa at the beginning of this year and tried my hand at producing: I was the lead producer on a popular reality TV show, “Sê Net Ja” (“Just Say Yes”) about romantic partners proposing to their significant others in dramatic and unforgettable ways. It was a lot of fun, but very challenging, and I quickly realized I could never be a producer full-time: acting is simply my core passion. I also started dabbling in voice-over work, and for a while I was voicing the lead character on a Bollywood TV Show, dubbing English over the Hindi text for international audiences. I loved it, and hope to start doing more voice-work here in New York soon as well.

    The New York Film Academy would like to than Esther Van Zyl for taking the time to share a bit of her story with the NYFA community.

    August 23, 2017 • Acting • Views: 1494

  • NYFA Alumnus Dr. Mukesh Hariawala’s Journey from Heart Surgeon to Bollywood Actor

    While many adults around the world return to school to change careers, you don’t often hear about heart surgeons who decide to leave medicine to pursue acting — and then go on to find success in one of the world’s largest film industries. Yet that is exactly what happened in the curious case of New York Film Academy acting for film alumnus, Dr. Mukesh Hariawala, whose recent slew of Bollywood roles and unique backstory has caused a bit of a stir in Sify News, Indian Express, Hindustan Times, and Yahoo News.

    If you’re a fellow career-changer or are simply looking for acting inspiration stories, Dr. Hariawala recently took the time to catch up with us via an email interview to share about his incredible journey from Harvard-educated surgeon to busy Bollywood actor in Mumbai, India.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    MH : In 2014, I became eligible for taking a sabbatical from my 25-year cardiac surgical work in India, the U.K. and the U.S. I wanted to do something unrelated to medicine. Since I had a modelling background from undergrad college days and recollect enjoying it, I chose to try my hand at becoming an actor in mainstream cinema. I interviewed at NYFA in the summer of 2014 and, much to my surprise and delight, got accepted. I took up boarding and lodging at a negotiated rate at nearby Hotel Marriott and moved to New York. I continued to return home to Boston over the weekends.

    NYFA: What inspired you to change careers, from a renowned heart surgeon to Bollywood actor?

    MH: Although I have become a reasonably busy actor in Bollywood, I have not completely disconnected myself from the clinical world of cardiac surgery. I continue to maintain my hospital affiliation and privileges in Mumbai. The single most inspiring thought was the challenge of not to be afraid of failure, and to prove to myself that I was capable of succeeding in another profession too, apart from medicine.

    NYFA: What was the greatest challenge for you in shifting careers?

    MH: It was the mental acclimatization to accept the new social status of being a student again at age 50+. I was fortunate to be warmly accommodated by my much younger classmate peers and teachers, who never reminded me of my age. They very much encouraged me about the potential I displayed in class.

    My wife and kids have been most supportive throughout the process. They used to visit NYFA campus during my student days to keep me motivated.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    MH: The acting for film class shoot with classmate co-stars of my outdoor scenes in Union Square. It gave me a nostalgic feeling of being a star, particularly since we were filming surrounded by tourist onlookers from all over the world … wow.

    NYFA: Coming from your medical background, what surprised you the most about your acting training at New York Film Academy?

    MH: Unlike surgery, acting was relatively stress-free and enjoyable. I realized during the course that although we can pretend at times in real life, the camera doesn’t let you lie. The camera will almost always pick up a pretense and unmask you. If the actor is not in the portrayed character, it would spell disaster for the actor and damage the scene. Also, following filming, it takes time coming out of a character back to normal life, and this has been a major surprise working in this new profession.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little about the Bollywood film “102 Not Out,” and how you became attached to the project?

    MH: The film “102 Not Out” has superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor as the lead characters. I met the director, Umesh Shukla, while filming for another movie, “Exit,” in Ladakh. He liked my sincerity to the art of acting and promised me a role in a future project. I did get a call from him, one year later. Honestly, I was plain lucky and feel fortunate to share screen space with legends. Since learning acting is an ongoing process, I am getting the benefit of interactions with the best in the profession.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all helpful in preparing you for what you are accomplishing now?

    MH: An overwhelming 100 percent. Without my NYFA training I could not have mustered the necessary skills to comprehend the complete process of filmmaking. My performances, which again reflect NYFA training, are appreciated by directors and they tend to repeat cast me in their future projects.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to fellow career-changing NYFA students who, like you, wish to pursue an entertainment career after being out in the workforce for awhile in other industries?

    MH: Age should never be a barrier to crossover from an established career to an completely insecure new industry. Additionally, all previous other industry work experiences become an asset in one’s toolkit to play a fortitude of characters, particularly while filming an emotionally charged recall scene. However, training in a good program is paramount in pursuing an long-term acting career. If not, it would surmount to driving a car without wheels.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about other projects you have coming up?

    MH: I have few more films currently undergoing post-production and due for release in late 2017 and early 2018. These include “Exit,” “Genius,” “Chicken Curry Law,” and “Aksar 2.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Dr. Mukesh Hariawala for taking the time to share a bit of his story with our community.

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna Samantha Hamadeh Hosts Comedy Central Arabia’s “Ridiculousness Arabia”

    In 2010 Samantha Hamadeh graduated from the One Year Acting Program at New York Film Academy. Her 3.9 GPA should have tipped everyone off that she was headed toward great things. In just a few years Hamadeh was on Comedy Central co-hosting one of their most popular shows. Hamadeh sat down with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith, to talk about where it all began and how NYFA helped her to get where she is now.

    NYFA: When did you fall in love with acting?

    Hamadeh: I was in 1st or 2nd grade. My friend and I used to hand out little notes to people in the class to come watch our plays on the playground. There was a tree ring made of cement. That was our stage.

    NYFA: What were some challenges you faced in your craft before coming to NYFA?

    Hamadeh: Although I’m a firm believer that people are born with a talent, I still thought that there was so much that I needed to learn about myself in order to be able to understand and portray different characters. Also, I took 3 years off from the theater because I was getting a degree at university. I was nervous about getting back into the world of acting.

    NYFA: How did NYFA help you move through these challenges?

    Hamadeh: I had some of the best teachers and mentors. From Kelly Hughes to Caitlin Muelder, Scott Ferrara, Valorie Hubbard, and Anthony Montes – they were all so supportive and truly believed in me. In class, I was able to work on my technique while also developing new skills.

    NYFA: What is your best memory from NYFA?

    Hamadeh: My dream of going to film school came true! The entire experience was life changing. I also got to meet some of the most amazing and talented students who I look up to, especially Eliza Delacourt and Maria Carvalho, who are now family to me. Some of the best years of my life were in Los Angeles, both on and off campus.

    NYFA: Tell us about your show, “Ridiculousness Arabia.”

    Hamadeh: Ridiculousness is an American comedy clip show, which presents viral videos. Comedy Central Arabia got the rights and I got to co-host the Arabic version – “Ridiculousness Arabia.”

    Samantha Hamadeh | NYFA Alumni Spotlight

    NYFA: How did you become involved with the project?

    Hamadeh: I work in marketing and was at a meeting with Comedy Central because they were looking to film their stand up comedy show at my brother’s venue, Stereo Arcade in Dubai. The CC team mentioned they were also working on Ridiculousness and I got excited because I love the US version. The producer asked if I was interested in co-hosting. Obviously, I said yes.

    NYFA: What was your goal with the project?

    Hamadeh: It was pure improv so we didn’t have much time to rehearse and we filmed two to three episodes a day over five to six days. My goal was to stay focused and enjoy filming every episode. There’s no character work. What you see on tv is who I am in person.

    NYFA: What’s been the most rewarding part of being involved with “Ridiculousness Arabia?”

    Hamadeh: Being part of a production like this was a dream come true! And I enjoyed every single minute of it because I got to work with really talented guys; Mohanad, the host and Khaled, the co-host.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for an aspiring host?

    Hamadeh: You’re going to hear a lot of no’s before you get a yes. It’s hard to be patient, I know, but when the right opportunity comes along you’re going to be happy that you were.

    NYFA: Where and when can people watch your show? 

    Hamadeh: Every Sunday night on Comedy Central Arabia.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Samantha Hamadeh for taking the time to speak with us.

     

     

    August 18, 2017 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1305

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumnus Hayden Szeto Visits Los Angeles Campus as Guest Speaker

    On Tuesday, August 15 New York Film Academy alumnus Hayden Szeto returned to the Los Angeles campus to share his latest hit “The Edge of Seventeen.” Q and A Series Director Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Szeto was the first actor cast in the film in what writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig thought would be the most challenging role to cast. But, after auditioning him, she knew Szeto was perfect for the part.

    It could not have come at a better time for Szeto. A Canadian citizen out of school, Szeto was running out of time to find work in the United States. He had just one week left on his visa. This, Szeto said, was a blessing and not a curse: He encouraged the other international students to view the time crunch as a gift. “You don’t want to go home. The weather in LA is great, but you’ve got to earn your stay,” Szeto said. Let the ticking clock be a fire that drives toward success.

    Szeto found NYFA on Google and knew immediately that this is where he wanted to go to school. He had studied theater at another school, but a lack of on-camera work drove him to come to NYFA. Being in Los Angeles with the opportunity to work on professional backlots just sweetened the deal. “This is one school that has everything you need,” Szeto said.

    Szeto encouraged students to take advantage of their time at the New York Film Academy. He stressed that skating by in school would not translate to a flourishing career in the real world. “You’ve got to find out what you’re good at here. Once you leave it’s your responsibility to build on that,” he told students. “Treat this space like a gym.”

    When it was time for the Q & A portion, one student asked, “What catches your eye when reading a script?”

    Szeto responded: “I have to be able to relate to the character. How can I give him dignity?” He said a lot of the decision comes down to talking with the director and writer. “You’re not just auditioning for them, they’re kind of auditioning for you too.”  As an example, Szeto comically described working with a director who gave vague descriptions on how to improve a scene in what would have been a big movie for him, but Szeto ultimately turned down the role.

    An Asian student asked, “Do you have plans to take on roles that deal with Asian American issues?”

    “Being an actor of color, people in your community will say you owe them something because of your skin color. No. If it’s about the Asian American experience and it’s well written than yes, I’ll do it. But  first, it has to be good.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Hayden Szeto for taking the time to revisit his old stomping grounds, and for passing along advice to the next generation of students. Szeto’s next film is “Truth or Dare,” alongside Tyler Posey and Lucy Hale.

  • NYFA Acting Instructor’s “The Good Catholic” Distributed by Broadgreen Pictures and Gravitas Ventures

    This September, New York Film Academy Instructors Zachary Spicer and John Robert Armstrong’s independent feature “The Good Catholic” will release in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and 15 countries worldwide, thanks to distribution deals with Broadgreen Pictures and Gravitas Ventures.

    Spicer and Armstrong created “The Good Catholic” with their production company Pigasus Pictures, and have just finished an incredible won on the festival circuit that saw them snag the Panavision Spirit Award for Best Feature Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the DaVinci’s Horse Award for Best Screenplay at the Milan International Film Festival, Best Picture at the Grove Film Festival, and more.

    We had a chance to catch up with Zachary Spicer via email to talk about “The Good Catholic” and his production company, Pigasus Pictures.

    NYFA:  First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to NYFA?

    ZS: I grew up in small town Indiana, went to Indiana University where I studied archaeology — until I realized that Indiana Jones was much more fiction than fact. I was cast in a show my senior year by a visiting director who told me I should go to NYC to study to become and actor. I studied at Circle in the Square theater school, where I fell in love with theater.

    After graduation I began working a number of jobs while I beat the pavement trying to land auditions. I’ve been very fortunate in my career ever since. My first Broadway gig was with Cynthia Nixon in the Tony Award-nominated revival of “Wit,” followed by Kenneth Branagh’s “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory. I began working on TV shows like “Law & Order: SVU,” “Blue Bloods,” “Gotham,” “Louie,” and “Master of None,” before I was approached by my old IU colleague John Robert Armstrong, who was an instructor at NYFA. They needed someone to come in and teach a substitute acting for film class, so I volunteered and fell in love with the place. I started teaching as many classes as I could get my hands on: Meisner, audition technique, acting technique, and so on.

    It was in the halls of NYFA that John and I developed our idea to start our film company Pigasus Pictures. Inspired by the students we taught each day and the talent and dedication of the instructors, we formed a game-plan to fully fund and produce our very first feature film, “The Good Catholic.”

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite moments as a NYFA instructor?

    ZA: My favorite moments at NYFA were in my acting for film class late on in the semester, seeing students who had been writing down these “theories” and “practices” of working on film, seeing them tool it over and over again, and then finally see the light bulb come on, seeing that moment of practical recognition of their craft and the power it gave them. How they could use it and seeing them begin to really gain confidence and believe in themselves.

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about what role NYFA played in the making of “The Good Catholic,” and about your collaboration with John?

    ZS: John and I met everyday in between classes and before and after classes, and started to try to figure out how we were going to pull this miracle off. We weren’t rich kids with money to spare and we didn’t have deep ties to the industry, so we really had to work from the ground up.

    I had this vision of a film company and what we could do, and John was the nuts and bolts guy of figuring out exactly how we could get it done. We would workshop scenes that were in the movie in our classes with students, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t, starting to map out shots and seeing character arcs explored with our students, and discussing the storytelling elements of one scene leading into another and what was significant about each moment in the script. Seeing how the film was playing in class really motivated us to continue our efforts to produce.

    NYFA: What inspired the idea for “The Good Catholic”?

    ZS: The story itself was inspired from writer/director Paul Shoulberg’s actual parents. Paul’s dad was a small town priest and his mother was a nun who had met in church, eventually fell in love, and left, married, and made Paul and his sister. Paul’s dad passed away a few years ago and Paul really wanted to write a story that was testament to his father. He wasn’t only writing what he knew, he was writing what he had to write.

    NYFA: You’ve mentioned that some of your former NYFA students were involved in “The Good Catholic” and other productions at Pigasus Pictures — can you tell us a bit about those collaborations?

    ZS: I was very lucky to be teaching some incredibly inspiring students while I was there at NYFA. The students there just blew me away with their passion, curiosity, and commitment. One class in particular formed a production company immediately upon graduating NYFA, and I work with several of those members today.

    Two former students from NYFA made the trip with us to Indiana to work on the film itself: Max Turner and Alice Deussant. They came on board in the beginning as assistants to the producer. However, by the end of the film they had ingrained themselves in almost every department of production. They learned the very first lesson in this business which is: make yourself invaluable. They would run off at a moment’s notice to do anything, volunteer for any work, and were just generally a pleasure to be around all day and night on set. On top of that they got to know and work with Paul, who sat down and watched their reels and their former work and said, “They’ve really got talent. I’d love to put them in something in the future.”

    With our next film “Ms. White Light” shooting this fall, we are looking to hire them and three or four more former students to come on board the adventure with us.

    NYFA: Speaking of “Ms. White Light,” can you tell us more about upcoming projects at Pigasus Pictures?

    ZS: At the same time of distributing “The Good Catholic,” Pigasus Pictures is currently financing a slate of six projects to be produced in the next three years: four feature films and two television pilots, all to be filmed in our home state in Indiana. The next production will be the dark comedy feature film written and directed again by Paul Shoulberg called “Ms. White Light,” the story of a young woman who works in the world of hospice that has a unique ability to connect with the dying … it’s just everyone else she has a problem with.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Pigasus Pictures on their recent success with “The Good Catholic.”

  • NYFA Collaborates With Prestigious Saudi Festival Hakaya Misk in Riyadh

    The New York Film Academy has played an active role by offering workshops and training through a collaboration with the prestigious youth arts festival of Hakaya Misk, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. NYFA is presenting workshops and trainings on the topics of film production and screenwriting in collaboration with the Pre-Hakaya workshops.

    According to Hakaya Misk’s official website, the festival is a cutting-edge Saudi Festival which focuses on incubating creative skills in the next generation through culturally and educationally conscious content creation: “The festival aims to motivate, teach, and inspire youth to express their ideas through writing stories, storytelling, painting, animation, production, and other forms of art.” Through local and international professional partnerships, the festival invites young people to participate in workshops, inspiring platforms, and exhibits, while building skills in storytelling through the visual arts. Events at Hakaya Misk are also offered for adults who are locally active in the creative fields.

    As the Washington Post has reported, Saudi Arabia is developing a new generation of artists and opportunities within a burgeoning film industry, which includes aspiring filmmakers have studied at the New York Film Academy. NYFA MFA alumna Lamia al-Shwwier told the Washington Post, “We have so many incredible stories to tell, whether they are stories of success or challenge. Our society is rich in stories and ideas.”

    At Hakaya Misk, NYFA alumni will be holding one-hour workshops daily, while NYFA representatives are present among the local production companies who also partner with Hakaya Misk. The festival has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors through four sessions held in Riyadh, King Abdullah Economic City in Makkah, Dhahran in Eastern Province, and Abha in Aseer Province.

    “New York Film Academy is honored to have partnered with Misk in the Pre-Hakaya workshops in Riyadh,” NYFA’s Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander reported from the event. “We had the opportunity to teach over 40 men and women interested in developing their craft in either film production or screenwriting. Our NYFA instructors were thrilled with the students’ confidence, ability and pride in their craft, and the opportunity to experience local Saudi culture.”

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alumna Ahd Kamel Stars in Netflix’s “Collateral”

    New York Film Academy 1-Year Filmmaking Program alumna Ahd Kamel will star in upcoming Netflix and BBC collaboration “Collateral.”

    As reported in Stepfeed, “Collateral” is a 4-part thriller set in modern-day London, which explores the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a delivery man. Kamel will portray a Muslim woman named Fatima, acting alongside Oscar-nominated superstar Carrie Mulligan as well as British actors John Simm, Billie Piper, and July Namir. The series is written by Oscar-winning screenwriter David Hare, known for such films as “The Reader” and “The Hours.”

    Kamel is a multi-hyphenate artist, especially notable as a female filmmaker in an industry and nation where women are extremely underrepresented. With a background in animation, Kamel has broken barriers not only an actress and filmmaker, but according to Huffington Post is also developing a new comic book series within the SGR (Saudi Girl Revolution) universe.

    The actress is perhaps best known for her turn as the severe headmistress in Haifaa Al-Mansour’s groundbreaking “Wadjda,” which follows a young Saudi girl in her quest to acquire a green bicycle by raising funds through a school competition. As the Washington Post notes, “Wadjda” made history: The film was not only the first Saudi film to be submitted to the Oscars race, but also the first feature created entirely in Saudi Arabia by a female filmmaker. Kamel’s own filmmaking debut “The Shoemaker” won Best Short Film at Beirut International Film Festival and won Special Jury Mention at the Arab Film Festival of Oran, Algeria. Her sophomore film “Sanctity” screened at the Berlin Festival, setting a record as the first Saudi film to do so.

    Kamel told Your Middle East that she is not interested in sending messages with her work, but rather in asking questions, using film for expression, and drawing inspiration from life. For her, there is a universal story to tell: “Being Saudi definitely opens the door, but I have to walk through it,” she told the magazine … “I think for me to grow, I need to be able to find humanity in any character and to be able to make any story regardless of its origin.”

    “Collateral” is due to release sometime in 2018.

  • NYFA Los Angeles Welcomes Viceland’s Eddie Huang as Guest Speaker

    This month, the New York Film Academy welcomed New York Times Bestselling author (“Fresh off the Boat”), chef, designer, and producer Eddie Huang to the Los Angeles campus. The event was hosted by Q & A Director Tova Laiter, who produced “Glory” with Denzel Washington.

    Huang showed NYFA students a segment he filmed in D.C. part of a series he is producing and stars in for Viceland called “Huang’s World.”  On his show, Huang travels the world tasting unique foods from every culture.

    Huang has an incredible resume that included being a lawyer and doing stand-up comedy. He shared that he had wanted to get into film but was told no one wanted to buy Asian American stories. He was crushed, but he did not let it stop him from being an artist.

    “Americans expect us (Asian Americans) to be good at cooking and kung-fu,” Huang said. So he started cooking, but kept his focus on Asian culture when he spoke to the media. Pretty quickly he was picked up for shows like “Munchies” and “Snack-Off.”

    Laiter asked Huang how he pitched “Huang’s World” to Viceland. Essentially, he blended his frustration with not being seen with his love of food: “I told them I wanted to explore culture through food.” That was it. The show was picked up for six episodes.

    When asked how he’s been able to accomplish so much in his short life Huang said, “It’s schedule and discipline. If I wake up and I’m not on it, I get mad.”

    That attitude has permeated every aspect of his life. He has studied everything  (“its about the science of it”) from boxing to film to the difference in how his parents cooked (“mother was more focus and her food tasted better!”).

    Huang expanded upon the unique racism he has faced. In one anecdote, he shared that once he had written an article for a local paper. They liked it so much, they asked him to come in for a job. But when they saw his face they didn’t think people would be interested in talking to him. This is one example of many.

    So, Huang began working a lot of different jobs: “I didn’t know where my entry point was.”

    Huang explained that it is impossible to know where to start a career, but by being forced to start over so many times he grew into a more knowledgeable person and a stronger candidate for every job he applied for afterward.

    His final lesson: “Whatever you’re doing, do it well.”

    Huang had a lot of advice for students, including taking advantage of the library here at NYFA. “I just happened to walk into your library and you guys have a great collection. Use it!” Huang likes to go to Cinefile and watch the entire filmography of a single director. “I like seeing how they’ve progressed from start to finish.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eddie Huang for speaking to our students. You can watch his show “Huang’s World” on Viceland.

  • NYFA Gold Coast Hosts Q&A With Filmmaking Alumnus RK Musgrave

    Recently, New York Film Academy Australia filmmaking alumnus RK Musgrave returned to give a Q&A at the Gold Coast campus as a part of the Guest Speaker Series.

    RK graduated from the Diploma of Filmmaking program in 2013 and has since become a working writer and director in Queensland.

    He recently wrote, directed and produced the dark comedy theatre production “The Turn of Winston Haggle,” which ran for three nights at the Gold Coast Arts Centre Independent Season. Joining RK for the Gold Coast Q&A was one of the stars of the production, NYFA Gold Coast Acting Lecturer Dean Mayer.

    Students at the Gold Coast campus were given an insight into how RK established a creative relationship with his actors and how he utilized this during rehearsals as they collaborated to develop the characters.

    RK explained to the students, “It might be my script but it becomes everyone’s to a point. I’m leading the team, but if Dean comes to me with an idea we test it out to see if it works and if it does, great, we’ll use it … you can’t have an ego about what you’re doing.”

    As an actor, Dean Mayer explained what makes a good director: “Good communication makes me strive as an actor. They have to know what they want and know how to communicate it to actors.”

    RK also informed the students the importance of networking, as well as how it’s critical to establish long-lasting relationships with both filmmakers and actors. RK stated, “I was originally reluctant towards networking but I had to change my opinion. You’ve got to network. A lot of opportunities I’ve got is through the people I’ve gotten to know … now that I’m out in the industry, I’m meeting people and it’s important to build a team you want to constantly work and bounce ideas with … that’s what Steven Spielberg did, he works with the same people.”

    RK further spoke about how he won the 2013 Script-To-Screen longline competition while he was studying at NYFA, which granted him free script coverage. RK was also the winner of the 2016 Australian Commercial Radio Awards for Best Written Commercial.

    RK is currently developing a TV series and pitching to production companies Teddy Browne and Can’t Country. He also has written a 30-minute TV pilot that has been shot with Australia actor, Damian Garvey from “The Kettering Incident,” and is now in post-production with a view to pitching ABC later in the year.

    May 2017 Acting Diploma student Joshua Mackenzie was enthusiastic about the Q&A event: “It was so amazing to hear about his process of rehearsal, working with actors and how to network and maintain working relationships with filmmakers. I learnt a lot.”

    March 2017 Filmmaking Diploma student, Phillip Paton stated, “In one word … inspiring.”


  • NYFA Alumni and Faculty Crew “Dead House” for LionsGate and Laugh Out Loud

    The New York Film Academy community played an integral part in the making of “Dead House” (King Bach, Emmanuel Hudson, D.C Young Fly), a new scripted sitcom from one of the world’s top digital comedians, Vine star Andrew Bachelor — also known as “King Bach.”

    A LionsGate production, “Dead House” is executive produced by Kevin Hart and, as seen in the Hollywood Reporter, launched on the star’s online comedy network Laugh Out Loud, or LOL.

    “Dead House” portrays the complicated living arrangements when a human joins the cast of a reality show where four zombies must live and work together in one house.

    “We had almost a full NYFA crew w Alumni and staff,” NYFA Faculty Member and Director of Photography Travis Hoffman. This included NYFA Alumni and Director Andrew Bachelor, and NYFA Faculty Member and Producer Anthony Cook.

    Many more from the NYFA community filled out the crew. See a full list below:

    NYFA Staff and Alumni who worked on shoot:

    Director – Andrew Bachelor (Alumni)

    Director of Photography – Travis Hoffman (Faculty)

    Producer – Anthony Cook (Faculty)

    Casting Director – Alex Perry (Faculty)

    Production Designer – Prarthana Joshi (Faculty)

    Gaffer and 2nd Unit DP – Richard Greenwood (Faculty)

    Best Boy Electric and 2nd unit Gaffer – John Acevedo (Staff)

    Key Grip – George Oliver (Staff)

    Best Boy Grip – Aaron Pong (Staff)

    A Cam Operator – Travis Hoffman (Faculty)

    B Cam Operator – Jeremy Harris (Alumni)

    A Cam 1st AC – Chris Kistan (Alumni)

    B Cam 1st AC – Evan Stulc (Faculty)

    DIT – Maram Jaoser (Alumni)

    Actress – Natalie Whittle (Alumni)

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all our alumni and staff who worked on “Dead House.” The show is released Aug. 3 on Laugh Out Loud.