Kevin Tellez began having an interest in dance when he was four years old, but his talent was far beyond your average four-year old’s little shimmy. By the time he was seven years old he won first place at The World Latin Dance Cup.
Kevin Tellez with Gloria and Emilio Estefan
“His father loves music, but I think that his talent comes from his hard work because he loves acting and dancing more than anything.”
Kevin has made appearances on several TV shows, including Ellen where he was able to show off his skills to the host, who is known for her love of dancing. He is now in Gloria Estefan’s Broadway show “On Your Feet,” where he has performed for over a year as the young Emilio Estefan.
Now at the age of 11, Tellez has taken up the 12-Week Kids Acting for Film Weekend program at the New York Film Academy.
“Before NYFA we tried other programs where he didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t enjoy it,” said Tellez’s mother, Anny Tellez. “At NYFA, he is learning and doing what he really loves. We definitely have seen improvement and growth in his acting.”
Like most parents with children in show business, Tellez’s parents were nervous about letting their son travel around the world and performing on Broadway. “Our main concern was school,” said Mrs. Tellez. “We thought it was going to be too much for him; going to school like everyone else and then going to Broadway. Luckily, we have been able to manage the acting and dancing career as well as school. He is a very responsible child and he has amazing grades in school. My husband and I didn’t want him to be home schooled. Kevin is the type of child that enjoys being around his peers and we try to keep his life as normal as possible.”
Kevin dreams to some day be an actor in Hollywood and hopes he will inspire other kids to follow their dreams.
“As a parent I would say that our job is to support our children in whatever it is that they want to do,” said Mrs. Tellez. “I never in my life thought that my son would be on Broadway and have a career in entertainment at such a young age. Sometimes it’s not easy to make time for everything that as parents we have to do, but we always want our children to be happy and will do the impossible for them — and some way or another we manage to do it. At the end of the day all of the sacrifices that we make are so worth it.”
Acelina Kuchukova is a talented and ambitious woman who began working as a model at a very young age. In addition to modeling, Acelina received a degree in finance in her home country of Kazakhstan. After achieving many accomplishments in her career, she decided to become an actress. Now she works in Hollywood and can be seen in commercials, music videos and films. Despite her busy schedule, Acelina continues to improve herself and always has a positive attitude. She is already a SAG-AFTRA member and is ready to share some of her professional secrets.
Acelina, please tell us how you became a model? Was it your childhood dream?
No, it happened suddenly. When I was 13, two other girls and I were chosen from our school to present flowers to the President of Kazakhstan during some of the major official events of Astana. They taught us how to dress up, to do beautiful make up and so on. I was going to school in the mornings, and after that I attended different events in the national costume. I did not think I would become an actress at that time, but I became the face of Procter & Gamble Company in Kazakhstan in 2008. One of the tasks of that project was to make a short film. I started to work with a famous actor, Sergey Ufimtsev. I felt in my heart: “Oh, I like it, I want to become an actress.” At that moment my destiny was determined. When I won the “Miss Kazakhstan” competition, I went on to another competition, “Miss Universe.” There I was presented with a certificate for training at NYFA in Los Angeles in the Acting for Film program. It was in 2010. It was more important than the crown for me; it was the fulfillment of my dream!
Before entering NYFA I decided to go to one last competition, “Miss Multiverse,” and won the crown there. When my victory was announced, I was so excited. I did not expect that. Before that I had never won any international competitions. It was a worthy finish to my career as a model. I started my education in America in January 2014, in Hollywood, the home of the film industry.
You are in SAG-AFTRA, the Actor’s union. Please tell us what is required to enter SAG-AFTRA?
It is not easy. Anyone can get there, but there are some requirements. I started to work as an extra. It is very important to accept every job, because you do not know which will open the door for your career. This happened to me. I went to a small project and the director of a bigger project noticed me there. They accepted me because of my role as an extra in “La-La Land.” I received a SAG voucher on March 8, 2015, but became a full member of the union only six months ago because you have to pay a fee to join. You need to work on a large project if you want to become a member of SAG. In fact, you can be in commercials for big companies to enter the Union, but this project should be big.
Tell us more about your projects?
When I graduated NYFA, I got an OPT and had a lot of practice before I started fully working. I starred in short films, feature films, TV shows. I played in a commercial for Hulu. Recently, I had a part in a commercial about skin care products for a big company, Kayani. This was a very big project with video and brochures; I was a lead. I also starred in many music videos including RedOne’s “Don’t You Need Somebody,” Don Broco’s “Automatic,” Chris Brown’s “Picture Me Rollin” and AWOLNATION’s “Woman Woman” directed by Marc Klasfeld to name few.
Don Brosco’s “Automatic”
Can you tell us about your work in the theater?
Yes, 2015 was very productive for me on stage. I was in the play “Imported Bride” at the Torrance Cultural Arts Theatre with 500 seats. Then I had a lead role in “Morbid Cabaret” at the McCadden Place Theater for two months. At the Next Stage Theatre I played in “The Dark Side of the Moon” directed by Chris Berubes. Also, when I was at NYFA, I performed in several plays.
Which projects are you most proud of?
My Kazakhstan TV project with Procter & Gamble, the television show “Pantene.” Also, I am very proud to have been awarded the crown at “Miss Multiverse” in 2014.
I starred in a commercial with Antonio Banderas, which was very important to me. In Hollywood, I am proud of my performances at the Torrance Cultural Arts Theatre, where for the first time I played in front of such a large audience. I am very proud of my work in the Hulu and Kayani commercials as well.
Acelina, please tell us about your experience at NYFA.
When I had the dream of becoming an actress I couldn’t imagine that I would study in Hollywood. But when I was awarded the certificate to study at NYFA in the Acting for Film program, I realized that my dream could become true.
In the Academy I felt at home. The director, Dan Mackler and all the instructors were so attentive to each student, as if they were their own children. They dedicate a lot of time to each individual. Instructors have vast experience and continue to work in their profession. I listened to lectures with great pleasure, trying to write everything down. I also took extra individual lessons. The program is very intense and well planned out. Of course, I had no time for a private life, only for classes. But I was happy! My favorite instructors were Ken Lerner, Andrew Bloch, and Suzanne Kemp.
Can you share with us the secret of your success?
I always set up goals and I am very persistent. Every year I write the plan for the next year on December 31. At first, I write big goals, and then break down steps for achievement. This year my mission was completed, because today I completed the last goal for 2016 — I got a driver’s license!
You need to write everything down, plan and do all you can towards your dream. It is very important to make priorities. It helps me not to dissipate attention and focus from the essentials. I attend all new screenings and film festivals. I try to spread positivity around me. I love what I do, and I would like to give advice to future students of NYFA: “If you chose acting, you should adore it. Otherwise, it is better not to start.”
Where do you see your career in a few years?
I will star in Hollywood blockbusters. In three to five years I will receive the Oscar!
Can you promise to give us an interview when you get the Oscar? We will remember this conversation.
Yes, of course I promise (laughing).
New York Film Academy would like to thank Acelina Kuchukova for taking the time to speak with us. We wish her success in all of her projects and achievement of all her goals.
If’ you’re looking for a critically acclaimed bitter sweet comedy to watch over the holidays, be sure to check out “The Edge of Seventeen,” starring Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, and New York Film Academy alumnus Hayden Szeto.
“The very first few hours on set I remember being extremely starstruck, however, this wonderful cast demystified themselves very quickly,” said Szeto, about his experience working with such a talented cast. “Major props to our director, Kelly Fremon Craig and the legendary James L. Brooks for creating such a close-knit-family feel on set where we felt safe.”
“The Edge of Seventeen,” which is reminiscent of John Hughes classics such as “Sixteen Candles” and “Breakfast Club,” earned first time director Kelly Fremon Craig a New York Film Critics Circle Award.
In the film, Szeto plays Erwin, the lovestruck classmate of Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld). Throughout the movie, Erwin tries to pursue Nadine in a variety of ways which elicits very awkward and hilarious situations.
“I remember being on set the first day and saying to myself ‘Thank goodness I went to film school.'” recalled Szeto. “They say a little kindness goes a long way in this industry and it’s very true; one thing I take away from NYFA is appreciating the crew on both sides of the camera and understanding how much a film set is an ensemble piece where nobody has superiority over anybody. We are a team. Combining the knowledge of teamwork and my education at NYFA, I was not afraid to ask questions or try new things on set. It has made me fearless and allowed me to do my job more efficiently.”
Sezto says his character is a ‘revolutionary role’ written for Asian Americans. “I’m so honored and blessed to have been given this opportunity to represent a voice that is often silenced,” he added.
This past Friday, Dec. 9th, the New York Film Academy’s new theater at 17 Battery Place hosted Kim Cattrall for an exclusive Q&A with Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby and Chair of the Department of Contemporary Photography Ralph Gibson.
While known by an entire generation for her role as Samantha Jones in the HBO hit series, “Sex and the City” — for which she received five Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe Award nominations, winning the 2002 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress — some in the audience were surprised when Cattrall admitted, “I’m not like Samantha at all, but I’d like to have some of that.”
Cattrall has starred in many popular films such as “Porky’s,” “Police Academy,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Mannequin,” “Masquerade,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” and “Ice Princess.”
Aside from her film and TV career she also starred in the 1986 original Broadway production of “Wild Honey,” as well as staged productions of “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Liverpool Playhouse, “Private Lives” on Broadway, and “Sweet Bird of Youth” at London’s Old Vic. Since 2014, she has starred in her passion project, the HBO Canada series, “Sensitive Skin,” which she is also an executive producer on.
Cattrall eloquently elaborated on her long career in show business and gave an abundance of advice on the craft of acting. She also discussed the challenges of her new endeavor as executive producer of “Sensitive Skin,” which she says has a cadence to it that feels very British. Having been involved with the arduous process of bringing the show to life, Cattrall feels she now knows what it’s truly like to be an executive producer. “Don’t assume that everybody is on the same page,” she says. “There is a clear path to inviting people into your story.”
Like many of the students in the audience, Cattrall’s dream coming out of high school was to go to New York to study theater. “It was a chance to experience living in others people’s shoes,” said Cattrall, who grew up in a middle-class Canadian family. Trained in Stanislavsky, Cattrall says, “Every line I’m trying to get something from the other person. I know when I land a moment.” She did add, “What makes my job easier is a good script. That’s why I like to do Shakespeare.”
While many artists seek perfection in their work, Cattrall admitted, “There are always going to be glitches. You can’t hold onto perfection. You will learn more from when you fail than when you succeed.”
When asked by Ralph Gibson how she sees the camera, Cattrall said, “The camera is always connected to the cinematographer, so I always flirt with the cinematographer. I try to make the cinematographer be somebody who I can possibly be in love with.”
For acting students going on auditions, Cattrall remembered the advice she had been given, “Someone told me when I come into a room to audition that I should be auditioning them.”
The entire day was filled with golden nuggets of advice for actors and storytellers. Cattrall said she knows when she puts on a good show if the audience members are leaning forward in their chairs. Well, the entire hour talk had NYFA students leaning forward to listen to her captivating words of wisdom.
New York Film Academy Improv instructor Bill Watterson’s directorial debut film, “Dave Made a Maze,” was recently highlighted in Variety as a ‘notable title’ in competition at Slamdance 2017. The festival, which launched in 1995 as an alternative to Sundance, has included showings of such notable titles as Oren Peli’s “Paranormal Activity.” The fest, which takes place at the Treasure Mountain Inn in Park City, Utah, from Jan. 20 to Jan. 26, will screen 19 movies: 12 world premieres, three North American debuts, and one U.S. launch. Slamdance alumni include Christopher Nolan, Marc Forster, Jared Hess, Lena Dunham, Benh Zeitlin, Seth Gordon, and Lynn Shelton.
Watterson also has a series of web shorts that he wrote and directed, which led to a TV deal with Brandio Entertainment. As an actor, he performed motion capture and voice over for the video games “LA Noire” and “Lost Planet 3”; appeared in the films “Ouija,” “Jenny’s Wedding,” and Clint Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys”; and TV credits include “Brooklyn Nine Nine,” “The Soul Man,” and “The Young & The Restless.”
We had a chat with the director and instructor before his upcoming January premiere at Slamdance.
Congrats on being accepted to Slamdance! Can you tell me what “Dave Made a Maze” is all about?
“Dave Made a Maze” re-imagines classic 80’s adventure films with a modern comedic edge and a higher body count. Dave, a frustrated artist, gets lost inside the cardboard fort he builds in his living room, and his girlfriend Annie must lead a band of oddball explorers on a rescue mission. The handmade fantasy world features the in-camera effects of puppetry, stop motion animation, and optical illusions.
How did the film come about?
A friend of mine from Second City started writing a whacked out script based on an anecdote I’d told him about my mother coming home and panicking that I had gotten lost in a pillow fort I’d made in my bedroom, even though I’d followed protocol and left a note saying I was having dinner at my friend John Richards’ house. She tore the fort apart looking for me. Steve had 60 pages by the next day. Eventually we zeroed in on the themes and started working together to finish the script.
How were you able to raise funds for the production?
We got some great talent attachments early on, drawing on contacts at Second City and work we’d done as actors. Some of our production design team came from “Robot Chicken,” and since the handmade look and animations in the film were so important, that caught a lot of investors’ eyes. The film is entirely independently financed.
Will we be seeing you on screen as well in this film?
I have a very brief cameo as a still photo on a keyboard box. It was such an ambitious film and we had so little time to prep and even less to shoot. It felt irresponsible to focus on anything other than directing.
As an improv teacher, what sort of advice or direction did you give your actors?
It’s always good to be in touch with your instincts, to respond honestly to the things happening before you, to be quick on your feet, and to ask yourself and your actors ‘what if?’ Those are foundational improv skills that also apply to directing. I definitely let the actors play around with dialogue to make sure they were comfortable and felt safe and supported, and because they’re all so gifted comedically. But we had a lot to get done, so I had to be careful not to let the train get off the tracks.
What do you hope to achieve at Slamdance? Are you looking for a distributor?
Right now, we’re meeting with sales agents to help us find a distributor at the festival. It’s an honor to be there, and we want to be sure to capitalize on the opportunity. We made a very strange movie, and I’m hoping to find like-minded people in Park City who enjoy the silliness and heart of the film.
What advice can you give to filmmakers looking to direct their first feature?
Take all your successful director friends out to lunch and pick their brains. Shadow them on one of their projects if they’ll have you, and take lots of notes. Ask your editor what they hate about directors they’ve worked with in the past, and what mistakes to avoid on set.
Read Sidney Lumet’s “Making Movies” and know your movie’s theme in and out, and filter all your decisions through that. Everybody wants to direct the movie; keep a small council, and defer to the best idea, whether it was yours or not. Know that the movie you shot will be different from the movie you edit; don’t fight it. Be grateful to the people who are working their butts off to bring your project to life. You cannot get anywhere without them.
Anything else you’re working on now or in the near future that you’d like to share?
I just walked out of a pretty huge meeting that I don’t want to jinx. I shot a series of shorts with a puppet that I’m almost ready to share, and I’m dusting off other pitches to have a better answer to this question come festival time!
New York Film Academy Acting for Film alumna Ingrid Vollset was born in Los Angeles to Norwegian parents and moved back to Norway at an early age where she spent her childhood and early adolescence. Growing up she was drawn towards storytelling — through the craft of acting, writing and directing — with the belief that film and theatre are some of the most important tools we have to change the world.
Since graduating from NYFA’s New York location, she has been in numerous independent films, including the upcoming film, “You Can’t Say No,” which stars the legendary “Easy Rider” actor Peter Fonda. Vollset is also active on the writing, producing and directing side of things and is currently working on a script for an independent feature.
We had a chance to catch up with Ms Vollset to find out more about the film and her career post-NYFA.
Congrats on your upcoming film, “You Can’t Say No.” Can you tell us in your own words, what you believe this film is about?
To me, this film is about social, moral and relationship values; integrity of character and sanctitude of bonds between human beings. It is about soul-mates and serendipity, about honesty and commitment, and about being willing to think outside-the-box and follow your dreams without losing sight of what is most important at the end of the day — taking care of yourself and the one’s you love the most.
How did the role of Allison come about for you?
Allison is a nomadic vagabond free-spirited young woman in the midst of her journey of life discovery. Her and Hank’s serendipitous crossing of paths turns out to be that of a very valuable friendship for the both of them — driving the story forward in a way where Hank’s value system and integrity is challenged, and he ultimately ends up earning a place in all our hearts by the end of their arc.
What were some of the challenges of getting into your role?
The subtle balance of naiveté and bravery. Allison is so willing to put her heart on the line — to risk being hurt — just to stay true to every present moment and living it freely. Accessing her vulnerability and her loneliness and yet letting her strength supersede it all — she is someone with an amazing capacity for forgiveness, understanding and compassion. She will willingly dry her eyes and smile at the world, no matter how many times it seemingly lets her down — she doesn’t see it that way and accepts whatever comes her way as ‘meant to be’.
Were you able to work directly on set with Peter Fonda?
Unfortunately, my shooting days were not aligned with Peter Fonda’s, as our characters did not meet in the film. I heard amazing stories of the other actors and crew members of how much they learned from him and enjoyed having him on set!
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being prepared to perform in this film and other films/shows you’ve worked on?
I’ve learned many valuable skills and tools at NYFA that I have been able to use in all my work as an actor. Acting for Film classes with Paul Warner taught us how to meticulously break a script down and unveil beats, actions and tactics that ultimately help reveal the physical life of your character.
The Improv classes were extremely helpful as so much of the work on set and in rehearsal is improv based. And the Meisner work helping to get you out of your head as an actor and better trust your instincts and impulses in the moment.
The Shakespeare classes with David Vando taught us how to let the text float as a boat on the river of the inner life that is present in the actors. And our scene study classes with Glynis Rigsby taught us to understand our characters on a deeper level, ask questions, be curious and connect with the story and the objectives in a way where you end up having real skin in the game. The wide variety of classes offered allowed us as students to find out where our strengths and weaknesses as actors lie.
Also, the experience of acting in the directing students’ short films created amazing hands-on experience that prepared us for professional settings in the safest of circumstances.
Which role are you most proud of thus far? Why?
The role I am most proud of this far is the one of Paula in “Paula, Why?” This is a film I wrote and produced myself, and has a very autobiographical component to, so it was one of the most challenging parts I have ever had to play.
Are you currently working on anything new and exciting that you’d like to share?
Currently, I am co-producing and acting in the first season of a dramedy webseries where we are hoping for an early 2017 release. Two friends decide to open up an Airbnb in their apartment to cover their NYC rent and do not expect it to be a life-changing experience.
I am in post-production for “Paula, Why?” where we are hoping for a late 2017/early 2018 release mainly geared towards the festival market. The music and boxing themed story of an immigrant brother and sister’s survival in the outskirts of NYC.
We will be going into production before the end of the year on a short film called “Tendencies”: the story of two sisters cleaning out their mother’s house as she needs to move into a retirement home due to early onset Alzheimer’s and everything they discover over the course of that weekend.
This month, the New York Film Academy held an event that presented the work of Sun Lijun “Fan Beilu,” which included traditional art and his documentary “Go Together.”
Professor Sun Lijun, vice president of the Beijing Film Academy, is committed to innovation and the training of young Chinese talent. He has made an outstanding contribution to the domestic animation industry. He has participated in the production of many animated films, including “Little Soldier,” “Sunny Story,” “Happy Running,” “Bateelaer Saga,” “Legend of a Rabbit, ” “Fantastic Adventure” and others.
Lijun noted that China is now the second largest movie market in the world behind Hollywood, but could learn more in terms of the quality of the content. According to Lijun, Chinese films are currently “dumplings” compared to American films, which he said were like “big cakes.” He hopes that more American filmmakers, such as the students from the New York Film Academy, will partner with Chinese filmmakers in order to continually improve the quality of the films.
Lijun’s recent documentary “Go Together,” which he screened at NYFA’s theater at 17 Battery Place, tells the story of a group of Chinese filmmakers who show their animated film to underprivileged children in some of the remote areas of China’s Sichuan province.
Produced by and starring Sun Lijun, the film not only shows the whole picture of Sun’s journey with four other team members, but also the magnificent landscape and culture of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Starting in Chengdu and equipped with professional projection equipment, the team brought the magic and joy of the screen to towns on the plateau with an elevation of over 4,000 meters.
More than just showing animated films for the children, Lijun’s actions have attracted tens of thousands of people’s attention through the internet and social media, and has become a charitable activity, which collects donation for the children in Ganzi.
There were certainly a lot of surprises last week on Election Day. And New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism students were on-the-scene to chronicle the amazing events. Both our short-term and long-term students participated, with production teams sent to the Trump and Clinton HQs, as well as Times Square to capture public reaction.
It was an opportunity to shoot stand-ups for their Resume Reels that reflected their participation in a story that had national, even international implications. It also meant working way past midnight, as the Presidential election wasn’t “called” until the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“The NYFA brand carries credibility,” said Broadcast Journalism student, Amanda Salvato. “Many other notable news channels noticed and networked with us.”
“It was a great opportunity to watch history being made,” added Broadcast Journalism student, Farai Makoni. “We had great equipment and we had to seize the right moments. I feel very privileged to be a part of it.”
If there was an award for persistence, it would go to Patrick Simmons. Patrick didn’t get to sleep until 6amWednesday. But his hard work paid off, with an exclusive interview with Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. Given the number of media outlets looking to talk with her, this accomplishment is nothing short of amazing. Once more, NYFA News is on-the-scene of a major story. Great work, Patrick!
Colonel Jack Jacobs chats with NYFA veteran student, Joshua Flashman, in between takes.
Commissioner Sutton was joined by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient and Chair of the New York Film Academy’s Veterans Advancement Program (VAP) to send a message to both New York City veterans and the civilians who support them. They both spoke about how important the NYC community is to veterans, and how the strengths of the City’s nearly 250,000 veterans adds tremendous value to the NYC communities. Both retired servicemembers asked that— on this 2016 Veterans Day— citizens do more than simply thank veterans for their service, but also to let veterans know what a powerful asset they are as they continue to make invaluable contributions to making this the greatest city— in the greatest country— on earth.
“There’s nobody more creative than veterans,” said Col. Jacobs. “They’re the one’s who bring life experience and creativity to a profession that requires both of those attributes.”
“To see these students working at the New York Film Academy is really a thrill and an affirmation of the strengths we know our veterans have,” added Brigadier General, Sutton.
NYC Department of Veteran Services Commissioner, Loree Sutton Brigadier General (ret.) and Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient and Chair of the NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program (VAP) during taping of the 2016 Veterans’ Day Message.
“It means a lot to know we’re appreciated in our community,” said NYFA Acting for Film student and veteran, Labrena Ware.
“It feels great to have a sense of brotherhood,” added NYFA student and veteran, Pavlos Plakakis, who found his acting calling in the military after being told he had a talent for boosting morale amongst the troops.
Veterans from nearly all branches of service had the opportunity to meet and speak with Commissioner Sutton and Colonel Jacobs during the filming. Those in attendance reflected about the diversity and spirit of the “Big Apple,” and also symbolized the passing of the torch from one generation of American service members to the next.
On Wednesday, November 2, the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus hosted a screening of Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest venture, “Before the Flood.” Directed by Fisher Stevens (“John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown,” “Another World”), “Before the Flood” is a powerful documentary following DiCaprio as he interviews scientists about global warming and its impact on the human race. The film features legendary scientists, politicians, and religious leaders including Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Pope Francis.
Students from all departments packed the theater to be the first to glimpse the film. Acting student Zayne Clayton said, “I came because this is Leo’s project. He’s a great actor and I want to see what he’s doing in his off time. It’s kind of inspiring.”
Some came because of the star power, others for the film’s message. “I’m very interested in how climate change is affecting the world. I want to see how we can change it,” said John Porras.
After the screening, there were several tears and many planned to act on the call to action. Helen Ávila, who has been following DiCaprio’s activism and the development of Before the Flood through his Instagram, said, “This film shows what’s really happening. I hope people see the film and start to act.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Tova Laiter for helping bring this film to NYFA students. “Before the Flood” is now in theaters.