• New York Film Academy Sits Down with Actress Kim Cattrall

    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.

    kim cattrall

    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.”

    kim cattrall at nyfa

    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.

    December 13, 2016 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2450

  • NYFA Improv Instructor Bill Watterson to Premiere “Dave Made a Maze” at Slamdance 2017

    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.

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    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.

    Bill & Meera

    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!

    December 2, 2016 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 2464

  • NYFA Acting Alumna Ingrid Vollset to Appear in “You Can’t Say No” with Peter Fonda

    ingrid vollsetNew 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.

    November 24, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3903

  • NYFA Presents Artwork of Beijing Film Academy’s Sun Lijun

    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.

    sun lijun

    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.

    sun lijun

    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.

    November 16, 2016 • Acting • Views: 991

  • Broadcast Journalism Students Cover Election Day

    election day

    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.

    interview election

    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 6am Wednesday. 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!

    November 14, 2016 • Acting • Views: 1379

  • NYFA Films Special Veterans Day Message with Col. Jacobs and DVS Commissioner, Brigadier General (ret.) Loree Sutton

    Members of New York City Department of Veteran Services (DVS), including the DVS Commissioner, Brigadier General (ret.) Loree Sutton, gathered at the New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) state-of-the-art facilities at 17 Battery Park to film a special Veterans Day message to salute, and thank those veterans who have served in our Armed Forces. The message marks the first official Veterans Day message from the City of New York’s newly created Department of Veterans Services.

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    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.

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    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.

    November 9, 2016 • Acting, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Veterans • Views: 1676

  • NYFA Students Attend “Before the Flood” Screening

    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.

    before the flood

    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.

    November 9, 2016 • Acting • Views: 2912

  • NYFA Thesis Films to Premiere at DOC NYC 2016

    doc nycThe New York Film Academy Documentary Department is proud to announce the premiere of four NYFA thesis documentaries selected for the renowned DOC NYC Film Festival this Friday, November 11th, from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM at the IFC Center, 323 6th Ave, New York, NY.

    Brainchild of the Toronto International Film Festival’s celebrated programmer Thom Powers, DOC NYC has been voted one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “five coolest documentary film festivals in the world.”  It’s also one of the most respected, and America’s largest. Based at the West Village’s IFC Center, Chelsea’s SVA Theater and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema, the eight-day festival showcases new achievements in documentary film along with panels and conversations.  This is second year in a row where NYFA student thesis projects will premiere at the festival.

    “Whether breaking your heart, opening your eyes or keeping you laughing for 16 minutes straight, these four films announce the arrival of a group of fast rising new Doc-Stars. And they are but the tip of an iceberg,” said Andrea Swift, Chair, NYFA Documentary Department. “We couldn’t be prouder to see them premiere at one of the top documentary festivals in the world.”

    The NYFA thesis films that will screen are:


    Directed by Laura Snow

    When Laura was 5 years old, her father moved out of the home and into a trailer in the backyard. Twenty years later, Laura sets out to discover why in this unsentimental, unvarnished family mystery. For anyone who grew up with a father just out of reach, and for veterans and their families still haunted by the horrors of war.



    Directed by Ida Myklebost

    Six year-old Menwar and his family live in a tent at a gas station in Greece. Having fled the Syrian Civil War, they now face the biggest decision of their lives: will they follow the other refugees to a prison-like government camp or break all the rules and make an illegal run for the border.


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    Directed by Anais Michel

    Coach Mike instills strict Russian discipline, expects perfection and relentlessly demands that his boxers deliver — even though they are only 6 years old — and mostly just want to get through elementary school in one piece.



    Directed by Pavan Kumar Indla

    There’s a hotel in India where people go to die. Here, Narayan seeks Moksha above the roar of the giant ritual fires that cremate the ceaseless stream of dead brought to Varanasi to enter the sacred river Ganges. If one can leave the body behind in Varanasi, it is believed they will be released from the cycle of birth and death, achieving Moksha. Narayan’s is a deep, intimate spiritual journey toward that end.

    With limited seats available, you can purchase tickets to NYFA’s DOC NYC screening, here.


    November 7, 2016 • Acting • Views: 2124

  • NYFA Student Directed Play “Woza Albert”

    woza albertThe New York Film Academy’s sixth Student Directed Play is the South African play “Woza Albert!” (which means “Rise Albert”) by Percy Mrwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon. The production is directed by Ydalie Jikmat, Fall ’15 BFA, and stars NYFA alumni Ricky Cruz and Nyeleti Khoza.

    The two actors play roles of various South Africans — a vendor, barber, servant, manual laborer, soldier — receiving the news that Christ (Morena) has arrived in South Africa, where a Calvinist white elite imposes apartheid. Christ’s arrival precipitates a crisis, and the government launches a nuclear bomb against the peacemaker. In the ruins, great South African leaders in resistance to apartheid such as Albert Luthuli, assassinated president of the African National Congress, are resurrected. They play dozens of parts that involve them using many skills such as acting, mime, singing and dance. They also create images using a few words and actions.


    “Woza Albert!” is a part of my anatomy as a performer and theatre-maker,” says Jikmat. “Through humor and an unparalleled energetic spirit the play mobilized people to take action against an oppressive system. It is the reason I have such a high regard for theatre as a powerful, effecting medium. Sharing this piece of my culture with my peers is a privilege and having the opportunity to direct the play is a need fulfilled. I am so grateful.”

    “Woza Albert!” will be performed this Thursday and Friday at 7:30 and Saturday at 1:30 in the Kaminski Theater.

    November 3, 2016 • Acting • Views: 1528

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

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

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

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

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

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

    tamara bunker

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

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

    November 3, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1982