“Where Cultures Collide,” a web series produced and directed by NYFA’s MFA Documentary students in Los Angeles, is set to be published by PBS affiliate KCET starting August 1, 2017. The five-part series of 5-7 minute segments explores aspects of different cultures that have merged into the mainstream in Southern California and been transformed to a degree. The series spotlights cultural contributions from Latin America, Thailand, Polynesia, Armenia, and Saudi Arabia.
As part of their Community Film Project class, our MFA Documentary students had a unique opportunity to work with KCET in a professional producing relationship. The class, led by instructor Denise Hamilton, met with their “client” KCET to determine their interests. After the initial contact, they developed and presented concepts for them in a pitch meeting and were Greenlit to produce stories about unique “cultural clashes”. It was a professional pitch session that they passed with flying colors!
Students Ashley Harris, GuangLi Zhu, Yuan Li, Zhengyi Zhong, Sultan Aljurays, Camilla Borel-Rinkes, Mira Hamour, Carolina Sosa Andres and Kristen Lydsdottir served as directors, producers and crew members, responsible for the entire process from pre-production to post.
“It was a very difficult assignment” Denise acknowledges, “because they had to conduct extensive research and produce while simultaneously planning and prepping their thesis films.”
And, like any Client / Producer relationship, the group received notes for adaptations and changes throughout the process. Ultimately, the students obtained an invaluable lesson about creating work for someone else, and got a kick-start into the professional world of producing for a high-level client. KUDOS!
Chair of Industry Outreach and Professional Development Barbara Weintraub held a Social Media Networking Night at NYFA Los Angeles in late July. Over 220 students from the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus attended the event held in the Riverside Building.
The lobby was filled with film companies like Film Independent and New Filmmakers LA. They were there to share opportunities for students, membership experiences, and career paths.
A color-coded system helped students get in touch with other students. Small dots on name tags indicated whether the attending was an actor, filmmaker, photographer, or game designer.
“There are so many students that I hadn’t met,” said acting student An Phan. “I’m at the Barham building most of the time while the photography and filmmaking students are at Riverside. I never get to interact with them. I saw a lot of portfolios and I was blown away by how talented everyone was. It was great interaction. I had a lot of fun.”
The New York Film Academy would like to wish all the students applying for professional memberships and those students teaming up to work on a project success on their next venture.
Four lucky NYFA documentary filmmaking students got to attend the renowned Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as fellows this spring.
The festival is distinguished from most major festivals by its laid back atmosphere. There’s a lot more hanging out and talking film, which creates a refreshing creative atmosphere.
Even so, there were plenty of documentary bigwigs present, who made themselves very accessible to the student fellows.
On the first day, festival Artistic Director Sadie Tillery invited them to have lunch with Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and discuss his new doc, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” Later, she invited them to join her again for a special master class with Peter Nicks focused on his new doc, “The Force.”
Tillery also hooked the fellows up with a specially curated program of films, many of which were in such high demand students wouldn’t have gotten in on their own.
Tillery shared that the Fellows Program holds a special place in her heart: “It is particularly inspiring to welcome students to the festival. Through the Fellows Program, we strive to create a forum for up-and-coming artists to connect with content, filmmakers, and each other.”
Director Tiffany Rhynard had been filming for two years already. Rhynard met the film’s subject, Moises Serrano, by chance when collaborating with a friend, and instantly felt a connection.
Serrano’s harrowing story as an undocumented immigrant was one that needed to be shared with the rest of the world. The fact that Serrano was also queer and DOMA was still in effect helped bring an eye to the intersectionality many undocumented people have to face daily.
When Mathews heard about Serrano, she instantly knew she wanted to be a part of telling his story and signed on to edit the project. Her first task was to try and figure out the best format to tell the story, but the decision to do a feature or a television show wasn’t clear immediately.”We didn’t know what it would be until I was deep into watching footage,” Mathews explained, “About two months, when I realized it would make a feature.”
“We picture-locked just in time for Outfest,” Mathews began. “Right before Tiffany arrived I had lunch with David Michael Barrett, a really good queer filmmaker. We were trying to remain positive and stay out of the [political] fray, but he sat me down and had a real heart-to-heart with me.”
Mathews pitched an idea to Rhynard and the powerful intro to the film, of a recent anti-immigration, rally was born.
To watch the NYFA Hour tune into Popcorn Talk on YouTube every Thursday at 4 p.m. PST. You can catch up on previous episodes with amazing guests like film critic Peter Rainer, who discussed the legacy of Marlon Brando. Catch “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” on LOGO, August 3, 9 p.m. EST/PST.
On Saturday, July 1, teens and tweens participating in the New York Film Academy Summer Camp in Los Angeles took a break from the hard work of filmmaking to see a summer blockbuster classic. “Top Gun” was screening in the field at the Autry Museum.
Usually, the students are hard at work developing their film projects. Most days, they are learning the difference between camera lens sizes, rehearsing a new acting technique, experimenting with the latest 3D technology, revising a script or shooting on a professional backlot. On this night, however, their hard work was rewarded with a special screening.
This screening was unique because it was surrounded by some of the top food trucks in Los Angeles. For many of the students, this was the first time they had seen a movie under the stars. The combination of live music and multicultural food trucks made the night an event.
The head of Summer Camps, Ale Salinas said, “This is a unique and fun experience.
We’re doing this for the students to bond and watch fun movies in a Hollywood way.”
The New York Film Academy is proud of the great strides out Summer Camp students are making and hope their night off was a fun one.
On Friday, June 27, the first New York Film Academy teen and kids summer camp programs came to an end. As students waited for their graduation ceremony to start, they took selfies while their parents banded together.
As the lights dimmed, the acting students presented their one to two minute monologues. Their head shots were projected before the video began. Filmed against a white background “audition style,” each actor chose a unique piece to perform.
Then, the student’s short films were screened. Their backdrop was the Universal backlot, the same place “Hairspray” was filmed. Students were given a challenge to make a movie without dialogue. They wrote, directed, filmed, and edited their own productions from start to finish.
Their instructors and councilors were in attendance and issued certificates of completion. In their farewells they offered words of encouragement. Camera Instructor Bart Mastronardi offered the wise words of Helen Keller: “Life is either an incredible journey or it’s nothing at all.”
“In five days you’ve done an amazing job. This is one of the best one-week programs. You’re all so ambitious. Parents and grandparents keep pushing these kids. They really appreciate it. Even if they don’t always show it,” said NYFA Instructor Martin Thompson.
After they collected their certificates each student was given a copy of their work to use for reels or to share with friends and family. The graduates and their families finished the night with cupcakes and dancing by the pool.
Head of programs Ale Salinas described the programs objectively in her farewell, stating, “Some of you may have learned that this isn’t what you want to do at all, that’s valid, too. But I’m being honest when I say we’re going to miss you.”
The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all of the students in finishing their first film. We look forward to the seeing second film real soon.
Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members.
Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members, assisting veterans and spouses with finding employment.
The first half of the eight-hour workshop was a practicum related to resume theory, networking techniques, and how to affectively prepare for an interview. Representatives from Hire Heroes USA, Jamie Rimphanli and Walter Serrano, coached veteran students on how to properly format their resumes and discussed, in-depth, the importance of networking and how to prepare for a job interview.
Highlights from the day included an exercise that had all of the participants do a speed networking session. Also, HHUSA brought a photographer who took professional head shots for the veteran students’ LinkedIn pages.
“We felt that this training and these types of vet student-centric activities are increasingly important because they help prepare our students to meet with HR/Talent Acquisition teams from the major studios,” explained NYFA Director of Veterans Services Department John Powers.
Retired Army veteran and MFA cinematography student Bryan Hudson stated, “The Hire Heroes USA workshop was a fantastic forum to introduce veterans with industry insiders and provide the opportunity to learn from them. The event was beneficial to everyone involved about learning the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the interview process and how to break into the entertainment industry. One thing that I learned from the workshop is to establish relationships that will be beneficial to both parties. Thank you to the NYFA Veterans Department for putting on this marvelous event, and I hope that this will be the first of many events with Hire Heroes USA.”
The NYFA Veteran Services Department is extremely grateful to Hire Heroes USA for partnering with us to bring this wonderful opportunity to NYFA veteran students.
In an age where information is readily available through everyday technology, former New York Film Academy student Atif Ali Khan’s documentary “ED Vs IT: SOS” explores the role of education in an information driven age — how we have to dissect and deploy the online IT tools to create a giant technological leap forward to educate our next generation. The documentary investigates how, if we don’t make the amends, our lives will be controlled by robots.
Khan’s thought-provoking documentary, which is now available on Amazon Prime, has peaked our curiosity, leading us to an interview with the director to find out more about him and his film.
Congrats on your recent documentary, “ED Vs IT”! Let’s begin by telling us where you’re from, and what brought you to NYFA?
Originally from Pakistan, NYFA was my ticket to Hollywood. It is where you get firsthand exposure with industry professionals, who have not only “been there and done that,” but are also actively involved in various projects too. They also recommend you, if you have outstanding skills.
In fact, for me it became a mode of networking with the top notch professionals in Hollywood. NYFA surpassed my expectations of what I had envisioned. The faculty not only gives you the hands-on skills, but they teach you the creative process of storytelling. A giant leap in confidence. Shooting at Universal Studios backlot was a dream. From the Golden Age of Cinema to the Silversceen VOD age of today, I saw it all from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are held, to the actual locations where top-grossing movies are made. We embraced it all during our thesis film project.
They were shooting “Modern Family” and Sofia Vergara was right behind our shooting location on the European set. I recovered all the money I had invested at NYFA within two months of my graduation with a bunch of projects. It is that good. It is like an interneship at Paramount. The NYFA jacket is an easy pass to enter anywhere — be it press coverage or a movie set.
New York is the TV hub of the world and doing it at the LA Campus I got exposed to film fraternity of the highest cadre in the world. Needless to say, I received a host of discounts against my NYFA student ID from B&H to Amazon and from Best Buy to Apple. I got many projects just by “name-dropping” NYFA. It is the most respected name be it Tokyo, China, Italy, Abu Dhabi and from the East to the West Coast. Ten years from now, every film project in the world will have a NYFA alumni in one form or another.
Additionally, I became friends with Craig Fox, in New York, who is a leading stand up comedian and whom I later found is a teacher of Acting for Film at NYFA in New York. He introduced me to a range of actors, who are either studying at NYFA or are graduates. All are very active on Broadway (theater) and the improv scene in New York.
How did this documentary “ED Vs IT” come about? What drew you to this subject?
I saw online platforms emerging at a dynamic pace, from entertainment to mobile and from Amazon to banks.
The production design tips, given by my teacher Jack Daniels at NYFA, really came in handy. I did all of the production from shoot to special FX and editing. Finally, the film was made on a shoe string budget with no production compromises at all. You really don’t need a studio to back your project — if you learn the NYFA guerrilla filmmaking.
What do you hope to achieve with this documentary? What is your overall message?
It is a wake up call. Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence is steering forward at an alarming pace. Automation is taking over human capital way faster than ever anticipated. We need to overhaul the outdated education modules with a sense of urgency. We can’t stay complacent as self-driving cars and automated businesses are quickly replacing human resources. If we don’t take active measures there will be a resource apocalypse, which might lead to a ‘Terminator sort of situation’ where robots will be used as bodyguards and there will be no checks and measures in place for their legal litigation. People will fight amongst themselves, with machines to win their livelihood.
Do you think NYFA’s training was useful in terms of being able to create this documentary?
Absolutely, it is like assisting a movie with Stanley Kubrick. If you follow how they instruct and “walk you through” various technical nuances, you will develop a huge conceptual framework overnight. It is like a firsthand experience because they run you through all the litmus tests of past, present and future of filmmaking. I learned from NYFA how to stage a scene, how to convert my vision into telling my story with words and visuals. Like I said earlier, NYFA is a lifestyle; it is a fraternity where recommendations are made, where your teachers and former students all interact and integrate to create a future for you in media industry. With future of video so bright with Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and MSM (Mainstream Media), I think I did myself the best favor of my life to enroll at NYFA. Every penny that I invested has given my 1000% returns and I am just in the second year of since graduating.
My teacher Brendan Davis at the LA campus taught me that ‘film is a collaborative art’ and it really helped me to liaise with people whom I interviewed for the documentary. I was cultured about the artist protocols in terms of getting work done on time and drawing the best talent out of voice-over talents who narrated my project. Without NYFA I wouldn’t have been able to bring it all together.
I also now provide stock footage to famous Video Blocks that outsource for more than 15 leading TV channels including Discovery, MTV and History.
How did your relationship with Amazon Prime come about?
Documentary is the next big thing. After winning several Oscars, Oliver Stone recently made a documentary about Putin for Showtime. Every evening I see at least one documentary on Amazon or Netflix. While Netflix distribution is rather lengthy, I sent my demo to Amazon Studios and got an instant approval. Amazon Studios is an amazing platform where you can DIY everything from script to approval and release.
Studying at NYFA I got the membership for Without a Box. Not only did I learn how the film industry in VOD age works, but I also learned how to submit my film to festivals across the globe in a tapeless format. My student film (that I wrote, directed & produced at NYFA) went on and got selected in the pro categories across the globe and got top spots in London Intl. Film Festival and various others. Building on that experience and response, I have now submitted this documentary in many Oscar qualifying film festivals. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next level.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes, I am working on a psychological horror feature film, based in NY. I am using improv actors and special FX like Neon Demon to create a new wave feature project. The project named “Disowned” is starring Michael S. Benjamin and Heather Cole as the lead.
I am also covering IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards on July 16, 2017 at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey. IIFA is the equivalent to Oscar for Bollywood film industry. I also provided press coverage to their conference at Sheraton Times Square on June 1, 2017 — live streaming from Mumbai.
Lastly, as a follow up to the script I wrote for the documentary, I have been offered a writing deal to the book covering the same theme but a step forward in terms of its criticality. “Automation vs. Autocracy.”
On Monday, May 8th New York Film Academy students from the Documentary, Game Design, and Filmmaking gathered to do a one-on-one meet and greet with composers from the Academy of Scoring Arts and the Los Angeles College of Music.
Students went round robin style as they interviewed with the twenty different composers. They described their projects, what they hoped the music would achieve, listened to samples, and spoke about the best way to connect and communicate with composers when working on a project.
Head of Documentary and organizer of the meet and greet, Barbara Multer-Wellin, was excited to have students explore original music for their projects. “A good score can change the way an audience feels about what their viewing,” she said. “A great score can make a picture. Cultivating these relationships early is vital for our students.”
One student, Juanita Alvarez described the experience as one her favorite opportunities at NYFA. “The only thing I can’t get at NYFA is a film score,” said Alvarez. “Originally, I had placed fair use music I found online over the film. But after meeting not one, but four great composers tonight and hearing what they could do for my project, I’ll be making room in my budget for an original score.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank the composers who took the time to speak with our students.
With experience covering the Syrian War and training at the Documentary School at the New York Film Academy, director Ida Theresa Myklebost takes us up-close and personal into a makeshift refugee camp in Greece where a young boy, Menwar, and his family face the biggest decision of their lives. “Unwelcome” captures his emotional journey and his flight from the devastating conditions in Syria. His story will turn everything you thought you knew about the Syrian refugee crisis on its head. And now, the film will have its North American Premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival on May 27, 2017 at 6pm.
“In times when people become overwhelmed with negative media and fear for potential terrorist attacks, it is important to remember who the actual vast majority of these refugees are, and who really gets their lives destroyed by the terror organizations,” says Myklebost. “The children of Syria have had their lives turned completely upside down. These are the real victims of ISIS and the other terrorist organizations. They are the ones who are being pulled into this war completely against their will, and who have no power to escape.”
Myklebost is a Norwegian journalist, with background from some of the country’s largest TV-stations. She wanted to go deeper and explore the human stories behind the state news. In 2015 she moved to New York to pursue documentary filmmaking at New York Film Academy.
“Although I have a lot of experience in the media world and have worked under high pressure situations covering among others the Syrian war, the knowledge and training I got from NYFA was indispensable,” said Myklebost. “Mainly, I learned to organize on a larger scale, planning a three continental shoot.”
She traveled directly from New York to India to shoot a film that had to be coordinated with her later shoot in Greece. Once in Athens, she led a team, keeping a cool and organized head under high pressure.
Myklebost listed some of the complications, saying, “The police tried to take our passports away, the camp got cleared, we met a few threatening characters who didn’t like us filming, human smugglers and frustrated people talking about ISIS, planning a budget, dealing with many people in chaotic and sometimes dangerous situations, and planning a film while in the field.”
I am really content with how I went over all the shots every night, and saw what we had and didn’t have,” said Myklebost. “I thought out what stories we might be onto and made detailed storyboards, so when I got back to New York, there were no surprises and I could just stitch the film together. These are the skills NYFA taught me. I’ve always been a go-getter, and a hard worker, but NYFA pushed me further. They took the skills I already had and offered me an opportunity to see how far I could go with this. They became a platform where I could bounce my ideas, discuss solutions, learn from the professionals and their experiences; and thus enter the field that much more prepared. The true lesson I take away from NYFA is to finally understand the value and importance of good and thorough pre-production. If you know what you want and how to get it (and how to get it if the first plan doesn’t work, or the second or the third), then the process of making movies in the field, and on the run, becomes that much more enjoyable. It’s hard work, but it feels like play if you’re well prepared.”