Documentary Filmmaking
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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and GreenLight Women Q&A with the Filmmakers of “Stuntwomen”

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    Stuntwomen Q&AOn Saturday, November 10, New York Film Academy and GreenLight Women hosted a screening of the documentary, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, followed by a Q&A with director, April Wright; producers, Michael Gruskoff and Marion Rosenberg; and stuntwoman, Amy Johnston; with the event moderated by Rosenberg. Afterward, students were able to meet the panelists and discuss the film at a reception in the lobby.

    April Wright is a director, writer, and producer known for the films, My BFF (2015), The Graveyard Shift (2010), and Layover (2009). Michael Gruskoff is a producer known for the films, Prelude to a Kiss (1992), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Marion Rosenberg is a producer known for the films, Revolutionary Road (2008), Hollow Man (2000), and The Deer Hunter (1978). Amy Johnston is a stuntwoman known for the films, Deadpool (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).

    Rosenberg opened up the Q&A by inquiring about how all of the panelists came to be involved in the film. Wright shared that she had already worked on an archive-heavy documentary, so she felt like she could take on the challenge of bringing the book, Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story, by Mollie Gregory to life. 

    Wright asked herself, “How can we bring this into the present [and] not just make it a history [documentary] but really, you know, what are stuntwomen doing today? And bring it up to the present and have some action in the movie so that it wouldn’t be all ‘talking heads.’”Stuntwomen Q&A

    Wright added that the timing of the documentary and its subject matter felt especially relevant as there have been movements in Hollywood recently to push for more inclusion of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community in various roles behind the scenes. “We felt like this group of stuntwomen represented the bigger picture,” Wright said, “It was just sort of this microcosm of what was happening in the whole industry [and] all the things that [women have] been fighting for for all these years.”

    Rosenberg asked Johnston what the film meant to her as a stuntwoman. “One of the questions I always get asked is ‘how do you become a stuntwoman and why are you a stuntwoman?’” said Johnston. “This is so important to share vital information about how we do things and why we do things.” She added that the film taught her about the history of stuntwomen in the earlier days of the film industry, “I learned how much these women paved the way for us.”

    Though strides have been made for the stuntwoman community in terms of job opportunities and safety, Wright and Johnston look forward to even more progress being made in the future.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank April Wright, Michael Gruskoff, Marion Rosenberg, and Amy Johnston for sharing their riveting documentary and positive message about inclusion in Hollywood.

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    November 19, 2018 • #WomenOfNYFA, Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 676

  • Forbes Interviews New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Alana Blaylock

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alana Blaylock has had a productive career since finishing the 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in the summer of 2011. It’s no surprise then that many in the indAlana Blaylockustry have taken notice of the Emmy Award winner, including Forbes Magazine, which recently published a profile on and interview with the up-and-coming producer.

    Blaylock has amassed an inspiring roster of credits since finishing her workshop at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school, which teaches aspiring reporters a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of the production process, including researching, writing, shooting, producing, and editing. This is important in the modern digital landscape as contemporary broadcast journalists are expected to be multimedia journalists, marrying their technical skills with their creative ones. 

    This is exactly what Blaylock has excelled at, and why she has already won an Emmy and why her career is taking off even as her path winds between both traditional roads and outside-the-box ones. Her credits include work on CNN, HBO, NBC News, National Geographic, and the ID Channel, including popular programs Deadline and United Shades of America. However, her work on newer streaming models like Amazon and YouTube is what has been generating a lot of buzz. 

    One of her latest projects is producing for Best Shot, a YouTube Originals docuseries executive produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter for the NBA. The show follows the student basketball players of Newark Central High School as well as chronicling the life and career of their mentor, former NBA player and sports television personality Jay Williams.

    In addition to working in both traditional and digital media, Blaylock curates a strong online presence on social media, further highlighting her smart instincts in an ever-changing media landscape.

    “I love the visual storytelling that happens on Instagram,” Blaylock tells Forbes. “That’s the platform I probably use the most [in my personal life]. And I am inspired by movies, set design, museums, exhibits and artists.”

    She continues, “I try to take in as much new culture as possible and then decide what I want to do with it or how it fits into my process as a creative.”

    What lies ahead for Blaylock remains to be seen, but it’s clear whatever she does next will be insightful and successful due to the work she puts in and the philosophy that keeps her driven. When asked about keeping her own personal voice while working on other parties’ projects, Blaylock tells Forbes, “My brand evolves as I attain more world experience. I have to remain authentically Alana, and the projects that I take on are continuations of my career journey.

    “I can adapt to the demands of a project and still be the best version of myself. I remain steadfast in my goals while producing every show, documentary or collaboration. As a result of working on many projects, there’s always new information and experiences. It keeps me well-rounded.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Alana Blaylock on her career and looks forward to her future successes sure to come!

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  • New York Film Academy Instructor Edits Record-Breaking “Free Solo” Documentary

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    The Year of the Documentary strikes again with the arrival of National Geographic’s Free Solo. The 2018 documentary, edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Bob Eisenhardt, focuses on rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan, the vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, without ropes, or “free solo.” El Capitan is so dangerous, no one has ever tried before. Honnold is the only person to have ever accomplished the feat.

    Free Solo currently sits at an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes after 66 glowing reviews. Tom Russo of the Boston Globe said of the film, “Go figure that the year’s most outrageously harrowing action movie turns out to be an arthouse doc from National Geographic.” Free Solo beat out An Inconvenient Truth as the highest per-venue average of all time. The documentary is also screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List at the 2018 DOCNYC film festival, and has been shortlisted by the International Documentary Association (IDA). It was directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.

    Editor Bob Eisenhardt is an Academy Award nominee, three-time Emmy winner, and recipient of the coveted “Eddie” aka American Cinema Editors Award. He has edited over 60 films, mostly feature and television documentaries, including Everything is Copy (HBO), Jerusalem (IMAX), and another rock climbing documentary, Sundance Audience Award Winner Meru. He teaches Advanced Thesis Editing and is a Master Class instructor at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. In 2017, Eisenhardt’s film Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood was screened at DOC NYC.

    Free Solo is the latest in an exciting run of releases for NYFA Documentary faculty. This year alone has seen rave reviews for Claudia Raschke’s work on RBG, Kristen Nutile’s work on Heroin(e), and Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not To Kid, all of whom are instructors at NYFA’s Documentary school. For the past eight years, NYFA has been ranked as one of the nation’s top documentary filmmaking schools, grooming students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Bob Eisenhardt on the continued success of Free Solo!

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    November 8, 2018 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 464

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Kendall Ciesemier Talks Activism, Social Causes

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    Chicago native, New York-based producer, writer, and social entrepreneur Kendall Ciesemier has been making waves with breaking news stories and interviews about social causes ever since she was 11 years old. At that young age, she formed Kids Caring 4 Kids to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. While she was at Georgetown University, Kendall co-founded OWN IT, a women’s leadership initiative to empower college-aged women to engage with women leaders. And at New York Film Academy (NYFA), Ciesemier completed the 6-week Documentary program in 2017.

    Ciesemier’s personal history of health issues inspired her humanitarian work. Expounding upon that, she says, “My own health struggles entirely formed the lens through which I look at the world.” In lieu of gifts and flowers during her recovery, she humbly requested well-wishers donate to the village of Musele, Zambia — the most highly affected area by the AIDS epidemic at the time. “I found my purpose in founding Kids Caring 4 Kids,” added Ciesemier. Since 2004, 8,000 individuals in five different African countries have been assisted via the construction of dormitories, orphan care centers, a clinic, classrooms, computer labs, bicycles, indoor plumbing, meals, and clean water.

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    LINK IN BIO: My interview with #MeToo founder @taranajaneen just dropped on @mic’s FB watch show: #MicDispatch. Go watch and learn and wow! Tarana really brings it. We discuss Kavanaugh, the one year anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the state of the #MeToo movement. . Here’s her message for survivors which I found so comforting: “I want us to lay our burdens down. This should be laid at the feet of the Senate. This should be laid at the feet of your local politicians. It should be laid at the feet of the school or institution or whoever that didn't protect you. It's not our burden to bear.” #survivors #believesurvivors #metoo #believewomen #metoomovement

    A post shared by Kendall Ciesemier (@kendallciesemier) on

    Now a producer at Mic, Ciesemier recently found herself helping out with an interview of rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in 2018 as the youngest woman in Congressional history. The Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed 29-year old recently stunned the country after defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed alongside fellow DSA-supported Cynthia Nixon, who lost her bid to defeat incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo.

    At Mic, her topics range from criminal justice reform, racial justice, the #MeToo movement, and more. Her recent interview with Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, helped lead to Johnson’s clemency as is arguably the highlight of Ciesemier’s career.

    Speaking of the experience, Ciesemier said, “We actually drove down alongside her family, three hours from Memphis to Alabama. We were racing to get there in time to pick up Alice and watching her walk across the street and see her family across from the prison was pretty powerful.” She continued, “I think, as a journalist, you’re taught to just do your job — but you’re also a human being. I don’t think I processed all of that experience until a good four days after. This is a story I’ll never forget.”

    Ciesemier tweeted her emotional reaction to the release:

    Activists also showed their support of Alice Marie Johnson’s release, including Reese Witherspoon, who thanked Ciesemeier on Twitter for her efforts:

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kendall Ciesemier for her time and, more importantly, her community service, philanthropy, and activism. We wish her the best of luck with all her future endeavors.

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  • “Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began” Previews at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    This is a big week for me, and for a group of instructors, here at the New York Film Academy (NYFA). On Wednesday, my latest documentary will make it’s US television premiere. And it could never have been made without the support of NYFA, and my fellow faculty members.

    Distributed by American Public Television, Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began will debut on WLIW/21 in New York on Wednesday, November 7 at 10pm. The following evening, November 8, the program will air on NJTV at 9pm and will be seen by viewers in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. (A schedule for key US markets can be found below.) Eventually we anticipate 200+ channels airing the program. 

    Following a six-month exclusive “window” for Public Television distribution, the documentary will become available on popular streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and iTunes.

    Shanghai 1937

    Shanghai 1937

    World War II started in 1937? In China?

    Those are the provocative questions behind the new Public Television documentary Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began. While largely forgotten outside of China, the Battle of Shanghai in 1937 marked the first time the military forces of Imperial Japan came up against effective, ongoing resistance. The first American civilians killed in what would become World War II, as well as the first American serviceman, died in Shanghai during August 1937.

    In Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began, a group of internationally recognized historians and scholars describe how the events that took place in Shanghai pulled the world inevitably towards war, while at the same time instilling in the Chinese people a true sense of nationhood. The results of that transformation continue to be felt today. In fact, to understand contemporary Chinese attitudes and policies, you have to look to its past.

    Still, at its heart, this is the story of shattered lives and enduring dreams. That story is told in part by Liliane Willens, who at 92 years old is one of the few witnesses to these events still alive. She and her family were members of a community of stateless Russian Jews. Deemed “citizens of nowhere,” they were welcome to live in Shanghai, but could never leave.

    Shanghai’s large expat community controlled the city’s economy, living lives of privilege. War destroyed their world, and set the stage for the China of today. Liliane would eventually be admitted to the United States in 1951, and went on to teach at prestigious American colleges and universities. Today she is a lecturer and author, living in Washington, D.C.

    Production of Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began spanned three years and three continents. It incorporates little-seen footage located in film libraries around the world, as well as original interviews and scenic footage shot specifically for this documentary. Contributors include two of the leading Chinese experts on this subject: Su Zhiliang, Ph.D. of Shanghai Normal University and Ma Zhendu, Director of the Second Historical Archives of China, as well as Hans van de Ven, Ph.D. of the University of Cambridge in England, American military historian Edward Drea, Ph.D., and Danish historian and author Peter Harmsen.

    Teacher’s Notes written by Syd Golston, a past president of the National Council for the Social Studies, can be downloaded free of charge. Included in these materials are poems written by Chinese American author Wing Tek Lum. The Teacher’s Notes are at Shanghai1937.tv, where additional information about the program is also available along with a trailer.

    I am the Producer/Director of Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began. Previously I developed and produced programming for PBS, CBS, ABC, HBO and Discovery. I’ve been telling stories about China for more than 25 years. My four-part documentary series tied to the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beyond Beijing, was seen in 43 countries by 250+ million viewers. I became Chair of the Broadcast Journalism school at the New York Film Academy in 2013.

    Co-Producer/Editor Evgenia Vlasova was the anchor and co-producer of an award-winning morning show in her native Russia. Born in the Russian Far East, she is no stranger to China. She too is a faculty member in the Broadcast Journalism department at the New York Film Academy.

    Digital Producer Theresa Loong traces her family heritage back to southern China. She is a multimedia producer and director based in New York.

    Associate Producer Nancy Hanzhang Shen previously worked in admissions and social media at NYFA. She is now a freelance video editor. NYFA audio instructor Dionysius Vlachos was the Supervising Sound Editor, NYFA editing instructor Lexi Phillips was the Colorist, and NYFA acting instructor Lea Tolub Brandenburg narrated key passages. Wenting Wu was the Graphic Designer. (That is her wonderful work that you see in the trailer, and the opening of the program.)

    Last Thursday we had a preview screening at NYFA, with our own version of a red carpet. Only at this event, it was the production personnel who took center stage.

    Shanghai 1937

    L to R: Bill Einreinhofer, Theresa Loong, Nancy Hanzhang Shen, Evgenia Vlasova

     

    Shanghai 1937

    L to R: Nancy Hanzhang Shen, Wenting Wu, Evgenia Vlasova, Bill Einreinhofer, Dee Vlachos

     


    U.S. TOP 50 MARKETS CARRIAGE
    (Partial list, all times are local. Some stations will air the program more than once.)

    New York
    WLIW Wednesday 11/7/18 @ 10p
    WNJB (NJTV) Thursday 11/8/18 @ 9p
    WNJN (NJTV) Thursday 11/8/18 @ 9p

    Los Angeles
    KLCS Tuesday 11/13/18 @ 9p
    KCET Tuesday 11/13/18 @ 8p

    Chicago
    WTTW Sunday 11/11/18 @ 5p

    Philadelphia
    WNJS (NJTV) Thursday 11/8/18 @ 9p
    WNJT (NJTV) Thursday 11/8/18 @ 9p

    San Francisco
    KQED Sunday 11/11/18 @ 7p
    KRCB Sunday 11/18/18 @ 10p

    Seattle
    KCTS Monday 11/12/18 @ 1p (Veterans Day programming)

    Miami
    WLRN Monday 11/12/18 @ 8p

    Denver
    KRMA Tuesday 11/20/18 @ 10p

    Orlando
    WEFS Sunday 11/11/18 @ 9p

    Charlotte
    WNSC Sunday 11/11/18 @ 2p

    Nashville
    WNPT Thursday 11/8/18 @ 11p

    Salt Lake City
    KUEN Wednesday 11/14/18 @ 9p

    Kansas City
    KCPT Sunday 11/11/18 @ 2p

    Cincinnati
    WCET Tuesday 12/4/18 @ 8p

    Greenville-Spartanburg
    WNEH Sunday 11/11/18 @ 2p

    Austin
    KLRU Thursday 11/8/18 @ 9p

    Albuquerque
    KENW Friday 11/9/18 @ 9p

    Louisville
    WKMJ Sunday 11/11/18 @10p

    Grand Rapids
    WGVK Sunday 11/11/18 @ 3p

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    November 6, 2018 • Broadcast Journalism, China, Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights • Views: 326

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Mira Hamour

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    The award-winning documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities first found life as an MFA graduation project for New York Film Academy MFA Documentary alum Mira Hamour. It quickly took a life on its own, and thanks to the passion and incredibly demanding—both physically and emotionally—work put in by Hamour, the film has gone on to win eleven awards (and counting)  since its completion in July 2018.

    These honors include:Mira Hamour

    -London Independent Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -South Film And Arts Academy Festival (Best Documentary Short Film)
    -Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit)
    -Cinema World Fest Awards (Best in Show, Best Documentary Short)
    -International Independent Film Awards (Platinum Award)
    -Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -Independent Shorts Awards (Gold Award for Best Documentary Short)
    -Top Shorts (Best Documentary Award)
    -Docs Without Borders Film Festival (WINNER: Revolution and Reform- Exceptional Merit)
    -Global Shorts (WINNER: Special Mention)

    Additionally, Syria’s Tent Cities has been selected to screen at the Studio City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, an official selection at Short to the Point festival, selected at the Short Long World Festival, been selected as a Semi-Finalist at the Directors Cut Int’l Film Festival, and chosen in the Top Shorts Semi-Finalist Top 40 films. Hamour will be attending the screening on November 14.

     

    The documentary short isn’t just a film—it’s a call to action by Hamour, telling vitally important stories from one of this century’s greatest humanitarian crises and educating its viewers on how they can help in their own small way. Not just a powerful work of filmmaking, Syria’s Tent Cities is an extrapolation of Mira Hamour herself—a passionate plea for empathy and understanding from an artist whose heart matches her mastery of the documentary craft. 

    Amid a festival circuit for Syria’s Tent Cities as well as pre-production and production of several other projects, Hamour found time to chat with New York Film Academy about her film, what drives her work, and her time at NYFA:

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

    Mira Hamour (MH): I identify as Syrian-Canadian. Growing up, I’ve lived in the Middle East and Canada and most recently spent three years in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, and New Jersey).

    When I was in high school, I love watching documentaries. I loved hearing real stories, about real people and learning about all of these world problems that not many people really seemed to know about. I felt like a lot of the social issues that interested me stemmed from the misinterpretation and incorrect practice of religions, and I explored lots of world religions throughout my bachelor’s degree to see if I could find the root cause of these problems and misinterpretations. I wanted to prove that when interpreted and practiced correctly, every major belief system preached love, acceptance, and unity at its core. I focused on taboo and challenging issues and throughout my Undergraduate schooling; I extensively researched a variety of controversial topics, including feminism and homosexuality in Islam, Jewish masculinities and gender identity and, exploring ISIS and radicalization’s global impact.

    Realizing the incredible power of film to bring people together, inform audiences, and encourage them to make a change for the better, I knew that I wanted to study Documentary Filmmaking to learn how to effectively shed light on social issues and present my audiences with viable solutions for positive social change. 

    In July of 2014, I enrolled in a 4-week filmmaking summer course at NYFA while still working on my undergrad, to sort of test the waters and see if this was really for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I get to meet incredible people who are still very close friends to this day, it kickstarted my career in filmmaking and confirmed my love for it. As soon as I was done with my undergraduate degree, I enrolled full time at NYFA for my MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My debut film, Syria’s Tent Cities, was shot in Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada. It started out as an MFA graduation project, but I worked on it long after graduation and have now developed it into the 30-minute award-winning documentary short that it is today.

    Identifying as both Syrian and Canadian, watching the refugee crisis continually worsen has been especially difficult for me. I felt helpless, and knew that many others also wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. Almost eight years into the crisis, I noticed that the Syrian refugees were now being viewed as one, singular mass statistic. I spent many summers in Syria growing up and have amazing memories there; I wanted to remind the world that these refugees are individuals: they’re parents, they’re children, they’re teachers, they’re families, they’re friends. In many ways, they’re not very different from us, they’ve just been forced into a very unfortunate situation and had their world turned upside down.

    My film is unique in that it explores the Syrian Refugee Crisis from both a local and global perspective by examining the lives of Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern refugee camps while also answering the question of what happens next, once they’re resettled in North America. While planning the film and working on months of pre-production from Los Angeles, one prominent issue kept coming up: there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian children around the world growing up without any access to education. In the long run, this could have very dire consequences and prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of their society. The lack of education takes away from what’s left of their childhood and doesn’t give them a sense of importance or purpose. I knew that I not only had to focus on education while making the film, but also present the audience with feasible solutions to help fix this problem. 

    Throughout the film, the refugees work to improve their situation through the efforts of the two individuals I chose to tell this story through: Nowell Sukkar, founder of Nowell’s Mission working in Jordan and Lebanon, and Mazen El-Baba, founder of H.appi Camp working from Ontario, Canada. Both of them have dedicated their lives to making education and inclusiveness a right for all Syrian children. 

    I also worked with Human Rights Watch in Jordan and Lebanon to better explain the situation to the audience; instead of blaming the refugees’ parents automatically, the HRW researchers break down the many reasons why all these barriers exist and how we can combat them.

    Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent CitiesNYFA: What inspired you to make Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: The Syria we see on the news today is painfully different from the one I knew growing up; it’s hard to come to terms with just how bad things have gotten in a relatively short amount of time. As with many other global crises, after a while people begin to grow tired of it because, even if they want to help, they don’t know how to. It seems too complicated, too difficult, and they feel helpless. And that’s why I wanted my film to focus on the specific issue of education and how the lack of it is killing refugees’ childhood, their ability to dream, aspire, and achieve.

    During a visit to my home city of Toronto in August of 2016, I spoke with newly resettled Syrians who noticed a world of difference in their children who had just attended the first ever H.appi camp, a free summer camp experience exclusively for newcomer refugee children. H.appi aimed to help these children integrate into Canadian society, improve their linguistic skills and aid them in overcoming the trauma that they had experienced before arriving to Canada. When I actually made the film a year later, I realized that whether they’re living illegally in neighbouring countries or permanently resettled in Canada, many of the refugees were united in one thing: their goal to achieve a better life through a good education and the mental health resources many of them needed to overcome the trauma of war.

    NYFA: What was your experience filming Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: Personally, working on Syria’s Tent Cities was especially challenging. For starters, I had under two months to travel to two continents, three countries, and four cities to shoot all of my footage. One of the things about being a low-budget student and having to operate as what was often a one- or two-person crew is that you learn to wear many, many hats on the job. As with most of my other projects, I was in charge of directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and editing Syria’s Tent Cities. 

    As someone who’s doing the job of five people on location at refugee camps in the Middle East, I needed to be able to handle my emotions, even when faced with a seven-year-old girl whose leg has been amputated during the war staring longingly from her wheelchair as her twin sister and other siblings run around their one-bedroom apartment. Even when a two-year-old little boy being raised by a single father is so deprived of the love of a mother he lost while the family were fleeing the country that he curls up in your lap while you’re shooting an interview with his father and clings to you, refusing to let go when you have to leave later. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    I had to keep my composure on location; if I was an emotional wreck, the film wouldn’t get made and no one would hear their story. There were many, many tears when I got home. But I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again, pretending that my heart wasn’t breaking every time I met another child who just didn’t understand why they had to lose family members and run from what was once a safe and happy home. What kept me going was that I knew I was helping, I was telling their stories and encouraging the world to change their lives. In making this film, I truly feel like I grew so much as a person and a filmmaker.

    NYFA: What are your plans for Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My main goal was that I didn’t want my audience to leave the theatre feeling sad and helpless. I wanted to give them tools and solutions to make a difference. In the film we see Nowell and Mazen; they’re not millionaires, they’re not people who have absolutely nothing else going on in their personal lives. Mazen is a full-time medical student and Nowell is a mother of two who has to tend to her own family’s wellbeing. 

    Yet they still make the time to help, they’re dedicated. And although I don’t expect every person who watches the film to start a non-profit like theirs, they show us the small ways in which we can all help truly make a difference in these children’s lives. Simple things and contributions that actually end up having a noticeable and positive impact in the long run. 

    It was incredibly inspiring to work with them and I really hope that, when they watch the film, the audience is inspired in the same way I was. I set up a page on my website where people who watch the film can learn more about Mazen’s and Nowell’s work and make a simple contribution that will truly end up making a world of difference. 

    Additionally, after working with Human Rights Watch through making this film and seeing all of the incredibly valuable research they do on the ground, I partnered with them and created a page specifically dedicated to this cause! All donations that come through the page from the link on my website will be designated to Human Rights Watch’s Refugees Division, specifically for their work on Syrian Refugees.

    I’m especially proud of Syria’s Tent Cities. As someone who identifies as both Syrian and Canadian, this story really hit close to home. It’s something I wanted to do for so long that every (increasingly difficult) challenge that I was faced with while making this film was a blessing I was grateful for, because it meant that I was finally actually making the film and telling the story of Syrian refugees. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    As proud as I am of how well the film’s been doing and as honoured as I am to be able to tell this incredible story, the awards are especially meaningful because they confirm that people recognize the importance of the film’s message and that they’re moved to give it an audience and help. This is just the start, but I know that I’ve succeeded in beginning to raise more awareness, which is what I set out to do when I first made the film.

    I plan to continue showing the film to as many audiences as I possibly can; this is a crucial problem and small contributions can make a very large difference in the life of a refugee child.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MH: While working in the field of Documentary Filmmaking, I’ve created films that focused on issues that I felt needed to be heard and further explored. I wanted my films to not only educate the audience on the issue at hand, but to also show them clear ways in which they can help and make a difference or learn about an issue that was once foreign to them and become more accepting, compassionate individuals.

    One of the films I’m working on now, PCOS, is about the often neglected and discredited Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder in women and how the many side effects it causes impact those affected by it, including facial hair in women. Some of the women in the film resort to elective weight loss surgery to reverse the symptoms of their PCOS, while others accept and try to change society’s harsh criticism of them. I actually have the condition myself and am one of the characters in the film (truly challenging as a simultaneous director!)

     

    I’m also about to release a short documentary film about two Syrian senior citizens who relocated to stay with their family abroad. And while they’re technically safe and living in a comfortable home, their whole lives have been uprooted extremely unexpectedly. At their age after retirement, they expected to live out the rest of their days in familiar Syria, and so they now spend much of their time reminiscing and missing those they lost to the war and during the move. Living in a state of constant uncertainty, major change, and having to adapt to a completely foreign country at their advanced age has made them question whether leaving Syria was worth it, and so the film is named Safe or Sorry.

    Apart from my own projects, I also currently freelance, primarily in Documentary Filmmaking. Most of my jobs are in pre-production and/or production. I love researching a great topic extensively, reaching out to people, booking and conducting interviews, being on location shooting vérité and seeing my subject’s world through the camera’s lens. 

    When people let you into their lives in that way, it’s a really great, fulfilling feeling — there’s a certain mutual trust and understanding there. The amazing people that documentary filmmaking brings into your life and the relationships you develop with the people you film are truly incredible and constantly remind me of why I got into this field and how fortunate I am to call this my job. For instance, making Syria’s Tent Cities was such a humbling and eye-opening experience; I saw firsthand the difference that dedication and love, even coming from a single individual, can make in the lives of those facing a global crisis.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Syria’s Tent Cities, or your work in general?

    MH: The biggest thing I learned is that loving something doesn’t make it easy — it just makes it worth fighting for and working towards. When I first started this journey, I had absolutely no idea how hard making documentaries would be! But because I love it, it has definitely been worth every challenge I’ve faced.

    As an emerging artist, you’re definitely going to have times where you doubt yourself and your abilities, sometimes even whether you were meant to be in this field at all. You’re going to have friends in ‘safe’ jobs, with a steady paycheque and very little risk involved. And sometimes it’s going to scare you. Being a documentary filmmaker is hard, it’s challenging, there’s a lot of discipline, work, and time management that goes into it. You have to be able to believe wholeheartedly in yourself and your project and the message that you’re trying to put out there. 

    I’ve been so fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents, family, friends, and teachers in my life who have definitely played a big role in getting me to this point today. But to make it in this field, you have to truly believe in your work and keep pushing to make the story you’re working on heard; working past every festival rejection you receive, every professional failure that comes up along the way, every person who discredits you and doesn’t believe in you, and every one of the many challenges you’re going to face. 

    I want to specifically thank Sanora Bartels, who was actually the Consulting Producer on Syria’s Tent Cities for being an amazing mentor, friend, support system, and just an overall wonderful human being. She’s gone above and beyond her role as Chair of the Documentary MFA Program to make sure that her students succeed and reach their full potential. Most importantly, she believed in us and our abilities even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Having teachers like that when you’re only just starting out in the field is truly invaluable. Sanora is just one of the many incredible teachers I’ve been lucky to work with at NYFA.

    NYFA: What lies ahead for you now?

    MH: In addition to filmmaking, I’m very passionate about travel and hope to be able to see the world through my work. I’ve been to 25 countries so far and it never ceases to amaze me how many similarities we all have on a basic human level, regardless of differing social and cultural norms. I will continue to travel and make films while I learn more about the world; Syria’s Tent Cities is just the beginning, I have so many other projects planned and some are already in pre- and post-production!

    The New York Film Academy thanks Mira Hamour for the time she took to speak with us, and congratulates her on the well-deserved success of her documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Student and Faculty Work to Screen at DOC NYC 2018

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    For the fourth consecutive year, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary School has been selected to screen a slate of exceptional student documentaries as part of the prestigious DOC NYC film festival.

    Screens from DOC NYC 2018 films

    The largest documentary film festival in America, DOC NYC is also among the most consequential. One of the most respected programmers in the documentary world, Artistic Director, Thom Powers has a track record for programming Academy Award winners and nominees. Thanks to Executive Director (and Academy Award-nominated NYFA alum), Raphaela Neihausen, the festival has also become one of the most important annual gatherings of the worldwide documentary community.

    The festival will premiere four NYFA DOCS shorts, curated by the Documentary program. NYFA was invited by noted Shorts Programmer, Opal H. Bennett.

    Save the Date: November 9th at 11:45 a.m. 
    IFC Center
    323 6th Ave
    New York, NY 10014

    Tickets are just $12 and you can buy them here.

    NYFA’s Showcase features just the tip of the iceberg of remarkable NYC student work:

    Cricket Liu
    Cricket Liu (China, 18 min., Julia Cheng), an aging Cricket Fighting master uses his ancient art to earn all he can for the grandson he is barely allowed to know. Matt struggles daily to remember what happened even minutes ago in I Love You, Wally (USA, 19 min., Simona Kubasova Prakash). In Keliling Bali (Bali, 4 min., Gary Bencheghib, DP Aitor Mendilibar), Gary and Sam attempt to circumnavigate the plastics-filled ocean surrounding Bali. On a rocky Danish island, five-year-old Tobias sets out on a quest to find its famed mythological creatures in The Trolls & I (Denmark, 19 min., Charlotte Madvig Schmidt).

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Directors Julia Cheng (’18), Simona Kubasova Prakash (’18) and Charlotte Madvig Schmidt (’18); DPs Braulio Jatar (’18) and Aitor Mendilibar (’13) and Producer Sam Bencheghib

    Cricket Liu

    Cricket Liu

    Also taking place during the course of the week:

    To Kid or Not to Kid

    The World Premiere of NYFA Doc prof Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not to Kid on Sunday, November 11, 2018, 2:15 PM at the IFC Center.

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND:  Director Maxine Trump, Producer/NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Josh Granger and PA/Production Coordinator and NYFA DOCS graduate Marie Vanderusten (’16).

    Grit
    The NYC Premiere of the NYFA Doc prof Tracie Holder-produced Grit on Sunday, November 11, 2018, 5:15 PM at Cinepolis Chelsea and onThursday, November 15, 2018, 12:45 PM at the IFC Center

    EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Producer Tracie Holder; Director Cynthia Wade, Sasha Friedlander; Executive Producer Abigail Disney

    RBG

    RBG 

    And screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List:

    RBG – shot by NYFA DOCS instructor, Cinematographer, Claudia Raschke

    Free Solo – edited by NYFA DOCS instructor, Editor, Bob Eisenhardt

    Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists edited by NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Geof Bartz – World Premiere/Closing Night Film

    DOC NYC has also tapped several of NYFA DOCS’ venerated faculty for panels and special sessions throughout the week, which will be announced shortly.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts Fulbright Foreign Student Welcome Dinner

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    The tradition of hosting a welcome dinner for the incoming cohort of New York Film Academy Foreign Fulbright Grantees continued at the New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts in Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) last week.

    Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien

    Fulbright Grantees with Dan Mackler, NYFA’s LA Campus Director, Amy Ellenberger, Miguel Cruz, NYFA´s Director of Fulbright Initiatives and Marcus Louis Fien

    NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler, and NYFA Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz hosted the six Fulbright students who are on campus for the 2018/2019 Academic Year.  They include four grantees in the MFA Filmmaking Program, one grantee in MFA Documentary Filmmaking, and one grantee in the 1-Year Acting for Film Program. Represented countries are Spain (3), Paraguay, Peru, and Bahrain. NYFA is pleased to recognize a Fulbright finalist from Estonia as part of the group as well. 

    In recent years, NYFA has welcomed nearly 60 Fulbrighters to our campuses in Los Angeles and New York City. NYFA Fulbrighters have hailed from more than 30 countries. 

    Dr. José Siles, President of the Fulbright Alumni Association of Los Angeles, joined the celebration, as did Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment, and NYFA Admissions Specialist Marcus Fien. Dr. Siles invited the Fulbrighters for a tour of NASA Space facilities where he is engaged in research.

    Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment

    Fulbright grantee Maya Riquelme, with Amy Ellenberger, NYFA Director of Recruitment

    NYFA-LA Campus Director Dan Mackler enthusiastically stated, “For me, meeting the extraordinarily talented Fulbright students that come to study at NYFA-LA is one of the highlights of the start of every academic year.”

    Mackler continued, “In these global creators of visual and performing storytelling, I am provided hope for a future that will be both exciting and impactful. They connect us with a greater humanity.”

    The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of State.  The Program operates in more than 140 countries and offers opportunities for students and young professionals, as well as for post-doctoral teachers and researchers to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching.  

    The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,900 are to U.S. students, 4,000 to foreign students, 1,200 to U.S. scholars, and 900 to visiting scholars. In addition, several hundred teachers and professionals receive awards.

    NYFA is proud to be the school of choice for so many inspired and creative minds and to participate in numerous Fulbright initiatives, including producing two TEDxFULBRIGHT events and conducting documentary filmmaking workshops at the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) Program Conferences. 

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  • “Sympathy for the Devil” at 50: New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond Presents Restored Godard Film 

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    Fifty years ago, Jean-Luc Godard filmed an intimate, groundbreaking documentary about the Rolling Stones, capturing the recording of one of their most seminal tracks: “Sympathy for the Devil.” The 1968 documentary shares the same title, though it was originally titled One Plus One before its producers controversially took final cut away from Godard. sympathy for the devil

    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) recently held a limited theatrical release for the 50th anniversary of Sympathy for the Devil, which was kicked off with a Q&A with New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond, A.S.C., B.S.C. Richmond served as Godard’s director of photography on the documentary, and supervised the color grading of the newly restored, 4K version of the film.

    The restoration was done in London by Arrow Films, working off the still-preserved original 35mm negative. “It’s just wonderful,” says Richmond of the project, adding it was “such an honor to go back to a film I shot fifty years ago and give it another life.”

    Sympathy for the Devil was one of Richmond’s earliest films as director of photography. He has mostly worked on narrative features since then, including Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Sandlot, and Legally Blonde. The London-born, BAFTA-winning cinematographer has resided as Faculty Chair of NYFA-LA’s cinematography school since 2015, where students receive hands-on training in the unique visual language of film with state-of-the-art equipment they can use on their classmates’ productions. 

    Sympathy was a landmark moment in rock and roll documentaries, preceding other films like Gimme Shelter and The Last Waltz. Along with a strong political message, the film captured the birth of one of the Rolling Stones’ most famous hits. It was also a turbulent shoot, with legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard butting heads with his producers, who changed his original ending. As an infamous story goes, at a screening of the film, Godard attempted to screen his original ending outside in the parking lot, and when one of the producers intervened, he punched him in the face. 

    Additionally, some of the film was shot on the streets guerilla-style, without permits. Some shots included jumping out of Godard’s car to film his wife, Anna, spray-painting walls, roads, and vehicles, and then hopping back in the car and taking off before the police arrived.

    With an incredible story told by the film and another one around the making of it, it was no surprise that MoMA would host a limited release on its 50th anniversary. The Q&A with Tony Richmond was held after the September 13 screening, which Richmond told NYFA was “a great success. I enjoyed the Q&A, telling them how much in awe I was with Jean-Luc Godard and what an honor it was to shoot a film for him at such a young age.”

    In a recent profile by Rolling Stone magazine, Richmond went into further detail about the shoot, describing how they would pre-light for each member of the band before they would stroll into the studio after a late night of recording and maybe some hard partying: “We knew where Mick was gonna be, where Keith was gonna be, where Brian and Charlie were gonna be, and it was lit in such a way that we never had to touch anything between takes or disturb the Stones in any way…

    “And then the guys would come in, and they’d get down to work, and we would shoot. We were very quiet, and we had a very, very small crew — just a guy pushing the dolly, a focus-puller, Jean-Luc and I, and everybody else was way in the background.”

    Speaking with NYFA, Richmond added, “I wouldn’t know what we were going to shoot until [Mick Jagger] arrived on the set. I can’t tell you how exciting and frightening that was.”

    All told, the new 4K restoration and MoMA’s limited release of Sympathy for the Devil went very well, and included both the theatrical and Godard’s original ending. Richmond told Rolling Stone, “I hadn’t seen it again on a large screen until recently. And I have to say, I think it’s really fantastic… You really see how they’re putting the music together.”

    [UPDATE: November 7, 2018: Sympathy for the Devil will also be screened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles on November 8, 2018.]

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    October 15, 2018 • Cinematography, Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights • Views: 551

  • Recap: New York Film Academy (NYFA) at IFP Week 2018

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    This year, New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to help IFP Week celebrate its 40th anniversary. A leader in the independent media community, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) champions the future of storytelling by connecting artists with essential resources at all stages of development and distribution. NYFA was a co-sponsor for the second consecutive year. The week-long event took place at IFP’s state-of-the-art Made in NY Media Center in DUMBO, Brooklyn. A leading voice in the independent film industry, IFP also runs Filmmaker Magazine and the prestigious annual Gotham Awards.

    Andrea Swift moderated an essential #MeToo panel on Saturday. The all-women panel took on difficult but necessary questions about the present and future of the industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The panelists discussed what needs to be done both on screen and through media activism. Filmmaker and panelist Shruti Rya Ganguly perceptively said, “The #MeToo movement is not necessarily something new, but a different way of having that conversation.”

    The #MeToo Panel at IFP Week (photo provided by IFP)

    The panel discussed the power of strong journalism and the exact role of social media. They also emphasized the importance of women of color in the aftermath of the #MeToo reckoning. Adding to that, Anne Carey, President of Production at Archer Gray said, “I would hope that the takeaway from this conversation is create a space of safety so people who feel threatened have a place to talk, push to tell the best stories with the best people telling them.”

    NYFA Producing Instructor Krysanne Katsoolis moderated the Looking Abroad panel. This panel discussed the how-to’s and why-not’s of utilizing international co-productions and tax incentives. Katsoolis has significant multi-platform experience in content creation, financing, and distribution. She has produced over 60 films and series, and has worked with Academy and Emmy Award-winning directors. Recently Katsoolis built a media venture (Liquid Media Group) with actor Joshua Jackson, which is now public on NASDAQ.

    NYFA Documentary Chair Andrea Swift (photo provided by IFP)

    In addition to panels and screenings, IFP Week presented Spotlight On Documentaries, a mix of 72 documentary features, non-fiction series, and audio stories ranging from an early financing stage to those nearing completion. NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin’s work-in-progress film The Chicago Franchise was selected for a prestigious slot in the Spotlight. The unfinished film was produced

    Veranika Nikanava, NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin, and Revital Iyov at IFP Week

    by Randall Dottin and Angela Tucker, and executive produced by Cynthia Kobel. After the city of Chicago tore down its high rise public housing towers in 2011, the murder rate continued to climb. The documentary explores the complicated relationship between gun violence, poverty, and residential segregation — and how they’re all interconnected.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank IFP and the Made in NY Media Center for inclusion, yet again, in such a fantastic and thought-provoking week. We look forward to IFP Week 2019!

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