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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Sponsors Prestigious IFP Week 2018: Faculty Featured on Panels, NYFA Discounts, and More

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is once again a proud sponsor of the famed industry gathering IFP Week 2018, in Brooklyn from September 15th through 20th. At this year’s event, NYFA faculty will be featured on two separate IFP panels. Additionally, NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randy Dottin’s work-in-progress film The Chicago Franchise was selected for a prestigious slot in IFP Week’s Spotlight on Documentaries.

    NYFA Documentary Chair Andrea Swift and Producing Chair Neal Weisman explain that IFP Week is an essential industry gathering —whether you’re a director, producer, documentary filmmaker, screenwriter, It is as important for launching and maintaining careers as Sundance, and people fly in from all over the world to attend. IFP Week is the only multiple-platform, international co-production market for projects in the United States. This year is particularly exciting as IFP is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the independent media community.

    Andrea Swift will moderate an important #MeToo panel on Saturday, September 15th at 12:30 p.m. The all-female panel will explore difficult but necessary questions and discuss how we can shape the future of the #MeToo movement on screen and through media activism. NYFA Producing Instructor Krysanne Katsoolis will moderate the Looking Abroad panel on Monday, September 17th at 2 p.m. This panel will discuss the how-to’s and why-not’s of utilizing international co-productions and tax incentives.

    IFP Week 2017 

    Additionally, NYFA Screenwriting Chair Randall Dottin’s film The Chicago Franchise was selected for a prestigious slot in IFP Week’s Spotlight on Documentaries. The documentary explores the complicated relationship between gun violence, poverty, and residential segregation in the nation’s third largest city. Learn more about the full project slate here.

    The New York Film Academy is proud to help sponsor IFP, and is very pleased to share that IFP has extended a 20% discount to our students and alumni using special code IFP20! Click the following panel titles to purchase tickets for the #MeToo and Looking Abroad.

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  • Five New York Film Academy Los Angeles Students Selected as Finalists in LA Live Score Film Festival

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    Whether a director is choosing a song to play in an onscreen location or adding a composed score to the soundtrack to punctuate an emotion, music is a key element for a successful film.

    This May, the Film Festival Department of the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles selected five student and alumni filmmakers to participate in the 2018 Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival. For this unique event, each filmmaker was matched with a professional composer from The Academy of Scoring Arts who then wrote their score. Several filmmakers also worked with post-production sound professor Huch Platt to enhance their sound design. This Saturday, July 21, 2018, the films will be screened for the first time before a live audience while the orchestra Helix Collective plays the new music.

    We caught up with the filmmakers as they looked forward to the event and asked them about their experiences.

    Nicolas Varela

    Film: Aphrodite

    Composer: Drum & Lace

    Logline: A frustrated career in singing drives Aphrodite to pay with her own flesh and identity for an uncertain opportunity in the industry.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Sofia has been such an amazing experience. I think the directors of the festival made a really good match by putting us together. She really understands my visuals and knows how to translate that in music. We are really communicative with each other, and we are always working for feedback. Beyond the festival, Sofia and I are creating an artistic relationship of mutual support and networking. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned how important music is. Film is born when music and motion picture meet each other. My film is more powerful than before just because the music is able to highlight emotions and thoughts in an underneath level. Music is not explicit, music works through sensations. 

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I hope the orchestra can make justice of Sofia’s work and that the people in the audience can just enjoy this very unique experience of watching a movie with an orchestra playing live. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    Huch is such an amazing professional and teacher. I never had classes with him, but when we worked together he was teaching me a lot in the process. Sound design is really underrated among amateur filmmakers. After working with Huch, I realized the big difference a good sound design makes to your film. Sound design is atmosphere, it’s mood, it’s subtle but very important. 

     

    Lanyue Zhang

    Film: Arrow and Oil

    Composer: George Oldziey

    Logline: Around 1010 A.D. during the Northern Song Dynasty, Chen YaoZi, a civil officer from the imperial court with superb archery skills starts questioning the relationship between his archery and his work after he meets an old oil seller.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    We did a spotting session at our first meeting, and I gave George some references. He did two versions of music, then my co-director (Majik Jingwei Zhou) and I gave him some notes. He changed some parts, and although we had some different ideas, we accepted each other idea in the end.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    We learned how to communicate with our composer. To make sure our composer can get our story, we let him watch our film and talk about his first idea, then we explained our story and the metaphor in our film. I learned communication is very important in this process. On the other hand, because this is a festival event, we didn’t hire him as our composer. Our collaboration is not like the normal process between director and composer, so we gave George more freedom to do the music.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    We are looking forward to bringing our crew to the festival, and also we are looking forward to the live performances.

     

    Vicken Joulfayan

    Film: Liminal

    Composer: Shaun Chasin

    Logline: Nadim tries to escape his own reality but soon realizes that he is being forced to confront it more than ever.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    I was not sure in the beginning how the composer would approach my movie after explaining the mood and what genre of music is needed. Then he sent me a first rough and it was way too different from what I wanted. We spoke about it in more detail, and I gave him a deeper explanation of each part. He blew my mind with the updated version.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I learned to wait and let the composer do his thing, and start tweaking from there, because I did not expect the music to be what it is now, and I love it. That was mainly the composer’s personal touch on the film after understanding the beats of the story.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    Actually watching the movie and seeing the live orchestra play the music in front of us is the most exciting part for me!

    Victoria Gagieva

    Film: Niara

    Composer: Steph Kowal

    Logline: A lonely child soldier trapped in the horror of an African militant group experiences a simple act of humanity from a person she is about to condemn to death.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Working with Steph has been great! We met once in person to watch the film together and discuss/dissect it to find a strategy and approach for the music. We were talking about characters, their situations and intentions and also discussing examples of best practices from different films. It was so productive that the first try was exactly what “Niara” needed music-wise.

    What have you learned in this process? 

    The whole experience taught me to be prepared thoroughly for such conversations. I had characters’ back stories ready for Steph, I could explain and reason about the story, ideas and intentions. I was also very open to what she as a professional was bringing to the table, and overall, our collaboration turned out to be perfect.

    What are you specifically looking forward to in the live screening?  

    This will be my first festival experience, so I’m excited about it and open to it. 

    What was it like working on your sound design?

    This was my first time working with a professional sound mixer, and that was extremely interesting and useful. Besides working on the film, Huch explained lots of nuances and practices for future projects. How you organize the tracks for the sound mixer, deliver elements. He was very impressed with my work on the sound design and basically he went off of it. He didn’t have to do any sound design. He just had to mix it and level everything up, distinguish dialogue from the background, things like that. We did two sessions of a couple of hours each.

    Oliver Weinmann

    Film: The Pill

    Composer: Jonathan Keith

    Logline: A dark comedy about a woman who is trapped in a relationship, and the only way she is able to go on is by taking a pill.

    What has it been like to work with your composer?

    Being able to work with Jonathan has been an incredible experience. We are both so passionate about the craft of filmmaking. Yet we view films so differently. I focus on the picture whereas Jonathan follows the film by the music and sounds. When I was able to rewatch the film I made with the soundtrack Jonathan created, it evoked emotions that I could not have created with imagery. 

    What have you learned in this process? 

    I have learned to take more of a backseat. As a director, it is easy to over-direct. After meeting Jonathan and talking to him about the vision of my film, I knew that I had to let go of the reigns and let him do what he is best at doing. 

    What are you looking forward to in the live screening?  

    I look forward to an evening filled with music, storytelling, and the people who put it all together. 

     

    We could not have put it better ourselves, and we wish the best of luck to all the filmmakers!

     

    The New York Film Academy community is invited to attend the LA Live Score Film Festival this Saturday, July 21, 2018, from 6-10 pm at Barnsdall Art Park. To purchase tickets, please follow this link and use promo code FilmScoresRock to receive a discount.

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  • NYFA Alumni (& Brothers) Maan & Talha Bin Abdulrahman Are Saudi Film Trailblazers

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    Five of the nine films premiered by Saudi Arabia at Cannes this year featured the work of NYFA students and alumni, including brothers and fellow BFA Filmmaking graduates Maan Bin Abdulrahman, producer, and Talha Bin Abdulrahman, director. Together, the brothers founded Prince of Arabia Entertainment, and have helmed an impressive series of award-winning projects.


    Talha’s NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, screened at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival as well as the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, Irvine International Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, San Antonio Film Festival, and Chandler Film Festival.

    At Cannes, the brothers presented Film School Musical, which they co-directed. Winning over critics and audiences alike, the musical short won the Best Shorts Competition at the Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize for Best Musical and Best Cinematography, garnering numerous festival award nominations along the way.

    Additional film credits include Under the Concrete (Winner: Qomrah 2), Served Cold (ShortsTV, Winner: 2014 Student Filmmaker Awards Film Festival), and Not This Way (Winner – Golden palm in Dammam Film festival).

    We’re exciting to see the next steps these brothers take in both the Saudi and international film industry.

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  • Eurasia International Film Festival (EIFF) Welcomes the New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to participate in the Eurasia International Film Festival this July in Astana, Kazakhstan, as a VIP guest on the red carpet and beyond.

    Established in 1998 and accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers (FIAPF), the Eurasia International Film Festival is Central Asia’s most prestigious film forum. The event focuses on fostering and celebrating collaborations between European and Asian film industries, all while supporting Kazakhstan’s current and future filmmakers.

    As a distinguished guest, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller represented NYFA in the prestigious event’s competitive Project Market program, as well as heading the PitchFest jury.

    To support the development of new works, Eurasia International Film Festival’s Project Market offers filmmakers, producers, distributors, and production companies an opportunity to form partnerships, shop films, and do business. This year’s Project Market was a smashing success, connecting filmmakers with diverse international institutions including Syndicado (Canada), Film Republic (Great Britain), Alpha Violet (France), Filmotor (Czech Republic), Juben Pictures (China), IRIB MEDIA TRADE (Iran), Festagent (Russia); and Kazakh film companies Kazakhfilm, Sataifilm, Nurtas Production, Bissembin Film and MG Production, for presentations, panels, master classes, and more,

    A crowning jewel of 2018’s Project Market was the PitchFest competition. Out of 31 project submissions, 10 films from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were selected to compete for four top prizes. The most sought-after prize? Two full tuition scholarships to the New York Film Academy.

    NYFA Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller spearheaded the PitchFest jury, working alongside premiere filmmakers, writers, directors, film critics, editors, journalists, documentarians, distribution executives, and producers. These industry experts hailed from the film industries of Kazakhstan, Russia, Singapore, Israel, and the U.S. Together, they selected four winners, with the two grand prize winners receiving scholarships to the New York Film Academy’s New York and Los Angeles campuses.

    The NYFA scholarships were awarded to Kazakh filmmaker Amir Amenov (Ystyk kun, salkyn sira/Hot Nights, Cold Beer), and Kyrgyz filmmaker Dalmira Tilepbergen (Lonely Pine).

    Celebrities from around the world, including César Award-winning actor Vincent Cassel (France) and two-time Palme d’Or-winning director Emir Kusturica (Serbia), attended the Eurasia International Film Festival’s climactic red carpet event and award ceremony, along with many special VIP guests. The award ceremony featured world-class performances for an enthusiastic audience of over 5,000.

    The New York Film Academy thanks the Eurasia International Film Festival, and its President Aiman Massakhajayeva, for the honor of participating.

    Massakhajayeva is the National Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan, an honorary UNESCO Artist of Peace, and the Rector of Kazakh National University of Arts (KazNUA) — with whom NYFA recently established a partnership. This fall, the NYFA Los Angeles campus will welcome six KazNUA students through this cooperative agreement.

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  • Broadcast Journalism Summer School, Wind Summer Festival, and Invisible Love From the New York Film Academy

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    Summer is well underway here in New York City, and that means the NYFA Broadcast Journalism Summer Session is in full swing too. Once again this year, we have students from seemingly everywhere: Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Connecticut, Uzbekistan, and Washington, D.C.! Below is the “Official Unofficial Class Picture.”
    On Saturday, the group was outdoors practicing their shooting technique. (Which was good, seeing as today they are shooting their first project!) Our students work with Canon C300 cameras, which are better than the equipment many TV stations actually use. Battery Park, located right across the street from NYFA, is a great location to shoot. Especially on a lovely Summer day.
    Trust me, as serious as the folks in the picture below look, the short-term workshops really are fun. (NYFA grads reading this email can back me upon this…)
    Speaking of having fun …
    NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Chiara Carcano is one of the hosts of the Wind Summer Festival, a combination performance series and singing contest seen on Canale 5 and heard on the Radio 105 network in Italy. (The skills you learn at NYFA don’t always lead to newsroom careers — they can be used in a variety of ways!) This is also an example of how English remains the linqua franca for many international cultural events.
    As most of you reading this know, I have spent my professional career creating non-fiction video. But that has changed, as I’m now part of the creative team producing an independent feature film called Invisible Love. In fact, I am an executive producer. (Nothing like starting at the top…) A China/Vietnam/U.S. co-production, I got involved thanks to the work I did in China last year for my soon-to-be-released documentary Shanghai: 1937. I have to say, it’s exciting to see my name on a movie poster.
    That poster makes it clear this is a drama. The story takes place in what was then called French Indochina, during the 1930s.
    NYFA Acting for Film grad Kazy Tauginas has been cast in a major role. He plays an American doctor haunted by his troubled past, whose involvement with a Vietnamese nurse leads to tragedy. (You can see Kazy in the new Denzel Washington film The Equalizer 2.)
    The Invisible Love team had a booth at the film market associated with the just completed Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). We’re looking for theatrical presentation in China and Vietnam, as well as international theatrical and TV distribution.
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  • Insomnia on STARZ Executive Produced by New York Film Academy Alum Slava N. Jakovleff

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    Many artists dream of creating something entirely original, but to realize that dream on prime-time television is extra special. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Filmmaking grad Slava N. Jakovleff has done just that, distributing not one but two of his original series to major networks; Siberia, to NBC, and Insomnia, now seen worldwide on STARZ.

    Here, Slava shares some of the amazing story behind producing his hit series with the NYFA Blog.

    *Please note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    INSOMNIA | TV SERIES | TRAILER 1 [HD] | STARZ from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

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

    Slava: I wanted to be an actor — this is my passion. I graduated as an actor after four years at one of the best and most famous Russian acting schools in Saint Petersburg, and then got a PhD as an acting and voice teacher. I always thought about directing and producing. I figured out that the knowledge of acting and directing was not enough to make my dream happen. I needed to study filmmaking. And where is the best place to do it? Of course in Los Angeles, the global center of the film industry.

    I checked online resources and found that New York Film Academy had Filmmaking courses at Universal Studios. So, I joined the school at 36. Yes! At 36. It’s never too late to learn.

    NYFA: You wear many hats, as an actor, director, and producer. What inspires you about these various roles, and how does changing between them inform your work?

    Slava: It’s great that now I know something more about acting, directing, and producing. I know how to play, how to be an actor on the set or on the stage. For me, acting is an absolutely phenomenal state of mind. To me, it’s not a job! It’s a state of mind, of soul. Acting is a study of the human soul. This is the first and inner circle.

    Acting really helps me to direct. I’m more an actor’s director than just a director; I love actors and love to work with them. Directing makes it possible to not only deliver the story and actors’ emotions to the audience, but also to make the audience think, laugh, or cry — in short, feel something — while watching a screen or a stage. This is the second circle, a bit wider.

    Producing is the third, wide circle, and gives me the opportunity to care for the first two circles and bring all of these three circles to the audience.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    Slava: I loved how the learning process was organized at the Academy. I got so much professional information in such a short time.

    NYFA: Before establishing yourself in Hollywood, you worked as an actor in Russia. How did you navigate that transition from one industry to another, including acting in another language?

    Slava: Yes, I was a pretty established actor at that time in Russia. When I moved to LA for business reasons, only one thing was important to me: I wanted to establish myself in Hollywood as a producer and director. … But regarding acting as a whole, if you are a professional, educated actor, it doesn’t matter in which language you act. It’s only about the professionalism.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your company, Welldone Production?

    Slava: I founded Welldone Production as my own company in 2004, during my time at NYFA, as a filmmaking company.

    The first project I did in LA was a stage play called The Last Night of The Last Tsar, a mysterious story about the last night of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family — and what happened with the lead executioner, Yurovsky, exactly 20 years after the execution. We played 6 weeks at the Stella Adler Theater in 2005. It was a successful run, and I told myself, “Let’s start to write the script for my own feature film.” We are now in pre-production. I rewrote the script many times since the start, researching historical information and studying archives. And now I am completely happy with the script I have, titled Swampy Roads. It seems like a very long journey just for one project, but I am completely satisfied and proud of that.

    At the same time, my company and I did many projects in Russia and the U.S. One of them was my first TV project here in Hollywood, Siberia (2013), where I was an executive producer and director of some episodes. Siberia was completely independently financed, and afterward the show was bought by NBC for prime-time airing. It was the first time that a Russian producer sold his own independent TV show to NBC. I am very proud of that.

    Siberia TV Series_NBC_ Official Trailer from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

    NYFA: As executive producer and director for STARZ series Insomnia, what inspired you to take on this project? 

    Slava: Insomnia was also a completely independently financed TV series, and when the show was completely ready it was picked up by STARZ.

    My Russian friend, a producer, showed me a story on which he was working at that time. I loved the concept, because I thought this could work for any audience around the globe. I bought the license from him to make an English version, and invited an American-Canadian writing team to rework the story. At the end we got a deep, very edgy psychological thriller, an action story with sci-fi elements.

    I knew that not everyone would like this story, and some networks and streaming platforms would be afraid to put it on the air, saying that the story is too extreme for them. My team and I tried to show the truth that human life costs nothing in modern life. My entire team, cast, and crew members — including one of the best directors of cinematography, Primetime Emmy winner John S. Bartley (LOST, X-Files, Bites Motel), and one of the best casting directors, Primetime Emmy winner Stephanie Gorin (Fargo) — tried to make it happen. I understood that many of us would not like to hear the truth. I really do not like it either, but I needed to say this about it to sort it out myself. I needed to say it without any “politeness” and “polishing.” I wanted to make the viewer think and draw conclusions.

    After the show was done, STARZ picked up the series for worldwide distribution. I am very proud of that.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges along the way in bringing Insomnia to Starz?

    Slava: Bringing any projects to any network or distributor is a big challenge for every team, and this project was no exception.

    The story of Insomnia was set for filming in Washington D.C., but when I was scouting locations there I realized it was impossible. I took a week-long break and announced to my team that the show would be filmed in Moscow, Russia, and the first day of filming should be June 1. This was a real challenge: the team was booked for principal filming starting on April 15 in D.C.

    We had only six weeks for making changes in the script, finding a local Russian production company, organizing to bring the entire American-Canadian team to Moscow, rescheduling the production, new location scouting, language problems (as we had two teams), etc. But we went through all these incredible difficulties (just imagine the problem with visas or understanding between two different languages and mentalities on set) and began to shoot exactly as planned, on June 1.

    Then we figured out that Insomnia is not just the title of this series, but actually what became a way of life for the cast and crew! Filming for all eight episodes took place over 68 working days, 2/3 of which were night shoots. We needed to shoot everything by the end of August, as the story takes place during four consecutive summer days. Management of the production was critical, as filming night scenes during the summer in Moscow was challenging — some nights only had around 2-3 hours of darkness, and the weather is unstable: the sun, clouds, and storms.

    The entire show was filmed in Moscow, with scenes set in New York and Cambodia being filmed on sets. We were able to film in unique locations, such as Red Square and near the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre, the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the Four Seasons, and the Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite with its authentic view of the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre — no other foreign production companies have been allowed to film in this location before. By the way, Insomnia’s production company, Welldone Production, is the only foreign production company in the last 20 years to be able to film in the highly secure Red Square.

    All explosions, car crashes, gunshots, and underwater scenes were filmed without CGI, and all action scenes were filmed by the main unit team (we didn’t have second unit).

    Then, we spent months editing the series here in Los Angeles in one of the best post-production facilities in town: Burnish Creative. They’re such a talented, professional, and passionate young team. When the show was picked by STARZ, we entered the delivery process and had to go through quality control. It was such a great challenge and big experience.

    The series employed 720 people from nine countries and filmed around 750 total scenes. And I want to again say thank you to my entire team and the people who worked for Insomnia.

    NYFA: What is your best advice for NYFA students who are interested in following your footsteps and founding their own production companies, in Hollywood or elsewhere?

    Slava: In short I can say: break the rules (which is very tough sometimes), and never give up.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing now?

    Slava: No doubt!

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you would like to speak on?

    Slava: Many years ago, when we were young, my army friend, on the day when we finished our service in the tank troops, gave me a simple drawing of our tank with the inscription, “Follow your star!” Here I am, still following.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Slava N. Jakovleff for his generous interview.

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  • RBG, Shot by New York Film Academy Documentary Professor Claudia Raschke, Is Box Office Hit

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    This year’s breakout documentary, RBG, shot by Director of Photography and NYFA Documentary Department Cinematography Instructor Claudia Racshke, tells the story of Supreme Court Justice and surprise millennial icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka “The Notorious RBG”), The Flatbush, Brooklyn-born Justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1992, becoming only the second female to serve at the highest federal court in the United States.

    When the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, we highlighted Claudia on the NYFA blog, and Filmmaker magazine also featured an interview. Sundance and American Cinematographer spotlighted her on their “Women Who Shoot” panel. MovieMaker magazine also ran an article exploring her equipment preferences.

    RBG NYFA

    RBG 

    And why not? Claudia’s previous work has already been nominated for Academy Awards four times, and has won a Peabody, a DuPont, and a National Board of Review Award, among many others. She has worked on such acclaimed documentaries as My Architect, about Louis Kahn, Mad Hot Ballroom, which focuses on a New York dance program, and Small Wonders, which documents a music teacher in East Harlem.

    On its opening weekend, RBG scored the second-highest-per-screen average at the box office, second only to Avengers Infinity War. The film has also earned a 93 percent Fresh rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It then spent the next three weeks among the Top 10 overall Box Office earners, holding its own in the company of blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War, Ocean’s Eight, Black Panther, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, and A Quiet Place.

    Claudia Raschke with Ruth Bader Ginsberg

    Claudia Raschke with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Photo provided by Claudia Raschke.

    RBG has also already worked its way amongst the 25 highest-earning documentaries in history, and its run is far from over. NYFA would like to congratulate its Documentary instructor Claudia Racshke on her impressive work on an already important film. You can watch the official trailer below.

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  • Christina Beck Brings Perfection to New York Film Academy Los Angeles Guest Speaker Series

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    In February, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles welcomed writer, director, and actor Christina Beck as a Guest Speaker to the Q&A stage, following a screening of her award-winning film Perfection.

    The film, which tells the story of a young woman who struggles with self-harm, and her relationship with her mother, was screened in honor of Self-Injury Awareness Day, a global event dedicated to removing the stigma surrounding self-harm, and spreading awareness so that those who suffer do not have to suffer in silence.

    Beck began by discussing the script’s origins, which, unsurprisingly, initially sprang from her own experiences. “I wasn’t a cutter, but in my 20s I used to pick at my skin a lot, and I had a lot of self hatred,” she shared. “I grew up in LA, I had a very beautiful mother, and there was a lot of emphasis on exterior beauty and trying to be perfect. And trying to fit in and finding my way as a young woman, I felt like I wasn’t enough … so I started writing that character, and then later it morphed into a bigger story.”

    NYFA Los Angeles Producing Department Co-Chair Roberta Colangelo, who moderated the event, followed up with a question about what the medium of film can do, or what kind of opportunities it can bring to the subject of self harm.

    “I think even if you’re not someone who cuts yourself you can relate, hopefully, to the feelings,” said Beck. “For me, I always think that filmmaking is such a powerful medium, that we can observe behavior, follow a story, hopefully, and connect with a protagonist, and go on that journey.”

    Beck went on to talk about the process of making the film, which took two and a half years — and in true micro-budget fashion, the journey was full of ups and downs. They started out with no financing, cast the film out of Beck’s living room, and on one occasion, had only a half-hour at a location to film an entire scene.

    “So that’s a little stressful, for sure,” Beck admitted. “And there were quite a few moments like that, honestly … but you just kind of have to make it work, because the bigger picture is more important than the stress of the moment.”

    The bigger picture, in the case of Perfection, is an opportunity to positively impact the people sitting in the audience.

    “It leaves you with a strange sense of empowerment,” Colangelo noted. “Not by showing a very powerful female figure that has heroically overcome everything, but someone that is working her way [through it]. It’s a very powerful message.”

    Perfection is by no means a comprehensive guide to healing, but it was never intended to be. As Beck stated, the intention behind the film was, if nothing else, to be truthful.

    “In 85 minutes, it’s really hard to wrap up someone’s whole recovery,” said Beck. “It just wouldn’t be truthful. And so we kind of modified that journey to leave with a sense of hope.”

    Perfection is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.

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  • First Doc Feature By Ravjot Mehek Singh Tackles U.S. Health Care System

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    After graduating from New York Film Academy Filmmaking conservatory in New York City at the age of 19, Ravjot Mehek Singh hit the ground running. First, she started with large-scale roles directing Bollywood music videos. Soon after, she was assistant director on The Voice India, an opportunity that opened the door for her to write and direct three of her own TV shows for Dish Network by age 21.

    Singh’s first documentary is I Stand With Jessy, a powerful and intimate portrait of an South Asian immigrant woman in the U.S. fighting breast cancer, in poverty. The film premiered on Dish Network last year in March before going on to win at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival in New Delhi, India, as well as winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival in 2017.

    Here, Singh shares her best advice about telling a story that matters, through filmmaking.

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

    RMS: I am an Indian American film and TV director, with strong roots in both Bollywood and Hollywood. I have directed a handful of films and TV talk shows for channels on Dish Network, such as Jus Punjabi and Jus 24×7, and have directed many Bollywood music videos.

    I came to study at NYFA directly after high school, after learning how hands-on the approach was and how students would be learning practical skills from day one.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you about this medium?

    RMS: In high school, I was always interested in pursuing work that would impact society on a large scale. As a teenager, I would spend many days out of the week vlogging on Youtube, self-teaching editing tricks, and creating improv characters for my comedy sketches. My love for video came together with my goals of positively influencing people on a mass scale, and led me to NYFA.

    What inspires me most about filmmaking is how you can truly allow the audience to see, hear, and feel the struggle of others. The best way to create love and understanding in our world is by walking in each other’s shoes. Many people choose not to step into each other’s [points of view] on a day-to-day basis, which is where film and television come in to assist people in seeing someone else’s perspective.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    RMS: I have so many wonderful memories with my teachers, such as Professor William Tyler Smith, Professor Nicola Raggi, and Professor Tasos Panagiotopoulos. Each of them taught me incredibly valuable lessons that come into use every day in the industry.

    Some of my favorite moments are from the summertime, when all the students were new and figuring out how to use traditional film cameras. It was a unique bonding experience between students from all over the world, and an important lesson on rehearsing until you get the shot right on the first few tries.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your journey in working with Jus TV? What drew you to the mission of Punjabi programming?

    RMS: After graduating from NYFA, I immediately began working overseas in the Indian film industry. I worked on TV shows such as The Voice India, which helped transition me to the more stable, routine lifestyle of television. Jus TV is a major Asian TV channel that is based in New York City, so coming back to the U.S. to work in a channel that crossed Hollywood and Bollywood concepts was the perfect fit! I wanted to use my skills and dual cultural upbringing to create progressive television programming for Asian children and young adults who grew up in America. We are constantly getting two separate streams of content, one side being totally American and the other side being totally Asian. My goal was to create a blend of both types of media to better appeal to our cross-cultural upbringing.

    NYFA: How did your project I Stand With Jessy come about?

    RMS: Jessy is actually my aunt. I did not expect to create a feature documentary on the topic, I had originally planned the project to be 10 minutes long and only focusing on Jessy herself. However, as the project continued to build up, Jus TV gave me the opportunity to merge my personal project with their company and create a full-length feature (the first feature film to come from their channel).

    The more investigation I did to fully understand laws for breast cancer detection and treatment for low-income women, the more flaws I found in our healthcare system in the U.S. I discovered that a huge number of women are left without proper care or any consideration of how time-sensitive treatment options are for breast cancer.

    I started developing the film to focus more on how we can take a stand to change these deadly rules and regulations in the healthcare industry.

    NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced in creating this feature documentary, and how did you overcome them?

    RMS: One of the biggest challenges for this documentary was allowing Jessy to feel comfortable enough to speak out about a topic that most Asians choose not to openly discuss. There is a huge stigma in nearly all Asian countries about women’s bodies and how illness is perceived. Jessy, like most Asian women, was anxious about how the community would react to her being so open about her breast cancer and the issues that come with chemotherapy.

    Ultimately Jessy and I worked together to create a list of questions that would ease her into speaking about certain harsh topics. In the end, Jessy had become so comfortable while filming that she even allowed me to follow her around throughout her day and film all of it!

    Another unique challenge was reaching members of the government to comment on the issues of our healthcare system. Though many attempts were made to contact government officials, none of them responded to give their input on issues regarding women’s health.

    There is still fear and negativity attached to openly assigning opinions on women’s health and the poor setup of the healthcare system in the United States.

    NYFA: What is your advice to NYFA students interested in producing a feature documentary?

    RMS: My best advice would be to think of a topic that has the depth to be turned into a film of one hour or longer. The topic should be something unique or quirky enough that the audience would be willing to sit and watch a nonfiction piece over the many fictional TV shows and films out there.

    Ultimately, you don’t need much to create a beautiful documentar, besides yourself, a camera, and a subject you’re passionate about. That is part of what makes the documentary genre so accessible for new filmmakers.

    NYFA: Congratulations on all your film festival success! What is next for I Stand With Jessy?

    RMS: I Stand With Jessy has an adjacent petition for the government to lower the age of breast cancer screenings and include screening options that go beyond the basic mammogram. It can be found and supported at change.org/p/i-stand-with-jessy. As of now, 1,702 people have signed it.

    I hope to continue the petition and reach out to members of congress to discuss a reasonable goal for healthcare in the United States.

    Luckily the film has gained major publicity for winning India’s biggest film festival, the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival, and last year it gained American publicity thanks to winning the Impact Doc Awards Film Festival. These two festivals have helped spark public interest in bettering the healthcare system in the U.S. for immigrants.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing now?

    RMS: The wonderful hands-on approach at NYFA helped eliminate the wasted time of theories and repetitive classwork with no relevance to film. Thanks to NYFA’s one-year program in filmmaking, I was able to find work immediately, with the right connections in the film industry. I have not yet been on any set where my skills have not been at par with serious film professionals and former students with degrees in film.

    I am thankful to NYFA for creating this brilliant, expedited opportunity to learn the true essence of film. After that, it is up to each individual student to continue learning and filling in any blanks for themselves.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    RMS: This year, I am directing my first horror film in Boston with Mtown Films. Along with that, I am working on directing multiple Bollywood music videos, which has become a fun niche of mine in the past few years. The music videos will be shot all across the United States and India, and will be releasing later this year. I am also looking forward to developing more medical documentaries that expose the truth about the negative impacts of our healthcare system.

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  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

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    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screened this Feb. 5 in Sydney shortly before its digital release on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Pillion took some time during the busy week leading up to his film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog:

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. 

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink.

    Far From Here
    is available from the following sources:
    iTunes Australia
    iTunes USA
    Amazon USA

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