New York Film Academy Australia and Port Shorts Ambassadors will be participating in Port Shorts Young Filmmaker Masterclasses with teams of high school film students in Cairns and Mossman on August 18th and 19th. New York Film Academy Australia instructors Brian Vining and Dean Mayer will join Screen Queensland production incentive and attractions Manager Gina Black.
Port Shorts Film Festival ambassadors Stephen Curry (The Castle, The Cup), Wolf Creek EP Matt Hearn and screenwriter Kier Shorey (Blurred), will deliver a free workshop in Port Douglas later this month. With a prize pool worth more than $15,000 up for grabs, the Port Shorts Film Festival shines the spotlight on the imagination of Australia’s most creative minds, with a support network geared to stimulate the next generation of filmmakers.
Port Shorts Film Festival Director Alison George said organizers were delighted to bring up such a well-credentialed film industry panel for the benefit of the Far North Queensland filmmaking community.
“Port Shorts is very proud to present the free Port Shorts Masterclass Series and we would like to thank Festivals Australia for helping to fund the workshops as well as our Ambassadors, New York Film Academy Australia and Screen Queensland for supporting us with their involvement,” said George.
The main Port Shorts Film Festival is held in Port Douglas October 28-29. For more information, please visit www.portshorts.com.
The King of Queens paid a visit to lower Manhattan this past Friday, as the New York Film Academy welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James. James began his career in stand up and eventually moved over to television where he rose to stardom playing the role of Doug Heffernan in the CBS comedy The King of Queens. James’ career moved over to film when he teamed up with Will Smith in Hitch, and then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. James would go on to star in several other comedic films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and others.
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
As an additional surprise, James brought with him writer and former NYFA student, Michael Soccio, as well as writer and producer Leo Severino. Soccio has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The King of Queens. He’s also done numerous re-writes and script doctoring for major motion pictures such as Hitch, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black 2 & 3. Severino produced Bella, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and is developing the film Mary, based on the biblical character.
James opened by discussing how he broke into the business, which came about from stand up and performing. “It’s about getting out there and really getting comfortable in that space,” said James. He stressed the importance of humility, adding, “You are going to fail without a doubt.” The key is to continue to hone your craft until you are comfortable and confident enough to own it.
As James looked around the full classroom of acting and filmmaking students, he said, “I wish I had this experience. If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”
Soccio added in the fact that his experience in the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 1997 is what truly elevated his craft as writer. “You can never learn too much,” Soccio said. “I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a much better writer.”
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
A key element that James kept coming back to was the idea of surrounding yourself with a great team. He admitted to his own faults of sometimes not seeing the full picture in a film or project and seeking the advice of his directors and writers, who “can see the whole landscape.”
Another important piece of advice given by each guest was the notion that you can never stop learning. A student concluded the day by asking James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” To this, James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”
NYFA thanks Kevin James, Michael Soccio, and Leo Severino for taking the time out to speak to our students in such a down-to-earth manner, and looks forward to their upcoming projects, including the new CBS series, Kevin Can Wait.
Former MA Film and Media Production student Dimitris Tranos decided to tackle a difficult subject in his New York Film Academy thesis film. The film, Heavy Cross, triggered by his grandfather’s irreversible illness which kept him confined to his bed for years, resulted in Tranos’ research about terminally ill people who asked their loved ones to assist them to commit suicide, due to the lack of legal alternatives. In his short film, which won a Rising Star Award at the Athens International Digital Film Festival, Tranos explores the moral and ethical dilemma that an individual faces when he or she is asked to do the same, taking into consideration that the religious and social factors have a great impact on this decision. Through this film, Tranos asks a simple question: If the right to life is indisputable, what about the right to die?
“I chose the main theme of my film to be ‘the right to die as a moral principle’ because I wanted to explore how family, friends and society in general react to a terminally ill person’s will to terminate his or her own life,” said Tranos. “I have witnessed my own grandfather being confined to bed for several years, losing day by day his vision and his ability to communicate with his surroundings. Even if nothing was ever said, I knew that everybody in the family was praying for him to find redemption.”
In Heavy Cross, Sarah, a religious caretaker faces a serious moral dilemma when she meets Mike, a seriously ill and confined to bed veteran of Iraq, who wants Sarah to help him commit suicide.
Tranos was able to collaborate with talented students and alumni from NYFA like Luciana Capela (Co-producer), Henry Li (Cinematographer), Alonso Grandio (Actor) and Leonardo Bentes (1st AD) to name a few.
“My studies at NYFA helped me a lot,” says Tranos. “My instructors were there to assist me in the whole process.”
Currently, Tranos is in the process of finishing the 1st draft of a feature script about unfulfilled teenage dreams and how impactful they can be in their adult life.
With over 100,000 social media followers and close to 7 million views on her Youtube channel, the former New York Film Academy Summer Camp student Nika Khargiyanova from Moscow, Russia is better known under her singer/songwriter, model and popular video blogger pseudonym Nika Nova.
From a very young age, Nika excelled in almost everything she participated in: ballet, modeling, singing, dancing, and acting in theatre productions. After winning several beauty pageants and talent competitions, her first major accomplishment was when she was voted the Grand Prix winner in the prestigious “Young Pearl of Europe & Asia” competition. Soon after, she was voted “Miss International” and the winner of the coveted “Miss Fashion Of The World,” where she was crowned by famous designer, Pierre Cardin. At the age of 11, Nika became fascinated with video blogging, which was beginning to become very popular with young people across Russia. Utilizing Youtube, she created and produced her own talk shows called “What’s Up, Stars?” and “What’s Up, Teens?”—a spin on American talk shows.
As creator, producer, writer, editor and host of the show, Nika would interview famous Russian artists and actors. It didn’t take long until Russian teens found the Youtube channel, making it a major hit.
Soon after, in the summer of 2013, Nika traveled to Los Angeles to study Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. There she focused on creating and producing film while studying at the world-famous Universal Studios. After her training at NYFA, her newly created “What’s Up, Stars?” grew enormously popular all over the Internet. In 2014 “What’s up, Stars?!” was officially accredited by the main television channel of Russia, “First Channel,” which produces such well known shows as “The Voice” and “Voice Kids.”
Today, Nika works with songwriters and producers from all over the world, including Russia, USA, Australia and the UK. At the same time, fashion Moscow magazine OOPS did a spread on Nika for their October, 2014 issue.
Nika has exploded into the music scene and there is nothing standing in her way. Recently, she took part in Grammy Award-winning composer Laura Sullivan’s project called “900 Voices.” She sings both Russian and English, and she is on a mission to be the first Russian female recording artist ever to break through the competitive Western music market. At the moment, more than 200 radio stations play her music, but her dream and major focus is to not only break into music, but television and film as well.
Nika Nova on Hollywood Blvd.
Despite her busy schedule, NYFA recently had the opportunity to catch up with the former summer camp student to ask her a few questions about her blossoming career.
We know you must be very busy with your singing/songwriting, modeling and video blogging. Can you tell us a little more about the projects you are currently working on?
Yes, I am always working on something creative. I am interested in everything that is related to music videos, vlogs, songs, videos, and, of course, my program “What’s up, Stars?”
We know you have a very large fan base. How do you manage your time to work, study and also stay connected with your followers?
Since I can remember, I have always lived like this. But this year is pretty complicated for me, because I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for college. But I can’t stop to writing songs, shooting videos and communicating with my subscribers. They are watching my work and can see how much time I spend editing my videos and writing my songs. And I’m so glad that my followers are understanding in the fact that I can’t always respond in time, even though I try. They are always with me and supporting me.
What made you decide to study at NYFA?
At age 11, I started to get involved in video blogging. I wrote scripts, filmed on my unprofessional camera, and I had to master the editing program Final Cut Pro. I’ve got thousands of subscribers and I really like to create my own videos, but I don’t have enough professional training. My dream was to go to NYFA. When my parents saw my passion in filmmaking, they supported me; and when I was 14 years old, they realized my dream and I went to New York Film Academy. It was hard to believe, but it happened!
You attended a few of our programs. Did you have a favorite and why?
After completing my first course, the quality of my projects improved greatly. I began to position myself not only as video blogger, but also as a singer. I began to try to shoot and edit my own music videos.
Some of which won “Academia Music Awards” (LA) as a singer and as a video producer .
So, in 2015, I went back to study Music Video Production and Acting for Film.
It’s difficult to choose which program I like more, because I’m interested in everything. Each course has its own specifics.
What was most memorable about your time here at NYFA?
Of course, it was amazing to film and to be filmed at the world-famous Universal Studios! This was an amazing opportunity because you feel like you’re part of the Hollywood film industry—the world’s best!
Students have the unique chance to shoot their projects on a studio where major blockbusters have been filmed.
Also, I like to communicate with students from different parts of the world, and now I have a lot of friends from all over the world and we still communicate today!
During your time here, what was one of the most valuable things you learned?
I learned that creativity can bring people together despite differences in religion, politics or even nationality.
How have you used your new skills to help you with the projects you are currently working on?
Practical projects taught me a lot. During the courses, I had an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a director and an actor in castings and on set. Now I’m more confident in my videos than I had been in the past, but I would still like to learn more and more!
Would you recommend any of your programs to others interested in attending and why?
Yes, I’d recommend NYFA for sure! In any creative profession it is very important to practice. NYFA gives you this opportunity, and any student can realize his or her most ambitious projects!
And most importantly, at NYFA you can learn any of the major creative professions related to film, television, digital technology and media space.
From conception to full realization, with a modern technical base, we have the opportunity to attend master classes of the most famous (and Oscar-winning) actors and directors.
What do you have planned for yourself in 2016?
One of my latest projects was a music video for the Russian song “Набери,” which I produced. I shot this together with friends but took an active part in the assembly of the project, as well as generating ideas. Now I’m preparing another song, in which I wrote the music for, and I’m already thinking about a script for a new movie. I plan to work on some new projects with “What’s up, Stars?” and release my music album “With Love from Moscow.” And finally, I hope to have an opportunity to return to NYFA once again.
Any advice you can give to teens looking to grow their career in the performing arts?
Believe and fight for your dreams! And never ever give up.
New York Film Academy students received a special treat when Emmy award-winning TV director Mary Lou Belli taught her acclaimed sitcom directing and acting workshop at the school. Mary Lou has been directing television for over 20 years and the shows she’s worked on include NCIS New Orleans, Monk, Hart of Dixie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sister Sister, Charles in Charge, Girlfriends, and The Game, to name a few. She has co-authored three books, “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” “Acting for Young Actors,” and “Directors Tell the Story,” with fellow DGA member Bethany Rooney.
The theater was packed with filmmaking and acting students thrilled to learn more about the art of sitcom. Mary Lou first lectured, sharing crucial sitcom concepts and vocabulary, and then brought groups of volunteering students to the stage where she paired them off to run classic sitcom scenes. Mary Lou critiqued the students’ performances using the concepts and vocabulary she taught them, and had them run the scenes again and again until they perfectly popped like any comic gem you’d see on television. She also cycled in and out filmmaking students to shadow her as director and jump in with their own scene critique and reworking when called upon. The energy in the room was high and students raced to the stage to be the next to participate. The audience cheered and burst out in laughter at every scene iteration.
NYFA students were also happy to discover that the curriculum and experience that they received is very close to what they saw from a world-class sitcom director.
We sincerely thank Mary Lou Belli for imparting her wisdom on to us and look forward to the next wonderful TV show she directs!
Coming out of his MA Film and Media Production degree from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Varun Verma was hired by Replay Collective to work as a Line Producer for the production company. Replay Collective works with some of the most creative young filmmakers out there today to produce the most engaging content for major brands. While working for Replay, Verma has worked on almost a dozen high profile music videos, major commercials, and a few international short films.
Varun Verma on set of one of his productions
Given the fact that many of our recent graduates are deciding which specific field in the industry to explore, we decided to get some more insight into Verma’s career after film school, as well as his role as a Line Producer for Replay.
Congrats on your success thus far! Can you tell us how you began working for Replay Collective?
During my final semester, I was producing a NYFA thesis called Maquisard, directed by Kurt Claridades, in an abandoned town called Boron. The first day of the shoot, I found out that there was another production going on at the same location, which was being produced by Replay Collective. Since there were student and studio productions at the same location, it was a big challenge for me to coordinate with them and make sure every one returns home with completed work and making sure the director achieves his vision. One day, I sat with producer Sid Ganji, who I work with now, and scheduled in such a way that neither of our productions would ever conflict with each other. The very next day, I received a message from Sid saying they liked the way I handled the situation and would like to hire me as a freelance line producer on two music videos of for the popular Youtube artist, Trisha Paytas. Fortunately, my first music video project “Fat Chicks” went viral (almost 5 million views to date) and was covered by Cosmopolitan magazine. After a few more freelance gigs with Replay, I was finally offered a full-time job with the company.
What are some of the challenges that come with your role as line producer?
My job as Line Producer is to support the director’s vision under the given budget. This typically includes making sure the crew is content and treated well. Keeping calm in tough circumstances is a big challenge. For example, at a recent production, our A.D. had an accident in morning and it was a tough call whether to get a new A.D. or wait for his final call. Meanwhile, our crew became irritated and began complaining about the set not being organized and, as a result, there was a communication breakdown amongst the crew—which ultimately went to higher authority. Overall, it’s a high pressure job from all aspects. And it’s tough not to freak out and prioritize the task and think a step ahead with all of the possible consequences of a decision I make that I’m totally accountable for.
Which of the videos that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
Recently, I worked on a music video project “Problematic” by Ricky Dillon featuring Snoop Dogg that I am very proud of. Another video that I am proud of was “Steal the Show” by Ricky Dillon, as well as the EA Games’ “Battlefield Hardline” commercial. Every project comes with new challenges and creatives. As a producer, I love working on new creatives, which makes me explore the horizon and gain experience in something completely new.
Was your experience at NYFA useful in terms of being prepared to work as a line producer?
I never thought I would end up as a producer, but NYFA played a big role in teaching industry level ethics and detailed orientation of the hollywood industry. I’m very thankful to NYFA for the practical training, in which I was given the opportunity to experience every crew position and now, as a producer, it helps me understand what it takes to be in a particular crew position.
What is your overall goal in the entertainment industry? What do you hope to achieve?
Since I love producing, and it’s fun to work in numbers and creatives, my goal is to become youngest award-wining commercial producer and eventually work on feature movies.
On December 25th, 2015, the documentaryOre Ru premiered in Paraguay at theaters nationwide. The film, from up and coming director Armando Aquino, captures Pope Francis’ latest visit to Paraguay in July of 2015. Ore Ru was produced by the production company Maneglia Schembori, where New York Film Academy graduate Mariana Pineda was put in charge of production.
The 75-minute film recounts the wait for the Pope’s arrival in Paraguay from the prospective of four different Paraguayans:
Gaby, a 13-year-old girl from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Asuncion
Mafe, a 16-year-old girl who fights a terminal disease
Margarita, a 53-year-old indian native from the Ache community who fights for the survival of her culture
Tati, an 18-year-old survivor from one of the greatest tragedies in Paraguayan history, Ycuá Bolaños
“The film presents these four very different viewpoints that portray how we are and how we feel as Paraguayans,” said Pineda. “And, above all, it shows how far are we willing to go for what we believe. Because this film is more about the four stories that are recounted here than about the Pope itself, we were very involved in these women’s lives. We were very touched because they all fight their own battles and still, they have so much hope and they fight every single day. It really was an amazing, touching and humbling experience. And even though it has the Pope as the main focus, it’s not just a religious movie — people from all backgrounds and beliefs can watch it and not feel as if we are trying to send a religious message.”
As a producer at the production company, Maneglia Schembori, which includes Paraguayan film directors Tana Schembori and Juan Carlos Maneglia, Pindea is currently developing the comedy-adventure film Los buscadores (Seekers), their follow-up to 2012’s box office and festival hit action thriller 7 Boxes.
Rock ‘n’ roll is still alive and well, especially for New York Film Academy graduate Trip Loon. His most recent rock video for Hammered Satin, called “Foxy Dude,” has been acclaimed in publications like Rolling Stone and Yahoo, as it is considered one of the Top 20 Most Awesome Music Videos of 2014, along with artists like Ok Go, Basement Jaxx, Arcade Fire and Iggy Azalea. This week, we had a chance to talk to Trip about his video and his career as a budding filmmaker.
How did you begin working with Hammered Satin? Was this an original idea of yours that you had to pitch or something you developed with the band?
I’m actively involved in the rock ‘n’ roll scene. I have a rock ‘n’ roll nightlife blog called The Dead Notes where I report about the best new bands in the rock ‘n’ roll underground with a focus on bands who have influences from the rock ‘n’ roll of the 70’s. I came to meet Hammered Satin for the first time when they played The Bowery Electric back in 2010. Then when I moved to LA in 2011, I got in touch with them and did a story about them for my blog. Over the years they became my strongest allies in my activism to promote this kind of rock ‘n’ roll. It was through them that I was hyped as a videographer, blogger and a music entrepreneur/promoter; and all the other bands in LA and all over America were interested in getting in touch with me to be featured in the media I was producing.
The idea was something I developed with the band. I wanted the video to have a lot of “zingers” (shock value/funny moments) but I was very conservative with my budget that I can only do a few. Noah, the singer of the band, really fought for a lot more zingers and pretty expensive ones too. At first my impulse was to manage his expectations and tell him I can’t. But I’m glad I didn’t because those extra zingers got me Top 20 Most Awesome Videos of 2014 in Rolling Stone.
In your own words, what is the “Foxy Dude” video about?
Initially, I asked the band which song they wanted to select and what they wanted to campaign about themselves. We both agreed that at this stage of the band’s career it’s important to campaign the band’s brand as opposed to the single itself. Once the public knows who Hammered Satin are as artists then we can move on to worrying about campaigning actual singles. After some discussion, we thought “Foxy Dude” was the most strategic song that showcases that.
Hammered Satin is huge on 70’s glam rock and what 70’s glam rock stood for. They want to show the world that they are glamorous, chic, fun, party spirited, cultured, classy and larger than life. The video focused a lot on accomplishing all of those elements. We built a plot of the singer being auctioned off to women and finding love with his guitar player dressed in drag; and then they eventually start a family and have a baby (their bass player). I encourage the audience not to think too much about a “hidden theme.” This is a music video for entertainment and for evoking a sense of wanting to be cultured, high class, chic and fun. And if you saw the video and it got you excited on being that way—and it got you excited on Hammered Satin—then I did my job.
Was your NYFA education useful in terms of being able to direct a video like this?
Yes, absolutely. And not just for this video but for my craft as a filmmaker in general. I feel I should give huge shout outs to Paul Warner, John Loughlin, Claude Kerven, Jack Paglen, Stephen Miele, Mary Samuelson and Robert Dinozzi.
Were you able to build a solid portfolio of work to showcase your talents?
Right now, I have two feature screenplays and three TV shows developed enough that they’re already getting referrals around producers and agencies. I’ve directed three shorts and a number of music videos, TV commercial specs, and a full music web series of seven episodes (30 minutes each) that will be streamed on a major website.
Are you currently working on another project?
Yes, I’m working on a feature length rock ‘n’ roll documentary and more seasons of my music show, Goose Chase, which I have ambitions to eventually sell to broadcast as opposed to just the web. I’m also writing and developing more feature screenplays.
What is your overall goal as a filmmaker?
My goal is to be a youth culture director that portrays the youth culture with realism. I feel that a lot of content creators now portray the youth culture by pandering to parental control pressures, and a lot of producers want to distribute movies to conservative foreign markets in non-European territories—that there’s a very contrived “wholesome” quality in these movies that panders to the cultural sensitivities of those markets. And that doesn’t just go for youth culture movies, it goes to all movies in general.
My favorite era of movies is The American New Wave era in the late 60’s and 70’s. It was the height of the counter culture and it was the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll. The music and movies from that era are what got me enamored with American culture. And it seems that magic is completely missing nowadays. I’m a rock ‘n’ roll maniac. I live it and breathe it. Most of my movies are autobiographical and, if they’re powerful enough, maybe life will imitate art. And maybe some kind of impact is going to happen to the culture because of it as well. Who knows?
The New York Film Academy’s Veteran Services Office brought together more than 70 veterans from 25 partner veterans’ organizations for the Los Angeles Clippers against the Phoenix Suns basketball game on Monday, November 2nd. It was NYFA’s pleasure to host “Evening At The Game” as it connected our veteran students, local veterans and community partners to network with one another. The LA Clippers generously donated these tickets for veterans to attend the game. The LA Clippers are highly supportive of our military service members and veterans throughout the season.
Through this event, the New York Film Academy’s student veterans had the opportunity to meet with representatives of various local veteran organizations—such as Wounded Warrior Project, Team Rubicon, and Veterans in Film and Television—and enjoyed the chance to exchange stories with local veterans.
This event was an opportunity to network, meet other veterans, and learn more about the New York Film Academy and how the College educates and supports our student veterans. We are grateful for the encouragement that the LA Clippers provide to our military and the veteran students attending the New York Film Academy. Overall, the night was a success, providing good cheer and peer-to-peer support.
Often times in filmmaking, producers and directors will “cheat” their location by recreating a scene on set or in a completely different country. With former New York Film Academy student Chris Robb’s co-production of Utopia, Robb and his team kept to the story’s authenticity. Together with his company, Tripswitch Productions, along with World Film Production, Afghan Films, and Nay Media, Robb and his team shot on location in Afghanistan, India and the U.K. As one of the many rewarding results of his efforts, the film Utopia, directed by Hassan Nazer, is Afghanistan’s official entry for Best Foreign Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.
“You can’t get anymore authentic than shooting Afghanistan for Afghanistan and having it present in the film with Afghans playing Afghan roles,” said Robb. “The heart of the film is in Afghanistan, so it made sense that Afghanistan was the heart of this production. We loved their commitment to drive their country forward post Taliban, and this film brings new ideas to their country. There was a real sense that a brighter future for Afghanistan lies ahead.”
Robb admits, however, that he and his crew were forced to be vigilant in Afghanistan. “You are aware that danger could come from any direction at any time,” said Robb. “We had a team of armed security to protect the crew at all times, which caused its own set of problems, keeping them out of the line of sight, but it was a necessary. The problem is: who is Taliban and who is not? The only difference is one has a gun hidden from sight. They don’t like cameras over there, so we had to hide the camera from sight as much as possible and be creative with that.”
The film includes three intersecting stories of loneliness and isolation that center around Janan, a woman from Afghanistan who travels to the UK for artificial insemination. Complications arise when William, a medical sciences student working at the clinic, switches the donors semen for his own.
“Making Utopia was a blessing for me,” says director Hassan Nazer. “I’m an immigrant myself, and what is an immigrant? It’s someone who has made a huge and decisive leap in their life and is now living in a different part of the planet. A new life, within some new kind of cultural rules and that’s what the heroine of our film, Janan, has done. She has taken an enormous decision on the cusp of her middle age. A decision that has a huge impact on the other two main characters’ journeys through life. You wouldn’t be able to find so many scripts these days looking this hopeful at Afghanistan’s future, so when I read it the first time, I knew I was going to direct this film.”
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can attend a screening of Utopia on November 1st at 7pm at IPIC Theatre—Westwood, 10840 Wilshire Blvd. Following the screening there will be a Q&A with Robb and some of the other producers and cast from the film. From there, we hope to see the film at the 2016 Academy Awards!