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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Signs Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Xiamen University (XMU), China

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) and Xiamen University (XMU), one of the top academic institutions in Southern China, held a virtual Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing ceremony on June 7, 2022. Representatives from the two institutions gathered virtually.

    The ceremony was attended byProfessor Zongyi Zhang, President of Xiamen University; Jun Yang, Education Counselor at the Chinese Consulate General in New York; Michael Young, President of New York Film Academy; Dr. Joy Zhu, Executive Vice President for the China Region of New York Film Academy; and faculty and staff from both institutions.

    The agreement’s goal is to foster and support mutual academic, research, and cultural exchanges, as well as to maintain tight partnerships between the two institutions to improve educational value. Furthermore, the MOU intends to provide new and exciting opportunities for XMU students to further their studies at NYFA.

    “We will undertake many significant activities, including facilitating educational and academic exchanges between the two institutions, as well as providing learning opportunities for those seeking workshops, degrees, and other learning experiences in the performing and visual arts,” said President Young. Moreover, with enthusiasm, he said “I hope that in the days ahead we take bold steps together to develop stronger relationships and friendships.”

    Xiamen University (XMU), established in 1921 by Mr. Tan Kah Kee, is the first university founded by a Chinese person overseas in the history of modern Chinese education. XMU has long been listed among China’s leading universities on the national 211 Project, 985 Project and Double First-class initiative. With a graduate school, 6 academic divisions consisting of 33 schools and colleges, and 16 research institutes, XMU boasts a total enrollment of nearly 44,000 full-time students with 20,000 undergraduates, 18,000 graduate students working towards a master’s degree and 5,000 doctoral candidates. XMU currently has a faculty of over 3,000 full-time teachers and researchers. Nestled snugly between green hills and the blue sea, XMU is renowned as China’s most beautiful university for its excellent education facilities and beautiful environment.

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    June 10, 2022 • Filmmaking • Views: 73

  • Q&A with MFA Filmmaking Alum Felipe Holguin

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    Since graduating, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Felipe Holguin has been making ground-breaking work, capturing sincere and comical portraits of people in and around his native Colombia. 

    Holguin recently wrapped his most recent project, La Suprema. Holguin spoke with NYFA about the road to his production company, Cumbia Films, and the inspiration behind La Suprema.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Felipe Holguin (FH): I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and currently live in Cartagena with my wife and my 5 year-old daughter. We’ve had our own production company, Cumbia Films, since 2009. In 2007, I was living in Sao Paulo, Brasil, and looking to get a masters degree in filmmaking. A friend told me about NYFA and I was immediately interested in living in NY and LA so I began the application process. The rest is history.

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating? Have you won any awards or been showcased in any festivals or competitions?

    FH: Yes. My short film Mañana (Tomorrow) was made during my first year in NYFA and it went to many film festivals around the world and won two Honorable Mentions. With Mañana, Cumbia Films was born. After NYFA, I worked in Los Angeles for some years as 1st AD in multiple projects and directed music videos and commercials. I was part of Film Independent’s Project: Involve program in the Directing Fellowship in 2012. In 2013, we moved back to Colombia and established our company in Cartagena with my wife and partner, where we offer production services for national and international projects. Between 2015 and 2017, I directed 2 feature documentaries funded by the Colombian government: La Suerte Del Salao (Unlucky Luck) and La Cachera.

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest project & how you got involved in the project?

    FH: In La Suprema, set in a town erased from the maps where there is not even electricity, a teenage girl dreams of being a boxer. When she learns that her uncle will box for the world title and the event will be televised, she and the community go out of their way to watch the fight, while fighting for her dignity and against oblivion.

    This comedy-tinged drama takes place in the early 2000s, before the internet and mobile phone boom, in a humble town, located far from any city, in Bolívar, Colombia. The film is inspired by the true story of Antonio Cervantes aka Kid Pambelé, who achieved the first world boxing title for Colombia, becoming a national hero, putting San Basilio de Palenque on the map.

    La Suprema is a village in the Matuya district, surrounded mostly by palm oil crops. The community faces problems that go beyond the fiction of this film and it is the ideal location to narrate this story that uses fiction to talk about reality. It represents social challenges and universal values of equity, diversity, inclusion, justice, empowerment, freedom, unity, love and acceptance.

    In 2020, we applied to the Film Fund (FDC-Proimagenes) and won 1 of the 2 awards given for regional feature films. I co-wrote the script with a friend and colleague, also a NYFA graduate, Two-Year Filmmaking alum Andrés Sierra. In 2021, we began castings and scouting, while looking for more funding and working on the script. We recently wrapped production, a successful 4-week shoot here in the Bolivar department, northern region of Colombia. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to this project and others?

    FH: I loved that the NYFA program was fully hands-on. On day one, cameras were put in our hands and we began shooting. The best way to learn to shoot a movie is by shooting movies! 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Felipe Holguin for all he has done since completing the MFA Filmmaking Program!

     

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    June 10, 2022 • Filmmaking • Views: 60

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Sidney Esiri’s First Feature Film

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    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Sidney Esiri‘s journey has not been linear. Instead, it has wrapped around the Nigerian entertainment industry, health industry and military. Esiri, commonly known as Dr. Sid, is a singer, producer, director and former dentist.

    Prior to working in the music industry, Esiri graduated from the Nigerian Air force Secondary School in Ikeja. Shortly after, he attended the University of Ibadan to study dentistry and dental surgery.

    Esiri is the son of a Nigerian fashion designer and trailblazing actor, Justus Esiri. Justus Esiri is known as a pillar in the Nollywood film industry with a career dating back to the 1960’s. Most notably, he starred in the film adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It is no surprise that his only son, Sidney Esiri, took after him. After several years of making chart-topping music, Esiri starred in his first film The Last 3 Digits in 2013 and made his directorial debut in 2015 with The Application.

    This June, Esiri debuts his first feature film, The Order of Things, in theaters across Nigeria.

    The Order of Things brings humor and levity to the topic of marriage traditions among siblings. The film has been in development since 2017.

     

     

    Ahead of the release of the film, Esiri shared the trailer for The Order of Things on Instagram. In the post, he references his time at the New York Film Academy. “7 years ago I attended the @newyorkfilmacademy to learn how to be a filmmaker. In 2022, I’m making my directorial debut, Glory to God 🙏🏾. Please enjoy the #Firstlook of The Order of Things Movie. 

    #TOOTMovie”

    Sidney Esiri shared with NYFA that the most important thing he learned while studying filmmaking at our NYFA Los Angeles campus was the importance of “putting together the right team with the right work ethic” and the importance of “having the right processes in place to ensure proper workflow. Proper planning and pre-production will make the shooting process easier.” 

    Lastly, Esiri says “NYFA will give you the building blocks needed to express your imagination as well as put you in a space with other creatives that will challenge you to be better.”

    NYFA congratulates Sidney Esiri on all his successes. We look forward to seeing The Order of Things in theaters June 10th, 2022!

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    May 16, 2022 • Filmmaking • Views: 212

  • NYFA Alum Bill Hader’s Barry Season 3 Is Still Killer

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    NYFA Alum Bill Hader's Barry Season 3 Is Still Killer

    NYFA Alum Bill Hader’s Barry Season 3 Is Still Killer

     

    After a critically-acclaimed first and second season, NYFA Filmmaking alum Bill Hader’s HBO Original Series, Barry is back with impeccable reviews and a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. From the start, Barry boasted a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while season 2 and 3 scored 100 percent.

    According to the critics’ consensus on season 3, “Bill Hader and company can take a well-deserved bow—Barry makes its belated return to the screen without missing a step, retaining its edge as one of television’s funniest and most unsettling offerings.”

     


    Bill Hader co-created, directed, wrote, executive-produced, and starred in the hit-series. Since its premiere in 2018, Barry has amassed 30 Emmy Primetime Award nominations and 6 Emmy Awards, including two ‘Best Lead Actors in a Comedy Series’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.’

    The premise of the comedy-drama is a unique one: a hitman, Barry, travels to Los Angeles to kill someone and finds himself joining an acting class in the process. His acting teacher, Gene Cousineau, played by NYFA Guest Speaker Henry Winkler, becomes a mentor for him and Barry begins to question his life path and choices. He also meets Sally Reed, an aspiring actress with whom he begins a romantic relationship. Hader notes higher stakes for season 3, “This season’s Barry is unhinged … living a lie more than ever before.” Sally steps into the role of girl boss running her own show, Hank (Barry’s criminal associate) sneaks around with the enemy and Barry’s former acting teacher, Cousineau, is out for revenge.

     


     

    In a Q&A-List Series conversation with Tova Laiter back in 2019, Hader shared that the essence of Barry is in its protagonist. As an actor, you must feel things and as a hitman, you must detach yourself. Actors want to be seen and hitmen need to remain in the shadows. Hader’s knowledge of life as an actor made him the perfect man to lead this show. In the season 3 trailer, Barry says, ‘[Cousineau] didn’t just teach me how to be a better actor, he taught me how to be a human being,’ as though straight from the mouth of Stella Adler herself. The show does a remarkable job of capturing the essence of being an actor in Los Angeles while breathing real life and nuance into its leading hitman.

     

    Check out the rest of the conversation below:

     


     

    Since graduating from NYFA, Actor Bill Hader rose to fame and acclaim in a remarkable career in both film and television. Prior to Barry, Hader was a member of the cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live for eight years, appearing in a total of 160 episodes over the course of his 8-season tenure. Hader received three Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for his comedic work on the NBC long-running show.

    New York Film Academy is proud of Bill Hader’s incredible work, well-deserved recognition, and the success of his latest series Barry.

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    May 3, 2022 • Filmmaking • Views: 211

  • FILMS FROM NYFA AUSTRALIA ALUMNI SELECTED FOR 2022 GOLD COAST FILM FESTIVAL

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    NYFA Faculty Suki Medencevic is DP on Shining Vale

    Drum roll please!

    NYFA Australia Filmmaking Alum Stephen Osborne is no stranger to successful film releases. Since his short film, Jane, which he created as a New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA Australia) project, Stephen’s films have been collecting awards and screening at prestigious, internationally-acclaimed film festivals around the world like Los Angeles CineFest, Global Film Festival Award and the Gold Coast Film Festival in Australia.

    This year – for the second year in a row – a Stephen Osborne film has been selected for the Gold Coast Film Festival!

    The Gold Coast Film Festival is one of Australia’s stand-out festivals. With over two decades of international film production with the support of Warner Bros. Movie World and Village Roadshow Studios, the festival has dedicated itself to supporting the next generation of Australian filmmakers. The Gold Coast Film Festival has become a major event for the Australian film industry and ambitious filmmakers from around the globe; and this year, on April 26, Stephen Osborne’s feature film
    Dome House 6 will have its world premiere at the Home of the Arts (HOTA) theater as part of the festival’s official selection.

    Dome House 6 is set in the future, “after a significant collapse of civilization, it is a soft sci-fi thriller about trust, mischief, lust and control; that follows four seemingly unconnected people as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape.” The film includes a voice-over performance by Australian actress Charlotte Best, promising new-comer, Madyn Rae and actor and NYFA Australia alum Prem Sagar Krishnan.

    In 2021, his first feature film Strangeville was invited to screen at the acclaimed Gold Coast Film Festival  and compete in the Best Australian Indie Film category after the film’s world premiere at the Sydney Sci-fiction Film Festival. Strangeville, a film about a town by the same name known for its U.F.O activity, is home to mysterious alien abductions that are kept under wraps by the local law. The sci-fi film found much success and its lead actors were nominated in the Best Actor, Best Actress category at the Sydney Science Fiction Festival and hailed by Blunt Magazine as a “well-earned break for your viewing schedule.”

    Needless to say, Dome House 6 had big shoes to fill – and it did not disappoint.

    Check out this spotlight video on Award-Winning Filmmaker and NYFA Australia Filmmaking Grad Stephen Osborne.

     

    NYFA Australia’s presence is being felt all around the Gold Coast Film Festival. This year – again, for the second time in a row – recent Filmmaking graduates are premiering their NYFA Australia student short films at the EMERGE! screening. Anantha Krishna Raj’s film DIG and Jackson Fields’ film The Driver are joining a handful young filmmakers as they showcase their short films at EMERGE!, in the Gold Coast Film Festival continued effort to usher Queensland’s next generation of filmmakers onto the big screen.

    Dome House 6 screening and the Emerge! student short film showcase still have tickets available. To book your tickets, click the links below:

    The New York Film Academy and NYFA Australia congratulates Stephen Osborne, Anantha Krishna Raj and Jackson Fields for their success and hard work! We are excited to see their films which also showcase an array of NYFA Australia students and alumni as part of their cast and crews.

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

     

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    April 4, 2022 • Filmmaking, NYFA Australia • Views: 430

  • Q&A with NYFA Acting Alum Amanda Azevedo

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    Headshot of actress Amanda Azevedo, a white female with long brown hair wearing a pale pink suit. NYFA Acting for Film alum and Brazilian actress Amanda Azevedo recently starred in Netflix’s Back to 15 as Luiza, a seemingly-perfect young girl struggling with her desire to please everyone around her, alongside seasoned-performer, Maisa Silva. Prior to being cast in the Netflix original, Amanda was performing in plays in a theater in Sao Paulo – Back to 15 was her first big role!

    However, although Amanda got her start in the theater, she is not new to the camera. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down stores and theaters alike, Amanda created a web series called Call Com Cleo or Call Cleo. After going through a breakup at the start of quarantine, Cleo, played by Amanda is tasked with adapting herself to the single life in the midst of a global pandemic. In every episode of the web series, Cleo has a video call in monologue format.

    Amanda spoke with the New York Film Academy about how she prepared for the role of Luiza, her biggest challenge since graduating from NYFA and her hopes for the future! 

    How long have you been acting?

    I’ve been acting since I was 7 years old. I started in a theater company  in Sao Paulo where I did more than 15 plays over the years. However when I went to college, I followed a different career. I was working in an advertising agency when I realized that what I really wanted was to be a professional actress. So in 2019, I left my job and went to NYC to start over and study with great teachers. 

    What prompted your interest in the Netflix series Back to 15?

    Being able to talk to the youth in a light way about deeper subjects. I really liked the journey my character takes. I felt a real need to tell her story because I identified a lot with her, especially when I was a teenager. On top of that, there is this 2000’s vibe, which gave a really nostalgic feel to the show. And it’s incredible being part of a Netflix project, and being able to reach all around the world and therefore taking a Brazilian project to several countries. 

     

     

    What did you want to bring to the role of Luiza?

    Luiza is a girl who appears to have the perfect life, but throughout the story we see that she suffers a lot trying to be this perfect girl that lives to please others, especially her mother, who puts a lot of expectations on her. I wanted to bring her dissatisfaction slowly, through details and subtleties. With one look, one breath the character becomes more vulnerable and throughout the episodes she’s getting closer and connected with the audience.

    What’s the one thing you’d like audiences to take away from your role as Luiza, and the show in general?

    I think the show talks about how we can write our own stories, no matter the expectations that others put on us. It’s important to open this topic with families so that young people can learn to understand themselves better and follow their own path.

    How do you personally like to prepare for a role?

    I like to justify everything, such as why the character has a type of behavior, create her past, her goals as well as using my own material. When creating Luiza, I recreated many situations that happened to me when I was a teenager, and talked to some girls who went through the same thing. I also studied some psychology articles to understand the relationship between Luiza, her mother and her sister. In addition to that, I watched a lot of 2000’s movies to dive into that universe. On set, during each scene, I liked to discover something new about the character.

    Amanda Azevedo on the set of Back to 15 with a blue cake in front of her.

    Amanda Azevedo on the set of Back to 15

    What are your professional aspirations or goals as an actress?

    Most importantly, I want to have a long steady career and continue to develop my craft because I know it’s a tough and competitive industry. I want to give life to different kinds of characters that contrast with Amanda’s way of living and biographic characters would also be an awesome challenge. I would love to film in many places in Brazil and in the world where I can be in touch with different cultures. Also, I aim to pursue an international career. 

    What has been the biggest challenge for you since graduating from NYFA?

    After my graduation, I continued my studies on acting and even though I felt prepared, the biggest challenge was to get this first big job. I received some no’s in the past years, but they brought me to the big yes. It’s part of the journey!

    What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your recent work?

    The set experience and the familiarity with the camera. NFYA has, in addition to the theory, a hands-on learning program which is essential to the craft. This preparation was really important to me to feel comfortable during the shooting and giving my best during the scenes, as Back to 15 was my first big project on TV. 

     

     

     

    Are there any other upcoming projects we should know about?

    I’m in the process of creating a play and I’m still working on my web series Call Cleo, which I have on my Instagram and now it’s running through international festivals. And why not a second season of Back to 15? I’m hoping for it! 

    Do you have any advice for incoming Acting students?

    Study a lot, be prepared and welcome the opportunities. Be in touch with your creativity, develop your own projects, don’t wait around for things to happen. Find out what you want to communicate to the world through your art because when you do a work that’s authentic, you most certainly will shine!

    NYFA congratulates Amanda Azevedo on her work in Back to 15 and Call Cleo and all her future endeavors!

     

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    April 1, 2022 • Acting, Filmmaking • Views: 968

  • Q&A With NYFA Student Israa Al-Kamali

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    NYFA MFA Filmmaking student Israa Al-Kamali decided not to bring a seat to the table but instead build a table of her own. Israa, who is of Iraqi origin, co-founded the Independent Iraqi Film FestivalIIFF is a community driven, not-for-profit platform dedicated to supporting films from and about Iraq.

    Israa Al-Kamali spoke with NYFA about what inspired her to bring this festival to life and the importance of Iraqi stories.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you study and what made you decide to come to New York Film Academy?

    Israa Al-Kamali (IA): I graduated with a BSc. in Foreign Service in Culture and Politics, at Georgetown University. I am currently studying MFA in Filmmaking at NYFA, LA. Ever since I was a kid, I was writing stories and over the years I began to notice that my stories are very visual; I would imagine the way the camera would move or what the soundtrack would sound like. I decided on NYFA because I wanted a hands-on intensive experience with a holistic approach to the art of directing. The NYFA LA campus is located in one of the hot spots of the filmmaking industry in the US. Therefore, I chose NYFA-LA.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students? What about international students coming to study at NYFA?

    IA: My advice would be to make sure to always be visible and that happens through collaboration with other students, take advantage of networking opportunities, be professional, carry a good attitude, and try new things. I know it’s easier said than done but as long as you carry your passion with you, people will notice it.  The second piece of advice I want to give is that your education and your degrees not only depend on the classes you take but also on the way you shape them; use the resources at the school to network with people in the industry, look for like-minded individuals who have similar goals and approaches in their creativity. Do not limit yourself to your classrooms, venture out and seek fellow creatives who focus on similar interests. 

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about your career and more about starting Iraq’s first independent film festival?

    IA: After graduating from Georgetown, I worked in PR, social media, and content development, but I was writing scripts and stories on the side. It became unavoidable. I had to start working on my dreams.  Independent Iraqi Film Festival (IIFF) is a community-driven platform dedicated to supporting films from and about Iraq, facilitated by me and three other Iraqi volunteers working in the creative industry. The seven-day festival is online and free, featuring shorts programs, feature films, and Q&As. It can be viewed worldwide, with English subtitles. Sharing the most exciting work by emerging and established Iraqi filmmakers, our aim is to showcase the diversity and resilience of our people, as well as the breadth of our culture to a global audience. 

    NYFA: Why is the film festival market an important place for independent film festivals? Can you explain the significance of this particular film festival in Iraq? 

    IA: The Independent Iraqi Film Festival was born out of my love for films and Iraq as well as the urgent need to create a platform and space for Iraqi stories and storytellers. From conversations with Iraqi communities both in Iraq and in the diaspora, I and my fellow co-founders knew that there was an appetite and curiosity regarding Iraqi stories by Iraqis. Our experiences are complex whether back in Iraq or in the various Iraqi communities in the diaspora. Iraq is rich in culture, history, and diversity, and it is time for our stories to be highlighted and brought to global audiences. 

    We created this first-of-its-kind festival to uplift filmmakers, inspire audiences, and engage the film industry in the country. Iraqi films are not given the spotlight they deserve and it is not because there aren’t any films made by Iraqis; the 90+ submissions we received this year and the 5000 online viewers we had last year are an indicator that there is a lot of talent and passion out there.

    Iraqis have watched their experiences and stories being told by others through films that are usually filled with racism and stereotypes; War and destruction is the only point of reference and it often ignores the nuances of the Iraqi experience whether in Iraq and outside the homeland. Our festival created a space for Iraqi creatives from all communities to come together to tell our stories. This festival is for Iraqis in Iraq and in the diaspora, for every resilient Iraqi who is fighting the everyday battle to preserve our history, culture, and experiences. It is for the creatives and storytellers. It is definitely for non-Iraqis too to come and watch our stories on screen, celebrate people’s resilience, learn more about our rich and complex experiences in the homeland and beyond. It is for the emerging young Iraqi filmmakers to get a chance to showcase their talents to global audiences and for the established filmmakers to give more people the chance to enjoy and engage with their films.

    NYFA: How do you hope to see IIFF grow in the next few years?

    IA: Our first edition of the festival, August 2020, was very successful. We had 80+ submissions last year and 5000 total online viewers. For our closing night, we hosted an in-person premiere of Baghdad in my Shadow (2019) by Dir. Samir in London. Our festival was covered by various international news outlets, radios, and magazines such as GQ Magazine, Al Jazeera, Grazia, Middle East Monitor, Monte Carlo Radio in Arabic, etc.

    We are hoping to continue to grow as a festival and showcase more Iraqi stories, host lectures, workshops, and screen more films in person. 

    NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up that you can share?

    In addition to working on the festival, I am currently working on my first feature film at NYFA. Right now I am in the development stages and I hope I see it come to life.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Israa on all the work she’s done with the Independent Iraqi Film Festival – we can’t wait to see this festival continue to grow!

     

     

     

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    March 9, 2022 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 823

  • Q&A with 10 ARTS Foundation Scholarship Recipient, Lena McKnight

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    ~Made possible by the generous support of the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation~

    Lena McKnight was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Harlem, New York. Lena attended the New York City Public School until 10th grade. After Lena decided to leave high school, she struggled with finding a passion to help her continue her education. She attended the Touro College in New York City where she got certified in audio engineering. It wasn’t until Lena got involved with Abyssinian Development Corporation’s YouthBuild, that she found her balance. Lena worked towards gaining her High School Equivalency Diploma and a construction trade. 

    YouthBuild gave Lena the opportunity to serve her community because one of the main components of the program was community work. Lena was able to plan and implement programs and projects that allowed her to give back to the Harlem community and later on start her own projects.

    Lena graduated from ADC’s YouthBuild in 2011 and was chosen to travel to Arica, Chile for six weeks to help rebuild homes in the community. When Lena returned she knew that she wanted to do more and be more involved in people’s lives. Lena enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College and graduated from BMCC in 2015. She then transferred to City College of New York, where she became a Theater Major and Sociology Minor. At City College, Lena became a Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Epsilon Tau Chapter and served as chapter president. Lena graduated in 2017 with a Bachelors in Theater and a minor in Sociology. 

    Lena began working with Youth because she believed they are the ones who will be taking care of us when we get older. She worked with the Harlem Children Zone as a 10th grade Student Advocate. Lena wanted to work with that specific grade because that was the grade she dropped out and she wanted to be able to influence the Youth to do better than she had. Lena enjoys giving back to her community and puts on community projects to help connect people with resources and mental health resources.

    After working with the Harlem Children Zone for two years, Lena was given an opportunity to become an Outreach Coordinator for Serviceworks with Abyssinian, where she learned the foundation of putting together community events on a larger scale. Lena has currently done more than 10 projects while working with Serviceworks her focus was feeding those in need, giving out female hygiene products, clothes, games days, spreading mental health awareness and, most importantly, connecting and uniting the Harlem community to come together to stop the violence.

    In 2021, Lena decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California. She wanted to focus more on the arts to be able to tell the stories of her community. Lena was able to land a job at Single Room Occupancy Housing where she serves as a case manager for the homeless on Skid Row. Lena enjoys being able to learn the differences between the east coast and the west coast communities. Working with SRO housing has helped Lena learn about the mental health crisis and ways

    she would like to give back to the homeless community. While working as a case manager, Lena earned a scholarship from the 10 ARTS Foundation to attend the 15-week online filming program at the New York Film Academy. It wasn’t until she attended the program she knew she made the right choice by moving to the west coast.

     

    Lena believes that faith in God, her self-confidence and the support of family and friends helped her accomplish her goals. Lena has started to build her own non-profit in 2018. Who Am EyE To You which focuses on mental health for women and men and bringing resources to those who may need them. Lena is currently holding her 4th annual Women empowerment Event (Women Can Run the World) on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and is launching her Men event in June 2022.  Lena is looking forward to what’s next in her life and feels the sky’s the limit. Lena learned to live by her mantra “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable if you really want to grow”.

    Lena spoke with NYFA about her journey to NYFA and her dreams for the future. Check out the conversation below: 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): When did you first hear about the New York Film Academy and when did you know you wanted to study here?

    Lena McKnight (LM): I heard about NYFA back in 2017 when I was looking up Black Female writers working in television. I looked up different writers and searched what schools they went to. I remember I was watching an episode of Insecure and thinking about who created the show. So I looked up information on Issa Rae and the places she studied at, one of which was NYFA. 

    NYFA stood out to me. I liked the fact that things were hands-on and you spend more time with equipment then just learning the fundamentals in a classroom. I also liked that it was a community and offered in three states (New York City, Florida, and California). I like that you students are able to have a sense of community and be near real production studios.

    I was graduating from The City College of New York in 2017 and learned the master program was only offered in Los Angeles. I felt defeated for a second, but 4 years later, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was able to move to Los Angeles while working remotely. 

    Moving to Los Angeles has been something I have been planning to do for 4 years. I wanted to separate myself from the community service work I was doing in NYC and do something in a different city. I wanted to focus more on being able to bring the story and experience to film. Upon learning of the demands of the NYFA graduate program, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to enroll. But thanks to my advisor Joey Zangardi-Dixon, who stayed in touch with me via email answering all my questions, I was able to look into the workshop programs NYFA offered. That’s what really made me want to attend any NYFA filmmaking program that was being offered. I liked that Joey was working with me, being patient, and giving me resources to help with my enrollment into a workshop program that fit my needs and interests.

    NYFA: How was your experience at NYFA?

    LM: My experience at NYFA has helped shape what I want to do within film. I can admit I was a bit nervous about the program being online. I learned I am a hands-on learner and work better when I am in person with an instructor. However, the support of the professors and being able to have one-on-one meetings with them has made my experience totally different. I didn’t think I was going to learn as much as I did. But the support of ensuring I had a computer to be able to complete my work was the highlight of it all. I really respect how helpful everyone was within my cohort. No one made anyone feel as if they didn’t belong in the program. I like how open everyone was with sharing their knowledge within film. It was great to have experienced people and people who were new to filmmaking. We were even able to start a Whatsapp group to help each other out and to stay in contact with everyone.  I also enjoyed the examples the professors used to help with understanding our projects. If it wasn’t for the willingness of the professor’s meeting with me inspite of the time difference, I don’t think I would have been able to gain the experience I was hoping for. 

    NYFA: How has your perspective changed since attending NYFA?

    LM: Now that I completed the 15-week online NYFA program, it makes me want to work on my projects that I have been saying I want to do. I was a theater major and I didn’t think I would fall in love with film until I held my first camera. It made me realize my love for directing and screenwriting. I learned the difference of what you can create on film, that live shows can’t show. I also learned to respect the time that’s put in when it comes to production for film. If I didn’t attend this program, I don’t think I would have had the push and courage to create anything. I now feel confident that I am just getting started and will do well. 

    NYFA: Do you hope to continue in the arts?

    LM: Yes, my dream is to become a screenwriter, director and actress. I am looking to further my studies in film and plan to create my bibles for the three projects I am passionate about. I want to be able to open a non-profit for inner city families to express themselves through the arts. 

    NYFA: What do you hope to do with the knowledge that NYFA provided you? 

    LM: NYFA has made me realize my passion and helped me figure out what about filming I enjoy. I was able to understand where my enjoyment was (screenwriting, directing and acting). I made connections and got advice from professors and classmates. I am looking for a master program in film that I am hoping to start by Fall 2022. 

    The 10 ARTS Foundation and NYFA are extremely grateful to the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation for their generous support in making Lena’s dreams come true!

    NYFA congratulates Lena McKnight on all that she has accomplished throughout the years and at NYFA! We are excited to see more of her work!

     

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    February 23, 2022 • Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 877

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Aditya J. Patwardhan’s, Film is Streaming on Amazon Prime!

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    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Aditya J. Patwardhan has been making waves since graduating in 2014 from our Film and Media Production program. Aditya hails from Jaipur, India and has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has also directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. 

    His latest project, A Nomad River, is a docu-fiction feature written, produced and directed by Aditya.  “[A Nomad River] is a blend of fictional and non-fictional narrative … This is a personal struggle of four ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues.” Aditya says of the film. The film takes place in India and follows four characters: Adriana, a refugee from crisis-hit Venezuela, Kankana, an Indian actress working in Hollywood, Suraj, a street cleaner from a slum in Rajasthan, and Ravi who is a television news reporter from Jaipur. 

    “We journey with them as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues,” Aditya shared with NYFA. “One of the storylines in the film portrays Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, a pan India water-conservation drive supported by the Government of India and endorsed by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Shahrukh Khan.”

    Aditya J. Patwardhan with the cast of “And The Dream that Mattered,” including NYFA alumni Themo Melikidze (second left) and Jongman Kim (third left).

    Patwardhan is well-known for his collaborations with other NYFA Alumni. And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including Acting for Film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim and Anup Kulkarni from 2014 NYFA One-Year Cinematography.

    “Almost all the projects I have done have had important team members who were from NYFA and I had collaborated with them first when I was doing school projects. That just stresses how important good collaborations are and the crucial role NYFA plays.”

    A Nomad River was no different. He enlisted the talents of former classmate and collaborator, cinematographer Anup Kulkarni as well as lead actress, Kankana Chakraborty, who is from the 2014 MFA acting program. Many of the other crew members are also from NYFA.  

    A Nomad River is now streaming on Amazon Prime!

    NYFA congratulates Aditya on his success! We look forward to seeing more of Aditya’s work and NYFA collaborations!

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  • New York Film Academy/DeWitt Clinton High School Fourth Annual Teen Workshop

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    Five students from the NYFA/Dewitt Clinton 8-week digital storytelling workshop pose for a picture. One of the student is holding a camera.

    DeWitt Clinton High School students on set of their short film.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently completed its 8-Week Digital Storytelling workshop for students from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. 

    Participants screened their completed short films to a (socially-distanced) group of friends, family, and well-wishers at NYFA’s Battery Park campus. The final films were written, directed, and edited by each of the students with assistance from their colleagues in a collaborative group effort. The workshop was made possible with the generous support of the 10 ARTS Foundation.

    Three DeWitt Clinton High School students stand behind a camera.

    DeWitt Clinton High School students behind the camera.

    Over the course of eight Saturdays, students learned basic skills of filmmaking: directing, screenwriting, camera, lighting, producing, and editing. Under the expert guidance of various New York Film Academy instructors, and the use of state-of-the-art equipment, students were shooting test sequences on their very first day. The finished films showed a high degree of proficiency, especially considering the short timeframe.

    This was the fourth annual NYFA Digital Storytelling Workshop in partnership with DeWitt Clinton High School. The storied academic institution boasts an impressive list of alumni, including such luminaries as James Baldwin and Stan Lee, as well as BAFTA, International Emmy and Peabody award-winner and Chair of NYFA-NY Producing Department, Neal Weisman.

    “The NYFA/DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Workshop is a wonderful opportunity for industry professionals and film educators to share resources, skills, and expertise with a group of young people from the Bronx,” says Weisman. “The enthusiasm and talent displayed by the students has been thrilling to observe. This program is an intervention; it opens up the minds of the participants to the possibilities of a career, and a life, telling stories that can impact millions.”

    NYFA looks forward to continuing this workshop program, helping to give voice and digital storytelling skills to some of New York City’s most diverse public school population.

    New York Film Academy and the 10 ARTS Foundation congratulates the DeWitt Clinton High School students on their impressive work!

     

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    January 31, 2022 • Academic Programs, Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking • Views: 622