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  • NYFA South Beach Instructor Daniel Abrusci Wins Gold Promax Award

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    New York Film Academy is excited to share that Filmmaking instructor Daniel Abrusci has won a Gold Promax Award for outstanding achievement in sound design and mixing on the Cbeebies segment Christmas Lights for BBC Latin America. 

    The Promax Awards are the world’s premier celebration of outstanding achievement in entertainment marketing and design, honoring teams of creatives harnessing passionate fandom to drive audiences, create value, and build the biggest brands in entertainment.

    The one-minute animation Abrusci worked on in his home studio was extremely heavy in sound design. “When working with animation, sound design plays a huge role because there’s no audio to start with,” he explained. “I edited three different pieces of music into a one-minute spot in order for the music to be dynamic and help boost holiday emotions.”

    The South Beach instructor had to recreate the ambiance needed for the TV spot to feel a bit more realistic, adding in stylistic sound elements to elevate the story visually. “There’s plenty of creativity involved due to the fact that a lot of these actions might sound different in real life,” shared Abrusci. “Once we have all the different sound design, voiceover, and music elements, mixing is all about making things stand out and giving everything character and space in the frequency spectrum.” Essentially, sound mixing in itself plays an important role in fully forming a character, space, or idea.

    NYFA instructor Daniel Abrusci

    Abrusci urges anyone who is looking to hone their craft to “keep practicing” as it’s practice, trial, and error that allow you to master your skills. “The more time you put into something, the better you’ll become at it. Stay passionate and make it happen!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Daniel Abrusci on his outstanding achievement and looks forward to what’s next from the talented South Beach faculty member. 

    To view the Christmas Lights spot, view the video below. 

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    February 25, 2021 • Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, South Beach • Views: 108

  • NYFA Alum Uzair Merchant Works on CW’s “Superman & Lois”

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    Uzair Merchant has worked on some of the biggest franchises in the world. From Skyfall and Star Trek: Beyond to Fast & Furious 7 and Deadpool 2, Merchant has had an impressive roster of work, including his own personal projects, with his latest work displayed in the highly-anticipated CW series Superman & Lois.

    Poster for “Superman & Lois” (CW)

    Taking the lead from its own universe of Superman (Supergirl, Smallville, and Superman: The Animated Series), The CW is back with Superman & Lois, a spin-off series of Supergirl that follows Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois (Elizabeth Tulloch) reprising their respective roles.

    Not much is known about how the series will play out, but it will feature Superman and Lois’ kids Jonathan and Jordan as they return to Smallville and are reacquainted with Lana Lang and her family.

    NYFA alum Uzair Merchant

    Filmmaking alum Uzair Merchant worked as the Assistant Art Director on the series, bringing the show to life through means of concept art, graphics, set design, props, builds, and construction. “Working on Superman & Lois has been pretty awesome I must say,” shared Merchant. “It’s lovely to dive into the Warner Bros. and DC Universe.”

    The show, which is still finishing up filming the first season, faced the added challenge of filming during the COVID-19 pandemic and had to adapt to and implement new COVID-safe protocols. “The crew [on Superman & Lois] is great and that’s something I always look for in a production. We’ve had COVID-19 procedures, which is what makes this production special being able to do all of this in the restrictions, but that’s been the challenge.”

    In addition to his work on Superman & Lois, the NYFA alum has done everything from commercials, corporate films, features, TV shows, music videos, and more.

    “The ability to build worlds and tell stories that can directly affect and influence people, cultures or voices was something that’s always fascinated me about filmmaking,” shared Merchant.

    “Coming to New York Film Academy to study film was a dream,” he revealed when asked about his time at NYFA. “I also wanted to experience studying traditional film, not just digital. Future students should come with an open mind and heart to dive into an unknown world, it’s important to immerse yourself into places out of your comfort zone. That’s why it’s film school. Experiment, explore and be honest with your art.”

    What’s next for the alum? Merchant has also worked on the upcoming film The Misfits, starring Pierce Brosnan, Tim Roth, and Jamie Chung. The alum has also been developing an entire universe over the last decade called Kreativ Universe from his company the Kri8.labs. Part of that cinematic universe will include Merchant’s script Black Rose that won multiple screenwriting awards and is currently in pre-production. Merchant is also producing a music track for the film called “Star Dust.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Uzair Merchant for his outstanding work on Superman & Lois and looks forward to hearing more about the Filmmaking alum’s upcoming personal projects. Superman & Lois will premiere tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on The CW.

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  • Akinola Davies Jr. Awarded Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance For Film “Lizard”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Akinola Davies Jr. has won big at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize for his film Lizard.

    Sundance announcement of “Lizard” winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize

    The film was written by Davies and his brother Wale Davies, and was backed by BBC Film and producer Rachel Dargavel. Lizard follows an eight-year-old girl, Juwon, who has the ability to sense danger. After getting ejected from a Sunday school service, Juwon witnesses the underbelly in and around a Mega Church in Lagos, Nigeria. In addition to the Sundance win, the film was also nominated for an ALFS Award by the London Critics Circle Film Awards.

    Film poster for “Lizard”

    Davies has previously made short films Zazzau and Unity Is Strength. The UK-Nigerian filmmaker is known for his exploration of themes of community, race, spirituality, identity, and gender. Ultimately, through his work in film and music videos, Davies aims to navigate the collision of both colonial and imperial tradition, whilst advocating a return to indigenous narratives. His next slated project will be sci-fi film X Us.

    NYFA alum Akinola Davies Jr.

    “I’m overwhelmed and as much as I’d love to gloat, filmmaking is really crazy hard,” shared Davies on his Instagram after the winners were announced in a virtual ceremony. “Big love to all those who were part of the shorts program – it’s an honour to be amongst such brilliant films. I have to say this award is really for the whole cast and crew who worked so hard and committed their all to this little film pre and during a global pandemic. I’m so proud this was made in Lagos by the many hands that make up the beautiful people of Nigeria.”

    To view the full list of Sundance Film Festival winners, click here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Akinola Davies Jr. on his important Grand Jury win at Sundance for his short film Lizard and looks forward to seeing the film’s impact and Davies’ upcoming projects.

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  • Filmmaking Alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt Attached as Writer For Facebook Watch’s “Woman in The Book” Animated Horror Series

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    Screenwriter and Director Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt grew up in Spain with her musician parents and a grandfather, who directed TV and theater for many years. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Gonzalez Szigriszt explored the theater world, eventually finding her way to film and television. From packing her bags in 2011 to study at New York Film Academy to pursuing multiple projects years later, the NYFA alum has now bagged the writing gig for Facebook Watch’s animated horror series Woman in The Book.

    After graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program in Los Angeles, Gonzalez Szigriszt scored internships in the development departments of Bold Films (Drive, Whiplash, Nightcrawler) and Vendôme Pictures (Source Code, Larry Crowne, What Happened to Monday?). “It was after reading many scripts and writing coverage for the companies that I really fell in love with screenwriting,” gushed Gonzalez Szigriszt. “I wrote my first TV series and got the attention of a manager, which is how I got my first project optioned.”

    After developing more material over the course of a few years, Gonzalez Szigriszt got signed by one of the largest talent agencies in the world, Agency for the Performing Arts (APA). “My agent did a great job sending my scripts out and he got me some good general meetings with production companies,” she shares. “Now I am working on several projects with people that I have admired for so long.”

    She recently penned the first animated horror drama for Facebook Watch (from Crypt TV) called Woman in The Book. “This was an open writing assignment. So, I was going for the job as did many other writers and I was asked to come up with a take on the concept the company had developed and pitch it,” she recalls. “I ended up getting the gig! The show stars Diane Guerrero (DC’s Doom Patrol and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black). It is a LatinX show that uses both English and Spanish and follows three estranged siblings who reunite at an aging Mexican hacienda to discuss their inheritance, but they inadvertently unleash a book-bound horror that has plagued their family for generations. I can’t tell much more as the project has not come out yet. It is set to be released on Facebook Watch some time by the end of next year.”

    Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt

    The alum also has a science fiction TV series coming soon that was just bought by an unnamed big studio with Gonzalez Szigriszt, herself, attached as an executive producer alongside the creators and executive producers of Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. She also has an original sci-fi TV series in the pipeline with producer Lloyd Levin (Hellboy, Watchmen, Lara Croft series), and Gonzalez Szigriszt will also be co-directing a feature film she wrote called Turn. As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is developing an epic sci-fi animated series with “one of the most amazing Executive Producers in the TV animation world” and is developing a couple of additional projects in Spain

    It’s safe to say that she is booked and busy. Reflecting on all the events leading up to this point in her life, Gonzalez Szigriszt reveals that NYFA is one of the reasons why she was quick to navigate the film business.

    “What NYFA offers, that most of the other film schools don’t, is a hands-on approach to filmmaking. The fast-paced environment (I remember shooting at least one short movie or scene a week), the easy access to equipment and facilities… It all helped classmates and me improve our skills by doing it, not just dreaming it. Having to meet so many deadlines, working fast but without sacrificing any quality…that strengthened the work ethic I apply to any of my projects today.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Eva Gonzalez Szigriszt for her new writing credit for Facebook Watch’s Woman in The Book and looks forward to the news and releases of her upcoming film and television projects.

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    January 29, 2021 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1058

  • NYFA Alum Aditya J. Patwardhan’s “Transference” Now Available on Amazon Prime Video

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    New York Film Academy alum Aditya J. Patwardhan’s most recent directorial feat, Transference is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The psychological thriller tells the story of a trauma therapist who begins experiencing terrifying phenomena following the death of her estranged father.

    Aditya, who hails from Jaipur, India has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. His passion for film developed in his childhood through his love of music and instruments. “My filmmaking journey really began at the age of seven when I was introduced to music. After learning to play tabla, drums, and the piano during my early school years, one of the first things I was enticed with was observing how background score shapes a film. It became one of my primary obsessions to notice background scores and try to duplicate them at home on the keyboards and drums. Films like The Lion King, Titanic, and The Matrix played a key role in influencing me in terms of music and its association with video. Naturally, I assumed that I would want to grow up to be a music director.”

    His path to film was not direct but one that passed through a variety of different jobs and industries. After obtaining his degree in computer sciences and playing drums for a rock-metal Megadeth and Metallica cover band called Jettatura in his free time, Aditya worked as a social media manager, a media and advertisement head, a music composer, and a music video director. All of these experiences ignited his passion for storytelling, eventually leading him to NYFA’s MA in Film and Media Production program . “What attracted me most towards NYFA was the hands-on nature of its 1-Year (Filmmaking) program. I saw that it gave me a thorough filmmaking education at an accelerated pace and prepared me for a real-world experience sooner than any other school or program that I looked into. The second thing that appealed to me was the filming ‘sand-box’ that NYFA offered. What I mean by that is NYFA has almost all the major filmmaking departments and so within the school, I was able to learn the skills of collaboration with all film vertices.”

    Transference is not his only work available on a major streaming platform. A Touch of Aurora (also known as When Red is White) is also available on Amazon Prime Video. The film, which has amassed over 20 nominations and 12 awards in over four countries on the festival circuit, is a Portuguese-language Brazilian drama that tells the story of a couple both of whom are visually impaired. Sara, played by Brazilian film star Thaila Ayala, was born blind while Luis, a former successful soccer player with a glamorous past, lost his sight following a car accident.  

    A Touch of Aurora | Aditya J. Patwardhan | NYFA Alum

    Aditya J. Patwardhan behind the scenes on the set of “A Touch of Aurora.”

    Another recent production, And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including acting for film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim. The film is in Korean and tells the story of an actor in his 40’s who goes through a midlife crisis when he visits his family and realizes that he has not achieved what he set out to do. 

    His latest project, Rivers: The Upstream Story, is a docu-fiction feature that Aditya both produced and directed. The film 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,” explained Aditya. “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 had this to say to incoming NYFA students, “the best thing about NYFA’s programs is the fast pace and hands-on style. But that is also something every incoming student should look out for. They have to be prepared to work hard and tirelessly for the length of the program they’re doing.”

    One of the most important things that stand out to me about my initial days in NYFA is the opportunity I got to experiment with my films,” he continued. “I always made sure that any story I told was out of my comfort zone. The protective umbrella of a film school is where you can do just that: try out as many genres and ideas as possible because failure will have fewer consequences here than in a real-world scenario.”

    And The Dream that Mattered | Aditya J. Patwardhan | NYFA Alum

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

    It was with the help of NYFA’s Industry Lab that Aditya was able to produce his first multi-language film, Red Souls. “The film,” explained Aditya, “deals with with the subject of human trafficking between Brazil and the US, and won the Best Film award at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, making me one of the first Indian directors to win an award at a Brazilian festival for directing a Portuguese film.”

    “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.”

    New York Film Academy wishes Aditya J. Patwardhan success for his upcoming projects. We urge everyone to check out A Touch of Aurora and Transference on Amazon Prime Video.

     

    This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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    December 30, 2020 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1903

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Cast and Director of Meta Thriller “Black Bear” for NYFA Q&A-List Series

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    On December 9, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with actress & NYFA alum Aubrey Plaza, actor Christopher Abbott, actress Sarah Gadon, and former NYFA instructor and director of the film, Lawrence Michael Levine, to discuss their highly-anticipated new film Black Bear. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    The movie Black Bear is a meta thriller about movie-making, creativity, and ego from writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine. The film debuted earlier this year at Sundance and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Black Bear boasts an incredible cast, featuring NYFA alum Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West, Parks & Recreation), Christopher Abbott (Catch-22, First Man), and Sarah Gadon (True Detective, Alias Grace).

    Laiter opened up the conversation by asking Levine how the film itself came to be made. The director cited his wife and frequent collaborator, Sophia Takal (Black Christmas; Hulu’s New Year, New You) as his inspiration. “I can remember the origins of part two was the working relationship with Sofia [Takal], but I wouldn’t say it would resemble the one in the film.”

    The film, Levine explained, is also a result of what many artists tend to do when they are stuck; try something new. “I think I just wanted to do something different and I was writing all this stuff that was very boring and conventional. I was going through a rough time and was bored professionally. It [Black Bear] was, in some ways, kind of about what I was going through.”

    (Clockwise) Tova Laiter, Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, and Lawrence Michael Levine

    Then Plaza got involved in the project and, in addition to landing the starring role, became a producer on the film. In one of her best performances to date, the NYFA alum revealed that the toughest scene for her was the infamous “breakdown” scene in the second part of the film. “The movie within the movie just because that scene was very complex (a lot of people and a lot of chaos). That was the day, I was always scared and terrified to shoot it and it was a lot to keep all of those things in play and, in a technical sense, it was very trippy.”

    The meta concept of a movie within a movie, for some, seemed to reveal a more mysterious plot than Levine originally intended. “It’s interesting because the response has been ‘the film is mysterious.’ I guess I will say the simplest thing about it is it’s one artist [played by Plaza] doing two interpretations of a scene. The audience is left wondering: Which is real? Are they both real? When does she start writing this? Is it prior to or after meeting the couple? It’s two different ways of exploring the theme of heartbreak and betrayal.”

    Allison (Aubrey Plaza) and Gabe (Christopher Abbott) in “Black Bear” (Momentum Pictures)

    In each part of the film, Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon give knockout and emotionally-driven performances, playing dual versions of their role. “I was very intrigued to get two parts in one movie. It’s like you’re getting paid for one but doing two parts,” joked Abbott. “Larry [Levine] wrote something so genius, especially with something with Aubrey [Plaza] and Sarah [Gadon] attached to it.”

    When asked by a student whether it seemed “daunting” to play different characters, Gadon, who plays Blair, shared that it actually wasn’t daunting at all for her. “When I read the script, I was really excited. It was such an original script and I had never read anything like it, and I knew it would make for a really intense movie.”

    Caption: Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and Blair (Sarah Gadon) in “Black Bear” (Momentum Pictures)

    After discussing Black Bear, the guests turned the conversation towards more technical questions from NYFA students and alumni, who asked the artists about both the directorial and acting process. For directing, Levine provided that sometimes directing means “stepping away, trusting, and letting them [the actors] take the reins and be comfortable. The intention is to make the actors feel safe and supported by having their back if they are lost. I had faith in these three [Plaza, Abbott, and Gadon] and I was dying to work with them for Black Bear.”

    Abbott reminded actors that in most characters, there’s “always a little bit of you in there,” but it’s about determining “how different the character is from you” versus how you are alike that will help you be able to fully dive in. Gadon added that it’s about making a character feel as fleshed out as possible, a nod to screenwriters everywhere to remember to help the actors let that character leap off the page. 

    Plaza shared that it’s important for those about to enter the film industry to continue to explore their craft, make mistakes, and network. “It’s important to focus on those kinds of communities and collaborations rather than figuring out how to ‘get in’ to the industry. If there is anything concrete, you want to get in front of casting directors more than anyone. So focusing your strategy and surrounding yourself around a community of like-minded people is important, because you don’t know what could lead to the next opportunity.”

    Aubrey Plaza, Lawrence Michael Levine, Christopher Abbott, and Sarah Gadon at Sundance Film Festival (Zimbio)

    Plaza also remarked during the discussion about her NYFA days and shared with students that “New York Film Academy was so important.” She reminisced that prior to getting into the Teen Filmmaking program that she would stay up late at night and look at the pictures, “dreaming about being in that program.”

    Laiter thanked Plaza, Levine, Abbott, and Gadon for taking the time to join the conversation and for discussing their process and experience filming their critically acclaimed film Black Bear, as well as sharing their expertise with students.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, and Lawrence Michael Levine for sharing their time and acting experience with NYFA students and alumni.

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  • NYFA Alum Rozette Rago Named an Honoree in 2020 Edition of Annual Photographers List

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    She has shot some of your favorite icons from Natalie Portman and Will Smith, to Steven Spielberg and Ryan Coogler, and capturing music icons U2, Metallica, Kanye West, and more. The NYFA Filmmaking alum, Rozette Rago, has had quite the career and she is only getting started, having recently nabbed a spot on the coveted list of “The 30.”

    The 30 is recognized throughout the professional photography industry as a “go-to” outlet to discover some of the best photographers in the world and serves as a platform to elevate emerging photographers growing their careers. Each year, The 30 are selected through a nomination and jurying process that includes the input of established photographers, photo editors, art directors, curators, and other industry leaders that are cultivated by Photo District News Magazine.

    Rago attended an 8-Week NYFA Filmmaking program in 2010 and has since gone on to shoot for The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Vanity Fair, The FADER, HBO, A+E Networks, Rolling Stone, and many more. She has also been profiled by CNN and Masterpiece for her body of work and has been hailed by Culture Photo Editor at The Times as “one of those photographers who elevates the ordinary,”

    NYFA alum used for U2’s promotional materials (Photo by Rozette Rago)

    After arriving on the scene in Los Angeles, Rago shot for bands like U2, Interpol, and Metallica, which then allowed her to leverage her portfolio to get a job as a photo editor at Time Out Los Angeles. For the past three years, she’s been a photo editor at Wirecutter in addition to contributing to other publications and networking with other women in the industry. She’s a member of groups including Authority Collective, Women Photograph, and Diversify Photo.

    Steven Spielberg (Photo by Rozette Rag0)

    The Filipino-American photographer shared with The 30 that she is grateful for the path that she has taken and shares it has “landed me exactly where I want to be,” with a career that has captured stories, scenes from music, performers, and more.

    The cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” and Director Jonathan Chu by Rozette Rago

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Rozette Rago on her incredible journey and for the well-deserved recognition by her peers on being named in The Annual 30 Photographers List.

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  • NYFA Alumni Majid Al Ansari and Razanne Jammal Involved in Netflix Original Series “Paranormal”

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    Not one, but two alumni are involved in Netflix’s first series to accommodate deaf and blind viewers for Arabic Netflix. NYFA Filmmaking alum Majid Al Ansari directs three episodes of the new series, with actress and NYFA alum Razanne Jammal starring as lead character Maggie Mckillop.

    Film poster for ‘Paranormal’

    Ma Waraa al-Tabea (in Arabic) or “Paranormal” in English, premiered on November 5, 2020, and marks Egypt’s first original series in addition to being the first Arabic Netflix series to accommodate deaf and blind viewers.

    The series is based on Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s thrilling book series about doctor Refaat Ismail, a cynical doctor whose lifelong scientific convictions are suddenly called into question. The Egyptian author’s critically acclaimed novels in Arabic have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

    NYFA alum Razanne Jammal in ‘Paranormal’

    Razanne Jammal attended NYFA’s 4-Week Acting for Film program in 2009 and has since built up a successful acting career, starring alongside Liam Neeson in A Walk Among the Tombstones and starring in Robert Guédiguian’s Don’t Tell Me The Boy Was Mad, which premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. She now plays Maggie Mckilop in Paranormal, Refaat’s university colleague who enters the paranormal world to protect those around her from danger.

    Majid Al Ansari at a panel for Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX

    Director Majid Al Ansari attended NYFA’s 2-Year Filmmaking Conservatory program and went on to have his debut feature film Zinzana (“Rattle The Cage”) have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest and its European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival. Zinzana was subsequently picked up and eventually sold to Netflix as the first Arab film acquisition after the streaming giant branched out to the Middle East. He has director credits for three episodes of the Netflix thriller Paranormal.

    Still from ‘Paranormal’

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Alumni Razanne Jammal and Majid Al Ansari for their involvement on Paranormal and encourages everyone to check out the new series if it is available in their country and looks forward to what’s next from the NYFA graduates.

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  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Alessandro Marcon Debuts Short Film “Anemone” at Italy’s Prestigious Trieste Science + Fiction Festival

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    Italian native Alessandro Marcon grew up in the small town of Conegliano, just one hour away from Venice, and had big dreams of becoming a film director. After attending Graphic Design school at ISSM San Marco, Marcon got his start in filmmaking, creating comedy sketches with his schoolmates. “I was in a boarding school (because I lived far away) where we were not allowed to go out. This way we had plenty of time to kill, so we thought ‘why not making some movies?’”

    NYFA alum Alessandro Marcon

    After Graphic Design school ended, Marcon decided to make his dreams come true and become a filmmaker, enrolling at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in Burbank in a 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory program.

    “Since then, it’s been a roller coaster ride,” revealed Marcon. “The experience made me see the world from a different perspective. Suddenly, a ton of challenges hit me all at once, making me change and mature into who I am today.” 

    Film poster for “Anemone”

    Marcon has gone on to work on films and music videos, with his latest project being a short film he directed, wrote, produced, edited, and shares a co-cinematographer credit on called Anemone. The 16-minute sci-fi short film was shot on the white peaks of the Dolomites, located in the Eastern Alps. “We worked during winter in places with over 10 feet of snow. It was cold and very difficult to shoot in these conditions,” revealed Marcon. “Some of us literally had blood coming out of our hands or suffered in the below-zero temperatures.”

    In the end, Marcon and his team managed to pull off their short film and are premiering it on October 31, 2020, at the prestigious Trieste Science + Fiction Festival, known for being an important festival in Italy for genre films in particular. “We couldn’t be happier to be there telling what an incredible journey has been,” shared Marcon.

    Alessandro Marcon behind the scenes filming in the Dolomites

    As for what the filmmaker has learned while living out his dream of directing, Marcon shares that it’s all about communication. “I was already good at a lot of technical aspects of filmmaking (not everything, and I’ve still learned a lot), but not really good at talking with people,” revealed Marcon. “I was closed in myself and this translated also on the narratives of my stories. I’m still learning a lot in this field, but if I didn’t come here [to NYFA], all of this would not have happened.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum, Alessandro Marcon, on the premiere of his new film Anemone and looks forward to what is next from the NYFA alum. 

    Anemone will premiere in the U.S. on November 12, 2020, at the Arpa Film Festival

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    October 29, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 977

  • NYFA Alum Matthew Avery Berg Screens ‘Accomplice’ in National Film Festival for Talented Youth

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    Science fiction has a unique ability to drop audiences into a futuristic or unrealistic world and make us think beyond the realm of our everyday existence. In writing and directing his sci-fi short Accomplice, however, NYFA alum Matthew Avery Berg drew from a real, personal crisis to create his fictional story that takes place in the distant future. Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, spoke with Matthew as the film became available for online streaming as an official selection of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY), running October 23 – November 1, 2020. 

    Crickett Rumley (CR): Congratulations on getting into NFFTY! Tell us more about Accomplice.  

    Matthew Avery Berg (MAB): Accomplice is about a man who’s forced to experience the memories of the person he accidentally killed. It takes place inside a medical compound in the year 2067. The sci-fi elements are obviously not inspired by true events; however, the underlying story is. Following my first surgery, I was constantly on opioids for a week. Being doped up for that long disassociated me from reality and my own mind. I’d start speaking to myself like I was two different people. However, it also led me to reflect on my life. I’d whisper confessions and admit things that I had been in self-denial about.

    Accomplice follows a man whose mind is inhabited by two different people following surgery. The new person in his head forces him to do an introspection on both their lives. It allows the protagonist to finally acknowledge his guilt the same way recovering from surgery had forced me to recognize my own…over way less dramatic things though, of course.

    Film poster for Matthew Avery Berg’s ‘Accomplice’

    My direction of the film was shaped by the health issues I was dealing with while still raising the financing. The prior summer, in 2018, I had progressively become more nauseous each night. Soon I realized that whenever I closed my eyes and avoided light my nausea improved. This feeling, which had previously only lasted a few hours at night, had become a 24/7 occurrence. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. I lost fifteen pounds in two weeks. Before undergoing an MRI, I concluded that I was dying. I was relieved to learn that I had a benign cyst in my brain. Yet, disturbingly this clue only brought more mystery and fear as I grew too sick to walk. Finally, doctors discovered that I suffered from a rare condition called “status migrainosus.” Essentially, an everlasting migraine.

    Despite the diagnosis, no neurologist could provide a cure. I took steroids and tried a variety of medications, but as some symptoms disappeared, others emerged. Two weeks later, I experienced constant vertigo, tingling throughout my body, and unbearable indigestion. I spent each day trying to distract myself until I could be sedated in hopes of waking up better the next day. This cycle continued for months, forcing me to postpone shooting an earlier version of my film.

    NYFA alum Matthew Avery Berg (Right) 

    CR: That sounds so painful and challenging. How did this crisis impact your work on the film?

    MAB: It dawned on me there was not much difference between this character suffering from external and intruding memories and me battling these strange ailments. I rewrote the script to incorporate the way I dealt with my pain as a sci-fi thriller. 

    Six months later, in every meeting with the cinematographer, we used the word “migraine” almost as much as “camera.” I instructed him which parts I wanted to feel like a migraine. In one scene, I inserted flashing lights. In another scene, I added other bright lights, and in additional scenes, we used a handheld to simulate vertigo.

    CR: What was your favorite thing about making this film?

    MAB: Seeing the (almost) finished film for the first time on the mixing stage was my favorite thing about making this movie. Although the VFX had not been added in and the color wasn’t confirmed, it was amazing to see what I had been trying to get made since sophomore year of high school play on a big screen for the first time. My producer, who had been very critical of the project up until that point – as was his job – whispered during the fade to black, “that’s awesome”. It took me a second to realize he was talking about our movie. I don’t care what anyone says, nothing is more satisfying in the process of making a film than seeing the finished product.

    CR: What was the most challenging thing about making the film?  What did you learn in the process? 

    MAB: I’d say the biggest challenge was being able to film a high-quality production with as many moving pieces and locations as this project had written. High concept sci-fi is not meant for a short film budget. I was having to rewrite in my head while we were shooting to make our tight schedule and budget work. Although I accomplished what I had set out to, there is a reason I kept my latest project to just two people in a tattooing session. While I do not believe films should be written for the sake of accommodating their budget, I now definitely think about how much a concept could cost to produce before choosing to write it. If you write an amazing space-traveling epic, you’re only doing your story a disservice by making it for $10,000.

    Still from ‘Accomplice’

    CR: What are you looking forward to in your screening with NFFTY? Are any of their masterclasses or programming looking interesting to you? 

    MAB: I’m looking forward to being able to interact with my fellow filmmakers in the same age group as me even if online. Everyone I work with tends to be at least nine years older, so I love the idea of being able to meet other people my own age with the same standard of quality to potentially collaborate with. All of the programming and masterclasses at NFFTY look amazing. However, despite what you may assume from watching my film, I’m most excited to watch the Dynamic Duos section. So much of being young and growing up is about the friendships we make and maintain. If there is a genre I feel that youth filmmakers have the most legitimate truth to share in, it is the buddy film.

    CR: Which festivals have you been in so far with Accomplice? What was that experience like?

    MAB: This has been more than a weird year for festivals. A lot of the festivals have either been postponed or canceled for 2020. However, there have been some other great ones we’ve been able to be a part of so far. We were an official selection at Dances With Films, which had an amazing virtual experience featuring some of the greatest panels I’ve had the chance to listen to. We are also an official selection at FilmQuest and won the shorts category at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival. Unfortunately, FilmQuest has been postponed to 2021 and we were not able to attend Buffalo Dreams due to the pandemic. However, I had a student film as an official selection at Cinequest a couple of years ago and highly recommend that one. That festival gets up to 100,000 attendees, and the industry networking events are just one of the amazing aspects of that superb festival. Still waiting for the notification date for that one. 

    Accomplice was also invited to be part of Hollyshorts’ Monthly Screening Series on Bitpix.

    CR: You’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since you were four years old, and you started attending NYFA Tween Digital programs when you were in the fifth grade.  How do you think your education and the work you did here prepared you for a career in filmmaking?

    MAB: I did the 12-week Saturday program for three semesters, so for 36 Saturdays I would come and take 6-8 hours of classes throughout the school year in all aspects of filmmaking. I would shoot projects on the Universal Backlot as a ten-year-old. In all honesty, my education at NYFA was essential to preparing me as a filmmaker. I learned everything there was to learn about filmmaking without doing it professionally.

    With that being said, you don’t learn the other 75% until you get actual experience directing on professional sets.

    Still from ‘Accomplice’

    CR: So true. What have you been up to since then? 

    MAB: Since I graduated from my high school, Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles, in June of 2019, I have been writing and directing professional short films. Although I was supposed to go to USC starting this semester, I ended up dropping due to the opportunities I was beginning to be handed. Accomplice started getting me attention from executives in the industry who wanted to mentor me and to fund my projects.

    I was offered carte blanche creative control of a fully-financed short film with Academy Award Nominee Eric Roberts, as well as producers inquiring about financing a feature with me directing. I was also being set up with some really big directors to shadow. Although COVID put a halt on the shadowing gigs and the feature offers, I was still able to direct the film with Eric Roberts.

    CR: That’s cool! What was the experience like?  

    MAB: It was a magical shoot. LA Ink’s Dan Smith, a celebrity tattoo artist, and musician was involved with the project and did all our tattooing inserts. Richard Patrick of Filter and Nine Inch Nails is slated to compose for it. It’s so awesome to be working with someone who I grew up listening to. The producer on the project is R. Andru Davies whose last feature film with Karen Gillian was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA and a British Independent Film Award. He’s also executive producing Stan Lee’s ArchAlien. The film is currently in post.

    CR: What else do you have coming up? 

    MAB: The next step is a feature film! I’m currently working on a script for what I think could be a great first feature, but I’d be willing to do anything that was offered to me as long as it has the potential to be amazing. 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Tween Digital Program alum Matthew Avery Berg for taking the time to talk with us about his film and emerging career. From October 23 through November 1, 2020, Accomplice can be viewed on-demand as a “pay what you can” event. On Sunday, November 1, 2020, at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT, it will live stream in the Salient Simulations Watch Party, followed by a live Q&A with Matthew and other filmmakers.

    Follow Matthew on Instagram @matthew_a_berg.

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    October 27, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 679