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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking & Cinematography Alum Jean de Meuron’s Short ‘Megan’ Wins at the 2019 Telly Awards

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    Megan Jean de MeuronNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking and Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron can add another award to his mantle—his short film Megan was a Silver Winner at the 40th Annual Telly Awards.

    de Meuron hails from Switzerland and first enrolled at NYFA in 2009, taking several workshops, including in Filmmaking, before following his short-term studies with NYFA’s 1-year Conservatory in Cinematography. Since then, he’s been hard at work making award-winning projects. In 2017, he executive-produced the short film La femme et le TGV, which earned an Academy Award nomination. 

    Megan, a short film that also serves as a proof of concept for a feature science fiction epic in the vein of J.J. Abrams’s popular Cloverfield series, was a Silver Winner in the General – Online category. The proof of concept features breathtaking action bolstered by perfectly executed special effects, including a harrowing helicopter crash and the appearance of a colossal, ominous spaceship.

    The short was directed by Greg Strasz and produced by de Meuron, along with Giuseppe Mercadante and Olcun Tan. Megan previously won four awards at the 2018 Pitch to Screen Film Awards: Best Proof of Concept, Best Director, Best Cinematographer, and Best Editor, as well as Best International Sci-Fi Short at the 2018 London International Short Film Festival.

    “I am deeply honored, proud, and humbled that my team and I won a Telly Award,” de Meuron says of Megan’s Silver trophy. “This came as a complete surprise since companies like Disney, Lucasfilm, Netflix, Paramount, Viacom, CBS, DC Entertainment, and so forth were also honored for their work in various categories. We share the Silver Winner Award with CBS in the category 2019 Online: General Viral.”

    The Telly Awards were founded in 1979 to recognize achievements in local, regional, and cable television commercials with non-broadcast video and television programming included shortly after. The Telly Awards have kept up with the times and now embraces media content that can be seen on all screens—from the theater to your smartphone. This also includes awards for VR, television commercials, web series and branded content. This year’s event had a record-breaking amount 12,000 entries, of entries, from from all 50 states and five continents.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) congratulates Filmmaking & Cinematography alum Jean de Meuron on the success of Megan and its Silver Winner Award at the 40th Annual Telly Awards!

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    June 21, 2019 • Cinematography, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 108

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking Alum Hani Alqattan Makes Award-Winning Film ‘Amal’

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    Amal, the award-winning film written and directed by BFA Filmmaking Alum Hani Alqattan, has been steadily picking up festival screenings as well winning Best Shorts Competition.Hani Alqattan Amal

    Alqattan always had a general interest in film, which he eventually followed by writing and directing several shorts before enrolling at New York Film Academy. In 2017, he earned his BFA in Filmmaking from NYFA’s Burbank-based campus.

    Since graduating, Alqattan has hosted a filmmaking workshop at WOW Middle East in Dubai and was a guest speaker at the Women Economic Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia—the first of its kind. Additionally, he has served as administrative director at Areen Academy in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

    In 2016, Alqattan began production on Amal, a short film about a young girl whose father dies in a Paris attack and must deal with the repercussions the tragedy takes on her and her mother. 

    Amal Film – Directed by Hani Alqattan from Kartikye Gupta on Vimeo.

    Hani Alqattan AmalIn addition to winning Best Shorts Competition, Amal was a finalist in both the World of Women Film Fair Middle East and Miami Epic Trailer Festival, as well as a semi-finalist in the San Mauro Film Festival. It has also been an Official Selection at numerous other fests, including the Largo Film Awards, Kazan Film Festival, Ouchy Film Awards, Los Angeles CineFest, Fair International Film Festival, Qumara International Film Festival, 2nd Asian International Film Festival, WIND International Film Festivals & World Humanitarian Awards, and Steps International Short Film Festival

    Alqattan is keeping busy as a filmmaker and is currently shooting a proof of concept short for Needle in Thread, as well as working on the feature version of the script.

    New York Film Academy congratulates BFA Filmmaking alum Hani Alqattan on the success of Amal and wishes him the best of luck as his career after NYFA continues to steadily move forward!

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  • ‘Debris’ by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Julio O. Ramos In Competition at Palm Springs International Shortfest

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    Debris, the award-winning short film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Julio O. Ramos, is screening in competition at this year’s Palm Springs International Shortfest. Ramos is an acting instructor at NYFA-Los Angeles’s Burbank-based campus.Julio O. Ramos

    The film was written by Lucas Micelles from a story by Ramos, who directed the short as well. Debris is a thriller set against the bleak backdrop of human labor trafficking and focuses on Armando (Tenoch Huerta), a hard-working construction foreman who needs to resort to unconventional methods to deal with an accident on his site. After the contractor (Karren Karaguilian) discovers what Armando is up to, Armando is forced to face the consequences of his actions.

    “My intention with Debris is to shed light over this grim world of labor trafficking, focus on the vulnerable lives of illegal construction workers, and break the stereotypical notion that labor trafficking only happens somewhere else,” says Ramos. “We must ask ourselves: Who are the people building the homes of America? Where did they come from? Who hired them? America’s obsession with cheap labor has led to a complicated immigration policy intertwining the everyday American life with the global transgressions of labor trafficking.” 

    Ramos adds, “It happens right here in America and, arguably, we are all responsible.”

    Debris premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and since then has competed in nearly 100 film festivals, picking up awards including Best Narrative Short at the 2018 Sidewalk Film Festival, Special Mention of the Jury at the 2019 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, and two Jury Awards for Best Narrative Short Film and Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Oxford Film Festival in Mississippi.

    Julio O. Ramos

    The film’s latest achievement is screening at the 2019 Palm Springs International Shortfest. The festival, now in its 25th year, takes place across seven days every June, hosting more than 350 short films annually as well as a series of panels, seminars, roundtable discussions, and master classes.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Acting instructor Julio O. Ramos on the success of Debris and wishes him the best of luck at Palm Springs International Shortfest.

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    June 21, 2019 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 129

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards Academy Gold Internship to New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA in Filmmaking Student Alice Nicolini

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA in Filmmaking student Alice Nicolini received some great news recently when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her an Academy Gold Internship in Production Design. 

    Nicolini hails from Italy and is an alum of several NYFA camps, having attended the 4-week Screenwriting camp for teens, the 6-week Filmmaking camp for teens, and the 4-week Advanced Filmmaking camp for teens between 2014 and 2016. She is currently studying for her BFA in Filmmaking at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus. In the fall of 2017, Nicolini served as one of NYFA’s red carpet representatives at the Cinema Italian Style opening night gala.

    Her two-minute short, Alice’s Wonderland, helped her earn the prestigious Academy Gold Internship in Production Design. The Academy Gold Program is a multi-tiered educational and experiential initiative and internship enhancement program from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the famous Hollywood organization that annually awards the Oscars.

    “I hope this experience will give more direction and structure to my efforts,” Nicolini tells NYFA, “and, as a result, make me more confident in my craft.”

    Nicolini is currently focusing on her BFA studies and prepping hard for the internship. The industrious student has found the time and energy however to design a domestic clothing and accessories line in collaboration with a sustainability-focused company from Italy.

    “I am very proud of this kid and of NYFA for supporting talented and young artists!” exclaims Diana Santi, Director of NYFA Florence.

    Alice Nicolini
    New York Film Academy congratulates BFA student Alice Nicolini on earning the illustrious Academy Gold Internship in Production Design and looks forward to following her filmmaking endeavors. 

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    June 14, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 428

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking Alum Kevin Nwankwor Films ‘Muna’

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    After finishing the film Tempting Fate, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Kevin Nwankwor didn’t take a break—he immediately got to work on his next film, Muna. Earlier this month, the trailer for Muna was released.

    Muna is an action-drama directed by Nwankwor and written by Nwankwor, Joe Leone, and loam Parry based on a story by award-winning author Unoma Nwankwor. The film was executive produced by Emmanuel Ojeah and Unoma Nwankwor. 

    Shot in both the US and Nigeria, Muna tells the story of an assassin who falls in love while getting tangled in the global sex trafficking crisis. The cast includes Adam Huss, Robert Miano, Massi Furlan, Mayling Ng, and stars Adesua Etomi-Wellington, wife of musician and NYFA alum Banky Wellington. 

    “Human trafficking has become a great menace in our world today—the most troublesome part is the impact it has on the victims, turning them into something they would never have dreamt of becoming,” says Nwankwor. “Listening to the stories of these victims and knowing about those who go missing is heartbreaking. This is what motivated me to make Muna.” 

    After earning his MFA in Filmmaking from Burbank-based NYFA-Los Angeles, Nwankwor became CEO of family-owned production company KevStel, based in Atlanta, Georgia with an office in Abuja, Nigeria. KevStel produced both Tempting Fate and the upcoming Muna.

    “I came into NYFA with a goal and a desire to succeed,” adds Nwankwor. “I hear people say there’s no need for film school, but after the drilling and hands-on training while acquiring my Master’s degree in Filmmaking from New York Film Academy, I was able to make my first feature, Tempting Fate, which received some nominations and awards even while I was still a NYFA student. And now in the new feature film Muna, you will see the traces of a Master’s touch.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Filmmaking alum Kevin Nwankwor on his latest film Muna and looks forward to its release! 

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    June 13, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 289

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Celebrates LGBTQIA+ Community

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    Each year, LGBT Pride Month is celebrated throughout June, originally to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Pride Month has since expanded to honoring the LGBTQIA+ community in countless ways, including parades and raising awareness of current social issues facing the community and their loved ones.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is proud to celebrate LGBT Pride Month through a series of events across all of its domestic campuses, including film screenings, workshops, trivia nights, social get-togethers, and more.

    NYFA also looks to laud the LGBTQIA+ members of its community, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff who are making their community proud through the artistic crafts they’ve honed while studying or working at the Academy. Additionally, NYFA is celebrating projects made by the NYFA community that focuses on and raises awareness of LGBTQIA+ issues.

    Here are some updates from the NYFA LGBTQIA+ community:

    Drama del Rosario 

    MFA Documentary alum Drama del Rosario is originally from Manila, Philippines, and his BAFTA-shortlisted documentary In This Family focuses on complex themes surrounding culture, religion, commercialization, and LGBTQIA+ issues. In this Family is a 12-minute short that tells the story of one Filipino family’s reaction to finding out their son is gay. Recently, the film was an Official Selection of the Doc Edge Pride Festival, a prestigious fest that is Oscar-qualifying. The second portion of the fest will be held later this month in Wellington, New Zealand.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Drama del Rosario

    Shivin Sanjeev & Sunny Grover

    NYFA alum Shivin Sanjeev Grover and NYFA BFA student Sunny Grover recently collaborated with Maroon 5 keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Jesse Carmichael on the two minute short film Thrive, which focuses on the struggle and obstacles still faced today by the LGBTQIA+ community. The film was written and directed by Shivin and Sunny, two brothers from India, and is part of Carmichael’s 2 Minute Movies (2mm) project, which was created last year. Thrive is the first film to come from 2mm with a focus on LGBTQIA+ rights. 

    Ioanna Meli

    Life in Color, a short film starring NYFA MFA Acting for Film alum Ioanna Meli, was an Official Selection in the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers category. Directed by Bishal Dutta, Life in Color tells the story of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long lost love of his life. Along with the prestigious honor of screening at Cannes, the film has shown as part of the Silicon Beach Film Festival in Los Angeles.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Ioanna Meli

    Assaad Yacoub

    Assaad Yacoub graduated from NYFA’s 2-year Filmmaking Program in New York City before going on to complete both his BFA and MFA degrees in Filmmaking at Burbank-based NYFA-Los Angeles. He hit the ground running with his debut feature film, Cherry Pop, starring Bob the Drag Queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race, Tempest DuJour, Latrice Royale, and Lars Berge. Cherry Pop is a comedy musical that tells the story of both a nervous drag queen just starting out and a veteran finishing their career. Yacoub plans to adapt the film into a television pilot, and has also shot music videos for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

    Heather Mathews

    NYFA-LA Editing instructor Heather Mathews served as editor and producer on the documentary Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America, which premiered at the OutFest LGBT Film Festival in 2016. Forbidden focuses on Moises Serrano, an undocumented gay man whose parents fled Mexico for the United States when he was just a baby, and whose undocumented status prevented him from receiving financial aid for school despite being a top student. Moises has shared his story to dispel myths about the undocumented community and unite the immigration and LGBTQIA+ movements, seeing them both as a struggle for human rights.

    LGBTQIA+ Community Heather Mathews

    Lizzie Gottlieb

    The prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA) was awarded to Romeo, Romeo, a documentary feature directed by NYFA Documentary faculty member Lizzie Gottlieb, who produced the film with Eden Wurmfeld and NYFA President Michael J. Young. NYFA Documentary alum Eliana Álvarez Martínez served as a camera operator. The film aired on PBS’s America Reframed and follows a married lesbian couple who navigate the complicated struggles of infertility. 

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  • South African New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Meet Up at Inaugural Events

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    This May, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted inaugural South African NYFA alumni events in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This was a fantastic opportunity for NYFA’s South African alumni to connect and expand their network. South Africa Alumni Event

    Blake Babbitt, NYFA Associate Director of Outreach, has been traveling to South Africa for that past 7 years on behalf of the school, and was very delighted to see a true community of New York Film Academy artists coming together in their home country. 

    “There is a growing entertainment industry here in South Africa,” says Babbitt. “Ultimately we want our graduates to use the techniques and knowledge gained at NYFA to influence the industry not only in America, but in their home countries as well.”

    Babbitt continues, “The power of community is essential to the entertainment industry and to artistic success. I am very pleased to see a community of New York Film Academy artists forming here in South Africa, and I’m excited to see how this budding community will expand and impact the way South African stories are told. The sky is the limit for this group!” 

    During the event, NYFA alumni exchanged contact information, formed WhatsApp groups, and tagged each other in social media posts and stories. There was even discussion to form an official alumni chapter in South Africa. 

    Additionally, many alumni expressed their gratitude for the training they received at New York Film Academy, and for NYFA’s concern for them after they graduated. “Once you join us at New York Film Academy, you become a part of our family for life,” Babbitt told the alumni. “We don’t forget about you the second you graduate. Seeing you succeed is incredibly important to us.”

    “Blake and Maria were the most gracious hosts,” says BFA Filmmaking alum Zack Schofield-Nel. “The people that I was blessed to have networked with were incredible; I have built connections that will last for a long time to come. This could have only have happened because I was fortunate enough to attend the New York Film Academy.”

    He adds, “It is the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that I could have ever imagined!”

    Attendees included the following NYFA alumni:

    • Lunathi Mampofu (2-year Acting for Film): Trailblazing South African actress. Working on multiple TV shows in South Africa.

    • Eden Classens (2-year Musical Theatre): Runner-up, Dancing with the Stars South Africa; Lead on Afrikaans series Suidooster; recently cast in Netflix’s Kissing Booth 2.

    • Rethabile Ramaphakela (8-week Screenwriting): South African production company co-owner and voiceover artist best known as the voice of the Vuzu shows V-Entertainment and 10 Over 10. Co-owner of the production company Burnt Onion Productions with her brothers Tshepo and Katleho, who created and produced the SABC1 sitcom My Perfect Family and the Vuzu mockumentary Check-Coast. Produced and created a show that is currently available on Amazon Prime. Directing her first feature film in June.

    • Zandi Zim (MFA Acting for Film): Formed her own production company. South African actress that has performed at The Grahamstown National Arts Festival and Cape Town Fringe Festival. Stage actor since the age of eight and has studied Meisner and Alexander Technique. Zandi also sings, plays jazz piano and marimbas, and speaks English and conversational Sesotho.

    • Jacqueline Rainers Setai (8-week Screenwriting, continuing into 1-year Screenwriting): Head of Mojalove Channel on DSTV; well-known and established South African writer, producer, documentarian, broadcaster.

    • Petrone van der Merwe (8-week Acting for Film): Currently in two stage productions for the ADK (Academy of Dramatic Arts)’s 80th birthday celebrations that will premiere at the UJ Artscape Theater in Johannesburg and will also be performed in Stellenbosch at the Drostdy Theater. Signed with the talent agency, Gaenor Artiste Management.

    • Audrey Mokono (1-year Acting for Film, continuing into BFA Acting for Film): Recent graduate of NYFA’s 1-year Acting for Film program and will continue her studies in NYFA’s BFA Acting for Film program.

    • Anlezia Venter (BFA Acting for Film): Opened her own fitness studio in Cape Town.

    • Zackary Nel (BFA Filmmaking): Currently finishing his BFA thesis film in Cape Town, and has hired his own local crew.

    • Paul Fulton (8-week Screenwriting): Copywriter for ad agency. Has two feature-length scripts he is working on getting sold.

    • Keyuri Naidoo (6-week Acting for Film): From Johannesburg; known for her role as Karishma in Droomdag (2017) directed by Willie Esterhuizen. During her time at NYFA-Los Angeles, Keyuri directed and acted in numerous student short films.

    • Thuto Marrengula (1-year Acting for Film): Thuto Marrengula is an actor, known for Non American Dreamers (2018) and Ask Questions Later (2016); currently developing an hour-long stand up routine.

    • Nyeleti Khoza (AFA Acting for Film):  South African actor known for The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead (2016), Black Tea (2017), and Remember Me (2017). Recently cast in Giyani – Land of Blood, a new highly-viewed telenovela on SABC2

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Cristian Prieto Takes His Talents to Australia

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Cristian Prieto and his wife have moved to Byron Bay, a coastal town in Australia that is a hot spot home and vacation spot for many of Hollywood’s biggest names. This includes Chris Hemsworth and his wife—actress, model, and Fast and the Furious star Elsa Pataky. Pataky is the sister of Cristian Prieto, so the move to Byron Bay is bringing the Spanish-born siblings closer than ever. 

    In June 2010, Prieto graduated the 1-year Filmmaking program at NYFA-Los Angeles, where he received over a thousand hours of hands-on instruction and actual production experience in a curriculum that integrates intensive study in cinematography, directing, screenwriting, producing, and editing.Cristian Prieto

    Prieto’s thesis film was titled Bye By Baby and starred Pataky. Prieto wore multiple hats on the film—writing, directing, and producing the short. A year later, he worked on the film Prodigal, starring Kenneth Branagh.

    Shortly after that, Prieto worked on 2012’s The Avengers, which co-starred his brother-in-law as the hammer-wielding superhero Thor. It wouldn’t be the last time Hemsworth and Prieto worked together—Prieto also served on the production crew for 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok; the film was shot in Queensland partially at Village Roadshow Studios, where NYFA Gold Coast students also have the opportunity to shoot their films.

    Prieto has also acted, including a role in Giallo, starring Adrien Brody and Elsa Pataky, and also works as a photographer. He recently shot an editorial for fashion brand Spell Byron Bay, featuring his sister.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Cristian Prieto and his wife on their new home and looks forward to his future projects, whether they involve filmmaking, photography, acting, or whatever passion he chooses to follow next!

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    May 24, 2019 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 213

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and United States Army Garrison (USAG) Host Joint Masterclass in Vicenza, Italy

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    On May 18, a joint masterclass in storytelling and photography was held at the US Army Garrison in Vicenza, Italy, hosted by New York Film Academy (NYFA) and United States Army Garrison (USAG). The students were from the garrison as well as from the local community and included filmmakers, writers, and photographers.

    Storytelling was taught by Diana Santi, NYFA Program Director – Florence, Italy, while photography was taught by NYFA Chair of Photography David Mager. 

    Vicenza Italy Garrison Joint Workshop
    Diana Santi is an award-winning director and producer of short films and commercials and has worked as 1st AD on many large-budget Italian commercials. She also founded Purple Reel Productions and directed the short film Florence in Love with the support of the Tuscan Film Commission and the City of Florence. She is currently Program Director of NYFA’s Florence location, where students learn filmmaking with the historical city as their breathtaking backdrop.

    David Mager is an award-winning photographer with over 20 years of experience in the publishing, editorial, and advertising industries. Clients have included Disney, DK, Scholastic, Der Speigel, McGraw Hill, Penguin, Time Out NY, Parents Magazine, Paper, Flair, American Baby, and Park Place Magazine, to name a few. He is the current Chair of Photography for both the New York and South Beach, Miami campuses at New York Film Academy.

    Together, the masterclass lasted four hours. Santi and Mager talked about the elements needed in storytelling for both moving image, screenwriting, and still imagery. Through examples for all genres, students were able to connect and gain insight into the necessary steps to successfully tell their stories. 

    The storytelling portion of the joint masterclass was entitled “The Secret Ingredients of Successful Stories” and asked the important questions: What is a story? Why do people tell stories? What are the elements that make a story successful? “I was honored to teach at the US Army Garrison in Vicenza and I hope that our workshop about visual storytelling can inspire new amazing stories,” says Santi. 

    The photography portion of the joint masterclass was called “Taking Creative Control of Your Camera: Demystifying the Elements of Exposure.” It focused on understanding how the camera works as well as how to use the elements of exposure to create visual decisions that transform snapshots into thoughtful, intentional images. “We had a great group of interested and engaged students,” describes Mager. “There were good conversations and some beautiful images made.”

    Vicenza Italy Garrison Joint Workshop

    Both workshops used a combination of lectures and hands-on activities. The event organizer at the Garrison, Jodi K. Giesbrecht, CYS Instructional Programs Specialist, USAG Italy – Vicenza Military Community, was thrilled with the joint masterclass and “would love to plan for more exciting and creative events provided by [NYFA].”

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    May 23, 2019 • Filmmaking, Photography, Screenwriting, Study Abroad, Veterans • Views: 382

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Enrique Pedráza Botero on the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Enrique Pedráza Botero doesn’t just write and direct films—he also helps other filmmakers bring their documentaries to life through his work at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program (DFP). While Sundance is synonymous with its prestigious film festival, its documentary film program and creative labs are working year round to bring new and unique voices to the world of nonfiction cinema.

    Botero is originally from Colombia and first enrolled at New York Film Academy’s New York campus in 2010, before finishing his studies at NYFA-Los Angeles where he earned his BFA in Filmmaking. “I miss my time at NYFA,” Botero tells the Academy. “I loved the school and their open-minded philosophy about the approach to the work … I connect to the importance of discovering your interests and voice as a filmmaker by actually shooting and seeing through the camera, not necessarily when you have it all figured out.”Sundance Enrique Botero

    Following graduation, Botero worked as Manager of Programming at Ambulante California before working with the Sundance Institute. The Documentary Film Program at Sundance was established in 2002 and comprises both the Documentary Film Fund and the creative labs where films are workshopped and filmmakers mentored to become stronger storytellers. With a rolling application process, the DFP receives countless submissions each year, and looks for passionate and emerging filmmakers, particular those with unique cultural perspectives and personal connections to ongoing social issues.

    That worldly perspective is something Botero connected to even while studying at NYFA. “I also really appreciated how global my class was, and the opportunity to see how other people thought about story in other parts of the world,” says Botero, “how people thought creatively and aesthetically, and get a chance to understand how expansive that notion of story really is, something that is so rigged in history and culture.”

    He adds, “I realized how much more compelling and complex my stories could be if I saw my ideas from a personal perspective and my place in the world.”

    The Documentary Film Fund looks to support nonfiction films at all stages in production, and gives out nearly $1-$2 million in grants to over 40 projects each year. To apply, filmmakers must submit a written proposal and line item budget, as well as visual samples of their work. If footage hasn’t already been shot for the documentary, a mood reel and/or previous work of the director should be included. According to Botero, the DFP isn’t looking for a staid summary of the project but rather a strong feel for the artist—their voice, their artistic statement, the character access and connection they have to the subject of the film.

    The DFP Creative Labs are residential workshops, where filmmakers live and breathe their projects over the course of an entire week. There is an edit and story lab, which takes place in the mountains of Utah at the Sundance Resort as well as a music and sound design lab, where directors have the opportunity to work with talented up and coming composers from around the world, and sound designers from Skywalker Ranch. Both labs take place in June and July every year. At the labs, filmmakers can expect a trusted space where they will work with mentors, often filmmakers who have gone through the labs themselves, in an exchange of knowledge, and where they can learn to look at their work and the footage they’ve shot with new perspectives. Each director-editor team is paired with a contributing editor (an emerging nonfiction editor aiming to make the jump into feature-length editing), and are pushed to be more creative and experimental with their own current takes on their project.

    Sundance Enrique Botero

    From left to right: Tabitha Jackson (Director, Documentary Film Program), Maria Clement (Manager, Creative Producing Lab & Fellowship), Kristin Feeley (Director, Labs and Creative Producing Initiative), Enrique Pedraza-Botero (Manager, Labs and Artist Support) Photo Credit: Brandon Cruz

    Botero cites the 2019 documentary Always in Season as a perfect example of a film that was successfully workshopped through the edit and story lab. Director Jacqueline Olive had been working on her footage and material for over eight years, but it was through the labs that she was finally able to see her story in a new context and truly unlock her creative side by learning to better visually communicate her themes. The documentary finally came together as a powerful story of lynching in the rural South. The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the US Documentary Competition.

    In addition to the Film Fund and Creative Labs, the Sundance Institute is launching Collab, a learning platform designed for emerging filmmakers which aims to help students looking to expand their community and participate in curated masterclasses. Botero tells NYFA that anyone can open an account to receive access to both free and paid content, including a robust list of resources as well as weekly events and conversations. “It is open to artists globally, which is something we’re excited about!” adds Botero.

    More information about the Documentary Film Program and how to apply to the Film Fund and Creative Labs can be found here. The New York Film Academy thanks alum Enrique Pedráza Botero for sharing his insight into his fascinating work at the Sundance Institute, and encourages all NYFA students and alumni to seek further resources like those provided at Sundance to strengthen their creative vision and storytelling skills.

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