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  • NYFA Student’s Film “Dr. Elevator” Selected to 32 Film Festivals

    Born and raised in Bhopal, India, Kartikye Gupta always longed to entertain and inspire people’s lives. “I think, before going and making a film, film education is very essential, so when I finished my high school, New York Film Academy was always on the top of my list,” says Gupta, who is a BFA Filmmaking student at NYFA Los Angeles. “It’s the most hands-on film school, the student gets to write, direct and edit a short film every week, which made me get better and better. More importantly, the school provides an opportunity to interact from different professionals from all over the world and to learn more about different cultures and filmmaking styles from around world.”

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    Gupta has a firm belief that a film should be a medium of entertainment, where one creates an environment for the audience to forget all their problems and fully enjoy.

    His most recent film, “Dr. Elevator,” was officially selected in 32 film festivals for Best Short Film and screened in major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Wellington, Punjab, Queensland, Phoenix, Idyllwild and Copenhagen. The short film takes place in a trapped elevator, where a woman goes into labor, forcing an Indian mathematician with Asperger’s to rise to the occasion and deliver the baby.

    “When Cody Smart, NYFA MFA Screenwriting alumnus, narrated the story, I instantly loved the characters,” said Gupta. “It has a very simple, funny conflict with very interesting characters meeting at the same time. I trusted my actors, gave them a lot of freedom, but still told them what I needed; and they did a great job.”

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    “I am honored to be a student at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles,” he says. “My lifelong dream of becoming a filmmaker is moving forward, thanks to a generous college like yours. Being a film student at New York Film Academy was a great advantage for me to produce, shoot and edit this film. I used to get notes, feedbacks from my screenwriting and directing instructors on the script, and the film when it was completed, which helped me to make it better and better.”

    Gupta hopes to get “Dr. Elevator” on Amazon in order to reach a larger audience. He’s currently editing another short film, which he directed last year, and intends on submitting it to top tier film festivals.

    February 13, 2017 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3772

  • Producing Couple Finds Love and Distribution From NYFA Thesis Film

    With students coming from all areas of the world, it’s inevitable that a student will partner up with somebody from an entirely different culture than their own. It’s even possible that the working relationship could extend in personal areas of life beyond the set. At least this was the case with two former students, Rudi and Radhika Womack, who met at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, collaborated on Rudi’s thesis project, and are now married!

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    Rudi came to NYFA from the hills of Cheyenne, Wyoming while Radhika came all the way from New Delhi, India.

    Rudi’s thesis, “Call of the Wolf,” was produced by Radhika, and now, as a much deserving added bonus, the couple’s film was picked up for worldwide rights by Gravitas Ventures.

    Gravitas has set a Feb. 7 VOD/DVD release date for their film, which is about two kidnapped and trapped strangers who must survive the brutal onslaught of winter and are forced to play a deadly game of survival to outsmart their kidnapper — a sniper calling himself “Wolf.”

    “‘Call of The Wolf’ really stood out to us among a sea of submissions,” said Dan Fisher, director of acquisitions for Gravitas. “We really appreciated the quality of the filmmaking and the gradual reveal of the story, and we are excited to release across our multiple platform partners.”

    We spoke to the newly married couple and filmmaking partners before their upcoming release tomorrow.

    Congratulations on having your thesis film picked up by Gravitas! Can you tell us how this film first came about?

    Rudi: I have always wanted to tell a story of survival; of a character who is ripped from their element and forced into a hostile environment. As I developed the story I knew there wouldn’t be a chance of it getting picked up unless the film had some more “traditional” elements. Over seven drafts Call of the Wolf took shape; evolving from a story of pure survival in the wilderness, into a cat-and-mouse game with a man hunting the protagonist.

    How would each of you pitch this film in your own words?

    Rudi: There’s plot and story. The plot is simple: Madman kidnaps two strangers and forces them into the wilderness for a deadly game of survival. But the story, the meat and bones of the film, is all about Lester. He’s a rich kid who has never had responsibility, risk, or any real challenge. Over the course of the film he slowly evolves into a much stronger, self-reliant person.

    Radhika: The film is about survival. It is about overcoming difficulties, rising to the occasion to learning to fight for what is important to you.

    How did you get your thesis film into the hands of Gravitas, your distributor? Were you surprised when they picked up your film for distribution?

    Rudi: We avoided the festival circuit and went straight to distributors with the film. I guess it turned some heads because we had 3 positive responses in the span of a week. Gravitas Ventures was our best choice because of the care and consideration they had towards the integrity of the story. Gravitas Ventures has taken great care of us and I’m very lucky to be working with them.

    Radhika: We were surprised and thrilled when Gravitas Ventures picked up Call of the Wolf for distribution. They have a great line up of films and Call of the Wolf fits right in. We are looking forward to the great things we can do together with them.

    What were some of the challenges of shooting a film on location in the mountains of Wyoming? How did you overcome them?

    Rudi: Wyoming is my home, so I know how unpredictable it can be, especially on the mountain. The weather was really tough for sure. It dropped far below 0 many, many times. But the hardest part for me was the limitations of budget. There were so many things I wanted to do that simply were not possible with the constraints we had. Even simple things like dolly shots were mostly unachievable for us. It also makes it really hard to set up a shot in the snow, because you can’t leave any tracks. You end up walking a long way so the shot is clear. I knew the limitations of budget and equipment were going to hurt us, so very early on I started designing the look of the film around static wide shots. I think the mountain, trees, and snow offered a multitude of opportunities for beautifully framed wide shots. So that’s what we did; we trekked into the trees, set up the camera, and let it roll for a bit. This also helped with the slower pace of the film I was trying to achieve.

    Radhika: The biggest challenge we experienced was the weather. It was very cold and at that temperature and elevation, everyone’s efficiency level goes down. We had planned for it to the best of our ability by scheduling easier scenes at the beginning of the shoot, slower and shorter days than we would normally have if we shot in sunny Los Angeles. Kudos to the cast and crew to have powered through the month and for bringing their A-game on even in such difficult conditions!

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    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of being able to create this film?

    Radhika: Yes. This was Rudi’s thesis film for his MFA in Filmmaking program. We had support and guidance from the teachers at every step of production. There were times we felt they were being too harsh or difficult but in the end it was always for our benefit.

    Where will we be able to see your film?

    Radhika: Just about anywhere that you would see most movies! It will be released on DVD and Blue Ray, and will be available on most major VOD platforms. We’re also hoping to secure a limited release in theaters across Colorado and Wyoming.

    Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?

    Radhika: Rudi and I are currently in principal photography on our next untitled feature film. Additionally I am working on a documentary with an Academy Award nominated director as well as Line Producing a soon-to-be announced Virtual Reality series

    Rudi: We’re currently in production on our next feature film, which is still untitled. It follows the story of a young man who robs a pawnshop to help support his girlfriend. The robbery goes wrong and he barricades himself in a truck stop bathroom, which triggers an intense standoff with the police. Radhika and I also recently made a short film called “Chippy” about a dog who bites a little girl, and the repercussions it has on a single mother and her family. It’s just finishing up its festival run.

    February 6, 2017 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2222

  • NYFA NYC Spring 2016 Filmmaking Commencement and Final Screenings

    Last week, the New York Film Academy New York campus held the Spring 2016 Filmmaking Commencement and Final Screenings. The two-day event held an opening reception for students, friends and family, and concluded with students’ thesis film screenings at the campus’ brand new theater at 17 Battery Place.

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    “The thesis films made by the Spring 2016 graduating students were very impressive,” said NYFA Filmmaking Chair, Claude Kerven. “Across the board, the quality and the effort made was first rate. It’s remarkable to see how much the students have grown in just one year. The students, along with their instructors, should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

    Congratulations to all of our filmmaking graduates! Check out the full gallery of photos from the graduation ceremonies on NYFA’s Facebook Page!

    Below are the films that screened over the two-day graduation.

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    spring 2016 films

     

    January 25, 2017 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 813

  • NYFA Alumnus Jean de Meuron’s “La Femme et le TGV” Nominated for Academy Award

    la femme et la tgvBack in 2009, the New York Film Academy offered a Brett Ratner Tuition Grant, which was awarded to a passionate young filmmaker from Switzerland, Jean de Meuron. While at NYFA, de Meuron got a full scope of the movie-making landscape, studying filmmaking, screenwriting, and cinematography at both the New York and Los Angeles campuses.

    Now residing in Los Angeles, de Meuron was recently Executive Producer on the short film “La femme et le TGV,” directed by Timo von Gunten and starring César Award nominee Jane Birkin. The short film, which was inspired by true events, was nominated for a 2016 Academy Award in the Best Live Action Short Category!

    We had a chance to speak to our former student before his big day at the Academy Awards this upcoming Feb. 26th, 2017.

    Congratulations on your film’s Academy Award nomination! In your own words, what is “La femme et le TGV” about?

    “La femme et le TGV” is a charming tale about a lonely woman who, through poetic and thoughtful letters, connects and builds a close relationship with a TGV train driver that passes her house at 190 mph every single day. As the two anonymous souls share their worlds by writing to each other, one fateful day the train does not pass her house, leading her to embark on a journey away from the place she calls home in search of that lost connection.

    How did this film come about and how did you become involved with the project?

    Our director, Timo von Gunten, read this incredible true story in a Swiss tabloid about a woman who’s been waving at the passing TGV train for many years from her balcony. He immediately fell in love with the whimsical nature and tone of this true story: A woman and a man writing letters to one another without ever meeting in person — or at least for the first couple of interactions. A huge inspiration for Timo has always been “Amélie” — and I think this is quite apparent in his work, as far as the visuals and camera blocking are concerned. However, Timo has such a strong style and visual sense on his own, so he puts his own stamp as a director, infused with elements from the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Wes Anderson.

    I met Timo while I was a Jury Member at the Basel Gässli Film Festival, where I saw his short film that he had directed. I was immensely impressed with his visual flair, mise-en-scènesensitivity with which he directed actors and staged scenes, as well as the color palette, soundtrack and edit. There was a filmmaker at work, who I considered a true artist that caught my attention. During the festival, I approached him, complementing his work and saying that I would like to work with him very much. The rest, so they say, is history.

    How did you attach Jane Birkin to the project? And what was it like to work with her?

    Timo tells this story best, so I extend the courtesy of having him share his thoughts here, as he as the director, worked most closely with her:

    “First of all, I had to write a screenplay that was emotional, touching. I have a very good friend, a casting director and acting coach in London, who helped me to pass on the script to Jane’s agent. What I didn’t know, of course, and I was quite lucky — I have to admit that — the topic of solitude resonates so much with her. She just fell in love with the story. She called me up and said wants to do it. However, the funny thing was, first she said, “I want to do it, but I can’t because I’m not supposed to ride bicycles anymore.” And as you know, the film has loads of biking scenes… Working with Jane was quite an extraordinary experience because she has this inner beauty still kept alive. She’s quite fragile but very, very truthful. That’s what’s really great about her.” — from Timo von Gunten’s interview with ScreenPicks (Alfonso Espina) – Interview: Timo von Gunten Talks About ‘La Femme et le TGV’

    I would add that Jane has this incredible generosity and gentle kindness that I witnessed while we were attending the Locarno Film Festival, where she was awarded the Golden Leopard for her Life Achievement.

    Can you tell us how you found out about NYFA and the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant?

    While I was a student at the New York Film Academy, NYFA founder Jerry Sherlock, who had always been very supportive of me, suggested that I should apply for the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant — as I had done several short films during my studies that did the festival circuit. While applying, I put all of my passion and dedication into my application materials, meaning I went above and beyond by presenting a strong package. When I was awarded the Brett Ratner Tuition Grant I was very proud, as Brett’s impressive career has inspired me very much and continues to do so. His journey from having Steven Spielberg support his student short film, “Whatever Happened to Mason Reese” (1990), to becoming a Hollywood movie mogul (co-financing the slate of Warner Bros. with his company RatPac) is immensely awe-inspiring.

    Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to produce this film?

    Certainly. I always liked the New York Film Academy’s philosophy and educational approach of “learning by doing.” The practical experience enabled me to gain a very sophisticated understanding of physical production, and all its challenges that come with it. As my favorite filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg, once noted, “Filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” That being said, with director Timo von Gunten and my producing partners Giacun Caduff and Bela Böke, we had a wonderful synergy of complementing components, as we each could rely on each other’s strengths and interests.

    Jean (on the right) attending the Golden Globes

    Jean (on the right) attending the Golden Globes

    What has been the reaction of your team, knowing you have a one in five chance of winning an Academy Award for this short?

    I think every filmmaker aspires for his or her work to be critically acclaimed — some more than others of course — but in the end, storytelling is also entertainment, and as such we thrive to speak to, emotionally engage and captivate an audience. The reaction has obviously been overwhelming, however, we won’t define the success of our film solely on awards, but also on how the story resonates with our audience and how we are able to touch and move people. It is a tremendous honor and privilege to be considered for Academy Award consideration and we are infinitely grateful.

    Why do you feel your film deserves to win the Academy Award? What makes it so unique?

    Tough question. I think every film that has been nominated is there for a reason and deserving of such an accomplishment. What makes “La femme et le TGV” unique — at least as far as I am concerned — is its fairytale element that makes this story not only very charming and uplifting, but also relevant and meaningful. Our story, more than ever, is timeless because of the fact that although developed between written letters, most people of several generations (young and adult) can relate to our protagonist’s journey where, in the digital realm of things, loneliness and longing for something, are huge components of our daily lives.

    Where would we be able to see this film?

    “La femme et le TGV” is currently available on iTunes.

    Are you currently working on any other projects you’d like to discuss?

    Yes, I am currently developing a feature film with Timo and my producing partner Chady Eli Mattar, who, like myself, worked for prolific and immensely gifted producer Scott Rudin — a true industry icon. The film is called “The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower” and tells the true and epic tale of a charismatic con-artist, Victor Lustig, whose journey culminates in pulling off the biggest scam in the history of mankind — selling the Eiffel Tower — ensuing in a manhunt across the world that threatens to tear apart his beloved family.

    January 24, 2017 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2806

  • NYFA Grad’s “4 Quarters of Silence” Doc to Premiere at ReelAbilities Film Festival

    4 quarters of silenceUnder his label of Broadway Productions, New York Film Academy Filmmaking alumnus Cody Broadway will be premiering his new documentary short film, “4 Quarters of Silence,” at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in New York City, which takes place March 2-8 2017. The ReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest festival in the country dedicated to presenting films made by and about people with different disabilities whether physical, developmental or psychological.

    “4 Quarters of Silence” chronicles the day-to-day lives of student athletes enrolled at the Texas School for the Deaf. The school is located in the heart of Texas, Austin which is also home to one of the largest deaf communities in the nation. This compelling story highlights the raw emotion and unique challenges faced by players, parents and coaches as they take part in one of the biggest sports in Texas, high school football. From practice to the Friday Night Lights, the shear grit and faith that embodies these players is showcased in striking form.

    “I’m honored and excited that the film has gotten great reviews and I want to thank Cody and his team for the great work they’ve done,” said Texas School of the Deaf, Head Football coach, John Moore Jr.

    “Our football team is so proud to be featured in this film, it is a wonderful showcase of what deaf people can do,” added The Texas School for The Deaf.

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    Mr. Broadway has received numerous awards and accolades for his work in short films and television. His web series, “I Have a Voice” was awarded the prestigious Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Jury Prize and also the Best International Web Series Short from the Wendy’s.

    “Learning from these athletes has been an eye opening experience for me,” says Broadway. “As a filmmaker I sought to gain a greater understanding of their day-to-day lives, but what I was able to capture was a story that transcends age, ability and personal background. It has been my honor to root for this team both on and off the field.”

    January 19, 2017 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1409

  • NYFA Grad’s “Shoot” Premieres at Arab Cinema Lab

    shootSaudi director and New York Film Academy alumnus Aymen Khoja recently screened his soccer-themed film “Shoot” at the inaugural edition of the Arab Cinema Lab at DIFF. What makes the story unique is the fact that the main character is from Saudi Arabia. The privately-financed production is Saudi Arabia’s fourth-ever feature-length film.

    Egyptian actor El-Masry, best known internationally for his roles in “Rosewater” and “The Night Manager,” stars as a young Saudi expat in Los Angeles with dreams of pursuing a soccer career in the city against the wishes of his traditional father. The film also includes actors Patrick Fabian, Ayman Samman and US soccer star Bryan Jordan.

    “I’ve always loved soccer, and we all know there aren’t many movies that focus on soccer,” said Khoja. “So, I decided to challenge myself and write one, and I told myself it had to be low budget.”

    “As we all know movies can bring the world together, so I was really encouraged to write the story and pushed myself to make it happen,” added Khoja. “We don’t typically see a lot of movies that speak to Arabs in America.”

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    The New York Film Academy Los Angeles alumnus wrote, produced and directed the film under the auspices of his Santa Monica and Jeddah-based Khoja Bros label.

    “NYFA provided me with a lot of knowledge,” said Khoja. “Not only how to direct a movie, but also how to write, how to produce, and how to use all the other elements: music, sound, color, production design, etc. NYFA has great staff. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to make the movie.”

    Khoja is now developing a second film that will also marry both US and Arab cultures — a thriller about the kidnapping of a young Saudi student by a ruthless gangster.

    “We need more Saudi filmmakers to make feature films,” says Khoja. “They need to be brave to make the decision and have the commitment. I care about telling stories and helping in developing our cinema industry.”

    His aims for “Shoot” to have a limited theatrical release worldwide before online streaming platforms and TV.

    January 9, 2017 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1574

  • NYFA LA Instructor’s “The Rachels” to Air on Lifetime Movie Network

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    Filming the dramatic finale on a rooftop in Marina Del Rey, CA.

    Many of our instructors are working professionals outside of the classroom. New York Film Academy instructor Mike Civille’s feature film thriller “The Rachels,” which he directed in the summer of 2016, just sold to Lifetime and will air on the Lifetime Movie Network on Jan. 15, 2017.

    Civille was also recently published in the Fall 2016 issue of “Cinema Journal” (one of the top peer reviewed academic journals in the field) with his article “Ain’t Got No Chance”: The case of the Breaking Point (1950).”

    His upcoming film, “The Rachels,” is about the teen queens of Hills High School. When one of them suddenly dies, the other basks in the glow of the social media attention, until a former friend begins to unwind the tangled threads of the mysterious death.

    We had a chance to talk to Civille before his movie airs on Jan. 15th.

    How did you become involved with this project?

    They say there’s always a bit of luck involved — in my case I’m happily married to a very successful development and production executive: my wife Hannah Pillemer is Senior VP at MarVista Entertainment. She and I had been speaking for some time about collaborating on a film, but we had not been able to coordinate our schedules over the last couple of years. Finally, this project came up, the timing was right, I loved the script, and Hannah hired me to direct it for MarVista. We met with the writer, Ellen Huggins, to hash out some ideas in the spring, and then in the summer I took two months off from NYFA as we went into preproduction and filming.

    Was there any particular element of the story / premise that made you want to direct?

    I had taken time away from directing to earn my PhD, but I eagerly dove back into it with this project. I loved that it was a commentary on celebrity culture, and how far people are willing to go to become recognized and remain well known. This is something I actually studied for my PhD, so I loved being able to weave some of my previous research into the story. I also valued the ability to use the camera and production design to show the difference between a person’s filtered social presentation and the real (sometimes fiendish) selves that they try to keep hidden. This idea of perception versus reality really fascinated me, and how we all craft our own version of ourselves and the events in our lives. The movie suggests that truth can be slippery, and things are not always what they appear to be.

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    Still from the film of Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver) and Roxie (Daniela Bobadilla)

    It’s hard to not notice a similarity in the logline to the film “Heathers.” Was there any inspiration from that film?

    Any high school movie featuring characters with the same name who are fixated on their own popularity has to pay some debt to “Heathers.” I love the tone of “Heathers,” and we tried to instill some of the same feeling into this film, with a little of the same bite. At the same time, it was also important for me to understand and even like these characters to avoid making them one dimensional and shallow. So I worked with the actors to bring some humanity to their performances — they all hurt, they all feel, they all desire validation. So while they might sometimes stray down the wrong path or lash out, there’s something tragic about the ways they are trying to keep up with each other and the world around then. I think it was important to add that layer to our film, which wasn’t a straight satirical comedy like “Heathers.” Instead, we called it a “mischievous thriller” — a self-conscious film about a celebrity that has fun while also providing traditional elements of drama and excitement along the way. Other films that inspired us thematically were “To Die Fo”r (1995), “Sunset Blvd.” (1950), “Virgin Suicides” (1999), and “Mulholland Drive” (2001), with a little dash of “The Conversation” (1974) and “Rashomon” (1950) thrown in.

    How did Lifetime come about? Was this a project you sold to Lifetime prior to production or rather did you sell the finished film to the network?

    The project was produced without a distribution deal, so I was excited to hear that MarVista recently sold it to Lifetime. They have sold other projects to Lifetime, so there’s a relationship there, but there was no guarantee from the beginning. I was proud that the film sold, because it told me that others see value there, it confirmed MarVista’s faith in me, and it validated my wife’s decision to hire her husband!

    Directing actress Caitlin Carver.

    Mike Civille directing actress Caitlin Carver.

    Did you learn anything while directing this film that you would like to share with your students?

    This was my first time as a “director for hire,” so this was the first time I had to passionately push for certain creative decisions. I had produced previous projects, so I always only had to convince myself. But this was the first time I had to present my ideas to producers and argue for why it should be that way (and not the less expensive way!). Of course, you have to pick your battles, but there were a handful of things I really wanted for the movie, so I had to prepare notes and sketches and descriptions and film clips to show how and why it could work. It reminded me that you have to be energetic and determined in your vision — you don’t yell at people to get your way, but rather you thoroughly present your case to convince them. And at the end of the day, we were able to accomplish a lot, including the most elaborate and dangerous stunt in MarVista history. There’s no such thing as too much preparation, and if you don’t have a vision for how you see it, people are not going to buy it.

    I also was reminded that motivating a cast and crew comes from the top. Early on, DP Michael Pessah, AD Karim Nabil, and I decided that we were going to have fun and keep people motivated by making every day, every shot a fun experience — no matter the hot temperatures, an intense shooting schedule, and several complicated setups. Of course we had stressful moments, but mostly we had fun and the crew appreciated that we were enjoying the process so much. I respected the cast and crew so much, and I decided not to be a director working in a bubble and only talking to actors and the DP. Instead I got to know everyone, and thanked them by shaking everyone’s hand at the end of every shooting day. I wanted to let everyone from the DP to each PA know that I appreciated their effort and what we accomplished. At the end of the shoot, many of the cast and crew remarked that they would do another project with us at any time because they had so much fun and appreciated our gratitude. I’m really proud of that.

    Still from the film of Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver) and Rachel Nelson (Madison Iseman).

    Still from the film of Rachel Richards (Caitlin Carver) and Rachel Nelson (Madison Iseman).

    Can you tell us about the stunt that you were able to pull off?

    We filmed a dangerous stunt in which we dangled an actress off the roof of a building seven stories up. Our incredible stunt coordinator Tim Mikulecky helped design and achieve this stunt with steel cables — he was such a pro and always looking for how to do the stunt effectively and safely. I’ll never forget standing on the roof during the location scout, and looking over the side with Tim, and he says, “You know, we could actually hang her off of here pretty easily…as long as she’ll go for it.” So when I asked the actress, she said, “Sure, sounds like fun! It will help my performance!” It was by far the most stressful night of the shoot because if anything went wrong, it could be disastrous. But it all went great — thanks to a lot of detailed prep and Tim’s expertise.

    Were there any of crew members from NYFA?

    One of the background performers was former NYFA BFA Acting student Giullianna Martinez. She was a student in my American Cultural History class and it was great to see her on set! Because I knew her, I was able to get her more prominent placements onscreen.

    The DP Michael Pessah used to be the Chair of the Cinematography department at NYFA’s LA campus. I’ve known Michael for 15 years, and he introduced me to the folks at NYFA LA when I moved out to LA. He’s an incredibly talented cinematographer and a joy to work with. His crew respects him so much that they would run through a brick wall for him. Bringing that kind of loyalty with him on set was vital for us to achieve a stylish film in a short production window.

    Finally, I could not have done this film without the support of NYFA administrators Jean Sherlock, Dan Mackler, Sonny Calderon, and Mary Samuelson, plus the valuable input I got from our instructors, who always made themselves available for tips and advice.

    I’m hoping to have Michael, lead actress Caitlin Carver, and producer Rebecca Stone join me for a screening and Q&A at NYFA on February 13!

    January 5, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 3340

  • Film Critic Peter Rainer to Teach at NYFA Los Angeles

    Part of what makes up a successful filmmaker is a having a vast knowledge of cinema history. Look no further than Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, who are both well known for having an encyclopedic memory of films over the last century.

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    Peter Rainer with NYFA President Michael Young

    Given the importance of film and cinema studies, the New York Film Academy is delighted to welcome its newest faculty member, Peter Rainer, who has thirty years of professional experience as a film critic. “There is still nothing like seeing a movie in a theater on a big screen and being awed by the whole experience — that communal feeling,” says Rainer.

    Rainer is currently the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor, a columnist for Bloomberg News, the president of the National Society of Film Critics, and a regular reviewer for FilmWeek on NPR. He’s also written for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles magazine, New York magazine, and New Times Los Angeles, where he was a finalist in 1998 for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. He is also a three-time winner of the Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award for best online film critic.

    The first film Rainer reviewed professionally was “Chinatown,” which is considered a must-see for any aspiring screenwriter or director.

    “I really had this jones to be a critic ever since my dad gave me this book called ‘Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies,'” says Rainer. “I learned you could be a real writer and still be a critic.”There is still nothing like seeing a movie in a theatre on a big screen and being awed by the whole experience, that communal feeling.

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    NYFA Dean of the College Sonny Calderon with Peter Rainer

    Beginning this spring, Rainer will begin teaching a special topics seminar at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, which will consist of eight courses. His love for Robert Altman’s career will be an integral part of his course as he intends to screen and discuss much of his work.

    In addition to his seminars, Rainer has been a guest speaker at NYFA LA and intends on speaking at its New York campus in 2017.

    January 4, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1615

  • NYFA Brings Digital Storytelling to Liberation Diploma High School

    The Digital Storytelling Program was created to provide filmmaking access to a community that would not have had it otherwise. Over the course of eight weeks, New York Film Academy staff taught filmmaking to high schoolers from Liberation Diploma Plus High School in Coney Island. Each student wrote and directed his or her own short film, which will culminate in a screening this upcoming January 2017.

    digital storytelling

    The project aims to create a fun and artistic opportunity for both students and teachers, and more importantly, gives students the opportunity to share their stories and voices through the medium of filmmaking.

    “I believe change begins when those unaffected become just as outraged as the affected,” said Director of Youth Programs, Kenzie Ross. “With programs like this, young people can begin to believe in their voice, their creative mind and their empathy for others through storytelling. Human stories are why we love film so much and why we connect to timeless lessons time and time again. All humans and their stories need to be heard, not just the educated or elite. Art has no boundaries.”

    “I loved the editing classes the most. That was good fun and I probably learned the most in that class,” said one of the high school students, Jamie.

    “I liked the actual shooting of our films and being behind the camera,” added another student, Jay. “If [NYFA] does these classes again we would want to come.”

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    Sadly, at a lot of schools the first thing to go due to budget cuts is the arts program, when in fact it’s so important to allow for creative thinking. “Our focus is not to simply help facilitate the next generation of filmmakers and encourage self expression, but also enable students to develop interpersonal skills they can apply to any aspect of life, through team work, leadership, problem solving, etc,” said NYFA’s Rabia Mirza.

    It’s been an amazing experience working with the wonderful group filmmakers from Liberation Diploma. We look forward to screening their wonderful short films this upcoming January 2017!

    December 30, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1920

  • NYFA Student’s Award-Winning Short “Rose Garden” Screens at 24 Film Festivals

    MFA Filmmaking student Rafael Pires Nani’s short film, “Rose Garden,” which he shot in his first year at the New York Film Academy, was accepted into 24 film festivals so far, and has won fifteen awards.

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    “Rose Garden” tells the story of an intelligent kid who manages to easily drive his family and neighbors crazy. Though, more than relationships and family, it is about how some people can suddenly appear in our lives and completely change us. Like a fable, the movie is able to disarm minds and hearts, making people dive deep into the story.

    “As an Intermediate Project, we spent four months constantly work-shopping the script in class,” recalls Nani. “My teachers and classmates were extremely important in helping me take my script to the next level. And all development — in terms of script analysis, shot list, floor plan, storyboards, and directing actors — made all the difference to me on set. It’s on the screen; everything was well thought out, and you can see the harmony in all of these elements.”

    rafi nani

    Nani says film festivals are about personal voice and style, and believes audiences at festivals are more open minded for new ideas. “They want something different, something that they can’t find in the mainstream,” says Nani. “Of course, they want to see a really good story, but I’ve been in lots of film festivals around the world, and I can tell there is a huge space for what’s new or different — even when the story is common and usual.

    rafi nani

    Though, Nani warns filmmakers not to create a film while thinking about festivals. “Do whatever you want to do; be proud of your work,” he adds. “When it’s done, you will find the festivals that will be related to your ideas.”

    While continuing his MFA Filmmaking degree program, Nani is developing his thesis project, which is a feature sci-fi / horror film called “Bloody Eyes.”

    “It’s a project that I’m really excited about, and I can’t wait to be back on the set to shoot it,” Nani said.

    December 26, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 10532