Originally from Moscow, Russia, Luba Salp (Liubov Salpagarova) received her education in the UK, France, and Australia before being awarded a scholarship to attend New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. After graduating she interned for numerous production companies including photography icon David LaChapelle.
photography by Luba Salp
Recently Luba shot a feature documentary “Hollywood Dreams of Rodion Nahapetov” for a major Russian TV Channel One. She’s also worked with major commercial clients that include Nike, Malibu Rum, UPS, Taco Bell, Zippo and more.
Now, Luba is introducing a new art series, Ambivalence, inspired by her passion for surfing. Ambivalence is a series of photographs taken by the NYFA alumna while surfing in Manhattan Beach, California.
Each photograph captures the moment when a wave is about to break. This moment — one of simultaneous dread and supreme joy — represents opposing yet inseparable sides of the surfing experience. When this moment is captured as a still image and the dimension of time is removed, it opens up to an entirely abstract perception. The subjective drama of a wave breaking with its unpredictable outcomes is transformed into an objective drama of beholding a monumental landscape. In this way the series can be viewed as a meditation on time.
For more information on Luba and her art work, please visit her website at www.lubasalp.com.
Michael Gallagher began his filmmaking as a Freshman at New York Film Academy’s high school summer program. Whether it was a comedy about a dinosaur with bladder issues or a movie about a prison-bound sea captain (shot entirely in French!), no idea was too out there for his imagination.
Over the next few years, Michael returned for NYFA’s advanced summer programs and continued making films on his own. Before he even finished high school, Michael had directed Oscar-nominated Michael Lerner and won numerous awards himself.
Soon after high school, Michael began the comedy site “Totally Sketch,” which currently tallies 1.2 Million “Beautiful” Subscribers (Michael’s own words) and over 400 MILLION VIEWS!
As Michael explained, “When we first started, people (on YouTube) were just turning on WebCams. I thought I’d take what I learned at NYFA and take a more cinematic approach (to my comedy shorts).
In 2012, Michael co-wrote and directed the horror feature “Smiley,” starring Caitlin Gerard, Shane Dawson and featuring Rogert Bart and Keith David. (Link On ITUNES – ) The trailer scared up more than 30 Million hits on youtube and introduced the world to the creepiest slasher’s mask this side of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”.
Returning to his Internet / comedy roots, Michael co-wrote and directed the parody “Internet Famous,” now available on iTunes and streaming on Netflix.
Michael explained, “The movie is about five internet personalities who travel across the country to compete in a talent competition. The problem is – they don’t have any talent.”
The mockumentary stars Shane Dawson and other internet stars who were more than happy to mock their corner of the Industry. “These are people I’ve worked with in the past. It was fun to bring them in to parody themselves,” said Gallagher. “Shane (in particular) wanted to take the piss out of what he’s doing and comment on all the people who he works (around).”
A Maker Studios co-production, “Internet Famous” was one of the most highly touted projects at this year’s VidCon (the Comic0-Con for the YouTube generation!)
But “Internet Famous” is more than just a series of gags, as Michael lets the characters’ emotional stakes never get lost in all the youtube mockery. “Even in Airplane, you care if they land the plane.”
Gallagher is already gearing up for his next film “The Thinning,” which will be coming to a computer near you this fall.
The New York Film Academy and the Venice Film Festival will be providing an unprecedented opportunity to five of our students and alumni as they will be be showcasing their films at the brand-new Venice Production Bridge platform in the morning of September 1st at the Spazio Incontri of Venice’s Excelsior Hotel.
NYFA alumnus Giorgio Pasotti
The five NYFA student films that were selected include fiction, documentary and animation. The showcase will be introduced by NYFA alumnus Giorgio Pasotti, who has acted in Italian films such as the Academy Award Winning film The Great Beauty, After Midnight, and Salty Air.
Following the showcase will be a networking cocktail hour from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m., as well as one-on-one info sessions for those interested in learning more about NYFA’s hands-on programs, including its Florence, Italy location, just a short train ride away from Venice.
The following five short films will screen on Sept. 1st:
The Life Of Janka, by Luis Henriquez Viloria (fiction)
After the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, thousands of kids went to the streets and became a target for organizations of child traffickers. These kids were traded like livestock. “Life of Janka” is a fictional story of two brothers who go through such an experience.
Fumo, by Sean Miyakawa (fiction)
Set in the mid-1920’s, a frustrated sound composer works as one of the first sound engineers in the history of cinema who happened to be madly in love with the main actress of the production. On the day he decides to finally declare his love to her, he finds out about an affair going on between her and the director. The discovery drives him crazy.
In Limpopo, South Africa, the village grannies lace up their soccer boots and start kicking their way down the field — and through centuries of oppressive taboos. They play serious soccer and then break into the laughter and traditional song that help fuel their singular struggle for decent lives and a league of their own.
The Perfumist, by Yukari Akaba, Shannon Lee, Daniela Lobo Dias, Sandra Rivero Ortiz (animation)
“The Perfumist” is a dramatic story highlighting the battle of Machine-Equipped Man against Cosmic Nature. Seeking the perfect scent for his perfume, Benedict Malville runs into the consequences of trampling on sacred, natural ground.
The Right Way, by Elena Zobak Alekperov & Flavia Groba Bandeira (animation)
A short animated story of the day in a mom’s life of raising her young child. While the child tests the mother’s patience, there is a final moment of relief after the mom reveals her secret oasis within the confines of the home.
This past week, Pulitzer Prize nominee Peter Rainer stopped by New York Film Academy – Los Angeles to discuss what makes a good critic, what he sees as the next wave of filmmaking, and, of course, his years and development as a cinematic journalist. Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, hosted the event.
Rainer began his career as a film critic for his college newspaper. In fact, he eventually became the managing editor of the paper, so he could give himself more space for his film reviews. “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. I learned you could be a real writer and still be a critic.”
He continued, “When I graduated, I went to the library and wrote out a list of 50 publications that I could work for. Not knowing anybody. And I just sent my best work. I think I got two responses. One was from William F. Buckley. John Ford had died around that time so they asked me to do a piece on Ford. That was my first published piece as a writer. “
Rainer’s first permanent job was with Mademoiselle Magazine. Rainer said of his time there, “The first film I ever reviewed professionally was Chinatown. And I also did an interview with Robert Towne. He let it slip for the first time anywhere that he did an uncredited rewrite of Bonnie and Clyde.” This scoop became a huge Hollywood controversy and put Rainer on the map as a serious journalist.
From there, Rainer moved onto the L.A. Times. I had six years at the times. It was an interesting time. I think then the publishing industry had a very cozy relationship with Hollywood.”
Rainer went on to describe the difficulties critics have faced balancing thoughtful journalism with the demands of their publications’ advertising departments. When the studios keep your paper afloat it’s best not to upset them. “I thought being a critic was this refined thing. It’s connected to the dynamo of journalism, which means you’re connected to advertising. Critics were considered to be antagonistic to the advertisers.”
Speaking on the state of the pictures today Rainer said, ”I’m always amazed that films that are remade are always the ones that worked the first time. What you should do is remake a film that had a great idea but failed. I see 300 movies a year. I’d say 280 of them are – ugh. I wish I had more time to watch TV. A lot of what’s going on in television, right now, is more exciting than the movies. When I started in the mid 70’s maybe five or eight movies were released a week. Now…it’s more like 25. I never walk out of a film I’m going to review. I still have this ridiculous notion that at some point the film is going to get good orthere’ll be some breakthrough performance…”
To end the evening Rainer read his eulogy to the person he considers the greatest actor of all time, Marlon Brando. A sincere hush fell over the students as they listened to the ups and downs of Brando’s career and how, through it all, he remained the best at his craft.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for his time and insight. Calderon highly suggests reading Rainer’s book, Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in Turbulent and Transformative Era. This is a great book for film lovers and creators and gives a broad history of one of the medium’s best critics. You can catch reviews from Rainer at the Christian Science Monitor and on NPR’s FilmWeek.
Not only does the New York Film Academy provide an intensive hands-on experience, but it also sometimes plays the role of matchmaker for actors, filmmakers, writers and other creative artists to begin a professional relationship that will last far beyond their years as students.
Such is the case for two alumni, Sara Seligman and Thomas Bond, who met at NYFA and began a working relationship as writing partners. Sara and Tom first met while taking the One-Year Filmmaking Program in 2007. The two initially worked on each other’s thesis films – Sara was Tom’s AD and Tom was Sara’s DP. After school they continued collaborating, and currently they have several feature film scripts that they’ve co-written.
One of their screenplays, Falcon Lake, was awarded a TriBeCa Film Institute Grant, which brought about the attention of potential film financiers and production companies. Through that attention, the team found producer, Anne Clements, and attached Oscar-nominee Adriana Barraza to play one of the leading roles. And more recently, Tom and Sara were selected to participate in the 2016 Film Independent Fast Track. Through that they received even more attention, both for their script and as writers in general. They had the opportunity to meet with several more production companies and agencies, such as WME. They have now landed their first investors and are still looking to gather the remainder of the production budget.
Falcon Lake began at NYFA as Sara’s first-year thesis film, Blessed the Fruit of Thy Womb. Her short was the seed that began the idea, and slowly it grew and evolved into the script it is today.
“The most important thing is to know that the skills we learn in school can be strengthened with practice, from directing to lighting to writing,” says Seligman in regards to her time at NYFA. “NYFA taught us that, when it comes to filmmaking, going out and doing the work is the only way to succeed, and repetition is the way to turn the work from decent to good to great,” added Bond.
Sara Seligman on set
In addition to their writing careers, both Sara and Tom have spent time working on film and TV sets, including The Mindy Project and The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. “Working on TV and film sets has been extremely important in furthering my career,” said Seligman. “We can learn a lot in film school, but practical experience is invaluable. When applying for jobs, it’s the experience that matters most. Getting on-set experience helps me to learn all facets of the filmmaking process.”
“Working on set, you learn to manage the different legs of a project, and the personalities involved,” added Bond. “I love the challenge of working as a team under pressurized constraints, like budget and time restrictions. You really learn who is capable of what, and who will be around for the long haul in an industry that is very unforgiving.”
Thomas Bond at LA Film Festival
Sara and Tom continue to develop and collaborate on screenplays while holding steady jobs in the creative field. Sara is currently working as an Associate Producer at the ad agency Innocean. Before that, she was Jennifer Todd’s assistant on Ben Affleck’s Live By Night and key set PA for The Mindy Project. “I’m proud of the evolvement that each project has meant, and that I was able to work for one of my favorite directors on Live by Night with one of the best DPs in the world Bob Richardson,” said Seligman.
For the past several years, Tom has spent much of his time in the documentary world. “My proudest achievement is definitely getting the chance to work with Albert Maysles at his production company in Harlem, which I did for two years,” said Bond. “Working with a legend, who was so nice, smart, and giving, is an experience I’ll treasure forever. Rest In Peace, Albert!”
A group of recent New York Film Academy alumni have teamed together to create a production company called Kaleidocircle Productions. Established as fifteen eager actors looking to continue their journey together, they are now a solid group of 12; Aleigha Spinks, Will Parker, Max Turner, Esther Van Zyl, Cesar Brandi, Vitoria Mattos, Laika Lalonde, Victoria Ruud, Natalia Garcez, Ana Paula Marques, Litha Bam and Jen Theophilus.
The production team, a multi-cultural film ensemble, collaborates with actors, filmmakers, writers, photographers, and musicians. They are working to provide high quality entertainment on a global platform while maintaining a level of intimacy and magnitude with their audience. Kaleidocircle strives to provoke, spark, and affect every walk of life the best way possible.
“Our team thrives on creativity and success from every corner of the globe,” said Aleigha K. Spinks, Managing Director.
Working within the LGBTQ community is very important to the company, with many of its founding members being a part of the community. Providing opportunities for not just young creatives, but minorities, alike. No matter the level of experience, Kaleidocircle is always willing to assist in the development of creative individuals.
“I have managed to not only act, but, write, direct and produce original material of high quality thanks to our companies network of artists across 6 continents,” said Will Parker, Artistic Director.
K-Circle, as they like to abbreviate sometimes, has created contemporary promotional material for the non-profit organization, Hetrick Martin Institute. They will also be producing their first professional short film in the fall — a story inspired by the true events of the gas explosions in New York City. They hope to touch their audience, evoking raw and honest emotions, while relaying a message of hope to each and every one of us.
What started out as Thomas Della Bella’s final thesis film at New York Film Academy has now turned into a feature horror film coming out in theaters and iTunes worldwide on August 5th. Written, directed and edited by Della Bella, The Remains stars Todd Lowe (True Blood), Samuel Larsen (Glee), Nikki Hahn (American Horror Story), Lisa Brenner (The Patriot), Brooke Butler (All Cheerleaders Must Die), Hannah Rose Nordberg (General Hospital) and Ashley Crow (Minority Report).
With the NYFA BFA graduate’s film due out in a week, we thought we’d ask him a few questions about his film and his career as a filmmaker after NYFA.
Congratulations on THE REMAINS! Can you tell us how this film come about?
The Remains is the feature length version of my final year thesis short film Open House. I graduated the BFA Filmmaking program in late 2013 in Los Angeles. I knew going into my thesis film that I wanted to make a short film that could be used as a proof of concept for a feature. So, essentially, I wrote a 15 page mini-feature that followed a family that moves into a Victorian house. I broke the script down into three traditional acts with every 5 pages constituting Act I, II and III. So in the final 13 minute film you get this really cool and fast paced haunted house story.
Now, at the time I had an internship at Blumhouse Productions. Blumhouse is the pinnacle of horror and thriller movies out here and I knew from very early on that one day I wanted to be involved with these filmmakers. Some of their titles include: The Purge, Insidious, Paranormal Activity. As I was interning and PAing for them, I was in post production on my thesis film. Once the film was finished, I sent it around the office to everyone I became friendly with. The following day, a co-worker who watched the film called me over to her desk to tell me how much she loved the film and how she was impressed with the quality of the film.
Now let me also mention, the budget of the short film was $5,000 that I raised via Kickstarter. However, the tools that NYFA provided allowed me to elevate the short film to looking like a much bigger budget film.
The co-worker introduced me to an independent producer at the time named Eric Fleischman. I met with him for lunch a few days later and pitched him the feature version. About three months later, the movie was green lit through Eric Fleischman and Sean Tabibian’s genre production company Diablo Entertainment. From that point, we were off to the races. Everything fell into place at rapid speed and the movie was produced on a shoestring budget.
In your own words, what is your film about?
The Remains is, at its core, a homage to the haunted house horror genre. The film follows John and his family after they move into an old Victorian house after the passing of his wife. Soon after moving in, his two youngest children find a chest in the attic that contains a bunch of antiques. From that point on, an item attaches itself to each family member and slowly starts to possess each family member while pitting them against each other.
The themes I explored are all based around the crumbling of the family unit and the idea that you would do anything for the well being of your family.
Were there any influencers that got you into the horror genre?
Yes! Stanley Kubrick by far has to be one of my biggest influences. The Shining is one of my all time favorite films and you will see references of that in The Remains. I was just always blown away by the moodiness and composition of his films and I really wish I had a chance to meet him. But, specifically, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon are my favorites.
I’d also have to say that James Wan and Leigh Whannell are huge influencers of mine. I grew up watching the Saw franchise and those films always left an imprint on my brain. But, I don’t think it was until Insidious in 2010, when I was in my early film school years, that I realized these are the types of films that I want to make and these are the people I aspire to someday work with.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
Thinking back to your time at NYFA. Do you believe your experience prepared you to write, direct, and edit the feature version of THE REMAINS?
Yes, 100%. I learned so much doing my 1 year in NYC and 2 years in LA with the NYFA education model. From the very first day of class, they put a camera in my hand, and honestly, the best learning is by doing. And that is exactly what you do while attending NYFA — you make films. I was very lucky to have such an amazing class that really worked together to make fantastic art. I am still very close with most of my classmates and I hired a few of them to work on my film! I’d also like to point out that many of my teachers at NYFA were extremely supportive of anything I wanted to do or try. I think they definitely helped gear me up to jump into a movie as a first time director.
Was there anything interesting that occurred on set that you’d like to share with us?
Probably the weirdest thing about being on set of The Remains was that fact that we shot the short film at the same house. There are two or three scenes that are exactly the same and untouched that we were shooting for the second time. And it was just a very weird sense of deja vu while doing those scenes. But, we shot the film at this amazing 129 year-old house that had the most fantastic home owners ever. They basically let us take over their house and do whatever we wanted, twice in a row, and that was such a positive experience.
Going back to the fact that the house is now 129 years old…it was just an incredibly creepy house. The second you look at the house from outside you immediately think to yourself, it’s haunted. But, I do remember on numerous occasions that the grip and electric departments were always rushing to get out of the house when we wrapped up every night, because the house is that much creepier at night. There were one or two reports of things moving around on their own, but, for my own sanity, I’ll blame that on the production assistants.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to shoot their first feature?
My biggest piece of advice would be to make a short film with the goal of a feature version behind it. This way when you write the feature version, you have this amazing proof of concept to show potential investors and producers. Also, students should take advantage of crowd-sourcing sites like Indigogo and Kickstarter.
The best move I made early on was getting an internship at a company I was truly interested in. Interning lead to set work and, honestly, I learned the most while working in a production office and being on big budget sets.
Be sure to check out The Remains in theaters and iTunes August 5th!
The King of Queens paid a visit to lower Manhattan this past Friday, as the New York Film Academy welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James. James began his career in stand up and eventually moved over to television where he rose to stardom playing the role of Doug Heffernan in the CBS comedy The King of Queens. James’ career moved over to film when he teamed up with Will Smith in Hitch, and then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. James would go on to star in several other comedic films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and others.
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
As an additional surprise, James brought with him writer and former NYFA student, Michael Soccio, as well as writer and producer Leo Severino. Soccio has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The King of Queens. He’s also done numerous re-writes and script doctoring for major motion pictures such as Hitch, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black 2 & 3. Severino produced Bella, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and is developing the film Mary, based on the biblical character.
James opened by discussing how he broke into the business, which came about from stand up and performing. “It’s about getting out there and really getting comfortable in that space,” said James. He stressed the importance of humility, adding, “You are going to fail without a doubt.” The key is to continue to hone your craft until you are comfortable and confident enough to own it.
As James looked around the full classroom of acting and filmmaking students, he said, “I wish I had this experience. If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”
Soccio added in the fact that his experience in the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 1997 is what truly elevated his craft as writer. “You can never learn too much,” Soccio said. “I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a much better writer.”
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
A key element that James kept coming back to was the idea of surrounding yourself with a great team. He admitted to his own faults of sometimes not seeing the full picture in a film or project and seeking the advice of his directors and writers, who “can see the whole landscape.”
Another important piece of advice given by each guest was the notion that you can never stop learning. A student concluded the day by asking James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” To this, James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”
NYFA thanks Kevin James, Michael Soccio, and Leo Severino for taking the time out to speak to our students in such a down-to-earth manner, and looks forward to their upcoming projects, including the new CBS series, Kevin Can Wait.
The New York Film Academy recently welcomed distinguished ICM talent agent, Boaty Boatwright, who has been in the business for fifty years. Moderated by producer Tova Laiter, the gracious guest fielded questions from a packed theater of filmmaking, producing, and acting students at 17 Battery Place.
Producer Tova Laiter with ICM Agent Boaty Boatwright at NYFA
Boatwright began her career as a children’s casting assistant in New York for such iconic films as To Kill A Mockingbird and the original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Boatwright also served as an executive for major film studios including MGM, Columbia, and Universal.
As a casting agent, Boatwright worked closely with legendary directors including Norman Jewison, John Huston, Sydney Pollack, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ridley Scott.
After moving into the role of a talent agent, Boatwright began representing directors such as Alan Pakula, Sidney Lumet, and notable actors, Joanne Woodward Paul Newman. Her current client list includes Stephen Frears (Academy Award Nomination), Tom Hooper (Academy Award Winner) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Academy Award Winner).
While acknowledging how difficult the business can be to break in, Boatwright stressed the importance of pushing work at the film festivals, especially Toronto and Sundance. It is often the writer/directors job to be his or her own producer before gaining the attention of an agent. Most agents need to see proven work under a young filmmaker’s belt before they considering signing them. “Finding an agent is the hardest and most important part of the business,” she said.
Tova Laiter and Boaty Boatwright
Several actors from the audience also inquired about being cast as foreigners in American films. Boatwright understood the challenges involved, but stressed the importance of owning your cultural background and finding roles that could highlight what it is that makes your audition different than what’s expected.
Another fascinating moment of the evening came when Boatwright touched on a time she had worked with Alfred Hithcock, recalling the posh London hotel suites and expensive wine that Hitchcock would enjoy at lunch. In a time when California wine was just becoming popular Hitchcock told Boatwright, “I’ll never drink California wine.”
Few can claim the amount of experience that Boatwright has had in the entertainment industry, which leaves us extremely thankful for the time she spent enlightening our students on the path ahead.
As a part of Six-Week 16mm & HD New York Film Academy Filmmaking Camp our students learn how to actually shoot on film. Why, you may ask? Well, regardless of the fact that nowadays digital imaging is equivalent or maybe even surpassing the technical capabilities of film, many productions are still shot on film. This means that knowing how to work with 16mm is still a precious skill in the industry.
Recently, at a beautiful location at the Griffith Park, the students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with film for the very first time. Have a look for yourself!