• Former Summer Camp Student Produces Award-Winning Videos

    Often times kids discover their life’s passion at an early age. Such has been the case for Charlie Cracknell, who says he knew he wanted to be a professional filmmaker since he was nine years old when he made his first film.

    The former New York Film Academy Los Angeles Summer Camp student, born in England and raised in Dubai for 14 years, has been actively pursuing the life of a filmmaker; and has the awards to prove it.

    charlie cracknell

    In the last four years, Charlie has entered the Dubai 48 Hour Film Project where he has had to write the script and original music, cast, direct, film and edit a movie in 48 hours. In 2011, Charlie’s film Alone was voted Top 10 in Dubai and he won the award for Best Use of Character. In 2012, his entry Dish of the Day made it into the finals and was voted the Favorite Film of the Screening Night and won the Grand Audience Award and the Award for Most Promising Filmmaker. In 2013 Dish of the Day also earned him a nomination for Best Young Filmmaker at the Murdoch Film Festival in Dubai.

    In 2013 Charlie entered the 48 Hour Eco Film Project with his film Enviro-Man which won the award for Best Youth Film and screened at the 2013 Youth Eco Summit in Sydney, Australia. Enviro-Man then went on to win Best Junior Film at the 2014 THIMUN Qatar Film Festival. This film was also an official selection for the 2014 International Student Film Festival, Hollywood.

    In 2014 Charlie produced a short commercial for a local ice cream company ‘Desert Chill’ which was very well received. Later, he submitted a film to the Sydney Parramatta SciFi Film festival in Australia. Doubles was a finalist and received a nomination for Best Special Effects.

    Charlie then went on to enter the 2014 Dubai 48 Hour Film Project and his film Mission HXK was awarded prizes for Best Use of Prop, Best Costume, Best Writer, Best Director and Best Film runner up.

    Charlie’s most recent film, an advocacy short film on the dangers of texting and driving entitled Safe Driving Saves Lives had been nominated for Best Picture and Best Editing awards at the 2015 THIMUN Qatar Film Festival in April where he took home the Best Editing Prize. Safe Driving Saves Lives later went on to win the award for Best Public Announcement in the 2015 International Student Film Festival Hollywood.

    Charlie was featured as a “Dubai Home Grown Hero” in Dubai What’s On/Good Magazine and also in the Khaleej Times. That same year he also attended a Digital Filmmaking summer program at New York Film Academy where he was able to film on the famous Universal Studios backlot.

    “NYFA not only taught me more about the technical aspects of filmmaking but the whole process of production as well,” said Cracknell.

    In March 2016 after many requests for another Road Safety film, Charlie created Click, which was well received and endorsed by Road Safety UAE and later by VOX cinemas who are currently showing it in their 180 screens across the UAE, Oman and Lebanon for 2 months.

    Charlie plans to continue making films while he completes his schooling and then further develop his skills at a university in the United States, and NYFA is certainly on his radar.

    May 20, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1670

  • MFA Student Composes Musical Score for Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea”

    On May 4th, students at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy enjoyed a screening and Q&A of the Ron Howard film In the Heart of the Sea. On hand to discuss the film was the composer of its musical score and current NYFA Filmmaking MFA student, Roque Baños.

    Originally from Spain, Roque is an acclaimed film composer whose credits include The Machinist, Sexy Beast, the 2013 remake of Evil Dead, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, and many award-winning films from Spain, including the 2004 hit El Crimen Ferpecto.

    Roque Baños

    Roque Baños

    Roque was trained as a jazz saxophonist and classical composer, and he brings an eclectic blend of styles to his film scores, making him a much sought after composer for filmmakers of all genres.

    In addition to mastering many musical genres, Roque doesn’t rely solely on traditional instruments for his scores. For In the Heart of the Sea, Roque created samples for his score by bringing the actual whaling ship from the film into the famed Abbey Road Studios in London and playing it like a percussion instrument.

    This willingness to work beyond the typical is what makes Roque’s scores so appealing and memorable. When the moderator, NYFA’s Dean of the College Sonny Calderon, asked Roque about his approach, Roque replied, “Music is all experimentation. You never know what could make your movie more powerful. The best thing to do is collaborate with someone, and experiment. Fifty percent of the movie is sound. You might have a good movie, but if you have the wrong music, your movie will be bad.”

    When Sonny asked how Roque was hired for the film, he explained that legendary composer Hans Zimmer (Batman v Superman, Interstellar, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean) recommended him for the job. After meeting with Ron Howard, Roque was hired. This story illustrated the importance of having a network of collaborators who support you and your work.

    When a student asked what kind of language a director should use when working with a composer, Roque responded, “You have to say what you expect from the music, just as you do with any actor; it’s the same emotions.”

    Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon with Roque Baños

    NYFA’s Dean of the College Sonny Calderon with Roque Baños

    Finally, Roque explained that he wanted to earn an MFA in Filmmaking from New York Film Academy in order to better understand the entire filmmaking process. In this way, he said, his musical contributions to film can be even more effective.

    Roque’s latest work can be seen in the biblical epic Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) and directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, The Count of Monte Cristo, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

    We thank Roque for sharing his wisdom with our students, and wish him continued great success.

    May 19, 2016 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 803

  • NYFA Grad to Release Action Thriller “Gridlocked”

    gridlockedComing off of his directorial debut, Tapped Out, Toronto native and former New York Film Academy student Allan Ungar returns to the action genre with his film, Gridlocked. Written and directed by Ungar, and co-written by Rob Robol, the film stars frequent NYFA guest speaker Stephen Lang, as well as Danny Glover and Dominic Purcell.

    Gridlocked is about a former SWAT leader and a hard partying movie star who have to cut their ride-along short when a police training facility is overrun by a team of mercenaries. It’s a throwback to 80’s and 90’s era action films that spawned the buddy cop genre.

    Recently, we had a chance to chat with the writer/director before his film’s release On Demand and BluRay / DVD this upcoming June 17th, 2016.

    Are you primarily interested in creating action films?

    I’ve always been fascinated with the action genre; there’s a great adrenaline rush to it. My goal is to continue pursuing projects that have action in them but they need to have heart. I don’t think audiences care about action unless they’re invested in the stories and the characters. Ideally, I’d like to work on films that can resonate with viewers. I want projects that are largely character driven so that the set pieces have more impact.

    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of writing and directing GRIDLOCKED?

    NYFA helped me build and utilize the basic skills that eventually lead to writing and directing Gridlocked. In the three summers I spent doing workshops, I found that the fundamentals of filmmaking were largely grasped due to NYFA’s intensive and hands on programming. The ability to grab a camera and work with industry professionals vastly helped kickstart my career.

    When did you and Rob begin your working relationship? Did you meet while at NYFA?

    Rob and I met in my final year at NYFA. He was a counselor and I was a student. We became friendly, but it wasn’t until he saw the shorts I was making that he got excited. Most people thought I was crazy for trying to bring guns on the Universal Backlot. He applauded it. After that, it was happily ever after. We began writing scripts immediately.

    You’ve worked with Lionsgate, and now Magnolia and Magnet to get your film distributed. Can you tell me how you’ve formed these relationships or how that came about?

    It’s kind of the same thing with trying to break into the industry in the first place; you knock on a lot of doors and you try to turn heads. Lionsgate came from cold calling and sending around a trailer. With Gridlocked, it was a lot easier because there was already a foundation that was built. Sales agents had already become familiar with us and distributors remembered our conversations from the first film. When we got invited to premiere Gridlocked at Fantastic Fest in Austin, there were a lot of agents and buyers who attended the screenings. We got to shake hands and get to know more about that side of the business and expand our list of contacts. In the end, we were fortunate that we had several options lined up for the film, but Magnolia was ultimately the right home.

    Allan Ungar

    Allan Ungar

    Was there something you learned from TAPPED OUT that you were able to implement or correct in GRIDLOCKED?

    Like anything, you learn a great deal from your first experience. You get accustomed to the inordinate amount of pressure that falls on you as captain of the ship. There’s a lot of do’s and don’ts that you pick up pretty quickly, but you’re always learning and adapting. Being extremely prepared is one of the most vital things I took away from Tapped Out. Even though I considered myself prepped and focused, there were so many things that happened on a daily basis which made me realize that I hadn’t even scratched the surface. When things don’t go as you planned, you need to think on your toes and be more creative. Having learned that the hard way on my first film definitely paved the way for some great scenes in Gridlocked. Being able to communicate your vision is also extremely imperative, especially when you’re under the gun and the clock is ticking. Gridlocked was such a daunting task, so I’m glad that I got to go through boot camp with my first film.

    Are you currently working on anything else?

    I was recently brought on to write a new action film for director Dominic Sena called Johhny Two Guns. He did Gone in 60 Seconds and Swordfish. Another NYFA alum is actually producing that; Alex Lebo. I also just produced a thriller with Rose McGowan and Christopher Lloyd called Lower Bay, which should be out later this year.

    May 19, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 909

  • Grad to Screen Two Shorts at Cannes Short Film Corner Before Releasing First Feature

    your secretNew York Film Academy One Year Filmmaking and 4-Week Producing graduate Anthony James Faure’s short film, Your Secret, will be showcased at the Short Film Corner in Cannes this year and will be available throughout the whole event in their video library (from May 16th to May 22nd, 2016). A special screening will also be held on May 19th, at 4:20PM in screening room PALAIS G.

    Shot in New York, the film is the French native’s first American film, which stars Jason Arcaro, Leah J. Clark, Giacomo Rocchini, Felipe Muñoz and Scott Schutzman.

    The story surrounds George, a building concierge who blackmails random people in New York, always asking for the same amount of money, pretending that he knows their secrets. One day, he blackmails the wrong person—his neighbor Harley—who just so happens to be an art thief

    Also showing at Cannes, from Les Films de l’Ours, is Rosetta’s Blues, produced by Faure and directed by another One-Year Filmmaking graduate, Rabia Sultana.

    The story is about Rosetta, who finds it difficult to come to terms with her father’s passing. She acts out in theatrical and amusing ways as methods of coping until she finds Harvey, a man who inspires her and helps her along her journey. Rosetta’s Blues will screen on May 19th at 3:45pm in screening room Palais H.

    With two short films being showcased, Faure is hard at work in post-production of his first feature film Kids with Guns, co-written with Antony Renault and produced in 2014 through an online French crowdfunding platform, KissKissBankBank.

    Check out the first teaser before its launch at festivals later this year.

    TEASER KIDS WITH GUNS from Les Films de l’Ours on Vimeo.

    May 16, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1062

  • “Red Velvet” Crushed it at Latest Independent Horror Movie Awards

    red velvetHorror Red Velvet turned out to be a very successful first directing experience for New York Film Academy BFA Filmmaking student Valerio Mazzarella. His thriller, about recovering ambiguously addicted couple who struggle to adapt and live a normal life, recently won Best Short, Best Actor for Klemen Novak, Best Director for Valerio Mazzarella and Best Supporting Role for Jean-Paul Barjon at the Independent Horror Movie Awards (April, 2016).

    “The main idea of this movie is that madness is always close to you,” said Mazzarella. “People hide behind masks and you never even really know who your neighbors are and what they do behind their doors.”

    To create this project Valerio Mazzarella teamed up with NYFA alumni producers, Keline Kanoui and Konstantin Frolov. They say that if you have a clear idea of what you would like to shoot, NYFA gives you all the needed resources. The rest depends on your true desire to be a filmmaker — you can’t get lazy in this very competitive business.

    “What is also very important is knowing how the equipment works and you can’t learn it once you’re on a real set,” stated Mazzarella. “At NYFA we have very intensive hands-on training. Each Filmmaking student tries different roles in the crew.”

    Red Velvet team is planning to screen their movie at several other festivals this year, including Russian International Horror Film Award, Independent Horror Movie Awards (January 2017), Move Me Productions Belgium Short Film Festival. And currently the same team is working together on a new horror called Big Bad Beast.

    May 13, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1031

  • Filmmakers Meet Composers Through “Speed Dates”


    What happens when thirty composers meet thirty filmmakers and have five minutes to introduce themselves and then move on? It may sound like an exercise in speed dating but the object of the Meet a Composer event held recently at New York Film Academy Los Angeles was not new relationships but new collaborations.

    NYFA documentary and narrative filmmakers met with composers and song writers from the Sundance Composers Lab, the Los Angeles College of Music, UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, and the Academy of Scoring Arts.

    nyfa students

    “I loved the experience,” said Documentary MFA student Jake Garcia. “The speed dating format took the pressure off of mingling and I made lots of contacts.”

    Several collaborations were forged between filmmakers and composers and we’ll see the results soon. Multiple NYFA films featuring scores written by attendees will be ready for screening by the end of the year.

    May 10, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking • Views: 2053

  • “Good Luck Chuck” Screening at NYFA Los Angeles

    On Thursday, April 21st, New York Film Academy students were treated to a screening and Q & A of the hit Dane Cook / Jessica Alba romantic comedy, Good Luck Chuck. Director Mark Helfrich and Director of Cinematography / NYFA Chair of Cinematography, Tony Richmond, A.S.C., B.S.C., spoke with students at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. Sonny Calderon, NYFA’s Dean of the College, moderated the discussion.

    nyfa good luck chuck

    NYFA Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon; Cinematography Chair, Tony Richmond; Director Mark Helfrich

    When asked how the movie came together, Helfrich said, “I’ve always wanted to direct,” which sent him on the search for scripts. He finally took on Good Luck Chuck, which at that time was a much softer romantic comedy, deciding to turn it into the very sexy R-rated romantic comedy that it became. Commenting on the value of the writing process in the development of the film, Helfrich said, “A screenwriter is worth his weight in gold.” He went on to add that a good script is one where you can’t wait to get to the next page.

    Being relatively new to directing after establishing himself as an editor, Helfrich now had to work with actors in a new way. Sonny Calderon asked him how he went about learning those new skills. Helfrich drew on his experience on previous sets in a non-directorial capacity, when he would visit the set as an editor and watch the director work with actors.

    The conversation turned to the relationship of directing to editing. Helfrich said that some directors have the movie cut in their head before they shoot, tying that to clarity of vision. This clarity of vision from a director, he said, also influences the amount of coverage directors use to cover the scene, saying also that he leans toward the minimum amount of coverage required. Sonny went on to add that a lot of reshooting tends to kill energy on the part of actors, particularly in a comedy. Helfrich said that the current trend is to “over cover” scenes.

    Sonny asked Helfrich about the emergence of digital editing and the differences between that and film editing. Helfrich said that he likes both, adding about film, “It was tangible.”  When asked what he looks for in a director, Tony told the audience to look for someone they like, adding, “I’ve never worked with anybody I didn’t like.”

    May 6, 2016 • Cinematography, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers • Views: 862

  • Screenwriting Grad’s “Business” to Screen at Cannes Cinéfondation

    businessFor those of us in the film industry, the month of May has always been synonymous with the Cannes International Film Festival. This year’s festival, the 69th since its inception, will run from May 11-22nd, with Woody Allen’s Café Society being its opening film.

    In more recent years, part of the prestigious festival is the Cinéfondation, which selects some of the best short films from young filmmakers around the country. This highly competitive competition is often the goal of many of our students and graduates. This year, the New York Film Academy proudly recognizes Malena Vain, who studied at our 8-Week Screenwriting Workshop in 2014. Vain’s short film, Business, is an official selection in the Cinéfondation.

    The Short Films Jury—presided over by Japanese director and writer Naomi Kawase, as well as Marie-Josée Croze, Jean-Marie Larrieu, Radu Muntean and Santiago Loza—will be awarding prizes for three of the 18 student films shown as part of the Cinéfondation selection. The jury must also name the Short Film Palme d’or winner from among the 10 “In Competition” films selected. This will be awarded at the closing ceremony of the “69th Festival de Cannes” on Sunday, May 22nd.

    We had the opportunity to ask Ms. Vain a few questions about her and Business before she heads off to Cannes.

    Can you tell us a little bit about your film, Business — what is about?

    A girl, alongside her guitar, reunites with her father in a hotel room. He’s a business man on a visit to Argentina, the country he once called home. She’s back from playing at a concert. Night falls between those four white walls, until the sun rises again.

    Where did the idea for this film derive from?

    It was slowly cooking for a couple of years. I first saw a site-specific type of a play called “Showcase,” by Richard Maxwell, which was staged in an actual hotel room. You were literally told to enter the room and sit there, while a man would perform the play. From then on, I was instantly attracted to the feeling of the hotel room, and its potential to create stories. These rooms are set in a way to make you feel comfortable, warm and safe, but in reality they’re also really impersonal and empty spaces. However, in a way, those places make you feel like nothing but who you are. The world is fast and chaotic outside, but inside the hotel room, time stops for you.

    Once I got this straight, I also had two characters I wanted to explore. I thought it would be interesting to make them meet in this type of space, after a long time.

    BUSINESS (2016) – TRAILER from Malena Vain on Vimeo.
    Would you say your experience at NYFA was useful in terms of writing and directing this film?

    Yes, for sure. My screenwriting skills definitely improved at NYFA. I had never had such intensive writing workshops or full knowledge of classical structures to generate conflicts and transform characters. It’s not easy. At first, you are really conscious of these tools and try hard to follow the rules, but then you let go and just write. Ben Maraniss, one of my teachers at NYFA, would ask us to write twenty pages in two or three days — it sounded impossible, but it really isn’t. As Kate Kirtz used to say, when you have a deadline there is no time for creative blocking. Eventually you incorporate what you learn in class and don’t feel so stressed out about finishing a script. If you keep your enthusiasm up, you will write something you can be proud of—even though you’ll always find mistakes—because you’re human and creativity is never perfect (and it shouldn’t). I’m also trying to refresh the pitching skills I learned with Nick Yellen, since I’m only two weeks away from Cannes Film Festival, those could be really useful now!

    Is your feature screenplay related to this film or another idea?

    Not really. However, I’d say they have similar topics in common. I’m really interested in distance between humans, and all problems regarding communication to bond with someone, especially in a time where our virtual selves are so present and our real selves are so concerned about our virtual selves. It’s hard to connect to what you really feel and what you really want. In my screenplays the question usually is: “Who would you like to share your time with?”

    I’m also fascinated about cities, and that love-hate relationship you have with the place you live in. My NYFA script was set in New York, and the city played an important role to make the story move forward, even with the obstacles. Business, even though it’s mainly about a father-daughter relationship in contemporary life, also talks about life in my hometown, Buenos Aires.

    Business will be screening on Friday, May 20 at 11:00a.m. (Cinéfondation programme 4) in Buñuel Theatre on the 5th floor of the Palais des Festivals.

    May 4, 2016 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1097

  • Screenwriting Instructor and NYFA Alumnus Team up for “Pali Road”

    pali roadWritten by New York Film Academy Screenwriting instructor Doc Pedrolie and directed by NYFA Beijing alumnus Jonathan Lim, the romantic thriller Pali Road opened April 29th in selected AMC, Regal and Consolidated theaters nationwide. Pedrolie has pitched and developed projects at Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Fox, Fox 21, Jerry Bruckheimer, Parkes/MacDonald, Brillstein, and Gaunt Television. Before that, he worked as a story analyst for Amazon Studios for seven years. Lim has over 10 years’ experience in Film and Television in the Chinese market. He has created and produced several ongoing TV series for such international companies as the NBA, World Poker Tour and Sony Pictures Dr.Oz.

    Pali Road, a US-China co-production, stars Michelle Chen (You Are the Apple of My Eye), Jackson Rathbone (Twilight series), Sung Kang (Fast and Furious series) and Henry Ian Cusick (Lost, the 100). It was produced by Daxing Zhang, Cathy Lee, Kenneth Burke, and Jonathan Lim. Anthony Lim of Cuixing Media Group, Jon Chiew of Huace Media Group Grace Zhang and Geng Ling of Dadi Digital Cinema & China Film Assist, and Ricardo S. Galindez and Roy J. Tjioe of Island Film Group serve as executive producers.

    The story is a mysterious and thrilling journey in search for true love between two different worlds. Lily (Chen), a young doctor, wakes up from a car accident and discovers she is living a completely different life. Now married to her boyfriend’s rival, Dr. Mitch Kayne (Kang), and a mother to a 5-year-old son, she has an established life she remembers nothing about. Everyone around her denies that her boyfriend Neil (Rathbone) ever existed. As Lily begins to doubt her own sanity, memories of Neil resurface, causing her to encounter unexplainable incidents. While desperately searching for the truth of her past life, she questions her entire existence; but in the end, she discovers the meaning of true love.

    The film has already been nominated for the Grand Jury Award for Best Feature Narrative Film at the upcoming 32nd Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Pali Road also received an Honorable mention for Best Feature Narrative at CAAMFest 2016 and was nominated for the Halekulani Award for Best Feature Narrative at last year’s Hawaii International Film Festival.

    See Pali Road is select theaters now!

    May 3, 2016 • Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 786

  • Grad’s Thesis “The Nutcracker Princess” Rakes in Festival Awards

    Students graduating from New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking Department typically leave the course with the experience and finished product, a thesis film, which is often used as their calling card into the world of entertainment. Former student, Lorenzo Lanzillotti, says his NYFA experience was immediately helpful from day one, as it gave him more of an understanding of the production process involved in the making of a film. Upon graduating, Lanzillotti took his film on the road and received numerous awards and festival screenings for his thesis film, The Nutcracker Princess (not to be mistaken for The Nutcracker Prince). To put things into perspective we’ve listed his festival accomplishments below:
    • nutcracker princessBest short competition – Award of recognition for best short
    • MOFF Film festival – Best international short selection
    • Ferrara film festival – Best international short selection
    • United international film festival – Best director nominee
    • Miami independent film festival – Best short selection
    • Cordoba International film festival – Best short selection
    • Roma cinema doc – Best international short selection
    • International independent film awards – Silver award for best short – Silver award for best director
    • Hollywood international moving pictures film festival – Award of recognition for best short
    The award-winning film, The Nutcracker Princess, tells the story of a popular actress in the process of developing a character for her upcoming film—based on the last days of the life of a Broadway star—who embraces an introspective experience that is able to affect the perception of her own life.
    the nutcracker princess

    “I wrote the script with a clear idea of showing the two different faces of the same world,” said Lanzillotti. “In this case, the acting one. This short film is a psychological war between the youngest, most popular Hollywood actress, and Broadway’s most notable rising star. I wanted to see how the concept of the acting experience is interpreted in two completely different ways between these two worlds, so similar, but at the same time only divided by a thin line that defines the real expression of acting and the way that the audience experiences it.”

    Lanzillotti recommends submitting thesis films to festivals, recognizing how rewarding the experience is both literally and from a general standpoint for him, his cast and the crew. Though, the festival run is still far from over for him, as he anticipates screening at several other festivals this year.

    May 2, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1075