• BFA Filmmaker Wins Best Foreign Film at Williamsburg Film Fest

    alon juwal

    Director Alon Juwal with actor Yair Grimberg and Tahunia (the dog)

    With award season in full swing, it’s always a great honor when students and alumni of our own are recipients of these awards. Such was the case for BFA Filmmaking student, Alon Juwal, who won Best Foreign Film at the Williamsburg Film Festival in Brooklyn, and was an official selection at the Student Filmmaker Awards and the Viewster Online Film Festival.

    His award-winning film, Castor, tells the story of an Israeli Army Dog Handler who takes his dying dog for one last walk before he is put down. The idea stemmed from a news story on Israeli television, in which Castor’s handler narrated the events leading up to Castor’s death. It was a story of bond and sacrifice that Juwal felt must be told.

    Juwal decided to attend NYFA because of its access to cutting-edge equipment — like the RED camera — that he was unable to access back at home in Israel. One of the benefits about studying at the New York Film Academy is the student’s ability to be bi-coastal. Like many of our degree students, Juwal began his BFA in Filmmaking at NYFA’s New York campus for a year, and is currently finishing his degree with two years at our Los Angeles campus. In essence, he’s getting the best of both worlds.

    castor set

    “My experience at NYFA has been extremely useful,” said Juwal. “I owe much credit to two of my instructors: my directing teacher Tassos Rigopoulos, who taught me the foundations of directing and how to handle a crew; and Claude Kerven, who helped me find my original voice and made me the storyteller I am today. I definitely recommend NYFA to many prospective students from Israel. I am glad I am able to call NYFA my home, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. It definitely was an amazing ride, and still is!”

    Juwal is currently focusing his work on music videos. This March, he will be shooting a music video for the folk band Yellow Red Sparks, who have are going on tour to entertain thousands of followers.

    February 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 912

  • New York Film Academy Friends & Family on ‘SNL 40′

    nyfa snl

    Last night, NBC and Lorne Michaels managed to manifest the highest population density of celebrities, musicians and comedians into one studio. That studio was 8H, and it was for the 40th anniversary of the iconic sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live. 

    Fans had the opportunity to see old sketches reprised, such as Dan Aykroyd’s Bassamatic, Celebrity Jeopardy, Wayne’s World and countless others. The event included appearances by a star-studded list of celebrities and former hosts like Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin…the list goes on and on. To put it simply, it was like heaven on Earth for SNL fans.

    While being captivated by television history, we recognized some New York Film Academy friends and family.

    Former guest speaker, Molly Shannon, surprised fans with her socially awkward, Catholic school girl character, Mary Katherine Gallagher. Performing in front of some of the most well known and respected entertainers in the world, Mary became very nervous and began smelling her armpits…like this. Though, soon after, she proclaimed that she was still a Superstar!

    Molly Shannon

    Actress & SNL alum, Molly Shannon at a NYFA Guest Speaker Event

    You may have also noticed another former guest speaker and Master Class Filmmaking Instructor James Signorelli. The SNL 40 show paid tribute to Signorelli by giving him his own unique SNL-style graphic during the broadcast. Signorelli has been a part of the show since 1976, having been the film segment producer for more than 400 episodes. He’s considered the king of ad parodies. If you’re thinking of a popular SNL commercial parody right now, James likely produced it.

    Looking back at many of the classic comedy sketches from the early 1980s, you may recall the famous “Synchronized Swimming” sketch with Harry Shearer and Martin Short, or the classic “Assassination of Buckwheat” with Eddie Murphy. What you may or may not know is Claude Kerven, the New York Film Academy in New York City’s Chair of Filmmaking, directed these short comedy films along with many others.

    The New York Film Academy is proud to have connections to the long-standing, ground-breaking show, SNL. Here’s to another 40 years!

  • Oscar Nominated Writer/Director Dan Gilroy Thrills NYFA Students with ‘Nightcrawler’

    nightcrawler screening nyfa

    Mike Civille, Tova Laiter and Dan Gilroy

    On Thursday, February 12, New York Film Academy Los Angeles students gathered at Warner Bros. studios for a screening of Nightcrawler (2014), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, followed by a Q&A with the film’s Oscar-nominated writer/director Dan Gilroy. Nightcrawler is a chilling, brilliant portrait of a driven young man, desperate for work, who muscles into the world of L.A. crime photo journalism, only to become the star of his own story. Mr. Gilroy is an experienced Hollywood screenwriter – his credits include Two for the Money (Al Pacino & Matthew McConaughey), Real Steel (Hugh Jackman), and The Bourne Legacy (Jeremy Renner) – and Nightcrawler is his directorial debut. He also wrote the film, and his efforts were rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA Dean Mike Civille.

    Nightcrawler is the type of film that makes a lasting impression and forces you to think. Hollywood movies almost always feature a redeeming hero with a character arc, and these rules are rarely questioned. However, Mr. Gilroy admits to purposefully making a film with no character arc at all, since this Hollywood standard doesn’t translate to real life. Instead, Louis Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, doesn’t change throughout the course of the film and he doesn’t learn a single thing that makes him a “better person.” To that end, he says that he intentionally did not create a backstory for Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, to avoid falling into the trap of creating another conventional Hollywood character. The result is a complicated, attractive, yet morally ambiguous protagonist, and an emotionally stirring film that incites much debate on narrative convention and morality in the movies.

    dan gilroy

    Write/director Dan Gilroy

    Because he made the film outside of the studio system, Mr. Gilroy also says that he had the opportunity to take an unorthodox approach to the screenplay format as well. He says that his script includes no scene headings, no INT. or EXT. indications for locations, no parentheticals, and minimal to no character description. He also played with font size and ellipses, developing a screenplay that reflected his stream of consciousness rather than a traditionally structured script. He recommend that the students read the script as an example of how different a screenplay can be, and described these alternative creative techniques in one word: FREEING.

    Mr. Gilroy acknowledged that he wanted to make a film that commented on today’s world, which is focused on “hyper-capitalism” and the predator/prey nature of success. While Louis Bloom has sociopathic tendencies, Mr. Gilroy suggested that Louis’s behavior is a product of modern society, in which competition brings out the “amoral animal” in people. He suggests that he and Jake Gyllenhaal saw Louis Bloom as a starved coyote that comes out of the mountains at night to feed. When Gyllenhaal lost 25 pounds for the role, it thus lent his character a hunger that required his survival instincts to kick in. While this was the central subtext of the film, the commentary is never overdone. Mr. Gilroy encouraged the students to make movies that say something, but cautioned them to avoid making a “message movie.”

    Nightcrawler was no easy task for a first time director. The movie was made for a small budget ($8.5 million) and was shot in twenty-eight days with mostly night shoots. Taking this into consideration when experiencing the elevated artistry of the film, it’s truly astounding. There was no room for error when shooting Nightcrawler, yet it seems like a perfect film. How a director with no previous on-set experience pulled that off is mind blowing. Dan Gilroy attributes his success when the odds were against him to his easy-going attitude, and a positive assumption that creativity would allow the best of even the most stressful moments to emerge. He rolled with the punches, collaborated with his team, pushed through, and took ego out of the equation. This is great advice to any director starting out.

    Mr. Gilroy insisted on staying until the long line of students had asked every last question. We sincerely thank Mr. Gilroy for taking his time to visit NYFA and offer an incredibly in depth and entertaining Q&A. We highly anticipate his next great work.

  • BFA Filmmaking Student Wins Student Filmmaker Award

    served coldSimilar to the NCAA Basketball’s March Madness Tournament, the Student Filmmaker Awards’ Audience Choice Award was created for student filmmakers to compete against other film schools, universities and colleges in a 64 film bracket challenge. The films that receive the most votes advance in the bracket until there is only one standing.

    The New York Film Academy is proud to announce that one of our BFA Filmmaking students, Talha Binabdulrahman, won the Audience Choice prize by beating out 63 other films in the competition! As a result, Talha’s film Served Cold screened alongside Student Filmmaker’s Official Selections on January 21st in Heber, UT. The film is also featured on their website at

    His story focuses on a former drug lord, who is sentenced to life in prison after killing an undercover cop. With the help of his shady attorney he has to take desperate measures in order to be with his teenage daughter.

    “I learned a great deal of skills in both directing and writing Served Cold, especially from hands-on workshops,” said Talha in regards to his experience at NYFA.

    In addition to Served Cold‘s exposure from Student Filmmakers, Talha landed a distribution with the SHORTS TV Channel, where its expected to premiere during the second quarter of 2015.

    As for his next project, Talha says he is working on a new crime/comedy project that is inspired by the well known story of Bonnie & Clyde, but with a modern twist. We look forward to seeing it!

    talha awards

    February 9, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 855

  • Military Student Michael Valenzuela Overcomes the Odds


    As an extremely talented musician at a very young age, Michael Valenzuela learned to play over 20 instruments. Performing in diverse ensembles comprised of choir, musicals, marching, jazz, rock, folk and contemporary bands, Valenzuela was nearly a prodigy. Despite that, his artistic talent took a back seat after graduating from high school due to his life-long dream of serving his country as a Naval Aviator.

    Valenzuela enlisted in the United States Naval Academy, even though he could’ve attended the Berklee School of Music. “I joined the Navy because I wanted to be a fighter pilot since I was a little kid and serve our country,” said Valenzuela.

    In 2000, Venezuela received his wings of gold and began a career as a carrier-based F/A-18 Strike/Fighter Pilot. Over the course of his military career between combat operations, Valenzuela was given the unique opportunity to be a Demonstration Air Show Pilot, VIP Liaison, and was introduced to the art of filmmaking by working in front of the camera on over 20 episodes of dramatized training films for the Naval Aviation community.

    His passion for the arts continued while stationed in San Diego. While taking commercial and acting for film workshops, Michael appeared in numerous television shows, movies, commercials, as well as documentaries, which inspired him to work on a travel series called Aviator’s Paradise. It was from there where Valenzuela’s life would take a drastic turn.

    “Unfortunately, both my aviation and acting careers were brought to a sudden and tragic halt due to a work accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down for a span of two years,” recalled Valenzuela. “After two major reconstructive surgeries and years of rehabilitation, I returned to the cockpit as an Advanced Aerobatic and Emergency Maneuver Training Instructor. During my recovery, I discovered Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP), becoming a Professional Athlete in the arena of SUP and Snowkiting, and recently became a Crossfit instructor.”

    Turning his life around tenfold, Valenzuela found a new calling in athletics and reaching out to other Disabled Veterans. He began volunteering a considerable amount of his time mentoring and coaching other disabled athletes. He essentially became an ambassador for Disabled Veterans in local and international competition and his accomplishments were featured on an AT&T Uverse Sports series about inspirational athletes.

    With a diverse range of hurdles and accomplishments behind him and with the help and guidance of the staff and students at the New York Film Academy, Valenzuela is enthusiastic about returning other passions of his: acting and filmmaking.

    “I wanted to continue working in the film industry and improve my skill set from a reputable institution. I am looking forward to exploring my passions for motion picture storytelling and have the ability and desire to not only act in front of the camera, but I look forward to collaborating with other artists in a creative environment, obtaining the all-around filmmaking experience to ensure my success within the profession.”

    As a current student, the sky is the limit in terms of what projects Valenzuela would like to pursue after graduation. Though, his interests as of now lie in commercials, travel shows, adventure documentaries and feature films.

    With Valenzuela’s proven track record of overcoming arduous obstacles, we believe he has a bright future ahead of him in the sometimes daunting pursuit of filmmaking and acting.

    February 4, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1119

  • Producer Mohammed Al Turki Visits NYFA and Brings Special Surprise Guest Michelle Rodriguez


    (from left to right) actress Michelle Rodriguez, producer Mohammed Al Turki, director Nicholas Jarecki and co-star Nate Parker

    Last night, Thursday, January 29th, students gathered in the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Theater to view a screening of the financial thriller Arbitrage (Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling, Time Roth), for which its star Richard Gere was nominated for a Golden Globe, and participate in a Q&A with film’s executive producer Mohammed Al Turki. Making impressive moves in the very competitive Hollywood scene, Mohammed Al Turki is quickly cementing himself as an ambitious producer, actor and philanthropist in the industry. Born in Saudi Arabia and educated in London, Al Turki’s call to film caused him to move to Hollywood and launch his career from there. His executive producing credits also include What Maisie Knew (Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Steve Coogan), Adult World (Emma Roberts, Evan Peters, John Cusack), and At Any Price (Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens). His newest film, Desert Dancer, that follows an Iranian dancer who risks everything to start a dance company amidst his home country’s politically volatile climate and the nation’s ban on dancing, is set to release on April 10th. The Q&A was moderated by producer and NYFA instructor Saga Elmotaseb.

    michelle Rodriguez

    The event was advertised as a Q&A with Mr. Al Turki alone, however, to the audience’s surprise Mohammed brought a couple of friends with him. Added first to the Q&A panel was Arbitrage‘s director Nicholas Jarecki and co-star Nate Parker. Nicholas Jarecki, a prodigy who graduated college at age 19, is a director, producer, and writer best known for directing the film The Informers and documentaries The Outsider and Tyson, in addition to Arbitrage. Nate Parker is an actor and musical performer who has appeared in Beyond the LightsRed TailsThe Secret Life of BeesThe Great Debaters, and Pride. Mr. Jarecki announced that he is a New York Film Academy alumnus himself, having attended a filmmaking workshop as a young man at the Princeton campus. Nicholas raised his fist in the air and yelled “Go NYFA!” as the students applauded and cheered.

    But the surprises didn’t stop there. Shortly before the Q&A Mohammed Al Turki notified NYFA that he was bringing yet another special guest with him but wanted to keep their identity a surprise for everyone. Moments before stepping on stage NYFA was notified and the announcement was made during the Q&A panel’s introduction that the secret guest was, in fact, actress Michelle Rodriguez! Known mostly for playing tough-girl roles in Hollywood blockbusters, Michelle Rodriguez, has starred in Resident EvilS.W.A.T., and the Fast & Furious series, of which the latest installment, Furious 7, will be release on April 3rd. A trailer for Furious 7 is set to air during the Super Bowl.

    What followed was an all-star panel of artists who engaged in exciting discussion on filmmaking from every angle. After all there was a Hollywood mogul, genius director, and two A-list actors on stage. Mohammed Al Turki proved to be a man of many resources, much generosity, and alot of surprises! Like his films he seeks to satisfy, and then some. There’s no doubt that Mohammed Al Turki is the man to watch as he continues his mission of producing meaningful and relevant stories in Hollywood.

    nyfa abitrage

    February 2, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1183

  • Music Video Students Visit Rolling Stone HQ

    rolling stone

    For many decades, Rolling Stone Magazine has been a leading force in music and entertainment culture. Its ability to catapult an artist’s career is quite remarkable. The same could be said for the music video and its ability to launch the careers of so many talented directors. In fact, a slew of today’s top film directors like David Fincher, Spike Jonze and Brett Ratner began their careers by making music videos. In the New York Film Academy’s Rolling Stone Music Video Workshop, we provide that very same training ground.

    rolling stone

    This week, our music video students had the privilege of visiting the world famous headquarters of Rolling Stone Magazine in New York City. As part of the tour students had an opportunity to gawk at the Hallway of Covers, which displays every Rolling Stone cover since its inception in 1967. As you can imagine, our music video students were in awe of the massive display. Our hope is that it was also inspiring for the young artists. You never know, perhaps their face could be on the cover someday.

    rolling stone mag

    January 30, 2015 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 696

  • Congratulations to Degree Program Graduates at NYFA Los Angeles!

    Graduation NYFA
    New York Film Academy Los Angeles Filmmaking, Acting, Producing, Screenwriting, Photography and Cinematography students received their MFA, MA, BFA and AFA degrees this past Saturday, January 24th during Commencement Ceremonies held at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood, California. Family and friends of the students attended two afternoon graduations (at 3pm for Acting, Screenwriting, Cinematography & Photography students and 6:30pm for Filmmaking & Producing students) completely filling the 400 seat theater for each. Department chairs Art Helterbran (Filmmaking), Lynda Goodfriend (Acting), Tony Schwartz (Producing), Nunzio DeFilippis (Screenwriting), Bobbi Fabian (Photography), and Michael Pessah (Cinematography), addressed their students, offering their final words of wisdom and best wishes for the future.
    graduation speech
    Commencement Speakers Randal Kleiser (film director of Grease, Blue Lagoon, White Fang and Flight of the Navigator) and Patrick Rush (casting director of Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek, Supernatural and The O.C.) gave candid and humorous advice for students navigating the Hollywood system. Afterwards students, family and friends celebrated elegantly at the Riot House Restaurant in West Hollywood’s Andaz Hotel. Congratulations to all of NYFA’s 2015 degree program graduates!
    Congrats to all of our NYFA LA Graduates:
    MFA in Filmmaking
    Saud Al-Moghirah
    Alessandro Amante
    Ramazanova Banu
    Carlos Amaral Baptista
    Nadir Bennaceur
    Isaac Michael Blankenship
    Maria Valentina Carmona Corral
    Lilia Dalakishvili
    Yul Gatewood
    Robert James Gould
    Ritesh Jeswani
    Satoshi Kameoka
    Adrenia Shanell Kemp
    Alexander G. Tobias
    TaoHsiu Wei
    Yazhen Zhang
    Wangshu Zhao
    Mingtao Zhou
    Yanjun Zhou

    MA in Film & Media Production
    Sichen Ai
    Hanaa Saleh Alfassi
    Obisesan Allen Bobola
    Hongyi Cao
    Luciana F Capela
    Zhuo Chen
    Konstantin Frolov
    Zalikha Harun
    Meghan Mildred Hooper
    He Huang
    Jiang Jiang
    Minghang Jiang
    Srinivasa Jonnavithula
    Aditya Patwardhan
    Nadeen Salam Said
    Lisa Schulz
    Dimitrios Tranos
    Fei Fei Wang
    Xurui Wang
    Jiaduo Wu
    Yining Yan
    Liang Zhao
    Yucheng Zhao

    BFA in Filmmaking
    Eskil Brattgjerd
    Hang Cheng
    Noé Miguel Obregón Escobar
    Rachel Karen Gallagher
    Georgy Gorshunov
    Lu He
    Junyao Hu
    Joelle Kahn
    Oscar Benjamin Lyons
    Akshay Pradeep
    Hao Zhang
    Qihuan Zheng
    Tong Zhou
    Camila Varela Zolezzi

    AFA in Filmmaking
    Darío Navarro Anzaldúa
    Rory Butcher
    Jamie Deacon
    Christopher Dyrell Dickerson
    Matthew A Escobedo
    Shantal Lenya Freedman
    Adam Gomez
    Michael James Gros
    Bruno Paolucci
    Christian Smith

    MFA in Acting for Film
    Cody Lyle Asher
    Jovanna Avila
    Parvane Baharian
    Pamela Oma Belonwu-Ifedi
    Lixuan Geng
    Jean Hyppolite
    Keaton Kaplan
    David Grant Kuskie
    Tamara Kvashilava
    Kevin Chua Peng Liang
    Phoebe Ray McHenry
    Adam Wayne Ohl
    Laura Anna-Katariina Ollikainen
    Amir Abdul Rahim
    Cesar Ramirez
    Kathleen M. Roy
    Sally Shepard
    Leandro Manuel Vargas Simoza
    Jeremy Sykes
    Klement Tinaj
    Amanda Anne Vannucchi
    Nina Ce’Mone Wright
    Han Xing
    Xinwan Yu

    BFA in Acting for Film
    Gianlorenzo Albertini
    Diana Salazar Arias
    Adam El-Manawy
    Jonghoon Han
    Deniz Kara
    John Franklin Karbousky II
    Monique Oberholzer
    Elena Petrukhina
    Randall Julian William Stanley
    James Earl Surman Jr
    Kris Swinnen

    AFA in Acting for Film
    Morgan Elese Aiken
    Sonia Gonzalez Arrieta
    Luis Facci
    Maxine Foreman
    Amber Greene
    Molly Kelly
    Sebastian Mayer
    James Millot
    Candace Rachelle Morris
    Shaquann Nesbitt
    Nehal Patel
    Nicolas Puorro
    John Reeve
    Arkan Satrio
    Jeremy Harris Shechtman
    Milbelynn Soto
    Megan Leigh Wright

    MFA in Producing
    Cynara Aziza Cherry-Cary
    Yiling Du
    Gabriel Amora de Farias
    Faustino Felix Figueroa
    Xingyu Gao
    Alessandra Micol Ghisolfi
    Li Guannan
    Yingshan Jiang
    Omar Ahmed Tariq Murad
    Yuki Naito
    Charles J. Pass
    Mariana Patricia Pineda M.
    Lifen Ruan
    Chun Shen
    Xuewei Yang
    Leying Zhang
    Qingqing Zhang
    Tianhui Zheng

    BFA in Producing
    Mariana Mendez Alejandre
    Aida Mamezhanova
    Diego Del Rio Toca

    MFA in Screenwriting
    Eric J. Arias
    Edward E. Arnold
    Livia Azzolini
    Kevin André Easley Jr.
    Michael E Madvedoff
    Eshan Parikh
    Kalei Sue Pipczynski
    Rohan Sunil Thakkar
    LeeMar Turner
    Rebecca Verdia
    Zachary Alan Xanders
    Dongjing Yuan

    AFA in Screenwriting
    Chris Arneson
    Samira Elhidmi

    MFA in Photography
    Casey Landon Asher
    Donald Hoffman
    Li Sun
    Qiang Ye
    Lishabai Yi
    Qian Zhe

    MFA in Cinematography
    Loai Ibrahim A Khalifah
    Ora Tiffany Littlejohn
    Robert McIntosh
    Gaofei Zheng

  • Fairytales Come True for BFA Filmmaking Student

    Cinder Pumpkin

    They say fairytales can come true. Well, for Fi Dieter, fairytales are opening major doors for a bright future in the entertainment industry. The New York Film Academy BFA Filmmaking student, of Prince of Arabia Entertainment and Stedica Film, won the prestigious Award of Excellence from The Best Shorts Film Competition, Best Student Film at the 2015 California Women’s Film Festival, Best Student Drama at the 2014 International Family Film Festival at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, and has been an Official Selection in more than 10 festivals including the prestigious LA Shots Fest, the Playhouse West Film Festival, and the Women’s Director’s International Film Festival in New Dehli, India! The award was given for Dieter’s exciting fairytale adaptation drama short Cinder Pumpkin, which was her Intermediate Thesis Project at NYFA Los Angeles.

    Cinder Pumpkin features an exceptional storyline about a bright, socially-awkward girl named Cinder Ellen James (played by Jacquelynn Camden), who believes the only thing she needs for the gorgeous, unreachable Max (played by Travis Daniel Brown) to fall in love with her is one chance. With the help of her loyal friend Tom (played by Billy McCartney), Cinder is determined to take that chance herself. She trades glasses for a pair of high heels and experiences, for the first time, a world of teenage fantasies that makes her rediscover her value as a woman.

    “This award [Award of Excellence] honors not only the great amount of hard work put into our production, but also the growing voice of female directors,” says Dieter. “Cinder Pumpkin is about staying true to who you are even when the odds are against you, a fundamental lesson for all women who fight for gender equality.”

    Dieter is an award-winning Austrian filmmaker, actress and editor. Fi began acting in theater and commercials from an early age, always on a quest to find truth and depth in all she does.

    “Through my work, I intend to raise the voice of female filmmakers,” says Dieter. “I believe that little specific ‘somethings’ allow for a story to become universal and have the power to touch people. I aim to go beyond what is expected of young women to achieve in filmmaking. There isn’t a feeling I enjoy more than the satisfaction I get from proving there is more to me than what meets the eye.”

    Fi is currently in development on a three-part feature, based on a new take on the origins of Merlin the wizard, entitled Extraordinaire. It is a fantasy comedy with two endearing, magical characters whose major flaw is their inability to work together in times when their unity might make or break a kingdom. Extraordinaire Part One will be her thesis film.

    January 21, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1576

  • NYFA Veteran Student Hired as Military Consultant for Shia LaBeouf

    nick jones shia labeouf

    Nick Jones, Jr., Gary Oldman and Shia LaBeouf

    You never know when or from whom your next opportunity will manifest. In such an arduous and competitive industry like filmmaking, it’s best to take advantage of every relationship and be aware of the potential of each encounter. One of our BFA Filmmaking students Nick Jones, Jr., a veteran who was able to fund his education through the G.I. Bill, has provided us with a prime example of this.

    While at the premiere of Mandela, Jones sparked a conversation with a woman sitting next to him in the theater, who happened to the wife of director Dito Montiel. While Dito and his wife were very friendly to Nick, he debated whether or not to bring the conversation to the next step — reaching out for professional guidance. “They disappeared in the crowd. I waited,” remembered Jones. “Then, something forced me to get up and chase him down in the lobby. He was super nice and we stayed in contact since. He helped me with my year one project. Giving me feedback on my writing and helping me find an editor through his post-production team.

    Nick Jones, Jr.

    Jones on the set of “Man Down”

    Fast forward a bit, Montiel gets tapped to direct Man Down, starring Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Kate Mara. Since LaBeouf was playing a former U.S. Marine, he immediately wanted to know who he could turn to for accurate technical and character advice to provide for an authentic film. Montiel remembered Jones and his work, and the fact that Jones had served in the Marines — a perfect match for the job.

    Now Jones is working as a military consultant on Man Down. While on the job, Jones noticed, “Whenever you have a script that is written by someone without military experience, there are a lot of assumptions and liberties taken on that front. But it’s normal because usually you have a consultant onboard to correct and fill in the blanks — kind of like the glue that brings it all together.”

    Being a rookie in such a valuable and respected position, Jones was understandably nervous. “Shia studied me like a book. It wasn’t just a question and answer relationship. We spent everyday with each other. He picked up on my verbiage, posture, life experiences, etc. Every night I would send him an email about the Marine Corps. Just random knowledge or current events. The most important thing was getting him in the mindset of a real Marine. How we think, how we feel about things, our reaction to current events, and the importance of brotherhood. You’re a product of your environment, and what I tried to do was create an environment that immersed him in the Corps. He trained with real Marines. He learned from real Marines. He became friends with real Marines. And I think that experience helped create a real persona for his character. The more real life experiences he could pull from, the better.”

    Jones suggested that veteran students looking to consult on films should maintain their relationships within the military. He also recalled some valuable advice from his Warrant Officer, “You don’t have to know the answer to everything, you just have to know where to find it.”

    While Nick had a bit of luck on his side in landing this coveted job, he is the one who made it happen with hard work and initiative.

    Jones with director Dito Montiel and Shia LaBeouf

    Jones with director Dito Montiel and Shia LaBeouf

    January 20, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1441