Filmmaking
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  • 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.

    peter rainer

    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.

    rainer and calderon

    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: 1629

  • 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.”

    digital storytelling

    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: 1929

  • 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.

    uff awards

    “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: 10551

  • NYFA Alumni’s “Suka” Featured on Youtube’s Russian Cinema Week

    From November 28 through December 4 YouTube hosted “Russian Cinema Week.” During that period more than 200 Russian films were available in to watch in full. To launch that project Google has partnered with multiple production companies and distributors.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, the list of featured movies included the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning film “Leviathan,” Timur Bekmambetov-produced, New Year’s themed franchise “Yolki” (Christmas Trees) and one of Russia’s all-time box-office champions a Nikolai Lebedev’s hockey biopic “Legenda Nomer 17” (Legend No. 17).

    NYFA is pleased to announce that the short film, “Suka” — created and produced by New York Film Academy alumni, producer Maria Rogotskaya and director Cyril Zima — was chosen to be a part of the short selection of the site. It is now the film with the most views!

    “Suka” previously won Best Foreign Film Award at the Myrtle Beach International Film Festival and was renowned at many others film festivals including San Jose, BUSHO, and Sapporo Short Fest.

    russian cinema

    producer Maria Rogotskaya and director Cyril Zima

    Rogotskaya and Zima are currently working on a feature noir / Sci-Fi thriller called “Charon,” which takes place in present-day Los Angeles. As a former crime journalist, Zima uses his huge investigating experience to work on the story development. Without giving away any spoilers, the film is a very deep physiological drama.

    “When Maria and I came to NYFA to obtain our Master’s Degree, we already had a solid background in the field, but we had no experience working in Hollywood. NYFA was a good transition; we obtained a lot of practical experience and met a lot of collaborators who we continue to work with after graduation,” said Zima.

    December 22, 2016 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1644

  • NYFA Industry Lab Works with Director Ina Rose Farestad on “Stand By Her”

    The New York Film Academy Industry Lab shot a short film with director Ina Rose Farestad entitled “Stand by Her.” The Lab members involved were Alejandro Talens, Hans Sternward (swing gang) Gary Kent( steadi cam op), Kseniya Yorsh (producer), and Ferid Hasburn (Director of Photography).

    industry lab

    Industry Lab on set of “Stand by Her”

    Farestad’s film is about Nina — a girl who feels very lonely and rejected after she finds out that her ex-boyfriend cheated on her. When the story starts, she is sitting in a coffee shop with her best friend and having a difficult time getting over him. Her friend is a very strong and opinionated person with a more sober outlook on love than Nina. She stands up for her friend and is not afraid to say things the way they are instead of sugarcoating them. Every girl can relate to both of these characters. Being the one suffering from rejection but also the one who’s been there for your best friend.

    “I wrote this because I wanted to celebrate friendship and because I wanted to defy the notion of being ‘alone’ in society, if you don’t have a romantic partner,” said Farestad. “By the end of the short, Nina realizes that just because she doesn’t have a boyfriend it doesn’t mean she’s on her own. She has other people in her life, even strangers, that look out for her.”

    The film also deals with our tendencies as people to choose not to get involved when we see something that isn’t right. What would it be like in a world where this behavior isn’t enabled and protected? What would it be like if people stepped in? That’s what the people in the coffee shop do. They have all heard the girls talking, so when the ex-boyfriend unexpectedly shows up, they all get involved.

    “Ina Rose Farestad and I met last year on the set of a short film I was producing,” said producer Kseniya Yorsh. “She was one of our actors, and we kept in touch after that film finished. Then, earlier this year, she contacted me and mentioned she was planning to write and direct her first film in the fall. Sure enough, half a year later, I received an email from Ina saying that her script is ready and that she would like me to produce it. That was very exciting because, first of all, I love it when people say what they wish or plan to do and then circumstances align in the way that allows them to fulfill it. And secondly, the script was very good. It was funny, light-hearted, but also very sincere and personal. So I was in as soon as I read it.”

    From the aesthetic viewpoint, the film is beautiful thanks to director of photography, Dhruv Lapsia, who was able to capture the mood of the story and transmit it visually in a gorgeous way.

    “We want to honor that and the hard work of the talent and crew who brought the film to life and do a festival round for the film,” said Melinda Graves, NYFA’s Diversity and Industry Lab Coordinator

    December 21, 2016 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1687

  • Urban Possibilities and New York Film Academy Team Up For Spoken Word Performance and Story Encounter

    New York Film Academy students worked with survivors of homelessness to present a spoken word and musical performance at the NYFA Theater at the Los Angeles campus. Urban Possibilities is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring the homeless and working poor. Urban Possibilities’ alumni performed spoken word pieces about their lives developed during one of UP’s writing workshops. NYFA acting students Fernando Sambora and Roman Arnaize performed a musical interlude for the full house of enthusiastic NYFA students and faculty.

    The next day, NYFA screenwriting, filmmaking, and documentary students participated in a unique daylong workshop facilitated by Urban Possibilities. NYFA students were paired with Urban Possibilities students to interview one another and share their personal stories. After an hour of heart-to-heart conversation, each person was asked to write a profile of the person they’d been speaking to. Touching, surprising and sometimes extraordinary bonds between the pairs were revealed. One NYFA student called it “an unforgettable day of learning and feeling and writing a truly original piece.” Another said, “I loved it. It was enlightening, inspirational, transformational and eye-opening.”

    urban possibilities

    Eyvette Jones Johnson, Founder and CEO of Urban Possibilities said, “When we exchange our stories, bonds are created and biases begin to melt away no matter what our zip codes may be. That’s important in a world often violently divided by race and class — one that our students navigate daily.”

    December 21, 2016 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 2642

  • NYFA Alumnus Michael Gallagher Returns to Screen “The Thinning”

    On December 16, YouTube pioneer and NYFA alumnus Michael Gallagher screened his latest film, “The Thinning.” Following the screening, Eric Connor led a Q & A with Gallagher.

    michael gallagher

    Connor was Gallagher’s TA when he attended the NYFA Filmmaking Summer Camp when he was just thirteen. He made a film where Connor was chased around the “Jurassic Park 3” set. Using forced perspective Gallagher used a toy dinosaur to chase Connor around the set. It was in this moment that Connor knew Gallagher was special.

    Since then Gallagher has made hundreds of shorts, started the YouTube channel TotallySketch, directed the television mini-series “Interns,” “How to Survive High School” and “The Station,” and produced three films; “Smiley,” “The Thinning,” and “Internet Famous.”

    “The Thinning” was inspired by the current political climate and Gallagher’s own fear of the SAT’s. In the film high school students are required to take an aptitude test. If the student fails they are killed. When two students discover the results are predetermined they’ll do anything to reveal the truth.

    One student asked, “What were some of the things you did to advertise your earliest work?” When I first started I knew you only get so many favors. I knew the first thing that the first thing I asked, I knew it had to count. I went in with my first video. I planned it out and made this attack plan and I just carpet bombed everyone I knew asking, ‘If you ever do one thing for me promote this video.’”

    Gallagher also targeted video sharing sites like Reddit and IAmBored.com. He posted his video on viral threads. Gallagher also found websites centered on themes or items featured in his video. He reached out to administrators and asked for his work to be featured. “You just have to be creative,” Gallagher said.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Gallagher for taking the time to come speak with our students. You can support Gallagher’s work by visiting his YouTube page and hitting the thumbs up. “The Thinning” is now available on YouTube Red.

    December 16, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1840

  • NYFA Grad’s Debut Feature “El Camino” Now Available on Amazon and DVD

    “Being able to attend the program on the historic Universal Studios backlot was a dream come true,” said New York Film Academy Los Angeles 1-Year Filmmaking alumnus Sean Bauer. “I was very young at the time and had no idea of the long journey ahead. I learned a lot of skill sets in that year program, but the biggest takeaway was learning about the power of editing, frame by frame. NYFA taught me to be a great editor and, for the many years after, I was a freelance editor in LA on a wide range of projects.
    sean bauer

    After relocating back to San Diego, Bauer decided to buckle down and get serious about creating his feature film debut. “Screenwriting and directing have always been just as important to me and when Elizabeth Ann Guevara approached me about adapting her true story novel (“Separated by Dreams”) it seemed like the perfect fit,” said Bauer. From there, Guevara and Bauer formed an LLC., and sold a small group of investors on their story. In 2011, they shot the film on a small budget with a group of hardworking cast and crew. Because of the lack of funds, post production on the film was delayed for several years.

    “With my strong editing background, I was able to reshape the film (that we originally set out to make) into a much more compelling piece of cinema. I wore so many hats on this project: writer, director, editor, camera op, stunt double, colorist, the list goes on. There were so many times that we could have permanently shelved this project but pure passion (and my drive to be the best filmmaker I can be) is what got me through the uphill battles.”

    EL CAMINO – OFFICIAL TRAILER from Sean Bauer Films on Vimeo.
    The film, “El Camino” is a character drama about a recovering meth addict whose path to redemption is derailed by a drug fueled past that comes back to haunt him. The existential film that weaves between the past and present, focusing on this inner struggle between these two versions of this character, where the protagonist is also his own antagonist. “It’s an experimentally crafted indie feature with a strong vintage vibe to it, that was inspired by true events and that we made on a micro budget with lots of passion by a dedicated cast and crew,” Bauer said. “It’s a project that I’ve spent the better part of a decade getting made, a movie that taught me how to be a much more creative and tactile filmmaker. I’m incredibly proud of it.

    Bauer has always gravitated toward films about underdogs and stories of redemption. “‘Rocky (‘76)’ definitely came to mind when I was brainstorming how I’d handle the source material. Craig Brewer’s ‘Hustle & Flow’ came out around the time I had started the writing process and that was influential in ways. Re-reading the book and breaking it all down, it was clear to me, at the time, that I had to take a different approach. I had to make it my own, so it spoke to my sensibilities. So I focused the entire film on the first quarter of the book, cherry picked elements from that section and added in some much needed conflict that would make it cinematically compelling. Taking the character of Miguel, a character written from the point of view of a hazy dream and grounding him in the real world as flesh and blood, it allowed the novel and the film to speak on their own terms while at the same time being tied together, thematically. It really is a one-of-a-kind adaptation.

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    Bauer is now in the process of writing a few different screenplays, including a follow up to “El Camino.” Bauer says it’s a theoretical film that will explore the concept of alternate realities, told in a similar fashion to how “El Camino” shifts between past and present.

    “It’s also a film rooted around the creation of music and a film that will showcase the rarest of vinyl record collecting, which is a personal hobby of mine,” Bauer added. “It will share some thematic similarities to ‘El Camino,’ but where ‘El Camino’ has this run ’n gun documentary aesthetic to it, this follow up film will flow in a smoother direction.”

    “El Camino” is now available on VOD through Amazon Prime as well as on DVD. Go to ElCaminoMovie.com for more info.

    December 14, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1862

  • NYFA South Beach Student Wins Best Short Film at SoFlo WebFest in Miami

    marcus wellsNew York Film Academy South Beach student Marcus Wells won Best Short Film at the South Florida Web Fest (#SOFLOWEBFEST) in Miami for his mid-thesis film, “Soiled Roots.”
    South Florida WebFest is Miami’s premier festival dedicated to web entertainment that brings non-traditional voices of cinema to the forefront. The festival takes place during Miami’s epic art fair – Art Basel.
    “The web truly provides the freedom to tell your own story, and our goal was to ensure that the diversity of South Florida was reflective in this web festival,” said SOFLOWEBFEST Executive Director, Ashlee Thomas. “From Spain, to South Africa, Mozambique, Iran, and the US – SOFLOWEBFEST has niched itself to bring colorful stories from around the world to Miami.”
    Wells’ film is about a black mother who is influenced by her own mother’s drug dealing lifestyle which leads to risking the lives of their family. His story was inspired by NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. When he was 10 years old his mother and grandmother were both arrested for dealing drugs. Thomas’ mother was given the chance to either disclose information about her own mother or to not say anything. His mother decided not to speak and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    “What I hope to achieve with this film is feedback on my creative thinking,” said Wells. “This was my most challenging film thus far and would like others to view this story from my perspective. I also wanted to address the idea of bad seeds being planted within families and passed onto the next generation.”

    south beach marcus wells

    Wells plans on submitting his award-winning short to other local, national and international film festivals.

    He is currently working on his thesis film, which he plans to shoot this coming summer and complete by late summer of 2017.

    “NYFA has definitely given me the tools to create my own vision.,” says Wells. “Every teacher wants us to succeed and offers individual attention so that we can achieve the highest quality work.”

    Located in the heart of South Beach, New York Film Academy in Miami offers a wide range of degree, conservatory, and workshop programs designed for students like Wells to achieve their creative goals through hands-on, project-based curriculum.

    December 12, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2116

  • NYFA Alumna’s Award-Winning Doc Captures Saudi Arabian Culture

    jameelahComing off of her documentary short film, “Historic Jeddah,” which screened at the International Film Festival Manhattan in 2015, One Year Filmmaking Conservatory Program and the Eight-week Filmmaking Workshop alumna Jameelah Rose Lineses directed a sequel documentary called “Our Journey to Hijaz.” The short film features never-before-seen footage depicting life in Saudi Arabia before the oil boom. It includes reenactments of how people used to live and features a Saudi traditional wedding and a sword dance.

    “My inspiration in making both films ‘Historic Jeddah’ and ‘Our Journey to Hijaz’ was my mother,” said Lineses. “She was the one who motivated me to create films about Saudi Arabia’s history and cultural heritage. There are no films showcasing Saudi Arabia’s history and cultural heritage that have been recognized in any international film festival. There are so many stories to tell relating to Saudi Arabia’s history — stories that are not yet known to the rest of the world and that only a handful of people really know.”

    Lineses’ sequel has been recognized by several film festivals thus far, including:

    Film Festival Director Award for BEST STUDENT FILM
    International Film Festival Manhattan 2013
    New York City, New York, U.S.A

    Ani Ng Dangal Presidential Awardee for Cinema
    6th ANI NG DANGAL/Harvest of Honors 2014
    National Commission for Culture and the Arts
    Manila, Philippines

    Most Popular IFFM Film Promo for “Historic Jeddah” (Saudi Arabia)
    International Film Festival Manhattan 2015
    New York City, New York, U.S.A

    Honorable Mention for “Our Journey to Hijaz” (Saudi Arabia)
    International Film Festival Manhattan 2016
    New York City, New York, U.S.A

    Lineses says that although she’s been living in Saudi Arabia for her entire life, there are still many things she doesn’t know about her country’s history and cultural heritage.

    “It was only early last year when I started to learn about it on my own by attending cultural events and tours,” said Lineses. “I also discovered that my mother’s first sponsor — when she came to Saudi Arabia — was a member of the Naseef family.”

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    Naseef is one of the most prominent families in Saudi Arabia, and their ancestral house, Bayt Naseef, is now a museum, which is highlighted in her documentary.

    “As a pioneer, I hope that I am able to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s promising future in the field of cinema,” Lineses says. “I also hope that I am able to give rise to aspiring Saudi filmmakers to do the impossible, break stereotypes, and to not shy away from adversities.”

    She also hopes her documentaries will show that it is possible to make a film about Saudi Arabia and still uphold the country’s code of conduct.

    Lineses is now working on another documentary, “Third Culture Kids of Saudi Arabia,” about the people born, raised and currently living in Saudi Arabia. “This film will tackle our everyday lives and show how we assimilate into society,” says Lineses.

    December 6, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2051