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  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Produces Feature ‘El Freeman’

    Since graduating from his MFA in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles in 2012, Antonio Chavez Trejo has established himself as the Director of Production and Creative Services for a 360 production and social media marketing company based in LA, called Supersonix Media Inc. Having come from a film school background and being well versed in the many facets of filmmaking, Antonio served his hand as producer, co-director and camera-op on his feature film entitled, El Freeman. Antonio and his team are now handling distribution, marketing, and crowd funding.

    el freeman

    The film is about El, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is trying to raise money to hire a lawyer to get his papers in order. He ends up meeting the wrong set of people, and works at a moving company with a few low life criminals who steal from the owners of the homes. During one of his jobs, El meets a man who will become his mentor and help him correct his path. In addition to his eventual brotherhood with his fellow criminals, there’s also a love story that pushes the interior motives of El and his connection with his values and his family.

    “Working on El Freeman taught me something very important,” said Trejo. “Im up for the challenge, and I have acquired the leadership I need to run any film I want to make.”

    el freemanTrejo had been assembling the team for about two years, which includes former classmates of his, director Yelhas Rakhimbekov, director of photography Erik Kjonaas, and 1st AD Carolina Sandoval. This tight group of filmmakers worked arduous schedules to complete production of the film.

    “We had days when we had to shoot 6, 7, 8 or 9 pages a day,” recalls Trejo. “With their eyes and ears and my directing keeping the vision of Yelhas, we shot something that looks as beautiful as the script is.”

    Trejo and his team finished principal photography, and are currently in post-production.

    Aside from this project, Trejo has been showcasing a few of his short films and has a feature script which he hopes will see a green light soon.

     

    May 26, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1051

  • NYFA Grad Alfonso Ribeiro From ‘Fresh Prince’ to Host AFV

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    photo courtesy of ABC

    Who can forget the lovable Carlton from the popular 90’s television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? What most of you may not know is actor Alfonso Ribeiro took a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy in 1999 to provide him with additional insight into the creative process that surrounds him on set.

    Since coming off the hit show, Ribeiro has acted and appeared in a number of television series, including his most recent stint on Dancing with the Stars. Now, Ribeiro will replace Tom Bergeron as the host of the long running show, America’s Funniest Home Videos. Like the series showrunners, we think Ribeiro will be a terrific fit.

    “There’s got to be a sincerity and a connection with the audience,” executive producer Vin Di Bona told Variety. “You’ve got to be someone who cares about kids. That connection you make with the audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s something you just don’t get by reading copy. In our auditions, it just became very, very apparent that Alfonso is a genuinely nice man.”

    Ranked as one of primetime TV’s most family-friendly shows, AFV wrapped its 25th anniversary season this past Sunday.

     

    May 20, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1040

  • ‘Whatever You Want’ Wins Best Comedy at LA Independent Film Festival

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    Inspired in large part by Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, New York Film Academy One-Year Filmmaking alumnus Leonardo Bentes’ film, Whatever You Want, which recently won Best Comedy / Dramedy at April’s Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, combines elements of film noir with slapstick comedy. Bentes even admits his protagonist has influences from the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Hong-Kong Phooey. Indeed, all the makings of a silly comedy.

    Whatever You Want, which was Bentes’ NYFA thesis film, focuses on Benjamin Sherman, a clumsy private investigator who begins to work on a case for a beautiful young woman — the femme fatale. As usual, Benjamin doesn’t get things done right.

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    Director Leo Bentes on set of “Whatever You Want”; photo by Lucia Luben

    “Except for some 3D animation training, I hadn’t had any filmmaking background by the time I started my first class at NYFA,” recalled Bentes. “So, basically everything you see in Whatever You Want — not only directing but also writing, producing, editing — came from what I learned in class, workshops and previous projects, classmates collaboration, and some self-study.”

    Bentes feels strongly that his thesis film will serve as his business card into the professional world of directing. While he has began outlining a TV pilot for Whatever You Want, he hopes his next project will be a feature comedy with some musical influence.

    Whatever You Want (trailer) from leo bentes on Vimeo.

    May 20, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 972

  • NYFA Representing at Cannes Short Film Corner

    cannes 2015This year, we have a number of filmmakers representing the New York Film Academy at the Cannes Film Festival. These students and alumni have the incredible opportunity of networking and screening their short films at the Cannes Short Film Corner, which offers industry meets, workshops and conferences that deal with strategic issues.

    Our filmmakers benefit from all the advantages of being a Festival de Cannes accredited attendee, from being able to access the Marché du Film exhibitors or those in the Village International. With the festival officially underway, we’ve been hearing from a number of NYFA filmmakers!

    Below is a list of some of these students and their films. We want to wish them all the best of luck in showcasing their films at Cannes!

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    Francesco Mazza at Cannes

    Francesco Mazza, Frankie

    Richard Selvi, Datin’ Marvin

    Diego Londono, Medley

    Denis Kulikov, Nadezhda

    Ilya Rozhkov, Sabre Dance

    Aditya Patwardhan, Red House by the Crossroads

    Luis Christian Dilorenzi, Sináptica

    Shantal Freedman, Ticketed

    Raquel Bordin, Tip Toe

    Ricardo Lopez-Franco, Binary Stars

    Gabe Chavez, More than Words

    Victor Olea, The Miracle Archives

    Kai Lu, The Cost of Love

     

  • Mohamed Luqman Wins Best Aspiring Filmmaker Award at ZUMEFF

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    film director Mohamed Luqman and co-director Saleh Bin Hallabi receiving the Award from the Acting Provost of Zayed University Marilyn Roberts and the Managing Director of NYFA Abu Dhabi Imad DeirAtany

    Under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khaled Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development, President of Zayed University, the 6th edition of Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF) took place on May 17 – 18 at Zayed University Abu Dhabi.

    The Awards Ceremony was held on May 18 at 6.30 pm, where the New York Film Academy offered the Aspiring Filmmaker Award in collaboration with the festival.

    The award went to The Final Chapter by Mohamed Luqman, who will join one of the New York Film Academy filmmaking programs. The program will provide him with intensive training in filmmaking, where he will write, shoot, direct and edit number of films while crewing on others.

    Congratulations to Mohamed Luqman! We’re looking forward seeing him on our set.

    -Imad DeirAtany

     

    May 19, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking • Views: 898

  • MFA Filmmakers Bound for Greatness

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    As we all know, networking is an essential element in becoming a success in the entertainment business. But how do you begin networking when you have no connections or resources to begin with? That’s often where the New York Film Academy comes into play. Many of our students come from locations all around the world and end up establishing and maintaining lifelong relationships, both personally and professionally. Juan (JMR) Luna and Kane Senes met in their MFA Filmmaking program in 2008 and became very close friends. They began supporting each other’s writing and producing each other’s directorial works. Since graduating less than five years ago they have earned immense success. Their latest feature film, Echoes of War, starring Ethan Embry, William Forsythe, James Badge Dale and Maika Monroe will be released May 15, 2015. Their future is limitless.

    We had a chat with these two graduates about their film, and how they have successfully navigated the industry thus far.

    Can you tell me what Echoes of War is about?

    Kane: Echoes of War is about a soldier returning from the Civil War to his family in the remote Texan countryside. There he discovers that the neighbors have been stealing from his family while he’s been gone and so he takes matters in to his own hands, sparking another senseless and tragic war. It’s a film about loss, really.

    Where did the idea for Echoes of War come from?

    Kane: My thesis short film at NYFA in 2010 was called A Relative Stranger. Juan was the cinematographer and co-producer. Echoes of War began as a feature adaptation of that short and grew into something else. The short came from my own relationship to my family, coming home every now and then from living in the States and feeling like things have changed while I’ve been gone. Obviously coming home from war is a whole other matter that I have never experienced and would never pretend to understand, but we spoke to as many veterans as we could and tried to ground it in a universal, human story that we can all understand and relate to — no matter our experiences.

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    When did you two first start collaborating, and ultimately begin writing the script for Echoes of War?

    Kane: Our directing instructor was Adam Nimoy, who taught me everything I know. Juan directed some of his own stuff but gravitated towards cinematography, so he began shooting most of my projects, starting with my Year One Film and then my thesis. From there, we worked on each other’s films throughout school.

    The script I began writing with my writing and producing partner John Chriss, who produced my thesis. He didn’t go to NYFA but he was basically an honorary student as he worked on a lot of our films. I graduated NYFA at the end of 2010, and we were writing by mid-2011. A year later the script was done and Juan came onboard to help produce.

    Juan: My relationship with Kane can’t just be contained on Echoes of War. We have been friends all throughout, and we support each other constantly. When I was directing my movie Kane was there helping out too — emotionally and giving me notes and helping out with whatever he could.

    Can you tell me a little bit of how this film came together? Raising funds, attaching talent, etc.

    Kane: Juan and I were going door to door in Australia, meeting with film investors I knew there and trying to raise funds. It didn’t go as well as we were hoping, and Juan brought in some producers he knew from LA who graduated from AFI the same year we graduated NYFA. They had a connection to Emily Schweber, a wonderful casting director. A few weeks later, I was flying back to LA and meeting with actors every day for six months. We were fortunate enough to put together a great cast, which Juan was able to use to land the rest of the money we needed, and we shot the movie.

    juan and kane

    JMR Luna and Kane Senes

    Would you say your training and education at NYFA was useful in terms of writing / directing / producing this film?

    Kane: 100%. People often ask whether or not to go to film school. I always say the same thing: for me, I needed to know I could do this and school gave me the confidence by encouraging me to make films and seeing that they worked. They started bad and got better and I could see the pieces coming together. I could see I was improving and that was a direct result of film school: being in that environment, with good teachers and a great class room of participating students.

    Juan: I always felt that film school is what you want to make out of it. I feel being in class with Kane defined our careers. We both realize very early on that we had similar objectives, and the same passion for movies. I believe we always had a healthy competition going on. And it has been very stimulating and we both challenged and encouraged each other. We are better filmmakers because we both grew together. I feel film school gave us that safe environment and working structure to achieve it.

    Are you currently working together on another project?

    Kane: We’re always throwing ideas around but nothing is in place just yet. Maybe Juan thinks I’m one of those crazy directors he doesn’t want to work with again. You should ask him!

    Juan: I am working on different things right now. The Runaround, which will star Emile Hirsch and J.K. Simmons (two former NYFA Guest Speakers) was announced yesterday on The Hollywood Reporter, and it’s my next movie.

    We are currently working on THE SAME film together, as we have to distribute it still. People think that after you shoot the movie, you are done with it. But we are still working daily on it. The moment we are both done, I would love to find something else we could do together. I feel we both have grown a lot in the last three years, and our friendship has changed and evolved. So this movie would surely be very different from the first one and hopefully much better!

     

    JMR and Kane will be hosting a special “How to Make it in Hollywood” lecture at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles on May 14, 2015.

  • HollyShorts Presents NYFA Night

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    Continuing its collaboration with New York Film Academy, HollyShorts dedicated a screening exclusively to the films of NYFA students and alumni.

    From HollyShorts‘ website: “HollyShorts is an organization devoted to showcasing the best and brightest short films from around the globe, advancing the careers of filmmakers through screenings, networking events, and various panel and forums.”

    For the past eight years, the HollyShorts annual festival and monthly screenings have become a Hollywood staple. Playing to a sold-out house at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, these eight films were a terrific showcase for our talented filmmakers and performers.

    Maggie Lin’s RED HOUSE received the audience award for best picture!
    Thank you to everyone who participated, and to Theo & Daniel at HollyShorts for hosting such a memorable screening. Congratulations to all the cast and crews!

  • NYFA’s Kenneth Johnson Provides Students with 40 Years of Film & TV Experience

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    NYFA LA Instructor Kenneth Johnson on “The Mike Douglas Show”

    The New York Film Academy believes that a crucial element toward maintaining its intensive hands-on programs is having instructors with industry access and real life experience in the field he or she teaches. Los Angeles Filmmaking instructor Kenneth Johnson knocks those requirements out of the park. Johnson has been a successful writer-producer-director of film and television for over 40 years. Creator of the landmark original miniseries V, he also produced The Six Million Dollar Man and created such iconic, Emmy-winning series as The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk and Alien Nation.

    Referred to as Kenny by those who know him well, Johnson trained in classic theater at Carnegie Mellon University, and had early success as a producer-director of live TV in New York. At only age 25, he became Executive Producer and Showrunner for the legendary, talk-variety program The Mike Douglas Show, which won an Emmy under his leadership.

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    Kenneth Johnson with Bill Bixby

    Moving to California, Kenneth produced and directed several TV specials including Vincent Price in an Evening of Edgar Allan Poe and two top-rated documentaries for ABC: Alan King in Las Vegas. He became the youngest writer-producer-director at Universal Studios when he joined The Six Million Dollar Man where he created the Emmy-winning Bionic Woman. He was Showrunner of both Top Ten bionic series simultaneously. He then created The Incredible Hulk, yet another iconic, long-running Emmy-winner for which he penned Bill Bixby’s now-famous line, “Don’t make me angry…you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

    In the 1980s, Kenneth continued to cement his place in television by unveiling his epic alien invasion miniseries V. It was critically acclaimed and he received a Writers Guild Nomination. His original miniseries V stands as the highest-rated work of science fiction in television history.

    In the 90’s Kenneth created the Alien Nation TV movie-pilot which became an Emmy-winning series and five subsequent Emmy-nominated TV movies. Throughout his career, Kenneth has directed notable television movies for all the major networks including the top-rated Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and Don’t Look Under The Bed for Disney.

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    Johnson on the set of “V”

    Other TV movies include Sherlock Holmes Returns for CBS, which brought him a nomination for the Edgar Allen Poe Award from The Mystery Writers of America.

    Kenneth also directed the feature films Steel and Short Circuit 2. Beyond his film and television work, he has written the novels An Affair of State, V The Original Miniseries and V The Second Generation, published in four editions.

    Needless to say, it’s an honor to have Mr. Johnson teach filmmaking at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles for the past six years—his insight is invaluable.

    “Having had the opportunity to present my seminar at numerous other film schools and universities, I have continually been most impressed by the students at NYFA” says Johnson. “The majority of them have a strong desire and determination to succeed in this very tough business. Their attentiveness is always good and their questions probing and thoughtful. Plus we have fun together.”

    Johnson initially contacted NYFA Los Angeles Director Dan Mackler about being a resource for NYFA LA because he believed he could provide students with something that is often missing in academic settings: what it’s like to actually be in “The Trenches” of filmmaking. As Johnson puts it, he can provide, “What it’s like to be boots-on-the-ground doing the work. Including the prep necessary, a wealth of smart insights from my career producing and directing TV and features, plus useful tools I’ve created over the years that can benefit them. And I do it with gusto, laughs (often at myself) and a gazillion visuals: miles of behind the scenes footage, storyboards, etc., to show exactly how we accomplished the finished work.”

    Kenneth Johnson

    Johnson’s advice begins as soon as you walk into his first class. The very first thing he asks his students is if they love this business. Of course, every student will nod affirmatively, but then he makes it clearer: “Do you REALLY LOVE IT?! —because if you don’t love it like breathing, you can’t succeed and you’d be wise to step away.” At the end of the final session, Johnson gives his students a multi-page handout called “Getting a Gig,” which contains every bit of advice he’s amassed on that important subject over the span of his career.

    When asked about today’s landscape, Johnson says, “I think there are more opportunities in TV simply because there is far more product necessary to feed the TV (read cable, web, streaming, etc.) audience’s infinite appetite. Far more TV and video projects get made every year than features. They also happen faster. TV is also a great place to learn your craft. When I started producing, writing and directing on the Bionic shows at Universal it was like grad school…with pay. TV is the greatest training in the world for making movies — or for waging war. If you can survive through the making of under-scheduled, under-budgeted, restrictive TV schedules, making a theatrical movie becomes a piece of cake. Just ask Joss Whedon or Steven Spielberg.”

    Johnson admits that the biggest challenge in our business is the constant rejection. “All of us in the arts get told no far more often than yes. Or even worse, we get told yes and then no — when the studio or network management changes while you’re in the midst of writing, prepping or even sometimes shooting. Francois Truffaut said he always tried to have at least three to five projects in development simultaneously —because he knew the odds were against more than one ever happening— and that one only if he was lucky.

    A filmmaker has to develop a thick skin and a determination (as Fred Astaire sang) “to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.”

    Those who are true survivors will indeed survive to try another day. Where there’s life there’s always hope.

    Johnson has three upcoming guest sessions for the MFA Producers group on July 9, 16, and 23 of 2015.

    May 1, 2015 • Filmmaking • Views: 736

  • Emirati Graduate Directs First Feature “Abdullah”

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    “Abdullah”

    Given the various locations of the New York Film Academy all over the world, often students have the opportunity to explore multiple locations while studying for a certificate or degree. Former AFA Filmmaking student Humaid Alsuwaidi studied his first year in Abu Dhabi and moved to Los Angeles to complete his degree his second year.

    Since his graduation, Alsuwaidi has been hard at work on his first feature film Abdullah, which he directed with fellow NYFA students, including:

    • Jack Elliott: Director of Photography
    • Fatima Al Taei: Main Actress
    • Malik Zenger: Gaffer
    • Shih-Yao Huang: Key Grip
    • Aiham Alsubaihi: 1st AC
    • Effendi Edris: Cam Op
    • Stuart Matthews: Grip

    His film tells the story of an Emirati boy (Abdullah) who develops a fascination with music from an early age, but struggles to hide that over the years from his very conservative family—where many things are “haram- forbidden/prohibited.”

    Alsuwaidi shot the film in the emirates of Ajman, north of UAE, despite all of the difficulties in location and funds. The task of finding the right crew came naturally, as he found NYFA alumni are the best to work with, as they have a high standard of understanding the demands of a film production.

    Humaid’s risk paid off, and he feels very satisfied on the results of his production. He is currently in the middle of post-production.

    We look forward to viewing the finished product!

    April 30, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1260

  • NYFA Covers Young Storytellers’ Final ‘Glee’ Big Show

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    As part of our on-going collaboration with the wonderful Young Storytellers Foundation, New York Film Academy students and alumni recently got the chance to film “THE FINAL GLEE BIG SHOW.”

    Glee cast members Mark Salling, Dot Marie Jones, Harry Shum Jr., Max Adler, and Alex Newell along with Chrissie Fit (Teen Beach Movie, Pitch Perfect 2) performed four different short screenplays written by a group of inventive middle schoolers.
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    The connection between Glee and Young Storytellers dates back to the organization’s very beginnings when Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk helped create what is now YSF. Since then, Mr Falchuk has regularly brought the cast of Glee to perform the student’s material as part of YSF’s “Big Show.” With Glee now coming to a close after six seasons, this performance truly marked the end of an era.

    NYFA was honored to be part of the experience, and congratulates the cast and crew of Glee as well as all the Young Storytellers Writers.