We’ve all heard of the some of the more popularly known diets like the Atkins Diet or a Juice Detox, but what’s become a sort of blessing to New Yorkers is the recently proclaimed Pizza Diet. That’s correct. According to Chef Pasquale Cozzolino of “Ribalta” in Manhattan’s East Village, eating a whole pie at his restaurant provided him with both a filing and relatively healthy meal at only 570 calories. So, while dieting on his delicious brick oven pizza, Cozzolino has lost a total of 100 pounds in just five months! It’s no wonder People and Good Morning America, among many other media outlets, have taken the time out to discuss the diet with the Italian chef. “It’s not only about a diet it’s about a lifestyle,” says Chef Cozzolino.
To continue the celebration of this magnificent diet, the New York Film Academy commemorated Chef Cozzolio by filming a 360 degree / Virtual Reality video at the new dining hot-spot, Ribalta. The VR, 360 video was directed by NYFA Florence Program Director Diana Santi, shot by NYFA Florence Equipment Manager Nicola Ciccarelli, and included cast and crew made up of acting and filmmaking students and alumni.
“This terrific video from the New York Film Academy will drive you straight in the heart of Ribalta,” said Owner, Rosario Procino. “Look around, enjoy and discover our place!”
Having the opportunity to explore this technology for the first time has led to a bit of excitement at the Academy as well.
photo by Shani Patel
“360 Video and/or Virtual Reality is still a nascent technology,” said Diana Santi. “Only pioneers are using it so far and we want to be part of that!”
With the belief that 360 Video / VR will be an integral part of the filmmaking and entertainment world for years to come, be on the look out for more VR content and a Virtual Reality Filmmaking Workshop at the New York Film Academy. Stay tuned!
Nothing like cuddling up with your loved one on Valentine’s Day with a psychological thriller, chiller/horror film. Come on, you know it sounds great. Now that you’re convinced, we have the perfect recommendation for you. Lilin’s Brood, created by New York Film Academy MFA Producing graduates Artii Smith and Phil Simon, has been picked up for distribution and is now available on iTunes, and will be released on Amazon next Friday, February 12th—just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The movie is about a “New Media” news coverage team (W.H.I.S.T.L.E.) that is stranded near a beleaguered brothel in the middle of nowhere. The footage that is recovered will reveal what happens when they encounter a group of women with a terrifying secret.
“It’s personal in a sense that we both really love the horror/thriller genre and wanted to create a story that people like us would love to see,” said Smith. “Also, the characters we created were a loose combination of people we’ve known from our past experiences.”
The NYFA grads shot the film on a small budget over an eleven day period.
“Coming up with a strategy far in advance on how to tackle each phase of a project should be top priority,” says Smith. “We planned every single creative detail and business strategic move meticulously.”
The filmmaking duo also suggests young filmmakers really believe in the story they are working on. It takes so much energy to create a feature, and you don’t want to be stuck doing a project you’re not passionate about.
Before studying at NYFA’s Producing program, Smith was only interested in producing projects. He didn’t want to write and he wasn’t entirely sure about becoming a director either. But NYFA changed his attitude.
“I think my joy for writing was discovered and ultimately nurtured at NYFA, and my love for directing really flourished as well. Working with writing professor David O’Leary, I believe, now that I look back, was an essential experience I needed in helping me develop and write engaging feature film scripts. Working with directing professor Nick Sivakumaran really helped me discover my love for directing.”
Smith and Simon currently have a part two to Lilin’s Brood already written up and ready to shoot. They are also have several other projects in various stages of development—from treatment to full script—that vary in different genres such as Science Fiction, Drama, Comedy, Action and Historical Biopics.
AlArabiya, the largest and most respected Middle Eastern news outlet, has given a huge boost to the social media efforts of a group of New York Film Academy students who have teamed up to create the thought-provoking web series, Sargo. Within one week of airing on YouTube, the series trailer reached over 100,000 views and interest continues to grow.
Filmmaker Aymen Khoja (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaker) has written and directed the web series about a young Saudi guy who is kidnapped by two dim but dangerous men. The audience must ponder: ‘Will he be able to find his way to freedom or arrive home in a box?’
The series tackles relevant topics such as U.S. and Arab racial bias and racial profiling.
Khoja, in development at NYFA for his first feature film, Shoot, has assembled a team of currently enrolled NYFA students for the series. Working both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, NYFA students are:
Former MA Film and Media Production student Dimitris Tranos decided to tackle a difficult subject in his New York Film Academy thesis film. The film, Heavy Cross, triggered by his grandfather’s irreversible illness which kept him confined to his bed for years, resulted in Tranos’ research about terminally ill people who asked their loved ones to assist them to commit suicide, due to the lack of legal alternatives. In his short film, which won a Rising Star Award at the Athens International Digital Film Festival, Tranos explores the moral and ethical dilemma that an individual faces when he or she is asked to do the same, taking into consideration that the religious and social factors have a great impact on this decision. Through this film, Tranos asks a simple question: If the right to life is indisputable, what about the right to die?
“I chose the main theme of my film to be ‘the right to die as a moral principle’ because I wanted to explore how family, friends and society in general react to a terminally ill person’s will to terminate his or her own life,” said Tranos. “I have witnessed my own grandfather being confined to bed for several years, losing day by day his vision and his ability to communicate with his surroundings. Even if nothing was ever said, I knew that everybody in the family was praying for him to find redemption.”
In Heavy Cross, Sarah, a religious caretaker faces a serious moral dilemma when she meets Mike, a seriously ill and confined to bed veteran of Iraq, who wants Sarah to help him commit suicide.
Tranos was able to collaborate with talented students and alumni from NYFA like Luciana Capela (Co-producer), Henry Li (Cinematographer), Alonso Grandio (Actor) and Leonardo Bentes (1st AD) to name a few.
“My studies at NYFA helped me a lot,” says Tranos. “My instructors were there to assist me in the whole process.”
Currently, Tranos is in the process of finishing the 1st draft of a feature script about unfulfilled teenage dreams and how impactful they can be in their adult life.
As a champion behind women and diversity in film, the Bentonville Film Festival, founded by actress Geena Davis and Trevor Drinkwater, crowned the film Jack of the Red Hearts with its first “Jury Award.” The independent film was written, directed, shot and produced by women—something the festival and the New York Film Academy have been advocates for.
As such, NYFA Battery Place hosted a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with director Janet Grillo, as well as actors Scott Cohen and Taylor Richardson. The discussion was moderated by NYFA Acting for Film Chair, Glynis Rigsby and Short-term Filmmaking Chair, Jonathan Whittaker.
Jonathan Whittaker, Glynis Rigsby, Taylor Richardson, Scott Cohen and Janet Grillo
In the film, up and coming star AnnaSophia Robb portrays “Jack,” a tough teenage runaway on the lam from her parole officer. The conniving street kid brazenly impersonates a trained caregiver and forms a unique bond with an 11 year-old autistic girl named Glory, brilliantly played by newcomer and guest Taylor Richardson, who played Annie on Broadway. The child’s desperate mother Kay (Famke Janssen) bonds with the young impostor as a surrogate daughter she can actually converse with. When the deception is exposed and the cops descend, loving father Mark, played by our guest Scott Cohen, struggles to hold his family together as the pieces of this puzzle are reshuffled into a new, satisfying whole.
“As the mother of a child on the Autism Spectrum, I well know the challenge to ‘change the things I can,’ while struggling to ‘accept what I cannot.,'” says Grillo. “The passionate fight for your child’s fullest life can deplete your own life into a hollow shell. When we meet Kay, the mother in Jack of the Red Hearts, she’s at the precipice of losing all she is, as she fights for her child to become all she can. Meanwhile, Jack, who has known nothing but loss, is fighting to hold onto the only thing she has left—her sister. What they don’t know, but soon discover, is how much they need—and help one another. Their unpredictable bond is at the core of this film. As they come to identify with each other, we identify with them. And grow our hearts a bit larger.”
Director and guest speaker, Janet Grillo came onto the project after being pursued for the director role by producer Lucy Muckerjee-Brown due to her film Fly Away, which also focuses on autism. Grillo recalls reading and loving the script on June 23rd and two years later, to the day, she was filming what she read.
When it comes to working on set, Grillo says, “If you’re very prepared, you have the freedom to be flexible.”
“It really helped that the movie was filmed chronologically,” added Richardson. “I was able to understand the progression of my character.”
Taylor Richardson and Scott Cohen
As for the father in the film—played by actor Scott Cohen, who can be seen in Showtime’s new series Billions—he too found the story to be a bit personal, having dealt with some of the challenges of autism in his own life. “I feel blessed to be able to use my own history in bringing the character to life, and also learning things that I didn’t know.”
As our moderators and students would agree, there are numerous stand-out performances in this award-winning indie film. If you’re looking for a movie of substance, without the need for violence or explosions, be sure to check out Jack of the Red Hearts in theaters on February 26th!
With over 100,000 social media followers and close to 7 million views on her Youtube channel, the former New York Film Academy Summer Camp student Nika Khargiyanova from Moscow, Russia is better known under her singer/songwriter, model and popular video blogger pseudonym Nika Nova.
From a very young age, Nika excelled in almost everything she participated in: ballet, modeling, singing, dancing, and acting in theatre productions. After winning several beauty pageants and talent competitions, her first major accomplishment was when she was voted the Grand Prix winner in the prestigious “Young Pearl of Europe & Asia” competition. Soon after, she was voted “Miss International” and the winner of the coveted “Miss Fashion Of The World,” where she was crowned by famous designer, Pierre Cardin. At the age of 11, Nika became fascinated with video blogging, which was beginning to become very popular with young people across Russia. Utilizing Youtube, she created and produced her own talk shows called “What’s Up, Stars?” and “What’s Up, Teens?”—a spin on American talk shows.
As creator, producer, writer, editor and host of the show, Nika would interview famous Russian artists and actors. It didn’t take long until Russian teens found the Youtube channel, making it a major hit.
Soon after, in the summer of 2013, Nika traveled to Los Angeles to study Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. There she focused on creating and producing film while studying at the world-famous Universal Studios. After her training at NYFA, her newly created “What’s Up, Stars?” grew enormously popular all over the Internet. In 2014 “What’s up, Stars?!” was officially accredited by the main television channel of Russia, “First Channel,” which produces such well known shows as “The Voice” and “Voice Kids.”
Today, Nika works with songwriters and producers from all over the world, including Russia, USA, Australia and the UK. At the same time, fashion Moscow magazine OOPS did a spread on Nika for their October, 2014 issue.
Nika has exploded into the music scene and there is nothing standing in her way. Recently, she took part in Grammy Award-winning composer Laura Sullivan’s project called “900 Voices.” She sings both Russian and English, and she is on a mission to be the first Russian female recording artist ever to break through the competitive Western music market. At the moment, more than 200 radio stations play her music, but her dream and major focus is to not only break into music, but television and film as well.
Nika Nova on Hollywood Blvd.
Despite her busy schedule, NYFA recently had the opportunity to catch up with the former summer camp student to ask her a few questions about her blossoming career.
We know you must be very busy with your singing/songwriting, modeling and video blogging. Can you tell us a little more about the projects you are currently working on?
Yes, I am always working on something creative. I am interested in everything that is related to music videos, vlogs, songs, videos, and, of course, my program “What’s up, Stars?”
We know you have a very large fan base. How do you manage your time to work, study and also stay connected with your followers?
Since I can remember, I have always lived like this. But this year is pretty complicated for me, because I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for college. But I can’t stop to writing songs, shooting videos and communicating with my subscribers. They are watching my work and can see how much time I spend editing my videos and writing my songs. And I’m so glad that my followers are understanding in the fact that I can’t always respond in time, even though I try. They are always with me and supporting me.
What made you decide to study at NYFA?
At age 11, I started to get involved in video blogging. I wrote scripts, filmed on my unprofessional camera, and I had to master the editing program Final Cut Pro. I’ve got thousands of subscribers and I really like to create my own videos, but I don’t have enough professional training. My dream was to go to NYFA. When my parents saw my passion in filmmaking, they supported me; and when I was 14 years old, they realized my dream and I went to New York Film Academy. It was hard to believe, but it happened!
You attended a few of our programs. Did you have a favorite and why?
After completing my first course, the quality of my projects improved greatly. I began to position myself not only as video blogger, but also as a singer. I began to try to shoot and edit my own music videos.
Some of which won “Academia Music Awards” (LA) as a singer and as a video producer .
So, in 2015, I went back to study Music Video Production and Acting for Film.
It’s difficult to choose which program I like more, because I’m interested in everything. Each course has its own specifics.
What was most memorable about your time here at NYFA?
Of course, it was amazing to film and to be filmed at the world-famous Universal Studios! This was an amazing opportunity because you feel like you’re part of the Hollywood film industry—the world’s best!
Students have the unique chance to shoot their projects on a studio where major blockbusters have been filmed.
Also, I like to communicate with students from different parts of the world, and now I have a lot of friends from all over the world and we still communicate today!
During your time here, what was one of the most valuable things you learned?
I learned that creativity can bring people together despite differences in religion, politics or even nationality.
How have you used your new skills to help you with the projects you are currently working on?
Practical projects taught me a lot. During the courses, I had an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a director and an actor in castings and on set. Now I’m more confident in my videos than I had been in the past, but I would still like to learn more and more!
Would you recommend any of your programs to others interested in attending and why?
Yes, I’d recommend NYFA for sure! In any creative profession it is very important to practice. NYFA gives you this opportunity, and any student can realize his or her most ambitious projects!
And most importantly, at NYFA you can learn any of the major creative professions related to film, television, digital technology and media space.
From conception to full realization, with a modern technical base, we have the opportunity to attend master classes of the most famous (and Oscar-winning) actors and directors.
What do you have planned for yourself in 2016?
One of my latest projects was a music video for the Russian song “Набери,” which I produced. I shot this together with friends but took an active part in the assembly of the project, as well as generating ideas. Now I’m preparing another song, in which I wrote the music for, and I’m already thinking about a script for a new movie. I plan to work on some new projects with “What’s up, Stars?” and release my music album “With Love from Moscow.” And finally, I hope to have an opportunity to return to NYFA once again.
Any advice you can give to teens looking to grow their career in the performing arts?
Believe and fight for your dreams! And never ever give up.
New York Film Academy students received a special treat when Emmy award-winning TV director Mary Lou Belli taught her acclaimed sitcom directing and acting workshop at the school. Mary Lou has been directing television for over 20 years and the shows she’s worked on include NCIS New Orleans, Monk, Hart of Dixie, Wizards of Waverly Place, Sister Sister, Charles in Charge, Girlfriends, and The Game, to name a few. She has co-authored three books, “The NEW Sitcom Career Book,” “Acting for Young Actors,” and “Directors Tell the Story,” with fellow DGA member Bethany Rooney.
The theater was packed with filmmaking and acting students thrilled to learn more about the art of sitcom. Mary Lou first lectured, sharing crucial sitcom concepts and vocabulary, and then brought groups of volunteering students to the stage where she paired them off to run classic sitcom scenes. Mary Lou critiqued the students’ performances using the concepts and vocabulary she taught them, and had them run the scenes again and again until they perfectly popped like any comic gem you’d see on television. She also cycled in and out filmmaking students to shadow her as director and jump in with their own scene critique and reworking when called upon. The energy in the room was high and students raced to the stage to be the next to participate. The audience cheered and burst out in laughter at every scene iteration.
NYFA students were also happy to discover that the curriculum and experience that they received is very close to what they saw from a world-class sitcom director.
We sincerely thank Mary Lou Belli for imparting her wisdom on to us and look forward to the next wonderful TV show she directs!
On January 9, The New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus facilitated a unique day of workshops for more than twenty-five soldiers from the 201st and 222nd Public Affairs detachments.
With the support of the New York Film Academy’s Foundation, the College was honored to have the opportunity to work with this exemplary group of servicemembers.
The 201st and 222nd units are both based out of Bell, CA and consist of public affairs officers, combat photographers, combat correspondents and broadcast specialists who are involved in creating, filming, reporting, hosting and editing news and entertainment radio and television program.
These groups are primarily responsible for participating in and supervising the operation of audio or video news for the American Forces Network (AFN), The Pentagon Channel or Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). Combat Correspondents, or broadcast journalists in the 222nd prepare scripts and news copy for radio and television programs and participate as hosts, announcers, masters of ceremonies, and actors in radio and television broadcasts. The 222nd has a long, proud history of telling soldiers’ stories as they serve all over the world. Most recently, the 222nd supported the public affairs mission with two yearlong tours of duty in Baghdad, Iraq.
The classes were taught by NYFA instructors in the College’s Filmmaking Department, who have decades of experience in the industry. Documentary Chair, Barbara Multer-Wellin led the program. The first workshop provided an overview on essential interview techniques and how to formulate intriguing interview questions, which were then used to dialogue with special guests John Henry and Nick Searcy.
John Henry is the co-founder of Purple Star Veterans and families, a non-profit created to assist struggling transitioning veterans and their families, and Nick Searcy is a renowned actor who has starred on productions such as: Tigerland, Castaway, The Fugitive, and most current ongoing TV series (Justified). The soldiers interviewed the gentlemen utilizing the techniques and interview skills they procured through the workshop.
After the interview techniques session the participants divided into two groups for instruction on camera and lighting techniques and how to properly light a set for an interview and on the importance of sound and how to achieve the best sound quality for a high quality interview. Lance Fisher (Filmmaking Instructor) instructed one group and the other was taught sound by James Coburn (Filmmaking Instructor).
At the end of the intense training day, Christopher Cardoza, a Specialist assigned to the 201st Public Affairs Detachment stated, “This experience was without a doubt, one of the most honorable moments of my military career. I was able to practice the proper tools of Networking, Building Relationships, and having a Rolodex of greatness!” In addition to his service at the 201st, Specialist Cardoza is a BFA student at NYFA and assisted the College’s Veterans Service staff in putting this successful event together.
“One of the greatest hands-on training that our unit has performed, in the time I’ve been with the 201st,” remarked SPC Kris Wright.
These workshops were tailored for our 201st and 222nd guests, and based on the New York Film Academy’s mission to provide the most hands-on instruction in the world and the participating members from the 201st and 222nd Public Affairs Detachment soldiers were very thankful for the trainings, which provided the opportunity to gain a large amount of knowledge that will be instrumental in the growth of their careers.
The New York Film Academy, the world’s largest and most prestigious visual and performing arts private institution, is a certified and award-winning Military Friendly School committed to supporting this newest generation of veterans. NYFA is proud to serve military veterans and servicemembers in their pursuit of a world-class education in filmmaking—and related disciplines—through its Veterans Advancement ProgramChaired by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient.
The 201st posted this article after attending our workshop on January 9th. You will have to be logged in to Facebook in order to view. Please click here to check it out.
Coming out of his MA Film and Media Production degree from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Varun Verma was hired by Replay Collective to work as a Line Producer for the production company. Replay Collective works with some of the most creative young filmmakers out there today to produce the most engaging content for major brands. While working for Replay, Verma has worked on almost a dozen high profile music videos, major commercials, and a few international short films.
Varun Verma on set of one of his productions
Given the fact that many of our recent graduates are deciding which specific field in the industry to explore, we decided to get some more insight into Verma’s career after film school, as well as his role as a Line Producer for Replay.
Congrats on your success thus far! Can you tell us how you began working for Replay Collective?
During my final semester, I was producing a NYFA thesis called Maquisard, directed by Kurt Claridades, in an abandoned town called Boron. The first day of the shoot, I found out that there was another production going on at the same location, which was being produced by Replay Collective. Since there were student and studio productions at the same location, it was a big challenge for me to coordinate with them and make sure every one returns home with completed work and making sure the director achieves his vision. One day, I sat with producer Sid Ganji, who I work with now, and scheduled in such a way that neither of our productions would ever conflict with each other. The very next day, I received a message from Sid saying they liked the way I handled the situation and would like to hire me as a freelance line producer on two music videos of for the popular Youtube artist, Trisha Paytas. Fortunately, my first music video project “Fat Chicks” went viral (almost 5 million views to date) and was covered by Cosmopolitan magazine. After a few more freelance gigs with Replay, I was finally offered a full-time job with the company.
What are some of the challenges that come with your role as line producer?
My job as Line Producer is to support the director’s vision under the given budget. This typically includes making sure the crew is content and treated well. Keeping calm in tough circumstances is a big challenge. For example, at a recent production, our A.D. had an accident in morning and it was a tough call whether to get a new A.D. or wait for his final call. Meanwhile, our crew became irritated and began complaining about the set not being organized and, as a result, there was a communication breakdown amongst the crew—which ultimately went to higher authority. Overall, it’s a high pressure job from all aspects. And it’s tough not to freak out and prioritize the task and think a step ahead with all of the possible consequences of a decision I make that I’m totally accountable for.
Which of the videos that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
Recently, I worked on a music video project “Problematic” by Ricky Dillon featuring Snoop Dogg that I am very proud of. Another video that I am proud of was “Steal the Show” by Ricky Dillon, as well as the EA Games’ “Battlefield Hardline” commercial. Every project comes with new challenges and creatives. As a producer, I love working on new creatives, which makes me explore the horizon and gain experience in something completely new.
Was your experience at NYFA useful in terms of being prepared to work as a line producer?
I never thought I would end up as a producer, but NYFA played a big role in teaching industry level ethics and detailed orientation of the hollywood industry. I’m very thankful to NYFA for the practical training, in which I was given the opportunity to experience every crew position and now, as a producer, it helps me understand what it takes to be in a particular crew position.
What is your overall goal in the entertainment industry? What do you hope to achieve?
Since I love producing, and it’s fun to work in numbers and creatives, my goal is to become youngest award-wining commercial producer and eventually work on feature movies.
Zhong is an award-winning Chinese actor who has appeared in a number of films, including Beginning of the Great Revival 建党伟业 (2011) and Intern 青年医生 (1997). He’s also starred in several Chinese television series, such as Beijing Youth 北京青年 (2012), Man Group 男人帮 (2011) and Marriage Battle 婚姻保卫战 (2010), among others.
Zhong’s short musical film features a girl who struggles with and, ultimately, matures from a difficult breakup with her boyfriend. Normally, a close friend would rise to this occasion, but more often than not, they do it out of obligation as a friend. However, this story depicts a helping hand from a stranger, who did it out of trust, sympathy and compassion. We are all expected to help one another as gregarious individuals. It is from this extraordinary experience that the main character becomes even stronger—mentally and psychologically.
“It is a musical film about love,” said Zhong. “I have been studying at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus for only three months—it is impossible for me to know the states that well. Of course, I can make an ‘American film’ from my perspective, but the audience would not be able to relate to it. It is nearly impossible to make an authentic Chinese movie in LA. However, there is no better theme than a love story that touches every one of us and goes beyond age, race, gender and nationality.”
Indeed it is quite a compelling film to people from all different backgrounds, and an incredible accomplishment for a student film.