Italian filmmaker and actor, Alfonso Perugini came to New York City with a Cinema Studies background, but it was at the New York Film Academy’s hands-on Two Year Filmmaking Conservatory in that Perugini says he truly “perfected the technique of filmmaking.” In addition to honing his craft at the Academy, Perugini fell in love with the city that surrounded him.
NYFA grad, Alfonso Perugini
Two years after graduating from NYFA, Perugini completed his first major film, which will be screening at Laceno d’Oro, a prestigious international film festival held in Italy. This year’s festival includes films from famous directors such as Abel Ferrara, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders. In fact, Perugini’s film, New York, will be screening right before Wenders’ on September 17th.
Perugini’s film is divided into five episodes—one dedicated to each borough in New York City—Staten Island, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The protagonist is a photojournalist named Patrick Fawkes (played by Finnish Jarkko Mäkelä), who returns home after a four month trip in which he’s been reporting on US troops in Afghanistan.
His cast includes actors from all around the world. Two of the female leads come from South America, Venezuelan model Carla De La Hoz and NYFA acting graduate Sofia Negromonte from Brazil. American actor, Daniel Berkey, whose been in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, plays the father of the protagonist.
Of particular note is the film’s score from the unpublished repertory of the famous Italian composer, Piero Piccioni.
After New York’s Laceno screening on September 17th, the film will continue its tour at festivals and film events all over the world.
Coming off the success of her award-winning short film, 7 Hours, which screened at over 30 film festivals across the world, New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking graduate Farah Fuad ALHashem has a new film currently making the rounds at festivals around the world.
The documentary film, Breakfast in Beirut, recently screened at the Lebanese Film Festival in Sydney, Australia and is currently circulating around the Arab world with screenings coming up at the Alexandria International Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries 2015 (September 2nd-8th, 2015 in Egypt). In November, it will screen at the Cairo International Film Festival as well as screenings in Paris, Venice, Beirut and Dubai.
The documentary film’s experimental direction examines Beirut as a chaotic city and its inhabitants’ relationship with it. But underneath this chaos, the heart of Beirut is waiting to be discovered.
After writing 17 different versions of the script, with script supervisor Rachel Vine in Universal Studios, Hollywood, writer and filmmaker Farah ALHashem kept changing the storyline until her arrival in Beirut, where she ended up shooting a completely different version of the script.
For more information about the film, you can visit the Facebook Page. Also, have a look at the trailer below!
New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater on the Warner Bros. studios lot in Los Angeles to watch a special screening of the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, and participate in a Q&A with the film’s star actress, Aubrey Plaza. The discussion was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and NYFA acting instructor Anne Moore.
Aubrey is most widely known for playing the deadpan employee April Ludgate in the hit TV series Parks and Recreation. She has appeared in Funny People—directed by Judd Apatow—as Seth Rogan’s love interest, as well as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Portlandia, Derrick Comedy’s Mystery Team, a CollegeHumor short alongside Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, the Sundance hit Life After Beth, and the speaking voice of Grumpy Cat in their upcoming original movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. Her first starring role alongside Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed, directed by Colin Trevorrow (Jurrassic World), was critically acclaimed. Aubrey loves performing improv and stand up comedy and has appeared regularly at The Upright Citizens Brigade, Laugh Factory, and The Improv.
Aubrey, having attended NYFA’s high school summer camp for filmmaking in 2001, was enthusiastic about returning to her alma mater and talking to students who are journeying down the same road she took not to long ago. She had fond memories of her experience at the New York Film Academy and even said that she learned more practical knowledge about filmmaking in those weeks she spent at NYFA than in the first two years of undergraduate film school. She was also very adamant that the short films she made at NYFA were integral in making her college application package successful. Aubrey established a sincere connection with the over 150 high school NYFA students in attendance and they were eager to ask her questions.
Plaza discussed how she managed to foray into the mainstream. In 2007 she appeared in a web series called The Jeannie Tate Show — a mock talk show about a soccer mom who interviews celebrities in her van while running errands. Aubrey played Jeannie Tate’s delinquent junkie daughter who harasses the show’s guests. This got the attention of an agent who contacted her. Plaza called and emailed the agent regularly checking on whether any roles appropriate for her had come across his desk. Finally, in 2009, the agent recommended Aubrey try out for Seth Rogen’s love interest, Daisy, in Judd Apatow’s Funny People. Since stand up comedy is a focus of the show and the character Daisy is a stand up comic, Aubrey began signing herself up for open mic nights at comedy clubs and bars all across New York City. It was extremely terrifying for her at first but she became more and more confident in doing it. She had her friend film her during the stand up routines and she sent the tapes in to Judd Apatow and his casting director and they loved her. Instead of just auditioning and hoping she got the part, Aubrey took initiative and took her destiny into her own hands.
Anne Moore, Tova Laiter and Aubrey Plaza
Aubrey reminisced about her time on the wildly successful series Parks and Recreation, noting that the relaxed environment of a TV series allowed her and comedian co-stars like Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari to try different things and improv. This contrasts for her with the more stringent environment of a movie set which demands that actors say their exact line, precisely hit marks and find their light just right — however, Aubrey loves both challenges. When talking about what it was like to work with Chris Pratt, Aubrey admitted that she absolutely adores him and says he’s like a smart “giant puppy,” but that she was not as obsessed as her character.
After Aubrey was asked, “If you could be in any movie franchise, what would it be?” she immediately burst out with, “Catwoman!” Yes that’s right, she would love to reinvent the DC Comics character and add her own Aubrey Plaza brand of charm and wit much like what was done with Guardians of the Galaxy. Everyone in the audience cheered, she sold us on it and now we too want to see Aubrey play Catwoman on the silver screen.
We sincerely thank Aubrey for returning to the New York Film Academy and we wish her continued success in her exciting career!
Students gathered in New York Film Academy Los Angeles’s theater to watch a special advance screening of the new indie film The Last Survivors and participate in a Q&A with Writer/Director/NYFA instructor Tom Hammock, Writer/Producer Jacob Forman and Actor/NYFA instructor Michael McCartney. The discussion was moderated by NYFA LA’s Dean of College Sonny Calderon.
The Last Survivors is a post-apocalyptic thriller about a teenage girl who fights to protect the last working well in a drought-stricken valley from a greedy water baron. The film is a perfect example of maximum efficiency to the utmost effect in low budget filmmaking. Director Tom Hammock and Producer Jacob Forman wrote The Last Survivors with the limited resources available to them in mind. After viewing the film, it’s mind blowing to comprehend what they were able to achieve with A-list talent, in the middle of a desert that often dropped below 30 degrees, and all the while creating a completely unique world so different from our own. Tom and Jacob are successful because they know it’s not their resources that matter but their resourcefulness. Tom has worked in the entertainment industry as a top-notch production designer for many years now. Along the way he has made strong alliances with cinematographers, editors, sound designers, title artists, etc., who work on the biggest and most prestigious Hollywood productions. He was able to convince this level of talent to join his team because of the trust he’s built with them, but also because his unique film offered opportunities for these professionals to expand their creative horizons.
The film was shot with a skeleton crew of six or less. The director also served as 2nd AC and props master. The producer acted as 1st AD and even performed as many of the masked henchmen in the film. Michael McCartney and the other cast members would pitch in in every way, assisting with production design and moving equipment. This is a testament to how incredible these filmmakers are. They used their resources for what mattered most, and after watching the film, any knowledgeable producer would swear the film couldn’t be made for less than five times its actual budget. This type of creative economic efficiency is what’s valued most in Hollywood. These are filmmakers who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. This was a large point of discussion during the Q&A: Moving up the ladder does not mean productions will be more “comfortable” or “easy” for you as you ascend. Filmmakers must always be willing to show their collaborators that they themselves are willing to do whatever it takes to make their projects and make them great. Tom Hammock, Jacob Forman, and Michael McCartney went through hell to do the impossible and they did it smiling because they love making movies.
Tom Hammock with Jacob Forman
Tom Hammock, the Writer and Director of The Last Survivors, is also a seasoned professional production designer with over 15 feature films under his belt, including the critically acclaimed horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Guest, which sold to Picturehouse out of Sundance, You’re Next, which sold to Lionsgate out of the Toronto International Film Festival, reshoots on Jacob Aaron Estes’ The Details starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney and Ray Liotta, and reshoots on Taylor Hackford’s Parker starring Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez and Nick Nolte. Tom is currently designing the feature Babylon for director Sean Byrne and promoting his YALSA-nominated graphic novel An Aurora Grimeon Story: Will O’ The Wisp, for publisher Archaia. Tom has taught production design and marketing courses at New York Film Academy.
The Last Survivors Producer and Writer Jacob Forman’s first produced feature, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, starring Amber Heard and Anson Mount, screened at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, and was acquired there by The Weinstein Company for worldwide distribution. The film received its much-anticipated US theatrical release in October 2013. In 2007, MTV Films bought Jacob’s feature film spec Handsome Devil in a bidding war with several studios. Kevin Misher is producing. Jacob currently has features in development at Paramount Pictures, Davis Entertainment, and Liddell Entertainment. IM Global, the Mark Gordon Company and Film 360 are producing his latest spec. Jacob has also held television development deals with ABC Studios and CBS Television.
Sonny Calderon with Michael McCartney
Michael McCartney has appeared in The Amazing Spiderman, Dealing, Neal Cassady, Confess, Bringing Rain, Halloween: Resurrection, Conan O’Brien, Law & Order, Conviction, and The Office. Most recently, Michael completed directing, writing, producing and starring in his web pilot The Millionaires. Michael is on faculty at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
We sincerely thank Tom Hammock, Jacob Forman, and Michael McCartney for visiting the New York Film Academy and giving us an invaluable lesson on filmmaking, and we wish them the best with their film.
The Last Survivors is in theaters now, available on VOD, available to buy on Blu-ray, and to stream through Amazon.com.
New York Film Academy students gathered recently for a screening of the hit film Thor followed by a Q&A with its story writer Joseph Michael Straczynski.
J. Michael Straczynski works in films, television series, novels, short stories, comic books, radio dramas and other media. Straczynski is a playwright, former journalist, and author of The Complete Book of Scriptwriting. He was the creator and showrunner for the science fiction television series Babylon 5, for which he wrote 92 out of the 110 episodes, and the four Babylon 5 TV movies produced alongside the series. From 2001 to 2007, he was the writer for the long-running Marvel comic book series The Amazing Spider-Man. He also famously wrote for Thor, Superman, the Superman: Earth One original graphic novels, Before Watchmen and Wonder Woman. In 2009, Straczynski was nominated for the BAFTA Award for his screenplay for Changeling starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastward. His new series, Sense8, for the Wachowski’s brother-sister team (Matrix) premiered in 2015. Producer Tova Laiter and NYFA’s screenwriting instructor Crickett Rumley moderated the Q&A.
Screenwriting Instructor Crickett Rumley, Producer Tova Laiter and Screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski
Mr. Straczynski was an incredible inspiration to all writers in the audience. He discussed how writing was something he’s been doing since he was a boy and has continued to be a therapeutic process for him. In his dry sense of humor, his advice to young writers was to “write out the crap.” After chuckles from the audience Michael went on to seriously explain that the first couple scripts any writer produces will inevitably be bad. So you might as well accept the fact that you’ll only get around to writing better material when you get all that bad stuff out of your system. Michael advocates that to become a better writer you just have to write A LOT. Every script teaches you a lesson. The more scripts you write, the more lessons you’ll learn.
What stands out most about Michael’s career is how extremely prolific he is. He related a story highlighting this strength which astounded students. Six years ago, the Wachowskis approached him to rewrite the script for the film Ninja Assassin. The only catch was that it was a Tuesday and they needed a rewrite by Friday as the film was going into production very soon. Michael said “OK,” went home and started the coffee machine. He calculated how many pages he would have to write per hour and slept three hours a day at his desk. Come Friday, however, he had a completely finished rewrite, and the Wachowskis were thrilled with!
Sense8, a Netflix Original Series, is Mr. Straczynski’s most recent project that he created with the Wachowskis. The plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally linked. The show aims to explore subjects that its the Wachowskis and Straczynski felt science fiction shows, at least ostensibly, tend to ignore or skim through — such as politics, identity, sexuality, gender and religion. Michael penned every episode of the series. The Netflix has seen huge success inside and outside of the U.S.
We sincerely thank Joseph Michael Straczynski for dropping by NYFA and wish him continued success with Sense8 and his future endeavors!
We’d like to congratulate one of our BFA Filmmaking students at New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Chang Hyun Park, whose short film The Script screened at the 19th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. BiFan is a Korean film festival that redefines the fantasy genre films. The festival, which includes 235 total films from 45 different countries, runs from July 16 – 26.
In the film, his main character, a screenwriter named William, deals with the stress of severe writer’s block. Park describes his film as a “twisted” film with a focus on schizophrenia.
Originally from South Korea, Park had been studying film in his home country but never had the opportunity to actually make a film! “I usually studied about film in front of desk,” recalled Park. “But I really wanted to make a movie and knew NYFA was known for its hands-on filmmaking programs and its commitment to providing high quality equipment to make a movie.”
After he graduates, he hopes to use his showcase his films in order to get work in Hollywood as a writer/director. With a film already making the festival circuits as a student, we think he has a great chance to succeed.
Every low-budget horror filmmaker’s dream is to have his or her work seen by producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Whiplash). In the case of New York Film Academy alumnus Chris Lofing, this dream was transformed into something even bigger than he could have imagined. On July 10, his debut feature The Gallows, co-written and co-directed by Travis Cluff and produced by Jason Blum, will be released nationwide and in over 50 countries.
Chris and Travis gave New York Film Academy’s students a sneak preview of The Gallows, and discussed their movie’s journey from a micro budget to 2,700 screens.
In 2010, the future horror auteurs met while making Chris’s NYFA thesis film. This wildly ambitious project had a tight budget, necessitating Chris’s shooting in the more affordable city of Fresno. A call for stuntmen led to his meeting Travis Cluff, a recent champion on ABC’s Wipeout. Soon after their first collaboration, Chris and Travis discovered they were perfect teammates and created their own company, Tremendum Pictures.
For several years Chris and Travis produced commercials and industrials, but always had an eye on making feature films. Inspired by a tragic high school tale Chris heard from his father, The Gallows was born. The plot (no spoilers, we promise): Several years ago, a high school student named Charlie was killed in a horrific accident during a performance of The Gallows. Cut to present day and the school is resurrecting the failed play in an attempt to commemorate the tragedy. When a few students break in one night to stop the production, they discover that Charlie’s “performance” is far from over.
Embracing the found-footage style employed in films like Paranormal Activity, Travis and Chris have created a horror film which is scary and remarkably grounded, featuring a cast that comes off as real high-schoolers trapped in a truly horrific situation. Chris and Travis explained that they did not write a traditional script, but instead used an outline, which allowed the actors to better inhabit their roles and sell the film’s realism.
When Travis and Chris initially shot their film, they could afford only one location: a beautifully gothic theater in Fresno. Once they posted their trailer on Youtube, people in Hollywood began to take notice and the calls came rolling in. The Weinstein Brothers reached out, along with Management 360. Suddenly the filmmakers who were by their own description “sleeping in their van” while visiting LA were a hot commodity. All of which culminated in a meeting with the modern day godfather of low budget horror, Jason Blum. The producer hosted a screening of their film that was met with a rapturous response. Realizing they had the potential for a wide release, the filmmakers (now teamed with Blumhouse Productions) went back to work.
With a larger – though still minute – budget, the filmmakers could now shoot scenes in an actual high school. The crew got a little bigger, but the do-it-yourself attitude remained the same. However, one major change occurred in the recasting of a principal role, which necessitated filming most of the movie a second time. With every new cut, the filmmakers realized there was still more they could do and continued to shoot more material.
Dean of Students Eric Conner with the filmmakers and his students
Once the film was finalized, New Line & Warner Bros. came on board to distribute The Gallows. As the directors explained, The Gallows is the lowest budget movie to ever receive such a wide opening weekend release.
Chris said the work he did at NYFA in directing so many different projects and having to be a “do-it-yourself” filmmaker gave him the preparation needed to get The Gallows made. After riding his bike every day next to Warner Bros. en route to school, he’s now got the privilege of seeing his own movie’s poster adorning the Warner Bros wall.
The New York Film Academy has gathered an award-winning team of industry professionals to produce a mini-documentary series about the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Three very different people tell us their story and the story of their community. Each episode, told with cinematic flair and shot with the new Sony FS7 camera, will guide the audience on a journey to discover the authenticity and soul of each neighborhood.
Today we shot footage of the Korean musician, SeonJoo Lee. She arrived from South Korea several years ago to attend a language school in Westwood; but three years ago began to feel homesick and moved to Koreatown, a home away from home.
We shot at Chapman Plaza and the City Center, both on 6th Street. We had two cameras filming in order to get the coverage we needed.
“I’m a big fan of the new Sony FS7; it was so portable and user-friendly.” The handgrip and arm design provided DP Travis Hoffman with much support to keep the handheld camerawork steady. And he easily switched frame rates from 24fps to 48fps to 60fps.
“The FS7 worked great on so many levels and I couldn’t be more pleased with this perfect hybrid between a great run and gun build and studio-designed camera that Sony has produced. What was great with the FS7 is we didn’t have to sacrifice image quality for speed. For this I credit the camera’s non-modular design and extendable handle with built-in record speed button, adjustable zoom, and other user-customizable functions. I was also a big fan of the EVF/flip up monitor. It had some great customizable controls and easy quick buttons to see peaking, contrast adjustment, and other user functions. The built-in ND’s up to 6 stops were very user friendly and helped me control my image quickly and efficiently. It was perfect for the times we were handheld run and gun, grabbing the life of the city but also when it came time for interviews and controlled b-roll with lighting and dolly. I was also extremely impressed with Sony’s 4k Super 35mm Single-Chip Exmor CMOS sensor. First off, the new “Slog 3” gamma space was beautiful. I usually rated the camera from 1000-2000 (depending on situation), and was amazed with the 13-14 stops I was pulling out of the image. Not only was the highlight gradation superb but the shadows felt rich and natural and I had no problem capturing noise-free night exteriors with all natural light.” – Cinematographer, Travis Hoffman
The camera was also a perfect choice for Nick Sivakumaran, the project’s director.
“I was able to view the footage whenever I wanted and the thumbnail menu was extremely easy to use. We also shot in some darker alleys of K-town and I was very pleased with the low light performance of this camera. And the 28-135mm zoom lens gave us so many options when framing our shots and truly helped us make our day.” – Director, Nick Sivakumaran
The speed, portability, and image quality were also a boon to the project’s producer, Ana Menendez.
“We are extremely excited to be working with the new Sony FS7 camera. It is very production friendly. The footage looks incredible and it is perfect for the concept and vision of this project.” – Producer, Ana Menendez
Instructor Darren Dean, actor Karren Karagulian and Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman
A packed and enthusiastic screening room at New York Film Academy’s Union Square campus was the scene of an exclusive showing of the new film Tangerine last night. As part of the Producing Department’s Industry Speaker series, students and faculty from all departments participated in a “Conversation with” and Question and Answer session with producer and NYFA Instructor Darren Dean, director and co-writer Sean Baker, cinematographer Radium Cheung, producer and costume designer Shih-Ching Tsou, and actors Karren Karagulian and James Ransone (The Wire).
Costume designer Shih-Ching Tsou, director and co-writer Sean Baker, actor James Ransone (THE WIRE) and Instructor Darren Dean
Led by Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman, the spirited conversation explored the producer/director relationship, and the team’s continuing collaboration on several films over more than eight years. Cinematographer Cheung described the process filming the entire movie with the iPhone, and Director Sean Baker ran down the technical work flow in this unprecedented approach to feature filmmaking. Sean also shared with the audience his genesis of the project, and his experiences during the extensive seven month research and development process that culminated in the script. Filmed on a micro-budget, with an assist from Executive Producers Jay and Mark Duplass, Tangerine is being distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
The film opens July 10 in New York and Los Angeles.
Recently, one of our Russian filmmaking students, Sergei Frante, was asked to shoot a video spot for Nike in Moscow (seen above).
“To be honest, this was one of the coolest projects I’ve ever worked on,” said Frante. “Once again, I realized how important the vibe is on set. With the right vibe, we can really produce magic.”
Frante says getting to know the inside scoop on how Hollywood operates has been extremely helpful during his time at the New York Film Academy. “When you know how things should be done from directors’ and producers’ points of view, you can really accomplish a lot on set and be more dedicated to the creative aspects of the project.”
Frante is currently developing a television series with his friend and collaborator Alexander Babaev. The two are hoping to launch the series in Los Angeles by the end of 2015.
“As for my filmmaking career, I want to get on the level that Tarkovsky and Kubrick were on. I’m a big fan of old movies— without digital technology— when filmmaking was truly magical. I want to touch the hearts of the people, make them think and inspire them. Filmmaking is a form of art and has its own instruments to let the director speak, so I just want to keep on talking.”