Italian native and New York Film Academy Photography graduate, Paolo Testa, says he’s “constantly working on different projects” since graduating. His work primarily deals with magazines and clients in the fashion industry.
photography by Paolo Testa
“I believe that a photography school offers you a priceless opportunity: taking pictures for the sake of taking them,” says Testa. “This allows your creativity to flow and gives you a lot of room for exploration and experimentation. Once you are out of school, you need to work and you lose your free time. My most memorable time at NYFA was spent in the studio. I was using it every day for the sake of experiencing and gaining more knowledge of the studio protocol.”
Testa’s latest work can be seen in WWD. Outside of the fashion industry, Testa is shooting a personal project called “My America” that will be showcased in the next issue of C41 Magazine, a fine art photography magazine distributed worldwide.
photography by Paolo Testa
Additionally, Testa has an active portfolio on the Vogue Italia website. Some of his photos have won awards on the website, including two of which won the Best of vogue.it.
As for some advice that Testa has for our current students and recent graduates, he says, “If you want to make it, you need to focus on one type of photography. Be honest with yourself and don’t try to imitate someone else’s work. Find your own language and write your own story with your own unique style.”
Not only does the New York Film Academy provide an intensive hands-on experience, but it also sometimes plays the role of matchmaker for actors, filmmakers, writers and other creative artists to begin a professional relationship that will last far beyond their years as students.
Such is the case for two alumni, Sara Seligman and Thomas Bond, who met at NYFA and began a working relationship as writing partners. Sara and Tom first met while taking the One-Year Filmmaking Program in 2007. The two initially worked on each other’s thesis films – Sara was Tom’s AD and Tom was Sara’s DP. After school they continued collaborating, and currently they have several feature film scripts that they’ve co-written.
One of their screenplays, Falcon Lake, was awarded a TriBeCa Film Institute Grant, which brought about the attention of potential film financiers and production companies. Through that attention, the team found producer, Anne Clements, and attached Oscar-nominee Adriana Barraza to play one of the leading roles. And more recently, Tom and Sara were selected to participate in the 2016 Film Independent Fast Track. Through that they received even more attention, both for their script and as writers in general. They had the opportunity to meet with several more production companies and agencies, such as WME. They have now landed their first investors and are still looking to gather the remainder of the production budget.
Falcon Lake began at NYFA as Sara’s first-year thesis film, Blessed the Fruit of Thy Womb. Her short was the seed that began the idea, and slowly it grew and evolved into the script it is today.
“The most important thing is to know that the skills we learn in school can be strengthened with practice, from directing to lighting to writing,” says Seligman in regards to her time at NYFA. “NYFA taught us that, when it comes to filmmaking, going out and doing the work is the only way to succeed, and repetition is the way to turn the work from decent to good to great,” added Bond.
Sara Seligman on set
In addition to their writing careers, both Sara and Tom have spent time working on film and TV sets, including The Mindy Project and The People Vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. “Working on TV and film sets has been extremely important in furthering my career,” said Seligman. “We can learn a lot in film school, but practical experience is invaluable. When applying for jobs, it’s the experience that matters most. Getting on-set experience helps me to learn all facets of the filmmaking process.”
“Working on set, you learn to manage the different legs of a project, and the personalities involved,” added Bond. “I love the challenge of working as a team under pressurized constraints, like budget and time restrictions. You really learn who is capable of what, and who will be around for the long haul in an industry that is very unforgiving.”
Thomas Bond at LA Film Festival
Sara and Tom continue to develop and collaborate on screenplays while holding steady jobs in the creative field. Sara is currently working as an Associate Producer at the ad agency Innocean. Before that, she was Jennifer Todd’s assistant on Ben Affleck’s Live By Night and key set PA for The Mindy Project. “I’m proud of the evolvement that each project has meant, and that I was able to work for one of my favorite directors on Live by Night with one of the best DPs in the world Bob Richardson,” said Seligman.
For the past several years, Tom has spent much of his time in the documentary world. “My proudest achievement is definitely getting the chance to work with Albert Maysles at his production company in Harlem, which I did for two years,” said Bond. “Working with a legend, who was so nice, smart, and giving, is an experience I’ll treasure forever. Rest In Peace, Albert!”
New York Film Academy Screenwriting Instructor Daniel Kay, writer of the film Pay the Ghost with Nicholas Cage, was recently mentioned in Deadline and Hollywood Reporter for his upcoming film, I.T., starring Pierce Brosnan.
The project has been acquired by RLJ Entertainment for North American distribution rights. The thriller from Voltage Pictures, directed by Good Day To Die Hard director John Moore, and co-written by William Wisher, Jr. (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) was produced by David T. Friendly, Beau St. Clair, Nicolas Chartier and Craig J. Flores.
“I couldn’t be more excited for the release of the film,” says Kay. “I was very pleased with how it turned out and I think audiences will respond to it.”
I.T. is scheduled for a September 2016 theatrical and on-demand release.
This past week New York Film Academy Animation students were given an opportunity to meet with Diana Ling, storyboard revisionist for Hasbro’s Transformers. Ling has worked in advertising, storyboarding commercials and on animation projects including Transformers.
Ling began her career by drawing ten hours a day. She drew over and over until she could sketch at a lighting pace. “Fast is fifteen to twenty clean sketches a day,” said Ling. “So, I decided to go back to school…to specifically learn how to draw, because I still didn’t know what it is I wanted to do. I built up my drawing chops. You sit there for five hours drawing and then you go home and you draw for another ten hours for each class. It’s a lot of mileage.”
“I took this storyboarding class because I thought, ‘Well, I know how to draw.’ That means I can probably apply it to a practical skill. I used the portfolio that I had, the work that I had for that class, and decided to try advertising boards.”
She would get a call asking if she could be at the studio in an hour. She’d meet with the commercial director. They’d talk about the look and story. By the end of the day, Ling produced a series of sketches that made up the entire advertisement.
“In advertising boards you have to be able to draw relatively realistically,” said Ling. “A lot of it’s photobashing if you want it to be. But, for me, I just did everything hand drawn. You also need to know how to draw cars and environments. Your perspective has to be pretty good. And you have to learn to draw really fast too, because the turn around in advertising is one to two days.”
“The agent will call you and say, ‘Are you available today at 1:00 PM to come and work at the studio? They need boards for a pitch.’ I would meet with the director, one on one in a coffee shop or a Starbucks. We’d go over the boards and what he wants. I’d do little sketches. It was a really good experience because it introduced me to a lot of different people. It introduced me to what a director’s life is like. Where you just go from job to job. And it introduced me to the advertising world. In the process of doing that I learned to draw, really, really fast.”
After some time, Ling began to have a crisis. She realized that she wasn’t fulfilled doing promotional work. So, she quit. She took some time to consider what she wanted and decided she wanted to tell stories. This is how she ended up at DreamWorks Animation working on Transformers.
“In advertising you make a lot of money, but if it’s not fulfilling you artistically then you haven’t really succeeded. So I think my advice would be sit down, go to the beach, relax and think about what it is you want to do. I would write it down. It doesn’t have to be really specific, but if you keep thinking about that thing that’s on the tip of your tongue. If you just keep trying to kneed that dough than it’ll come in to fruition and it’ll be beautiful. And you’ll like it. You won’t be doing things that you don’t like to do.”
“When I graduated in 2012, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I really wanted to draw for a living and so I tried finding work as an artist. I realized that it was really difficult. I was kind of just getting these one to two day jobs for about a year or so. It was like one a month. It was very, very little.”
Ling continued, “I realized, like some people, all they want to do is draw and enjoy themselves doing that. But I realized that I kind of wanted to create something for myself. I wanted to create a name. In the past year I had been starting to think, ‘What kind of mark do I want to put on the world?’”
Ling then looked over the students’ reels and sketches. She gave them advice and encouragement in applying themselves in the future:
“A job is really just a job and as an artist you really need to think a little more entrepreneurially because there’s so many great artists in the world. Anyone can pick up a camera nowadays. Anyone can create a film on YouTube. Anyone can draw. There are lots of people who can draw very, very well. I used to be really worried about beating the competition. But now I’m not worried about that anymore. Your career is not really about beating other people. It’s about fulfilling what you want to do in your own life.”
“If you want to become a master draftsman than you go do that and then the jobs kind of come. So you’re thinking more like an artist, rather than trying to progress your career. I think it’s more important to focus on your internal growth rather than begging for jobs.”
“I believe the road to mediocrity is conformity. Trying to do what everyone else is doing and just trying to fit in to what all the people at Disney are doing. Rather, if you want to be successful you have to think about your own voice and be a non-conformist and trust that your voice and your skills will take you in the direction you want to go. You want to get job that you want. You don’t want to get jobs that you’re not interested in. You want people to be like, ‘Oh, Diana Ling she does that kind of stuff. We want that.’ They recognize your work and they associate your name with your work, because it’s not like anyone else’s.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Ms. Ling for taking the time to come speak with students. You can find Diana Ling’s work here.
A group of recent New York Film Academy alumni have teamed together to create a production company called Kaleidocircle Productions. Established as fifteen eager actors looking to continue their journey together, they are now a solid group of 12; Aleigha Spinks, Will Parker, Max Turner, Esther Van Zyl, Cesar Brandi, Vitoria Mattos, Laika Lalonde, Victoria Ruud, Natalia Garcez, Ana Paula Marques, Litha Bam and Jen Theophilus.
The production team, a multi-cultural film ensemble, collaborates with actors, filmmakers, writers, photographers, and musicians. They are working to provide high quality entertainment on a global platform while maintaining a level of intimacy and magnitude with their audience. Kaleidocircle strives to provoke, spark, and affect every walk of life the best way possible.
“Our team thrives on creativity and success from every corner of the globe,” said Aleigha K. Spinks, Managing Director.
Working within the LGBTQ community is very important to the company, with many of its founding members being a part of the community. Providing opportunities for not just young creatives, but minorities, alike. No matter the level of experience, Kaleidocircle is always willing to assist in the development of creative individuals.
“I have managed to not only act, but, write, direct and produce original material of high quality thanks to our companies network of artists across 6 continents,” said Will Parker, Artistic Director.
K-Circle, as they like to abbreviate sometimes, has created contemporary promotional material for the non-profit organization, Hetrick Martin Institute. They will also be producing their first professional short film in the fall — a story inspired by the true events of the gas explosions in New York City. They hope to touch their audience, evoking raw and honest emotions, while relaying a message of hope to each and every one of us.
This past week, film producer Chris Armogida visited with David O’Leary’s Business of Screenwriting Class to regale his story of how he went from a development intern to a film producer.
Armogida began his career with development stints at Village Roadshow and Rogue Pictures (the then genre division of Universal). He next became a development executive for film director Bryan Bertino’s production company Unbroken Pictures, where he worked on developing countless projects, many which were set up at studios, including the project Grim Night which sold, amidst multiple bids, to Universal.
Also while at Unbroken, Armogida had the chance to work on-set as a producer on Mockingbird (a Universal Pictures film, and Blumhouse Pictures and Marc Platt co-production) and the psychological horror feature February aka The Blackcoat’s Daughter (which A24 is releasing this coming September).
Armogida answered student questions about producing and what a producer does, the advantages and disadvantages of independent filmmaking, working in the industry, how to go about getting a job after graduating, and what he looks for in a new writers and projects. A generous resource, who’s visited the New York Film Academy before, his advice to these students was invaluable.
Armogida now runs his own production company Nightshade Entertainment, with multiple projects in development, including We Summon the Darkness written by Alan Trezza (Burying the Ex) and The Importance of Blood, which he’s co-producing with Circle of Confusion.
What started out as Thomas Della Bella’s final thesis film at New York Film Academy has now turned into a feature horror film coming out in theaters and iTunes worldwide on August 5th. Written, directed and edited by Della Bella, The Remains stars Todd Lowe (True Blood), Samuel Larsen (Glee), Nikki Hahn (American Horror Story), Lisa Brenner (The Patriot), Brooke Butler (All Cheerleaders Must Die), Hannah Rose Nordberg (General Hospital) and Ashley Crow (Minority Report).
With the NYFA BFA graduate’s film due out in a week, we thought we’d ask him a few questions about his film and his career as a filmmaker after NYFA.
Congratulations on THE REMAINS! Can you tell us how this film come about?
The Remains is the feature length version of my final year thesis short film Open House. I graduated the BFA Filmmaking program in late 2013 in Los Angeles. I knew going into my thesis film that I wanted to make a short film that could be used as a proof of concept for a feature. So, essentially, I wrote a 15 page mini-feature that followed a family that moves into a Victorian house. I broke the script down into three traditional acts with every 5 pages constituting Act I, II and III. So in the final 13 minute film you get this really cool and fast paced haunted house story.
Now, at the time I had an internship at Blumhouse Productions. Blumhouse is the pinnacle of horror and thriller movies out here and I knew from very early on that one day I wanted to be involved with these filmmakers. Some of their titles include: The Purge, Insidious, Paranormal Activity. As I was interning and PAing for them, I was in post production on my thesis film. Once the film was finished, I sent it around the office to everyone I became friendly with. The following day, a co-worker who watched the film called me over to her desk to tell me how much she loved the film and how she was impressed with the quality of the film.
Now let me also mention, the budget of the short film was $5,000 that I raised via Kickstarter. However, the tools that NYFA provided allowed me to elevate the short film to looking like a much bigger budget film.
The co-worker introduced me to an independent producer at the time named Eric Fleischman. I met with him for lunch a few days later and pitched him the feature version. About three months later, the movie was green lit through Eric Fleischman and Sean Tabibian’s genre production company Diablo Entertainment. From that point, we were off to the races. Everything fell into place at rapid speed and the movie was produced on a shoestring budget.
In your own words, what is your film about?
The Remains is, at its core, a homage to the haunted house horror genre. The film follows John and his family after they move into an old Victorian house after the passing of his wife. Soon after moving in, his two youngest children find a chest in the attic that contains a bunch of antiques. From that point on, an item attaches itself to each family member and slowly starts to possess each family member while pitting them against each other.
The themes I explored are all based around the crumbling of the family unit and the idea that you would do anything for the well being of your family.
Were there any influencers that got you into the horror genre?
Yes! Stanley Kubrick by far has to be one of my biggest influences. The Shining is one of my all time favorite films and you will see references of that in The Remains. I was just always blown away by the moodiness and composition of his films and I really wish I had a chance to meet him. But, specifically, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon are my favorites.
I’d also have to say that James Wan and Leigh Whannell are huge influencers of mine. I grew up watching the Saw franchise and those films always left an imprint on my brain. But, I don’t think it was until Insidious in 2010, when I was in my early film school years, that I realized these are the types of films that I want to make and these are the people I aspire to someday work with.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
Thinking back to your time at NYFA. Do you believe your experience prepared you to write, direct, and edit the feature version of THE REMAINS?
Yes, 100%. I learned so much doing my 1 year in NYC and 2 years in LA with the NYFA education model. From the very first day of class, they put a camera in my hand, and honestly, the best learning is by doing. And that is exactly what you do while attending NYFA — you make films. I was very lucky to have such an amazing class that really worked together to make fantastic art. I am still very close with most of my classmates and I hired a few of them to work on my film! I’d also like to point out that many of my teachers at NYFA were extremely supportive of anything I wanted to do or try. I think they definitely helped gear me up to jump into a movie as a first time director.
Was there anything interesting that occurred on set that you’d like to share with us?
Probably the weirdest thing about being on set of The Remains was that fact that we shot the short film at the same house. There are two or three scenes that are exactly the same and untouched that we were shooting for the second time. And it was just a very weird sense of deja vu while doing those scenes. But, we shot the film at this amazing 129 year-old house that had the most fantastic home owners ever. They basically let us take over their house and do whatever we wanted, twice in a row, and that was such a positive experience.
Going back to the fact that the house is now 129 years old…it was just an incredibly creepy house. The second you look at the house from outside you immediately think to yourself, it’s haunted. But, I do remember on numerous occasions that the grip and electric departments were always rushing to get out of the house when we wrapped up every night, because the house is that much creepier at night. There were one or two reports of things moving around on their own, but, for my own sanity, I’ll blame that on the production assistants.
Thomas Della Bella on set of “The Remains”
What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to shoot their first feature?
My biggest piece of advice would be to make a short film with the goal of a feature version behind it. This way when you write the feature version, you have this amazing proof of concept to show potential investors and producers. Also, students should take advantage of crowd-sourcing sites like Indigogo and Kickstarter.
The best move I made early on was getting an internship at a company I was truly interested in. Interning lead to set work and, honestly, I learned the most while working in a production office and being on big budget sets.
Be sure to check out The Remains in theaters and iTunes August 5th!
Headed up by New York Film Academy Photography Chair David Mager, Instructor Chris Knight, and Instructor Andreanna Seymore, photography students were given a truly hands-on experience, capturing images for The LakeHouse restaurant in Bay Shore, New York.
Each instructor led three groups of students to capture environmental work, portraitures, and food product photography images that could be used for advertising and marketing purposes.
“One of my favorite things about this school is the hands-on class work,” said NYFA student, Stephanie Schnabel.
“Luxury Living”; photographed by students from the New York Film Academy Photography Program.
“We were really trying to show how beautiful the restaurant is, as well as the faces of the owners,” said NYFA Photography student, Emma Clinton.
Students’ final advertising photos were featured in a Luxury Living article that highlighted the ten-year anniversary of the Long Island beachfront restaurant. Luxury Living is Long Island’s premier lifestyle publication serving the needs of the area’s most affluent residents. Published quarterly by Newsday, Long Island’s leading content provider, Luxury Living celebrates the life well-lived with coverage of high-end homes and gardens, dining and entertainment, art and culture, travel and automotive, and retail, specifically fashion, beauty, jewelry and accessories.
“Luxury Living”; photographed by students from the New York Film Academy Photography Program.
“I’m really impressed with how everyone worked at this shoot,” said NYFA Instructor Andreanna Seymore. “After this experience, I can really see them working, shooting, and being really professional. I think that this experience has been very successful.”
The King of Queens paid a visit to lower Manhattan this past Friday, as the New York Film Academy welcomed comedian and actor Kevin James. James began his career in stand up and eventually moved over to television where he rose to stardom playing the role of Doug Heffernan in the CBS comedy The King of Queens. James’ career moved over to film when he teamed up with Will Smith in Hitch, and then teamed up with friend Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. James would go on to star in several other comedic films, including Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups, Zookeeper, and others.
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
As an additional surprise, James brought with him writer and former NYFA student, Michael Soccio, as well as writer and producer Leo Severino. Soccio has written for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and The King of Queens. He’s also done numerous re-writes and script doctoring for major motion pictures such as Hitch, The Karate Kid, and Men in Black 2 & 3. Severino produced Bella, which won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006, and is developing the film Mary, based on the biblical character.
James opened by discussing how he broke into the business, which came about from stand up and performing. “It’s about getting out there and really getting comfortable in that space,” said James. He stressed the importance of humility, adding, “You are going to fail without a doubt.” The key is to continue to hone your craft until you are comfortable and confident enough to own it.
As James looked around the full classroom of acting and filmmaking students, he said, “I wish I had this experience. If I could go back to school, I would learn every aspect of filmmaking.”
Soccio added in the fact that his experience in the NYFA Filmmaking Program in 1997 is what truly elevated his craft as writer. “You can never learn too much,” Soccio said. “I went [to NYFA] for directing. That quite honestly is what made me a much better writer.”
NYFA alumnus Michael Soccio and Kevin James
A key element that James kept coming back to was the idea of surrounding yourself with a great team. He admitted to his own faults of sometimes not seeing the full picture in a film or project and seeking the advice of his directors and writers, who “can see the whole landscape.”
Another important piece of advice given by each guest was the notion that you can never stop learning. A student concluded the day by asking James, “When did you know you mastered your craft?” To this, James replied, “I’ll let you know when I get there.”
NYFA thanks Kevin James, Michael Soccio, and Leo Severino for taking the time out to speak to our students in such a down-to-earth manner, and looks forward to their upcoming projects, including the new CBS series, Kevin Can Wait.
Students from New York Film Academy LA’s Documentary Department are given student memberships to the International Documentary Association and frequently attend IDA screenings, workshops and events. In July, they attended the kick-off of the Summer/Fall season of the IDA Conversation series with Academy Award®-winning director Roger Ross Williams. Williams was the first African American director to win an Academy Award for his documentary short Music by Prudence, about a severely disabled but extraordinarily talented African singer. Williams’ s latest film, Life, Animated, was just released in theaters on July 1st. The film tells the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films. Life, Animated won the prestigious U.S. Documentary Directing Award at this year’s Sundance Festival and is widely expected to be nominated for the Oscar.
NYFA students really took note when Williams discussed how he made his film, God Loves Uganda, a searing look at the role American missionaries are playing in the persecution of homosexuals in that country. Uganda has become the prime destination for American missionaries who proselytize heavily against homosexuality. As a gay man, Williams said he “thought about following the activists — brave and admirable men and women — who were fighting against these policies. But I was more curious about the people who, in effect, wanted to kill me.” He described how he was able to gain access to one such evangelical group, The Call, without denying his own truth or dissembling in any way.