Academic Programs

  • NYFA’s James Lecesne Gets Rave Review from NY Times

    james lecesne

    James Lecesne

    As was made quite clear in the Oscar Winning Best Picture Birdman, having the approval of the New York Times is one of the most crucial components of putting on a successful show. While turning the pages (okay, clicking a link) of a recent Times article, we came across a rave review, highlighting none other than one of our very own, New York Film Academy​’s Oscar-winning Documentary instructor James Lecesne.​

    The New York Times’​ respected and well known critic, Christopher Isherwood, identified Lecesne as one of “the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation,” in his review of James’ one-man show, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

    In his one-man show, Lecesne portrays various characters of a small Jersey shore town as they struggle to understand what happened to 14-year-old Leonard Pelkey. Adapted from his YA novel, Absolute Brightness, this solo show begins with the the discovery of Leonard’s disappearance, follows a criminal investigation led by detective Chuck DeSantis, and concludes with a trial that reveals the shocking truth.

    The multi-talented Lecesne has been admired for many of his artistic traits, as well as his work in philanthropy. To attest to his tremendous talent, the first film he ever wrote, Trevor, won the Oscar for best live action short! It’s truly an honor to have Mr. Lecesne as a member of the New York Film Academy.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is showing at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street in Manhattan, now until March 28.

  • Acclaimed Documentary Filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky Passes Away at 58

    Bruce Sinofsky

    There is sad news in the world of film today, as acclaimed documentary filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky has passed away at the age of 58. As confirmed by his long-time collaborator Joe Berlinger, Sinofsky passed away in his sleep due to long-time complications from diabetes.

    The two collaborated on several award-winning and influential films beginning with 1992’s Brother’s Keeper, which won a Director’s Guild Award. 1996 marked the beginning of the Paradise Lost trilogy. The initial film, which the two co-directed, won an Emmy. And the third installment, 2011’s Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, was nominated for an Oscar.

    The trilogy followed the story of the West Memphis Three and had a huge impact on the legal system, bringing national attention to the case and attracting several celebrities to get on board the cause. The three innocent men were eventually set free after serving over 18 years in prison.

    Music was another passion of Sinofsky. And his most popular work in the field was 2004’s Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which followed the iconic band’s most tumultuous years.

    He also directed several episodes of Iconoclasts for Sundance, Oprah Presents: Master Class, and most recently Oprah’s Master Class: Civil Rights Special which aired in January.

    In a statement, Berlinger said:

    Bruce’s humanity is on every frame of the films that he leaves behind, and words can’t express how graced I feel my life has been by having the extraordinary opportunity of being able to say we were partners and, more importantly, best friends.

    Sinofsky was also the recipient of a Peabody, an Independent Spirit Award, and several accolades at the Sundance Film Festival.

    He will be missed by many, both in and outside the film industry.

    February 26, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Entertainment News • Views: 170

  • NYFA Grad Marisol Tudela: The Fashionista Chica

    marisol tudelaSuccessful fashion, lifestyle and event journalist, as well as New York Film Academy alum, Marisol Tudela will be the guest speaker this Friday at the graduation ceremony of the February 4-week Broadcast Journalism students. A native of Lima, Peru, Marisol has created the online persona of The Fashionista Chica, and regularly covers red carpet events including New York Fashion Week and the Miss America pageant for the PressroomVIP website.

    The Fashionista Chica series incorporates celebrity styles, fashion education, and real-world use, by spotting upcoming trends, finding why they intrigue the present culture, and showing viewers how to make those trends part of their lifestyle.

    Following her graduation from NYFA in 2013, Marisol was the Associate Producer of the Emmy Award winning CUNY-TV magazine series Nueva York.

    The graduation ceremony takes place this Friday, February 27, at 12:30pm at the NYFA Battery Park campus.

    February 25, 2015 • Broadcast Journalism, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 842

  • Craig Ross, Jr. Advises Directors to Utilize Social Media

    Craig Ross, Jr.

    NYFA Directing Instructor Craig Ross, Jr.

    After graduating from film school, New York Film Academy Directing Instructor Craig Ross, Jr. moved to Los Angeles, where he formed his own production company Asiatic Associates (ASA). From there he went on to direct a number independent films, his first being the film Cappuccino (1998). His other film credits include Blue Hill Avenue (2001), Ride or Die (2004), Motives (2004) and The Mannsfield 12 (2007), the first film that was released through

    Since 2004, he has also had a career in television, directing episodes of Strong Medicine, Cold Case, Standoff, Crossing Jordan, The 4400, Lincoln Heights, K-Ville, Prison Break, Bones, Numb3rs and NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

    Coming from such an extensive background in directing for both film and television, Ross’ on-set knowledge enables him to provide answers and solutions to a number of problems or difficulties that may arise on student film sets. “My work history makes it virtually impossible for me not to be able to answer, from a place of first hand knowledge, any question the students may have,” says Ross. “I’ve done just about everything they’ve thought of doing. So I can definitely help guide them down certain paths from a place of confidence.”

    As experienced as Ross is in the world of directing, he admits that teaching at the New York Film Academy and working with students has been eye opening in terms of his own learning experience. “It may sound like a cliché, but I get as much education from my students as they get from me. So the experience has expanded me as a filmmaker and as a human being.”

    In addition to his work in the classroom and on students’ sets, Ross runs NYFA’s Industry Lab, which provides students with real world experience while still in school. The production entity utilizes instructors and students to produce projects outside of the school for clients that are in need of a production services. The lab is the brainchild of the Chair of Diversity, Cheryl Bedford, who first introduced Ross to the Academy.

    To date, the Industry Lab has worked with Warner Bros. to film a concert series. We were hired as the production company to shoot the summer concert sessions for the record label’s new artists. We’ve also filmed a music video for top selling Uk artist DJ Rusko. Just recently, we shot an interview with Denzel Washington at the Pan African Film Festival, and are currently working on several other commercial projects for outside clients.

    Ross’ strongest piece of advice for his students and others looking to break into television is more clear today than ever before — social media!

    In the digital age, everything is about branding, and today branding can be done for very little money. Simply put, my advice for anyone wanting to be in TV, is to build an audience (crowd funding is a great way to do that) and create a web series. Create partnerships with the project — if it has a social issue attached to it, partner with a corresponding organization.

    Market through social media using your partners social media marketing as amplifiers to get your product seen. The more hits you get, the more visible you are to Hollywood. Web series are a direct path to tv series — all you need is the branding.

    For starters, you can share your projects with us by tweeting @NYFA or using #NYFA. We’re always catching some fantastic projects from students and alumni, and are never shy in sharing your incredible work!

    February 24, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 807

  • NYFA Participates in Interview with Denzel Washington at Pan African Film Festival

    denzel washington

    Executive Director of the PAFF, Ayuko Babu with actor Denzel Washington

    On Saturday, February 14, Industry Lab students and others—through the Diversity Development Department—participated in the filming of three major events in a row at the Pan African Film Festival.

    The first two events were produced by Kim Ogletree, NYFA Producing Instructor, and executive produced and directed by Neema Barnette, the first black woman to win an Emmy directing comedy. The Director of Photography was Tommy Maddox Upshaw who is a Cinematography Instructor at NYFA. NYFA provided some of our hard-working students and equipment.

    PAF students

    The first interview was the Power Broker discussion with Sony Executive, Producer DeVon Franklin. He is also a film producer and has worked on projects like The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, Hancock and Heaven Is for Real.

    Next, the students helped document a conversation with Denzel Washington. Having directed Denzel in Devil In a Blue Dress and Out of Time, director Carl Franklin (House of Cards) was the one who interviewed Mr. Washington.

    Lastly, the students took stills for DGA Panel Event, hosted by NYFA Instructor, Jeff Byrd, Co-Chair of the African-American Steering Committee of the DGA. The Director’s Panel consisted of Ernest Dickerson (Bosch, Walking Dead), Charles Stone (CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, Friday Night Lights), Princess Monique (Seasons of Love, The Call), Janice Cooke (Jane The Virgin, Pretty Little Liars) and Charles Murray (Sons of Anarchy, Castle).


    February 24, 2015 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 625

  • NYFA Documentary Adviser Editor on Oscar Winning ‘Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1′

    Crisis Hotline

    Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1 has won this years Documentary Short Subject Oscar. The film’s editor Geof Bartz, is also New York Film Academy’s Documentary Curriculum Adviser and Master Class Professor.

    Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1, which won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, was edited by Geof Bartz, New York Film Academy’s Documentary Curriculum Adviser, Master Class Professor and Supervising Editor in HBO’s Documentary Department. This is Bartz’ third Oscar win from a total of 5 nominations over the years.

    Crisis Hotline is a touching 40-minute documentary, condensed from 100 hours of footage of VA’s suicide hotline call center, located in Canandaigua, New York. The documentary delves into the deep compassion, emotions and stresses call center operators endure when working daily to help and save suicidal veterans. Many of these operators are in fact veterans themselves, military family members and former service members.

    Nearly every hour, a veteran takes his or her own life. The film brings much needed attention to this issue and other challenges veterans (and their families) face when returning to civilian life.

    “We are hopeful this documentary will help raise awareness of this important issue with the American public,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said.

    Producers Dana Perry and Ellen Goosenberg Kent went on-stage to accept their aware, with Perry dedicating the film to her son Evan who died at age 15 in 2005.

  • Oscar Nominated ‘Foxcatcher’ Screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman Inspire NYFA Students

    foxcatcher screenwriters

    Tova Laiter with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

    This past Tuesday, February 17th New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were admitted into a special screening of Foxcatcher — nominated for 5 Oscars, (starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo) and participated in a Q&A with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman who received a nomination in the upcoming Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. E. Max Frye won an Edgar Award from WGA for his first screenplay, Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme. As a writer on HBO’s Band of Brothers, he received a Christopher Award, a Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy.

    Dan Futterman was nominated for a 2005 Academy Award, a BAFTA Film Award, as well as a Writers Guild of America Award for his screenplay for the film Capote. He also won an Independent Spirit Award and shared the USC Scripter Award with Capote biographer Gerald Clarke. Dan and his wife and frequent writing partner, Anya Epstein, were show runners for the third season of the HBO series In Treatment and are currently writing and producing a new series for Fox TV, Gracepoint. As an actor, Dan has appeared on Broadway’s Angels in America and Off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club. His film acting credits include A Mighty Heart, The Birdcage, Urbania, and the upcoming Kill the Messenger. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.

    E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman gave invaluable advice to aspiring screenwriters and storytellers in general. Shedding light on his writing process E. Max Frye explained that he scribbles down his original drafts as quickly as possible on a legal pad. This allows him to get the story in his mind on paper in the most uncensored way possible. He doesn’t do a traditional plot outline, but rather starts from the concept of character and expands from there. He emphasized the importance of rewriting and never showing anyone of consequence the script until it is in it’s absolute final form. The reason for this is that there is no one in the industry that will read a script twice, so you have one shot only to impress.

    max frye

    E. Max Frye

    In contrast to E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman talked how he likes to structure like crazy. The process of writing Foxcatcher took six years and the breadth of his notes over the course of that time was “insane.” It was a particularly meticulous process working with a director such as Bennett Miller for whom this screenplay was written. Bennett is not a writer himself, so Dan would have to glean what Mr. Miller wanted from the trial and error process of providing ideas and talking about what does and doesn’t work.

    dan futterman

    Dan Futterman

    The information E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman provided to NYFA students, many of which were in the screenwriting program, was incredibly beneficial. We sincerely thank Max and Dan and wish them the best of luck at the upcoming Oscars!

    Foxcatcher will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD on March 3rd from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment complete with deleted scenes and an all-new featurette: The Story of Foxcatcher. Click the links below to pre-order.


    February 23, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 678

  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with Industry Pitch Fest

    pitch festOn January 21st, 14 graduating MFA and AFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event held at the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone event celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating MFA and AFA Screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their projects.

    These writing students, having spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting III class preparing and fine-tuning their pitches for their thesis film and TV projects, shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a flurry of interest in the scripts they’d worked so hard on all year.

    Considered by the school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, this group of bright students brought their A-game, as they pitched managers and production company representatives in a relaxed, round-table environment.

    pitch fest

    Hosted by NYFA’s Business of Screenwriting curriculum kingpin David O’Leary, in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair, Nunzio DeFilippis, and NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach & Professional Development, Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from 14 Hollywood companies.

    Attendees included: Bright Whale Entertainment, Canana Films, Dobre Films, The Dino De Laurentiiis Company, Echo Lake Entertainment, Elevate Entertainment, FilmHaus, FR Productions, Meyer Management, No BullScript, Paul Schiff Productions, RatPac Entertainment, Unbroken Pictures, and Underground Films & Management.

    The school wishes to thank its participants, for which this evening could not have been possible without, including — Guy Jackson, Maria Brasero, Paloma Martinez, Mike Klein, Dan Ingram, Jesse Murphy, Dan Rosenfelt, Bobby Sabelhaus, Jessica Jacobs, Scott Varnado, Daniel Manus, Jay Glazer, J Stuart, Peter Meyer, Chris Armogida, Annie Manion, and Tiffany Prasifka.

    You all made this event such a success. Thank you, guys! Congratulations also to all of the Sept ’13 graduates! Onwards and upwards!

    February 19, 2015 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 468

  • Screenwriter David Chirchirillo Joins NYFA’s Biz of Screenwriting Class

    cheap thrillersLast month, rising genre screenwriter David Chirchirillo joined New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class, entertaining students with his journey of how this film student originally from St. Louis, Missouri ended up writing the 2014 cult shock-horror hit Cheap Thrills and, until very recently, working as the Head Writer on Playboy TV’s The Playboy Morning Show.

    Chirchirillo went to Columbia College in Chicago where he took a horror screenwriting class and ended up reading the script for Deadgirl by Trent Haaga, his 2008 horror hit. A fan of low-grade horror and Troma movies, Chirchirillo’s professor was friends with Haaga, and in his last semester put the two in touch. Chirchirillo became his production assistant upon moving to Los Angeles.

    “Cleaning up fake blood, going on food runs, whatever they asked of me really,” is how Chirchrillo described his early experiences working as a PA. A naturally friendly, funny and outspoken guy, it wasn’t long before people in the industry got wind that Chirchirillo was also a writer. “I, of course, was willing to write for free when I started, and made it known that I’d be willing to be fingers on a keyboard.”

    He soon met writer/director Chad Ferrin who was looking for a writer for an original idea entitled, Dances With Werewolves. Chirchirillo jumped all over it and wrote the script – which is a Civil War-era werewolf movie about a group of Confederate POWs who escape a Union prison camp and soon encounter a tribe of shape-shifting Native American werewolves with an insatiable blood lust.

    He also impressed Trent Haaga himself who had written a draft of Cheap Thrills, and attached director E.L. Katz. Katz wanted a fresh take on the script, and after Katz and Chirchirillo had lunch, it was clear they shared the same vision for the script — which was to make it a crazy, satirical dark comedy (it was originally written as a more straightforward thriller). “Remember: this is a comedy,” Chirchirillo had to remind his collaborators.

    Indeed it is. It’s a mind-blowing balls-to the-wall horror comedy that has received some amazing reviews, and currently stands at an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the story of a scheming couple, who pin two struggling friends against each other in a series of increasingly twisted dares for money over the course of one unforgettable evening. Premiering at the SXSW film festival, Chichirillo described the euphoric feeling of watching crowds react to the movie, “It was like doing a drug. It was probably the best moment of my career… thus far.”

    Chirchirillo went on to talk about some other experiences he’s had as a professional writer. “Every time I write, I learn something new. Once it’s done, it becomes the struggle of having it become a movie, where I learn more. I have a tendency to overwrite in the beginning, but it’s all part of the process of what helps me find the best version of the story.”

    Chirchirillo also had some advice on choosing reps, as he himself has hired and dropped folks over the years in his search for agents and managers who grasp his unique voice, “Pick your reps carefully. Don’t be in a rush to go with the first guy. Find someone who gets you and what you want.”

    Chirchirillo then entertained students with his insane directing experience on the low-budget horror film, 616: Paranormal Incident. “Let’s just say it was a 9-day shoot on a shoestring budget, and due to other less than ideal circumstances brought on by the production, I ended up directing it under a pseudonym. But director Duke Hitchcock is really, really proud of it,” Chrichrillo joked.

    He also spoke about his experience writing a comedy morning show for Playboy TV, which spawned from him first working as an editor first for the network. “I got lucky, and a lot of it came down to timing, but it was a really fun gig.” Chirchrillo wrote and oversaw the comedic bits for the newsroom-based comedy show. “It was great. We would bring in tons of special and celebrity guests, and the people at Playboy had a great sense of humor and there’s not a lot of egos. It was just about having fun and putting on the best show we could.” They wrote a different show every day of the week — an impressive feat in its own right.

    Closing out, Chirchrillo offered some final words of wisdom to the aspiring NYFA screenwriters. “Outline. For a long time, I didn’t, but it really helps. Also, check out Dan Harmon’s 8-steps to Structure. That’s been really helpful for me.” On getting hired on assignments, Chirchirillo reminded the room, “Give them what they want, of course, but remember nothing has to be dumb, and it can all come from you. Find your way to address the note, that’s how you’ll do your best work. And do whatever you need to get your movies made, because that’s what it’s really about: getting movies made.”

    David Chirchirillo, who also wrote a segment for ABCs of Death 2, is currently writing the psychological horror thriller Eli in addition to other projects. He is repped by Bellevue Management and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

    February 18, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 511

  • Composer Daniel Wohl Joins NYFA Screenwriting Class

    daniel wohlOn January 13, 2015, composer Daniel Wohl sat down with New York Film Academy’s Business of Screenwriting class to offer up his unique perspective on how he broke into the entertainment business as a composer, and what he looks for when he’s designing the music for his film projects.

    “I didn’t go to school for film composing, I just went for composing generally,” Wohl explained. That he did…Wohl holds a BFA from Bard College, an MFA from the University of Michigan, and is in the process of getting his Doctorate in Music Composition from Yale University, an honor awarded to only a few musicians a year. His academic background in music theory and technique is vast.

    “I knew I wanted to make my own albums,” Wohl stated, “but I always have had a strong interest in writing music for film, TV and other forms of entertainment and being a part of the storytelling process. It’s something I’ve really grown to love.”

    Wohl’s 2013 debut album, the New Amsterdam Records’ Corps Exquis, a multi-media, chamber and electronics project created in conjunction with the TRANSIT new music ensemble and a collective of New York-based video artists, was hailed by the New York Times, Pitchfork and many others, and earned Wohl a coveted spot on NPR’s Top 100 Songs of the Year.

    Wohl also makes a living off commissions and music grants, of which he’s been awarded many. “In some ways, the music world is sort of the reverse of the visual arts world. Someone will commission you to write a piece, and then you get to make something, and it can be whatever you want it to be. In film, where, if you’re hired by a director, producers or studio execs, they have a real say over what your music turns out to be. The music world isn’t like that as much. That’s one of the freeing things about the professional music community, they really trust their artists and let them — encourage them really — to do their best work as they see it.”

    More recently, Wohl has become involved in the world of film composing, working on some impressive projects. He was the composer on The Color of Time, starring James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Jessica Chastain, a poetic road trip through Pulitzer-Prize winning C.K. Williams’ life.  He also composed the music for the surreal drama Elixir, a film by Brodie Higgs, which recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, and The Fly Room, which was an official selection at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival.

    Wohl explained that he’s basically “the third to last person to work on the film.” “It’s a close collaboration with the director. You usually have about six weeks to write the music. Sometimes, the director will give you a ‘temp track’, so you know sort of the tone they’re going for, but it’s really about figuring out what the director wants. All directors know what they don’t want and what they don’t like, but not all know what they want — until they hear it,” Wohl explained. “It’s part of my work to help get them there.”

    the color of time

    “The Color of Time”

    Wohl will often watch an early cut of the movie and/or read the script when he’s preparing to craft the musical tracks that will become the melodic pulse of the film.”The story and the music are intricately linked.” Wohl played selections from the recent films he scored, allowing the students to see some of his finished products.

    “Music definitely helps tell the story, and cue the audience into how to feel. Sometimes, it can save a scene, and deliver meaning that really isn’t obvious without the music. I definitely look for those moments of emotional catharsis and shift in the storytelling, so that the music works with the story seamlessly.” Wohl explained how on some projects the director might want a musical theme for each main character, and how his background in musical composition really helps generally.  “Films, like music, have a real rhythm, and you definitely have to listen for that. Even if you’re not an expert on a given style — say jazz — you may still have to write something in that style to go with intrinsic rhythm and mood of the scene.”

    Wohl has received support from grants including New Music USA, Meet the Composer/Commissioning Music USA, the American Composers Forum / Jerome Foundation, C.A.P, the Barlow Endowment, MET Life Creative Connections, and the Brooklyn Arts Council, amongst many others.

    His music has been heard at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Webster Hall,  Dia Beacon, Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center, Mass MoCA, Disney Hall’s REDCAT, the Chelsea Art Museum, MoMA, Arsenal de Metz (France), Warhol Museum, as well as over media outlets such as NPR, PBS, WQXR, CANAL +, TFI and FRANCE 2.

    Wohl is also passionate about bringing music to younger artists and has taught courses in composition, orchestration, and theory at Sarah Lawrence College and at Yale, and — in addition to NYFA — has given talks at NYU, Brooklyn College, Juilliard (evening division), and Amherst College.

    More info on Daniel Wohl can be found at his website Born and raised outside Paris, France, Daniel Wohl currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

    February 17, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 441