This most recent PW was written by Brad Sample, and told the story of two office workers caught in a deadly situation in their company’s storage closet during an office holiday party. Students built a claustrophobic yet effective “storage closet” set, dressed by NYFA Producing student members of the art department. The production workshop, appropriately titled Blood On Our Hands, offers students hands-on insight into how a professional set is run.
One of the great things about studying Producing at New York Film Academy New York (NYFA-NY) is the variety of exciting locations available in New York City. The diverse and sometimes iconic locations lend themselves well to all sorts of projects for Producing students, from commercials to web videos to short films.Recently, NYFA’s 1-Year Producing conservatory students shot their “Producing Commercials” project at The Wagner, one of Manhattan’s most glamorous downtown hotels. With glorious views of the New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty, this is an incredible spot (and, conveniently, just one block away from NYFA-NY’s Battery Park campus.)In addition to their individual and group production projects, all NYFA 1-Year Producing conservatory students participate in a one-day Production Workshop (PW). The students assume crew positions under their instructors who act as heads of departments–director, Filmmaking and Producing instructor Brad Sample; cinematographer, camera and lighting instructor Arsenio Assin; first assistant director, Producing instructor Richard D’Angelo; production designer, Producing and Filmmaking instructor Debbie DeVilla; and sound mixer, sound instructor Jonathan Appell.And not a drop of fake stage blood was wasted!
On Tuesday, February 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Nicole Avant, former US ambassador and producer of the award-winning Netflix documentary The Black Godfather. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.
Nicole Avant produced The Black Godfather after collecting stories about her father, Clarence Avant, who has held significant influence on dozens of the world’s most high profile entertainers, athletes, and politicians. The film charts the exceptional and unlikely rise of Clarence, who became a powerhouse negotiator amid extreme racism in America, a music executive whose trailblazing behind-the-scenes accomplishments impacted the legacies of icons such as Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
Nicole Avant was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to be the 13th Ambassador to The Bahamas. On September 9, 2009, she was sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, becoming the youngest as well as the first African American woman to hold the position. Avant’s successes in The Bahamas earned her a nomination for the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service.
Following a screening of The Black Godfather, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Avant how she started in the business. Avant shared, “My parents made me do every kind of job all my life and one time my father said he had gotten me an internship at Warner Bros. television. He told me I should learn all the different types of business because all of entertainment is one business, so it is important to learn the different facets.” She continued, “So I went and did the internship and I have to say, I loved it and I learned everything. I went to work for all the different departments and met so many people that helped me understand the business.”
Laiter then asked Avant how the documentary came to fruition. Avant revealed, “This documentary happened because I was trying to figure out a way to tell my dad’s story. I said something to my husband [Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos] one day about how I wished there was a way to tie in sports and movies and television and activism and civil rights and all these elements into a character and film. He then pointed out that the character I had just described was, in fact, my father.”
Speaking about her director and collaborator Reggie Hudlin, Avant expressed, “I knew Reggie for a very long time and we would talk about African American history and get frustrated that no one really understood our history and no one had seen documentaries on us or knew enough. It was always simplified to ‘all Black people in America live this way, eat this food, and do these specific things’ and it would drive Reggie and me nuts. Therefore, I figured he would be a great person to direct this documentary.”
The Q&A was then opened up to students. One student asked Avant, “What do you think are the most important changes for the African American community in the entertainment industry since the beginning of your father’s career.”
Avant imparted, “The biggest changes and the most important changes were putting people in a position of power where they could therefore make decisions and control their destiny and in turn, open the door for other people to come in.” She added, “When I was younger, Billboard used to have the Top 100 charts and the Black charts. They used to separate them all. It was really important for my dad to say ‘Why can’t Black people and women be in charge of certain departments that are run by only one type of person? It should be everybody.’ So I think the most important thing is that you started to see more people of color, in general, really having high-level positions that they otherwise would have never had.”
Laiter concluded the Q&A by thanking Avant for coming amidst a very busy Oscar season. Avant remarked, “I was really looking forward to this night more than anything else, because humans have to tell stories to each other and connect with each other and I think these events are very important.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank producer and former US Ambassador Nicole Avant for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!
New York Film Academy Producing Alum Federico Guarascio Coproduces Festival Hit ‘The Fourth Kingdom’
The Fourth Kingdom, a documentary directed by Adán Aliaga and Alex Lora and coproduced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing alum Federico Guarascio has been storming the festival circuit since its premiere earlier this year.
The film documents a redemption center in Brooklyn founded by a Spanish ex-missionary where cans and plastic bottles are exchanged for cash—a “Fourth Kingdom” of plastics, and a hub for immigrants and underdogs who desperately believe in the American Dream.
Since its premiere last February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Short Film, The Fourth Kingdom has been selected in 20 film festivals—eight of them Oscars-qualifying—and has won two of them, including the Brooklyn Film Festival, which allows the short film to be considered for the Academy Awards.
It has additionally screened at the Rooftop Summer Series, the Americas Film Festivals, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, DOC NYC, and opened at the United Kingdom’s prestigious Sheffield Doc Fest.
Federico Guarascio originally hails from Italy and first came to New York Film Academy through the Torno Subito program, a joint public/private sector work study initiative that supports new talent development in the Italian film and television industry and is based in Italy’s Lazio region. New York Film Academy provides the “study” element of the program, with students enrolling in short-term workshops across various NYFA disciplines. Once their program is completed, graduates return to pre-arranged film and television internships in Italy.
Guarascio first attended the 4-Week Producing workshop at NYFA’s New York campus, and was so impressed that he subsequently returned to enroll in the 1-Year Conservatory in Producing. Upon graduation, Federico has remained in New York City to work on a variety of film projects, including The Fourth Kingdom.
“[NYFA] proved to be essential during my journey with this doc,” says Guarascio, “and it would not have been possible for me to get this far without the skills I learned in your classes and, for that, I am immensely grateful.”
Guarascio’s talent as a producer was evident early on. “As a student, Federico showed all the hallmarks of a fiercely independent producer,” recalls NYFA-NY Chair of Producing Neal Weisman. “He consistently demonstrated a great passion for the process and a curiosity which inevitably led to to interesting projects. It is no surprise that Federico has moved on to find success with films moving onto the festival circuit. We are very proud.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Federico Guarascio on the success of The Fourth Kingdom and encourages everyone to check out the film’s trailer, available on Vimeo.
The 8-Week Digital Storytelling workshop presented by BAFTA New York and New York Film Academy (NYFA) culminated in a joyous graduation screening on Saturday, November 23.
Participating students from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx showed their recently completed short films to a capacity crowd of friends, family, and well-wishers at NYFA’s Battery Park campus. A total of eleven films—written, directed, and edited by each of the students—were screened. Romance and horror genres figured prominently, along with a good dose of comedy.
Over the course of eight Saturdays, the students learned basic skills of filmmaking: directing, screenwriting, camera, lighting, producing, and editing. Under the expert guidance of various New York Film Academy instructors, the students were working hands-on with state-of-the-art equipment and shooting test sequences from their very first day. The finished films showed a high degree of proficiency, especially considering the short schedule.
This was the second workshop sponsored by BAFTA NY, an outgrowth of the Learning and New Talent Committee, in conjunction with the New York Film Academy. DeWitt Clinton High School boasts an impressive list of alumni including such luminaries as James Baldwin and Stan Lee, as well as BAFTA winner, Committee member, and Chair of NYFA-NY Producing Neal Weisman.
All are looking forward to continuing this workshop program, helping to give voice and digital storytelling skills to some of New York City’s most diverse public school population.
New York Film Academy congratulates the DeWitt Clinton High School students on their impressive work!
On Wednesday, October 23, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios and Chief Creative Officer of Marvel. He is also the producer of Marvel’s hit movies and #5 in last week’s Hollywood Reporter’s top 100 most important people in the movie business. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.
Feige has been the driving creative force behind several billion-dollar franchises and an unprecedented number of blockbuster feature films, all connected to create the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In his current role as producer and president of Marvel Studios, Feige is a hands-on producer and oversees Marvel Studios’ feature film productions, whose 23 films released have all opened #1 at the box office and collectively grossed over $21 billion worldwide. Eight of the MCU films have crossed the $1 billion threshold at the global box office. Avengers: Endgame broke records on its way to becoming the highest-grossing worldwide release of all time after just 89 days in theaters. Most recently, Feige was just announced as producer for a new Star Wars franchise.
Following a compilation reel of all the Marvel films, Laiter opened up the Q&A by inquiring what it takes to create those successful Marvel movies, asking “Is there a formula, or some concept, that you would like to share with us?”
Feige answered, “I wish there was a formula I could divvy out to everybody, but the truth is, we came about as a studio in an interesting way. We were tasked with making two movies in 2008, and I had been with Marvel for five to six years at that point. I learned just by being around filmmakers. By the time we got to Iron Man, I got to use everything I learned—the good and the bad—and focus our vision on what we wanted.”
Feige shared his more of his wisdom, telling NYFA students, “You need a couple things to make a great film. You need an amazing team and you need to trust that team around you. We’ve been very lucky with the filmmakers we’ve worked with, in that they’ve all wanted to work with us and make a fun crowd-pleasing movie. It’s easy to stop when it’s hard and it’s easy to settle, but we don’t. Once we announce a movie and it’s release date, we are committed. We reshoot and edit sometimes up to the premiere and once we added a shot to Avengers the day after… Obviously we earned the trust of the studio to do that.”
Laiter then opened up the Q&A to students. When asked by a student what he believes was the key to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Feige expressed, “I think the key to success was Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and dozens of writers and artists that created an amazing world in the span of 40+ years. It’s amazing. And not just them, but we also have these new artists putting their own spin on these characters. There’s too many people responsible for it.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Marvel Studios President and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige for his time and for sharing his film expertise with our students!
David Linde, CEO of Participant Media, the leading global media company dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change, recently spent a morning in conversation with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Chair Neal Weisman as the latest NYFA Producing Department Industry Speaker. Linde and Participant are coming off a hot streak having produced recent Oscar winners Green Book and Roma.
Linde spoke at NYFA’s New York campus. Attending the speaker series event were students of the NYFA Producing department, as well as students from the NYFA Documentary, Screenwriting, and Filmmaking departments.
Linde shared his biographical highlights, starting with his first job in the paralegal department of Paramount Studios in New York City. He discussed his move into film sales starting with Fox Lorber, and then Miramax, before becoming a partner of the seminal New York production outfit Good Machine.
Many of Linde’s relationships with acclaimed filmmakers were forged during this period, including directors Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Ang Lee, Todd Haynes, and Todd Solondz. Linde lavished high praise on one of his mentors, legendary producer Saul Zaentz; they worked together on The English Patient (winner of nine Academy Awards).
Linde also shared his experience as Chairman of Universal Pictures, where his lengthy—and ultimately successful—campaign brought the studio full force into animation and the family market.
Two major themes emerged from the discussion – Linde spoke extensively about melding his sales perspective with long-standing relationships with filmmakers. As Co-Head of Focus Features, he went on to distribute such notable projects like Brokeback Mountain, The Motorcycle Diaries, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 21 Grams, and Lost in Translation.
Linde also shared Participant’s philosophy of backing entertaining narrative feature films and documentaries that can serve as catalysts for social change.
He spoke extensively of the social and political action inspired by Roma. One victory cited by Linde is that domestic workers in Mexico will now be entitled to participate in their country’s social security system. Weisman mentioned that comparable efforts are underway through Participant’s work in the US in conjunction with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Students are encouraged to check out the social action element of the Participant website here.
Linde also addressed the role of Netflix in the distribution of Roma and the industry-at-large. Both Participant and Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón are exceedingly pleased with the way Netflix rolled out the picture, as well as the large viewing figures. Weisman mentioned that Roma blazed a trail for a new kind of hybrid distribution model, about to be put to use with the release of the new Martin Scorsese film The Irishman.
Linde then inspired the students in attendance by noting that the advent of streaming services has created great opportunities as there are “so many new buyers.”
New York Film Academy thanks CEO of Participant Media, David Linde, for generously sharing his insight and wisdom with our students!
VoyageLA, the flagship publication for Voyage Group of Magazines, is a media and city guide for Los Angeles that aims to authentically represent a wide variety of artists and communities, looking for outside-the-box ways to bring together the many different small businesses, independent artists and entrepreneurs, local institutions of LA.
It’s no surprise that many of New York Film Academy’s incredibly talented students and alumni have been featured on their pages, usually with personal and informative interviews. Here are the most recent NYFA artists who have been showcased by VoyageLA:
Recent 1-Year Acting for Film grad Dayana Espinoza has a knack for landing roles in quality films–she’s appeared in award winners Outlandish (Winner – CKF International Film Festival) and The Rosy Summer Day (Best Fantasy Film – Los Angeles Film Awards; Best Short – Top Short Film Festival; Best Women Short – Indie Short Fest; Best Director – Independent Shorts Awards; Best Director – Festigious International Film Festival) as well as Invisible Murderer, which was nominated in the Indie Short Fest for both Best Original Story and Best Film Noir Short. Espinoza, who was born and raised in Peru and has been recently interviewed by both VoyageLA and Film Daily, is currently represented by two agencies and recently worked on her first SAG-AFTRA project.
Current BFA Photography Joseph Ford has been hired to shoot Instagram influencers including Blac Chyna and Brittany Renner, and has recently shot photo coverage of the Amazon float for the 2019 SF Gay Pride parade. The Marines veteran talks about his fashion photography company and the path that led him to NYFA-LA and beyond.
In her interview with VoyageLA, 1-Year Acting for Film alum Saana Laigren talks about how she first got into acting during her childhood, and about the internal struggles she’s faced while trying to create a career in the arts. In the end, though, her path ultimately led to her following her dream, and she’s recently won Best Foreign Actress at Chandra Khamini International Film Festival.
VoyageLA calls MFA Producing alum Alice Rehemutula a “trailblazer” in an interview that charts her unconventional path from a Muslim province of China to Shanghai to Hollywood. Rehemutula found great success overseas as a performer, including appearing on China’s Got Talent, but she also has a passion for working behind the camera, earning her Master of Fine Arts in Producing from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.
Peipei Duan, a 2018 graduate of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA in Producing program, recently received the Cathay Bank Scholarship, which awards and supports Chinese students of great academic achievement
Peipei’s determination to pursue a career in producing has been with her since she attended the Beijing Film Academy in China, before eventually enrolling in the Producing program at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.
While at NYFA she produced several short films—one of which, Lip Reader: Game of Detective, won the Golden Award at the 15th Guangzhou Student film festival. While at NYFA, Duan also interned at Frederic Golchan Productions as an assistant at company events and festivals.
Duan plans to use the Cathay Bank award money to produce a new short and take it to the festival circuit.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) congratulates MFA Producing alum Peipei Duan on her scholarship and wishes her success as she continues her promising career.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing students headed across the river to Greenpoint, Brooklyn to produce two episodes of Over Coffee, a new webseries featuring women in most of its prominent roles both on- and off-camera.
Over Coffee, by New York-based screenwriter Nefertiti Warren, tells the story of three contemporary urban women, sharing their trials and tribulations. The production was shot by a current NYFA Cinematography student, and directed by recent NYFA Filmmaking graduate Ellinor Skeppström.
Production was held in Greenpoint, a neighborhood of Brooklyn located on the East River, where one of New York’s largest production communities has evolved over the past decade as studios both small and large have set up shop in the area.
The webseries is the fourth project produced by NYFA Producing students as part of their 1-Year Conservatory studies. Previously, they honed their craft producing short films, reality television sizzle reels, and commercials.
“It was a new experience for me,” says NYFA Producing student Emilia D’Agata, “because I had never worked on a webseries. It was very nice to work all together as producers and deal with a screenwriter, director, and cast who are all women. I hope that in the future we can continue to work on this project. It was an amazing experience.”