On Wednesday, February 13, as part of celebrating Black History Month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the NYFA African Black American Film Society hosted a screening of two episodes of Netflix’s Dear White People, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Chuck Hayward.
One of the episodes was directed by Academy award nominee Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk), which was a real treat for the filmmaking students. It was moderated by NYFA Director of the Q&A Series, Tova Laiter, and co-moderated by NYFA directing student, Nicole “Soul” Creary.
Hayward landed his first staff writing gig on the NBC series Bent. His feature film script, Potluck, won the WGA’s 2012 Feature Access Project. He then sold an untitled baseball project to Nickelodeon, after which he wrote for the Nick at Nite sitcom Wendell & Vinnie. In 2014, Hayward became a staff writer on the new NBC series One Big Happy, followed by Fox series Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life.
In 2016, he had two movies produced—Fat Camp and Step Sisters—and sold the Untitled UrbanPitch Perfect Project to The Firm and PepsiCo. Hayward is currently a writer and co-producer on the Netflix series, Dear White People, and a producer on Marvel’s upcoming untitled Scarlet Witch and Vision series.
Many students in the audience were curious about how Hayward started his career as a writer. “For me, personally, it was the contacts I already had,” said Hayward. “It was reaching out to all of them saying, ‘Can we meet for an informal meeting? Here’s what I’m interested in doing… can you introduce me to anybody else who might be able to help me in that?’… And then it’s just all about following up…You don’t want them to forget about you, although not bug them too often… A lot of times, offering to work for people for free on a project is a good way to show, like, ‘Hey… I’m not looking for anything from you financially; I’m just kind of looking for you to help me get my foot in the door and I’m looking for a chance to show what I’m capable of.”
Other students wanted to know about Hayward’s writing process. “I’m a big pre-writer so I’ll sit down, I’ll write my character sketches, I’ll write my outline; I’ll do as much as possible before I open up Final Draft because I don’t want to look at a blank page and freak out,” Hayward said. “It’s also knowing if your idea is better suited to television or film.”
One of the students asked how Hayward and the other writers on Dear White People navigate the complexity of the topics discussed on the show. He replied, “Most of the blowback that we’ve gotten about Dear White People happened before the show came out because people were like, ‘Dear White People? How dare you … address us as a group!’ And we were like, ‘Oh that happens to us all the time, oddly, so it’s not that big of a deal’ … But I think once people started to see the show and see what it was about and see that we weren’t just ‘coming for’ white people and taking out … aggression on them; we weren’t blaming them for stuff; it was just like, ‘Hey, here’s some of the shit you do that bothers us; like, maybe don’t do that anymore; it’s super easy!’ And we also take as many stabs at, you know, black folks and the things that we do that are problematic or that are not beneficial to us all as a group.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank writer and producer Chuck Hayward for sharing his entertainment industry and writing advice with our students!
On Monday, February 11, the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series welcomed producer Mollye Asher to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) for a “Conversation with” and Q&A session following a screening of Chloé Zhou’s The Rider. Also participating in the session was sound recordist on the film, Mike Wolf Snyder.
This is the second Chloé Zhou film produced by Mollye Asher. The Rider was shot over five weeks, with non-actors playing roles very much based on themselves. Writer-director Zhou spent close to two years researching the story and developing the film before the shoot. The story follows a young rodeo star recovering from a serious head injury suffered when thrown by a horse in the midst of the rodeo.
A good amount of the time Zhou spent researching the story was an investment in gaining the trust of the non-actor cast. The film was made mostly by a six-to-eight person crew, who also needed to gain the trust of the cast. Snyder, the sound recordist, does not like to use wireless, lavaliere microphones that can be hidden underneath an actor’s shirt. He uses a boom microphone for every shot. However, he says, he was very sensitive to not wanting to come off as intrusive towards the actors.
The Rider premiered at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was acquired for North American distribution by Sony Classics. At Cannes, Zhou also won the C.I.C.A.E. Award.
The film has won numerous other awards, including Best Feature from the National Society of Film Critics Award, Best Picture at the Athens International Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. It was also named one of the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2018, and received multiple nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.
The team recently wrapped production on a 50-day shoot on a “below the radar” project to be announced very soon.
The New York Film Academy thanks producer Mollye Asher and sound recordist Mike Wolf Snyder for sitting down with students as part of the Producing Department Industry Speaker Series!
Producer and director Irene Méndez has been incredibly busy since graduating from New York Film Academy’s producing school, working on multiple films that have made several festivals and garnered a great deal of press and attention from the industry.
Méndez originally hails from Madrid, Spain. In 2016, she enrolled in the 1-year Producing conservatory at New York Film Academy (NYFA). While studying at NYFA’s New York city campus, acquiring strong project management skills as well as a hands-on filmmaking education from experienced industry professionals, Méndez completed production on several films in multiple roles.
This included her own film Tinnitus, which she wrote, directed, and produced, as well as several NYFA thesis films—From Me to Me, directed by Moe Myat May Zarchi; Lighter and Cigarettes, directed by Rafael Cintra; and Almost, directed by Mahair Kahn. These projects, as well as other films Méndez produced, have accrued numerous awards and Official Selections from film festivals around the world.
Almost (2017), which Méndez worked on as 2nd Assistant Director and Script Supervisor, was an Official Selection in the New York Indian Film Festival. From Me to Me (2018), which she co-produced, won Best Woman Filmmaker at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival and was an Official Selection in Myanmar’s Wathann Film Festival.
Lighter and Cigarettes (2017) was produced by Méndez and was a Semiinalist at Los Angeles CineFest and an Official Selection for both the Los Angeles SR Film Festival and Hope Film Awards. Additionally, it was part of the Short Film Corner at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival.
Tinnitus (2017) was a Finalist or Semifinalist at multiple fests, as well as an Official Selection of New York Film Screenings, Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival, Bridgwater and Taunton College Film Festival, Hope Film Awards, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, and the Los Angeles SR Film Festival.
After graduating, Méndez also produced Obini Bata (2018) which was directed by Damian Calvo. The short documentary profiles the first women to perform with Batá drums in Cuba, drums traditionally forbidden for women. The film has won the Audience Award for Best Short Film Documentary at the Edmonton International Film Festival and has been an Official Selection at Lady Filmmakers, Women in Film and Television Atlanta, The Pan African Film Festival, and The Chicago Feminist Film Festival.
Méndez is also in postproduction for Agua Desgasta Roca, a documentary short about a rock climber diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The film has already won the Premios Solidarios from Fundacion Merk.
Currently, she is working on two additional documentaries, Los García, and Costus. Los García, a feature film, was featured as part of the Focus CoPro pitching event at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also one of five winners at the La Incubadora competition, and was featured at Abycine.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Irene Méndez on the multiple successes of her films to date, and looks forward to following her career as it develops!
On Monday, January 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a guest lecture by NYFA Producing alum, Alex Lebovici. Lebovici was executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated Denzel Washington drama, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), Mom and Dad (2017), Who We Are Now (2017), The Clapper (2017) as well as an unofficial short fan film based on hit video game Uncharted, starring Nathan Fillion and which garnered rave reviews and Internet buzz.
Lebovici began the lecture by discussing his beginnings: “I started making short films [when] I was 13 with my closest friends … and I always wanted to be part of the movie business.” Lebovici moved from Canada to the United States and studied directing at New York Film Academy, where he made 12 short films during his academic career. After he graduated, Lebovici was an intern at Original Film, the company that produced the Fast and the Furious film franchise, but, unfortunately was laid off.
After moving back to Canada, Lebovici became a door-to-door salesman, working six days a week, 12 hours a day, for six years. “I prepared myself [by] doing something very challenging … of the people that opened the door, 95% of them said no but the 5% that said yes [were] more than enough to earn a living.” Despite his success, he still ached to return to the entertainment industry.
Lebovici was inspired one night after being denied entry to a fancy nightclub in his native Toronto. The next day, he purchased an American pay-as-you-go mobile phone, registered it to a Beverly Hills zip code and called the nightclub as his own fake assistant; he told the nightclub that he was an assistant to a producer from Los Angeles that wanted to produce a television show about “bodyguards who protect A-list celebrities when they come to Toronto.”
That phone call got Lebovici introduced to all of the nightclub owners, bodyguards, and doormen in Toronto. Word got to movie star Steven Seagal that Lebovici owned a bodyguard company; he didn’t, but he made sure Seagal and his guests were taken care of during their visit to Toronto free of charge. Seagal knew that nothing comes for free and asked Lebovici what he wanted in return; Lebovici asked if he would star in a pilot for a show about bodyguards. Seagal agreed.
In a matter of months, Lebovici went from being a guy who couldn’t get into a nightclub to a guy that was known and welcomed by all of the nightclub owners in Toronto, with a potential television show pilot starring Steven Seagal. Lebovici called all of the production companies in Toronto, pitched his pilot to them and started a bidding war between two companies for the rights to produce the show. Lebovici was then contacted by various Hollywood actors’ representatives and the show’s cast started to grow.
Lebovici learned from this experience how to be a producer and went on to produce a number of projects in the United States; he continued to make valuable contacts through networking with nightclub promoters and owners and he carefully gauged when it was appropriate to ask his contacts for favors, “You’ve got to build them up to it by playing a slow game,” said Lebovici, “…you don’t want to be too thirsty in this business.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Producing alum Alex Lebovici for sharing his experiences and honest advice with our students!
Last night, movie and TV fans around the world watched the 76th Golden Globe Awards, where award winners were announced and presented with the famed statuettes at a televised dinner ceremony hosted by Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg.
The Golden Globe Awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and have been given out to cast and crew of film and television productions since 1944. The awards show is typically looser and more casual than other ceremonies like the Emmys and Academy Awards, with Hollywood stars drinking and mingling in a dinner atmosphere.
Highlights of the evening include Jeff Bridges winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the entertainment industry and the subsequent, seemingly off-the-cuff speech he gave that ranged from heartfelt thanks to his family and collaborators to the invention of ship rudders called trim tabs. Among many other feelings, Bridges referred to his role in The Big Lebowski: “If I’m lucky, I’ll be associated with The Dude for the rest of my life.”
Other memorable moments from the evening included host Sandra Oh speaking to her parents from stage and winning a Globe herself for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for her role in Killing Eve, and a surprise appearance by Taylor Swift, who presented the awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. The latter award went to Lady Gaga for “Shallow”, seen here being covered by New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Amanda Jerlov:
Additionally, the second Golden Globes ceremony since the start of the #MeToo movement contained multiple nods, references, and calls to action for more diversity in the entertainment industry for women and people of color.
The big winners of the night was an eclectic mix of expected wins for favorites, mild surprises, and upsets. The Americans won Best Television Series – Drama for its final season, while The Kominsky Method won Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy for its inaugural first season. In a year of genre-bending films, Green Book won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy while Bohemian Rhapsody took home the prize for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Veteran actress and previous New York Film Academy guest speaker Glenn Close also surprised many with her win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, for which A Star is Born lead Lady Gaga was considered a favorite. Close seemed genuinely surprised and gave a powerful, tearful speech that touched on her mother and gender roles in both the industry and society as a whole.
After describing how her mother regretted not doing more with her life, Close told the audience, “Women — we’re nurturers — and that’s what’s expected of us… but we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that’ and ‘I should be allowed to do that.’”
Other NYFA guest speakers were at the Golden Globes too, as well as several alumni. New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Widows, The Magnificent Seven) was in attendance, as was NYFA Camp alum Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, X-Men: Apocalypse.)
Former Saturday Night Live star and NYFA Workshop Alum Bill Hader was also present last night. Hader earned five Emmy nominations last year for his work on Barry, a dark comedy about a midwestern hitman who moves to Hollywood to become an actor. At that awards show, Hader picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor. The Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy was the latest achievement in the comedic actor’s evolving career.
The show itself was nominated for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, an impressive feat for a new series with only one season of episodes to date. Barry has received glowing reviews since its 2018 debut, with Hader’s performance being an obvious standout.
Hader’s Barry co-star, Henry Winkler, was also nominated for a Golden Globe, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. The veteran television actor has previously been a guest speaker at New York Film Academy.
Other guest speakers and lecturers at New York Film Academy have also worked on several Golden Globe-nominated works this year, including Adam Driver. Driver spoke with NYFA students in New York City earlier this year, and has a featured role in BlacKKKlansman, nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Guest speaker for NYFA Los Angeles Amy Smeed served as an animator on Ralph Breaks the Internet,Golden Globe nominees for Best Motion Picture – Animated. Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose agent Andrew Finkelstein spoke with NYFA students in a productive Q&A at our Los Angeles campus, was a nomineefor Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his role in Mary Poppins Returns.
Additionally, Francesco Panzieri, an alum of New York Film Academy’s animation school, worked on the HBO series Westworld, whose star Thandie Newton earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Panzieri is a Visual Effects artist whose other credits include Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Avengers: Infinity War.
Eric Demeusy, who attended the 1-Year Filmmaking program at NYFA’s film school in Los Angeles, also worked on Westworld, having helped create its famous and evocative title sequence. Demeusy has previously won the Emmy for Main Title Design for his work on Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things.
The New York Film Academy is proud to see its alumni and other members of its community involved with such highly regarded, award-winning productions.
Congratulations to all of this year’s winners and nominees! Here is a full list of the winners and nominees for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards:
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Green Book The Favourite Vice Mary Poppins Returns Crazy Rich Asians
Best Motion Picture, Drama
Bohemian Rhapsody BlacKkKlansman If Beale Street Could Talk Black Panther A Star Is Born
Best TV Movie or Limited Series
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story The Alienist Escape at Dannemora Sharp Objects A Very English Scandal
Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy
The Kominsky Method The Good Place The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kidding Barry
Best TV Series, Drama
The Americans Bodyguard Homecoming Killing Eve Pose
Best Foreign Language Film
Roma Capernaum Girl Never Look Away Shoplifters
Best Motion Picture, Animated
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Incredibles 2 Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet
Best Director – Motion Picture
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman Adam McKay, Vice Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie; Green Book Alfonso Cuaron, Roma Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk Adam McKay, Vice
Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Justin Hurwitz, First Man Marco Beltrami, A Quiet Place Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Shallow,” A Star is Born “All The Stars,” Black Panther “Girl in the Movies,” Dumpling “Requiem for a Private War,” A Private War “Revelation,” Boy Erased
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Amy Adams, Vice Claire Foy, First Man Emma Stone, The Favourite Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali, Green Book Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Glenn Close, The Wife Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Nicole Kidman, Destroyer Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, Vice Lin Manuel Miranda, Mary Poppins Returns Viggo Mortinson, Green Book Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun John C Riley, Stan And Ollie
Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora Amy Adams, Sharp Objects Connie Britton, Dirty John Laura Dern, The Tale Regina King, Seven Seconds
Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso Daniel Bruhl, The Alienist Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal
Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Thandie Newton, Westworld Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method Kieran Culkin, Succession Edgar Ramirez, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Henry Winkler, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Kristen Bell, The Good Place Candice Bergen, Murphy Brown Alison Brie, Glow Debra Messing, Will & Grace
Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method Sasha Baron Cohen, Who Is America? Jim Carrey, Kidding Donald Glover, Atlanta Bill Hader, Barry
Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve Caitriona Balfe, Outlander Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale Julia Roberts, Homecoming Keri Russell, The Americans
Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama
Richard Madden, Bodyguard Jason Bateman, Ozark Stephan James, Homecoming Billy Porter, Pose Matthew Rhys, The Americans
On Friday, November 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of IFC’s DriverX (2018), followed by a Q&A with director/writer and NYFA instructor, Henry Barrial; producer, Mark Stolaroff; and star, Patrick Fabian; featuring and moderated by NYFA Acting Dept. Associate Chair, Anne Moore.
Barrial is a writer, director, and filmmaking/acting instructor at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. DriverX marks Barrial’s fifth feature. His previous credits include The House That Jack Built, Pig, and Some Body,which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Stolaroff is a producer with 25+ years in the business, and is considered to be an expert in micro-budget filmmaking. He has produced all five of Barrial’s features.
Fabian has been a working actor for over 25 years, with 115+ credits to his name. He currently stars as Howard Hamlin on AMC’s Emmy-nominated Better Call Saul. His other credits include Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, The Newsroom, Criminal Minds, and Will & Grace, to name a few. Film audiences may know him best as Reverend Cotton Marcus in The Last Exorcism, and he is also fondly remember as “Professor Lasky” in Saved by the Bell: The College Years. Fabian has also starred in NYFA alum Aymen Khoja’s Arabian Warrior, the first ever Saudi-American feature.
Moderator Anne Moore opened up the Q&A by asking Barrial about the collaboration between Fabian and himself on the script, as Barrial wrote the part of Leonard Moore specifically for Fabian. “I had the outline of the script worked out before I brought it to Patrick, and from there we worked on the character development,” says Barrial. He added, “In terms of the actual writing of the script, that was all me.”
Barrial went on to discuss the importance of collaboration and community in this business, with Fabian chiming in by asking, “Who on this stage has been playing beach volleyball for the past 15 years together?” Barrial, Fabian, and Moore all raised their hands and it was revealed they have been friends and colleagues for a very long time.
Barrial went on to talk about the personal nature of this project and his collaboration with producer Mark Stolaroff. “Most producers won’t tell you what their budget was, but I will!” exclaimed Stolaroff. Immediately a Filmmaking student asked what the budget was, with Stolaroff answering, “We started with a budget of $100,000 which got us through production. From there we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds we needed for Post, so all in the budget is $140,000.”
Obviously the movie is a labor of love as many of the cast and crew have worked on Barrial/Stolaroff films before.
When asked about how Fabian worked around his Better Call Saul shooting schedule, Fabian replied, “First off, I have to say how happy I am that I have a job that needs to be worked around. Henry and Mark were great about my schedule, but that’s what you do, you make it work.”
Fabian went on to talk about his longevity in the business, and the importance of being prepared: “You need to show up, be ready, and be early. And take care of yourselves when you don’t get the part. Go hiking, drink juice, do whatever you need to get you through the tough times, because if you stay focused and committed, things will go your way.”
The New York Film Academy thanks Patrick Fabian, Mark Stolaroff, and Henry Barrial for sharing their insights about making an independent film on a micro budget with a challenging schedule.
DriverX opens November 30th in theaters and on demand.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alana Blaylock has had a productive career since finishing the 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in the summer of 2011. It’s no surprise then that many in the industry have taken notice of the Emmy Award winner, including Forbes Magazine, which recently published a profile on and interview with the up-and-coming producer.
Blaylock has amassed an inspiring roster of credits since finishing her workshop at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school, which teaches aspiring reporters a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of the production process, including researching, writing, shooting, producing, and editing. This is important in the modern digital landscape as contemporary broadcast journalists are expected to be multimedia journalists, marrying their technical skills with their creative ones.
This is exactly what Blaylock has excelled at, and why she has already won an Emmy and why her career is taking off even as her path winds between both traditional roads and outside-the-box ones. Her credits include work on CNN, HBO, NBC News, National Geographic, and the ID Channel, including popular programs Deadline and United Shades of America. However, her work on newer streaming models like Amazon and YouTube is what has been generating a lot of buzz.
One of her latest projects is producing for Best Shot, a YouTube Originals docuseries executive produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter for the NBA. The show follows the student basketball players of Newark Central High School as well as chronicling the life and career of their mentor, former NBA player and sports television personality Jay Williams.
In addition to working in both traditional and digital media, Blaylock curates a strong online presence on social media, further highlighting her smart instincts in an ever-changing media landscape.
“I love the visual storytelling that happens on Instagram,” Blaylock tells Forbes. “That’s the platform I probably use the most [in my personal life]. And I am inspired by movies, set design, museums, exhibits and artists.”
She continues, “I try to take in as much new culture as possible and then decide what I want to do with it or how it fits into my process as a creative.”
What lies ahead for Blaylock remains to be seen, but it’s clear whatever she does next will be insightful and successful due to the work she puts in and the philosophy that keeps her driven. When asked about keeping her own personal voice while working on other parties’ projects, Blaylock tells Forbes, “My brand evolves as I attain more world experience. I have to remain authentically Alana, and the projects that I take on are continuations of my career journey.
“I can adapt to the demands of a project and still be the best version of myself. I remain steadfast in my goals while producing every show, documentary or collaboration. As a result of working on many projects, there’s always new information and experiences. It keeps me well-rounded.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Alana Blaylock on her career and looks forward to her future successes sure to come!
On Tuesday, October 16th the New York Film Academy hosted a screening of Look Away with director, Assaf Bernstein, and producer and NYFA instructor, Dana Lustig, moderated by Director of the Los Angeles NYFA campus, Dan Mackler.
Bernstein is the critically-acclaimed director of Netflix’s massive hit series, Fauda (2015). He recently directed the pilot episode of Warrior, the Bruce Lee-inspired series created for Cinemax. Prior to that, Focus Features released an English-language remake of Bernstein’s film, The Debt (2007), which he co-wrote and directed. Look Away is Bernstein’s first U.S. feature.
Lustig was the executive producer on Spider in the Web (2019), starring Ben Kingsley and Monica Bellucci, and the Israeli hit series, Very Important Man (2018). Prior to that, Lustig produced Jungle (2017), starring Daniel Radcliffe; The Frontier (2015); Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005), nominated for the Independent Spirit Award; and Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000), directed by Academy Award nominee, Michael Radford.
Lustig also directed A Thousand Kisses Deep (2011), which was nominated for the British Independent Film Award; Wild Cherry (2009) with Rob Schneider; Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber (2005), starring Jennifer Love Hewitt; and Kill Me Later (2001), starring Selma Blair. Lustig is set to direct the remake of Israeli film, The Man in the Wall.
After the screening, Dan Mackler opened up the conversation by asking Bernstein about the inspiration behind Look Away. Bernstein replied, “It started when I was 10 years old and… this film is kind of the sum of all my fears… I had this idea of my own reflection not quite reflecting me, and I think there’s something there — if you really look at yourself in the mirror, you always make a face, or, you know, you never actually just look at yourself, you always look away from what you see. I think the idea that your reflection is a stranger to you is something that has some truth in it… so that sort of fear that made me not look in my mirror in the bathroom… I remember as a kid I always thought would be the first film I would make.”
Mackler inquired as to why — since the idea seemed to stem from an autobiographical perspective — Bernstein chose to make the protagonist a girl instead of a boy. “I think women are more repressed, traditionally, than men,” said Bernstein, “there’s more pressure on them to behave a certain way, to look a certain way… when a woman… becomes sexual, there’s something dramatic about it.”
Bernstein added that making the protagonist female also played into primordial parental fears about their teenage daughters being sexually active, fears of both their daughters’ agency and potential victimhood.
Later, the Q&A opened up to questions from students in the audience; one student asked Bernstein and Lustig what they wish they knew when they first started out. “Don’t make [this] mistake,” said Lustig, “You make your movie, you put everything into it, you go to a film festival; everybody’s asking you, ‘So what’s your next project?’ and you’re like, ‘Um…’ and you don’t have it and you kind of miss the opportunity, miss the timing…The other thing that I encourage my students [to do]…is to keep doing.”
Lustig then encouraged all students in the audience to make their films with whatever resources are available to them and to never stop learning.
The New York Film Academy thanks Assaf Bernstein and Dana Lustig for sharing their creative processes and entertainment industry advice with students!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Alex Lebovici, along with his partner Steve Ponce, is launching Hammerstone Studios, their new production company that will finance feature films for Hollywood and beyond.
The two previously worked at Oriah Entertainment. Over the last year, they’ve had a run of very successful projects, including feature film Roman J. Israel, Esq., which earned Denzel Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor, as well the upcoming drama/thriller Red Sea Diving Resort, featuring Chris Evans, Michiel Huisman, Ben Kingsley, Michael Kenneth Williams, Greg Kinnear, and many others. Lebovici and Ponce also executive produced the fan-made adaptation of blockbuster video game Uncharted, starring Nathan Fillion as title character Nathan Drake. Also starring Stephen Lang (Avatar), the fan short went viral and spawned talks of being adapted into an official Hollywood feature.
According to a press release exclusive with deadline.com, the goal for Lebovici and Ponce is to produce a “diversified slate of films, from commercial, talent-driven titles to specialty films from proven filmmakers.” This includes projects like Come Away, a feature directed by Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt, Brave) and staring Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo. Hammerstone Studios is also trying to get the long-awaited second sequel to 80s classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure off the ground — with original stars Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters on board, Bill & Ted Face the Music is closer than ever to finally coming to theaters.
Lebovici hails from Ontario, Canada. He enrolled in the 1-Year Producing program at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus in the fall of 2005. The producing school at NYFA teaches students strong project management skills without requiring a business school background, and allows collaboration opportunities with NYFA filmmaking, acting, screenwriting, and cinematography students (among others) on their ambitious projects throughout the program.
The New York Film Academy congratulates producing alum Alex Lebovici on his incredible success in Hollywood and looks forward to the future films of Hammerstone Studios!
Sabrina Percario has been very busy since graduating from New York Film Academy’s MFA program in Acting for Film. She has worked in multiple positions in film productions and has produced and acted in numerous multi-award-winning films, with several more on the horizon.
Her journey to becoming a prolific and decorated actress and producer had an unconventional start. Born in Brazil, Percario originally worked for nearly a decade in medicine before gradually becoming immersed more and more in the world of drama. Her deep passion for the art and craft of filmmaking matches both her talent and her incredible work ethic.
The New York Film Academy recently spoke with Sabrina Percario about the many hats she wears in the film industry, as well as what keeps her motivated and moving forward:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Sabrina Percario (SP): I was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and I have dual Brazilian and Italian citizenship. In college, I majored in biomedicine and for almost 10 years I worked in the field of Chinese traditional medicine.
I used to lead a lot of workshops in this field in front of large audiences of around 200 people — yet I was very shy. I decided I needed to do something to improve my effectiveness as a speaker. So in 2009 I went to an acting school called the Celia Helena Acting School. I immediately fell in love with acting. Acting is very fulfilling to me because I was always fascinated with human behavior. When you study a character, you put yourself in the place of that person. When you step into another person’s shoes, you suddenly understand why someone would act in a particular way. You stop judging people and, in the process, you learn more about yourself.
I.C.E. CREAM at LAIFFA wins Best Producer
From 2011 until 2014 I worked as a drama teacher for children ranging in age from six to sixteen. Working with kids was one of my most satisfying life experiences. I learned to be more flexible and open to changes, more willing to let others lead the narrative, and more honest with myself about my feelings. During that period in my life I worked two jobs: I was an acupuncturist as well as a drama teacher.
In November of 2013, I decided to enroll in NYFA so I could study my craft and improve my knowledge about acting for film.
From 2014 to 2016 I worked on NYFA’s MFA program in Acting for Film. My thesis film Julia won several awards, including Best Leading Actress at the United International Film Festival (UIFF). Julia is a tribute to my mother, who died four years ago. I used the film to talk about grief and express my gratitude to my mom. She taught me to pursue my dreams — and that’s exactly what I am doing.
NYFA: Your IMDB page is filled with all sorts of roles — actress, producer, writer, composer, to name just a few — do you feel it is important to learn as many trades in the film industry as possible?
SP: Yes, it is very important. Everyone should learn as much as they can about the business, especially in the beginning of your career, so you have a holistic view of how a film is made.
It was important for me to wear many different hats on set. Having done these jobs, I have so much respect for all the departments. I know how physical and challenging the grips and electrical (G&E) department can be, and how essential they are in contributing to the director of photography’s view.
As an actress, I’m much more consistent and self-aware about continuity. That happened only after I was a script supervisor and had to take note of how full the wine glass was or its exact position on the table for every take. I learned similar things as a production designer and when I worked in the wardrobe department. All of this knowledge is tremendously helpful to my performance when I’m in front of the camera.
For a year I explored all the different jobs on film sets and I realized I had to choose which department I liked the most and wanted to work with. I decided to be an actress and producer.
As a producer I’m able to produce my own projects and cast myself in them. This gives me a certain amount of control over my career as an actress. I can also create my own voice with stories I think will inspire people. Being a producer has enabled me to meet a lot of people in different departments in the industry. The breadth of my extended network has helped me enormously as a producer when I’m casting my crew.
As an actress, I want to be in a feature film. To that end I’m writing a feature film (In Search Of) inspired by my life. I want to say to all my international friends that it doesn’t matter where you are located as long as you keep doing what you love. I’m writing in collaboration with other screenwriters, both here in Los Angeles and internationally.
Sabrina Percario in “Tell”
I recommend trying out different departments if you still don’t know what you want to be. Become familiar with the universe behind the camera and then choose a route. Once you decide where you fit in, people will begin to associate your name with that specific department.
NYFA: Is there something you haven’t done on a film yet that you’d like to try?
SP: I would love to direct a film one day, but right now I want to have more experience producing one.
NYFA: You’ve won a litany of awards for your work already. Your projects Tell, I.C.E. CREAM and Breaking are the latest to gain recognition. Can you talk a little about these projects and your roles in them?
SP: My recent projects that I produced are still in the film festival circuit. My latest films are Breaking and I.C.E. CREAM. Breaking is a fable — it’s the inspiring story of a porcelain doll who overcomes her fears and breaks out of her snow globe. Our purpose was to bring awareness about those who have suffered from sexual harassment. So far, we have won three festivals, two finalists, seven semi-finalists, and seven official selections.
I.C.E. CREAM is another project I had the honor of producing. This film portrays the life of an immigrant family in this new Trump era. Our purpose was to bring awareness about the collateral lives affected by the immigration policies in place. So far, we have won nine awards.
My overall purpose in my films is to touch people’s hearts, inspire them, and spread a good, positive message through the characters I play and the films I produce.
Tell is a film in which I played the lead actress. Its logline reads: Expecting a visit from his ex, a once-famous alcoholic writer decides to play a game of shoot the apple, until the truth of tragedy unveils the outcome of his intentions. For that film I won three awards as best leading actress.
“Breaking” produced by Sabrina Percario. Actress/ writer/Executive Producer: Alessandra Hajaj
NYFA: Which of your many projects was the easiest for you to work on and why? Which was the most difficult?
SP:Breaking was an easy project to produce because it was shot entirely in one location and the crew and cast had an amazing professionalism and respect for each other. Everything went smoothly. Julia was very challenging for me because I was doing the film as a tribute to my Mom, who died four years ago. When I made the film I was still grieving, and it was very hard for me at that time to accept the loss. I was playing myself in the film, so I channeled all my pain and feelings through the character. It was therapeutic to write, produce, and act in that film, and it helped me to accept loss. It gave me the opportunity to express my love in a poetic way.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on?
SP: I’m currently working on Mojave Shadows, in which I play the lead. Its logline reads: A woman named Susan hikes in the middle of the Mojave Desert while coming to terms with guilt about the death of her son. One night she is attacked by a rattlesnake, and in the harrowing process, finds herself.
I’m also producing another project called El Fred. Its logline reads: A not-so-imaginary childhood friend returns as an unusual vigilante to protect a struggling single mother and her bullied son. And in December I’ll produce my first documentary, about self-healing and self-knowledge.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that has applied directly to your career?
SP: I’m very grateful to NYFA. Thanks to a very hands-on program, I was able to learn how a film works from script to final editing. I also learned that producing a film is a group effort, and each department is essential in creating a coherent film. There are no small roles. I learned that it’s very important to respect your co-workers.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
SP: Be professional. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a class assignment or a student project, you will graduate with your friends and they will be in the film industry with you. Instead of just making a connection, work on building relationships. Be responsible and reliable. Most importantly, ask yourself every day why you’re doing what you are doing. Remember what it’s all about: this is your passion. It’s important to have a goal, a purpose. Pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone say no to you. Believe in yourself and trust your instinct.
I just want to say that I’m very grateful for NYFA. In less than a year I was already working in the film industry. That would not have been possible without the kindness and expertise of the wonderful and talented people at NYFA.
The New York Film Academy thanks Sabrina Percario for her generous time and looks forward to following her continuing success!