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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Manager and Producer Risa Shapiro for ‘The Q&A-List Series’

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    On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with manager and producer Risa Shapiro, where Shapiro shared her career expertise with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Risa Shapiro began her career in the entertainment business at The William Morris Agency in New York in 1981. She helped discover and cultivate the careers of such stars as Julia Roberts, Jennifer Connelly, Rosie O’Donnell, David Duchovny, Andie MacDowell and many more. In 1991, Shapiro left William Morris to join the ICM agency, where she continued to thrive as one of the most powerful female agents in the industry. In 2008, she decided to pursue management and production.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Risa Shapiro (Right) for NYFA’s Q&A-List

    As a manager, Shapiro continues to represent Cher, Jennifer Connelly, Heather Graham, Steven McQueen, Christian Madsen, and many others. She co-financed Saw (2004), was an executive producer on Burlesque (2011), and produced the television movies Dear Mom, Love Cher (2013) for Lifetime and Love At First Glance (2017) for the Hallmark Channel.

    Laiter opened up the discussion by recalling how, when Laiter was working as Co-President at Imagine Entertainment, Shapiro was just introducing the world her new upcoming client, Julia Roberts, who because her brother was already famous, “knew her way around the set and knew what actors were like and I knew she will go places and signed her,” remembered Shapiro.

    Laiter then commented how Shapiro has such a keen eye for talent and asked whether she was born with it, or if it was something learned. Shapiro explained that it’s something you develop over time and it’s about loving actors and the movies. From there, she explained, it’s about “finding those roles [for your actor] that you can then show to the next director, and the next director, and the next one to get them (the clients) to that next big role.”

    Film poster for ‘Burlesque’ (Produced by Risa Shapiro)

    As for the role of a Manager vs Agent, (and she was both) Shapiro explained that, in her role as a Manager, she is charged with being the point person to help guide her client’s career but an agent has most of the information from staff meetings so the ideal is to have both. She then shared a time when she received a producer credit on Burlesque without even pursuing one because, ultimately, the director knew that Shapiro was the reason that Cher [her client] remained there shooting the film and was a huge comfort for the actress.

    Shapiro explained that one of the biggest challenges actors are facing now in the business is competition. She shared that, due to the high volume of talent and availability, actors have to “be really great these days,” and reminded NYFA students: “You’re not going to do a great job on your own. You have to stay in class and you have to get a coach.”

    (Left to Right) Producer Donald De Line, restaurateur Victor Drai and executive producer Risa Shapiro

    A student then asked about how someone would go about finding an agent if they are new in the business and Shapiro had this advice to share:

    “Put together a reel you are proud of and just remember: People in the entertainment business have a short attention span, so don’t make it too long. Then, go online and find the names of managers and agents and make sure they are relatively young and send material on yourself to them (your picture, resume, reel, where you went to school, etc).”

    Laiter then added “make friends with the assistants of those people,” to which Shapiro agreed, noting that you should always get to know the people around the point person you are trying to reach when finding an agent. Laiter and Shapiro also suggested that actors and others should invest in IMDBPro so they can keep up with who represents who in the industry.

    Another student looking for advice from Shapiro asked, if they have other talents other than acting, whether they should begin looking for representation as an actor first, rather than for all the other disciplines.. “Don’t be spread too thin,” Shapiro replied. “Try and get an agent as an actor and then branch out. When you work on a set as an actor, you’re going to meet people that will help you in other areas later on.”

    Shapiro closed the conversation by encouraging students to create using the resources they have today. “People in the industry today can make a movie by themselves on their computer. You could write and star in your own movie, but always have something to show people that will make others impressed.” Laiter agreed and added, “use this time in school to do the best short, broadcast segment or project that you can be proud of.”

    Actors Amy Smart and Adrian Grenier in ‘Love at First Glance’ (Produced by Risa Shapiro)

    Laiter closed the conversation by thanking Shapiro for sharing her time and vast knowledge of the business side of the movie industry.Shapiro expressed her enjoyment of the conversation and wished NYFA’s students the best of luck in their future endeavours.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Manager and Producer Risa Shapiro for sharing her time and expertise with students and alumni looking to explore the business side of the film industry as actors, filmmakers, producers, and more.

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    August 28, 2020 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1436

  • NYFA Documentary & Producing Departments Welcome Film Producer Christopher Leggett Who Encourages Developing Tangible Skills & Saying “Yes”

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    This summer, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting a live video Q&A with the talented Producer Christopher Leggett to discuss his current success with multiple films and projects in recent distribution, including Ask Dr. Ruth, Mike Wallace is Here and Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf’s award winning, screenwriting premiere.

    Producer Christopher Leggett, along with Rafael Marmor, is a controlling partner at Delirio Films, a production company with a long list of award-winning films, both documentary and narrative, and several compelling non-fiction television series on platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, The History Channel and NBC, to name a few.

    NYFA instructors Sanora Bartels (Top Left) and Roberta Colangelo (Top Right) with Christopher Leggett

    The Q&A was conducted by Los Angeles Chairs of the Documentary and Producing Departments, Sanora Bartels and Roberta (Robi) Colangelo, respectively. They were excited to speak with the producer, who has a very active and successful record with both documentary (where he started) and narrative filmmaking; his credits are a testament to the importance of storytelling, regardless of genre.

    The discussion focused on how to make the transition from film student to filmmaking professional and the most important aspects of a successful professional career. Leggett was generous with his time and inspiring with his answers.

    His advice to students in film school was to work on their tangible skill sets and noted that, for him, that includes editing: “I was a swimmer in college…so I had a little bit of the athlete mentality of just constantly doing the work was really important right out of school.” He went on to say that while you’ll have a lot of uncreative, “grunt work” to perform, “everything is a stepping-stone at that level.”

    Leggett (Far right) on a press junket for ‘Ask Dr. Ruth’

    Once he mastered the technical level of the work and had something tangible on his resume, he knew he had to move on from the secure job and get himself out into the world networking in order to use his storytelling skills picked up in school. He also acknowledged the importance of internships during school, which allowed him to maintain professional relationships that he would reconnect with after getting some experience under his belt.

    He also used his connections in the competitive swim world to differentiate himself as a filmmaker. In other words, he understood that he needed unique access to a world outside of filmmaking in order to tell stories that he was uniquely qualified to tell. This allowed him to pitch an idea to NBC, get hired and move up the rungs of the ladder at NBC Universal where he worked on Against the Tide and began cutting his teeth as a producer.

    Of his time at NBC, Leggett reveals that “when you’re in an organization like that, there are a lot of boundaries… your job goes from here to here [hands about six inches apart]…and I think good people are constantly pushing at it to try to get more responsibility.”

    This desire for more responsibility caused Leggett to develop his own project, The Short Game. He admitted that he did this while employed by NBC and because golf was not yet an Olympic sport, it did not pose a conflict of interest and he was able to see it through. He called it his “side hustle.”

    Leggett (Left) at New York premiere of ‘Mike Wallace is Here’

    His practicality and go-getter attitude spills into his philosophy around “luck,” which he believes is presented as an opportunity, but you have to say yes. “I learned early in my career not to be scared that I don’t know what I’m doing. So luck happens when you say yes.”

    Talking to him about his producing philosophy led to an interesting discussion around titles versus ego versus the very real job of the producer, Leggett shared: “The Producer’s role I feel is so vast,” he explained. “You are an essential person to have birthed this project into the world.”

    With this, he shared how he transitioned from documentary to narrative filmmaking, something many find difficult, but his message was all about the work and he stressed the importance of business relationships built on trust and the ability to speak the same “language.” He eventually created Delirio Films based on relationships and the desire to help filmmakers evolve.

    Alma Har’el (Left) with Christopher Leggett at the Tribeca Film Festival

    Because Leggett is already pushing the boundaries of budgets on his documentaries, transitioning to traditional scripted narrative filmmaking came naturally. He chose to produce Honey Boy based on a past relationship with Alma Har’el and, again, he stressed the importance of trust and their mutual belief that they were “soldiers of cinema” who get things done.

    When asked how he chooses the artists on his team and how he defines which relationships are important to develop, he had this to say:

    “I do think that a lot of the directors that I respond to have strong opinions, are collaborative but have strong opinions! I’m not going to push them over. They have their take and I can try to poke holes through their take, and they will come up with solutions, not put up walls.”

    Leggett also shared additional advice to grow and develop your skills and become a talented professional:

    “I said yes to a lot of things and then I googled later what I said yes to….you learn so much by just being in it. You may not want to be an editor but learn it. You [as a student] have a great curriculum that leads up to a thesis film. Embrace that and try to learn every sphere when you’re doing the thesis film. You’re going to have so many more tangible skills.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Christopher Leggett for sharing his time and expertise with NYFA students and guests on developing tangible skills and saying “yes” to projects and opportunities to be a great filmmaker and producer.

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    August 26, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1102

  • NYFA South Beach Instructor Peter Baloff Holds Virtual Q&A with Emmy Award-Winning Producer and Director Michael Pressman

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    We’re collaborative artists. Our creative process involves working face to face and hand to hand, finding common objectives, and making it all happen. As an instructor at NYFA South Beach during this pandemic, I miss the personal connection with my students and I know my students miss the social and professional interactions with their fellow students. We all miss being there.

    Peter Baloff (Left) holds virtual Q&A with Michael Pressman (Right)

    I keep looking for silver linings in this time of pandemic. I’m upgrading my landscaping, enjoying my wife’s new-found love of baking, reading more and catching up on some pretty good movies and TV shows. But it’s been hard finding silver linings teaching my students on Zoom. But this week, at long last, a silver lining appeared on Zoom, which I’d like to share with you here.

    For the past few years I’ve wanted to invite guest artists to our South Beach campus – accomplished actors, directors, producers, casting directors, cinematographers, so many other journeymen filmmakers with whom I’ve worked over the course of thirty years writing, producing and directing in Los Angeles. 

    As it turns out, Zoom opened the door for my first guest artist invitation. For those who attended, there’s no doubt a good time was had by all – by not only our South Beach students, but all students across NYFA’s campuses. 

    Michael Pressman (Right) on set with Richard Pryor for ‘Some Kind of Hero’

    Michael Pressman directed his first feature film when he was only 26 and went on to direct quite a few big studio hits, including Dr. Detroit and Some Kind of Hero, starring Richard Pryor. He ventured into television, directing TV movies and dozens of episodes of quality TV shows, such as Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy, The Guardian, and Sneaky Pete. As an Executive Producer, Michael became an experienced “Show Runner,” winning two Emmys for the acclaimed series, Picket Fences. His IMDB speaks for itself. 

    A natural story-teller, Michael regaled us with tales of working with famous actors, dealing with the studio system, casting, getting the most out of collaborating artists, and coping with the ever-changing filmmaking technology. He advised our students on breaking into the business and offer strategies for success. 

    I’m convinced the intimate Zoom platform, allowing Michael and I to talk to each other like old friends, was an ideal and more comfortable format for Michael – far better, I believe than a staged event before a live audience. I’m told by those who watched it, the Zoom meeting with Michael Pressman resembled a late-night talk show, as entertaining as it was informative. 

    Let’s all keep looking for those silver linings, knowing we’ll get together in person very soon.

    For more information on our NYFA South Beach programs, please contact  southbeach@nyfa.edu or check out our website here.

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    July 10, 2020 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing, South Beach • Views: 1409

  • HBO Announces NYFA Instructor Lanre Olabisi as 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellowship Recipient

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    At New York Film Academy (NYFA), our distinguished faculty not only have years of experience in the film industry, but they also remain active creators. NYFA is proud to announce that Screenwriting, Directing, and Acting for Directors instructor, Lanre Olabisi, was recently announced as a recipient of the 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellowship

    Lanre Olabisi first got involved in filmmaking after a screenwriting class he took at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. “That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker,” he remembers. Since then, Olabisi decided to make films where the focus is always centered on unique and poignant messages that challenge individual and collective views on a variety of topics. Some of his feature films include August the First and Somewhere in the Middle (Both distributed by Film Movement on all major platforms in North America).

    NYFA Instructor Lanre Olabisi

    August the First played at over 35 film festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Karlovy Vary. It also won the top prize at seven festivals and was nominated for an IFP Gotham Award. “This film encapsulates my continuing commitment to move beyond stereotypes of African-American families and depict an honest portrait during a difficult time sans gangs, guns, and violence,” shares Olabisi. 

    His other feature film, Somewhere in the Middle played at over 25 festivals and was nominated for a Black Reel Award. “This film expanded my vision as I examined romantic relationships within New York City – full of people of all backgrounds: African-American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, heterosexual, bisexual, and gay.” 

    As a recipient of the HBOAccess Directing Fellowship, a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent, it will mean more industry exposure for Olabisi’s upcoming projects, including his upcoming short film, A Storybook Ending, set to premiere in the summer of 2020. 

    Olabisi, who wrote, produced, and directed A Storybook Ending, also collaborated with NYFA Cinematography Chair, Pierro Basso, who served as the DP (Director of Photography) for the film. A Storybook Ending explores contemporary race relations in the United States through the lens of a dark comedy, crime thriller. “While, in many ways, it is a complete departure of my previous work, it is in line squarely with my mission as a filmmaker; to show people of color in ways that we have not seen them portrayed on film,” says Olabisi. “A Storybook Ending draws upon the stylized visual touches of neo-noir cinema while avoiding the stylized acting that often accompanies such films.”


    The short film was recently selected as a finalist for the
    2020 American Black Film Festival’s Annual HBO Short Film Competition and was inspired by the 2015 incident involving former African-American tennis champion, James Blake. “For no apparent reason and without ever announcing his presence, a plainclothes police officer violently tackled Mr. Blake to the ground as he was waiting for a car to pick him up for the U.S. Open tennis tournament,” recounts Olabisi. “This film [A Storybook Ending] is intended to challenge assumptions about race and class.”

    While Hollywood continues to grapple with the conversation surrounding diversity and representation across the industry, Olabisi has this to say: “Fund stories by people of color. Hire people of color to be in the writers rooms, to be on sets, to direct the shows, to shoot the shows. Have a diverse crew. Have people of color in positions of power that are able to green light shows. Right now 95% of the people who decide what we see on television are white. I think the answers are simple – we just need to see a willingness to change on the part of the industry.”

    When it comes to himself as a creative, Olabisi shares that there is always a truth or experience that is woven into all of his films, which comes from his own experience. “All my films have an element of myself in it in some way. It isn’t always apparent to people, but it usually is for those who know me well.”

    ‘A Storybook Ending’ (Dir. Lanre Olabisi)

    Other influences throughout Olabisi’s career include some of his favorite creatives like Stephen Soderberg, Ryan Coogler, Steve McQueen, Ava Duvernay, Oscar Micheaux, Alfonso Curón, and Vince Gilligan. He also notes some of his favorite films that are worth a watch, including: The Silence of the Lambs, Moonlight, City of God, Trainspotting, and Get Out. 

    As for advice to students and aspiring filmmakers, Olabisi has this to say:

    Never give up. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Too many times I see actors and filmmakers who give it a year or two and then give up on their dreams. If you decide that this is not for you and you don’t want to do it anymore – there is nothing wrong with that and nothing to be ashamed of. Find what you love to do and do it. However, if you do find that this is what you love to do – this is your calling – then you should continue to push forward no matter how long it takes you. Things will open up, but you have to be patient and make sure you are working to improve your craft every single day.”

    ‘A Storybook Ending’ (Dir. Lanre Olabisi)

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Lanre Olabisi on becoming a 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellow and for his film, A Storybook Ending, being selected as a finalist in the 2020 American Black Film Festival’s Annual HBO Short Film Competition.

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    July 9, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Producing • Views: 2815

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Paula Bryant-Ellis on Faith in Storytelling & the Importance of Mentorship and Representation

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Paula Bryant-Ellis’ story is proof that you do not have to grow up in the entertainment industry or start in showbiz at an early age to find your voice or succeed in the business. With the foundation of her faith and the skills from her career and educational experiences, Bryant-Ellis has managed to switch vocations and elevate her voice and the experiences of others along the way. 

    After graduating from Concordia University in Texas, where she majored in Accounting, Bryant-Ellis furthered her education with an MBA from UOP and an executive MBA from MIT. After years in corporate America as an executive and COO in banking and finance, Bryant-Ellis decided it was time for a change. “I was unfulfilled and really felt God pulling me in a different direction. So, my husband and I took a leap of faith and we sold our house, packed up our belongings, and moved to Los Angeles.”

    That leap of faith led Bryant-Ellis to attend NYFA’s Los Angeles campus to study producing. “I enrolled at NYFA because I needed a way to learn the industry and get up to speed quickly,” she says. “I came out of the producing program convinced that I could produce my first project, and I did!” Bryant-Ellis also learned filmmaking at NYFA’s New York City campus. “I was able to develop relationships with students from LA, New York, Russia, Nigeria and South Africa and keep in touch with them even now,” she shares. 

    Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis

    Bryant-Ellis has gone on to produce TV series Hard Medicine and the short film Twelve Steps. She also recently made a small cameo appearance for an episode in season four of HBO’s Insecure, directed by her son Jay Ellis, who also stars on the show opposite NYFA filmmaking alum Issa Rae

    Bryant-Ellis’ most recent project to date has been her docuseries Behind Her Faith, which focuses on women in entertainment and their personal journey and the role of their faith in their career. The series features Essence Atkins (A Haunted House, Are We There Yet?), Niecy Nash (Claws, When They See Us), Angelica Nwandu (The Shade Room), and Aisha Hinds (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, 9-1-1).

    Mentoring and encouraging women has always been extremely important to me, especially because there were no role models for me in my field as I was working my way up through corporate America,” reveals Bryant-Ellis. “There were very few females in the upper ranks and there were absolutely no men or women of color in senior or executive level positions.”

    ‘Behind Her Faith’ created by an produced by Paula Bryant-Ellis

    Behind Her Faith is currently streaming on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Roku and UMC.tv (an AMC network), and Bryant-Ellis hopes to have more seasons in the future. “I want the audience to know that God loves them and that He’s waiting to have an encounter with them that’s more powerful than they could ever think or imagine.”

    With faith being a cornerstone of Bryant-Ellis’ storytelling foundation, she also shares that this time in show business is crucial for people to understand that all stories should properly represented and calls for change in the industry. “Stop believing you can tell my story better than I can. No one’s story is more important than the other but BOTH must be told.”

    Paula Bryant-Ellis behind the scenes during a film shoot

    With the Black Lives Matter movement continuing to bring a reckoning in Hollywood, Bryant-Ellis also adds “it’s not enough to say that you are aligned with a cause when you don’t provide resources to support the cause,” and this is not just an issue that appears in the entertainment industry. “It does not matter what industry you’re in; your Boards and your decision-making team must be diverse and reflective of the people that support and purchase your products.”

    Bryant-Ellis also reveals she has a couple of additional projects in the works including a docuseries and a drama, but is unable to officially share more information just yet. For now, she has this to say:

    “Believe in you. This industry requires tough skin and staying power. Find a niche that works for you and create content that keeps you true to who you are. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. No one can do you better than you, you just have to believe it and trust it. Trust your voice and your vision!”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate alum Paula Bryant-Ellis on her docuseries, Behind Her Faith, and looks forward to what exciting and inspiring projects come next from the NYFA alum!

    Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis

    To learn more about Paula Bryant-Ellis and to keep an eye out for her upcoming projects, check out the links below:

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    July 6, 2020 • Diversity, Filmmaking, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1556

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts SAGindie Executive Director Darrien Gipson on the State of the Industry During Covid-19

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    The New York Film Academy recently hosted an Industry Speaker session with the Executive Director of SAGindie, Darrien Gipson. Students and Faculty from all NYFA campuses attended as Gipson addressed the state of the industry during Covid-19.  With all sectors of the industry focused on returning to work, it was a prescient discussion moderated by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman.

    Gipson spoke of the various protocols that are being proposed once production resumes. While a certain degree of uncertainty prevails, and as the industry awaits government guidelines, a consensus around various parameters is formulating.  They include reduced crew sizes, staggered work hours, “pods” of crew alternating on set, various departments working timed shifts, longer days sanctioned by the unions, strict enforcement of social distancing, personal and set/equipment sanitizing regimes, monitoring for symptoms, and isolating actors.

    NYFA Producing Chair Weisman with SAGindie’s Darrien Gipson

    On a positive note, various “silver linings” are beginning to emerge from the current environment. Smaller productions with lower budgets, like student films and web series, are going to find it easier to handle the logistics and flexibility required to move forward. There will be a great hunger for projects as a result of the freeze on production in effect since March. 

    The smaller productions that can proceed at a quicker pace than the larger, more cumbersome projects will be better positioned for distribution. Gipson cited that a smaller number of “starry” submissions to festivals like Sundance will enhance the chances of less high profile films obtaining top-tier festival launches. Streaming platforms and other distribution entities will be seeking more product than ever. These observations connected with the NYFA audience as the conversation made it more apparent that there has rarely been a better time for emerging producers, filmmakers, writers, and actors to create content for a voracious audience. 

    The New York Film Academy has a long standing relationship with SAGindie, and thanks Executive Director Darrien Robbins for her insight and generosity. SAGindie is an invaluable resource for the NYFA community, as they not only assist in navigating the various paths forward working with the Screen Actors Guild, SAGindie will also offer guidance on a host of matters from financing to festival strategies, and more.  SAGindie welcomes NYFA students who would like to reach out and learn more. 

    For more information on SAGindie and how to contact them click here.

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    June 2, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1458

  • New York Film Academy’s Inaugural Virtual Industry Pitch Fest

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    The New York Film Academy’s New York campus Producing Department hosted their first ever Virtual Industry Pitch Fest on May 4, 2020. Students in the Fall 1-Year Conservatory Program in Producing presented their “final” feature film pitches to a group of esteemed producers, casting agents, and production executives, who gave feedback to the Producing students over the course of the day. 

    Film producer Chris Bongrine listens to a NYFA student, Alice Shy, give her “final pitch”

    Industry Guests included Chris Bongirne (Marshall featuring Chadwick Bosemen,, I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith) along with Dan Hank (Former executive in charge of production for Netflix/Marvel and AMC Networks), Darren Dean (The Florida Project, Tangerine) and Eve Pomerance (Son of the South, sadly Brian Dennehey’s most recent and last film).

    Industry professional Dan Hank shares feedback with NYFA Producing student, Caspian Khonigh

    Producing instructor Nick Yellen organized the event and said, “students received detailed critiques on their presentations, along with invaluable industry advice and strategies on how to further their projects toward production. More importantly, students made valuable industry contacts and found it exciting, informative and… nerve-racking!”

    NYFA Producing student Richard Payne recounted, “Monday’s Virtual Industry Pitch Fest was definitely nerve-racking at first. It was the first time my “final pitch” was done virtually. My classmates and I would have liked for it to be in person, but due to the current state of the world that clearly wasn’t going to happen. With that being said, it went really well.” He continued, “It was a great experience to practice pitching with real industry professionals. Nick Yellen does a great job in preparing his students for the “final pitch” and for pitching [stories] in the real world.”

    Producer Eve Pomerance discusses Camille Rao’s “final pitch”

    When asked about the Virtual Industry Pitch Fest, Producing Chair, Neal Weisman, said, “this is the culmination of months of students’ work, and it’s gratifying to see it all come together on this new online platform.” Weisman also concluded, “this is exactly the kind of interaction our students will encounter when moving into the industry. The Pitch Fest also serves as a terrific networking opportunity.”

    Producer Darren Dean listens as a NYFA Producing student, Christine Aberyuf, gives her “final pitch”

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to thank special guests Chris Bongrine, Dan Hank, Darren Dean, and Eve Pomerance for providing their industry expertise and constructive feedback for NYFA student’s final pitches. NYFA would also like to congratulate its Producing students for presenting outstanding work as a culmination of their hard work and creativity.

    For more information on the Producing School at New York Film Academy, click here.

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    May 6, 2020 • Producing • Views: 1947

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Students Get Hands-On Film Set Experience

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    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.
    Producing February 2020 PW
    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.)
    Producing February 2020 PW
    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.
    Producing February 2020 PW

    From left to right: Joey Hindersman, Vivian Wang, Camille Rao, Christine Aberyuf, Richard Payne, Idil Canli, Alice Shy, Caspian Khonigh, Nikki Soo

    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.

    And not a drop of fake stage blood was wasted!
    Producing February 2020 PW

    Fall 2019 1-Year Producing students Christine, Aberyug, VIvian Yang, Richard Payne, Idil Canli, Camille Rao, Nima Khonigh

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    March 19, 2020 • Producing • Views: 1824

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes ‘The Black Godfather’ Producer Nicole Avant

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    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. 

    Tova Laiter & Nicole Avant

    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.”  

    Producer Nicole Avant

    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!

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    February 21, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1786

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Producing Student Aliza Jafri Uses Volunteer Work to Earn Social Media Gig at 2020 PGA Awards

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    There are countless avenues into the entertainment industry, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) students and alumni have shown the versatility and foresight to explore them all. One such alum, NYFA MFA Producing student Aliza Jafri, used volunteering to network and seek valuable opportunities for her career.

    Last year, Jafri, who is currently earning her MFA in Producing from NYFA Los Angeles, volunteered at the Produced By Conference, where she met writer/actress/producer Mandy May Cheetham. Cheetham was looking for some assistance with social media for the Produced By Conference and Aliza seized the chance, offering her help. 

    Over the course of two days, Jafri helped with social media posts including Instagram stories and Snapchat content for the conference. From there, throughout 2019, Jafri was recommended for different social media projects. When the Producers Guild of America’s needed someone to run their Instagram account for the PGA Awards earlier this year, there was no doubt: Aliza was the one to do it. 

    Aliza Jafri

    NYFA MFA Producing Student Aliza Jafri

    During the PGA Awards, she worked on three events including the pre-Awards events like the nominees’ breakfast on the morning of the awards, as well as the ceremony itself that evening.

    Among her tasks, she researched all the nominees and producers, created a fact sheet with data and pictures for each nominee and during the PGA Awards, she recorded stories, took photos, and walked the red carpet with E! Entertainment to get content and post it on Instagram.

    On her experience, Jafri says: “I think it’s a huge honor to be able to be a part of one of the biggest events for producers in the industry. As a Producing student, being in a room full of the greatest producers of all time is a huge learning opportunity in and of itself … Getting the opportunity to do social media also allows me to interact with many people that I would normally never get a chance to interact with. As a producer, these opportunities to interact and network with people from the industry are crucial.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Producing student Aliza Jafri on the cool PGA Awards gig, an encouragement to other students and alumni using volunteer work to network and make connections in their careers.

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    February 19, 2020 • Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1870