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  • Celebrating Fulbright Student Highlights at the New York Film Academy

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    Each year New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomes Fulbright International students from all around the globe. A proud participant in what is considered the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, NYFA has been the school of choice for inspirational, creative minds worldwide. Here are some of our brightest scholars’ stories.

    Pedro Peira

    Pedro attended NYFA’s 1-Year Conservatory program in Documentary Filmmaking and is already finding success. Soul, which he executive produced, screened at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). Of his time at NYFA Pedro says:

    “What I’ve mainly learned from NYFA is to be able to tell stories. Of course, I’ve learned about image and sound, which are also important, but being able to include some kind of drama in a story stands out above the rest. As a matter of fact, during the final editing process of Soul, I would call the director while he was editing the film and, after watching the cuts together, he applied what I was discovering at NYFA. I think is has helped the film.”

    Soul is now streaming on iTunes,  Amazon Video, and Google Play.

    Abdallah El Daly

    Already a successful journalist in Egypt, Abdallah came to NYFA to study filmmaking and enhance his storytelling skills. He is keenly aware of the impact movies can have on people and his thesis film, Doors of Mercy, seeks to shed light on the plight an Egyptian woman can face when giving birth to a child out of wedlock.

    Monika Sedziute

    Monika is a portrait and fashion photographer whose work has been published in IKONA, L’Officiel, Elegant Magazine, Promo Magazine, Shuba Magazine, Eden Magazine, Fayn Magazine, Stilius Magazine, Zurda Magazine (online), The Wrap (online), and Luxure Magazine. Her work was also featured at the 2017 edition of Photoville, one of New York’s premier photography festivals.

    Melarissa Sjarief

    A New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting alum, Melarissa wants to help grow the film industry in her native Indonesia and empower women by telling their stories. She has said that being a Fulbright scholar and being able to make personal and professional connections throughout the course of her studies has been a life-changing experience. Of her time at NYFA she’s said:

    “I learned a lot about structure, dialogue, character. I feel like I now have the skills that are expected of me. That’s why I want to use my voice to speak for those who can’t.”

    Hugo Salvaterra

    Already a founder of a production company in his homeland of Angola, Hugo earned his Master of Fine Arts in Filmmaking at NYFA’s Los Angeles Campus. Even though he was encouraged to pursue medicine and engineering, of which Angola is in dire need, he replied, “To me, culture is just as important as those other things.”

    For further information visit the Fulbright webpage.

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  • New York Film Academy Screenwriting Grad Rosa Falu-Carrion is Keynote Speaker at 7th Annual Luna Fest

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    NYFA MA Screenwriting alum Rosa Falu-Carrion.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MA Screenwriting alum Rosa Falu-Carrion was the keynote speaker at the seventh annual Luna Fest, hosted by the Burbank Chapter of Zonta International. 

    Held at the Laemmle Theater in North Hollywood, the festival featured films by women, for women. The powerful stories portrayed in the Luna Fest touched each NYFA staff and faculty member in the audience.

    “This film festival is a two-hour slate of films that inspired me like nobody’s business,” NYFA Los Angeles Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley said. “Female friendship isn’t always depicted accurately in the media. These films put female friendship at their center. I’ll absolutely be suggesting that my students, both male and female, check out the film festival next year.”

    The Luna Film Festival is just one way in which the local chapter of Zonta International helps female filmmakers. Proceeds from the Luna Film Festival ticket sales help fund the Wings Grant, which helps support women looking to further their education after enduring a hardship.

    The Wings Grant was established eight years ago, and this year, Falu-Carrion is the recipient. About the Wings Grant, Zonta Club of Burbank Foundation President Nickie Bonner explained, “We chose to help support the education of older women because there isn’t a lot of financial aid available to them.”

    Falu-Carrion shared her story of how the Wings Grant helped to open new possibilities for her at a crossroads in her life. When her husband died, Falu-Carrion wasn’t sure what to do with her life next. The former event planner found solace in watching films.

    “I was stuck for a very long time,” Falu-Carrion said. “I thought there was no use for me anymore. I couldn’t find my identity. I just existed. I began watching more and more films. All of a sudden, my imagination was running.”

    As Falu-Carrion watched new movies being released, she realized she didn’t see a lot of characters that looked like her.

    “My family is originally from Puerto Rico,” she explained. “I’m all kinds of mixed. Plus, I’m a military brat. I have so many different life experiences and cultural differences that I want to include in my storytelling.”

    Falu-Carrion began taking online screenwriting classes at NYFA, and then she decided she would need to immerse herself in a full-time graduate program. If she was ever going to achieve her dream of seeing her story on the big screen, she felt she had to “go big or go home.”

    NYFA MA Screenwriting alum Rosa Falu-Carrion.

    Falu-Carrion credits the “intenese” education she received in the New York Film Academy Los Angeles’ MA Screenwriting program with her success. “I was surprised, at my age, that I had enough brain energy,” she joked.  

    The intensity of the MA program was a motivator for Falu-Carrion, who said she never backs away from a challenge. Called “Mama Rosa” by her classmates, she was inspired by her instructors and motivated by her classmates.

    “I had a wonderful time at NYFA,” she said. “I made some great friends.”

    The first graduating MA class at NYFA Los Angeles was small but mighty. “We were tight,” Falu-Carrion recalled. “We helped each other through it.” She boasted that the entire class made sure they graduated as a team. “We left no man behind,” she said.

    Falu-Carrion encouraged anyone hesitant about getting into the industry to think of her story.

    “I was scared on my first day,” she admitted. “I was 45 years old. I thought, ‘What am I doing with these 20-year-olds?'” Yet, she knew that her perspective was a unique one and it didn’t take long for Falu-Carrion to see the fruits of her labor. At the end of the program, she had a script ready to sell.

    “If you feel that you missed your opportunity,” Falu-Carrion said, “That’s when you need to go grab the opportunity.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Rosa Falu-Carrion on for being selected for the Wing Grant and for her keynote speech at this year’s Luna Fest.

    The application for the Wings Grant opens on April 30 and September 30. To learn more about Zonta of Burbank click here.

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  • Gender Inequality in Film Infographic Updated in 2018

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) released its original Gender Inequality in Film infographic in 2013. Now, following the TIME’S UP™ movement and actress Frances McDormand’s impassioned call at the 90th Academy Awards for the industry to embrace Inclusion Riders, NYFA’s updated Gender Inequality in Film infographic presents research on gender in film from 2007 to 2017, from more than 40 sources and scholarly studies. 

    “With all that’s happening in the film industry, the New York Film Academy hopes to contribute what we can to the conversation with this infographic. It can be used as a reference and an educational tool to raise further awareness and inspire leaders within the entertainment industry, and beyond,” explains NYFA Chair of Documentary Andrea Swift. “It is an accessible way to interact with key information to support the movement to reach 50/50 by 2020.”

    Throughout Women’s History Month in March, NYFA will be highlighting different aspects of the data in this infographic as a four-part series. This is part one, and reveals the full, updated infographic. Stay tuned for more!

    To further support the conversation around gender inequality in film, NYFA will also host events throughout Women’s History Month, with a focus on International Women’s Day on March 8. For more information, click here.

    For additional content related to the conversation surrounding gender equality in film, check out these additional resources from the New York Film Academy:

    1. Time’s Up and #MeToo Dominate the 2018 Golden Globes
    2. Oscar-nominated Editor Kristen Nutile Screens Heroin(e) at New York Film Academy
    3. Anna Serner Speaks on Behalf of Gender Equality in Film
    4. Actress Rose McGowan Screens her Directorial Debut Dawn at NYFA
    5. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Diversifies With 774 New Members
    6. Patricia Arquette Demands Equality for Women
    7. Black Inequality in Film
    8. Sony Pictures Television Selects NYFA Alum Tiffany Paulsen for Diverse Directors Program
    9. NYFA Student Takes Part in Women of Sundance Panel
    10. Legendary Agent Boaty Boatwright Speaks at the New York Film Academy
    11. NYFA Spotlight: Gina Theresa on Women in Games and Motion Capture Acting
    12. Brandii Grace Discusses Inclusiveness in Video Games
    13. NYFA Embraces the Fearless Girl Statue Outside New York Campus
    14. Has Female Equality in Hollywood Progressed in 2014?
    15. UNESCO’s Gender Equality Heritage & Creativity 2014

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  • Celebrate Women’s History Month at the New York Film Academy

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    This Women’s History Month, which also includes International Women’s Day on March 8, the New York Film Academy joins the conversation on gender inclusivity with an updated Gender Inequality in Film Infographic as well as a full slate of events across its campus locations.

    From International Women’s Day industry panel events to film screenings and raffles, check out NYFA’s calendar of Women’s History Month activities, below, and join us on campus in Los Angeles, New York City, South Beach, and NYFA Australia, Gold Coast. And on social media, we’ll be shouting out to many of the Women of NYFA — alums who are doing incredible work in the community, in the entertainment industry, and beyond.

    New York Film Academy Women’s History Month events will include:

    Los Angeles

    MARCH 7 – Stand Up for Women Comedy Night

    Host:

    • Lisa deLarios – Lisa has toured the country featuring for Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Anthony Jeselnik, and Maria Bamford among others. She was showcased on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and has been a frequent guest on Doug Loves Movies.  

    Featured Comedians:

    • Laura House – Laura is a headlining comedian who has performed on HBO, Comedy Central, NBC, and starred in MTV’s Austin Stories. She written on the Emmy-winning shows Mom and Samantha Who, BAFTA-winning Secret Lives of Boys, as well as Nicole Byer’s Loosely, Exactly, Nicole, The George Lopez Show, Mad Love, Blue Collar TV & more.
    • Jackie Kashian – Jackie is a comic whose new album, I Am Not The Hero Of This Story, was the #1 comedy album on iTunes and Amazon. She is in the 12th year of her podcast The Dark Forest and has a new podcast on the Nerdist Network called The Jackie and Laurie Show.
    • Jena Friedman – Jena is a comedian, writer, filmmaker and political satirist who recently appeared on Conan. Her Adult Swim special Soft Focus with Jena Friedman aired in February. She has been a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. ​
    • Annie Lederman – Annie was the co-host of We Have Issues on E! and has been a cast member on Chelsea Lately, Girl Code, @midnight, and Impractical Jokers.
    • Kate Willett Kate tours nationally and internationally, has been featured on Viceland’s Flophouse and Comedy Central’s This is Not Happening, and recently taped a Netflix special.
    • Vanessa Gonzalez – Vanessa was recently voted “Best Stand-up Comic” in the Austin Chronicle readers’ poll, and created and stars in the Mas Mejor web series Ms. Vanessa.
    • Jessica Sele– Jessica is a stand-up comedian who tours across the country, and has performed at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival and SF Sketchfest. She was written about in HuffPost.
    • Ellington Wells – Ellington is a filmmaker and comedian who hosts the monthly stand-up show Blackberry Jam, and has worked on television shows such as Insecure, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Baskets.

    March 8 – International Women’s Day: A Perspective on Women in Entertainment: Industry Panel Discussion

    Moderators:

    • Mike Civille
    • Lydia Cedrone

    Panelists

    • Dea Lawrence – CMO of Variety
    • Kelly Gilmore – Sr. VP Marketing at Warner Bros.
    • Barbara Bain – 3 time Emmy Winning Actress
    • Jeanette Collins – Producer/Writer: Big Love, Drop Dead Diva, Suddenly Susan
    • Winship Cook – Producer: K-19: The Widowmaker, Sound the Crossing,Family Plan
    • Valorie Massalas – Casting Director/Producer: Back to the Future 2 & 3, Indiana Jones, Total Recall
    • Ronnie Yeskel – Casting Director: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Curb Your Enthusiasm  
    • Elvi Cano – Executive Director EGEDA U.S.
    • Lisa Guerriero – Camera operator: Suicide Squad, Mad Men, Mission Impossible, Fight Club

    New York City

    FEB. 28,  6:30 PM EST – Heroin(e) SCREENING & Guest Speaker Event

    • Exclusive screening of Oscar-nominated Netflix short documentary Heroin(e) with the film’s editor and special guest lecturer Kristen Nutile.

    MARCH 5-6 – Women’s International Film Festival Raffle

    TBD – NYFA Women in Film Screening Series

    • Further details coming soon.

    MARCH 21 – Women in VR: Chat with Vice Chair of the Producers’ Guild of America New Media Council & NYFA Instructor Caitlin Burns 

    • Further details coming soon.

    Vice Chair of the Producers’ Guild of America New Media Council & NYFA Instructor Caitlin Burns

    South Beach

    March 21 – NYFA Women in Film Screening and Q&A

    • A screening of the 2016 drama Hidden Figures
    • A Q&A led by South Beach Filmmaking chair Maylen Dominguez

    March 21 – NYFA Women in Film Industry Panel

    • An all-woman panel featuring Rhonda Mitrani, Susie Taylor, Maha McCain, Elli Ventouras, and Giorgia Lo Savio

    NYFA Australia, Gold Coast

    March 8 – International Women’s Day Film Series

    • A screening series of films focused on female protagonists, including The Color Purple, Joy, Thelma & Louise, and Whip It.

    For updates on Women’s History Month events at the New York Film Academy, and to join us for International Women’s Day, be sure to follow us on social media: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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  • All Rise Film Competition Runner-Up is New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting Student

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    The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Screenwriting student Ines Carolyne de los Santos Almanzar and her all-NYFA crew for winning the Runner-Up prize in the All Rise Film Competition.

    Founded by Simone Benhayon in 2015, All Rise is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to eradicate cyberbullying. Through legislation, reform, and education, All Rise has empowered thousands to take a stand against cyberbullying. Part of their education initiative is an annual film competition that draws attention to many of the issues surrounding online bullying.

    This year, the theme of the film competition was “Is Cyber Abuse an International Crime?”

    The youth competition is divided into two categories. The first is a children’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 10-15. The second is a young adult’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 16-21. Films can’t be more than three minutes in length. Other than that, creators are able to tell their story in whatever cinematic format they chose.

    Initially, Almanzar wasn’t sure what story she would tell, but she relied on her own experiences.

    “I was a victim of cyberbullying, myself,” Almanzar said. “I know how tough it can be to survive cyberbullying. You want to ask for help, but most people don’t think this is a big issue.”

    With polls showing that anywhere from 35-50 percent of teens have been bullied online, it is clear that cyberbullying is, in fact, a very big deal.

    Almanzar’s film Isn’t This a Crime follows a plus-size woman as she tries internet dating for the first time. She struggles through date after date. She is told she isn’t pretty enough. One man explains that her need to have kids makes her undesirable. Everything from the way she dresses, to her desire to study art, is insulted. Later, the emotional abuse she has endured begins to manifest itself physically as bruises all over her body. When she tries to report the abuse, she’s informed that the police cannot help her.

    The film is incredibly impactful, and Almanzar’s entire crew was made up of current NYFA students and NYFA alumni. Almanzar said she relied heavily on her crew to help complete the project.

    When asked why she liked working with NYFA students, Ines said, “Since we’re all students we already had a kind of shorthand on set. Communication is vital to the success of a set. We were able to move quickly and resolve issues as they happened.”

    You can watch Isn’t This a Crime and all of the finalist films here:

    All Rise Film Competition 2018 Judging Evening from All Rise on Vimeo.

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  • Pete Hammond is Guest Speaker at New York Film Academy Los Angeles

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    On Tuesday, Feb. 13, Deadline film critic and reporter, Pete Hammond, joined New York Film Academy (NYFA) students for a Q & A at the Los Angeles campus. NYFA Director of the Q & A Series Tova Laiter hosted the evening.

    Hammond has worked as a contributor for Variety, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.

    Laiter began the evening by asking Hammond how he got his start in the industry.

    It turns out Hammond didn’t set out to be a journalist. He just knew he wanted to be in the film industry. As an NBC Page, Hammond began working his way up the ladder. From page, he was promoted to a children’s television writer. Soon after, he became a researcher at Entertainment Tonight. From there he moved to the The Arsenio Hall Show, worked on Access Hollywood, and finally, Hammond created the entertainment news program Extra.

    With the Oscars just around the corner, students were curious to know more about the inside politics of the Academy.  One student wanted to know about the possibility of a shake-up at this year’s Oscars. “Looking at the statistics,” he began, “No film has won Best Film without first being nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay.” Three Billboards hasn’t been nominated for Best Director, but it has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The student wanted to know if Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could take home the grand prize.   

    Hammond was impressed and jokingly asked the student if he was looking for work. “Your predictions are spot on. This is what I’ve been writing about for the past couple of years.”

    Hammond said that only three times in Oscar’s history has a film won Best Picture that had not been nominated for Best Director. Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for Argo, though he did win the Director’s Guild Award later that year. Driving Miss Daisy director Bruce Beresford and Grand Hotel director Edmund Goulding were not nominated, either. “The odds are statistically against Three Billboards but I think it has a shot because of the preferential ballot.”

    Hammond explained that when voting for the Oscars, Academy members number all of the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite. That numbering system can have a huge impact on the final turnout. If enough members place Three Billboards as a three or higher, it could mean a win.

    Hammond also noted a new trend over the past five years: Four out of the five Best Picture winners didn’t see their director rewarded, but all of their scripts did win Best Picture. In looking at the history of the Oscars, this trend is very rare.  

    Of course, students also wanted to pick Hammond’s brain about his personal opinion on the 2017 lineup of films. Hammond was particularly impressed with the stamina of Get Out. A film released in February usually isn’t in contention for the Oscars a year after it’s release. In fact, the last Best Picture nominee to have a February release was another thriller film, Silence of the Lambs, in 1991.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Pete Hammond for taking the time to speak with our students. The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4, 2018, on NBC.  You can read Hammond’s film reviews here.

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  • Wonder Woman Writer Allan Heinberg Joins New York Film Academy Guest Speaker Series

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    The New York Film Academy was proud to welcome Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg to its Los Angeles Campus.

    Heinberg has written for Party of Five, Sex in the City, The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, and Gilmore Girls. He is also the creator and showrunner of The Catch. Outside of television, Heinberg has worked for DC comics, writing The Young Avengers, Justice League, and the 2005 reboot of Wonder Woman.

    Heinberg regaled students with the tale of how he was hired to write the Wonder Woman film. He first saw the character of Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, on an episode of Super Friends. He was seven. A few years later, when Linda Carter burst on television screens in the 1970s, Heinberg was hooked. The very first play he wrote after graduating college featured Wonder Woman. After that, Heinberg moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working in television.

    After years of working on Grey’s Anatomy, Heinberg began looking for a new project. There was a Wonder Woman feature in development but Heinberg did not consider applying. He explained, “Usually, there’s a big wall between movie writers and television writers … It is a big risk for a television writer to be asked to work a large tent-pole film. They just don’t do that.”

    Heinberg was happy to cheer on his friend (and President of DC Comics) Geoff Johns as he worked to develop the Wonder Woman film for Warner Brothers. After about a year, Johns called Heinberg and told him that his team had hit a wall in the writing process. Producer Zack Snyder wanted to start over from the beginning.

    Snyder and Johns brought their teams together to explore the fundamentals of Wonder Woman. When it came time to decide who would have a seat at the table, Johns said he didn’t want anyone except Heinberg. Snyder agreed and the brain trust that created the final screenplay was formed.

    Heinberg listened as Synder explained the finer details of the project. Snyder broke down what the team had been preparing. Heinberg knew what story he wanted to tell. He said, “For me, there’s really only one essential Wonder Woman story and that’s her origin story.”

    One of the major problems most writers run into when writing Wonder Woman is that her origin story does not typically contain the deeply personal, emotional hook — like a terrible crisis or loss to overcome — typical in a hero’s origin. For example, in contrast, Batman’s parents are murdered and, as he grows up, he is driven to protect his entire city from feeling that same pain. Similarly, Superman was orphaned and his home planet was destroyed, so he spends the rest of his life protecting his new home and the people in it. In the case of Wonder Woman, Diana Prince was molded from clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and grew up in a women-only utopian paradise, where the powerful Amazons live independently from the world and evils of mankind.

    Using references like Splash and The Little Mermaid, Heinberg described Diana’s origin myth, where she leaves Themyscira to save mankind. Heinberg referred to it as a fish-out-of-water story. The comparison resonated with Snyder. By the end of the first meeting, everyone agreed that Heinberg’s version of Wonder Woman’s origin was the right direction to take the film.

    Over the next three days, they constructed a story and broke down a script so Snyder could pitch it to the studio. It was green-lit on the fourth day. The film already had a release date. Now, Snyder wanted Heinberg to write the script.

    The only problem was that Heiberg had a job. He was still a part of the Shondaland family after moving from Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal, and it was the middle of the season. Heiberg wasn’t sure how he was going to be able to do both the show and the film. So, he had to speak with Shonda Rhymes. He was convinced she would say no. With two more years on his contract, Heinberg fully expected to have to walk away from his dream job.

    When he walked into her office, Rhymes thought he was going to quit. When he told her the news, she said simply, “It’s Wonder Woman. You have to do it.”

    Heinberg was adamant that no other showrunner would have afforded him this opportunity, and says the moral of this tale is that none of this could have happened if it wasn’t for the relationships he’d previously built with his colleagues. He described Snyder as his hero for championing his vision of the film. It’s not a typical superhero film: Wonder Woman focuses on the human relationships, as opposed to the hero and villain aspect of the genre.

    During the Q & A portion of the Guest Speaker event, one NYFA student asked, “How do you think the success of Wonder Woman has changed the way people will write women in the future?”

    Heinberg gave a cheeky response, stating, “Well, Wonder Woman has made a lot of money.”

    One obvious change is that more women-centered films in the superhero genre are being green-lit this year. Harley Quinn, Batgirl, and Captain Marvel will all be getting feature films soon.

    “There’s an audience we can serve,” said Heinberg. “I don’t think the formula that made Wonder Woman can be replicated. You need to come up with a compelling and emotional story that can stand up on its own.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Allan Heinberg for taking the time to speak with our students. Wonder Woman is now available on DVD.

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  • Writing Home Stars Comedian and New York Film Academy Grad Tony Kelly

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    Everyone wants to laugh, and for those talented and skilled enough to make an audience roll in the aisles in laughter, the world truly opens up. Such is the case for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Conservatory alum Tony Kelly, whose international comedy career has crossed continents and genres.

    Since graduating from NYFA in 2009, the Irish comedian has used his writing, performing and producing chops to carve a unique path, from BBC America’s Primeval to Canadian features Freedom and Victory, as well as recording his own solo comedy album PS I Hate You at home in Ireland.

    Up next, Kelly stars in Writing Home alongside Caoimhe O’Malley. The feature has won a warm review from Film Ireland and screens at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. Created by a truly international team of filmmakers from Ireland, Brazil, Lebanon, and Mexico, the film puts a hilarious spin on the familiar romantic comedy trope of “finding love where you least expect it. Home.” Kelly stars as Daniel Doran, a successful novelist whose self-centered life is interrupted when he reluctantly goes back to his small Irish village to help his estranged, ailing father, and has to face the bridges he burned on his way to the “top.”

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly.

    In the midst of a busy festival season, Kelly took some time to share his story with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    TK: Sure. I always knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling and performing in some way, from an early age. I had planned to leave home at 17 to go to San Francisco to try and at least start a journey after I finished school here in Ireland, but my mother was too nervous to let me go, and asked me to try college out for a year until I was at least 18. And if it wasn’t for me I had her and my dad’s blessing to go and do whatever I wanted.

    So I tried college, I went to study Business at Waterford Institute of Technology. I quickly mentally checked out, it wasn’t for me at all. The only class I put anything into was a communications class and I enjoyed giving the speeches we were tasked with handing out.

    This will sound crazy, but my friend Matt introduced me to the The Office (The UK version, the U.S. hadn’t even been made at this time), and it mesmerized me. I thought, “This is what I need to be doing.” So I dropped out of college and got a job selling cars and started saving.

    Five years later I was 23 and had some changes happen in my life. I looked at my bank account and had been lucky enough to save some good money so I decided to take the leap. I applied [to the New York Film Academy], got in, made the choice to move from Waterford, Ireland to New York City, and I’ve never looked back.

    Best decision I’ve ever made.

    NYFA: What inspired your project I Am Jeff Shanagarry?

    TK: Hahaha. Jeff Shanagarry, now there’s a thing I haven’t spoken about in a long time. You know, it’s funny, this was my first foray into on-screen comedy, having been writing comedy short stories and stuff since I was a teenager, and in some ways I’m so far removed from Jeff Shanagarry that it’s insane. But one of my teachers from NYFA, Randy Dottin, still calls me Jeff Shanagarry!

    How it came about was we were tasked to write, direct, shoot, edit and just make a short film for class at New York Film Academy. I had a penchant for acting even back then so I had been in a couple of other student shorts and was obviously going to be in my own.

    Almost everyone was making your usual melodramatic film school shorts. I didn’t wanna do that. I knew that direction I wanted to head in with my career, and used it as a jumping off point. So I made I Am Jeff Shanagarry, this mockumentary about an Irish singer coming to play a show in NYC.

    Looking at it now I cringe, but that was the precursor to my web series The Hurler, which opened up so many doors for me, and Jeff Shanagarry itself got me my start as a stand-up comic. It was being passed around by some of the students, kind of like a cult hit at the school (everyone still used DVDs in 2009!), and one of the students was taking stand-up classes in NYC. He gave it to Stephen Rosenfield, the famous comedy teacher, and he called me for a meeting and asked me would I be interested in doing stand-up. Crazy.

    NYFA: As a comic doing stand-up, web content, film, and albums, do you have a favorite format? What is your advice to NYFA students interested in doing comedy?

    TK: I was asked this question only the other day in another interview. I do love scripted comedy. On camera. I think it allows the greatest opportunity to improvise and hone what you’re doing and make it the best, and obviously you get a couple of tries to make it the best it can be and give different options.

    BUT stand-up comedy is my first love. It’s raw, it strips you down and forces you to sink or swim on the spot.

    I don’t think I could pick a favourite, I love everything that I do.

    As far as advice, I’d just say, “Get out there and do it.” We live in the Instagram world where everybody wants to attach a label to themselves to sound successful and important, nobody wants to put in the work. But the work is what separates the truly successful from the wannabes.

    Get out there and do stand-up, take improv classes, take sketch classes, get a collective or a group of like-minded friends together, and create. It’s the only way to move forward. If you wait for people to hand things to you, you’ll never get anything done.

    Tony Kelly in a still from Primeval.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about working on Primeval? What surprised you the most?

    TK: Primeval was a lot of fun. It was the first major thing I was ever really a part of. I was just after moving home to Ireland for a while from New York. I was 25, sad, depressed about being back home, and this chance came along. It was a small part but on a big budget show and did a lot for me. There are people, fans of that show, that still follow my career to this day and I’m so grateful for that initial exposure.

    As far as what surprised me the most, probably the efficiency of the work that goes into such a big project. It was a lesson in professionalism, the hard work that it takes to work at that level and the growing up I needed to do at the time. It helped me a lot and gave me a drive to keep going.

    NYFA: With your BBC America show Primeval, your Canadian films Freedom and Victory, and your original album PS, I Hate You recorded back home in Ireland, you’re truly working on the international level. What have you found most challenging working internationally?

    TK: I’ve really loved having such an international career so far. Being able to work in different places with different people allows me to offer something different and gives me experience others wouldn’t have, I suppose. But, the most difficult thing was probably neglecting my home base. I could have spent the past 9 years or so just focusing on getting my name out there in Ireland but I chose to go off and work other places and learn different things. That isolates you a little, so I’ve probably sacrificed relationships and friendships with people for that. When you’re jumping from city to city and country to country it’s hard to stay close with people and friendships and relationships suffer through that. But, my career has always comes first for me, we only get one try at this life thing so we have to keep going.

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly as Daniel Doran in Writing Home.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    TK: Absolutely. 100%. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for NYFA. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’ve done without NYFA. I mean, I studied Screenwriting, but during the course I also studied acting, directing, editing, all aspects of the business. And if people look at my resume, what I’ve done, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I haven’t pigeonholed myself and it allows me to create my own work when I need to, which was my initial plan upon going to NYFA.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

    TK: Yes, absolutely. It’s going to be a big year for me this year.

    Last year I had my first lead role in a feature film, Writing Home. That has it’s U.S. premiere at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. [There may be a New York City opening soon, stay tuned!]

    I’m also working on a feature film adaptation of my award-winning web series The Hurler.

    I’ve written a comedy radio series for WLR FM here in Ireland which we’re hoping to begin work on in March.

    I’ve also written a play called The Undocumented about two illegal immigrant Irishmen living in New York City, which myself and my collaborators have just gotten some funding for back home as well. So that will hopefully be up on its feet later this year and I would love to have it on in NYC as well.

    I just hosted the New York New Works theatre festival finals in New York City back in November, and I made some contacts during that so we will see what happens there! There’s a couple of other things I’m working towards as well so this year looks like it’ll be an exciting one.

    Congratulations to Tony Kelly and the Writing Home team!

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  • New York Film Academy Los Angeles Hosts Expert Film Festival Panel

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    Last month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison Crickett Rumley brought an expert panel to the NYFA Los Angeles campus for an in-depth discussion on the process of getting a film into festivals.

    In her opening remarks, Rumley shared that while many NYFA students are interested in applying to film festivals, she found that not many had actually attended one. The panel of experts was formed to help demystify what can be an intimidating world for newcomers, and help answer their questions. “We need to start talking about film festivals,” Rumley said. “Los Angeles has a lot of festivals, so we have no excuse to not be attending and submitting.”

    Sharing their insights and experiences with NYFA students were industry experts including producer and NYFA Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree, Senior Cinematography Instructor Matt Kohnen, Emmy Award nominee  Alexandra Chando, NYFA Senior Directing Instructor James Rowe, and NYFA alumnus Raphael Bittencourt. Each panelist has premiered a film at major festivals including Sundance, LA Shorts Film Fest, Shanghai Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival.

    Kickstarting the discussion, Crickett asked the panel, “Why should you attend a film festival, even if you don’t have a film?”

    Rowe began by sharing his reasons for attending the Toronto Film Festival as a non-participant. “I went as a scholar delegate for NYFA to kind of scout things out and see what the landscape is right now for short films in particular.”

    Chando, who represents the Mammoth Film Festival’s Women in Film Initiative and is perhaps best known for her work in “As the World Turns,” pointed out the need for diversity and representation in film festivals across the board. Attendees, filmmakers, and festival organizers all play a role in supporting diversity in the film industry. “Recently, within the last year, I have seriously begun working on the other side of the camera,” she explained. “Especially now, there has been a big push for diversity and, of course, women being behind the camera.“

    Encouraging diversity in film festival representation is a part of the reason why Chando was invited to be a part of the Women in Film initiative of the Mammoth Film Festival, which was founded by a NYFA alumna. 

    Rumley spoke about her experiences with Telluride, a renowned festival she began attending even before she had started making movies. She described the education as invaluable. “I was learning so much as a writer just by watching a ton of films,” she shared, “And I was able to watch them in a festival setting. I could figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be by exploring all of these international and independent domestic films.”

    New York Film Academy panelist Alexandra Chando.

    With thousands of film festivals worldwide, these dynamic events can serve as an essential launchpad for up-and-coming filmmakers. Genre film festivals provide an especially great environment for new cinema voices to be discovered.

    “The major festival will take everything; drama, narrative, documentary,” said Kohnen, “But then, there’s this whole other subset of festivals that are just genre.”

    Choosing to submit to a genre festival can help a film find a more specific audience and make valuable connections with likeminded people in the industry. Knowing his way around the festival circuit helped spark the chain-reaction of success that Kohnen enjoyed with his 2007 film “Wasting Away,” also known as “Aaah! Zombies!” The film won the audience award for Best Film at ScreamFest, and after that its sister festivals began seeking opportunities to screen the film, too.

    New York Film Academy panelist and Chair of Industry Lab Kim Ogletree.

    For his part, Bittencourt said he used his time at film festivals as an opportunity to observe how different audiences connected with his film as well as to forge connections within the industry.

    “It gives me a sense of where I’m going,” he said. “It was part of my strategy to use two different kinds of film festivals to get more attention on my film. … It’s a huge chance to defend your film and get to know other filmmakers. You can also meet the organizers of the festival.” 

    Bittencourt encouraged students that even if they may not have been chosen to screen their film in a particular festival, they can still try to shake hands with those in charge. “[Festival organizers] tend to be really sympathetic to you if they know who you are,” he said.

    Ogletree agreed. She explained to students that film festivals provide opportunities not only for submitting work, but also for gaining direct access to creators from all walks of life. From her time behind the scenes in film festivals, she shared, “We were open to having discussions with students, with other executives, with producers and directors. At the time, folks would just bring their iPads up to speakers after the Q&A and show us their film. That was a way of getting their films out there without even being in the festival.”

    With these networking opportunities in mind, Ogletree went on to highlight the marketing opportunities students should prepare for when attending a festival. “There are certain things you need,” she said. “You need a business card. You need both a press kit and an electronic press kit. You need to have the bios of your key crew members. You need to have conversations, and that’s not something I see happening a lot anymore.”

    Ogletree suggests that when attending a festival with a family member or friend, students remember not to isolate themselves from what is going on. Instead, they should make sure to join outside conversations with members of the industry and to try and meet new people.

    To help get the conversation started at film festivals, Ogletree noted that it’s important to think early and often about where the film will show and how best to promote it once it has aired. Gimmicks also don’t hurt, according to Ogletree, who says that it’s important to find ways to make your film stand out from the crowd at a festival. Hats, pins, and t-shirts are always great and inexpensive options. Budgeting for these products and preparing for film festival conversations should be something students bear in mind even in the pre-production stage of their film.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Matt Kohnen, Alex Chando, Kim Ogletree, James Rowe, Raphael Bittencourt, and Crickett Rumley for participating int his in-depth discussion on film festivals.

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  • New York Film Academy Screenwriting Instructor Paul Brown Teaches Master Class at GAFA

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    On the morning of November 26, 2017, Paul Brown, a notable Hollywood writer, director, producer, as well as a screenwriting instructor at the New York Film Academy, arrived in Guangzhou, China. Just a few hours later, Brown hosted a Master Class at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA), where students and faculty from the GAFA animation department and others packed the house.

    Brown has taught several screenwriting workshops at the New York Film Academy, and has a distinguished career in the film & television industry. Starting over twenty-five years ago, Brown has produced more than one hundred television dramas and movies, working on illustrious series as “The X-Files,” “Quantum Leap,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Brown has won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Drama, and has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes.

    In the Master Class “The Secrets of Great Stories,” Brown used “Wall-E” as an example of a film that truly brings its characters come to life in an emotionally powerful way. Brown elaborated on how mystery is at the heart of all great stories, following up with a discussion about the hidden ways that makes the audience can care about and connect with memorable characters whose desires, flaws, and need for change awaken secret wishes for a transformation in our own lives.

    After the class, Brown engaged with many students in a Q&A session and gave notes on students’ scripts until the end of the session. Overall, the afternoon was very well received and the audience from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts had many words of appreciation and gratitude for Paul Brown and the Master Class.

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    November 30, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 972