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  • NYFA SCREENWRITING ALUM MOHAMED DIAB DIRECTS MARVEL STUDIOS “MOON KNIGHT”

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    NYFA Screenwriting Alum Mohamed Diab Directs Marvel Studios 'Moon Knight'

    NYFA Screenwriting Alum Mohamed Diab Directs Marvel Studios “Moon Knight”

    April 7, 2022

    Marvel’s first Arab director may be new to Hollywood filmmaking, but Mohamed Diab has an internationally-acclaimed body of work to his name. NYFA 1-Year Screenwriting alum Mohamed Diab is an award-winning Egyptian screenwriter and director known for telling intimate stories. His directorial debut Cairo 678, the story of three women in search of justice after being victims of sexual harassment in Egypt, won several awards. But despite the great success of his first film, Diab waited five years to release his sophomore film. His reason: he wanted to be better. Diab told NYFA, “Time is your best ally … I got better. I spent five years working on myself, learning, watching movies, watching international cinema, trying to get better and trying to teach myself.” And the results of Diab’s five years of preparation were tangible, his second feature film, Clash, was the official opening selection at the 2016 Cannes Festival, ‘Un Certain Regard’ category.

    After the international success of his first two feature films, more doors opened. Diab found himself with a buffet of scripts and projects at his disposal – and he said “no” to them. For him, it was important to connect to the material and the projects weren’t clicking. Instead, he set out to write scripts with his wife and creative partner, Sarah Goher, and sold them to studios like Blumhouse Productions.

    Everything changed when he read Jeremy Slater’s script for Moon Knight. Diab and Goher immediately set out to prepare what would be a 200-page pitch complete with locations, a score, tone, pictures and costumes. The pitch would become Moon Knight’s bible, what is today the Marvel miniseries.


    Out of all the stories in the Marvel cinematic universe, Moon Knight was always the outcast in the catalog. Moon Knight made his first appearance in Werewolf by Night #32 as a man who received his powers as a byproduct of an ancient curse placed on him by an Egyptian god. The story, although it did not entirely align with the standard Marvel style, became a favorite amongst the editors at Marvel.

    The character and the story were distinct and for the Disney + miniseries, there was only one man for the job.



    Mohamed Diab and Oscar Isaac on the set of Moon Knight from Esquire
     

    Diab has long championed the fight for Arab representation and been vocal about misrepresentations of Egypt as a flat desert place with only pyramids interrupting the landscape. Diab told Screen Rant, “The way we are always portrayed in cinema has always bothered Egyptians, because it’s mostly not shot in Egypt. Imagine Paris, and you’re seeing Big Ben at the back. It’s insulting, and it hurts. Or it’s shot in Egypt, but you’re trying to make it a bit exotic, so you always see the pyramids and the desert.”

    As Marvel’s first Arab director, Diab made sure that this time around, Egypt was represented accurately. By collaborating closely with the film’s production designer and costume designer, Diab was able to depict Egypt as it is. He also made sure to bring along some of Egypt’s best, editor Ahmez Hafez and Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih to create the series’ score and ensured that 90% of the film’s Egyptians roles went to Egyptians. Diab told NYFA,“I hope that Moon Knight, if it succeeds, opens doors for more Egyptians – I tried my best to make a Moon Knight with an Egyptian flavor.”

    Diab’s 200-page bible and search for authenticity proved to be successful; the series premiered last week to rave reviews.

    Diab’s former screenwriting instructor and current Director of the Film Festival Department at NYFA, Crickett Rumley remembers Mohamed fondly, “I remember Mohamed as a thoughtful, inquisitive, observant student of both screenwriting and human nature. It’s been thrilling to watch him grow as a filmmaker, to see his stories connect with audiences first in his home country then in larger and larger arenas on the international film scene.”

    Mohamed Diab shared with NYFA his advice for aspiring filmmakers, “believe in yourself … The people who achieve their goals are the people who bet on themselves and take risks.” He added, “I knew one day I would be back [in Hollywood], I was in Hollywood 15 years ago and I knew I would be back when I was ready.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Mohamed Diab on all of his hard work, success and dedication to authentic representation!

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    April 11, 2022 • Diversity, Screenwriting • Views: 363

  • FILMS FROM NYFA AUSTRALIA ALUMNI SELECTED FOR 2022 GOLD COAST FILM FESTIVAL

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    NYFA Faculty Suki Medencevic is DP on Shining Vale

    Drum roll please!

    NYFA Australia Filmmaking Alum Stephen Osborne is no stranger to successful film releases. Since his short film, Jane, which he created as a New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA Australia) project, Stephen’s films have been collecting awards and screening at prestigious, internationally-acclaimed film festivals around the world like Los Angeles CineFest, Global Film Festival Award and the Gold Coast Film Festival in Australia.

    This year – for the second year in a row – a Stephen Osborne film has been selected for the Gold Coast Film Festival!

    The Gold Coast Film Festival is one of Australia’s stand-out festivals. With over two decades of international film production with the support of Warner Bros. Movie World and Village Roadshow Studios, the festival has dedicated itself to supporting the next generation of Australian filmmakers. The Gold Coast Film Festival has become a major event for the Australian film industry and ambitious filmmakers from around the globe; and this year, on April 26, Stephen Osborne’s feature film
    Dome House 6 will have its world premiere at the Home of the Arts (HOTA) theater as part of the festival’s official selection.

    Dome House 6 is set in the future, “after a significant collapse of civilization, it is a soft sci-fi thriller about trust, mischief, lust and control; that follows four seemingly unconnected people as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape.” The film includes a voice-over performance by Australian actress Charlotte Best, promising new-comer, Madyn Rae and actor and NYFA Australia alum Prem Sagar Krishnan.

    In 2021, his first feature film Strangeville was invited to screen at the acclaimed Gold Coast Film Festival  and compete in the Best Australian Indie Film category after the film’s world premiere at the Sydney Sci-fiction Film Festival. Strangeville, a film about a town by the same name known for its U.F.O activity, is home to mysterious alien abductions that are kept under wraps by the local law. The sci-fi film found much success and its lead actors were nominated in the Best Actor, Best Actress category at the Sydney Science Fiction Festival and hailed by Blunt Magazine as a “well-earned break for your viewing schedule.”

    Needless to say, Dome House 6 had big shoes to fill – and it did not disappoint.

    Check out this spotlight video on Award-Winning Filmmaker and NYFA Australia Filmmaking Grad Stephen Osborne.

     

    NYFA Australia’s presence is being felt all around the Gold Coast Film Festival. This year – again, for the second time in a row – recent Filmmaking graduates are premiering their NYFA Australia student short films at the EMERGE! screening. Anantha Krishna Raj’s film DIG and Jackson Fields’ film The Driver are joining a handful young filmmakers as they showcase their short films at EMERGE!, in the Gold Coast Film Festival continued effort to usher Queensland’s next generation of filmmakers onto the big screen.

    Dome House 6 screening and the Emerge! student short film showcase still have tickets available. To book your tickets, click the links below:

    The New York Film Academy and NYFA Australia congratulates Stephen Osborne, Anantha Krishna Raj and Jackson Fields for their success and hard work! We are excited to see their films which also showcase an array of NYFA Australia students and alumni as part of their cast and crews.

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

     

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    April 4, 2022 • Filmmaking, NYFA Australia • Views: 353

  • Q&A with NYFA Acting Alum Amanda Azevedo

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    Headshot of actress Amanda Azevedo, a white female with long brown hair wearing a pale pink suit. NYFA Acting for Film alum and Brazilian actress Amanda Azevedo recently starred in Netflix’s Back to 15 as Luiza, a seemingly-perfect young girl struggling with her desire to please everyone around her, alongside seasoned-performer, Maisa Silva. Prior to being cast in the Netflix original, Amanda was performing in plays in a theater in Sao Paulo – Back to 15 was her first big role!

    However, although Amanda got her start in the theater, she is not new to the camera. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down stores and theaters alike, Amanda created a web series called Call Com Cleo or Call Cleo. After going through a breakup at the start of quarantine, Cleo, played by Amanda is tasked with adapting herself to the single life in the midst of a global pandemic. In every episode of the web series, Cleo has a video call in monologue format.

    Amanda spoke with the New York Film Academy about how she prepared for the role of Luiza, her biggest challenge since graduating from NYFA and her hopes for the future! 

    How long have you been acting?

    I’ve been acting since I was 7 years old. I started in a theater company  in Sao Paulo where I did more than 15 plays over the years. However when I went to college, I followed a different career. I was working in an advertising agency when I realized that what I really wanted was to be a professional actress. So in 2019, I left my job and went to NYC to start over and study with great teachers. 

    What prompted your interest in the Netflix series Back to 15?

    Being able to talk to the youth in a light way about deeper subjects. I really liked the journey my character takes. I felt a real need to tell her story because I identified a lot with her, especially when I was a teenager. On top of that, there is this 2000’s vibe, which gave a really nostalgic feel to the show. And it’s incredible being part of a Netflix project, and being able to reach all around the world and therefore taking a Brazilian project to several countries. 

     

     

    What did you want to bring to the role of Luiza?

    Luiza is a girl who appears to have the perfect life, but throughout the story we see that she suffers a lot trying to be this perfect girl that lives to please others, especially her mother, who puts a lot of expectations on her. I wanted to bring her dissatisfaction slowly, through details and subtleties. With one look, one breath the character becomes more vulnerable and throughout the episodes she’s getting closer and connected with the audience.

    What’s the one thing you’d like audiences to take away from your role as Luiza, and the show in general?

    I think the show talks about how we can write our own stories, no matter the expectations that others put on us. It’s important to open this topic with families so that young people can learn to understand themselves better and follow their own path.

    How do you personally like to prepare for a role?

    I like to justify everything, such as why the character has a type of behavior, create her past, her goals as well as using my own material. When creating Luiza, I recreated many situations that happened to me when I was a teenager, and talked to some girls who went through the same thing. I also studied some psychology articles to understand the relationship between Luiza, her mother and her sister. In addition to that, I watched a lot of 2000’s movies to dive into that universe. On set, during each scene, I liked to discover something new about the character.

    Amanda Azevedo on the set of Back to 15 with a blue cake in front of her.

    Amanda Azevedo on the set of Back to 15

    What are your professional aspirations or goals as an actress?

    Most importantly, I want to have a long steady career and continue to develop my craft because I know it’s a tough and competitive industry. I want to give life to different kinds of characters that contrast with Amanda’s way of living and biographic characters would also be an awesome challenge. I would love to film in many places in Brazil and in the world where I can be in touch with different cultures. Also, I aim to pursue an international career. 

    What has been the biggest challenge for you since graduating from NYFA?

    After my graduation, I continued my studies on acting and even though I felt prepared, the biggest challenge was to get this first big job. I received some no’s in the past years, but they brought me to the big yes. It’s part of the journey!

    What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your recent work?

    The set experience and the familiarity with the camera. NFYA has, in addition to the theory, a hands-on learning program which is essential to the craft. This preparation was really important to me to feel comfortable during the shooting and giving my best during the scenes, as Back to 15 was my first big project on TV. 

     

     

     

    Are there any other upcoming projects we should know about?

    I’m in the process of creating a play and I’m still working on my web series Call Cleo, which I have on my Instagram and now it’s running through international festivals. And why not a second season of Back to 15? I’m hoping for it! 

    Do you have any advice for incoming Acting students?

    Study a lot, be prepared and welcome the opportunities. Be in touch with your creativity, develop your own projects, don’t wait around for things to happen. Find out what you want to communicate to the world through your art because when you do a work that’s authentic, you most certainly will shine!

    NYFA congratulates Amanda Azevedo on her work in Back to 15 and Call Cleo and all her future endeavors!

     

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    April 1, 2022 • Acting, Filmmaking • Views: 873

  • Q&A With NYFA Student Israa Al-Kamali

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    NYFA MFA Filmmaking student Israa Al-Kamali decided not to bring a seat to the table but instead build a table of her own. Israa, who is of Iraqi origin, co-founded the Independent Iraqi Film FestivalIIFF is a community driven, not-for-profit platform dedicated to supporting films from and about Iraq.

    Israa Al-Kamali spoke with NYFA about what inspired her to bring this festival to life and the importance of Iraqi stories.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What did you study and what made you decide to come to New York Film Academy?

    Israa Al-Kamali (IA): I graduated with a BSc. in Foreign Service in Culture and Politics, at Georgetown University. I am currently studying MFA in Filmmaking at NYFA, LA. Ever since I was a kid, I was writing stories and over the years I began to notice that my stories are very visual; I would imagine the way the camera would move or what the soundtrack would sound like. I decided on NYFA because I wanted a hands-on intensive experience with a holistic approach to the art of directing. The NYFA LA campus is located in one of the hot spots of the filmmaking industry in the US. Therefore, I chose NYFA-LA.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming students? What about international students coming to study at NYFA?

    IA: My advice would be to make sure to always be visible and that happens through collaboration with other students, take advantage of networking opportunities, be professional, carry a good attitude, and try new things. I know it’s easier said than done but as long as you carry your passion with you, people will notice it.  The second piece of advice I want to give is that your education and your degrees not only depend on the classes you take but also on the way you shape them; use the resources at the school to network with people in the industry, look for like-minded individuals who have similar goals and approaches in their creativity. Do not limit yourself to your classrooms, venture out and seek fellow creatives who focus on similar interests. 

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about your career and more about starting Iraq’s first independent film festival?

    IA: After graduating from Georgetown, I worked in PR, social media, and content development, but I was writing scripts and stories on the side. It became unavoidable. I had to start working on my dreams.  Independent Iraqi Film Festival (IIFF) is a community-driven platform dedicated to supporting films from and about Iraq, facilitated by me and three other Iraqi volunteers working in the creative industry. The seven-day festival is online and free, featuring shorts programs, feature films, and Q&As. It can be viewed worldwide, with English subtitles. Sharing the most exciting work by emerging and established Iraqi filmmakers, our aim is to showcase the diversity and resilience of our people, as well as the breadth of our culture to a global audience. 

    NYFA: Why is the film festival market an important place for independent film festivals? Can you explain the significance of this particular film festival in Iraq? 

    IA: The Independent Iraqi Film Festival was born out of my love for films and Iraq as well as the urgent need to create a platform and space for Iraqi stories and storytellers. From conversations with Iraqi communities both in Iraq and in the diaspora, I and my fellow co-founders knew that there was an appetite and curiosity regarding Iraqi stories by Iraqis. Our experiences are complex whether back in Iraq or in the various Iraqi communities in the diaspora. Iraq is rich in culture, history, and diversity, and it is time for our stories to be highlighted and brought to global audiences. 

    We created this first-of-its-kind festival to uplift filmmakers, inspire audiences, and engage the film industry in the country. Iraqi films are not given the spotlight they deserve and it is not because there aren’t any films made by Iraqis; the 90+ submissions we received this year and the 5000 online viewers we had last year are an indicator that there is a lot of talent and passion out there.

    Iraqis have watched their experiences and stories being told by others through films that are usually filled with racism and stereotypes; War and destruction is the only point of reference and it often ignores the nuances of the Iraqi experience whether in Iraq and outside the homeland. Our festival created a space for Iraqi creatives from all communities to come together to tell our stories. This festival is for Iraqis in Iraq and in the diaspora, for every resilient Iraqi who is fighting the everyday battle to preserve our history, culture, and experiences. It is for the creatives and storytellers. It is definitely for non-Iraqis too to come and watch our stories on screen, celebrate people’s resilience, learn more about our rich and complex experiences in the homeland and beyond. It is for the emerging young Iraqi filmmakers to get a chance to showcase their talents to global audiences and for the established filmmakers to give more people the chance to enjoy and engage with their films.

    NYFA: How do you hope to see IIFF grow in the next few years?

    IA: Our first edition of the festival, August 2020, was very successful. We had 80+ submissions last year and 5000 total online viewers. For our closing night, we hosted an in-person premiere of Baghdad in my Shadow (2019) by Dir. Samir in London. Our festival was covered by various international news outlets, radios, and magazines such as GQ Magazine, Al Jazeera, Grazia, Middle East Monitor, Monte Carlo Radio in Arabic, etc.

    We are hoping to continue to grow as a festival and showcase more Iraqi stories, host lectures, workshops, and screen more films in person. 

    NYFA: Do you have any upcoming projects coming up that you can share?

    In addition to working on the festival, I am currently working on my first feature film at NYFA. Right now I am in the development stages and I hope I see it come to life.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Israa on all the work she’s done with the Independent Iraqi Film Festival – we can’t wait to see this festival continue to grow!

     

     

     

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    March 9, 2022 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 786

  • NYFA Alum Issa Rae Wins at 2022 NAACP Image Awards

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    HBO aired the last episode of the hit-show Insecure on December 26, 2021. In its wake the show left millions of sad (but proud) fans behind and took with it 10 nominations for the 2022 NAACP’s for its superb farewell season. 

    The 5-season show was hailed a critical success from the beginning and its final season did not disappoint. Down to the very last episode “everythings gonna be, ok?!”, Issa Rae kept the ball in the air. The show had been a favorite across generations and garnered Issa a huge following since its premiere in October 2016. However, last December fans had to bid adieu to the show, but last week, the NAACP handed Issa some parting gifts: several awards.

    🏆 Outstanding Comedy Series

    “Insecure” — WINNER

    🏆 Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

    Issa Rae, “Insecure” — WINNER

    🏆 Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

    Issa Rae – Insecure -“Everything’s Gonna Be, Okay?!”  — WINNER

    At this year’s NAACP Image Awards, Rae won Outstanding Actress In A Comedy Series for her landmark series Insecure,  which also won the Outstanding Comedy Series category, beating populars shows like Black-Ish, Harlem, Run The World, and The Upshaws

    Rae’s performance as Issa Dee won over her co-star Yvonne Orji as well as Tracee Ellis Ross for Black-Ish, Regina Hall for Black Monday, and Loretta Devine for Family Reunion. But it didn’t stop there, Rae also won the Outstanding Writing In A Comedy Series category for the Insecure series finale “everything’s gonna be, okay?!” ⁣⁣

     

     

    NYFA congratulates Issa Rae for all of her hard work and successes!

     

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    March 2, 2022 • Acting, Diversity, Screenwriting • Views: 688

  • NYFA Alum Maisa Silva Goes ‘Back to 15’ on Netflix

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    MAISA SILVA presses Control + Z IRL on Netflix’s ‘Back to 15’

    MAISA SILVA presses Control + Z IRL on Netflix’s ‘Back to 15’

    NYFA Acting for Film Teen Camp alum Maisa Silva boasts an impressive 41.2 million followers on Instagram, 11.4 million on Twitter, 14 million on Facebook and 5.79 million subscribers on Youtube. All of whom Maisa refers to as primos (cousins), not only because her last name, Silva, is the most common last name in Brazil but because they’ve watched her grow up in real-time. Maisa Silva is a prodigy; she’s been working in entertainment since she was 3 years old.

    Maisa is no stranger to the acclaim that will follow her recent deal with Netflix and today’s premiere of De Volta aos 15 (Back to 15) where she plays a 30 year-old woman who, unhappy with her life, finds a way to travel back in time to when she was 15.


    But before we go Back to 15, let’s press CTRL+ Z for one second.

    This year, Maisa turned twenty but she has already had an impressive sixteen-year career. In 2005, when she was only 3 years old, she was discovered on a talent show on Programa Raul Gil, a musical and variety TV show. Maisa impressed everyone including legendary host, Raul Gil, with her intelligence and wit. Maisa was quickly hired to work on the show as a singer and stage secretary to Gil. She looks back on this moment fondly, “I remember getting onstage and staring at the cameras, and I was like, ‘Okay, this is a little bit scary, but I’m comfortable somehow.’ I remember the crowd because they were loud and playful. And I felt somehow that this place was my home”, she told Netflix Queue.

    Soon after her time on Programa Raul Gil, she was contracted by SBT (Sistema Brasileiro de Televisão), a Brazilian Television network created by television personality and Brazilian icon Silvio Santos. Santos signed Maisa to present children’s shows for the network. Maisa was only 5 at the time. In 2008, she was an invited guest on Silvio Santos’ own show where she would answer questions improvised by him, a segment called Pregunte à Maisa (Ask Maisa). Maisa would continue to host the programs for SBT for thirteen years, during which she starred in films and telenovelas. One of which became an incredibly successful film franchise, Carrossel.

    When Maisa was 16 years old, she decided she wanted to expand her training. In 2018, Maisa made the move to New York to study at NYFA in one of our Acting for Film Teen Camps.

     

     

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    The following year Maisa became the host of her very own show Programa de Maisa (2019). However, in October 2020, she tearfully said goodbye to SBT – Maisa had signed with Netflix Brazil.

    Though the details of the partnership are not known, Maisa is set to star in original productions at Netflix in the years to come. The first of which was Double Dad, where a young girl’s search for her father finds her with two dads – neither of which she is willing to lose in exchange for the truth.


    Thanks to Netflix, the world will definitely be seeing more of Maisa in the years to come.

    NYFA congratulates Maisa on all of her hard work and success!

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    February 28, 2022 • Acting • Views: 583

  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alum, Miisha Shimizu, Sings for Disney Japan

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    Many moons ago, actors made the long-awaited move to New York City right after graduating from conservatories, BFA or MFA programs out of necessity. They’d settle into the pace of the city and in between dance classes and voice lessons, they’d scour through the pages of a printed Backstage magazines for upcoming auditions. They’d hit the ground running, printed headshot in-hand and race to in-person auditions for regional theaters, festivals, films and TV shows. But things have changed. For the most part, the days of printed Backstage magazines, printed headshots and spiraling lines are behind us. They’ve been replaced by online audition notices, digital headshots and self-tapes. NYFA Musical Theater Alum Miisha Shimizu spoke with NYFA and affirmed that with good training and a cellphone, you can get far – halfway across the globe.

    Miisha says that instead of shuffling to and from auditions immediately after graduating in 2020, she went back home and made up for lost time “I spent a lot of time with my family for that year while preparing to continue my remaining two more years of my college [but] of course my passion for musical theater never disappeared.” She then got wind of a virtual audition for Vanara: The Musical. “I was chosen among the 17 finalists but I couldn’t make it.” However, while getting back into the swing of things at home, Miisha was not just auditioning – she was building an audience. “I did a lot of singing on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. I sang a lot of famous musical numbers and jazz and of course a lot of Disney songs, too” She gained traction on all three platforms and today she has 413.7k followers on Tik Tok, 67.7k on Instagram and 70.6k Youtube subscribers.

    Then one day, Disney called. “Disney Japan was looking for someone to be the theme artist for [a] festival project “Ultimate Princess Celebration”, to sing the Japanese version of  ‘Starting Now’ – It was an honor to be selected. I couldn’t believe it! And when I first listened to the song and the words made me glad I hadn’t quit. “

    “I mean [it] wasn’t easy for me. There were ups and downs, but my friends and teachers and [especially] my family was always there for me to get through all the hardships and go on no matter what! Just like the words in this song. It’s like magic!”

    When asked about her studies at NYFA, Miisha said “There are tons of things I learned at NYFA which helped me a lot on this project. Even if it’s in Japanese language, I could still apply all the things I have learned at NYFA whether it is acting, singing, or dancing. How to project my voice and being able to express every phrase in the song. I think it’s universal!”

    Later that year, things came full circle for Miisha. “ [I] got an offer for the very first time to be cast in a Musical with outstanding and famous musical actors in Japan. One of them, Ikusaburo Yamazaki, who is the lead actor and who actually got to visit NYFA in October 2018 which was my first year at NYFA. We sang together on the stage of NYFA.”

    NYFA congratulates Miisha Shimizu on all her success!

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    February 24, 2022 • Acting • Views: 1128

  • Q&A with 10 ARTS Foundation Scholarship Recipient, Lena McKnight

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    ~Made possible by the generous support of the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation~

    Lena McKnight was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Harlem, New York. Lena attended the New York City Public School until 10th grade. After Lena decided to leave high school, she struggled with finding a passion to help her continue her education. She attended the Touro College in New York City where she got certified in audio engineering. It wasn’t until Lena got involved with Abyssinian Development Corporation’s YouthBuild, that she found her balance. Lena worked towards gaining her High School Equivalency Diploma and a construction trade. 

    YouthBuild gave Lena the opportunity to serve her community because one of the main components of the program was community work. Lena was able to plan and implement programs and projects that allowed her to give back to the Harlem community and later on start her own projects.

    Lena graduated from ADC’s YouthBuild in 2011 and was chosen to travel to Arica, Chile for six weeks to help rebuild homes in the community. When Lena returned she knew that she wanted to do more and be more involved in people’s lives. Lena enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College and graduated from BMCC in 2015. She then transferred to City College of New York, where she became a Theater Major and Sociology Minor. At City College, Lena became a Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Epsilon Tau Chapter and served as chapter president. Lena graduated in 2017 with a Bachelors in Theater and a minor in Sociology. 

    Lena began working with Youth because she believed they are the ones who will be taking care of us when we get older. She worked with the Harlem Children Zone as a 10th grade Student Advocate. Lena wanted to work with that specific grade because that was the grade she dropped out and she wanted to be able to influence the Youth to do better than she had. Lena enjoys giving back to her community and puts on community projects to help connect people with resources and mental health resources.

    After working with the Harlem Children Zone for two years, Lena was given an opportunity to become an Outreach Coordinator for Serviceworks with Abyssinian, where she learned the foundation of putting together community events on a larger scale. Lena has currently done more than 10 projects while working with Serviceworks her focus was feeding those in need, giving out female hygiene products, clothes, games days, spreading mental health awareness and, most importantly, connecting and uniting the Harlem community to come together to stop the violence.

    In 2021, Lena decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California. She wanted to focus more on the arts to be able to tell the stories of her community. Lena was able to land a job at Single Room Occupancy Housing where she serves as a case manager for the homeless on Skid Row. Lena enjoys being able to learn the differences between the east coast and the west coast communities. Working with SRO housing has helped Lena learn about the mental health crisis and ways

    she would like to give back to the homeless community. While working as a case manager, Lena earned a scholarship from the 10 ARTS Foundation to attend the 15-week online filming program at the New York Film Academy. It wasn’t until she attended the program she knew she made the right choice by moving to the west coast.

     

    Lena believes that faith in God, her self-confidence and the support of family and friends helped her accomplish her goals. Lena has started to build her own non-profit in 2018. Who Am EyE To You which focuses on mental health for women and men and bringing resources to those who may need them. Lena is currently holding her 4th annual Women empowerment Event (Women Can Run the World) on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and is launching her Men event in June 2022.  Lena is looking forward to what’s next in her life and feels the sky’s the limit. Lena learned to live by her mantra “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable if you really want to grow”.

    Lena spoke with NYFA about her journey to NYFA and her dreams for the future. Check out the conversation below: 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): When did you first hear about the New York Film Academy and when did you know you wanted to study here?

    Lena McKnight (LM): I heard about NYFA back in 2017 when I was looking up Black Female writers working in television. I looked up different writers and searched what schools they went to. I remember I was watching an episode of Insecure and thinking about who created the show. So I looked up information on Issa Rae and the places she studied at, one of which was NYFA. 

    NYFA stood out to me. I liked the fact that things were hands-on and you spend more time with equipment then just learning the fundamentals in a classroom. I also liked that it was a community and offered in three states (New York City, Florida, and California). I like that you students are able to have a sense of community and be near real production studios.

    I was graduating from The City College of New York in 2017 and learned the master program was only offered in Los Angeles. I felt defeated for a second, but 4 years later, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was able to move to Los Angeles while working remotely. 

    Moving to Los Angeles has been something I have been planning to do for 4 years. I wanted to separate myself from the community service work I was doing in NYC and do something in a different city. I wanted to focus more on being able to bring the story and experience to film. Upon learning of the demands of the NYFA graduate program, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to enroll. But thanks to my advisor Joey Zangardi-Dixon, who stayed in touch with me via email answering all my questions, I was able to look into the workshop programs NYFA offered. That’s what really made me want to attend any NYFA filmmaking program that was being offered. I liked that Joey was working with me, being patient, and giving me resources to help with my enrollment into a workshop program that fit my needs and interests.

    NYFA: How was your experience at NYFA?

    LM: My experience at NYFA has helped shape what I want to do within film. I can admit I was a bit nervous about the program being online. I learned I am a hands-on learner and work better when I am in person with an instructor. However, the support of the professors and being able to have one-on-one meetings with them has made my experience totally different. I didn’t think I was going to learn as much as I did. But the support of ensuring I had a computer to be able to complete my work was the highlight of it all. I really respect how helpful everyone was within my cohort. No one made anyone feel as if they didn’t belong in the program. I like how open everyone was with sharing their knowledge within film. It was great to have experienced people and people who were new to filmmaking. We were even able to start a Whatsapp group to help each other out and to stay in contact with everyone.  I also enjoyed the examples the professors used to help with understanding our projects. If it wasn’t for the willingness of the professor’s meeting with me inspite of the time difference, I don’t think I would have been able to gain the experience I was hoping for. 

    NYFA: How has your perspective changed since attending NYFA?

    LM: Now that I completed the 15-week online NYFA program, it makes me want to work on my projects that I have been saying I want to do. I was a theater major and I didn’t think I would fall in love with film until I held my first camera. It made me realize my love for directing and screenwriting. I learned the difference of what you can create on film, that live shows can’t show. I also learned to respect the time that’s put in when it comes to production for film. If I didn’t attend this program, I don’t think I would have had the push and courage to create anything. I now feel confident that I am just getting started and will do well. 

    NYFA: Do you hope to continue in the arts?

    LM: Yes, my dream is to become a screenwriter, director and actress. I am looking to further my studies in film and plan to create my bibles for the three projects I am passionate about. I want to be able to open a non-profit for inner city families to express themselves through the arts. 

    NYFA: What do you hope to do with the knowledge that NYFA provided you? 

    LM: NYFA has made me realize my passion and helped me figure out what about filming I enjoy. I was able to understand where my enjoyment was (screenwriting, directing and acting). I made connections and got advice from professors and classmates. I am looking for a master program in film that I am hoping to start by Fall 2022. 

    The 10 ARTS Foundation and NYFA are extremely grateful to the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation for their generous support in making Lena’s dreams come true!

    NYFA congratulates Lena McKnight on all that she has accomplished throughout the years and at NYFA! We are excited to see more of her work!

     

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    February 23, 2022 • Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 833

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Aditya J. Patwardhan’s, Film is Streaming on Amazon Prime!

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    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Aditya J. Patwardhan has been making waves since graduating in 2014 from our Film and Media Production program. Aditya hails from Jaipur, India and has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has also directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. 

    His latest project, A Nomad River, is a docu-fiction feature written, produced and directed by Aditya.  “[A Nomad River] is a blend of fictional and non-fictional narrative … This is a personal struggle of four ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues.” Aditya says of the film. The film takes place in India and follows four characters: Adriana, a refugee from crisis-hit Venezuela, Kankana, an Indian actress working in Hollywood, Suraj, a street cleaner from a slum in Rajasthan, and Ravi who is a television news reporter from Jaipur. 

    “We journey with them as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues,” Aditya shared with NYFA. “One of the storylines in the film portrays Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, a pan India water-conservation drive supported by the Government of India and endorsed by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Shahrukh Khan.”

    Aditya J. Patwardhan with the cast of “And The Dream that Mattered,” including NYFA alumni Themo Melikidze (second left) and Jongman Kim (third left).

    Patwardhan is well-known for his collaborations with other NYFA Alumni. And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including Acting for Film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim and Anup Kulkarni from 2014 NYFA One-Year Cinematography.

    “Almost all the projects I have done have had important team members who were from NYFA and I had collaborated with them first when I was doing school projects. That just stresses how important good collaborations are and the crucial role NYFA plays.”

    A Nomad River was no different. He enlisted the talents of former classmate and collaborator, cinematographer Anup Kulkarni as well as lead actress, Kankana Chakraborty, who is from the 2014 MFA acting program. Many of the other crew members are also from NYFA.  

    A Nomad River is now streaming on Amazon Prime!

    NYFA congratulates Aditya on his success! We look forward to seeing more of Aditya’s work and NYFA collaborations!

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  • Q&A with BFA Acting for Film Student Rosario Amico

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    NYFA BFA Acting for Film Student Rosario Amico has had the unique opportunity to work on set of A Good Cop while also completing his BFA at New York Film Academy.

    Rosario spoke with NYFA on the art of balancing his work and his studies, mental health and booking without an agent!

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from? A memory that you’d like to share?

    Rosario Amico (RA): Hello! I am from Garden City Long Island, NY –  grew up there my whole life. I am 22 years of age and I got bit by the acting bug at 15 and I haven’t stopped since. A memory that comes to mind, since this is an interview about me and acting, I thought it would be appropriate to recall the moment in time I decided to quit conventional college for the third time studying business management to pursue my dream of being an actor full time. 

    NYFA: What brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    RA: I started performing on the stage in musical theater productions in highschool and I did regional shows for about two years after graduating high school. Until one day I literally decided I wanted to do something different. I wanted to make my transition to film and TV. None of my theater  contacts had any knowledge of that field. I knew I needed to take it upon myself to find a school where I could get the education required to succeed in film and TV. I had a friend from high school who went to NYFA right after graduating. So I reached out to her, visited the school and here I am! I loved the hands-on approach. 

    NYFA: Why did you decide to do the One-Year program?

    RA: I initially signed up for the one-year program because if I didn’t enjoy it, I figured it would be much easier to just walk away and I’d have a certificate of some sort. Also I hadn’t finished any school I started up to that point and I wanted to finish something. 

    NYFA: What made you want to study more? Why the BFA Program at NYFA?

    RA: First, I want to say I don’t believe you can ever get enough of an education. I mentioned earlier I only did the one-year program in case I didn’t like it, as like a trial period. I discovered I loved it and made the decision to further my education in case my dream career didn’t go as planned. 

    NYFA: What was the audition process like for A Good Cop? How did you prepare?

    RA: I have an Actors Access like everybody else that aspires to become an actor. I didn’t have representation at the time so I was submitting myself for roles. I submitted for A Good Cop and received an invitation to submit a self tape via Eco-Cast. I then received an in-person call back at the studio in NYC – it was a screen test essentially. After that, I had my second in-person audition with a room full of producers and executives. I was asked lots of questions about the character, the show, and my thoughts on them. I was also asked more personal information like my availability during this designated period of time. They said they would let me know either way next week. And then I got the great news that I booked the part!

    NYFA: You’re still a student in the BFA program, how do you manage working on a show while being a student? What are your day-to-day duties?

    RA: Well, l I never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to get the amazing opportunity to work consistently. It was a challenge at first and ultimately made the decision to take off from school for a semester.  The reason being I wanted to fully dedicate myself to my work and get to know my character. My day to day duties at the time consisted of a lot of zoom meetings with the cast and in-person rehearsals. I think taking care of my mental health and physical health was a huge piece of the puzzle to staying consistent and up to snuff. It was very overwhelming especially for someone who hadn’t done anything before so it was important I remained grounded in my own life so that I could work well. Talking with my teachers from NYFA helped a lot as well.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? Do you have any projects coming up?

    RA: I finished filming season 1 at the beginning of September 2021 and the show aired on national television on December 5th. So I’ve mostly been relaxing and enjoying my time off while watching the show every Sunday with friends and family and focusing on my studies. My agent started reaching out to me about auditioning again which I have been doing. Hopefully the show gets picked up for season 2 which would be the dream because I signed on for 4 renewals. But I’m back to the drawing board and I’m moving to LA in September of 2022 so I have a lot of things I’m focusing on right now. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work and to your work on A Good Cop?

    RA: I think the biggest thing I learned from NYFA that doesn’t have to do with technique but has to do with character, was developing my sense of belonging. Going to set everyday believing I was meant to be there. So learning confidence and the belief I deserve to be there as much as everybody else. This gave me great confidence to perform at my peak. I am indebted to NYFA for the terminology I learned and all those countless hours on simulated set environments definitely prepared me for the real deal. When it came down to acting I was very fortunate I had a character I got a chance to dissect over 10 episodes and really break down my script and find my WHY. label my beats within my script for each scene. I think the constant practice really delivered for me when I got the script I immediately got to work breaking it down.  

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    RA: I think really it might  just be as simple as taking action. Immediately. Get your hands on a camera or jump on the opportunity to be on a set in any way shape or form. Put yourself out there. I have gotten tons of advice over the years but something that stands out to me is what my high school theater director told me “there will always be people who come who are better looking or more talented, but nobody should ever ever work harder than you”. People think it’s luck. The harder you work you’ll notice the “luckier” you’ll get. Also if there is a story you want to tell…do it. You are not just an actor who acts out other peoples stories, you are also a creative. You have the ability to make an impact. Also don’t take the NYFA staff for granted. They are all very friendly, successful, and extremely talented individuals. Go to them…just go to them, they will help. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them although I’m not done yet. 

    NYFA congratulates Rosario Amico on his work on A Good Cop! We look forward to seeing more of his work!

     

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    February 18, 2022 • Acting, International Diversity • Views: 1040