Author archives

  • Celebrating Fulbright Student Highlights at the New York Film Academy


    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.

  • From the Olympics to “Vikings” with New York Film Academy Acting Alum Ragga Ragnars


    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars has quite the resume: the two-time-Olympic-swimmer-turned-actress recently snagged a role on the hit show “Vikings.” NYFA had the chance to sit down and catch up with her via email in between her busy schedule filming in Ireland and Iceland, to discuss her transition from athlete to actress.
    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    RR: I have been a swimmer all my life and for about 15 years I was a professional swimmer. I swam at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, and after sitting out the 2012 Olympics to have my son, I decided that it was time to pursue my other passion, acting.

    I have always loved California and, as a teenager, I swam in Mission Viejo, where I also attended high school for a while. I also swam in Ventura for a while in my 20s and always loved coming to California. It had always been like a second home to me. So when I was looking at acting schools, NYFA kept popping up.

    I had looked into NYFA a few times before and decided I would start with an 8-Week Acting for Film program to see if I liked it. I had my son and my family with me and needed to make sure it was the right choice before committing to a longer course. I, of course, loved the 8-week program and enrolled in a one-year program right away.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    RR: I made so many great friends while attending NYFA and got to know so many amazing teachers and instructors. There are so many moments that stand out for me and it’s hard to choose just one to mention. I do remember some great Q&A sessions with people from the industry that really taught me a lot. I also loved working on the backlot and getting to experience that aspect of the courses.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to shift gears in life to pursue your acting career?

    RR: Acting has always been a passion I have had. While I was swimming, acting was always in the back of my head. I don’t think it’s something I decided. I just always knew I would be an actress. Since I can remember, I knew that it was something I had to do.

    NYFA: You came back for the 1-Year Acting for Film program after finishing a short-term program with us — what made you decide to go to our conservatory?

    RR: I had such an amazing time in the 8-week program that I knew I wanted to keep going. I wanted to see how it would work out having a family and a young son with me so far away from the rest of my family. It was easier than I expected and my son loved the California sunshine, so it was a no-brainer. I also knew I had more to learn from the great teachers and instructors at NYFA.

    NYFA: Many of our students can relate to your experience of coming to learn the arts in a foreign country. What was it like for you as an international student, coming to study at NYFA Los Angeles? Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

    RR: Because California has always been like a second home to me, I almost felt like I was not an international student and more of a local. I knew LA pretty well and while at NYFA I got to know the city better.

    The only thing that I can remember being a difficult aspect of being an international student was to make sure that all of the paperwork was correct and that I had everything in order. With great help from NYFA it wasn’t too hard, but with getting a Visa, applying for an OPT and all of that, it was definitely a challenge. It was all worth it and I am so happy I decided to give it a try.

    NYFA: You’ve competed in the Olympics as a swimmer, and now you are working as an actor on “Vikings.” As a career-changer, what would you say was the most challenging and the most surprising part of going from one intense career to another?

    RR: The most surprising thing is how similar my life is, from when I was a competitive swimmer. Working on a big production is hard work, I want to stay in good shape and get ready for a day of work similar to when I was competing. I work out, warm up before big scenes, meditate and take care of what I eat in the same way I did when I was preparing for the World Championships or competing at the Olympics. There is so much time spent in preparing for scenes, learning dialogue and text, working on a character and getting ready. I am happy that I have years of experience as a swimmer in being focused, determined and knowing that nothing comes for free.

    It takes hard work for a long time to achieve goals and you have to be willing to put in the time and effort.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience working on “Vikings” — are there any surprises or challenges you’ve encountered in working internationally in Ireland and Iceland?

    RR: Ireland and Iceland are quite similar places. I feel like Irish people have a lot in common with the Icelandic — very welcoming and have a bit of a small town vibe to them, just like in Iceland. It has been difficult to be away from my son who attends school in Iceland, but I travel back and forth quite a bit and he comes to Ireland every time we can manage that. I have loved the process so far and I am looking forward to continuing working internationally and broadening my horizon even more in this field.

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for our current students in transitioning from our conservatory training to the real world?

    RR: My advice is to set goals with everything you do and want to do in life and enjoy the process, the good and the bad.

    Rejection from one place is not the end of the road.

    Also, there is not one way to achieve success in this business. I signed with an agent before I even finished NYFA, I had a few agents who wanted to sign me and I thought that was the only way to get ahead. Then when I realized that the partnership was not working, I decided to do it on my own and that proved to be the right way for me at the time.

    But I learned from every failed audition and self tape, from every production I worked on while on my OPT, and I always kept up a positive attitude towards my goals.

    NYFA: Would you say your time studying at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing today?

    RR: Absolutely. I learned so much while attending NYFA. So many things were new to me as an actor before I attended NYFA. I feel like I got a very extensive overview of techniques and tools to choose from while working. Not everything that I learned works for me and some things I learned I have kept on learning after NYFA. I keep in touch with some of my teachers in NYFA and I feel like all of them took a real interest in teaching us and even as a former student, being able to send a quick line to a former teacher and still getting help with something is amazing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ragga for taking the time to share a part of her journey with our community.

  • Acting for Film Alum Matty Cardarople to be in “Stranger Things” Season Two


    The long-awaited second season of  “Stranger Things” premieres Friday, October 27th on Netflix, and NYFA’s very own Matty Cardarople will be in multiple episodes.

    Having studied acting for film at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, Matty has had roles in a number of hits on television and on the big screen. His credits include parts in hit films including “Jurassic World” and “The Big Sick” as well as television shows “The New Girl,” “Scrubs,” “Bella and the Bulldogs,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” “You’re the Worst,” Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and ABC’s “Selfie.”

    Matty Cardarople is in Season two of Stranger Things

    In his most recent role on season two of “Stranger Things,” Matty will play Keith, an employee of the local video arcade, The Palace. You can expect Keith to primarily interact with the boys—Mike, Dustin, Will, and Lucas–possibly withholding some treasured information in hopes of obtaining a favor…

    Matty visited NYFA’s Los Angeles campus as part of the Guest Lecture Series and had this advice for aspiring actors:

    “If you are struggling right now and thinking ‘I’m not going to make it,’ just be patient. Just work hard and be nice and you can really go far. If you’re scared right now, it’s going to be okay. Everything is going to work out. Just keep moving forward. That’s my story.”

    Season one’s cast prominently featured NYFA Board Member and Master Class Lecturer Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner – a character whose appearance Modine has a strong hand in styling. The same cast won a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Matty on his ongoing success. We look forward to seeing him in the upside-down.


    October 25, 2017 • Acting, Entertainment News, Guest Speakers • Views: 2282

  • NYFA Graduates Organize Donation Center for Mexico Earthquake Victims


    New York Film Academy Acting for Film alumnae Laura Gudino, Diana Perez and Diana Valencia have spent the last few weeks organizing relief efforts for the victims of the Mexico earthquake. The actresses set up a donation center in downtown Los Angeles and worked round the clock organizing and packing goods that were then sent to the earthquake-stricken areas of Mexico.

    NYFA sat down with these incredible ladies for a full account of their experience.

    Donation Center in downtown LA | Mexico Earthquake

    NYFA: How did you start your donation center?

    It started as an idea of 7 Mexican friends (Diana Valencia, Laura Gudiño, Nitzia Chama, Diana Pérez, Armando Bernal, Mauricio Guzmán & Katia S.T.) who were completely heartbroken after the consecutive earthquakes that hit our beloved country. We were looking for a way to help and after some investigation, we discovered there were no donations centers in LA. With the help and generosity of the owner of Patrón Envíos and Shiff Cargo, Armando Bernal, we opened a donation center in Downtown LA. After that, social media helped us spread the word.

    NYFA: Did you decide to start it together and how did that come about? 

    It was September 19th, we were all in different parts of California talking to each other, asking about our families, and trying to be super active on social media, sharing information and contacting people. The day after the earthquake, we met at the shipping company and we started to make a list of what kinds of goods were we going to ask people to donate; we created a work schedule and worked on getting the word out. That night, September 20th, we had a flyer that was sent as public posts in social media and the response was incredible. The first 24 hours we had tons of boxes, volunteers, news reporters, and radio phone calls. It was beautiful.

    NYFA: What has been the most challenging and rewarding parts of these efforts? –

    The most challenging part was enduring the long hours of work. That was the only hard part because there were definitely more rewards. There was so much generosity from the community, celebrities, reporters, TV channels, radio channels, and even companies. People in the donation center became friends, and the energy from morning to sundown was amazing. There were chants, laughter, and cheers. We were able to put together four trailers full of clothes, food, water, medical equipment, medicine, tools, apart from being full of love, hope and strength. The organization that we were able to partner with is Caravana de Amor which took the charge of receiving the donations in Morelos, Mexico and distributed them to those in need. The person in charge of that organization is the writer and radio & TV host, Carlos Márquez.

    NYFA: How can people continue to help? Are there any non-profits or other organizations you recommend donating to? –

    People can continue helping in many ways. Our donation center is closed but there are many organizations like UNICEF, Cruz Roja Mexicana.

    You can follow Diana, Laura, and Diana’s efforts on their official Instagram account, @la4mexico.


    October 13, 2017 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 1096

  • NYFA Alum to Premiere Film at San Diego International Film Festival


    New York Film Academy Filmmaking alum Eliana Álvarez Martínez will premiere her film “Spirit of Discovery” at the San Diego International Film Festival on Saturday, October 7, 2017. The film follows Walter Munk, an American oceanographer on a mission to research the unique flying Devil Rays that bear his name. Munk, also known as the “Einstein of the Oceans,” is renowned for his work on ocean currents and wave propagation. On the brink of 100 years of age, Munk is still active in the scientific community.

    NYFA sat down with the film’s director, NYFA alumna and instructor, Eliana Álvarez Martínez.

    NYFA: What about this subject inspired you to make this film?

    Eliana: When I first met Walter Munk I was just mesmerized by who he was and all the achievements he had had throughout his career. But after that, I fell in love with is humble personality, his young spirit and his desire to keep working and discovering things at 100 years old. It Is very contagious.

    Spirit of Discovery Premieres at San Diego Film Festival

    NYFA: What were some of the challenges you faced making this film?

    Eliana: The hardest part of making this film was to keep pushing forward during 4 years while we didn’t have funds. I was lucky to count on the help of lots of friends and colleagues from NYFA and elsewhere. Without them, this film wouldn’t have been possible.

    NYFA: How does it feel to be premiering at the San Diego International Film Festival?

    Eliana: I think San Diego is the perfect location to premiere the film. Not only because this is where Walter started his career but also because of the timing. He is turning 100 years old this month so no other film festival could be more perfect.

    NYFA: How did your experience at NYFA help you in your career?

    Eliana: Constantly having a camera in your hands gave me the experience and confidence I needed to get out there and start working right away. Not to mention all the super talented people that you meet from all over the world while you are in school. It’s an unbelievable network and we all help each other.

    The film was worked on by a number of NYFA alumni: Leah Goudsmit is credited as the Co-Producer & Editor; Marco Vital for Additional Cinematography; Susi Dolling as a Colorist; Anna Pascual for Motion Graphics. NYFA instructors Andrea Swift and Ivan Julian are also credited as Story Producer and for Sound mix respectively.

    You can watch the trailer for “Spirit of Discovery” here.


    October 6, 2017 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals, Film School • Views: 2864

  • Maya in 60 Minutes with Craig Caton


    NYFA instructor Craig Caton joined the NYFA Games team on an episode of “Schooled!” and held a crash course on Maya…and dragon physics. The key points of takes us through the steps of animating a dragon, putting it through a flight cycle and running it through Unity for a final polish.

    Using a dragon rig from Skyrim, Craig animated an 18 frame loopable flight cycle. One of the keys to making the animation look natural is understanding how a dragon moves and the basic laws of physics. For example, when the dragon is flapping its wings upwards the outer wings would actually be pointed downward (dragon physics!). The technical term for this movement in animation is “overlapping animation” and becomes a fundamental element in making even basic animation look realistic.

    Another useful tip we learned was that we shouldn’t be too concerned with symmetry when it comes to animating flapping wings. A common, novice mistake is to try to make the wings move in perfect symmetry when, in nature, birds do not flap their wings in perfect symmetry. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that nature is rarely perfectly symmetrical.

    You can learn more tricks of the trade by viewing the episode in its entirety here:

    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on


    October 5, 2017 • 3D Animation, Game Design • Views: 1174

  • NYFA Instructor Felipe Lara Discusses the Formula to a Successful Video Game


    New York Film Academy game design instructor Felipe Lara was a guest on NYFA Games’ “Schooled!” where he spoke in depth of the elements that contribute to making a successful video game.

    The very first points that need to be identified are:

    1. Who is your player?
    2. What are your goals?

    Once you have determined the answers to these questions you can work on the elements

    There are four major, sequential elements that contribute to this success:

    • STAND OUT: Your audience needs t be aware of your game to play it. The best way to create awareness is to find a way to stand out.
    • CONNECT: Games that create a connection with their players are games that have players keep coming back to them.  Once you establish the theme you can establish the values and mechanics of the game. For example: if one of the values of your game is courage then chances are your character will be facing some big monsters or bosses.
    • ENGAGE: When games engage their players will keep them playing for a while. Generally, the longer players stick around the more profitable the game becomes: there are more chances to monetize, more chances to get subscriptions, more chances to get recommended to friends, etc. This involves what Felipe calls the engagement loop: a mix of short and long-term goals that contribute to making a player feel fully engaged thus, continue to play the game.
    • GROW: Finally, the game needs to find a way to scale or grow its player base through community, user-generated content, etc.

    You can see the full episode here:
    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on


    October 4, 2017 • Game Design • Views: 1013

  • NYFA LA’s Chinese Club Hosts the Mid-Autumn Festival


    The Chinese Student and Scholars Association hosted its Mid-Autumn Festival on September 25th, 2017 at our Los Angeles campus. Coinciding with the first day of the semester, the event served dual purposes for New York Film Academy students. For new students, this was their first opportunity to experience the multiculturalism that takes place at NYFA. Senior students, meanwhile, were able to experience traditional Chinese music and food.

    Mid-Autumn Festival | Chinese Club

    The Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated widely across East Asia. Families gather to gaze at the moon and remember the legend of Chang’e, the goddess of the moon:

    There were ten suns in the sky. They scorched the Earth and made life unbearable for everything living on the planet. The archer, Yi, shot down nine of the suns and was rewarded with the elixir of life. Not wanting to obtain immortality without his beloved wife, Chang’e, Yi hid the elixir. However, Yi’s enemy, Fengmeng, wanted the secret to immortality for himself. In an attempt to spare the world from Fengmeng’s rule, Yi’s wife, Chang’e, drank the elixir herself. She then flew to the moon to live out the rest of time. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Yi, placed Chang’e’s favorite fruits and sweets on an altar as a tribute to her.

    On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, lanterns float across the starlit sky. Alters are adorned with mooncakes made of either lard or vegetable oil and filled with either red beans or lotus seed paste. The sweet traditional treat is circular to represent the moon and the ideas of unity and completeness.

    The NYFA celebration opened with traditional dances and songs performed at the Riverside Theater. One student performed a solo on a stringed instrument called a zither. Chinese Club President Pei Jun wanted to make sure that the nearly 300 new Chinese students that had just arrived at our Los Angeles campus had a place where they could celebrate the holiday.

    Once the performances were concluded, a packed house headed to the after-party where a DJ had already set up his turntables. He was prepared to spin the night away, or at least until ten when the building closed. The room was decorated with lanterns, and of course, mooncakes were served.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank all of the active members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association for both helping to educate students in traditional Chinese culture as well as creating a bit of home for our Chinese students, right here in L.A.



    September 28, 2017 • Community Highlights • Views: 1319

  • NYFA Acting Instructor Miguel Cruz Inks Deal with FOX International Productions

    NYFA’s Acting Department Senior Instructor and Director of Fulbright Initiatives Miguel Cruz recently signed a development deal with FOX International Productions to supervise the Spanish adaptation of the Argentinian rom-com hit “Permitidos” (“That’s Not Cheating”).
    Cruz will direct and produce the adaptation, and will be working with top Spanish scriptwriters Marta Sanchez (“Thi Mai”) and Antonio and David Sanchez Olivas (“Villaviciosa de Al Lado,” “Off Course”). Production is expected to receive the green light for shooting this spring in Spain, with Madrid and the Canary Islands as its main locations. This will mark Cruz’s return to comedy, as well as his first project for a U.S. studio after a long career in the Spanish TV industry.
    Cruz’s relationship with the American film industry dates back to 2006, when he attended the Filmmaking program at The New York Film Academy on a Fulbright Scholarship. After his graduation, he went back to Spain to direct the sitcom “Aida.” The show was  Spain’s most popular show at that time and aired for over 10 years.
    His experience and hands-on training at NYFA helped inspire him to write, direct and produce his first feature length film, “Vulnerables,” a psychological thriller starring the popular Spanish actress Paula Echevarria. This independent film was released internationally and later broadcast on Sundance Channel. He is currently developing an English language daptation of “Vulnerables.”

    In 2013, Cruz came back to Los Angeles to launch his career in the American industry. Since then he has combined his professional and academic careers: while pitching his next projects to major studios, Cruz has taught at NYFA in Los Angeles and held lectures abroad in places like Argentina, Colombia, and Senegal.
    In his words, “There is a great opportunity in Hollywood right now for international filmmakers that aim to produce projects in local language with an universal narrative and Hollywood production standards. Each day more, local movies get greenlit in Hollywood, and knowing the industry and its ways, has been crucial for me in the development of a global career.”
  • Brandii Grace Discusses Inclusiveness in Video Games


    Brandii Grace is a game designer, writer, producer, programmer, educator and general pioneer of the gaming industry. She was also the Chair of the LA chapter of the International Game Developers Association which, among its many endeavors, fights for change in the industry by identifying and speaking out on key issues.

    She joined the hosts of NYFA Games on Twitch to discuss inclusivity in video games. The discussion began by discussing a core concept: what is inclusivity?

    “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”– Verna Meyers 

    Brandii expertly navigated the distinctions between various forms of diversity and inclusion explaining:

    • Exclusion: Diversity is neither valued nor accepted
    • Tokenism: Diversity is valued but not accepted
    • Assimilation: Diversity is accepted but not valued
    • Inclusion: Diversity is valued and accepted

    She went on to point out that when a video game features a diverse cast of characters it will tend to be more profitable. The reason is fairly simple: if a player feels represented, identifies with one of the characters they will tend to play and spend more, and recommend it to their friends – see Bioware’s “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect” series, or Blizzard’s “Overwatch.”

    This concept of inclusivity is applied to the workplace as well. A more diverse team of developers tend to generate games that are:

    • “70% more likely to capture a new market
    • 45% more likely to improve market share
    • 70% more likely to implement a marketable idea”

    If you’d like more information about inclusivity in the entertainment industry, be sure to check out our post on gender inequality in film.

    You can see the entire episode on Inclusiveness in Video Games here:

    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on


    August 25, 2017 • Game Design • Views: 1045