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.
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.
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:
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:
Who is your player?
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
New York Film Academy (NYFA) in partnership with RED affords NYFA students the unique opportunity to showcase some of their best work and win amazing prizes.
We asked NYFA students to submit their one-year projects or thesis films, the only caveat being that they had to be shot entirely on RED cameras.
In the gallery below you’ll find the finalists that were selected from over one hundred submissions.
What is the Audience Award?
The Audience Award is an opportunity for you to cast your vote for your favorite film and help determine the winner.
The cinematographer of the film with the most votes will win aREDucation voucher worth $1,500.
How to Vote?
Voting is super easy:
Browse the gallery below
Click on the thumbnail to view the film
Click the “Vote” for your favorite film.
You are allowed to cast one vote per day. Want to share with friends? Use the share buttons to send to your friends so they can vote too!
The film with the most votes at the end of the contest period wins!
Voting closes August 25, 2017 at 5 PM PT.
Content Warning: Please note that some videos in the gallery below may contain content that may be inappropriate for some viewers. Each video contains a specific content warning. In general, some of these videos may contain:
Adult Language Adult Themes Including Suicide Mild Nudity Graphic Violence Suggested Drug Use Sexually Mature Content
NYFA photography alumna Sinem Yazici is no stranger to success. As her interview with Asli Pelit illustrates, Sinem was a successful ad agency director before the age of 30 in her homeland of Turkey. This alone is an impressive feat, not least of all because she’s a woman, but more impressive still is her decision to leave her profession and start from scratch as an aspiring photographer.
As a NYFA photography student in New York she was able to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion photographer, proving that it’s truly never too late to pursue your dreams. Her dedication to the craft has quickly made her one of the rising stars in men’s fashion photography and while she has changed careers, her determination and success remains unmuted.
She recently sat down with us to discuss her experience at NYFA, her passion for New York City and men’s fashion photography.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Sinem and wish her continued success in her endeavors.
Below you can find her full interview with Asli. Note: the views and opinions expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of the New York Film Academy.
Asli: New York is a difficult city to be successful or to live in. To be successful is even more difficult. To leave your life behind you and start over again and even start a totally new career, which is photography that you have never done before also as a woman, how did you decide to come to New York?
Sinem: Of course! I should tell you a little bit about my life before I answer this question. I was in the advertising business. For about 15 years I worked for a big international agency and two of the biggest companies in Turkey. When I became a director at my company I was 29. My goal had been to become a director before I turned 30 years old. After I reached my goal, I started asking myself, “Ok what is going to happen now? What is my next goal or target?” because I always set goals and targets for myself in life. When I started asking myself these questions I realized that I did not want to work in advertising anymore. I was so tired, and felt like I had been working for 30 years: never ending meetings, writing back and forth, working on the weekends. I remember that some days I was working 20 hours a day. At the time that I asked myself these questions, I already had an interest in art and photography. While I had never been the type of person to walk around with a camera everywhere I had been in the photo studio a lot and had worked with photographers because of my job in advertising. So I said to myself, “Why don’t I do this job? I would love to do this! What can I do about it?” One of my clients was a photographer. I called him my brother, Kerim Sandiman. I went to him and said “Kerim can you take me as an assistant to work for you? I don’t want money. I just want to learn what you are doing.” He said, “My dear Sinem, you have to take a class first.” So I said “ok,” and I started going to a class instructed by Muhammer Yatmaz, who is a photography teacher. I loved his classes and I had a great time. I completed two levels. I started taking pictures of my friends and family and I was enjoying it. I told myself I had to educate myself more about photography. I decided to go to NY because Advertising business was almost done for me. When I started doing this, I was up and down and I couldn’t decide what to do but I didn’t stay home and do nothing, I kept learning about photography. I came to NY and took a program at the New York Film Academy. The program was extremely fun and for years I had been dying to live in New York City. This period in my life was fun and I made a lot of good friends. I was stopping people in the street and telling them “ I am sorry, are you a model? Can I take your photograph?”
Asli: Yes, it is a classic NY story.
Sinem: I took a lot of pictures in NYC and then I went back to Turkey. I started working this time with Tamer Yilmaz, who is a professional photographer and my client. I started working as his assistant and editor. I got a chance to see the real fashion world when I worked with him. When I started taking pictures, I knew I wanted to be a fashion photographer, and mostly I wanted to photograph men’s fashion. My advertising background taught me to focus on one thing and do your best. I told myself that this was my goal, and I wanted to focus solely on being a photographer. I am really enjoying what I do. I worked one year with Tamer and slowly, slowly started missing NY and started wondering if I should go back. I decided to go back. It was a really tough decision but I told myself this, “If I do something really good in one year, I will give myself one more year, but if I cannot do anything, at the end of the year I will go back and continue my photography career in Turkey”. I came to NY on a tourist visa and I had to leave the country every six months. After the first six months, everything went very well. I realized that I had not done a portfolio because I was taking pictures of my friends and family. I started working with professional models, and while I was doing this I submitted everything that I had done and sent my photography everywhere. All of a sudden I started seeing my photos all around and set-up two or three photo shoots a week. That was unbelievable and I started to have a good network of models, agents, hair and makeup artists. I saw that everything was going very well and decided to do my own portfolio. When I did the portfolio, I decided to try to get an artist visa and I was able to get it two years ago. Now I am working legally, I have my clients, and everything is going well but NY is a tough city. There are always ups and downs. I have one more year and we will see after that.
Asli: When I look at your industry from the outside, men have all the good positions. Do think that women in this industry are behind men or are they equal?
Sinem: Openly, I cannot say that they are equal. There are a lot of successful women photographers but when I look at the top 10, 70 or 80% are male. As someone who wants to be in the men’s fashion photography business, I’m pushing my luck because the business is already male dominated. There are a lot of gay photographers in this business. As a woman photographer, I am trying to survive. Being a woman, I believe gives me an advantage. The feedback that I am getting from my models and agents is that there is a difference as to how a gay male photographer sees a male model and a woman photographer sees a male model. I believe this minor difference makes my work unique.
Asli: And this gives you an advantage.
Sinem: Yes, yes, yes.
Asli: Generally, when I look at the world and we talk about women’s rights, human rights and women doing two jobs at the same time – on one side they have a family, and at the same time try to have a career – do you think there is anything that has to change or do you believe that this idea gives women a chance at a higher position at work? Do you have any advice that you would give women?
Sinem: Clearly, until this time, I was able to accomplish this as a CEO, but I believe I got tired. That was the reason I stopped my career. When I look at successful women’s lives as a CEO or Executive level, they have a great family life. This shows how strong we are already. You are a mom at home but you are a CEO or boss at work. When I search their personality, the successful ones always listen to their brain, not their heart. We, as women are very emotional and when we leave the emotions on the side we become equal with men. Men do not work with their emotions. I experienced this 15 years and the last six or seven years, I experienced it a different way. I believe that if women leave their emotion on the side there is nothing that can stop them. They can do anything. That is the only advice I can give. Other than that, we are already strong and powerful.
Asli: I know that two years will go by quickly, but I hope that you stay here longer and continue your career here. What is your goal now in your career?
Sinem: Hmm, I want to be in the top ten. You know, there is the top ten in the world. There is already a Turkish photographer in this top ten, Mert. I am very proud of him, he is my idol. I hope to reach his level. This is a big dream for me. If I do reach his level, I will be the happiest person in the world. Even if I cannot, I would be very proud if people are discussing the work of a woman Turkish photographer. I don’t want this just for myself, I want to represent my country. We have a lot of problems in Turkey right now and when people hear this type of story they get happy. This would be my other goal if I cannot be very famous. This is my plan for the next couple of years. I don’t know what I am going to do after that, we will see.
NYFA’s Ragga Thordarson continues to garner international recognition, this time in her native country of Iceland. Interviewed by Morgunblaðið, one Iceland’s leading papers, Ragga spoke of her success in the film and television industry as a producer, director, and consultant.
The article went on to discuss her role within the New York Film Academy and the importance of the inclusive, diverse environment NYFA fosters.
You can find the original article here. An English version can be found below.
“The World of Film is International”
Ragnhildur Magnúsdóttir Thordarson, or Ragga, as she is called, lives in Los Angeles where she works at the prestigious New York Film Academy. Ragga has produced and participated in a number of creative and film projects both overseas and here at home in Iceland and was among other things, a consultant to the team behind “The Simpsons” on the Simpsons’ Iceland episode.
“This started when I graduated with a Master’s degree in Producing For Film and Television from New York Film Academy in March 2012. I left Iceland in 2010 and graduated two years later,” says Ragga, who has done well in recent years in Los Angeles, California, USA, as a Producer. The projects include short films that have been featured at various film festivals.
In 2012, Filmbreak named Ragga Best Producer for one such project. Her short sketch video was named Carlos & Brandi 2 and was a follow-up to the first Carlos and Brandi, based on short episodes of the Icelandic-American couple created by Ragga. She also wrote and directed the documentary From Oakland to Iceland. Ragnhildur now works as Director of Admissions at New York Film Academy, Los Angeles, which oversees students’ applications worldwide.
Consultant for Icelandic Simpsons
“Before I graduated, I worked as a radio and television host (in Iceland) and as a filmmaker. So I have been producing across platforms for a considerable amount of time,” says Ragga
“After graduating, I started working as a Producer in LA in various projects. Among other things, I worked for Reebok and was a consultant on “The Simpsons” Iceland episode. I produced and wrote content that was featured on “Funny or Die.” In fact, I was working on various types of projects. Then I started working in events for New York Film Academy. “
Industry professionals with impressive resumes
Ragga then began managing Q and A´s and various events at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. “We had guests coming to Warner Brothers for screenings and Q and A’s. There were people from all different jobs in entertainment and film; screenwriters and actors, for example, such as Linda Woolverton, Josh Brolin and Jonah Hill. Then there were filmmakers, even animation experts and others, some household names and others less known to the public, but industry professionals who have great bodies of work and extensive credits, sometimes behind the scenes. These people come to share their creative and industry experiences with students. This was a great job.” Ragga is raised in the United States, but is Icelandic and has spent considerable time living in Iceland as well. She and her husband have lived in Los Angeles in recent years.
The environment is international
Ragga managed events at NYFA until she was eight months pregnant with her first child. “I had my daughter Stella three years ago, and was what in Iceland would be considered a ‘last minute mom’” says Ragga, and laughs.
“After becoming a mom, I went to work on new projects for New York Film Academy and because I knew the school so well, I ended up working in Admissions. My job then evolved into the position I am in now. I love this school, the departments within it work well together, and more than half of the students are international. This is a very global environment, and it’s great to be surrounded by people who are storytellers from all over the world. You hear Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and many more languages daily here. It reflects in my opinion the cinema world which is far more international than I think people generally realize. “Hollywood is such a multinational place and New York Film Academy’s student body reflects that. Then filmmakers (including NYFA’s) meet at various film festivals across the world, with their common love of and passion for film. “
NYFA MFA filmmaking alumnus Rafael Nani recently found a unique venue to share his student NYFA experience — Brazilian TV juggernaut Globo’s program “Planeta Brasil.” The program aims to show how Brazilian nationals live outside of their homeland, highlighting success stories as well as the inevitable struggles in foreign cultures. “Planeta Globo” came to interview Nani in Los Angeles while the then-student was hard at work on the set of his NYFA thesis film, “Bloody Eyes.”
“Planeta Globo” spoke with Nani about his previous short film projects, including “Rose Garden,” which he filmed during his first year at the New York Film Academy. Nani, who recently completed NYFA’s MFA program at the Los Angeles campus, shared his perspective on some of the finer points of filmmaking and the complexities of directing a film.
In addition, “Planeta Globo” seized the chance to shine the spotlight on five other NYFA Los Angeles grads and students: acting for film alumnae Sabrina Percario and Carolina Inoue; filmmaking student Iylia M. Idris; film and media production student Ricardo Mata; and NYFA New York filmmaking alumna Flavia Vieira. These five were showing the true community spirit of NYFA while working with Nani on the set of “Bloody Eyes.”
Each discussed their different roles on set.
Percario, the project’s supervising producer, discussed the challenges and advantages of working on a multicultural set. Inoue, who is in charge of production design, spoke about the importance of getting right look down for the film. Idris is both first and second assistant camera person for the film, and she explained the different responsibilities for each role. Vieira is lending her expertise to the picture as the lead makeup artist, and discussed the ways good (or bad) make up can effect the look of a film. Finally, Mata, the resident sound technician, explained the differences and similarities between working on short and feature length films.
You can see the whole segment here, along with more interviews of the cast and crew.