Crickett Rumley
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  • Film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Conservatory Student Kai Kaldro Selected for NewFilmmakers NY Festival

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    Native New Yorker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory student Kai Kaldro has always immersed himself in multiple film genres for inspiration, including noir and neo-noir, which influenced his latest film and NewFilmmakers NY Festival pick, Sinner’s Lullaby.

    Kai Kaldro was born to two musicians in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and is the youngest of four children. He grew up with a fascination for making movies and, in addition to filmmaking, is a passionate freelance editor, specializing in reels, promo clips, trailers, and music videos. Kaldro’s creative style for his projects place a heavy emphasis on mysterious atmospheres, special FX, high contrast photography, action, and rock music. 

    ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ official selection for NewFilmmakers NY Festival

    Kaldro’s latest film, Sinner’s Lullaby, was recently selected to be part of the NewFilmmakers NY Festival, which was the first film circuit Kaldro says he has ever applied for. “It was admittedly nerve-racking awaiting a response. The mentality I had about entering Sinner’s Lullaby into festivals was that I just hoped it’d make it into at least one, so now I feel like a pressure has been lifted, and I’m more at ease awaiting to hear back from the others,” he shares.

    “I think that’s a feeling that is prevalent in many avenues of the film business, whether it’s actors waiting in great suspense to hear back from auditions, filmmakers checking their email to hear back about their script from producers, or waiting to read reviews from critics. So, my process felt very much educational in terms of getting me ready for the future in the industry, and I’m grateful for that experience.”

    Kaldro’s short film, Sinner’s Lullaby, is a black & white, romantic neo-noir short film produced on a budget of $200. The mobster film centers around a young private detective from Brooklyn named Charlotte Meridian and her lounge singer girlfriend Barbara Ann Bergman, as they discover the true nature of their romance when confronted with a menacing face from the past.

    NYFA filmmaking student Kai Kaldro

    The film’s pre-production took eight weeks, principal photography was shot over the course of three days. and post-production took close to a month to cut. “I wanted Sinner’s Lullaby to look and feel very stylized and over-the-top in it’s presentation and atmosphere. I think as academic and cerebral as many make noir out to be, for how it explores the amoral side of the human psyche, there’s an inherent element of fun mysterious camp to it all, and I really wanted to embrace that.,” reveals Kaldro.”  

    While there is a mystery that unravels throughout the first act, Sinner’s Lullaby is, first and foremost, a love story. “It’s about how the ones who we love the most are the ones who, deep down, we actually know the least.” Kaldro, who is working on a feature-length script for Sinner’s Lullaby, hopes to bring the full length feature to life some day as a more realized concept. 

    His biggest inspirations for his film were Jacques Tourneur’s Out of The Past (1947) and Bound (1996) by The Wachowskis. “I’m a big fan of classic black & white and technicolor films, and the idea of a same-sex couple, but in a black & white period-esque setting, with very benign, playful, and old-fashioned sort of dialogue/acting akin to Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Becall, Ginger Rogers, or Fred Astaire has always interested me.”

    Miranda Rizzolo as Charlotte Meridian in ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ (Photo courtesy of Kai Kaldro)

    “The original Motion Picture Production Code had restrictions in place to present the couples on screen in classic films as almost fairy-tale like, and I think there’s a very charming innocence to a lot of those on screen duos that I really adore, but The MPPC also prevented homosexuality from appearing on film,” tells Kaldro. “I’ve always felt, historically, gay and lesbian characters were robbed of having that kind of treatment and on screen chemistry, so that’s what we set out to achieve with my characters in this film (Charlotte and Barbara).”

    Miranda Rizzolo (Charlotte) and Elvira Levin (Barbara), a NYFA alum, really understood the classical, romantic dynamic. While filming, they really knocked me dead with their performances and chemistry on screen together and both actresses were fantastic to work with.”

    While Kaldro continues his studies at NYFA, he reveals he has an upcoming sci-fi short on the horizon called Dissolved Girl, which follows a young, misunderstood computer hacker and an undercover robot cop during a time of heated cultural tension between humans and machines in a futuristic NYC. “The cast, crew, script, and locations have been secured, we’re just waiting on things to substantiate here in the city from COVID-19, so that we can return to work safely.”

    Elvira Levin as Barbara Ann Bergman in ‘Sinner’s Lullaby’ (Photo courtesy of Kai Kaldro)

    Kaldro encourages students and filmmakers alike to “stick to their guns and make the films they’re most interested in seeing” and shares, “you can always see the uncompromising spirit within a lot of student/low budget films, when those involved are making the kind of content they hold a lot of reverence for, whether it’s the story, the aesthetic, or both.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking student Kai Kaldro on his outstanding achievement of having Sinner’s Lullaby selected for the NewFilmmakers NY Festival and looks forward to following Kaldro’s filmmaking career.

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    July 7, 2020 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 71

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

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

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

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

    Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Paula Bryant-Ellis behind the scenes during a film shoot

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

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

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

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

    Photo courtesy of Paula Bryant-Ellis

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

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    July 6, 2020 • Diversity, Filmmaking, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 155

  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Director Tânia Cypriano and NYFA Student Jude Washock for a Q&A on Groundbreaking Documentary ‘Born to Be’

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    On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a live video Q&A with the talented documentary filmmaker Tânia Cypriano to discuss her much admired and trailblazing documentary film Born to Be. Cypriano was also joined in conversation by NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory student, and consultant for the film, Jude Washock. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Director Tânia Cypriano has been working between her home country of Brazil and the United States for over thirty years. Her films and videos have won international awards including ‘Best Documentary’ at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Fespaco in Burkina Faso. Her work has been shown in the world’s most prestigious institutions including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Hong Kong Arts Center, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.

    (Clockwise) Tova Laiter, Tânia Cypriano, and Jude Washock for Q&A Series

    Her television credits include documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, NHK in Japan, GNT in Brazil and Channel 4 in England. Cypriano has co-organized a series of films with the MoMA, the Anthology Film Archives, Exit Art, the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and the Grazer Kunstverein in Austria. She has also previously worked on productions for Bill Moyers, Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

    Dr. Ting walks with one his patients in the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery wing of Mount Sinai Hospital (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano’s latest documentary, Born to Be, follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City —where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people can have access to quality transition-related health and surgical care. The film received critical acclaim upon its original release in the 2019 festival circuit and was hailed by Variety as “a lively and moving documentary,” and “a film that distinguishes itself with a sensitive, human portrait” by Hollywood Reporter.

    A patient awaiting consultation from Dr. Ting (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano remembers wanting to make this documentary after hearing about the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York from her producer, noting it was “a historical moment for New York City, and also for healthcare.” After deciding she wanted to do this documentary, Cypriano recalls staying in the clinic and documenting the surgeries with the crew, noting how many of the characters in the film “understood the importance of that moment [of filming] because these surgeries were just made available, and the importance of them was so great to the [transgender] community.”

    Washock, a SAG-AFTRA member and NYFA student who served as a consultant for the film, explained that his role was “to ensure that the stories being told by the characters, who were receiving surgery, were portrayed in a humane way and were not damaging or exploitive.” Consultants like Washock are especially important for documentary filmmakers so they can ensure they do the subject matter, and story, justice.

    Dr. Ting posing with one of his patients (‘Born to Be’)

    One student asked Cypriano how she was able to compose herself during the documentary shoot. “It was a tough one,” she recalls, “I think that is why I chose to live outside of my family because it was emotionally draining, but nothing compares to what I imagine Dr. Ting goes through because he is over there listening to those stories everyday.”

    Film poster for ‘Born to Be’

    In addition to discussing the film, Cypriano also encouraged NYFA students to tell stories because they can. “You have to put yourself out there, work hard, be patient, and persevere. If you hang in there, you can do it.” Washock, who got involved in the project just by talking to Cypriano at an event added, “put yourself out there and have conversations with people and just talk, you would be surprised.”

    Washock also encouraged students in the New York City area to look into volunteering or becoming a member at IFP (Independent Filmmakers Project), where Washock praised his experience there networking and attending informative panels.

    Cypriano thanked Laiter and the NYFA students for joining the call and also extended gratitude to NYFA student Jude Washock for joining the conversation.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Tânia Cypriano for sharing her time and expertise with the students and NYFA Acting for Film student Jude Washock for sharing his experience as a consultant on Born to Be. NYFA also encourages everyone to keep an eye out for the forthcoming theatrical and streaming release of the film.

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  • New York Film Academy’s South Beach Campus Announces Winners for NYFA South Beach Made at Home Festival

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    With many festivals being cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Film Academy South Beach instructor Eduardo “Eddy” Santa-Maria decided to engage South Beach students to create their own films from home and have a place to have them shares and voted on for NYFA’s first-ever Made at Home Festival, presented by NYFA South Beach. The Festival’s winners included MFA Acting for Film student Yulia Korotkova (Student Choice Award) One Year Filmmaking Conservatory student McKenzie Mortensen (Staff & Faculty Choice Award).

    “I constantly see students stop each other in the halls and ask ‘hey how’s that film going,’ and I’ve seen those same students leave that conversation inspired and ready to make a film of their own. That infectious creativity seemed to have died down as we move to remote learning,” shared Santa-Maria. “So, in order to get that vibe back, the itch to create, I figured the Festival would give them a challenge where their creativity would be put to the test and, hopefully, inject that sense of creativity that NYFA is famous for.”

    Students who participated in the Film Festival were given one month to develop, write, shoot, and edit a 5-minute film completely shot from their own home. With the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down many areas all over the country, students were encouraged to use what they had at home, from camera equipment (mobile phones, DSLR) to casting their film with only themselves or who they lived with. 

    McKenzie Mortensen, who won the Staff & Faculty Choice Award for her short film Quarantined, was inspired to make her film due to her own personal experiences of being alone during the pandemic. The Burley, Idaho native’s short film is a horror-comedy about a girl who becomes so bored and lonely that she makes friends with an evil villain, who crawls out of her television. In addition to the full film below, Mortensen has also shared her Quarantined storyboard available here.

    “I hope the audience was able to relate to my short emotionally since my film subject was very current,” says Mortensen. “I also hope they were able to let out a laugh, chuckle or giggle.” Mortensen will graduate from the One Year Filmmaking Conservatory from NYFA’s South Beach campus in September and plans to pursue a career in film editing. In addition to her short film Quarantined and Doritos Super Bowl competition entry, Mortensen also created a short stop motion film, which can be viewed here.

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    Utah vibes ❤️ #2019

    A post shared by McKenzie Mortensen (@mckenz_mort) on

    Winner of the Student Choice Award, Yulia Korotkova, was inspired to create her short film Waters after playing around with different shots and angles taken on her cellphone. After attempting to create a shot of someone being pulled out from under the bed, she was inspired to create a thriller about soul-collecting water that could be condensed for the Festival’s parameters. “The original script was a ten minute film and we [Korotkova and her husband] feel proud of having created this film only using an iPhone without any professional equipment,” she explains.

    Behind the scenes for ‘Waters’ (Directed by Yulia Korotkova)

    Korotkova, who was born in Russia and grew up in Venezuela, moved to Miami 11 years ago and is currently studying acting at NYFA South Beach. Waters, she explains, is her first-ever film. “I was hoping to entertain and, at the same time, show how there is no need for expensive equipment and large expensive production in order to tell a story.”

    NYFA South Beach student Yulia Korotkova

    While the film is not yet posted publicly, Korotkova has released a teaser trailer and encourages readers to check out some of the behind the scenes information for her film.

    Santa-Maria shares he hopes students can realize they don’t need huge sets, expensive cameras, or a large crew to tell a heartfelt story. “As cheesy as it sounds, I wanted our students to realize that no matter where they are in life, no one can take away their ability to tell captivating stories.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA South Beach students McKenzie Mortensen and Yulia Korotkova for winning the top prizes for the South Beach Made at Home Festival and encourages everyone to watch each student’s available footage to get their own creative inspiration. 

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  • Student Spotlight: Documentary Film Student Richard Brookshire Pens Article Featured in ‘New York Times Magazine’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Film student Richard Brookshire recently wrote an article for New York Times Magazine about his experience serving in the army as a Black, queer man, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and what he has been doing to bring Black stories to life as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

    NYFA reached out to Brookshire to continue the conversation from his New York Times Magazine article and to discuss his experience as a Black documentary filmmaker, his upcoming short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0, and the future of Black stories in the entertainment industry.

    Richard Brookshire, with his mother, Natacha, at his graduation from Army basic training in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    Before pursuing filmmaking, Richard Brookshire served as a combat medic with the 170th Infantry Brigade in Germany, and later Afghanistan. At this time, Brookshire recalls his closeted sexuality due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and also remembers being one of a few Black soldiers in his 40 person platoon. In his article for New York Times Magazine, Brookshire wrote:

    Through Brookshire’s personal encounters, the experiences of his loved ones, and witnessing modern events of racial inequality unfold (like the horrific shooting of Trayvon Martin), led Brookshire to join the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter and to co-found the Black Veterans Project, a racial equity and archive initiative created to shed light on systemic racial inequities within the U.S military (both historic and present).

    Brookshire’s interest in racial injustice led also opened up another area of interest; film. “I recognized how the medium of [documentary] film was the perfect space to merge my background and skill set to capture Black American life for future generations.”

    “Film is one of the most powerful forms of propaganda we have in retelling histories and cultivating a public imagination around how we see ourselves as a society and our shared humanity,” says Brookshire. “Just as it can do harm, it can also harness good. It can expand our collective understandings, give us a window into lives far different than our own, and equip stakeholders and activists with powerful narratives to drive necessary and provocative awakenings around injustices across societies.”

    Brookshire during an Army National Guard, Upstate New York in 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    After Brookshire’s four year old niece passed away last year, he says it was the motivation he needed to study the documentary filmmaking craft. “NYFA felt like the perfect place to gain expertise from leading filmmakers in an intimate intensive program geared toward teaching me the fundamentals,” says Brookshire. “I credit NYFA alum, Clyde Gunter for persuading me on what NYFA had to offer.”

    Brookshire notes that documentary filmmaking can change or broaden an individual’s perspective. “It only takes one mind to begin planting the seeds of change and revolution. We are in constant evolution as human beings, and we must not shy away from harnessing the power we have to inspire each other to do better, to be better and to create new systems that reflect a reality that is informed by the shared understanding of our common humanity.”

    As a filmmaker and activist, Brookshire turns to creators like Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates for imagination, creativity, and unforgettable storytelling. “I always joke with my friends that if Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates had a director baby, it’d be me.” He notes that Spike Lee has always taken incredible care and consideration “in capturing the splendor and hardship of Black American Life.” As for Henry Louis Gates, Brookshire claims Gates “has created unparalleled works that dive deep into the overlooked African American histories.”

    Brookshire being interviewed recently at a protest at the Manhattan Bridge (Photo Credit: Dexter Philips)

    For his next project, Brookshire tells NYFA that his short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0 will explore “five Black artists surviving the COVID-19 crisis in the days leading up to the riots.” In his essay film, Brookshire describes it as an exploration of “Black folk who find freedom within and access planes in their creative imagination to allow a spiritual awakening and healing outside of an anti-Black society.”

    While the country continues to address various systemic racial prejudices and injustices, the entertainment industry has its own work to do too. “The archive is full of Black histories and Black life to tell. The diaspora is rife with untold and unexplored characters and circumstances,” says Brookshire. “If we are to bridge the long-standing racial divide, we must create spaces for Black stories to exist, and not just those that retell Black traumas (which has been a primary avenue for Black filmmakers write large).”

    He continues to note the importance of Black documentaries and their ability to show “the vastness of our humanity and experience,” and urges the conversation of ownership with Black storytelling; “who owns Black stories is just as important as who tells them.”

    In addition, Brookshire shares that mentorship cannot be overlooked either. “Sharing resources and knowledge creates pathways to opportunity,” he says. “The reason the canon of documentaries is lacking relative to Black stories is because, for far too long, film was an exclusive space and, in many ways, it still is quite a privilege to be able to do this sort of work.”

    New York FIlm Academy would like to thank Richard Brookshire for continuing to share his stories and insight as a Black filmmaker and encourages everyone to read his New York Times Magazine article and to be on the lookout for his upcoming short Boukman’s Prayer 2.0.

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    June 30, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 215

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Online Acting for Film Alum Stars in Netflix Original Series ‘Sacred Games’

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    With New York Film Academy (NYFA) beginning to expand its offerings and conducting specialized workshops online, actors like Online Acting for Film alum, Elnaaz Norouzi, can take classes to polish their craft from renowned industry professionals anywhere in the world. Elnaaz Norouzi, who recently studied in a 4-Week Acting for Film Workshop, also stars in the Netflix original series Sacred Games.

    Norouzi was born in Tehran, Iran, and later moved to Germany, where she also learned English, German, and French in addition to her native language of Farsi. When she moved to India years later, Norouzi also learned Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi, allowing her to speak a grand total of seven languages.

    NYFA alum Elnaaz Norouzi as Zoya in ‘Sacred

    Just like learning languages opens the doors to understanding different cultures and behaviors, so does becoming an actor. “I always found it super fascinating to learn and to know what other people feel or what makes them do things the way they do them,” says Norouzi. “I feel it takes a lot for an actor to be able to put themselves in the shoes of another.”

    In addition to acting, Norouzi has also been working as an international model for over ten years with brands like Dior, Lacoste, and Le Coq Sportif, to name a few, but it is acting that Norouzi is most passionate about.

    When she began her acting career in India, Norouzi remembers taking a lot of classes in Mumbai, but it was always her dream to go to New York Film Academy. With Norouzi’s normally packed schedule winding down due to the global pandemic, she realized it was time to make that dream a reality and enrolled in NYFA’s Online Acting for Film Workshop. “I learned so much about what I’ve never done before with my scripts. My next script will be full of left-hand side notes.”

    Photo Courtesy of Elnaaz Norouzi

    While many remember their first experience in the film industry, Norouzi remembers several. Her first acting roles for films, Maan Jao Naa and Khido Khundi, were part of two separate film industries, the Pakistani (“Lollywood”) and Punjabi (“Pollywood) industries, respectively. “It’s amazing to be able to explore different film industries. Each of them work so differently,” she says. “Both of those films were only my first two films and I got to learn so much while doing them.”

    After her film acting debut, Norouzi quickly found herself involved in Netflix’s first original series in India called Sacred Games, based on Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name. “I remember being one of the last girls to audition for Zoya and Jameela’s role. After I got the role, I discovered they were auditioning girls for over three months for my part and weren’t able to find anyone suitable. By the time I was cast, the shooting for the first season had already started.”

    NYFA alum Elnaaz Norouzi in Netflix poster for ‘Sacred Games’

    “I felt very proud bagging the role, but back then I didn’t expect much because I didn’t know much about Netflix, and no one in India had Netflix yet.” After the series was released, the show became such a success that people began subscribing to Netflix just to watch Sacred Games. “People started recognizing me and calling me Zoya [Norouzi’s character] and I realized how big the show had actually become.”

    The show currently has two seasons available on Netflix and it is likely it will be renewed for a third season. “It may take some time since the original book covered only the first two seasons, so our fabulous writers must write something new for us now.

    Aside from another season of Sacred Games, Norouzi shares she has two films coming up, including a Bollywood film that was delayed in its release due to COVID-19 and a South Indian action film in Tamil. “Lots of people have asked me if Tamil is going to be my eighth language, but that will surely not happen. It was hard enough to learn it for the film, I don’t think I can learn the entire language,” she jokes.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress and NYFA alum Elnaaz Norouzi for taking the time to share her experience in the global film industry and looks forward to seeing Elnaaz in her upcoming projects. Sacred Games (Seasons 1 & 2) are currently streaming now on Netflix.

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    June 29, 2020 • Acting, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 294

  • NYFA Alum Screens Thesis Film ‘Loving Byron’ at New Filmmakers LA Monthly Film Event

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    A few years ago, filmmaker Deante’ Gray was staying in his mom’s  house in Houston, Texas, while recovering a torn ACL from playing football for the Houston Texans. After leaving the NFL, Deante’ took his career in a completely new direction and enrolled in the New York Film Academy’s MA in Film and Media Production program.

    This Sunday, June 28, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. PT/3:00 p.m. ET, he will be screening the results of that venture, his thesis film Loving Byron, at New Filmmakers LA’s monthly film event.

    Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, spoke with Deante’ as he prepared for the screening.

    Film poster for ‘Loving Byron’

    Crickett Rumley (CR)Congratulations on getting selected for New Filmmakers! Tell us about your film.

    Deante Gray (DG):  Loving Byron is about a 17-year-old boy who runs away from his problematic home with his girlfriend to live in the middle of nowhere. After finding out she’s pregnant, he has to decide how far he’s willing to go for the love of his life.

    CR: What was the inspiration?

    DG: My inspiration for making this film was my upbringing and seeing how similar a lot of me and my peers were as teenagers growing up in Houston. How a kid can be so in love, so hopeful in life, and it all being stripped away at a moment’s notice.

    Reflecting now on where I’m at in my life, it’s insane how one decision can lead people, good people, down so many different paths. I think in large part where I am in my life, is purely out of sheer luck. I wasn’t smarter than my peers, I wasn’t any more athletic, I didn’t hold a higher moral standard than any one kid growing up. I just got lucky that my collection of choices and decisions didn’t lead me to a path of potential destruction.

    Deante’ directing behind the scenes on ‘Loving Byron’

    CR: The film is beautiful, yet the circumstances very much reflect the times we live in today.  Without spoiling the story, can you talk about how Loving Byron addresses systemic racism and the Movement for Black Lives?

    DG: I think anyone with a deep understanding of systematic racism and the affect it has historically had on the Black community will be able to immediately see the tree in which these issues stem from within the community. And if that’s not enough. There’s a scene between two characters in my film — it’s probably my favorite scene I’ve ever written — that tells you verbatim what systematic racism is.

    CR: It’s a powerful scene. What was your favorite thing about directing this film?

    DG: Definitely the character exploration I went through with my actors prior to filming and also during filming. I felt in discussing with my actors why characters made certain decisions through the movie I was indirectly in my own therapy session. There would be times where I’d realize there were things about my own upbringing that I had never even considered or talked about, and I was forced to somewhat channel those deep feelings and understand them better. Not only that, but my lead is actually my best friend that I grew up with in Houston. So our connection and us knowing everything about one another only amplified the focus and care that was needed to make this film what it is.

    CR: It sounds like the process of making this film had a healing effect. It’s so cool you got to experience that with an old friend. What were other challenges you faced in making the film?

    DG: The most challenging thing was learning how to properly navigate a workable budget. I’m still fairly new to this level of filmmaking, so I don’t know very much about the places and resources to get funding for a film like this. A lot of it was me learning as I was going.

    I learned that you truly can’t be an introvert in this business. If you really want to make a film and want money for it, you have to go out there and get it for yourself.

    Still from Deante’ Gray’s thesis film ‘Loving Byron’

    CR: Just as the film is getting out there now.  Which festivals have you been in so far?

    DG: This will be Loving Byron’s fourth festival selection. Before COVID-19 happened, it was selected for the San Diego Black Film Festival, and that was a tremendous experience. It was my first time since my NYFA screening that I got to interact with audience members after the viewing of my film. It’s moving how impactful certain people can find your film to be. The Q and A’s were amazing along with all the networking events that they had for us filmmakers.

    Loving Byron also won the Remi award at WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, which unfortunately due to COVID-19 got suspended.

    CR: And now you’re in New Filmmakers LA’s monthly screening – it’s such a great local festival. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

    DG: I’m curious to see if a virtual festival can still have that communal filmmaker vibe that typical film festivals have.  A cool thing that they are doing is after the Q and A’s, they are holding random Zoom rooms of four to five people for 30 minutes or so. So it does allow you to briefly network with other filmmakers and people in the business. You never know who you might see in there!

    Still from scene in ‘Loving Byron’

    CR: Maybe someone you collaborate with in the future! But let’s go back to the past for a minute and talk about your work at NYFA. How do you think your education prepared you for a career in filmmaking?

    DG: With NYFA, and the specific master’s program I was in, it was such a loaded fast-paced learning environment. It forced me to truly eat, breathe, and live film. It provided a concrete schedule that allowed me to really maximize and take in the wealth of knowledge and on-set experience you constantly get at NYFA. I was also in class with tremendous filmmakers who knew so much already and consistently pushed their creativity. In large part I wanted to prove to myself I belonged, and I think I did.

    CR: I know you did. Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?

    DG: I can’t thank my directing instructor David Newman enough for his critical and straightforward approach to filmmaking. His way of teaching and his stress that a director’s responsibility is not only on the set but to an audience as well has definitely stuck with me since our very first class. I also have to thank him for introducing me to the Criterion Collection one day in the library. Changed my life, ha!

    Robert Taylor, who was a screenwriting professor at NYFA during my time there, really helped shape my writing style as well. And gave me tremendous confidence to try new things and take meaningful risks within my writing. Any conversation, no matter how long or small, I always would come away just inspired to keep writing.

    And last but not least you, Crickett! I hadn’t the slightest idea of festival strategies. And since the first day I sent you my film, you’ve been nothing but supportive and helpful to all my pressing questions on the best way to get this film out there.

    Also special s/o to the workers in the library. I’m in there so much (even as a graduate) I know they get tired of me. But they always have been super helpful and nice to me.

    Deante’ behind the scenes shooting ‘Loving Byron’

    CR: Aww, my pleasure! You’ve made a wonderful film, and I’m delighted I get to help you put it out into the world. Speaking of getting out into the world, do you have any advice for recent graduates making their way into the professional world?

    DG: I’m still trying to figure this all out. It’s been undoubtedly hard, trying to stay afloat and wondering what the best route is to get in the business. I think for me, as someone who’s currently freelancing, it’s a lot about staying hungry and hustling every chance you get, while still being inspired to be creative and make things.

    I think you definitely have to have a level of persistence as you go about emailing people, meeting people and even social media. It’s something I’m not the best at. I’m still trying to be better at it. But in the same breath, I know my work ethic, and I know the quality of work I put out. So when the time does come to showcase myself to the right people, I know I’ll be ready.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Deante’ Gray for taking the time to speak about his film Loving Byron and congratulates him on his film screening for the new Filmmakers LA monthly film event.

    Deante’ Gray’s Loving Byron will screen on Sunday, June 28, 2020, in “Shorts Program 1: Belated Spring” at 12:00 p.m. PT, with a Q &A Following at 1:45 p.m. PT.  To reserve tickets, please visit the New Filmmakers LA website
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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum’s Documentary Film About Life Changing Meditation Technique Selected for the New York Lift Off Festival

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    In addition to having his film selected in the New York Lift Off Festival, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Naman Goyal is using his latest documentary as a means to educate others during the global Coronavirus pandemic about a unique meditation technique that could assist individuals in their fight against the virus.

    Naman Goyal, who hails from India, graduated from NYFA’s One Year Filmmaking Conservatory  in 2010 from the New York City campus. The Jaipur-based filmmaker is now gaining media attention surrounding his feature documentary The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra (revealed), which portrays a unique meditation technique that is having a positive impact on hospital patients and others seeking healing. 

    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Naman Goyal

    The docu-film explores an alternative healing method, otherwise known as “’Energy Healing Meditation Technique” and its founder, Guru Ram Lal Siyag. This meditation technique is said to build up the body’s immune system and generate antibodies that could help fight off bacteria or even a virus. 

    Goyal completed filming the documentary in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. “Initially, I only wanted to make a half an hour film on this topic, but as I started researching, the project just expanded into a feature film and one and a half years just flew by,” shares Goyal. The docu-film, includes interviews from doctors and patients who benefited from the Energy Healing Meditation Technique both physically and mentally. Some patients interviewed even included former cancer patients who experienced significantly reduced cancer recovery times. 

    When the global pandemic hit, Goyal knew his documentary would be an informative resource for Coronavirus patients seeking healing. “I started sending clips of my documentary to patients in Wuhan (China), Daegu (South Korea), Milan (Italy), and New York City through Facebook,” says Goyal. 

    At the time the pandemic reached Goyal’s own city of Jaipur, India, he showed the meditation technique to a Coronavirus patient, who recovered a week after beginning the meditation, along with their prescribed medication. Goyal then reached out to another patient in Jodhpur City, who also owed their recovery to the meditation technique. Goyal has since been interviewed by a number of news outlets including India’s CNN-News18 about the technique featured in his documentary (Video below with English subtitles).

    Goyal’s docu-film  has already attracted festival attention and has been selected to appear in the upcoming New York Lift Off Film Festival. Goyal reveals the film may have an official release in September 2020 and shares that he is in talks with the U.S. Department of Health (NCCIH and NIH), who are looking at the possibility of doing a clinical trial with the meditation technique. 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Naman Goyal on his forthcoming documentary film The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra and looks forward to upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.

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  • NYFA Broadcast Journalism: June Updates

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    This Spring’s graduation was a graduation like no other. Not just here at the New York Film Academy, but across the United States and around the world. COVID-19 pretty much changed everything.

    Cover of the May 2020 issue of ‘The New Yorker’

    As you might expect, our grads — working at local, national and international news organizations — are in the middle of covering what is the story of a lifetime. But one Broadcast Conservatory program grad, award-winning investigative journalist George Colli, has been involved in a singularly unique way.

    NYFA Alum George Colli

    George is developing a new, online news platform, but he put everything on “hold” after he spoke to news sources across his home state of Connecticut about what was then a potentially deadly shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Put simply, initially there wasn’t any. George used his reporting skills to not only reveal the depth of this problem, but also find critically needed supplies, then put together an organization to distribute them to the places where they were needed the most. That included literally millions of face masks.

    NYFA alum George Colli (Right) covering shortage of PPE

    While we are proud of all of our grads, there is a special place in our hearts for George Colli. He helped (and continues to help) save countless lives…

    Earlier this year, former NYFA Broadcast Journalism student Sura Ali signed up for one of our short-term Broadcast Journalism workshops. Her “modest” goal was to to do nothing less than change her life. She wanted to reinvent herself. And, based on a recent LinkedIn posting, it looks like Sura found what she was looking for.
    “When I was 28, studying at the New York Film Academy, I was told ‘you are talented, outgoing and lively.’ I did a double take… wait what? They appreciate my voice and activism here? I finally felt at home.”
    Thanks, Sura. We’re glad to know that you found what you were looking for at NYFA.

    As most of you know, I normally spend a lot of time traveling. Over the past three months, beyond weekly trips to the supermarket, I haven’t gone anywhere. But I did have a chance to travel “virtually” to Manila, to participate in an online event tied to World Press Freedom Day. It was great to interact with 125+ journalism students. Thanks to the American Embassy in Manila for the opportunity to participate. (And in the spirit of “Where’s Waldo,” can you find me in the picture below?)

    This week I am “virtually” attending the Cannes International Film Festival, in support of my indie feature film Invisible Love. While I’d love to share it with you’ll have to wait until Spring 2021 for its release. But I can share with you the preview/trailer. A period piece, this China/Vietnam/U.S. co-production takes place during the 1930’s in what was then known as French Indochina. Today, it is Vietnam.

    For the time being, we are only offering our 4-Week Broadcast Journalism workshop onlineYou can find more information here.

    Stay Tuned,
    Bill Einreinhofer
    Chair, NYFA Broadcast Journalism Department
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  • New York Film Academy Produces Video Highlighting 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA), in partnership with the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission, has produced a video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, an art installation initiative to display original artwork on utility boxes throughout the Burbank community.

    With NYFA’s own Los Angeles campus located in the Burbank area, NYFA offered its support to the Burbank Arts Beautification Program for this local community initiative as a means to provide a glimpse at what has been accomplished so far in the community through the Program. NYFA’s video highlights the Phase 3 of the Burbank Arts Beautification Program, which focused on the utility boxes located in the media district of Burbank. These boxes were painted by talented artists, who were inspired by the theme “A World of Entertainment.” 

    A Vintage Postcard for Burbank’ by Artist Monika Petroczy

    In addition to creating the video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, NYFA also sponsored artist Monika Petroczy, who created her box, ‘A Vintage Postcard for Burbank.’ Petroczy’s box was inspired by the classic vintage postcards from the 1950’s and included famous Burbank landmarks, activities and landscapes both classic and modern.

    NYFA sponsored artist Monika Petroczy (Left)

    This week, the City of Burbank in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Works Department, announced a call to all artists to participate in the Burbank Arts Utility Box Beautification Project for 2020. Various utility boxes throughout the City’s Magnolia Park District will be painted with original art inspired by the theme of “Celebrate Community.” Applications are now open and will close on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 5:00 P.M PST.

    NYFA would like to thank the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission for being part of Burbank Arts Beautification Program and encourages artists to apply to be part of the Magnolia Park District phase of the Program. 

    To learn about previous Utility Box Beautification Projects, or to apply, click here

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    June 20, 2020 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 565