George Leone
Author archives

  • New York Film Academy Graduate Tackles the 1953 CIA Coup In New Documentary

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Joe Ayella is a graduate of New York Film Academy’s short-term filmmaking workshop in Portugal. His documentary American Coup tells the story of the 1953 coup carried out by the CIA to topple the popular Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. The film is a mix of rare archival footage and stills and interviews with Middle East experts, historians, and authors.  Among the many interviewees are Stephen Kinzer (author, All The Shah’s Men), Prof. Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College, Trita Parsi, Ph.D., Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Nuclear Expert Joe Cirincione Amb. Bruce Laingen, Amb. John Limbert, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and legendary newsman Ted Koppel.  Stand-up comic Maz Jobrani (Axis of Evil Comedy Tour) also makes an appearance. Check out what Joe had to say about his film….



    TRAILER VS04-H.264 LAN.mov (video quicktime… by Monteego

    AMERICAN COUP TRAILER

    Where did you first get the idea for the film?

     

    Originally, I had intended to expand upon the short film about the Holocaust that I had made while studying at NYFA in Porto, Portugal.  But, logistically, that proved challenging as some of my Portuguese classmates who I had hoped to use for my crew for my set-in-Portugal story weren’t available due to scheduling and other issues. 

     

    I had long been fascinated with the story of the first coup ever carried out by the CIA – Iran, 1953 – so, a couple of years ago when there was talk during the Bush years of the possibility of a military strike against Iran, I decided to explore that event.  When I realized that not all that much had been done on the subject in terms of film, I thought it would make for a good documentary.  Hence, American Coup was conceived which I think is a timely film given everything that is happening in the Middle East at the present time. 

     

    Not many people know, especially in the United States, that Iran had a democracy back in 1953, and that the CIA went in and – along with the British – carried out a coup to get rid of Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and to back the Shah of Iran.  The Shah then ruled in an increasingly despotic manner until he was overthrown 25 years later during the Islamic Revolution.  That revolution had a strong anti-American cast to it because its leaders remembered the events of 1953, and that the US had supported and armed the Shah for the next 25 years against the wishes of the people.

     

    What were some of the production challenges you faced?

     

    Probably the biggest production challenge I faced was just the historic nature of the seminal event at the heart of American Coup.  How to bring the story alive.  So I had to hire good, experienced archival researchers to help me find the best footage and stills of the time period.  But I also wanted to bring the story up to date and to show the lingering effects of the coup on the current US-Iranian relationship.  So I did a little section on the 1979 Hostage Crisis, which many Americans are familiar with but not with the underlying reason behind it:  during the Islamic Revolution, Iranian students took Americans hostage because they feared another coup by the CIA. So that section of the film required the additional gathering of archival material. And then I finished the film with some words about the issues dividing the US and Iran today for maximum resonance with today’s audiences.

     

    I think my training at NYFA helped me in that I had gained experience in doing a short film about the Second World War and the Holocaust, which involved the same sorts of challenges – doing the research, locating archival material, finding people today with the relevant knowledge to tell the story, etc.  And, of course, in just the ins and outs of filmmaking in general, my NYFA training came in quite handily.

     

    Where has the finished film screened?

     

    American Coup screened a couple of months ago at IDFA, the big, wonderful documentary film festival in Amsterdam, and at the Starz Denver Film Festival, another terrific festival, where I got to meet a lot of great filmmakers.  As a result of appearances at those festivals, programmers at other film festivals have requested my film for screening so the film may well screen elsewhere. 

     

    In addition, Mercury Media out of London is representing the film and hoping to bring a slightly shorter version into various TV markets around the world. 

     

    What comes next?

     

    I’m actually working on two other projects right now.  I’ve started to do some shooting in Italy on one project and hope to raise some additional funds for it.  And the other project is another historical piece that’s in research and development.  Unfortunately, I can’t really talk about either project in greater detail at the present time…but maybe down the road if you’re still interested 😉

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 26, 2011 • Acting • Views: 5433

  • New York Film Academy Music Video Debuts on Rolling Stone!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Rolling Stone Magazine

    New York Film Academy MFA Graduate Richard (Rick) Greenwood originally approached LA based punk rock band Living Dead Lights about using song “To All The Youth” for his NYFA thesis film Hinnon Valley. The group agreed to let Rick use the song as long he also created a music video for the band. The completed video, Living Dead Lights: To All The Youth debuted on Rolling Stone Magazine online this month. It will also be showing in rotation on Yahoo Music and launching on MTV Europe and Virgin TV Italy as the band kicks off a European tour.

    “Along with some of my fellow NYFA alumni we did the video,” says director Rick Greenwood. “It It was a great experience because the band was so excited about the video. They came and gave 100% every take all day – the energy was contagious.”

    To All The Youth Music Video, Directed by NYFA Grad Rick Greenwood

    The New York Film Academy heavy crew included Director/Cinematographer/Producer/Editor Rick Greenwood (NYFA MFA Grad Dec 2010), Director of Photography Nick DeRuve (NYFA MFA – current student), Assistant Camera Operator Fernanda Rivero (NYFA MFA Grad Dec 2010) and Gaffer Mohnish Saraswat (NYFA MFA Grad Dec 2010).

    When interviewed by Rock Rebel Magazine about the music video, Rocker guitarist Alan Damien commented, “The support we’ve had from the fans has been unbelievable so far.”

    zombie character Hinnon Valley

    A zombie character from Rick’s thesis film Hinnon Valley

    As for Rick’s zombie thesis film Hinnon Valley, it has also experienced success recently including showing before selected screenings of Scream 4 during opening weekend. Ron Irwin reviewed the film for the Los Angeles Examiner calling the cinematography “Oscar level” and writing “Hinnon Valley is a masterfully written, superbly directed and all around fabulously produced short.”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 25, 2011 • Acting • Views: 4915

  • New York Film Academy Graduate Rohit Gupta Nominated for Several Awards at World Music and Independent Film Festival

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy One-Year Filmmaking Graduate Rohit Gupta is back on the festival circuit with feature film Life! Camera  Action…, which has just been nominated for several awards at the upcoming 2011 World Music and Independent Film Festival in Washington, DC. The film is up for the following awards:

    •  Best Drama

    •  Best Director, Rohit Gupta

    •  Best Screenplay, Rohit Gupta & Amanda Sodhi

    •  Best Actress, Dipti Mehta

    •  Best Supporting Role, Noor Naghmi

    •  Best Supporting Role, Swati Kapila

    •  Best Original Soundtrack, Manoj Singh

     Life! Camera Action… is the journey of a young, Indian-American woman who sets off to pursue a career in filmmaking against the wishes of her family. Rohit filmed the project in ten days on a Panasonic DVX 100 with two crew-members. The project evolved from 15-minute assignment while studying at New York Film Academy.

    Cast and crew posingCast and crew pose on set

    In a recent interview, Rohit commented that he always believed in the film but that getting nominated for awards is still a “big honor.” He adds, “I thank these people for seeing what I’m seeing in [the story].”

    The film had its world premiere in November at the Mahindra Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival. It has since taken home awards including an Award of Merit at The Indie Fest 2010 and Award of Excellence at the Accolade Film Awards 2010. The film was invited to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts South Asian Film Series and IFF 2011 – Tampa Bay, Florida.

    Rohit previously screened NYFA short film Another Day Another Life at several film festivals internationally.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 25, 2011 • Acting • Views: 5579

  • New York Film Academy Students Premiere New Web Series

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    When nine students in a New York Film Academy acting class met this past September, there was an immediate chemistry between them. The students, who were all passionate about helping further each others careers and getting opportunities to collaborate outside class, came up with new web series Losing Ground.

    Losing Ground follows 12 young people from all over the globe tackling relationships, careers, and belief systems in the city. Though the show only premiered this past week, the pilot has already had almost 1000 views in three days! New York Film Academy took the opportunity to catch up with the creators (all current NYFA students), including Producer Liana Afuni and Writer Tom Machell.

    Losing Ground

    Where did the idea for Losing Ground come from?

    The idea for this web-series started as a result of wanting to involve all nine class members that were a part of a September Acting Conservatory Program at The New York Film Academy in New York. The nine of us had such incredible chemistry as an ensemble, and we were all passionate to help each other further our careers. We worked on a lot of improvisational work in our Acting Technique class led by John Desiderio. John always said that in all of his years of teaching, he has never seen such a group work so well together. Once we knew that we wanted to develop a web-series, we approached John and asked him if he’d be interested in directing it for us. As a result of that, a lot of the scenes in this series are based off of improvisational work. The ideas for some of the stories are a result of collaborative input from members of the cast. The ideas were taken and further developed by our screenwriter (and current NYFA student), Tom Machell.

    We were thinking up themes for a web-series that would resonate with people of our age (18-25), which is that of “identity crisis” – Hence, the name “Losing Ground” which is synonymous to a loss of identity or a crisis. We all come from different backgrounds, and wanted to use that as part of our stories. We are not fabricating our nationalities in this series, everyone is sticking true to their native background. We used our backgrounds to our advantage, which further aided some characters in Losing Ground.

    How did the rest of the cast and crew get involved?

    As we developed the series, the nine of us needed additional cast members to complete some of our stories. This led to us casting three additional primary parts. Since this idea was started by NYFA acting students, we utilized other NYFA students for additional roles.

    Our director, John Desiderio is a faculty member at NYFA. He instructed September Section F for Acting Technique. When we presented him with the idea of starting a web-series, he was totally on board and has been a critical element to the entire project.

    How has the process of actually filming the series been?

    The process of filming the series, as is any project in life, has its ups and downs. Fortunately though we fostered a positive energy and understanding among our cast and crew that has allowed us to overcome some of our difficulties. The New York Film Academy has been incredibly supportive – special thanks to Acting Chair Glenn Kalison for taking an interest in the project and providing us with the necessary equipment for shooting.

    The one crucial factor, aside from support, that has allowed us to continue with this project is the dedication of all those involved. The cast members who are not due to shoot on a particular day are called in as helpers on set. Our process is immensely collaborative. The glue that holds us together is our collaboration and teamwork. Although we have delegated tasks to specific people, we still reach out to each other for help, solutions and ideas.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 20, 2011 • Acting • Views: 4701

  • New York Film Academy Acting Graduate Growing an Impressive Resume in Italy

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Jacopo Sarno

    New York Film Academy four week acting workshop graduate Jacopo Sarno, has been growing an impressive resume since returning to Italy. Jacopo recently played a main role in Italian Christmas comedy A Natale Mi Sposo. The film was released throughout Italy and beat Harry Potter in sales before Christmas. He is now shooting TV series Non Smettere di Sognare, which he describes as “Glee in Italian.” Jacopo plays the guitarist of a band on the show, which will air weekly on Canale5 National TV.

    Non Smettere di Sognare

    Outside his film and television appearances, Jacopo did voice overs at a 3D Expo in the Roman Forum last month celebrating 150 years of the Italian Unity. He also wrote, sang and produced the song “This Is Christmas”, which has been selling well on iTunes. All proceeds are donated to an association that gives medical care to children in Madagascar.

    What does Jacopo hope to do next? “I’m trying to find a way to come back to NYFA. I would really love to attend [another] program and work hard to improve my skills.”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 14, 2011 • Acting • Views: 4437

  • New York Film Academy Graduate Michael Pfleghar Directing Commercials in Norway

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Michael Pfleghar“At New York Film Academy, the classrooms feel like production offices.”

    – Michael Pfleghar, graduate of New York Film Academy

    Michael Pfleghar enrolled in New York Film Academy’s twelve-week evening filmmaking course in 2004. He now directs two films a month for a production company in Norway including commercials for web and television. Read what Michael had to say about his experiences in the industry since graduating from New York Film Academy.

    How did you first choose New York Film Academy?

    I wanted to direct since I was very young, probably 8 years old. I already had some experience working as a gaffer back home in Norway and thought it was time to go to film school after working for many years in the business. So I googled film school, and NYFA popped up. I always loved California so it was an easy choice.

     Michael Pfleghar directing a photoshoot

    Michael directs an actress on a photoshoot

    What was your final short film about? 

    My thesis film was called Fastfinger. It was a short with no sound shot on the arriflex 16mm. The film was a western, but with cell phones instead of guns. The characters had a duel and the one who managed to call the woman in the bar first won.

    Was your education at New York Film Academy helpful in getting a job after graduation?

    Well, just the name NYFA in Universal Studios looks very good on paper. I already had some contacts in the business from working as a gaffer in Norway. I called some of the producers I knew and showed them my New York Film Academy short.

    It did take a while before someone actually gave me a chance to direct a small budget commercial. It started off with intern movies for companies. Then web commercials. And in the end, finally a commercial for television. After I did one commercial on television, it started rolling. I am now signed to a production company in Norway and shooting 1-2 films a month.

     Michael Pfleghar directing a project in Norway

    Michael directs a project in Norway

    Are you working on your own projects outside of commercials?

    I am working on a comedy script right now. I have been working on it for 6 years. I am still working on getting it financed. I already got some of the money I need but these things can take forever. That is probably the project I am most proud of – I just haven’t made it yet.

    What advice do you have for someone considering a program at New York Film Academy?

    Do it. You meet and work with great people and open-minded teachers who provide good influence on your student films. The classrooms feel like production offices and not classrooms.

    It’s always nice to have experience from the business before starting film school, but at New York Film Academy you learn really quickly from day one in a hands-on environment. That is the best training, and NYFA gives you exactly that!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 5, 2011 • Acting • Views: 8842

  • Chord Overstreet: From New York Film Academy to Glee

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Chord Overstreet is the new heartthrob of primetime TV.

    Sam Evans and Quinn Fabray

    Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) and Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) sing a duet on Glee

    Chord, who stars as Sam Evans on ABC’s Glee, has broken into the industry with his singing, dancing, and “trouty mouth” as Glee characters Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron) and Santana Lopez (NYFA Screenwriting alum Naya Rivera) vie for his heart.

    Photo of Chord Overstreet

    Chord Overstreet received his training in September 2008 at New York Film Academy’s Four Week Acting Workshop. He is now slated to star with Ashley Green (Twilight) in the soon to be released A Warrior’s Heart. Says Chord on his recent success and all the fans that come with Glee: “I just don’t know what to expect, you know? It’s going to be fun though.”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 4, 2011 • Acting • Views: 7450

  • Clark Gable’s Grandson: New York Film Academy Helped Me Build My Confidence

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Clark James Gable III, grandson of Clark Gable

    Clark James Gable III is on the horizon of making it big. The 22-year-old actor is the grandson of legendary Gone with the Wind actor Clark Gable, once nicknamed “The King of Hollywood.” A spitting image of his celebrated actor Grandfather, Clark is now making his move into the Hollywood spotlight, appearing in a layout in the April issue of Los Angeles Magazine.

    Clark James Gable poses in front of an illustration of actor grandfather Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

    Clark, who received his training at the New York Film Academy, took at minute to catch up with the NYFA blog between photo-shoots, auditions, and prep for his feature film shooting abroad.  Check out what Clark had to say about New York Film Academy, his upcoming projects, and living with a famous name in Hollywood.

    Clark, how did you first get involved with the New York Film Academy?

    A friend I met through my manager knew Jean Sherlock, Director of New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles location.  After hearing about the program for a month, Jean invited me to visit the New York Film Academy and audit classes. It was amazing. By the end of the day, I had enrolled in a four-week acting for film workshop.

    How was the experience?

    The classes were phenomenal, especially acting for film and audition technique. In a short time, I learned a lot about myself. I also learned how to interpret what’s behind the text.

    Had you already been auditioning prior to enrolling in the academy?

    I’ve always modeled and been in front of cameras.  Acting, outloud, is completely different and I felt I needed courses in order to move ahead.   I had gone on several auditions but the New York Film Academy helped me gain confidence and feel more positive in an audition room. I am able to focus and not worry as much in an audition, and I have booked several projects as a result.

    Clark in an ad for Converse

    That’s terrific! What are the projects?

    I am one of the leads on a surf show pilot filming in Malibu. It is a hybrid docuseries about two rival surf shops. My character works in the surf shop Clout, which I actually worked in growing up. That helped me get into character quickly. The improv classes I took at New York Film Academy also helped me learn how to be natural in an improv situation wherein producers and director expected me to take a lead.

    And you are filming abroad as well?

    Yes, for a feature I just booked. I will spend 4-6 weeks filming abroad. I play a lead character hoping to propose to his girlfriend overseas.  When my little brother tags along to document the trip for a college project things start to go terribly wrong.

    Are you stopping classes to film?

    I actually completed the four-week New York Film Academy workshop and loved it so much that I enrolled in the twelve-week evening acting for film workshop. I will go on hiatus to film the feature abroad but will be returning to classes at the New York Film Academy immediately when I get back.

    Wow, you are busy. Any other projects you are working on?

    I’m filming a documentary called Finding Gable that traces my footsteps through the acting career I am just starting. I am finding out more about the lineage of my grandfather and the impact he made on people’s lives and in film history. The New York Film Academy has been incredibly supportive, providing consultation on the story and equipment for the project. Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to move forward. We hope to complete the documentary by September 2012.

    Any advice you have for our readers or prospective students?

    Be open and committed to anything the New York Film Academy throws at you. Get out of your head and just try to leave your comfort zone.  It’s an amazing program. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do the audition for the feature without New York Film Academy.  I was able to build my confidence, learn direction and, in this case, make the character my own, which the Director noticed and loved.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    April 1, 2011 • Acting • Views: 8354

  • Former NFL Player Simeon Rice shows New York Film Academy Short Film at Gasparilla International Film Festival

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Former NFL player Simeon Rice, 37, is breaking into a new industry after taking a year long film-making program with the New York Film Academy. Simeon, who stimulated NFL defensive lines for more than a decade including playing in the Superbowl, decided to attend New York Film Academy’s program at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and try his hand at directing. His short film When I was King showed this past week in the Gasparilla International Film Festival. Says Simeon on his decision to direct a film:

    “I think in 3-D already. I already thought in motion pictures. That’s where it all came from, visual stimulation.”

    Simeon wrote, cast and directed the film. Comments actress Cara Picton, “It was a very professional shoot. you don’t always get that with new filmmakers. Simeon knew how to steer us in the right direction.”

    Photo of Simeon Rice

    Jokes Simeon Rice, “I loved football. That’s my true love. This [filmmaking] is my mistress.”

    What’s up next for Simeon? “My next film is a Zombie film. It’ll be crazy entertaining…It’s about a town that runs out of water. It’s called ‘Thirst.’”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    March 31, 2011 • Acting • Views: 4516

  • Two Time Emmy Nominee and Grey’s Anatomy/West Wing Producer Debora Cahn Visits New York Film Academy

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Debora Cahn

    “You have zero control over if you are talented. You just have control over how hard you work. Don’t wait to be inspired.” – Debora Cahn

    Students at New York Film Academy New York had the pleasure of listening to an unscripted conversation between two time Emmy nominee Debora Cahn and NYFA Producing School Chair Anita Tovich on March 24, 2011. Debora, who has been a Producer and Writer on Grey’s Anatomy, The West Wing, and Private Practice, spoke very candidly about the nature of working in television versus film, the environment while working on a top series, and ways to break into the industry.

    Says Debora, who began in acting and turned to writing when she was frustrated with the lack of good female roles, “You have zero control over if you are talented. You just have control over how hard you work. Don’t wait to be inspired.” Debora explained to students that it is less important to write five good pages and more important to write five pages. Students asking how to get a job in the industry were told, “no one wants to give you a break – they want to give you a job.”

    Debora elaborated on the topic explaining that students at the New York Film Academy have an incredible opportunity to make product now. She included that since almost everyone has a phone that records video footage, there is no reason why students should strive to always be making a new project – lucky for the New York Film Academy students they make eight short films in one year!

    Debora gave the actors advice including never change the words of a script at a television audition as the writer is often in the room. She also gave the writers advice including go into television instead of film. Said Debora, “When your pilot is picked up you are the CEO of a 300 person company and you are overseeing an entire series. When your film script is complete, it could take over ten years to see any footage.” Her other big advice for the producers and writers in the room? Move to LA. (Tip: enroll in your second year at New York Film Academy Los Angeles to get a chance to network on both coasts!)

    New York Film Academy was lucky to have Debora Cahn visit the academy. Follow @nyfa on Twitter for more news on upcoming guests!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    March 25, 2011 • Acting • Views: 6216