jeannejoe
Author archives

  • It’s Happy Hunting for New York Film Academy BFA Student Connor Williams

    Connor Williams has truly hit the ground running in Los Angeles, not only booking a lot of professional work as an actor but also keeping up with his studies in the intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA program in Acting for Film. It’s a schedule that would certainly prove challenging for anyone, yet Williams shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

    With his strong supporting role in feature horror flick Happy Hunting newly released on Netflix — along with his supporting role in indie feature The UnMiracle — Williams found some time to tell the NYFA Blog some of the secrets behind the hard work, dedication, and talent that go into the blistering pace of his life in acting for film.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film BFA program?

    CW: I had made a feature film heading into my senior year of high school. Relativity Film School reached out to me and offered me a full tuition scholarship, which was great, but I turned it down. I was just really unsure what I wanted to do after high school, and college was not in the plans. I then informed my parents of my plan that I was going to work full time in Utah (where my agent was located) and audition for smaller parts when movies came to town. They thought maybe I was making a mistake, so they asked me to reconsider. I called the school back about two weeks later to see if the scholarship was still good. They said it was, but in the meantime I had a buddy that was in my feature film Spoilers move to LA, and his place was right across the street from NYFA. I looked into NYFA, filled out the app, sent them my reel, and overall just had a better vibe with everyone at NYFA, so I decided to go there.

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to pursue this craft?

    CW: I booked a commercial as a baby. …When I watched the videotape of the commercial years later, I told my parents I always wanted to be a actor. My dad did some networking, and two weeks later I had booked a part in a feature film. I was two-for-two for auditions! …

    When I was 10 years old, my dad realized he was waiting for people to do projects, so he paid for a two-day film camp. My brother Aidan and I learned how to shoot, light, boom, and edit. My dad would write these two-minute scripts for us, and we would do the rest. We won some awards, money, and prizes, which kept us motivated. From then on, I knew I wanted to make movies or act.

    3 semesters down. 6 more to go 😎

    A post shared by Connor Williams (@the_connor_williams) on

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us so far?

    CW: The very first semester our class was obviously all new, and we rented a limo bus and took it around LA. That was fun. And I really enjoyed shooting an episode from Friends [in class]. Not only is it my favorite show, but I also worked with Isabella Hoffman, who is a great director, and did this with a bunch of my NYFA friends. It was a real fun shoot.

    Regarding moments, I have really clicked with a couple of teachers that really care about my auditions and want to help and guide me. That’s been pretty cool. We will break down the sides and make choices.

    I’ve always lived with NYFA students and it’s been great meeting people from all across the U.S. and abroad. I just got done with my voice-over class and just made a VO reel, which I’m really happy with.

    One other thing about NYFA classes: before I came here I had never taken an acting class, so this has really helped me understand the process so much better.

    My favorite thing about NYFA is all the connections I’m making. My classmates will always be my friends forever. I actually call them family.

    NYFA: You’ve been working professionally while also balancing your full-time studies at NYFA Los Angeles. What does that look like for you?

    CW: … At the beginning I would get an audition and go. Now, my manager and agent have my schedule and I ask them not to schedule an audition during class time. I can’t afford to miss class for an audition. You only get so many missed days and then your grade is dropped. I need to save those days for when I book something.

    NYFA: What is your advice to your fellow students for finding a balance between the intensive schedule at NYFA, and beginning to build your resume in the wider industry?

    CW: I would do the opposite of me. Just come here, do your school work, get involved, and learn the craft. The gigs will be there when you graduate.

    I would suggest that on the days off, go do background work on film and television. While on those sets, watch and listen, and when you go back to NYFA it will make a little bit more sense. Take it slow.

    Just by coming here, you will have an awesome reel before you leave. The talent here is crazy. Your game will go up just by being here.

    NYFA: Tell us a bit about your work in Happy Hunting. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?

    CW: It was weird how fast that happened. I drove in from Idaho and had an audition set up for Happy Hunting through Actors Access. We get to LA with the car jam packed with all my junk, and we don’t have time to go to my new apartment and chill. We went straight to the audition. I remember thinking, “This traffic is insane and I really wish I had time to clean up and not so be rushed!”

    So I go in there, sign in and take a seat, and I really wanted to focus. Right when I sat, they call me in. I do my lines and they ask me to do it again. To me, that’s always a good sign. I leave the room tell my parents it went great, they remind me this is LA, not Idaho or Utah, and not to stress about it.

    We were finally driving to my new apartment and my phone rings. It was the Happy Hunting gang and they asked if I would turn around and read for a bigger part. I did, and I got the gig!

    I’m not sure what the record is but I feel like I have it: I was literally in LA less than 10 minutes before I booked my first feature film! We shot in Barstow and the Salton Sea. My part shot for nine days. What I didn’t know at the time was that the co-writer/director is Mel Gibson’s son, Louie. He just wanted to be one of the guys. I respect him for that.

    NYFA: Happy Hunting has just released on  Netflix — congrats! How does that feel?

    CW: It feels pretty awesome. …

    The UnMiracle with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin is also on Netflix. I got that part by skyping my audition and a callback from my bedroom in Idaho, and we shot that in Chicago. I actually shot that while in high school, but it was held up for whatever reason and got released about six months ago.

    NYFA: What have you learned that has surprised you the most in your NYFA studies?

    CW: First off, the teachers care about us. They want us to succeed. I have a teacher that helps me all the time with my auditions. It’s intensive but fun.

    NYFA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?

    CW: The feature film Regionrat, where I play the lead, is now hitting the festival circuit. So far so good, as we just won the Chandler Film Festival for Best Feature! I flew out there for that. It has also won Best Feature at Barcelona Planet Film Festival, Festigious Film Festival and Best Ensemble at Festigious.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    CW: With Regionrat I have won Best Actor at the London Independent Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival and Stars Hollywood Film Festival. I was up for a fourth but didn’t win.

    I’m also up for Breakout Performer and Best Actor in a Feature at the First Glance Film Festival. Regionrat plays at that festival March 10 at 8 p.m. in North Hollywood. I guess I’m seeing what happens to me and this film … but I really think 2018 is going to be a great year for me.

    Congratulations, Connor! Thank you for sharing some of your story with the NYFA Blog.

  • New York Film Academy Board Member Matthew Modine Opens Full Metal Diary Photo Exhibit at Axiom Contemporary

    NYFA Board member and award-winning actor Matthew Modine has opened a photography exhibit, Full Metal Diary, at Axiom Contemporary in Santa Monica.

    Fresh from a record-breaking showing at the 23rd Annual LA Art Show, Modine’s works share an extraordinary, nuanced, and intimate view into life on the set of renowned director Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

    Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the film is known as a classic, and Modine’s photography offers a behind-the-scenes experience of artistic collaboration.

    In black and white images captured in 1987, Modine’s Full Metal Diary shows the scale and also the intimacy of life on set, where he collaborated as a young actor with a true cinematic master for two years.

    In fact, it was Kubrick himself who suggested that Modine keep a “diary” of his experiences portraying the iconic role of Private Joker. Now the public can enjoy Modine’s intimate access to the famously private director as well as his unique perspective on Full Metal Jacket.

    Axiom Contemporary will hold an artist reception with Matthew Modine Friday, Feb. 23 from 6-9 p.m. For further info, contact: Mark Matkevich – mark@axiomcontemporary.com.

    February 21, 2018 • Acting, Community Highlights, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 663

  • New York Film Academy Alum is Cosette in Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables

    If music is the universal language, than New York Film Academy (NYFA) Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre grad Laís Lenci is becoming a universal performer. From Brazil to New York to Mexico City, the triple-threat singer/dancer/actress is now performing in triple languages. In March, Lais will star as Cosette while also performing in the ensemble for Cameron Mackintosh’s Spanish-language production of international smash-hit Les Miserables, in Mexico City.

    We caught up with the busy performer to hear about her experience working with one of theatre’s most renowned producers in one of the world’s favorite musicals. We’re sure you’ll be as impressed as we are: Lais has worked with Cameron Mackintosh not once, but twice — and in two languages, neither of which is her mother tongue!

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Laís: My name is Laís Lenci, I’m 24 years old and I’m a Brazilian actress, singer, and dancer. I decided to live in New York to study musical theatre, specifically, because I felt that something was missing in my background as an artist. I wanted to improve and learn things that in Brazil just couldn’t be taught.

    A friend of mine saw a NYFA’s audition advertisement and said, “You should try it!” The same week, I scheduled my audition — and received the greatest news that I would be studying at NYFA the next year! That was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my whole life.

    NYFA: Why Musical Theatre? What inspires you most as a performer?

    Laís: Well, I started dancing when I was three years old and I always enjoyed being on stage. At the age of nine I started taking acting classes and the singing came a bit later.

    When I saw the Disney production of Beauty and the Beast in Brazil I was still a kid, but I was certain that I wanted to become a musical theatre performer. I think that dancing, the singing, and acting become more powerful together. I feel that they can really connect to the audience and touch their souls in a very special way. That’s really inspiring to me.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    Laís: I have many! But if I can point out one, it should be my last performance at our graduation showcase. When I finished my last note, I felt that I was finally ready to share my art with the world. And that was a very special moment to me.

    NYFA: What surprised you the most during your training? Was there anything you hadn’t expected to learn or do?

    Laís: I just didn’t know that I was capable of learning so much in only one year. I felt that I grew up as a person and as an artist, 10 years in one.

    I hadn’t expected to do such great and tough scenes during Meisner Classes. I had no idea that there was so much inside of me, emotionally speaking, and that I was going to be able to express all of that during my scenes. It proved me that, with the correct training, I could become a great actress.

    NYFA: You’re gearing up for a March premier of Les Misérables in Mexico City with Cameron Mackintosh, one of the most famous theatrical producers in the world. Can you tell us a bit about how this opportunity came about for you?

    Laís: Yes I am, and that’s very exciting! Two years ago I auditioned in Brazil for Cameron Machintosh’s Les Misérables. After a very exhausting six months of auditions and waiting, I had the great answer that I’d be a part of the cast.

    We did a one-year run in Brazil. By the end of the year I got a call from the producers, asking me to send in an audition tape for their next production of Les Miserables around the world. I sent it, and a month later they called me back to tell me that I got cast again, but this time I would be doing the show in Mexico City, singing in Spanish — which is not my mother language. A brand new experience!

    NYFA: How are rehearsals going?

    Laís: Rehearsals are going really well! It’s very interesting to do the same show but with a whole new team of directors, new cast, new language, new country. Many things have changed in my track as well and it’s very challenging. It’s also an exhausting period, as every musical’s rehearsals are. It’s the moment when we just can’t waste our energy and time with anything else but the show. We need to be 100% committed to the piece!

    NYFA: Cosette is a very vocally challenging role. For our students, do you have any tips and advice on how to prepare and sustain a tough vocal performance over a run with many, many shows?

    Laís: Cosette is a hard one, because there are a few specific high notes that you have to be fully vocally healthy to do perfectly. And I’m also a member of the ensemble, doing eight shows per week. My challenge is to sing all the ensemble songs (the poor, the lovely ladies) that are all very belted and powerful, and still be ready and not vocally tired when I go on as Cosette — who is the only legit female singing role in the whole show.

    My advice is to rest as much as you can when you’re not doing the show. Take care of your voice and your body’s health. Take voice lessons even when you are in a run. It’s really important to always be working with a vocal professional that you trust.

    And be kind to your instrument. Don’t push. Don’t force your vocal chords when you are not feeling okay. We need to know our limits, and know how far we can go, to be able to sing for three hours and still be healthy for a whole week of work.

    NYFA: How has working with Cameron Mackintosh helped you grow as a performer?

    Laís: What really impresses me about Cameron is that he’s the greatest Musical Theatre producer in the world, he has a huge team working with him, and still, he’s fully involved with all the shows he’s opening around the world. He always comes a few days before opening night to make sure that everything will be just perfect. He’s also a very humble man and a real gentleman.

    It’s such an honor that I’ve been cast twice by Cameron himself. His success is a response to the love that he puts into his work and his shows.

    That’s what I want to achieve in life. I think that greatness only comes when we are fully committed to our work and when we truly love what we do.

    NYFA: You’ve traveled from Brazil to New York, and now to Mexico City as a performer. As an international student and artist, what has been your greatest challenge? What advice would you give to your fellow international performers?

    Laís: I do love challenges, and I’m very moved by them. I think that the biggest challenge is to be away from my family and friends. Sometimes you want your mother’s hug and you just can’t have it. But that’s also a part of our profession. We go where we have work.

    My advice is to be brave and embrace the challenges — they make us grow, they make us better people. Stick to your character and your personal ethic. Stay strong to your beliefs and never give up on your dreams! They do come true for those who work hard and have love and gratitude in their hearts.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    Laís: I just want to say that I’m so thankful for everything that NYFA has offered me as an artist and as a person. I will never forget everything I lived there, and that I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken the decision of moving to NYC to study at NYFA.

    Thank you for trusting my talent and for changing me for good! I miss every second of my experience with you and wish all the success in the world to all the students! I’m pretty sure they are all in the best hands of NYC!

     

  • Netflix’s First Team: Juventus Edited by New York Film Academy Doc Alum & Instructor

    What’s it really like to play for one of the most successful football (or soccer, for my fellow Americans) teams in the European League? Beginning Feb. 16 you can find out, when Netflix’s First Team: Juventus, drops. We’ll be tuning in to see the work of New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking alum and instructor Andrea “Fuma” Fumagalli, who edits the series.

    “With Fuma’s editing and storytelling chops, he’s a natural for a world class project like this,” says NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift. “I think you’ll agree his work is both exciting and masterful. He’s also a very talented weekend football (soccer) player, and a huge Juventus fan. It would be hard to get closer to finding your dream job.”
    Andrea Fumagalli came to New York City from Italy to attend NYFA’s Documentary Conservatory program, graduating in 2008. His work has been so successful that he returned as an Instructor a few years later. Fuma has kept quite busy as an editor, cinematographer, and photographer, with credits including Moving On, Le bambine di Calcutta cresconoLa Casa Bianca, dozens of films for Canon and Rai and, now, Netflix’s First Team: Juventus.

    The Netflix Original Series promises to offer a fresh new angle on the famous Italian team as it takes viewers behind-the-scenes, exposing the personal and professional pressures faced by the players.

    Owned by the same family that controls Fiat, the Angielli family, Juventus claims an impressive legacy. Not only do they hold the most Italian championships, with an official 33 wins (though two were revoked), but Juventus has also boasted some of the world’s most lauded players, from Michel Platini to current forward Paulo Bruno Exequiel Dybala (who Messi wants to steal for Barcelona).

    Get ready for the world cup this year with the inside story behind one of the world’s biggest teams. Congratulations, Andrea!

  • New York Film Academy Alum Sapra Drops Love Trumps Drugs Music Video

    At the New York Film Academy, we are big believers in the idea that understanding all different aspects filmmaking offers a huge advantage for aspiring artists — an advantage that can pave the way to all kinds of creative successes. NYFA Cinematography Conservatory grad Sapra (2009) is living proof that being able to approach the entertainment industry from multiple angles is sure to come in handy. The dynamic artist is many things — rapper, actor, director, producer, cinematographer — and now he has just dropped his own music video, Love Trumps Drugs.

    Sapra took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog to speak about his experience making his own music video, and what it’s like to forge a truly unique path as a multi hyphenate artist.

    NYFA: First can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Sapra: I was born in New Delhi, India, and started playing instruments as a kid. I was auditioned for a theater show randomly when I was bunking a class and that got me a lead part in a big theater production. That started my acting career. I got a taste of what it feels like to be in front of 5,000 people at an early age and I got addicted to the fun of performing. I remember while all of my school friends were studying in seventh standard and I was touring with my high school all over India. So I got to skip the classes!

    In college, I was a theater performer, emcee and an event manager. I had my own event management company called Beyond Exclamation. This was in my first year of college. After doing a lot of that, I wasn’t able to really reach out to millions of people, I was performing for thousands. So the yearning to learn film got me to NYFA. I started with studying film and cinematography, and then ventured into acting for film.

    After graduating from NYFA, I directed and produced multiple music videos for other artists, and I also directed and acted in PSAs. NYFA gave me a kick start in Los Angeles

    NYFA: Love Trumps Drugs is very polished, romantic, and high-energy music video. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the music and the story?

    Sapra: I see the youth involved in all kinds of substance and I also see adults fancying the use of marijuana. I had a personal encounter where female friends of mine would use marijuana and become delusional and act weird. I also saw a lot of my talented friends leaving back for their country get involved in things they should have stayed out of.

    What I found common in all of them was abuse of such drugs. I saw people who were more talented than me giving up because the drug made them weaker. So I thought of an interesting way to entertain youth and suggest my thoughts. I am not being judgmental about the usage of marijuana in my video, however, I am suggesting a fact.

    NYFA: What surprised you most during the music video shoot?

    Sapra: The steady cam guy did not show up, so I had to find someone on the day of. I was the producer on this so it was a challenge juggling multiple things and keeping everyone happy.

    What also surprised me was the amount of money and time one has to spend to make each frame look good. Also one has to be spontaneous for last-minute story changes.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges in creating this music video, and how did you overcome them?

    Sapra: Budget was a challenge. What we wanted was not cheap. Our financier backed out two days before the shoot, so I had to take out a loan. The rest was easy as I had a great team.

    NYFA: What advice would you share with our NYFA students who want to produce their own music and music video?

    Sapra: Los Angeles is a producer’s paradise — you can make anything happen here! You can work with the best of the best people and teams if you hang tight. The best part is that it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. What matters is whether you are ready to put in the work.

    My agent, Jon of JS Represents, says Los Angeles is a one-way move. Once you are here, get financially stable first. Make this your home and keep on your career, and you will find yourself where you want to be. The industry will cast you when they are ready for you in their time. So hang tight and don’t give yourself a time limit.

    NYFA: What is next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    Sapra: I am looking for distribution for my next music video Coco, which is my favorite of all. I filmed it in Mammoth. I have produced the video and it’s directed by my decade-old friend AB Chandra.

    I have two more videos in pre-production and a series I am casting for — and guess what? All this with no financial support from anyone!

    NYFA taught me in the beginning: DIY (do it yourself). I have the best mentors and team in the world. I am the lead actor/rapper and producer in all the productions.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at the New York Film Academy was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    Sapra: Yes, NYFA taught me a lot. They supported me after completion of my course. They had great follow up. Dan Mackler, Michael Pessah, and Kirill guided me throughout my stay at NYFA.

    NYFA gave me a jump start and gave an overall understanding of Hollywood and filmmaking in general. Doing multiple projects and finding ways to make them happen without any resources is a part of the great training one can get from NYFA. You can be the best writer, actor, or director, but if you don’t consistently produce your content you may not be seen for years in the industry. That’s what NYFA taught me.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Sapra on his exciting music video launch. Check out Love Trumps Marijuana, Coco, and more from Sapra, coming soon!

  • WWF Features New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Valentine Rosado in Annual Report


    With 2017 the third hottest year on record, climate change and environmental conservation have become trending topics. Yet for conservationists like biologist and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Valentine Rosado, the important work to protect the planet is an ongoing, lifelong commitment.

    After returning from his studies at NYFA New York City through a Professional Development Grant from World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program (EFN), Rosado recently launched environmental consulting firm Grassroots Belize with his wife Angie in his home country of Belize.

    Now, Rosado and his work are featured in WWF’s Russell E. Train Education for Nature Annual Report.

    “Guadalupe Valentine Rosado, a biologist from Belize, received a Professional Development Grant to attend a six-week documentary filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy,” the WWF Report states. “He is using the skills learned in the workshop to create impactful and educational films about environmental issues facing Belize, such as mangrove reforestation and restoration.”

    With the WWF’s annual membership reaching upwards of 5 million, it’s exciting to see that news of Rosado’s incredible conservation work for Belize has reached such a wide audience, and that what he’s learned at New York Film Academy’s Documentary School has contributed to his important work in Belize.

    “Conservation endures as a living discipline because it is inhabited by a magnificent collection of people,” WWF President & CEO Carter Roberts states on their website. “Only by working together can we create solutions to the most vexing problems we face.”

    We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Valentine! We look forward to seeing what’s next for Grassroots Belize. You can learn by connecting with Valentine and following Grassroots Belize on Facebook.

  • 2 New York Film Academy Grads Premier Films at 2018 Winter Film Awards

    New York City’s Winter Film Awards International Film Festival will feature the short films of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) grads in its seventh season, beginning Feb. 22. NYFA Los Angeles grad Tamara Ruppart screens Path of Dreams, a love story based on the life of Japanese poet Ono No Komachi, while NYFA New York grad Joseph Park premiers Inner Glow, a surreal journey of self-discovery and freedom following a troubled young woman in the clouds. More details from the Winter Film Awards, below:

    Path of Dreams

    Directed by NYFA Alum Tamara Ruppart

    Short, from Japan, in Japanese, 25 mins, 2017

    Screening Sunday Feb. 25, Block 10: 9:15 PM-11:45 PM     

    Path of Dreams TRAILER from Kotaro Mori on Vimeo.

     

    In poetic Japan, Komachi strikes a tantalizing bargain with suitor Shosho. If he agrees to write poetry with her for 99 nights, she promises they will create a love more beautiful than poetry. Every day he must ride to her home, and when the sun sets on the 99th night she will take him as her lover. For 98 nights, they journey through poetry, exploring their hearts and minds, as their love and desire grow in anticipation. On the 99th night, Komachi joyfully awaits her lover. But as she watches the sun set, Komachi moves from disappointment to anger, until a sense of mystery fills the stillness in the air, and heartbreak takes hold of her heart. In her grief, she will carry Shosho with her as she walks the path of dreams.

    Inner Glow

    Directed by NYFA Alum Joseph Park

    Short, from United States in English, 11 mins, 2017, World Premiere

    Screening Saturday Feb 24, Block 4: 3:45 PM-6:15 PM /Wednesday Feb 28, Matinee: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM    

    Skye, a troubled young woman trapped amidst the dark clouds with nothing but a window, struggles to access her power to illuminate light bulbs. After much despair and failure, Skye discovers a calling from outside, which turns out to be her clone. This encounter allows her to draw more power, and therefore, the bulbs begin to glow. However, she finds that her clone disappears, which causes the light bulbs to fade away. Skye’s only hope of freedom lies in seeking her true self and acceptance in order to bring in light again.

    The Winter Film Awards lineup will include a total of 93 films at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, and this year the festival has reported their selected filmmakers come from 31 countries; 40% of the films were created by women, 43% were created by people of color. The New York Film Academy applauds the continued work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry, and congratulates Tamara Ruppart and Joseph Park. If you’re in the city, tickets are on sale now — check out our alumni films at the Winter Film Awards. 

  • Vogue, TEDx, Paper Magazine and Celebrity Portraits With New York Film Academy Photography Alumni

    From Vogue to TEDx, it’s been a busy month for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography School alums and students alike. As 2018 picks up momentum, we couldn’t be more proud to share some truly inspiring success stories from various members of our NYFA community who have had their incredible photography work featured on major publications and thought leadership platforms.

    Samuel McKnight

    Samuel McKnight grew up in Germany and Oklahoma before following his dreams to the NYFA Los Angeles Photography Conservatory, graduating from the 1-Year Photography Program in 2017. Not much later, his photo of DJ and activist Zeke Thomas has been published in an interview in Paper Magazine.

    Monika Sedziute

    Lithuanian Fulbright scholar and NYFA graduating MFA student Monika Sedziute has worked as a photographer all over the world, from her native Lithuania to London, Spain, and New York, with work published in magazines including IKONA, L’Officiel, Elegant Magazine, Promo Magazine, Shuba Magazine, Eden Magazine, Fayn Magazine, Stilius Magazine, Zurda Magazine (online), The Wrap (online), Luxure Magazine. See more of her clients on her website.

    Most recently, the graduating MFA student’s shots of actor Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water) and actor/director Kenneth Branagh were published in Rap Mag. She has also photographed actor Waytt Oleff from the film, IT.

    Alina Grafkina

    Alina Grafkina is currently working hard as a BFA student at NYFA Los Angeles, but being a busy student didn’t hold her back from finding a home for one of her photos in the greatest fashion photography publication of all: Vogue! Her lyrical portrait titled Innocence went live on Vogue Italia in late January 2018.

    Alejandro Ibarra

    MFA alum Alejandro Ibarra nearly broke the internet when the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Metro.Co.UK, Buzzfeed and more spotlighted his NYFA class proejct, Coming Out Stories, last spring. This year, Ibarra has held a burst of editorial photoshoots with celebrities including Kick-Ass star Chloe Grace Moretz, comedian John Oliver, Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth, and Armie Hammer of Oscar-nominated film Call Me By Your Name. Check out more of his work on his website.

    Brenda Cantu

    Brenda Cantu has been up to big things since completing her BFA in Photography at NYFA Los Angeles. In a project called Midnight Memories which she began during her studies at NYFA, Cantu began to document every interaction she had with people, and made some surprising discoveries. The project evolved to become her 2016 TEDx talk, Why People Matter.

    Pamela Garcia Aguirre

    MFA grad Pamela Garcia Aguirre is a multidisciplinary artist — a photographer, filmmaker, designer, and writer — focused on a cinematic approach to moments of magic and mystery in art history, sociology, life cycles, and more. Her mystical approach is evident in her photo Thunder in Paradise, published in Vogue Italia last fall. See more of her work on her website.

    Congratulations to our busy alumni for all their awesome work!

  • Writing Home Stars Comedian and New York Film Academy Grad Tony Kelly

    Everyone wants to laugh, and for those talented and skilled enough to make an audience roll in the aisles in laughter, the world truly opens up. Such is the case for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Conservatory alum Tony Kelly, whose international comedy career has crossed continents and genres.

    Since graduating from NYFA in 2009, the Irish comedian has used his writing, performing and producing chops to carve a unique path, from BBC America’s Primeval to Canadian features Freedom and Victory, as well as recording his own solo comedy album PS I Hate You at home in Ireland.

    Up next, Kelly stars in Writing Home alongside Caoimhe O’Malley. The feature has won a warm review from Film Ireland and screens at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. Created by a truly international team of filmmakers from Ireland, Brazil, Lebanon, and Mexico, the film puts a hilarious spin on the familiar romantic comedy trope of “finding love where you least expect it. Home.” Kelly stars as Daniel Doran, a successful novelist whose self-centered life is interrupted when he reluctantly goes back to his small Irish village to help his estranged, ailing father, and has to face the bridges he burned on his way to the “top.”

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly.

    In the midst of a busy festival season, Kelly took some time to share his story with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    TK: Sure. I always knew I wanted to be involved in storytelling and performing in some way, from an early age. I had planned to leave home at 17 to go to San Francisco to try and at least start a journey after I finished school here in Ireland, but my mother was too nervous to let me go, and asked me to try college out for a year until I was at least 18. And if it wasn’t for me I had her and my dad’s blessing to go and do whatever I wanted.

    So I tried college, I went to study Business at Waterford Institute of Technology. I quickly mentally checked out, it wasn’t for me at all. The only class I put anything into was a communications class and I enjoyed giving the speeches we were tasked with handing out.

    This will sound crazy, but my friend Matt introduced me to the The Office (The UK version, the U.S. hadn’t even been made at this time), and it mesmerized me. I thought, “This is what I need to be doing.” So I dropped out of college and got a job selling cars and started saving.

    Five years later I was 23 and had some changes happen in my life. I looked at my bank account and had been lucky enough to save some good money so I decided to take the leap. I applied [to the New York Film Academy], got in, made the choice to move from Waterford, Ireland to New York City, and I’ve never looked back.

    Best decision I’ve ever made.

    NYFA: What inspired your project I Am Jeff Shanagarry?

    TK: Hahaha. Jeff Shanagarry, now there’s a thing I haven’t spoken about in a long time. You know, it’s funny, this was my first foray into on-screen comedy, having been writing comedy short stories and stuff since I was a teenager, and in some ways I’m so far removed from Jeff Shanagarry that it’s insane. But one of my teachers from NYFA, Randy Dottin, still calls me Jeff Shanagarry!

    How it came about was we were tasked to write, direct, shoot, edit and just make a short film for class at New York Film Academy. I had a penchant for acting even back then so I had been in a couple of other student shorts and was obviously going to be in my own.

    Almost everyone was making your usual melodramatic film school shorts. I didn’t wanna do that. I knew that direction I wanted to head in with my career, and used it as a jumping off point. So I made I Am Jeff Shanagarry, this mockumentary about an Irish singer coming to play a show in NYC.

    Looking at it now I cringe, but that was the precursor to my web series The Hurler, which opened up so many doors for me, and Jeff Shanagarry itself got me my start as a stand-up comic. It was being passed around by some of the students, kind of like a cult hit at the school (everyone still used DVDs in 2009!), and one of the students was taking stand-up classes in NYC. He gave it to Stephen Rosenfield, the famous comedy teacher, and he called me for a meeting and asked me would I be interested in doing stand-up. Crazy.

    NYFA: As a comic doing stand-up, web content, film, and albums, do you have a favorite format? What is your advice to NYFA students interested in doing comedy?

    TK: I was asked this question only the other day in another interview. I do love scripted comedy. On camera. I think it allows the greatest opportunity to improvise and hone what you’re doing and make it the best, and obviously you get a couple of tries to make it the best it can be and give different options.

    BUT stand-up comedy is my first love. It’s raw, it strips you down and forces you to sink or swim on the spot.

    I don’t think I could pick a favourite, I love everything that I do.

    As far as advice, I’d just say, “Get out there and do it.” We live in the Instagram world where everybody wants to attach a label to themselves to sound successful and important, nobody wants to put in the work. But the work is what separates the truly successful from the wannabes.

    Get out there and do stand-up, take improv classes, take sketch classes, get a collective or a group of like-minded friends together, and create. It’s the only way to move forward. If you wait for people to hand things to you, you’ll never get anything done.

    Tony Kelly in a still from Primeval.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about working on Primeval? What surprised you the most?

    TK: Primeval was a lot of fun. It was the first major thing I was ever really a part of. I was just after moving home to Ireland for a while from New York. I was 25, sad, depressed about being back home, and this chance came along. It was a small part but on a big budget show and did a lot for me. There are people, fans of that show, that still follow my career to this day and I’m so grateful for that initial exposure.

    As far as what surprised me the most, probably the efficiency of the work that goes into such a big project. It was a lesson in professionalism, the hard work that it takes to work at that level and the growing up I needed to do at the time. It helped me a lot and gave me a drive to keep going.

    NYFA: With your BBC America show Primeval, your Canadian films Freedom and Victory, and your original album PS, I Hate You recorded back home in Ireland, you’re truly working on the international level. What have you found most challenging working internationally?

    TK: I’ve really loved having such an international career so far. Being able to work in different places with different people allows me to offer something different and gives me experience others wouldn’t have, I suppose. But, the most difficult thing was probably neglecting my home base. I could have spent the past 9 years or so just focusing on getting my name out there in Ireland but I chose to go off and work other places and learn different things. That isolates you a little, so I’ve probably sacrificed relationships and friendships with people for that. When you’re jumping from city to city and country to country it’s hard to stay close with people and friendships and relationships suffer through that. But, my career has always comes first for me, we only get one try at this life thing so we have to keep going.

    NYFA Alum Tony Kelly as Daniel Doran in Writing Home.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    TK: Absolutely. 100%. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for NYFA. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’ve done without NYFA. I mean, I studied Screenwriting, but during the course I also studied acting, directing, editing, all aspects of the business. And if people look at my resume, what I’ve done, I’ve done a little bit of everything. I haven’t pigeonholed myself and it allows me to create my own work when I need to, which was my initial plan upon going to NYFA.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

    TK: Yes, absolutely. It’s going to be a big year for me this year.

    Last year I had my first lead role in a feature film, Writing Home. That has it’s U.S. premiere at the Chicago Irish Film Festival in March. [There may be a New York City opening soon, stay tuned!]

    I’m also working on a feature film adaptation of my award-winning web series The Hurler.

    I’ve written a comedy radio series for WLR FM here in Ireland which we’re hoping to begin work on in March.

    I’ve also written a play called The Undocumented about two illegal immigrant Irishmen living in New York City, which myself and my collaborators have just gotten some funding for back home as well. So that will hopefully be up on its feet later this year and I would love to have it on in NYC as well.

    I just hosted the New York New Works theatre festival finals in New York City back in November, and I made some contacts during that so we will see what happens there! There’s a couple of other things I’m working towards as well so this year looks like it’ll be an exciting one.

    Congratulations to Tony Kelly and the Writing Home team!

  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screens Feb. 5 in Sydney before a digital release later this month on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Now, Pillion takes some time during the busy week leading up to the film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog.

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Click here for more information — a few tickets are still available!

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink. If you’re in Sydney, check out FanForce for screening information and tickets. If you can’t make it to the Sydney screening Feb. 5, watch Far From Here on iTunes and Amazon on Valentine’s Day.