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  • Raising Suicide Prevention Awareness & Challenging Stigma With New York Film Academy Camp Alum Florence Kosky

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    Creating a film that works as a beautiful piece of art as well as a platform for an incredibly important message is a challenge, even for the most seasoned filmmakers. Yet at a very young age, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film summer camp alum and British actress/model/director Florence Kosky has brought all these elements together in her short film All The World’s a Stage.

    Motivated by the profound loss of three young friends to suicide, Florence decided to collaborate with others to “do something positive” to help “break down the stigma around suicide by provoking thought and opening up a conversation.” Through crowdfunding, she assembled what she would need to put together a visually stunning film on a shoestring budget, and in the process built an incredible team of passionate professionals who volunteered their time for a cause they believed in: raising awareness and, hopefully, saving lives. Even Olivia Colman volunteered to narrate, lending her distinct voice to a script approved by MIND and supported by the Mental Health Foundation.

    Watch All The World’s a Stage here:

    A Message from NYFA Counseling:

    This beautiful and powerful piece really portrays the distorted thinking that accompanies depression well. The main character’s belief that he has to perform and come across in a specific way in order to be loved and appreciated is a thinking trap that people struggling with depression often face. It’s incredibly difficult to have the energy and persistence to get help: often the very things that we need when we’re feeling that way are exactly what depression tells us we don’t deserve. We hope that people take away that needing support, and then getting it, is something we all deserve; that mental health IS health; and that, as a society, we can all support a change to address the stigma that depression is a weakness — and as a result, save lives.

    U.S. Resources:

    NYFA New York City Counseling Website

    NYFA Los Angeles Counseling Website

    Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/

    Text TALK to 741741

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

    1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK)

    Here, Florence shares the process and inspiration behind a truly powerful film with the NYFA Blog:

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to the NYFA Acting for Film camp?

    FK: I’m a model, actress, and filmmaker from Dorset in England. I’m now 22 and so far have got three short films under my belt as a director and two indie features as an actress. As a model I’ve worked internationally for the past five years, working for brands from Adidas to Dior. It’s pretty busy, but very fulfilling!

    I came to NYFA when I was 16, and it was because I had always loved acting and film but had never experienced the two of them together, and we couldn’t really find anywhere better than LA to go for me to do this!

    NYFA: What inspires you most about acting and film?

    FK: I think I find acting and film so inspiring because it’s an art form that is really easy for the consumer to relate to and to be moved by. To me it’s wonderful because even if the director or the actor intends one thing, the viewer can take something else from it, and that is wonderful because it gives it a universal quality.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience making All The World’s a Stage?

    FK: Making All The World’s A Stage was pretty special because it was crowdfunded, and the whole cast and crew volunteered; so it felt like there was a real cause that everyone was rallied behind and cared about. That gave the experience this really lovely focused feeling, because everyone was working their hardest to make it the best it could be because they thought it was a story that needed to be told, rather than just a job they were being paid to do.

    I found this really moving, and it made me feel very supported throughout. I think you can see in the final product that it was made by people who really cared.

    NYFA: What was it like to put the story together and shoot the film? Were there any challenges along the way in making your film, and how did you overcome them?

    FK: The story was already in place, as the script is based on a poem that my friend, Charlie Fox, wrote when we were 17 and lost a mutual friend to suicide. Her words have stuck with me since, and they really painted a picture in my mind. For the narrative, it was just a case of relaying those visuals back into words.

    I think the biggest challenge we faced was that, generally, I want to create fantastic worlds that, if they were on a bigger production, would use a lot of VFX. So it was working out how to create those same feelings on a much smaller budget.

    We used a lot of stylized lighting in an empty studio to create mood shifts and different locations — my favourite of which is the night sky in the bedroom scene, because we just used a projector and some footage we bought for around £30 from Shutterstock which is A LOT cheaper than VFX — and actually a couple of people have asked me who did the VFX for that scene, so that was really the best outcome!

    NYFA: You used crowdfunding to support this film production, and worked with MIND, the Mental Health Foundation, and Olivia Colman. That is huge! What surprised you most about that experience?

    FK: Thank you! I think the most surprising thing was that Olivia wanted to be a part of it! I and my producer, Matt Cook, had always had her [in mind] as one of our ideal voices for the narrator. So when we were coming to the end of post production, we thought we might as well try to reach out to her agent and see if she’d be interested. We sent the picture lock and the score and, incredibly, she was! I am so grateful to have worked with one of my heroes so early on in my career — it was honestly wonderful to see a master of their craft work, and I think the film would be a lot less powerful without her voice.

    NYFA: What would you most like to say to your audience about your film, and what it means?

    FK: I would just like to say thank you for watching, and if you can take anything from it, please remember that depression and mental illness can happen to anyone, no matter how perfect their lives look on the outside. Remember to be kind and to look after each other, as you never know what someone is battling with. At the end of the day, we are all each other have.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    FK: I’ve got another feature that I’m shooting as an actress this summer, which is very exciting! It’s a comedy mockumentary which is going to be super fun and nice to balance out the heaviness of my recent projects. I’m also working on the script for my first feature as a director, which hopefully should go into production next year. Keep an eye out!

    #KeepYourCrown

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  • New York Film Academy Instructor Joe Burke Releases Another Cancer Movie Indie Short

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    For many passionate filmmakers, one of the greatest challenges is bringing a film to life in spite of budgeting hurdles. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Directing instructor Joe Burke recently set a great example with how to execute a clear, enteratining, artistic vision on a shoestring budget with his newly released comedy, Another Cancer Movie. Check out his film, and his insights on indie production for NYFA students, below.

    ANOTHER CANCER MOVIE from Joe Burke on Vimeo.

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

    JB: I started out making films at a very early age. I was eight years old when I first picked up the camera, and I haven’t put it down since. I studied film and acting all growing up, and eventually went to film school in Chicago, followed by grad school at the American Film Institute in LA. Once my career began to start growing after grad school, I found myself getting to a point where I really missed the film school setting. Hollywood can be a crazy place, and a lot of the “business” side of things can unfortunately interfere with the artistic side, and it can be very frustrating. It’s very easy to lose yourself in it all. For me, it was very important to reconnect to the fundamentals of why I really wanted to be a filmmaker, to reconnect to the actual craft and art of it all. I decided to pause on my career for a moment, and shift my energy back to film school. I love being in the classroom, both as a student and as a teacher.

    I was thrilled to join the NYFA staff and teach Directing. I love teaching. I love making films. I love inspiring my students, and even more so, being inspired by them.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or memories from your time teaching with us?

    JB: I am very proud of the students I have taught. I have come across many talented young filmmakers who I see very bright futures for: it’s always inspiring to witness. I have found myself many times taken aback by the power of some of my students’ work. Those are my favorite memories.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most? What kind of stories are you most passionate to tell?

    JB: I love telling stories on film. For me, it’s all about capturing the heart and sole of people, of characters. To shed a light on both the drama and natural comedy that exists in all our lives. I love human stories that are grounded and relatable. I love making an audience truly feel something. I naturally lean towards humor, because I think a strong sense of humor is so important in life — but it has to come from an honest place. That’s why it’s funny; because it’s true.

    NYFA: For our students interested in making their own shorts outside of school, what is your best advice about producing on a shoestring indie budget?

    JB: My best advice would be write a film around a location that you can shoot at for free. If you have a location(s) you know you are able to shoot at, write your movie with that in mind. It’s what we did with Another Cancer Movie, as well as what I have done with many of my films — including our last one, House Sitting, and even my first feature Four Dogs.

    Also, find friends you like to work with and trust. Build your community of people who will be there for you, and work for you because they believe in what you’re doing. Don’t feel the need to pay everyone the big bucks early on. Work with people who understand you have a tight budget, just make sure to feed them well! Great food on set goes a very long way. And of course, keep a very positive and fun energy on set. As the filmmaker, you must set the tone on set to keep everyone in good spirits. It’s a team effort, but the director is the leader.

    NYFA: What’s next for Another Cancer Movie?

    JB: Another Cancer Movie just had its world premiere online. We’re stoked to finally be releasing it. This is a very personal movie to us, and we can’t wait to share it with everyone.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any other projects upcoming you can tell us about?

    JB: Right now, the big focus is developing a TV show with a buddy of mine. I can’t talk too much about it at the moment, but it’s an exciting project for us. I am also working on a couple of other screenplays, and acting in a few fun projects as well.

    Thank you so much for having me be a part of this. For those folks who would like to keep up with what I am doing, they can find me on Instagram/Twitter @joeburkefilm and my website joeburke.net

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  • Resilience and Art in Puerto Rico at the Heart of New York Film Academy Alum Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez’s Work

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    While mainstream media has largely neglected coverage of the ongoing repercussions of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, one New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum is working tirelessly to not only help to rebuild and support his country, but to bring the authentically lived stories of the people and culture of Puerto Rico to light.

    This month was very busy for NYFA Acting for Film alum, college professor, clinical (media) psychologist, Buscapié ENDI columnist, actor and director Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez, who traveled from Puerto Rico to New York City to present the short film A Mis Queridos Reyes (as one of the producers and the leading actor), to be shown at Enfoque International Film Festival. He presented this film as a part of the artistic collective at The Motherland Resists in New York, joining with fellow community and thought leaders to share stories and raise funds for artist communities and the continued recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. While visiting New York, Dr. Ariel Orama also participated in the prestigious NYU Network Summer 2018 seminar Gender and Sexuality in Film. William Luhr, principal speaker of the seminar and writer of the book Screening Genders, selected Dr. Ariel’s award-winning short film Esteban (Spain, California, Florida and PR), to be presented and discussed in a forum with academics from around the world.

    His recent projects include SOMOS and the short film Erick, in which he starred, was selected by the Puerto Rico Queer Film Festival, and the premier was held at Fine Arts Cinema in Miramar, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Ariel recently began teaching drama at the University of Puerto Rico alongside his role as a social sciences professor, and credits his training at NYFA with a major influence on his approach. And two more short films are coming up soon!

    Dr. Ariel took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts on art, recovery, and a multidisciplinary understanding of media with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: Congratulations as you step into the role of professor of Drama, Humanities & Social Sciences at University of Puerto Rico (UPR)! What does this new role mean for you?

    Dr. Ariel: First of all, thank you very much for the wonderful experience of sharing my new projects with my beloved NYFA. Since 2000, I started a parallel search in acting and psychology, a journey took me to a) NYFA Los Angeles to study Acting for Film; b) take one year of graduate courses in contemporary media and culture from the perspective of “performance” and film; c) carry out research in psychodrama and the Almodovarian film, and; d) expand my work in praxis in both professions.

    My integration as a psychologist immersed in the media field, as a communicator, and as a professional actor, allowed me to study the different faces of entertainment: that of the spectator, the producer, and the executor of the fine arts, summing more than 200 projects on arts.

    It is a great honor to be part of the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities in the UPR System, which I consider a dream achieved in a very short time.

    En primer lugar, muchísimas gracias por la maravillosa oportunidad de presentar mis nuevos proyectos en mi amada NYFA. Desde el 2000, inicié una búsqueda paralela en Actuación y Psicología, cuyo caminar me llevó a Los Ángeles a estudiar Acting for the Film en NYFA, a tomar un año de cursos graduados en Medios y Cultura Contemporánea desde la mirada del “performance” y el cine, a efectuar investigaciones en psicodrama y el cine almodovariano, así como a ampliar mi quehacer en la praxis en ambas profesiones. Mi integración como psicólogo inmerso en los medios, comunicador y como actor profesional me permitió estudiar las diversas caras del espectáculo: la del espectador, la del productor y la del ejecutor de las bellas artes. Es un gran honor poder formar parte del Departamento de Ciencias Sociales y de Humanidades en el Sistema UPR, lo que considero un sueño logrado en muy poco tiempo.

     

    NYFA: What is your day-to-day like at UPR?

    Dr. Ariel: My interaction with students in the classroom is equivalent to a performance. Each experience I acquire is nuanced with the knowledge associated with films and other audiovisual experiences, so that when I teach my courses and theory I can show that I have additional tools and metaphors to inspire each student to create in his mind a three-dimensional image of what he has learned.

    I am passionate about knowing the recent-ness of what I teach. I enjoy observing the creations and manifestos that my students make through group processes, or even through manifestos that they elaborate from the privacy of the home and then they show me in class — a work of art, an article, or an investigative work, are only some of the fruits that have emerged, which makes me feel infinitely honored.

    Theoretical learning alone is not enough to address the student of the 21st century: for all of this, the possibility of being a hybrid professor — immersed in several disciplines — provokes curiosity in my students, from different angles. It is the search for the “Uomo Universale” (Renaissance man) proposed by da Vinci, my only north.

    Mi interacción con los estudiantes en el aula de clases es equivalente a un “performance”: cada vivencia que he adquirido está matizada con el conocimiento asociado a filmes y otras experiencias audiovisuales, de tal manera que cuando imparta mis cursos y la teoría pueda demostrar que tengo herramientas y metáforas adicionales para inspirar a que cada estudiante pueda crear en su mente una imagen tridimensional de lo aprendido. Me apasiona conocer lo reciente de lo que enseño: de igual manera, disfruto de observar las creaciones y manifiestos que efectúan mis estudiantes a través de procesos grupales o incluso a través de manifiestos que elaboran, desde la intimidad del hogar y luego me la ensenan en clase: una obra de arte, un articulo o un trabajo investigativo, son solamente algunos de los frutos que han surgido, lo que me honra infinitamente.  El aprendizaje teórico, únicamente, no es suficiente para abordar al estudiante del siglo XXI: por todo ello, la posibilidad de ser un profesor hibrido -inmerso en varias disciplinas- provoca en mis estudiantes la curiosidad, desde distintos ángulos. Es la búsqueda del Uomo Universale, de da Vinci, mi único Norte.

    NYFA: Will what you teach be influenced at all by what you learned at New York Film Academy?

    Dr. Ariel: Definitely, what has been learned in NYFA will influence my paradigm of teaching at the undergraduate level. The practical tools of performance that we acquired in the Academy, added to the respect for the technique and cultural diversity to which we are exposed, will allow me to offer my students not only a national approach, but an integrated and multicultural one.

    The digital platforms and the countless festivals existing in the world are only a way to spread our art: it is important that students can recognize the immeasurable value of exposing themselves to festivals and consecutive projects, as NYFA invites us; to recognize the value of immediacy and the multiple hats required by the actor when disseminating their projects to the world. In my case, I have received laurels from Spain, California, Orlando, Miami, Martinique, Italy, among other national achievements.

    Definitivamente, lo aprendido en NYFA influirá en mi paradigma de enseñanza a nivel subgraduado. La mirada práctica de la actuación y del “performance” que adquirimos en la Academia, sumada al respeto por la técnica y a la diversidad cultural a la que somos expuestos, me permitirá brindarles a mis estudiantes no solamente un enfoque nacional, sino uno integrado y multicultural. Las plataformas digitales y el sinnúmero de Festivales existentes en el Mundo son, solamente, una vía para difundir nuestro arte: es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer el valor inconmensurable de exponerse a Festivales y a proyectos consecutivos, tal como nos invita NYFA: que reconozcan el valor de la inmediatez y de los múltiples sombreros que requiere el actor a la hora de difundir sus proyectos en el Mundo. En mi caso, he recibido laureles de España, California, Miami, Orlando, Martinica, Italia, además de otros reconocimientos nacionales.

    NYFA: Are there any NYFA instructors who have particularly inspired your teaching philosophy?

    Dr. Ariel: Although Denis McCourt was one of my major influences in my acting courses, I must also point out that each of the stories I read from my NYFA colleagues around the world are my inspiration to continue exploring other facets. For example, I will make an incursion soon into dubbing, which adds to my experience as a) coach in reality TV shows; b) professional TV collaborator; c) laureate actor in short films at international festivals; and c) theater, voice over, and series actor.

    As I have always said, I dream of one day offering the first module of “acting psychology of character” in Spanish for NYFA, and belonging to the privileged group of outstanding students of NYFA around the world. It is a great responsibility and a great motivation to continue developing in my field of study.

    Aunque Denis McCourt fue una de mis grandes influencias en mis cursos de actuación, también debo destacar que cada una de las historias que leo de mis compañeros destacados de NYFA alrededor del Mundo son mi inspiración para seguir explorando otras facetas. Por ejemplo, recién incursionaré en el doblaje, lo que se suma a mi experiencia como colaborador profesional de TV, coach en programas de Telerrealidad, actor laureado en cortometrajes en Festivales internacionales, al igual que como actor de teatro, locución, series y voiceovers. Como siempre he dicho, sueño con ofrecer el primer módulo de actuación o de psicología del personaje en español para NYFA y con pertenecer al grupo privilegiado de estudiantes destacados de NYFA alrededor del Mundo: es una gran responsabilidad y una gran motivación para continuar desarrollándome en mi campo de estudio.

    NYFA: What inspired you to want to teach drama?

    Dr. Ariel: The highest aspiration of any expert in a profession should be to teach at the university level. In my case, the opportunity to be an assistant professor of psychology and now of acting, even being young, is a blessing — and a consequent achievement of an active preparation, throughout my whole life.

    In my case, I have been exposed to brains and real human bodies, from the medical anatomy; I have studied the visuality and the Almodovarian film, from the academic angle; I have been a coach; have collaborated with or served as a columnist in the media for young actors and singers who have been honored around the world, some on Broadway, off-Broadway, in reality shows, in NY or in Los Angeles; I have had the opportunity to direct short films and act in them; been awarded and screened in countries that I have not visited; I have taken courses in psychoanalysis and I know the spectrum of mental diagnoses and their different emotions, from different angles; I have reviewed plays, consistently, in the Puerto Rican distinguished press; I exposed myself to the media from its different faces; I have published a theoretical framework on creativity, neuroscience and virtuality, recognizing the difference between creativity and innovation and its importance in the world of entertainment; I have studied Artaud, Grotowski, and Stanislavski with the same passion that I have enjoyed the films of Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, Tarantino, and Hitchcock.

    And all of this composes a multidimensional approach that should be the aspiration of every actor in the 21st century.

    I can speak properly about the brain and the diaphragm, because I have seen it “in situ.” Also, I can know what is real or not in a certain emotion, because I know the symptomatology and because I have also exposed myself to it as an actor or director. Best of all, I believe in collective work, and that each actor in training is a potential director. My coaching certification in Spain has been the key. I believe in the relevance of knowing ourselves and exploring our full potential, in addition to collective processes in order to achieve a quality work that can be conceived as a creative manifesto. This is the aspiration of every creator.

    La máxima aspiración de todo experto de una profesión debe ser enseñar a nivel universitario. En mi caso, la oportunidad de ser profesor universitario de psicología y ahora de actuación (Catedrático Auxililar), siendo joven, es una bendición y un logro consecuente de una preparación activa, a lo largo de toda mi vida. En mi caso, he sido expuesto a cerebros y a cuerpos humanos reales, desde la Anatomía Médica; he estudiado la visualidad y el cine almodovarioano, desde el ángulo académico; he sido coach, he colaborado y/o he fungido como articulista en los medios de actores y cantantes jóvenes que han sido laureados alrededor del Mundo, algunos en Broadway, Off Broadway, en Reality Shows, en NY o en Los Ángeles; he tenido la oportunidad de dirigir cortometrajes y actuar en ellos, premiados y presentados en países que ni he visitado; he tomado cursos de psicoanálisis y conozco el espectro de los diagnósticos mentales y de sus diversas emociones, desde distintos ángulos; he reseñado obras de teatro, de forma consistente, en la prensa del país; me expuesto a los medios desde sus distintas caras; he publicado un marco teórico sobre creatividad, neurociencia y virtualidad, reconociendo la diferencia entre la creatividad y la innovación y su importancia en el mundo del espectáculo; he estudiado a Artaud, Grotowski, e Stanislavski con la misma pasión que he disfrutado los filmes de Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, Tarantino y de Hitchcock. Y todo ello compone un enfoque multidimensional que debe ser la aspiración de todo actor en el siglo XXI. Puedo hablar con propiedad sobre el cerebro y el diafragma, porque lo he visto “in situ”. Asimismo, puedo saber lo que es real o no en determinada emoción, porque conozco la sintomatología y porque también me he expuesto a ello como actor o director: y, lo mejor de todo, creo en el trabajo colectivo y en que cada actor en adiestramiento es un director en potencia, cuyos adiestramientos en Coaching en España han sido clave. Es decir, creo en la importancia de conocernos y explorar nuestras potencialidades, sumada al trabajo en equipo, para lograr un trabajo de calidad y concebido como un manifiesto creativo, aspiración de todo creador.

    NYFA: What do you most look forward to sharing with your students?

    Dr. Ariel: My students will know my philosophy of work when it comes to educate: “Nosce te ipsum” (Know thyself) and “Niente senza gioia” (Nothing without joy). From my experience, every artist should aspire to be a Uomo Universale (Renaissance man), based on both visions. If you are an expert in sports or cooking, believe it or not, it will be relevant! Everything that is part of your baggage will be very useful to become a competitive actor. For such purposes, you must expose yourself to change, as a philosophy of life: you must be as malleable as your brain, whose plasticity remains, from my point of view, the invaluable metal of the future. That students recognize that verisimilitude is the most important thing in our acting process; what is organic and what can be demonstrated, from the immediacy of the film or from the rehearsal-after-rehearsal prolonged process of theater plays — this is built day by day.

    I also enrich my experience with formal education in classical and popular singing, and I recommend it. Even the voice has to be developed daily.

    Finally, my students will learn that movement is not only physical. It must be projected from our eyes, from the voice, into our soul. And so we build complete actors, real ones; connected with their environment; away from the notions of the ego; creative and directed to change.

    That my students would be capable of teaching, in the future, is my highest aspiration.

    Mis estudiantes conocerán mi filosofía de trabajo a la hora de educar: “Nosce te ipsum” (Conócete) y “Niente senza gioia” (nada sin alegría). Desde mi experiencia, todo artista debe aspirar a ser un Uomo Universale, fundamentado en ambas visiones: si eres un experto en deportes o en la cocina, aunque no lo creas, será relevante: todo lo que forma parte de tu bagaje será muy útil para convertirte en un actor competente. Para tales fines, deberás exponerte al cambio, como filosofía de vida: deberás de ser tan maleable como tu cerebro, cuya plasticidad sigue siendo, desde mi visión, el metal invaluable del futuro. Que reconozcan que la verosimilitud es lo más importante en nuestro trabajo actoral: lo orgánico y aquello que se pueda demostrar, sea desde la inmediatez del cine o del proceso prolongado de ensayo tras ensayo de las obras teatrales: todo ello se construye día a día. También he tomado clases de canto popular y lírico, y lo recomiendo: incluso la voz debe desarrollarse diariamente. Por último, aprenderán que el movimiento no es solo físico: debe proyectarse desde nuestros ojos, desde la voz, hasta en nuestra alma. Y así construimos actores completos, reales, conectados con su entorno, alejados de las nociones del Ego, creativos y dirigidos al cambio. Y que sean capaces de enseñar, en un futuro, es mi máxima aspiración.

    NYFA: As Puerto Rico continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, how do you see the role of the visual and performing arts in rebuilding?

    Dr. Ariel: In Puerto Rico, creative arts has been an angular piece during the reconstruction process. Right after Maria, I had the opportunity to participate in three audio-visual projects, despite all the hardships on our island. The engine of creativity of our filmmakers was not stopped by a category 5 hurricane!

    During the recovery process, I joined the dubbing team on a project that will bring great benefits to the acting class. Likewise, we are collaborating with those who have used art to heal at the classroom context or the community spaces in this difficult period for all.

    Therefore, our island urges educators and creators to keep our national treasure alive. I refer to the immense creativity of our beloved Puerto Ricans in various branches of art, which have been recognized internationally, such as the case of Rita Moreno and our adoptive son Lin-Manuel Miranda, among other faces that will continue to surprise the world from the ever-shining star of the Caribbean: Puerto Rico.

    Finally, I want to express my gratitude to NYFA. I feel honoured for this wonderful interview. Thanks, Jeanne, for receiving me at your beautiful NYFA Campus. I will always be letting you know that my heart and my spirit are with you. I’m NYFA forever!

    En Puerto Rico, el arte ha sido pieza angular durante el proceso de reconstrucción. Justo posterior a María, tuve la oportunidad de participar en tres proyectos audiovisuales, pese a todas las carencias de nuestra Isla: es decir, el motor de la creatividad de nuestros ejecutores del cine no fue detenido por un huracán categoría 5. Asimismo, en plena recuperación, me incorporo al equipo de doblaje en la Isla, proyecto que traerá grandes beneficios a la clase actoral. Asimismo, somos más de uno los que hemos utilizado el arte para sanar a nivel del aula de clases o a nivel comunitario en este periodo tan difícil para todos. Por lo tanto, nuestra Isla urge de educadores y creadores que mantengan vivo a nuestro tesoro nacional: me refiero a la creatividad inmensa de nuestros amados puertorriqueños en diversas ramas del arte, que han sido reconocidos internacionalmente, tal como el caso de Rita Moreno, nuestro hijo adoptivo Lin-Manuel Miranda, entre otras caras que seguirán sorprendiendo al Mundo desde la siempre Estrella Brillante del Caribe: Puerto Rico. Finalmente, quiero expresar mi gratitud eterna a NYFA: me siento muy honrado por esta maravillosa entrevista. Gracias, Jeanne, por recibirme en el hermoso campus de NYFA en Nueva York. Siempre les dejaré saber que mi corazón y mi espíritu está con ustedes. ¡Soy NYFA para siempre!

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  • New York Film Academy Photography Alumni Partners Photograph Swedish Star Jasmine Kara

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    When you’re starting your own photography business, few things are as exciting as those first few high profile gigs. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography alumni and teaching assistants Stephany Viera Fernandez and Neil Camposuelo recently celebrated this landmark, during a promotional shoot with Swedish singer and songwriter Jasmine Kara.

    To celebrate and share their success, Stephany and Neil have offered the NYFA blog a sneak peek behind the scenes.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    Steph & Neil: Coming from two different parts of the world where photography is not as broad, unlike here in New York, one of the main reasons was to be able to keep growing and to build confidence — not just as a photographer, but also as a complete artist. We attended NYFA in different school years, but we both felt this school is the best avenue to do so.

    We wanted to be surrounded with talented and motivated people who shared the same passion as us. Along with the great faculty and other amazing students, being with them daily and continually creating work opened a whole new domain of ideas and philosophies on how we view the industry that is ahead of us.

    NYFA: Why photography? What inspires you about this medium?

    Steph & Neil: What is really astounding about photography is how you can be able to create your own world, but also at the same time you can capture the world right in front of you.

    There are so many ways you can maximize the use of this medium. Also, the power of one frame and the longevity of preserving that one frame can influence not just the present but also years to come. It is like a relationship also; it builds up gradually, and requires understanding between you and the medium to obtain the peak of mastery.  

    NYFA: How did you two connect as collaborators?

    Neil: After I finished my stint as a student here in NYFA, I applied to work as a TA last year, which eventually made Steph my colleague. That was when I got to know more about Steph and her work. I saw we had the same passion and motivation to succeed, and that was when I proposed the idea to her to work as a photographer duo.

    Steph & Neil: We knew it would be a good idea because we both have different cultural backgrounds and expertise; the dynamic between us is very good. Working with two brains and bodies can get more work done, and we are able to experiment with contrasting ideas and putting everything together cohesively. We both have trust, and along the way we help each other grow as we fill in our individual differences, strengths, and weaknesses.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying (and/or working as a TA) with us?

    Steph: For me, it was when I met all the teachers here in NYFA. I was really in awe of the load of talent and knowledge that they all have. It gives me the drive every day to potentially reach the same level.

    As for working as a TA, it is like being a student all over again. I continuously go along with the classes and I also experience in real time how fast photography changes in terms of style and techniques. That helps me to always have a different outlook and an open mind whenever I approach our own work.

    Neil: Just like what Steph said, my favorite moment here in NYFA is also the opportunity to meet all the teachers, to have a conversation with them and basically to learn from them every day. It is really a blessing to have such a group of people this great, because it helps me to stay humble, work harder, and keep track of my vision — our vision as a photographer duo.

    It is also great to work as a TA here at school because it gives you a sense of responsibility. I consider it a noble profession to be a part of student development, in terms of their career and life, to be able to help them, as well as guide them to be great on what they want to pursue.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your recent shoot with Jasmine Kara? How did this collaboration come about, and any inspiration or details you can share?

    Steph & Neil: We will be doing a cover for her upcoming single that will be released into three different languages (English, Spanish, Persian) this August. We cannot really tell yet the full detail of the single, but it is about how we can carry on in life with all the negativity and problems through laughter.

    The concept we are planning to do is a mix of humor and inspirations from Greek sculptures, work from photographers like Roger Ballen and Chris Buck, and relating it to the music video of Jasmine Kara’s single. Our main idea is having our own take of humor in a contemporary art approach, as we are trying to blend in the mood of the song but still remaining grounded in the style of our work as a photographer duo.

    NYFA: When photographing a star like Kara, how do you prepare? 

    Steph & Neil: This kind of opportunity do not come every day. So, when we knew we would have the chance to do a shoot with her, we started doing our pre-production plan.

    We had at least one-and-a-half weeks and to prepare, and even though it was a short period of time, this is one of the advantages of working as a photographer duo; we’re able to accomplish more and finish on time.

    Plus, [we did] a lot of research also. It is important to get to know the subject, her personality, and her background history as a singer. We had a couple of meetings with her, talking about the ideas for the shoot and making sure everything was according to plan.

    NYFA: What is your must-have piece of photography equipment, or your must-do ritual when preparing for a shoot?

    Steph & Neil: We never forget to have a scrim-jim on our equipment list every time we shoot. It is a very versatile diffusion, and helps soften and tone the light. This is like the signature look we have on most of our work.

    And for a must-do ritual, we love to eat before and even after a shoot! We always double-check everything also from the pre-production and the equipment we are using to avoid mishaps.

    NYFA: What’s your advice to students interested in photographing on the pop and music scene?

    Steph & Neil: For us, it’s not just about photographing on the pop and music scene. In general, our advice is that students should continue to grasp anything they can learn. Continue reading books, watching movies, talking to people. In the future, this will be an accumulation of knowledge and experiences that they can apply to their work. They should not be afraid of experimenting, breaking the rules of photography, risking ideas. In this era of photography where everything has been done already, students should be able to create ways to improve these latter ideas into something new and contemporary.

    On the other hand, students must still respect and give credit to the history of photography, the art of it, and take time to understand how we got here to this point — especially in the level of creativity.

    Lastly, we would like to share this quote with everyone. This is a mantra for us working as a photographer duo: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” We both believe that we make our own luck, that we should have to work for it, and just keep creating beautiful images.

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

    Steph & Neil: Absolutely, NYFA was like our training ground and a big part of the foundation of who we are now as an artists and photographers.

    Coming here to New York City and to this school with no prior professional experience, it did help bring out the best in us. The school gave us not just the tools but also the mental preparation to face the reality of this industry.

    Thank you and congratulations to Stephany and Neil!

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  • New York Film Academy Photography Trip to Florence, Italy: Inspired by Light, Travel and Art

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    Photography in Florence is magical; the light is soft and billowy, almost tangible. The 2,000 year-old Florentine streets are paved with cobblestones and the buildings display history in layers as you walk by, one fresco emerging behind another. Since everything is new to the eye in unfamiliar surroundings, all kinds of details and expressions jump out and call to be photographed.

    Florence is covered in art from Renaissance paintings by Botticelli and Da Vinci, to the Duomo and other architectural gems. Nearly every church has fine art paintings and sculptures inside, frescoes by Giotto and Masaccio, and you can get so close you can smell them!

    Photo: Matthew Angel Acevedo bo2m2_photography

    Over spring break, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Photography David Mager and Associate Chair of Photography Naomi White traveled with 18 NYFA students and alumni for an incredible week of photography in the historic city of Florence, Italy. Students came from several different departments (Acting for Film, Filmmaking, and Photography), creating a diverse group of talented and creative people.

    Classes were held in the mornings at the beautiful NYFA Florence campus in Piazza San Lorenzo, and were geared towards both beginning and advanced students. In the afternoons, we alternated between walking tours of the city and commercial shoots at local businesses. We also toured Tuscany together, visiting the hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano, both built for pedestrians with large city squares and ornate romanesque-gothic churches.

    Walking tours focused on elements of exposure and how aperture affects communication, as well as embracing decisive moments through street photography and documentary portraits. We toured the church of San Lorenzo, with it’s collection of Renaissance paintings, including the recently restored Annunciation by Filippo Lippi (c. 1450); the Boboli gardens with their magnificent sculptures and shady dells; and wound our way along the Arno, crossing over several bridges including the famous Ponte Vecchio with it’s shiny jewelry shops and magnificent views of the river.  

    There were also 3 commercially-focused shoots, where advanced students worked with the ProFoto B1 lights to create elegant imagery for various businesses. The first was in a 600-year-old apothecary in Santa Maria Novella. Gothic vaulted ceilings and pink and white striped stone pillars define this enchanting space, which is now used as a fully working perfumery selling upscale bottles of expensive perfume.

    The second business was an all-women-run ceramic shop. The owner, now in her 80s, still goes to work every day to paint beautiful ceramic pottery alongside her daughters.

    The third business was a leather school where students are trained in creating leather goods typical of Florence such as bags, purses, belts and shoes.

    We had a wonderful group of students who not only took great pictures, but who bonded and enjoyed each other’s company.

    The NYFA Photography excursion to Florence offered a great week away from the familiar daily life and gave the students new skills and new perspectives. If you ever have the opportunity to go to Florence with NYFA, you should take it!

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  • Wild West Fashion Shoot Sponsored by ProFoto and Phase One at New York Film Academy

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    This spring, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Department did a fashion collaboration featuring emerging Los Angeles-based fashion designers, sponsored with equipment from two of the biggest equipment brands in the photography industry: ProFoto and PhaseOne. The event was executed like a high-end commercial shoot, and NYFA students were able to experience what it is like to work with art directors, producers, models and designers.

    Joe Lavine from ProFoto brought the latest in portable strobes to the set and helped students build flawless fashion lighting, while Scott Nidermaier from PhaseOne brought medium format Diegel cameras, so that the students would be shooting the highest resolution and quality images available.

    Faculty Art Director and Lighting Instructor Amanda Rowan said, “It was really important to show the amount of work that goes into big fashion shoots to create the final images for a magazine spread.”

    The shoot took place on the Universal Studio Backlot’s Western Set, and the models were all NYFA acting alumni. Working with celebrity stylist team DShaunte Mcknight and Kenee’ Thompson, students produced and shot a 10-page fashion spread that will be featured in our next issue of the NYFA photography magazine FAYN.

    “Because of the amazing location we had access to,” said Rowan, “We asked that the stylist curate looks that express the modern spirit of the Wild West in Los Angeles: living your dream an artist.”

    This workshop was the first production shoot for students after their semester-long journey into the one-year photography program. It is in their last semester class, called Production Practicum. For the rest of the semester, the students take on the roles that were learned on this big shoot and are able to become their own producers and art directors.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Universal Studios, our sponsors PhaseOne and Profoto, stylists DShaunte McKnight and Kenee’ Thompson, and all the New York Film Academy students who worked hard to make this day a huge success. We can’t wait to see your photos in the next episode of FAYN.

     

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    May 24, 2018 • Academic Programs, Community Highlights, Photography • Views: 1021

  • “Documentary” Magazine’s Spring 2018 Issue Highlights New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking School

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department is one of only eight film schools honored in the prestigious “Documentary” Magazine, the official publication of the International Documentary Association (IDA), in an article exploring the advantages of pursuing an MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    In reading the article titled The MFA Considered: A Sampling of Programs that Tackle the Current Marketplace by Akiva Gottlieb, one of the ways that NYFA stands out among the other programs explored, is expressed in the sentence: “Within two weeks of the first class, students will be making films.” None of the other programs make this claim.

    NYFA also offers the unique opportunity for a bi-coastal MFA experience. Students can opt to spend their first year studying in New York City and the second year in Los Angeles, or may opt to spend both years in LA.

    As NYFA New York City Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift notes, NYFA’s degree and conservatory programs are guided by the principal that students “learn to make documentaries by making documentaries.”

    Los Angeles Chair of Documentary Sanora Bartels concurs, noting, “The most important element of making documentaries is story. Our students are not just hands-on with equipment, they’re researching, they’re out in the community, they’re finding that story.”

    Two years of intense research and production culminate in a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. NYFA also stands apart in offering an intensive Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory on both coasts. This allows students the alternative of finishing their studies in One-Year, should they opt to earn a certificate, and 36 transferrable hours, rather than the advanced degree.

     

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  • African Black American Film Society Celebrates African American Women in Times of War and Conflict

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    Members of New York Film Academy (NYFA) African and Black American Film Society (ABA) attended the first annual Greenlight Women Celebration in February, hosted by actress, model, and singer Shari Belafonte and actress Wendy Davis.

    NYFA students sat amongst filmmakers, magazine owners, and businesswomen for an amazing brunch followed by a Q&A to pay tribute to African American women that served our country in times of war and conflict.

    As the lights dimmed and all eyes focused on the screen, ABA members sat mesmerized as they watched clips from the soon-to-be-released documentary, Invisible Warriors: African American Women in World War II, which captures the untold stories of black women who battled Nazism abroad as well as racism and sexism at home. When the picture faded to black, the students applauded the moving stories of bravery and incredible obstacles that these women endured. Directed by Gregory Cooke, the harsh circumstances that African American women faced during wartime resonated throughout the room.

    Shari Belafonte and NYFA Producing Instructor Kimberly Ogletree led the discussion honoring four fascinating black female veterans that served in the Vietnam, Grenada, and Iraq wars. The women spoke of racism and sexism they encountered in the military, and their hopes for the next generation of soldiers, naval, and air force officers.

    NYFA students learned the historical context of these stories, during eras when anti-war activities, major Civil Rights demonstrations, the rise of Black Power, and the burgeoning Women’s Movement would impact the lives of women serving in the military.  Each of the women took a moment to discuss the sexual assault they witnessed or experienced first-hand, and shared how they were able to cope.

    Greenlight Women in Association with Loeb & Loeb Present: First Annual Black History Month Celebration Brunch on Saturday, Feb. 24th, 2018 at Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, California. (Photo by Arnold Turner/ATA)

    Judith Welsh, retired JAG stated:

    “You do not let your circumstances overcome you. You must overcome the circumstances.”

    These veterans confronted adversity. Giving up, being broken, or walking away was never an option for these women. The opportunity for students to bear witness to their situations and war stories from the black female soldiers’ perspective was extremely educational, and these particular women were honored to share because they had never before been given a forum to speak about their experiences.

    Retired Captain Joan Arrington Craigwell served as a flight nurse in the United States Air Force during one of the most heinous conflicts in Vietnam, the Tet Offensive. Joan’s voice was calm yet subdued as she spoke about the horrors she encountered from the frontline. Joan received the Bronze star for bravery and her service.

    There was a dead silence across the room as Joan and Gloria spoke in detail about unbelievable moments they experienced first-hand.

    A student asked, name one obstacle you had to overcome?

    Craigwell answered, “Having to go to Vietnam and the surprises that you faced. I still have a thing about not being able to save every person. It’s a nursing thing and I still carry that guilt knowing it was impossible.”

    Retired Army Lt. Colonel Dr. Gloria Willingham-Toure vividly remembers her obstacle, as a nurse having to make the painstaking decision of which injured soldiers would receive medical attention. She said, “When soldiers were flown directly from the battlefield they had some unbelievable wounds and I had to do triage like I never did before, which meant I had to walk past those I could not help. So I would cry, cry, and cry, until one of my commanders said, ‘You gotta decide today, are you going to be crying or help those that you can,’ and I changed at that point.”

    The stories were so intense that a young comedian, Alycia Cooper, silently stood as all eyes shifted to her, and in one swift second she lightened the entire mood and tone in the room. As I glanced at the two tables of ABA members I could see a needed relief from the stories, because the realities of war are hard to hear.

    Craigwell spoke of trying to desegregate one of her housing units in 1961. Her white friend had heard of a vacancy and asked if she could take it. When her application was denied they took up the issue with their higher-ups. They were told by command that this housing was set aside for black members.

    When Craigwell pushed back she was reassigned. Those in attendance, at the brunch, tut-tutted at the thought. Craigwell assured them the move was for the best. “I started doing some of my best work after that,” she said. Currently, Craigwell works to help veterans with employment, housing, and counseling.

    New York Film Academy student and veteran Hattie Sallie stood tall to applaud the honorees for their service. She said, “During my time in the armed forces, I could see the fruit beginning to bear which I attributed to the work and accomplishments of those that came before me.” She added, “There are more programs for soldiers battling PTSD. Officers are better trained. Progress is slow but it’s happening.”

    Our honorees were Lt. Col. Patricia Jackson-Kelly, who served in the Air Force, Navy, and Army between 1977-2003. Jackson-Kelly stated, “I applaud the youth today; your movement has been so refreshing. If it wasn’t for you I don’t know what we would do. The young people are speaking up for what they believe in and I encourage you to do that.” Today, Jackson-Kelly is the vice president of the National Association for Black Military Women.  

    Dr. Gloria Willingham-Toure is a retired Army Lt. Colonel. She served over 20 years in the reserves and in the Army National Guard. She began her career at Brooks Medical Center as a civilian nurse during the end of the Vietnam War. She retired from the 6222nd U.S. Army reserves Forces School, 5th Brigade, 104th Division Institutional Training, as the director of medical courses preparing our nation’s medical personnel for deployments.

    Willingham-Toure stated, “My only prayer during the end of the Vietnam war was that I hoped that the training I had given my soldiers would help them stay alive.”

    Judith Mary Welsh was a Personnel Specialist and retired JAG who served in the U.S. Navy. She served in Germany, where she won “Best Supporting Actress” in the 7th Corp tournament of plays. She retired from the 88th Military Police Unit. Welsh, and reiterated to the students to “Always overcome your circumstances.”

    And finally, Joan T. Arrington Craigwell attended the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. She would later work in Southeast Asia at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and Republic of South Vietnam. Craigwell stated, “We live in the greatest country in the world and attacking our democracy means death.”

    When opening the celebration, the President of Greenlight Women, Ivy Kagan Bierman, highlighted the importance of the group’s mission statement. Their statement proclaims: “Greenlight Women is an alliance of accomplished, creative, business professionals whose mission is to champion women and promote diverse perspectives in media.” Bierman stated that the wording of their mission statement and the name of their group had been crafted carefully, because, “We’re tired of sitting in meetings talking about change. We want to make change happen, now.” 

    Two New York Film Academy staff members sit on the board of Greenlight Women. Chair of the Diversity Action Group Kimberly Ogletree is a NYFA producing instructor and the chair of NYFA Los Angeles’ Industry Lab. Barbara Weintraub is chair of industry outreach and professional development, and she serves on the board of Greenlight Women as vice president.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Greenlight Women for giving our students an opportunity to speak with the women who defended our nation. To learn more about the mission of Greenlight Women click here.

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  • Cannes International Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers to Screen Life in Color Starring New York Film Academy Alum Ioanna Meli

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    Life in Color is an official selection in the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival Emerging LGBTQ Filmmakers category, starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ioanna Meli. The film shares a touching portrait of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long-lost love of his life. The film is directed by Bishal Dutta, who also wrote it together with Matt McClelland. Along with the prestigious honor of screening at Cannes, the film has shown as part of the Silicon Beach Film Festival in LA.

     

    In the midst of all the excitement, Meli took the time to sit down with the NYFA Blog to talk about the film, screening at Cannes, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your film at Cannes and your role?

    IM: Life in Color was created by a collective of young artists and it tells the story of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long lost love of his life. Working with the team and developing the role of Beth, the daughter, was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an actor so far. Beth’s torment in trying to understand her father and the childhood she was deprived of, while fighting her own beliefs was a challenging journey to go on to. And to be honest, I always feel a little extra lucky getting to work with directors as generous as Bishal Dutta; his direction was insightful and clear, yet allowed for the building of the characters and the relationships between them to develop organically.

    NYFA: How did you come to this project? What inspired you about it?

    IM: I submitted myself through the breakdowns and was called in to read for Beth. The sides I read at the audition and callback were an excerpt from the script at the time; even though it was an early draft, it was clear that both the scenes and the characters were constructed in-depth. The final script is also characterized by minimal dialogue, and that’s definitely one of the most inspiring parts for me — the storytelling that happens without the need for too many words. I got a sense of Beth’s character from the beginning, and her struggle in finding the right way to help her father intrigued me. Most importantly, the story touches upon sensitive issues that are most relevant in our world today and is told in such a way that really draws the audience into the characters’ conflicting realities. I’m truly grateful to have been a part of telling this story.

    LIFE IN COLOR – Trailer from Bishal Dutta on Vimeo.

    NYFA: Are you attending Cannes? Or, can you speak to what this experience means to you?

    IM: It’s still barely sinking in but yes, I will be attending Cannes! I’m not sure how to express how much this means to me. I am excited beyond words, but it’s also a little unreal. I realized that every time I imagined participating in such an event, I pictured myself older. I guess I thought that the chances of getting there would be higher later on in my career. But here we are now, and all of a sudden I get to attend Cannes for the first time with a short film I am so proud to be a part of. I’m looking forward to screening our work in such a unique environment as part of the Emerging Filmmakers LGBTW Showcase; to experiencing this magnificent festival to the fullest in the company of a great group of young artists; to exploring all it has to offer and meeting fellow professionals from around the world. Preparing for this trip to be able to make the most of this opportunity is what I’m focused on right now. But also looking forward to the french croissants, if I’m honest.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    IM: I was born and raised in Athens, Greece, where I would perform on stage at school as well as with the school choir around Europe. I got to experience the world of performance through that, but also because we grew up always playing music all together and going to the theatre with my family. Studying theatre arts was something that came naturally to me; I went on to get my undergraduate degree in drama and theatre arts from Goldsmiths College University of London, and that helped me build a strong base as a performer and creator. Before graduating, I was cast as the lead in the Greek feature film Elvis’ Last Song, which had a very successful festival run, and it was what introduced me to the world of acting on camera. I knew right then that it was what I wanted to train in further; I looked for a graduate program in Acting for Film and that led me to NYFA. Soon after, I moved to Los Angeles, completed my MFA at NYFA, and I was later in the first ever group to graduate from UCLA’s Professional Program in Acting for Camera. Today, I am truly grateful to say that I have seen my work be recognized at Festivals around the world and to have worked with masters such as Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s a business where you definitely take one step at a time, and I still have a million of those I want to take. But now, it’s time for Cannes!

    NYFA: What’s next for you after Cannes?

    IM: We just held a private screening of a pilot for our TV series Dirty Laundry. It’s a dramedy about a dysfunctional family of sorts, comprised of people from different walks of life who form a support group at a local laundromat. In that, I play a cheerful kindergarten teacher, Annie, who is trying to help her older sister survive the sudden death of her husband. The concept is unique and the screening was received enthusiastically by the audience; the production team will begin pitching the show later this month. Other than that, I’m currently completing my own script for a pilot of a comedic series that I want to shoot in Greece and in Los Angeles. I’ll have more information to share about that soon! I’m trying to keep my website updated with everything that’s going on, so go to www.ioannameli.com to stay posted!

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    April 30, 2018 • Acting • Views: 1336

  • Life is Beautiful for New York Film Academy Acting for Film Alum Giorgio Cantarini

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    Not many aspiring actors get to spend childhood performing alongside Russell Crowe and Roberto Benigni in international megahits like The Gladiator and Life is Beautiful, but New York Film Academy alum Giorgio Cantarini did.

    You may recognize Cantarini as the spontaneous, cherubic child actor who not only held his own but represented the emotional heart of each of those acclaimed films, but Cantarini has grown quite a bit since then — including in his acting technique. Wrapping up his studies at the NYFA New York Acting Conservatory, Cantarini sat down to share some of his insights with the NYFA Blog. Check out his incredible story.*

    *This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

    NYFA: You’ve been acting since you were 5 years old in Life is Beautiful, can just tell us a little bit about how you came to that film?

    GC: There was an article in the newspaper with casting description of the kids that they were looking for, and my uncle saw the description and was like, “Giorgio it’s the same as you, you have to go to the audition,” and so we went.

    … At the auditions I never acted. Roberto Benigni just wanted to talk with me and see how I reacted. And then of course on the set they explained to me the scene, what was happening.

    NYFA: From the time that you were working on Life is Beautiful through school, did you do any kind of school work involving acting?

    GC: After Life is Beautiful, after The Gladiator, growing up I didn’t want to be an actor because my role in Life is Beautiful was really attached to me … but then after high school everyone told me how talented I was, so I said to myself, okay, let’s see if really I have this talent. I went to Rome to enter a very selective school. Every year like 700 people try to get in and they choose 12: six girls and six guys. So when I was admitted I was really happy.

    I started acting because someone choose it for me, but now it was my choice, and this was a very big step for me to continue, and to discover that I’m good, and now I could study to be a professional, complete actor.

    NYFA:  How was your time studying with the New York Film Academy?

    GC: I had a really great month at NYFA, one of the best experience in my life — for the city, for everything, for New York, for the people.

    The standard is very different than the teaching approach in Italy. It is very different. It’s smart to direct small groups, and just do it, don’t think about it — do it, just do it!

    I really like NYFA a lot because of the action, and the professors too. The energy! I think that they have a lot of students every month, every year, a lot of different students — but every day they come in the class with the with a great energy, to work with you and do the best for you every single day. Seeing teachers every time have good energy, positive energy, and smiling, was inspiring.

    NYFA:  When you’re looking back at your experience at NYFA, is there anything you learned that you feel you’re going to take with you in your future career?

    GC: The technique from NYFA instructors Blanche Baker, Peter Allen Stone, and Victor Verhaeghe, and the scene analysis — truly, the class most important for me was Alison Hodge’s technique.

    NYFA: What inspires your work? Is there a specific film or actor that you always go to?

    GC: For me, Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman is ideal. When I watched The Graduate, I thought, “What a movie! What an actor.” I was impressed with Dustin Hoffman, he is my idol now and before. He’s a special actor…

     

    NYFA: Can you tell me a little bit about your film Il Dottore del Pesci (The Fish Doctor)?

    GC: The story is about a guy that has a fish shop, but he doesn’t sell the fish; he takes care of the fish. If someone goes out of town, the people can leave the fish with him and he’ll take care of them. His life is with the fishes. One day an American person from a TV network meets him and thinks he is perfect for a show about the the weirdest jobs in the world, like a freak show. My character’s English isn’t great, so he confuses the question and says yes without realizing what he’s signing up for.

    Life changes for him. He used to talk to a lot of people in a really, really small city, with a lot of old people. He has no family. And suddenly he’s in the U.S. and he’s really emotional. And I can’t tell you the finale but it’s so lovely.

    NYFA: Overall is there any advice that you would give to people that are interested in going into acting?

    GC: If you want to be an actor, you have to study a lot. Especially now, because with Netflix and YouTube and the web, a lot of people want to be an actor. Anyone can put his work on on the web, but that’s not a real actor. You bring the art with you.

    It takes a lot of study to understand and know who you are. To be a great actor, you have to know who you are. That’s the main reason that I am here in New York — I want to see when I leave home, and speak in another language with other people, who am I?

    It really was different here. I was different. I don’t know why, but this city or this situation with the school and the feeling with the classmates really gave me a new energy. New perspective, you know? New experiences. To be open and always beautiful. I love it.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    GC: I’m returning to Italy to start the second part of my scholarship, a theatre production that works with the people that were in prison, to be an actor and assistant director.

    Then, my next project will be to move to New York after the summer. I’m starting the process.  I want to come here now because, while I have an agent in France and Switzerland, I’d like to start a new journey in New York.

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