Mark Sawicki
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  • A Conversation with 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory Alum & Director Florian Gunzenhauser

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Year Filmmaking alum Florian Gunzenhauser is a filmmaker and assistant director from Switzerland. His directing, writing, and filmmaking credits include the television shows Voice of Switzerland, The Bachelor (Switzerland), and The Bachelorette (Switzerland).

    Gunzenhauser’s thesis short film Glasgow, as part of his conservatory program with NYFA, won ‘Best Drama Short’ at the 2022 Coney Island Film Festival. The film follows the story of a young delivery man named Kyrie who befriends an older widower named George. Following their unusual friendship, the two men rethink how they approach their own lives. 

    The director Gunzenhauser is currently in pre-production as a first assistant director for the upcoming feature film Silver Star, starring Sydney Sweeney and Shameik Moore.

    Gunzenhauser spoke with NYFA about his filmmaking journey, career trajectory, and upcoming projects. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What brought you to New York Film Academy to pursue filmmaking?

    Florian Gunzenhauser (FG): I’m 31 years old and from Switzerland. I was working as a television director for roughly five years and directed shows like Voice of Switzerland, The Bachelor (Switzerland), and The Bachelorette (Switzerland). I came to NYFA because I wanted to see whether the film world was something for me after the extensive work I did in television.

    NYFA 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory alum Florian Gaunzenhauser

    NYFA 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory alum Florian Gaunzenhauser

    NYFA: What was your experience directing The Bachelor (Switzerland) and The Bachelorette (Switzerland)?

    FG: Directing television shows is fascinating, even though I’ve done it a few times now. I had the chance to travel to places like South Africa and Thailand to see real people potentially fall in love. I was fortunate enough to work with very interesting characters over the years, so I always enjoyed going back to those productions.

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Conservatory Filmmaking program?

    FG: Since graduating, I’ve been working in commercials as a 1st assistant director for brands like BoohooMAN, LIDL, and JVN, and the TV pilot for Here She Comes. I’ve also been working on the television film From Paradise With Love.

    My thesis film Glasgow just won ‘Best Drama Short’ at the 2022 Coney Island Film Festival!

    NYFA: What is Glasgow about?

    FG: The short film follows a young delivery man, Kyrie’s, friendship with an older widower named George. Their unusual friendship helps both of them rethink their own lives and provide introspection. 

    NYFA: Tell us about your latest project and how you got involved? 

    FG: Right now, I am in pre-production as the 1st assistant director for the feature film Silver Star. I saw that they were looking for a 1st assistant director on a Facebook group and apparently had very good chats with the current directors and producers of the film. 

    I’m also directing two music videos for two successful musicians from New York in the upcoming weeks. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your short film and other projects?

    FG: At NYFA, I learned how filmmaking works, as silly as that may sound. Television and film are so different in many aspects, so everything that I know is because of NYFA.

    NYFA congratulates conservatory alum Florian Gunzenhauser for his great work, well-deserved successes, and the best of luck as Glasgow continues on the film festival circuit!

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    September 22, 2022 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 14

  • NYFA Alum Nathan Hale: Cinema as a Vehicle for Advocacy

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    NYFA alum Nathan Hale is an award-winning filmmaker, best-selling author and entertainment attorney. Hale is a two-time NAACP Image Award® nominee, the recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Prestige Award for Excellence; and his film, Burden, about an educated Black man who, in spite of his success, still must confront the micro and macro aggressions that come with being a Black man in America face, won “Best Picture” at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF).

    Nathan Hale is also passionate about HIV/AIDS advocacy. He partnered with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Hale’s upcoming project Love Will Save the Day, zeros in on the subject in an effort to destigmatize and educate the black community on the virus. In the film, A guarded Chicago lawyer who’s given up on love discovers that her chance for true love might be found in the unlikeliest person – her political opponent. The two navigate their past issues while trying to build their own relationship. One of them is also HIV positive. 

    Hale’s reputation as a storyteller with an eye for nuance precedes him, and his sophomore film is expected to be as groundbreaking as his first, All Boys Aren’t Blue. The 40-minute film, based on the memoir of the same name by George Matthew Johnson, tackles issues of masculinity and queerness in relationship to Blackness. Each character represents Johnson at different stages of their life, chronicling their story of growing up and challenging gender identity norms, as well as learning to adapt to living with HIV/AIDS. The film won a GLAAD Media Award, two Telly Awards, including one for Nathan Hale’s ‘Outstanding Direction,’ an inaugural Anthem Award and Best Narrative Feature at the NewFest Film Festival.

     

     

    Before venturing into the world of entertainment and film, Hale was a lawyer with limited knowledge about the entertainment industry. But he was committed to learning, “I had to teach myself a lot of the craft and learn on the job…NYFA helped me in this process.”

    Despite already being a decorated filmmaker and author, Hale is committed to learning and expanding his repertoire. In 2020, he took Online Cinematography to learn the language of cameras and lights. Hale shared with NYFA, “I took the [Online Cinematography] Class to understand the fundamentals of cinematography and shot composition. So that I could be better educated when talking to my DP’s and camera people. [I also wanted] more knowledge of basic lighting techniques”.

    NYFA congratulates Nathan Hale for his commitment to his craft and for all of his success!

     

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    September 20, 2022 • Cinematography • Views: 12

  • A Two Front War: Blackness & Representation in ‘The Woman King’

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    A Two Front War: Blackness & Representation in ‘The Woman King’

     

    The film Black Panther (2018) laid to rest the myth that Black (especially dark-skinned) leads could not carry feature films to box-office victory. The film earned $1.348 billion at the box office and became revolutionary for its representation and portrayal of a Black superheros and Black excellence. But in 2015, before Black Panther broke box-office records, shattered prejudice conventions about the allure of all-black casts, and before the Black Lives Matter movement ignited the fire in a new fight for representation in Hollywood, Maria Bello pitched The Woman King to the indomitable Viola Davis. The historical action drama is the story of the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s.

    Seven years later, The Woman King, starring Oscar, Emmy and two-time Tony Award-winning actress Viola Davis and New York Film Academy AFA Acting for Film alum Masali Baduza in the role of Fumbe, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to unanimous praise.

    The road to The Woman King was not an easy one. Early on in the search for funding, colorism (defined by Merriam-Webster as “prejudice or descrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin”) plagued the hunt for production, with studios wanting to cast “light-skinned, well-known actresses” as members of the Agojie army. To do so would have meant sacrificing the integrity and historical accuracy of the film. This film about warriors and women on the front-lines, was fighting a two-front war both on-screen and behind-the-scenes.

    Studios didn’t think the film would be successful at the box-office, initially offering only $5 million for the film’s production costs. By comparison, low-budget films are usually made for less than $5 million, while mid-budget films cost anywhere between $5 million – $50 million, with high-budget films costs ranging from $50 million to infinity. To paint a bigger picture, Black Panther’s budget was $200 million and Avengers: Endgame, $365 million. In the end, The Woman King received a budget of $50 million.



    A still from The Woman King. Courtesy of PopSugar
    Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is familiar with strong female leads and warrior-women. In 2000, she wrote and directed the classic Love and Basketball about Quincy and Monica, two childhood friends and basketball players with league aspirations who begin to fall in love. Love and athleticism are a familiar terrain for the director who herself was a basketball player and track star at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prince-Bythewood joined the cast of The Woman King as they trained for four months before shooting began. The Hollywood Reporter reported, “the training consisted of 90 minutes a day of weight-lifting followed by three and half hours of fight training with a stunt coordinator which included running, martial arts, and working with swords and spears.” Many of the actors performed their own stunts.



    A still from The Woman King. Courtesy of Flickering Myth.
    The Woman King strives for authenticity and diversity at every turn, with the film’s story carefully researched and the camera crew consisting of Black women and women of color. Prince-Bythewood was committed to hiring Black women and women of color to work on the film citing, “often the résumés are not long because it’s about lack of opportunity, not lack of talent.”

    While presenting the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, lead actress Viola Davis said, “This film is for the Thuso [Mbedu]’s, Lashana [Lynch]’s … the Masali [Baduza]’s, the Black women who are out there on the periphery just waiting for the conduit–a vehicle to shine [their] beautiful and glorious light.”

     

    The Woman King premieres a couple of days after tennis titan Serena Williams bid farewell to the game she revolutionized; the same week Sheryl Lee Ralph serenaded us as she accepted the Emmy for ‘Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series’ for Abbott Elementary and Quinta Brunson won the Emmy for ‘Best Comedy Writing’ for the show; the same night Lizzo’s show Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls won ‘Best Competition Program’ and Zendaya took home the Emmy for ‘Best Actress in a Drama Series’ for Euphoria for the second year in a row. Needless to say, we have entered a cultural, creative renaissance and Black women are at the center.

    The Woman King premieres in theaters on Friday, September 16th. NYFA congratulates Acting for Film alum Masali Baduza for landing such a critical role in this ground-breaking film.

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    September 14, 2022 • Acting • Views: 11

  • Allan Ungar on Directing ‘Bandit’, an Ode to Toronto

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    Allan Ungar on Directing Bandit, an Ode to Toronto

    Five years ago, NYFA Teen Filmmaking alum Allan Ungar, a new director at the time, was sent scripts for films “people thought [he] wanted to make.” Ultimately, these scripts did not resonate. Ungar, a Toronto native, was searching for a way to incorporate his hometown into his work. “I always wanted to find bold and audacious stories to tell that … [had] some connection to that “home.” He continued to work on developing his skills as a director while searching for that story. “With a country so rich in its history, I felt that it was only a matter of time before I would come across a story that had all the right elements to make a powerful and convincing film that people could relate to.”

    In Bandit, Ungar found a story that captured the essence of his home country and captivated him. Bandit is based on the exploits of Gilbert Galvan Jr., an American who escaped from a Michigan prison and crossed the border to Canada. Upon arriving in the northern territory, Galvan, alias Robert Whiteman, planned and executed 59 heists in banks and jewelry stores in almost every province from Vancouver to Halifax. The director shared that he read the Bandit script in one sitting. “I called my agent that night and said, ‘I have to make this film.’


    Allan Ungar, the mastermind behind Uncharted: Live Action Fan Film, has always been a fan of the heist genre. The classics “employed an inherent and organic ability to entertain, thrill, and excite audiences. Whether there was action, drama or romance involved, I always felt that there was a heightened sense of authenticity that was relatable.” With Bandit, Ungar found a film that possessed all of these qualities. “It had heart,” he said. In the film, Gilbert Galvan Jr. (Josh Duhamel), turns to robbing banks and jewelry stores after falling in love with a woman (Elisha Cuthbert) whom he cannot provide for. As it turns out, love is what motivated one of the most notorious heist-men in Canadian history. “It was a story about a real human being who had a dream and went for it. No matter the cost.”


     

    Bandit gets its title from The Flying Bandit, the book by Robert Knuckle with Ed Arnold that inspired the screenplay by Kraig Wenman. Gilbert Galvan Jr., was dubbed “the Flying Bandit” because he was a member of a frequent flyer program; and under the pseudonym Robert Whiteman, a computer salesman, Galvan would fly first class to different cities across Canada to rob up to 3 banks in the same day before flying back home to his wife. Galvan was one of the most productive heist-man and still holds the record for most consecutive robberies in Canada’s 155-year history. In his three-year spree, he amassed over $2 million.

     

     

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    A post shared by Allan Ungar (@allanungar)

    The Toronto native would have preferred to film Bandit in and around Canada, but 2020 had other plans for Allan Ungar and his crew. Due to the pandemic, Ungar was forced to relocate. He had to “recreate 1980’s Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton all in modern-day Georgia.” The task was no easy feat, but Ungar affirms it was “one of the most … rewarding experiences of my career.”

    Bandit was purchased at the Cannes Marché du Film, the business counterpart of the legendary Cannes Film Festival, earlier this year. As the world’s largest film market, Marché du Film is where producers, directors and distributors from all over the world gather in droves looking to buy and acquire the rights to the next big film. Highland Group closed on an array of international deals and sold the rights for Bandit to Signature Entertainment for distribution in the UK and Scandinavia, Originals Factory for France and French-speaking Switzerland, Eagle Films for the Middle East and many more distributors.

    “I can’t wait to see the way it resonates with [people]. Because at the end of the day, that’s why we make movies.”

    Bandit will premiere in theaters on September 23, 2022.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Allan Ungar on all of his work and success!

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    September 7, 2022 • Filmmaking • Views: 7

  • Nicole Clemens, President of Television at Paramount & Paramount +, Talks Legacy IP’s & Industry Tips

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    conversation with nicole clemens

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with Nicole Clemens to discuss content acquisition and studio production with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.


    Nicole Clemens serves in the dual role as President of Paramount Television Studios (PTVS) and Paramount+ Original Scripted Series. She joined PTVS in 2018 and added the Paramount+ position to her portfolio in 2021.

    Clemens’ primary responsibility at Paramount+ is to shepherd original series and formulate programming strategies for the streaming platform. Paramount+ projects include the global hit series Halo for which NYFA alum Andor Zahonyi was a Visual Effects Artist, The Offer, Star Trek franchises – Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Discovery, as well as Seal Team, Evil, The Good Fight, and The Game. Some of Paramount+’s upcoming series include Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, Fatal Attraction, Rabbit Hole, and Criminal Minds.

    In addition, as President of PTVS, Clemens oversees a robust slate of shows for buyers across multiple platforms, including Emmy-nominated Station Eleven, created by NYFA Guest Speaker Patrick Somerville, Reacher and Jack Ryan for Amazon Prime, American Gigolo for SHOWTIME, Defending Jacob, Shantaram and Time Bandits for Apple TV+, and The Haunting anthology series for Netflix.

    Before coming to Paramount, Clemens was a producer at Anonymous Content. Previously, she served as Executive Vice President and Head of Series Development for FX Networks, with a roster of original series including Atlanta, Snowfall, Better Things, You’re the Worst, Baskets, Tyrant, Mayans MC, and The Strain.

    Clemens is no stranger to the world of content and production, as she was a partner and Head of the Motion Picture Literary Department at ICM Partners for 16 years, a position preceded by tenures at Rod Holcomb Productions and as a television executive at Spelling Television.


    The NYFA Guest Speaker shared with the NYFA community that she is in a unique position as “both a buyer and a seller” at Paramount Television Studios and Paramount+. Working at a television studio has afforded her the opportunity to “buy, sell and make things”. At PTVS, the studio can buy their own material, greenlight original pitches, make deals with screenwriters, directors and producers, then sell to either broadcast or streaming platforms. “It is very rare that a
    show can go everywhere,” says Clemens, so PTVS finds the content a fitting home where it has real chance of getting made and seen by the target audience.

    Paramount’s own streaming platform, Paramount+, is a broader and bigger canvas for a variety of audiences rather than coastal or niche ones, such as 1883, The Wolf of Wall Street, Spongebob Squarepants and other “crown jewels” that Clemens has sworn to protect.


    The “crown jewels” are the legacy IPs. Among them is a groundbreaking film that was produced by Paramount during an uncertain time and catapulted the production studio to great heights The Godfather. Clemens jokes that as keeper of the jewels, she has sat through more “Godfather 4” pitches than she could possibly share. But meeting with producer Al Ruddy and hearing how the movie got made inspired the series THE OFFER. The series is a hit with audience and critics alike, and Clemens could not have been prouder!

    The cultural impact of The Godfather cannot be understated; The Godfather won ‘Best Picture,’ ‘Best Actor’ (Marlon Brando), and ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola) at the 1973 Academy Awards. The film also won several Golden Globes that year, including ‘Best Motion Picture – Drama,’ ‘Best Director,’ and ‘Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama’. The Godfather trilogy has been lauded as the best and most influential film of all time and influenced Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and David Chase’s The Sopranos – but it was almost never made. The story behind the legendary film and how it almost didn’t make it to the screen is what Nicole Clemens pitched and turned into The Offer.


    Clemens also shared insider information about how shows get made and how to break into the industry. She shared that even if aspiring screenwriters send studios work, the studio does not and legally cannot accept unsolicited or unrepresented work. She suggested that writers seek out agents and, better yet, managers for representation. “Everyone wants to find the next big thing,” Clemens said, and agents and managers are looking for new talent to represent. Clemens also encouraged students and alumni to take jobs at agencies to acquire knowledge about the industry, stating that there is great value in work that may, at times, seem unrelated to entertainment but, in fact, is the center of how shows get put together.

    She also recommended making as many contacts as possible, especially if, like her at the beginning of her career, you don’t have a direct connection to someone in the industry. The NYFA Guest Speaker shared that “there’s a lot of rejection in this industry” but affirms that “You have to believe in what you believe and just go and go.” Eventually, something will stick. When asked what she believes got her to her position at Paramount today, she replied, “tenacity.”

    Watch the full interview below:

     

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Nicole Clemens for sharing her time and expertise with NYFA students and alumni.

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    August 26, 2022 • Acting • Views: 7

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alum Michel Curiel is a Smash in ‘She-Hulk’

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    NYFA Acting for Film Alum Michel Curiel is a Smash in 'She-Hulk

    As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand and carry on the legacy of Stan Lee, audiences have found more characters with which to identify themselves. In 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, based on Marvel’s first Asian superhero, was a box office hit. This year, Disney + revealed another MCU adaptation, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, about the Hulk’s cooler female cousin.

    She-Hulk (Jennifer Walters) first made her appearance in a Stan Lee Marvel Comic in 1980 as a lawyer who acquires a milder version of the Hulk’s condition after receiving an emergency blood transfusion from him. In the Disney+ adaptation, Walters is an attorney who specializes in superhuman legal cases.

    New York Film Academy Acting for Film alum Michel Curiel has been booked and busy since graduating from the One-Year Acting for Film conservatory program. This year, Curiel adds She-Hulk’s love interest to his long list of IMDB credits. Curiel spoke with NYFA about his upbringing, auditioning for Marvel and his decision to stay off social media.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?

    Michel Curiel (MC): I grew up in the Bronx with my mom and two sisters. I lived there for a while before moving to Michigan where I finished high school and joined the military. After completing my service, I attended college and received my BBA in accounting.

    NYFA: What has your journey been like?

    MC: While in college, I did some commercial and print work and with the little work I booked, I got “the itch” and decided to move to Los Angeles. I didn’t know much about acting, but what led me to the New York Film Academy was their reputation and that they accepted the GI Bill. I completed the One-Year Acting Conservatory. My Meisner class was what really led me to understand what acting is about: living truthfully under imaginary circumstances and not pretending. That’s when I fell in love with the craft. The education that I received in my year at NYFA laid the foundation for my career. I realized that it’s not just, ‘hey, show up to LA and get discovered’, you actually have to put in the work.



    Caption: Still from She-Hulk: Attorney at Law courtesy of ComicBookMovie
    NYFA: How did you get involved with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law? What was the audition process like for you?

    MC: I live in Atlanta where auditions are primarily self-tape submissions. The self-tape process is something that I’ve gotten really acquainted with since I moved here in 2017. When I received the audition for She-Hulk, it said “Marvel SVOD (Streaming Video On Demand)”, but the project name wasn’t disclosed. I was auditioning for the role with a friend who’s a comic book nerd and stays up to date on everything Marvel. It had leaked that Marvel was going to be releasing She-Hulk, a show about the Hulk’s cousin who has Hulk-like powers and my friend said, ‘I’d be willing to bet this audition is for She-Hulk, in which case this is a scene
    where you’re on a date with She-Hulk herself.” So that’s how I played it for the audition. When I received a call from my team saying I booked the role, I had to sign all the NDAs. But I still didn’t know what it was for, so it was exciting.


    NYFA: How do you handle high stake auditions? What’s your secret weapon?

    MC: I’ll backtrack to my time in LA. I was attending a lot of in-person auditions. Some were for co-star roles, some were guest stars, and I feel like I had success in booking many of them because I didn’t put the pressure on myself as if it was a “big deal”. Ironically, when I had auditions for big shows with well-known casting directors or producers, or major roles as lead or series regular, I would almost psych myself out of doing a good job because I would put so much pressure on myself. Nowadays, my secret weapon for high-stakes auditions is that I don’t make them high stakes. I don’t consider the production or the size of the role, I just focus on doing my job and on what I can control. [The She-Hulk] audition had Marvel written on it, but I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter if I’m auditioning for Steven Spielberg or for a student film, I’m always going to do my best work.

    NYFA: What was your experience working on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law?

    MC: My experience was incredible. Working alongside Tatiana Maslany was rewarding. I was a little nervous at first, but she was very welcoming and easy to work with. I also had the opportunity to work alongside Renee Elise Goldsberry, who I am a huge fan of from her work as Angelica Schuyler on the original Hamilton cast. Working with director Kat Coiro was also a great experience. She was very collaborative and gave me a lot of creative freedom to play as an actor. In the trailer when I ask She-Hulk, ‘should we split some fries?’, we did 4 or 5 different takes and Kat playfully redirected my delivery and intention behind that line. Overall, I got an inside look into Marvel’s storytelling. It was truly an invaluable and unique experience to be a part of it all, and now, to see it all come together on the screen…it’s Marvel movie magic. That’s beautiful.


    NYFA: What kind of work would you like to do in the future?

    MC: I would love to book a role as a series regular. I like the idea of getting to flesh out a character and live in that world over an extended period. I’d also like the opportunity to work behind the camera, either as a director or cinematographer. I’ve always enjoyed filmmaking, and someday I hope to put my own ideas on screen.

    NYFA: Do you have Social Media?

    MC: I’m a bit old school. I actually don’t have any social media. Honestly, I just can’t keep up with it all. I think that sometimes you can get caught up in the noise and lose sight of what’s really important. For me personally, I want to focus on what matters to me the most – my family, my career, my authenticity. I don’t want to be “insta-famous”. I want to be recognized for my work.

    NYFA: Are you working on any other projects?

    MC: I just wrapped the new show on Fox, Panhandle. I’m currently not attached to any new projects, but my team keeps me very busy with auditions. So, the work doesn’t stop.


    NYFA congratulates Michel Curiel on all his success and hard work!

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    August 24, 2022 • Acting • Views: 11

  • NYFA Alum Andrea Muñoz Joins Star Cast in ‘Bullet Train’

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    NYFA Alum Andrea Muñoz Joins Star Cast in Bullet Train

     

    On October 1,1964, Japan introduced the world to the first high-speed rail system, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, just in time for the first Tokyo Olympics. The Shinkansen, colloquially known as the “bullet train” for the way it resembles a bullet and its high speed, is a network of high-speed railway trains that operate all over Japan.

    In 2010, Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka wrote Mariabītoru about the worst-case scenario on board a bullet train: hitmen carrying out their missions. Mariabītoru was adapted for the Japanese stage in 2018. In 2022, the book inspired a Hollywood adaptation, Bullet Train, starring Brad Pitt.


     

    The film boasts an all-star cast that includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny, Sandra Bullock, and many more. Among this dazzling cast is NYFA Acting for Film alum Andrea Muñoz, who spoke with NYFA about her work on Bullet Train, as well as her role in Hulu’s limited series Pam & Tommy.



    Andrea Muñoz, NYFA Acting for Film Alum
     

    Like with most actors, for Muñoz, the work begins way before the director yells “action” on set, it starts at the audition. An actor’s preparation and audition technique is part of their craft. Muñoz said during a conversation with NYFA, “I have an acting coach. One of the things I learnt from NYFA is that your training as an actor will never end. I have an ongoing coach and she helps me with all my acting preparation, whether auditioning or preparing for a role.”

    Muñoz shared that the most difficult parts of filming during Bullet Train were the intimacy scenes and insisted that respect is at the heart of intimacy work. “You have to have a high level of respect for yourself and your scene partner to provide a safe space for both. You are jumping into someone’s personal space,” As of late, the work of intimacy directors has been ‘essential’ for its importance in preventing and deterring abuse on set. “It’s known that in this industry, many times those [intimate] moments have been violated.” Muñoz adds, “that was my first kiss on camera, and it was harder than you would think it would be. I promise you a one-minute monologue is easier than that.”



    A still from Bullet Train. Courtesy of Vulture
    Muñoz’s preparation for Pam & Tommy was a little different, “One of the things they don’t tell you in school is that there is not such a thing as rehearsals on TV.” The alum goes on to describe the fast-paced nature of television work, “They give your lines, and they expect you to come ready to shoot on set.” Muñoz insists on joy and communication as a prime component of the actor’s experience on set. “It’s important to never forget to have fun and communicate with your scene partners.”

    A lesson the alum learned while at NYFA, she notes, was the business of acting.“NYFA taught me how to start my career on my own, how to start putting myself out there, look for an agent, a manager, and how to build material to present myself to this massive industry.” This knowledge gave her the upper hand in many situations, “I’ve met so many actors that don’t know where to start.”



    Brad Pitt in Bullet Train. Courtesy of Vox
    COVID-19 has had a massive impact on Hollywood and the way cast and crew interact with each other on set. However, Muñoz suggests that the key to being a successful actor at this moment is patience and discipline. “Be very patient, work on your craft and try to keep the inspiration: read scripts, plays, and watch the movies and TV shows that you want to be part of.” She adds, “this is a tough industry, don’t allow distractions to get in your way, don’t give attention and time to anything that doesn’t serve your artistic and human purpose, and always be kind to the people that you work with.”

    Andrea Muñoz also gave us the insider’s scoop on what it is like to work with a camera on set. “It’s trickier than we think,” she explains, “if there is a prop on set that you have to work with all the time and be aware of, but pretend that is not there, it’s the camera.” The camera is, in many ways, a scene partner. “The big productions cheat a lot in order to get better shots of actors or because of artistic reasons. In the real world, the camera is not static, it moves a lot, or it’s very close or very far, and you have to work with it. I love it.”

    Bullet Train is now in theaters.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Andrea Muñoz for all of her hard work!

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    August 24, 2022 • Acting • Views: 10

  • From Australia, To LA, NYFA Australia Alum Mary O’Neill Phillips

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    New York Film Academy Australia (NYFAA) alum Mary O’Neill Phillips is an Australian native with both acting and hosting credits and audiences in the United States and Australia. After graduating with a Diploma of Screen and Media in Acting for Film, she made the move to Los Angeles and has since become a prominent figure in the country music and outdoor entertainment industry.

    Phillips spoke with us about her journey, her passion for the outdoors and the advice she lives by.

    The NYFAA alum, who was 25 when she decided to take up acting, says that though the curriculum appeared rigorous she knew she would benefit greatly from it. “I knew this course would be an intensive experience, but it would teach me the skills I needed as an artist to take the next step.” One of the most important things Phillips learned during her time on our Gold Coast campus was the value of being herself in a world of people trying to be each other. Professor Peter Kent shared with her, “there are a million girls out there trying to be the next Angelina Jolie, the next Scarlett Johansson [but] there can only ever be one Mary O’Neill …  figure out how to be the best at who you are.”

    Mary O’Neill Phillips took this advice with her when she embarked on her journey to Los Angeles to transition to acting in the USA.  After making the move, Phillips started a partnership with Outdoor Channel TV. The partnership is now 4 years old and is home to her show Country Outdoor Adventures, where co-founders Mary and Zach Phillips chronicle their outdoor and country music adventures. Despite starting the show during the COVID-19 pandemic, Country Outdoor Adventures has seen great success since its premiere in 2020. The show “has become a renowned entertainment and lifestyle brand in the USA in the country music and outdoor communities.” Phillips has also hosted Country Outdoor LIVE on Outdoor Channel TV Network, Country Outdoors Podcast and the Country Outdoors Concert Series in Nashville. She revealed she enjoys working with Outdoor Channel TV Network because “it gives me an opportunity to encourage people to get outdoors and learn new skills and show more of myself in a raw form.” The self that Peter Kent encouraged her to be.

     

     

    On top of hosting shows and acting, Mary O’Neill Phillips lends her talents to philanthropic efforts like Artist Against Human Trafficking, a one-night event with performances by top country music artists and panel discussions dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking in Tenessee and across the globe. Most recently, she hosted the 2022 CMA Fest where the likes of Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan and more country music heavy-hitters performed. The festival event is hosted every year and in 2022 the festival raised money for Catch a Dream Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants once-in-a-lifetime hunting and fishing experiences to children 18 years old or younger who have a life-threatening illness.

    The poster for CMA Fest: Game Night

    Phillips shared that it wasn’t always performances, events, and TV shows – the first few years were a real challenge for her. “Having to fly back and forth from Australia to the USA every 3 months to keep  relationships I had made and try to grow my presence. I was very very broke for a long time and gave up a lot to make this happen.” The renowned host shared that there’s only one thing you cannot learn in a class: resilience.

     

    New York Film Academy congratulates Mary O’Neill Phillips on all she has accomplished since completing the Diploma of Screen and Media in Acting for Film. 

     

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    August 5, 2022 • Acting, NYFA Australia • Views: 39

  • NYFA Documentary Alum Aya Hamdan’s Film Screens at the MoMA

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    In the last couple years, the entertainment industry has shifted its focus to a global audience and global representation. 45% of Netflix’s content is forgein and breaking records across the board. Squid Game, the South Korean drama that took the world by storm, became Netflix’s most-watched show days after premiering. But even with Netflix and other streaming giants distributing more non-english content, some filmmakers have opted-out of traditional streaming platforms and created their own platforms like Shasha, an independent streaming service for South-West Asian and North African (SWANA) cinema. 

    NYFA Documentary alum Aya Hamdan, a Palestinian-American producer, has taken it in another direction – she has started her own production company, 10 MILS. A company through which Hamdan collaborates with SWANA and BIPOC writers and directors to produce short films. The company’s most recent film Dress Up screened at the 2022 The Future of Film is Female screening at the MoMA. 

    Hamdan spoke with NYFA about representation, her artistic inspirations and building her own production company.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): There’s been a revolution in SWANA streaming and art distribution, what do you attribute this to? How does it feel to be a part of this wave of filmmakers, artists? 

    Aya Hamdan (AH): I think overall, the market has had an appetite for a global perspective. Especially after a foreign film, Bong Joon-ho’s PARASITE, won the Oscar for Best Picture. TV shows like A24’s Ramy, Marvel’s Moon Knight (Directed by NYFA Screenwriting alum Mohamed Diab) featuring the first Egyptian woman superhero Layla El-Faouly, played by May Calamawy and Netflix productions coming out of Jordan, like AlRawabi School for Girls, are setting a precedent that there is a space and market for our stories not only in the SWANA region, but in the United States and globally. 

      Poster for AlRawabi School for Girls courtesy of Netflix

    NYFA: What are some of your artistic inspirations? 

    AH: Seeing Nadine Labaki’s work as a director and actor was the biggest inspiration for me growing up. Specifically, her film  Where Do We Go Now? Seeing another Arab woman creating beautiful films was really the moment I realized, “I can do this too.” 

    NYFA: What do you hope people take with them after seeing Dress Up?

    AH: The logline for Dress Up is: On the eve of her sister’s wedding, Karina brings her “best friend” home to meet the family. In the face of familial expectations her anxieties begin to unravel. Dress Up is a story about hiding under a facade in front of family, a dynamic I believe many can relate to, but it also shows the love and acceptance one finds in their family and community. It’s a story about family, love and some of the anxieties that come with familial expectations. 

    Still from Dress Up courtesy of 10 MILS

    NYFA: What was your experience working on Dress Up

    AH: This was a very intimate and personal story. Writer/director and Sundance Ignite fellow Karina Dandashi starred in the film alongside her real life sister Nadia Dandashi. Her home videos are also incorporated into the film. So it was very important to create a set environment that was safe and familial. We brought together a team of SWANA, BIPOC and queer collaborators that really brought their entire selves to set and created the safe space to tell this story. 

    NYFA: How has your business background and NYFA experience led you to your current position? In what ways have the two helped you?

    AH: My business background has definitely helped me make important strategic decisions as a producer and make the most out of our low budgets. Putting our money in the right places to get that high production value and finding the right collaborators who are in it with you for the right reasons is key. 

    NYFA’s documentary program and making my documentary films from start to finish really gave me the foundation and skill set needed to collaborate with all the people that help make a film. Mentors from NYFA, like producer Tracie Holder are an incredible inspiration. 

    NYFA: What has your artistic journey been like? 

    AH: The community we built around the making of these films. Creating and sharing our stories together has really been the best part of this journey. 

    It’s important to call out that making short films isn’t easy. We are mostly all balancing making films and working full time jobs that feed our creative work. So that has been a balance. I continue to learn how to manage this balance and it’s worth it. 

    Aya Hamdan on the set of Cousins

    NYFA: What has been your favorite project to work on?

    AH: I don’t think I can choose a favorite. They will each have a special place and with each short film I get to learn so much from the experience and my collaborators. With each project, I see myself growing as an independent Producer. But so far there are two short films that I am very excited about. We are at the tail end of post-production and aiming for the 2023 film festival run.

    Cousins written and directed by Karina Dandashi (Sundance Ignite Fellow) About two cousins, born in separate countries who reunite in Brooklyn when a run-in with an ex turns the night into a mission of revenge. COUSINS explores cultural disconnect between family members and identity within oneself.

    Sweet Refuge written and directed by Maryam Mir and starring Laith Nakli (Ramy) About a Syrian baker who spends his first Eid in the US attempting to sell the sweets he has spent his lifetime perfecting: walnut baklava. This heartfelt comedy is a story of immigrants, food, and unexpected connections.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on right now?

    AH: I am in pre-production for another beautiful short film and story written by Diana Gonzalez-Morett and directed by Akilah Walker. I’m excited to join these incredible filmmakers and support bringing this story to the screen. 

    I am in early development for a feature script, Out of Water, written by Karina Dandashi. A coming of age story about an Arab-American woman set in Pittsburgh. The themes in this film are based on our short film Dress Up and Karina’s first short film, Short Shorts. We are also collaborating on and in early development for a TV/Pilot based on the characters in Cousins

    NYFA: How did 10 MILS come to life? What was the process of building this production company? 

    AH: I established my LLC,10 MILS right after my program at nyfa and I now produce all my short films through my LLC. Not only for Business, finance and legal purposes, but really also to have one platform to promote and talk about the films and stories I choose to support. Every story and writer/director I choose to collaborate with is very intentional. It’s always stories and people I connect with who I want to support as a producer.

     

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Documentary Alum Aya Hamdan for all of her hard work and success!

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    July 29, 2022 • Acting • Views: 102

  • A Conversation with Award-Winning Actor, Writer & Director Billy Porter

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    NYFA Community Represented at the 2022 Emmy Award NominationsJuly 28, 2022

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with Billy Porter, an award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright to discuss his career and directorial debut ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Billy Porter won the Emmy Award for “Best Lead Actor” for his portrayal of Pray Tell in FX’s drama Pose, and most recently received his third Emmy nomination for the groundbreaking role. A Hollywood Walk of Fame inductee, Porter has numerous theater credits, including the role of “Lola” in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, which he originated in 2013 and for which he won the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards, as well as the
    Grammy
    for “Best Musical Theater Album.” He just won his second Tony Award in 2022 for“Best Musical” as a producer on A Strange Loop.

    Recently, Porter appeared in the third season of FX’s Pose and Amazon’s Cinderella remake as the Fab G, alongside Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel. Porter appeared in the Paramount Players comedy Like a Boss, alongside Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek, Baz Luhrman’s
    The Get Down, and under the direction of Barry Levinson, Porter starred in The Humbling, alongside Al Pacino and Greta Gerwig. He just finished the second season of CBS All Access’ The Twilight Zone, Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Apocalypse, and narrated HBO Max’s Equal. Porter can currently be heard in Disney+’s animated series, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

    With all of these awards and big-name projects it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always this way for Billy Porter. It’s easier to believe that this happened over night. However, as Porter put it he “did not just get here.” What we are witnessing today comes more than 35 years after Porter started his career. Porter attended Carnegie Mellon University, the Drama Division. After graduating, he was cast in Miss Saigon, the original cast, and performed on Broadway for 10 years thereafter. During this time, Porter was auditioning for TV and film to no avail. Pilot season brought little fruit for him as a queer, Black man, with only “6-10 auditions and my white counterparts had hundreds – this is not an exaggeration,” he said. Porter was dismissed in audition rooms and even after he won his first Tony and Grammy Award for “Lola” in Kinky Boots, he was overlooked.

    The road had been long and Porter was done. He called his sister and told her, “I’m not doing this anymore.” Right after, tears still streaming down his face and eyes bloodshot, Porter got the call from his manager that would change the trajectory of his career, “Ryan Murphy is doing a show based on the ball culture and you have an audition in three days.”

    Pray Tell, Porter’s iconic Pose character, was not originally in the script. For his initial audition, he was called in for the role of a dance teacher on the show. He made his way to Alex Fogel’s office and said “I lived through this … to have me in this and then have me vibrating in another world is a waste of everybody’s time – what about one of the mothers of the house?” Pray Tell was then written for Billy Porter.

    Billy Porter is making his directorial debut with Anything’s Possible, a trans teen romantic comedy, set in Porter’s hometown, Pittsburgh. The film follows Kelsa, a confident high school girl who is trans, as she navigates through senior year and a young boy summons the courage to ask her out on a date, knowing the drama it could cause. The film has been lauded as a case study in trans joy. The script, written by Ximena García Lecuona, appeared on the
    2020 Blacklist.

    The movie can be seen on Amazon Prime video.


     

    During the student Q&A portion of the conversation, Porter shared with NYFA alumni and faculty that he was of the last generation that benefitted from after school art programs that were locally and federally funded. Still, he clarified, “acting is craft like anything else and deserves to be respected and treated as such, even when it is costly.”

    Billy Porter ended the conversation about the role of artists in strife times with a quote by Toni Morrison from In Times of Dread, Artist Must Never Choose to Remain Silent:

    “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

    Laiter closed the conversation by thanking Billy Porter for the conversation and the students for their time.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Billy Porter for sharing his time and experience with NYFA students and alumni.

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    July 28, 2022 • Acting • Views: 24