Mike Williamson
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  • MFA Cinematography Grad Bob Nguyen Wins Vietnam’s Highest Award for Cinematography

    IMG_2291New York Film Academy is proud to congratulate MFA Cinematography graduate Bob Nguyen on winning the Golden Kite Award for Best Cinematography in 2016 for his work on the feature film “Sut.” The Golden Kite is the highest award given in Vietnam, and represents the country’s equivalent to an Academy Award.

    During his time as a student at NYFA, Bob worked hard to refine his cinematography skills and master his craft. He built a strong network, collaborating with many students from different programs. In addition to making connections, Bob built an impressive reel with a range of striking images that showcased his skills as a cinematographer. Bob took advantage of the network he built, finding work in Los Angeles, Italy, Australia, and Vietnam. Since graduating, he has photographed three feature films and a number of short films.

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    “Sut” tells the story of young man who became a national soccer star early in his life, but soon found himself lost after the death of his younger brother. Searching for purpose in his life, he returns to the sport he loves as the coach of his brother’s soccer team. He struggles to find a way to teach the players to come together and win as a team.

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    14Working with the director to realize his vision, Bob wanted to avoid the clichés of a formulaic sports movie. He and the director were inspired by a number of films, including “Moneyball,” and they worked to tell a simple human story against a backdrop of the world of professional soccer.  Shooting with the Red Epic digital cinema camera, Bob carefully planned his compositions and choice of lenses to present a different side of Vietnam not often seen on the screen. The film has been praised for its distinctive visual style, including winning the highest honor for cinematography given by the Vietnamese film community.

    We are proud to congratulate Bob on this incredible award, and we wish him continued success in his career as a professional cinematographer.

    June 23, 2017 • Academic Programs, Cinematography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1651

  • MFA Cinematographers Complete Production Design Workshop

    The Spring 2016 MFA Cinematography students at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles completed their Production Design workshop last week, spending two days building a three-room set.  They worked on a soundstage at Burbank Studios, famous as the home of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, among many NBC Studios productions. The class painted and dressed the set to incorporate a high level of detail, then rigging a 50’ translight backing of the New York skyline to complete the illusion. The translight will be seen outside the set windows, lit for both day and night at different points in the story.

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    This workshop was part of the Production Design course in the MFA Cinematography program, taught by instructor Francis Pezza, whose credits as an Art Director include “Outbreak,” “Dante’s Peak,” “Big Fat Liar,” and the original “Miami Vice” TV series. In addition to learning the fundamental concepts of production design, the students worked throughout the semester on designing a set that fit the needs of an original short screenplay.

    The script was written by NYFA directing instructor Anthony Cook, whose credits include writing and directing the independent feature film “Wal-Bobs,” and producing the upcoming Lionsgate series “Dead House” for actor and former NYFA student Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor and executive producer Kevin Hart. For this workshop, Cook wrote a story about an obsessive-compulsive man who must defend his carefully manicured apartment from a trespassing mouse.

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    Once the set was completed, the students shot for three days on stage as the final part of the Cinematography Practicum class. The project was photographed on the Red Dragon digital cinema camera, allowing the cinematographers to shoot in 6K and utilize a RAW image workflow.

    Cinematography instructors Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSCJacek Laskus, ASC, PSC and Rick Greenwood joined the class on stage for the shoot days. They offered guidance on lighting and blocking the scenes, helping the student cinematographers to realize the story and make best use of the intricate set.  Richmond showed the students one of his trademark techniques for creating transitions in camera, teaching them how to use nets and dimmers to recreate one of his signature visuals from films including “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

    With guidance from their instructors, the MFA students leave this workshop with an understanding of what it takes to build a professional set, and how to shoot it. Having completed their final Cinematography Practicum shoot at New York Film Academy, the students will incorporate these ideas in their work as they begin their MFA Thesis Films next semester.

    May 17, 2017 • Cinematography • Views: 2126

  • MFA Cinematography Students Film Scenes for Master’s Lighting Workshop

    The Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography students have just completed Master’s Lighting, one of several major workshop classes in the third semester of the MFA Cinematography program. The class was taught by instructor Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, whose recent credits include Straight Outta Compton (2nd unit DP), The Perfect Match (DP), and The Miki Howard Story (DP). He demonstrated a variety of current lighting techniques including how to approach large-scale night exteriors, the use of mixed lighting, and some new approaches to using color in a scene.

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    The week-long workshop began with a visit to the Cine Power & Light rental house. Students learned how to set up powerful lights including 10K tungsten fresnels, 9-light Maxi-Brutes, and 4K HMI PAR’s, carefully going over proper safety protocols for all of the equipment involved. The students were then introduced to generators, power distribution equipment, and the heavy-gauge cable needed to run power to these bigger lights.

    On the second day of the workshop, the students visited Griffith Park to shoot day and night exterior setups using a range of big lighting units and a 600 amp generator. This advanced equipment gave the students the necessary power to use lights in day exterior setting, controlling contrast and balancing the sunlight. These tools also allowed them to light a large night exterior scene, mixing different colored light sources to give the scene more depth.

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    The class then moved to the Sybil Brand Institute, a decommissioned women’s prison where they have shot a number of films and television shows including Legally Blonde, 24, CSI: Miami, and Desperate Housewives. Students used the same lighting package to experiment with new techniques over the next two days of the workshop, shooting scenes on the Red Dragon digital cinema camera.

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    The workshop concluded with a Cinematography Practicum at the Sybil Brand facility. The practicum shoot was lead by instructor Gilber Shilton, whose directing credits include episodes of Law & Order, MacGyver, Beverly Hills 90210, and Quantum Leap. With guidance from his instructors, student cinematographer Jaan Utno shot a tense scene in the jail setting. The class worked together to light more than 15 shots, incorporating techniques from the previous workshop days.

    Students leave the workshop with greater knowledge of how to light challenging scenes on a larger scale. Having worked with generators and power distribution systems, they will be ready to work at the high level of skill demanded by professional productions.

    July 20, 2016 • Cinematography, Community Highlights • Views: 3186

  • Underwater Cinematography Classes

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    The third semester MFA Cinematography students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus have been busy! Following their two weeks shooting on the Universal Soundstage, the cinematographers jumped right into the Underwater Workshop, learning tricks and techniques for capturing great underwater shots.

    The two-day workshop was taught by instructor Tom Boyd, one of Hollywood’s top underwater camera operators with credits including Little Miss Sunshine, Heroes, and Crimson Tide. Students began with a visit to Hydroflex, the industry leaders in underwater camera support, where they learned the specifics of how to use different underwater housings to keep the camera protected. They talked about the challenges of working below the surface and the optical effect that water has on focus, movement and composition. The students finished the day by learning about the proper safety protocols and prepping the equipment.

    After getting their hands on the gear during the first day, the students were ready for day two: the underwater shoot. The students worked in the pool at Aqua Adventures, shooting takes with a professional stunt diver. They photographed a scene that starts on the deck, but then takes the camera underwater to follow the actress as she falls off the edge and into the pool. With Tom’s guidance, the students learned how to approach this challenging scenario and nail the shot.

    The Underwater Workshop is a truly unique course offered in the MFA Cinematography program at NYFA in Los Angeles. Students have the opportunity to learn about creating images in a different environment while grabbing some great footage for their reels.

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    August 27, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 6281

  • NYFA Cinematography Students in Los Angeles Shoot on Universal Soundstage

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    At New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, the MFA and One-Year Cinematography students have recently completed a two-week workshop on the soundstage at Universal Studios. Taught by instructors, Tommy Maddox-Upshaw (credits include the upcoming Straight Outta Compton, Iron Man 2, When the Levee Broke), Jacek Laskus, ASC (The Devil’s Arithmetic, The Guardian, Parting Glances) and Suki Medencevic, ASC (The Pixar Story, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Jonas), the cine students took this unique opportunity to apply all of the skills they’ve been building and put them to use in a professional stage environment.

    The workshop began with students designing two sets in the Universal sound stage: putting up the flats, painting the set, and getting the props and set decoration in place. With their set built, the students began conducting their lighting exercises and learning the nuances of how to work in a setting where the cinematographer has complete control. They made use of increased available power, firing up bigger lighting units including 5K tungsten fresnels to illuminate the sets. This was also an opportunity for the NYFA cinematographers to focus on camera operating and shot design. Students used advanced dollies to move the camera smoothly and execute intricate moving shots. Scenes were shot using a variety of film and digital formats including Super 16mm, 35mm, and the Red Epic system.

    Throughout the workshop, students learned many new techniques for lighting sets, creating different moods and effects with light, moving the camera, and staging shots. At the end of the two weeks, these cinematographers had completed difficult lighting setups and dynamic moving shots, and each had some great new shots for their reels. The knowledge built during this workshop provides a fundamental set of skills for our students, giving them an edge as they move towards their careers in the film industry.

    August 26, 2014 • Cinematography, Community Highlights • Views: 3563

  • NYFA Students Shoot Workshop Scenes at Lincoln Heights Jail

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    At New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus, we’re always looking to take advantage of the many great locations here in Hollywood. Recently, the Filmmaking and Cinematography programs conducted two of their intensive workshops at Lincoln Heights Jail. During its heyday, the jail famously housed Charles Manson, as well as legendary actor Robert Mitchum following his conviction for the possession of marijuana in 1948. Lincoln Heights closed its door as working jail in the late 60’s, and has since served as the backdrop for such notable films as “L.A. Confidential”, “American History X” and more recently “Iron Man 2”.

    The third semester MFA Cinematography students spent three days at the location for the Advanced Lighting workshop, bringing in a 600 amp generator, heavy duty cable and power distribution. They learned how to properly set up an array of high-powered lights including 10K tungsten fresnels, a 9 Light Maxi-Brute and a 4K HMI PAR. Instructor Jeff Siljenberg presented different challenges and scenarios to the students as the class lit shots in the jail cells, corridors and warden’s office, capturing the scenes on the Red Epic camera. The cinematographers got some great footage for their reels while they learned how to work with big lights in a practical location.

    The second semester MA Filmmaking students joined them at Lincoln Heights, shooting scenes for their 35mm Cinematography workshop. During the week-long workshop, the filmmakers learned how to operate and shoot 35mm film using a Panavision camera and lenses. After their initial hands-on training, instructor Matt Kohnen took the students on location to test their new skills shooting different scenes on 35mm film while incorporating dolly moves into the setups.

    Lincoln Heights proved to be the perfect setting for both workshops, and the students walked away with memorable experiences and great shots!

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    June 30, 2014 • Cinematography, Filmmaking • Views: 3748

  • NYFA LA Cinematography Students Conduct Ultimate Camera Shoot-Out with Arriflex Alexa

    Cinematography Class NYFA

    By their 4th semester, the MFA Cinematography students at New York Film Academy Los Angeles have worked with a wide variety of film and digital cameras including 35mm, Super 16mm, Red Epic and Scarlet to name only a few. With the Master’s Camera Technique class now underway, they can add the Arriflex Alexa to that list. LA Cinematography Chair Michael Pessah has been teaching them the in’s and out’s of this cutting edge camera, taking a hands-on approach by shooting tests and scenes throughout the class.

    In addition to working with the Alexa, the class is also conducting the “Ultimate Camera Shoot-Out”. Under the guidance of instructors Michael Pessah and Rick Greenwood, the cinematographers will shoot tests to evaluate the best of the best cameras, gaining an understanding of the strengths of each format. The test will examine the following nine cameras:

    • camera testArriflex 535 (35mm)
    • Arriflex SR3 (Super 16mm)
    • Arriflex Alexa
    • Red Epic
    • Red Scarlet
    • Sony F65
    • Canon C300
    • Blackmagic Pocket Cinema
    • Canon 5D mk3

    The class will view the footage in a high-end color correction room at Fotokem in Burbank, allowing the students to see critical differences in a professional screening environment. The students are excited about this unique opportunity to compare the various state-of-the-art formats and look forward to viewing the results. We are confident this will give them the knowledge to pick the right camera for each project as they start their careers the film industry.

    June 13, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 2877

  • A Retrospective Look at the Works of Gordon Willis

    gordon willisThis week began on sad note, as we learned of the passing of legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis, ASC. Many consider him the father of modern cinematography, and he is noted for both the precision of his compositions and the boldness of his lighting. Willis set the tone for Hollywood in the early 1970’s, shooting a string of classic films including “The Godfather I and II“, “Klute“, “Manhattan“, “All The President’s Men” and “Annie Hall” to name only a few.

    Michael Pessah, Chair of the LA Cinematography School, has prepared a special lecture class to honor Willis’ contribution to the art form and present selected scenes from his films. Entitled “A Retrospective Look at the Works of Gordon Willis”, this lecture will take place at the LA campus on Thursday, May 22nd at 7pm. Willis’ images have inspired several generations of cinematographers, and New York Film Academy is proud to honor his legacy by presenting his work to our students.

    May 22, 2014 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 2203

  • Industry Guests Advise NYFA Los Angeles Cinematography Students

    Mike Williamson

    While the fourth semester MFA Cinematography students prepare to shoot their thesis films, they are also being prepared for life after film school. As part of the “Navigating the Industry” course, instructor Suki Medencevic, ASC reached out to his colleagues to find guests to speak to New York Film Academy Los Angeles students about starting their careers in the film business.

    He got a great response, bringing in major industry players including recent Academy Award nominated cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, ASC (“Nebraska“, “Pursuit of Happyness“, “Walk The Line“), producer and visual effects guru Brian Rogers (“Godzilla“, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows“, “Green Lantern“), writer and director Nick Castle (“Major Payne“, “Dennis the Menace“, “Hook“), cinematographer Jacek Laskus, ASC (“The Devil’s Arithmetic“, “The Guardian“, “Parting Glances“), assistant director Alexa Sheehan (“Saw“, “A Love Song for Bobby Long“), and many others.

    Students received valuable advice on getting into the business and asked questions about the current state of the industry. The intimate class format allowed the guests to speak freely, sharing advice and stories from the many films they’ve worked on.  The Cinematography School in Los Angeles is grateful to our guests for sharing their wisdom, we look forward to seeing our students join their ranks soon!

    Mike Williamson

    April 7, 2014 • Cinematography • Views: 2633