Neal Weisman
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  • New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Student Phyllis Tam Named Semifinalist in 47th Annual Student Academy Awards

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    New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) own Phyllis Tam, who recently graduated with her MFA in Filmmaking from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, has been selected as a semifinalist in the 47th Annual Student Academy Awards for her narrative short film Fragile Moon.

    Still from Student Academy Award Semifinalist Film ‘Fragile Moon’ (Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Tam)

    Only 92 films out of 1,468 films were selected to advance to the semifinal round of the Student Academy Awards. Tam’s short film Fragile Moon was submitted to the Academy under the Domestic Schools entry with New York Film Academy in the Narrative Short Film category.

    “I could not be more excited that Fragile Moon made it to the semifinals for the Student Academy Awards,” shares NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, Crickett Rumley. “Phyllis worked so diligently to perfect every single detail of her film — down to the placement of subtitles — that it’s no wonder her dedication paid off. It is such a timely story about the impact that immigrating to the U.S and pursuing the American dream has on families. The themes of memory, loss, and the healing power of art resonate long after the film is over.”

    Still from ‘Fragile Moon’ (Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Tam)

    “We are proud to see Phyllis Tam’s creativity and hard work pay off with her film Fragile Moon as she continues to advance in this prestigious competition for student filmmakers worldwide,” says NYFA President Michael Young. “Like Phyllis’ honorary achievement with the Student Academy Awards, we are excited to see NYFA students go on to achieve their dreams with their outstanding work.”

    Finalists for the Student Academy Awards are likely to be announced in August similar to previous years. The winners will then be announced in late Fall and will be eligible to compete for the 2020 Oscars in the following categories: Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, or Documentary Short Subject category. Previous Student Academy Award winners have gone on to win 11 Oscars, and receive 63 Oscar nominations, among them include: Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, Trey Parker, and Robert Zemeckis.

    New York Film Academy will be hosting a virtual private student screening of Fragile Moon, along with an online Q&A with MFA Filmmaking alum Phyllis Tam on Friday, August 7, 2020.

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  • New York Film Academy Alum Mirza Farhan Abbas (Mirzaab) Releases Film ‘The Chase’ on YouTube Amid the Global Pandemic and Discusses the Connection of Filmmaking and Reality

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    Like many filmmakers in 2020, Mirzaab (a.k.a Mirza Farhan Abbas) hoped his film would premier in a cinema for a live audience. His film The Chase, was slated to premier in Dubai on March 26, 2020, but then the global pandemic changed everything. The NYFA digital filmmaking alum decided to pivot and release his film on YouTube instead.

    Filmmaker Mirzaab was born and raised in Pakistan, but has been living in Dubai (UAE) since 2007. “I remember that from early on I always wanted to be a film director,” recalls Mirzaab. “There wasn’t a proper film school at an institute or university level known by me that catered to the passion of an emerging filmmaker. In other words, filmmaking was never considered as a full-time profession where I was growing up.”

    NYFA digital filmmaking alum and director Mirzaab (a.k.a Mirza Farhan Abbas)

    Mirzaab recalls being raised surrounded by career choices that only seemed to be in industries such as: medicine, banking, law, teaching, engineering and others. He eventually found himself working in banking to help share the financial responsibility for his family’s household while completing his postgraduate education. “Working there [at the bank] not only brought in the support my family needed, but at the same time I was starting to feel independent in making my educational choices.”

    With a never ending desire for filmmaking, Mirzaab recalls seeking out YouTube tutorials and learning everything from how to operate certain cameras to understanding lighting techniques as best he could. “But there was a major problem in all of it; the lack of process and guidance.” 

    He soon realized it was time to explore other options, so Mirzaab began reaching out to renowned pakistani film directors for guidance and eventually got hold of Mehreen Jabbar, who lives in New York, and encouraged Mirzaab to take a filmmaking course at NYFA. 

    Throughout his time as an independent filmmaker (Over 10 years), Mirzaab explains filmmaking is really about making a connection to life and reality. 

    “I realized that I didn’t need to learn the technical skills, but I did need to have the vision. The imagination should be as bright as the cinema screen and the director must be able to take his or her audience on a 90 minutes long journey where they also feel a part of it.” 

    Mirzaab says that it is the director who borrows a fraction of reality and translates that to an audience and “stirs emotions” among viewers. If that element is missing or is unclear, it may be a well made film but not a great film, which is how he thinks through each project and becoming a better director for the audience. 

    ‘The Chase’ film poster

    His past projects embody that sense of reality and emotion that he wants the audience to experience and relate to like Lasting Silence, which explores the relationship struggles between an able-bodied girl building a friendship with a special needs girl, without having any knowledge of sign language. Another film from the director, Thankful, portrays the relationship between a father and daughter and their different views on one single incident they experience together, while Extra explores ‘happiness’ and ‘contentment’ in life.

    Mirzaab’s latest film, The Chase, explores more themes that people may grapple with regularly such as: mental health, emotional well-being, affection, rejection, social connection, paranormal intuitions, manifestation, friendships and above all, the uncertainty of life and death. “I am a big fan of exploring human relationship stories, real or fiction, it doesn’t matter to me,” he shares. “I always enjoy it and my filmmaking is primarily based on such stories and all my films reflect that commonality.”

    Mirzaab reminds filmmakers, producers, and teachers of every caliber to remember: “The scale of production is a good measure to gauge the seriousness of a filmmaker, but many times we miss out those filmmakers whose passions go way beyond their lack of resources and apprenticeships.” 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Mirzaab on the release of his latest film and encourages everyone to check out The Chase, now available to watch on Mirzaab’s YouTube channel here.

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    July 30, 2020 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 408

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Earns Several Nominations for 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was once again represented in this year’s nominations for the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, announced Tuesday, July 28 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

    NYFA alum and ‘Insecure’ creator Issa Rae (Right) and Jay Ellis (Left) in Season 4 of ‘Insecure’

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Issa Rae was nominated for her second ‘Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series’ Emmy for her performance in the HBO series Insecure, also created and executive produced by Rae. In total, Insecure received eight nominations including its first-ever Emmy nomination for ‘Outstanding Comedy Series’ and a nomination for Yvonne Orji for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.’

    Fan favorite series Stranger Things continued to capture viewers, receiving eight nominations including ‘Outstanding Drama Series.’ NYFA Filmmaking alum Eric Demeusy previously earned an Emmy in 2017 for creating the now iconic title sequence for the show. The series also previously starred NYFA Board Member and Master Class Instructor Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner and featured NYFA Acting for Film alum Matty Cardarople.

    NYFA guest speaker and ‘The Mandalorian’ creator Jon Favreau

    Competing with Stranger Things for ‘Outstanding Drama Series’ is the Disney+ Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian. Created by NYFA guest speaker Jon Favreau, the series received a whopping 17 nominations total for the newcomer streaming platform. The popular space western also features Rocky star, Carl Weathers, who previously spoke at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus for Industry Lab panel discussion. Disney+ also picked up a nomination for ‘Outstanding Short Form Animated Program’ with Forky Asks a Question, featuring the voice of actor and NYFA guest speaker Tony Hale.

    Documentary film poster for Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’

    Easily one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year was Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness, which received four nominations in the Emmy documentary categories including ‘Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series.’ Creating the cohesive and gripping storyline for the documentary was NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Pedro Álvarez Gales, who served as co-editor for the popular Netflix series.

    NYFA Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars in ‘Vikings’

    Also nominated this year was History Channel’s Vikings for ‘Outstanding Visual Effects in a Supporting Role,’ which stars Acting for Film alum Ragga Ragnars. Better Call Saul screenwriter and NYFA guest speaker, Gordon Smith, was also nominated for his writing for the series episode “Bagman.”

    This year, Netflix beat out HBO’s previous record for the most Emmy nominations to date with 160 nominations, with HBO trailing behind at 107 nominations total this year, though HBO continued its success with dystopian series Watchmen leading with the most Emmy nominations for any show this year in 26 categories. The newly established mobile-only streaming platform Quibi led the short form Emmy nominations this year with 10 nominations across the five short form categories, making it the most of any platform.

    (UPDATE 7/30/20) The Television Academy has officially announced that the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys will be held completely online, with host Jimmy Kimmel, the Emmy producers, and a prominent team of technicians working closely with each of the nominees to ensure the ceremony will still be streamed at the highest caliber possible for TV’s biggest night.

    The Television Academy also noted that nominees can follow the dress code “Come as you are, but make an Effort!,” noting that many of the nominees span across the globe in different time zones, with many tuning in at extremely late hours with the ceremony still being held at its normal Pacific Standard Time. An excerpt from the letter addressed to the nominees can be found below:

    “If you want to be in formal wear, we’d love that, but equally if you’re in the UK and it’s 3am, perhaps you want to be in designer pajamas and record from your bed! We want to work with you to style your moments, but want you to guide us on your levels of comfort – where you want to be, who you want to be with, what you want to wear etc.

    In the forthcoming days, Jen Proctor, our Talent Producer and her extraordinary team at Cultivated Entertainment will be reaching out to you to start talking through the details.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all the nominees for the 72nd Annual Primetime Emmys and looks forward to the ABC broadcast of the virtual ceremony on September 20, 2020, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

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  • Award-Winning Actor Alec Baldwin Holds Live Q&A on Acting Technique for NYFA Students

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    On Tuesday, July 21, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with award-winning and celebrated actor Alec Baldwin to discuss the acting craft with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Alec Baldwin has received a Tony nomination for his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, a supporting actor nomination at the Oscars for The Cooler (2004), and he has won three Emmy awards, three Golden Globes and seven consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards for ‘Best Actor in a Comedy Series’ for his role as Jack Donaghy on NBC-TV’s 30 Rock.

    Tina Fey (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) pose with their SAG Awards for ‘30 Rock’

    Baldwin’s filmography also includes the critically acclaimed film The Hunt for Red October, for which NYFA’s Founder, Jerry Sherlock, was Executive Producer, as well as Glengarry Glen Ross, It’s Complicated, The Departed, Pearl Harbor, Blue Jasmine, Still Alice, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and many more.

    More recently, Baldwin has gained critical acclaim and popularity surrounding his portrayal of President Donald Trump for Saturday Night Live, joining the cast regularly for ongoing appearances as the 45th President.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) for The NYFA Q&A Series

    Laiter began the Q&A by asking Baldwin about his successful career and finding his place in Hollywood. “In the beginning, you have a boyish gratitude [on set], similar to being a guest in someone’s house,” he began, “everyone on the set knows more than you, but that changes later on when you are on a film and someone says something to you and you go ‘no, I think it’s this,’ as you begin to understand what will make a scene work.”

    The conversation then switched to Baldwin’s successful career as not only a dramatic actor, but a comedic performer, where Laiter brought up Baldwin’s hilarious and well-timed character Jack Donaghy on NBC’s critically acclaimed TV series 30 Rock. “The show, to me, is one of the ultimate examples of me being the beneficiary of very good writing,” he shares. “The writing was the best I had ever seen in terms of comedy and it was natural to me.”

    Baldwin on set for Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’

    One student asked Baldwin about how he chooses the right script as an actor. Baldwin responded: “I try to decide ‘is this movie a movie I want to make or I want to see?’ Then, I look at my character. I’ve played parts where my character wasn’t the biggest role or well-served in terms of page count, but there was an opportunity to me where I could see that character having an impact on that film.” When it comes to looking at a script, Baldwin explains that it’s about the quality of storytelling and the impact of your character that matters.

    Another student asked Baldwin about what it can be like for an actor when giving a performance in a film versus acting in television series.

    Baldwin as President Donald Trump for ‘Saturday Night Live’

    “Moviemaking is intense because you have to narrow everything down to what is worthwhile and what works,” he shares. “Television allows for more time to spread your character arc or story along. There is more complexity involved because there is more time. If not in this episode then in the next…”

    To the question of whether one should try everything or stick to the one that already works, Baldwin recommended that when you are just starting out and you are young, to try everything to become the actor you can be and want to be, Baldwin reminded students that it isn’t just about finding an agent, “making it,” or getting everything “right” after studying acting: “Join a rep company. Do as many shows as you can. Do as many roles as you can off the beaten path so you can make your mistakes under the radar before you get typecast.”

    Steve Martin (Left) and Alec Baldwin (Right) host the 82nd Academy Awards

    Baldwin also provided profound advice to students when auditioning for a role. “Remember they asked you there.” He explains that it can be easy to go into an audition with a “people pleasing attitude,” but “they want what you have; they invited you to come to audition and they need you. You are a professional and they are looking for someone to play a part, and you give everything you’ve got in the audition. Once you walk into the room and realize no one is doing anybody any favors, it’s business, and you’re a part of that business, then everything is going to change for you.”

    Baldwin closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the conversation and the students for their time, and expressed that he hoped his words were helpful to those looking at a career in acting.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Alec Baldwin for sharing his time and acting experience with NYFA students and alumni.

    To listen to the full conversation, click the video below or check it out on our YouTube channel here.

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    July 27, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 106

  • New York Film Academy Alum Mickey Fonseca’s Sells Award-Winning Film ‘Resgate’ to Netflix

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, Mickey Fonseca, has struck a deal that many producers dream of with his latest film Resgate (“Redemption” in English) being acquired by streaming giant Netflix. Fonseca, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, shot on location in his home country of Mozambique.

    Fonseca was born in Mozambique and grew up with a love of film and acting. At the age of 12, he even remembers writing Steven Spielberg and expressing his interest in becoming an actor. “Amblin Entertainment replied a few months later telling me to get an agent. I didn’t know what an agent was, but I was ecstatic with the news.” Though his dreams of becoming an actor faded over the years, Fonseca continued to immerse himself in film, watching movies as often as he could.

    NYFA alum and director of ‘Resgate’ Mickey Fonseca (Far right)

    After moving to Cape Town, South Africa in his mid-twenties, Fonseca got a job as a runner for Monkey Films, where he continued to develop his love for telling stories. “I watched lots of films and read all the books I could get my hands on,” he remembers. Fonseca also gained more experience by working on film sets for big-budget films like Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Diana, starring Naomi Watts.

    In 2006, Fonseca started his own production company (Mahla Filmes), and later decided to go to New York City to attend NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting program. “I decided I needed to go to NYFA to get better knowledge of the craft,” he shares. “I wanted to write the best script as I possibly could and, for this, I needed ‘one-on-one’ guidance from the best instructors.”

    Still from ‘Resgate’ featuring Gil Alexandre (left) and Arlete Bombe (right)

    After years in the business, Fonseca and his team have released their most challenging project to date, Resgate, which was produced by his company Mahla Filmes and a small crowdfunding campaign. “For over six years, we shot commercials, bought most of the equipment, saved money to pay cast/crew/locations, and we could finally make the film at all costs, with no interference,” he shares.

    Resgate revolves around a man who, after four years in prison, returns to his girlfriend and child to learn about a dangerous debt taken by his late mother. “It’s the first Mozambican independent film and it did extremely well in the local cinemas (8 weeks), breaking all records,” says Fonseca. The film also went on to win two Africa Movie Academy Awards for ‘Best Production Design’ and ‘Best Screenplay,’ and was nominated in four additional categories including ‘Best Director’ (Mickey Fonseca).

    Behind the scenes in Mozambique for ‘Resgate’ (Photo Courtesy of Mickey Fonseca)

    With the film’s local success, Fonseca and his team knew they needed to get a distributor. “We pulled out all our contacts, hustled very hard and managed to get our film to the Netflix door,” he explains. “Fortunately for us, they liked it.” After Netflix acquired the film, Fonseca reveals that the agreement is more than just a business move, it is an important moment for African film. “Resgate is the first film from Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) Africa on Netflix and I am positive this will pave the way for other films to be screened on the platform and hopefully create Netflix co-productions too.” He continues, “Africa is a creative bomb waiting to explode. There’s so much creativity and talent.”

    Still from Fonseca’s film ‘Resgate’

    Fonseca shares he is now in the early stages of writing a thriller on Xenophobia with a focus on African unity and hope, and another script set in southern Mozambique. “I write my own films and what inspires me to write is my city, its people, and the day-to-day stories. My films are all about people l meet, hear about and read about, and the social instabilities that lead to life-changing decisions.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA alum Mickey Fonseca on his exciting news with Netflix and encourages everyone to check out Resgate when it becomes on the streaming platform.

    Check out the Resgate film trailer below or click here.

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    July 24, 2020 • Acting • Views: 412

  • New York Film Academy Acting for Film Alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo Stars in Apple TV+ Film ‘Greyhound’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory program alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo stars alongside Tom Hanks in the Apple TV+ film Greyhound. Originally slated for a theatrical release, the film was acquired by Apple TV+ in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down movie theaters across the country.

    Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Center) in ‘Greyhound’

    The film made its streaming debut on July 10, 2020 and has since received critical acclaim. Greyhound follows U.S. Navy Commander Ernest Krause (Hanks) and his Allied convoy across the Atlantic. After being pursued by German U-boats, he and his crew find themselves embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

    Apple TV film poster for ‘Greyhound’

    Manuel Garcia-Rulfo stars as one of Commander Ernest Krause’s crew members named “Lopez,” who assists Hanks’ character in The Battle of the Atlantic. Also starring in the film include incredible talents Stephen Graham (This is England), Rob Morgan (Stranger Things), and Elisabeth Shue (Back to the Future franchise). Hanks, who wrote the screenplay for the film, based the script off of the 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by C. S. Forester.

    The NYFA alum has already had a buzzing career in both Mexico and the United States. As a young actor in Mexico, Garcia-Rulfo said he was offered roles in telenovelas that he decided to turn down. “You’re very hungry in the beginning. But I knew what I wanted my career to look like. I said no to a lot of things early in my career.”

    Manuel Garcia-Rulfo photo shoot (Photo Credit: FLAUNT Magazine)

    Since then, Garcia-Rulfo has starred in critically acclaimed films and blockbusters like WidowsThe Magnificent Seven, 6 Underground, and Sicario: Day of the Soldado. He will also be starring in the upcoming film Sweet Girl from Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Aquaman), expected to release late 2020 or in 2021.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Manuel Garcia-Rulfo on his latest acting role in Greyhound and the film’s success on Apple TV; NYFA looks forward to what’s next from the Acting for Film conservatory alum.

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    July 22, 2020 • Acting, Entertainment News, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 317

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Instructor Bruce Buckley Interviewed by The CG Career Channel

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    On Friday, July 10th, CG Supervisor, Daniele Tosti spoke with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Animation Instructor Bruce Buckley as part of an ongoing series for his Youtube channel, The Computer Graphic Career. “…Dedicated to helping artists in the feature and digital production industry”, the channel features several interviews with “some of the most successful senior artists and supervisors in the feature digital art business.” 

    The admiration between the two artists is clear from the start of the interview as they speak to each other’s successes and past collaborations. Once underway, we discover the passion and experiences that ultimately lead to Buckley’s long career as a CG Supervisor and Visual Development Artist for films like: Casper, Beowulf, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Fate of the Furious, and Deadpool 2.

    3D design from Bruce Buckley’s portfolio of work on Pixars’s ‘The Incredibles’

    The interview uncovers everything from the ways Bruce is able to find balance between being a supervisor while still feeling like an artist, to what he sees for the future of the business from a technological standpoint. However, it is Tosti’s questions that speak to the more personal nature of artists that separates this series from anything else. “As artists, we are all driven by emotions and subjective beauty. For that reason we tend to see the world differently and our passion goes deep. But balancing that passion with the economy of your professional life as an artist, as well as with your family and people around you is the most critical journey.” It is through this lens we begin to pull back the layers and see what it really takes to be able to make it in the industry. 

    NYFA’s Animation department prides itself on cultivating a faculty of working professionals utilizing a top down method. It stems from our belief that in order to become the best, you must learn from the best, and Bruce Buckley is simply the best.

    To watch the full interview, view the video below or watch on The Computer Graphic Career YouTube channel. To learn more about the Animation School at New York Film Academy, click here.

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    July 20, 2020 • 3D Animation, Faculty Highlights • Views: 279

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alumni Chase Thomas & Yael Silver Produce Star-Studded ‘Project Sing Out!’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is thrilled to share that NYFA Musical Theatre alumni Chase Thomas and Yael Silver are part of the producing team for the one-night-only livestream benefit concert, Project Sing Out!. The event will be streamed exclusively on Playbill’s Facebook page and YouTube channel onJuly 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

    NYFA Alumni Chase Thomas (Left) and Yael Silver (Right)

    Project Sing Out! will feature musical and spoken word performances and include special appearances in support of the Educational Theatre Foundation’s efforts to increase access to theatre education in under-resourced schools, specifically in low-income communities and communities of color.

    Featured performances and appearances include an all-star line up of talent including: Chita Rivera, Lea Salonga, Whoopi Goldberg, Don Cheadle, Vanessa Williams, Audra McDonald, and many other notable actors and performers including NYFA Musical Theatre Conservatory alum and West Side Story actress Ilda Mason.

    Poster for ‘Project Sing Out!’

    “Hailey Kilgore [Once on This Island and Executive Producer for Project Sing Out!] reached out to Yael [Silver] and me to produce and help create Project Sing Out!. In partnership with Playbill and The Educational Theatre Foundation, our mission is to universally keep the arts alive in low-income and BIPOC communities by igniting creativity and inclusivity while paying homage to our educators, empowering young artists, and honoring the Broadway community,” explains Thomas. “We are dedicated to making sure arts programming is available in communities large and small, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Across many industries, the global pandemic has hit the performing arts and non-profit communities hard, causing shows and events to be canceled. “Many galas or benefits will not happen this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is critical for the funding of nonprofits and organizations. With Project Sing Out!, we have figured out a way to do it successfully and fast.”

    Whoopi Goldberg, Lea Salonga, George Salazar, and Colman Domingo (Photo Credit: Playbill)

    Project Sing Out! is not only a star-studded event to entertain audiences and raise funds, but also aims to encourage the next generation of designers, directors, stage managers, choreographers and artists. “This is the future of Broadway coming at you live and in the comfort of your own home. These kids are amazing! The cause is extraordinary and timely. Please tune in to Project Sing Out!,” says Thomas.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank NYFA alumni Chase Thomas and Yael Silver for their hard work on putting together a noteworthy cause like Project Sing Out! and encourages everyone to tune in on Playbill’s YouTube channel and Facebook page on Monday, July 20 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.

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  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Acclaimed ‘American Beauty’ Actress Mena Suvari for The NYFA Q&A Series

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    On Tuesday, July 14, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to hold a live video Q&A with critically acclaimed actress MENA SUVARI to discuss her acting career with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Mena Suvari is an award winning actress known for her roles in hits such as American Pie (1999) and the five-time Oscar-awarded American Beauty (1999). Directed by Sam Mendes, her genuine and moving performance as the character Angeles Hayes in American Beauty earned her a ‘Best Supporting Actress’ nod by BAFTA and a SAG Award for ‘Best Ensemble Cast.’ Suvari also won a Movieline Award for ‘Breakthrough Performance’ for her role.

    Following the success of American Pie, she reunited with Jason Biggs in Amy Heckerling’s romantic comedy Loser (2000) and continued to show her acting range in projects like Jonas Åkerlund’s cult-classic Spun (2002), Rob Reiner’s Rumor Has It (2005), Tony Scott’s Domino (2005), and Factory Girl (2006), amongst others.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Mena Suvari (Right) during live Q&A

    Laiter opened the conversation by discussing Suvari’s career in the entertainment industry, which began with Suvari booking modeling and commercial jobs, which then turned into guest star roles on television. After booking her first film, Nowhere (1997), other indie film gigs soon opened up for the actress, eventually leading her to her biggest break yet, a lead role in the cult-classic, blockbuster film American Pie.

    Suvari recalls the audition for high school chorus student Heather being very relaxed and not as intense as her audition for American Beauty. After shooting American Pie, Suvari remembers going into film Sam Mendes’ heavily awarded film American Beauty, playing a more dramatic role as Angela Hayes, known for her iconic, risqué rose petal scenes throughout the film.

    “I honestly remember thinking, at the time, ‘I’m so happy to have a job’ not necessarily the big names around me and they [American Pie and American Beauty] saved me at the time during a very personally challenging moment in my life.”

    Kevin Spacey (Left) and Mena Suvari (Right) in ‘American Beauty’

    Suvari, who has experienced shooting some intimate scenes across her filmography, also touched on what it can be like for actors on set when filming a very sensual or more explicit scene.

    “It can definitely be awkward sometimes,” she laughs, “I have worked in all types of scenarios, but when you are shooting intimate scenes you want to keep the crew as small as possible and make everything feel very considerate.” For American Beauty, Suvari recalls everything being handled very professionally and carefully and remembers that Mendes was “very supportive” throughout the process.

    Mena Suvari in ‘American Pie’ (1999)

    A student then asked Suvari how she personally gets into approaching a role when reading a script. “It depends on the project,” she shared. “I am currently working on a project now, for example, where there is a tight family dynamic and I am trying to understand where the characters are coming from and their motivations.”

    Ultimately, Suvari explains, approaching a script is really about collaboration, as well. “I want to approach the writer, the director, and whoever I can to understand the genesis of the story and what it means to them, and ask as many questions as I can.”

    Mena Suvari (Left) and Alicia Silverstone (Right) in ‘American Woman’

    Suvari closed the conversation, by sharing some advice with NYFA students that has always stuck with her throughout her career while she was shooting Orpheus in 2007. “It was something that you think would be so simple, but the director [Bruce Beresford] just said ‘listen, listen listen,’ which can be tricky if you think about it, because you already know the script and what will happen because you are familiar with everything, but you need to be as present as possible in the moment.”

    Laiter then thanked Suvari for joining the conversation and giving students some excellent insight for their future productions in front of the camera or for those directing actors, while Suvari exclaimed she was so happy to be part of the conversation and to speak with the students.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress Mena Suvari for sharing her time and her experiences working on set from being a young actress to a seasoned performer. NYFA encourages everyone to check out Suvari’s upcoming film Grace and Grit, set to release later in 2020.

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    July 15, 2020 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 95

  • Masters of Game Design Series: Exploding Kittens Creator Elan Lee Shares His Story with NYFA

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    On July 9th, Game Designer Elan Lee talked with NYFA’s Scott Rogers as part of the Masters of Game Design speaker series.

    Elan Lee (Left) and NYFA’s Scott Rogers (Right)

    Lee discussed his origins working at Microsoft on classic games such as Halo. Lee chronicled his co-creating the Alternate Reality game genre with Jordan Wiseman on the Steven Spielberg’s the Beast. Rogers and Lee chatted about projects I Love Bees and Why So Serious? and Year Zero which were created by Lee’s 42 Entertainment. Lee discussed his transition from digital to tabletop games and the design and marketing of the Kickstarter record-breaking game Exploding Kittens. Lee also took questions from the Zoom audience.

    Exploding Kittens game created by Elan Lee

    A recording of this talk with Elan Lee will be available at a future date. To learn more about upcoming Masters of Game Design speakers, please join the NYFA Game Mentor Network at Meetup.com. For more on NYFA’s School of Game Design, click here

     

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    July 13, 2020 • Game Design, Guest Speakers • Views: 135