Sonny Calderon
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  • MFA Student Composes Musical Score for Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea”


    On May 4th, students at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy enjoyed a screening and Q&A of the Ron Howard film In the Heart of the Sea. On hand to discuss the film was the composer of its musical score and current NYFA Filmmaking MFA student, Roque Baños.

    Originally from Spain, Roque is an acclaimed film composer whose credits include The Machinist, Sexy Beast, the 2013 remake of Evil Dead, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, and many award-winning films from Spain, including the 2004 hit El Crimen Ferpecto.

    Roque Baños

    Roque Baños

    Roque was trained as a jazz saxophonist and classical composer, and he brings an eclectic blend of styles to his film scores, making him a much sought after composer for filmmakers of all genres.

    In addition to mastering many musical genres, Roque doesn’t rely solely on traditional instruments for his scores. For In the Heart of the Sea, Roque created samples for his score by bringing the actual whaling ship from the film into the famed Abbey Road Studios in London and playing it like a percussion instrument.

    This willingness to work beyond the typical is what makes Roque’s scores so appealing and memorable. When the moderator, NYFA’s Dean of the College Sonny Calderon, asked Roque about his approach, Roque replied, “Music is all experimentation. You never know what could make your movie more powerful. The best thing to do is collaborate with someone, and experiment. Fifty percent of the movie is sound. You might have a good movie, but if you have the wrong music, your movie will be bad.”

    When Sonny asked how Roque was hired for the film, he explained that legendary composer Hans Zimmer (Batman v Superman, Interstellar, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean) recommended him for the job. After meeting with Ron Howard, Roque was hired. This story illustrated the importance of having a network of collaborators who support you and your work.

    When a student asked what kind of language a director should use when working with a composer, Roque responded, “You have to say what you expect from the music, just as you do with any actor; it’s the same emotions.”

    Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon with Roque Baños

    NYFA’s Dean of the College Sonny Calderon with Roque Baños

    Finally, Roque explained that he wanted to earn an MFA in Filmmaking from New York Film Academy in order to better understand the entire filmmaking process. In this way, he said, his musical contributions to film can be even more effective.

    Roque’s latest work can be seen in the biblical epic Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) and directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, The Count of Monte Cristo, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).

    We thank Roque for sharing his wisdom with our students, and wish him continued great success.

  • “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” Screening & Discussion


    Last week, students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus spent an evening with the creators of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, one of the most celebrated films of the English rock music scene of the 1960s. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Cinematographer (and NYFA LA Cinematography Chair) Tony Richmond regaled the students with tales of a wild 30-hour shoot that took place in December, 1968.

    rollin stones circus

    Featuring performances by The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones themselves, The Rock and Roll Circus was a one-time event staged by the Stones to offer local fans an intimate concert experience set in a tawdry European traveling circus tent. The idea was to celebrate the music and not the trappings of the glamorous rock and roll life. The attendees of the concert were witness to music history as they watched a gathering of rock superstars playing for the fun of it to a crowd of about 300 people. The students at the film screening witnessed a document of one of the most creative and influential musical scenes—namely, London in the late ‘60s.

    Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed the film, is a music video and documentary pioneer. He made (with Tony Richmond), the Beatles’ final feature film, Let It Be, as well as Simon and Garfunkel: The Concert in Central Park; Paul Simon, Graceland; and Neil Young in Berlin, among many others. Michael also directed many seminal music videos including videos for the Stones’ songs “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Angie,” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Michael also directed many Beatles music videos, including “Paperback Writer,” “Hey Jude,” and “Revolution.” All this, in addition to directing many critically acclaimed feature films including Master Harold and the Boys, Nasty Habits, and Frankie Starlight, and television series such as “Ready Steady Go” and “Brideshead Revisited (for which he won the BAFTA award).”

    Anthony Richmond was a camera assistant on Dr. Zhivago, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, From Russia With Love, and Francois Truffaut’s Farenheit 451. Tony then went on the be the cinematographer of dozens of films, including The Man Who Fell To Earth, Don’t Look Now (for which he won the BAFTA award), The Sandlot, Stardust, Legally Blonde, and Ravenous. Tony was also responsible for lensing many seminal rock and roll films, including Sympathy for the Devil (for director Jean-Luc Goddard), The Who’s The Kids Are Alright, and Glastonbury Faire.

    NYFA Dean of the College, Sonny Calderon, who moderated the evening’s Q&A, encouraged the students in attendance to take Michael and Tony’s lead and do what they love. “After speaking with these two legends, I was impressed by just how much they love telling stories. They cannot imagine a life where they weren’t constantly creating films, videos, and shows, and they do it for the love of sharing stories.”

    When asked what he hoped NYFA students would take away from the screening, Tony responded “We were veritable kids when we filmed the show. We were inventing techniques as we went along in order to accomplish our vision. We even engaged a French camera company to fashion a system for us that enabled Michael to direct the film like a live show, thus preserving the energy of the performance. These cameras were regular TV studio cameras but had beam splitters installed into them so that 50% of the light coming in through the lens would be funneled to Michael in the control room, and 50% went to a built-in 16mm camera that served as our image capture medium. Michael was cutting on the fly like a live TV show in a control truck, calling the shots to the various camera operators. To my knowledge, this was the first time film had been used for a live show in this way.”

    rolling stones circus

    About the screening, Michael says “Under Sonny Calderon’s alert questioning, Tony and I were able to re-create for the students the making of ‘TRSRNRC’ and also about those times, the middle 1960s, when the world was changing under our feet and before our eyes. London then was a terrific place when all these extraordinary musicians were exploding and sending their shards of brilliance around the globe. But we hoped the students didn’t just see this as a trip to Lake Nostalgia, but also as something made by a group of people who were passionately involved with what they were doing, and wished to encourage them to find their own heroes and heroines and projects to go for and things which may seem at first daunting but with application and wit, will soon be theirs.”

    Many of the insights shared by Michael Lindsay-Hogg can be found in his recently-published memoir, “Luck and Circumstance,” which details his fascinating life growing up and working with many of Hollywood’s greatest talents.

    New York Film Academy thanks Michael Lindsay-Hogg for speaking with our students, and we very much look forward to more conversations with him to come.


    March 11, 2016 • Cinematography, Guest Speakers • Views: 3613

  • Students Introduced to New WeMash Platform


    Last week, students at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus spent an evening with Quincy Jones, III and Sal Siino, co-founders of the exciting new Internet media company, WeMash.

    WeMash provides a cloud-based platform that provides users access to world-famous, top-quality content (studio blockbusters, television series, news footage, sports coverage, documentaries, music and more). The users repurpose and edit the existing content to create brand new works for distribution.


    Quincy Jones, III and Sal Siino, co-founders of the exciting new Internet media company, WeMash

    Quincy brings almost three decades of producing top-selling Rap and R&B albums, as well as documentaries about the music industry’s most famous artists. Sal brings twenty years of experience leading content-based media companies and as a transactional attorney. With their reputations in the entertainment industry, they’ve been able to secure licensing deals with the likes of NBCUniversal, BMG, Reuters, Downtown Music, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and a long list of independent content owners. Their rapidly expanding library already contains over 100,000 hours of video and music.

    WeMash users have unique access to this material (which is meta-tagged for easy search, preview and retrieval), and share in advertising revenue generated by their new creations. The WeMash creator platform is currently in an invitation-only access phase, with broad access expected later in 2016. During the Q&A, Sal and Quincy announced a great opportunity for NYFA students to apply for early creator status during this preliminary rollout.

    wemash creators

    “WeMash is excited to connect young talent with the world’s most celebrated content so they can re-imagine content beyond its original context, and we’re thrilled to invite NYFA students on to the WeMash creator platform,” Sal told Sonny Calderon, Dean of the College at New York Film Academy.

    Quincy added, “As a music producer in the early days of hip-hop, I had a unique vantage point into the proliferation of music sampling. I see the same movement happening in video today. Mash-ups are the video equivalent to sampling, and we are set for the next explosion in this art form.”

    wemash sonny calderon

    Sonny Calderon, Dean of the College at New York Film Academy; Quincy Jones, III; Sal Siino

    After moderating the Q&A, Sonny Calderon reflected on the opportunities sites like WeMash can afford up-and-coming visual storytellers: “In today’s climate, all visual storytellers—actors, writers, directors, animators, and others—must create a brand for themselves. And they must generate awareness of that brand. Who are you as a storyteller? What are you capable of creating? WeMash gives artists a free opportunity to help create that brand awareness.”

    New York Film Academy is grateful for the chance to partner with WeMash, and eagerly awaits what our students will create on the site.


    March 1, 2016 • Acting • Views: 8294

  • NYFA LA Welcomes Bill Duke to Faculty

    Bill Duke

    Bill Duke

    In the tradition of working with experienced and currently active film professionals, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles is delighted to announce that veteran actor, director, producer, writer, and humanitarian, Bill Duke, has joined its esteemed faculty.

    Duke excels in front of and behind the camera. His acting and directing credits are extensive and include work on such ground-breaking television series as Falcon Crest, Fame, Hill Street Blues, Knotts Landing, Dallas, and New York Undercover. His feature credits include Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Get Rich or Die Trying, Deep Cover, Hoodlum, Predator, Menace II Society and Not Easily Broken, among others. He has recently completed production on Blexicans, a new television pilot that takes a comedic look at a mixed race family. His documentaries, Dark Girls and Light Girls, both NAACP Image Award nominees, aired on OWN, and were two of the most successful documentaries on the network.

    Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

    Bill Duke’s invaluable contributions to the industry have been recognized by his peers in the entertainment community. Duke was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the National Endowment of Humanities, and was appointed to the Board of the California State Film Commission by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He also has been honored by the Directors Guild of America with a Lifetime Achievement Tribute.

    Bill’s humanitarian achievements are equally significant. He devotes his time to charities and not for profit organizations that enhance our human experience. He is on the Board of Directors of Educating Young Minds, and recently established the Duke Media Foundation, which has joined forces with the New York Film Academy to teach media arts and financial literacy to underserved youth.

    Please join us in welcoming Bill Duke to the NYFA family!


    February 17, 2016 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 5500

  • NYFA Explores LA Neighborhoods in New Doc-Series


    The New York Film Academy has gathered an award-winning team of industry professionals to produce a mini-documentary series about the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Three very different people tell us their story and the story of their community. Each episode, told with cinematic flair and shot with the new Sony FS7 camera, will guide the audience on a journey to discover the authenticity and soul of each neighborhood.

    Today we shot footage of the Korean musician, SeonJoo Lee. She arrived from South Korea several years ago to attend a language school in Westwood; but three years ago began to feel homesick and moved to Koreatown, a home away from home.

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    We shot at Chapman Plaza and the City Center, both on 6th Street. We had two cameras filming in order to get the coverage we needed.

    “I’m a big fan of the new Sony FS7; it was so portable and user-friendly.” The handgrip and arm design provided DP Travis Hoffman with much support to keep the handheld camerawork steady. And he easily switched frame rates from 24fps to 48fps to 60fps.

    “The FS7 worked great on so many levels and I couldn’t be more pleased with this perfect hybrid between a great run and gun build and studio-designed camera that Sony has produced. What was great with the FS7 is we didn’t have to sacrifice image quality for speed. For this I credit the camera’s non-modular design and extendable handle with built-in record speed button, adjustable zoom, and other user-customizable functions. I was also a big fan of the EVF/flip up monitor. It had some great customizable controls and easy quick buttons to see peaking, contrast adjustment, and other user functions. The built-in ND’s up to 6 stops were very user friendly and helped me control my image quickly and efficiently. It was perfect for the times we were handheld run and gun, grabbing the life of the city but also when it came time for interviews and controlled b-roll with lighting and dolly. I was also extremely impressed with Sony’s 4k Super 35mm Single-Chip Exmor CMOS sensor. First off, the new “Slog 3” gamma space was beautiful. I usually rated the camera from 1000-2000 (depending on situation), and was amazed with the 13-14 stops I was pulling out of the image. Not only was the highlight gradation superb but the shadows felt rich and natural and I had no problem capturing noise-free night exteriors with all natural light.” – Cinematographer, Travis Hoffman

    Nick Sony

    The camera was also a perfect choice for Nick Sivakumaran, the project’s director.

    “I was able to view the footage whenever I wanted and the thumbnail menu was extremely easy to use. We also shot in some darker alleys of K-town and I was very pleased with the low light performance of this camera. And the 28-135mm zoom lens gave us so many options when framing our shots and truly helped us make our day.” – Director, Nick Sivakumaran

    Sony NYFA

    The speed, portability, and image quality were also a boon to the project’s producer, Ana Menendez.

    “We are extremely excited to be working with the new Sony FS7 camera. It is very production friendly. The footage looks incredible and it is perfect for the concept and vision of this project.” – Producer, Ana Menendez

    sony 5


    July 8, 2015 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking • Views: 4458