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  • Q&A with NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum & Cinematographer Shivashish Ahuja

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Shivashish Ahuja is a Los-Angeles based Cinematographer with industry experience shooting and directing short films and music videos. Ahuja has worked with several well-known artists since graduating from NYFA, including Billie Eilish, Alessia Cara, Naomi Osaka, Tate McRae, and more. 

    Ahuja spoke with NYFA about his latest videos, career challenges, and experience traveling from a small town in India to the city of Los Angeles.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us what originally brought you to the New York Film Academy and what prompted your interest in cinematography?

    Shivashish Ahuja (SA): I come from a small town called Kota, India, which is known for “manufacturing” engineers and doctors. With the strong support from my family, especially my brother, I took the step to move to the United States to pursue my dream of becoming a professional cinematographer. 

    I had an early interest in still photography but decided to pursue moving images after I covered Vin Diesel’s visit to India in a Behind the Scenes video. They were in town to film their movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

    For me, film is an engaging medium and forces you to not only think but to take a step toward change. My journey at the New York Film Academy was beautiful. The school not only gave me a platform but also made me aware of the culture and people in the United States. Without NYFA, I wouldn’t have been a member of the Academy Gold Rising Cinematography program in 2021

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating from NYFA?

    SA: Ever since I graduated from NYFA, I’ve managed to grow within the industry, including work as a cinematographer for the reality show Staycation and work with Grammy award-winning artists like Billie Eilish, Alessia Cara, and Carlitos Del Puerto. 

    I’ve also worked with Mena Suvari, Naomi Osaka, Tate McRae, and Diljit Dosanjh to name a few. Short films I’ve worked on for Dhar Mann Studios on YouTube have performed well and made it to the IndieFEST Film Awards, and the film Big Rant screened at the Fimucite Festival Internacional de Musica de Cine de Tenerife and made it to the Hollywood Music In Media Awards (HMMA). The movie Paper Boats was screened at the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and my film FaceOff made it as a finalist in the Rethink Dance Film Festival. 

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest work & how it felt to work with well-known artists? 

    Shooting the live performance with Billie Eilish was both challenging and fun. I got the chance to work with fellow NYFA MFA Cinematography alum, Mayur Patankar who was the gaffer, and I served as the rigging gaffer. 

    Billie Eilish was soft-spoken and very respectful to everyone on the set. Plus, to listen to her live was an incentive. I was given the opportunity to work with both Alessia Cara and Carlitos Del Puerto as the cinematographer through Richy Films LLC. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to this project and others?

    SA: NYFA taught me the importance of pre-production, especially on bigger sets where celebrities are involved. They have extremely tight schedules and so it’s best to be prepared with everything so when they walk in, you’re ready to roll. Another crucial learning from NYFA was understanding the director’s language. Some shoots demand you work fast, which means maintaining good quality with as few setups as possible in a limited amount of time. By understanding the directors’ and producers’ goals and deliverables, it becomes easier to perform your best. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Shivashish Ahuja for his success in Hollywood and we encourage you to check out the show Staycation and watch the music videos included here. 

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    January 3, 2022 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 375

  • NYFA Acting Alum Cleavandor Wright in ‘Meeting Juan Jones’ and ‘Diablo’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Acting for Film alum Cleavandor Vandorn Wright is a retired Military Army veteran turned actor now working in the film industry. The Florida-based actor spoke with NYFA about his latest work, life after graduation, and advice for NYFA students. 

    Wright first started acting in 2016, at PlayBuilders of Hawai’i Theater Company in a production called ‘Dragonfly.’ The play tells the story about a girl’s journey through foster care and was directed by Terri Madden. The actor performed eleven times, playing six characters, each with dialogue, and toured with the troupe as performances were carried out throughout the island of Hawai’i. Wright was awarded the Ensemble Award at the theater company’s banquet, PO’ OKELA AWARD Ensembles Performance: Non-Traditional. 

    In 2017 Wright was also featured in the television series revamp of Hawaii Five-O in episode five of season eight alongside Chi-McBride. The NYFA alum played the role of a Security Guard. 

    Wright starred in the 2019 film Diablo directed by Cedric Livingston, a suspense thriller following protagonist Reggie who lurks from town to town, picking victims for murder. The film is available for streaming in certain locations on Amazon Prime Video

    NYFA Acting alum Cleavandor Wright plays Edgar in the film Meeting Juan Jones (2021) 

    NYFA Acting alum Cleavandor Wright plays Edgar in the film Meeting Juan Jones (2021)

    The alum also plays Edgar in the 2021 feature film Meeting Juan Jones, in which cryptocurrency trader Tim loses his life’s savings after an insider tip goes wrong. Tim meets Juan Jones, a local Miami shylock who takes Tim for a ride through the streets of Miami for a night of corruption and self-discovery. The film was both directed and written by Larry Camacho and Alejo Vega. The film was produced by Mcpree Production Films based in Miami, Florida. 

    A behind-the-scenes photos of the short film From Miami with love with NYFA alum Cleavandor Wright

    A behind-the-scenes photos of the short film From Miami with love with NYFA alum Cleavandor Wright (left)

    Wright teamed up a second time with Cedric Livingston (Diablo) to be featured in the short film From Miami with love, which was directed, written, and produced by Cedric Livingston. 

    In support of the NYFA community, the actor appeared in two NYFA student films which were directed, written, and produced by a NYFA student and alum from the South Beach (Miami) campus. The two short films Silver Mettel directed by 1-Year Filmmaking student Clay Ransom Greenwald, and 222 directed by NYFA BFA Filmmaking alum Zoe Bell, were also thesis films for the two filmmakers. 

    NYFA acting alum Cleavandor Wright on the set of the student short film Silver Mettel 

    NYFA acting alum Cleavandor Wright on the set of the student short film Silver Mettel

    When asked what he learned from NYFA that he applied to his work as an actor, Wright replied, “Everything, everything, and everything. I learned consistency, focus, a work ethic, discipline, and resiliency. How to dissect a script and get a visual understanding of what the character’s psychological mentality is so that you exact out the script what the director or writer wrote is what I took away from New York Film Academy.” 

    The actor has advice for incoming NYFA students, which is to “be on time to class and turn in your assignments before the deadline because this all ties into being on time to auditions and film sets. There’s a motto the Army lives by, which is also my motto since I’m a retired Military Army veteran, ‘If you’re early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late.’ Early arrival is always authorized.” Wright goes on to remind students to “ask questions, actively listen, be actively engaged during the exercises to construct techniques for your craft. And don’t forget to have fun!” 

    New York Film Academy congratulates alum Cleavandor Wright for his work in the acting profession, thank him for his service in the United States Army, and wishes him the best of success in his upcoming feature films. You can stay updated on Wright’s latest work by following him on Instagram (@mr_cleavandor).

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    December 23, 2021 • Acting, Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 553

  • Happy Holidays from NYFA’s Division of Veterans Services

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    NYFA Happy Holidays Veterans

    Dear NYFA Veteran Community,

    During this special time of the year, NYFA’s Division of Veterans Services (DVS) wants to make sure you know how much we appreciate you. As we wrap up 2021 and embark upon 2022, we hope that your holiday season is full of health, happiness and creativity.

    There is always so much interesting output from the talented NYFA veteran-students and veteran-alumni that DVS’s Director, Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Christopher Moore, has planned for a quarterly DVS newsletter in 2022. However, for now, please check out the provided links to see just a few examples of news from our community. Col Jack Jacobs produced a docu-series Ten Weeks on Roku, Director of DVS Chris Moore attending the Veterans Day Reception in NYC, and NYFA Alum, Zane Jones, received a 2021 Daytime Emmy for The Girl in Apartment 15.

    Best wishes for a safe and Happy Holidays and New Years from the Division of Veterans Services. We look forward to you all returning safely in 2022.

    ~ Christopher Moore, Mike Kunselman, Jonathan Cortez & Creshaun Sanders

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    December 23, 2021 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights, Veterans • Views: 412

  • NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum Hongyu “Neo” Li on Life After Graduation as a Development Executive

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Hongyu “Neo” Li has been hired as the Development Executive and In-House Writer for Starlight Media. The production and finance company has produced several popular films including Crazy Rich Asians, Malignant, and Wuhan Wuhan. Li’s creative role includes overseeing treatments, ideas, pitches, and more. He reports directly to Starlight Media’s CEO, Peter Luo. 

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum, Neo Li

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum, Neo Li (above)

    The China-born writer and filmmaker began his career with short films, including Hank and Waiting For Frank, both of which received international recognition. Li screened his short films at over 30 film festivals, including the Palm Springs International ShortFest, Cleveland International Film Festival, and Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. His most recent screenplay My Chinese Neighbor was semi-finalist at the Austin Film Festival Script Competition, selected as a 2020 New Reality Screenwriting Program finalist, and named a semi-finalist at the 2021 Nashville Film Festival. 

    Li spoke with NYFA about his latest role and life after graduating in 2018. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What can you tell us about what you do as a Development Executive for Starlight Media? 

    Neo Li (NL): As a development executive, I am responsible for generating ideas, treatments, pitches, and scripts, and guiding producers and writers in the development of content, curating a growing slate of film and TV projects. 

    NYFA: What type of projects do you oversee as a Development Executive?

    NL: I have been overseeing a couple of crime thriller projects, one with an Oscar-winning producer attached. 

    NYFA: What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your work in the industry?

    NL: There have been some challenges along the way. The biggest one was shifting my mindset from writing/directing to the perspective of an executive. As a writer/director, I mostly ask myself if the story is appealing to me or not, but as an executive, I have to consider more elements, such as talent, budget, IP, merchandising, distribution—it’s a package of deals. Of course, the story is essential, but it’s not the only factor that needs to be considered.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied to your work and experience since graduating? 

    NL: Directing, writing, and producing my year one film and thesis film at NYFA helped me understand how to complete a film from the logline stage all the way to distribution. The difference is, budgets in the industry are higher, and filmmakers need their work to appeal to a wider audience and are also responsible to their investors and backers. 

    As a film student, I was only commercially responsible to my selfless parents! But I do think that your short films from your degree will be your calling cards as you set out on a film career – so it’s important to think about what your films say about what strengths you can bring to a project.

    In terms of specific classes, I think James Rowe’s directing class deeply enriched my knowledge in directing and story development. While developing my thesis film Hank, I wasn’t really confident about directing it myself, and my instructor David Newman strengthened my faith and confidence. 

    Mark Horowitz’s class in feature film sales, marketing, and distribution gave me a general idea of an executive’s world, which helped me stand out in my three-month internship. And I want to give a big shout-out to Crickett Rumley, who has been a steadfast supporter since I graduated and who has been a great resource for connecting alumni together. 

    NYFA: Are there any other upcoming projects or trends we should know about?

    NL: The biggest trend that I have been paying attention to is that of crime thrillers combined with high concepts. As evidenced by Squid Game, foreign language is not a barrier anymore. The determining element is the core and the theme – is it universal? People living in Seoul struggle with the issue of class, but so do the people in San Francisco.  

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming NYFA students? Especially those seeking an MFA? 

    NL: Never underestimate the importance of your year one film, which is a great opportunity to make mistakes and conquer your fears. Stop submitting your films to those film festivals that will hand you 10 awards. Go to the real ones. Go to their screenings and panels and connect with people. You will get inspired, make friends and probably find your next director of photography, producer, or lead actor. When you have ten film ideas, choose the one that you personally respond to at an emotional level. For your thesis film, tell your OWN story and be sincere. 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Li on his role at Starlight Media and his pipeline of projects. If you’d like to learn more about Neo Li’s work, you can visit his LinkedIn profile or read about him on his professional website.

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    December 21, 2021 • Alumni Events, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 534

  • NYFA MFA Screenwriting Alum Bruce Purnell’s New Feature ‘Boxing Day’ Unwrapped for the Holidays

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    Bruce Purnell, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting alum, director and producer, has a new feature film coming this holiday season. Boxing Day, the story about a British author living in the United States who returns home to London for Christmas to introduce his American fiancée to his eccentric British-Caribbean family, is a romantic comedy co-written by Purnell. The main character’s relationship is put to the test, as his fiancée soon discovers the world her partner left behind. 

    The new romantic comedy was co-written with director Aml Ameen in his directorial debut. The plot of the film was inspired by director Ameen’s own life and will star Ameen himself. Boxing Day will also star Aja Naomi King, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. The film will be the first UK holiday film to feature an all-black cast. 

    Promotional poster for Boxing Day (2021)

    Promotional poster for Boxing Day (2021)

    Financed by BFI and Film4 with Warner Bros. Pictures as a distributor for the film’s release in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Boxing Day is produced by Ameen and Purnell’s new label Studio113. 

    In a statement featured in a Deadline article, director Ameen quotes, “It is such an honor to be teaming up with Warner Bros. Pictures, Film4, and BFI to bring Black British Culture to the world in this universal holiday rom-com. It’s long been a dream of mine to capture films that reflect the wonderfully multi-cultural city that raised me while sharing stories from the diary of my life.”

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum and writer Bruce Purnell (left)

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum and writer Bruce Purnell (left)

    Screenwriter Bruce Purnell has also worked as a director and producer, having developed and filmed several short films, including One Heart, Moments in the Grey, and Learning to Share. New York Film Academy congratulates Bruce Purnell for his success with his newest feature Boxing Day, coming to theaters this holiday season.

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    December 16, 2021 • Alumni Events • Views: 622

  • New York Film Academy & EducationUSA Pakistan Celebrate International Education Week 2021

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to be involved with EducationUSA, the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP), and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to celebrate International Education Week (IEW) with film as a vehicle to bridge mutual understanding between the United States and Pakistan.

    For the third year in a row, Professor Piero Basso, NYFA’s New York Campus Chair of Cinematography, led a team of NYFA faculty judges for the filmmaking competition ‘Filminute‘, which was created to help Pakistani students improve their communication skills and unleash their creative potential. Budding filmmakers between the ages of 15 to 18 submitted one-minute films with their unique interpretation on the theme: ‘if these walls could talk.’

    On November 18th, EducationUSA Pakistan held a virtual event to celebrate each film and the award-winning filmmakers. At the event, NYFA Professor Piero Basso provided remarks to the online attendees. He began, “As an educator, it’s always a reason of joy to see the young, new generation creatives expressing themselves in films and willing to take risks, explore creative storytelling, and to not be shy of talking about challenging topics. The theme ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ inspired some filmmakers to confront extremely serious and difficult subjects with a remarkable maturity”.

    Further encouraging young Pakistani filmmakers, Professor Basso stated, “One of the greatest qualities of these movies is the willingness of the filmmakers to find ways to express themselves without the fear of judgment, especially on the technical elements. As the Chair of the Cinematography Department at NYFA’s New York campus, I watched several portfolios and you can often notice in older applicants the fear of submitting work less than technically perfect. Personally, I admire the freshness of younger filmmakers less bothered by the fear of judgment on how they set the camera and more focused in sharing their stories. They produce movies that are imperfect and raw, but intense, true to themselves and a pure expression of their creativity.”

     

    About EducationUSA:

    EducationUSA is the official U.S. government source of information on U.S. higher education. It offers accurate, comprehensive, and current information on accredited postsecondary institutions in the United States, and free guidance and assistance to students interested in applying to U.S. colleges and universities. In Pakistan, EducationUSA is hosted at USEFP, a bi-national commission established in 1950 by the Governments of Pakistan and the United States. USEFP also administers the prestigious Fulbright Student Program and several other scholarships and fellowships for Pakistani students interested in studying in the United States.

     

    About United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP):

     USEFP is guided by a binational commission composed of an equal number of Pakistanis and Americans, with the Chair alternating each year between a Pakistani and an American. USEFP is one of 49 “Fulbright Commissions” located throughout the world. Since 1951 when the first group of Pakistani grantees traveled to America and in 1952 when the first American grantees visited Pakistan, the USEFP has fostered mutual understanding between the people of Pakistan and the people of the United States through educational and cultural exchange. More than 8,000 Pakistanis and around 935 Americans have participated in USEFP administered exchange programs.

    The Foundation receives support and counsel from both the Pakistan and U.S. governments, but it is not an agency of either. The Foundation supervises a variety of programs that send Pakistani students and scholars to American campuses while bringing American scholars to universities in Pakistan. The goal of all USEFP programs is to help Pakistanis learn more about the U.S. and to help Americans learn more about Pakistan and its people.

     

    About New York Film Academy:

    New York Film Academy

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is a leading film, media, and performing arts college that offers hands-on intensive undergraduate and graduate degree programs, certificates, and workshops across a multitude of areas of study in New York City, Los Angeles, South Beach/Miami, Gold Coast (Australia), Florence (Italy), Beijing and Shanghai (China), and more. Its programs are accelerated and NYFA students can complete a four-year BFA degree in three years. NYFA’s online program offerings allow students the opportunity to advance their creative and technical skills in NYFA’s “Hands-Online Workshops,” available across NYFA’s film, media, and performing arts disciplines.

    NYFA is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). This accreditation extends to all NYFA campuses in the United States and overseas.

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    November 29, 2021 • Community Highlights, Contests, International Diversity • Views: 430

  • NYFA Screenwriting Instructor Paul J. Salamoff Wins at 46th Annual Saturn Awards

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    Paul J. Salamoff, writer, director, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor, received recognition for his latest feature film, Encounter (2019), at the 46th Annual Saturn Awards. The film was awarded ‘Best Independent Film’ at the Awards Ceremony and features a star-studded cast. The Saturn Awards, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, recognizes great work in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. The non-profit organization was founded in 1972 and just a year later organized the first annual Saturn Awards.  

    Encounter stars Luke Hemsworth (Westworld), Anna Hutchison (Cabin in the Woods), Tom Atkins (Lethal Weapon, Halloween III, Creepshow), Cheryl Texiera (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Glenn Keogh (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), and Christopher Showerman (George of the Jungle 2). The film was produced by Amy Bailey and distributed by Vega Baby. 

    Encounter follows the story of a wheelchair-bound artist who, after having lost everything in a car crash (including his daughter), experiences hardship once more when his friends discover an otherworldly object crashed in a rural field. He continues to investigate in order to confirm if the strange alien life form has nefarious intentions or if it could be the key to getting back what he once lost. 

    Salamoff, the writer and director of Encounter, describes the film as “a deeply personal film to me and was shaped by the films and filmmakers that have inspired me over the years. Even though it is about loss, grief, and the fear of the unknown, ultimately it’s about hope.” The film is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and released on Special Edition Blu-Ray.

    Screen still from Bob Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)

    Screen still from Paul Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)

    The film was inspired by legendary science fiction shows and movies including, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Gattaca, Solaris, Another Earth, Moon, Ex-Machina, and Arrival. Salamoff explored themes of loss, grief, and fear of the unknown in Encounter, with the underlying story surrounding the subject of hope. 

    An industry expert with over 30 years of professional experience in film, television, video gaming, and commercials, Salamoff has worked as a writer, producer, director, executive, comic creator, storyboard artist, and make-up FX artist. He was recently named one of The Tracking Board’s Top 100 up & coming Screenwriters and has developed projects with Mosaic Media Group, Hollywood Gang, Blumhouse, Wigram Productions, Silver Pictures, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Vertigo and Eclectic Pictures. 

    Screen still from Bob Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)

    Screen still from Paul Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)

    Salamoff is the author of ‘ON THE SET: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette’ and the graphic novels ‘Discord,’ ‘Tales of Discord,’ ‘Logan’s Run,’ and issues of ‘Vincent Price Presents.’

    New York Film Academy congratulates Paul Salamoff for his much-deserved win and recognition for the film Encounter at this year’s Annual Saturn Awards.

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    November 23, 2021 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 800

  • NYFA Instructor Claudia Raschke is DP for ‘Fauci,’ ‘My Name Is Pauli Murray’ & ‘Julia’

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    Following her work on the Oscar-nominated documentary, RBG and the Emmy and Sundance-winner, Boys State, cinematographer and NYFA Filmmaking Instructor Claudia Raschke has three new films out this Fall: Fauci, My Name Is Pauli Murray, and Julia

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke (above)

    The National Geographic Documentary Film Fauci follows the life and career of Dr. Anthony Fauci through his experiences as an infectious disease specialist and his response to AIDS, Ebola viruses, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Raschke shares about her experience filming on Fauci: “I was in awe of the huge responsibility and leadership Dr. Anthony Fauci shouldered for our nation. Keeping his brilliant mind sharply focused in a highly politicized COVID-19 pandemic made me see what it takes to be a legend.” 

    Following its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, the film was released in theatres and is now available for streaming on Disney+.

    Fauci Claudia Raschke on Set

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructo, Claudia Raschke (left) on set filming Dr. Anthony Fauci for the documentary ‘Fauci.’

    Raschke recently teamed up once again with female co-directing team Julie Cohen and Betsy West to shoot My Name Is Pauli Murray. After premiering in January at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary feature has since been picked up by Amazon. 

    My Name is Pauli Murray captures the forgotten but brilliant queer, Black legal scholar and activist, Pauli Murray, who influenced former Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Raschke added that “Capturing the passionate determination of civil rights activist Pauli Murray makes me appreciate how far we have come and how important it is to pass the knowledge over to the next generation because the fight is not over.” 

    The film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke (right) on set filming for ‘Julia.’

    Julia, a portrait of groundbreaking chef Julia Child, which Variety noted was “richly shot by Claudia Raschke,” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September. Once again, working with co-directing team Cohen and West, Raschke noted how Julia has impacted her as a cinematographer, “The joie de vivre and culinary passion of Julia Child made it possible to find adventure, romance, and a trailblazing career. It revolutionized the way Americans eat and created a new role model for women. She is such an inspiration to me, and my career as a cinematographer, in which 96% are men, and only 4% are women according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report of 2020.”

    Julia is now out in theatres. 

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke

    NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke (above)

    Raschke has been a Faculty Member of the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Department since 2014. Amanda Brzezowski, Assistant Chair of the Filmmaking Department, Documentary Division describes Raschke, “Not only is Claudia an incredibly talented cinematographer, she’s also an exceptional teacher. Our students love learning from her and getting to work with her as they develop their own cinematic and visual approach.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Claudia on all her successes and hits this Fall.

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    November 22, 2021 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 582

  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Grad Lucia Florez Awarded National Geographic Explorer Grant

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking graduate, Lucía Flórez, was recently awarded the prestigious National Geographic Explorer grant for her upcoming film Shirampari, about indigenous Amazonian fishermen. The project was awarded additional financial support from a grant made by the 10ARTS Foundation.

    The film follows Ashéninka leader, Arlindo, as he teaches his 11-year-old son their community’s tradition of catfishing using just a hook. The story of Arlindo weaves together numerous social and environmental issues such as the uncurtail destruction of the Amazon, the impact on native communities that rely on the habitat that is being stolen, and the threats and denial of human rights by powerful groups against the activists and community organizers.  

    NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Grad Lucia Florez Awarded National Geographic Explorer Grant

    Photo Credit: Christian Luglio / El Taller

    Flórez is joined by Chemi Pérez, a NYFA Filmmaking graduate, who took over the producing role for the project and met Florez while they were studying together in Los Angeles. Both Flórez and Pérez attended NYFA’s MFA Programs as grantees of the prestigious U.S. State Department’s Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Program — Flórez with the support of the Peruvian Fulbright Commission, and Pérez with support by the Spanish Fulbright Commission.  Both of these outstanding graduates were also awarded the distinguished Matthew Modine Masters Scholarship (MMMS) by NYFA. “NYFA has supported us since the beginning,” Flórez shared, “Learning at NYFA gave us more tools to be able to tell the story.”

    The team shared that the project could only be filmed during a two-week window in the summer due to the water level and conditions. It took the crew several days to get to the remote shooting location via multiple planes, overnight stays in the jungle, a 5-hour boat ride upstream (and dislodging the boat when it repeatedly got stuck in the low tide), and a long hike to the campsite.

    NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Grad Lucia Florez Awarded National Geographic Explorer Grant

    Photo Credit: Christian Luglio / El Taller

    Pérez and Flórez shared the urgency of telling the story at this moment and in showcasing a story that highlights the importance of legacy and conservation. According to Flórez, “It’s a pristine part of the Amazon. The amount of wildlife you see there is amazing. That area will change in the next 10 years… it’s not going to look this way ever again.”

    The film is currently in post-production with plans for a festival run in the Spring of 2022.

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    November 22, 2021 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 822

  • Nika Nikanava’s ‘Generation 328’ Wins Best Student Short at 2021 Woodstock Film Festival

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    Generation 328

    Screen still from Nika Nikanava’s short film, ‘Generation 328’

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking graduate, Veranika (Nika) Nikanava, won “Best Student Short” at the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival with her short film, Generation 328.

    After passing in a tragic hiking accident in Alaska before she could see the film fully finished, Nika’s classmates and other graduates from the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program worked together to complete the film and submit it to film festivals on her behalf.

    Veranika Nikanava

    Veranika Nikanava (above), NYFA Filmmaking student and posthumous winner of “Best Student Short” at the Woodstock Film Festival

    Anna Panova, one of Nika’s classmates, worked on post production and production of the film. Panova shared that for the graduates supporting the film, “it was important to work on this film as a memory and tribute to Nika’s life. It’s not about us, it’s about her… and making sure that the work of her life is getting proper recognition and is not forgotten. Even though she’s not with us anymore, her work continues to live.”

    Generation 328 is a character-driven documentary following a group of mothers as they defy Europe’s last dictatorship, fighting to free their children from draconian sentences in brutal Belarusian prisons. Under article 328, it is common for young Belarusians to spend around ten years in prison for possession of less than a gram of marijuana. 

    Film Poster for Generation 328

    Film poster for ‘Generation 328’

    The story of Generation 328 is also one that was very personal to Nika. Originally from Belarus, she had a deep passion for telling stories about unheard heroes and was deeply concerned about human rights issues in her home country. Many of Nika’s acquaintances had been detained or knew someone that had been detained under article 328.

    The film had its world premiere at DOC NYC in 2020 and has since been screened at festivals around the world, including the Anchorage International Film Festival, the Ghent Viewpoint Documentary Film Festival in Belgium, and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Canada.

    You can read more about the film or follow Generation 328 on Instagram.

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