This Spring’s graduation was a graduation like no other. Not just here at the New York Film Academy, but across the United States and around the world. COVID-19 pretty much changed everything.
Cover of the May 2020 issue of ‘The New Yorker’
As you might expect, our grads — working at local, national and international news organizations — are in the middle of covering what is the story of a lifetime. But one Broadcast Conservatory program grad, award-winning investigative journalist George Colli, has been involved in a singularly unique way.
NYFA Alum George Colli
George is developing a new, online news platform, but he put everything on “hold” after he spoke to news sources across his home state of Connecticut about what was then a potentially deadly shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Put simply, initially there wasn’t any. George used his reporting skills to not only reveal the depth of this problem, but also find critically needed supplies, then put together an organization to distribute them to the places where they were needed the most. That included literally millions of face masks.
NYFA alum George Colli (Right) covering shortage of PPE
While we are proud of all of our grads, there is a special place in our hearts for George Colli. He helped (and continues to help) save countless lives…
Earlier this year, former NYFA Broadcast Journalism student Sura Ali signed up for one of our short-term Broadcast Journalism workshops. Her “modest” goal was to to do nothing less than change her life. She wanted to reinvent herself. And, based on a recent LinkedIn posting, it looks like Sura found what she was looking for.
“When I was 28, studying at the New York Film Academy, I was told ‘you are talented, outgoing and lively.’ I did a double take… wait what? They appreciate my voice and activism here? I finally felt at home.”
Thanks, Sura. We’re glad to know that you found what you were looking for at NYFA.
As most of you know, I normally spend a lot of time traveling. Over the past three months, beyond weekly trips to the supermarket, I haven’t gone anywhere. But I did have a chance to travel “virtually” to Manila, to participate in an online event tied to World Press Freedom Day. It was great to interact with 125+ journalism students. Thanks to the American Embassy in Manila for the opportunity to participate. (And in the spirit of “Where’s Waldo,” can you find me in the picture below?)
This week I am “virtually” attending the Cannes International Film Festival, in support of my indie feature film Invisible Love. While I’d love to share it with you’ll have to wait until Spring 2021 for its release. But I can share with you the preview/trailer. A period piece, this China/Vietnam/U.S. co-production takes place during the 1930’s in what was then known as French Indochina. Today, it is Vietnam.
New York Film Academy (NYFA), in partnership with the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission, has produced a video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, an art installation initiative to display original artwork on utility boxes throughout the Burbank community.
With NYFA’s own Los Angeles campus located in the Burbank area, NYFA offered its support to the Burbank Arts Beautification Program for this local community initiative as a means to provide a glimpse at what has been accomplished so far in the community through the Program. NYFA’s video highlights the Phase 3 of the Burbank Arts Beautification Program, which focused on the utility boxes located in the media district of Burbank. These boxes were painted by talented artists, who were inspired by the theme “A World of Entertainment.”
A Vintage Postcard for Burbank’ by Artist Monika Petroczy
In addition to creating the video highlighting the 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program, NYFA also sponsored artist Monika Petroczy, who created her box, ‘A Vintage Postcard for Burbank.’ Petroczy’s box was inspired by the classic vintage postcards from the 1950’s and included famous Burbank landmarks, activities and landscapes both classic and modern.
NYFA sponsored artist Monika Petroczy (Left)
This week, the City of Burbank in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Public Works Department, announced a call to all artists to participate in the Burbank Arts Utility Box Beautification Project for 2020. Various utility boxes throughout the City’s Magnolia Park District will be painted with original art inspired by the theme of “Celebrate Community.” Applications are now open and will close on Thursday, July 23, 2020 at 5:00 P.M PST.
NYFA would like to thank the City of Burbank’s Cultural Arts Commission for being part of Burbank Arts Beautification Program and encourages artists to apply to be part of the Magnolia Park District phase of the Program.
To learn about previous Utility Box Beautification Projects, or to apply, click here.
Like many films slated for a 2020 release, the low-budget indie film, Working Man, had to cancel its theatrical release due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The film then opted to be released on streaming platforms like Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu and Fandango Now. NYFA instructor and Cinematography Chair, Piero Basso, spoke with NYFA about his work as the Director of Photography (DP) and how Working Man is the film many need right now.
Working Mancenters around factory worker Allery Parker who, after many years in the workforce, finds himself out of a job and attempts to cope with his newfound unemployment. Eventually Parker’s existence takes a turn as he leads his former co-workers in a secret crusade to pressure their bosses to reopen their former work facility. For the first time, Parker feels like the man in charge. However, when truths are revealed, Parker must confront the loss and pain he’s been working so hard to avoid.
Official film poster for ‘Working Man’
Piero Basso’s work as a DP on Working Man was hailed by Hollywood Reporter, saying the “sense of place is well captured by cinematographer Piero Basso.” Basso first got involved in the project after connecting with Tara Tovarek, a producer Basso worked with when shooting the National Geographic series American Genius. “She [Tovarek] felt I had the right personal approach [for the production] considering this was the director’s first feature film and he [Director Rober Jury] needed not only the proper technical support, but someone to confront his vision without being overwhelmed by the experience.”
Basso explains that he was also interested to work on the project because it reminded him of personal struggles that he has experienced growing up in Turin, Italy. “It was the center of the industry manufacturing for companies like FIAT, and it has seen a steady and painful decline over the years.” Basso shares. “I have always been fascinated by factories and industrial buildings, as well as the manual work. Visually, it has always intrigued me because of the metal, the reflections, the coldness of the structures, often mixed with the warmth of the work (fire, furnaces, machine executing tasks).”
Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)
For Basso, Working Man, at its core, is a humane story grounded in reality that is “able to focus on the main character’s emotions in a non superficial way.”
For cinematographers, it is a common trait for DPs to leave their personal artistic mark on a project. For Basso, he leaves his mark in a different way. “I personally find it more interesting if my mark is achieved without bringing a special attention to the cinematography, but instead allowing it to disappear in a full integration in the narrative storytelling.”
While working alongside the director and screenwriter for Working Man [Robert Jury], Basso had several sessions with Jury to discuss the visual concept of the film. “We both felt that this film needed to be approached with a very strong agreement between us on how we wanted to portray the film.”
Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)
Due to the quick 20 day shoot, Basso recalls, “I approached every scene with a sense of urgency to deliver as much as possible space to the actor/director team to bring their characters to life.” Basso also shared that the film was shot on Arri Alexa using Master Prime lenses, a luxury in many cases for mid/low budget films like Working Man.”This allowed us to shoot with a much smaller lighting set up than traditional films.”
Like many filmmakers, some shoots don’t always go as expected. Basso recalls that portraying the small town of Joliet, IL, while actually shooting in Chicago, IL, made it tough to find locations as the production needed to convey a sense of community that felt realistic to show a sense of community.
This sense of community was essential in “showing the powerful capacity of different people to rally together and become, out of many, one entity and how the strength of the group is much stronger than each other’s weakness.”
Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)
Basso also notes that the project and sense of place needed to feel authentic. “I loved to see the wrinkles, the imperfections in the skin, and the bodies and ethnicities reflecting a true average of society instead of the Hollywood version of it.”
At a time when many around the world are out of a job and America has reached an unemployment level that rivals the Great Depression, Working Man has been released as a poignant time. “Now, with COVID-19 and millions of people losing jobs and the entire society completely shaken up, Working Man is more relevant than ever,” says Basso. “As a character says in the movie ‘a person needs a job to survive, but you need work to feel like you are worth something,’ and I believe today this is a feeling many people can share.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA instructor and Chair of Cinematography, Piero Basso, on his latest cinematography achievement and encourages everyone to check out Working Man, now available to view on demand.
When Angolan filmmakers Fradique (a.k.a. Mario Bastos) and Hugo Salvaterra, a NYFA Fulbright student, met in high school, little did they know it would be the beginning of a friendship and collaboration that would continue into adulthood, where they would both be studying at the New York Film Academy, and take them to the prestigiousWe Are One: A Global Film Festival. Created by the Tribeca Film Festival as a fundraiser for organizations addressing the world’s COVID-19 crisis, We Are One includes selections from top festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Rotterdam.
Air Conditioner, Fradique’s first fictional feature as writer and director,will premiere on YouTube on Saturday, June 6, 2020, at 11:45 am Eastern. It will then become available on demand for seven days afterwards. Attending the premiere is free, but donations are welcome.
Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, caught up with Fradique and Hugo right before the festival and asked them about their experiences.
Fradique on set of ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)
Rumley:Congratulations on this amazing success. Fradique, could you tell us more about Air Conditioner and how it came to be?
Fradique: This is actually a project that I had started writing a couple of years ago while I was developing what was supposed to be my first fiction film, The Kingdom of Casuarinas. Air Conditioner was kind of a side project that eventually ended up becoming my first fiction film, which for me was a big lesson on how in our line of work these things take many years. Sometimes the next one is not the one you thought it would be. The film was written by me and the director of photography, Ery Claver, who is a very talented filmmaker and someone that sees cinema as I do.
Air Conditioner is a magic neo-realistic journey through downtown Luanda, Angola, where we follow Matacedo, a security guard of an old building, while he tries to retrieve his boss’s AC in a city where all the AC’s are falling. This is a film about loss, how we live together as society, and a critique of social classes in a city that is past-present-future. My biggest inspiration for this film was my own life experience growing up and living in many different buildings in downtown Luanda and also the idea that these invisible workers that are the heart and soul of our city should be main characters on the stories we watch on the big screen.
Rumley: What was the most challenging thing about making the film? What did you learn in the process?
Fradique: The film was produced and shot with a very small crew, almost guerrilla-style, so letting go and accepting what surroundings are offering you was my biggest challenge and lesson. Usually in all my projects, I try to be as meticulous as I can regarding the script, storyboard, and shooting plan, but with this film we wanted to work not only with non-actors, but also with the real location where the story takes place, the building. In the end, the film resulted from creative acts derived from a deep structure. It privileges character and location over traditional narrative. The improvisation in this project was not simply a free flow of expression, but a rigorous and disciplined act of playing from a given structure at its core. I believe that this mixture was essential to bring some raw and poetic experiences to the screen while pushing at the same time stronger performances from the cast.
Film poster for ‘Air Conditioner’
Rumley:The film premiered at Rotterdam, which is an amazing place to launch. What was that experience like?
Fradique: Yes, the film had its World Premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in the section of ‘Bright Future Main Program’ in 2020. For me, it was an honor to have the first festival screening at IFFR. It was my second time over there and I love and stand for everything that the festival believes. A lot of filmmakers that inspire me have been at IFFR; it’s a great home for the global south cinema. The feedback after the screenings exceeded my expectations, which were very low because I was very tired after a year of working on the film. We had five screenings and they were all sold out before the festival even started. The audience in Rotterdam are very generous and authentic cinephiles. We had great reviews at The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, and other local newspapers. The original soundtrack, which was composed by Aline Frazão for the film, was one of the elements that reviewers and the audiences mention a lot. She did an incredible job, and I believe the music in the film brought to the surface the soul of the main character, Matacedo, as well the city of Luanda.
Rumley:Fradique and Hugo, what are you each looking forward to with the film’s screening at We Are One?
Fradique:How this festival was put together still amazes me. We Are One offers a global audience easy access to great films and conversations about filmmaking. It’s free, yet it’s also open to donations to fight against Covid-19. For me as a filmmaker in the current crisis that was an important criterion to join this initiative because it has bigger concerns than defending a particular festival or film. It shows how important it is to work and act collectively. We are all still learning and trying to figure out what the future of independent cinema and festivals will be, but it’s important to try new formats and be open. I hope at the festival Air Conditioner reaches audiences that probably were not going to watch this film or simply give someone who is at home a small pleasant journey to Luanda, Angola.
Hugo:Personally, I’m mostly proud of the company’s achievement, amazed at the scale and sheer diversity of the festival. After attending many festivals like Tribeca, LA and NY film festivals or even the Venice Biennale, this feels like the most diverse and representative curatorship I’ve seen thus far. It truly represents cinema and independent cinema as a planetary global experience. It also gives me added hope that the usually non-English, non-western filmmaking voices can also be heard on a global scale for a more democratic and inclusive future for all independent filmmakers.
Filming ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)
Rumley:Let’s backtrack for a minute to the beginnings of your collaboration. How did you meet and start working together? Was it attending NYFA, or back at home?
Fradique: I met Hugo while I was still in high school here in Angola. Afterwards we went to study abroad. He went to Europe, and I went to the US in 2004 where I did NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking program and also a BFA at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Once I got back to Angola in 2010, I started a production company called Geração 80, with Jorge Cohen and Tchiloia Lara. Hugo was one of the first artists to come on board at Geração 80. Our production company will celebrate 10 years this year.
Hugo:I met Fradique in the cocoon of our high school here in Luanda, Angola, in our youth. If my memory doesn’t fail me, I think I formed a kinship with him when I was still in university in Lisbon making music on the side. He showed some interest in shooting a video for a small EP I had made in my bedroom, something I never expected, and it meant a lot at the time. Our connection really took off when I joined Geração 80. I did my first job for the company while I was living in London in the end of 2011 then joined in early 2012, way before NYFA. I was still an aspiring filmmaker, writing film reviews and working mostly with photography. A memorable day is when I first made it into his bedroom, shortly after arriving from London. Large sections of his DVD film collection mirrored mine. That’s when I realized that more than a friend, I had found a brother through our shared passion for film.
Rumley:Hugo, what was your position on ‘Air Conditioner?’
Hugo: I was fresh from returning to Angola post-NYFA and figuring out how to promote my film “1999” here in Luanda. In an independent production company, a lot of sacrifices have to be made in order to make things happen. So I was focused on the commercial end of the company making sure that my colleagues could enjoy the freedom and necessary focus to produce and shoot the film.
On set of ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)
Rumley:Your production company sounds really interesting. Can you describe it, how you work, what you do, how you started it?
Fradique:We will celebrate a decade next month. We started only with three people, and today we are a group of eighteen professionals working in the audiovisual industry in Angola. At the beginning the goal was to just make cinema, but soon we realized that we had to do other work to survive. In Angola there’s no film funds or initiatives, so being able to put together a production company that does not only cinema, but commercial and corporate work gave us the resources to be able to build a great team and acquire top equipment to make us more independent. Over the last ten years, we produced one feature fiction film, four feature-length documentaries, six short films and worked on a couple of international co-productions. When it comes to producing our films, we work very much like a collective. Everyone works on each other’s projects, and we only finish a film when it reaches an audience. We don’t make films to be put into drawers, we believe independent/author cinema should meet bigger audiences as well. We are tired of seeing our film theaters only with Hollywood films. We want not only more Angolan cinema in our theaters, but also African cinema.
Hugo:For me the real beauty of being part of this collective is also that, all of us, despite our differences, are committed to the power of movies, storytelling and all its magical elements. Our aim is to make movies, not products, which is increasingly more difficult in a time where everything is commodified either through likes or commerce. Making movies for us is not a job, it’s a way of living. We are in essence not in the movie business, but in the business of making movies. It’s our passion and desire to make films that informs the process and the how and that to me is special.
Rumley:How do you think your education at NYFA and the work you did here prepared you for a career in filmmaking?
Fradique:NYFA gave me the foundation of what it means to be an independent filmmaker. Learning how to work collectively on other classmates’ projects and at the same time experience different positions on the set was fundamental for me to be able not only to fully understand the craft and the importance of every person on set, but also l to later on have the resources to open up a production company in my home country. On top of all that, I did my one year program almost entirely on film. We only did one main digital project with a MINI DV, no REDs at the time. Everything else was in 16mm, and each gave me more confidence as a director in the beginning of my career.
Hugo:I was already in my early 30s when I made it into NYFA, so I almost missed the window to becoming a filmmaker. I’m very grateful for the two years spent there, particularly in New York, where I was able to find the confidence and tools not only to learn what filmmaking is, but also find my artistic voice. Los Angeles was different but essential in learning a more formal, business-oriented way of producing films. There, I focused more on how to write a feature within a more conventional three-act structure and developed technically on set, playing with the vocabulary of film in a way that made me a much stronger filmmaker.
Filming ‘Air Conditioner’ (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)
Rumley:Do you have any special shout-outs to faculty or staff who really helped or inspired you?
Fradique:I have great memories of teachers like Tassos Rigopoulos and Claude Kerven. Together with my fellow classmates, they represent the best first lessons I had about filmmaking.
Hugo:Brad Sample’s capacity to analyze, deconstruct and mentor, Ben Cohen’s humor, intellect and love of film history, Rae Shaw’s production acumen stand out. Sanora Bartels, Greg Marcks, and Robert Taylor for teaching me the science of script writing. There are others I’m sure, but those stand out.
Rumley: What advice do you have for recent graduates making their way in to the professional world?
Fradique: As it became easier to have the resources to make films, also it seems more difficult with so many options to follow or trying to keep up with all the trends and gadgets. My advice would be don’t get stuck on the gear, to spend more time and make meaningful connections and partnerships with the people you work with. Watch a lot of films and think collectively, that’s the root of filmmaking. Surround yourself with people that are different from you but have the same passions, values towards art and don’t forget the best stories are found at home, wherever that might be.
Hugo:Filmmaking is a mansion with many rooms and it’s very easy to get lost wandering in it, figure out what your strengths are and sink into what and who you are. By that I mean, what do you bring to a story, a set, a crew, a production company? What are you making films for? If you’re able to answer that, regardless of success or failure, you will find the nourishment you need to carry on.
Cast and Crew of ‘Air Conditioner’ including NYFA Alumni Fradique and Hugo Salvaterra (Photo Credit: Cafuxi)
Rumley:These are trying times in the world today, and art matters more than ever. Do you want to share any words about the importance of film in the lives of humans living right now? The role of Angolan film in world cinema?
Fradique:The world we have today is the result of the same and single story being told for centuries. We need more diversity behind the cameras and in what see on the screen. We need to remember that culture, art, is not mere entertainment or something to disconnect us from our daily life online. Be aware not only of your country’s borders, but your social and society borders as well. Cinema is more than a mirror; it is art and memory with all the senses, feelings and its lapses. Let’s take care of our memories.
Hugo: At its core, film is still the only art form that explores what it means to be human. It’s not the imitation of life, it is the imagination of everything life could be. In a time when the very existence of organized human life is at stake, we have to make sure, now more than ever, that the films we’re making get to the core of that exploration. There is a war raging that isn’t new, one that is fought between commerce and the full potential of film as an art form. It’s an age-old battle, where there will always be those who will try to define films as a monolith, by creating markets and monopolies where the overarching definition and structure of a film is the same and where its success is only measured by if it won anything in a festival or how much money it made vs. the whole history of the art form, where the writers, directors and producers made a film because they wanted to birth something that was urgent, as a way of life, as means of catharsis, beyond conventions of class or structure. Filmmakers have made the history, inside big studios or the smallest of spaces, with the biggest crews and the most skeletal ones, by understanding and studying film history and the art form. Angola is a young country and is showing potential to create both types of films, both profit-driven ones and ones that channel and respect the history of film as an art form. We champion the latter.
Rumley:Anything else that you would like to say to the NYFA community?
Fradique: Be safe and be informed. If you have the chance, watch Air Conditioner at We Are One: A Global Film Festival starting June 6th.
Rumley: Congratulations! We wish you the best with your We Are One screening and in all your endeavors. Keep making art; keep telling your stories. They matter.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Fradique and Hugo Salvaterra for taking the time to speak about their new film, Air Conditioner, and congratulates them on the premiere of their film at the We Are One Film Festival.
UPDATE June 19, 2020: Fresh off their screening with the We Are One Global Film Festival, Fradique and members of his crew and production company, Geração 80, will join Crickett Rumley, NYFA’s Director of Film Festivals, for a discussion of their film Air Conditioner on June 25, 2020. To register, click here.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Natalia Bougadellis’ public service announcement (PSA), “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition. Bougadellis, who attended NYFA’s Teen Filmmaking program in Los Angeles and an intensive 6-Week Filmmaking workshop in New York, worked on the PSA under her female-run production company Blue Slate Films.
Bougadellis is a director and cinematographer, who hails from Athens, Greece. Her critically acclaimed film, The Owls, (available on Amazon), has played in eleven countries and over thirty film festivals, winning the prestigious Zoe Award at LifeArt Festival, “Best Student Film” at Miami Independent Film Festival, and “Best Student Filmmaker” at America’s Rainbow Film Festival Presented by HBO.
Natalia Bougadellis behind the camera during filming
Bougadellis is also the Executive Director of The Great Griffon, a non-profit organization founded to bring awareness and support to LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream entertainment. Bougadellis also co-founded her own production company, Blue Slate Films, with female filmmaker Emory Parker, in 2017 and continues to produce cutting edge projects for high-profile brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Calvin Klein, and Pepsi, to name a few.
Her PSA, “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, acquiring almost 48,000 votes and over 200,000 views. Though Bougadellis’ PSA did not come in first place, Gov. Cuomo announced in a briefing that New York state will still air the PSA.
New Yorkers from the PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit NYC, Blue Slate Films (Bougadellis’ production company) was gearing up to shoot their very first feature film, Whirlpool. “As a small business, we were really affected by this,” says Bougadellis.
When Bougadellis and her production partner [Parker] saw Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, they knew they had to get involved. “We saw the PSA competition as an invaluable opportunity to showcase our talents and stay creative throughout this time, while also spreading a message crucial to ending this pandemic.”
Bougadellis explained that they [Bougadellis and Parker] wanted to use this opportunity to tell true stories about real New Yorkers. She recounted that their vision was to show raw emotion for each individual portrayed in the PSA. “Our eyes can tell amazing stories, so we focused on faces and eyes to show how powerful human connection can be.”
For Bougadellis, the journey of filming this video around NYC and Long Island was heartfelt and sincere. “We had no script for this video,” she says. “All answers were spontaneous and came from the heart. Emory [Parker] then worked on editing the piece and bringing it all together.”
Still from PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)
Beyond the stories of the individuals featured in the PSA, Bougadellis hopes that those who watch the video understand that wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting oneself. “Wearing a mask means respecting your fellow New Yorkers and caring about them, as well,” she remarks. “The sooner we can all cooperate to control this situation, the sooner our city will be able to return to normal.”
During these times of social distancing and self-quarantine, in addition to their PSA, Blue Slate Films has also launched a digital series, The Slate, featuring artists, experts, and entrepreneurs that seek to make a difference in their respective industries.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natalia Bougadellis on her inspiring achievement, which highlights a crucial global message for all, and encourages everyone to check out the PSA and to keep an eye out for Blue Slate Films’ forthcoming film Whirlpool.
To watch the full “You Can Still Smile” PSA, click here or watch the full video above.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to announce that ten NYFA students and recent graduates have been accepted into The Academy Gold Program’s Internship Program for the summer. Out of 25 slots, ten NYFA students or recent graduates were selected to be part of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ (AMPAS) prestigious program.
Academy Gold Program official logo card
The Academy Gold Program is a multi-tiered educational and experiential initiative that gives top film entertainment, technology, production services, and digital media companies the opportunity to recruit and educate a nationwide pool of diverse talent. The program offers interns exclusive access to Academy members, screenings, industry professionals, and educational workshops.
Barbara Weintraub, Director of Industry Outreach and Professional Development at NYFA, invited members of the Academy Gold Program to meet with students at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus to explain best practices when applying for the Academy internship. The representatives included Niti Shah (Director, Academy Gold Talent, Development, Inclusion & Alumni Programs) and Bettina Fisher (Director of Educational Initiatives, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
NYFA students with AMPAS’ Bettina Fisher
During Shah and Fisher’s visit, they gave NYFA students a comprehensive outline of the internship program and the internship disciplines available for students to apply for, including: Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Costume Design, and Sound. Each discipline is limited to five spots with the entire program only accepting a total of 25 interns.
On May 15, 2020, after a series of interviews, the Academy notified the successful candidates for the Gold Program and extended the offer to join the Academy Gold Program in Summer 2020.
NYFA students who were accepted into the Academy Gold Program include:
YUANHUA (GWENDOLYN) WANG – Sound (MFA Filmmaking, expected graduation Fall 2020)
CATERINA PICCARDO – Production Design (MFA Filmmaking, graduated January 2020)
VERONICA BADELL – Production Design (MFA Filmmaking, graduated January 2020)
JUNKE (COCO) LI – Production Design (MFA Filmmaking, graduated January 2020)
JUAN SANCHEZ – Cinematography (BFA Filmmaking, graduated January 2020)
MAYUR PATANKAR – Cinematography (MFA Cinematography, expected graduation Fall 2020)
NYFA student Mayur Patankar, who was selected for the Cinematography internship program with the Academy Gold Program, shared, “I am so excited for the future training and opportunities.” Recent graduate Juan Sanchez told NYFA that getting into the program is “wonderful news” and that the program would begin this summer via Zoom before returning to practical sessions in the fall.
NYFA would like to congratulate its students and recent graduates who worked diligently to apply for the Academy Gold Program and looks forward to following each students’ success as they continue to pursue their careers.
From businesses to hospitals to schools to families, COVID-19 has forced people into a season of great change and uncertainty, causing people to adapt to new circumstances in the age of social distancing. For many, this has been a cause for reflection and doing their part to stay alert and distance themselves in public. For others, like NYFA Documentary alum John Saponara, this has been a time of giving back to the community and utilizing creativity to bring awareness and hope to others.
John Saponara grew up in Yonkers, New York, a suburb just outside of New York City and recalls, “from as young as I can remember I wanted to be a photographer.” His photos have since appeared on book covers both nationally and internationally, including the New York Times bestseller Eat Pray Love. He also founded the crowd-sourced project, Picture Black Friday, and his commercial clients include: Sony, Intel, HP, Oprah, and New York Magazine, just to name a few.
A volunteer packing face shields in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)
Saponara has been working at Bednark Studio and volunteering his time with other organizations, while also documenting workers and volunteers who continue to make the community safer by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional supplies for individuals and families in the age of COVID-19.
Bednark Studio, a full service fabrication company in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has been Saponara’s source of inspiration for documenting what is happening behind the scenes. “It’s there [Bednark Studio] that my portrait project formed,” he says. The portrait series follows the workers and volunteers who are working day and night to create PPE like face shields for medical workers or dividers for Uber/Lyft drivers.
Portrait of a volunteer in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)
“In the portraits, I’m there as a worker, so I do them when I can in my breaks or in a spare moment,” says Saponara. “In both cases, I don’t want to interfere; just be the proverbial fly on the wall.” The photographs are symbols of those who are working behind the scenes in NYC and all over the world, who are actively volunteering their time or working additional hours to provide PPE equipment or additional, essential supplies for others.
Masks for Docs volunteer headed to deliver PPE (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)
Another group Saponara has been volunteering with has been Masks for Docs, formed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They connect PPE with doctors and medical staff that need it,” he explains. “Motorcyclists help get where it [the supplies] needs to go.” The grassroots organization is composed of volunteers from the tech, business, arts, and members of non-profit communities, who have banded together to make a difference for healthcare workers not only in New York City, but all over the world.
A volunteer for Brooklyn Mutual Aid buying supplies (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)
Saponara also mentions Bushwick Ayuda Mutua, who help “get food on the table of the neediest families in Brooklyn.” In just one weekend alone, Saponara mentions that he and other volunteers were able to feed 200 people in need. “We collect donations of food and money and use those collections to buy groceries that we then deliver to families.”
Saponara says the groups that he has been able to work with and document are “a combination of the private sectors innovation and the power of people and community to get things done to bring about change effectively and efficiently.”
New York FIlm Academy thanks alum John Saponara for his service to the community and for sharing his portrait series, and encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about each organization to click the links above for more information on how to get involved.
To view more images from Saponara’s portrait series and his other works, click here.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking alumni Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange were given the opportunity to collaborate with Josh Homme’s super group, the Desert Sessions, to create two diverse and unique music videos for two of the tracks off the Desert Sessions’ latest album, Vols. 11 & 12.
The Desert Sessions is a musical supergroup formed by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who has been hosting his “Desert Sessions” retreats since 1997. Each session involves a different group of well-known musicians mixed with unknown talent, who come together in the desert to simply play music and experiment with new techniques and melodies.
Official photo courtesy of the Desert Sessions musical collective
“It is a really creative project that Jonathan Samukange and I have had the pleasure to be involved in,” says Italian filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro. “Matador records and Josh Homme reached out to NYFA looking for filmmakers to shoot music videos for their latest album Vols. 11 & 12. We had a great first meeting with Josh [Homme], where he explained the nature of the sessions.” After pitching their ideas for their videos, Fabbro and Samukange were selected by Homme and given a production budget to create two videos for the Desert Sessions.
Still from “If You Run” (Directed by Gabriele Fabbro)
Fabbro’s video, “If You Run,” follows a young woman who witnesses something terrifying in the woods and tries to escape. The director’s inspiration for the video was taken from deadly attacks on European journalists. “I used to read a lot of news about murders,” says Fabbro. “I remember one [story] in particular that happened in a cornfield. That article came to mind while hearing ‘If You Run’.”
Filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro
“I wanted to play with tension,” says Fabbro. “I wanted a video that would keep the audience at the edge of their seat.” To portray this, Fabbro made sure that every aspect of the video embodied a sense of fear and unease for the viewer “Every tool in the video, from the shakiness of the handheld shots to the distorted sound of the radio, serves to exaggerate this fear.”
The second video created for Desert Sessions was for the song “Move Together,” directed by NYFA Filmmaking alum Jonathan Samukange, who is also known as “Director O.” His video, filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe, is a reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. The video enlisted residents of an entire village and utilized the region’s stunning natural landscape to create “a time capsule” and hallucinatory trip through time.
“Move Together” (Directed by Jonathan Samukange)
Before being involved with the project, Samukange says he wasn’t planning on staying in the U.S because his vision is to “change the face of cinema in Africa and bring new opportunities.” When he initially pitched his vision for the video, he knew it could only be filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe. “It was a huge risk, but I believed in my heart that the people in Africa have a lot to offer and that’s what I was bringing to the table.”
Filmmaker and NYFA alum Jonathan Samukange
When asked about his vision for the video, Samukange stated, “the theme of love and working together [in the lyrics] as well as the conflict that comes with such connections took me back to the time of Adam and Eve.” He explained that their love “created conflict in their lives and they still stayed together through thick and thin.” He wanted his audience to also feel the attraction of opposites and conflict by combining two opposite elements for the video. “I immediately fell in love with the idea of fusing rock and Afro House dance moves. In my opinion, when cultures clash, new relationships and ideas form.”
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate both Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange on the release of their videos for Desert Sessions and looks forward to seeing what both alums will come out with next. NYFA also encourages everyone to check out Desert Sessions Volumes 11 & 12, out now, on Matador Records.
Multi-award winning actress, screenwriter, director, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Digital Editing alum, Omoni Oboli, directs and stars in Nigerian drama Love is War. The film, originally released on September 27, 2019, nationwide in Nigeria, is now available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.
Omoni Oboli on set for ‘Love is War’
In addition to Love is War, Oboli has directed Being Mrs Elliott, The First Lady, Wives on Strike, and Okafor’s Law. The Nigerian actress has also received accolades including the ‘Big Screen Actress of the Year’ award at the ELOY Awards for her film Being Mrs. Elliott, and the ‘Personality of the Year’ by Sun Nollywood in 2015.
For Love is War, Oboli pull double duty as both director and actress, starring in the lead role as Hankuri Phillips, a Minister in her government who is elected to be her party’s candidate in an upcoming election for Governor. Her husband, Dimeji Phillips, is a medical doctor, who is supportive of Hankuri until a turn of events has him running for the same seat in office as his wife. What follows next is a string of events that test the limits of two people at political odds and ultimately their marriage.
Behind the scenes for ‘Love is War’
The film highlights themes of social structure, nationality, and gender equality. With the release of Love is War and her past films, Oboli’s talent and dedication to creating cinema on the African continent has catapulted her to success in one of the fastest growing entertainment scenes in the world, Nigeria’s “Nollywood.”
Still from ‘Love is War’
New York Film Academy congratulates Oboli on the success of her film Love is War and encourages everyone to check out the Nollywood drama on Netflix.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum, Natasha Thahane, stars in her biggest role to date as Wendy Dlamini, an opinionated, “woke” high school student, in the Netflix teen drama Blood and Water. The South African drama series was released on May 20, 2020 and is available to stream as part of Netflix’s “Originals” lineup.
Netflix poster for ‘Blood and Water’
Thahane was born and raised in South Africa and graduated in 2018 from NYFA’s New York City campus after completing her 1-Year Conservatory program in Acting for Film. She has appeared in television series such as Skeem Saam, The Queen, and Lockdown, and serves as a brand ambassador for Garnier Fructis.
NYFA alum Natasha Thahane as Wendy Dlamini in Netflix’s ‘Blood and Water’
The Netflix series takes place in South Africa and centers around teenager Puleng Khumalo, who transfers to the prestigious Parkhurst College after suspecting that one of the students there is actually her long lost sister, who was abducted at birth. In addition to Thahane, the series boasts a leading female cast including fresh faces Ama Qamata, Khosi Ngema, Cingy Mahlangu, and Gail Mabalane. The series is also directed by South African female director Nosipho Dumisa, who previously directed the critically acclaimed film Number 37.
Natasha Thahane while doing promotion for ‘Blood and Water’
Blood and Water is six episodes long and is being hailed as “the next Gossip Girl” by Glamour Magazine, so there is already hope for a season two.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natasha Thahane on her new starring role and encourages everyone to check out Blood and War, now available to stream on Netflix.