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  • NYFA Los Angeles Instructor Colette Freedman Works on Steve Aoki’s Highly Anticipated Mozart-Inspired Musical ‘Mozart²’

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    At New York Film Academy, our instructors are working industry professionals who are constantly creating and pushing the boundaries in their industries. For NYFA Los Angeles Playwright and Features instructor Colette Freedman, she is doing just that, having recently worked as the script doctor on Steve Aoki’s highly anticipated musical Mozart² and continuing her work as a writer and an actress.

    Freedman recalls jumping into her acting and writing career after experiencing an “ah-ha moment” in a theatre company while on a play reading committee. “I was reading a script and I realized ‘I can do better’.” 

    NYFA instructor Colette Freedman

    Freedman then wrote the First to the Egg, which won a slew of awards. She also wrote the play Sister Cities, which has been produced all over the world and made into a novel and a Netflix film adaption in which Freedman also acted alongside Michelle Trachtenberg and Troian Bellisario

    ‘Serial Killer Barbie’ (Written by Colette Freedman)

    Freedman’s favorite projects she’s written include her dark comedy Serial Killer Barbie with Nickella Moschetti and another recent project with Freedman’s writing partner, Brooke Purdy, called The Last Bookstore, which gained great critical acclaim and is even receiving some film interest. 

    For the highly anticipated Mozart², Freedman shares that the process was quite collaborative when working with Steve Aoki and the entire team to bring this story to the stage. We [Freedman and Tegan Summer] write the libretto and original songs alongside composer Gregory Nabours. Steve [Aoki] and his team would then select the EDM numbers that work best for the moments we define in the script, and then it comes together to green light, arrange, and orchestrate.”

    Playwrights, as Freedman, points out, are not just there at the beginning to write the story, but are involved in the life of the musical or play from beginning to end. “ [For Mozart²] We have an amazing design team for visuals and incredible choreographers in Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson with Ferly Prado,” she shares. “We steer the narrative, they steer the floor.”

    Poster for Steve Aoki’s ‘Mozart²’

    As for what she hopes audiences will get from her script and the musical overall, she hopes audiences will relate to lead character Nan and shine a light on not only her character, but “all of the women whose talent was silenced due to the patriarchy.”

    Broadway World recently announced some of the names of the talented cast, which includes: Ruby Lewis (Paramour) as Nan, Anthony Rapp (Rent, If/Then) as Salierii, and Justin Matthew Sargent (Rock of Ages, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark) as Mozart. The musical is expected to debut in 2021 at Carnegie Hall.

    In the meantime, Freedman has this to say to students and creatives:

    “Go make art. Especially in these times. Use your voice to create. Brooke and I have a YouTube channel Midlife Mutiny, which gives inspirational tidbits and encourages you to tell your stories and share your voice. Nan Mozart didn’t have the luxury of social media to get her voice out, but you do!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates instructor, actress, and writer Colette Freedman on her recent achievement with Mozart²  and encourages everyone to stay tuned for additional information about the musical and when it will be available to the public.

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    August 17, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Musical Theatre, Screenwriting • Views: 1000

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum Drama del Rosario Awarded ‘Juried Prize’ in The 2020 PBS Short Film Festival

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    In late July, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario received one of the two awarded prizes for the 2020 PBS Short Film Festival. The documentary filmmaking alum caught the eye of voters and the prestigious Jury for the competition and ultimately received this years ‘Juried Prize’ for his film In This Family

    Del Rosario was awarded the prestigious prize by eight jury members, who selected the NYFA alum’s film as their favorite out of all the festival selections. In addition to del Rosario’s film, all festival selections are available to the public to watch online.

    ‘In This Family’ film poster

    Del Rosario is a Filipinx documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the 2019 BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant for his documentary film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You), which touches on sexual assault trauma from a gay couple’s perspective. The NYFA alum is known for creating documentary films that challenge the Filipinx Catholic background and he has worked with many international names including BeBe Zahara Benet (Winner, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 1) and Sophie Sumner (Winner, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 18). 

    His latest documentary, In This Family, is a twelve minute short film that chronicles what happens after del Rosario’s teach outs him as a gay man and includes recordings of his family’s reaction to the news.

    “Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students,” shared del Rosario. “I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools.”

    Del Rosario also credits NYFA alum Naya Rivera, who tragically passed away in early July, as a source of inspiration for his short film. “In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character, Santana Lopez, was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera.”

    The NYFA alum also shares that this documentary is an important release in his native country as it is produced by Cinematografo, which is under the Filipino production company ABS-CBN International. “It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard!” His full statement can be found below.

    View this post on Instagram

    WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!!!!! 🎉🔥✨💕😭🎊⭐️🏆 My documentary film “IN THIS FAMILY” is officially the JURY WINNER for this year’s PBS Short Film Festival! This is so huge coming from a very, very stacked jury! 😱 Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students. I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools. ❤️ Furthermore, showcasing this documentary at this particular time has been special to me for two reasons… 1️⃣ First, this documentary is executive produced by Cinematografo, which is under ABS-CBN International. As a lot of people know, ABS-CBN and Philippine media in general are not in a good place right now because of Philippine politics. It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard! 2️⃣ Second, I am extremely touched by all the messages from Glee fans regarding the recent death of Naya Rivera. In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character Santana Lopez was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera. ❤️ I am incredibly honored to receive this award. Thank you so much to CAAM (@caamedia and their superstar team @czarinagee, @akolaurenlola, @livinproofsf, @gracehwanglynch, @krakauer, @sushboy34 ++) for believing in my film as your official entry and for always supporting my career as a documentary filmmaker. Thank you so much to PBS (@pbs) for putting together an amazing film festival with an amazing film line-up and jury. And most of all, thank you so much to my family for continuing to change and grow. I would not be where I am right now had you not powered through the discomfort of growth and change. ALL MY LOVE! 🏆💕

    A post shared by Drama Del Rosario (@dramadelrosario) on

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario for his latest achievement and looks forward to what is next from the talented filmmaker. 

    To watch the full documentary, view below or click here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    July 20, 2020 • 3D Animation, Faculty Highlights • Views: 674

  • HBO Announces NYFA Instructor Lanre Olabisi as 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellowship Recipient

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    At New York Film Academy (NYFA), our distinguished faculty not only have years of experience in the film industry, but they also remain active creators. NYFA is proud to announce that Screenwriting, Directing, and Acting for Directors instructor, Lanre Olabisi, was recently announced as a recipient of the 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellowship

    Lanre Olabisi first got involved in filmmaking after a screenwriting class he took at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. “That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker,” he remembers. Since then, Olabisi decided to make films where the focus is always centered on unique and poignant messages that challenge individual and collective views on a variety of topics. Some of his feature films include August the First and Somewhere in the Middle (Both distributed by Film Movement on all major platforms in North America).

    NYFA Instructor Lanre Olabisi

    August the First played at over 35 film festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Karlovy Vary. It also won the top prize at seven festivals and was nominated for an IFP Gotham Award. “This film encapsulates my continuing commitment to move beyond stereotypes of African-American families and depict an honest portrait during a difficult time sans gangs, guns, and violence,” shares Olabisi. 

    His other feature film, Somewhere in the Middle played at over 25 festivals and was nominated for a Black Reel Award. “This film expanded my vision as I examined romantic relationships within New York City – full of people of all backgrounds: African-American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian, heterosexual, bisexual, and gay.” 

    As a recipient of the HBOAccess Directing Fellowship, a biennial program designed to foster diverse directing talent, it will mean more industry exposure for Olabisi’s upcoming projects, including his upcoming short film, A Storybook Ending, set to premiere in the summer of 2020. 

    Olabisi, who wrote, produced, and directed A Storybook Ending, also collaborated with NYFA Cinematography Chair, Pierro Basso, who served as the DP (Director of Photography) for the film. A Storybook Ending explores contemporary race relations in the United States through the lens of a dark comedy, crime thriller. “While, in many ways, it is a complete departure of my previous work, it is in line squarely with my mission as a filmmaker; to show people of color in ways that we have not seen them portrayed on film,” says Olabisi. “A Storybook Ending draws upon the stylized visual touches of neo-noir cinema while avoiding the stylized acting that often accompanies such films.”


    The short film was recently selected as a finalist for the
    2020 American Black Film Festival’s Annual HBO Short Film Competition and was inspired by the 2015 incident involving former African-American tennis champion, James Blake. “For no apparent reason and without ever announcing his presence, a plainclothes police officer violently tackled Mr. Blake to the ground as he was waiting for a car to pick him up for the U.S. Open tennis tournament,” recounts Olabisi. “This film [A Storybook Ending] is intended to challenge assumptions about race and class.”

    While Hollywood continues to grapple with the conversation surrounding diversity and representation across the industry, Olabisi has this to say: “Fund stories by people of color. Hire people of color to be in the writers rooms, to be on sets, to direct the shows, to shoot the shows. Have a diverse crew. Have people of color in positions of power that are able to green light shows. Right now 95% of the people who decide what we see on television are white. I think the answers are simple – we just need to see a willingness to change on the part of the industry.”

    When it comes to himself as a creative, Olabisi shares that there is always a truth or experience that is woven into all of his films, which comes from his own experience. “All my films have an element of myself in it in some way. It isn’t always apparent to people, but it usually is for those who know me well.”

    ‘A Storybook Ending’ (Dir. Lanre Olabisi)

    Other influences throughout Olabisi’s career include some of his favorite creatives like Stephen Soderberg, Ryan Coogler, Steve McQueen, Ava Duvernay, Oscar Micheaux, Alfonso Curón, and Vince Gilligan. He also notes some of his favorite films that are worth a watch, including: The Silence of the Lambs, Moonlight, City of God, Trainspotting, and Get Out. 

    As for advice to students and aspiring filmmakers, Olabisi has this to say:

    Never give up. This is a marathon and not a sprint. Too many times I see actors and filmmakers who give it a year or two and then give up on their dreams. If you decide that this is not for you and you don’t want to do it anymore – there is nothing wrong with that and nothing to be ashamed of. Find what you love to do and do it. However, if you do find that this is what you love to do – this is your calling – then you should continue to push forward no matter how long it takes you. Things will open up, but you have to be patient and make sure you are working to improve your craft every single day.”

    ‘A Storybook Ending’ (Dir. Lanre Olabisi)

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Lanre Olabisi on becoming a 2020 HBOAccess Directing Fellow and for his film, A Storybook Ending, being selected as a finalist in the 2020 American Black Film Festival’s Annual HBO Short Film Competition.

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    July 9, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Producing • Views: 1202

  • NYFA Broadcast Journalism: June Updates

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    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.

    For the time being, we are only offering our 4-Week Broadcast Journalism workshop onlineYou can find more information here.

    Stay Tuned,
    Bill Einreinhofer
    Chair, NYFA Broadcast Journalism Department
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  • New York Film Academy Produces Video Highlighting 2019 Burbank Arts Beautification Program

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    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

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    June 20, 2020 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 1017

  • Congratulations to the Spring Class of 2020 at New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA)

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    The end of May was an exciting time at New York Film Academy (NYFA) for the Spring Class of 2020, where students and instructors witnessed the culmination of their hard work over multiple days of final screenings, presentations, pitches, and of course, graduation ceremonies. 

    Actor Vincent D’Oforino (Left) and Dean of Academic Advising for NYFA Los Angeles, Mike Civille (Right)

    This year, NYFA graduations, like many across the country, were held virtually with students and their families tuning in from all over the world to celebrate as NYFA graduates proudly accepted their diplomas and tossed their caps in the air.

    Guest speaker Vincent D’Onofrio joined in the commencement ceremony by delivering a speech that encouraged BFA and MFA students as they go into working more closely with the industry after graduation. He encouraged students to continue to remember what they know, but to constantly be willing to learn and grow along the way throughout their respective careers.

    New York Film Academy congratulates all of the incredible students of the class of Spring 2020 who have dedicated so much time and hard work into completing their training here. We look forward to celebrating all their wonderful achievements to come!

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  • NYFA Instructor and Cinematography Chair, Piero Basso, Shoots Critically Acclaimed Film ‘Working Man’

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    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 Man centers 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.

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    June 10, 2020 • Cinematography, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1464

  • African Filmmakers and NYFA Alumni Present Feature Film, ‘Air Conditioner,’ in New We Are One Film Festival

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    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 prestigious We 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.

    Hugo: Please watch Air Conditioner here: https://youtu.be/cfEWfx9RMLQ and donate if you can. Every dollar counts.  

    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.

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  • New York Film Academy Alum Finished Second Place in Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough PSA Competition

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    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.

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