Faculty Highlights

  • NYFA Los Angeles holds Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day at LACMA

    Recently, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles’ faculty and staff were treated to a day at one of LA’s premiere museums: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Sponsored by the Faculty Senate, the day was organized to celebrate and thank the NYFA staff for all of their hard work throughout the year.

    The day kicked off with the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Then, faculty and staff toured the facility. Staffers were able to take photos of many of the exhibits, which featured works by Picasso, Renoir, and Warhol.

    Soon it was time for lunch. Finger sandwiches and fresh fruit were served in the sculpture garden. The grassy space allowed for a picnic-style lunch where co-workers could gather to chat about what they had just seen inside the museum.

    After lunch, the leftovers were donated to a local charity to feed the homeless. Many of those in attendance went back to explore the museum including exclusive exhibits like “Chagall: Fantasy of the Stage,” “Japanese Painting: A Walk in Nature,” and “Unexpected Light: Works by Young Il Ahn.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank LACMA for hosting our faculty and staff for a day of learning and exploration. For more information on LACMA click here.

    August 22, 2017 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Film School • Views: 57

  • NYFA Broadcast Journalism School Weekly Updates Aug. 21

    Those of you who are especially observant — and I am sure that includes all NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduates — may have noticed that this edition of the Weekly Update arrived quite late on Monday. (Or, for those across the International Dateline, on Tuesday.) The reason was that I spent the past weekend shooting material for an upcoming documentary project called “Shanghai: 1937.”

    Earlier this year, I was in China shooting the host segments for the international version of the CCTV cultural documentary series “Masters of the Century.” While there, I lectured at the Beijing Film Academy, in my capacity as the Chair of the NYFA Broadcast Journalism program. And I also did groundwork for “Shanghai: 1937.” (Broadcast journalists invented the concept of “multitasking.”) The first week of September, I will be in China shooting original interviews and scenic footage for “Shanghai: 1937,” as well as again visiting several universities representing NYFA.
    The Battle of Shanghai took place during the late Summer and early Fall of 1937. It has been called the last battle of World War I, and the first battle of World War II. Largely unknown outside of China, it set the stage for later Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong and the Philippines. But for four long years, China stood alone.
    This past Sunday, I interviewed a 92 year-old witness to the Battle of Shanghai. Her name is Liliane Willens, and she is the author of the amazing book “Stateless in Shanghai.” She and her family were Russian Jewish refugees, allowed to live in Shanghai but unable to leave, as they had no citizenship papers or passports.
     Monday morning, I interviewed military historian Edward Drea. He is one of the editors of “The Battle for China,” widely considered the definitive work on the Sino-Japanese War. He was formerly the head of the Research and Analysis Department at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. and taught at the U.S. Army War College.
    In Shanghai I will interview Prof. Su Zhiliang of Shanghai Normal University, an expert on the Battle of Shanghai. Prof. Su has lectured throughout China, and overseas, and is the author of numerous books, monographs and journal articles.
    I’ll also be shooting at key Shanghai locations including the Sihang Warehouse, where a company of Chinese troops — given what seemed a suicide mission — held back a Japanese army.
    In the end, however, this is a story of shattered lives and enduring dreams. The events of “Shanghai, 1937” continue to echo today and underlie many Chinese attitudes and beliefs. If you want to understand contemporary China, you must first understand its history.
  • NLGJA’s Excellence in Documentary Award Winner is “Romeo Romeo” by NYFA’s Lizzie Gottlieb

    The prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA) has been awarded to “Romeo, Romeo,” a documentary feature directed by New York Film Academy documentary faculty member Lizzie Gottlieb and produced by NYFA President Michael J. Young.

    “Romeo Romeo” follows a married lesbian couple, Lexy and Jessica, throughout their poignant  struggles with infertility as they navigate the heavy costs, medical procedures, and reproductive technology to pursue their dream of growing their family. The film aired on PBS’s “America Reframed.” World Channel, which hosts the show, notes that more than 6.5 million American women struggle with fertility issues.

    The NLGJA’s Excellence in Journalism Awards have recognized and promoted fantastic excellent coverage of issues related to the LGBTQ+ community since 1993.

    NLGJA President Jen Christensen has said, “We are thrilled each year by the work that is nominated for NLGJA’s Excellence in Journalism Awards, and this year was no different. All of the award recipients are doing their fair share to advance NLGJA’s mission of promoting fair and accurate LGBTQ coverage, and it is our privilege to recognize their outstanding work.”

    The Excellence in Documentary Award will be presented at the NLGJA convention this September in Philadelphia.

  • VR and AR Crash Course with pioneering developer and NYFA instructor, Aaron Pulkka

    NYFA instructor, Aaron Pulkka is a pioneer in the virtual reality and augmented reality having created groundbreaking projects going back to his days creating Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride as a Disney Imagineer in the 1990s. He has been leading cutting edge projects in the space ever since. He is now leading creative development for the much anticipated series of VR/AR amusement parks for Two Bit Circus funded by Intel Capital among other investors.

    Like all of the NYFA Games’ instructors, Aaron is a working game developer in industry and chooses to teach at the school on top of his professional practice.

    Aaron appeared on the NYFA Games’ Twitch Channel to create three awesome videos in which he explains

    • the history of VR and AR
    • the current state of VR and AR including a hands on explanation of the hardware platforms
    • a crash course on VR Game Design

    Check out Aaron on NYFA Games Twitch here:

    (Virtual) Reality Check – Part 1 | Schooled with Aaron Pulkka
    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on www.twitch.tv
    (Virtual) Reality Check – Part 2 | Schooled with Aaron Pulkka
    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on www.twitch.tv
    VR Game Design Crash Course! with Aaron Pulkka
    Watch live video from NYFA_Games on www.twitch.tv

    August 18, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Game Design • Views: 188

  • NYFA Acting Instructor’s “The Good Catholic” Distributed by Broadgreen Pictures and Gravitas Ventures

    This September, New York Film Academy Instructors Zachary Spicer and John Robert Armstrong’s independent feature “The Good Catholic” will release in more than 20 cities across the U.S. and 15 countries worldwide, thanks to distribution deals with Broadgreen Pictures and Gravitas Ventures.

    Spicer and Armstrong created “The Good Catholic” with their production company Pigasus Pictures, and have just finished an incredible won on the festival circuit that saw them snag the Panavision Spirit Award for Best Feature Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the DaVinci’s Horse Award for Best Screenplay at the Milan International Film Festival, Best Picture at the Grove Film Festival, and more.

    We had a chance to catch up with Zachary Spicer via email to talk about “The Good Catholic” and his production company, Pigasus Pictures.

    NYFA:  First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to NYFA?

    ZS: I grew up in small town Indiana, went to Indiana University where I studied archaeology — until I realized that Indiana Jones was much more fiction than fact. I was cast in a show my senior year by a visiting director who told me I should go to NYC to study to become and actor. I studied at Circle in the Square theater school, where I fell in love with theater.

    After graduation I began working a number of jobs while I beat the pavement trying to land auditions. I’ve been very fortunate in my career ever since. My first Broadway gig was with Cynthia Nixon in the Tony Award-nominated revival of “Wit,” followed by Kenneth Branagh’s “Macbeth” at the Park Avenue Armory. I began working on TV shows like “Law & Order: SVU,” “Blue Bloods,” “Gotham,” “Louie,” and “Master of None,” before I was approached by my old IU colleague John Robert Armstrong, who was an instructor at NYFA. They needed someone to come in and teach a substitute acting for film class, so I volunteered and fell in love with the place. I started teaching as many classes as I could get my hands on: Meisner, audition technique, acting technique, and so on.

    It was in the halls of NYFA that John and I developed our idea to start our film company Pigasus Pictures. Inspired by the students we taught each day and the talent and dedication of the instructors, we formed a game-plan to fully fund and produce our very first feature film, “The Good Catholic.”

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite moments as a NYFA instructor?

    ZA: My favorite moments at NYFA were in my acting for film class late on in the semester, seeing students who had been writing down these “theories” and “practices” of working on film, seeing them tool it over and over again, and then finally see the light bulb come on, seeing that moment of practical recognition of their craft and the power it gave them. How they could use it and seeing them begin to really gain confidence and believe in themselves.

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about what role NYFA played in the making of “The Good Catholic,” and about your collaboration with John?

    ZS: John and I met everyday in between classes and before and after classes, and started to try to figure out how we were going to pull this miracle off. We weren’t rich kids with money to spare and we didn’t have deep ties to the industry, so we really had to work from the ground up.

    I had this vision of a film company and what we could do, and John was the nuts and bolts guy of figuring out exactly how we could get it done. We would workshop scenes that were in the movie in our classes with students, seeing what would work and what wouldn’t, starting to map out shots and seeing character arcs explored with our students, and discussing the storytelling elements of one scene leading into another and what was significant about each moment in the script. Seeing how the film was playing in class really motivated us to continue our efforts to produce.

    NYFA: What inspired the idea for “The Good Catholic”?

    ZS: The story itself was inspired from writer/director Paul Shoulberg’s actual parents. Paul’s dad was a small town priest and his mother was a nun who had met in church, eventually fell in love, and left, married, and made Paul and his sister. Paul’s dad passed away a few years ago and Paul really wanted to write a story that was testament to his father. He wasn’t only writing what he knew, he was writing what he had to write.

    NYFA: You’ve mentioned that some of your former NYFA students were involved in “The Good Catholic” and other productions at Pigasus Pictures — can you tell us a bit about those collaborations?

    ZS: I was very lucky to be teaching some incredibly inspiring students while I was there at NYFA. The students there just blew me away with their passion, curiosity, and commitment. One class in particular formed a production company immediately upon graduating NYFA, and I work with several of those members today.

    Two former students from NYFA made the trip with us to Indiana to work on the film itself: Max Turner and Alice Deussant. They came on board in the beginning as assistants to the producer. However, by the end of the film they had ingrained themselves in almost every department of production. They learned the very first lesson in this business which is: make yourself invaluable. They would run off at a moment’s notice to do anything, volunteer for any work, and were just generally a pleasure to be around all day and night on set. On top of that they got to know and work with Paul, who sat down and watched their reels and their former work and said, “They’ve really got talent. I’d love to put them in something in the future.”

    With our next film “Ms. White Light” shooting this fall, we are looking to hire them and three or four more former students to come on board the adventure with us.

    NYFA: Speaking of “Ms. White Light,” can you tell us more about upcoming projects at Pigasus Pictures?

    ZS: At the same time of distributing “The Good Catholic,” Pigasus Pictures is currently financing a slate of six projects to be produced in the next three years: four feature films and two television pilots, all to be filmed in our home state in Indiana. The next production will be the dark comedy feature film written and directed again by Paul Shoulberg called “Ms. White Light,” the story of a young woman who works in the world of hospice that has a unique ability to connect with the dying … it’s just everyone else she has a problem with.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Pigasus Pictures on their recent success with “The Good Catholic.”

  • Mid-August Updates From the NYFA Broadcast Journalism School

    In journalism, we always try to “get ahead of the story.” That is, not just report what has already happened but also cover what may well happen next. TVNewser had a great feature recently on how ABC News was out in front of one story by an astounding 38 years. In February 1979, Frank Reynolds — the anchor (presenter) of ABC’s evening newscast — wrapped up a story about a just-occurred solar eclipse with a unique tag:

    “So that’s it – the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century … Not until August 21, 2017 will another eclipse be visible from North America. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace. ABC News, of course, will bring you a complete report on that next eclipse 38 years from now.”

    And he was right. In fact, a friend and former coworker of mine anticipates cutting at least one eclipse story for “Good Morning America,” ABC’s morning news/chat show.

    Back in the 21st Century, BuzzFeed and Twitter have announced a new morning news show of their own. It follows successful Election Night coverage last November, and not surprisingly will reflect the attitude and style of these two digital information giants. What is surprising is how in some ways the program will be similar to current network programs, only with more attitude and edge. It was also be “linear,” similar to conventional television, as opposed to a “non-linear” approach that lets viewers pick and choose what they want.

    On the other hand, CBS News — often seen as the most “behind-the-curve” operation when it comes to cross-platform distribution — has incorporated video-on-demand (VOD) functionality into their CBSN digital news platform. It can be watched either in linear or non-linear fashion. In addition, some CBSN content can now be seen on the main CBS broadcast channel as well.

    Speaking of cross-platform distribution, here is a story that NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Grace Shao did last week for China Global Television News (CGTN). It was fed out as part of regularly scheduled linear programs, integrated into an online posting, and distributed across a number of digital social media platforms. It’s a pretty good story too!

    We end this edition of the Weekly Update with good news about Evgenia “Genia” Vlasova, who many of you know as a classmate, a TA or an active freelance multimedia journalist. She can now add the title “NYFA Instructor” to her resume. Genia is taking the lead with the Personal Journalism course, and will also be teaching the 12-week Evening Broadcast Journalism workshop this fall. She came to NYFA with seven years of on-air experience in Russia, and combined that with all she learned here in the 1-year Broadcast Journalism Conservatory program. Tireless, upbeat, knowledgeable, talented, Genia is a great addition to the Broadcast Journalism faculty.

    Congratulations, Genia!
    (Picture courtesy of our regular camera instructor Daniel Hernandez.)
  • NYFA Collaborates With Prestigious Saudi Festival Hakaya Misk in Riyadh

    The New York Film Academy has played an active role by offering workshops and training through a collaboration with the prestigious youth arts festival of Hakaya Misk, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. NYFA is presenting workshops and trainings on the topics of film production and screenwriting in collaboration with the Pre-Hakaya workshops.

    According to Hakaya Misk’s official website, the festival is a cutting-edge Saudi Festival which focuses on incubating creative skills in the next generation through culturally and educationally conscious content creation: “The festival aims to motivate, teach, and inspire youth to express their ideas through writing stories, storytelling, painting, animation, production, and other forms of art.” Through local and international professional partnerships, the festival invites young people to participate in workshops, inspiring platforms, and exhibits, while building skills in storytelling through the visual arts. Events at Hakaya Misk are also offered for adults who are locally active in the creative fields.

    NYFA alumni will be holding one-hour workshops daily, while NYFA representatives are present among the local production companies who also partner with Hakaya Misk. The festival has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors through four sessions held in Riyadh, King Abdullah Economic City in Makkah, Dhahran in Eastern Province, and Abha in Aseer Province.

    “New York Film Academy is honored to have partnered with Misk in the Pre-Hakaya workshops in Riyadh,” NYFA’s Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander reported from the event. “We had the opportunity to teach over 40 men and women interested in developing their craft in either film production or screenwriting. Our NYFA instructors were thrilled with the students’ confidence, ability and pride in their craft, and the opportunity to experience local Saudi culture.”

  • NYFA 3D Animation Instructor Craig Caton Creates Animservo for Maya

    New York Film Academy Instructor Craig Caton has created a new plug-in on Autodesk Maya that may revolutionize the way digital puppetry in both independent productions and major motion pictures.

    The new software is called Animservo. It is non-real time facial recognition software that allows a single puppeteer to craft and save a performance before ever arriving on set. The software records a performer using a go pro. Facial recognition software captures the performance, and it is then uploaded into the puppet. With Animservo, the nuances of facial recognition performance by the puppeteer are recorded and then uploaded to Maya. The performance is refined and then downloaded into the puppet.

    Utilizing a GoPro and marker-less facial recognition software, the puppeteer does not even have to be in the same state as the production. A recent test allowed a puppeteer to give a performance in Texas for a puppet in Los Angeles.

    Usually, crafting a performance with a puppet requires quite a few performers. For example, the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park” utilized five union performers: one controlled the eyebrows, another the mouth, a third the neck, and so on.

    Animservo can save productions a ton of money on performers and allows directors to have a picture-ready performance with less rehearsal time. If a director changes his or her mind about the way a performance looks it will take the puppeteer just a few minutes to make adjustments and the puppet will be ready for the next take.

    As great as this invention is both financially and on a time crunch Caton says he has “something even better on the horizon.” In the mean time, Caton will be previewing Animservo at SIGGRAPH, or the Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques in Los Angeles.

    In order to get this new plug-in sign up for the training class here. The software comes free with the class.

  • NYFA Instructor Joshua Belinfante on Screening “Requires Review” at Dances With Films

    NYFA Instructor and Filmmaker Joshua Belinfante

    New York Film Academy Australia Filmmaking Instructor Joshua Belinfante recently screened his short documentary “Requires Review” at the prestigious Los Angeles festival Dances With Films Festival.

    With an eye for the eccentric and surreal, Belinfante is a filmmaker and photographer who has self-produced numerous short films, crewed on feature films, TVCs, TV shows, music videos and stop motion animations in Australia, Europe, and Asia.

    “Requires Review” follows Björn Lindqvist, a “self-confessed world’s best town planner” who draws attention to urban planning issues by places placards around Stockholm that say “Granskning Erfordras” — in English, “Requires Review.” Sign bearers from around the world have begun copying Lindqvist’s strategy, even at such famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Westminster, the Austrian Mountains, Canals of Amsterdam and even the Opera House, Sydney.

    We had a chance to catch up with Belinfante and hear his reflections on his recent experience at Dances With Films, and learn what inspired his film “Requires Review.”

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your background and what drew you to become an instructor at NYFA Australia?

    JB: I’ve been making films since I was 12 years old. For me, filmmaking is more about putting a part of myself into a work rather than trying to get something out of it. Having said that, the balancing act between art and entertainment is a constant struggle of anyone in film today. I currently work in TV as a post production media manager as well as an independent film producer/director. I operate my own production companies Belinfante Photography and FineSilver Media, where I shoot, produce, edit and direct content for various clients.   

    I was drawn to becoming an instructor at NYFA because I wanted to give something back to the next generation of hungry filmmakers. Perhaps there was something I could show them that I was never told when I was in film school. I wanted to teach them the most relevant skills & know-how to help get them a foothold into the film & TV industry.

    Björn Lindqvist in “Requires Review”

    NYFA: As a filmmaker and photographer, how does your approach to your work change in different mediums?

    JB: The medium is always the message. Whether I am taking a photo of someone or making a documentary about someone, you are always trying to capture the essence of the individual. Part of that process involves communicating a value, belief or an aesthetic to an audience. If I am making a docu-fiction or a narrative drama I will still approach the story with the same eyes and the same questions. What am I making? Why am I making it? Who am I making it for? What do I want them to get out of it? Is what I am making real, or unreal?

    NYFA: What would you say is your teaching style as a film instructor?

    Björn Lindqvist

    JB: I always hone in on the needs of each individual learner. Having been trained as a teacher since 2008 I am aware of how to facilitate an environment for learning. Everyone learns differently, some through listening, some through reading, but for most people it’s getting up and doing and making mistakes.

    Unfortunately a lot of industry professionals know their craft back to front but struggle with communicating this in a way that is understandable for students from all walks of life and backgrounds.

    I encourage making mistakes and failing spectacularly so that you can get back up your feet, dust yourself off and try again. Most of the time your failures fuel you more than your successes.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    JB: My favourite NYFA moment would have to be when I taught a mature age student named Paul. At the start of the course Paul couldn’t use a mouse on a computer. By the end of it he was directing films on a RED camera. I gave him a lot of extracurricular work to do and he went from strength to strength. Most people wrote Paul off due to his difficult past and Paul-Hogan-Crocodile-Dundee kind of approach to life. I’m happy to report Paul has been making some great projects since finishing up at NYFA. I regularly keep in touch with our alumni too.

    NYFA: Can you tell us what inspired your film “Requires Review”?

    JB: I have always been aghast by poor town planning in global cities. What’s town planning, I hear you say? Well it’s otherwise known as urban planning, and it’s all the things that make a city keep spinning. The architecture, transport, public utilities etc. I was curious what the problems would be in a seemingly perfect city like Stockholm.

    I had a script, I just had to find a town planner to interview. Which proved quite challenging! But, rather serendipitously I eventually met a mysterious urban planner in the national library in Stockholm! We spent a few hours discussing all the horrible things we hate in cities, and the next day we made the film.

    NYFA: How was your experience at Dances With Film? 

    JB: Dances with Films was such a beautiful experience, meeting filmmakers and like-minded people from all over the world. Being welcomed with open arms by people you’d never met before was truly touching. Every day of the festival there was an industry meetup, cocktail session or a screening to attend. It was a great boot camp and introduction to the LA filmmaking scene. And a breath of fresh air from my day to day life!

    NYFA: Would you say your time within the NYFA community was at all helpful in your experience creating this film?

    JB: One thing I will say is that when I arrived in LA, it was a happy accident that some of our acting students & teachers from Sydney were studying & working at the NYFA LA campus. It was pretty surreal that they were able to attend the screening and came out to support “Requires Review” and all the other filmmakers at the festival. The NYFA community shone through there for sure.  

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    JB: I’m currently working on some TV shows for Australian ABC and SBS TV networks. I am also in development on a TV series based on “Requires Review” as well as several other independent productions that I filmed in Bangkok and Sydney.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to your students who are seeking to find the path to screening their own films in a festival like Dances With Film?

    JB: Know what your film is, why you made it, and what you want to get out of it. Is your film going to be a calling card for you as a director? DOP? Writer? How can you best use this film as a stepping stone?

    NYFA: Is there anything we missed that you’d like to share with the NYFA community?

    JB: I always take the attitude that you are always an amateur at your profession. The second you believe you are a professional that knows everything you shut yourself off to curiosity and a desire to learn more. You also shut yourself off from learning from those around you & your own experiences. Never stop being inquisitive and learning!

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Joshua Belinfante for sharing a bit of his story with our community, and congratulate him on his recent successes!

  • NYFA Alumni and Faculty Crew “Dead House” for LionsGate and Laugh Out Loud

    The New York Film Academy community played an integral part in the making of “Dead House” (King Bach, Emmanuel Hudson, D.C Young Fly), a new scripted sitcom from one of the world’s top digital comedians, Vine star Andrew Bachelor — also known as “King Bach.”

    A LionsGate production, “Dead House” is executive produced by Kevin Hart and, as seen in the Hollywood Reporter, launched on the star’s online comedy network Laugh Out Loud, or LOL.

    “Dead House” portrays the complicated living arrangements when a human joins the cast of a reality show where four zombies must live and work together in one house.

    “We had almost a full NYFA crew w Alumni and staff,” NYFA Faculty Member and Director of Photography Travis Hoffman. This included NYFA Alumni and Director Andrew Bachelor, and NYFA Faculty Member and Producer Anthony Cook.

    Many more from the NYFA community filled out the crew. See a full list below:

    NYFA Staff and Alumni who worked on shoot:

    Director – Andrew Bachelor (Alumni)

    Director of Photography – Travis Hoffman (Faculty)

    Producer – Anthony Cook (Faculty)

    Casting Director – Alex Perry (Faculty)

    Production Designer – Prarthana Joshi (Faculty)

    Gaffer and 2nd Unit DP – Richard Greenwood (Faculty)

    Best Boy Electric and 2nd unit Gaffer – John Acevedo (Staff)

    Key Grip – George Oliver (Staff)

    Best Boy Grip – Aaron Pong (Staff)

    A Cam Operator – Travis Hoffman (Faculty)

    B Cam Operator – Jeremy Harris (Alumni)

    A Cam 1st AC – Chris Kistan (Alumni)

    B Cam 1st AC – Evan Stulc (Faculty)

    DIT – Maram Jaoser (Alumni)

    Actress – Natalie Whittle (Alumni)

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all our alumni and staff who worked on “Dead House.” The show is released Aug. 3 on Laugh Out Loud.