New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Jessica Wolfson produced and directed The Columnists for WSJ. Magazine, a video series of intimate conversations with renowned figures reflecting on various themes that have guided their careers.
The project has its roots in On Point, a coffee table book from WSJ. Magazine, a glossy news and lifestyle monthly magazine by the publishers of The Wall Street Journal. The book, released September of last year, included interviews from the publication’s renowned column The Columnists. The new series has six parts and a 20-minute short film, directed and produced by Wolfson.
This is the second project Wolfson has made for The Wall Street Journal. Her earlier project was Drawing the Future, a video tech series. Wolfson is a photographer and documentary filmmaker who has directed shorts including Night People, IowaMixtape, and Play a Round with Me, as well as films Radio Unnameable and Hot Grease. Additionally, she teaches for the Documentary Filmmaking department at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus.
Episodes of The Columnists are based on a particular theme, including Luck, Mistakes, and Willpower. Notable subjects speaking on these topics include author Fran Lebowitz, director Lee Daniels, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington and television star Rainn Wilson.
“What I really loved most about making this series was having conversations with the subjects about emotional and philosophical topics such as willpower, advice, envy—rather than the typical career questions they are normally asked,” Wolfson tells NYFA. “This made for a very interesting dialogue.”
Wolfson also worked with Associate Producer and graduate of NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking program Nancy Dionne. Dionne researched crew and shooting locations in Canada, Paris, London, and New York for the series. “It was the kind of call where you hang up and jump up and down smiling saying, ‘Yes!’” Dionne tells NYFA. She was also more than happy to work with Wolfson, who she met at NYFA.
“I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see her in action,” Dionne says of Wolfson. “What struck me first was how calm Jessica and her crew were, not that they were not feeling stress, but how they handled it and how they communicated with me and each other—just so professional and smart with no effort wasted.”
Currently, The Columnists is a limited series, but Wolfson is eager to shoot additional seasons in the future.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Jessica Wolfson and alum Nancy Dionne on The Columnists, and thanks them for taking the time to speak to NYFA about their experience!
On Tuesday, January 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of the pilot episode of Project Blue Book, a new original series from HISTORY (formerly The History Channel) that adapts the real-life US Air Force investigations of UFOs in the 1950s. The screening was followed by a Q&A with creator and former NYFA screenwriting and producing instructor, David O’Leary, moderated by NYFA Producing instructor, Ashley Bank.
O’Leary is a former development executive who has worked for Bellevue Productions, Valhalla Entertainment, Kopelson Entertainment, Rogue Pictures, Warner Bros., and Industry Entertainment. He is also a producer on two features set for release this year, Parallel for Bron Studios and Eli for Netflix. Additionally, O’Leary is adapting a sci-fi book series for A+E Studios.
Bank opened up the Q&A by asking about how O’Leary became a writer. He shared that he started his career as an intern at New Line Cinema and decided he was interested in development, so he moved to Los Angeles where he worked with a friend at Village Roadshow Pictures. From there, O’Leary worked his way up from the mailroom to assistant jobs and became a development executive, himself, at the age of 28. He realized, however, that his true dream was to be a screenwriter. “I pivoted and I’m a big believer in pivoting,” said O’Leary.
O’Leary shared that even though he knew he was passionate about becoming a professional writer, that wasn’t enough. “Honestly, I had to get good at being a writer; I was not a very good writer when I made that choice.” He continued, “I think the way that you get better at being a writer is you have to keep writing, but you can’t keep writing in a vacuum; you have to keep showing your work to people and you have to keep getting feedback… you need people you trust to tell you ‘Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, and here’s why.’”
O’Leary added that working as a screenwriting instructor at NYFA required him to be extra knowledgeable about professional screenwriting. “It really forced me to practice what I was preaching,” he said. O’Leary then shared that something that helped him stay positive while he worked toward becoming a successful professional screenwriter was “celebrating small victories” because trying to be successful in the entertainment industry is a long and arduous process and one needs to have stamina to make it all the way to their end goal.
O’Leary made it clear to the audience that hard work is important but sometimes luck also plays a role in success; with Project Blue Book, “It was sort of the right idea at the right time at a network that was looking to grow and move into scripted series.” The simplest way that O’Leary could sum up the show to pitch it to producers was “X-Files meets Mad Men,” which was a concept that had not really been explored before.
One of the members of the audience inquired about navigating a narrative based on real events. “Every week we look at a real-life case… so it has that kind of ‘based on true events’ cache,” said O’Leary. “[Lead character] Hynek was a real-life guy; we ended up recruiting both [of] his sons as consultants on the project… I really want the show to be entertaining, but I also want to educate people on this phenomenon.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank former instructor David O’Leary for sharing his experiences and advice for writers as well as details about the development and production of Project Blue Book.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a quick look at some recent achievements of the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alumni, faculty, and students:
Victoria Bergqvist (Fall 2017 1-Year) crewed as a production coordinator on the documentary Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire, which is competing at Sundance this year (she did this just prior to coming to NYFA). Now based in Los Angeles after graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program, she currently works for George Media creating branded content as a director. Here’s what she had to say about her experience at NYFA and how it serves her in the professional world:
“I can honestly say that the 1-year documentary program at NYFA in Los Angeles gave me very well-rounded skills. Although it was an intense program, I learned how to do literally pretty much everything myself. Meaning: writing, producing, directing, filming, editing, and sound mixing. And also how to make completed films during a short amount of time.
“It turned out that this was exactly what George Media in Venice was looking for. The official job title of the position is ‘Young Director,’ but we are expected to do almost all the things mentioned above ourselves, except we get to work with a DP. The job entails making 12 short videos [in] six months, so having learned to make films under time pressure was incredibly helpful. Also, since the documentary program at NYFA is so hands-on and we make six films [in] one year, it gave me the confidence to keep doing what I had already done at school multiple times in the professional world.”
Producer Julia Cheng (’18) launched production of two feature documentaries in Beijing: The Invisible Shore, a feature doc directed by Qi Zhao, who produced both Last Train Home, The Chinese Mayor, and The City Dream, directed by Weijun Chen who previously directed Please Vote for Me.
Guy Yang (Fall 2016 MFA) Right after graduating with his MFA in Documentary Filmmaking, Guy Yang was hired by Radio Free Asia, based in Washington D.C. as a broadcaster. The station has also asked him to develop three documentary series that focus on social issues in Eastern Asia. He will work with a team, researching and producing episodes and also filming, editing, mixing and, delivering packages to the station. Yang says, given his experience at NYFA of working on multiple projects quickly, he will continue to produce and direct his own documentary projects as well.
Ashley Harris (Fall 2015 MFA) is served in the U.S. Navy as a Second Class Petty Officer. She came to NYFA in Fall 2015 and graduated with an MFA in Documentary in September 2017. In November of that same year, she interviewed with and was hired by Participant Media as Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Documentary Film and TV. She said that she loves the work and continues to grow with the company.
Paul Gallasch’s (‘11) new feature documentary, Love in the Time of Antidepressant, produced with grants from both Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation, premiered to great enthusiasm at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival. Paul was also a 2018 Points West Fellow at the 2018 Camden Film Festival.
Dikeos Foudeas (Spring 2015 1-Year) was hired for A/V production at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kay (as we affectionately refer to him) has said “I strongly believe my employment was influenced by the training I received at NYFA.” He also continues to work freelance as a videographer in Anchorage, Alaska.
Dade Shields (Fall 2014 1-Year) is a native to Southern California and was always interested in outdoor cinematography. In 2018, Shields produced and shot several branded content mini documentaries for TravisMathew (a sportswear clothing line) as part of their Life on Tour series. Shields continues to shoot sports-themed documentary footage and recently partnered with professional skimboarder Blair Conklin to create YouTube channel Skid Kids, which quickly amassed over 2,000 subscribers.
Rachael Pelzer (Fall 2014 1-Year) is originally from the Midwest and began working as a logger for Herzog & Co right out of graduating NYFA’s Documentary program. She’s been at Herzog for four years and is now their Post Production Coordinator. Her credits include: 1968: The Year that Changed America and The History of Comedy—both series aired on CNN. Rachael continues to credit NYFA for training her in production and this past year revived her 1-year film to develop it into a feature documentary with the help of fellow alum, William Nestlehutt. The two continue production on Rachael’s Hip Hop Ohana.
Marie Vanderrusten (’16) signed on as editor of Ma Ville, Notre Idéal (My City, Our Ideal), airing daily on France 3. The series focuses on young people inventing new apps and industries to take on problems including climate change, overpopulation, poverty, overconsumption, and pollution.
Executive producer Yusaku Kanagawa (’15) hired Mariko Ide (’16) as a story consultant on his Creators Program platform at Yahoo Japan.
Peabody Award-winning production companyTransform Films staffed Nancy Dionne (‘18) as Associate Producer. Her semester one film, All I See Is the Future, will also premiere this month at Winter Film Awards International Film Festival, screening on Feb 19 and Feb 20.
In a unique trifecta, NYFA Docs grads became chief filmmakers for three of the foremost arts institutions, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Alex Guns (‘10), Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater (JR Cronheim (’12), and New York City Ballet (LauraSnow ’11).
Santiago Machado (’18) began a gig with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI) for the television section of the News and Content Branch, News and Media Division.
Francesca Pagani (’11) shot, produced, and/or associate produced several new VICE pieces including: Fighting in Drag with LGBTQ Wrestlers,Inside the FBI’s Hunt for “Black Political Extremists, Fighting the Use of Electric Shocks on People with Disabilities, and Inside the Gambling Scandal That Rocked The NBA. Her photos were also featured on the front cover of Politiken as part of a profile of gun violence survivor Jaqueline and her family who arrived in Tijuana with 3,200 others from the migrant “caravan.”
Colorist, Susi Dollnig (’12) has been invited to present a seminar at this year’s Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival).
David Diaz won the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship, for If They Build It, What Will Come, which he premiered at Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival.
Hannah Currie was awarded Best Director at Under Wire Film Festival, for We Are All Here which is now also an Official Selection for both DOCfeed 2019 Film Festival and Glasgow Short Film Festival.
Krisztina Danka’s Final Film, Violet and the Wildman, will make its North American premiere February 16 at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival after winning the Golden Fox Award for the Best Educational Film in Kolkata, India.
Edwige Pezzulli Stępniewska and Maria Giulia Mancuso Prizzitano‘s final film project for NYFA, Embodiment, is now an official selection of Corvallis Queer Film Festival, the Prisma Independent Film Awards and Ivelisecinefestival.
Academy Award nominations were recently announced for Free Solo, edited by Bob Eisenhardt and RBG, whosedirector of photography is instructor Claudia Raschke.
Director/instructor, Maxine Trump, premiered her new film, To Kid or Not to Kid at DOC NYC, published The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmapfor Focal Press, delivered a pilot for an ITVS series, and started production on The Tongass Legacy in Alaska.
Editor/instructor, João Queiroga, also Chair of Post-Production, directed Our Skin, which screened at IDFA, Hot Docs, BFI, and DocLisboa, and was nominated for the Iris Prize and received the Lili Award. He produced the feature film I Can Only Be Mary Lane premiering at Doc’n Roll Film Festival in the UK, and is in production on both Digging For Life and Behind the Sun.
Producer/instructor Tracie Holder’s film Grit, directed by Academy Award-winner Cynthia Wade, premiered at Hot Docs and will air on PBS/POV later this year. A film she is currently producing, The Quiet Zone, received Sundance, NYS Council for the Arts, and IFP/HBO funding, while A Place of Absence, the other film she’s producing, was awarded a prestigious grant Tribeca Gucci grant.
Producer/instructor Dorottya Mathe finished post-production of Impossible Monsters a psychological thriller starring Santino Fontana that will be premiering at Cinequest on March 9, line produced the recreation segment of the documentary A Cops and Robbers Story that will be released in 2020, finished and produced The Independents, a modern folk ’n roll comedy that will soon be screened across the US after a successful festival run, and began production of The Tongass Legacy directed by fellow instructor, Maxine Trump.
Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift taught a special workshop facilitating some of the kids from Newtown, CT in making micro-docs as well as a different micro-docs workshop for over 400 Fulbrightersat their annual conference.
And finally, Dunya’s Day, associate produced by NYFA Documentary student, Aya Hamdan, won Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction this January.
On January 18, Everygirl opened at the Kallio School in Helsinki, Finland. Directed by Annemari Untamala, the play was written by actor, director, and Acting for Film instructor at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), Peter Allen Stone. The play concerns a 17-year-old girl who finds out she is dead at the beginning of the story.
Everygirl is based on a famous morality play from the 15th century, updated by Stone with a transgender character and LGBTIQA+ themes. The original medieval play, Everyman, was used by the church to encourage people to be good, or they may end up going to hell. In 2013, after watching 16 high school plays in two days while at a theatre competition, Stone began devising a more modern version.
“I thought it would be interesting to set it in a modern high school, play with current archetypes, and make the themes spiritually universal,” says Stone. “I always intended that play be performed by younger actors and for a younger audience that would hopefully receive the core message to be kind to one another.”
The next weekend, Stone outlined his vision for the play. After three years of talking about it with colleagues and running it through his mind, he finally sat down and wrote a first draft while teaching at NYFA’s Florence location. Later that year while back in New York, Stone workshopped the play with some NYFA students.
By the time a final draft was written, Everygirl had also included themes like minimalism and consumerism. One character, Things, appears through Facetime. Other characters include Death, Best Friend, Father, Fear, Beauty, Strength, and Knowledge.
However, it is the play’s connection to youth and the place of kindness in the modern world that serves as the story’s backbone. Explains Stone, “There is a transgender character named Kindnessin the play that represents the kind acts that we can do to one another everyday of our lives regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation if we choose to lead with love.” Additionally, there is a character named Boyfriend/Girlfriend, a fluid role that can be played by a performer of any gender.
These themes are close to Stone’s heart. In 2012, Unnatural Acts, co-written by Stone, was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Produced by Classic Stage Company, the play is based on true events revolving Harvard deans trying to expel the school’s homosexual population in 1920. “I spent over six years creating that play about the injustices done to the LGBTQ community with an exceptional group of artists,” says Stone. “We fought then, and I will continue to fight for equal rights for the rest of my life.”
Everygirl premieres January 18, where the Deputy Mayor of Education for the City of Helsinki will be in attendance. Information about the play can be found on Helsinki’s Arts and Culture website.
The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Peter Allen Stone for continuing to apply his talents and passion to praiseworthy projects like Everygirl both home and abroad!
On Friday, December 14, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of A Country Christmas Story (2013) followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor Eric Bross, and writer and NYFA instructor Steven Peros, moderated by NYFA student, Bakyt Zhumadilova.
Bross is known for directing Affairs of State (2018), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000) and Peros is known for writing Footprints (2009), The Undying (2009) and The Cat’s Meow (2001).
Zhumadilova opened the Q&A by asking Peros about his inspiration for the screenplay. Peros said he started by researching the history of country music and its prevalence in the South, then adding layers of complexity to the story by making the protagonist both a child of divorce and biracial within that world.
Peros also wanted the film to be about the various characters’ relationships with music and the arts and added that the music teacher in the film was inspired by a teacher he had when he was a kid.
Zhumadilova inquired about what it was like for Peros to writeA Country Christmas Story star Dolly Parton’s lines knowing she was going to be playing herself in the film. “The funny thing about writing her was, I had written this thing… and suddenly I’m on set going, ‘I’m about to meet Dolly Parton!’ Is she gonna come up to me and say, ‘Well, first off, Steven, I don’t talk like that at all,’” joked Peros. “But she didn’t at all! She didn’t want to change anything… so I was somehow channeling my inner Dolly Parton.”
“I just thought he really captured her voice,” added Bross.
Peros shared that Parton suggested that she sing instead of just introducing the music contest at the end of the film. “She just kept giving us gifts.” said Bross.
Peros shared that one of the most notable moments of the shoot was when Parton sang in between takes to entertain extras in the audience. “She knew that all those extras who were there pretty much for free… were there for her,” he said. “She never left the stage… she sang ‘Tennessee Waltz’… and it was like a moment out of a movie; one by one, everything started to get silent.”
The discussion then moved onto producing a film like A Country Christmas Story on a tight shoot schedule and a tight budget. Bross advised filmmakers to keep the frame focused on the actors as much as possible when working with a small budget because sometimes it’s difficult to afford full, dressed sets. This way the story would still be the center of the film.
New York Film Academy would like to thank A Country Christmas Story filmmakers Eric Bross and Steven Peros for sharing their entertaining anecdotes from the shooting of the film, as well as their production advice for students.
Just as 2018 was wrapping up, Netflix managed to squeeze one more buzzworthy hit movie into the zeitgeist with Bird Box, a post-apocalyptic thriller starring Sandra Bullock and featuring a haunting, memorable scene with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film instructor, Happy Anderson.
Bird Box was an instant hit, dominating social media with both high praise and viral memes. According to Netflix, it was the media company’s biggest opening to date, having been streamed by over 45 million accounts in its first week alone.
The film, directed by Susanne Bier and written by Eric Heisserer based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, is a story about survivors who must keep themselves blindfolded to stay alive from mysterious creatures who drive people insane once they look at them.
Some of the infected victims are compelled to force survivors to open their eyes and look at the creatures. As Sandra Bullock’s protagonist rows down a river blindfolded while protecting two children, a mysterious River Man comes out of the fog and attacks them. The scene is moody and tense before coming to a violent, thrilling, and frightful conclusion. The River Man is played by actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson.
Anderson had a blast shooting the scene, posting photos to his social media of the complicated rig needed to shoot in waist-deep water. “Bird Box time was a very fun time!” he wrote, included with a production still.
Bird Box is the latest in a string of impressive credits for Anderson, including another Netflix original film, Bright, starring Will Smith, and Mindhunter, the drama series from David Fincher that was also produced and distributed by Netflix.
Other credits include Gotham, The Blacklist, The Tick, and The Knick, co-starring Clive Owen and NYFA alum Eve Hewson. Upcoming projects include the X-Men horror film The New Mutants and the highly-anticipated television adaptation of Snowpiercer.
Anderson teaches Acting for Film at NYFA’s New York campus, along with many other working professionals who teach at the acting school. The Academy prides itself on its faculty, who share with students their experience and expertise from working in a dynamic, competitive, labor-intensive industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film instructor Happy Anderson on his latest role and encourages everyone who hasn’t to check out the mysterious and haunting thriller, Bird Box!
You’d be hard pressed to find a New Yorker who doesn’t experience their fair share of frustration with the MTA, the corporation that runs the city’s sprawling and crowded transit system of trains and buses. Especially these days, as commuters deal with train construction, delays, and an impending apocalypse, while fares continue to increase (the MTA announced just this week their plan for yet another fare hike of 4%).
And every New Yorker deals with it in their own way. Some of us mutter under our breaths, while others aren’t afraid to scream and yell at the top of their lungs. Some of us weep silently when we finally get home, while others pray to themselves that they’ll actually get home.
But what most of us haven’t done, is sing a song about it. With Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA, a new musical number performed by Broadway actress Kristy Cates, that’s no longer the case. And now that it has an accompanying music video produced by the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA), the song is easily available for everyone to share, relate with, and sing along to.
Kristy’s Lament is very much based on a true story. “I have the worst train luck,” Cates tells NYFA, continuing, “I’m always stuck underground with no explanation, waiting for a train that never shows up, or on the car with the person about to puke. And I often share these wild stories on social media.”
After one particularly nasty commute for Cates, where one bizarre thing followed another as she tried to make her way home from her Broadway show, she recounted the entire nightmare on Facebook. Her story quickly gained traction and gained a lot of attention on social media. Typically, the story would end there, but not for Cates.
After seeing her commute from hell, lyricist Chris Giordano was inspired to adapt the tale into song, writing lyrics for a number that step-by-step portrayed Cates’s disastrous trip. Soon, it was put to music by composer Ryan Edward Wise, and Kristy’s Lament was born. It wasn’t long after that that a music video was produced to accompany the track.
The video features Cates playing multiple roles — not just the tragic commuter narrating the song, but also a rude passenger carrying numerous bags, a stoner, and a homeless man, among others. It is mostly a stage production, filmed at NYFA’s 1st Floor Theatre, with gorgeous lighting direction and a minimal subway set. The video was also partially shot in an actual subway station, where the video opens and closes.
The video was produced by the PCMT at NYFA, where Kristy Cates also serves as Creative Director. The renowned musical theatre school prides itself on giving its students real world training that prepares them to achieve success in a competitive, empowering industry, creating an educational experience few other musical theatre schools can offer.
Aspiring performers develop their skills as triple threat performers by studying with faculty — like Kristy Cates — who have appeared in numerous Broadway and touring productions, top-rate regional theatre, opera, hit movie musicals, and television shows. NYFA’s musical theater alumni include llda Mason (On Your Feet), Pierre Marais (Aladdin), Christopher Viljoen (Les Misérables), Kylan Ross (Straight Outta Oz), and Tony Award-winner Yael Silver (Once on this Island).
Additionally, the PCMT at NYFA is able to use all of the resources shared by NYFA’s film school, cinematography school, and other departments. Using the Academy’s resources and state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment, its stage and its location in the heart of the New York City, and some of the Academy’s highly-talented staff — including director Jonathan Whittaker, editor Sean Robinson, Broadway veteran and choreographer Deidre Goodwin, and costume designer David Withrow — Kristy’s Lament was able to take advantage of high production values to really sell the humorous lyrics and support Cates’s powerful yet hysterical performance.
“One thing I love about working for NYFA,” Cates says, “is their willingness to explore new projects. As a result, our ability as a program to collaborate with up-and-coming composers and lyricists.” She adds, “It was wonderful to combine the expertise of our faculty, the passion of our alumni, the ingenuity of the composer and writer, and the generosity and support of the Film Academy.”
Cates is no stranger to high production values and show-stopping numbers. She is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA and has starred in Wicked (Broadway, First National Tour, Chicago) as Elphaba, as well as playing Miss Bassett in Finding Neverland (Broadway), Grandma Josephine in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Broadway), and has had roles in a handful of off-Broadway shows and many regional productions. Additionally, she performs as a professional voiceover artist.
The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy is proud to have Kristy Cates as an original and current member of its faculty, and was equally as proud to produce Kristy’s Lament: Another Awful Day with the MTA with her. Next time you’re stressed and stuck on the subway, check it out and let yourself laugh a little — if the wifi is working down there, of course.
Lots happening at New York Film Academy (NYFA) over the past couple of weeks, and away from NYFA too. The September 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop students graduated earlier this month. There they are below, along with instructors Daniel Hernandez and Evgenia Vlasova. The graduates come from (left to right) New York, Ukraine, New Orleans, Norway via London, and Brazil. (The instructors are originally from Mexico and Russia, although I believe they are now citizens of Brooklyn.)
The day after graduation, the 8-week and 1-year students got a behind-the-scenes tour of NBC News. Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC contributor as well as Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program, showed them how a network news operation works. In the picture below, they are on set of the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
Later they were on a “live” set, for an up-close and personal look at the production of AM Joy, with Joy Reid. Then they went to the control room where the program was being assembled, and sent out “live.”
I think everyone found the tour fascinating, even though we weren’t able to visit the Saturday Night Live set. Apparently a number of the sets for that night’s show were still being built.
Instructor Evgenia Vlasova made some news last week too. She was back home to Khabarovsk, in Russia’s Far East, to see her family for the holidays. And she was also back on the air, on the morning show that for many years she hosted and co-produced. Who says “you can never go home”?
And as far as I know, Genia is the only person in the Russian Far East with a NYFA hoodie. But who knows, maybe she will recruit some potential students…
Summer Session graduate Mariana Janjacomo has been busy as well. She writes: “Back in Brazil, I’ve been working as a freelance journalist for a lot of media companies… When I was in New York, I got to interview three Hollywood stars for the Capricho website; it is the biggest website for teenagers in Latin America. Lights and camera were already set up, but it was very challenging to interview them in English. My questions were in the final version of the video too, so I’m glad I had to a chance to practice that kind of interview at NYFA.
Among the stars she interviewed were Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, who are appearing in the film A Simple Favor.
Eulogio Ortiz is a longtime friend, and a former colleague at WNET here in New York. These days he is the director of the PBS NewsHour Weekend. While it is a nationally-distributed network program, and is shot in a state-of-the-art studio, he still uses something as simple as a felt-tip pen and a spiral notebook to determine the best placement of cameras, air talent, and guests on the set. Granted, it’s analog, but there are no batteries to go dead.
Congratulations to NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Sarah Keoghan, who was one of a small group of young journalists chosen for positions at the Sydney Morning Herald. She writes:
“Eight of us were selected out of 900 applicants, and in the current media sphere in Australia, a full-time job is unheard of, and I am beyond stoked. I’m officially a reporter! Thanks again for all your amazing help during my time at NYFA. It is truly an experience I will never forget.”
And speaking of graduates, last week the students in our September 12-week Evening Broadcast Journalism workshop wrapped up their time at NYFA. That’s Hands-on-Camera instructor Daniel Hernandez on the left, although he looks youthful enough to be mistaken for a student.
NYFA alum Federica Polidoro has one of the best jobs in the world. I’m serious… She travels throughout Europe, and beyond, covering the motion picture industry. Earlier this month she was in Morocco, at the Festival International du Film de Marrakech. Legendary director Martin Scorsese was there too, to present an award to equally-legendary actor Robert DeNiro. Federica was able to interview DeNiro later…
Brazilian graduate Daniel Fideli covers sports for media giant Globo. Last week he posted on Facebook about this story:
“Football and motorsport. Finally I manage to get these two passions together in the same story.”
The holidays are rapidly approaching, and that means the Broadcast Journalism Update is going on hiatus until the New Year. Later this week, I am flying to Da Nang, in Vietnam, as I am the Executive Producer of an independent feature film called Invisible Love which is shooting there. Joining me is NYFA Acting for Film graduate Kazy Tauginus. Kazy has a major role in the film. You may have seen him in Denzel Washington’s most recent film, The Equalizer II. Kazy played a really bad guy. (Who died a really bad death.)
On Monday, December 3rd, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a screening of Affairs of State followed by a Q&A with director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, producer, Stephen Israel, and actors, David Corenswet and Nate Walker, moderated by NYFA Producing Chair, Roberta Colangelo. Affairs of State explores the extent to which one man is willing to take risks to progress his career in Washington D.C.
Director and NYFA instructor, Eric Bross, is known for directing A Country Christmas Story (2013), Traffic (2004) and Stranger Than Fiction (2000). Producer, Stephen Israel, is a former VP of New Business Development at TBS, worked in strategic planning at Warner Brothers and spent four years as a management consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. He is known for producing Blood, Sand and Gold (2017), G.B.F. (2013) and I Do (2012). Actor, David Corenswet, is a Julliard graduate known for his roles in House of Cards, The Tap and Elementary. Actor, Nate Walker, is known for his roles in Homeland, Bottom of the Barrel and The Maladjusted.
Colangelo opened up the Q&A by inquiring about Bross’ inspiration for the film. Bross shared that he and Todd Cudworth, the film’s writer, were inspired by the ruthlessness of the “game” of politics; the original script, written in the early 2000s, was based on the tactics used by the Republican party to discredit President Bill Clinton– and the Democratic party as a whole– in the public eye in the late 90s. Bross said that Cudworth asked himself, “What if the Democrats got really ruthless, just matched the tactics of the Republicans who seemed to be pretty much willing to do whatever it [took]?” However, as America moved closer to the Trump presidency, the script evolved.
Ultimately, Bross and Cudworth wanted to bring attention to the world of politics rather than make an argument about a specific political party as contemporary politics is so consumed by polarity. Producer Stephen Israel assisted with the blurring of the political binary in through the characterization of the protagonist’s boss, a political candidate named John Baines, “We took a lot of trouble to play…Baines’ politics down the middle,” said Israel, “We tried to make him a conservative who could appeal to liberals.”
Colangelo noted that sex is used by the main character of the film, Michael Lawson, to gain power in the political sphere and asked how Bross navigated the sex scenes from a storytelling perspective. “I never like to shoot anything gratuitous,” said Bross, “Every scene in every movie should have a purpose…and this movie, ultimately to me, is about the exchange of power, sex for power.” Bross discussed how the sex scenes in which Michael is with Mrs. Baines, his boss’ wife, and the sex scenes in which Michael is with Darcy Baines, his boss’ daughter, were shot and edited differently to give different effects; Michael’s scenes with Mrs. Baines are focused on the exchange of sex for power whereas Michael’s scenes with Darcy are more romantic and idealized.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Eric Bross, Stephen Israel, David Corenswet and Nate Walker for sharing their perspectives on storytelling and working in the entertainment industry with our students.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Instructor Ben Cohen has had a productive 2018. His sitcom screenplay, The Library, recently made the 2nd Round at the 2018 Austin Film Festival. Additionally, it was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest.
Cohen hails from Decatur, Georgia and is currently based in Brooklyn. He has studied at various institutions across the globe, and has honed his comedy chops at Upright Citizen Brigade, among other theaters and playhouse troupes.
In addition to writing and performing, he currently teaches for the Filmmaking school at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus, where he has gained a reputation for being incredibly devoted to both his students and his fellow faculty members. He is also a great role model for the aspiring film school students he teaches, as he balances his position at NYFA with a working career in the film and comedy industry, much like most of the Academy’s experienced, industry-savvy faculty members.
It’s no surprise then that his script for The Library made it to the 2nd Round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival (AFF). The AFF was founded in 1994 and has a focus on screenwriters, and has had judges from Warner Bros., Pixar, ABC Studios, and Nickelodeon in past years.
Ben Cohen Hosting 2018 NYFA Emmy Party in NYC
Cohen’s script was also a finalist for the New York Screenplay Contest, a premiere global screenwriting contest that has introduced numerous talented and unique voices to the industry. Being named as a Finalist or Winner of the contest is a coveted, distinct honor.
Cohen has remained modest about his recent achievements, telling NYFA, “It’s nice to see my writing get some recognition, but it’s important for folks to know rejection isn’t the negative — it’s the norm.”
Expounding on this, he continued, “Much more of your creative life is spent being told that you’re not good enough, but you have to keep writing, and more importantly, keep sharing your writing. I’ve learned to appreciate the good days (like this one) and just keep going. It helps to care about other things. My students know I’m just as happy to talk sports or Bowie as I am to talk about writing.”
Additionally, Cohen was recently featured in a PBS Documentary produced by NYFA alum Ashton Brooks, and he plans to continue writing and pursuing gigs in the industry.
The New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Ben Cohen on his recent successes and looks forward to those still yet to come!