Faculty Highlights
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  • Hannah Gilliland, NYFA Study Abroad Admissions Associate, Accepted into NAFSA Future Leaders Academy

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    NYFA is thrilled to announce that our colleague, Hannah Gilliland, was recently accepted into the NAFSA Academy, and was awarded a NAFSA scholarship to attend the 2021 cohort of young international education leaders of the future. 

    The NAFSA Academy is a highly cherished program of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. NAFSA “…is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange”. Its mission is to provide a path for every student, scholar, and specialist who is seeking the benefits of international education and to have every “…higher education integrates international perspectives into its teaching, research, and service missions”.
     
    The NAFSA Academy, which informs and educates people to uphold the organization’s mission, is a competitive, yearlong, intensive training and networking course on international education. Trainees are chosen from all over the US and are from many different international education backgrounds. 

    Hannah Gilliland

    “The curriculum is rigorous and will provide Hannah with a wide-ranging array of tools for her to manage the NYFA Study Abroad Department efficiently”, stated Jim Miller, NYFA Vice President. Mr. Miller went on further to say, “we are very, very proud of Hannah — all of us at NYFA who interact and work alongside her regard her as a true gem of a colleague and we know that she has an incredible future in the field!” 

     The NAFSA Academy curriculum includes networking opportunities, an individual learning plan in which trainees arrange goals in terms of personal and institutional goals, blog assignments, attending the regional and annual NAFSA conference, and more. “What is unique is that I get to meet people all over the country and learn about all aspects of international education and while this course will benefit me, it will also benefit NYFA as a whole”, Hannah indicated upon learning of the award. 

    Hannah Gilliland at NYFA’s table at NAFSA’s 2019 annual conference

    “The NAFSA Academy will not only help with important connections but also will assist me in making the NYFA Study Abroad Department stronger and give me insight into how other Study Abroad Departments are run. I believe NYFA’s emphasis on international and globally-minded students is one of our greatest and unique strengths that sets us apart from other schools and I think that this is a great opportunity for myself and for NYFA to grow and to become more known and knowledgeable in the field of international education.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Hannah Gilliland on her recent achievement and looks forward to what’s next from our esteemed colleague.

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    January 13, 2021 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 948

  • NYFA South Beach Instructor, Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Lands Role on Peabody Award-Winning Drama “David Makes Man”

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    Originally reported in Deadline, NYFA’s own Patrice DeGraff Arenas has landed a recurring role on David Makes Man. The Peabody Award-winning drama series is distributed by the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and is currently ramping up for its second season. 

    Arenas teaches Voice and Speech Acting, Scene Study, Characterization, and Advanced Acting Technique at NYFA’s South Beach campus. In the upcoming season of David Makes Man, Arenas will play Denise, an office assistant at the Edwards Firm (where the main character David works). As originally reported by Deadline, Arenas’ character Denise is someone who “keeps things moving at the office while also learning the moods and tempo of her boss.” 

    Photo courtesy of Patrice DeGraff Arenas

    David Makes Man is from Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) and Warner Bros. and is loosely based on McCraney’s experiences, with the titular David (Akili McDowell), a 14-year-old prodigy from the South Florida projects. Arenas revealed that she began production on the project in October 2020.

    Arenas, who grew up the daughter of an arts educator, had an upbringing full of theatre, with her mom being a director in school productions. “From those early experiences, I went to college and relished watching my peers present. I gained insight about intention and action, my peers as well professors commented on my clear, direct, practical critiques,” shared Arenas.

    While Arenas has recently been involved in NYFA alum Bruklyn Miller’s award-winning film Celestial and is focused on her upcoming role in David Makes Man, Arenas revealed she is also in the development of a series with four of her former high school arts friends. In the future, Arenas hopes to be cast in a comedy and to play the role of Rose in Fences or Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

    Photo Credit: OWN

    As for advice for students and alumni, Arenas says “life isn’t a rehearsal, so show up ready! It’s okay to be afraid but do it anyway!” The NYFA instructor also urges actors and creatives alike to “be patient with yourself” as some goals rarely look like what you want them to “but that doesn’t mean the journey isn’t worthwhile!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates the NYFA South Beach instructor Patrice DeGraff Arenas on her upcoming role, and encourages everyone to check out the second season of David Makes Man when it is available on OWN, and to catch up on season one, with all episodes now available on HBO Max.

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    December 21, 2020 • Acting, Faculty Highlights, South Beach • Views: 1047

  • Live Theater Returns to NYC With NYFA PCMT’s Newest Production “NOT WORKING: A 2020 Song Cycle”

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    New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre (PCMT) recently performed their original musical, NOT WORKING: A 2020 SONG CYCLE earlier this month with live, COVID-safe performances at East River Park Amphitheatre in New York City.

    The original production was conceived and directed by NYFA’s Travis Greisler (The Cher Show) with musical direction by Kevin David Thomas (A Little Night Music) and was created especially for the Musical Theatre students at NYFA.

    NYFA PCMT students rehearse before the show’s debut

    NOT WORKING: A 2020 Song Cycle is a nod to the 1970’s song cycle WORKING, and portrays the various stories and vantage points of topics ranging from the global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, quarantine and isolation, and our immense desire to be telling stories live and in person again.

    The full length, live musical showcases NYFA’s PCMT students performing contributions from 15 different composers/lyricists from many racial backgrounds, gender identities, and sexualities. Each composer wrote about their various points of view on all things 2020 during this time where many have been missing the element of live performance for the majority of the year.

    “It is a show about all the things that are not working in our world, written in 2020, about 2020, and performed in 2020,” said Greisler. “A thing most new musicals never get to do as they usually take so long to get written and eventually produced. We had quite the opportunity on our hands and I didn’t want to waste it.”

    In addition to the performers, composers, and lyricists involved in the show, NYFA’s PCMT also collaborated across disciplines with NYFA’s Filmmaking and Cinematography departments to capture the live performance for online streaming distribution so as to reach a potentially even larger number of viewers.

    Photo from live performance of “NOT WORKING: A 2020 Song Cycle”

    “One of the things this pandemic has taught everyone in the performing arts is the necessity to find new and creative ways to bring our performances and talents to a large audience in an unconventional way,” shared Pierro Basso (AIC-IMAGO), Chair of NYFA’s Cinematography Department in New York. “What the pandemic has not done, however, is deter from the longstanding collaboration between the Filmmaking, Cinematography and Musical Theatre departments at NYFA.”

    “NYFA is so proud of all of our students for their continued excellence in the face of very difficult circumstances,” added Senior Executive Vice President and COO at NYFA David Klein. “We are so proud of our Musical Theatre Department, the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre, and our musical theatre students and faculty who have overcome what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles to live performance to create a new musical during a global pandemic.”

    Photo from live performance of “NOT WORKING: A 2020 Song Cycle

    The show’s producer and Chair of NYFA’s Musical Theatre Department Kristy Cates (Wicked, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) also added, “I am thrilled that NYFA gave us the green light to create and produce this amazing new piece of work and I know this show has been an extremely uplifting and cathartic experience for all the performers, composers and audiences alike. We are proud we were able to share NOT WORKING with New York City.”

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  • Film “Make America Safe” by NYFA Acting Instructor Blanche Baker Enjoys Festival Run

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    Our NYFA Acting faculty aren’t only professionals in front of the camera but are working professionals in the industry constantly experimenting and making their own work while simultaneously teaching NYFA students the fundamentals of their craft.

    Blanche Baker teaches in both the Acting and Musical Theatre departments at NYFA’s New York campus. With an extensive background on the stage and on screen, Baker made her television debut in the miniseries Holocaust, for which she won an Emmy Award. Her feature films include Sixteen Candles, The Handmaid’s Tale with Robert Duvall, Raw Deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Kevin Bacon HBO film Taking Chance. She was part of the Yale Repertory Theatre and Anna Sokolow’s dance troupe and her theatre roles include Steel Magnolias and Edward Albee’s Lolita with Donald Sutherland. 

    Film poster for “Make America Safe”

    In addition to writing and directing the award-winning short film Streetwrite, Baker wrote and directed her latest film Make America Safe, with award-winning cinematography Piero Basso, serving as the director of photography. The film has been garnering accolades and making its rounds on the festival circuit, recently appearing in the Global Impact Festival in Washington, D.C.

    Make America Safe is a musical short film about the 2nd Amendment and asks the question, “what if in the next few years citizens were required to carry weapons in order to ensure the safety of the public?” Using the premise of a news commentary show, the film takes a sardonic look at this possible future and examines the kind of scenarios that could arise in this world. With music composed by Andy Peterson, it sheds light on the rationales that could lead to such a future. 

    The film features a talented cast of Musical Theatre students working alongside NYFA’s professional faculty of artists as part of their Musical Theatre curriculum, which requires students to perform in original movie musicals, combining both musical theatre for the stage and for film.

    Official Selection: 
    Global Nonviolent Film Festival
    South Film and Arts Festival
    Film for Peace
    New York Short Film Festival
    Sanctuary International Film Festival

    Accolades:
    A Show For Change – Creativity Award
    Awareness Festival – Merit Award for Awareness
    X World Short Film Festival – Best International Short and Best Original Music
    Cinefest – Best Musical
    Blow Up Arthouse – Finalist

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    November 17, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Film Festivals, Musical Theatre • Views: 445

  • Broadcast Journalism Update – November 2020 Edition

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    2020 has been an eventful year, and even though there are less than two months to go, the pace of events shows no sign of slowing down.

    “Deep in the Heart of Texas” (which is the title of a famous old song… I know a lot about “old songs”), former NYFA student Nicole Cross had a long night that dragged into the early morning (and beyond) as one of the anchors/presenters for Election Night coverage on Spectrum News 1, a 24-hour local news channel available throughout Texas.

    Danish TV producer/reporter Celina Liv Danielsen spent many, many hours in Las Vegas. But not at any of the casinos. Instead, she was at the Clark County Administration Building waiting for the latest vote count.


    Karen Hua
     remembered the first rule of TV reporting… drink water.
    NYFA instructor Evgenia Vlasova has a substantial social media presence. She discovered what it is like for a major network to see your story, and liked it so much they decide they want to do it too… Personally, I think Genia’s version was better!

    Speaking of Genia, she and I co-hosted a two-hour webinar on TV production during the age of COVID. The first hour looked at TV news production, while in the second hour we explored change in the production of talk shows, episodic television, and feature films. The webinar is part of a three-day conference called Astana Media Week, which draws TV producers and executives from throughout Central Asia.

    And, in keeping with NYFA production protocols, we wore our masks.

    Of course, lots of other things happened over the last few months. Broadcast Journalism graduate Federica Polidoro covered the legendary Biennale de Venezia, one of the few international film festivals that actually took place in-person this year.

    In Brazil, NYFA alum Daniella Gemignani celebrated a work anniversary at media giant Globo, in Sao Paulo Brazil.

     

    Paula Varejao, who works on Globo’s Mais Globosat, continues going to places I can only dream of visiting.

    Broadcast Journalism grad Beatriz Puente is working for Band TV. And while she loves her job as a producer, I think she might love being an on-air reporter even more…

    One of her recent stories was how a well-known dance club in Rio opened and violated every COVID-19 rule you could imagine. This is why Journalism is so important. Frankly, there are times when Journalism is literally a matter of life and death.

    Many time zones away, former NYFA student Abiola Jinadu has established her own production company in Nigeria. The company specializes in a wide range of video programming, the same way we train our students to be multimedia journalists capable of working in many different settings. Congratulations, Abiola!

    Closer to New York City, NYFA grad Kendall Bunch made her way to Marquette, Michigan (one of the smaller TV markets in the United States) to start her career. It is a path many of us have taken. Myself, I spent a couple of years in Madison, Wisconsin…

    Broadcast Journalism alum (and U.S. Navy veteran) Clyde D. Gunter is now a Content Strategist at ESPN Original Content.

    And current Broadcast Journalism student (and part-time Good Morning America studio crew member) Brett Mills shows how to maintain social distancing with a Sony FS5 HD/4K camera.

    Stay tuned for more updates from Broadcast students, alumni, and faculty. For more information about our Broadcast Journalism programs, click here.
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  • Cinematography Instructor Mark Sawicki Featured in ‘Deadline’ and Discusses New Book “Filming the Fantastic with Virtual Technology” Bringing Movie Magic Solutions

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    As many TV and film productions are grappling with new social distancing guidelines and reassessing working with extras for crowd scenes, New York Film Academy Cinematography instructor for NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, Mark Sawicki, says VFX is here to help.

    Sawicki is a Clio-winning VFX and opticals artist, who has worked on incredible titles from The Dark Knight Rises and Bullet to the Head, to Tropic Thunder, 3:10 to Yuma and X-Men, among several others. Recently featured in Deadline, Sawicki shared how productions will increasingly begin to look to VFX to solve the challenging situations for making safer productions and creating scenes with crowds where multiple extras on set are typically needed.  

    Courtesy of Mark Sawicki

    Using examples from titles like Casanova, Dracula, Gladiator, Pan Am, the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and more, Sawicki explains different VFX and even practical effects that can make movie magic for keeping sets safer. He also elaborated that background actors are still integral to filmmaking, but safety will need to take precedent. “I think background actors are very important. You know, this is a moving target as we’re adapting.”

    Sawicki is the co-author with Juniko Moody of the recently released book Filming the Fantastic With Virtual Technology: Filmmaking on the Digital Backlot. Like his interview with Deadline explains, Sawicki and Moody outline some of the most ambitious evolutions in digital effects in filmmaking and the new and exciting developments in digital cinematography with their new book, ultimately providing solutions for how VFX can help solve many of the challenges arising as crews look to return to work on COVID-safe sets.

    To read the full article on Deadline, click here. Sawicki’s book has recently been released and is now available on Amazon and Kindle. 

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    November 11, 2020 • 3D Animation, Cinematography, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 828

  • NYFA Presents: The Rock The Vote Rally 2020

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    A rousing group of New York Film Academy students, faculty, and staff from all three campuses (New York, Los Angeles, and South Beach) participated in a Rock the Vote Virtual Rally yesterday. The Rally included special guest, Tony-nominated actor Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s RENT, Les Misérables, The Rocky Horror Show ), who shared stories of her immigrant family background, becoming a U.S citizen, and the imperative to vote. 

    NYFA Producing alum Lisa Cortes (producer of the Academy Award-winning Precious, recent Emmy Award-winner for The Apollo, and producer/co-director of the just-released Stacey Abrams documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy) spoke of the importance of voting in light of the long history of voter suppression in the U.S. In the making of All In: The Fight For Democracy during the COVID pandemic, Cortes talked about how her NYFA Producing education proved so valuable in pulling together the project during such challenging times. Attendees were treated to a special viewing of the All In trailer and a special musical clip of Janelle Monae performing the closing title song from the film. 

    Also joining via specially recorded video clips was Nikki Renée Daniels from “Hamilton” and Shoshana Bean from “Wicked”,  A special “Get Out The Vote” tribute by Lin Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton capped the Rally. 

    The event was co-produced by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman and Chair of the Musical Theatre Department, Kristy Cates. 

    “Our sincerest hope was not only to invigorate the NYFA community to become excited about and committed to voting, but to inspire everyone in attendance to reach out to their circles and do the same.” – Kristy Cates

    NYFA’s Rock The Vote efforts include a Zoom room every Tuesday from 1 p.m. ET – 4 p.m. ET that offers voter registration and mail-in ballot assistance for NYFA students, faculty, and staff from all three campuses. Please stop in and check your registration, apply for absentee ballots, etc. Further information is available on the NYFA Voter Resources page.

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  • NYFA Los Angeles Cinematography Students Adapt to New Hybrid Model in Creative Stage Lighting Workshop

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    As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, New York Film Academy continues to show how its adapting to delivering an applied arts education. The Cinematography department on the Los Angeles campus has taken an updated approach to the “Stage Lighting Workshop” course using practical components integrated with remote instruction.

    Production design instructor Francis Pezza created a set for a modern urban apartment to be built on Stage 5 at TBS Studios (former home of NBC), down the hall from the famous soundstage where Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show.

    The apartment design features a spacious floor plan that incorporates a living room, kitchen, and bedroom. The layout allows students a great degree of flexibility in designing shots and creating a variety of lighting schemes. Additionally, the set features a large window that looks out onto a 50-foot translight backing of the New York City skyline. The backing can be lit for either day or night, and allows the Cinematography students to incorporate a greater sense of depth and dimension in their photography.

    Following the set build, department chair Anthony Richmond ASC, BSC and Cinematography instructor Jacek Laskus, ASC, PSC began their workshops with the MFA and One-Year Cinematography students. Each student is instructed to choose a reference image, which will first be analyzed by the class, and then used as inspiration in creating a new shot and lighting setup.

    The instructors and the students worked remotely, relaying their instructions to a group of TA’s on set, who followed the students’ directions, placing and shaping the lights as instructed, and executing the cinematographer’s vision for the shot. The students were encouraged to incorporate camera movement into their visual design, utilizing the available space to best effect.

    Throughout the workshop, the students learned new techniques for lighting, shot design, and moving the camera. This hybrid model of remote instruction with practical elements proved successful in delivering the goals of the workshop.

    Reflecting on the class, Richmond said:

    “I was pleased with the success of this workshop. Working remotely proved very effective. I was with the students on Zoom, where we could all see each other, and the image from the Red camera as the students lit the set. We had additional cameras showing us what was happening on set, including a bird’s eye view of the entire stage. The crew worked well together, and the students were able to accomplish many unique shots.”

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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: 1504

  • 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: 1021