2021 felt like a collective fever dream – a little strange but certainly not as unpredictable as its predecessor. This was a good year!
In the midst of this reflection, we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the accomplishments the New York Film Academy (NYFA) community was able to create and achieve this year.
We have selected a handful of the many successes our alumni, students, faculty and staff were a part of – check out our infographic below!
Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.
Paul J. Salamoff, writer, director, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor, received recognition for his latest feature film, Encounter (2019),at the 46th Annual Saturn Awards. The film was awarded ‘Best Independent Film’ at the Awards Ceremony and features a star-studded cast. The Saturn Awards, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, recognizes great work in the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror. The non-profit organization was founded in 1972 and just a year later organized the first annual Saturn Awards.
Encounter stars Luke Hemsworth (Westworld), Anna Hutchison (Cabin in the Woods), Tom Atkins (Lethal Weapon, Halloween III, Creepshow), Cheryl Texiera (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Glenn Keogh (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), and Christopher Showerman (George of the Jungle 2). The film was produced by Amy Bailey and distributed by Vega Baby.
Encounter follows the story of a wheelchair-bound artist who, after having lost everything in a car crash (including his daughter), experiences hardship once more when his friends discover an otherworldly object crashed in a rural field. He continues to investigate in order to confirm if the strange alien life form has nefarious intentions or if it could be the key to getting back what he once lost.
Salamoff, the writer and director of Encounter, describes the film as “a deeply personal film to me and was shaped by the films and filmmakers that have inspired me over the years. Even though it is about loss, grief, and the fear of the unknown, ultimately it’s about hope.” The film is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and released on Special Edition Blu-Ray.
Screen still from Paul Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)
The film was inspired by legendary science fiction shows and movies including, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Gattaca, Solaris, Another Earth, Moon, Ex-Machina, and Arrival. Salamoff explored themes of loss, grief, and fear of the unknown in Encounter, with the underlying story surrounding the subject of hope.
An industry expert with over 30 years of professional experience in film, television, video gaming, and commercials, Salamoff has worked as a writer, producer, director, executive, comic creator, storyboard artist, and make-up FX artist. He was recently named one of The Tracking Board’s Top 100 up & coming Screenwriters and has developed projects with Mosaic Media Group, Hollywood Gang, Blumhouse, Wigram Productions, Silver Pictures, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Vertigo and Eclectic Pictures.
Screen still from Paul Salamoff’s Encounter (2019)
Salamoff is the author of ‘ON THE SET: The Hidden Rules of Movie Making Etiquette’ and the graphic novels ‘Discord,’ ‘Tales of Discord,’ ‘Logan’s Run,’ and issues of ‘Vincent Price Presents.’
New York Film Academy congratulates Paul Salamoff for his much-deserved win and recognition for the film Encounter at this year’s Annual Saturn Awards.
Following her work on the Oscar-nominated documentary, RBG and the Emmy and Sundance-winner, Boys State, cinematographer and NYFA Filmmaking Instructor Claudia Raschke has three new films out this Fall: Fauci, My Name Is Pauli Murray, and Julia.
The National Geographic Documentary Film Fauci follows the life and career of Dr. Anthony Fauci through his experiences as an infectious disease specialist and his response to AIDS, Ebola viruses, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Raschke shares about her experience filming on Fauci: “I was in awe of the huge responsibility and leadership Dr. Anthony Fauci shouldered for our nation. Keeping his brilliant mind sharply focused in a highly politicized COVID-19 pandemic made me see what it takes to be a legend.”
Following its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, the film was released in theatres and is now available for streaming on Disney+.
NYFA Filmmaking Instructo, Claudia Raschke (left) on set filming Dr. Anthony Fauci for the documentary ‘Fauci.’
Raschke recently teamed up once again with female co-directing team Julie Cohen and Betsy West to shoot My Name Is Pauli Murray. After premiering in January at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary feature has since been picked up by Amazon.
My Name is Pauli Murray captures the forgotten but brilliant queer, Black legal scholar and activist, Pauli Murray, who influenced former Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Raschke added that “Capturing the passionate determination of civil rights activist Pauli Murray makes me appreciate how far we have come and how important it is to pass the knowledge over to the next generation because the fight is not over.”
The film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.
NYFA Filmmaking Instructor, Claudia Raschke (right) on set filming for ‘Julia.’
Julia, a portrait of groundbreaking chef Julia Child, which Variety noted was “richly shot by Claudia Raschke,” premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September. Once again, working with co-directing team Cohen and West, Raschke noted how Julia has impacted her as a cinematographer, “The joie de vivre and culinary passion of Julia Child made it possible to find adventure, romance, and a trailblazing career. It revolutionized the way Americans eat and created a new role model for women. She is such an inspiration to me, and my career as a cinematographer, in which 96% are men, and only 4% are women according to the latest Celluloid Ceiling report of 2020.”
Raschke has been a Faculty Member of the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Department since 2014. Amanda Brzezowski, Assistant Chair of the Filmmaking Department, Documentary Division describes Raschke, “Not only is Claudia an incredibly talented cinematographer, she’s also an exceptional teacher. Our students love learning from her and getting to work with her as they develop their own cinematic and visual approach.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Claudia on all her successes and hits this Fall.
New York Film Academy’s Division of Veteran Services (DVS) attended New York City’s Mayor de Blasio’s 2021 breakfast reception in honor of Veterans Day. Over 250 veterans and active service members attended the Veterans Day breakfast, including NYFA’s DVS Director, Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Christopher Moore. Mayor de Blasio’s remarks were inspiring and addressed some of the divisions our society is facing, “there are a lot of challenges, and in some ways, it has become a little too fashionable to talk about our divisions. I look around the room right now, I don’t see any divisions. I don’t see any negativity. I don’t see people who can’t work together or find a common bond. To every veteran in this room, to every veteran in this city, to every veteran in this country – we march with you.”
James Hendon, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Veterans’ Services, also provided motivating remarks. The Commissioner welcomed everyone including the New York Film Academy. The Commissioner went on to say, “in a time of many challenges, the armed forces continue to be one of the things that people across the board can respect and believe in. So, I wanted to ask you to salute everyone in this room.”
NYFA’s DVS Director, Chris Moore, also attended the New York City Veterans Day Parade where roughly 200 marching units, including bands, floats, vintage vehicles, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul marched up Fifth Avenue from 29th Street to 45th Street. The in-person Veterans Day Parade returned for the first time in 2-years. The parade honored all the brave men and women both past and present.
In the past 10 years, NYFA has proudly welcomed nearly 2,500 veterans and servicemembers’ dependents as students at NYFA; the NYFA community is grateful to each for their service to our country.
Instructor of Filmmaking and Cinematographer at the New York Film Academy’s NYC campus, Hernán Toro, recently shot a new feature-length film, I Love Us (2021). Released in select movie theaters across several cities in the United States, I Love Us is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Directed by and starring Danny A. Abeckaser and written by Kosta Kondilopoulos, the film follows the story of a criminal (Danny Abeckaser) born into a crime syndicate, who must choose between his love for a single mother (Katie Cassidy) and his career in heisting. In order to leave his past, he must commit one last act of crime to offer his new family the life they deserve.
Toro discusses his artistic approach toward filming, “the approach for the Cinematography was basically pragmatic and came down to the story. I wanted to make Los Angeles look bright even when dark, when things are being cooked, when drama is taking place, families are breaking, thieves are trying to survive and vindicate, bad guys support each other–it all looks sunny. Only the heist is dark, because they provoked a blackout to mute alarms and surveillance cameras.”
The film was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed unique challenges for the crew. Toro explained how the team managed to continue their work, while taking precaution for the actors’ and crew members’ health and safety. According to Toro, “the COVID restrictions were very demanding, because not only had it taken a large chunk of the budget, but it stole away time and the ease of filming on set. After the budget cut–due to the change in the regulations in California–we had 15 days to shoot the entire film. We conducted PCR testing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and had to visit the COVID station every morning to scan a QR code to then complete a form, have our temperatures taken, and take a fresh set of masks. On set, we were required to wear double masks at all times as well as a face shield when actors were on set.
With a career spanning over 20 years, Toro has shot over 20 feature-length films. His portfolio of work includes feature-length movies, music videos, and commercials for top brands including Toyota, Lipton, NyQuil, Astor, Revlon, Nestea, Presidente, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. Toro is an Instructor of five years at the NYFA New York City campus and has continued to work in the industry filming over 800 TV spots.
Originally born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Toro was a student of advertising before leaving home for England, where he attended The London Film School. Upon his return to Venezuela, he became one of the most sought-after cinematographers in the country. He currently lives in New York City, where he has resided since 1995.
Toro is also an accomplished still photographer, with his work shown as part of a dozen photographic exhibitions, photos published in magazines, catalogs, and three architectural books. From a young age, his talent was encouraged by his father. While looking back on his childhood, Toro recalls a fond memory of his father’s influence on his passion for filmmaking, “I’ve loved making films since I was a little kid, helping my father make home movies on his Bolex 16mm camera. He taught me how to interpret the f.stop for the lens by reading light off of a light meter, so I could give him the aperture and help him not miss a shot. I have pictures of that, and I look around 5 years of age. I still have that light meter.”
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Hernán Toro for the success of I Love Us, now available on Amazon Prime.
Mei Lanfang, the subject of an episode of Century Masters, will have his legacy showcased in a screening at the 2021 Beijing Documentary Week. The program, Century Masters is a 15-part cultural history TV program that focuses on a different historical subject each airing. This particular episode was written and hosted by NYFA’s very own Chair of Broadcast Journalism, Bill Einreinhofer.
The Beijing Documentary Week is a film festival that attracts leading documentary producers and production companies from across China. This year’s circuit was held between August 14th and August 21st, 2021.
Einreinhofer’s Century Masters episode featuring the subject Mei Lanfang follows the story of his upbringing, influence, and global recognition as a great master of Chinese Peking Opera. Mei Lanfang’s untraditional adaptation to historic stories reinvented them for new audiences and modern times. Fun fact, it would take you a calendar year to watch every Chinese Peking Opera if you watched one per day. That’s how many productions the theatre group created over its 100-year history. You can watch the full episode of Century Masters featuring Mei Lanfang, written and hosted by Bill Einreinhofer here.
Bill Einreinhofer with the camera team of Century Masters filming in ChinaMei Lanfang’s story begins as a young child, growing up in a tumultuous, war-torn China in the early 1900s. Born into a family of privilege and Opera talent, Mei Lanfang’s grandfather is one of the originators of Peking Opera theatre. His father and uncle, both top performers and musicians of the Opera, had high expectations for their son and nephew. Unfortunately for Mei Lanfang, his youth and happy personality were a deterrent for teachers of the art.
Considered lazy and untalented, Mei Lanfang’s family extinguished their hopes the child could continue their family trade. After experiencing financial hardship, Mei Lanfang received help and support from a family friend. Very grateful even until his last day, he paid this generosity forward by treating his family’s Opera troupe with dignity and flexibility during economic hardships.
Mei Lanfang became an apprentice to this family friend and his talent blossomed into the internationally recognized art we know him for today.
Peking Opera, now a popular subject for study in many Chinese theatre schools, has four subjects for which its young student population, between the ages of 11 and 12, must master. These subjects include singing, monologues, acting, and martial arts. For young students, training for Peking Opera is a six-year-long endeavor.
Bill Einreinhofer being filmed for the Mei Lanfang episode of Century Masters
Mei Lanfang is most famous for his adaptation of the popular Opera, Spring of the Jade Hall, the story of a prostitute falsely accused and charged with murder. His performance on Broadway in 1930s New York won him acclaim across the United States. Now recognized on an international stage as a great writer and performer, Mei Lanfang earned an Honorary Doctorate in literature from the University of Southern California.
His success while in the United States was of great national pride for China and contributed to his long-lasting legacy.
This episode of Century Masters aired in China during the Lunar New Year celebration (also known as the Chinese New Year), where the country witnessed its highest TV viewings.
Bill Einreinhofer in the studio filming his episode of Century Masters
The episode also aired throughout the Middle East. With time, influential figures like Mei Lanfang will have their legacies broadcasted around the globe. Their influence and impact continue to live on, thanks to filmmakers and documentary journalists like Bill Einreinhofer.
New York Film Academy congratulates Faculty Chair, Bill Einreinhofer for his well-deserved recognition.
Paul Warner, Director and Filmmaking Instructor with NYFA, released feature-length film, HAMLET/HORATIO, available on Amazon Prime, Tubi, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes, Apple TV, and YouTube. A collaborative effort with writer David Vando, the film is a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic “Hamlet.” Since its release, HAMLET/HORATIO garnered ten awards across the independent film festival circuit.
HAMLET/HORATIO centers around the grieving producer and main character, Hamlet (played by NYFA Alum Andrew Burdette), who is now head of a film production company following the death of his father. His right-hand man and director, Horatio (played by NYFA Alum Themo Melikidze) captures his close friend’s pain in an enduring promise to tell Hamlet’s story through the production of a film.
While the work includes all major themes from the original play, Warner takes a unique approach in explaining the relationship between the close companions. An exploration of their relationship with undertones of gender-fluidity and sexuality, HAMLET/HORATIO captures the essence of the characters’ closeness as a series of dream-like scenes with soft-focused camera work and a series of fourth-wall breaks.
Quoted in an article by Washington Blade which touches on the theme of sexuality in the adaptation, “There’s a tremendous amount of exploration of gender fluidity in his work,” says Warner, “There’s never a label on it, but it permeates Shakespeare. There are a lot of characters who fall in love with the soul of the person, rather than the gender.”
The film captures Hamlet’s search for fulfillment in front of a backdrop of fascism, with characters and visuals resembling a previous White House Administration. Whilst battling the corruption of his surroundings, Hamlet sacrifices his own life in the arms of his companion, Horatio, who then pledges to capture his story.
According to a Signal Horizon Magazine review, “The two light up near each other literally and figuratively. Beautiful lighting and soft-focused camera work highlight the friend’s interactions.”
HAMLET/HORATIO won a Film Jury Award for Best Feature at the 2020 edition Film Festivals To Go (FFTG). The film will be available for viewing on all platforms next month.
Amazon Prime Film Reviews:
“This film has already won many awards in the film festival circuits and for obvious reasons! All of the acting performances are great and this is such a unique, modern take of a Shakespearian classic. Definitely one of the best Indie films I’ve seen. If you are a fan of classics with a twist or artistic and unique indie films, then this is definitely for you! I would love to see them make a version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream like this as well. Bravo!”
“I love this film! The best thing is you do not have to have a Shakespeare background to understand the story. The movie is beautiful to look at with an outstanding score. I can not believe how great the production value is for this type of indy film. Do yourself a favor and rent this film!”
New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Paul Warner as well as alumni Andrew Burdette and Themo Melikidze for the success of HAMLET/HORATIO, now available on Amazon Prime.
There are some professional moments you never forget.
Near the top of the list is getting your first Press Card. It is recognition that you are indeed a “journalist.”
Earlier this year NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Hannah Palmhagen received her Press Card for the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riksdag). Hannah took a very non-traditional route to this moment. It was a journey of self-discovery as well as professional training.
Former student, Meiraj Haq also took a unique route to success. He came to NYFA to sharpen his producing/reporting skills and used those skills to produce an acclaimed documentary about then-candidate and now Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. Amazingly, he became a top actor in Pakistani TV dramas! You can still see NYFA featured on Meiraj’s Facebook cover photo.
Being nominated for an industry award is always a great honor. It is your peers going “on the record” in their praise of not just what you do, but how you do it. NYFA alum Kecia Gayle works in the challenging world of entertainment journalism. You can find her on Instagram and on Hollywood Unlocked’s own website.
Of course, if you want to learn about fashion trends and popular culture, you just have to listen to NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Nicole Abebe on The Beat, 99.9 in Lagos. But if you want to double your knowledge, then check out (do people still say that?) the Abebe family on with the Abebes.
Right now, we are in the middle of a typical New York City Summer. The days are hazy, hot and, humid. If you are a TV reporter, that means just one thing: visit places where people are cooling off. This is precisely what Broadcast Journalism alum Karen Hua did for News12 New York.
Of course, even though it is Summer there are still important stories to cover (especially in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is Winter). One of the biggest stories continues to be COVID-19. Former NYFA student Fernanda Mueller has returned to Brazil, where she is working for NSC Comunicação, a Globo-affiliated company.
“The company has a TV channel, radio station, digital and print media. I work as a multimedia reporter for digital and print. We recently made a video series about food prices. In this video, I talk about how prices of rice and beans have increased in Brazil and the state of Santa Catarina during the pandemic,” says Fernanda.
Even the movies have a serious side, captured in all of its glory by NYFA graduate Federica Polidoro in a recent cover story in Vanity Fair Italia. Federica asked for comments from our own Broadcast Journalism Chair, Bill Einreinhofer.
Evgenia Vlasova and Bill Einreinhofer are in the middle of producing a new Public TV documentary called Unsettled History: America, China and the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. In April 1942, the five American aviators pictured below, along with 59 of their comrades, were rescued from capture, torture, and certain death at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. The rescue mission was carried out by Chinese farmers, fishermen and militia members. These Americans either crash-landed or parachuted into rural China and survived thanks to the courageous actions of strangers in a foreign land.
Producer Nancy HanzhangShen and Bill Einreinhofer shot the final interview last month, with Prof. Luo Shiping in Shangrao, Jiangxi province, China (centered in the picture below along with the local production team).
The documentary will be distributed by American Public Television in April 2022, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid.
NYFA instructor Braden Duemmler’s film What Lies Below is currently has the the #1 spot on Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.S. Today spot, a coveted ranking across all streaming services.
Duemmler, who wrote and directed the film, is a filmmaking instructor at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. What Lies Below is a horror-thriller film that tells the story of a teenage girl who comes back home from camp, only to realize that her mother’s attractive new boyfriend is too good to be true.
Braden Duemmler (Left) and Ema Horvath (Right) on the set of “What Lies Below”
The film stars Ema Horvath (who was recently cast in the upcoming Lord of The Rings series for Amazon Prime), NYFA guest speaker Mena Suvari (American Beauty, American Pie), and Trey Tucker (who was recently cast in the upcoming show Heels on Starz).
For Duemmler, What Lies Below was a labor of love, and seeing all of the work that went into writing the film as well as seeing it cast and begin shooting was an incredible moment for the director. “It was wonderful and terrifying at the same time. I still remember the first table read with Ema, Trey, and Mena going through the lines. I had tears in my eyes at the end because I just couldn’t believe I was sitting there, with these incredibly gifted actors, listening and watching them bring the story to life!”
Behind the scenes of filming “What Lies Below”
“As we were making the film, it was a battle. Every day had its trials and triumphs and you just had to stay focused on the scene, the shot, the moment, every step of the way,” shared Duemmler. “Every time we wrapped a day, and I knew in my head we got what we needed, I felt the same as I did at that table read: this is happening, this is working, this is awesome!”
Mena Suvari in “What Lies Below”
What Lies Below has now been picked up and released by streaming giant Netflix, which has been the launching point for many directors and multiple genres of content for the past decade.
“It’s very exciting. We’re being released the same week as a film starring Idris Elba! It makes me appreciate the platform [Netflix] and its unique ability to bring films from all genres, budgets, and styles to one place.”
Trey Tucker in “What Lies Below”
According to the filmmaking instructor, audiences will be able to enjoy the “intensity of the story” and the mystery that is riddled throughout the film. But most of all, he hopes audiences will argue over the ending. “It is a very polarizing finale and I’ve already seen some great fan theories on the internet. All I’ll say is the ending is not open-ended; it is very definitive and all the answers to the mystery are layered into those final two shots. I hope people enjoy picking it all apart and trying to figure it out!”
Braden Duemmler on the set of “What Lies Below”
For anyone out there looking to make their own film, Duemmler says it’s time to stop asking for permission. “You don’t need the studios, or Sundance, or a big-time producer. All you need is a great script and a little start-up capital that will allow you to attach a cast that is recognizable enough to get you your full budget! The cast is EVERYTHING and they care about great scripts!”
New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking instructor Braden Duemmler on the release of his first feature film What Lies Below, which is now available to stream on Netflix. Once audiences finish arguing over the ending of What Lies Below, it won’t be long before Duemmler releases his next film Mold, which will begin casting this summer.
Two estranged half-sisters, a will reading, a valuable antique rug, and a mysterious stranger.
NYFA Acting for Film and Filmmaking instructor Micah Stathis’ latest film, The Sisters Karras, has deep roots within the NYFA community. With Stathis’ SK Deli Market Productions at the helm of the production, the film also includes New York campus instructors Dan Rodriguez, Dennis Green, and Andy Mendez among the film’s cast and crew.
Poster for “The Sisters Karras”
The film, shot last Summer in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an original feature written, directed, and starring Stathis. NYFA teaching assistant for Acting for Film Dan Rodriguez served as the film’s director of photography, with NYFA’s Post-Production Supervisor, Andy Mendez, serving as the main editor of the film. Joining Stathis in the cast is NYFA screenwriting instructor Dennis Green.
Photo courtesy of Micah Stathis
The shoot itself proved challenging for the crew as safety took precedent with the filming during the pandemic.
“It was very stressful shooting during the pandemic,” explained Stathis. “We were a SAG registered production, so the COVID protocols were very strict and required a lot of additional planning and precautions. Not to mention, it’s really hot shooting in New York in August…especially while having to wear masks!”
With the production wrapped, The Sisters Karras now enters the post-production phase. Like many filmmakers know, shooting the film is half the battle, with a huge part of the filmmaking process dedicated to putting all the finishing touches on the project and getting the film out in the public eye.
Dan Rodriguez (Left) and Micah Stathis (Right)
“I hope that audiences enjoy the tragicomic tone and nature of the film. I hope audiences find the story of the two sisters captivating, funny, and stressful but ultimately, relatable,” shared Stathis.
Photo courtesy of Micah Stathis
“We are definitely aiming for a festival run with an eye towards sales and distribution. We have already been in dialogue with a few distribution companies who are waiting for the film to be ready. We do not want to rush the post-production process and want to make sure the film is, ultimately, as good as it can possibly be. That’s why we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign specifically for post-production.”
New York Film Academy congratulates the instructors who banded together to create a feature film safely in the middle of the pandemic. To learn more about The Sisters Karras, you can visit the film’s Kickstarter page by clicking here.