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  • New York Film Academy Instructors Shoot “The Sisters Karras” And Enter Post-Production

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    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.

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    April 2, 2021 • Acting, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 15114

  • New York Film Academy Partners with the 2021 FOLCS – International Short Film Competition

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to announce another year of partnership with the Forum on Life, Culture and Society (FOLCS) International Short Film Competition in a five-day virtual event, culminating in an Awards Night on April 8, 2021.

    FOLCS is a non-profit organization that houses culturally relevant conversation topics, providing a unique and enriching experience for audience goers that speaks to the moment with captivating conversations from special guests across multiple industries. NYFA has been a co-host on the FOLCS series of events for the last three years. 

    The annual FOLCS – International Short Film Competition (F-ISFC) is a special event that showcases short films that explore themes of justice, human rights, and the law by emerging filmmakers from all over the world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the very first time, FOLCS, in partnership with NYFA, will be virtually hosting its annual short film competition, allowing viewers to screen all of the finalist entries over the course of five days starting April 5, 2021.  

    Finalist films for the FOLCS – International Short Film Competition

    This year’s official film selections include titles from Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Malaysia, and the United States, giving entrants the opportunity to have their films shown to a wide audience and films viewed by distinguished professionals including renowned filmmakers, actors, writers, and journalists. Previous F-ISFC judges from NYFA include Cinematography Chair Piero Basso, Screenwriting Chair Randall Dottin, Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift, and Filmmaking instructor Jonathan Whittaker.

    Actor William Fichtner

    All ISFC attendees will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite short, which will be counted towards the Audience Favorite Award which will be announced during Awards Night on April 8, 2021. The awards night is open to all F-ISFC ticketholders and will feature a discussion with the finalist filmmakers, NYFA’s own President Michael Young, and actor William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down, Prison Break, The Perfect Storm, The Dark Knight), who will present the award for The Best Short.

    HOW TO WATCH THE FILMS & VIRTUALLY ATTEND:

    The first 200 people to register for this year’s F-ISFC will receive tickets for the virtual film screenings free of charge, while all other registrants will be charged a $2 fee to unlock the official film selections. To view the F-ISFC slate of films selected for this year’s competition, click here. If you would like to register to attend one or all of the screenings for this year’s F-ISFC, click here to register. On April 5, 2021, you will receive an email with instructions on how to unlock and watch each film online. 

    New York Film Academy is a proud partner of this year’s FOLCS – International Short Film Competition and looks forward to being part of this special event celebrating aspiring independent filmmakers from around the globe. 

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  • Broadcast Journalism Update – March 2021 Edition

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    This month marked ten years since the start of the tragic, still ongoing Syrian civil war. NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Nour Idriss, who comes from Aleppo, found herself stranded in New York City when all flights back home to Syria were canceled. Enrolling in NYFA, she reinvented herself as a multimedia journalist, then found a home at CBS News. Recently she wasn’t just the producer of stories about the past decade, she became part of the story herself.
    She wrote: “I still can’t believe I’m actually doing this! I’m a journalist! And I owe you for this dream I’m living.”
    Thank you for your kind words, Nour. I think countless hours of hard work had a lot to do with it too…
    It is often said that journalism is the first draft of history. NYFA grad Celina Liv Danielsen can certainly attest to that. A producer/reporter for TV2 In Denmark, she was on-the-scene when violence broke out in Washington DC this past January. Needless to say, it wasn’t the story she thought she was going to report, the official announcement of the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.
    Livia Fernanda enrolled in NYFA to develop her reporting skills. Up until that point, she had worked strictly as an in-studio weather reporter. Now an on-air reporter with Grupo Jovem Pan in São Paulo, she demonstrated the difference between covering Brazilian Carnival in 2020 and 2021 with two striking photos.
    Staying in Brazil (I know, Brasil), congratulations to NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Beatriz Puente, now producing for CNN Brasil, based in Rio!
    When Eduvie Martin came to NYFA from Nigeria, she had already developed strong on-camera skills. What she felt she lacked were the technical skills essential to success. She has over a decade of experience in communications and reputation management for global brands and start-ups in Europe and Africa. And as this Linkedin posting can attest, she can multitask with the best of them!
    Lorenzo Capezzuoli Ranchi always looks dapper “on-air,” or I guess I should say “in cyberspace.” He is a regular contributor to the Italian digital media app 264 Zoom. He continues to bring to his stories the same unique qualities that served him so well on the projects he produced as a student here at NYFA.
    Elina Mukherjee, who is back home in India, writes: “These days I work at a food/travel/lifestyle channel called Gobble. …venturing into digital content has been a shift from mainstream journalism. But so far I am really enjoying myself.”
    Closer to home, NYFA alum Dr. Nicole Cross continues to do great things at Spectrum News in Texas. She is not only a wonderful news anchor, studio host and field reporter. She is also a powerful role model for young African American women, and other women of color, who might be considering a career in Journalism.
    Emilie Cruz was recently promoted at ViacomCBS to Senior Manager – Editorial/Creative Strategy. If you look at her LinkedIn page, you’ll notice that she chose for her profile picture a still shot taken from one of the stories she did at NYFA. She’s even holding an NYFA News mic!
    Thanks, Emilie!
    As regular readers of the Broadcast Journalism Update know, last Summer Evgenia Vlasova and I co-taught a three-week online workshop for early-career Russian journalists. This past January, we all got together (virtually, of course) to find out how everyone was doing. Each participant had produced a story on the theme: 2020 – Not The Year Anyone Expected.
    Anastasia Dzutstsati’s story examined The Church In The Era of COVID, while Ekaterina Frolova created a global digital experiment, asking people the question 2020: The End or the Beginning? If you have a few minutes to spare, I have posted these stories and others on Vimeo. They are definitely worth screening.
    Stay tuned for NYFA Moscow Journalism Summer School II, taking place this July and August in (hopefully) in Moscow. Support for this innovative enterprise comes from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
    Finally, I am proud to announce that my independent feature film, Invisible Love, won several prizes at the Paris International Film Festival including Best Narrative Feature. Here is a link to the trailer. Coming to a digital platform or theater near you (if you live in Vietnam or China) soon. Here in the United States? Probably next year…
    For more information on NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism program, click here.
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  • NYFA Instructor Tim Fielder Featured by “The New York Times”

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    In a February profile pieceThe New York Times (NYT) penned a profile citing a boom in comic books and graphic novels that focus on Afrofuturism, a cultural aesthetic that describes the intersection of African diaspora culture with technology. The term was originally coined in the 1990s and for decades has been used by Black creators to envision an alternative present and future that celebrates the African diaspora.

    Among those creators is NYFA 3D Animation & VFX instructor Tim Fielder, who the NYT included in its latest article about the boom of Afrofuturism that goes beyond the popular Marvel comic Black Panther.

    Illustration by Tim Fielder for Aja Oba, an African king cursed with eternal life (Harper Collins)

    Fielder is an illustrator, concept designer, cartoonist, animator, and creator of the graphic novel series Matty’s Rocket and the critically acclaimed INFINITUM: An Afrofuturist Tale. He has worked over the years in the storyboarding, film visual development, gaming, comics, education, and animation industries. Fielder has served clients such as Marvel Comics, The Village Voice, Tri-Star Pictures, Ubisoft Entertainment, and New York University. He is an active contributor to the body of work surrounding Afrofuturism, citing Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, Pedro Bell, and Overton Lloyd as his major influences.

    Fielder recently released his latest book INFINITUM in January, which melds a tale of African kings and space battles and journeys from the creation of the universe and the dawn of mankind to the rise and fall of great African kingdoms. Fielder’s new release was mentioned by The Times as a body of work that contributes to the boom of Afrofuturist titles being released this year.

    Fielder, who illustrates his work on his computer, is also the creator of Matty’s Rocket, a graphic novel series following space pilot Matty Watty. The story was inspired by Fielder’s parents and grandparents who never saw themselves represented in films or books in fantasy or sci-fi situations. “I wanted to restore parity in that area while I am blessed to still have my parents, both born in the 1930s Mississippi,” he shares on his website. “My art gives me the power to fill that void with an adventurous narrative.”

    New York Film Academy is proud of the well-deserved recognition of instructor Tim Fielder and looks forward to seeing the reception of Fielder’s latest book INFINITUM and for what’s to come from the talented author and illustrator.

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    March 5, 2021 • 3D Animation, Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 913

  • “Invisible Love” From NYFA Chair Bill Einreinhofer Wins Big at Paris International Film Festival

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    Chair of the Broadcast Journalism department at New York Film Academy, Bill Einreinhofer has a lot to celebrate after his film Invisible Love won three major awards at the Paris International Film Festival in February.

    Bill Einreinhofer on set of “Invisible Love”

    Coming off on its premiere at the Marche du Film, associated with the Cannes International Film Festival, in 2020, Invisible Love has racked up three awards including Best Narrative Feature Film, Best International Actor (Hoang Phuong), and Best International Collaboration. 

    In addition to Einreinhofer executive producing Invisible Love, NYFA’s roots run deep in the film, with Acting for Film alum Kazy Tauginas playing one of the male leads and former NYFA staffer Nancy Hanzhang Shen serving as both a Producer and the 1st AD on a set working in three languages (Vietnamese, Mandarin, and English).

    Hoang Phuong in “Invisible Love”

    Invisible Love takes place during the 1930s during the era of French Indochina and follows the story of one woman’s search for love, and how time and again her dreams are betrayed. “The subtext of the film is the nature of colonialism, and the corrosive effect it has on both the colonizers as well as those colonized,” explained Einreinhofer. “There is plenty of melodrama in this film and enough plot for perhaps three movies. While in North America and Europe Invisible Love is considered an ‘art house’ film, in Vietnam and China it is popular entertainment.”

    Einreinhofer is no stranger to working heavily with international markets and met the film’s director, Guo Xiang, while working on Einreinhofer’s documentary Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began. We found we had a lot in common, even though we are totally different and each doesn’t speak the other’s language,” recalled Einreinhofer. “Director Guo valued my experience in international co-production and distribution while I admired his cinematic vision and resourcefulness. He wanted to bring authenticity to this period film [Invisible Love], and my background in non-fiction video and familiarity with Asian cultures helped to ensure historic elements of the film rang true.”

    Nancy Hanzhang Shen (Left) and Bill Einreinhofer (Right)

    The Broadcast Journalism Chair even makes a cameo appearance in the film as Dr. Sawyer, the director of a Western-run hospital in DaNang, where two of the key characters work. “It [acting] helped me better appreciate the ability of the actors to do the same scene time after time, with no slip-ups in dialogue and always hitting their marks, which I find challenging,” he shared. 

    Einreinhofer also explained that he was able to rely on Tauginas while on set to give him a quick tutorial on the do’s and don’ts of film performance as well as Shen, who served as a producer and 1st AD on the film. “I was also much taken by the sheer beauty of Vietnam, and how welcoming the people there are to Americans. For my generation, Vietnam was a war, not a place.”

    For those who see the film, Einreinhofer hopes that Invisible Love will speak to the notion that, regardless of culture or societal norms, love knows no barriers and surpasses all universal emotions. 

    The film now continues on the festival circuit for the next six months, after which Einreinhofer and the crew hope to sign agreements with distributors to get into the prime markets and platforms for a larger audience to view the film.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Broadcast Journalism Chair Bill Einreinhofer on his continued success with Invisible Love and looks forward to announcing when the film is available to view for the public. 

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  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Lizzie Gottlieb Featured by ‘Insider’ to Talk About New Film “Turn Every Page”

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    NYFA Documentary instructor Lizzie Gottlieb has been directing film and theater in New York for the past couple of decades. As a director, Gottlieb has worked with Peter Dinklage, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Amy Ryan, Michael Ian Black, Justin Kirk, Francie Swift, Josh Hamilton, Sara Ramirez, and more. Recently, Gottlieb got to work with another talent, notable editor, writer, and father to Gottlieb, Robert Gottlieb.

    (L-R) Robert Gottlieb and Robert Caro (Photo courtesy of Lizzie Gottlieb)

    The documentary, Turn Every Page, follows Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro and his 50-year argument and relationship with his editor, Robert Gottlieb (Robert), as they work towards completing a final book. The documentary from Gottlieb is an ode to the work of Caro and Robert over the last 50 years as Robert (89) awaits Caro (85) to complete his much-anticipated fifth volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

    “They are not slowing down because of their age,” Gottlieb told Insider in an interview about the project. “I think they both feel the enormous weight to finish [the final LBJ] book. I very much wanted this to be a story about them finishing their life’s work, not just a retrospective of their lives and how impressive they are.”

    The documentary film will also feature interviews from Ethan Hawke, Conan O’Brien, The New Yorker editor David Remnick, and former president Bill Clinton, who will make remarks of the impact of Caro and Rober’s work over the past 50 years. Gottlieb shared that most of the filming of the documentary was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the interview featuring former president Clinton was done recently over Zoom.

    NYFA instructor Lizzie Gottlieb

    Gottlieb is also known for her documentary Today’s Man, which aired on PBS and screened at festivals and conferences all over the world. Her film Romeo, Romeo was honored with the prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA).  

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Lizzie Gottlieb on her latest achievement, Turn Every Page, and encourages everyone to check out her latest documentary when it becomes available later this year. 

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    March 2, 2021 • Documentary Filmmaking, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1487

  • NYFA South Beach Instructor Daniel Abrusci Wins Gold Promax Award

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    New York Film Academy is excited to share that Filmmaking instructor Daniel Abrusci has won a Gold Promax Award for outstanding achievement in sound design and mixing on the Cbeebies segment Christmas Lights for BBC Latin America. 

    The Promax Awards are the world’s premier celebration of outstanding achievement in entertainment marketing and design, honoring teams of creatives harnessing passionate fandom to drive audiences, create value, and build the biggest brands in entertainment.

    The one-minute animation Abrusci worked on in his home studio was extremely heavy in sound design. “When working with animation, sound design plays a huge role because there’s no audio to start with,” he explained. “I edited three different pieces of music into a one-minute spot in order for the music to be dynamic and help boost holiday emotions.”

    The South Beach instructor had to recreate the ambiance needed for the TV spot to feel a bit more realistic, adding in stylistic sound elements to elevate the story visually. “There’s plenty of creativity involved due to the fact that a lot of these actions might sound different in real life,” shared Abrusci. “Once we have all the different sound design, voiceover, and music elements, mixing is all about making things stand out and giving everything character and space in the frequency spectrum.” Essentially, sound mixing in itself plays an important role in fully forming a character, space, or idea.

    NYFA instructor Daniel Abrusci

    Abrusci urges anyone who is looking to hone their craft to “keep practicing” as it’s practice, trial, and error that allow you to master your skills. “The more time you put into something, the better you’ll become at it. Stay passionate and make it happen!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Daniel Abrusci on his outstanding achievement and looks forward to what’s next from the talented South Beach faculty member. 

    To view the Christmas Lights spot, view the video below. 

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    February 25, 2021 • Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, South Beach • Views: 1374

  • NYFA Photography Alum Jon Henry Named on The “TIME 100 Next” List

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is excited to announce that Photography alum Jon Henry has been featured in TIME Magazine’s TIME 100 Next list for 2021.

    Last year, Henry won the prestigious Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture­ and the Kodak Film Photo Award—for his series “Stranger Fruit.” The alum also had his photographs from the series displayed on multiple pages in the October 2020 National Geographic issue.

    Cover of the ‘TIME Magazine’ issue featuring the ‘Next 100’ (TIME Magazine)

    TIME reporter Josiah Bates, who wrote the profile on Henry for the Time 100 Next issue shared that Henry’s prolific series “Stranger Fruit” is weighted with significance: “In visual artist Jon Henry’s series ‘Stranger Fruit,’ sons pose with their mothers as if they are lifeless, re-creating scenes of mourning. The mothers stare through the camera’s lens as if holding onlookers accountable for threats their sons could one day face. In 2020—after the killing of George Floyd by police­—the series took on new poignancy.”

    The alum was featured alongside other artists who made the list including director Boots Riley, Lakeith Stanfield, Florence Pugh, and more. Henry shared his gratitude for being included in the list on his Instagram account: “Honored beyond measure to be included in #time100next. The 2021 TIME100 Next list highlights 100 emerging leaders who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science and activism, and more. Crazy.”

    NYFA alum Jon Henry

    Henry was also featured on the cover of JRNL 4 and was also profiled by Photograph Magazine. The NYFA alum and Photography instructor’s “Stranger Fruit” series is currently on display in Portland at BlueSky Gallery through March 27, 2021, and will also be featured in Miami from March 11 – May 21 at DotFiftyOne Gallery. The series has also gone international and is currently on view at the KP Gallery in South Korea, the first international solo exhibition for the project.

    Untitled 60, St Charles, MO (2020) – Photo Credit: Jon Henry

    New York Film Academy is thrilled to congratulate one of its own for being among those selected for TIME Magazine’s TIME 100 Next list for 2021 and is proud of the recognition that Jon Henry is receiving for his body of work and the “Stranger Fruit” series.

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  • Meet NYFA Cinematography Instructor & ASC Member Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

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    At New York Film Academy, the faculty is an incredibly talented group of artists that teach the next generation of filmmakers and creators all while being active members in their industry. For NYFA Cinematography instructor Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, ASC, this is no exception. 

    Maddox-Upshaw has lensed fan-favorite shows like Empire, Snowfall, Tales, and On My Block, to name a few, and teaches 35MM, Advanced Lighting, and Stage to Screen for Actors in NYFA’s Cinematography department. 

    Maddox-Upshaw first got interested in the world of lensing and cinematography when his sister Kyla got him on set as a Production Assistant for a Hype Williams music video when he was 19 years old. “I saw how the Cinematographer worked with everyone and created such beautiful images and I already liked photography,” he shared. “I was like, ‘I want to do what he does’ and I set out to learn what I could even though my college didn’t have a film program and really no film studies.”

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    From there, Maddox-Upshaw notes that the documentary film Visions of Light inspired him even further to pursue a career in cinematography, and the NYFA instructor began picking up work between his Boston hometown and New York City while continuing to further his education in cinematography. His work for commercial clients like Ford, Allstate, and HBO, to name a few, helped develop working relationships which led Maddox-Upshaw to eventually work alongside visionaries like Spike Lee and Matthew Libatique, ASC.

    He provided VFX additional photography on A Star Is Born, and worked on the second unit for Straight Outta Compton, both shot by Libatique, and shot additional photography on feature films Grown Ups 2, Beyond the Lights, and The Circle. Maddox-Upshaw also served as the director of photography (DP) for Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Hello Beautiful: Interludes with John Legend, Fixed, and more.

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    Recently, Maddox-Upshaw was recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and was welcomed as a member of the ASC. The distinguished honor is one that names Maddox-Upshaw among the legacy of celebrated directors of photography over the last 100 years.

    “Becoming part of the ASC has been a goal of mine since the time I really started to study and read American Cinematographer Magazine and watch Visions of Light when I was about 20 years old,” revealed Maddox-Upshaw.

    For his students and aspiring cinematographers, Maddox-Upshaw encourages them to study more than what’s on the other side of the lens to become a good DP. 

    “Study the art of understanding good screenplays. understand the Black and White of the page so then you can make the correct emotional decision from what is written. Try and watch a movie a day; it makes a difference after a couple of years of doing it. You can recall so much and understand why certain things in cinema work,” Maddox-Upshaw explained. 

    No one can dream bigger for you. You have to enjoy the process of your own journey you should want to be on set and learn from other people. You can learn this on your own and don’t be afraid to make mistakes especially in a learning environment.”

    In addition to teaching at NYFA, Maddox-Upshaw recently photographed Season 6 of the Fox drama Empire. Additional credits from Maddox-Upshaw include season three of the FX drama Snowfall, season two of Netflix’s On My Block, and season one of the Netflix comedy Huge in France

    New York Film Academy congratulates Maddox-Upshaw on his recent induction into the ASC and is excited to have the opportunity for Maddox-Upshaw to continue to teach NYFA students about what it means to be a director of photography.

    To learn more about NYFA’s Cinematography programs, click here

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    February 23, 2021 • Cinematography, Community Highlights, Diversity, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1536

  • NYFA Alum Irene Mendez on Film Sustainability and a UN Campaign to Change The Film Production Landscape

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    Spanish producer Irene Mendez has always been interested in visual storytelling. With her degree in communications coupled with her education from NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Mendez is seeking change in the production space, aiming to make all media projects more sustainable across the industry. 

    Coming to NYFA, Mendez knew it would give her a new perspective on film production. “I’ve always thought it is essential to know and understand how movies are made in different countries, and I saw in NYFA the opportunity to do so,” she shared. “NYFA has some of the best professionals teachers, including instructors who have won BAFTAs and have been in some of the most important film festivals.”

    NYFA alum Irene Mendez

    From her time at NYFA, Mendez has learned that preproduction is the most essential part of any project. “Work before you get to the set. Study every possibility that might happen once you are filming,” she emphasized. “Be ready for any inconvenience. It is so vital to plan what might happen and be prepared for any kind of problem. It is funny cause it’s actually the same advice I will give to anyone who wants to make a more sustainable film.”

    Mendez first got involved in sustainability in filmmaking after attending Madrid’s Another Way Film Festival in Madrid, which focused on sustainable progress in filmmaking. “I realized that we can do much more. There are many things we can change to create the same entertainment content in a much better way,” urged Mendez. “We can tell the same great stories without hurting the planet and its future. Even more, we can help to be part of the change.”

    Mendez is now involved with Fiction Changing the World, an organization that specializes in sustainable audiovisual productions, working both in reducing the negative impact of productions and creating fiction and entertainment formats that convey important info about sustainable development to the viewers. “There is a lot of things that we can do when we work on a project to reduce the negatives impacts and create good ones. Not only on how we do things but also in how we tell the stories and entertain.”

    This past year, Mendez worked with Fiction Changing the World on a UN campaign to show the world that a new way to make content is possible. “Being part of the UN campaign and seeing Paloma Andres and Rhoda N. Wainwright (Founders of Fiction Changing the World) speak beside people with innovative ideas and famous names as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), makes you understand that we are not alone. There is a lot of people trying to be part of the change. Thousands of unique ideas can help us all to do our bit.”

    Fiction Changing the World has also started their campaign The Dante Movement, which focuses on creating fictional media that will inspire sustainable action and change in the world among others to do their part. “Documentaries are a wonderful way to bring attention to different topics, but they have a couple of problems when it comes to reaching the general public,” shared Mendez when asked why the fictional format is a better medium for the campaign as opposed to documentary filmmaking. 

    Irene Mendez on set

    “They [documentaries] often focus on particular topics, which is fine, but it is more difficult to get millions of people interested in very a specific issue. Also, documentaries are not always the first choice of entertainment for the general public. On the other hand, fiction is a format that is consumed by everyone on the planet; it leaves no one out. It is a more global and entertaining way to send a message and to educate and raise awareness.”

    “For example, I would dare to say that the vast majority of Spaniards of my generation know that water rotates in a different direction in each hemisphere thanks to an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart travels to Australia,” Mendez said. “Fiction is a way to reach every home. We all get motivated watching the Avengers fighting together against Thanos. In our universe, we can all unite to fight our own common enemy.”

    Though The Dante Movement is focused on fictional stories to get the message across to viewers, Fiction Changing the World still allows for other formats to be used to reach different people, like documentaries. In addition to working with the organization, Mendez has also been working on the TV series Foundation for Apple TV+ here in Spain, but what Mendez expressed she is most proud of is producing the first certified Positive Carbon Footprint spot for Greenpeace

     

    “This proves that it is possible to create sustainable content. We had to think from the script in how to make it more environmentally friendly way,” shared Mendez. “I had several meetings with the screenwriters and the production company to explain to them what are the points that make a film create more or fewer carbon emissions and what makes more negative impacts. They quickly understood what was needed and realized that thinking in a sustainable way doesn’t have to compromise the project’s creativity.” 

    As a lover of making films and the environment, Mendez is an advocate for change in the industry, working to make sets reduce their negative impact on the environment from issues like not recycling properly and consuming more on set than necessary. “The reality is that there are many more things we aren’t doing right. The material we use to build a set, the fabric to sew amazing costumes, and the places we choose to use as scenarios are decisions we can make to reduce the negative impact of production,” she explained. “Our responsibility as filmmakers is not solely to entertain, but also to inform and inspire our audiences. We have the power to reach every single soul, and we should use it.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Irene Mendez for taking the time to share more about the sustainability movement that is taking place on sets all over the world. With the urgency to act, filmmakers like Irene can continue to make a difference and be agents for change across the industry. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the alum and to hear more updates on Mendez’s mission for film sustainability. 

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