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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum John Saponara Starts Portrait Series While Working to Make PPE Equipment for Healthcare Workers

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    From businesses to hospitals to schools to families, COVID-19 has forced people into a season of great change and uncertainty, causing people to adapt to new circumstances in the age of social distancing. For many, this has been a cause for reflection and doing their part to stay alert and distance themselves in public. For others, like NYFA Documentary alum John Saponara, this has been a time of giving back to the community and utilizing creativity to bring awareness and hope to others. 

    John Saponara grew up in Yonkers, New York, a suburb just outside of New York City and recalls, “from as young as I can remember I wanted to be a photographer.” His photos have since appeared on book covers both nationally and internationally, including the New York Times bestseller Eat Pray Love. He also founded the crowd-sourced project, Picture Black Friday, and his commercial clients include: Sony, Intel, HP, Oprah, and New York Magazine, just to name a few.

    A volunteer packing face shields in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Saponara has been working at Bednark Studio and volunteering his time with other organizations, while also documenting workers and volunteers who continue to make the community safer by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional supplies for individuals and families in the age of COVID-19. 

    Bednark Studio, a full service fabrication company in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has been Saponara’s source of inspiration for documenting what is happening behind the scenes. “It’s there [Bednark Studio] that my portrait project formed,” he says. The portrait series follows the workers and volunteers who are working day and night to create PPE like face shields for medical workers or dividers for Uber/Lyft drivers.

    Portrait of a volunteer in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    “In the portraits, I’m there as a worker, so I do them when I can in my breaks or in a spare moment,” says Saponara. “In both cases, I don’t want to interfere; just be the proverbial fly on the wall.” The photographs are symbols of those who are working behind the scenes in NYC and all over the world, who are actively volunteering their time or working additional hours to provide PPE equipment or additional, essential supplies for others.

    Masks for Docs volunteer headed to deliver PPE (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Another group Saponara has been volunteering with has been Masks for Docs, formed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They connect PPE with doctors and medical staff that need it,”  he explains. “Motorcyclists help get where it [the supplies] needs to go.” The grassroots organization is composed of volunteers from the tech, business, arts, and members of non-profit communities, who have banded together to make a difference for healthcare workers not only in New York City, but all over the world.

    A volunteer for Brooklyn Mutual Aid buying supplies (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Saponara also mentions Bushwick Ayuda Mutua, who help “get food on the table of the neediest families in Brooklyn.” In just one weekend alone, Saponara mentions that he and other volunteers were able to feed 200 people in need. “We collect donations of food and money and use those collections to buy groceries that we then deliver to families.”

    Saponara says the groups that he has been able to work with and document are “a combination of the private sectors innovation and the power of people and community to get things done to bring about change effectively and efficiently.”

    New York FIlm Academy thanks alum John Saponara for his service to the community and for sharing his portrait series, and encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about each organization to click the links above for more information on how to get involved.

    To view more images from Saponara’s portrait series and his other works, click here.

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    May 29, 2020 • Alumni Events, Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 1125

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alumni Direct Music Videos in Collaboration with Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking alumni Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange were given the opportunity to collaborate with Josh Homme’s super group, the Desert Sessions, to create two diverse and unique music videos for two of the tracks off the Desert Sessions’ latest album, Vols. 11 & 12.

    The Desert Sessions is a musical supergroup formed by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who has been hosting his “Desert Sessions” retreats since 1997. Each session involves a different group of well-known musicians mixed with unknown talent, who come together in the desert to simply play music and experiment with new techniques and melodies.

    Official photo courtesy of the Desert Sessions musical collective

    “It is a really creative project that Jonathan Samukange and I have had the pleasure to be involved in,” says Italian filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro. “Matador records and Josh Homme reached out to NYFA looking for filmmakers to shoot music videos for their latest album Vols. 11 & 12. We had a great first meeting with Josh [Homme], where he explained the nature of the sessions.” After pitching their ideas for their videos, Fabbro and Samukange were selected by Homme and given a production budget to create two videos for the Desert Sessions.

    Still from “If You Run” (Directed by Gabriele Fabbro)

    Fabbro’s video, “If You Run,” follows a young woman who witnesses something terrifying in the woods and tries to escape. The director’s inspiration for the video was taken from deadly attacks on European journalists. “I used to read a lot of news about murders,” says Fabbro. “I remember one [story] in particular that happened in a cornfield. That article came to mind while hearing ‘If You Run’.”

    Filmmaker and NYFA alum Gabriele Fabbro

    “I wanted to play with tension,” says Fabbro. “I wanted a video that would keep the audience at the edge of their seat.” To portray this, Fabbro made sure that every aspect of the video embodied a sense of fear and unease for the viewer “Every tool in the video, from the shakiness of the handheld shots to the distorted sound of the radio, serves to exaggerate this fear.”

    The second video created for Desert Sessions was for the song “Move Together,” directed by NYFA Filmmaking alum Jonathan Samukange, who is also known as “Director O.” His video, filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe, is a reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve. The video enlisted residents of an entire village and utilized the region’s stunning natural landscape to create “a time capsule” and hallucinatory trip through time.

    “Move Together” (Directed by Jonathan Samukange)

    Before being involved with the project, Samukange says he wasn’t planning on staying in the U.S because his vision is to “change the face of cinema in Africa and bring new opportunities.” When he initially pitched his vision for the video, he knew it could only be filmed in his home country of Zimbabwe. “It was a huge risk, but I believed in my heart that the people in Africa have a lot to offer and that’s what I was bringing to the table.”

    Filmmaker and NYFA alum Jonathan Samukange

    When asked about his vision for the video, Samukange stated, “the theme of love and working together [in the lyrics] as well as the conflict that comes with such connections took me back to the time of Adam and Eve.” He explained that their love “created conflict in their lives and they still stayed together through thick and thin.” He wanted his audience to also feel the attraction of opposites and conflict by combining two opposite elements for the video. “I immediately fell in love with the idea of fusing rock and Afro House dance moves. In my opinion, when cultures clash, new relationships and ideas form.”

     

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate both Gabriele Fabbro and Jonathan Samukange on the release of their videos for Desert Sessions and looks forward to seeing what both alums will come out with next. NYFA also encourages everyone to check out Desert Sessions Volumes 11 & 12, out now, on Matador Records.

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    May 28, 2020 • Alumni Events, Filmmaking • Views: 552

  • Film From New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum, ‘Love is War’, Available to Stream on Netflix

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    Multi-award winning actress, screenwriter, director, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Digital Editing alum, Omoni Oboli, directs and stars in Nigerian drama Love is War. The film, originally released on September 27, 2019, nationwide in Nigeria, is now available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

    Omoni Oboli on set for ‘Love is War’

    In addition to Love is War, Oboli has directed Being Mrs Elliott, The First Lady, Wives on Strike, and Okafor’s Law. The Nigerian actress has also received accolades including the ‘Big Screen Actress of the Year’ award at the ELOY Awards for her film Being Mrs. Elliott, and the ‘Personality of the Year’ by Sun Nollywood in 2015.

    For Love is War, Oboli pull double duty as both director and actress, starring in the lead role as Hankuri Phillips, a Minister in her government who is elected to be her party’s candidate in an upcoming election for Governor. Her husband, Dimeji Phillips, is a medical doctor, who is supportive of Hankuri until a turn of events has him running for the same seat in office as his wife. What follows next is a string of events that test the limits of two people at political odds and ultimately their marriage.

    Behind the scenes for ‘Love is War’

    The film highlights themes of social structure, nationality, and gender equality. With the release of Love is War and her past films, Oboli’s talent and dedication to creating cinema on the African continent has catapulted her to success in one of the fastest growing entertainment scenes in the world, Nigeria’s “Nollywood.”

    Still from ‘Love is War’

    New York Film Academy congratulates Oboli on the success of her film Love is War and encourages everyone to check out the Nollywood drama on Netflix.

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    May 26, 2020 • Alumni Events, Filmmaking • Views: 552

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alum Natasha Thahane Stars in Netflix Original Series ‘Blood and Water’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum, Natasha Thahane, stars in her biggest role to date as Wendy Dlamini, an opinionated, “woke” high school student, in the Netflix teen drama Blood and Water. The South African drama series was released on May 20, 2020 and is available to stream as part of Netflix’s “Originals” lineup.

    New York Film Academy Named by Variety as a Best Film School of 2018

    Netflix poster for ‘Blood and Water’

    Thahane was born and raised in South Africa and graduated in 2018 from NYFA’s New York City campus after completing her 1-Year Conservatory program in Acting for Film. She has appeared in television series such as Skeem Saam, The Queen, and Lockdown, and serves as a brand ambassador for Garnier Fructis.

     

    New York Film Academy Named by Variety as a Best Film School of 2018

    NYFA alum Natasha Thahane as Wendy Dlamini in Netflix’s ‘Blood and Water’

    The Netflix series takes place in South Africa and centers around teenager Puleng Khumalo, who transfers to the prestigious Parkhurst College after suspecting that one of the students there is actually her long lost sister, who was abducted at birth. In addition to Thahane, the series boasts a leading female cast including fresh faces Ama Qamata, Khosi Ngema, Cingy Mahlangu, and Gail Mabalane. The series is also directed by South African female director Nosipho Dumisa, who previously directed the critically acclaimed film Number 37.

    New York Film Academy Named by Variety as a Best Film School of 2018

    Natasha Thahane while doing promotion for ‘Blood and Water’

    Blood and Water is six episodes long and is being hailed as “the next Gossip Girl” by Glamour Magazine, so there is already hope for a season two.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natasha Thahane on her new starring role and encourages everyone to check out Blood and War, now available to stream on Netflix.

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    May 21, 2020 • Acting, Alumni Events • Views: 840

  • NYFA Instructor & Alum, Arnold Song, Builds Demo for Houdini Hive Worldwide Presentation

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    On Monday, May 18, 2020, SideFX will host their annual Houdini Hive Worldwide presentation that explores the various techniques used by top studios and artists to meet a wide variety of studio production needs. NYFA instructor & alum, Arnold Song, who works at SideFX, is part of the team testing and building the demos for the presentation.

    Houdini, the premiere procedural animation software by SideFX, is a universally adopted software across animation studio giants like Dreamworks, Disney, and Pixar. (In fact, it is one of the few “off the shelf” pieces of software that Pixar uses).

    NYFA instructor and alum Arnold Song

    NYFA had the opportunity to speak to Song about his work for the presentation, the future of Animation and VFX, and any advice he has for students interested in pursuing a path in this industry.

    When asked about his presentation for the event, Song commented that it will be centered on how things can be done in a new system in Houdini (USD Workflow), called Solaris. USD stands for Universal Scene Description and it allows 3D data to be interchanged among different suites of digital creation applications. The Solaris presentation, Song says, will allow animators and VFX artists to learn “how to bring in USD assets, how to select different models from the one asset set, how you can add effects on the USD asset, and, finally, how to use the new render engine, Karma, to render it.”

    Houdini (USD) Workflow

    “For me, everything is new,” says Song. “I didn’t know anything about USD at the beginning, and Solaris is still under development. Putting two completely new things together, and creating a good result [with his team] is the most fun part.”

    Rendered image using Houdini software

    When asked what advice Song has for students who want to get into effects animation, Song shared this response:

    “Effects animation is unlike other departments like modeling, animation, and lighting. Making an effect is slow. You change some values, and you wait anywhere from ten minutes to a few hours,” he begins. “There is no correct way to make something, which means there could be 100+ ways to make a similar effect. This increases the opportunity to make a totally unique effect but, at the same time, it is really hard to get to know how exactly things should work. So, be patient and just keep practicing.”

    USD could become a replacement for the now standard python language. To see Houdini accepting it so enthusiastically means that it is here to stay and will most likely become the standard of the future. It seems that SideFX, and NYFA alum and instructor Arnold Song, are signaling that USD will become the programming language of the future for Animation and VFX.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to congratulate NYFA alum and instructor Arnold song on his upcoming presentation for Houdini Hive Worldwide and would like to thank him for sharing more about his work on Polaris and his advice to future students.

    For more information on the 3D & VFX Animation School at NYFA, check out our website here. 

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    May 15, 2020 • 3D Animation, Alumni Events, Faculty Highlights • Views: 814

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) AFA Acting for Film Alum Hayden Szeto Featured Netflix Original Film ‘Tigertail’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) AFA Acting for Film alum Hayden Szeto recently appeared in a supporting role in the Netflix original film Tigertail. The NYFA alum, also known for his roles in coming of age drama The Edge of Seventeen, Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, and NBC’s hit comedy television series The Good Place, plays the supporting role of Eric in the Netflix film.

    Film poster for Netflix’s ‘Tigertail’

    The film is an authentic drama loosely based on the experiences of director, writer, and producer of the film, Alan Yang. Yang, well known as a writer and director for hit shows like Parks and Recreation and Master of None, wrote Tigertail as a personal tribute to his upbringing by his immigrant parents.

    The story follows the boyhood, young adult, and adult stages of Pin-Jui, who comes from a poor upbringing in Huwei (“tiger tail”), Taiwan. When Pin-Jui, who longs to go to America to provide a better life for his mother, is offered an opportunity to start a new life there, he takes it; even if it means marrying his boss’ daughter in a loveless marriage. The story then follows Pin-Jui and Zhenzhen’s [his now wife] in their new life in America. They raise their daughter Angela in their new home and, eventually, the film’s story flashes forward to Angela’s adulthood as she navigates her relationship with her estranged father and her boyfriend Eric, played by Szeto.

    Szeto on set filming ‘Tigertail’ for Netflix

    Tigertail loosely follows Yang’s own father’s life when he immigrated from Taiwan to New York in order to chase the “American Dream.” The film was released by Netflix on April 10, 2020, and has since received positive responses from many critics, who note the heartfelt and emotional subject matter of the film and its characters.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Hayden Szeto on his role in the Netflix drama and encourages everyone to check out Tigertail, now streaming on Netflix!

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    May 13, 2020 • Acting, Alumni Events • Views: 673

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing and Filmmaking Instructor Denise Carlson Produces ITS A DOG’S LIFE on Disney+

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    Not all heroes wear capes, but they do have fur. It’s a Dog’s Life, an upcoming Disney+ docu series explores the incredible role that many dogs play to make the lives of others better. New York Film Academy (NYFA) producing and filmmaking instructor Denise Carlson is one of the producers on the series that will be available on the Disney streaming platform May 15, 2020. 

    It’s a Dog’s Life is hosted by voiceover legend Bill Farmer, known for his iconic role as Disney’s Goofy, as he crosses the country to meet different dogs doing incredible jobs or extraordinary activities and explores the special bond between dogs and humans. 

    Title card for ‘It’s A Dog’s Life’

    Carlson, who had previous experience with Disney while working at Disney Channel, was a clear fit for this project given her past production experience and her enthusiasm for animal foster care and animal rescue. “Seriously, there is nothing about working with the dogs that I did not love,” Carlson tells NYFA. “But my favorite part of this project is actually the people involved. We have an amazing group of people who came together to put this show together.”

    Each episode of It’s a Dog’s Life explores a new dog that goes well beyond just fetching the stick in the backyard; dogs like Monte, the latest celebrity dog who starred in the recent live action adaptation of Lady and the Tramp. “It [the show] fits right into the Disney brand, in general, especially since there have been so many dogs in Disney shows and movies,” says Carlson. “It also crosses cultural boundaries- I mean, who doesn’t like dogs?”

    Carlson with Monte, dog turned actor featured in ‘Lady in the Tramp’

    With so many different stories featured on the show, Carlson says the one that sticks out the most is the episode dedicated to SuperCorgi Jojo, the surfing corgi. “It is incredibly touching. Jojo started surfing as therapy after a bad injury,” she says. “Jojo is the happiest little dog and you can tell he loves what he does.”

    Carlson with SuperCorgi Jojo, the surfing corgi

    New York Film Academy congratulates filmmaking and producing instructor Denise Carlson on her new series It’s A Dog’s Life and encourages everyone to celebrate man’s best friend and all the wonderful things dogs do for us by watching It’s A Dog’s Life when it comes out on May 15, 2020 on Disney+.

    Watch the trailer for It’s A Dog’s Life below:

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    May 13, 2020 • Community Highlights, Faculty Highlights • Views: 964

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Alan Trezza Writes and Executive Produces ‘We Summon the Darkness’

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    We Summon the Darkness, a horror film written and executive produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting instructor Alan Trezza, recently screened at Fantastic Fest.

    Trezza teaches screenwriting to students at New York Film Academy’s Burbank-based campus. Trezza previously wrote and directed the short film Burying the Ex, which was adapted into a feature directed by Joe Dante.

    “I learned a great deal writing and executive producing We Summon the Darkness,” Trezza tells NYFA, “and I look forward to sharing all the lessons I’ve learned with my students.”

    The film stars Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, and Johnny Knoxville, and was directed by Marc Meyers. A period story set in the height of the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, the movie follows three best friends into heavy metal after they head off to a secluded party one night, where the evening takes a deadly turn.

    We Summon the Darkness has been receiving overwhelmingly positive praise, including at Fantastic Fest, with Bloody Disgusting calling the film “a metal mayhem joyride” with “extremely likable, fully realized characters in a fully fleshed out world.” 

    Fantastic Fest is an annual festival held in Austin, Texas that focuses on genre films, including horror, fantasy, science fiction, action, and cult movies. This year’s Fantastic Fest was held from September 19 – 26.


    We Summon the Darkness
    will next be holding its premiere on Thursday, October 17, at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, followed by Q&A with director Marc Meyers and cast members Keean Johnson, Johnny Knoxville, Logan Miller, Maddie Hasson, Amy Forsyth, and Austin Swift. Tickets to the screening are available here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting instructor Alan Trezza on his new film We Summon the Darkness and encourages everyone who can to attend to the Los Angeles premiere on October 17!

    (UPDATE: 8.10.2020) We Summon the Darkness is now available on Netflix.

    ‘We Summon the Darkness’ Official Film Poster

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    April 3, 2020 • Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 2526

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) 3D Animation & VFX Faculty Matt Galuppo Works on 3 Super Bowl Commercials

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    One of the biggest advantages to studying 3D Animation & Visual Effects at New York Film Academy (NYFA) is studying under faculty members who not only have experience in the industry, but also continue to work in it and have the most up-to-date and relevant perspectives from the inside out.

    Matt Galuppo, Associate Chair of the NYFA-LA 3D Animation & VFX school, is one of these experienced faculty members, with credits as a visual effects artist on films including Divergent, Hercules, Warcraft, The Maze Runner, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014). Most recently, he worked on not one but three Super Bowl commercials as part of the pitch and pre-pro team for the production companies behind them:

    Microsoft – Bring it to the Surface
    m:United

    Verizon 5G
    McCann Ericson

    NFL 100 Opening – Take It to the House
    72 and Sunny

    super bowl liv

    In his own words, Galuppo describes what it was like pitching and working on Super Bowl commercials seen by millions of television and streaming viewers:

    Working on the pitch and pre-production for every commercial is different. It can shift between visual research and script breakdowns to taking passes on the actual script itself. You have to have a great sense of collaboration, client sensibilities, visual storytelling, as well as copywriting. It is doing a little bit of everything over a very short period of time.

    Whatever the individual asks for, most agency and production company pitches usually culminate in some sort of treatment or deck. The purpose of these is to take the agency and brand step by step through the spot, covering everything from pacing, tone, story arc, etc.

    For the Microsoft spot centering on the first female coach in the Super Bowl, it included watching and reading hours of interviews of the coach, Katie Sower, to better get to know her. What came out of that research was that she was an avid journaler, and we were able to use her reading from her old journals as a narrative frame for the longer spot itself.

    The Verizon 5G spot did a great job of doing what no one else was doing. While everyone else was talking about smartphones and emerging technologies, Verizon reframed the conversation around those how jobs could work with or without the technology. It refocused the conversation on the bravery and humanity of first responders and their organic relationship to technology.

    The trick of the NFL 100 opening is a giant montage across America where every shot had to include references to both past and present NFL players, coaches, and commentators, while also referencing the city themselves. The agency was very open to hearing additional gag pitches for the teams and cities involved.

    New York Film Academy thanks Associate Chair of NYFA-LA 3D Animation & VFX Matt Galuppo for describing what it was like behind the scenes working on these Super Bowl ads!

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    March 26, 2020 • 3D Animation, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1091

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking & Photography Alum Paquita Hughes Works on Hulu’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’

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    Paquita Hughes, Navy veteran and alum of New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking and Photography schools, has added Little Fires Everywhere to her growing list of Hollywood credits. 

    Little Fires Everywhere, which debuted on Hulu on March 18, stars Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, who both also served as executive producers on the dramatic miniseries. The show is adapted from the 2017 novel of the same name by Celeste Ng and tells the story of two mothers from diametric socioeconomic backgrounds in Shaker Heights, Ohio during the 1990s.

    little fires everywhere
    Hughes is a
    veteran of the United States Navy and first attended NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory in July 2011 at our Burbank-based campus in Los Angeles. After completing the program, she then enrolled in the 1-Year Photography conservatory. Her thesis project was a pilot for the dramedy web series Sugar, which dealt with the sex industry and included strongly written, complicated female protagonists.

    Since filming Sugar and graduating, Hughes has been very busy working in Hollywood working in various positions, including as location manager on hit productions like Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Marvel’s Runaways. Additionally, Hughes is working as location manager on the new period-set reboot of Perry Mason, starring NYFA Guest Speaker Matthew Rhys.

    “I had an epiphany when I was in the Navy,” Hughes says in a NYFA video spotlighting her success as an alumni, “and I thought to myself if I could succeed at serving my country during a time of war, I could succeed at following my dreams attending film school, so I decided to get out and study film.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking and Photography alum Paquita Hughes on her prolific work on Hollywood productions and encourages everyone to watch Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu!

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