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  • 6 NYFA Alumni to Support this Black-Owned Business Month

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    August is National Black Business Month, where we as a nation of consumers recognize and support black-owned businesses across the United States. According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey (covering the reference year 2018), 124, 551 businesses are owned by Black Americans, representing just over 2% of total businesses in the US. In the Arts-related sector, only a handful of businesses (relative to the number of Black-Owned businesses across all sectors) are Black-Owned – they fall within the Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation sector. 

    In support of National Black Business Month, New York Film Academy is highlighting just a handful of incredibly talented NYFA alumni who not only own a business and have earned success through their crafts but continue to build their brands in order to support other artists. 

    We encourage you to support these individuals by contributing to their business or sharing their incredible work.

    Issa Rae

    Writer, Producer, & Actress

    Chief Executive Officer of HOORAE (formerly known as Issa Rae Productions), Issa Rae oversees the multi-faceted entertainment media company to ensure a diverse set of stories and stories about the community are told. An award-winning actress and producer in her own right, Issa Rae gained critical acclaim and international attention from her hit HBO show, Insecure. The show received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. 

    HOORAE includes HOORAE Film & TV, as well as groundbreaking companies such as ColorCreative Management and Raedio.XXX. While overseeing the company, Rae continues to perform incredible work across Netflix and HBO, including The Lovebirds and Coastal Elites.

    Rae studied filmmaking with us back in 2005. You can keep updated on the latest from Issa Rae by following her on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Leonice (Leo) Brown-Young Jr

    Partner & Co-Founder 

    Co-Founder and partner in starting MoonRift Entertainment, LLC, Brown-Young Jr inspires and innovates by re-imagining the future. MoonRift Entertainment is an entertainment company with the mission o change the game by building a foundation for success. The business curates content across a variety of forms, including video games, films, and novels. 

    Always pushing the box, MoonRift Entertainment continues to reflect the same values of its co-founder. Brown-Young Jr is co-founder of Young Dreamers United, which strives to pave the way for success for middle school students in the San Diego area in California. 

    Brown-Young Jr studied with us to earn his MFA in Game Design 2021. You can learn more about MoonRift’s latest content on Instagram, or follow Young-Brown Jr on LinkedIn

    Thandiwe Mlauli

    Founder & CEO 

    Founder & CEO of Studio Yez, Mlauli created her studio to illuminate and capture hearts at home and around the world. Studio Yezi is a development and animation studio dedicated to creating and telling stories made for people of color and the black community. Studio Yezi equalizes the playing field for black animators by creating content opportunities. Mlauli studied producing for film and TV as well as screenwriting with us back in 2015. 

    Learn the latest news about Studio Yez and updates from Thandiwe Mlauli on Instagram and LinkedIn

    Arthur Hylton (a.k.a. Nestlè Snipes)

    Photographer & Visual Artist

    Born & Raised In East Flatbush Brooklyn, Arthur goes by the professional name, Nestlè Snipes. Snipes founded Snipes Studios in order to create imagery that models his passion and visual influences. Snipes considers himself a muse-based photographer and takes inspiration from other professionals like Helmut Newton, Yves Klein, and Daido Moriyama. 

    Snipes focuses his imagery around muses of color and processes his photos as little as possible to ensure the models are depicted as realistically as possible. Snipes prides his craft around creating art that forces audiences to see the world as it “really is” and not “as they want it to be” by creating work that showcases models of color into scenes that typically feature light-skinned models. 

    Snipes studied photography with us back in 2017. You can follow Snipes’ work by following him on Instagram or LinkedIn.

    Donald (EAD) Eferere

    Creative Director & Digital Content Creator

    Founder and Creative Director of RDCYF Brand, Eferere has a wide array of filmmaking and content creation within the entertainment industry. RDCYF Brand is an award-winning production company and agency founded in 2019. Based in NYC, the agency has produced a variety of content. Eferere brings to the agency his own film in film direction, music videos, editing, video color grading, and general content development. 

    Eferere studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on Eferere on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Nicole “Soul” Creary 

    CEO & Executive Director 

    Experienced entrepreneur and CEO of Soul2Soulz, Nicole “Soul” Creary has a professional history of working for nonprofits doing social work as well as for film and education organizations. 

    Soul2Soulz’s mission is to create connections that build positive relationships. The organization aims to develop communities where youth, families, and all people, reach their fullest potential. Creary has professional strengths in organizing grassroots initiatives and coalitions, philanthropy, and community organizing. 

    Creary studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on her work and the great work of Soul2Soulz on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Like all of the alumni we’ve noted here, there are many other NYFA alumni with no shortage of drive to share their voice through business acumen or support for the black community. Continue to raise the bar by supporting Black-owned businesses even beyond this month. 

    If you’re an NYFA alum with a story to tell, please share it with us by submitting your NYFA Alumni Success Story

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    August 19, 2021 • Alumni Events, Diversity, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 1027

  • 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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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum Drama del Rosario Awarded ‘Juried Prize’ in The 2020 PBS Short Film Festival

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    In late July, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario received one of the two awarded prizes for the 2020 PBS Short Film Festival. The documentary filmmaking alum caught the eye of voters and the prestigious Jury for the competition and ultimately received this years ‘Juried Prize’ for his film In This Family

    Del Rosario was awarded the prestigious prize by eight jury members, who selected the NYFA alum’s film as their favorite out of all the festival selections. In addition to del Rosario’s film, all festival selections are available to the public to watch online.

    ‘In This Family’ film poster

    Del Rosario is a Filipinx documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the 2019 BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant for his documentary film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You), which touches on sexual assault trauma from a gay couple’s perspective. The NYFA alum is known for creating documentary films that challenge the Filipinx Catholic background and he has worked with many international names including BeBe Zahara Benet (Winner, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 1) and Sophie Sumner (Winner, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 18). 

    His latest documentary, In This Family, is a twelve minute short film that chronicles what happens after del Rosario’s teach outs him as a gay man and includes recordings of his family’s reaction to the news.

    “Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students,” shared del Rosario. “I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools.”

    Del Rosario also credits NYFA alum Naya Rivera, who tragically passed away in early July, as a source of inspiration for his short film. “In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character, Santana Lopez, was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera.”

    The NYFA alum also shares that this documentary is an important release in his native country as it is produced by Cinematografo, which is under the Filipino production company ABS-CBN International. “It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard!” His full statement can be found below.

    View this post on Instagram

    WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!!!!! 🎉🔥✨💕😭🎊⭐️🏆 My documentary film “IN THIS FAMILY” is officially the JURY WINNER for this year’s PBS Short Film Festival! This is so huge coming from a very, very stacked jury! 😱 Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students. I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools. ❤️ Furthermore, showcasing this documentary at this particular time has been special to me for two reasons… 1️⃣ First, this documentary is executive produced by Cinematografo, which is under ABS-CBN International. As a lot of people know, ABS-CBN and Philippine media in general are not in a good place right now because of Philippine politics. It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard! 2️⃣ Second, I am extremely touched by all the messages from Glee fans regarding the recent death of Naya Rivera. In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character Santana Lopez was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera. ❤️ I am incredibly honored to receive this award. Thank you so much to CAAM (@caamedia and their superstar team @czarinagee, @akolaurenlola, @livinproofsf, @gracehwanglynch, @krakauer, @sushboy34 ++) for believing in my film as your official entry and for always supporting my career as a documentary filmmaker. Thank you so much to PBS (@pbs) for putting together an amazing film festival with an amazing film line-up and jury. And most of all, thank you so much to my family for continuing to change and grow. I would not be where I am right now had you not powered through the discomfort of growth and change. ALL MY LOVE! 🏆💕

    A post shared by Drama Del Rosario (@dramadelrosario) on

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario for his latest achievement and looks forward to what is next from the talented filmmaker. 

    To watch the full documentary, view below or click here

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  • African Black American Film Society Kicks Off 2020

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    On Thursday, February 13, the African Black American Film Society kicked off their first meeting of the year by setting the initiative of the club in motion as several New York Film Academy (NYFA) students as well as alumni from various departments gathered to discuss the way forward. 

    ABA Club Feb 2020

    Members showed a keen interest in organizing and hosting events that would build morale, as well as establish and solidify relations amongst individuals. During the event, new members also had the pleasure of meeting the ABA advisor, NYFA Producing instructor Kim Ogletree. 

    Ogletree spoke about the Industry Lab and how it is beneficial in assisting creatives in developing their projects. The club has a lot in store for current and potential members this year in terms of numerous networking and collaborative opportunities that will benefit students in their respective fields.

    Four days later, on February 17, the ABA hosted an African Heritage Day presentation and screening. ABA members Lethabo Mokgatle and Thembelihle Nkosi provided a presentation about South Africa and some of the things that make their home country special to them. They screened Sarafina!, the 1992 South African musical film about the 1976 Soweto uprising against apartheid that stars Whoopi Goldberg. 

    Before the screening, all the attendees got into an engaging discussion about both South African and African American history, violence, injustice, and how there are so many similarities between the two. At the end of the screening, not only were people exposed to a new movie they’d never seen before, but had learned from each other’s experiences. 

    Though the attendees came from different geographical locations around the world, this did not limit the ABA meeting as everyone was able to connect, respect, listen and engage with others’ points of view and grow our overall understanding.

    Written by ABA members Thembelihle Nkosi and Rhema Boston

     

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  • International Community Gathers Together to Aid Victims of Australia Bushfires – Here’s How You Can Help

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    The devastating bushfires in Australia have now been raging for their fourth straight month, scorching millions of acres of land and already resulting in the deaths of over two dozen people and more than one billion animals. The international community has watched in horror as the fires show no signs of slowing down, rallying together to do what they can through donations and charities. It has been estimated that over a million people worldwide have supported the relief with no amount considered too small for the victims, firefighters and wildlife.

     

    The sheer magnitude of the devastation has been impossible to ignore, dominating the international news cycle and even the awards speeches of Hollywood’s Golden Globe Awards, held last Sunday.  Several award winners took the time from their speeches to share their sympathies for the victims of the bushfires and urged anyone who can to donate to charities and organizations supporting Australia and those affected by the fires.

    Other celebrities have taken to social media to do the same, using the massive goodwill and capital they’ve earned from successful careers in the entertainment industry to make large calls to action. Actors and performers like Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Pink, Selena Gomez, Celeste Barber, Rebel Wilson, Naomi Watts, Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett, and Bindi Irwin have all implored their fans and followers to join them in supporting Australia in any way they can.

    New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA Australia) students from both Australia and the international community have had the distinct luxury of shooting in one of the most beautiful and diverse environments in the world. It is no coincidence that the film industry has turned to the Gold Coast and Australia so often to shoot iconic films and television series—the charm and beauty of the island continent is effortlessly captured by the camera’s eye.

    Films and series like Game of Thrones, Aquaman, Thor: Ragnarok, San Andreas, The Shallows, Kong: Skull Island, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and the 70s Australian film Walkabout—as well as countless student films by NYFA Australia students and alumni—have all taken advantage of Australia’s scenic backdrops. Seeing the continued destruction of both land and lives has been unspeakably heartbreaking, and NYFA Australia encourages those who can to support the victims of Australia’s fires in any way possible.

    In light of these devastating bushfires, the Gold Coast campus has been in contact with Foodbank Queensland to see how they can support those in need during this challenging period. Foodbank Queensland has requested much-needed toiletries and non-perishable items as donations for those affected. The NYFA Australia community has come together and collected donations at the Southport campus which will be sent down to Foodbank NSW Team on January 10th in support of the Bushfire Relief. The campus has received an overwhelming amount of support from staff and students who are keen to help out in any way they can which has been wonderful.

    Donations collected by NYFA Australia for the Bushfire Relief.

     

    Here’s How You Can Help

    For those willing and able to help, here are some of the organizations you can support to aid displaced people, wildlife populations, and Australia as a whole during this unprecedented emergency:

    The cinematographer of the Australian film Walkabout also NYFA Los Angeles’s Cinematography ChairAnthony Richmond shares this message and plea for support:

    Every dollar counts so any amount you are able to donate will help and Australians will surely appreciate it.

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    January 10, 2020 • Entertainment Australia, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 2208

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Li Cheng’s ‘José’ Gets National Release After Winning Queer Lion Award at Venice Film Festival

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    It’s becoming more and more common for New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni to win major festival prizes, so it wasn’t any surprise when news broke out that Filmmaking grad Li Cheng won the 2018 Queer Lion Award at the 75th Venice Film Festival, one of the world’s most prominent cinema competitions; his film José is now the first Central American film to do so. Following the prestigious award as well as premieres in 50 countries and 100 festival cities worldwide, José now has a national USA theatre release, starting in a dozen major markets, with Cheng personally be presenting the film and speaking with audiences during each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles screenings.

    Li Cheng Jose

    NYFA alum LI Cheng on set of Jośe, Courtesy of YQstudio LLC

    In 2008, Cheng attended the 4-Week Filmmaking workshop at our New York campus. “My NYFA experience was wonderful,” Cheng tells NYFA, “and key to getting started right: hands-on, quickly, low-cost/high-value, with passionate film professionals, and meeting and working together with creative, energetic, inspiring faculty, staff, and student-cohorts from day one. I couldn’t have asked for more, or a better kickstart to my career in film.”

    Cheng used that kickstart to his full advantage. His feature film José is a nuanced look at the challenges and joys of gay life in Central America. The Spanish-language, English-subtitled film follows star José (Enrique Salanic), who lives at home with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota), who makes ends meet by selling sandwiches at bus stops and who is not ready to let go of her youngest child. But when he meets Luis (Manolo Herrera), José is pushed to break down his own boundaries and take a leap of faith with this new relationship. 

    José was written and produced by Cheng, along with George F. Roberson, and was shot in Guatemala with a non-industry artist and academic crew, making it the first major LGBTQIA+ film to come from the nation. Outsider Pictures is the film’s North American distributor and world sales, while international festival sales are handled by Rediance (of Paris and Beijing).

    Li Cheng Jose

    The powerful film has resonated with audiences. Winning the Queer Lion is an incredible achievement; the Queer Lion Award is the trophy awarded, starting in 2007, to the “Best Movie with LGBT Themes & Queer Culture” among those presented during the Venice International Film Festival. Previous winners include Tom Ford’s A Single Man and Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. José has also won Best Film at the Boston LGBT Film Festival and was cited for its “confident visual sense…a sensitive portrait [with a] depth of feeling” by The Hollywood Reporter.

    The film will screen at the Quad Cinema in New York City from Friday, January 31 – Sunday, February 2. Tickets are available here. Other screenings for José, including at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles on February 7, can be found here. Q&A sessions between the audiences and Cheng will follow screenings each of the first three days for both the New York and Los Angeles releases.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Li Cheng on winning the Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion award and looks forward to following his career as a filmmaker!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) South Beach Celebrates Art Basel 2019

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    New York Film Academy South Beach looks forward to Art Basel Miami Beach each year, an event where the city welcomes industry veterans, visual artists, and independent filmmakers alike. Studying at the epicentre of the festival, NYFA South Beach students and faculty draw inspiration from the eccentric art, installations, and events that the fair brings with it. 

    Art Basel is a for-profit, privately owned and managed international art fair staged annually in Basel, Switzerland; Miami Beach, Florida; and Hong Kong, selling the works of established and emerging artists and supporting galleries through nurturing artists. It’s known as a leading global platform that connects collectors, galleries, and artists from around the world.

    Art Basel 2019

    This year’s iteration of the annual event in Miami Beach presented artworks from across the globe through more than 250 of the world’s leading galleries, drawing over 70,000 visitors and offering an inspiring week for artists, collectors, critics, curators, and enthusiasts.

    One particular installation this year captured the attention of all–life-size sand sculptures on Miami Beach, created by Leandro Erlich in an effort to compel people to face the dangers of climate change. Titled “Order of Importance,” the latest work of the Argentine artist was designed to disrupt the landscape while also blending with it. The City of Miami Beach commissioned the installation with an allocation of $300,000, and it was the first of its public art projects with an intentionally short life.

    Art Basel 2019

    NYFA South Beach checked out the installation site, equipped with “NYFA News” filming gear to interview those visiting the sand sculptures and hear their thoughts on the inventive art and its powerful message. Additionally, NYFA South Beach Special Effects instructor and cinematographer Carlos Fueyo was commissioned to create an official promotional video on the installation.

    On campus, NYFA South Beach Dean and Director Maylen Dominguez conducted a Q&A with Carlos, touching on the art, the artist, his involvement in the project and what it’s like to be a filmmaker at Art Basel.

    Art Basel 2019

    “Art Basel exposes our students to thought provoking art, gallerists, artists and buyers form literally every corner of the world,” reflects Dominguez. “You see extraordinary work and things that are not to your taste. Art Basel is a great reminder that the important thing is to be creative and not judge yourself so much, because there’s someone out there who will buy the $120,000 duct-tape banana.”

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    December 8, 2019 • Community Highlights, Film School, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 1112

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film Alum Vicente Almuna’s ‘Sepia’ Generating Lots of Buzz

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    Sepia, a film written, directed, and starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film alum Vicente Almuna, has been generating a ton of buzz since entering the festival circuit.

    Vicente Almuna

    NYFA alum Vicente Almuna

    Almuna originally hails from Chile and enrolled in the MFA in Acting for Film program at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus in 2016. While studying at NYFA-Los Angeles, Almuna learned skills not just in acting but behind the camera as well.

    He put those skills to work with Sepia, which he scripted and directed as well as starred in. The film tells the story of a man rejected from reentering his country of residence after visiting his country of origin. Due to being a former immigrant, he is prohibited from coming back to the place where he has built his life and relationships. Separated from his wife, he decides to undertake a journey by foot across the desert in order to be reunited with his love.

    Trailer Sepia from Vicente Almuna Morales on Vimeo

    “I believe we are going through very fervent times where a lot of meaningful events are occurring all over the world,” Almuna tells NYFA. “The violence and hate that humankind is experiencing nowadays, with fanatic nationalism rising in different parts of the globe; the terror of a next world war; the disputes between races and the immigration banning; or the desire of some countries to lock themselves hermetically from the rest of the world and people.

    “There is too much to be concerned about and I am not going to be just a simple witness of all that is going on around me,” he continues. “This is why I want to discuss about this, to talk about all this. To make a choice from an individual that has been living through this and has a perspective and something to say. I want to talk about my world and I want to create worlds about my world and contribute to make awareness and step by step, build a better place.”

    The film, co-directed by Luis Sánchez and produced by Sommer Saqr, has struck a nerve with festival audiences. Sepia has picked up awards for Best First-Time Director (Independent Short Awards), Best Actor (Independent Short Awards), and Best Cinematography (El Paso Film Festival), and has been nominated for Best First-Time Director (Queen Palm International Film Festival), Best Actor (Queen Palm International Film Festival), Best Dramatic Short (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Best Original Story (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Best Actor (StoryMode Short Film Awards), Audience Award (StoryMode Short Film Awards), and Best International Short (South Texas International Film Festival). Additionally, Sepia has screened at numerous other festivals.

    “NYFA taught me the primordial concepts and training to proceed on my own creative writing adventure,” Almuna describes when asked about his experiences studying at the Academy. “I understood the concept of try, fail, redo, try again. I understood the ideas of drafts, having my last script version after sixteen drafts. And I could keep on changing and modifying it eternally. I think every real and true artistic process never meets an end, it never reaches perfection. We could infinitely try to make it better.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Acting for Film alum Vicente Almuna on the success of Sepia and looks forward to following his career as it grows!

    Vicente Almuna

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) Present Youth Free Expression Film Contest Award

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    In collaboration with the New York Film Academy (NYFA), the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) honored this year’s Youth Free Expression Film Contest winners Molly Smith and Sage Croft, who accepted the award for their film Dear America. NYFA President Michael Young presented the award to the pair at a benefit event held in New York City on Monday, November 11, hosted by Drag Queen Story Hour’s Harmonica Sunbeam. Celebrating its 45th anniversary, NCAC also presented Free Speech Defender Awards to author Jason Reynolds and artist Carolee Schneemann (1939 – 2019).

    NCAC Youth Free Expression Film Contest

    NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program empowers students with knowledge, tools and opportunities to defend their rights and assert their voices. Too often, students are silenced when tough conversations get labeled disruptive. Over the past 15 years, the Youth Free Expression Film Contest has showcased the films of dozens of teens whose vision and respect for free expression will inspire generations to come. 

    NYFA offers crucial support for NCAC and the extraordinarily talented young filmmakers; the scholarship prize offered by NYFA allows award winners the opportunity to undertake any 4-Week hands-on workshop at any of NYFA’s domestic campuses—New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami.

    NCAC Youth Free Expression Film Contest

    Dear America, the film co-directed by this year’s winners—Molly Smith and Sage Croft of Clermont, Florida—is a vital example of just how important young voices are for sociopolitical discourse as well as the effectiveness of film as a medium for those voices. The film is an open letter on the topic of gun control from generation Z, and spotlights the psychological impact of gun violence on youth. Among a remarkably competitive field, Dear America earned the judges’ highest scores for its clear message and compelling visual technique.

    This year’s contest, which drew over 100 entries, invited teens to speak truth to power, directly addressing those with power to lead change by creating a cinematic postcard with a message they believe has gone unheard or silenced. The twelve finalist films tackled a wide range of polarizing—and often taboo—topics, including immigrant family separation, gender equality, toxic masculinity, shaming and bullying, and climate change.

    New York Film Academy and the National Coalition Against Censorship look forward to a continued partnership that gives students a platform to create films that speak to the free expression issues that affect their lives.

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    November 18, 2019 • Community Highlights, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 1847

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Damon J. Barnes Screens ‘Straight to Hell’

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    Straight to Hell, a period comedy written and directed by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes and produced by NYFA Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa, screened last month in North Hollywood. Barnes attended the 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2016; Bayibsa attended one year earlier. 

    Damon J. Barnes Straight to Hell
    The short film is a comedy about Christian gay conversation camps, and deals with very serious LGBTQIA+ issues in a humorous yet thoughtful way. Straight to Hell stars Bendan J. Shannon, Justin Selig, Noah Der, Gracie Lacey, and Collin Lapinsky.

    Straight to Hell began as Barnes’s thesis film while at NYFA. “One of the key driving forces for the film’s style, from choices in the script to choices in music, came from cinema from the 80s—more specifically, from the world of John Hughes,” says Barnes in an artist’s statement for the film. “The way Hughes’ storytelling captures the suburban teenage American experience in a fable-like, classicist body of work that stays true to the tradition of Hollywood romance and adventure was influential on the approach to make the story a comedy rather than a rough-edged, literal presentation—not to say those stories are not needed.” 

    Finding the right tone was important for Barnes. “At the heart of this film is a storyline that is tragic and unjust,” he continues in his statement on the film. “Comedy was used as the vehicle to tell that story. As absurd as conversion therapy is, is how absurd the comedy in the film was designed to be.”

    Damon J. Barnes

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes

    Damon plans to donate all the proceeds the film earns that week to nonprofit organization Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight hate and bigotry in our society.

    The film screened at the Laemmel NOHO Theater in North Hollywood from September 20 – 26.

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking alum Damon J. Barnes on his film and encourages everyone to check out Straight to Hell when they can!

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