Community Highlights

  • NYFA Awards Miss Colombia with Scholarship

    miss universe

    It’s been a long time coming, 56 years to be precise, since the Miss Universe title went to Miss Colombia. Not any more! The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate 2015’s Miss Universe from Colombia, Paulina Vega.

    The 22-year-old business student from Barranquilla beat out runner-up Miss USA Nia Sanchez, along with over 80 other contestants from all around the world in front of a live telecast, which was attended by NYFA representatives.

    Following the excitement, Vega had this to say, “It felt like home. I felt like I was in Colombia with my people. I felt that support in every moment of the pageant.”

    Prior to the competition, Vega told reporters on hand, “It will be a dream come true to represent the woman of today. A woman that not only cares about being beautiful and being glamorous, but also cares about being a professional, intelligent, hard-working person.”

    Now she has made that dream come true. As the winner, the New York Film Academy presented Miss Vega with a one-year scholarship to further pursue her education and passion to succeed.

    NYFA has been the school of choice for numerous Miss Universe and Miss USA winners in the past, including Olivia Culpo who has since been seen as a co-host on Extra with Maria Menounos. Acting for Film graduate, and former Miss USA, Crystle Stewart plays the role of Leslie on Tyler Perry’s television show, For Better for Worse.

    We wish Miss Vega the best of luck following her win, and hope to see her soon on campus!

    January 27, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Entertainment News • Views: 735

  • Imagine “Frank” on Your Film

    Frank NYFA

    One of the more experimental and yet successful films to come out of the independent scene in 2014 was the Lenny Abrahamson film Frank. Though the film starred Academy Award nominated actor Michael Fassbender, who has proven his ability to carry a film with his looks, charisma and acting ability, the actor played almost the entire film (aside from 5 minutes) with a cartoonish, paper mache mask on.

    The story surrounds the world of a young musician, Jon, who gets more than he can handle after joining an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank. Not only does the film pack a powerful punch in terms of emotion, it truly captures the mindset of an aspiring musician.

    Much like the work of Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater, the film brings a sigh of relief to filmmakers aiming to break the mold and try something different.

    As a fun experiment of our own, the New York Film Academy wondered what it’d be like if some of our student films added a flavor of “Frank.” How would your film look different if you cast a “Frank”? Share your pictures with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #MyFrank.

    Paris NYFA Frank

    January 26, 2015 • Community Highlights, Entertainment News • Views: 501

  • New York Film Academy Visits Northrop Grumman and the James Webb Space Telescope

    NASA nyfa

    Faculty & Administration — Sonny Calderon, Eric Conner, Kelly Gardner, Rajiv Uttamchandani  |  Students — Sam Nieves – Jan 2014 BFA film. Tripp Townsend – Sept 2013 MFA prod, Laura Perez – Sept 2012 MFA film, Mariana Thome – Sept 2013 BFA film, Denis Kulikov – Sept 2012 AFA Film

    A group of New York Film Academy students received a rare opportunity to tour Northrop Grumman Corporation’s ( Los Angeles-based state-of-the-art facilities where some of the most vital components of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) are being constructed. The New York Film Academy has recently signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which establishes a pivotal relationship between the two organizations to merge the visual arts and sciences to increase public awareness of JWST.

    The Webb Telescope is the world’s next generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. It is the most powerful space telescope ever built, and will enable humankind to observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide insight on the formation of the first galaxies, and offer unprecedented accuracy in the characterization of atmospheres of planets outside of our solar system.

    During the tour, NYFA guests were in awe of the grandeur and majesty of JWST and its fantastic scientific mission. They viewed up close and personal JWST’s template Sunshield (pictured above), each layer of which is made of Kaplon and is as thin as a human hair. The Sunshield will allow the telescope to cool down to a temperature below 50 Kelvin (-370 degrees F or -223 degrees C), and is crucial to its successful observation of the most distant objects in the universe. They also viewed JWST’s mirror backplane, a structure that will house the telescope’s 18 hexagonal shaped mirror segments, and were given a virtual “tour of the universe” by Northrop Grumman astrophysicist Dr. Alberto Conti.

    After getting this ultra rare opportunity to view first-hand some of the most visually striking and complex scientific instruments in the world, the New York Film Academy’s students are hard at work producing a series of 30-second PSA’s to capture the attention of communities around the globe. “We are immensely proud that our students will help tell the story of this epic and groundbreaking mission,” says NYFA Dean of College Sonny Calderon. “This is a great opportunity for them to see first-hand the power of their storytelling on a global scale.”

    Please visit for more information on the James Webb Space Telescope.

    January 21, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 964

  • #MyBoyhood: How Would You Have Aged in ‘Boyhood’?

    Michael Keaton

    Michael Keaton

    As the groundbreaking Richard Linklater film Boyhood continues to pick up steam with its Golden Globe Award for Best Picture, Drama, we at the New York Film Academy thought it’d be fun to see what other nominees and actors would look like as a child, compared to today. Imagine having twelve years of your life documented into an award-winning film. Pretty cool, right?

    We’ve compiled several famous actors “boyhood” or “girlhood” photos and placed them beside a current photo to start off the trend.

    How do your boyhood comparisons pair up to these celebs? Post your child photo alongside of a current photo and share it with us on Twitter or Instagram with #MyBoyhood.

    Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck

    Benedict Cumberbatch

    Benedict Cumberbatch

    Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum

    Jake Gyllenhaal

    Jake Gyllenhaal

    jennifer aniston

    Jennifer Aniston

    Kevin Spacey

    Kevin Spacey

    Michael Keaton

    Michael Keaton

    Reese Witherspoon

    Reese Witherspoon

    Rosamund Pike

    Rosamund Pike

    Steve Carell

    Steve Carell

    You’re next! Don’t forget to tag your picture comparison with #MyBoyhood. Look forward to seeing your posts on social media!

    January 12, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Entertainment News • Views: 3740

  • Ken Lerner Brings His Vast Acting Experience to NYFA

    Ken Lerner

    Actor and NYFA Acting Instructor, Ken Lerner

    One of the finest and most accomplished feelings for a teacher is when his or her pupils succeed in the real world. Such is the case with New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film Instructor Ken Lerner, who is not only recognized for his long-standing career as an actor but also for his help in getting thousands of actors cast in movies, television shows, pilots and plays.

    Ken’s audition technique and scene study classes are exciting places to grow as an actor. His technique combines the wisdom of the great acting teachers with whom he has studied—London, Stella Adler and Peggy Feury—with his own extensive hands-on experiences in movies, TV shows, plays and commercials.

    “I love teaching at NYFA because of all the countries that the students come from,” said Lerner. “It is a melting pot of experiences — the enthusiasm of these actors is energizing.”

    Similar to many of NYFA’s staff of talented instructors, Ken has continued to work in TV, movies, and commercials for the last 36 years, making his a recognizable face everywhere he goes. He has appeared in more than 100 top television shows, including The Mentalist, NCIS, In Plain Sight, Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives, Castle, Weeds, CSI, Without a Trace and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He has had over 40 film roles, including Unlawful Entry, The Doctor, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Running Man, The Story of Us, Immediate Family, Irreconcilable Differences and Project X. In addition to film and television, Ken has starred in productions at The Pasadena Playhouse and Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theater and off-Broadway.

    “My experience in the industry seems to be the biggest factor in my ability to be trusted that I know what I am teaching them, especially about auditions. I constantly use my acting jobs as reference for my students’ learning.”

    Ken’s experience on sets and on stage give him the ability to share inside information with his students. Ken’s positive approach to the work and outstanding ability to break down scripts help him to nurture and bring out the best qualities in his students. Ken works and auditions all the time and imparts his experiences in his own funny, gentle but firm way. His technique gets results, as evidenced by the success of his students, who star on shows such as House, CSI, Cougar Town, Burn Notice, Scrubs, CSI: Miami and many others.

    Ken uses his extensive contacts in the industry with directors, producers, casting directors and agents to offer special events for his students and monthly industry nights as a public service to the acting community.

    His advice to all of his acting students and those pursuing the craft is to work hard and bring their special qualities to their auditions. “They are unique, and they must bring that into the audition rooms.”

    January 12, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 647

  • NYFA Partners with FUNGLODE/GFDD

    Michael Young and Leonel Fernandez

    NYFA President Michael Young and the Honorable Dr. Leonel Antonio Fernández Reyna, former president of the Dominican Republic

    As many of our students and faculty are well aware, the New York Film Academy whole-heartedly embraces a diverse student population. In our continuing efforts to expand our reach internationally, NYFA has entered into an agreement with the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE/GFDD) with offices in the Dominican Republic and US. Today, NYFA President Michael Young made the agreement official after signing the deal with FUNGLODE/GFDD Founder Antonio Fernández Reyna at NYFA’s Battery Park campus.

    Founded by the Honorable Dr. Leonel Antonio Fernández Reyna, former president of the Dominican Republic, the foundation serves as a bridge for Dominican students seeking higher education in the United States of America.

    In support of the efforts of FUNGLODE/GFDD in regard to student mobility, the New York Film Academy will offer a 25% tuition reduction for students approved by FUNGLODE/GFDD and accepted by NYFA for its degree programs.

    “NYFA is excited to partner with FUNGLODE/GFDD,” said NYFA Director of Outreach and Development, Jack Newman. “Planning is underway to expand the opportunities for Dominican students to experience the hands-on and intensive education provided by the Academy.”

    All applicants will be pre-screened by FUNGLODE/GFDD and will follow the admissions requirements noted at Applications and supporting materials will be forwarded to NYFA by FUNGLODE/GFDD for review, processing, and final approval for admission to NYFA.

    January 9, 2015 • Community Highlights, Study Abroad • Views: 748

  • NYFA Sponsors Producers Guild Conference at Time Warner Center

    Hawk Koch and Jake Gyllenhaal

    Hawk Koch and Jake Gyllenhaal

    New York Film Academy was one of the sponsors of the Producers Guild of America “Produced by” conference at the Time Warner Center. NYFA had a strong presence at this historic event, staged for the first time in New York City. Participants included Producing Department Co-Chairs Neal Weisman and Nick Yellen, Admissions Reps Sal Irizarry (a Producing Program alumni) and Robert Gorrie, as well as a number of current Producing students.

    NYFA reps attended a variety of session that addressed the entire spectrum of the producing process: from creative producing, to the latest in international and domestic financing, to the very dynamic and fluid distribution landscape that is challenging the entire industry. Prominent among the panels attended were such diverse sessions as “Inside Showrunning”, “Financial Models in the Era of Hybrid Distribution”, “Tax Credit Financing”, and “The Power of Female Driven Content”. A variety of participants included such speakers and NYFA colleagues such as producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein, actor/producer Jake Gyllenhall, director/producer Darren Aronofsky, television show runner Jenni Konner, producer Scott Franklin, writer/producer/distributor James Schamus, Academy Award winning producers Donna Gigliotti and Cathy Schulman, regular NYFA industry speaker and film finance expert John Hadity, and producer Steven Haft. Of special interest was the presentation by famed distributor Ruth Vitale on the subject of film piracy. Look for Ruth to be a guest at NYFA early in the 2015 where she will elaborate on industry efforts to confront this serious issue.

    Mark Gordon and Terrence Winter

    Mark Gordon and Terrence Winter

    NYFA Producing students attending the PGA “Produced by” Conference not only participated in panel sessions and networked amongst industry professionals, they also spent a good part of the day posting social media messages across multiple platforms! All in all, the Conference was a valuable experience for all concerned.

    Harvey Weinstein and Scott Feinberg

    Harvey Weinstein and Scott Feinberg

    December 19, 2014 • Community Highlights, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1284

  • Robert Pucci: From Law School to Hollywood

    Robert PucciNew York Film Academy Los Angeles Critical Film Art and Intro To Film Instructor Robert Pucci took a rather interesting turn in his career after passing the bar exams for both New York and New Jersey — a difficult feat in itself. What could be a more challenging career path than passing law school and two bar exams? Acting. Robert’s passion for the craft sent him on his way to Los Angeles to become an actor. However, while playing a recurring role on The Young and the Restless, he realized that, at heart, he is a writer.

    Robert has sold over twenty-five screenplays to major Hollywood studios and worked with, among others, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, Jan Debont, James Foley, Mark Wahlberg and Roland Joffe. Recently, Robert’s artistic endeavors are focused on books and not screenplays. In his first novel, In Harlem’s Way, Robert continues telling stories and creating characters that examine the complexities of the human heart. Touching on themes of innocence, guilt, forgiveness and ultimately love, the book tells the inspiring story of the unlikely relationship forged between a damaged white youth lost in Harlem, and the first African American man he’s ever met, a bond that heals and forever changes them both.

    With tremendous experience in the industry, in addition to his grasp on the law, Robert provides invaluable insight to his students on the world ahead of them. “I feel any instructor who has been in the trenches, (and I’ve been in them as an actor, and to a far greater extent, as a writer) offers something worthwhile to young artists,” says Mr. Pucci. “That said, my aim is to make this experience about them and not me, but when I can impart lessons learned by way of trial by fire, I share them.”

    Robert currently teaches two courses at the Film Academy that provide an overview of the history of cinema with a look at the many movements and techniques which shape film as they experience it today. In so doing, Robert aims to connect the past to the present and show the students that the filmmakers, actors and writers they currently admire are well-versed in the work of the artists who came before and incorporate what they’ve learned in their own work.

    “I find the enthusiasm of the students infectious. I also enjoy interacting with the international student body at NYFA as in each class I learn something new about cultures from around the world.”
    Robert’s advice to young screenwriters is the same advice he was given when starting out. “There is much in the entertainment industry that is out of your control, so work diligently and focus on the things which you can control, and the main one is your work output. Always be writing. When you finish one script, immediately start the next one.”

    December 16, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 1601

  • NYFA Sydney Holds First Inaugural Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas

    NYFA Sydney Event

    The New York Film Academy Australia campus in Sydney held its first Inaugural Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas, George Street in VMAX 2. The multiplex theater, which screens today’s top films, just so happens to be filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s favorite cinema in Australia!

    To kick off the event, filmmakers strutted the red carpet outside of the theater. After all, what would an award-ceremony be without a red carpet? Guests included our filmmakers and their families and friends, screen industry professionals, 2015 committed students, potential new students and NYFA Sydney alumni. NYFA Australia Director Simon Hunter and NYFA Australia Academic Manager Craig Proudley were also on hand for the night. NYFA is the first and only film school to have showcased thesis films in a VMAX cinema at Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney. We love being pioneers.

    The awards ceremony gave out 4 awards, including Outstanding Student, Best Cinematographer, Best Director and Best Film, which was chosen by a panel of screen industry professionals.

    nyfa sydney actors

    “It is an exciting partnership that Event Cinemas has with NYFA,” said Event Cinemas General Manager, Anthony Kierann. “Last night was a night of talented filmmakers and actors expressing their creative journey and discovering their voice within the magical process of storytelling in the art of filmmaking. There is a huge appetite within the film-going community to experience extraordinary stories with universal themes and social significance. Last night there was a range of styles, performances, screenwriting and visual bravery with astute detail and a willingness to explore all the nuanced options creatively available to tell a story — the films screened last night at the thesis screenings certainly were a testament to the talent pool at NYFA in Sydney. As an exhibitor, it is encouraging to see such a depth of talent. Events looks forward to furthering its support and partnership; to be in some small way a nurturing component that may allow these young filmmakers and actors wings to grow. Congratulations to everyone involved and a special congratulations to Ren Thackham for her audacious visionary film Lady Luck, which won the Best Film Award”

    Anthony and Event Cinemas were so pleased with the night that they have committed to playing one of our filmmakers thesis films, Wolf by Ethan Thomas before a feature film. Overall, it was not only an entertaining night, it was a whopping success. We look forward to our next Filmmaking Showcase at Event Cinemas!

    December 11, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Study Abroad • Views: 1668

  • A Look at Acting Instructor Michael Zelniker

    Red Rodney Zelniker

    Michael Zelniker as Red Rodney in “Bird”

    One of the more enticing factors of studying at the New York Film Academy is its commitment to staffing its teachers and instructors with those who have sound experience and success in the film industry. In some cases our instructors come from a versatile background, having worked extensively in many artistic areas, including acting, filmmaking and theatre. Such is the case with Acting for Film and Acting Technique Instructor Michael Zelniker. Having starred in more than 20 feature films and countless television productions, Zelniker is perhaps best known for his portrayal of trumpeter Red Rodney in Clint Eastwood’s award winning film Bird. If you’re from Canada, you may recognize him for his Canadian Academy Award (Genie Award) winning performance in The Terry Fox Story, which also starred Robert Duvall.

    “One of the reasons I love working at NYFA is — having spent my life learning how to do this work I love so much — getting to give it away to young people just beginning their creative journeys is an awesome privilege,” said Zelniker. “One of the great features to NYFA as an educational institution is it has a very large international student body. That unique mix of cultures, ideas and sensibilities makes for a powerfully dynamic artistic atmosphere.”

    Zelniker was born and raised in Montreal where he trained as an actor at Dawson College’s Conservatory Theatre School. After graduating, Zelniker moved to Toronto, where he began working in theaters all across Canada doing everything from Shakespeare to David Mamet, appearing in more than 20 Equity productions, including Amadeus, Henry V, Mother Courage and American Buffalo.


    Michael Zelniker as Martin in “Naked Lunch”

    Since moving to Los Angeles, where he currently teaches, Zelniker has worked in both movies and television. His long list of credits include co-starring in David Cronenberg’s acclaimed film Naked Lunch with Peter Weller; Queens Logic with John Malkovich and Kevin Bacon; Touch and Go with Michael Keaton; and Bird with Forest Whitaker.

    Some notable television movie appearances include the Showtime mini-series The Neon Empire; Masterpiece Theatre’s Glory Enough For All for PBS; and the ABC mini-series Crossings with Christopher Plummer. Zelniker guest starred many times on series such as The Dead Zone, Chicago Hope, Millennium, Profiler, The Inside, Strong Medicine, Veritas the Quest, For the People, In the Heat of the Night and Murder She Wrote. Zelniker has starred in many independent features including, Snide and Prejudice, directed by Philippe Mora; Air Time, directed by Gary Fleder; and the Sundance Lab developed film, After Image.

    Zelniker’s theatre directing credits include the critically acclaimed Child’s Play, at the John Anson Ford Theatre, the sketch comedy show, White House Chicks at the HBO Workspace, Waiting for Lefty and Moonchildren at the Lillian Theater, and One Love and Love and Death and Other Trivial Matters at the Artworks Theatre.

    As a filmmaker, Zelniker co-wrote, produced, and played the title character in the critically acclaimed, festival award winning feature, Stuart Bliss. He also directed, co-wrote and produced the low budget, experimental feature, Falling… that premiered at Indie Fest USA International Film Festival in August 2012, winning their Best of Festival Award. The film is currently being distributed by Vanguard Cinema and Anderson Digital.

    We’re thrilled to have Michael Zelniker on our team and confident in his ability to share his invaluable insight to budding talent at the New York Film Academy.

    December 10, 2014 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 1367