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  • New York Film Academy Alum Finished Second Place in Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough PSA Competition

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Natalia Bougadellis’ public service announcement (PSA), “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition. Bougadellis, who attended NYFA’s Teen Filmmaking program in Los Angeles and an intensive 6-Week Filmmaking workshop in New York, worked on the PSA under her female-run production company Blue Slate Films.

    Bougadellis is a director and cinematographer, who hails from Athens, Greece. Her critically acclaimed film, The Owls, (available on Amazon), has played in eleven countries and over thirty film festivals, winning the prestigious Zoe Award at LifeArt Festival, “Best Student Film” at Miami Independent Film Festival, and “Best Student Filmmaker” at America’s Rainbow Film Festival Presented by HBO.

    Natalia Bougadellis behind the camera during filming

    Bougadellis is also the Executive Director of The Great Griffon, a non-profit organization founded to bring awareness and support to LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream entertainment. Bougadellis also co-founded her own production company, Blue Slate Films, with female filmmaker Emory Parker, in 2017 and continues to produce cutting edge projects for high-profile brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Calvin Klein, and Pepsi, to name a few.

    Her PSA, “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, acquiring almost 48,000 votes and over 200,000 views. Though Bougadellis’ PSA did not come in first place, Gov. Cuomo announced in a briefing that New York state will still air the PSA.

    New Yorkers from the PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)

    Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit NYC, Blue Slate Films (Bougadellis’ production company) was gearing up to shoot their very first feature film, Whirlpool. “As a small business, we were really affected by this,” says Bougadellis.

    When Bougadellis and her production partner [Parker] saw Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, they knew they had to get involved. “We saw the PSA competition as an invaluable opportunity to showcase our talents and stay creative throughout this time, while also spreading a message crucial to ending this pandemic.”

    Bougadellis explained that they [Bougadellis and Parker] wanted to use this opportunity to tell true stories about real New Yorkers. She recounted that their vision was to show raw emotion for each individual portrayed in the PSA. “Our eyes can tell amazing stories, so we focused on faces and eyes to show how powerful human connection can be.”

    For Bougadellis, the journey of filming this video around NYC and Long Island was heartfelt and sincere. “We had no script for this video,” she says. “All answers were spontaneous and came from the heart. Emory [Parker] then worked on editing the piece and bringing it all together.”

     

    Still from PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)

    Beyond the stories of the individuals featured in the PSA, Bougadellis hopes that those who watch the video understand that wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting oneself. “Wearing a mask means respecting your fellow New Yorkers and caring about them, as well,” she remarks. “The sooner we can all cooperate to control this situation, the sooner our city will be able to return to normal.”

    During these times of social distancing and self-quarantine, in addition to their PSA, Blue Slate Films has also launched a digital series, The Slate, featuring artists, experts, and entrepreneurs that seek to make a difference in their respective industries.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natalia Bougadellis on her inspiring achievement, which highlights a crucial global message for all, and encourages everyone to check out the PSA and to keep an eye out for Blue Slate Films’ forthcoming film Whirlpool.

    To watch the full “You Can Still Smile” PSA, click here or watch the full video above.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes Writer, Actress, and Director Naomi McDougall Jones to Discuss New Book ‘The Wrong Kind of Women’

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    On March 3, the Cinematography Department at New York Film Academy’s (NYFA) New York campus was extremely excited to welcome Naomi McDougall Jones to kick off the celebration of Women’s History Month with a frank and remarkable conversation on the condition of Women in Cinema, Television and the Entertainment Industry at large. 

    Naomi McDougall Jones is a talented actress turned screenwriter. Out of the necessity of writing characters and stories more in line with the female perspective, she began to explore that longing, which was hard to find in an industry dominated by the male approach. With the realization that the issue was bigger than simply finding the energy and commitment to write such stories, she became an activist initially with her viral Ted Talk and subsequently published her book The Wrong Kind of Women – Inside Our Revolution to Dismantle the God of Hollywood

    Naomi McDougall Jones introduces book ‘The Wrong Kind of Women’ at NYFA New York campus

    Jones recently brought her wisdom and years of deeply documented research to a room full of NYFA’s very own community of filmmakers, actors, producers and many others involved in the industry. One of her first points, looking at the room and the people that came to the presentation, was how, when looking exclusively at film schools around the country, one would assume the problem of representation for female filmmakers doesn’t exist. Female filmmakers, in this definition, meaning the whole group in front of and behind the camera. Female filmmakers consist of slightly more than 50% of the population of today’s cinema educational world, but after analyzing the data, there is a deep discrepancy between the rich, diverse crowd who graduate from colleges and film schools around the globe versus the space that women actually fill in the industry itself. 

    The exhaustive research conducted by Jones for the publication of her book present numbers that are deeply troubling as they show that women represent only a minimal part of the directors hired by producers. These numbers show slightly better in television, however, but in context, this is due to the fact that the main professional figure of a TV show is not necessarily the director, but the show runner, which tends to lean overwhelmingly male. 

    Jones proceeded to explain, in detail, the principal obstacles filmmakers encounter in their quest to break into an industry that seems designed to keep them at bay, all the while white male privilege continues to prevail in the industry. Jones recalled experiencing this firsthand when getting her first feature length film made. The film, Imagine I’m Beautiful, was created out of her motivation for creating a female-driven story. As a female screenwriter and producer with a solid project in her hands, she thought it would have been at least possible to gather enough support within the industry to find a way to produce the movie. She was, unfortunately, wrong. 

    Naomi McDougall Jones discusses the film industry with NYFA creative director Liz Hinlein

    The reality of her situation kicked in faster than she thought and she found herself and her team of female creatives in a limbo, where the already complex process of financing and producing her first feature turned out to be exhaustingly more difficult due to the people in charge of the industry, the so called “Gatekeepers.”

    The lesson she learned at that time was difficult to swallow, but refreshing, as it taught her not to doubt her own talent, but instead focus on the lesson involved. Like so many women before her not having the space or voice they deserved, she began to understand the true nature of the problem. Hollywood is a system based on an “inside” and “outside” structure, similar to a high school cafeteria, where you have options for where you’d like to sit, but can only sit at the table where you are allowed to sit. It’s a system where you immediately know who the “cool people” are- those that are admired, watched and followed by the generic population. 

    In Hollywood, the “inside” world is dominated by cis white males and, for an extremely long period of time, their judgment, support, and approval has been the only way to cross the room and take a seat at “the table.” Fear of being quickly thrown “outside” and losing your spot in the “golden” and “glamorous” world of Hollywood has often pushed aside anyone willing to disrupt the status quo and change the modus operandi of the system. 

    As a result, the movie-going audience has been so accustomed to viewing stories from a male perspective that the risk of pushing for a different one can cause people to be expelled from their seat at “the table” or, rather, pushed to the “outside.” At the same time, the fear of failure has reduced, if not blocked, the possibilities for women to break into the “inside” crowd.

    Naomi McDougall Jones tells audience about the “Inside” and “Outside” Hollywood structure 

    It is an extremely complex topic, which Jones synthesized and captured in front of NYFA faculty, students, and guests in a well attended and even better discussed event. The questions from the audience went from “what can male allies do to help change the system” to “how film schools can better support their female students to allow them better opportunities for success.” Jones left a profound mark on those willing to listen, opening their eyes to what has been her experience and, along with her, the experiences of thousands of women before and after her. 

    Jones also ended the discussion with several reasons to be hopeful. While none of the principal publications in the industry (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, etc.) have dedicated a single line to her book, it has been the subject of several important discussions and articles on several platforms from NPR to the BBC, the Washington Post and even Playboy Magazine. Jones even mentioned that one of the largest corporations and producing entities in the world of television has made her book a required reading for their original content writers.

    The main takeaway of Jones’ presentation has been the necessity for women and minorities to “never let the system tell you your values” and she pushed the students to trust their artistic talent, dare to be radical, and to not sell themselves short, while always finding new ways to push into a deeply troubled industry.

    NYFA Cinematography Chair Piero Basso and Naomi McDougall Jones

    New York Film Academy thanks Naomi McDougall Jones for celebrating the launch of her new book and for discussing the important topic of jobs for women in film with our NYFA students, faculty and guests for Women’s History Month.

    Her book is available for purchase online and can also be found at NYFA’s New York campus library.

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    March 16, 2020 • Cinematography, Diversity, Guest Speakers • Views: 894

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes MFA Screenwriting Alum, Black Film Allegiance Co-Founder, and Monkeypaw Productions Development Manager Elon Joi Washington

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    On Friday, February 21, New York Film Academy (NYFA) welcomed NYFA MFA Screenwriting grad (Class of ’18) Elon Joi Washington, Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions, and co-founder of Black Film Allegiance. Terah Jackson, ABA Club co-advisor, screenwriting instructor, and NYFA LAS instructor, moderated the event.

    elon joi washington

    Washington is a screenwriter and story analyst with a passion for shedding light on untold narratives. She studied English, Film and Media at the University of Florida, Film and Television at Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated from New York Film Academy’s MFA Screenwriting program. She is the founder of the Black Film Allegiance, a virtual platform promoting collaboration and creative opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers. Additionally, Washington currently works as Development Manager at Monkeypaw Productions. 

    Following a quick clip of Washington promoting the Black Film Allegiance, Jackson opened up the Q&A by touching upon the students’ interest in Washington’s screenwriting background. He asked, “This idea to become a writer and move into film, when did that start for you?” 

    Washington shared, “I always enjoyed writing. In undergrad I would do open mics as different character roles, and that’s what I started falling in love with character work. I was an English major with a film and media concentration and towards the end my school let me do some production work and I really enjoyed it. But, I was always more interested in what was on the page because it’s where I felt most comfortable creatively.” 

    Jackson then asked what type of stories Washington found herself most engaged in. She replied, “I like stories that revolve around social events and messages that matter to me; especially things that are quite researched. The genres I enjoy are docudrama, horror, psychological thrillers; however, I will do a sci-fi if there’s a bigger message attached to it, but it has to be grounded in truth with something that I know is happening today. Then, I’ll elevate that story in some type of way through a genre like horror.” She continued, “If there’s a research component, that’s usually the part that will draw me in and then the bigger message and character come after.”

    elon joi washington

    Speaking on her time at NYFA, Jackson asked, “Looking back, what were the opportunities here at NYFA that prepared you for what you did after school?” 

    Washington answered, “There are so many resources here that I appreciate, partially because it’s so intimate here and the professors are so hands-on with your growth professionally and as a student. Part of what I appreciated was that opportunity to have one-on-one meetings, even as an alumna. The access you have as alumni is unparalleled. ” She continued, “Also, what you do with the network you’ve built here can really change the course of your post-grad experience. Just having a community and being here created such great connections for me.”

    The Q&A then opened up to student questions. One student asked, “When you submit a script to Monkeypaw Productions, what is it they’re looking for in order to move forward with a story?” 

    Washington responded, “In terms of what Monkeypaw looks for–it’ts genre, underrepresented voices, and a focus on social issues of course, but in a way that’s fun.” She added, “When you’re dealing with difficult issues, you don’t want it to be like medicine, you want it to be rewatchable. It’s always that component, which is a very specific formula and very difficult to find.”  

    New York Film Academy thanks MFA Screenwriting alum Elon Joi Washington for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!

    elon joi washington

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    March 2, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1004

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Welcomes ‘The Black Godfather’ Producer Nicole Avant

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    On Tuesday, February 18, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure to host Nicole Avant, former US ambassador and producer of the award-winning Netflix documentary The Black Godfather. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event. 

    Tova Laiter & Nicole Avant

    Nicole Avant produced The Black Godfather after collecting stories about her father, Clarence Avant, who has held significant influence on dozens of the world’s most high profile entertainers, athletes, and politicians. The film charts the exceptional and unlikely rise of Clarence, who became a powerhouse negotiator amid extreme racism in America, a music executive whose trailblazing behind-the-scenes accomplishments impacted the legacies of icons such as Bill Withers, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, and Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

    Nicole Avant was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to be the 13th Ambassador to The Bahamas. On September 9, 2009, she was sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, becoming the youngest as well as the first African American woman to hold the position. Avant’s successes in The Bahamas earned her a nomination for the Sue M. Cobb Award for Exemplary Diplomatic Service. 

    Following a screening of The Black Godfather, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Avant how she started in the business. Avant shared, “My parents made me do every kind of job all my life and one time my father said he had gotten me an internship at Warner Bros. television. He told me I should learn all the different types of business because all of entertainment is one business, so it is important to learn the different facets.” She continued, “So I went and did the internship and I have to say, I loved it and I learned everything. I went to work for all the different departments and met so many people that helped me understand the business.”  

    Producer Nicole Avant

    Laiter then asked Avant how the documentary came to fruition. Avant revealed, “This documentary happened because I was trying to figure out a way to tell my dad’s story. I said something to my husband [Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos] one day about how I wished there was a way to tie in sports and movies and television and activism and civil rights and all these elements into a character and film. He then pointed out that the character I had just described was, in fact, my father.” 

    Speaking about her director and collaborator Reggie Hudlin, Avant expressed, “I knew Reggie for a very long time and we would talk about African American history and get frustrated that no one really understood our history and no one had seen documentaries on us or knew enough. It was always simplified to ‘all Black people in America live this way, eat this food, and do these specific things’ and it would drive Reggie and me nuts. Therefore, I figured he would be a great person to direct this documentary.”  

    The Q&A was then opened up to students. One student asked Avant, “What do you think are the most important changes for the African American community in the entertainment industry since the beginning of your father’s career.” 

    Avant imparted, “The biggest changes and the most important changes were putting people in a position of power where they could therefore make decisions and control their destiny and in turn, open the door for other people to come in.” She added, “When I was younger, Billboard used to have the Top 100 charts and the Black charts. They used to separate them all. It was really important for my dad to say ‘Why can’t Black people and women be in charge of certain departments that are run by only one type of person? It should be everybody.’ So I think the most important thing is that you started to see more people of color, in general, really having high-level positions that they otherwise would have never had.” 

    Laiter concluded the Q&A by thanking Avant for coming amidst a very busy Oscar season. Avant remarked, “I was really looking forward to this night more than anything else, because humans have to tell stories to each other and connect with each other and I think these events are very important.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to thank producer and former US Ambassador Nicole Avant for joining sharing her time and expertise with our students!

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    February 21, 2020 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 741

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Partners With Tina Knowles-Lawson & Richard Lawson To Lift Up Angels and Warriors

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    Last month New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered for the second time with the nonprofit WACO (Where Art Can Occur) Theater Center to instruct youth in acting and filmmaking. 

    The 1-Week Filmmaking camp was held in August at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, the second part of a 2-Week summer intensive on-camera acting and filmmaking camp at Richard Lawson Studios. A graduation ceremony was held at NYFA at the end of the course.

    WACO 2019

    Tina’s Angels and Richard’s Warriors are two of WACO’s esteemed programs. Located in the NOHO Arts District, WACO is dedicated to the empowerment of people within the diverse communities of the greater Los Angeles area.

    Tina’s Angels is a mentorship program for young teenage girls, who are assigned a mentor hand-picked by Artistic Director, Tina Knowles-Lawson. Lawson is the mother of pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Richard’s Warriors is a mentorship program for young teenage boys, who are assigned mentor hand-picked by Artistic Director, Richard Lawson. The mission of both programs is to help youth who have potential and desire to live a successful productive life but do not have the guidance, financial ability, or access to the road map to get there.

    NYFA partners with WACO to help the programs give these young teens the training and tools to fully actualize aspirations, and transcend limitations and borders to distribute their work in a variety of mediums and deliver their message to anyone, anywhere.

    WACO 2019

    After completing the intensive program, the students came away with more confidence and a passion for the arts. Here are what some of the graduates had to say:

    Ariel (Tina’s Angels): “I might get into filmmaking more because I like it. At first, I was unsure because I never did it before. but it is actually fun.”

    Carlos (Richard’s Warriors): “I’ve actually learned a lot. I didn’t think of this as a career but now I am, and I want to learn more about film directing and I hope maybe to become one.”

    Destiny (Tina’s Angels): “I’ve realized that I’m usually my own obstacle. I stop myself from being a more positive individual and thanks to the mentors who are really helpful, I’ve learned a lot more about myself and I’m really grateful for all you guys.”

    Steven Foley, WACO Director of Operations and Production, was also thrilled at the success of the camp. “I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and NYFA for being integral partners in ensuring that the students from our Angels and Warriors program who participated in our two-week film camp had an amazing experience,” Foley told Veronika Kurshinskaya, NYFA Community Outreach Manager. “The week that we spend at NYFA and the instruction and resources that you all provide are a great benefit to the students and to WACO.  We look forward to continuing our partnership with you all.”

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    September 24, 2019 • Diversity, Outreach • Views: 1067

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Issa Rae Executive Produces HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show

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    This Friday, HBO will premiere its newest comedy series, A Black Lady Sketch Show, executive produced by New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Issa Rae and created by Robin Thede. The landmark show will be the first ever sketch series on television starring an all-black women cast, as well as the first with an all-black women writers room.

    The first season of A Black Lady Sketch Show, which debuts August 2, 11:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT, comprises six episodes and around forty sketches. The show is a direct response from veteran comedy writer Robin Thede to the traditional lack of diversity in comedy; in 2015, Thede had become late night’s first black woman head writer when after joining The Nightly Show.

    “[A Black Lady Sketch Show] was definitely written from a very specific point of view,” Thede tells Salon, “but it’s from a diverse array of black women. So you’re going to get sketches that have aliens or musicals or thrillers or murder. You’re going to get sketches with all sorts of different things because of the diversity amongst the black women in our writer’s room … For us it’s really about showcasing something that is seen as very homogeneous and showing the layers that black women have. And even on this show, in six episodes, we can’t, we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

    The cast will include Thede, as well as Ashley Nicole Black, Gabrielle Dennis, and Quinta Brunson. The show will be co-executive produced by Issa Rae Productions, the production company of New York Film Academy alum Issa Rae.

    After graduating the 4-Week Filmmaking Workshop at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus, Rae turned the success of her award-winning web series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl into a deal with HBO. The deal included her series, Insecure, which she writes, produces, and stars in, and for which she earned Golden Globe nominations in 2017 and 2018. It also included developing more projects for HBO with a special focus on diversity. A Black Lady Sketch Show turned out to be the perfect fit for Issa Rae productions.

    New York Film Academy prides itself on its diverse, international student body with aspiring performers and visual artists coming from over 120 countries in a nearly even female-to-male ratio. Recently, NYFA Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. Other notable women of color that have graduated from NYFA include Amy Wright, Furaha Bayibsa, Omoni Oboli, Paquita Hughes, and Akila Robinson.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filmmaking alum Issa Rae on her latest production and wishes the best of success to Robin Thede and the cast and crew of HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show!

     

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Celebrate Diversity Month Events a Huge Hit

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently held two events for Celebrate Diversity Month that attracted over 100 participants and was a huge hit with everyone involved.

    Diversity Month, also called Celebrate Diversity Month, is traditionally held in April of every year, and is a time to recognize and celebrate cultures and populations other than your own. Diversity Month is especially celebrated at New York Film Academy, which attracts students from all walks of life across the globe.

    On April 17, 35 people, including alumni, students, staff, faculty, and even one community member who had never been to NYFA before went to Open Mic Night 4/17. They learned how to communicate with people different than themselves and felt more connected to the NYFA community. 

    Performances ranged from poetry to truth speaking, singing, beatboxing, rapping, and comedy. The last act was a spontaneous collaborative song with the audience that included singing, rapping, and beatboxing, and was indeed a powerful moment!

    On April 3, 75 folks came to the Networking Cafe, and were eager to learn about each other and different aspects of culture that impact the workplace. The “Cafe Menu” that shows the exercise they did is below, which guided participants through understanding different aspects of culture.

    Celebrating Diversity Month

    There was also butcher paper with prompts for students to respond to, such as

    In Your Culture How Would You…
    Show respect?
    Greet a stranger?
    Gesture to get somebody’s attention?
    Be polite?
    Stand by someone when talking? How close or far?
    Gesture to show you understood what was told to you?

    What are common beliefs about…
    How to treat those older than you?
    Beauty and presentation?
    Professionalism in the workplace?
    Responsibilities of children and teens?

    New York Film Academy thanks all the participants who made this April the best Celebrate Diversity Month to date and looks forward to continuing the tradition next year!

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    May 1, 2019 • Diversity, Student Life • Views: 529

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Alum Abby Ajayi Featured in Largest Hollywood Reporter Photo Shoot Ever

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    Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.

    Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.

    In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.

    Abby Ajayi

    “On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.” 

    Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”

    Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!

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    April 16, 2019 • Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1722

  • AAFCA and ABA Film Society Hold ‘Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema’ Event at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Monday, February 18, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) partnered with the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) and the African Black American (ABA) Film Society to present a special discussion exploring the past, present and future of Black creative excellence in Hollywood through an inaugural learning lab, Celebrating Black Excellence in Cinema at its Los Angeles campus. The event featured Outlier Society’s Alana Mayo, and was moderated by AAFCA Founder and President Gil Robertson.

    Gil Robertson said, “AAFCA is thrilled with our partnership with NYFA as we celebrated Black excellence in the industry during BHM. Our panel with Alana was excellent. She was very generous in sharing her experiences with the students as a Creative Executive, as well as providing them with inspiration on how they can follow in her path.”

    Alana Mayo

    Alana Mayo was Vice President of Production at Paramount and Vice President and Head of Originals at Vimeo before becoming Head of Production and Development for Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions. At Paramount, Mayo helped develop the cinematic adaptation of Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

    Mayo discussed her background, how her parents influenced her career, and navigating her trajectory as a Creative Executive for three of the top studios in the industry. 

    Three students who attended the event gave NYFA their thoughts on the experience. Folake Kehinde, recent NYFA MFA grad and ABA’s Events Chair and Interim Communications Chair, had this to say:

    My favorite things about this event were the access. Alana was welcomed by one of the ABA members who is also queer. I had no idea of this connection when I was scheduling volunteers and was so happy to be able to give Jamie the opportunity to meet and welcome Alana. Alana has greatly inspired Jamie and she was thrilled for the opportunity to meet and welcome her. 

    Alana attended the pre-reception briefly. She took pictures with the ABA and was so polite and happy to be with us. Her humbleness was so sweet and unexpected. Then during the event I appreciated her learnedness. It was so wonderful to hear from a production executive with a degree in film studies. So often production executives studied English or something slightly unrelated to filmmaking—it was nice to hear from someone with an extensive study of cinema as well as years of employment with various studios and production companies. 

    It was interesting to watch her talk so passionately about her favorite films, Polish Cinema, and the discussions she has while watching TV with [her fiancee] Lena Waithe. They’re very different in how they communicate but both have obtained vast success. 

    I also loved hearing how nice Michael B. Jordan is. I was so moved by her saying that Michael will give out her email at various places around town to people who have an idea and that they’re even going to make one of the ideas a person he met on the street wrote. I love that Michael is so kind, contemporary, and cutting-edge. The fact that he cares about people and is interested in talking with them and helping them to make their work blows me away. I also love that he is starring in several projects his company is making as well as other projects outside of his company. It’s inspiring to watch his career as an actor and now producer unfold. As an actress and producer myself this helped to confirm for me that I can achieve my dreams! 

    My final favorite moment was when Jamie told Alana that she is also a queer woman and that she has been so inspired by Alana’s career and bravery to be heard and make a path in the entertainment industry. 

    After the Q&A, legendary casting director Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd (who cast Michael B. Jordan and others in the film Fruitvale Station and so many other projects) stayed and did an impromptu Q&A with actors and filmmakers. It was fantastic! She had a very frank conversation with us where she challenged us to tell our stories! She talked about being on a panel that read scripts for a Festival and how so many of the ideas were so similar. She knows that all black people didn’t grow up in ‘the hood’ and she wants creators to be unafraid to share their middle-class or wealthy upbringing. She advised actors to look their best at all times—even at the gym. She also told actors to put our pictures on our business cards, and avoid putting too much of another actor on their reels. 

    It was an extraordinary evening. I’m very grateful to New York Film Academy, Professor Kim Ogletree, and the founder of AAFCA for putting the event together.

    Alana Mayo

    Toyin Adewumi, 8-week Producing student, learned a few lessons from the event as well. The first was to take risks! A former HR professional, Adewumi loved that Mayo talked about leaving her comfortable job at a studio she had been at for years: “Having that clarity of there’s more out there. Yes I’m here… but… not being connected with the culture there.” Adewumi was impressed that Alana was brave enough to leave and find her ideal job. 

    She also loved that Alana isn’t ashamed of her personality. “Her acknowledgement that she needed to change some things. Her boldness to be humble… being willing to drop some things I (she) learned when I’ve (she) grown up. Her being humble helped lead to her breakthrough….Taking risks, knowing when to work on herself, being humble” are lessons Adewumi will treasure for a long time to come.

    Brianna Dickens (AFA Acting For Film ’18) was moved by the ABA events held during Black History Month. Dickens had a wonderful chat with Twinkie Byrd and at the ABA Careers in Television event, she was invited to visit a set for a day with some friends. She tells NYFA:

    I’m so thankful I found the ABA. I didn’t even know they existed. Luckily my class was invited to a screening event of theirs (the Q&A with Chuck Hayward). The second I arrived, the leaders of the group welcomed me and introduced themselves to me. In less than a month of being an ABA member, I’ve attended three events that have truly inspired me, opened my eyes, taught me things no one else has, and even opened the doors for me to have real on-set experience!

    Everyone in this group is focused, supportive, kind, and encouraging. They uplift each other. I think we will do great things for one another and together. I’m thankful to have them.

    The New York Film Academy and ABA Film Society thank Alana Mayo and Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd for sharing their experience and advice with our students!

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    March 12, 2019 • Diversity, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 1407

  • Student Perspective: NewFilmmakers LA Latinx and Hispanic Cinema Event 

    FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailAndres Vergara is a Spring 2018 MFA Screenwriting student at New York Film Academy (NYFA). On September 8, he and over two dozen other students from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus attended the NewFilmmakers LA Latinx and Hispanic Cinema Event. Vergara found time between his classes and writing his screenplays to recount the event in his own words:

    Diversity took over at the NewFilmmakers LA Latinx and Hispanic Cinema Event this eighth of September. Hundreds of guests got together at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater as proof that opportunities are opening up for filmmakers from different backgrounds to share their points of view with an audience always hungry for unique stories that showcase different cultures. It began with a wonderful reception where delegations from many different film schools got a chance to mingle and take photos on the red carpet. The New York Film Academy group was strong as students from different ethnicities joined their Latinx and Hispanic peeps to celebrate diversity.

    Once everyone got a seat in the theater, the first panel was announced and five amazing people from the industry walked onstage to share stories, points of view, and advice. The panel included: Nicole Levy, writerNewFilmmakers LA Latinx Event for Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger; Frank Gonzales, Executive in Charge of Diversity at the DGA; Richard Ray Perez, from Sundance; Hebe Tabachnik, Programmer at the Seattle and Palms Springs International Film Festivals; and Catherine Hardwicke; Director of Twilight and the acclaimed Thirteen. This very diverse group (not only in their background, but in their jobs) gave guests insight into how the Hollywood Industry is changing. Even though it is getting more and more competitive, it is uplifting to know there are also more and more people willing to make a bet on new, different voices.

    The second panel comes up. Five amazing Latinas who are taking a stand, not only for their origin, but for their gender, take the stage. Even from a male point of view, it is inspirational to know that the industry is making room for women who are quickly rising to the top: Paula Sabbaga, writer for CW’s Dynasty; Roxanne Pompa, VP for International Formats at CBS; Greta Talia Fuentes, Creative Executive at MACRO; Edith Mendoza, SVP for Comedy Development at CBS; and Alejandra Reyes Rocha, Television Literary at UTA. These great role models for women and Hispanics alike talked about how they got where they are, discussing the many options that exist for diversity and showing their support for upcoming filmmakers. They encouraged us to have a sense of community in which we help each other out as fellow Latinx.

    NewFilmmakers LA Latinx EventAfter an enriching Q&A, we were invited back to the lobby to have great Mexican food, accompanied by Latin music to keep up the mood. And after another chance for networking, even with some of the guest speakers, the showcase finally began. Filmmakers from countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and my native Colombia—among others—screened amazing short films that showed unique stories and points of view that all cinephiles can love. From romance to sci-fi and a compelling documentary about a Peruvian farmer, the productions made the audience applaud the talent of emerging Hispanic filmmakers.

    NewFilmmakers LA is very much committed to creating a platform for new talent, and whether you are a director, a writer, a cinematographer, or even if you are more into TV than film, they make sure that their events are a well-rounded and fulfilling experience in which guests can enjoy different pieces and hear from those who are making their way through the industry. Not to mention, it is a perfect opportunity for meeting colleagues. My ethnicity encouraged me to attend one of their events for the first time, but my love for films and my admiration for their initiative will have their monthly events in my schedule from now on.

    Written by Andres Vergara

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    October 4, 2018 • Community Highlights, Diversity, Filmmaking • Views: 1600