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  • NYFA Alum Manuel Garcia Rulfo Stars in the Netflix Series The Lincoln Lawyer

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    NYFA Alum Bill Hader's Barry Season 3 Is Still Killer

    The first iteration of The Lincoln Lawyer starred Mathew McConaughey as Mickey Haller in 2011. The film was based on the first book in the series by the same name, penned by acclaimed crime fiction novelist, Michael Connelly (Bosch). The film was successful, it received positive reviews and grossed $87 million (over a projected $75 million) and most importantly, according to Connelly fans, the film was true to the book.

    But there’s a new Lincoln Lawyer in town: NYFA One-Year Acting for Film alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. Rulfo is Mickey Haller in the Netflix Original Series The Lincoln Lawyer.


    The movie’s novelist, Michael Connelly spoke about the new series and its leading man on a blog post and said, “Manuel is the ideal Mickey Haller, who is following in the footsteps of his attorney father with the showmanship of his Mexican movie star mother,” Connelly continued, “He brings a powerful dynamic and dimension to the role — one that aligns with the books and brings authenticity to the Latinx heritage and roots of this Los Angeles-based story.”

    The new Netflix series, set to premiere May 13th on the streaming platform, picks up where the first film left off and chronicles the second book in the series, The Brass Verdict. In the book, Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney who practices law out of the back of his Lincoln town car, driving throughout Los Angeles; but a new case reveals a conspiracy that goes deeper than he could have imagined. The new series is helmed by legendary producer David E. Kelley (The Undoing, Big Little Lies) known for creating captivating legal dramas. Kelley was himself an attorney before turning to show business and he is the series’ showrunner, writer and executive producer alongside Michael Connelly.

    The Lincoln Lawyer series has been years in the making, eleven years to be exact. After the successful premiere of the film in 2011, there was talk of a film franchise for the book series. However, when that fell through the focus shifted to a TV series. The series was originally set to premiere at CBS before landing at Netflix.

     

     

    Manuel Garcia Rulfo spoke with the former Chair of the Acting Department and current Creative Director of the Acting Department, Lynda Goodfriend, about the upcoming series during a Q&A. He shared with NYFA students that he prepared for the role by reading the first and the second book in the Connelly series. Rulfo shared that although the character Mickey Haller was easy for him to understand, filming the series was a challenge for him. He confessed that is was the hardest project he’s worked on, “The work it requires, the tough hours, everyday you’re shooting long dialogues … you have to go day by day and come home at 9 o’clock at night and try to learn for the next day 11,14 pages of dialogue in a language that is not yours.”

    Check out the rest of the interview below!


     

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    May 6, 2022 • Acting, Diversity • Views: 272

  • NYFA SCREENWRITING ALUM MOHAMED DIAB DIRECTS MARVEL STUDIOS “MOON KNIGHT”

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    NYFA Screenwriting Alum Mohamed Diab Directs Marvel Studios 'Moon Knight'

    NYFA Screenwriting Alum Mohamed Diab Directs Marvel Studios “Moon Knight”

    April 7, 2022

    Marvel’s first Arab director may be new to Hollywood filmmaking, but Mohamed Diab has an internationally-acclaimed body of work to his name. NYFA 1-Year Screenwriting alum Mohamed Diab is an award-winning Egyptian screenwriter and director known for telling intimate stories. His directorial debut Cairo 678, the story of three women in search of justice after being victims of sexual harassment in Egypt, won several awards. But despite the great success of his first film, Diab waited five years to release his sophomore film. His reason: he wanted to be better. Diab told NYFA, “Time is your best ally … I got better. I spent five years working on myself, learning, watching movies, watching international cinema, trying to get better and trying to teach myself.” And the results of Diab’s five years of preparation were tangible, his second feature film, Clash, was the official opening selection at the 2016 Cannes Festival, ‘Un Certain Regard’ category.

    After the international success of his first two feature films, more doors opened. Diab found himself with a buffet of scripts and projects at his disposal – and he said “no” to them. For him, it was important to connect to the material and the projects weren’t clicking. Instead, he set out to write scripts with his wife and creative partner, Sarah Goher, and sold them to studios like Blumhouse Productions.

    Everything changed when he read Jeremy Slater’s script for Moon Knight. Diab and Goher immediately set out to prepare what would be a 200-page pitch complete with locations, a score, tone, pictures and costumes. The pitch would become Moon Knight’s bible, what is today the Marvel miniseries.


    Out of all the stories in the Marvel cinematic universe, Moon Knight was always the outcast in the catalog. Moon Knight made his first appearance in Werewolf by Night #32 as a man who received his powers as a byproduct of an ancient curse placed on him by an Egyptian god. The story, although it did not entirely align with the standard Marvel style, became a favorite amongst the editors at Marvel.

    The character and the story were distinct and for the Disney + miniseries, there was only one man for the job.



    Mohamed Diab and Oscar Isaac on the set of Moon Knight from Esquire
     

    Diab has long championed the fight for Arab representation and been vocal about misrepresentations of Egypt as a flat desert place with only pyramids interrupting the landscape. Diab told Screen Rant, “The way we are always portrayed in cinema has always bothered Egyptians, because it’s mostly not shot in Egypt. Imagine Paris, and you’re seeing Big Ben at the back. It’s insulting, and it hurts. Or it’s shot in Egypt, but you’re trying to make it a bit exotic, so you always see the pyramids and the desert.”

    As Marvel’s first Arab director, Diab made sure that this time around, Egypt was represented accurately. By collaborating closely with the film’s production designer and costume designer, Diab was able to depict Egypt as it is. He also made sure to bring along some of Egypt’s best, editor Ahmez Hafez and Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih to create the series’ score and ensured that 90% of the film’s Egyptians roles went to Egyptians. Diab told NYFA,“I hope that Moon Knight, if it succeeds, opens doors for more Egyptians – I tried my best to make a Moon Knight with an Egyptian flavor.”

    Diab’s 200-page bible and search for authenticity proved to be successful; the series premiered last week to rave reviews.

    Diab’s former screenwriting instructor and current Director of the Film Festival Department at NYFA, Crickett Rumley remembers Mohamed fondly, “I remember Mohamed as a thoughtful, inquisitive, observant student of both screenwriting and human nature. It’s been thrilling to watch him grow as a filmmaker, to see his stories connect with audiences first in his home country then in larger and larger arenas on the international film scene.”

    Mohamed Diab shared with NYFA his advice for aspiring filmmakers, “believe in yourself … The people who achieve their goals are the people who bet on themselves and take risks.” He added, “I knew one day I would be back [in Hollywood], I was in Hollywood 15 years ago and I knew I would be back when I was ready.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Mohamed Diab on all of his hard work, success and dedication to authentic representation!

     

    Please note: NYFA does not represent that these are typical or guaranteed career outcomes. The success of our graduates in any chosen professional pathway depends on multiple factors, and the achievements of NYFA alumni are the result of their hard work, perseverance, talent and circumstances.

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    April 11, 2022 • Diversity, Screenwriting • Views: 424

  • NYFA Alum Issa Rae Wins at 2022 NAACP Image Awards

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    HBO aired the last episode of the hit-show Insecure on December 26, 2021. In its wake the show left millions of sad (but proud) fans behind and took with it 10 nominations for the 2022 NAACP’s for its superb farewell season. 

    The 5-season show was hailed a critical success from the beginning and its final season did not disappoint. Down to the very last episode “everythings gonna be, ok?!”, Issa Rae kept the ball in the air. The show had been a favorite across generations and garnered Issa a huge following since its premiere in October 2016. However, last December fans had to bid adieu to the show, but last week, the NAACP handed Issa some parting gifts: several awards.

    🏆 Outstanding Comedy Series

    “Insecure” — WINNER

    🏆 Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

    Issa Rae, “Insecure” — WINNER

    🏆 Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

    Issa Rae – Insecure -“Everything’s Gonna Be, Okay?!”  — WINNER

    At this year’s NAACP Image Awards, Rae won Outstanding Actress In A Comedy Series for her landmark series Insecure,  which also won the Outstanding Comedy Series category, beating populars shows like Black-Ish, Harlem, Run The World, and The Upshaws

    Rae’s performance as Issa Dee won over her co-star Yvonne Orji as well as Tracee Ellis Ross for Black-Ish, Regina Hall for Black Monday, and Loretta Devine for Family Reunion. But it didn’t stop there, Rae also won the Outstanding Writing In A Comedy Series category for the Insecure series finale “everything’s gonna be, okay?!” ⁣⁣

     

     

    NYFA congratulates Issa Rae for all of her hard work and successes!

     

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    March 2, 2022 • Acting, Diversity, Screenwriting • Views: 736

  • Q&A with 10 ARTS Foundation Scholarship Recipient, Lena McKnight

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    ~Made possible by the generous support of the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation~

    Lena McKnight was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Harlem, New York. Lena attended the New York City Public School until 10th grade. After Lena decided to leave high school, she struggled with finding a passion to help her continue her education. She attended the Touro College in New York City where she got certified in audio engineering. It wasn’t until Lena got involved with Abyssinian Development Corporation’s YouthBuild, that she found her balance. Lena worked towards gaining her High School Equivalency Diploma and a construction trade. 

    YouthBuild gave Lena the opportunity to serve her community because one of the main components of the program was community work. Lena was able to plan and implement programs and projects that allowed her to give back to the Harlem community and later on start her own projects.

    Lena graduated from ADC’s YouthBuild in 2011 and was chosen to travel to Arica, Chile for six weeks to help rebuild homes in the community. When Lena returned she knew that she wanted to do more and be more involved in people’s lives. Lena enrolled in the Borough of Manhattan Community College and graduated from BMCC in 2015. She then transferred to City College of New York, where she became a Theater Major and Sociology Minor. At City College, Lena became a Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Epsilon Tau Chapter and served as chapter president. Lena graduated in 2017 with a Bachelors in Theater and a minor in Sociology. 

    Lena began working with Youth because she believed they are the ones who will be taking care of us when we get older. She worked with the Harlem Children Zone as a 10th grade Student Advocate. Lena wanted to work with that specific grade because that was the grade she dropped out and she wanted to be able to influence the Youth to do better than she had. Lena enjoys giving back to her community and puts on community projects to help connect people with resources and mental health resources.

    After working with the Harlem Children Zone for two years, Lena was given an opportunity to become an Outreach Coordinator for Serviceworks with Abyssinian, where she learned the foundation of putting together community events on a larger scale. Lena has currently done more than 10 projects while working with Serviceworks her focus was feeding those in need, giving out female hygiene products, clothes, games days, spreading mental health awareness and, most importantly, connecting and uniting the Harlem community to come together to stop the violence.

    In 2021, Lena decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California. She wanted to focus more on the arts to be able to tell the stories of her community. Lena was able to land a job at Single Room Occupancy Housing where she serves as a case manager for the homeless on Skid Row. Lena enjoys being able to learn the differences between the east coast and the west coast communities. Working with SRO housing has helped Lena learn about the mental health crisis and ways

    she would like to give back to the homeless community. While working as a case manager, Lena earned a scholarship from the 10 ARTS Foundation to attend the 15-week online filming program at the New York Film Academy. It wasn’t until she attended the program she knew she made the right choice by moving to the west coast.

     

    Lena believes that faith in God, her self-confidence and the support of family and friends helped her accomplish her goals. Lena has started to build her own non-profit in 2018. Who Am EyE To You which focuses on mental health for women and men and bringing resources to those who may need them. Lena is currently holding her 4th annual Women empowerment Event (Women Can Run the World) on Sunday, March 27, 2022, and is launching her Men event in June 2022.  Lena is looking forward to what’s next in her life and feels the sky’s the limit. Lena learned to live by her mantra “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable if you really want to grow”.

    Lena spoke with NYFA about her journey to NYFA and her dreams for the future. Check out the conversation below: 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): When did you first hear about the New York Film Academy and when did you know you wanted to study here?

    Lena McKnight (LM): I heard about NYFA back in 2017 when I was looking up Black Female writers working in television. I looked up different writers and searched what schools they went to. I remember I was watching an episode of Insecure and thinking about who created the show. So I looked up information on Issa Rae and the places she studied at, one of which was NYFA. 

    NYFA stood out to me. I liked the fact that things were hands-on and you spend more time with equipment then just learning the fundamentals in a classroom. I also liked that it was a community and offered in three states (New York City, Florida, and California). I like that you students are able to have a sense of community and be near real production studios.

    I was graduating from The City College of New York in 2017 and learned the master program was only offered in Los Angeles. I felt defeated for a second, but 4 years later, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was able to move to Los Angeles while working remotely. 

    Moving to Los Angeles has been something I have been planning to do for 4 years. I wanted to separate myself from the community service work I was doing in NYC and do something in a different city. I wanted to focus more on being able to bring the story and experience to film. Upon learning of the demands of the NYFA graduate program, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to enroll. But thanks to my advisor Joey Zangardi-Dixon, who stayed in touch with me via email answering all my questions, I was able to look into the workshop programs NYFA offered. That’s what really made me want to attend any NYFA filmmaking program that was being offered. I liked that Joey was working with me, being patient, and giving me resources to help with my enrollment into a workshop program that fit my needs and interests.

    NYFA: How was your experience at NYFA?

    LM: My experience at NYFA has helped shape what I want to do within film. I can admit I was a bit nervous about the program being online. I learned I am a hands-on learner and work better when I am in person with an instructor. However, the support of the professors and being able to have one-on-one meetings with them has made my experience totally different. I didn’t think I was going to learn as much as I did. But the support of ensuring I had a computer to be able to complete my work was the highlight of it all. I really respect how helpful everyone was within my cohort. No one made anyone feel as if they didn’t belong in the program. I like how open everyone was with sharing their knowledge within film. It was great to have experienced people and people who were new to filmmaking. We were even able to start a Whatsapp group to help each other out and to stay in contact with everyone.  I also enjoyed the examples the professors used to help with understanding our projects. If it wasn’t for the willingness of the professor’s meeting with me inspite of the time difference, I don’t think I would have been able to gain the experience I was hoping for. 

    NYFA: How has your perspective changed since attending NYFA?

    LM: Now that I completed the 15-week online NYFA program, it makes me want to work on my projects that I have been saying I want to do. I was a theater major and I didn’t think I would fall in love with film until I held my first camera. It made me realize my love for directing and screenwriting. I learned the difference of what you can create on film, that live shows can’t show. I also learned to respect the time that’s put in when it comes to production for film. If I didn’t attend this program, I don’t think I would have had the push and courage to create anything. I now feel confident that I am just getting started and will do well. 

    NYFA: Do you hope to continue in the arts?

    LM: Yes, my dream is to become a screenwriter, director and actress. I am looking to further my studies in film and plan to create my bibles for the three projects I am passionate about. I want to be able to open a non-profit for inner city families to express themselves through the arts. 

    NYFA: What do you hope to do with the knowledge that NYFA provided you? 

    LM: NYFA has made me realize my passion and helped me figure out what about filming I enjoy. I was able to understand where my enjoyment was (screenwriting, directing and acting). I made connections and got advice from professors and classmates. I am looking for a master program in film that I am hoping to start by Fall 2022. 

    The 10 ARTS Foundation and NYFA are extremely grateful to the Hilaria & Alec Baldwin Foundation for their generous support in making Lena’s dreams come true!

    NYFA congratulates Lena McKnight on all that she has accomplished throughout the years and at NYFA! We are excited to see more of her work!

     

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    February 23, 2022 • Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 877

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Aditya J. Patwardhan’s, Film is Streaming on Amazon Prime!

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    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Aditya J. Patwardhan has been making waves since graduating in 2014 from our Film and Media Production program. Aditya hails from Jaipur, India and has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has also directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. 

    His latest project, A Nomad River, is a docu-fiction feature written, produced and directed by Aditya.  “[A Nomad River] is a blend of fictional and non-fictional narrative … This is a personal struggle of four ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues.” Aditya says of the film. The film takes place in India and follows four characters: Adriana, a refugee from crisis-hit Venezuela, Kankana, an Indian actress working in Hollywood, Suraj, a street cleaner from a slum in Rajasthan, and Ravi who is a television news reporter from Jaipur. 

    “We journey with them as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues,” Aditya shared with NYFA. “One of the storylines in the film portrays Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, a pan India water-conservation drive supported by the Government of India and endorsed by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Shahrukh Khan.”

    Aditya J. Patwardhan with the cast of “And The Dream that Mattered,” including NYFA alumni Themo Melikidze (second left) and Jongman Kim (third left).

    Patwardhan is well-known for his collaborations with other NYFA Alumni. And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including Acting for Film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim and Anup Kulkarni from 2014 NYFA One-Year Cinematography.

    “Almost all the projects I have done have had important team members who were from NYFA and I had collaborated with them first when I was doing school projects. That just stresses how important good collaborations are and the crucial role NYFA plays.”

    A Nomad River was no different. He enlisted the talents of former classmate and collaborator, cinematographer Anup Kulkarni as well as lead actress, Kankana Chakraborty, who is from the 2014 MFA acting program. Many of the other crew members are also from NYFA.  

    A Nomad River is now streaming on Amazon Prime!

    NYFA congratulates Aditya on his success! We look forward to seeing more of Aditya’s work and NYFA collaborations!

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  • Q&A with NYFA Screenwriting Alum Shreyas Ayaluri

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    NYFA One-Year Screenwriting alum Shreyas Ayaluri hails from India and currently resides in Los Angeles, California were he’s been working as a screenwriter since graduating in 2018.

    Shreyas’ recent film Elvis Escobar & Juniper Lea has been gaining traction in the film festival circuit and was Second Rounder at the Austin Film Festival. Second Rounders were chosen from a record field of 14,648 scripts entered in Screenplay, Digital Series, Playwriting, and Fiction Podcast Competitions at AFF.

    Shreyas spoke with NYFA about his passion for storytelling, his process and his “pandemic baby” Elvis Escobar & Juniper Lea.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Shreyas Ayaluri (SA): At the age of 22, I decided that I want to tell stories for a living, and quit my perfectly fine advertising job. I moved to the states from India with little-to-no knowledge of screenwriting and film history. I had heard good things about New

     York Film Academy’s screenwriting program and I knew I had to start there. So I started my storytelling journey in the spring of 2018, among aspiring artists and working professionals, and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on screenwriting?

    SA: Ever since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with Hollywood and storytelling. I grew up watching Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid and I would conjure up characters, situations, set pieces in my head and put that on a piece of paper. I always had a certain bond with paper and  pen that grew and transitioned to a keypad and a screen. It sounds anticlimactic but the point is I would always write. I just had a lot of stories in me that I wanted to share. I would later write short stories, experiment with genres and linearity and post it on my since-deleted blog. My friends and family seemed to really like my work, but then again they are friends and family. I was later able to secure a copywriting job because of that very blog. And one day as I was driving back home from my copywriting job, I stopped at a billboard of an ad I wrote, and that was it, when I saw my words spread across that massive billboard, it hit me – I finally knew what I really wanted to do with my life.

    NYFA: What are your day-to-day duties as a screenwriter?

    SA: The world of screenwriting hasn’t changed much, maybe the last change was the transition to laptops from typewriters. That reminds me, I’ve always wondered what they did back in the day when they had a typo in the second to last line, but I digress. “Screenwriting” sounds fancy but for me, it’s really a lot of observation, contemplation and introspection. I love it. The day’s writing usually begins with an idea I scribbled down before I went to bed the previous night, and knitting an idea mentally before I put it down on the paper and from there it’s a lot of testing and seeing what sticks. And I spend at least an hour digging through various rabbit holes to find the perfect music for a specific scene. When I’m able to churn out good five to ten pages, it’s like a VIP pass to Coachella with your favorite artists headlining. The feeling is euphoric. No, I’ve never been to Coachella.

    Every story idea blossoms from my memories or the ones that I think are memories, stories I hear, someone I met, some experience I had, felt and from there I pull myself out completely and try and write that very thing objectively.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your most recent film? What inspired it? 

    SA: I wrote a silly idea I had into a full blown screenplay during the pandemic called “Elvis Escobar & Juniper Lea” as an ode to Jeff Goldblum and also to bring some laughter during those testing times, and little did I know the screenplay took off and garnered some great reviews! Today EEJR, my pandemic baby, has been gaining great traction in the festivals, and has been placed as:

    Screencraft Comedy 2021— Quarterfinalist

    Austin Film Festival 2021— Second Rounder

    StoryPros Awards 14th Annual — Semifinalist

    Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards Season 6 — Quarterfinalist

    Still awaiting results from other top-tier festivals. And through all of that, I was able to get Elvis Escobar & Juniper Lea in front of some really influential people in the industry, and is currently being viewed and vetted by a few managers.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    SA: I’m working on a couple of different projects at the moment: a sci-fi feature, an unscripted TV show pitch, and my passion project, a limited series that I’ve been ideating for years. The show sprouts from childhood memories that couldn’t be more far from reality. I know, what kind of an elevator pitch was that? But that’s how my mind works. I’m also currently shopping for representation.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work?

    SA: The school taught me all there is to learn in screenwriting. NYFA gave me the skills I needed to adapt and grow with the industry and its needs. 

    Also, the courage to break a few rules here and there once I was well-versed on the subject. Instructors at NYFA are simultaneously working in the industry or at least have one foot in the industry so they’re not only teaching you the subject but are also sharing their industry experience as they live it. And you want all those tidbits, their experiences, the tales they remember from the backlot and that’s what makes NYFA so wholesome. Jerry Shandy & Benjamin Sztajnkrycer were two such instructors who went along with my idiosyncrasies and pushed me to further explore and create.

    I graduated from NYFA’s one-year screenwriting program in 2018, and the feature screenplay that I developed while in the program “Amuse Me” fetched me an award for Best Screenplay and a bunch of accolades from top tier festivals, and is still going strong. The script went to Austin twice. There were queries from the industry members for the script – and this was my first ever screenplay! And since then I have written over 7 screenplays including features & tv (most of them placed in top-tier film festivals) produced multiple award-winning shorts and went on to write a song for Broadway.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    SA: NYFA’s curriculum is such that, they not only teach you the subject but they also guide you through all aspects of filmmaking, and and at the end of it, you can have your first screenplay, your directorial debut, your first film that you produced and your acting reel for Curb Your Enthusiasm season 15. 

    Think of NYFA as the coolest and the fastest DMV that has international staff and comes with its own driving school that not only provides you with the license but also teaches you how to drive a car, a truck, a jet-ski, and also a Segway, even if you went there only for a scooter. 

    You’re surrounded by such talented people from all walks of life, you’re always learning. The exposure, the experience and the knowledge is irreplaceable. NYFA is the best place to create, experiment, fail and to rinse & repeat. 

    NYFA: What is next for you?

    SA: I believe the world has seen and had enough. Especially this past year and honestly everyone needs a break. People are just running crazy, there’s so much stress and anxiety everywhere. I just want to bring laughter into this world. I want to be an enabler in all this. And that’s what I’m trying to do through my stories. I want to bring back the charm and the fun of the 80’s and 90’s with today’s relevance and themes wrapped in a delightful, light package, and leave all the preachings, the teachings and the Oscar tales to the wiser ones.

    NYFA congratulates Shreyas on his successes and Elvis Escobar & Juniper Lea!

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    February 18, 2022 • Diversity, Film Festivals, International Diversity, Screenwriting • Views: 1291

  • Q&A with Army Veteran and NYFA Photography and Cinematography Alum Xavier Velasquez

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    Two-time New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography and Cinematography Alum Xavier Velasquez has been making waves in sound design and cinematography since graduating from NYFA in 2019.

    Velasquez spoke with New York Film Academy about what he’s been up to since graduating, what inspires his work and his advice to anyone looking to get started in filmmaking.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and life before NYFA?

    Xavier Velasquez (XV):My name is Xavier Velásquez. I am a Cinematographer, Photographer, Audio Engineer and Sound designer. I also do a lot of conceptual/surrealist digital art work and I am originally from Brooklyn, NY. 

    Before attending NYFA, I served in the United States Army for 5 years. I was stationed in Germany for 3.5 years and Fort Bragg for the remainder of my contract. I was deployed twice during my service. Once to Turkey for 6 months and the other to Kandahar, Afghanistan for 9 months.

    NYFA: What brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    XV: Honestly, the idea of making films as a career or professional was so far-fetched to me. As a kid I would force my sister and cousins to make films with me on my dad’s old VHS recorder (which I still have). As I was graduating high school, I realized that you could go to college for filmmaking, media, arts – things like that. I decided that was the route for me and applied to the Art Institute of Boston. I was accepted, went to orientation and took the placement tests only to learn that I would also need to do math, science, english and all the other regular subjects before I even got to learn anything about making films. That right there was a NO for me. I looked up other film schools on Google and found out about New York Film Academy and I was hooked. Everything they provided and showcased on their website was exactly what I was looking for. So I applied and got approved for a grant NYFA offered at the time, but then I couldn’t attend because I was 18 and broke and was unable to cover the rest of the tuition. A few years passed, I joined the Army at 20 and while I was deployed to Afghanistan, I was debating whether to reenlist for more years or get out. After having a conversation with my platoon sergeant about college, I decided to google the New York Film Academy again. I saw that the school accepted the G.I bill, a benefit I received from being in the military which would pay for my schooling; that sealed my fate right there. The decision was clearer than ever. I left the military on Veteran’s Day 2015 and by December I was signed up for school and ready for classes in January.  

    NYFA: You mentioned you studied Filmmaking, Audio and Photography. What motivated you to continue your studies and transition from Film, Audio and Photography?

    XV: Well there’s no question about it, as much as I love cinematography, compositions, framing, lighting, you NEED really good sound or, in my opinion, your  films don’t work. You can be very experimental with how you shoot and light anything but bad sound is never forgiven. I had months left on my G.I Bill and decided that sound was something I wanted to get more involved in. I love the sound design part of filmmaking. The audience might hear clothes rustling but they wouldn’t know that it’s just me balling up one of my sons clean diapers. It’s exciting creating noise from anything to be anything. I felt solidified in my decision to endure the world of sound design when a film I executive produced, Dp’d, colored and did the sound design for actually won best sound design at a festival. Photography is also important. In my opinion, it is the foundation of good cinematography. The photography program at NYFA really opened my eyes to the artistic world and what a lens can capture. That program alone is what made me the DP I am today. It taught me to appreciate what the light captures and what it doesn’t. It taught me to appreciate the shadows and embrace them because everything has a story. Care about your framing because that one frame can tell a story.

     

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    A post shared by Xavier (@_eckz_)

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest project & how you got involved in the project? What was your role in the project?

    XV: My latest short film is Sutherland. It is an atmospheric horror film that I co-executive produced and was the director of photography for. I got onto this project because another project I was supposed to DP for fell through. I spoke to the director of Sutherland about it because he was also supposed to be on that project with me and since the first project had fallen through, he offered to write a script for us to work on, if I was interested. He wrote it (what would be Sutherland). I loved it and we went from there. We got a cast and crew and spent 5 nights in July shooting a horror film in a historic house in Virginia. It’s by far one of my favorite projects I’ve been blessed to create. It is currently going through the film festival circuit It has been selected in the category of Best Cinematography for the Montreal Independent Film Festival. 

    Take a look at the Sutherland teaser below!

    There is also and Instagram page for the film : @sutherland_film. 


    NYFA: What other projects have you worked on since graduating?

    XV: Aside from Sutherland, I have also been working on 2 other projects. A documentary that I’m DPing, GodsChild, that I’ve been filming for about a year now with former NYFA student, Darius Green. It focuses on a DJ who was a rising basketball star in the early 2000’s here in Virginia. The second project is an episodic comedy of which I am DP and co-producer, Simpleton. An observational comedy that follows the life of our protagonist Gerson. Episode one is finished and we are getting ready to release that soon.

    NYFA: What kind of stories do you want to be known for?

    XV: I don’t know. That’s tough question because I seem to have fallen into the suspense horror genre. Don’t get me wrong, I love that world and creating it but I also want to see if I can venture into other genres but still maintain my artistic integrity where if someone watches anything I’ve made they can tell I either filmed it myself or influenced the project. It is one of the reasons I took on the episodic comedy I mentioned before. At that point, I had never shot a comedy and wanted to see if I could pull it off. Sutherland and Simpleton are polar opposites. I wanted to see if I could do it and make it fit my style of shooting.

    NYFA: What is the importance of film and storytelling in your opinion?

    XV: Film and storytelling are outlets for artists. If it’s documentary work, it gives people a voice. They can choose to use that voice to bring awareness to social issues, tell the truth, or persuade an audience. 

    If we are talking about fiction it gives us the power to use our imagination. For the most part, we are taught to go to college and get a job and that’s it. Our creativity dies out as we fall in line with this “life plan”. With that plan, when are you being creative or imaginative? Being able to create something that tells a story, either using film, photography or art is something creatives cherish. I feel that we are true risk-takers as not everyone can make a living doing something in this field. A lot of artists don’t even get recognized until they pass away. We do this for freedom of self expression but most of the time we don’t care if everyone loves our work because we do. It’s our outlet at the end of the day and if people don’t like it or they think they can do it better, they should pick up a camera or a brush and do it.

     

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    A post shared by Xavier (@_eckz_)

    NYFA: Have you won any awards or been showcased in any festivals or competitions?

    XV: Yes I have. Both in my film work and my photography work. My conceptual work was accepted in both the APA (Annual Photography Awards) and the Fine Art Photography Awards. I also had my work in the Conception Art Show in Tribeca and The A.R.T (Artistic Recreational Therapy) in the UK. 

    NYFA: Who has inspired you in your work? Who has inspired you personally?

    XV: This is such a hard question to answer. Inspiration comes from too many places. I could be listening to a song that gives me a feeling or makes an image pop in my head and I would go from there. That’s how most of my digital artwork is created. Either life experiences or music I’m listening to at the time. But if I had to name a few in the film world it would be directors like David Fincher, Ari Aster, Jordan Peele. Tod Campbell’s cinematography work. The photography work of Gregory Crewdson, & Dan Winters are just a few of the many artists that inspire me.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your project?

    XV: Everything. I knew absolutely nothing about cinematography, photography or filmmaking as a whole. I legitimately left the “comfort” and “stability” of the military without knowing if I would be good at any of this. The first time I held a real camera – outside of my fathers old vhs recorder – was at Nyfa. Whenever someone asks me about going to film school, I tell them if they can afford it then go for it. If they still have any doubt all I have to do is show them my work. I will always consider myself a student of this art form but I do feel that I know what I’m doing simply because I went to NYFA.

    NYFA: Any advice or tips for anyone looking to get involved in photography, film or the visual arts?

    XV: I mean not to sound cliche but just go for it. For the most part nobody is stopping you from doing anything but yourself. Yeah, you can bring up money but if you’re old enough to have these kinds of questions then you should have a phone in your possession and the phones nowadays can do everything. I’ve shot films on my phone. One of my photos that was included in an art gallery I originally took on my iPhone 11. If you want to be a storyteller, there’s literally no reason as to why you can’t write a story, and then find the people that can help you bring it to life.

    I’ll end this Q&A with this: there’s this saying or quote I don’t really remember where I heard it from or who said it but I remember it like this, “there’s pen and paper everywhere, but not everyone is an author” I used that quote to inspire me all the time. I don’t consider myself a writer at all but it reminds me that just because people have access to things doesn’t mean they know how to use it. So if you want to be an author – write stories, a filmmaker – make a film, a photographer – take photos. You never know you just might have that artistic voice someones been waiting to hear, see or feel.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Xavier Velasquez on his accomplishments! We look forward to seeing more of your work!

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    February 11, 2022 • Acting, Cinematography, Diversity, Photography, Student Life • Views: 953

  • Q&A with NYFA MFA Screenwriting & MFA Acting for Film Alum Antaneise Jasonya

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    Antaneise Jasonya’s Headshot

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting and MFA Acting for Film alum Antaneise Jasonya is an actor and writer from the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and recently booked her first commercial with DoorDash! Antaneise also wrote and starred in the short film I’m Press which has had a successful festival run. The film has been selected by Urban Media Makers Festival, Black Women Film Network and Feedback Romance Festival.

    Antaneise spoke with NYFA about the laughter of an audience as inspiration, the importance of slow and steady networking and her other projects!

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Antaneise Jasonya (AJ): My name is Antaneise Jasonya and I’m from the south suburbs of Chicago, a really small town called Monee. Growing up, I had a gymnastics and music background mostly but loved any and everything involving entertainment. I’d sit in front of the TV watching The Spice Girls movie for days at a time if I could. In 2015, I moved to California and performed as an LA Clipper’s entertainer for 3 seasons, teaching gymnastics on the side. Then, in 2018, I decided to go to NYFA to pursue my childhood dreams of becoming an actress. The best part was getting close to my classmates who are now life-long friends!

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating? Have you won any awards or been showcased in any festivals or competitions?

    AJ: Well, after writing my thesis script, premiering it at Warner Brothers theater for graduation and hearing real laughs from the audience at the showing, I was extremely inspired and actually decided to go back to NYFA to learn more about screenwriting. I just recently finished the MFA Screenwriting program and since then I’ve honestly gotten much needed rest. I also got an agent, booked my first commercial, and continued to fine tune scripts I began writing in the program. Currently, working on my web series The Love Equation; Romantic Dramedies are my favorite genre to write and act in, hands down!

    Check out the trailer for I’m Press below!

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest project & how you got involved in the project?

    AJ: The latest project that I worked on was acting in the DoorDash commercial. Fun Fact: after getting my agent, this was the very first audition I was sent on. On set they asked if I wanted to rep a specific team since it was sponsored by the NBA, and of course I chose my team, the LA Clippers! It was so cool wearing that red shiny jacket and felt sort of full circle. Oh, I didn’t originally have the line I’m reading, they kind of just threw it to me on set, I went with it, and they chose it for the spot!


    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to this project and others?

    AJ: From NYFA I learned to always be ready, take direction, and have confidence by making the line my own. Although I don’t consider myself the best networker because of how low key I can be at times, I also learned that networking even slowly helps. I say this because I ultimately received this opportunity because of my agency, getting an agent came about after interning with them first, and I interned with them because I took a chance at NYFA’s suggestion to find an internship.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Antaneise Jasonya on her first commercial booking and the success of her first short film!

     

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    February 4, 2022 • #WomenOfNYFA, Acting, Diversity, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 832

  • New York Film Academy/DeWitt Clinton High School Fourth Annual Teen Workshop

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    Five students from the NYFA/Dewitt Clinton 8-week digital storytelling workshop pose for a picture. One of the student is holding a camera.

    DeWitt Clinton High School students on set of their short film.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) recently completed its 8-Week Digital Storytelling workshop for students from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. 

    Participants screened their completed short films to a (socially-distanced) group of friends, family, and well-wishers at NYFA’s Battery Park campus. The final films were written, directed, and edited by each of the students with assistance from their colleagues in a collaborative group effort. The workshop was made possible with the generous support of the 10 ARTS Foundation.

    Three DeWitt Clinton High School students stand behind a camera.

    DeWitt Clinton High School students behind the camera.

    Over the course of eight Saturdays, students learned basic skills of filmmaking: directing, screenwriting, camera, lighting, producing, and editing. Under the expert guidance of various New York Film Academy instructors, and the use of state-of-the-art equipment, students were shooting test sequences on their very first day. The finished films showed a high degree of proficiency, especially considering the short timeframe.

    This was the fourth annual NYFA Digital Storytelling Workshop in partnership with DeWitt Clinton High School. The storied academic institution boasts an impressive list of alumni, including such luminaries as James Baldwin and Stan Lee, as well as BAFTA, International Emmy and Peabody award-winner and Chair of NYFA-NY Producing Department, Neal Weisman.

    “The NYFA/DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Workshop is a wonderful opportunity for industry professionals and film educators to share resources, skills, and expertise with a group of young people from the Bronx,” says Weisman. “The enthusiasm and talent displayed by the students has been thrilling to observe. This program is an intervention; it opens up the minds of the participants to the possibilities of a career, and a life, telling stories that can impact millions.”

    NYFA looks forward to continuing this workshop program, helping to give voice and digital storytelling skills to some of New York City’s most diverse public school population.

    New York Film Academy and the 10 ARTS Foundation congratulates the DeWitt Clinton High School students on their impressive work!

     

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    January 31, 2022 • Academic Programs, Acting, Diversity, Filmmaking • Views: 622

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Aditya Patwardhan’s, Film is Streaming on Amazon Prime

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    NYFA Filmmaking Alum Aditya J. Patwardhan has been making waves since graduating in 2014 from our Film and Media Production program. Aditya hails from Jaipur, India and has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has also directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. 

    His latest project, A Nomad River, is a docu-fiction feature written, produced and directed by Aditya.  “[A Nomad River] is a blend of fictional and non-fictional narrative … This is a personal struggle of four ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues.”Aditya says of the film. The film takes place in India and follows four characters: Adriana, a refugee from crisis-hit Venezuela, Kankana, an Indian actress working in Hollywood, Suraj, a street cleaner from a slum in Rajasthan, and Ravi who is a television news reporter from Jaipur. 

    “We journey with them as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues,” explained Aditya. “One of the storylines in the film portrays Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, a pan India water-conservation drive supported by the Government of India and endorsed by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Shahrukh Khan.”

     

    Patwardhan is known for his collaborations with other NYFA Alumni. And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including Acting for Film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim and Anup Kulkarni from NYFA One-Year Cinematography.

    Aditya J. Patwardhan with the cast of “And The Dream that Mattered,” including NYFA alumni Themo Melikidze (second left) and Jongman Kim (third left).

    “Almost all the projects I have done have had important team members who were from NYFA and I had collaborated with them first when I was doing school projects. That just stresses how important good collaborations are and the crucial role NYFA plays.”

    A Nomad River was no different. He enlisted the talents of former classmates Kankana Chakraborty, from the 2014 MFA Acting for Film program, and cinematographer is Anup Kulkarni, from the 2014 Cinematography program. Many of the other crew members are also from NYFA.

    A Nomad River is now streaming on Amazon Prime and AppleTV!

    NYFA congratulates Aditya on the completion of A Nomad River! We look forward to seeing more of his work and future NYFA collaborations!

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