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  • NYFA Alum Nominated for Latin Grammy!

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    Congratulations to New York Film Academy graduate Alexis Morante for his Latin Grammy nomination! Since his graduation in 2010, he has worked on a dozen music videos, racking up over 10 million views on Youtube. His most recent video, Licenciado Cantinas, is a 25-minute film with Spanish rock star Enrique Bunbury. It played in movie theaters and on television in 10 countries, and was nominated for Best Music Video – Long Format last week. “I’m very proud of the whole team, made up of several friends and fellows from NYFA,” says Alexis. “I hope this nomination, along with hard work and perseverance, will help me to develop a better career as filmmaker, especially in the American industry.”

    Alexis is no stranger to success. His first-year thesis film, Voltereta, was an official selection at over 70 festivals worldwide, winning over 20 awards. Alexis’ second-year thesis film, Matador on the Road, has played over 50 festivals, winning over 10 awards.

    But he wasn’t always so sure about a career in the film industry. Alexis was in law school in his native Spain when he decided to make his first short film. Soon after, he decided to pursue a degree in Communications. Then he travelled to Cuba and Sweden for short-term filmmaking courses. He chose New York Film Academy to earn his MFA in Filmmaking, doing his first year at the school’s New York campus, and the second year at the Universal Studios campus. “None of this would be possible without NYFA and the students here,” he says. “I’m still working with the students on a professional level.”

    Though he is thrilled to have success working on music videos in Spain, Alexis hopes to expand to more work in the U.S. “I see myself concentrating on movies, doing advertising and music videos in between. I also love documentary and travel documentary.” He is currently developing a feature length script, and will be ready to take it to market soon.

    SHOWREEL – 2016 – Alexis Morante from Alexis Morante on Vimeo.

     

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  • From Hollywood to Bollywood

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    Originally from Kolkata, India, Sharad Malhotra took an early interest in sports. He played soccer and cricket as a child. He went on to play professionally for the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB). He also spent some time working as a financial advisor. He hadn’t really considered a life on the silver screen, but at his girlfriend’s suggestion, Sharad got in contact with scouts from Zee TV, a leading entertainment channel in India — a choice changed the course of his life.

    After getting good feedback and support from Zee TV, Sharad moved to Mumbai where he began going on auditions. He modeled for a number of national and international print campaigns before landing a leading role on Banoo Main Teri Dulhann, a wildly popular Indian soap opera.

    He won several Best Actor awards for his work on the television show, but Sharad says, “I was hungry to learn more and better the craft. So as soon as my show ended, I headed toward the mecca of acting and filmmaking.” Impressed by New York Film Academy’s list of notable grads (including Paul Dano and Owen Kline, and Bollywood actors Imran Khan and Ahana Deol), Sharad decided to move from the west coast of India to the west coast of America, to attend the school’s Los Angeles campus.

    “It was a beautiful amalgamation of students of different… creeds, color, religions, nationalities, all coming under one roof with their own unique creative abilities and bonding over a common passion called cinema,” he says. “As we say in India, NYFA is a complete paisa wasool — worth every penny!”

    Since completing an Acting for Film program in 2009, Sharad has been busy at work in Mumbai. He recently completed his first Bollywood feature film, From Sydney With Love – the story of a small town girl from West Bengal who finds a new love and a new life while attending school in Australia. Sharad is looking forward to the Indian premiere of From Sydney With Love on August 31. The buzz about the film has already led to interest from film directors looking to book him for future projects.

    Sharad describes his journey as, “nothing short of a beautiful roller coaster ride…. It helped me mature as a person and made me realize that the essential five ingredients that are solely responsible for fulfilling dreams: patience, hard work, determination, belief, and finally the luck factor to put it all in place. From a cricketer to a financial advisor to a model and now an actor, it’s been one helluva fun trip.”

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  • Bollywood’s Sex and the City

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    Shailja Gupta frames a shot on set

    Photo from The Hindu

    Kalkata native, Shailja Gupta set her dreams early on in life with the goal of making her own films. After attending the New York Film Academy‘s film school in 2009, Shailja set out to do just that. Initially, she became involved in the international marketing of films such as Chokher Bali and Ra.One. As good as that sounds, Shailja still wasn’t creating her own films. That’s why she switched gears to work on her feature debut, Walkaway, a light-comedy drama that mocks the clutches of social obligations on young Indian professionals settled in New York City.

    Like many first time filmmakers, Shailja had trouble finding the right distributors to pick up her film. So, she took matters into her own hands. “I had hoped to release it theatrically but after chasing the distributors for a year, I got tired and gave up. I was hoping to show it on television but with such competition it’s difficult to get people to watch the film. I hope through word-of-mouth something good comes out of it.”

    “It’s exciting. Sure, I do feel overwhelmed when I take on more work sometimes and have to run against time to deliver. But once I complete the work the feeling of achievement is quite satisfactory.”

    Indeed, Shailja should feel excited and proud of her accomplishment. Her film, Walkaway, has received some rather kind words from the press:

    • “More earnest and insightful than Sex and the City.” – NY Magazine
    • “A little Bollywood, a lot American Indie.” – NY Times
    • “Filmmaker Shailja Gupta has a sure hand and eye.” – Newsweek
    Shailja is currently working on scripts for two more comedies, which she hopes will see their way to mainstream Bollywood.
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  • Sprinting Toward Hollywood: A Pro Athlete Turned Actress

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    As a child in Markham, Ontario, Charlotte Plummer was involved in countless extra-curricular activities: ballet, modern dance, piano, accordion, trombone, horseback riding, acting classes. She did well in all of them, but started aggressively pursuing sports in high school. By the end of her 9th grade year, she was already being offered scholarships for universities in the United States.

    After finishing high school, she accepted a scholarship to New Orleans’ prestigious Tulane University, receiving her BA in Psychology, with a minor in Exercise and Sports Science. She was a conference athlete for the school, an NCAA qualifier, and won at the Penn Relays. She started as a 400-meter hurdler, and ended up as a runner in the 800-meter dash, making it to the Olympic trials for Canada.

    Though she originally planned on going into sports psychology, Charlotte had worked with mentally disturbed adolescents during school, and decided to change her path. As she says, “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to work with pampered athletes, or people who really need help?’” She ended up working with individuals with brain injuries, mostly resulting from car accidents. She helped patients with rehabilitation, speech therapy, psychology, and fitness.

    A series of injuries took Charlotte away from the world of competitive sports, but through her experience in track, she became an athletic model and did a lot of commercial work for Tennis Canada, Nike, and Pfizer. A chance meeting with a New York Film Academy representative led to another scholarship, and soon Charlotte would be pursuing her MFA in Acting for Film. “Doors have opened up, and I have to step into every door that is open to me,” says Charlotte.

    She began her studies at the school’s New York City campus before finishing at the Universal Studios campus in Los Angeles. “I’m glad I did New York and L.A.,” says Charlotte. “New York is definitely more theater based. In L.A. you really get the business side. You learn a lot in production and writing.”

    Just a few weeks before graduation, Charlotte participated in the Acting for Film showcase, produced by Valorie Hubbard. Scores of agents and managers came to see the showcase, and every student received callbacks the following week. Charlotte took 3 meetings, and is currently deciding which agent to sign with. She is also in rehearsals for an upcoming short film, and going on auditions. Of her education, Charlotte says, “You don’t realize while you’re in it how much you’ve learned. Now when I go on auditions I’m surprised at how prepared I am. Because there‘s so many teachers of so many backgrounds, you get so many perspectives.”

    Charlotte looks forward to a career in film, but also hopes to continue with mentorship. “I feel like young people are so lost in this world and have no concept of dreams,” she says. “I’m pursuing my reality. I’ve lived so many dreams. I’m able to make them realities. I’m still striving.”

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  • Winning in Casablanca

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    Jaouad Bouddehbine winning Best Fiction at the Casablanca International Student Film Festival

    One year filmmaking graduate, Jaouad Bouddehbine, won Best Fiction at The Casablanca International Student Film Festival and was selected at Angelus Student Film Festival with his film, Stricken, which was his thesis film at New York Film Academy. The Moroccan native believes there is a wealth of untapped material which can shared through the medium of cinema. “Great stories can be told and shared worldwide. I would love to tell the world some of those stories.”
    Currently, Jaouad is looking to shoot his next film in which he tends to cross genres. In fact, he has set the bar high with his hopes to revolutionize Moroccan cinema. But, first, he plans to continue his film education through NYFA’s MFA Filmmaking program. “NYFA was a great experience, especially in terms of writing, shooting, and editing short films in the United States.”

    Click here, if you’re interested in learning filmmaking at New York Film Academy like Jaouad!

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  • How to Succeed at the Game of Acting

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    Cassie Freeman and Chris Rock

    So many of New York Film Academy‘s instructors have secret lives outside of teaching, and we’re always proud to hear about their accomplishments. Such is the case with NYFA Acting Instructor, Cassie Freeman. In 2011, Cassie starred in the film Kinyarwanda, which won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Drama category at the Sundance Film Festival. The film also won the Audience Award in the World Cinema section at AFI Fest 2011, and the Grand Prize at the Skip City Film Festival in Japan. Cassie has compiled a list of credits in her early career, including roles in Spike Lee’s Inside Man and Chris Rock’s I Think I Love my Wife. She will soon debut her new character on the hit VH1 show, Single Ladies. In addition to her acting work, Cassie founded her own company, Motion Pictures LLC, where she has several projects in development, including a one-hour drama, a talk news show, and a documentary. Despite her incredibly hectic schedule, we somehow managed to catch up with Cassie to ask her a few questions about her life and career thus far.

    What do you think led you on the acting path?

    I fell into acting by accident. I initially wanted to be in politics, or become a leader in the church. I love the idea of helping others reach their full potential. It’s one of the reasons why I love to teach. As a kid I always felt left out and awkward. Acting helped me celebrate what makes me different from others, while still realizing we have a lot in common. When I meet a new person, they are a potential new best friend. I auditioned for acting and band at Douglas Anderson, which is the Arts High School in Jacksonville. My dad did not like the idea, but decided one year was fine. The first play I acted in was, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide. However, the first show where I really felt like an actress was A Piece of My Heart. The play was about the women who served during Vietnam. Working on that play and getting into that character changed my life. I had a spiritual moment where I felt like I left my own life and enveloped my self in another. I believe actors have an unbelievable opportunity to be a mirror to our collective consciousness. If you display life fully as it is, people can experience their own frailty and uniqueness.

    Can you tell us a little about NYFA and your experience teaching here?

    My last film Kinyarwanda won at Sundance last year and it gave me the opportunity to travel the world. New York Film Academy was one of the places on our tour. I really enjoyed how curious the students were about their craft, and a couple of the students said they would love for me to do a workshop. After I inquired, I was invited to teach at the school. Being a New York girl, I thought it would be fabulous to share what I’ve learned and to have a class for longer than a few days. Teaching here has also made me a better actress in so many ways. The most important thing I’ve learned is how necessary it is to relax and have patience with yourself. It is impossible to learn or act if those two things are not in tact. It is virtually impossible for a director, or in my case a teacher, to help an individual truly grow as an actor. Ultimately, it must come from within.

    What kind of feedback would you give to a prospective student who wants to come here?

    This school can teach you everything you want to learn. The tools and faculty are all sincerely here because they enjoy what they do. The classes are small enough that you can get the personal attention that many other programs can’t offer. The number of times you get to be on camera in front of faculty and your peers is priceless. The learning curve you get out of this school to go in the real world is awesome. However, you can only learn all of these things if you’re open to new ideas and concepts. My favorite students have been the ones who come in as a curious artist, striving to learn and unlock the code to their own possibilities. Those students grow the most, and help me grow to become a better artist as well. That is essentially, Hollywood. We are all constantly learning, collaborating, and sharing new concepts with each other. NYFA is a great way to develop one’s craft.

    What advice would you give to the aspiring actor?

    Go to every audition you can. Do every reading you can. Practice more than anyone. Make a game out of how many hours you can concentrate on a script and a character. I auditioned over a year for this show. I was never right for the character they were casting, but they thought I was talented and kept bringing me back. The character that ended up working out is a regular on the show. This is how I have booked many roles in life. I come in the door, knowing I may not be right for that character, but perform so well  that hopefully someone in the room is up at night thinking, “We need to figure out a way to put her in this show.” This opportunity would have never happened if I stopped doing the “work” of the actor: dreaming, creating, and crafting. As actors, we have to be our own biggest fans, even if there is no proof that we are even good at it. Confidence and perseverance is what wins in the game of acting.

    Any specific advice on booking roles in television?

    Learn how to take direction! Learn how to ask the right questions in the right manner. Both will give you so many opportunities to shine as a professional. Don’t put too much emphasis on if you book a role or not, worry that you gave it your all. We are actors not “auditioners.” I use each audition as a case to experiment in developing deeply interesting characters. If I book it, it’s icing on the cake. Whatever you have control over as an actor, do all you can, and leave the rest to the universe to sort out. Most importantly, surround yourself with lots of love. People should want to work with you as soon as you enter the room.

    So, tell us about your role in VH1’s Single Ladies.

    I auditioned three times over the course of a month. I felt a connection to the role from day one. I loved how silly, loving, and real she felt to me. I hadn’t seen a young black female character written so beautifully the way that Stacy Littlejohn, creator of the show, had made her. All I had to do was breathe life into her words. Every time I came back for the call back, I’d meet new producers who felt like family. On set, work doesn’t start until we hug and greet each other.

    To do a TV show is a marathon. It has been some of the hardest work in my life. It has also been some of the most fun I’ve ever had as actor. I love that everyday I get to act as my character evolves. The hours on set are long. To act for TV, you need stamina and a high level of discipline at all times.

    See Cassie’s new character debut Monday Jul 16th at 9pm on VH1’s Single Ladies.

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    July 12, 2012 • #WomenOfNYFA, Acting, Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 6065

  • Financing Your Indie Film and Developing an Audience

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    Rohit Gupta is a Mumbai native who came to the United States over 12 years ago. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Rohit didn’t have “the slightest idea about filmmaking” until he joined the New York Film Academy  for a 4 week film workshop. Realizing his passion for the craft, he extended his stay and enrolled into the one year conservatory program. Rohit was an MBA graduate who came from a family of entrepreneurs. He decided to take his shot in an “unstable” industry and fell in love. The film assignments he was working on for classes became inspiration for later works. Another Day, Another Life was shot in seven hours, edited on his laptop, and completed on a $100 budget. His first feature film Life! Camera Action was shot in ten days with a two member crew on a Panasonic DVX 100. Rohit has claimed that his rounds on the festival circuit, including the Short Films Corner at Cannes, has resulted in over 100 awards and accolades internationally. Talk about independent success on a micro-budget!

    As an independent filmmaker, Rohit has compelling views on cultivating an audience and working with financiers to distribute your film. Rohit credits his success to his drive and ambition. He has an optimistic outlook in a field with many pitfalls and setbacks. “There is nothing more or less to it than just doing it now. With pure excitement, love and compassion in your heart, all will fall in place magically.” For any aspiring filmmaker, the most important thing is to keep an open mind. He advises current students to think of the possibilities, explore them, and figure out what they ultimately want to do. “The fun is to create something with what resources we have on-hand than worrying about what we don’t.”

    THE AUDIENCE. Speaking with other filmmakers from all over the world, the anxiety is the same. “What is the audience going to like?” Rohit is critical of those who worry too much about the audience’s reception of the product–to the point that it affects the process of creating the product. The audience, he says, won’t know what they like “until they see it.” Some worry too much about audience expectations that there is a choke hold on creativity and productivity. Many aspiring filmmakers say their biggest hurdle is the lack of resources. Rohit believes with technology at our fingerprints, everyone is able to do what they want. Find opportunities everywhere. How you take advantage of the resources at NYFA is solely your initiative in the end. As he says, “No one is to be credited or blamed but yourself.”

    FINANCIERS AND THE REAL INVESTMENT. “It’s not the creativity that needs to chase the finance, it’s the other way round!” Don’t waste your time with financiers if they don’t step up after your first meeting. Never give up your creative control just because someone is investing in your project. Be committed to execution without financial pressure. Unless you do this, you won’t know what you like about what you do and why. Only when you feel strongly about the work will your audience connect. This is the definition of success. Asking for advice from those who never made a feature film is a great way of finding reasons for not doing it. Learn from and collaborate with those who’ve objectively achieved a level of success that you can relate to. There is nothing like being original. If you try to make everybody happy, you will lose yourself. In the end, if you are happy, then everybody around feels the energy and, in turn, feels happy, too. It’s just like doing everything else. There is no mantra to it. Learning is a constant phenomenon and the beauty is no amount of learning will ever be enough.

    What do you think about Rohit’s views? Tell us if you agree or disagree with him on Twitter! And if you want to find out more about the filmmaking program, please request info here!

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  • Sarah Louise Wilson’s Feature to Air on PBS This Weekend!

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    Actor Steve Talley in ‘The Accidental Death of Joey by Sue’

    New York Film Academy MFA Film student Sarah Louise Wilson is riding a wave of success. Her films have played at 30 festivals worldwide. Her first short film, which premiered 3 years ago at Frameline, continues to make the rounds on the festival circuit, and is used as an educational tool in classrooms. She wrote, produced, and starred in her first feature film, Jelly, alongside Natasha Lyonne (Slums of Beverly Hills, But I’m a Cheerleader), and Ed McMahon in his last film role. Shot on 35mm, the film was sold to Sundance Independent and IFC. Her second feature length film, The Accidental Death of Joey by Sue, was bought by PBS, and will make its television premiere this weekend. Variety called it “Stylish and strange enough to mark Sarah Louise Wilson and [co-writer/producer] Neal Thibedeau as helmers to watch.”

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  • International Documentary Association Hires Rocio Mesa

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    Sabine Sighicelli is the Chair of Documentary Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, Universal Studios campus. A documentary writer, producer, director, and associate producer, she has worked in the documentary field for 12 years for National Geographic Television, AMC, Foundation for World Arts, UCLA Intercultural Center, Women Make Movies, Museum of Jewish Heritage, and Home Planet Productions. Her award-winning documentary The Passionate Life of a Father Painter aired on PBS/KCET in 2001. Her film about composer Robert Een, Be Warned! is featured in the DVD collection of the Foundation for World Arts. She recently completed principal photography on her feature documentary “Breaking in Two, sponsored by Women Make Movies.

    Rocio Mesa determinedly pushes her cart packed with equipment down the New York Film Academy hallway. Dressed in her usual 50’s attire and cat eye glasses, she is heading to West Hollywood, where she will film Ondi Timoner (Sundance-winning director of Dig! and We Live in Public) and Marina Zenovich (Director of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, among many others) at the International Documentary Association Doc U event. Rocio graduated from the One Year Documentary Filmmaking program in December 2011. “My parents were afraid about my future in the US because I was doing really well in Spain. They didn’t want me to be working as a waitress just to reach the American dream,” she confesses. But waitressing doesn’t seem to be in store for Rocio in this lifetime.

    I introduced her to Amy at the International Documentary Association (IDA) – one of the most prestigious documentary organizations – and  soon after, Amy called me to tell me she and everyone at the IDA were so impressed with Rocio that they had decided to hire her as the producer, director, and editor of the Doc U series for the IDA’s Youtube Channel and archives. These events bring together some of the most highly sought-out people in the non-fiction industry. She also manages the department in charge of taping all IDA-related events. This is no surprise to me or to Rocio’s instructors, since she’s always taken the bull by the horns, and accomplished more in a year than most students are able to do in two!

    Rocio grew up in the Spanish town of Granada in Andalusia. She received a BA in Communication from the University of Seville in 2005, then went on to test her skills on several documentaries, commercials, and TV shows before landing a job on one of the most acclaimed TV shows in Andalusia, about traditional Spanish folk music. Her career was off to a good start, yet her real dream was documentary storytelling.

    She came to the New York Film Academy thanks to the Talentia Grant – a grant given exclusively to promising professionals by the Government of Andalusia. It was immediately clear in the One Year program, that Rocio was a high-performing student. From her character film, Almon Loos, the Rocking Barber, to her social issue documentary, Traffic in LA Sucks! (selected for the Burbank International Film Festival) to her One Year Final Documentary, Orensanz, the portrait of an illustrious Spanish artist who lives in a synagogue, Rocio has stamped every film with her unique vision.,Right after graduation, she was off and running: an internship at Interloper Films, Ondi Timoner’s production company; a job at the IDA; freelance editing gigs with various clients; directing gigs for Meltdown Comics and the web series Authentic Los Angeles… If the project stirs her interest, she will take it on.

    Last but not least, she’s currently our new favorite editor in the post production department, where, among other things, she has completed the editing of the documentary student reel, and a behind-the-scenes of the Young Storytellers Foundation’s collaboration with the New York Film Academy teen programs. Rocio will be with us until she returns to her native Spain. We cherish every moment we still have with her!

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program, click here.

     

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  • Showing The World Your Truth

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    Fito Pardo graduated from New York Film Academy in the late 90’s. Since then, he has gone on to direct short films and music videos, has worked as cinematographer on over 30 projects, and has found success as a photographer for publications worldwide, including Marie Claire, Vogue Japan, and National Geographic.

    Though he had loved films since his youth, Fito got little support when he expressed an interest in learning filmmaking. At his father’s insistence, he postponed his dreams of studying filmmaking. “I studied Administration for probably 6 months in one of the best universities in Mexico, and after the first 2 months I just knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. Eventually Fito started writing to film schools for information. After winning a partial scholarship to New York Film Academy, Fito was on his way to Manhattan. “I studied in NYFA between 1995 and 1997,” he says.

    “My experience was amazing. I had no idea how to use a film camera, so the workshops helped me understand what I was getting myself into…. At NYFA I learned how to write a script, how to be a cinematographer, how to be a producer, and how to understand all aspects of film. After NYFA, I worked with some Mexican production companies, opened my own production company called La Alcachofa Films, and started directing some interesting videos in Mexico. I directed some music videos… and did a couple of commercials for BBDO, Lowe & Partners, and some other agencies.”

    Fito shot his first feature film, El Fuego Inolvidable, last year. The controversial project explores the complicated state of politics in Mexico. The film has played at festivals and college campuses, with great responses from audiences. They are currently working on a distribution deal.

    “I am still in pursuit of more goals,” says Fito. “When I was working for National Geographic, I knew I accomplished one of my goals, but knew that it wasn’t it. My first feature film got the award of Best Mexican Film at the 2011 Oaxaca Film Festival, but I want more. Since I was kid, I always wanted to move people…. I have a condition. I am a stutterer, and I have been watching the world with different eyes…. All my life I have been limited in expressing my mind. Sometimes people don’t get it and just can’t wait for me to talk, so they go away. I think I show the way I see the world through my eyes, without my mouth. I believe this is what moves me: To show the world what my mind sees.”

    To learn more about our filmmaking program, click here.

     

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