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  • From Navy SEAL to 12 Strong With New York Film Academy Alum Kenny Sheard

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    Few people have the grit and the determination to become a Navy SEAL, but New York Film Academy alum Kenny Sheard has shown that no matter what he sets his mind to, he brings in the full force of his incredible work ethic, talent, and stamina. After honorably serving in the Navy for 12 years and attaining a place with the world famous, elite Navy SEALS, Sheard has managed to forge an entirely new and challenging path for himself in the civilian world as an actor and stunt performer in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and series.

    Sheard booked his first stunt job in the Transformers franchise while still actively serving in the reserves, and from there, came to NYFA to master new skills in Filmmaking. Since then, his creative career has skyrocketed, with stunt credits in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Fear of the Walking Dead, Logan, and the upcoming Avatar 2, among many many more. His acting credits continue to build up as well, with his most recent appearance alongside Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong, now available to stream on Amazon.

    NYFA alum Kenny Sheard via IMDB

    Through it all, Sheard has worked hard to keep learning, stay humble, and encourage fellow veterans as they transition to civilian life. Here, he shares his best advice and some of his story with the NYFA Blog. Check out what he has to say:

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    KS: I’m originally from Miami, FL, and attended College in Newburg, NY, for a few years, but didn’t finish. I moved home, joined the military in May of 2001, and served on active duty until May 2013. In 2010, while assigned to a training command, I was given an opportunity to use my saved up leave (vacation time) to play a minor stunt/acting role on Transformers 3. That experience and a multitude of things that followed are what ultimately lead me to the Filmmaking course at NYFA.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about film? What stories are you most passionate to tell?

    KS: Films have entertained and inspired me as far back as I can recall. I enjoy reading; however, films have had a more substantial impact on me. In my experience, I’m able to feel and perceive the world through this visual medium in ways that I might not ever have had the chance to, like through a mother’s loving eyes or a tormented serial killer. Personally, I prefer fiction over reality-based stories. That said, some of the most influential films I’ve seen have also been “based on true story” movies. The stories I’m passionate to tell lean on the darker and grittier side.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    KS: I don’t have any favorite standout moments, but I got a ton out of the experience. The teachers were knowledgeable and went above and beyond.

    NYFA: As a veteran, what is your best advice to fellow veterans and active service members interested in transitioning into the visual and performing arts?

    KS: My advice would be to stay focused on your goals/dreams, be true to who you are always, and destroy the ego. Use the discipline, structure, and attention to detail you’ve acquired from your time of service and apply it to your new creative ventures in life.

    Have a work hard, hustle attitude, with a positive and open mind. Don’t ever hang your choice to serve over anyone’s head, ever.

    Sounds like a cheesy poster, but hey, get after it!

    NFYA: You launched your career in the Transformers franchise while still serving in the reserves. What was that experience like?

    KS: Being a part of Transformers was awesome. I met Michael Bay and Harry Humphries through a friend, Echy.

    I can’t say enough great things about Bay and being exposed to a film set like that. I enjoyed every moment, and it came at a time when I had no idea what to do next in life. If I tried to put words to the whole experience and what it’s meant to me, it would degrade it.

    NYFA: You’ve worked in some incredibly successful, major films — from John Wick to 13 Hours and Transformers: Age of Extinction. What is your best advice to our students to prepare for the transition from school to a large-scale blockbuster set?

    KS: That’s a tough one. I think some people get it, and some don’t. I can’t imagine anything I write here might shatter any glass for readers. See my advice to veterans; it applies to all.

    NYFA: Acting and stunts — how does your preparation process change depending on your work?

    KS: These are two very different worlds, which I’m on the bottom of the barrel in both. When it comes to acting, I’m just playing myself. Other than knowing my lines, which have yet to be extensive, there’s not a ton of prep for me.

    Stunts, on the other hand, require a ton of prep. I think I need to point out here that I’m relatively green in the stunt world. The pool of talent I’ve had the honor of working with in the stunt world is insane, and I’m far from being considered anyone of a high caliber. My tactical background has helped me out tremendously, but I’m still learning a ton every project I’m on.

    NYFA: What is your favorite part of working in stunts? Have there been any surprises and challenges along the way, and how do you overcome them?

    KS: My favorite part of working in the stunt community has been the people. Every project I’m on, I’m always impressed with the talent and comradery. I can’t say that I’ve ever been surprised, but it’s always challenging and fun.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about 12 Strong? What was that filming experience like?

    KS: 12 Strong was an outstanding experience. From meeting the guys whom the story was about, to working with all the talented actors and stunt team, it was awesome. I wouldn’t know where to start, the director and producers were solid to work for as well.

    It’s a hard thing telling a true story, and I think Nicolai Fuglsig did an exceptional job. The men who the story is about were very pleased with it, and you can’t ask for anything better than that. I was deeply honored to play Bill Bennett, a medic who later lost his life overseas in Iraq in 2003.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kenny Sheard for taking the time to share his story with the NYFA community. 12 Strong is available to stream on Amazon.

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  • Welcoming Saudi Culture to the New York Film Academy

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    On Monday, April 2, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to host Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Culture (GCA) at our Los Angeles campus as a part of the Authority’s “Saudi Cultural Days.”

    Traditional Arabic coffee and caramelized sesame-covered dates were served, as Saudi students mixed and mingled before a screening of student work in the New York Film Academy’s theatre, followed by a Q&A.

    “Today is about embracing our culture, and inspiring kids from all over Saudi,” Rakan Anneghaimshi said with enthusiasm. He and Maan Bin Abdulrahman hosted the Q&A with legendary Hollywood producer Ted Field, best known for both Jumanji movies, The Chronicles of Riddick franchise, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and much more.

    During the event, NYFA had the honor of hosting distinguished guests including Khaled Al Saqer, Meshal AlSaleh, Abdulaziz AlMutairi, Faisal Al Houli, and Abdulla Alsaboosi. News channels from Saudi Arabia, including Saudi Channel 1 and Rotana, were also in attendance.

    From left to right: Aziz AlMutairi, Faisal AlHouli, Khaled AlSaqer, Dan Mackler, and Meshal AlSaleh.

    Preceding the Ted Fields Q&A, NYFA screened seven short films for these impressive guests, each directed and/or produced by a Saudi student or alumni. Each filmmaker had the incredible opportunity to show these guests their passion for cinema, and display skills they had gained by dedicating themselves to the craft of storytelling at NYFA.

    Following the screening of the short films by NYFA students, Guest Speaker Ted Field said of the work, “I was truly touched … The editing was masterful; the pacing was perfect … whatever mentoring was involved was first class.” Field said he could tell the instructors have a considerable amount of passion for what they do. Convinced that the students’ work could be accepted into Sundance and Cannes film festivals, he also encouraged the students to submit their films to the Academy Awards.

    New York Film Academy Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander said of the event, “The Academy is very proud of our Saudi students and alumni, and we are honored to be able to host the GCA at NYFA Los Angeles. What a wonderful way to celebrate Saudi Culture, our students and the important work the GCA is doing. We look forward to future collaborations.”

    The mission of the GCA involves creating change, delivering to the world something unique from Saudi Arabia, and increasing cultural acceptance through art such as film, music, and theatre. After a 35-year ban on theatres in Saudi Arabia, as of December 2017, The Kingdom is embracing the cinematic arts by opening theaters across the country. According to the GCA’s VP of Foreign Affairs, it is a massive step forward for Saudis, who can now contribute more directly to this global and unified language.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Saudi’s General Authority for Culture, our honored guests, and all those involved in the creation of this event for their contribution to this important mission.

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  • Indian Film Festival Los Angeles and New York Film Academy Renew their Partnership in 2018

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) is proud to be a promotional partner of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), the premiere showcase of groundbreaking Indian cinema. Screening from April 11-15 at Regal LA Live, this year’s lineup features award-winning new work from Indian filmmakers around the world, and NYFA alumni, students, faculty, and staff will be on hand to experience it from beginning to end.

    “I’ve been attending the Indian Film Festival since 2004, when I introduced and moderated a shorts program and Q&A,” said directing instructor Nick Sivakumaran. “The window it presents into the diversity and quality of Indian cinema never ceases to amaze me.”

    IFFLA 2018 Opening Night Film In The Shadows stars Manoj Bajpayee, Ranvir Shorey, and Neeraj Kabi, in a drama about surveillance and memory.

    IFFLA has graciously invited NYFA students to two programs of short films on April 13 and 14, and provided the NYFA student community a discount code for $2 off tickets.  

    Filmmaking Department Coordinator Prarthana Joshi noted that she had already watched several of the short films, and was excited to see the features — particularly Bornila Chatterjee’s The Hungry, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, that was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last September.  

    “Bornila Chatterjee is a young female filmmaker working outside of the traditional Bollywood system,” said Prarthana. “I’m really looking forward to seeing her film and learning more about how she is making her career happen.”

    Rima Das’s “Village Rocksters” features a powerful female-led narrative and will be the Closing Night film of IFFLA 2018. The screening will be preceded by an Awards Ceremony featuring a prestigious jury: Reza Aslan, Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, and Sundance breakout Aneesh Chaganty.

    Acting for film student Pauline Yang (Fall 2017 1 Year Acting for Film) will be volunteering for the Festival. “I really like being a part of film festivals because it brings a community together,” she said. “Everyone is always so excited to be a part of it, and the audience seems to always have a great time.”  

    In addition, NYFA alumni Rukmani Jones (Jan 2009 MFA Producing) and Ruchi Kishore (Sep 2012 MFA Filmmaking) both work for the Festival, with Rukmani serving as Filmmaker Liaison and Ruchi as Volunteer Manager.  

    “This is my fourth year being involved with the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles,” said Ruchi, “And with every year my love and appreciation for the IFFLA community grows deeper.” 

    To see the full line-up of films, please visit www.indianfilmfestival.org.  The NYFA community can use the promotion code NYFA2018PP for a $2 discount off all tickets.

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  • HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival Features Documentary Grad’s Film El Cat

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    New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory grad Wynona Barbera is producer of El Cat, now an Official Selection at HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival!

    HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival (WICF) is an inclusive event focused on smashing gender inequality in comedy, where they flip the usual gender ratio in comedy: 80% of WICF performers are women.

    The ninth annual WICF will be held April 19-22 in Boston. Along with HBO, this year’s event is sponsored by NBC, ImprovBoston, and Le Chevalier. Major stars are headlining, including Wanda Sykes and Tig Notaro, with additional performances by Kat Radley, Gina Yashere, Emma Willman, and Kelly McFarland.

    Although Wynona Barbera studied documentary filmmaking at NYFA, El Cat is a fiction film — which just goes to show how NYFA students can apply their skill set in so many ways as they forge their own paths as storytellers.

    “Congratulations to Wynona,” said NYFA New York Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift. “HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival is a major player in launching the next generation of leaders and innovators in comedy. It just goes to show the skills NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students develop here can be applied to all kinds of content, especially fiction films. Can’t wait to see what’s next!”

    El Cat will be competing in the The HBO Insider Comedy Short Challenge and WICF Comedy Short Contest with Paul Feig on Saturday, April 21, in Cambridge, MA. #WomeninFilm #WomenOfNYFA

     

     

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  • New York Film Academy Alumni to be Featured at ArtExpo in NYC

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    Every year, thousands from the art industry attend ArtExpo New York in search of trendsetting art and artists that will be shown in galleries worldwide. Hosting more than 35,000 avid art enthusiasts annually, ArtExpo is the largest international gathering of qualified trade buyers — including gallery owners and managers, art dealers, interior designers, architects, corporate art buyers, and art and framing retailers.

    Kingi Kingibe's photography

    Kingi Kingibe’s photography

    There will be 400+ innovative exhibiting artists, galleries, and publishers from across the globe, showcasing exciting original artwork, prints, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, ceramics, giclee, lithographs, glass works and more — all under one roof at Pier 94.

    New York Film Academy artist/alumni featured at ArtExpo 2018 include:

    Kingi Kingibe: From Nigeria, Kingibe has explored the devastating effects of cotton; from its role in the enslavement of African American people to its damaging effects on the planet. In a recent exhibit, the artist framed cotton plants in gold and transfers stunning portraits of Black women in vintage cotton clothing onto actual raw cotton. The exhibit juxtaposes the ubiquity of cotton with its barbaric origins.

    • NYFA alum Jon Henry

      Photos by NYFA alum Jon Henry

    Jon Henry: Henry graduated from the New York Film Academy Photography School’s 1-Year Conservatory and is a teaching assistant at the New York City campus. In his visual artwork, he focuses primarily on the black family and the community at large. He also explores the representation of athletes in fine art. His Stranger Fruit in Smack Mellon’s Hot Picks 2017 and you can read about him on the NYFA blog.

    NYFA alum Ana Paula Tizzi

    NYFA alum Ana Paula Tizzi

    Ana Paula Tizzi: The work she will be showing is entitled Dear Fubá, which illustrates her father’s advice via letters from Brazil. She uses photographs and cinemagraphs (photos with certain features that are animated). The artist says, “Among these are how to achieve self- acceptance, the importance of moderation and the need for persistence in work and life.”

    Alejandro Ibarra: LGBTQ+ families are often labeled “non-traditional,” and NYFA MFA grad Ibarra photographs both straight and LGBTQ+ family portraits in his series Piece by Piece, and addresses the irrelevancy of sexual orientation as it pertains to how families are classified.

    Photography by NYFA Alum Alejandro Ibarra

    Photography by NYFA Alum Alejandro Ibarra

    Natasha Rudenko: Bodily Confessions examines “femininity, national identity, and gender politics as a Russian born, white woman living in the United States.” Rudenko comes from a conservative background in Russia so her viewpoint is a unique one. The artist says, “This project is about my journey of recognizing and interpreting my whiteness, my body, my power, my presence and place through photography.

    Natasha Rudenko photography

    Natasha Rudenko photography

     

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  • Shivalik Shankar’s Film Let Me Be Supports World Autism Month

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    Did you know that April is World Autism Month? This week kicked off with World Autism Day, an event where, as Autism Speaks explained, “hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world, light blue in recognition of people living with autism.”

    With the world coming together in blue light for World Autism Day, New York Film Academy BFA Filmmaking grad Shivalik Shankar went a step further to promote awareness and advocacy for autism yesterday, with his film Let Me Be.

    Shankar directed and co-wrote the short film, which follows an autistic teenager who asserts his independence and expresses his needs by escaping from a day care program to visit the beach. It’s a touching story that depicts many perspectives, including the struggles of the teenager’s parents to manage his care as well as the teen’s struggle for autonomy and acceptance

    The themes of acceptance and awareness run deep in Shivalik Shankar’s filmography, with numerous mental health and disability topics depicted in his work.

    The rising filmmaker told Chandigarh’s Daily Pioneer, “I like a strong storyline, a message to spread across, and autism is one issue which needs to be understood better and across all societies.”

    Bravo! It’s always inspiring to see our alums putting their storytelling skills to work for a purpose. If you’d like to become involved in World Autism Month, visit Autism Speaks.

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  • Photography Grad Venkata “Venky” Krishna Ganesan Rocks 24 Straight Hours of Street Photography in Times Square

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    From his hometown of Chennai to his recent 24 Hours in Times Square project, one thing that never changes for street photographer and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Conservatory grad Venkata “Venky” Krishnan Ganesan is keeping an open mind. The artist recently challenged himself to spend 24-hours straight, out on the streets in New York City, convincing perfect strangers to let him take their portrait on a chilly winter day (20°!). No wonder this enterprising photographer won the Best of Manhattan Award for Photographer 2017.

    Ganesan is hoping to set an official record with his marathon 24-hour portrait session on the streets of New York, during which he told Fstoppers he blasted through:

    • 2.5 liters of water
    • 3 energy bars
    • 5 cups of coffee
    • 15.9 miles (walking back and forth between Duffy Square to Times Square)
    • 1,000 strangers
    • 680 portraits

    Now, the Photography Conservatory grad tells the NYFA Blog about his process behind his herculean street photography project, his approach to art, and what’s coming next.

    NYFA: What inspired your 24 Hours in Time Square project?

    VKG: The idea is been in my mind for a long period of time. It was more of a goal I wanted to achieve as a test of endurance: Will I be able to stand and talk to a whole bunch of strangers for 24 hours straight, and convince them to get a portrait done in less than a min?

    NYFA: What surprised you the most? What did you learn through this experience?

    VKG: Learning how to handle rejection was very important for growth. Everyone talks about failure. I think if you are open to rejections and you will never have failure.

    I was surprised that I was able to handle rejection for 24 hours non-stop.  

    NYFA: What is your key advice to students interested in street photography?

    VKG: Sometimes you have to be more of a business person than an artist. If you need something, you ask for it and you will get it.

    My advice would be stop clicking pictures with the camera and start clicking with your mind. You will get better pictures.

    NYFA: As a street photographer in these extreme conditions, what were your strategies for endurance? And how did you select your subjects?

    VKG: Endurance will follow with excitement. I am always excited to click pictures of people I can never do that will nature. I go with my gut for my subjects and they turn out to be interesting faces.

    NYFA: What inspires you most about street photography?

    VKG: Interactions with lots of people inspire me the most. When you talk to so many people, you get a new perspective in life, and it gets better the more you interact.

    NYFA: How has your approach to photography grown or changed since studying at NYFA?

    VKG: After being a commercial photographer for many years, I had to unlearn what I did in the past. I think unlearning is the key to learning. You always think you know, but you actually don’t. I learned how to look at photography in a different way in terms of becoming an artist and making money. With the help of all my mentors at NYFA, I have become a extremely evolved photographer.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    VKG: I enjoyed every moment in NYFA. That was the most exciting period in my life. You get to see and lean the something new every day.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?

    VKG: I am working on something with which I will be able to give back to other photographers. It’s a website where you can upload your images, and we will help you get your photographs curated. This will help photographers develop their style and introspection.  

    With the 24 Hours project, I will be applying for the book of records and thinking about doing the same project for five more years, and make it into a book of strangers.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    VKG: It is like the human brain — I use only 7-10 percent of what I learnt at NYFA, but I am trying to use more and see what happens. I use almost all the basic techniques and NYFA gave me a road map on what how and why, which makes me a better photographer.

    Check out all of Ganesan’s 24 Hours in Times Square project page as well as his website, Venky Photography, for more of his work.

     

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  • Filmmaking Grad Jesse Kove Helps Save the World in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

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    It’s not easy forging your own path in independent film, but New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking grad Jesse Kove has blazed a trail straight into the hearts of video game and ‘80s film fans with the upcoming adventure flick Max Reload and the Nether Blasters.

    The film recently wrapped in Arizona, and Kove took the time out of his busy schedule to tell the NYFA Blog more about his work, his exciting projects, and what’s next. Check out what he has to say:

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    JK: My journey started as a young boy growing up in the film business around my father, (Martin Kove). I was six months old and on movies sets, and I still remember vividly today all the different film sets I’ve been on around the country, and the world that my father brought me along with — traveling with him or visiting him when he was on location was always my favorite thing. It was like going to Disneyland for me, the make-believe. It was always something different, whether [a film was set] in the future or going back in time to the West, I always loved it.

    One of my favorite trips was to India. We had an unforgettable time together. They filmed in Hyderabad, where they literally have a city just for filmmaking. I would travel on my own and walk around and look at all the backdrops and different film sets and feel right at home. I would watch the filmmaking process as well, and ask lots of questions. This was the best education a young filmmaker could get and I was very fortunate to have these opportunities.

    Back home I would make my own little movies with action figures and G.I. Joes. That’s how it all started. I would also copy what I saw in classic movies that my father and I would watch together, The Seventh Samurai, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and Casablanca, all the classics! Making movies is in my blood and its been my passion since early childhood.

    NYFA: Growing up in a show-business family, was there anything that you learned in your time at NYFA that surprised you?

    JK: What I loved so much about NYFA that I didn’t get enough of on film sets was actually learning the basics and history of film cameras, and actually shooting on real film. This was very special, and I was so grateful for NYFA to allow us to do that.

    Also just truly understanding how a digital camera works — the inner workings and technical aspects of all cameras. This is so important, these tools create great filmmakers! It is the knowledge and technology of filmmaking, and they’ve got it down!

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    JK: There are so many memories of when I was at NYFA. The fondest memories were the relationships and time I had with fellow students — who I am still friends with today. In the industry, relationships are everything!

    NYFA: Can you tell us about Max Reload and the Nether Blasters? What drew you to this project?

    JK:  Max Reload and the Nether Blasters:

    A small town video game store clerk must go from zero to hero after accidentally unleashing the forces of evil from a cursed Colecovision game… Max Jenkins’ gaming fantasies collide with reality when a legendary “lost” installment of the Nether Game series appears on the store counter of his workplace, Fallout Games. Unbeknownst to Max, the game bears a “Curse of The Ages”, and in playing it, he has just unlocked the Nether, an ancient malevolent force of evil from the cartridge, upon his small hometown. Along with a mysterious masked man and his two best friends, Liz and Reggie, Max must figure out how to beat the Nether at its own game before its Game Over for humanity.

    This is a great project that I’m very excited about. The inception actually started two years before this film was written. Scott Conditt and Jeremy Tremp, the writers, directors, and producers, (CineForge Media) had written a short film called Show No Mercy, starring my father and me.

    The idea behind the short was all ‘80s galore and nostalgia: The story follows an arcade store owner (my father) who secretly is John Kreese, his character from The Karate Kid (although never mentioned, that’s a nice Easter egg for everyone), and his young store clerk (me), who both end up getting sucked into an arcade game. They have to fight each other to escape.

    It’s an extremely well done short and I highly recommend everyone go and watch it. The film premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada as well as the Phoenix Comic Fest in Arizona. Making that film was such a fun and creative experience, we all wanted to work together again as soon as possible. Thus, Max Reload came to fruition.

    I got a call from Scott asking if I’d read his new script. I instantly fell in love with it and knew it had huge potential. They had written a character (Steve) basically based on me, but I won’t say too much because you will have to go watch it!

    There are some stellar actors attached to this film, both new and veteran — Greg Grunberg, who is a riot; Hassie Harrison; Lin Shay from the Insidious films; Kevin Smith, who graciously tagged along as he loves indie films, this one caught his eye and we were very lucky to get him; Joseph Reitman; Tom Plumley; Joey Morgan; and of course my father.

    The film will be released around September.

    NYFA: Were you a big fan of video games growing up? Do you have a favorite?

    JK: Absolutely a huge fan of games! Some of my great memories were getting together with my childhood friends and playing games like Halo, 007, NFL Blitz — anything Nintedo 64 was our go-to!  

    NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you as a performer?

    JK: Acting is such an interesting art. It’s a wonderful journey that’s always changing. I love playing characters that inspire myself and others, I love to make the audience laugh, and I love to tell stories.

    Jesse Kove in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

    Making movies changes you. You aren’t the same person at the beginning as you are at the end. You’ve learned so much and walked a road that your character has walked in some way, and that connects you forever. It’s living life with these characters: I’ve cried, loved, been through war, kicked ass, been killed and hated, admired, frightened, and have saved lives, plus so much more. It is the hardest but most beautiful, fulfilling work I can ask for and I can’t get enough of it!

    NYFA: What was your experience like serving as both a producer and an actor on As Night Comes?

    JK: As Night Comes was a great experience. I learned a lot from making this film and I owe a lot to my producing partner, Richard Z., who directed and wrote the script for this film. Without him pushing this film up the mountain, it would not have been made. In saying that, I think it’s so important to surround yourself with others who are willing to climb that mountain with you, no matter the odds. I was willing to do that with him.

    We started that movie with literally $200-300 and Subway sandwiches, and finished off by getting a limited theatrical release with our distributor, Gravitas Ventures. We were put on 20 of the 25 major VOD platforms that we have today. That film showed me that anything is possible with enough effort, drive, and belief in what you are doing. Most importantly, you have to have a great script — and we did. That brought a great team behind us.

    Lastly, I love being in front of the camera and behind the camera. Either way, you are still shaping a story. Wearing both hats can be challenging, but I urge everyone to try both. It actually makes you a better actor and or a better director to have been on both sides!

    NYFA: Any advice for our acting students who are looking to produce their own work?   

    JK: Persistence and believing. Believe in what you are doing!

    Through all my experiences, believing in the project, the story, and the character will always carry you through. Making movies is incredibly difficult, and one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. But it is also the most fun you will ever have, from the idea to a year or two later watching it on a screen after post and etc. It’s a journey, and a spiritual journey as well. You are forever connected to that project, and immortalizing something you’ve created … its forever!

    There’s a lot of naysayers in our business, whether it’s about money or what’s popular. Do not take no for an answer. Think outside the box, and get it done!

    When As Night Comes was being made, everyone told us we couldn’t do this or we couldn’t do that. It ended up fueling our passion for getting it made. Yes, you can do that, and yes, you can make your movie, and get it released, and have the world enjoy it!

    Jesse Kove in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters

    Also, this art is a craft. It must be practiced and changed and molded constantly. Keep at it! I still do, and I’m not perfect!

    Also be relentless and fearless. I have been on the phone with some of the biggest studios and top agents and or managers in Hollywood because I wasn’t afraid to pick up the phone and call them. You have nothing to lose.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    JK: I have several projects coming out this year, one of which is Max Reload and the Nether Blasters.

    Bring Me a Dream, which was shot in Atlanta, is a thriller directed by Chase Smith. I play a cop who stumbles upon a mansion in the woods and gets sucked into a supernatural wave of psychological mystery. It’s a fun take on the Sandman, played by Tyler Mane (X-Men, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II), as a supernatural spirit who injects himself into your dreams and brings out your biggest fears. Very fun!    

    In Bare Knuckle Brawler, directed by Joe Gawalis and filmed in New Jersey, I play a detective who goes undercover as a streetfighter to infiltrate an underground organization in which fighters are turning up dead.

    Next I co-star with my father in a TV pilot called Bloodlands, which follows Arizona detectives who may or may not be on both sides of the law, dealing with drug and human trafficking.

    Also, check out On Wings of Eagles, a World War II drama that I shot in China, starring Joseph Fiennes. It’s the unofficial sequel to Chariots of Fire and now you can watch on Amazon.

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  • New York Film Academy MFA Grad Christian Bulich Writes, Produces, and Stars in ’64 Koufax

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    ‘64 Koufax is an indie film with an important message: relationships matter. Following two brothers as they navigate together through a problematic moment in their relationship, the film has the depth and humanity that can only come from a passion project. Recently spotlighted by Occhi Magazine, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Acting for Film grad Christian Bulich poured himself into ‘64 Koufax not only by writing the script and portraying the protagonist, but also by producing.

    For the NYFA Blog, Bulich discusses the hurdles and rewards of taking on so many roles within a film production, and how his fellow actors can best poise themselves to successfully produce their own work. Check out what he has to say:

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy’s MFA in Acting for Film program?

    CB: Before I came to NYFA I had mostly done stage work and didn’t really have any real experience with film sets, so I was kind of desperately looking for a school that offered an acting program with a distinctive focus on camera work.

    After finding NYFA through some online research, I spent time going through the website, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this was the right choice for me. The combination of the hands-on experience and the variety of classes that the MFA program consists of was exactly what I was looking for.

    Actually, I remember also getting in touch with some students who were enrolled in one of the programs at NYFA at that time and asking about their experience, and all of them had only positive things to say. So at the end of the day it was a pretty easy choice for me.

    NYFA: Why acting? What makes you passionate about this craft?

    CB: There are so many things that make me passionate about it. I could talk about this topic for days. To make it short, I love this craft because it simply makes me really happy.

    Already at an early age I noticed the satisfying feeling when I was doing plays and working on different characters and just being involved in a creative environment. With time this feeling just became stronger and stronger, and to this day I love finding new things about myself, and that I can connect to the characters that I’m working on.

    I know it might sound cheesy right now but it sometimes actually feels sort of therapeutic to me. Acting makes you think about certain things in a different way, which can be a good thing sometimes.

    NYFA: What was your experience like coming to Los Angeles for acting, all the way from Germany?

    CB: Well, coming to Los Angeles was not my first experience living in the states. I’ve lived in New York before and had some of the most significant experiences in my life out there. But coming to Los Angeles was a bit different compared to New York, since my moving to the west coast was completely acting-related, and nothing else.

    So overall I can say that it’s a completely different world compared to Germany in regard to the acting business. It’s so much faster and more demanding out here, and Hollywood just has so much more to offer than the German market. I guess the variety and the amount of projects that are being produced out here is one of the most attractive aspect of living in LA for me personally.

    But the number one reason why I actually never want to leave this place is that almost everybody I meet shares the same passion for film and the craft in general. To be able to share thoughts and have great conversations with people who love the same thing you love — that’s pretty special.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    CB: The showcase performances and the student-directed plays are definitely my favorite moments.

    There is something special about meeting new people and working with them on a play or a scene for weeks, and then performing it, and afterwards celebrating the success together. You grow really close during those moments, and these people become sort of a second family for you. And that’s exactly who I still keep in touch with even after graduating: students and teachers who were involved in these projects.

    NYFA: What inspired you to create and produce your short film ’64 Koufax?

    CB: All my favorite movies have one thing in common; relationships.

    In my opinion, there is nothing more interesting than the connection between people. A story that deals with relationships between friends, family, couples, or other individuals will always be something that the audience can easily relate to, and maybe find themselves in one of the characters — which as a result might even help with certain personal matters. That was my exact intention with ’64 Koufax.

    Growing up I always had a distinctive view on family and friends and their importance in my life. Nonetheless, I had many fights with some of them about things that might seem stupid now, but back then were very important to me. And because of these disagreements I have lost some very important friends and caused some cracks in relationships with some of my relatives. With time you start realizing that there is nothing more important than these people, and that no matter what you should always hold together through good and bad times.

    The story of ’64 Koufax deals with this message. It shows two brothers going through a very difficult time in their lives, in which both make desperate decisions that affect each other in negative ways. But they realize that without each other there is nothing left, and that they have to do their best and find a way back to each other.

    NYFA: What was the experience like for you in ‘64 Koufax, flowing through so many different roles in production — producer, writer, star? What surprised you most?

    CB: That was not easy! Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to become such a difficult affair. The process of writing the story and working on the character of Terry was very inspiring and I had lots of fun doing that, but then I decided to produce that thing and, well … yeah … not as easy as I thought it will be. I guess since I have never produced any films before I overestimated myself a little bit. The production process prior to the shoot was actually not too bad, and everything went mostly as planned. But as soon as we got to set and started shooting, my head was all over the place. I had a difficult time focusing on just the acting part and leaving alone the production part. So every small problem on set became a problem that affected me as a producer.

    Of course, I had great people on set who did an amazing job coordinating everything, but even though I wasn’t actively helping out with set issues my mind was jumping back and forth from being Terry to being Christian the producer. So overall it was a bit of a frustrating experience, because I could’ve done better performance-wise, in my opinion. But I also have to say that I learned a lot throughout that process and definitely grew as a person and actor.

    NYFA: Did producing your own short film change the way you approach acting?

    CB: That’s a good question actually. I haven’t really thought about that. I kind of separated the production process and the acting process completely from each other, or at least I was trying to do that. I think the experience of ’64 Koufax definitely showed me how important it is to have a clear mind on set as an actor.

    NYFA: What is your advice to acting for film students who want to produce their own films?

    CB: Don’t do it! No, I’m just kidding. I think everyone should make this experience and grow from it. So if you decide to produce your own film, I’d suggest you create a clear schedule and always be on time with what you set up to achieve. That way you will have less problems on the day of the shoot and you’ll be able to completely focus on just the acting part.

    Also, choose your crew wisely. Find quality people you trust! That’s the only way you can survive on set with a double duty of acting and producing.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    CB: I’m currently working on two projects that I’m very excited about. The first one is a short film that we’re aiming to shoot in May. It’s a piece about a father-son relationship and their differences in religious beliefs. This film will be directed by Kobus Louw, who also directed ’64 Koufax. We will also have the whole crew of our previous project working with us again, which I’m incredibly excited about.

    The second project we’re currently working on is a feature film that we are planning to shoot in early 2019. It’s a very interesting concept. All I can say about it right now is that it’s a very uncommon love story with it’s own unique genre.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you are doing now?

    CB: Oh, yes! It actually turned out even better than I expected it to be. And I’m not saying that because this is a NYFA Blog interview and I have to say nice things about this school. I honestly feel like I have gained so much useful experience and knowledge during my time at NYFA, which really helps me on daily basis in this industry.

    In addition to that, I have met some of the best teachers at this school that I have ever worked with and some of the most amazing students that I keep creating great content with.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Christian Bulich for sharing his story, and say congratulations on wrapping production on ‘64 Koufax!

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  • Story Editor & New York Film Academy Grad Giulia Bernardini Behind Zero Zero Zero, Gomorrah, and More!

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    Netflix has brought the stories of Italy’s largest film and television production company to the world, but that is not the only place you can see the work of  New York Film Academy Producing School grad Giulia Bernardini. Working extensively with Italy’s massive production company Cattleya, Bernardini’s has served as a producer on projects featured on Sky Europe, Canal +, Sundance Channel, Amazon, Netflix, and more. 

    A native of Rome, Italy, with a passion for film and television development, Giulia Bernardini came to NYFA New York City to hone her film production skills in the hands-on 1-Year Conservatory Producing Program. Since graduating in 2014, she has kept quite busy, establishing herself as a producer in the U.S. with a variety of independent productions companies before returning to Italy. But once back in Italy, in 2015, she started working for the legendary, largest film and production company in Italy: Cattleya.

    At Cattleya, Bernardini has truly worked her way to the top. Beginning as a development coordinator, she was first promoted to story editor. Now, Bernardini produces on internationally successful content. 

    Even if you’ve not heard of Cattleya on this side of the Atlantic, you’re sure to be affected by some of Bernardini’s work soon. Last year, Bernardini worked on the critically-acclaimed mob series Gomorrah (Sky Europe, Canal +, Sundance Channel and now Netflix U.S.) as well as the first Italian Netflix Original series, Suburra.

    Bernardini is currently working on the international event mini-series, Zero Zero Zero, for Sky Europe, Canal +, Studio Canal, and Amazon.

    The NYFA Producing Department is exceptionally proud of Giulia Bernardini and wish her continued success!

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