NYFA President Michael J. Young addresses NYFA Australia students
In early February, New York Film Academy (NYFA) President Michael J. Young visited the Gold Coast campus at New York Film Academy Australia along with the NYFA Australia Board of Directors. Attending the meet and greet were many of NYFA Australia’s current students, including the January 2018 class just getting underway.
Far from a quiet, staid succession of speeches, the event buzzed with an energy of enthusiasm and good cheer that started with the excited student body loudly cheering and ended with an impromptu dance party.
Tasha Cooper, Director of NYFA Australia, Gold Coast, introduced President Young, who had come from the Academy’s New York City campus, where he is based. Young, who has been with the New York Film Academy since it was founded in 1992, talked about the history of the school, as well as its future. After speaking briefly, he then let students pick his brain with a myriad of questions, both thoughtful and fun, while also using the opportunity to get to better know the aspiring artists.
President Michael J. Young and NYFA Australia students
Of meeting the NYFA Australia student body, President Young said, “I was honored and delighted to meet the many aspiring filmmaking, acting, and screenwriting students studying with us at the Gold Coast campus. Their enthusiasm was awe-inspiring, and I expect we will see their talent to be equally so.”
The New York Film Academy expanded to Australia in 2011, and boasts a state-of-the-art facility co-located in Southport, the Gold Coast’s leading educational and creative arts precinct. Attending NYFA Australia’s programs — including camps, workshops, Diplomas, and Advanced Diplomas — affords students the opportunity to shoot and act on NYFA’s exclusive backlot facilities at Village Roadshow Studios, the location of many Hollywood films including Thor: Ragnarok and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. By working within this professional, Hollywood environment, NYFA Australia students gain a unique experience that prepares them for real-world work in the filmmaking industry.
Director, Tasha Cooper introducing President Michael J. Young
The diverse, vibrant environment of the Gold Coast suits the artistic, zestful personalities of NYFA Australia’s student body. While President Young didn’t expect his casual but informative talk with the students to erupt into a dance party, the festive, exuberant atmosphere made it clearly inevitable. A barista was even on hand, providing students with speciality coffee.
It’s hard to say who had more fun during the visit — President Young or the students. Likely, everyone equally had a great time. After the event, Tasha Cooper remarked, “As part of a global institution, NYFA Australia students were excited to partake in a tradition where NYFA President, Michael Young, learns more about their story and what they hope to achieve from our interactive and intensive programs.”
Cooper added, “It was a fantastic event that filled our school with laughter, spirit, and even some spontaneous dancing!”
Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screens Feb. 5 in Sydney before a digital release later this month on iTunes and Amazon.
Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.
“The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’sFilmLink.
Now, Pillion takes some time during the busy week leading up to the film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog.
NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?
JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).
NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?
JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.
The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.
NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?
JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!
To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. Click here for more information — a few tickets are still available!
I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.
NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?
JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.
Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink. If you’re in Sydney, check outFanForce for screening information and tickets. If you can’t make it to the Sydney screening Feb. 5, watch Far From Here on iTunes and Amazon on Valentine’s Day.
As this is the final Weekly Update for 2017, I wanted to tell you about what some of the NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduates have been doing recently…
Celina Liv Danielsen is one of the hardest working people I ever met, and that hard work has apparently paid off. I heard from her last week via Facebook:“I have been working at the Danish television company TV2 for a year now, and I just found out that I’m among (together with a colleague) a nominee for the Best News Story of the Year at the award show ‘TV Prisen 2018.’ I just wanted to thank you and the school for teaching me so much…”
Congratulations, Celina! Not bad for one year on the job…
Meanwhile, more recent alum Melissa Aleman is now working on “Somos Texas,” a series that airs on Azteca TV. And her most recent story has a definite holiday theme: “Don’t miss out on the best location to take your selfie this Christmas! Today I’ll be showing you the place that has more than 4 million Christmas lights! Don’t miss a brand new holiday edition of #SomosTexas only on #azteca.”
Want to find out about the plot of the next blockbuster film in the Jurassic Park series, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”? NYFA grad Daniella Gemignani interviewed director A.J Bayona for Globo TV in Brazil.
Bryanna Reynolds recently interviewed international entertainment legend Kylie Minogue at the Melbourne premiere of the “Swinging Safari,” which Bryanna describes as “an Australian comedy.” It’s a coming-of-age film that takes place in the 1970s.
When Elina Mukherjee went to Times Square to report a NYFA student project earlier this year, she had no idea it would turn out to be a job interview for TV Asia USA. Someone from the New Jersey-based programming service saw her doing her stand-up, and he was so impressed he offered her a job as a freelance reporter after she graduated. Her first assignment is the Global Healthcare Summit taking place in India. Then she will be reporting stories from Long Island, which is a suburb of New York City. Congratulations, Elina!
Finally, on a personal note, it was an amazing year. I never dreamed I’d be asked to participate in the international version of a major CCTV cultural history series … and end up as the host. The six-part documentary series is headed to the MIPTV international TV market in Cannes next April.
Have a wonderful holiday, whatever tradition(s) you follow, and I’ll be back next year with more news about the NYFA Broadcast Journalism department.
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Australia welcomed Academy Award winner and former NYFA Australia instructor Ben Osmo to its Gold Coast campus for an exclusive event as a part of its continuing Guest Speaker Series last month.
Osmo received the Academy Award for his work as production sound mixer on the critically acclaimed international Blockbuster hit “Max Mad: Fury Road,” a much-anticipated reimagining of the 1980s apocalyptic action thriller directed by George Miller and starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy.
The veteran sound mixer and recorder also picked up a BAFFTA Nomination and ACCTA Award for his work on “Mad Max: Road Fury,” but these recent accolades are only a small part of his impressive resume. His other credits include Hollywood Blockbuster “Alien Covenant,” directed by Ridley Scott; family features “Babe” and “Happy Feet Two”; and beloved Australian films including “Strictly Ballroom” and “Dead Calm.”
Hosted by Deputy Chair of Filmmaking Brian Vining, the Guest Speaker event commenced with a Q&A session followed by a special screening of Osmo’s documentary on the making of the sound for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
NYFA Gold Coast students and staff alike were thrilled at the opportunity to delve further into the realm of sound design and editing for film, an often under-appreciated yet integral component of a great movie masterpiece.
Students described the event as “very informative,” with September Advanced Diploma acting for film student Tommie Thomas explaining, “As an actor, you don’t realize how much collaboration goes into making a film until you are able to hear it from someone of this caliber.”
New York Film Academy Australia prides itself in offering students the opportunity to develop their own technical and creative abilities through continued mentoring and master classes with illustrious members of the film and entertainment industry.
The list of sports films and sports comedies are endless, but not many movies have been about the burgeoning E-Sports wave, the billion-dollar industry of competitive video games. New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA AU) Gold Coast alumnus and California native Josh Hale sought to change that, and it’s starting to pay off for the filmmaker.
His mockumentary film “Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League” just had its North American premiere at the Historic Bay Theatre on November 3, and has already picked up multiple awards and official selections to festivals around the world. “I am on cloud nine,” Hale told NYFA while in California showcasing his film.
Hale’s most recent win was the Best Comedy Film Award from the San Francisco International New Concept Film Festival. The Festival bills itself as an “international platform for film lovers, new filmmakers and film/media students who love filmmaking to stand out,” with a specific mission of “discovering and selecting potential talents with new concepts to accelerate the prosperous development of the film industry.”
Hale told The San Leandro Times that his mockumentary style was inspired by comedy classics like “This is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show.” He continued, “I find E-Sports fascinating.” Hale shot the entire feature-length film on Australia’s Gold Coast on a tiny budget of $5000, using local actors.
Hale graduated from the Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media in Filmmaking at NYFA AU Gold Coast. Skills he developed during his time at NYFA AU, including producing and budgeting, were the fundamental skills he utilized during the production. Hale is still a part of the NYFA AU family, and is now passing on his experience and knowledge at the campus as a Teaching Assistant.
“Josh utlitzed his hands-on training with NYFA Gold Coast to go make a feature film right out of college,” noted NYFA Gold Coast Director Tasha Cooper. “He’s one of our success stories and we’re very proud of his recent achievements.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Josh Hale on his success, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments his hard work and dedication will bring!
This October, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held a joined graduation screening night for Sept. 2016 Filmmakers and March 2017 Filmmaking at Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair.
Students and guests gathered in the foyer, where they were photographed at our NYFA media wall before being ushered into the cinema to watch the end of year films. All graduating students screened incredibly diverse and high quality films that showcased their exceptional skills in the art of storytelling.
Directing and Editing lecturer Trevor Hawkins stated, “It’s been a privilege to be part of these students’ journey in becoming future filmmakers. Filmmaking is a skilled craft. Having a good story also helps, and NYFA certainly gives a firm grounding on both counts. The result has been some of the most impressive end of year productions. I wish them all well and I hope to work with them again sometime in the future.”
Deputy Chair of Filmmaking Brian Vining said, “The screening was a huge success, with a big turnout of current student filmmakers, family, supporters, cast members and alumni. We are very proud of the skills, motivation and talent of our graduating filmmakers.”
Congratulations to the graduating students: Brad Smith, Emilie Chetty, Lynne Cairncross, Adam Anonuevo, Callum Taylor, Isaac Moit and Philip Paton. We are very proud of their skills, motivation and talent, and can’t wait to see them succeed in their chosen fields.
This October, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held the March 2017 Diploma of Acting for Film end of year screening at Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair. The event included an opening reception for students, friends and family, and concluded with a screening of the students’ performances filmed throughout their year at NYFA Gold Coast.
Acting Coordinator Louise Lee Mei said, “We are all very proud of the skill, motivation and determination of these students. Two special guests, Gael McDonald from Williams Management and Casting Director Cinzia Coassin, were in attendance to congratulate the graduates on their showcase scenes. As students prepare to enter our Advanced Diploma, the Acting for Film team look forward to further developing their professional skills for on-camera work.”
Senior Acting Lecturer Adam Couper stated, “These students truly embraced the spirit of collaboration. They were a tight-knit and mutually respectful group and I think the work we saw showed how successful they were.”
On behalf of all the staff and lecturers at the New York Film Academy Gold Coast, we would like to give our sincerest congratulations to the following graduating students: Amber Monaghan, Christopher Le Poidevinm, Ilavalu Tupou, Jake Dodds, Lachlan Crane, Lachlan Bliss, Olivia Samin, Shaunyl Benson and Tarnequa Pettet.
NYFA Australia instructor Timothy Maddocks has taken the philosophy of learning by doing a step farther: teaching by example, continuing to not only remain active in his industry, expanding his impressive list of producing credits with a new feature and festival award wins. “Blue World Order,” which Maddocks produced, is causing a stir on the festival circuit, screening at the prestigious Madrid International Film Festival and sweeping awards elsewhere including:
Winner, Best Narrative Feature; Film Invasion Los Angeles
Winner, Audience Choice; Canberra International Film Festival
Winner Best Feature; Mindfield Los Angeles
Official Selection: Sci-Fi London, Madrid International (Nominated for Best Film), Burbank International, Phoenix Comic Con
“Blue World Order” also co-stars fellow NYFA instructor Stephen Hunter, perhaps best known for his turn as Bombur in “The Hobbit” films. NYFA had a chance to catch up with Mr. Maddocks to hear some of his insights on producing high quality films for the festival circuits, and how his students can continue learning by doing out in the industry.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
TM: My road to producing and teaching has been a long one. It started with working shooting sports and community TV, then studying a diploma of film and television at TAFE. After my studies I used sports cameras to shoot several short films with friends where we all honed our skills. Some of the films were OK, but many of them were just lessons for us. After about 10 shorts we got together and shot a low budget feature film called “Sum of Existence” that we eventually sold to the National Nine Network. I thought that having made something we would be able to get funding more easily, but in the end it still took a number of years.
One night, while showing one of the last of the short films at an event, I was approached by another director who had a film screening there, Marc Furmie, and we went for funding on a short and got it.
“Death’s Requiem” was the first film to have a decent budget — twice what we had for “Sum of Existence,” and it opened doors to many other places. Through networking I met people who funded our first full budget feature, “Terminus.”
Along the way, one of the people I had met was Hunter McMahon and after he saw “Terminus” he invited me to come and speak to the students at NYFA as a one-off. The students asked a lot of questions, and as it happened, NYFA was looking for a teacher for production — so I joined the school.
NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time as an instructor with us?
TM: My favourite moment at NYFA came when I was working on my third feature, “Out of the Shadows,” and some students came on a field trip to assist with shooting pick-ups. I know the students got a lot out of that day and it felt good to give them real hands-on experience, because NYFA is all about the experience of making things, rather than just classroom learning.
NYFA: As a producer, what do you look for in a project?
TM: The script is the guide. Firstly, you have to be able to read it from cover to cover without wanting to put it down. Then, you think about genre, market, and how you can get it made. As I’ve grown, so have my tastes, and while I have been known for producing horror and thrillers, “Blue World Order” was a sci-fi and a great story to start with.
NYFA: What inspired your film “Blue World Order,” which you produced?
TM: “Blue World Order” was written by Ché Baker, and he is also a published author as Scott Baker. I read both his script and novel ,and saw the enormous potential in the world that he had created because, like all of the best sci-fi, it is only a small stretch from the world we live in — and that is what makes it easy to relate to. Ché had met me back in the sports days and reached out to get my opinion of the script. I gave him notes and he could see how they helped with the story. From then on, we started talking about how to make the film.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience producing the film? Were there any surprises along the way?
TM: Producing the film was a great experience. We had the challenges that most face: limited time, budget, and resources, however Ché had really made a great start in that he had many of the people of Canberra on his side and they welcomed us with open arms. Ché had also worked on several films in crew roles and had made some good connections in both cast and crew. I had also worked with some great people. We set up the schedule so that the first couple of days on set had Bruce Spence starring as Whippet — a very dark character. Bruce brought him to life and that really sparked our crew.
Many of the crew were Canberra locals with little or no on-set experience. In the middle of the shoot we had Jack Thompson come and that gave everyone a fresh injection. And partly because I was still closing the deal with the Department of Immigration, and also his agent, but the last few days were with Billy Zane. Ché had met Billy in the U.S. when he was working as an on-set driver and the two had hit it off. Billy came along and helped us finish the main block of shooting. As is often the case, there were pick-ups done later, but at the end of five weeks we had the makings of a film.
NYFA: “Blue World Order” has swept quite a few film festival awards. What advice would you offer to students interested in producing quality films and competing at renowned festivals?
TM: “Blue World Order” has picked up several awards, and so did “Death’s Requiem, The New Life,” and it is always the same reason: Because when we get an opportunity to make a film it is our job to pour everything into it.
No one gives you the opportunity. You earn it. Ché knew that and he poured everything he had into “Blue World Order,” and his passion was infectious. Our crew were drawn from film students to other people who just wanted to give it a go. A few of us had worked together before, like Production Designer Merryn Schofield who had been in the art department on “Terminus,” but being the designer was a big break for her and she had a great group of locals who are inseparable friends today.
The thing anyone who has made a film knows, is that making it is only half the battle — getting it out there is the next part. You have to send it to festivals, research which ones are appropriate, and push, push, push. That’s the only way that industry buyers are going to notice your film, and from there, the real audience can discover it.
NYFA: The film co-stars fellow NYFA Instructor Stephen Hunter. Can you tell us how that collaboration came about?
TM: During his time on “The Hobbit” movies where he worked with Andrew Lesnie as his on-set colourist, Ché had made friends with Stephen Hunter, who played Bombur. Stephen read an early draft and gave Ché feedback and really brought the humour to the script. All of the best films are collaborations: Everyone brings something to the table, and the best directors and producers are the ones who know how to bring those ideas to the fore and make the film better each time. Stephen was full of ideas and willing to get in there and give things a go. It was a great opportunity for him to step into a role that had a lot more going on for his character too.
NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing you for your work on “Blue World Order”?
TM: My time at NYFA was helpful in that every time I do anything I look for the learning experience in it. As someone who had come from sports and worked into film, I hadn’t really sat down and broken down the elements of what I do as a producer until I had to teach students.
Teaching other people gives you structure, and structure is important when managing a large project like a feature film. As a teacher I always love the enthusiasm students bring, and the attitude is one of “just do it” and I encourage that, but then impart on students some of the lessons that I have learned along the way.
You can spend just as much time and money making a terrible film as making a good one — the difference is in the planning.
NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re working on, or what’s next for “Blue World Order”?
TM: Since “Blue World Order” spent a long time in post-production because of the special effects involved in sci-fi, I was able to get on and make “Out of the Shadows” while Ché, as director/producer saw “Blue World Order” home. “Out of the Shadows” is also making its way into the world.
I’ve also started working on IMAX documentaries and helped Jen Peedom on “Mountain,” which is releasing soon.
“Blue World Order” is going through the screenings for the AACTA awards and has screened in Melbourne on Sept. 12, Sydney on the Sept. 16, and Brisbane on Sept. 19. Any AACTA members can head along and see the film and vote for it there.
Then later in the year there are more screenings open to the public in Australia. It is being sold by Arclight worldwide and so we’ll have to see where they get traction for the release. If you’re a student who is curious, then sign up for updates here.
NYFA: Is there anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?
TM: I’d really just like to reinforce how important it is to be passionate about your career in film, as no one else is going to care as much as you. Every time you get an opportunity to work on a film in whatever role it is, if you give it your all, people will notice. Several cast and crew that I have worked with on small films have come on to larger ones, and usually in greater roles. I do it myself where I have helped people out and then found myself with work. NYFA students often have that passion and some of my students are already building careers for themselves. I really enjoy working with people who seize the opportunities and then go on to create more.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Timothy Maddocks for taking the time to share his experience producing “Blue World Order” with our community.
Last week as August gave way to September, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus celebrated the January 2017 Diploma of Filmmaking Final Screenings. The two-day event held an opening reception for students, friends and family, and concluded with students’ digital dialogue screening at the Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair.
The final screenings serve as an opportunity for students, friends, family, and faculty to share the experience of watching the films created throughout the duration of the course, celebrate the students’ achievement, and come together to prepare for the transition into the industry.
NYFA Gold Coast Campus Manager DJ Stonier commented, “I was amazed by the outstanding quality of the films and the range of genres presented. These films are definitely festival circuit ready and I look forward to hearing about the journey these students will have as NYFA-AU graduates.”
Congratulations to all of our filmmaking graduates.
This August, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast held the May 2017 Filmmaking mid-year screening showcase for it’s May 2017 intake Filmmaking students at the new, purpose-built Southport campus theatre.
Filmmaking Lecturer Trevor Hawkins, stated, “It’s all about storytelling and turning good ideas into good films. And that’s what our May intake of student filmmakers are showcasing with their mid-year screening of their non-sync films.”
As a part of the New York Film Academy Australia’s commitment to hands-on education, the mid-year showcase provides students with the opportunity to screen their work from class for an invited audience of peers, friends, and family.
Mr. Hawkins continued, “With an impressive variety of story ideas, our new and emerging filmmakers have explored numerous genres including comedy, drama, action, science fiction, gangster and social comment.
“Each film has left a lasting impression which is a sign of good filmmaking and we congratulate all students on a job well done! And, as we all know, filmmaking is like learning a musical instrument, it’s all about practice, practice, practice. So we all look forward to their next films.”
Congratulations to our Filmmaking students for their successful mid-year screenings.