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  • All Rise Film Competition Runner-Up is New York Film Academy MFA Screenwriting Student

    The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Screenwriting student Ines Carolyne de los Santos Almanzar and her all-NYFA crew for winning the Runner-Up prize in the All Rise Film Competition.

    Founded by Simone Benhayon in 2015, All Rise is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to eradicate cyberbullying. Through legislation, reform, and education, All Rise has empowered thousands to take a stand against cyberbullying. Part of their education initiative is an annual film competition that draws attention to many of the issues surrounding online bullying.

    This year, the theme of the film competition was “Is Cyber Abuse an International Crime?”

    The youth competition is divided into two categories. The first is a children’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 10-15. The second is a young adult’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 16-21. Films can’t be more than three minutes in length. Other than that, creators are able to tell their story in whatever cinematic format they chose.

    Initially, Almanzar wasn’t sure what story she would tell, but she relied on her own experiences.

    “I was a victim of cyberbullying, myself,” Almanzar said. “I know how tough it can be to survive cyberbullying. You want to ask for help, but most people don’t think this is a big issue.”

    With polls showing that anywhere from 35-50 percent of teens have been bullied online, it is clear that cyberbullying is, in fact, a very big deal.

    Almanzar’s film Isn’t This a Crime follows a plus-size woman as she tries internet dating for the first time. She struggles through date after date. She is told she isn’t pretty enough. One man explains that her need to have kids makes her undesirable. Everything from the way she dresses, to her desire to study art, is insulted. Later, the emotional abuse she has endured begins to manifest itself physically as bruises all over her body. When she tries to report the abuse, she’s informed that the police cannot help her.

    The film is incredibly impactful, and Almanzar’s entire crew was made up of current NYFA students and NYFA alumni. Almanzar said she relied heavily on her crew to help complete the project.

    When asked why she liked working with NYFA students, Ines said, “Since we’re all students we already had a kind of shorthand on set. Communication is vital to the success of a set. We were able to move quickly and resolve issues as they happened.”

    You can watch Isn’t This a Crime and all of the finalist films here:

    All Rise Film Competition 2018 Judging Evening from All Rise on Vimeo.

  • The Scapegoat Screens at Dubai International Film Festival & Young Saudi Film Festival

    With award season upon us, we’re always excited to hear from our alumni around the world as they find success screening their work. New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking graduates Talha (“B.”) Bin Abdulrahman and Maan Bin Abdulrahman have already seen their NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, celebrated at the Middle East’s leading film festival, the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. There, it was an official selection. 

    The short was an official selection at the following other festivals:

    • The Irvine International Film Festival
    • Orlando Film Festival
    • San Antonio Film Festival
    • Chandler Film Festival

    The Scapegoat continues its momentum as an official selection at the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, screening at NYFA Los Angeles Feb. 18.

    Talha B. was able to take some time during his busy festival schedule to tell the NYFA Blog a bit more about his experience directing The Scapegoat.

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

    TBA: Let me just start this by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a filmmaker. After graduating from high school almost nine years ago, I have gone through several academic paths before I found out that my real passion is filmmaking, which is how I ended up at NYFA — a decision that changed the course of my life, for the better.

    NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about the medium?

    TBA: Ever since I was a kid, I was a big fan of watching and talking about films. I believe filmmaking is a format that contains a beautiful package of many different art forms, to tell stories that provoke emotional responses from viewers from all over the world. I always found that inspiring and compelling.

    NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film The Scapegoat? What is the story, and what about the project grabbed you?  

    TBA: The Scapegoat is a 22-minute short I directed as my thesis project for the New York Film Academy’s BFA filmmaking program. The Scapegoat is about Paul Dugan, a former best-selling author who is in search of his next novel. Feeling the pressure to live up to his earlier success, he shelters himself in an isolated cabin in the woods to confront his internal demons.

    Every creative person goes through some [form of] writer’s block, so the story was appealing to me, to represent that visually by telling this story. A creative mind can be its own worst critic, because it is continuously working — especially when there is too much pressure and a lot at stake.

    To not do a project that deals with this topic would be madness.

    NYFA: Were there any surprises or challenges along the way during production, and how did you adapt?

    TBA: I’ve never directed a project that involved a single actor playing multiple roles all at once. In this case it was four distinct characters.

    It was quite the brain teaser to think of all the factors in each scene we shot, from camera blocking to hair and makeup. It required an extra level of planning and coordination between every single person working on set.

    I believe the biggest challenge I faced was when I learned that my actor’s body double refused to shave his facial hair to match the lead actor changing between character looks. Luckily enough, two talented performers stepped in to save the day.

    The critical lesson overall for me was to believe in your crew, because it takes a village to make a film — no matter how big, or small.

    NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Scapegoat at the Dubai International Film Festival! What was this experience like?

    TBA: Thank you, it was a pleasant experience. My producer Maan B. attended on behalf of myself and the team. The film was positively received by the audience, which is something I was delighted to hear.

    NYFA: What advice can you share with our students when it comes to applying to a major festival like the Dubai International Film Fest?  

    TBA: Just one piece of advice that one of my instructors had shared with me, which is to be one of the first people who apply to the festival. Sometimes it’s good to be early, for your film to be noticed.

    NYFA: What is next for The Scapegoat?

    TBA: More festivals will pick it up, hopefully.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    TBA: Excited about directing a feature with a working title of The Alien.

    It is a stylized dramedy following the story of an unworldly immigrant who dares to go after his dream as an artist, despite the harsh reality he faces. It will be a collaboration with the same talented writers and producer behind The Scapegoat.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Talha, Maan and The Scapegoat team on their success! To see The Scapegoat (along with seven other excellent selections) at the Young Saudi Film Festival Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

     

  • Young Saudi Film Festival Unveils Lineup of Films at New York Film Academy

    On Monday, the Young Saudi Film Festival, hosted by the New York Film Academy, announced the films it will showcase this season. The festival opens Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Harmony Gold Preview House in Los Angeles. The eight films — six from Saudi Arabia and two from Egypt — cover a wide range of genres, from comedy to drama, thriller to family film.

    “We had an impressive variety of films submitted from around the world, and we congratulate all the filmmakers,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “It was very challenging for our selection committee to choose only eight films.”

    Dan Mackler, Director of NYFA Los Angeles, greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    The committee consisted of NYFA Faculty Miraj Grbic (actor, Mission Impossible), producer Tony Schwartz, and James Coburn (production sound), among others, who did the first round of viewing. The second round of judging was led by YSFF Vice President and NYFA alum Abdulaziz Almutari (Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and Maan bin Abdulrahman (January 2013 BFA Filmmaking) of Prince of Arabia Entertainment.

    Impressed with the amount of NYFA involvement in creating this festival, Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander said, “We are very proud that New York Film Academy alumni and students are leading the media and entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. We support Rakan and Abdulaziz’s vision for the Young Saudi Film Festival and are happy to sponsor the Festival in Los Angeles. After the announcement that cinemas will be allowed in the Kingdom again, I could not be more thrilled. We look forward to strengthening relationships and are excited for new collaborations in Saudi Arabia.”

    In addition to the films, the festival will include a congratulatory video by Saudi Arabian actor Nasser Al Gassaby, a performance by the NYFA Improv Troupe (directed by Groundlings legends Suzanne Kent and George McGrath), and a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers moderated by host Maan B.

    VIP invitees include the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, the Saudi Consul, the US Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the UAE’s Minister of Education, along with top-level Saudi Arabian actors, producers, filmmakers, and media.

    The complete lineup of films includes:

    Bloodline written and directed by Saud Al-Moghirah, produced by Javier Olmo

    Coexistence by Musab Alamri

    Hero Complex written and directed by Mohamad AlYamani, produced by Mohamad AlYamani and Douglas Spain

    The Nostalgia written by Sarah Lotfy, directed and produced by Moataz Badran

    Piece of Wood by Yassin Koptan

    The Scapegoat written by Charlie H. Millen & Stephen Ranieri, directed by Talha B., produced by Maan B.

    Spirit of North by Mohammad Ali Almarhabi

    Under Concrete by Meshal Al Jaser

    The Young Saudi Film Festival will be at the Harmony Gold Preview House on Sunday, February 18. It starts with a reception at 4 pm, and the program begins at 5 pm. To attend, please RSVP at nyfa.edu/ysff.

     

     

    February 14, 2018 • Community Highlights, Film Festivals, Filmmaking • Views: 855

  • 2 New York Film Academy Grads Premier Films at 2018 Winter Film Awards

    New York City’s Winter Film Awards International Film Festival will feature the short films of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) grads in its seventh season, beginning Feb. 22. NYFA Los Angeles grad Tamara Ruppart screens Path of Dreams, a love story based on the life of Japanese poet Ono No Komachi, while NYFA New York grad Joseph Park premiers Inner Glow, a surreal journey of self-discovery and freedom following a troubled young woman in the clouds. More details from the Winter Film Awards, below:

    Path of Dreams

    Directed by NYFA Alum Tamara Ruppart

    Short, from Japan, in Japanese, 25 mins, 2017

    Screening Sunday Feb. 25, Block 10: 9:15 PM-11:45 PM     

    Path of Dreams TRAILER from Kotaro Mori on Vimeo.

     

    In poetic Japan, Komachi strikes a tantalizing bargain with suitor Shosho. If he agrees to write poetry with her for 99 nights, she promises they will create a love more beautiful than poetry. Every day he must ride to her home, and when the sun sets on the 99th night she will take him as her lover. For 98 nights, they journey through poetry, exploring their hearts and minds, as their love and desire grow in anticipation. On the 99th night, Komachi joyfully awaits her lover. But as she watches the sun set, Komachi moves from disappointment to anger, until a sense of mystery fills the stillness in the air, and heartbreak takes hold of her heart. In her grief, she will carry Shosho with her as she walks the path of dreams.

    Inner Glow

    Directed by NYFA Alum Joseph Park

    Short, from United States in English, 11 mins, 2017, World Premiere

    Screening Saturday Feb 24, Block 4: 3:45 PM-6:15 PM /Wednesday Feb 28, Matinee: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM    

    Skye, a troubled young woman trapped amidst the dark clouds with nothing but a window, struggles to access her power to illuminate light bulbs. After much despair and failure, Skye discovers a calling from outside, which turns out to be her clone. This encounter allows her to draw more power, and therefore, the bulbs begin to glow. However, she finds that her clone disappears, which causes the light bulbs to fade away. Skye’s only hope of freedom lies in seeking her true self and acceptance in order to bring in light again.

    The Winter Film Awards lineup will include a total of 93 films at Cinema Village in Greenwich Village, and this year the festival has reported their selected filmmakers come from 31 countries; 40% of the films were created by women, 43% were created by people of color. The New York Film Academy applauds the continued work to promote diversity in the entertainment industry, and congratulates Tamara Ruppart and Joseph Park. If you’re in the city, tickets are on sale now — check out our alumni films at the Winter Film Awards. 

  • New York Film Academy Co-Presents Stranger Than Fiction in its 14th Year at IFC Center

    The New York Film Academy returns to its partnership with IFC Center to present Stranger Than Fiction. For its 2018 winter season, Stranger Than Fiction is hosted by film producer and Toronto International Film Festival documentary programmer Thom Powers, and Oscar-nominated documentarian and New York Film Academy alum Raphaela Neihausen.

    “If you crave documentaries that generate passionate discussion, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from this lineup,” STF Artistic Director Thom Powers said in IFC’s press release.

    Now in its 14th year, Stranger Than Fiction is a weekly documentary film series that will now present nine seminal documentaries in keeping with its tradition of screening cutting-edge documentaries. After each screening, a Q&A will be held with each film’s director or another special guest, providing audiences with a truly exclusive and unforgettable experience. Stranger Than Fiction is sponsored by the New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking Department and presented by IFC Center.

    Stranger Than Fiction’s Opening Night festivities will commence with a screening of Sundance smash Seeing Allred, before exploring a lineup that will include serials and a Netflix original, and reflects the dynamically changing, cutting-edge documentary industry.

    Here is this year’s full Stranger Than Fiction lineup, co-presented by the New York Film Academy:

    Feb 6: Seeing Allred (2018, 96 min, dir Roberta Grossman & Sophie Sartain)

    + guest TBA

    Feb 13: Control Room (2004, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jehane Noujaim

    Feb 20: This is Congo (2017, 91 min)

    + Q&A w/  dir Daniel McCabe

    Feb 27: Flint Town (2018, two episodes totaling 90 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs. Zackary Canepari, Jessica Dimmock, Drea Cooper

    March 1: Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death (2017, 125 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Helen Whitney

    March 6: Oh, Rick! (2017, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Dustin Sussman, Aaron Rosenbloom & subject Rick Crom

    March 13: Wild, Wild Country (2018, two episodes totaling 120 min)

    + Q&A w/ dirs Chapman Way, Maclain Way & exec prod Mark Duplass

    March 20: Occupation: Dreamland (2005, 78 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Ian Olds

    March 27: Closing Night: The China Hustle (2018, 84 min)

    + Q&A w/ dir Jed Rothstein

    Screenings are held 7 p.m. Tuesdays (& one Thursday) at IFC Center, February 6 – March 27. The general public is welcome to attend Stranger Than Fiction screenings for $17, while IFC Center members enjoy a discounted ticket price of $14. Season Passes are available for $99 ($80 for IFC members), and cover admission to all 9 screenings. For more information, visit Stranger Than Fiction or IFC Center.

  • New York Film Academy to Host Second Annual Young Saudi Film Festival

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Los Angeles recently announced the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival (YSFF), which is slated for Feb. 18, 2018, at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset Boulevard. A showcase of recent Saudi films, YSFF is currently accepting submissions from filmmakers.

    Director of NYFA Los Angeles Dan Mackler greets YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi.

    “Last year Saudi filmmakers didn’t have any theaters where they could show their films and creative productions. With hope and consistent effort, cinema is now back again in Saudi Arabia,” said YSFF President and NYFA student Rakan Anneghaimshi (Spring 2016 BFA Acting). “Our goal since Abdulaziz Almutari (YSFF Vice President, Fall 2015 MFA Cinematography) and I started YSFF was to have a platform to link filmmakers to each other so they can exchange experiences, knowledge, and connections. It’s going to be the same case this year.”

    Last year’s screening was attended by over 300 guests and presented eight short films. NYFA alum Maan bin Abdulrahman of Prince of Arabia Entertainment hosted the event and moderated a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers, which included Saudi Arabian filmmaker, Meshal Al Jaser (NYFA Fall 2016 BFA Screenwriting).

    Regarding this year’s festival, Director of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus Dan Mackler said, “As an international film school and home to many Saudi Arabian alumni and students, the New York Film Academy is very happy with Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen theaters. We share Rakan’s excitement for this second event and expect it to surpass last year’s impact on bringing talented filmmakers to light.”

    While the festival focuses on the work of Saudi filmmakers, submissions from around the world will be considered, particularly those from Gulf and Arab states. A panel of NYFA faculty will select eight short films between five and 20 minutes long for the showcase. Judges include film star Miraj Grbic (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), actress and comedienne Suzanne Kent (“Taxi,” The Groundlings), cinematographer Anthony Richmond, ASC, BSC (“Don’t Look Now,” “Legally Blonde”), photographer/cinematographer Bart Mastronardi (“Tales of Poe”), director James Rowe (“Blue Ridge Fall”), and novelist Crickett Rumley (“Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell”).

    For a complete list of rules and to submit a short film, please submit via Google form here or on the NYFA Student hub. The deadline is Jan. 28th, so hurry to submit your film!

    The second annual Young Saudi Film Festival on Feb. 18 at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood promises to be an inspiring event attended by both young filmmakers and Saudi esteemed officials. It is free and open to the public. In addition to the short films and a Q&A again moderated by Maan bin Abdulrahman, the event will feature a light reception and a performance by NYFA’s Improv Troupe.

    YSFF President Rakan Anneghaimshi with filmmaker Meshal Al Jaser.

    Reflecting on the upcoming festival, YSFF President Anneghaimshi complimented NYFA’s continued involvement, saying, “I would like to thank Dan Mackler for his endless support and caring, and I would like also to thank Tami Alexander, Crickett Rumley, and Brian Dillon.” He also had kind words for those submitting films: “I wish all the best for all filmmakers applying to the festival.”

    To RSVP to attend the Young Saudi Film Festival on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.

  • New York Film Academy Documentary Film Festival Screens 5 Fantastic Student Docs

    The New York Film Academy recently celebrated The New York Film Academy Documentary Film Festival, offering a showcase of five exceptional thesis documentaries from our conservatory students.

    Held at the NYFA Theatre at the New York City campus, the festival served not only as a thesis presentation, but also a professional launch and celebration of an exceptional group of filmmakers. The surprising, compelling stories and unique visions of the Spring ’17 Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory carried a delighted audience of fellow NYFA students, friends, faculty, and staff around the globe and through a series of remarkable worlds you’d never have known existed.

    Screened at the festival were the following films:

    "Jatar" by Braulio Jatar

    “Running Out of Freedom” Directed by Braulio Jatar

    Braulio Jatar’s father, a high-profile Venezuelan dissident, is dying in prison. But the capture order on Braulio’s head makes returning to the country extremely dangerous. His family won’t allow it. But with his father’s life in the balance, and the Resistance gathering to make one last stand, the young journalist has decided to risk his life to fight for his father and for his country.

    “Cricket Liu” Directed by Julia Cheng

    An aging master of the ancient culture of cricket fighting now uses the art to entertain an endless river of tourists, earning all he possibly can, to send in precious red envelops as gifts to the beloved little grandson he is not allowed to know.

    “Gold Flakes” Directed by Santiago Machado

    A courageous father navigates Colombian rainforests, gleaning the last flakes of El Dorado’s gold.

    But it’s drying up. The abandoned mines threaten collapse, a guerilla army is taking over the area, and the government is trying to starve out the gleaners with new taxes and tightening regulations. Still, his family will eat tonight if he can find just one good gold flake.

    “The Future is Rotten” Directed by Nancy Dionne 

    Forests of the Pacific Northwest hold a rare treasure. A secret culture of foragers spend their lives hunting it. Its coveted flavor can bring up to $1000 per kg. But the Matsutake mushroom’s true genius is as a healer of ruined landscapes, and it may offer the best hope for an American forest system run amuk.

    “Sword Swallower” Directed by Katerina Olkhovaya 

    Notorious circus artist Magnificent Jewels makes a career of death-defying performances. Even outside the limelight, the vulnerable if hardened sword swallower sacrifices all for the burlesque circus that from Berlin, to Brussels, to Paris must always go on.

    Congratulations to our Spring ’17 Documentary Filmmaking Conservatory class! It was truly a proud and triumphant night for our documentary community.

  • Celebrating A Successful Shanghai Film Week at New York Film Academy

    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was proud and honored to host Shanghai Film Week from Jan. 9-12, created in partnership with the Shanghai Film Group, Shanghai Film Art Academy, and the Shanghai Film Distribution and Exhibition Association.

    A vivid celebration of Chinese film and culture, Shanghai Film Week coincides with the beginning of the 2018 Chinese New Year festivities. The joy of the New Year was a part of the magic behind the enthusiastic and full turnout, with many of the events of the week seeing packed audiences and full houses.

    On its opening day, Shanghai Film Week shared space with Chinese Cultural Performances at the Jewish Heritage in downtown New York. The Chinese Cultural Performances offered a wide and colorful variety of presentations from Shanghai-based cultural and educational institutions, from folk dancing and music to martial arts.

    Delighted attendees were treated to presentations by the East China Normal University, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Shanghai Film Art Academy, and Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The performances concluded with a ceremony to acknowledge and thank the many prestigious institutions and talented individuals involved in shaping the Chinese Cultural Performances.

    Following on the energy of the performances, Shanghai Film Week continued the theme of celebration with a focus on Chinese film. The assembled crowd was treated to a Film Panel hosted by New York Film Academy President Michael J. Young.

    Shanghai Film Week’s Film Panel discussion offered rare insight, flavored with optimism, on topics from the history of cinema in China to the future of the international entertainment industry. Industry experts discussed “The Present and Future State of the U.S. and China Film Collaboration,” with panelists including award-winning author and NYU Tisch professor David Irving, Shanghai Film Art Academy President Jiang Bo, renowned film critic and NYFA instructor Peter Rainer, film director of the first screening film Sherwood Hu, NYFA Chair of Broadcast Journalism Bill Einreinhofer, and Vice President of the Shanghai Film Group Corporation Xiaojun Wang.

    After the panel, many more guests arrived for the Shanghai Film Week Opening Ceremony and first film screening. A rousing speech by Deputy Consul General Zhang Meifang from Consulate General of People’s Republic of China in New York and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting kicked off the Opening Ceremony, immediately followed by the screening of panelist and film director Sherwood Hu’s 2013 feature “Amazing.”

    The popular film features NBA superstars Scottie Pippen, Mel Chude, Dwight Howard, and Carmelo Anthony, and offered the enthusiastic audience an exciting ride through the world of a virtual reality game that takes on a life of its own.

    Shanghai Film Week also screened six additional films at the NYFA Theatre at its Battery Park campus, all of which have won numerous awards and accolades in China. These films included “The Last Tomb,” “The Monkey King,” “I Wish I Knew,” “Phurbu & Tenzin,” “Legend of the Naga Pearls,” and “Cock and Bull.”

    The New York Film Academy thanks its Shanghai Film Week supporter and partners: Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York; the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & TV; Foreign Affairs Office of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government; Information Office of Shanghai Municipal People’s Government; Shanghai Film Group; and Shanghai Film Art Academy.  

     

  • New York Film Academy Alum Uzair Merchant is Best Indie Director at Los Angeles Film Awards

    In the middle of a the entertainment industry’s award season, it’s easy to see how a prestigious award can mean more than its weight in glitter or gold. Winning an award is a remarkably exciting way for artists to share their stories and receive recognition for a job well done, and we are proud to congratulate one such New York Film Academy alum.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking graduate Uzair Merchant has been busy since completing his filmmaking workshop at NYFA New York City. With production credits with the BBC, Marvel Studios, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and more, the triple-degree black belt has also launched his own award-winning production company, and recently snagged the competitive Best Indie Filmmaker Award from the Los Angeles Film Awards.

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to sit down and catch up with the award-winning filmmaker and production designer to hear more about his film “Chasing Lines,” what inspires him, and what’s next.

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

    UM: I’m an Indian filmmaker who grew up in Dubai. My background is in production and set design, which I studied at Nottingham Trent University in England. However that was always a path for me wanting to make films: understanding the creative side. Some of the greatest filmmakers like Sir Ridley Scott and Alfred Hitchcock were part of art departments before making it as mainstream filmmakers. It’s the one side of film that has retained its roots in cinema, with the process just using different tools now.

    Learning to make films in New York [at the New York Film Academy] was a dream though, especially with the alumni list of NYFA. It’s in the heart of it all! Could you believe telling a kid in dubai in the ‘90s, “You can make films in new york at the film academy”? It was literally a dream.

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

    UM: Lots of moments! Every day was a moment of its own, but learning the traditional ways of film, actually spooling it in, the process of measuring everything — it was amazing.

    Most of all, it was the people around me. I made some of the best friends there who were all amazing in their own way, and learning off of each other was amazing. I’m sure we’ll make more films together.

    NYFA: Why did you choose filmmaking? And what inspires you most as a filmmaker?

    UM: The freedom of telling a story. Film to me is the best medium that you can use to connect with an audience, and immerse them into any world you create. Suddenly you have this power of speaking through the voice of another artist, along with the whole crew, all working towards that moment, that one amazing moment.

    I like waking up knowing that morning I can be living in a world of the 10th century or 100 years in the future for the next few weeks or days or months. It’s exciting.

    Social realism inspires me the most. I like observing life around me, especially when I’m traveling. Then, “Life imitates art, far more than art imitates life.” (Oscar Wilde)

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your process in creating “Chasing Lines,” and what motivated you to bring this project to life?

    UM: “Chasing Lines” is a sequel to a short film I made eight years back, “In Between Lines,” which was about comparing roads to people. Hopefully eight years from now, I’d like to make “Beyond Lines” — and then it will be an overall 15 minute trilogy made over 16 years.

    The first film, “In Between Lines,” was about figuring out the paths of life and comparing roads to people. “Chasing Lines” is about realizing the chase of life, but trying to understand the why. It’s a dialogue with the earth. Hopefully “Beyond Lines” will be about .. who knows? I’ve always been obsessed with that question of purpose of life and how connected we are in such a weird magical network of a universe.

    On the technical side of “Chasing Lines,” I wanted to explore. You see how the smartphone has kind of taken over everything, and if that is the future in some weird way I wanted to explore it, so the whole thing — even the voice-over — is recorded on the iPhone. The poster image is also taken on the iPhone.

    It was challenging, especially doing the long time-lapse shots that lasted 20-30 minutes each. Fun, though.

    NYFA: “Chasing Lines” just won Best Indie Filmmaker at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Congratulations! For our students, do you have any advice on what you learned through the process?

    UM: Thank you so much!

    Honestly my advice to NYFA students is to make the films they want to make. On the process, I don’t think anyone should let things change or shape their film. It’s good to get inspired through different things, but there isn’t really one set way I think…

    Maybe that’s the best advice: get inspired.  

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

    UM: Oh, for sure: NYFA teaches you fundamentals you are expected to know and understand in the professional world. Simple things, but important — like basic rules of filmmaking and understanding the whole process from start to end.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming screenings or new projects you’d like to tell us about?

    UM: There are things in the pipeline, mainly my feature that I’ve been working on for about eight years as well, called “Elixir Of Life.” I’d hope to get that kicked off soon…

    I also do production design for a theme park in Dubai called Global Village, and we design and build pavilions for each country. It’s pretty cool, like a massive standing film set for six months. That’s the first part of my year coming up and even though it’s so wild and crazy with the scale of it all, it’s fun — and you learn a lot very fast. You have to. Plus, I get to work with my parents on it! We each have our areas on the project and its all connected and feeds into the bigger picture.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    UM: I have my own production company called B Kreativ Productions, based out of Dubai and recently Vancouver too. We are a multi-award-winning production company and it’s something I’d like to grow over time by adding creative value by exploring and merging with new talent and work. My relationship with NYFA and my university Nottingham Trent gives us the opportunity to grow, and we are lucky to have that!

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Uzair Merchant for sharing a part of his story with our community, and congratulate all our alums who are working hard to shape the industry for the better.

  • Harper’s Bazaar Profiles New York Film Academy Alum Khadijah Kudsi

    Khadijah Kudsi

    Copyright © Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 2017

    With the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival coming to a close this December, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia profiled six pioneering female filmmakers from the Middle East, including New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Khadijah Kudsi. The in-depth piece about the six directors not only celebrates their hard work and achievements, but highlights the cultural shift taking place in the 21st Century Middle East, and subsequent progress women have made in playing a larger role in society—including the arts.

    NYFA alum Khadijah Kudsi grew up in Saudi Arabia and was always artistic and interested in storytelling. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I went to New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2014. I only meant to go for four weeks, but that turned into eight, which led into a year and then into a whole career. I did a diploma in filmmaking and then I started working on short films and writing.”

    After graduating from the Academy, Kudsi quickly found work for a Chinese television channel. As her career has progressed, Kudsi likes to focus on stories from Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, including one film that’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and another currently in production focusing on Dana Al Ali—the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.

    Kudsi continued, “I think it’s important to have ties to this region and highlight positive stories coming out of it. But it’s not always easy—the funding is hard. As is finding the right producer and managing your time being a mother and a working woman.”

    Festivals in the Middle East have grown in importance as more and more voices from the region are making themselves heard. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) first launched in 2004 with 76 films and 13,000 attendees. During its initial six-day run, acting legend Omar Sharif was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival has steadily grown since then, with over 60,000 admissions to its 2016 event. This year marked the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival and presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Irrfan Khan and Sir Patrick Stewart.

    As the region modernizes and women are being given more and more freedom, their roles in society are becoming more prominent as well. For Middle Eastern women working in the arts, that uphill struggle feels all the more real, considering the industry has been historically unequal not just in the region but around the world. Kudsi told Harper’s Bazaar, “I have four children, whereas most of the crew you work with on set are single or have no kids. They don’t understand when you say you need to wrap by a certain time because I need to go see my kids.”

    The New York Film Academy strives to give filmmakers and artists of all kinds a voice, and prides itself on its diverse student body. By learning and working hands-on together, students find their differences are a strength—learning and sharing experiences not just from the school but from one another. If you’re interested in filmmaking or the visual arts, you can find more information about NYFA’s programs here.

    NYFA has committed itself to giving aspiring storytellers in the Middle East an education they can build their careers on. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to see Khadijah Kudsi recognized for her inspiring work and career, and looks forward to the stories she will tell in the years to come. “I love the rawness in the stories here,” professed Kudsi, “and we have so much to talk about.”

    December 27, 2017 • Abu Dhabi, Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1164