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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Broadcast Journalism Attends Digital Taipei 2018

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    Digital Taipei 2018Earlier this month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Broadcast Journalism Bill Einreinhofer was invited to attend Digital Taipei 2018, a media production forum held in Taiwan. Einreinhofer called it “a wonderful experience.”

    In addition to attending Digital Taipei 2018, Einreinhofer was able to visit its associated trade show, which he found to much more gender diverse than similar events. “I was very impressed,” stated Einreinhofer, adding “Unlike many of the conferences I have attended, there were a significant number of women here. (Media isn’t a ‘guy’s club’ anymore!”) The various items on display were as diverse as the crowd, including many cultural takes on mainstream forms of technology and media. This included virtual reality that incorporated Chinese lanterns alongside the high-tech eyewear.

    Einreinhofer is an Emmy Award winning producer/director/writer who has developed and produced programming for PBS (PBS NewsHour), ABC (Good Morning America), CBS (60 Minutes), Discovery (Spacewalkers: The Ultimate High-Wire Act) and HBO (Diary of a Red Planet) among many other distinguished credits. He is currently producing the feature film Invisible Love, starring NYFA alum Kazy Tauginas. Digital Taipei 2018

    Einreinhofer is very committed to his students, and took the opportunity in Taiwan to showcase samples of some of NYFA’s recent graduates from our broadcast journalism school. This included Broadcast Journalism graduate Lara Gato’s fabulous Resume Reel and recent work by NYFA alum and multimedia journalist (MMJ) Alyssia Taglia.

    Gato and Taglia are just two of the many successful alumni who have graduated from NYFA, one of the country’s top broadcast journalism schools. The core of the NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism program is learning to work both behind and in front of the camera in a location (New York City) that affords aspiring broadcast journalists a huge variety of professional options and challenges students to become resourceful digital reporters who can handle every aspect of covering a story.

    In addition to the conference and trade show, the trip allowed Einreinhofer to explore Taipei, a city that combines modern architecture with traditional urban scenes and cultural touchstones. 

    Einreinhofer made note to give a special thank you to Shawn Tsai, Manager of the Digital Content Industry Promotion Office, who helped organize and coordinate the trip. While we’re glad Einreinhofer got to share his experience and knowhow with Digital Taipei 2018, the New York Film Academy is certainly happy to have him back in New York working closely with the students of our Broadcast Journalism school!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) 1-Week Animation Workshop Concludes With Special Chinese Tea Performance

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    Twenty students from the Chinese GMFZ High School joined a 1-Week Animation Workshop from July 30th to August 3rd at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. At the end of the course, the students prepared a special Tea Performance to show their appreciation to the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

    During the week-long animation workshop, the students learned about Paper Puppets, Stop Motion Animation, Visual Story, VFX, and Editing. In addition, they had the opportunity to film on the Universal Studios Backlot, Hollywood’s world-famous lot where movies such as American Beauty, Back to the Future, and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds have been filmed. NYFA has a special relationship with Universal Studios, where students have the unique opportunity to spectate the importance of “studio life” to the Los Angeles area up close and first-hand, while also getting the one-of-a-kind experience of shooting on the lot themselves.

    The location shooting went very well as students were taught hands-on skills in storytelling. The GMFZ students showed satisfaction with this learning experience upon getting their certificate at the end of the week.

    The program was concluded with the Chinese GMFZ School performing a unique tea performance, a cultural exchange that was greatly appreciated by NYFA staff and faculty. The performance demonstrated the traditional Chinese art of tea tasting as a show of gratitude to NYFA for arranging their Animation Workshop. 

    During the ceremony, students explained the history and procedures involved in the art of tea-making with a recital and performance. A sample of 10 kinds of teas from various provinces in China were brought to the Chair of Animation, Craig Caton-Largent, who happened to be an ardent fan of Chinese tea.

    The New York Film Academy proudly holds a special relationship with Chinese filmmaking students. In 2017, President of NYFA Michael Young visited multiple schools in China, and the Academy has offered local workshops in Shanghai and Beijing. The New York Film Academy congratulates the Chinese GMFZ High School students on their completion of the 1-Week Animation Workshop, and warmly extends their gratitude for their exquisite Tea Ceremony!

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    August 9, 2018 • 3D Animation, International Diversity • Views: 314

  • Beijing Normal University Students Attend New York Film Academy Workshop

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    This summer, fifteen students from Beijing Normal University (BNU) completed a 2-Week Filmmaking Workshop at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) at its Los Angeles campus. Learning many of the aspects of making a movie — including directing, producing, acting, screenwriting, cinematography, and lighting — the students were prepared to edit and complete their films.Beijing Normal University Students Study at NYFA

    The students found the process to be exhausting, but fulfilling, and were wowed by NYFA’s access to the Universal Studios Backlot, the world-famous lot where movies such as Back to the Future, American Beauty, and Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds have been filmed. Universal Studios has a special relationship with NYFA. Students have the unique opportunity to spectate the importance of “studio life” to the Los Angeles area up close and first-hand, while also getting the one-of-a-kind experience of shooting on the lot themselves.

    Some of the students from BNU were surprised at how much different the Hollywood film industry is from the Chinese film industry, despite many similarities. Chinese cinema has been around nearly as long as the medium of film itself, so as it evolves into the 21st century it is introducing decades of its own styles and techniques to both the global market and cultural landscape.

    Beijing Normal University Students Study at NYFAChina’s influence and importance to the cinematic arts is exactly why the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has established a presence there, having offered local workshops in Shanghai and Beijing. This summer, NYFA is hosting two workshops in the capital city. A 4-Week Filmmaking Workshop is currently in session this July, and another 1-Week Workshop will commence later in the summer.

    By coming from China to Los Angeles, the BNU students have been afforded a unique experience and process for learning the craft of filmmaking. The Beijing Normal University is a public research educational institute in China’s capital city, and, with over 20,000 current students, is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious universities.

    The BNU students were quite complimentary of NYFA’s instructional techniques, as well as its rich and colorful aesthetic. After the two-week program, which lasted from July 9 – July 20 and included producing, marketing, and publicity classes, they had learned how to successfully make their own film from start to finish, from pre-production all the way to distribution. 

    The BNU students screened their films at the end of the workshop. NYFA instructors were impressed with their creativity and storytelling chops. After the screening, the students remarked how touched they were by the instructors’ attention and care, as well as the comprehensive education they’d received along with hands-on experience and the lifetime memories of shooting on the Universal Studios backlot. Beijing Normal University Students Study at NYFA

    If you are interested in attending New York Film Academy’s filmmaking workshops, you can find more information here!

     

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    July 30, 2018 • International Diversity • Views: 539

  • “On the Other Side of the Wall” With Elizabeth Grimaldo

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    Elizabeth Grimaldo was already a household name in her native Panama when she came to study Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, but since then her career has truly crossed international borders. Now based in Miami, the singer/songwriter and actress recently made her U.S. television debut on Telemundo NBC ’s Al Otro Lado Del Muro, tackling an intense storyline involving immigration, human trafficking, and unbreakable family love.

    Here, Elizabeth shares a bit of her amazing story with the NYFA Blog.

    Feliz Miercoles🌵🤗 📸: @mauricionovoaofficial

    A post shared by Elizabeth Grimaldo 🌻 (@lizagrimaldo) on

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

    EG: I’ve been on TV since I was 12 years old as a singer, which is also my profession. It started in a national singing contest for kids (Canta Conmigo), which opened so many doors for my career in Panama. At the age of 15, I started acting in my first soap opera as the main character, and it was an amazing experience. My next big project, at the age of 18, was Romeo and Juliet the Musical as Juliet, at the national theater of Panama City. That was a dream come true, to perform there.

    That play turned on my hunger for the performing arts, and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to this field. One month after the play finished, I went straight to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us? Or did anything about your program particularly surprise and challenge you?

    EG: Many things were challenging. Acting is hard work, and not many people understand what it really takes to build a character who is nothing like you and convince an audience that it’s “real.”

    I remember one of my coaches, Michael, used to challenge me a lot — which I am grateful for, because I admire him as a person and professional. He was so passionate in every class, every detail, and most important, he wanted us to do what it takes to be great. He cared and wanted us to succeed. He told us once, “Imagine all the secrets that someone would need to know about you to play you perfectly.”

    That was the most challenging part for me, because I realized in that moment how far I was from knowing my character. I realized what it takes to do the job. It’s not acting; its life, and a lot of research.

    NYFA: Before coming to NYFA, you acted in Panama’s Summer Dreams. How has your process changed regarding performing, since your studies and other experiences in Miami?

    EG: It’s totally different. I started to act without having studied acting. Now that I have studied acting (which you never stop doing), I wish I could go back and do it again with what I know now. It’s been a satisfying and fun process.

    NYFA: For our international student community, can you offer any advice on studying in the U.S.? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of coming from Panama to NYFA Los angeles?

    EG: It was the best decision of my life. It’s hard yes, but it’s so worth it.

    I know it’s scary to leave home and pursue a dream by yourself out there, but let me tell you something: it’s going to change your life in so many positive ways! I accept that I felt overwhelmed many times missing home and feeling lonely, but all those situations that I went through back then in Los Angeles made me the strong, independent, and passionate woman that I am today.

    NYFA made me grow as a professional and a human being. I learned so many things and I am grateful and happy for it.

    NYFA: How did your experience on Canta Conmigo come about? What was it like achieving second place?

    EG: It was amazing. It changed my life, basically. So many doors opened for me after. Since then my career in Panama has been accepted and successful, thanks Gob and to the people that has been supporting me since the beginning. I feel blessed that I have been able to represent my country in the U.S. and make them proud.

    NYFA: As a singer and musician, what most inspires your work?

    EG: I could say experiences, in every sense of word, which led me to start writing songs. It’s funny because that process started when I was at NYFA living by myself for the first time. I wrote my first songs back then.

    I use to think I couldn’t write lyrics, but I was wrong. Experiences are necessary to tell stories from the heart.

    But what inspires me the most is my mom. She is my drive, the one who encouraged me to do this and helped me in everything. She believed in me since I was three years old and sang for the first time, Cucurrucucu Paloma. Everything I do is dedicated to her.

    NYFA: Can you tell us how your work with Telemundo came about, and a bit about your character?

    EG: This February I had my debut on American television in the Telemundo NBC series Al Otro Lado Del Muro, which means “the other side of the wall.” I still don’t have words to express how happy I am for this opportunity. It was an honor to work with renowned actors such as Gabriel Porras, Litzy Martinez, Marjorie De Sousa and Adriana Barraza, the Oscar nominee for the movie Babel, who was my coach here in Miami at her school Adriana Barraza Black Box. Being able to work with Adriana on my first job was a dream come true.

    The series talks about immigrants and their different stories. My character is Raquel Aranda, a Salvadoran immigrant who arrives in the U.S., running from the human trafficking. Later, she is separated from her family and unjustly deported to Mexico. She tries to cross the border, again facing dangers in order to be with her family and her one-month old child.

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  • A Golden Age, Agence France-Presse in Brazil, WNHT in Connecticut, and More with New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School

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    Inevitably, when I am introduced as the Chair of the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism department, I’ll be asked whether broadcast journalism is in fact “relevant” anymore. There are so many digital alternatives these days that traditional “linear” television is obviously in decline. Recently, Streaming Media — a trade industry conference — posted a story attesting to current trends.
    Yet this is precisely why the NYFA Broadcast Journalism program is skills-based. We teach our students to become electronic content creators, multimedia journalists (MMJs). In fact, it was a traditional broadcast network (NBC) that approached NYFA about starting the journalism program. (The trend was obvious a decade ago.) And while many of our graduates work at local TV stations and national networks, an equal or larger number of them are at non-traditional outlets.
    The New York Times is thought of as a “newspaper.” Yet far more people subscribe to their digital edition than read the print version. And video is at the heart of their digital presence.
    There are also entirely new players, such as Now This. They started with a straightforward premise: people increasingly get their news on their smart phones, so they created a service tailored to that group. Now This traces its beginnings to The Huffington Post, a first-generation online news provider.
    When the HuffPost moved into video, they followed the example of cable news network MSNBC. It was a mistake. While MSNBC thrives on cable, HuffPost TV languished and died in the digital marketplace. (BTW, the Fall 2018 1-year Broadcast Journalism students will be visiting MSNBC in October…)
    This is, in fact, a “golden era” for broadcast journalism. The digital marketplace loves short-form, non-fiction video. NYFA Broadcast Journalism grads create short-form, non-fiction video.
    NYFA alum Suzane de Oliveira works for Agence France-Presse in Brazil, where she writes, narrates, and edits online news stories. Recently she put together a story about Marina Silva and her third attempt to be elected president of Brazil. It is a great story to watch because the field producer apparently gave Suzane little if any cover footage (b-roll) to work with. Talk about being resourceful!
    NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Alyssa Taglia is being seen on-air (and on-line) more and more at WNHT in Connecticut. That includes doing “live shots,” which is the ultimate test for a field reporter. You’re going “straight to air,” so there is no margin for error. I love her recent story about a group of visiting Israeli teens who, along with local teens, painted a “welcome refugees” banner big enough for drivers on an Interstate highway to see…

    Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, NYFA grad and always photogenic Bryanna Reynolds continues to shake up the Australian media scene, and seems to be having a great time doing it. (That’s her on the left, with her sister, in the picture below.)

    🎭 ACT I of the @helpmann_awards … A lovely evening celebrating so many wonderfully talented people 👏 Coming up tonight is ACT II which includes the red carpet where I will be reporting 🎤 Plus performances from some of Australia’s 🎶 hit musicals! 📷: @larajanephotography Special thank you to ABPublicity and Bohemian Rhapsody Club and Magazine for the invite to cover this event 💗


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  • NYFA Alumni (& Brothers) Maan & Talha Bin Abdulrahman Are Saudi Film Trailblazers

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    Five of the nine films premiered by Saudi Arabia at Cannes this year featured the work of NYFA students and alumni, including brothers and fellow BFA Filmmaking graduates Maan Bin Abdulrahman, producer, and Talha Bin Abdulrahman, director. Together, the brothers founded Prince of Arabia Entertainment, and have helmed an impressive series of award-winning projects.


    Talha’s NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, screened at the 14th Dubai International Film Festival as well as the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, Irvine International Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, San Antonio Film Festival, and Chandler Film Festival.

    At Cannes, the brothers presented Film School Musical, which they co-directed. Winning over critics and audiences alike, the musical short won the Best Shorts Competition at the Hollywood Comedy Shorts Film Festival as well as the Jury Prize for Best Musical and Best Cinematography, garnering numerous festival award nominations along the way.

    Additional film credits include Under the Concrete (Winner: Qomrah 2), Served Cold (ShortsTV, Winner: 2014 Student Filmmaker Awards Film Festival), and Not This Way (Winner – Golden palm in Dammam Film festival).

    We’re exciting to see the next steps these brothers take in both the Saudi and international film industry.

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  • Eurasia International Film Festival (EIFF) Welcomes the New York Film Academy

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    The New York Film Academy (NYFA) was honored to participate in the Eurasia International Film Festival this July in Astana, Kazakhstan, as a VIP guest on the red carpet and beyond.

    Established in 1998 and accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers (FIAPF), the Eurasia International Film Festival is Central Asia’s most prestigious film forum. The event focuses on fostering and celebrating collaborations between European and Asian film industries, all while supporting Kazakhstan’s current and future filmmakers.

    As a distinguished guest, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller represented NYFA in the prestigious event’s competitive Project Market program, as well as heading the PitchFest jury.

    To support the development of new works, Eurasia International Film Festival’s Project Market offers filmmakers, producers, distributors, and production companies an opportunity to form partnerships, shop films, and do business. This year’s Project Market was a smashing success, connecting filmmakers with diverse international institutions including Syndicado (Canada), Film Republic (Great Britain), Alpha Violet (France), Filmotor (Czech Republic), Juben Pictures (China), IRIB MEDIA TRADE (Iran), Festagent (Russia); and Kazakh film companies Kazakhfilm, Sataifilm, Nurtas Production, Bissembin Film and MG Production, for presentations, panels, master classes, and more,

    A crowning jewel of 2018’s Project Market was the PitchFest competition. Out of 31 project submissions, 10 films from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan were selected to compete for four top prizes. The most sought-after prize? Two full tuition scholarships to the New York Film Academy.

    NYFA Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Jim Miller spearheaded the PitchFest jury, working alongside premiere filmmakers, writers, directors, film critics, editors, journalists, documentarians, distribution executives, and producers. These industry experts hailed from the film industries of Kazakhstan, Russia, Singapore, Israel, and the U.S. Together, they selected four winners, with the two grand prize winners receiving scholarships to the New York Film Academy’s New York and Los Angeles campuses.

    The NYFA scholarships were awarded to Kazakh filmmaker Amir Amenov (Ystyk kun, salkyn sira/Hot Nights, Cold Beer), and Kyrgyz filmmaker Dalmira Tilepbergen (Lonely Pine).

    Celebrities from around the world, including César Award-winning actor Vincent Cassel (France) and two-time Palme d’Or-winning director Emir Kusturica (Serbia), attended the Eurasia International Film Festival’s climactic red carpet event and award ceremony, along with many special VIP guests. The award ceremony featured world-class performances for an enthusiastic audience of over 5,000.

    The New York Film Academy thanks the Eurasia International Film Festival, and its President Aiman Massakhajayeva, for the honor of participating.

    Massakhajayeva is the National Artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan, an honorary UNESCO Artist of Peace, and the Rector of Kazakh National University of Arts (KazNUA) — with whom NYFA recently established a partnership. This fall, the NYFA Los Angeles campus will welcome six KazNUA students through this cooperative agreement.

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  • Broadcast Journalism Summer School, Wind Summer Festival, and Invisible Love From the New York Film Academy

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    Summer is well underway here in New York City, and that means the NYFA Broadcast Journalism Summer Session is in full swing too. Once again this year, we have students from seemingly everywhere: Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Connecticut, Uzbekistan, and Washington, D.C.! Below is the “Official Unofficial Class Picture.”
    On Saturday, the group was outdoors practicing their shooting technique. (Which was good, seeing as today they are shooting their first project!) Our students work with Canon C300 cameras, which are better than the equipment many TV stations actually use. Battery Park, located right across the street from NYFA, is a great location to shoot. Especially on a lovely Summer day.
    Trust me, as serious as the folks in the picture below look, the short-term workshops really are fun. (NYFA grads reading this email can back me upon this…)
    Speaking of having fun …
    NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Chiara Carcano is one of the hosts of the Wind Summer Festival, a combination performance series and singing contest seen on Canale 5 and heard on the Radio 105 network in Italy. (The skills you learn at NYFA don’t always lead to newsroom careers — they can be used in a variety of ways!) This is also an example of how English remains the linqua franca for many international cultural events.
    As most of you reading this know, I have spent my professional career creating non-fiction video. But that has changed, as I’m now part of the creative team producing an independent feature film called Invisible Love. In fact, I am an executive producer. (Nothing like starting at the top…) A China/Vietnam/U.S. co-production, I got involved thanks to the work I did in China last year for my soon-to-be-released documentary Shanghai: 1937. I have to say, it’s exciting to see my name on a movie poster.
    That poster makes it clear this is a drama. The story takes place in what was then called French Indochina, during the 1930s.
    NYFA Acting for Film grad Kazy Tauginas has been cast in a major role. He plays an American doctor haunted by his troubled past, whose involvement with a Vietnamese nurse leads to tragedy. (You can see Kazy in the new Denzel Washington film The Equalizer 2.)
    The Invisible Love team had a booth at the film market associated with the just completed Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). We’re looking for theatrical presentation in China and Vietnam, as well as international theatrical and TV distribution.
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  • Insomnia on STARZ Executive Produced by New York Film Academy Alum Slava N. Jakovleff

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    Many artists dream of creating something entirely original, but to realize that dream on prime-time television is extra special. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Filmmaking grad Slava N. Jakovleff has done just that, distributing not one but two of his original series to major networks; Siberia, to NBC, and Insomnia, now seen worldwide on STARZ.

    Here, Slava shares some of the amazing story behind producing his hit series with the NYFA Blog.

    *Please note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    INSOMNIA | TV SERIES | TRAILER 1 [HD] | STARZ from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

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

    Slava: I wanted to be an actor — this is my passion. I graduated as an actor after four years at one of the best and most famous Russian acting schools in Saint Petersburg, and then got a PhD as an acting and voice teacher. I always thought about directing and producing. I figured out that the knowledge of acting and directing was not enough to make my dream happen. I needed to study filmmaking. And where is the best place to do it? Of course in Los Angeles, the global center of the film industry.

    I checked online resources and found that New York Film Academy had Filmmaking courses at Universal Studios. So, I joined the school at 36. Yes! At 36. It’s never too late to learn.

    NYFA: You wear many hats, as an actor, director, and producer. What inspires you about these various roles, and how does changing between them inform your work?

    Slava: It’s great that now I know something more about acting, directing, and producing. I know how to play, how to be an actor on the set or on the stage. For me, acting is an absolutely phenomenal state of mind. To me, it’s not a job! It’s a state of mind, of soul. Acting is a study of the human soul. This is the first and inner circle.

    Acting really helps me to direct. I’m more an actor’s director than just a director; I love actors and love to work with them. Directing makes it possible to not only deliver the story and actors’ emotions to the audience, but also to make the audience think, laugh, or cry — in short, feel something — while watching a screen or a stage. This is the second circle, a bit wider.

    Producing is the third, wide circle, and gives me the opportunity to care for the first two circles and bring all of these three circles to the audience.

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

    Slava: I loved how the learning process was organized at the Academy. I got so much professional information in such a short time.

    NYFA: Before establishing yourself in Hollywood, you worked as an actor in Russia. How did you navigate that transition from one industry to another, including acting in another language?

    Slava: Yes, I was a pretty established actor at that time in Russia. When I moved to LA for business reasons, only one thing was important to me: I wanted to establish myself in Hollywood as a producer and director. … But regarding acting as a whole, if you are a professional, educated actor, it doesn’t matter in which language you act. It’s only about the professionalism.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your company, Welldone Production?

    Slava: I founded Welldone Production as my own company in 2004, during my time at NYFA, as a filmmaking company.

    The first project I did in LA was a stage play called The Last Night of The Last Tsar, a mysterious story about the last night of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family — and what happened with the lead executioner, Yurovsky, exactly 20 years after the execution. We played 6 weeks at the Stella Adler Theater in 2005. It was a successful run, and I told myself, “Let’s start to write the script for my own feature film.” We are now in pre-production. I rewrote the script many times since the start, researching historical information and studying archives. And now I am completely happy with the script I have, titled Swampy Roads. It seems like a very long journey just for one project, but I am completely satisfied and proud of that.

    At the same time, my company and I did many projects in Russia and the U.S. One of them was my first TV project here in Hollywood, Siberia (2013), where I was an executive producer and director of some episodes. Siberia was completely independently financed, and afterward the show was bought by NBC for prime-time airing. It was the first time that a Russian producer sold his own independent TV show to NBC. I am very proud of that.

    Siberia TV Series_NBC_ Official Trailer from Slava Jakovleff on Vimeo.

    NYFA: As executive producer and director for STARZ series Insomnia, what inspired you to take on this project? 

    Slava: Insomnia was also a completely independently financed TV series, and when the show was completely ready it was picked up by STARZ.

    My Russian friend, a producer, showed me a story on which he was working at that time. I loved the concept, because I thought this could work for any audience around the globe. I bought the license from him to make an English version, and invited an American-Canadian writing team to rework the story. At the end we got a deep, very edgy psychological thriller, an action story with sci-fi elements.

    I knew that not everyone would like this story, and some networks and streaming platforms would be afraid to put it on the air, saying that the story is too extreme for them. My team and I tried to show the truth that human life costs nothing in modern life. My entire team, cast, and crew members — including one of the best directors of cinematography, Primetime Emmy winner John S. Bartley (LOST, X-Files, Bites Motel), and one of the best casting directors, Primetime Emmy winner Stephanie Gorin (Fargo) — tried to make it happen. I understood that many of us would not like to hear the truth. I really do not like it either, but I needed to say this about it to sort it out myself. I needed to say it without any “politeness” and “polishing.” I wanted to make the viewer think and draw conclusions.

    After the show was done, STARZ picked up the series for worldwide distribution. I am very proud of that.

    NYFA: Were there any challenges along the way in bringing Insomnia to Starz?

    Slava: Bringing any projects to any network or distributor is a big challenge for every team, and this project was no exception.

    The story of Insomnia was set for filming in Washington D.C., but when I was scouting locations there I realized it was impossible. I took a week-long break and announced to my team that the show would be filmed in Moscow, Russia, and the first day of filming should be June 1. This was a real challenge: the team was booked for principal filming starting on April 15 in D.C.

    We had only six weeks for making changes in the script, finding a local Russian production company, organizing to bring the entire American-Canadian team to Moscow, rescheduling the production, new location scouting, language problems (as we had two teams), etc. But we went through all these incredible difficulties (just imagine the problem with visas or understanding between two different languages and mentalities on set) and began to shoot exactly as planned, on June 1.

    Then we figured out that Insomnia is not just the title of this series, but actually what became a way of life for the cast and crew! Filming for all eight episodes took place over 68 working days, 2/3 of which were night shoots. We needed to shoot everything by the end of August, as the story takes place during four consecutive summer days. Management of the production was critical, as filming night scenes during the summer in Moscow was challenging — some nights only had around 2-3 hours of darkness, and the weather is unstable: the sun, clouds, and storms.

    The entire show was filmed in Moscow, with scenes set in New York and Cambodia being filmed on sets. We were able to film in unique locations, such as Red Square and near the Kremlin, Bolshoi Theatre, the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, the Four Seasons, and the Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite with its authentic view of the Kremlin and Bolshoi Theatre — no other foreign production companies have been allowed to film in this location before. By the way, Insomnia’s production company, Welldone Production, is the only foreign production company in the last 20 years to be able to film in the highly secure Red Square.

    All explosions, car crashes, gunshots, and underwater scenes were filmed without CGI, and all action scenes were filmed by the main unit team (we didn’t have second unit).

    Then, we spent months editing the series here in Los Angeles in one of the best post-production facilities in town: Burnish Creative. They’re such a talented, professional, and passionate young team. When the show was picked by STARZ, we entered the delivery process and had to go through quality control. It was such a great challenge and big experience.

    The series employed 720 people from nine countries and filmed around 750 total scenes. And I want to again say thank you to my entire team and the people who worked for Insomnia.

    NYFA: What is your best advice for NYFA students who are interested in following your footsteps and founding their own production companies, in Hollywood or elsewhere?

    Slava: In short I can say: break the rules (which is very tough sometimes), and never give up.

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

    Slava: No doubt!

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

    Slava: Many years ago, when we were young, my army friend, on the day when we finished our service in the tank troops, gave me a simple drawing of our tank with the inscription, “Follow your star!” Here I am, still following.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Slava N. Jakovleff for his generous interview.

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