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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Meet Up in Indonesia

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    This week, four alumni from New York Film Academy (NYFA) met up for lunch in Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Three alumni studied at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus: Khairan Aldhy Mardhi, Melarissa Sjarief, and Brigitte Lee. Devina Sofiyanti, who rounded out the group, studies in New York.

    Indonesia Alumni Dinner

    Khairan Aldhy Mardhi attended a short-term workshop this year, while Devina Sofiyanti and Brigitte Lee enrolled in conservatories in 2016 and 2012, respectively. Melarissa Sjarief earned their MFA in 2018.

    Over lunch, the alumni got to know each other and talk about what they’ve been up to since graduating. Sofiyanti shared the good news that their project was selected at Fly Film Lab Busan.

    Indonesia Alumni Dinner

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    September 19, 2019 • International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 297

  • Representatives from the Chinese Consulate General in New York Visits New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On July 31, Counsellor Jun Yang and Consul Wenhua Wang from the education section of the Chinese Consulate General in New York visited New York Film Academy (NYFA).

    Chinese Consulate General Visit

    During their visit, the esteemed officials first took a look around the New York campus of New York Film Academy, located at Battery Park with breathtaking views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. After their tour, Counsellor Jun Yang and Consul Wenhua Wang exchanged ideas with NYFA President, Michael Young; Executive Vice President for the China Region, Dr. Joy Zhu; and Principal and Owner, Jean Sherlock. By the end of the day, they had come away with a better understanding of NYFA. A week earlier, senior members of New York Film Academy visited the Chinese Consulate General.

    The Chinese Consulate General in New York has highly praised New York Film Academy for the achievement it has made in terms of film and TV art education, and has thanked the institution for its outstanding contribution to cultural and artistic communication between China and America.

    There was an in-depth discussion on educational communication and cooperation between China and the United States as well as development of international art education. Counsellor Jun Yang shared some advanced experience from schools on educational cooperation between China and America and made many valuable suggestions for further cooperation and international art education development for New York Film Academy.

    Chinese Consulate General Visit

    The visit of Counsellor Jun Yang and Consul Wenhua Wang has encouraged Chinese students at New York Film Academy and is an affirmation of what NYFA has done for film and TV art education.

    New York Film Academy thanks Counsellor Jun Yang and Consul Wenhua Wang from the Chinese Consulate General in New York for taking the time to see our campus and share their ideas on education.

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    August 16, 2019 • China, Film School, International Diversity • Views: 625

  • Pakistan Visiting Counselors Tour & Workshop Hosted by New York Film Academy (NYFA) 

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    For a third year in a row, New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) was delighted to welcome a group of more than 20 Pakistani high school counselors and Pakistani students for a day visit to NYFA’s New York City campus, located in the Manhattan’s historic Financial District. The guests, led by Umair Khan, Director, EdPrograms, were touring various colleges and universities, including Columbia, Harvard, MIT, NYFA, and other top accredited East Coast higher education institutions. 

    The day began with a welcome by NYFA’s Senior Executive Vice President, David Klein, who delivered a wonderful short lecture on the impact and fundamentals of storytelling.

    Pakistan Visit 2019

    Lizzie Sack, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives, provided a tour of the campus and an information session about NYFA’s programs and locations. Underscoring that session was the announcement that NYFA was recently granted status to confer degrees at the NYFA NYC campus; previously only NYFA’s Los Angeles (Burbank) and Miami (South Beach) campuses were offering college degree programs.

    The highlight of the day was a very special filmmaking workshop: The Director & The Actor: Collaboration and Process, instructed by NYFA senior instructor, Paul Warner. Warner’s numerous credits include major film, theater, and dance works.

    Pakistan Visit 2019

    Sarah Usmani, Head of Counseling, Nixor College in Pakistan, reflected, “A morning of magic—NYFA offered a journey into the intricacies of the film world and industry. From production and direction, to the minute details of psychology of acting and storytelling, the New York Film Academy’s renowned figures in the field welcomed high school students from Pakistan with passion and warmth, alongside precise technique only available in this reputable institution in the hub of New York City.”

    New York Film Academy has been honored to be the host institution to many talented Pakistani students who have returned to Pakistan and are now part of the country’s creative industries.

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    August 5, 2019 • Film School, International Diversity • Views: 1113

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Visits Chinese Consulate General

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    On July 23, Chinese Consul General Huang Ping from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, along with his wife Zhang Aiping, met with Jean Sherlock, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Principal and Owner; Michael Young, NYFA President; Dr. Joy Zhu, NYFA Executive Vice President, China Region; Bill Einreinhofer, NYFA Chair of Broadcast Journalism; David Mager, NYFA Chair of Photography; and Sandra Schein, NYFA Dean of Students. Cultural Counselor Li Liyan and Educational Counselor Yuan Jun also attended the meeting.Consulate General

    At the gathering, Consul General Huang Ping expounded on China’s economic and social development—especially in culture, education, business, and its film industry. He spoke of his appreciation of New York Film Academy’s innovative courses, outstanding teachers, and cutting edge equipment that attracts students from all over the world. 

    Over the years, New York Film Academy has actively developed friendly relations with Chinese universities and film and art institutions by conducting cultural exchanges and practical cooperation. Consul General Huang Ping thanked NYFA for their support of and assistance to the “Happy Spring Festival,” “Global Chinese Photography” competition, “Shanghai Culture Week,” and other Chinese cultural and art activities held in New York. He hopes New York Film Academy continues to support Chinese culture in the United States.

    Consulate General

    NYFA Principal and Owner Jean Sherlock stated that he was very happy to visit the Consulate General with his team and stated that the university has cooperated with 32 Chinese universities and film institutions—co-shooting films, publishing, and co-organizing film festivals, photo exhibitions, art festivals, and more. Sherlock stated that China is an important partner for New York Film Academy as the Chinese film market expands within the global film industry. He hopes that relations between the US and China will stay stable so the two nations can continue to have cultural exchanges.

    Consulate General

    Founded by film and musical producer Jerry Sherlock in 1992, New York Film Academy (NYFA) is the largest independent film academy in the world—with campuses in New York; Los Angeles; South Beach, Miami; and Gold Coast, Australia, as well as locations in Florence, Italy and Paris, France. In 2008, NYFA opened an office in Beijing, China, and has recently taught workshops in Shanghai.

    New York Film Academy thanks Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York for the opportunity for NYFA’s senior executives and faculty to meet with Consul General Huang Ping.

    Consulate General

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    July 31, 2019 • China, International Diversity • Views: 723

  • South African New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alumni Meet Up at Inaugural Events

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    This May, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted inaugural South African NYFA alumni events in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This was a fantastic opportunity for NYFA’s South African alumni to connect and expand their network. South Africa Alumni Event

    Blake Babbitt, NYFA Associate Director of Outreach, has been traveling to South Africa for that past 7 years on behalf of the school, and was very delighted to see a true community of New York Film Academy artists coming together in their home country. 

    “There is a growing entertainment industry here in South Africa,” says Babbitt. “Ultimately we want our graduates to use the techniques and knowledge gained at NYFA to influence the industry not only in America, but in their home countries as well.”

    Babbitt continues, “The power of community is essential to the entertainment industry and to artistic success. I am very pleased to see a community of New York Film Academy artists forming here in South Africa, and I’m excited to see how this budding community will expand and impact the way South African stories are told. The sky is the limit for this group!” 

    During the event, NYFA alumni exchanged contact information, formed WhatsApp groups, and tagged each other in social media posts and stories. There was even discussion to form an official alumni chapter in South Africa. 

    Additionally, many alumni expressed their gratitude for the training they received at New York Film Academy, and for NYFA’s concern for them after they graduated. “Once you join us at New York Film Academy, you become a part of our family for life,” Babbitt told the alumni. “We don’t forget about you the second you graduate. Seeing you succeed is incredibly important to us.”

    “Blake and Maria were the most gracious hosts,” says BFA Filmmaking alum Zack Schofield-Nel. “The people that I was blessed to have networked with were incredible; I have built connections that will last for a long time to come. This could have only have happened because I was fortunate enough to attend the New York Film Academy.”

    He adds, “It is the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that I could have ever imagined!”

    Attendees included the following NYFA alumni:

    • Lunathi Mampofu (2-year Acting for Film): Trailblazing South African actress. Working on multiple TV shows in South Africa.

    • Eden Classens (2-year Musical Theatre): Runner-up, Dancing with the Stars South Africa; Lead on Afrikaans series Suidooster; recently cast in Netflix’s Kissing Booth 2.

    • Rethabile Ramaphakela (8-week Screenwriting): South African production company co-owner and voiceover artist best known as the voice of the Vuzu shows V-Entertainment and 10 Over 10. Co-owner of the production company Burnt Onion Productions with her brothers Tshepo and Katleho, who created and produced the SABC1 sitcom My Perfect Family and the Vuzu mockumentary Check-Coast. Produced and created a show that is currently available on Amazon Prime. Directing her first feature film in June.

    • Zandi Zim (MFA Acting for Film): Formed her own production company. South African actress that has performed at The Grahamstown National Arts Festival and Cape Town Fringe Festival. Stage actor since the age of eight and has studied Meisner and Alexander Technique. Zandi also sings, plays jazz piano and marimbas, and speaks English and conversational Sesotho.

    • Jacqueline Rainers Setai (8-week Screenwriting, continuing into 1-year Screenwriting): Head of Mojalove Channel on DSTV; well-known and established South African writer, producer, documentarian, broadcaster.

    • Petrone van der Merwe (8-week Acting for Film): Currently in two stage productions for the ADK (Academy of Dramatic Arts)’s 80th birthday celebrations that will premiere at the UJ Artscape Theater in Johannesburg and will also be performed in Stellenbosch at the Drostdy Theater. Signed with the talent agency, Gaenor Artiste Management.

    • Audrey Mokono (1-year Acting for Film, continuing into BFA Acting for Film): Recent graduate of NYFA’s 1-year Acting for Film program and will continue her studies in NYFA’s BFA Acting for Film program.

    • Anlezia Venter (BFA Acting for Film): Opened her own fitness studio in Cape Town.

    • Zackary Nel (BFA Filmmaking): Currently finishing his BFA thesis film in Cape Town, and has hired his own local crew.

    • Paul Fulton (8-week Screenwriting): Copywriter for ad agency. Has two feature-length scripts he is working on getting sold.

    • Keyuri Naidoo (6-week Acting for Film): From Johannesburg; known for her role as Karishma in Droomdag (2017) directed by Willie Esterhuizen. During her time at NYFA-Los Angeles, Keyuri directed and acted in numerous student short films.

    • Thuto Marrengula (1-year Acting for Film): Thuto Marrengula is an actor, known for Non American Dreamers (2018) and Ask Questions Later (2016); currently developing an hour-long stand up routine.

    • Nyeleti Khoza (AFA Acting for Film):  South African actor known for The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead (2016), Black Tea (2017), and Remember Me (2017). Recently cast in Giyani – Land of Blood, a new highly-viewed telenovela on SABC2

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  • Q&A with ‘Ruth’ Director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum António Botelho

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum António Botelho hails from Lisbon, Portugal and has acted, produced, written, shot, and crewed on several projects both in his home country and aboard. 

    Botelho attended NYFA’s 2-year Filmmaking program in 2008 at our New York City campus, where he gained invaluable experience directing and shooting his own films as well as serving as an integral crewmember on other students’ films.

    His education and professional experience culminated this year in the release of Ruth, the Portuguese feature film directed by Botelho. Ruth is set in the early 1960s and tells the story of Eusébio, an immigrant from Mozambique and football (soccer) superstar who finds himself in a heated sports rivalry amidst political turmoil during the country’s fascist regime. 

    Ruth - António Botelho


    The New York Film Academy spoke with Botelho about his film and career earlier this year:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you talk a bit about the process involved in getting Ruth subsidized by Portugal?

    António Botelho (AB): In Portugal there are hardly any private companies (film or other) that finance their own movies. There isn’t a studio system. There are film companies who produce movies mostly by grants and state competitions with many categories (short films, first features, feature films, documentaries, documentaries short, animation, etc.). 

    It was through one of these state competitions that Ruth was subsidized. The film company in charge of the production had to present a budget and all sorts of documents boosting the film’s value and whatnot. 

    My part, in that competition entry, was to write a director’s view kind of document, with my own personal approach on how the movie would be made. It’s a matter of luck. It’s one in a billion.

    NYFA: How do you approach the filmmaking process?

    AB: I’m a very practical filmmaker. I consider myself a film buff first, then a filmmaker. Great movies are made every year, some of them share the same story, and so I know the movie that I’m making is probably not going to be a Citizen Kane… movies shouldn’t impose on themselves or their filmmakers. 

    I try to make a movie that makes sense. I put the script and the actors first, then I adapt to several circumstances… as all filmmakers do. 

    As [NYFA’s founder] Jerry Sherlock put it: “Story, story, story.”

    NYFA: How did NYFA help prepare you to be on set for your feature film debut?

    AB: NYFA helped me prepare in a sense that it taught me to having the most done — as a director — before entering the set. I prepare myself so that each day I know what I’m shooting, but also how it’s going to cut together. Having a big sense in all film areas, provided by the faculty, helps the filmmaking process and teaches you to respect your fellow colleagues. Filmmaking isn’t a solo thing. 

    Also, it taught me to act quickly in the face of adversity, because most times you’ll have to adapt.

    NYFA: Will Ruth be available online or in other countries?

    AB: Eventually it will be online in some of the screening platforms. What I can say for now is that there’s a possibility of it premiering in France in January 2019, and maybe also Germany.

    The New York Film Academy thanks António Botelho for his time and thoughtful responses and wishes him the best of luck in his promising career! 

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    December 26, 2018 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 853

  • Q&A With New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Claudio Casale

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailClaudio Casale is a busy filmmaker, but recently he found the time to speak with New York Film Academy (NYFA). It was here that he attended our 8-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2017, where he quickly added an arsenal of skills to his already impressive filmmaking prowess.

    “Claudio was one of those students a teacher is so happy to have in the class,” tells his NYFA directing instructor, Thomas Barnes, continuing, “brilliant, passionate, original, and supportive of his colleagues.” 

    Claudio has been incredibly productive since finishing the Filmmaking workshop, working on all sorts of different projects—short films, feature films, narratives, documentaries. In the summer of 2018, he achieved a career highlight when his documentary My Tyson won the MigArti Best Documentary Award at the Venice International Film Festival.

    Claudio Casale

    Claudio Casale

    Claudio spoke with NYFA about that film and win, as well as filmmaking in general, working in documentary, and what lies ahead for him:

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

    Claudio Casale (CC): I was born and raised in Rome, Italy. I graduated in Business Management, and at 22 I took two years abroad, mainly in India and Southeast Asia, where I started filmmaking constantly. Many shorts later, NYFA was the first proper education I received on filmmaking. I was mostly self-taught and I joined the 8-week program to gain experience on set dynamics and directing actors. 

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film My Tyson? 

    CC: My Tyson is a 15-minute short doc on Alaoma Tyson, an Italian teenager born in Italy from Nigerian parents. Today, at 18 years old, Tyson is the Italian boxing champion in the youth heavyweight category. Patience, his mother, sews traditional clothes for the Nigerian community in the Roman suburb they live in.

    As Tyson trains for his next match, Patience tells him the story of their family, revealing ancient rituals, financial struggles, and a severe migration experience. 

    My Tyson premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival where it won the MigrArti Best Documentary Award. 

    NYFA: What inspired you to make My Tyson? 

    CC: Migration is an issue worldwide, from the US all the way to Australia. In Europe, Italy is the first port of arrival for the majority of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Maghreb. As many filmmakers of my generation, I felt the need to take a stand on this issue, by offering to the audience a perspective that might get lost in the news cycle. Observation and research was key, as I had to find the story – and therefore my inspiration – on the field: I spent five months with Alaoma Tyson and his family before shooting a single frame. 

    NYFA: How did you get your film involved with MigrArti? 

    CC: MigrArti is a yearly call made by the Minister of Culture in Italy (MiBAC). The production working with me on My Tyson had to submit a detailed dossier for our project. MigrArti can be very competitive, and I was honoured that our project was among the selected ones. Watching our short doc premiere during the 75th Venice International Film Festival was really emotional, and I feel grateful that the Jury awarded My Tyson as MigrArti Best Documentary. 

    NYFA: What are your plans for My Tyson after Venice? 

    CC: We are sending out My Tyson to festivals, as that’s a great way to receive professional feedback and connect with fellow filmmakers. I would be delighted to personally attend international festivals as well, so to see by myself how different audiences relate to the story.

    On the other hand, in Italy we are planning screenings solely for migrants, thanks to the cooperation of NGOs such as ARCI Solidarietà Onlus. Bringing cinema to places where it usually hasn’t belonged, like migration centres and public schools, is a duty as well as a chance to test the impact our little film may have on people we can’t reach with a traditional theatrical run. 

    Then, at the end of the festival distribution, at least in Italy we are working to have a selected theatrical distribution, likely paired with a feature documentary. 

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? 

    CC: In September, I was in Sicily to direct a narrative short film in 35mm, Inshallah, about to enter post-production. Also, I have a feature documentary in creative and financial development, in which I will invest most of my time this year. It’s a project I am very attached to and I can’t wait to get myself on set to shoot it. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on My Tyson, or your work in general? 

    CC: Among the lessons I received at NYFA, two came particularly handy in this project. First, as director you have got to leave the camera to the operator! As many native-digital filmmakers, I also grew very attached to the camera body (I was my own operator on my first shorts). It wasn’t necessarily easy to delegate that, as it is an act of trust toward the operator, especially on a documentary where things happen out of script and must be captured instinctively. 

    But at NYFA, I learned to do just that: trusting the crew I work with and delegating everything that may distract me from the scene. In some projects I would still be my own operator of course, but thanks to NYFA I could recognize that My Tyson wasn’t one of those cases. 

    Second: directing actors! I find the method taught at NYFA to be extremely effective. Honestly, that module alone was worth the whole course for me. With time, I changed it a little to adapt it to documentaries, where you don’t direct actors but subjects, so the relationship is more subtle and the non-actors’ spontaneity is the first priority and must always be protected. I believe that directing actors and non-actors is what ultimately makes a director great, and that’s something hard to learn without seeing some experts at work, either by joining a school or by being on set as 1st or 2nd AD. 

    NYFA: Do you prefer working in narrative or documentary filmmaking? 

    CC: When I started shooting, I had only narrative filmmaking in mind, and frankly I still look forward to direct a feature narrative one day. Documentary happened by chance, yet for the moment I found my little niche here. 

    As for today, I certainly prefer working on documentary filmmaking for a variety of reasons: first, it’s cheaper, so development and pre-production are generally quicker compared with narrative. Second, you can easily practice rhythm and pace with a running time of 52 minutes or longer, a key area of learning for any aspiring director. Last but not least, documentary today is wide open to visual experimentation, an ideal condition for me. 

    NYFA: What differences or similarities do you find between narrative and documentary filmmaking? My Tyson

    CC: Comparing short films only, in my opinion the key advantage of documentary filmmaking is the level of experimentation it allows. I honestly find narrative short films too rigid sometime, as nowadays the pressure to deliver the highest possible production value risks to overpass the focus aspiring directors should be putting into the storytelling. 

    After all, short films are the only tool we have to discover who we really are as visual storytellers. The similarities between narrative and documentary filmmaking are more than one could tend to believe: year after year, more documentaries are shot with a real cinematic language in mind. And I believe that’s one of the reason behind today’s boom of documentaries: many narrative storytellers are getting into documentary, shaping it with their own tools. 

    On the other hand, generally speaking, narrative filmmaking may allow for a wider freedom of expression, especially if you get to write and direct your own script. In conclusion, I would suggest students to be open to both forms, as for different reasons they are equally important in the early stage of a filmmaker’s career. 

    NYFA: What other advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA? 

    CC: If you are a total newbie on filmmaking, be ready to run and absorb everything you’re told. Raise your hand and ask your classmates for help, as at the end of the day, it’s all about the teamwork. 

    While If you have some filmmaking experience already, as I did, be ready to put everything you know aside. Don’t let your previous knowledge block you from learning further. Be open and receptive, and you will take something new and essential with you every day. 

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

    CC: No questions about the Deli down in Battery Park? I must admit, sometimes I miss that sushi! 🙂 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Claudio Casale for his time and thoughtful answers, and looks forward to seeing what inspiring films he comes out with next. We sincerely hope he comes back to New York for a visit sometime and has some sushi from the Deli downstairs! Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    November 26, 2018 • Filmmaking, International Diversity, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 996

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Alum Mira Hamour

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailThe award-winning documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities first found life as an MFA graduation project for New York Film Academy MFA Documentary alum Mira Hamour. It quickly took a life on its own, and thanks to the passion and incredibly demanding—both physically and emotionally—work put in by Hamour, the film has gone on to win eleven awards (and counting)  since its completion in July 2018.

    These honors include:Mira Hamour

    -London Independent Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -South Film And Arts Academy Festival (Best Documentary Short Film)
    -Best Shorts Competition (Award of Merit)
    -Cinema World Fest Awards (Best in Show, Best Documentary Short)
    -International Independent Film Awards (Platinum Award)
    -Los Angeles Film Awards (Best Documentary Short)
    -Independent Shorts Awards (Gold Award for Best Documentary Short)
    -Top Shorts (Best Documentary Award)
    -Docs Without Borders Film Festival (WINNER: Revolution and Reform- Exceptional Merit)
    -Global Shorts (WINNER: Special Mention)

    Additionally, Syria’s Tent Cities has been selected to screen at the Studio City International Film Festival in Los Angeles, an official selection at Short to the Point festival, selected at the Short Long World Festival, been selected as a Semi-Finalist at the Directors Cut Int’l Film Festival, and chosen in the Top Shorts Semi-Finalist Top 40 films. Hamour will be attending the screening on November 14.

     

    The documentary short isn’t just a film—it’s a call to action by Hamour, telling vitally important stories from one of this century’s greatest humanitarian crises and educating its viewers on how they can help in their own small way. Not just a powerful work of filmmaking, Syria’s Tent Cities is an extrapolation of Mira Hamour herself—a passionate plea for empathy and understanding from an artist whose heart matches her mastery of the documentary craft. 

    Amid a festival circuit for Syria’s Tent Cities as well as pre-production and production of several other projects, Hamour found time to chat with New York Film Academy about her film, what drives her work, and her time at NYFA:

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

    Mira Hamour (MH): I identify as Syrian-Canadian. Growing up, I’ve lived in the Middle East and Canada and most recently spent three years in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, and New Jersey).

    When I was in high school, I love watching documentaries. I loved hearing real stories, about real people and learning about all of these world problems that not many people really seemed to know about. I felt like a lot of the social issues that interested me stemmed from the misinterpretation and incorrect practice of religions, and I explored lots of world religions throughout my bachelor’s degree to see if I could find the root cause of these problems and misinterpretations. I wanted to prove that when interpreted and practiced correctly, every major belief system preached love, acceptance, and unity at its core. I focused on taboo and challenging issues and throughout my Undergraduate schooling; I extensively researched a variety of controversial topics, including feminism and homosexuality in Islam, Jewish masculinities and gender identity and, exploring ISIS and radicalization’s global impact.

    Realizing the incredible power of film to bring people together, inform audiences, and encourage them to make a change for the better, I knew that I wanted to study Documentary Filmmaking to learn how to effectively shed light on social issues and present my audiences with viable solutions for positive social change. 

    In July of 2014, I enrolled in a 4-week filmmaking summer course at NYFA while still working on my undergrad, to sort of test the waters and see if this was really for me. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I get to meet incredible people who are still very close friends to this day, it kickstarted my career in filmmaking and confirmed my love for it. As soon as I was done with my undergraduate degree, I enrolled full time at NYFA for my MFA in Documentary Filmmaking.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My debut film, Syria’s Tent Cities, was shot in Jordan, Lebanon, and Canada. It started out as an MFA graduation project, but I worked on it long after graduation and have now developed it into the 30-minute award-winning documentary short that it is today.

    Identifying as both Syrian and Canadian, watching the refugee crisis continually worsen has been especially difficult for me. I felt helpless, and knew that many others also wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. Almost eight years into the crisis, I noticed that the Syrian refugees were now being viewed as one, singular mass statistic. I spent many summers in Syria growing up and have amazing memories there; I wanted to remind the world that these refugees are individuals: they’re parents, they’re children, they’re teachers, they’re families, they’re friends. In many ways, they’re not very different from us, they’ve just been forced into a very unfortunate situation and had their world turned upside down.

    My film is unique in that it explores the Syrian Refugee Crisis from both a local and global perspective by examining the lives of Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern refugee camps while also answering the question of what happens next, once they’re resettled in North America. While planning the film and working on months of pre-production from Los Angeles, one prominent issue kept coming up: there are hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrian children around the world growing up without any access to education. In the long run, this could have very dire consequences and prevent them from becoming self-sufficient, contributing members of their society. The lack of education takes away from what’s left of their childhood and doesn’t give them a sense of importance or purpose. I knew that I not only had to focus on education while making the film, but also present the audience with feasible solutions to help fix this problem. 

    Throughout the film, the refugees work to improve their situation through the efforts of the two individuals I chose to tell this story through: Nowell Sukkar, founder of Nowell’s Mission working in Jordan and Lebanon, and Mazen El-Baba, founder of H.appi Camp working from Ontario, Canada. Both of them have dedicated their lives to making education and inclusiveness a right for all Syrian children. 

    I also worked with Human Rights Watch in Jordan and Lebanon to better explain the situation to the audience; instead of blaming the refugees’ parents automatically, the HRW researchers break down the many reasons why all these barriers exist and how we can combat them.

    Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent CitiesNYFA: What inspired you to make Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: The Syria we see on the news today is painfully different from the one I knew growing up; it’s hard to come to terms with just how bad things have gotten in a relatively short amount of time. As with many other global crises, after a while people begin to grow tired of it because, even if they want to help, they don’t know how to. It seems too complicated, too difficult, and they feel helpless. And that’s why I wanted my film to focus on the specific issue of education and how the lack of it is killing refugees’ childhood, their ability to dream, aspire, and achieve.

    During a visit to my home city of Toronto in August of 2016, I spoke with newly resettled Syrians who noticed a world of difference in their children who had just attended the first ever H.appi camp, a free summer camp experience exclusively for newcomer refugee children. H.appi aimed to help these children integrate into Canadian society, improve their linguistic skills and aid them in overcoming the trauma that they had experienced before arriving to Canada. When I actually made the film a year later, I realized that whether they’re living illegally in neighbouring countries or permanently resettled in Canada, many of the refugees were united in one thing: their goal to achieve a better life through a good education and the mental health resources many of them needed to overcome the trauma of war.

    NYFA: What was your experience filming Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: Personally, working on Syria’s Tent Cities was especially challenging. For starters, I had under two months to travel to two continents, three countries, and four cities to shoot all of my footage. One of the things about being a low-budget student and having to operate as what was often a one- or two-person crew is that you learn to wear many, many hats on the job. As with most of my other projects, I was in charge of directing, producing, shooting, recording sound, and editing Syria’s Tent Cities. 

    As someone who’s doing the job of five people on location at refugee camps in the Middle East, I needed to be able to handle my emotions, even when faced with a seven-year-old girl whose leg has been amputated during the war staring longingly from her wheelchair as her twin sister and other siblings run around their one-bedroom apartment. Even when a two-year-old little boy being raised by a single father is so deprived of the love of a mother he lost while the family were fleeing the country that he curls up in your lap while you’re shooting an interview with his father and clings to you, refusing to let go when you have to leave later. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    I had to keep my composure on location; if I was an emotional wreck, the film wouldn’t get made and no one would hear their story. There were many, many tears when I got home. But I’d have to get up the next day and do it all again, pretending that my heart wasn’t breaking every time I met another child who just didn’t understand why they had to lose family members and run from what was once a safe and happy home. What kept me going was that I knew I was helping, I was telling their stories and encouraging the world to change their lives. In making this film, I truly feel like I grew so much as a person and a filmmaker.

    NYFA: What are your plans for Syria’s Tent Cities?

    MH: My main goal was that I didn’t want my audience to leave the theatre feeling sad and helpless. I wanted to give them tools and solutions to make a difference. In the film we see Nowell and Mazen; they’re not millionaires, they’re not people who have absolutely nothing else going on in their personal lives. Mazen is a full-time medical student and Nowell is a mother of two who has to tend to her own family’s wellbeing. 

    Yet they still make the time to help, they’re dedicated. And although I don’t expect every person who watches the film to start a non-profit like theirs, they show us the small ways in which we can all help truly make a difference in these children’s lives. Simple things and contributions that actually end up having a noticeable and positive impact in the long run. 

    It was incredibly inspiring to work with them and I really hope that, when they watch the film, the audience is inspired in the same way I was. I set up a page on my website where people who watch the film can learn more about Mazen’s and Nowell’s work and make a simple contribution that will truly end up making a world of difference. 

    Additionally, after working with Human Rights Watch through making this film and seeing all of the incredibly valuable research they do on the ground, I partnered with them and created a page specifically dedicated to this cause! All donations that come through the page from the link on my website will be designated to Human Rights Watch’s Refugees Division, specifically for their work on Syrian Refugees.

    I’m especially proud of Syria’s Tent Cities. As someone who identifies as both Syrian and Canadian, this story really hit close to home. It’s something I wanted to do for so long that every (increasingly difficult) challenge that I was faced with while making this film was a blessing I was grateful for, because it meant that I was finally actually making the film and telling the story of Syrian refugees. Mira Hamour - Syria's Tent Cities

    As proud as I am of how well the film’s been doing and as honoured as I am to be able to tell this incredible story, the awards are especially meaningful because they confirm that people recognize the importance of the film’s message and that they’re moved to give it an audience and help. This is just the start, but I know that I’ve succeeded in beginning to raise more awareness, which is what I set out to do when I first made the film.

    I plan to continue showing the film to as many audiences as I possibly can; this is a crucial problem and small contributions can make a very large difference in the life of a refugee child.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MH: While working in the field of Documentary Filmmaking, I’ve created films that focused on issues that I felt needed to be heard and further explored. I wanted my films to not only educate the audience on the issue at hand, but to also show them clear ways in which they can help and make a difference or learn about an issue that was once foreign to them and become more accepting, compassionate individuals.

    One of the films I’m working on now, PCOS, is about the often neglected and discredited Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder in women and how the many side effects it causes impact those affected by it, including facial hair in women. Some of the women in the film resort to elective weight loss surgery to reverse the symptoms of their PCOS, while others accept and try to change society’s harsh criticism of them. I actually have the condition myself and am one of the characters in the film (truly challenging as a simultaneous director!)

     

    I’m also about to release a short documentary film about two Syrian senior citizens who relocated to stay with their family abroad. And while they’re technically safe and living in a comfortable home, their whole lives have been uprooted extremely unexpectedly. At their age after retirement, they expected to live out the rest of their days in familiar Syria, and so they now spend much of their time reminiscing and missing those they lost to the war and during the move. Living in a state of constant uncertainty, major change, and having to adapt to a completely foreign country at their advanced age has made them question whether leaving Syria was worth it, and so the film is named Safe or Sorry.

    Apart from my own projects, I also currently freelance, primarily in Documentary Filmmaking. Most of my jobs are in pre-production and/or production. I love researching a great topic extensively, reaching out to people, booking and conducting interviews, being on location shooting vérité and seeing my subject’s world through the camera’s lens. 

    When people let you into their lives in that way, it’s a really great, fulfilling feeling — there’s a certain mutual trust and understanding there. The amazing people that documentary filmmaking brings into your life and the relationships you develop with the people you film are truly incredible and constantly remind me of why I got into this field and how fortunate I am to call this my job. For instance, making Syria’s Tent Cities was such a humbling and eye-opening experience; I saw firsthand the difference that dedication and love, even coming from a single individual, can make in the lives of those facing a global crisis.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Syria’s Tent Cities, or your work in general?

    MH: The biggest thing I learned is that loving something doesn’t make it easy — it just makes it worth fighting for and working towards. When I first started this journey, I had absolutely no idea how hard making documentaries would be! But because I love it, it has definitely been worth every challenge I’ve faced.

    As an emerging artist, you’re definitely going to have times where you doubt yourself and your abilities, sometimes even whether you were meant to be in this field at all. You’re going to have friends in ‘safe’ jobs, with a steady paycheque and very little risk involved. And sometimes it’s going to scare you. Being a documentary filmmaker is hard, it’s challenging, there’s a lot of discipline, work, and time management that goes into it. You have to be able to believe wholeheartedly in yourself and your project and the message that you’re trying to put out there. 

    I’ve been so fortunate to have incredibly supportive parents, family, friends, and teachers in my life who have definitely played a big role in getting me to this point today. But to make it in this field, you have to truly believe in your work and keep pushing to make the story you’re working on heard; working past every festival rejection you receive, every professional failure that comes up along the way, every person who discredits you and doesn’t believe in you, and every one of the many challenges you’re going to face. 

    I want to specifically thank Sanora Bartels, who was actually the Consulting Producer on Syria’s Tent Cities for being an amazing mentor, friend, support system, and just an overall wonderful human being. She’s gone above and beyond her role as Chair of the Documentary MFA Program to make sure that her students succeed and reach their full potential. Most importantly, she believed in us and our abilities even when we didn’t believe in ourselves. Having teachers like that when you’re only just starting out in the field is truly invaluable. Sanora is just one of the many incredible teachers I’ve been lucky to work with at NYFA.

    NYFA: What lies ahead for you now?

    MH: In addition to filmmaking, I’m very passionate about travel and hope to be able to see the world through my work. I’ve been to 25 countries so far and it never ceases to amaze me how many similarities we all have on a basic human level, regardless of differing social and cultural norms. I will continue to travel and make films while I learn more about the world; Syria’s Tent Cities is just the beginning, I have so many other projects planned and some are already in pre- and post-production!

    The New York Film Academy thanks Mira Hamour for the time she took to speak with us, and congratulates her on the well-deserved success of her documentary short Syria’s Tent Cities.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and Hangzhou Culture Radio Television Group Establish Cooperative Training Base

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn October 27, 2018, the New York Film Academy – Hangzhou Culture Radio Television Group Cooperative Training Base was formally established. China Hangzhou Culture

    David Klein, Senior Executive Vice President of the New York Film Academy (NYFA), and the Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Editor-in-Chief Zheng Guilan jointly inaugurated the Cooperation Training Base. Mr. Klein travelled from NYFA’s New York City location for the event.

    On June 16, the Group’s Film Project Team and New York Film Academy signed the “Memorandum of Strategic Cooperation”; on October 15, the Secretary of the Party Committee and President of the Group, Yu Xinping, met with the CEO of New York Film Academy, Jean Sherlock, and New York Film Academy Executive Vice President Zhu (Joy) Yuhua. 

    Together, the group discussed the joint establishment of a film and television training cooperation project as soon as possible, as well as a long-term training cooperation system. 

    The establishment of the cooperative training base will enhance the brand influence of Hangzhou Cultural Film Industry with an international vision and form a broader communication and practice platform for Chinese and American film and television talents.

    China Hangzhou CultureThis is in line with the growing influence and interdependence of Chinese cinema and culture on a worldwide audience. As Chinese co-productions with international and major movie studios increase in number and scope, the New York Film Academy has also looked to strengthen relations with the film and cultural institutions of China.

    In addition to educating many aspiring filmmakers, actors, and visual artists from China as part of its international student body, NYFA has also held workshops in China as well, including in Shanghai and, as recently as this summer, in Beijing. Furthermore, the Academy has also hosted workshops for visiting Chinese students at its locations in Los Angeles and New York City.

    The New York Film Academy looks forward to continued cooperation with the Hangzhou Cultural Film Industry and to the success of the New York Film Academy – Hangzhou Culture Radio Television Group Cooperative Training Base!

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    October 30, 2018 • China, Community Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, International Diversity • Views: 882

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Brings Fashion Photography Workshop to Kazakhstan

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailOn October 16, in Astana, Kazakhstan, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography instructor Kristina Varaksina provided visual art and filmmaking students at the Kazakh National University of Arts (KazNUA) with a stimulating hands-on fashion photography workshop. KazNUA Photography Workshop

    NYFA Professor Varaksina is an award-winning photographer; she is the recipient of multiple prestigious photography awards, including the Prix de la Photographie, Communications Arts Photography Annual, Int’l Photography Awards, PDN Faces, and more. 

    The KazNUA students explored the technical side of lighting and working with professional equipment, as well as the principles of working with ideas, creative teams, and models. Working with Profoto equipment, this workshop was a unique opportunity to learn about working with simple and complex lighting set-ups, learn to solve problems on set, and create outstanding fashion images.

    As stated by David Mager, Chair of NYFA’s Photography school, “Kristina never fails to amaze me. She has the incredible combined ability to teach the technical, while being amazingly creative.”

    Mager added, “Students always walk away with new knowledge that is easily implemented in their own photographic practice.”

    New York Film Academy and Kazakh National University of Arts have a close affiliation under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was rendered earlier this year.

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    October 23, 2018 • International Diversity, Photography • Views: 588