New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students & Alumni Screen at 2019 Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival

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This spring, four New York Film Academy (NYFA) students and alumni had the opportunity to collaborate on their films with professional composers through a partnership with the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival. After being selected through a rigorous school competition, students Ion Legarda, Aliza Jaffri, and Jonathan Samukange, and alum Savannah Sivert were matched with professional composers who then wrote scores for their films.

Since the dawn of the silent film era, music has played a critical role in cinematic storytelling. It accentuates emotion, sets a tone, and underscores conflict. Filmmakers work closely with their composers to create the right sound for their films. For these filmmakers just beginning their careers, the chance to have professionals score their films is a fantastic opportunity.

On Saturday, July 20, they will have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of watching their films on the big screen at the Barnsdall Art Gallery Theater while the orchestra Helix Collective plays the new composed score live. 

NYFA caught up with the filmmakers ahead of the Live Score Film Festival and asked them about their experiences working with their composers.

Ion Legarda (Spring 2019 1-Year Producing) & Aliza Jafri (Spring 2019 MFA Producing)

Title of Film: A Deep Breath
Composer: Cali Wang
Genre: Documentary
Logline: After relocating to the United States, Ion Legarda uses his passion for free diving to cope with the stresses of starting a new life, taking us with him on an exploration of the magnificent world that exists underwater.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us about your film.  

Ion Legarda & Aliza Jafri (IL/AJ): We were building this movie around having beautiful cinematic underwater shots to take the crowd with the free diver to show the peaceful magnificent world under the surface. We had only one day on a boat with the underwater camera operator, the crew, and equipment. We prepared everything, even went to sleep on the boat.

When the day came, Aliza, the director, together with the two co-producers and the person who was supposed to be our underwater camera operator got SEASICK. So, Isaac and Ion, the free divers, had to learn how to operate the underwater camera, and shoot all the footage by themselves. Because they weren’t exactly experienced, we had to find diving archival footage from Ion’s past. Most of the underwater footage in the movie was not shot intentionally for this film.

NYFA: What has it been like to work with your composer?

(IL/AJ): It was our first time. Cali is a very talented composer and made it really easy on us. After sending her a few examples and references, she knew exactly what we were looking for, and sent us revisions every week or two for us to give her corrections. Everything worked easily and smoothly.

NYFA: What have you learned in this process?

(IL/AJ): That communication and setting expectations in the beginning is the key to good work with a composer.

NYFA: What are you looking forward to in the live screening?

(IL/AJ): To hear Cali’s score being played live while our movie is on the screen.

Live Score Film Festival

Jonathan Samukange (Summer 2019 BFA Filmmaking)

Title of Film: Honest
Composer: Michael Paraskevas
Genre: Drama
Logline: When adolescence hits, a stubborn young man must choose to listen to his father’s wisdom or risk it all to find his own path.

NYFA: Tell us about your film.

Jonathan Samukange (JS):
What’s special about this movie is that it’s crewed and cast by first-time filmmakers. Most of the people in this film had never seen a film camera before in their lives. That’s special. I traveled all the way home to Zimbabwe to film it. At first, I had two months to prepare, but my visit was cut short by unexpected events. I was left with just six days to write, cast, crew, find locations and equipment.

I almost quit as the stress increased, but I couldn’t. You can’t quit just because it’s hard or no one believes in you. I looked like a wacko jacko making this movie. No one understood why I was driving up and down the place like a crazy man, but I did. That’s all that mattered. When no one understands you, don’t be discouraged by it. Embrace it. You’ll be surprised what you find on the other side.

NYFA: What has it been like to work with your composer?

JS: My composer was chosen for me, and what a fine choice Michael Paraskevas was. From the moment we met, it felt like we’ve always known each other—we just gelled. My vision for the score was simple. I asked Michael to put his heart and soul into it and to be inspired by what he sees, to follow his gut. He went for it. Freedom is at the heart of collaboration. When we give each other a chance to shine, the whole project benefits immensely.

You must come to the screening to experience this magic with your friends and family. We would be honored to have you, and it will surely be a show to remember.

Live Score Film Festival

Savannah Sivert (Fall 2015 MFA Filmmaking)

Title of Film: Siblings
Genre: Drama
Composer: Alex Robert Heinrich
Logline: Three siblings must find a way to accept the death of their mother.

NYFA: Tell us about your film.

Savannah Sivert (SS): This film is heavy in the way that it is a personal reflection of the death of my mother, with the twist of what I wish my siblings and I would have done at her funeral reception. Two words: stink bomb. It’s drama that serves the point of view of a child amidst grief.

NYFA: What has it been like to work with your composer?

SS: The experience completely surpassed my expectations. Alex was so easy to work with and extremely knowledgeable. More often than not, Alex was finishing my sentences as we discussed the composition. He understood the tone of the film and truly enhanced what was important.

NYFA: What have you learned in this process?

I learned how refreshing post-production can be for a film. My collaboration with my composer has deepened my understanding of how to use music as a tool in storytelling.

SS: What are you looking forward to in the live screening?

I have absolutely never experienced a film of mine being screened while a live band plays the score. That’s a first for sure! My film has evolved into something else because of my collaboration with Alex Robert Heinrich. It will be the very first screening of what the film has developed into because of this process. I can’t wait to watch.

Live Score Film Festival

The New York Film Academy community is invited to attend the LA Live Score Film Festival this Saturday, July 20, 2019, from 6 – 10 p.m. at Barnsdall Art Park. To purchase tickets, please click here and use the code NYFA to get a $5 discount.

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