NYFA Los Angeles Celebrates it’s Fall 2017 Graduates


On Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, the New York Film Academy congratulated another graduating class as they crossed into the next stage of their professional careers. Three ceremonies were held throughout the day to accommodate the more than two hundred students who have now completed their education at NYFA.

Many students spent the previous day at Warner Brother’s Studios screening their final films on the backlot. The occasion is always an emotional one. Warner Brothers is a Hollywood institution that has been home to some of the greatest names and films in the entertainment industry.

Families were able to gather for photos before the ceremony began. A NYFA backdrop had everyone looking red carpet ready. When it was time for parents to take their seats, students formed neat rows as they filed into the building.

This year’s commencement speakers ranged from a Hollywood star, a casting director who worked closely with Stephen Spielberg, and a producer/writer for several of the greatest television shows ever made. Each speaker had a copious amount of advice to give to the graduates. A common theme to all the speeches was that the students should learn from the speaker’s own mistakes so they could do even better in their own careers.

New York Film Academy | Acting School Graduation

The first speaker to grace the stage was Valorie Massalas, casting director extraordinaire. Her credits include “Indiana Jones,” “Chaplin,” “Total Recall,” “Alive,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “Back to the Future II” and III. She received an Emmy nomination for her work on “Annie.” She is a new inductee into the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Massalas spoke directly to the actors about how the industry has changed since she began her career. The most disturbing change to Massalas is the rise of the social media actor. These are Hollywood hopefuls who have never taken an acting class but have 20 thousand or more followers, and they are being cast in major motion pictures because the heads of studios believe they can put audience members into seats.

“I’m sharing that with you because it’s disturbing to me that you spend all your time training like you’ve done, with these beautiful people, honing your craft, but if you don’t have social media numbers you could lose a job to somebody who does,” Massalas said. “It’s important for you to be aware of that because it’s just part of our world today. It’s not going to go away, In fact, it’s going to get worse.”

It wasn’t all bad news. Certainly, some of the changes would be favorable for the next generation chosen to run Hollywood. Social media is also giving other creatives access to the tight-knit entertainment community. “When I was first starting out you didn’t have the kind of access that you have today with social media,” Massalas said.

“The most important thing you must always remember is that you are the president of your own company. You have to be prepared to run your business like the president of a company. If you’re not doing that, you’re failing your career because nobody is going to run your business better than you.” Massalas warned students.

New York Film Academy | Film School Graduation

The second commencement speaker to take the stage was actor Joshua Helman. Helman’s credits include some of the biggest action films of the last ten years including “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Jack Reacher.” He’s also been prolific in television starring in HBO’s “The Pacific,” the mini-series “Flesh and Bone,” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Wayward Pines.”

Throughout Helman’s hilarious speech, he blended solid life advice with anecdotes from his time getting started in the industry. He began with a bit of advice he had learned from a teacher. “When I was in acting school, a singing teacher told me that the most valuable things an entertainer has to offer the audience are vulnerability and generosity. And not only have I never forgotten that, but I found it to be true.” He concluded this thought saying, “Come back to vulnerability and generosity. It will never be wrong. Find the stuff that challenges you, the truth that scares you, and offer it up to the world with joy.”

Helman also wanted to prepare students for the reality of how long it can take to start a career. “You have to prove yourself and that can suck. It means working a day job, it means losing sleep, and it means facing long stretches of seemingly infinite time when you feel like you are going nowhere. That is par for the course. Each of you, if you’re not an insane person, is going to want to give up at some point…”

But, Helman amended, there’s a way to survive the hard years. “You can make peace with it if you never forget that you are doing it in order to do the job that you love and that (entertainment) is your real job.”

New York Film Academy | Producing School Graduation

The final speaker of the night was Cherie Steinkellner. She is perhaps best known for producing the multi-award winning television show, “Cheers.” She also wrote for such groundbreaking shows as “The Jeffersons” and “Who’s the Boss?” Finally, she wrote for and produced the Disney animated series and feature film, “Teacher’s Pet” starring Nathan Lane.

Steinkellner takes issue with the adage, “Those who can’t-do, teach.” “I don’t believe that to be true,” she said. “I think those who can’t-do, learn. Which is to say, if you find yourself to be an irresistible force up against an immovable object, if you find that you can’t achieve something, instead of fighting the same darn thing, consider that the point isn’t to step over that obstacle. Maybe the point of the lesson is: What can I learn from this?”

With that thought in mind, Steinkellner also wanted to make sure students didn’t think that graduating meant their best days were behind them. She closed out her speech stating,

“When I was in school, in the seventies, people would say to me these are the best years of your life. I hated that. School is short and life is long. You will never forget the years that you have spent here at the New York Film Academy. I haven’t forgotten the years that I spent in college. Please, trust this elder. The good stuff is all ahead of you. Let’s see what you make. Let’s see what you do. Let’s see your ‘weird.’ Congratulations on your graduation and welcome my friends to the best years of your life.”

The New York Film Academy would like to thank Joshua Helman, Valorie Massalas, and Cherie Steinkellner for taking the time to speak with our students. We’d also like to congratulate all of our incredible students on their graduation. We hope to see you back here soon, telling the next generation your success story.

MFA in Acting:

Vicente Almuna Morales

Ainur Rauilyevna

Alejandra Gonzalez

Vincson Green II

Haoran Li

Elizabeth Otaola Cortina

Nanli Wang

Chaoyue Zhao


BFA in Acting:

Melissa Abugattas Lozada

Reya Al-Jaroudy

Ratnavali Anderson

Ira Calilung

Whitney Cheng

Abbilyn Chuha

Jennifer Anne Cipolla

Briana Davis

Joseph Ekstrom

Michael Furlough

Emmanouil Giamas

Maria Manuela Gomez

Anes Hasi

Christian Elijah Leighty

Nina Madzirov

Phillip McNair

Bethany Rhiannon Daisy Milner

Rebecca Momo

Alessio Mongardi

Analisa Moreno

Vanessa Rene Nuevo

Chunxiao Ouyang

Trinity Page

Fernando Peralta

Zachary Thomas Perry

Raven Ramos

Maurice Roberson II

Simran Sangian

Billy Xiong

Ming Jie Yang


AFA in Acting:

Tia Blackwill

Corinna Camero

Melissa Celikovic

Jassen Charron

Gregory James Drake

Kurt Alexander Eberle

Andre Forrest

Aaliyah Jones

Wadley Sterlin

Travis Nevin Tendler

Robert Tevlin

Danielle Torck


MFA in Producing:

Mazen Aleqbali


BFA in Producing:

Ruddy Cano Hernandez

Nyshon Ferrell

Carlos Gonzalez

Chor Kei Hui

Brandon William McCarthy

Thandiwe Mlauli

Gilma Edith Montecer Lore

Sagar Patel

Angel J. Pitre

Sim Sagiroglu

Peijun Zou


AFA in Producing:

Mengying Sun


MFA in Photography:

Amal Alahdal

Dania Saud Altalhi

Pamela Garcia-Aguirre


BFA in Photography:

Rushank Anil Agrawal

Brenda Cantu

Tanya Gawdi

Kingi Kingibe

Ziomara Ramirez

Wen Tao Tu


MFA in Documentary:

Sultan Sulaiman Aljurays

Camilla Elisabeth Borel Rinkes

Amira Hamour

Ashley Danielle Harris

Yuan Li

Kristin Lydsdottir

Huda Abdulsalam Moraidikha

Maria Carolina Sosa Andres

Guangli Zhu


MFA in Cinematography:

Jhonny Fabian Garcia Sarmiento

Rafael O. Rivera

Maria Sevilla

Manuel Velasquez Isaza


MFA in Film:

Joud AlAmri

Gerald Albitre

Mahfouz Maeid M. Alzahrani

Almaz Amandossov

Dias Azimzhanov

Yang Bai

Alma Baimuratova

Rushikesh Bhadane

Beatriz Cabrera Figuerez

Xiaoyue Cao

Yue Chen

Moataz Ezzat Elsayed Gamal Elbahaey

Boise Badilla Esquerra

Efrain Santiago Fierro

Anuja Ganpule-Sheorey

Zesheng Gao

Mariia Gerasymiuk

Di Hang

Amber A. Harris

Jacob Houghton

Oboatarhe Ikuku

Runjie Ji

Annu Kapil

Gabriela Ledesma

Jian Li

Yitong Li

Yixin Liang

Gengru Liu

Zichen Liu

Michael Louka

Kendra McDonald

Rachel Gebrael Meguerdijian

Maria Mitkovskaya

Sonakshi Mittal

Aditya Rajendra Mohite

Amanda Molefe

Rima Mori

Dina Najialdaies

Vibhav Vinayak Nayak

Kevin Nwankwor

Anita Name Dos Santos

Hiroki Ohsawa

Derek Parker

Ana Camila Parra Bernal

Yuntong Peng

Rene Rodriguez

Francia Romero

Guoqiang Sheng

Yu Sheng

Savannah Sivert

Jourdain Antoine Smith

Julien Supplice

Mohitha Vankima

Shashank Narendra Varma

Chenyi Wang

Tixiao Wang

Zheng Wang

Erxuan Wu

Yuzuan Wu

Lijun Yang

Meng Yu

Xiankai Zhang

Xiaoxiao Zhang

Xiwen Zhang

Rui Zhu

Xuerong Zhu


AFA in Film:

James Bonfiglio

Peter Farquhar

Casey Swing

Zhen Wang


MFA in Screenwriting:

Jean-Baptiste Hakim

Keaton Kaplan

Kobus Louw

Aida Marie-Louise Noujaim


MA in Screenwriting:

Kwang Jin Chai

Rosa Falu-Carrion

Samuel Gonzalez Jr.

Roberto Tapia


BFA in Screenwriting:

Nick Davis

Nawaf al Hoshani

Felix Martinez Autin


MFA in Game Design:

May Alotaibi


BFA in Game Design:

Cody Fowler

Min Han

Alecksandar Jackowicz

Mario Monaco


MA in Film:

Mina Abrahim

Vedang Bhatt

Dhriti Borah

Julian Andres Bueno Sanchez

Maurice Cassidy

Jaya Prasad Chitturi

Xingyue Dai

Abdallah ElDaly

Jiawei Gao

Giunel Ismaiylova

Abebowale Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Vicken Joulfayan

Chenyang Li

Mengke Li

Xi Lin

Yilin Liu

Haixiao Lu

Hin Lam Allan Ng

Yu Qiu

Srikanth Navarathna Raju

Jose Mario Salas Boza

Kongpob Sangsanga

Elizabeth Soto-Lara

Sukrut Shirish Teni

Jianyu Wang

Yu Wang

Jiaxing Wu

Sipei Wu

Xueqing Wu

Siqi Xiao

Qingjing Yan

Zain Zaman

Chen Zhang

Yiyun Zhang

Yang Zhou


BFAin Film:

Ryan Adams

Sara Ait Benabdallah

Fawaz Saleh Al-Batati

Basil Alamri

Abdullah Saleh Alawaji

Hani Alqattan

Ayman Ahmed Alzahrani

Jascha Bellaiche

Rolf Niklas Martin Berggren

Ambre-India Bourdon

Tammy Cook

Jose Guilherme Correia Jr.

Antonio Gassan Darwiche

Rumena Dinevska

Gabriel Erwin

Cirenia Raquel Escobedo Esquivel

Jiaqing Ge

Daniel Ivan Gonzalez Ramirez

Oliver Granö

Kartikye Gupta

Akira Hayakawa

Anton Hermawan

Nuria Stella Hernandez

Dongyan Jiang

Yudi Jiang

Autumn Joiner

Joanna Krawczyk

Henrique Kraychete Freire

Gabriel Legua

Xuejiao Liu

Zhuangzi Liu

Ana Catalina Loret de Mola

Mario Mazzarella

Eric Milzarski

Nikola Nikolovski

Varunn Pandya

Konstantinos Pateronis

Vladislav Petrov

Celeste Pillay

Katherine Pinkston

Albert Theodore Pranoto

Anastasia Reinhard

Alejandro Rojas Melo

Brooke Schulte

Richard Selvi

Denis Semikin

Muhamad Ashram Shahrivar

Shiyi Shao

Jiajin Song

Michael Tharp

Hary Johann Tuukkanen Itriago

Santos Verdia-Cross

Tiange Wei

Assem Yedgey