At the New York Film Academy, it is not uncommon to see actors and directors who have already made great strides in their career seek a focused short-term learning experience in order to brush up on a rusty skill or even learn an aspect of the movie-making business in which they have never participated.
Already successful in their native Colombia, NYFA graduates Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian have attended the New York Film Academy a combined 10 times and are self-described evangelists for the school. In Colombia, Rendón has worked as a pop star, soap-opera actress, and scriptwriter, and Gazarian has managed actors and written and directed features. The couple returns to NYFA before almost every project.
Gazarian grew up in Venezuela shooting on an 8 mm camera. He worked for a television station where he saw how newsreels were made. He was fascinated. While there, Gazarian began meeting actors. As those connections grew he built a career out of those relationships. For the next 15 years he managed actors, but his dream to make feature films never faded.
As his connections multiplied, Gazarian began to figure out how to make that desire a reality. He began writing and sought out fundraising opportunities. Gazarian is practical in everything he does. Despite his years in the entertainment industry and the incredible talent he was surrounded by, Gazarian wanted to go back to school.
He wanted to make sure that the work he produced would be of a professional quality and he wanted to do it himself. In 1996 he found the New York Film Academy and enrolled in the eight-week filmmaking course. By the time he had completed the course he had the first draft of his script, “Venezzia.”
He would spend the next eight years re-writing, workshopping and developing the script. During that time Gazarian kept an open mind about his work and was willing to hear suggestions on how to better it.
One day while on set while visiting a client, Gazarian was taking photos as his client rehearsed a scene. Through a camera lens, he spotted Valentina Rendón. This would be an encouter that changed his life.
Columbian actress Rendón is perhaps best known for winning “Bailando por un Sueño.” Her work includes appearances in television shows like “Copas Amargas,” “Tabú,” and “Allá Te Espero.” She was also one-fourth of the pop group Luna Verde in the mid-’90s. Now, Rendón has started to center her attention behind the camera. She came to NYFA to study editing.
Rendón began her career in industrial design, when she was awarded a music scholarship at the age of 18. “Since I was a little kid, I was driven by the creative process,” Rendón said. She would write songs and poems, practice ballet, play guitar and paint. When the opportunity arose to go to the Acting School of the National Theater of Colombia via a scholarship, she found the perfect way to combine all of her talents and jumped at the challenge.
As she settled into acting, she found herself curious about the work happening on the other side of the camera. “I was always asking the DPs about how the camera worked,” Rendón said. When she first started dating Gazarian she would give him notes on the script for “Venezzia.” Gazarian brought Rendón in for re-writes, and she wound up writing the final draft of the script.
In addition to the filmmaking, directing, and screenwriting courses they have already taken, the couple is now taking on the NYFA’s 4-Week Digital Editing Workshop. They are working on their next feature and, while they will not be editing the project themselves, they thought it important to know the language and styles of editing before they began post-production.
There are two reasons the couple keeps coming back to attend NYFA programs in between projects: it is a a process they compare to training for sports. “We’re about to start pre-production,” Gazarian said. “It’s like a fine-tune-up before going into battle. You want to keep pushing yourself. It gives you a version of the orchestra you’re conducting. You should know the limitations of each position.”
“Learning new skills will give you more information. This is what NYFA’s short programs are made for. You get to practice what you’re learning,” Rendón said. Gazarian added, “All of the information you learn here is meant to be applicable.”
The other thing that keeps them coming back is NYFA’s global community. “Hanging out with people outside of your purview helps you pick up on little things,” Gazarian said. Rendón said that in one of her classes there wasn’t a single student from the same country. She even learned the Bollywood style of filmmaking from a classmate.
The couple was tight-lipped about their upcoming project, but said that there was already a major studio interested in producing it.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Valentina Rendón and Haik Gazarian for taking the time to share their experience.