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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Hosts First Annual John Burroughs High School Film Festival

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) was proud to host the first annual John Burroughs High School Film Festival earlier this month on May 5. The festival featured four films made by the young students. Students used their own equipment—smartphones, high-quality cameras, and sound equipment—to film their movies, which ranged in length from two to 10 minutes.

    John Burroughs has a film club filled with students that have a great passion for film. The president of the film club approached NYFA in the fall of 2018 with interest in visiting the campus and starting a film festival. NYFA was very excited to help them achieve this goal. 

    John Burroughs HS Film Festival 2019
    A 1-week workshop scholarship was awarded to one of the filmmakers, chosen by the audience.   The winning film was the four minute short, Time Machine.

    The festival garnered the attention of the LA Times, where journalist Andrew J. Campa wrote about the event and interviewed John Burroughs High School Film Club President Orion Spatafora and NYFA Senior Outreach Specialist Jody Burns.

    “It was so much fun to see the students’ hard work pay off,” Burns told the LA Times. “It was so exciting for us at New York Film Academy to see the hard work they put into their films. The students also loved getting to see their work on the big screen in a theater setting.”

    John Burroughs HS Film Festival 2019

    The festival was small this year, but both NYFA and Spatafore expect more students of John Burroughs to participate in the second annual event. “We’re already planning next year’s film festival now,” Spatafora told the LA Times. “We want more students involved, and we want to get this out to the community.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates the filmmaking students on jobs well done and looks forward to next year’s John Burroughs High School Film Festival! 

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    May 23, 2019 • Film Festivals, Film School, Outreach • Views: 110

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Celebrates Red Nose Day 2019

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    On May 7, 2019 New York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Outreach in Los Angeles partnered up with our campuses in New York and South Beach, Miami to participate in “NYFA Red Nose Day 2019” for the international campaign to raise funds to end childhood poverty around the world. 

    Red Nose Day 2019

    The students, faculty, and staff of New York Film Academy actively participated in the event across all three campuses by donating and having their photos taken with red noses to raise awareness of Red Nose Day, the national fundraising campaign to end child poverty. 

    New York Film Academy board member and award-winning actor Matthew Modine came by to support the cause and brought along his Stranger Things co-star Sean Astin. This year, in addition to Red Nose day mascot Red, we were introduced to his friends with superhero powers to help keep children in the world safe, healthy, and educated: Scarlet, Rojo, Ruby, and Rusty.

    To date, the Red Nose Day campaign to help to end child poverty has raised nearly $150 million. The fundraiser is supported by NBC, Walgreens, Mars/Wrigley, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. You can read more about the charity here.

    Red Nose Day will return to NBC on Thursday, May 23, 2019. The campaign’s iconic “Red Noses” are available at Walgreens stores around the country. Please support the fundraiser here. Together, we can make a difference in lives of children all over the globe!

    Check out all of the great photos our students, staff, and faculty took for Red Nose Day below!
    New York
    Los Angeles
    South Beach, Miami

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    May 23, 2019 • Community Highlights, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 537

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Wraps Another Successful Outreach Filmmaking Workshop with BAFTA-LA

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is passionate and dedicated to share the love for storytelling with everyone. In our dedicated efforts to give back to the community, New York Film Academy-Los Angeles has been running a filmmaking workshop in partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television Los Angeles (BAFTA-LA) for youth in need since 2012.

    During a 9-week intensive film program focused on telling stories, students from Washington Prep High School learned the foundations of filmmaking and how to make their own short films, from A to Z. They got a chance to shoot their films on professional Hollywood sets at the Universal Studios backlot. 

    Outreach BAFTA HS 2019
    The program culminated with a graduation ceremony on May 11 at the NYFA Theater, attended by students, friends and family, BAFTA-LA members, and NYFA faculty. 

    Sharyn Ross, Head of BAFTA Outreach Program, told NYFA after the ceremony:

    “Our Saturday graduation event was a huge success. The theater was filled with student filmmakers, and their families and guests. The films were terrific and were received with enthusiasm and lots of applause and laughter. The genres ranged from comedies to heartbreak romance, from campy horror to philosophical life lessons. After the screening, each filmmaker stepped up to the mic and shared their thoughts about their experience and how important this program is to them and the kids in their community. It was heartwarming and emotional.

    “Each of you played an intricate part in making this year successful. As each filmmaker acknowledged, it was hard work and when the semester began, they didn’t know if it was possible. With each Saturday building on the last, and with the support and patience of all of you standing by them, they learned a huge life lesson—no matter how hard something is, keep putting one foot in front of the other, don’t give up, trust your gut and those you are collaborating with, and you can depend on the grownups in the room that they won’t let go—and most importantly, that their stories and lives matter.”

    Outreach BAFTA HS 2019

    Students who attended the program also spoke about their experience over the past several weeks:

    “The BAFTA/NYFA program was a great experience that helped me harness and share what I love.”
    – Alony Shell

    “Working in the BAFTA/NYFA program was fun because I went to Universal Studios and was able to direct my own movie!”
    – Makyiaha Daniel

    “The Outreach program was a wonderful opportunity that helped me experience the wonders of filmmaking.”
    – Jermaine Plum

    “The BAFTA program has had such a positive impact on me. I’ve learned so much from writing and directing to camera and editing—it’s a great program and I hope to do it again!”
    – Dovely King

    “This program benefitted me in so many ways.”
    – Emag M.

    “I’m very grateful to be a part of this program which helped me learn new skills.”
    – David O.

    New York Film Academy expresses its gratitude for the opportunity to work with so many young talented inspiring filmmakers and thanks Washington Prep High School Film teacher Darryl McCrane, Head of BAFTA Outreach Program Sharyn Ross, and to all the other dedicated BAFTA and NYFA staff members who made this program successful. Their hard work and dedication helped the participants to not only develop their craft as young storytellers through making their own films, but also supported students’ confidence and creativity. 

    NYFA looks forward to many more years of outreach partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television!

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    May 21, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 100

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) and The Actors Fund Helps Young Students “Look Ahead”

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    On Friday, April 12, New York Film Academy hosted a filmmaking workshop for students participating in “Looking Ahead,” a program under the umbrella of The Actors Fund which provides education planning, counseling services, leadership, community service and social opportunities for professional young actors. “Our program’s all about giving students the opportunity to learn about the industry in a hands-on environment—beyond acting—to see what happens behind the scenes and broaden their perspectives,” shared “Looking Ahead” youth services specialist, Vy Nguyen.

    Actors Fund Actor's Fund 2019

    NYFA’s collaboration with The Actors Fund and “Looking Ahead” is part of our community outreach program, which strives to give young adults who are not typically given opportunities to express their voices and realize their dreams the chance to do so.

    The workshop, led by NYFA Filmmaking instructor Bart Mastronardi, provided a full overview of all the technical elements of shooting a scene, from lighting to camera operation to sound to set decoration and continuity. The students were enthusiastic learners and were complimented multiple times for their respectfulness and adaptability. Mastronardi was very impressed by the group; he informed them that their focus and politeness would take them far in the entertainment industry.

    Harry White, age 13, acted as a director during the workshop; he got to call “Action!” and “Cut!” as well as help out the lighting team. “I had a lot of fun today,” he said, “I learned a lot about how the camera works and the calls and what all the stuff means.”

    Actors Fund Actor's Fund 2019

    Justin Claiborne, age 12, had one of the most technically complex jobs onset: camera operator. When asked about his experience with “Looking Ahead,” he said, “I thought it was amazing; I always wanted to be one of the [camera operators]; it was really cool to have that experience.”

    KylieRae Condon, age 14 and one of the most inquisitive students in the group, performed another technically complex role—focus puller; it was Condon’s job to make sure that the actors were always in focus during shooting. “I had a lot of fun,” she said, “and I thought it was very informative and hands-on.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates the bright group of young students on their successful completion of our filmmaking workshop and thanks The Actors Fund and “Looking Ahead” for all their assistance in the collaboration. 

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    April 16, 2019 • Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 508

  • Duke Youth Media Camp Class of 2019 Graduates at New York Film Academy (NYFA)

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    On Saturday, March 30, the New York Film Academy hosted the graduation of the Duke Youth Media Camp class of 2019. The Media Camp—which kicked off its collaboration with NYFA on January 26 at our Los Angeles campus—is sponsored by the Duke Media Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Bill Duke in 2010.

    2019 Bill Duke Camp Graduation

    Bill Duke, a filmmaking instructor at NYFA, is a veteran director and actor, known for high-profile roles in several television series and films, including American Gigolo, Black Lightning, Mandy, Predator, and X-Men: The Last Stand. He’ll also set to appear in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film, High Flying Bird. At the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, Duke was nominated for the Palme d’Or for his film, A Rage in Harlem.

    The partnership between the Duke Media Foundation and New York Film Academy began in 2016, and their joint-effort Duke Youth Media Camp seeks to train and empower teens through hands-on instruction and by teaching students the tools and skills needed in a constantly evolving media environment. The Duke Media Foundation and NYFA aim to help inner-city youth become more competitive with those who’ve typically had greater access to the education and equipment needed in a television, film, and digital media landscape.

    The 2019 graduation ceremony was the largest ever with 16 graduates instead of the usual 12. When Duke Media instructor Lee Davis spoke to the students and their proud parents, he shared that this was the most talented group of students he had ever seen in the program.

    2019 Bill Duke Camp Graduation

    Michael Sandoval, a NYFA instructor involved in the program, added, “It was a pleasure to work with this group of students,” and said that the only time the students were ever told to quiet down was when they were laughing too loudly because they were having such a good time.

    Echoing Davis and Sandoval, Media Camp co-founder Carl Gilliard said, “I am so full today.” He continued, “Build a name that commands something [but] don’t forget to give back.”

    Paul Caruso from Lost Kids of Los Angeles Inc., one of the sponsors of the program, gave some advice to the graduates: “Make sure the world is a better place tomorrow than it was today … pay it forward.” After some words of wisdom, Caruso surprised the graduates with brand new Dell laptops—a gift from DHL, one of LKLA’s partners. Caruso shared that he wanted to make sure the students had the tools to help them be as successful as possible in the internet age.

    2019 Bill Duke Camp Graduation

    The students were then asked to speak about what they learned from the camp; many spoke about how much they enjoyed trying out every aspect of filmmaking and about the friends they made. One student, Lexi Sherwood, spoke to one of the deeper aspects of the program: “If we don’t tell our stories, who will?”

    At the end of the ceremony, Bill Duke spoke to the students, saying, “I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. You’re part of our family forever.” Following one of the themes of the afternoon, he added, “Don’t forget those that didn’t have the same opportunities that you did.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate this year’s Duke Youth Media Camp graduates and thanks the Duke Media Foundation for creating this wonderful opportunity for these aspiring storytellers.

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    April 2, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Outreach, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 527

  • Sun Valley High School and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Give Students the Opportunity to Shoot Films on the Universal Studios Backlot

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    On March 21, Students from Sun Valley High School were able to attend a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) that allowed them to produce short films at the highest level over the course of a single day.

    Sun Valley Backlot

    NYFA’s hands-on approach gave the students a chance to learn college- and professional-industry level practices on the Universal Studios Backlot, where students of NYFA’s conservatories, workshops, and degree programs also have the opportunity to shoot their films. Over the course of the day, the Sun Valley students were able to shoot, direct, and edit their very own short films.

    The students were broken up into teams and worked closely with NYFA instructor Steve Morris to make their films. The students had a great time and were able to enjoy a professional atmosphere created by the NYFA team that will prepare them should they ever enter the industry. The goal of the workshop especially is to inspire them to be creative and believe in themselves as creatives. 

    New York Film Academy has been partnering with Sun Valley High School for several years. The four-year educational institution is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District and has a goal to “shape young minds to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges not only in film, but in life and give [their] students the ability to cognitively understand society and allow them the freedom to make choices for their own success.”

    Sun Valley Backlot

    Some of the Sun Valley students spoke about their films and their experience making them:

    Daniel: “One thing I like working on the backlot of Universal Studios is just seeing everything how it was back then and what it looks like now … Right now we’re working on a comedy film, where a guy is meeting up with his crush and he just has bad luck—he’s trying to get to her but he keeps having bad luck that stops him … They meet up and in the middle of the film she hits her face on a pole and that’s his bad luck happening to her. My favorite thing about working here is being able to have the experience and work with teens like me and just learn the everyday things and I just love it”.

    John: “We’re working on a film about a kid—so basically he’s supposed to tie his shoe but he can never tie his shoe because there’s always something distracting him … He ends up seeing the guy who robs him for his shoe and gets his shoes back and that’s basically it. I’m not gonna lie—our shot was a little rough in the beginning because we had some complications, but we worked it out and discussed it and we’re just rolling with it. It’s going pretty good now and we’re almost close to finishing it. What I like most about being on the backlot is the new experience—it’s my first time being here. I’ve never seen a backlot like this before. I always wanted to work in the film industry; personally, I want to be a screenwriter, but I wouldn’t mind acting because it’s pretty cool out here.” 

    Fernanda: “I’m the director of the short film that we’re filming here on the Universal backlot and our film is basically about a girl that falls in love with this guy and they end up getting pregnant, but the guy doesn’t want the baby so he beats her and becomes really abusive and she has a miscarriage. My favorite thing about the universal backlot is we get to location scout … We don’t have time to procrastinate so everything’s really fast and fun. My favorite scene was the beating scenes because it was so intense and getting the shots and angles for that scene especially was so cool. I feel really confident with my accomplishments.”

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    April 1, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 496

  • The BAFTA New York / New York Film Academy (NYFA) / DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Program Holds Graduation Screening

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    The BAFTA New York / New York Film Academy (NYFA) / DeWitt Clinton High School Digital Storytelling Program recently held its first graduation ceremony, screening the students’ newly completed short films. Over the course of eight weeks, ten eager and enthusiastic students made their way each Saturday from the Bronx to the NYFA’s Battery Park campus to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking.

    Classes in screenwriting, directing, cinematography, and editing educated the students in telling stories in a medium for which they all have a great passion. Members of the BAFTA Outreach Committee as well as faculty and administrators from both schools joined with the students’ family and friends in the celebration. Aside from newly acquired filmmaking skills, students gained from the experience a boost in confidence, self-awareness, and expression. The program continues the partnership between New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) that has previously brought filmmaking workshops to young aspiring artists.

    As an added treat, the DeWitt Clinton students attended an exclusive pre-opening BAFTA screening of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After a lively Q&A, the students spent a generous amount of time speaking with the film’s celebrated writer-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Needless to say, the movie’s creators were mightily impressed when they learned that Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics and creator of Spider-Man, is amongst DeWitt Clinton High School’s illustrious alumni!

    As they continue to find their voices, BAFTA New York, DeWitt Clinton High School, and New York Film Academy look forward to seeing more cinematic stories from the recent grads of their Digital Storytelling Program!

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    February 8, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 460

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Reach Out to the Community to Make a Difference

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    In Spring 2018, a select group of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary students volunteered to create a video honoring the 65th Anniversary of Family Service Agency (FSA) in Burbank. FSA is a privately-funded mental health service provider that specializes in “treating the mental and emotional well-being of children, adults and families suffering silently through Counseling, Preventing, Educating and Advocating since 1953”. 

    The NYFA team, consisting of Drama del Rosario, Gustav Gibrand, and Asem Nurlanova, started production in April 2018 and were in active production throughout May and June. They participated in the annual 5K Carewalk (shooting and interviewing participants) and then interviewed Executive Director Laurie Bleick, Operational Director Christine Ramos, Clinical Director George Holbrook, and Director of School Based Counseling Services Ginny Goodwin. 

    Because FSA is privately funded by many community sponsors, the filmmakers were granted unique access to several local schools and locations key to the services provided by the organization. In July 2018, the students, along with NYFA alum, Eva Maria Bukovinsky, also interviewed Brian Miller, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cartoon Network to talk to him about his service on the Board of Directors for FSA. 

    Bukovinszky then got to work editing the project. The resulting film was screened at the October 5, 2018 gala celebrating FSA’s 65 years of service, and now serves to explain their services on the About page of their website.

    After the team handed over the final project for FSA, another crew gathered together in September 2018 to begin working on the annual Community Film Project with NYFA instructor Denise Hamilton. The students chose to work with David and Margaret Youth and Family Services, a non-profit that “empowers children, youth, and families through culturally diverse services that foster emotional, educational, spiritual, and identity development.” 

    The crew pitched three ideas and allowed the organization to choose what suited their needs. They chose Drama del Rosario’s concept and this helped form the crew: Drama del Rosario, producer; Lucia Flores, director & editor; Faisal Aldakheel, director of photography and Asem Nurlanova, sound. 

    “When we pitched our idea, we wanted to have a good balance of technical information and very human characters,” says del Rosario. “David and Margaret wanted to target youth who might be interested in signing up for the program, so we didn’t want some boring brochure-turned-video. We wanted something that would make them say, ‘Hey, that looks fun! That looks useful!’”

    Production, including on location B-roll and interviews in LaVerne, California, about 40 miles east of campus (in Los Angeles traffic this is tantamount to taking a “road trip”), took about a week. After that, production included further research, writing and gathering of archival footage. 

    The result was screened on January 26, 2019 in NYFA’s private screening room and the organization was thrilled!

    Documentary Margaret & David
    (from left to right). Asem Nurlanova, Chia Flores, Drama del Rosario, Faisal Aldakheel; from Margaret & David, Marissa Scholefield and Maggie Bohlman; NYFA instructor, Denise Hamilton
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    January 31, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 580

  • 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) Partners with LA Animal Services for Photo Shoot

    Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailNew York Film Academy (NYFA) Community Outreach and NYFA’s Photography department recently collaborated with Los Angeles Animal Services to help get some of their animals adopted into homes.

    LA Animal Services provides care to found or surrendered pets by housing them in one of six city shelters located throughout the city. The organization has a fleet of volunteers that work with the animals on a daily basis to help get them adopted and into caring homes. One of the most useful tools for adoption is good photographs of the pets, so those interested in adopting can see the animals online. LA Animal Services intakes nearly 164,000 animals a year and any help they can get supporting their outreach and adoption possibilities is important.LA Animal Services 2018

    NYFA’s Photography department brought 16 Photography students to the East Valley Animal Shelter on June 20th and set up several backdrops and lights to capture adorable images of the most underlooked dogs, cats, and bunnies at the shelter. The students had the opportunity to work with the animals and their handlers and produced beautifully lit images. 

    Amanda Rowan, a member of the NYFA-LA Photography Department faculty, remarked, “As somebody who cares deeply for animals, it was wonderful planning this shoot with my Applied Photography class.” She continued, “It was a great lesson in producing a shoot and working with unpredictable clients (the animals). Learning to light and work under these conditions is a great skill to have.”

    NYFA students and everyone involved had a very positive experience working with LA Animal Services. This semester, a new group of NYFA students and alumni have signed up to donate their time to produce short Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about pet adoption and care with LA Animal Services. Mason Richards, Chair of NYFA Community Outreach, stated: “We’re excited to continue the partnership with LA Animal Services with the video PSAs, and also to continue the work of filmmaker and activist Julie ‘JD’ Disalvatore.” 

    Richards added, “It’s so exciting to see our NYFA student body, faculty, and staff sharing their talents for a greater purpose.”

    The New York Film Academy spoke in further detail with three others involved with the LA Animal Services photo shoot. Denise Carlson is a NYFA-LA Producing instructor who is also a pet owner and advocate for animal safety. She connected LA Animal Services with NYFA C.A.R.E.S. — which is part of NYFA Community Outreach. Brenda F. Barnette is the General Manager for LA Animal Services, and Ashley Rodriguez is their Public Relations Specialist:


    LA Animal Services 2018


    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What are the primary services that LA Animal Services provides? Why are these services important?

    Brenda F. Barnette (BB): We provide shelter to lost animals until we are able to reunite them with their owners and help stray pets find their new homes.  We offer free spay/neuter services to low-income LA City residents and discount coupons to any City resident for three dogs, three cats, and three bunnies per household. Additionally, the community can visit their nearest shelter location to adopt, foster, and license and microchip their pet.

    Ashley Rodriguez (AR): You can adopt your best friends at our Animal Services Centers. All of our pets are spayed/neutered, microchipped and vaccinated upon adoption. For those whose pets aren’t spayed or neutered yet, we have free or discount spay/neuter vouchers available to help you get your pet fixed. It’s healthier for them and helps reduce unwanted litters. We also have an amazing team of Animal Control Officers that work out in the field and conduct animal rescues if there is ever a cat stuck in a tree, a raccoon stuck on a roof, or a horse who has fallen into a ditch and can’t get out on its own. 

    NYFA: Denise, how did you get involved with LA Animal Services?

    Denise Carlson (DC): I have been involved in animal rescue for many years, networking animals who need homes, raising money, and doing what I can to help. I usually foster a litter of kittens every year, and two of my dogs are actually fosters. The shelters generally do a great job, but they can’t do it alone — there is so much need, and when you look at the faces of the animals there who don’t have homes it is heartbreaking. The staff and volunteers at LA Animal Services are amazing, and they really appreciate whatever you can do. It is just a very worthwhile organization and NYFA can be proud to work with them. This is a way to really make a difference in the community. 

    NYFA: Why do you think its important to volunteer?LA Animal Services 2018

    DC: In general, there are nothing but positives about volunteering.  When you volunteer you are not just giving a gift to the organization, you are also giving a gift to yourself — it is so satisfying to know you have done something worthwhile! We in the creative community can use our talents in ways that others may not be able to in order to help. Taking photos of shelter pets can help them get noticed and adopted more quickly; making videos about life at the shelter, adoption, how to bring new pets into your home, etc., can make all the difference. You are literally saving lives by helping, and there is nothing better than that!

    NYFA: What are some misconceptions that people may have about pet adoption? Why is it important to make people aware of the issues affecting animals?

    BB: A common misconception is that all shelter animals are broken — and that’s far from the truth. At our LA Animal Services Centers, we have a variety of pets in all sizes, ages, and breeds, just waiting for us to find them a new home of their own. There are life circumstances that may put a pet owner in a position where they must re-home their animal because they have no other option. That pet was raised by a kind person, lived with a family, and knows to trust people. It’s then our job to transition that pet into a new home. Another common misconception is that animal shelter staff view their duties as only a job and do not care for animals. Our staff are extremely dedicated to the animals in our care and the people that we serve. They care compassionately, advocate actively, and work tirelessly to insure the best possible environment for all animals.

    AR: A common misconception I see often is that people can’t believe that they can find a purebred or non-shedding dog at a shelter. We want to encourage all people to visit their local animal shelter before going to the pet store or looking for a breeder. We have amazing cats, dogs, bunnies, and we also have turtles, birds, snakes, guinea pigs, hamsters, roosters, and more available for adoption now! Adopting from a shelter gives the pet you take home a second chance at living a great life and provides space at the shelter for an incoming pet.

    NYFA: What can you say about Julie “JD” Disalvatore’s contribution to LA Animal Services? Why is it important to continue her tradition since her passing? 

    LA Animal Services 2018DC: I met JD through a friend who knew we were both interested in animal rescue. I was completely blown away by her. JD was a very talented filmmaker, and when I met her she was battling terminal cancer. She did not focus on herself, though, instead she devoted her remaining time on earth to helping save animals. She was at the shelters all the time taking pictures of animals who needed homes, she worked on videos for the shelter, and was always an outspoken advocate for them. She would go from chemo sessions to the shelter to help, she did not let anything stop her. JD was a force of nature, and she made a tremendous difference.  When she died it was incredibly sad, but also a real loss for the shelter pets, and I realized that her legacy had to be continued somehow, so I thought it would be a perfect match for NYFA students to be able to do something so valuable and also keep JD’s spirit alive.

    NYFA: How do you feel about the partnership between NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach and LA Animal Services? What are some of the benefits for the students as well as your organization?

    BB: We are very excited to be partnering with NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach. This is a win-win for the animals, the department, and the students. This partnership helps us artistically communicate our mission to the community while providing the students lessons and opportunities to practice their art.

    AR: We love it! It really is great to be able to partner with the NYFA-Los Angeles Community Outreach team of professors and students to highlight all the great work our staff and volunteers do every day for animals in LA. The students get the chance to work with animals, learn about our services, and help us share very important messages about animal care and welfare at the same time.

    The New York Film Academy looks forward to working with LA Animal Services every semester, using our photography skills and resources to get animals into homes! If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a pet from LA Animal Services, you can find more information here. Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    August 13, 2018 • Outreach, Photography • Views: 1029