Earlier this month, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Broadcast Journalism Bill Einreinhofer was invited to attend Digital Taipei 2018, a media production forum held in Taiwan. Einreinhofer called it “a wonderful experience.”
In addition to attending Digital Taipei 2018, Einreinhofer was able to visit its associated trade show, which he found to much more gender diverse than similar events. “I was very impressed,” stated Einreinhofer, adding “Unlike many of the conferences I have attended, there were a significant number of women here. (Media isn’t a ‘guy’s club’ anymore!”) The various items on display were as diverse as the crowd, including many cultural takes on mainstream forms of technology and media. This included virtual reality that incorporated Chinese lanterns alongside the high-tech eyewear.
Einreinhofer is an Emmy Award winning producer/director/writer who has developed and produced programming for PBS (PBS NewsHour), ABC (Good Morning America), CBS (60 Minutes), Discovery (Spacewalkers: The Ultimate High-Wire Act) and HBO (Diary of a Red Planet) among many other distinguished credits. He is currently producing the feature film Invisible Love, starring NYFA alum Kazy Tauginas.
Gato and Taglia are just two of the many successful alumni who have graduated from NYFA, one of the country’s top broadcast journalism schools. The core of the NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism program is learning to work both behind and in front of the camera in a location (New York City) that affords aspiring broadcast journalists a huge variety of professional options and challenges students to become resourceful digital reporters who can handle every aspect of covering a story.
In addition to the conference and trade show, the trip allowed Einreinhofer to explore Taipei, a city that combines modern architecture with traditional urban scenes and cultural touchstones.
Einreinhofer made note to give a special thank you to Shawn Tsai, Manager of the Digital Content Industry Promotion Office, who helped organize and coordinate the trip. While we’re glad Einreinhofer got to share his experience and knowhow with Digital Taipei 2018, the New York Film Academy is certainly happy to have him back in New York working closely with the students of our Broadcast Journalism school!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) student Pablo C. Vergara recently worked on the independent feature film Adverse, a drama/thriller written and directed by Brian A. Metcalf. The film is being produced by the actor and musician Thomas Ian Nicholas, who previously starred in Rookie of the Year and the American Pie films, and who stars in Adverse as well.
Vergara hails from Mexico City and works as a cinematographer, actor, and filmmaker, among other roles. He enrolled at the New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking program in New York in Fall 2016, before moving to Hollywood to work on completing his MFA at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus.
Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian A. Metcalf, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Pablo C. Vergara
In July, Vergara had the opportunity to work as a production assistant on the set of Adverse, a role into which the always hard-working and committed filmmaker threw himself with gusto. While on set, he got to work closely with Nicholas and Metcalf, as well as stars Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver) and Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way, Kindergarten Cop).
Describing his experience, Vergara said, “I had the chance to watch Thomas and Lou work together on a scene and that was truly inspiring. We exchanged knowledge between takes about their craft and life in Los Angeles in general — Lou was a really cool guy and with an amazing personality, cracking jokes and talking to the rest of the crew regularly.” He continued, “The shoot went well and after wrap up, everyone’s spirits were high.”
Pablo C. Vergara
A friendly, energetic personality, Vergara also spoke with Nicholas about a possible on-camera role. He got to spend a lot of time with the producer and actor, driving alongside him to and from locations in a U-Haul full of film equipment for the independent shoot. They discussed film and music and their own careers, as well as Nicholas’s previous Q&A with the New York Film Academy. In 2017, Nicholas and Metcalf screened their previous film The Lost Tree — starring Michael Madsen, Lacey Chabert, and Scott Grimes — for NYFA students, which preceded their guest panel.
Adverse’s locations included 4 Hearts Studios in Sylmar, CA, and a private home used for an entire day’s worth of shooting. Vergara got to see the newest RED 8K camera in action up close and personal. “Being a cinematographer myself, I was excited to see this fine piece of equipment operate, and the visuals it captured were fantastic!” he exclaimed.
Vergara added, “No doubt this film is going to turn out to be incredible and I was very fortunate to be able to be part of it for a few days. The entire team was very embracing and cordial, and it forged great friendships.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Pablo C. Vergara on his exciting experience, and looks forward to seeing him return to NYFA next Spring to complete his MFA thesis!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Elizabeth Soto-Lara can now add a feature film to her list of screenwriting credits after finishing production on the film Un Regalo Esencial (An Essential Gift). Not only is she the film’s screenwriter, but Soto-Lara also served on set as the First Assistant Director.
Un Regalo Esencial was filmed in more than 30 locations in Costa Rica over the course of about ninety days. It was co-written and directed by Jose Mario Salas Boza. Both Boza and Soto-Lara graduated from the New York Film Academy’s Fall ’16 MA Film & Media program.
The film tells the story of a grandfather who relives the memories of his first romantic relationship to share life lessons with his grandchild about the consequences of jealousy and insecurity. It merges genres of romance, drama, comedy, and musical, and looks to make its audience ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Its setting ranges from the 1980s to the near future, all in a running time of about 90 minutes.
Un Regalo Esencial stars notable Costa Rican actors Viviana Calderon and Pablo Rodriguez, as well as featuring Mauricio Hoffman and Norval Calvo in supporting roles. It is currently in post-production and will be released in October 2018.
Soto-Lara is a Mexican filmmaker who has been writing for television and film for more than four years. She has written and directed more than 10 short films within both Mexico and the US. Soto-Lara won the award for Best Short Film at the Mexico International Film Festival for her film Restored, which was originally her NYFA thesis film. Restored is also an Official Selection at the 2019 Los Angeles CineFest.
Of her work on Un Regalo Esencial, Soto-Lara remarked, “It was an unforgettable experience to be able to be on set and see how the words I put on paper came to life. I feel very lucky and thankful to have had this opportunity to share a beautiful story, make friends from around the globe, and learn in the process.”
She continued, “This experience will remain as an indelible mark in me for the rest of my life.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Soto-Lara’s on her well-earned success and encourages her and the rest of our students to continue writing and keep sharing their stories.
The theater lights dimmed, the first frames of film flickered across the screen, and the orchestra played their opening bars. Orchestra? Yes, orchestra, for this wasn’t just any film screening. This was the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, a celebration of the relationship between film and music, and that was the Helix Collective playing live as the films screened.
Held on July 21, 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, the festival featured the works of Los Angeles area film students, including five New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmakers. Festival director Sarah May Robinson paired each of them with a composer from the Academy of Scoring Arts who scored the shorts.
On the night of the event, host Brian Ralston of the SCOREcast interviewed each director/composer team, asking them to discuss the experience of being matched with a total stranger and what it was like to work together.
Next, conductor Phil Popham picked up his baton and led the orchestra in a thrilling accompaniment for the films. Audiences were entertained by the films of NYFA directors Victoria Gagieva (Niara), Vicken Joulfayan (Liminal), Oliver Weinmann (The Pill), Nicolas Varela (Aphrodite), and Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou (Arrow and Oil).
But the excitement didn’t stop at the last “The End” because the audience was asked to vote for the Best Film and the Best Score. The tension was palpable as audience members texted in their choices. The winners for Best Film were Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou with Arrow and Oil, and their composer George Oldziey took Best Score. After their win, Zhang exclaimed, “I’m thrilled and excited! Now I have great expectations about launching into more film festivals!”
Zhou was also full of thanks, remarking, “I want to thank my parents. They supported me to come to the USA to study Filmmaking! Secondly, I want to thank my school. NYFA taught me so much knowledge about filmmaking and gave us this chance to represent the school in this festival. Especially, I want to thank my teachers Nick Sivakumaran, the Kohnen brothers — Matt Kohnen and Sean Kohnen — Carl Bartels, Sanora Bartels, Steve Morris. They are the best teachers, ever, ever!”
Their prize was a free studio recording of the orchestra playing their composed score.
All the filmmakers were winners, though, as each received a studio recording of their score for a nominal fee plus a free sound mix from Greenhouse Post.
The New York Film Academy congratulates all the filmmakers and wishes them continued success in their film festival runs!
Cameron Dean completed the Acting for Film program offered at New York Film Academy’s Gold Coast campus and has since relocated to Vancouver, Canada. He has worked on a number of projects including Kong: SkullIsland and Thor: Ragnarok in Australia, as well as the latest campaign for Lamborghini, shot in Vancouver.
Speaking of his experience at New York Film Academy (NYFA) Australia, Dean stated he most enjoyed “how interactive and hands on it was” and how It offered him the opportunity “to create and express myself in a safe environment with other like-minded individuals.”
Dean continued, “The lecturers at NYFA were always helpful and professional; their guidance throughout my entire journey was a step above, and I am where I am today because they brought out the best in me.”
“When you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” he added. “When I was at NYFA it never felt like work, whether I had a 1200-word essay to hand in or doing research for a character, it was all just fun because it’s a part of being an actor. Finding answers and bringing a character to life and giving him or her the voice is what makes this job beautiful.”
Dean spent time on the sets for both Kong: SkullIsland and Thor: Ragnarokwhile still a student of the Acting for Film program, allowing him “to get firsthand training on big production sets with A-List actors.” He credits NYFA for preparing him for the film industry by “stripping away my inhibitions which held me back from expressing myself creatively. NYFA set me up with the necessary tools to confidently break down a script, add depth and layers to a character, and take an organic performance into the audition room or on screen.”
With plans to stay on in Canada, Dean hopes to sustain his career as a working actor and explore stunt performance for action films. “Things I want to achieve as an actor are to play a lead in an action film and do a lot of my own stunt work, for example a John Wick or a Jason Bourne style film.” Dean keeps himself motivated with boxing to increase his fitness and gather skills for the action film genre, and has also started writing him own material.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film graduate Jordan Abbey-Young is living the Aussie dream – originally a boy from the bush, he recently finished shooting on the feature film Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan. The Vietnam War drama was filmed at Village Roadshow Studios on Australia’s Gold Coast, adjacent to the New York Film Academy Australia campus co-located in Southport, Queensland.
Abbey-Young plays the role of Private Ron Eglinton alongside stars Richard Roxburgh and Travis Fimmel, best known for playing Ragnar on the History Channel’s original series Vikings.
Abbey-Young stated that NYFA provided “an environment where you could build that personal network of like-minded people all there for a common goal. In this industry you’re nothing without each other, and the relationships NYFA gave me (good and bad, not everyone gets along), have done nothing but propel me as a person and as an all-round creative individual.”
In preparing for entering the industry after completing his training, Abbey-Young says that his teachers “were very realistic people who got on the level with you. That more personable aspect is a huge benefit to NYFA, I feel. It’s a hard industry and having the people teaching you giving you that blunt reality at the same time, it makes you take things on board a lot more if you’re serious about giving it a go.”
He continued, “My motto has always been ‘Live Life Like A Movie’, so I’ve always had a very internal and a very narrated perspective of my life like it was being filmed.”
Along with his role in Danger Close, Abbey-Young will appear in another feature titled TheLastVideoStore. “It’s comprised of a lot of NYFA family from graduated actors, to filmmakers and lecturers, which has been really fun,” he added. As for his future, “I’ll probably go back to robbing banks and doing auditions,” he joked. “Keep an eye out for an eight-part web series entitled Don’t @ Me next year — a very talented lad decided I was worth putting in front of the camera for it.”
New York Film Academy’s Katherin Hussein and Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez are the most recent recipients of Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Scholarship Producer Award. The scholarship is sponsored by Movie Magic, a software program for production professionals. Both students come from the Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking Feature Track.
Katherin Hussein is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. Originally hailing from Venezuela, Katherin is currently in development on her first feature film, The Unfinished. The film is about a recently orphaned twelve-year-old who girl who must stop a monster before it destroys her mother’s legacy. The monster is from an unfinished painting.
With this award, Katherin is recognized for her outstanding development effort on The Unfinished, including the creation of a beautifully crafted and visually powerful proof of concept to support her fundraising efforts.
Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. A native of Wyoming, Bobby has an extensive background as both an actor and director on stage and in films. He is in development on his film directorial debut, Safe, about a death row inmate who relives his time spent with a wild young couple on a deadly crime spree across the badlands of Montana.
Bobby is recognized for his outstanding development of the film’s script, adapted from a play by Ron Fitzgerald. A consistently excellent and ambitious student, he is a very worthy recipient of this recognition.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Katherin and Bobby on their well-deserved awards and looks forward to the completion of their feature films and to all their future successes!
Interested in studying filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here.
Carolina Sosa graduated in 2017 from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. Since then she’s been hard at work on Trumphobia, a feature-length film that originally started as her thesis documentary.
Carolina is one of many notable alumni and faculty to hail from the NYFA Documentary School, including instructor Kristen Nutile, who edited the Oscar-, Peabody-, and Emmy-nominated Heroin(e) on Netflix, and RBG’s director of photography and NYFA Documentary professor Claudia Raschke. Ranked as a top documentary filmmaking school for the past eight years, holding a coveted spot on The Independent Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers, the New York Film Academy’s documentary program aims to prepare students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.
It was no surprise, then, when NYFA alum Carolina Sosa recently received a $10,000 grant from the Rogovy Foundation, an organization that works “to build a more enlightened and harmonious planet,” and supplies grants to documentaries and other “highly targeted projects which will have a measurable impact.”
Recently, Carolina spoke with the New York Film Academy about her film Trumphobia, her time at NYFA, and other projects she is currently working on:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Carolina Sosa (CS): I’m from Uruguay, I’m 27 years old, and I got a Fulbright scholarship to study a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, and NYFA was the school that gave me the highest tuition award from all the schools that I have applied; also the program was located in Los Angeles.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on documentary filmmaking?
CS: I like to use art as a tool for change. I believe that reality is often more fascinating than fiction, and I want to dedicate my life to tell true stories that inspire, promote justice, and can make a difference in this world. And also, because I love to travel and share my view with others.
CS: Trumphobia: what both sides fear (tentative title) is a feature documentary about the political division in the United States and how Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric increased that division with the help of the mainstream media. On one side, he gave strength and safety to his supporters and, on the other side, he imposed fear and anger on his opponents, which led to major confrontations, protests, and counter-protests across the country. Trumphobia analyzes the reasons for the political division, provides a moving description of Trump’s supporters along with the people who are most affected by Trump’s policies, and proposes empathy and compassion for all as a possible solution to the turmoil. The documentary has the participation of the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, New York Senator Michael Gianaris, Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics George Lakoff, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior Peter H. Ditto, six hate crime victims and witnesses from both sides, representatives of major organizations, many of Trump’s supporters and opponents, and includes footage from more than thirteen debates, marches, and protests across six states.
NYFA: What inspired you to make Trumphobia?
CS: The documentary started as part of my master’s thesis. I was looking for a subject matter right when Trump got elected, and I thought that making a documentary about a current topic that affected millions of people was worth my long work. Especially because I wanted to portray both sides of the story — his supporters and opponents — and I wasn’t seeing much about the right side on the media, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to make a documentary that actually tried to be objective when it comes to politics. The good thing is that most of the crew was international, so we all had an outsider perspective that allowed us to listen without immediately judging. And the one thing that got my attention the most was the articles about hate crimes related to the election and the violent confrontations between people, so it’s not about Trump’s policies — it’s about critical thinking and how moral values determine our worldview. I believe we are all biased, and we need to be more empathetic with others to overcome our differences.
CS: Thanks to NYFA, I became a member of the International Documentary Association and, through their website, I searched for all the grants that I could apply and that’s how we heard about the Rogovy Foundation. We have applied for more than ten different grants, it’s a long and tedious job to prepare all the documents and materials for each grant, but it was worth it because we got their Miller / Packan Film Fund for the postproduction of our film, and they have been very supportive. Moreover, the IDA accepted our project and they became our fiscal sponsor, so that’s also good news.
NYFA: That’s great news! What are your plans for Trumphobia?
CS: For the thesis, I made the first 20 minutes of the film and, since September 2017 when I graduated, I have been working on the 90-minute version. It took me a lot of time because I started working as an editor right after school, and so I have been very busy. But I have never given up, even without money or with a full-time team, I truly believe in the message of the movie and I’m very proud of the result so far, thus we are still working on it. We shot the movie during a year almost and there is always a new thing with Trump, so it takes a lot of work to edit many hours of footage and do constant research, but we are almost there. We are planning to have a final cut that we can send to the Sundance Film Festival in September, and then really finish the movie in October. After that, we will send it to more festivals and try to find online distribution immediately.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
CS: For the 1-year project of the school, GuangLi Zhu and I made a short documentary about the killing of pets in animal shelters, called Exit the shelter, and I have been promoting that short as well. We received the award of Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival and an Award of Excellence at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and we are still waiting to see other festivals’ results. GuangLi was one of my classmates and he is back in China now, but I have partnered with the LA Animal Services and other shelters, so we recently did a screening of the short and a fundraising event to help the pets in two different shelters. Meanwhile, I work as an editor, producer, and cinematographer at Dame Dash Studios; right now I’m editing a documentary about a trip to China for them, but I’m also working as a camerawoman for Harrison Engle (former president of IDA) for one of his documentaries. And every once in a while, I work freelance on other small projects. I’m a workaholic, I work eight hours (or more) at my job every day, then I get home and I work four hours on Trumphobia, and on the weekends it’s all about Trumphobia.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Trumphobia, or your work in general?
CS: The documentary department at NYFA was very helpful with my project Trumphobia. Since the topic was so urgent, they allowed me to borrow the equipment in November 2016, while all my other classmates shot their thesis in June 2017. I pitched the project when Trump got elected and I asked them if I could travel across the U.S. in the winter holidays so I can shoot what I needed, and with almost no bureaucracy involved they said yes, so I’m always thankful for that. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and the resources that I needed when I asked for it, because I shot through the whole year several times and they never said no. I can imagine that this could have been very different in other schools. NYFA gave me the tools that I needed to feel prepared to shoot across the country with little resources.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
CS: My advice to new students is to think big, work hard, go to all the events, conferences, and workshops that you can (even the ones that are not related to your degree); go out, meet people, build your network, and apply to as many grants, scholarships, and festivals that you can — you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to receive, and what you are going to learn.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Carolina Sosa on her recent grant and looks forward to the completion and distribution of Trumphobia and Carolina’s continued career!
Interested in learning documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here!
Kazy Tauginas is an artist who wears many hats. He’s an actor, having appeared in television shows such as Sneaky Pete, Blindspot, Person of Interest, Turn, Blue Bloods, and Law & Order: SVU, and blockbuster films including John Wick and The Equalizer 2. He’s also a producer and writer, having worked on an award-winning and very personal short film, Standing Eight.
Tauginas grew up outside of Chicago, and was a restauranteur and Golden Gloves boxer. In 2009, he decided to follow his lifelong passion in writing and acting, and attended the 1-Year Acting for Film Conservatory at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. He has been performing steadily since graduating, which isn’t just a testament to his talents. Taguinas is also extremely committed to his art, putting everything he has into every role. “No matter what the project,” he says, “I want to always be the best me I can be.”
Tauginas can currently be seen in theaters with Denzel Washington in the follow-up to The Equalizer, directed by Antoine Fuqua. He recently spoke with the New York Film Academy about his time on set, his award-winning film Standing Eight, and the continuing experiences that make him the storyteller he is today:
Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Kazy Tauginas (KT): I grew up just outside of Chicago. Attended the University of Delaware for undergrad. After college, I ended up running a 24-hour diner for 4+ years. When my lease was up, and of no fault of my own, I was forced to walk away from the restaurant business. This event brought me to a fork in the road career-wise. I decided to follow my heart and go after my true dream, which was acting and writing. That life-changing decision led me to NYFA, where I graduated from the Acting for Film Conservatory program in August 2009.
NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you most about this craft, and what stories are you most passionate about telling?
KT: I’ve always had an affinity for film since I was a child. I can probably trace back most of my notable childhood events to the films that coincided with them that particular year. I was also an only child, so I had to keep myself entertained. I would create epic adventures for my G.I. Joes. I would run around the backyard pretending I was Indiana Jones. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized I actually enjoyed performing.
Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com
What appeals most to me about acting is the ability to step into the shoes of others. Being able to experience different human emotions and walk away (mostly unscathed). I love creating characters. I love being able to surprise people. When I was younger, I always enjoyed a good action movie. But I feel now, as I’ve matured, I prefer films with strong performances — the genre doesn’t matter. If the performances in the films are rooted in truth, I’m entertained. At the end of the day, I just want to be truthful on screen and take people on an emotional ride.
NYFA: You’verecently produced a short film called Standing Eight. Can you talk about this project, and what it took for you to make this film?
KT:Standing Eight is an award-winning dramatic short film about a professional boxer who is forced to retire and contend with his life outside of the ring after being diagnosed with systemic lupus. It’s a story about a man who is trying to face the fact that he’s been beaten by a disease. The conflict only escalates when his former would-be opponent begins trolling him.
This project was a labor of love. Through and through. My inspiration came from my mother, who has been fighting Systemic Lupus Nephritis since before I was born. Lupus affects millions of people around the globe, yet so few people even know what the disease actually does to the body. (It’s an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s own immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues.) Louis Peduto, Brian Kazmarck, and I made a hard commitment to work with each other in a Producer, Director, Writer/Actor capacity. I wrote the first draft of the film at the end of 2014. From that point, we went through multiple drafts of the screenplay, two successful Kickstarter campaigns (one for actual production, one for post-production). Principal, post, festival submissions, and finally an incredibly successful indie festival run. The film was an Official Selection at 28 festivals worldwide. We were nominated for 22 various awards. In the end, we took home 11 different festival awards and 4 Honorable Mentions. I think the film is accomplishing what I originally set out to do, which was raise lupus awareness. Just recently I was contacted by the Lupus Foundation of America, and we’re going to be working together to promote the release of Standing Eight on Amazon.
NYFA: That’s incredible, congratulations. You’re currently co-starring in the Denzel Washington film The Equalizer 2. What was the casting process like for that?
KT: My manager put together a push. Betty Mae Casting agreed to give me an opportunity, which I was and am eternally grateful for. We sent over a self-tape that same night. A week later I was on a plane to Boston. No callback. Straight off tape. I was told they did visit my website. (So, actors: have a website with all your materials readily available. You never know who’s looking.)
NYFA: Any fun stories or lessons learned while on set for The Equalizer 2?
KT: To be honest, the entire shoot was a blast. I was in Boston for almost three months. Shooting the climax was physically challenging, but WORTH EVERY SECOND. I worked incredibly hard with the stunt team to make sure I looked the part. I put in hours of training with the rifle. Huge shoutout to Jeff Dashnaw and Mick Gould. Jeff was the stunt coordinator and put together an incredible team. I’m sure Mick got sick of all my questions at some point, but I’m a perfectionist. I was hellbent on not being the weakest link.
My favorite moment was definitely when I ad-libbed a bunch of lines and Antoine Fuqua absolutely loved it. He jumped out of the van, grabbed my shirt, and said “That’s what I’m talking about!!!” Having a director of that caliber — especially one who I’ve been a fan of for so many years — to give such positive feedback was overwhelming. It was one of those moments in life that just reaffirms that I’m on the right path.
Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com
NYFA: How were your experiences different between Standing Eight and The Equalizer 2?
KT: On Equalizer, my only function was to act. So it was relatively simple. Everything was laid out for me and all I had to do was bring my A-game. When you’re an actor, I tend to think of myself as one color on the canvas. When you’re a filmmaker, you’re a painter. On Equalizer I was paint. On Standing Eight, I was more of a painter. Standing Eight was a challenge because I had to wear so many different hats. Luckily, by the time we went to principal photography we had ironed out most of the producing and writing kinks, and I was able to concentrate on my performance. So my experience on Standing Eight was more complex. But to be honest, they were both incredibly rewarding, just on different levels.
NYFA: Was there anything your experiences on Standing Eight and The Equalizer 2 had in common?
KT: Absolutely. My commitment. Whenever I put my name on anything, I put my heart and soul into it. As an actor, Equalizer was the opportunity of a lifetime and I treated it as such. I felt exactly the same on Standing Eight. I wanted my painting to be perfect. No matter what the project, I want to always be the best me I can be.
Photo Credit: Sony
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on either Standing Eight or The Equalizer 2?
KT: What didn’t I use? Everything you learn in acting school becomes applicable at different points in your career.
NYFA: You’re currently working on the film Invisible Love, produced by NYFA Chair of Broadcast Journalism and Emmy Award-winning Bill Einreinhofer. What was the casting process for Invisible Love?
KT: [Former NYFA Chair of Acting for Film] Peter Allen Stone and I are connected on social media and he’s been following my journey since I left school. My understanding is that Bill mentioned something to him about the project he was producing and needing talent. Peter threw my name out there. It just worked out splendidly. I auditioned for them. Apparently, I did well, so the offer came in. I love the character they want me to play. I’m really looking forward to working on it.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
KT:I’m currently working on a huge film for a streaming service with an incredibly talented cast. Unfortunately, that’s all I’m allowed to say. Invisible Love is supposed to go into production in the winter. As far as producing, I’m working on putting together a feature film with very similar elements as Standing Eight. It’s my dream to put lupus into mainstream dialogue so we can actually make finding a cure a reality.
Photo Credit: http://kazytauginas.com
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?
KT: I have very fond memories of my experiences at NYFA. So I took full advantage of the program while I was there. I think I ended up doing about 50 student films by the time I graduated. I went to every Q&A — got to meet Melissa Leo and Christopher Plummer. I made lifelong friends with some of my classmates and teachers. I really did have wonderful teachers. Lea Brandenburg engrained in my brain that when you’re on camera, you keep it simple. I remember by breakthrough in learning how to cry in Peter Allen Stone’s voice and movement class. Dressing in drag as my activity in Meisner class. I did that because James Price said that “manly men” like me would never do something like drag. Challenge accepted, sir. Bela Grushka was always so encouraging of my work.
Our thesis film, which was directed by Victor Verhaeghe, was something my entire class was so proud of. We worked incredibly hard and made phone calls during our lunch break and sent out postcards to every single agent and manager in NYC to invite them to our screening. I really learned so much from that program. I feel like by the time I graduated, I was a different person.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
KT: Take advantage of everything NYFA has to offer. Go to workshops. Screenings. Talks with industry people. Meet filmmaking students. Meet writing students. Go to class prepared. Study. Shoot. Act. Apply everything you learn while you’re still in school. Find the other people who are as hungry as you are. Let your inhibitions go. LEARN. Be humble. You have to be a sponge to learn. Focus on the task at hand. Become the best you that you can be.
In 2009, I fully committed to being a creative. If I can do it, you can do it.
The New York Film Academy thanks Kazy Tauginas for his generous time and thoughtful responses, and congratulates him on his current success. We look forward to seeing what the future brings for Kazy!
If you are interested in learning Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, you can find more information on our programs here.
Elizabeth Grimaldo was already a household name in her native Panama when she came to study Acting for Film at the New York Film Academy, but since then her career has truly crossed international borders. Now based in Miami, the singer/songwriter and actress recently made her U.S. television debut on Telemundo NBC ’s Al Otro Lado Del Muro, tackling an intense storyline involving immigration, human trafficking, and unbreakable family love.
Here, Elizabeth shares a bit of her amazing story with the NYFA Blog.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
EG: I’ve been on TV since I was 12 years old as a singer, which is also my profession. It started in a national singing contest for kids (Canta Conmigo), which opened so many doors for my career in Panama. At the age of 15, I started acting in my first soap opera as the main character, and it was an amazing experience. My next big project, at the age of 18, was Romeo and Juliet the Musical as Juliet, at the national theater of Panama City. That was a dream come true, to perform there.
That play turned on my hunger for the performing arts, and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to this field. One month after the play finished, I went straight to the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us? Or did anything about your program particularly surprise and challenge you?
EG: Many things were challenging. Acting is hard work, and not many people understand what it really takes to build a character who is nothing like you and convince an audience that it’s “real.”
I remember one of my coaches, Michael, used to challenge me a lot — which I am grateful for, because I admire him as a person and professional. He was so passionate in every class, every detail, and most important, he wanted us to do what it takes to be great. He cared and wanted us to succeed. He told us once, “Imagine all the secrets that someone would need to know about you to play you perfectly.”
That was the most challenging part for me, because I realized in that moment how far I was from knowing my character. I realized what it takes to do the job. It’s not acting; its life, and a lot of research.
NYFA: Before coming to NYFA, you acted in Panama’s Summer Dreams. How has your process changed regarding performing, since your studies and other experiences in Miami?
EG: It’s totally different. I started to act without having studied acting. Now that I have studied acting (which you never stop doing), I wish I could go back and do it again with what I know now. It’s been a satisfying and fun process.
NYFA: For our international student community, can you offer any advice on studying in the U.S.? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of coming from Panama to NYFA Los angeles?
EG: It was the best decision of my life. It’s hard yes, but it’s so worth it.
I know it’s scary to leave home and pursue a dream by yourself out there, but let me tell you something: it’s going to change your life in so many positive ways! I accept that I felt overwhelmed many times missing home and feeling lonely, but all those situations that I went through back then in Los Angeles made me the strong, independent, and passionate woman that I am today.
NYFA made me grow as a professional and a human being. I learned so many things and I am grateful and happy for it.
NYFA: How did your experience on Canta Conmigo come about? What was it like achieving second place?
EG: It was amazing. It changed my life, basically. So many doors opened for me after. Since then my career in Panama has been accepted and successful, thanks Gob and to the people that has been supporting me since the beginning. I feel blessed that I have been able to represent my country in the U.S. and make them proud.
NYFA: As a singer and musician, what most inspires your work?
EG: I could say experiences, in every sense of word, which led me to start writing songs. It’s funny because that process started when I was at NYFA living by myself for the first time. I wrote my first songs back then.
I use to think I couldn’t write lyrics, but I was wrong. Experiences are necessary to tell stories from the heart.
But what inspires me the most is my mom. She is my drive, the one who encouraged me to do this and helped me in everything. She believed in me since I was three years old and sang for the first time, Cucurrucucu Paloma. Everything I do is dedicated to her.
NYFA: Can you tell us how your work with Telemundo came about, and a bit about your character?
EG: This February I had my debut on American television in the Telemundo NBC series Al Otro Lado Del Muro, which means “the other side of the wall.” I still don’t have words to express how happy I am for this opportunity. It was an honor to work with renowned actors such as Gabriel Porras, Litzy Martinez, Marjorie De Sousa and Adriana Barraza, the Oscar nominee for the movie Babel, who was my coach here in Miami at her school Adriana Barraza Black Box. Being able to work with Adriana on my first job was a dream come true.
The series talks about immigrants and their different stories. My character is Raquel Aranda, a Salvadoran immigrant who arrives in the U.S., running from the human trafficking. Later, she is separated from her family and unjustly deported to Mexico. She tries to cross the border, again facing dangers in order to be with her family and her one-month old child.