Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • NYFA Alumni interviewed for Brazilian TV Program “Planeta Brazil”

    NYFA MFA filmmaking alumnus Rafael Nani recently found a unique venue to share his student NYFA experience — Brazilian TV juggernaut Globo’s program “Planeta Globo.” The program aims to show how Brazilian nationals live outside of their homeland, highlighting success stories as well as the inevitable struggles in foreign cultures. “Planeta Globo” came to interview Nani in Los Angeles while the then-student was hard at work on the set of his NYFA thesis film, “Bloody Eyes”.

    “Planeta Globo” spoke with Nani about his previous short film projects, including “Rose Garden,” which he filmed during his first year at the New York Film Academy. Nani, who recently completed NYFA’s MFA program at the Los Angeles campus, shared his perspective on some of the finer points of filmmaking and the complexities of directing a film.

    In addition, “Planeta Globo” seized the chance to shine the spotlight on five other NYFA Los Angeles grads and students: acting for film alumnae Sabrina Percario and Carolina Inoue; filmmaking student Iylia M. Idris; film and media production student Ricardo Mata; and NYFA New York filmmaking alumna Flavia Vieira. These five were showing the true community spirit of NYFA while working with Nani on the set of “Bloody Eyes.”

    Each discussed their different roles on set.

    Percario, the project’s supervising producer, discussed the challenges and advantages of working on a multicultural set. Inoue, who is in charge of production design, spoke about the importance of getting right look down for the film. Idris is both first and second assistant camera person for the film, and she explained the different responsibilities for each role. Vieira is lending her expertise to the picture as the lead makeup artist, and discussed the ways good (or bad) make up can effect the look of a film. Finally, Mata, the resident sound technician, explained the differences and similarities between working on short and feature length films.

    You can see the whole segment here, along with more interviews of the cast and crew.

    July 18, 2017 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 208

  • NYFA Documentary Students Attend Full Frame Festival

    IMG_4316-retouched-updatedFour lucky NYFA documentary filmmaking students got to attend the renowned Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as fellows this spring.
    The festival is distinguished from most major festivals by its laid back atmosphere.  There’s a lot more hanging out and talking film, which creates a refreshing creative atmosphere.
    Even so, there were plenty of documentary bigwigs present, who made themselves very accessible to the student fellows.
    On the first day, festival Artistic Director Sadie Tillery invited them to have lunch with Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and discuss his new doc, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.” Later, she invited them to join her again for a special master class with Peter Nicks focused on his new doc, “The Force.”
    Tillery also hooked the fellows up with a specially curated program of films, many of which were in such high demand students wouldn’t have gotten in on their own.

    Tillery shared that the Fellows Program holds a special place in her heart: “It is particularly inspiring to welcome students to the festival. Through the Fellows Program, we strive to create a forum for up-and-coming artists to connect with content, filmmakers, and each other.”

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alumnus Cartier Williams Hoofs With Smirnoff Sound Collective

    New York Film Academy filmmaking alumnus Cartier Williams is drumming up a revival in the world of dance on film with his unique brand of tap dance. Williams is a self-professed “hoofer,” a dancer who loves the element of tap that emphasizes stomps, stamps, syncopation, percussion and heel motion. With a recent collaboration with Smirnoff Sound Collective, Cartier is on a mission to bring tap back in film.

    NYFA: Tell me a little about your background and what brought you to NYFA.

    CW: Well, I started tap dancing when I was four years old, taught by my grandmother Audrey Williams. At the age of six, I performed a piece choreographed by Grammy-award winning singer Mya, and won Apollo Kids at the prestigious Apollo Theater, distinguished as one of The Apollo Theater’s youngest “Apollo Legends.”

    Later that year I was invited to the Kennedy Center Honors alongside Robert Downey Jr. When I was 10 years old, I toured with tap legends Buster Brown, Jimmy Slyde, and Dianne Walker on a international tour called “Footnotes.” I shared the stage with Gregory Hines, The Nicholas Brothers, and Peg Leg Bates. On that tour I performed for two U.S Presidents and co-starred in “PBS Special: In Performance at The White House” with Bill Clinton.

    I toured Japan and the U.S in the Tony Award-winning show “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in da Funk,” co-starring Savion Glover. I performed for the AFI Awards: A Tribute To Tom Hanks. Other appearances include The State Department, CIA, FCC, New York Botanical Garden, and New York Children’s Museum of Manhattan. I performed for The Opening of the Cannes Film Festival for Moulin Rouge, appeared in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and recently appeared in Bart Mastronardi & Alan Rowe Kelly horror film Tales of Poe.

    I ended up at the New York Film Academy in 2009 because I wanted to rekindle the love between tap dancing and film. But I also had something else on my mind, too, that I had to settle: I’m a huge fan of horror films and I wanted to become a director because of Wes Craven and the genius movie he made called “Scream.” I felt I needed to go to the Film Academy to figure this out. So I had two goals: to fix tap dancing and film’s beautiful long relationship, and learn how to make horror films.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project with Smirnoff Sound Collective?

    CW: It’s funny how the Smirnoff video came about. I was on the computer and had just set up my Facebook for my new dance company and I received a message about me dancing in the video. So immediately I talked to the director Stacey Lee, who was hired by VICE to put it altogether.

    I was excited all these great brands coming together for tap dancing! Stacey and I had a great creative talk about me and my dancers and what my creative world was like. We met up a couple times and had one glitch: all the dancers except one in my company weren’t of age to be in the video. So it ended up being only me and Yusaku Komori, who you see in the video.

    A few weeks later we then shot the music video. The process was awesome! Of course early call times, breakfast, hair and makeup … It was complete fun because both of my favorite worlds are coming together all at once. Some scenes there were lots of people on set and sometimes just me and the director because maybe someone is setting something up on the next shot somewhere else.

    The most important thing as a tap dancer is good sound, so that was the first thing I wanted to talk about when I arrived. Tap dancing is percussive and visual, and for me the percussiveness is just as important as the visual. So I must say me and the sound man were best buds! Because sound is important and that was reinforced at NYFA.

    Screenshot 2017-07-17 14.13.38

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you on your career journey?

    CW: When I was at NYFA I became so independent creatively. I learned so much about myself and the stories I wanted to tell. NYFA helped me become the confident director and writer I wanted to be. I ended up directing, choreographing,and producing my own shows when I left the school. My dancing became more powerful because I had stories to tell with the dance that was meaningful. I also learned how to work with people more [collaboratively], because tap dancing is a solo art form at heart and film is not. I learned how to be a team player and how to be patient.

    NYFA: What’s next for you?

    Next I am performing on July 22 at The Smithsonian Museum of American History for The March On Washington Film Festival closing ceremony. But currently I am in production for my new show called “ZIGITYBOP!” It will premiere at the Oslo Jazz Festival and in Zurich Switzerland this August. I recently started a GoFundMe page because I would love to bring the show back home to the states. I’m also currently writing a tap-horror short film that I will film this fall.

    NYFA: What is your greatest memory at NYFA?

    My greatest memory at NYFA was creating a show with my classmates Matt Denoma and Max Schiano called “Beautiful Choas.” It was a tap show that infused multimedia with electronic music. We performed the show numerous times in Long Island for the public school system. The kids loved it and it was just a blast for me, because the guys I depended on in film class was there for me when it was time to create a tap show. How fun!

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Cartier Williams for taking the time to share some of his story with our community.

    July 17, 2017 • Acting, Film School, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 360

  • NYFA Alum Janek Ambros’ Film Produced by Barbara De Fina

    New York Film Academy alumnus Janek Ambros, known for his work on “Valley of Bones,” “10,000 Saints,” and “Imminent Threat,” is working with Marin Scorsese’s long-time producing collaborator, Barbara De Fina.

    Ambros’ film, “May 15th in Paris,” retells the story of a large protest on the streets of Paris on May 15, 1848. Ambros uses a narrator to recount this historic date and juxtaposes that story with images of current controversial populist political wins across the globe.

    Ambrose did an email interview with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about his experience making this film.

    15th of May Poster

    NYFA: How did you team up with Hollywood legend Barbara De Fina? 

    Ambros: Since I was a kid, Barbara De Fina and Irwin Winkler were two people I greatly admired. As a director, I dreamed I would one day have as supportive and creative producers as Martin Scorsese did. However, it wasn’t really my intention to have her produce my films. I originally wanted to see if she had any projects she needed funding for, because I dabble in film finance.

    But when I came back from Paris and showed her the footage, she had a lot of great notes on the narration, editing, and overall pacing. We ended up collaborating on it and in the end, she decided to come on board as a producer.  

    NYFA: What was it like working with such a giant in the producing field?

    Ambros: Someone who has produced for my favorite director of all time is now producing my films. It was obviously a little surreal. It truly is an honor to work with her. But when it’s all said and done, she simply made the film better and that is always the goal. It’s extremely important to listen to others who have experience and expertise greater than your own. You don’t want to be too rigid-minded in your thinking. Having a good creative producer on board is incredibly valuable.

    NYFA: Can you expand upon why you wanted to compare the incidences of 1848 with the recent U.S. presidential election and Brexit? 

    Ambros: I’m really into history. It’s really important to not just know your history, but also understand how it applies today. No situation is entirely unique. In the 1840s, those in power blatantly ignored the powerless. To me, their situation is similar to how today’s “corporate Democrats” failed a lot of the lower and middle class. People finally had enough. However, when they went to the ballot, citizens went in the wrong direction, similar to the French in the 1840s when they voted for Napoleon Bonaparte. 

    NYFA: How did all of these events affect you as a creator? 

    Ambros: Given Trump, the overall rejection of globalism by many in Western countries, and the rise of nationalism, my approach to how I create content has changed. I’ve always been into politics. I’ve done shorts on the military industrial complex, the bank bailouts, authoritarianism, etc. I’m just sticking to my original game plan.

    I see a lot of other writers pull an audible to make their work reflect what’s happening with Trump and that can be great. But, I’d be cautious against changing your entire approach. Things are always going to evolve, especially living in a world with a never-ending news cycle. So, if you keep trying to make everything “current,” it can be challenging. 

    I do think this political climate will spark a “New Wave” of more politically challenging films, which is great. Our company is trying to focus on filmmakers who are making movies that strive for greatness. We want to be like Zoetrope, who tackled challenging cinema in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film? 

    Ambros: The most important element I learned from NYFA to help make this film was to just go out and make it. So many other film schools focus on academia, where NYFA really taught me how to go out and make a film and learn from doing. Although my ultimate aspirations are writing and directing, I went to NYFA for producing. I’m glad I did. I no longer have an excuse to not make a movie.

    NYFA: What did you learn while making this film? Would you change anything about your process? 

    Ambros: I learned a lot about taking in surroundings when making a film. My previous doc was a lot of talking heads and stock footage with mostly stylized editing. This one I couldn’t have any stock footage and didn’t want to do any interviews; I wanted to approach it more as an experimental film with each segment having its own style. So, I was forced to really push myself to look for interesting imagery and create a solid composition and shot design. 

    NYFA: What projects do you have coming up next?

    Ambros: My next film is “Arlington West.” I’ll, once again, be working with Barbara De Fina. The movie is about two Iraq War veterans who spend the night debating war and peace along the Santa Monica pier after attending the Arlington West memorial service.

    We have other projects in development as well that include an adaptation of the widely acclaimed ”Nixon’s Nixon,” penned by Russell Lees, about the night before Nixon gets impeached; an adaption of the timeless play “An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen; and a VR sequel to “Mondo Hollywood,” the 1967 cult classic. Lastly, we’re developing a psychedelic comedy about the re-awakening of liberalism in America entitled “Mondo Oligarchy.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Ambros for his incredible success with “May 15th in Paris,” and thank him for taking the time to share his story.

  • NYFA Photography BFA Student Omar Alturk Featured on Al Arabiya

    Thamer_0217_0040-2New York Film Academy BFA photography student Omar Alturk has been busy creating visual stories on two continents, but the 25-year old photographer recently found the time to appear on-camera for a spotlight on Al Aribiya, to share his perspective as a Middle Eastern photographer working in the U.S. media capital of Los Angeles.

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    Photo by Omar Alturk

    Still in the midst of his studies at NYFA Los Angeles, Alturk has already built a diverse portfolio as a photographer, working as a behind-the-scenes photographer on film sets as well as creating editorial and fashion stories in the U.S. and in his home country of Saudi Arabia. Recently, he created a campaign for Royal Legacy.

    He told Al Aribiya’s audience in the Middle East that he believes photographers in Saudi Arabia stand a great chance of making the crossover to the American market. “The thing that makes you different from the rest of the photographers here is to make a Middle Eastern touch on the photograph or the model or anything you have,” said Alturk. “That I think is what makes you different and creates a different opportunity for you as a photographer in the U.S.”

    We had a chance to catch up with Alturk to hear more about his approach to photography and what has been inspiring him lately.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what made you decide to leave Saudi Arabia to attend the New York Film Academy?

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    Photo by Omar Alturk

    OA: After I graduated from high school, I honestly didn’t know what I should do. I’ve studied in three colleges but I didn’t finish a semester in any of them, so I decided to work. I worked in customer service at a rent-a-car company, then after a while I got a job at the NBC Bank. All that time I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing, even though I was in a good status at the Bank. I had this feeling that this is not what I’m born for.

    So I decided to move to the U.S., but before I went I decided that I wanted to study something I love and I care about. I had photography as my number one interest on my list. After some research I found NYFA, and I found that I can get BFA in photography in Los Angeles California, where everyone wants to be!

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    Photo by Omar Alturk

    NYFA: What inspired you to become a photographer?

    OA: Since I was a kid, I was obsessed with photography.

    I think what made me crazy about it was that my mom used to take a lot of picture of me and my sisters with film camera, and whenever I had the time I used to check the prints of the film and look at it. Every time I checked the pictures, I liked the fact that I could remember everything in that moment: my age, the way I looked, what my interests were. That’s what made me become a photographer: to keep these moments of life in my hard drive and my memory.

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    Photo by Omar Alturk

    NYFA: How has your experience in the photography school been?

    OA: When I started studying at NYFA my experience in photography wasn’t perfect. I knew how to use a camera, but I had never touched any lighting equipment before. So when I started, I was so happy that the school provides any equipment I could ask for.

    That helped me a lot in the learning process, and I became knowledgeable in lighting and how to use it in proper way — what lights I should use if I want some type of style in mind.


    Photo by Omar Alturk

    NYFA: Can you tell me about some of the campaigns and projects you’ve worked on?

    OA: There are many projects I have done through 2016 until today. I’ve worked on over 10 short films as behind-the-scenes photographer, and on one feature film as behind-the-scenes photographer, too.

    There are also many small gigs I’ve worked on that gave me a good experience in photography in Los Angeles. Lately I photographed the owners of a clothing store in Beverly Hills and their collection, which was a big thing for me.


    Photo by Omar Alturk

    NYFA: Are there any projects that particularly stand out for you, that you’re the most proud of?

    OA: For me, I am proud of all of them. But I would say the project which I enjoyed the most was the feature film I’ve worked on. The shoot was 21 days, for 12 hours a day. It was a lot of fun and a challenge at the same time, since I had school on some days of the shooting, but luckily it all worked for the good!

    NYFA: Do you plan on returning to Saudi Arabia to continue your photography career, or rather stay in the U.S.?

    OA: This is still a big decision to me since I’m still studying, but I would say that I can work on both and that what I’m aiming for. I don’t want people to know me only as a Saudi photographer, and that’s it! I’d rather be an international photographer who’s traveling all over the world for photography, and I want to be known worldwide — not only in my city or my country, or even only the U.S.

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    Photo by Omar Alturk

    NYFA: Can you tell me about your upcoming project taking place in Saudi Arabia?

    OA: The project I’m trying to do is to use my skills I gained at NYFA in photography to show different sides of the holy cities in Saudi. I’m starting at Madina, which is my hometown, then to Mecca, where the Grand Mosque is.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Omar Alturk for taking the time to share some of his story with the NYFA community.


    July 7, 2017 • Academic Programs, Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1235

  • Behind the Scenes of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” With NYFA Alum & Digital Compositor Francesco Panzieri

    FRAN EDITED IMAGE 2NYFA alumnus Francesco Panzieri has been busy since completing his studies at the New York Film Academy, with credits running the gamut from the realism of “Mad Men” to the visionary science fiction of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Most recently, Panzieri has turned his hand as an in-house digital compositor with Marvel Studios for “Spider Man: Homecoming,” which opens July 7.

    “Spider Man: Homecoming” is the first installment of a new Spidey trilogy created through the first-time partnership between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures.

    According to Panzieri, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” will stand apart due to its combination of great storytelling, and a focus on the superhero’s dual struggles to become an Avenger and survive high school.

    “I believe ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ balances in a very successful way two key-elements of Peter Parker’s life in this movie, which are his teenage life as a high-school student and the struggles of a superhero to become an Avenger,” explains Panzier. “I think that the high-school part makes the character extremely compelling because it gives the audience a shared point of view with Peter, since all of us have been through similar life moments.”

    Panzieri muses that films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe continue to attract audiences not only through their jaw-dropping visuals, but primarily through their great storytelling. “Write something good,” he says, “Something really good, that people can relate to, and then use visual effects to enhance your cinematic vision of that story.”


    NYFA 3D Animation alumnus Francesco Panzieri (right) pictured with actor Michael Mando (left), who plays Mac Gargan in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

    Along with a great story, Panzieri points to a new colorspace technology created by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) as a vital ingredient to the look of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Panzieri says, “It was a cool experience for me to test it for the first time in my career and I look forward to ACES being the soon-standard-to-be on features, episodic and commercials.”

    He describes an atmosphere of camaraderie and excitement on set: “Since Sony Pictures owns the film rights to Spider-Man, the whole post-production process took place on the Sony Studios lot, in Culver City, California. Each morning, I got to walk by the original ‘Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 car on my way to work, and that was a very stimulating and inspiring environment.”

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    Panzieri pictured with the original “Ghostbusters” Ecto-1 car.

    “In the studio we had every day all the top-notch leadership team of Marvel Studios surrounding us,” Panzieri recalled. “While we were working on the visual effects for the feature film, they were focused on refining and improving editing and storytelling with the director. What surprised me in a truly unique and positive way, was seeing first-class executives such as the Marvel ones hard at work from dawn’s early lights until late at night. In those moments I realized the true strength and secret of Marvel Studios that deservedly brought them to be number one in the entertainment industry: the love and energy that they put into each and every production they make. Everyone who works at Marvel is an extremely genuine, passionate and dedicated fellow; it’s a huge, big family where there is a unique synergy between all the roles.

    Transitioning from film school to major blockbuster productions is entirely a matter of building relationships, according to Panzieri — and being prepared for high-skilled hard work.

    “My job, it’s all about networking,” Panzieri reveals. “So what happened is that a connection that I had from when I worked on ‘Star Wars’ had called me to work on Spider-Man.”

    Panzieri points to his training at the New York Film Academy as playing a valuable role in preparing him for his work: “I must say that the long hours of classes and lab at the NYFA were definitely an advantage to me on every project I worked on thus far … I can definitely say that the instantaneous hands-on environment I found myself in during my time at NYFA was a true testament to how you’ve got to be when working in Hollywood. Visual effects is art, technology and science at the same time, and as such you need to be really focused, dedicated and good at craftsmanship to keep up with its high quality demands you face in entertainment.”

    “Spider-Man: homecoming” is the first installment of a new Spider-Man trilogy created through a first-time collaboration between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios. Box Office Pro has projected a box office opening of $135 million, which ScreenRant notes would make this the 6th largest opening out of 16 Marvel films.


  • Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond Screens His Classic “The Man Who Fell to Earth” At NYFA Los Angeles

    On Monday, June 26 New York Film Academy students were treated to a star-studded screening. NYFA’s Chair of Cinematography Tony Richmond screened his classic film “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” The film’s leading lady Candy Clark joined him for the discussion of one of David Bowie’s most popular films.

    Directed by Nicolas Roeg,The Man Who Fell to Earth is about an alien (Bowie) trying to save his planet by siphoning water off of Earth. To do so, he assumes the identity of Thomas Jerome Newton, starts a billion dollar company, and moves in with Mary-Lou (Clark). But the creature could not predict the cruelty of business done here on Earth and soon must face the consequences.


    Film critic and frequent NYFA collaborator Peter Rainer hosted the Q and A. Rainer kicked off the evening by enquiring about working with the renowned director and frequent collaborator of Richmond, Nicholas Roeg.

    Landing the lead male role for any film can be difficult. Roeg originally had someone else in mind for the role. As Richmond shared, “Nick’s first choice was Michael Crichton. He was very tall. He was going to do it and then pulled out. The whole thing kind of fell apart. Then Nick saw ‘Cracked Actor,’ a documentary on David Bowie on the television. They scheduled a meet-up. Bowie kept him waiting for about six hours, eventually said he would do it, and then we were off and running.”

    Many perceive “The Man Who Fell to Earth to be a science fiction film. According to Rainer, this is not the case: The themes are much more closely related to a family drama. This weird blend of genres along with the magnetism of superstar David Bowie at the helm the film led to the creation of a hit. But, as actress Candy Clark told students, not everyone thought that success would translate.

    “It’s a two hour and twenty-three-minute movie,” Clark began. “Donald Rugoff, head of Cinema 5 at the time, was like Harvey Weinstein. He had a reputation for putting out art house films that exemplified the director’s vision. But with this film, he started seeing dollars. Nick Rogue and Graeme Clifford had spent a year and a half meticulously cutting this film, piece by piece. Rugoff got a hold of it. Despite his reputation, he decided to cut twenty-three minute. He hired a guy who cuts commercials. This film took a year to cut. The new guy did it in a week. He just willy-nilly took out stuff.”

    While touring to promote the film, Clark saw the fist American cut of the film.  She called Nick immediately after, but the damage was done. “Years later I called up Cinema 5. I pitched this big lie that I was getting asked about the film all of the time.” Clark then convinced them to release the original cut of the film, saying she told them, “You don’t have to spend any money. Just take the original poster and add a banner with the word: uncut. I’ll promote it any way you want … As a result, the American cut has dwindled to the wayside. All that is seen now is the director’s cut. It’s now out on Criterion. I never gave up on this film.”


    During the Q and A, one student asked how Richmond planned so many of the daytime shots to get the light just right.

    Richmond revealed, “I would like to say that I did it. But I was so, so lucky with the sky. Every time we did some vast exterior there would be this incredible sky. The scene with the cottage, for instance, that cloud hung over the cottage all day. It never moved. I went back to Mexico and I was going through this little town and I felt like I’d been there. Now, it’s a huge artist commune.” The location holds artistic magic.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Tony Richmond and Candy Clark for sharing their experiences with our students. We would also like to thank Peter Rainer for hosting the night’s festivities. The 4k restoration of “The Man Who Fell to Earth is now available everywhere Blu-Rays are sold. Rainer’s book “Rainer on Film” is also available for sale on Amazon.

  • NYFA Sydney Filmmaking Student Wins UBER Competition

    The sharing economy has created all kinds of opportunities for people and organizations to come together in new ways. Recently, ride-sharing giant Uber connected with 90 Seconds to create a contest, inviting filmmakers to submit a film concept around the theme “a shared ride.” Finalists were selected to compete for votes in the Uber & 90 Seconds Short Film Festival, and first prize was taken home by New York Film Academy Sydney filmmaking student Michael Gosden for his short, “Hitchin’ a Trike.” Michael’s video has since surpassed 3 million views on Youtube.

    We had a chance to sit down with Michael and hear a little bit about his journey with NYFA and the inspiration behind his film “Hitchin’ a Trike.”


    Filmmaker Michael Gosden.

    NYFA: Congratulations on your success in the Uber & 90 Seconds Short Film Festival! First, can you tell us a little about yourself and why you chose New York Film Academy?

    I originally grew up on the Central Coast and moved to Melbourne in 2011 to study acting with the Victorian College of the Arts. Being there solidified my passion for storytelling and, with a few friends, I started to create work outside of acting. We would shoot short films, web series, music clips and even a few feature films. I quickly found that being behind the camera was just as exciting as being in front of it. But I found that our guerrilla filmmaking approach was limited by my day-to-day obligations, and I wanted to commit to immersing myself in film as much as possible for a period of time. That’s what attracted me to the New York Film Academy Australia. The hands-on approach to study was exactly what I wanted.

    How did your entry to the UBER competition come about? What drew you to it?

    It popped up on my news feed and this was around a time between semesters, so there was a tiny gap in my hectic schedule to pursue. I had a great little team of friends that were available and the story I came up with was a simple one. Also, it had a pretty great cash prize attached to it, and being a student in Sydney is hard!

    What inspired your idea for “Hitchin’ a Trike”?

    Nostalgia was my biggest inspiration, to be honest. The only thing Uber attached specifically to the brief was the theme “shared ride,” and it made me think about the moments I spent with my older brothers in our little kid bike gang, and how we would often have to share bikes if one of the other had broken down for whatever reason. I just ran with that idea and intertwined it to what I understood Uber to be at the time.

    Would you say your time at NYFA was useful in terms of preparing you for your work in the competition?

    Definitely. Primarily in my preparation, which I severely lacked the skills for beforehand. We had one day to shoot, so we couldn’t waste time with shot listing or anything like that.

    With over 3 million views on your UBER video, what are you planning next?

    I have a mockumentary web series that I shot before starting at NYFA about a group of master sommeliers (expert wine tasters) and how they are put through different tests to be inducted into the Grand Master Sommilier Society, the Illuminati of wine society. I put that on hold while studying and now I want to edit and distribute that to the world.

    I also have a one-shot feature film that I wrote and directed, with a friend, a few years ago that is premiering at the Perth Revelation International film festival. I also have a treatments for a TV show and three features that I want to explore more and hopefully get some funding for. So I’m guessing that will keep me busy over the next few years.

    As a filmmaker, what is your driving passion?

    For who I am at the moment, the driving force has always been to try and tell the story of people or communities that wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance. I don’t know if I necessarily have an overall goal or message: That usually comes when I start focusing onto a story. But the passion definitely comes from the excitement I feel when a film leaves you with a greater sense of that topic than when you first walked in, good or bad. I just hope that people are changed by the stories I create.

    Is there anything I missed that you’d like to talk about?

    If you happen to be in Perth for the Revelation film festival, it’d be great if you went along and supported my film “Watch the Sunset.” You can find all the information here.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Michael Gosden on his success with “Hitchin’ a Trike” and thank him for sharing some of his story with the NYFA community.

    June 30, 2017 • Acting, Contests, Film School, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2508

  • NYFA Filmmaking Grad Assaad Yacoub’s Film “Cherry Pop” Featured in NYLON

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    NYFA filmmaking alumnus Assaad Yacoub via IMDB.

    As Pride Month celebrations bring the LGBTQ+ community to the world spotlight, New York Film Academy had a chance to go behind the scenes with the creator of “Cherry Pop,” triple-alumnus Assaad Yacoub, who graduated from NYFA’s 2-Year Filmmaking Program in New York City before going on to complete both his BFA and MFA degrees in Filmmaking at NYFA Los Angeles. His much-buzzed feature film stars Bob the Drag Queen from “Rupaul’s Drag Race” along with Tempest DuJour, Latrice Royale and Lars Berge.

    With a recent interview in NYLON and a busy schedule touring such film festivals as Outfest Los Angeles and the London International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema, Yacoub took some time to talk with NYFA about his “Cherry Pop” journey.

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    NYFA: Congrats on your feature film debut with “Cherry Pop”! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    AY: I’m Assaad. Nice to meet you!

    When I was younger, I would take our old school video camera and film my brother and my friends doing anything and everything. I enjoy the art of telling a story. It’s fun! I used to dance with a group in Dubai and that form in itself is storytelling. Then I went to art college where I majored in painting. I remember one of my teachers, Rachael Hines, and I’ll never forget this, told me to get the hell out of the Middle East and move somewhere that would actually allow me to succeed and have a career in my talents.

    At the time there was no “art scene” in Lebanon or the Middle East — no one took it seriously as a career pursuit — art classes were basically just electives not majors. Moving to the states was the best thing I could have done for myself and my future. That’s how I ended up at NYFA!

    NYFA: Your feature “Cherry Pop” started out as a student short film project at NYFA, can you tell us a little about the journey you underwent to turn that student project into a feature?

    AY: The feature was actually also a project I did at NYFA as my thesis in the MFA program. It started as a short film in 2013 and we enhanced it into a feature film by 2015.

    The short film’s success is basically what decided to make the film into a feature. The festival circuit showed me it was valuable to movie audiences and I decided to push forward with it. When I started my master’s program, from day one I knew I was going to choose the feature track and make this film.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow NYFA students eager to make their first feature film?

    AY: You have to be prepared. And even when you think you’re prepared you have to be even more prepared. Mistakes are going to happen no matter what. The more prepared you are the easier and quicker you will solve obstacles as you go along.

    Stick to one idea and go with it. Stick to your guns, believe in your idea and what you’re doing. Other people will then believe in you.

    NYFA: You mention in your NYLON interview that you were especially interested in showing a “day in the life of a drag queen” with “Cherry Pop.” Why do you feel it is important for people to have a chance to see that world? Why is this story so important to tell, at this moment in time?

    AY: It’s important because a lot of people just don’t understand what drag queens do and who they actually are. The topic is now more important than ever – the timing is perfect especially with transgender/LGBTQ+ community speaking out a lot more nowadays. It’s amazing to be a part of the bigger picture of it all.

    NYFA: Has the experience of working on “Cherry Pop” in any way transformed the way you approach filmmaking?

    AY: Yes. I learnt I do not what to produce ever again. Ha! — I’m sticking to directing!

    It was my very first feature film so there really was so much I didn’t know and was learning on the way. I learnt a lot about post-production and about what happens with the movie after you achieve distribution.

    A fun thing on set that was new to me was that we built the “Cherry Pop” sets. I have never experienced having full control of how the space was going to look, which was pretty cool.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was helpful in preparing for your experience making “Cherry Pop”?

    AY: My time at NYFA was the only experience I had to prepare for “Cherry Pop” so yes it was very helpful! I think everyone should go through the feature track [in the MFA Filmmaking program] because the classes we took were invaluable. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of Lydia Cedroni, Justin La Reau, William Dickerson and Mike Civille — thanks guys!

    NYFA: Are you working on any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    AY: In addition to touring with “Cherry Pop” nationwide, I am working on its TV adaptation. We just finished writing the pilot. I have a bunch of music videos coming up for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Queens. Those should be lots of fun. I also just pitched and sold a web series to an online streaming platform.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed you’d like to mention?

    AY: Ya! If you’re in LA on July 10 come watch “Cherry Pop” at The Harmony Gold Theatre. If you’re in San Francisco July 11, we will be at The Castro Theatre. Come!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Assaad Yacoub for the success of “Cherry Pop” and thank him for sharing his story with the NYFA community.

  • NYFA Alumnus Miguel Garzon Martinez Releases “The Broken Legacy” on Amazon

    New York Film Academy alumnus Miguel Garzon Martinez has been hard at work on his latest project, “The Broken Legacy.” Now that the film has completed it’s festival run, it is available to stream on Amazon and Vimeo.

    Martinez sat down with us to talk about his experience writing, directing, and editing the project.

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    NYFA: Tell us a little about your latest project?

    Martinez: “The Broken Legacy” is a personal project for me. It came from a mixture of past experiences. This was an incredible opportunity to explore those experiences. I was able to share my own thoughts about how the world works. Before I came to study at NYFA, I was a teacher at a high school back home in Colombia. I had some crazy experiences that taught me many things about the nature of people, and about myself as well.

    Originally the film was set in a high school. But then I realized that in order for me to make it happen within my budget I had to make some changes. I changed the setting to a research facility where the characters are forced to live together, which definitely amps up the stakes and the drama. But, at the end of the day, I wanted to portray the light and darkness that lives inside of all of us, which I show personified in the two leads: Steven and Tomás.

    NYFA: Why is this story important to you?

    Martinez: I needed to tell the story of “The Broken Legacy” because it’s heavily based on my own experiences. Sharing something so personal with the world is terrifying and difficult. I felt that as a filmmaker I had something to say, and that feeling continued to bug me until it became this film. However, my intention is not to preach or to tell people what to think or how to behave. For me, it was very important to portray characters who were honest. I tried to show every side of the conflict.

    NYFA: What was the hardest part of making this film?

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    Martinez: When I think about my biggest challenge making this film, and maybe this answer is not as thrilling, but it was unexpected to me as well: it was editing. When you’re so close to something you stop seeing things. It becomes harder and harder to judge what is working and what isn’t working.

    After several months of work in post-production and some test screenings, I had to make a very difficult decision. I stepped away from editing and hired an editor to do a new cut from scratch. I had to do what was in the best interest for the film.

    I had a wonderful editor, Aashish Mayur Shah, who brought so many ideas to the table and a strong vision that enhanced my previous work. It was a great learning experience.

    NYFA: What did what you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film?

    Martinez: My experiences at NYFA were integral to making “The Broken Legacy.” It is incredible looking back at how much of what I learned in school helped me through this project. NYFA’s hands-on approach really prepared me to be in command of the set, because I have already done it before many times in smaller projects.

    On top of that, I was very lucky to have two great directing teachers, Nick Sivakumaran and Adam Nimoy, who showed me how to visually tell a story without losing sight of the spine of each character. Most of my crew was wonderful people that I met at NYFA, including one of my actresses and co-producer Cynthia Bravo. I would never have been able to complete my film without the NYFA community.

    NYFA: Would you do anything differently if you could?

    Martinez: I think that if I could go back in time, I would have approached the screenwriting process differently. Writing a film is by far the most complex part. I wrote the script in eight months and I still feel like I could have used more time.

    Looking back, there are little moments where I realize that I should have added this or that to make it perfect. It is kind of like that feeling you have after walking away from a conversation and suddenly know exactly what to say. It’s very annoying, but I have learned from it. Now, I try to focus 110 percent on those details during the writing process.

    NYFA: What festivals did you take the film to?

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    Martinez: “The Broken Legacy” has screened at the Pasadena International Film Festival, where it won Best Feature Film, and at the Gwinnett Center International Film Festival, where Michael Stahler won Best Male Actor for his portrayal of Steven. We also screened at the Manhattan Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Speechless Film Festival and Hoboken International Film Festival.

    NYFA: What was it like watching your film with an audience for the first time?

    Martinez: Watching the film for the first time in front of an audience was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt as if I was naked in front of them and they were staring into my soul. However, and this is weird, it’s also a wonderful experience because it allowed me to connect with them. Every time I hear a little reaction, like a gasp, I know that people are invested in the story that I want to tell. It’s amazing because ultimately I want to make films so people can watch them and get involved with the characters. Eventually, you get used to people staring at you naked.

    NYFA: What is the message you hope viewers walk away with?

    Martinez: The main questions the film asks is, would you be able to sacrifice your happiness in this world to achieve a great work of art? Is it worth happiness, worth immortality? I don’t want people to walk away with an answer to that dilemma, but I want them to walk away asking themselves, is it possible to have both? And what would they be willing to sacrifice to achieve immortal fame?

    NYFA: What’s up next for you? Are you working on any new films?

    Martinez: Right now, my main focus is the distribution of the film. “The Broken Legacy” is finally available on Amazon and Vimeo.

    I am also developing a couple of new projects. I am in the middle of the post-production on a short film that I did in Colombia. It was produced by another NYFA alumni, Juan Sebastián Sarmiento Bazzani. I really wanted to have the experience of doing a short film back home. Thanks to the people I met at NYFA I was able to do so.

    Finally, I have also been collaborating with a wonderful group of actors in New York City, where I currently live, to develop a series of short films that will soon be on the festival circuit.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Martinez and all those involved in the making of “The Broken Legacy” on their success. To learn more about the film click here.