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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Mey Novak

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Mey Novak was always meant to be an actress. She’s always been a huge movie buff, especially action movies, but she’s acted in plays from a young age. 

    Originally hailing from Brazil, Novak first attended New York Film Academy (NYFA) in 2012, taking the 4-week Musical Theatre workshop at NYFA’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre. She followed that with more advanced studies in NYFA’s 1-year Musical Theatre conservatory

    After graduating, Novak worked as an admissions specialist at NYFA’s New York campus, helping fellow aspiring artists from Brazil enroll at the Academy. She’s acted in commercials, short films, and most recently, the feature film River Runs Red.

    River Runs Red is a thriller/drama written and directed by Wes Miller and starring Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, and RJ Mitte. Miller previously directed Prayer Never Fails and Atone, and is completing production of Hell on the Border, starring Ron Perlman and Frank Grillo.

    New York Film Academy recently spoke with Mey Novak about River Runs Red, her passion for acting, and what she learned at NYFA that she still applies to her work to this day:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us what drew you to acting? What brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Mey Novak (MN): Acting has always been inside me. I was in all the school plays, performing for my family during Christmastime, I always watched movies… it was kind of my happy place growing up. I always knew I wanted to be an actress. I remember being around seven years old watching movies and saying I wanted to do that one day. 

    When I got my theatre degree in Brazil I knew it was time to go to the US to study my craft further, and I saw that the New York Film Academy was auditioning in Brazil and that it was my time.

    Mey Novak Mey Ferdinand

    NYFA: Is there anything about your Brazilian background that you apply to acting in the United States? 

    MN: Yes, I was very versatile because of my Brazilian background. We are a very culturally rich country, so I realized I could play all sorts of foreign roles the industry requires all the time. My first commercial in the US I played a Russian girl. I hadn’t even thought about it before, then I noticed there was a whole thing for foreign accents and types in the US.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about River Runs Red?

    MN:River Runs Red tells the story of an African American judge whose son is murdered by the police. It’s a very strong and currently relevant plot—it’s necessary because it talks about the racism that still exists nowadays in the US, in Brazil, and the whole world.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on River Runs Red,or your work in general?

    MN: So many things!! NYFA was a stepping stone in my career! 

    First, I have learned with the best teachers—I’ve found mentors for life that even after school was over I had supporting me. I’ve also learned how to be a professional—it was more than just going to class, learn a method, and go home—I learned about the real world of acting and the industry. And I had the chance to practice while I was in school. This is very important. I was in touch with the filmmaking students, I was auditioning, shooting with them, also with the photography students, etc. 

    So when my first big job arrived, I was ready. It was very important. For my acting specifically, I’ve learned my favorite method, the “Meisner technique” at NYFA, it’s necessary to me on set.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    MN: I’m currently in Brazil shooting a show in Portuguese called Os 3 Irmaos (The 3 Brothers). It’s my first time acting in Portuguese after such a long time working in the US. After this I have plans to work in Europe for a while.

    NYFA: What’s your dream role? 

    MN: I love action movies, I’m obsessed with them!!! I practice martial arts and have studied Stage Combat since my NYFA days, and my dream is definitely a strong female role in an action movie with amazing choreography, like in John Wick.

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    MN: I’d say enjoy your time there and listen to every single thing your teacher has to say—they really know about the industry. Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, it really pays off!

    NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?

    MN: I want to say to all the aspiring actors to follow their dreams! Sounds cliché but there will be doubts, there will be moments you just want to give up, but you just need that one person to believe in you and that one “Yes” that changes everything. Be grateful and embrace every step of the journey!

    The New York Film Academy thanks actress and NYFA alum Mey Novak for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career continues to grow!

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    February 20, 2019 • Acting, Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 330

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Publishes Book After Climbing the Seven Summits

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    As you might imagine, I have written a whole lot of updates since I became Chair of the Broadcast Journalism department at New York Film Academy (NYFA). But, remarkably, this is the first time I can talk about one of our grads writing a book…

    Elizabeth Rose was a member of my first graduating class. After leaving NYFA, she worked for a time with a cruise ship company. She shot/edited/produced a daily news program aboard one of the company’s vessels. 

    But Liz had another goal in mind, something that would take her far away from the tropics. She was determined to climb the Seven Summits —  the tallest mountain of each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest. Without a doubt, she is the only NYFA grad to accomplish this feat. And in doing so, she raised funds for wonderful causes such as Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada).

    I suggested to Liz that she take along a video camera. But given it was a choice between 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of camera or 10 pounds/4.5 kilos of food, the camera was left behind. Now Liz has put her adventures down in writing, in a book called Written in the Snow: My Journey To The Seven Summits. It is an incredible tale.

    Congratulations Liz, from all of us at the New York Film Academy! We’re proud to have played a part the development of your storytelling skills…

    NYFA encourages everyone to find out more about Liz’s incredible achievement by reading Written in the Snow: My Journey To The Seven Summits by NYFA grad Elizabeth Rose!

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    February 19, 2019 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 114

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Jessica Wolfson Produces and Directs ‘The Columnists’ for WSJ. Magazine

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Jessica Wolfson produced and directed The Columnists for WSJ. Magazine, a video series of intimate conversations with renowned figures reflecting on various themes that have guided their careers.

    The project has its roots in On Point, a coffee table book from WSJ. Magazine, a glossy news and lifestyle monthly magazine by the publishers of The Wall Street Journal. The book, released September of last year, included interviews from the publication’s renowned column The Columnists. The new series has six parts and a 20-minute short film, directed and produced by Wolfson.

    Jessica Wolfson The Columnists

    This is the second project Wolfson has made for The Wall Street Journal. Her earlier project was Drawing the Future, a video tech series. Wolfson is a photographer and documentary filmmaker who has directed shorts including Night People, Iowa Mixtape, and Play a Round with Me, as well as films Radio Unnameable and Hot Grease. Additionally, she teaches for the Documentary Filmmaking department at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus.

    Episodes of The Columnists are based on a particular theme, including Luck, Risk, Mistakes, and Willpower. Notable subjects speaking on these topics include, author Fran Lebowitz, director Lee Daniels, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, television star Rainn Wilson, and the late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld.

    “What I really loved most about making this series was having conversations with the subjects about emotional and philosophical topics such as willpower, advice, envy—rather than the typical career questions they are normally asked,” Wolfson tells NYFA. “This made for a very interesting dialogue.”

    Wolfson also worked with Associate Producer and graduate of NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking program Nancy Dionne. Dionne researched crew and shooting locations in Canada, Paris, London, and New York for the series. “It was the kind of call where you hang up and jump up and down smiling saying, ‘Yes!’” Dionne tells NYFA. She was also more than happy to work with Wolfson, who she met at NYFA. 

    “I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see her in action,” Dionne says of Wolfson. “What struck me first was how calm Jessica and her crew were, not that they were not feeling stress, but how they handled it and how they communicated with me and each other—just so professional and smart with no effort wasted.”

    Jessica Wolfson The Columnists
    Photo Credit: WSJ Magazine

    Currently, The Columnists is a limited series, but Wolfson is eager to shoot additional seasons in the future.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Jessica Wolfson and alum Nancy Dionne on The Columnists, and thanks them for taking the time to speak to NYFA about their experience!

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  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Furaha Bayibsa

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Furaha Bayibsa has kept herself very busy since graduating the Fall 2015 1-year Filmmaking program—not just as a writer and director, but as a producer as well.

    Bayibsa is very passionate about her craft after growing up with a love of film and television. She seeks out artists who share that passion, and strives to work with those who truly care about what they’re putting on the screen. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    With that in mind, Bayibsa produced a feature film called Landfill, directed by MFA Filmmaking student Yesser Laham, as well as produced a few short films together with other NYFA alumni. In between producing projects, Bayibsa continues to write screenplays that she plans to either sell or direct herself.

    New York Film Academy recently spoke with Furaha Bayibsa about some of her work, what drives her as a filmmaker, and her love for all things Shonda Rhimes:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Furaha Bayibsa (FB): I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, but originally from Congo. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with TV and movies. It’s kind of cliche because every filmmaker says that (haha) but really… It was cringe. Movies and TV was the only thing I was talking about. At work people told me to shut up. My friends got upset because every Friday night were occupied for “Shonda Rhimes TGIT.”

    It wasn’t until my mom was like “Okay Furaha, it’s time to choose school because you can’t be home watching movies all the time,” and I was like “Okay, I’m going to film school in LA then.” It was an awkward silence at first, but then she said “okay” and four months later I got my acceptance letter.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film 1989 and what inspired you to make it?

    FB: My older sister is a politician in Sweden for the Social Democratic party, a party running Sweden as we speak. The party basically stands for equality and giving back to the less fortunate. She’s my biggest role model, and I’ve always wanted to be like her. Do something meaningful, so my entire life hasn’t just been movies. It’s been movies, demonstrations, manifestations, voting parties, lectures, and a lot of political engagement. 

    Discovering Shonda Rhimes, I realized I could use a film as a tool to speak about really intense stuff, and not make it too much of a lecture. So I decided to make a film about rape, and make it as a ten-minute real-time moment in a couple’s life where they are discussing the topic casually, like couples do all the time (or in Sweden at least).

    I remembered a guy telling me this story of how he was sexually harassed by another man one night, and he never told anyone because he was embarrassed, but it really affected him. It pissed me off, because—hello—this happens all the time, so why should he feel embarrassed? So in the film I have the couple watching a news broadcast about a rape victim who killed their attacker, and then got convicted. After the broadcast we’ll find out that the man is enraged, and his fiancee doesn’t understand why. So they go back and forth until… you need to watch the movie, haha.

    “1989” (2018) Official trailer from Furaha Bayibsa on Vimeo.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about Caminante, Caminante: La Leyenda del Huay Chivo and what inspired you to make it? 

    FB: One of my closest friends, Luis Quijano—we met in film school. He pitched the idea to me 18 months ago. He’s obsessed with horror movies, and he’s from Mexico, so he wanted to make it in Spanish. When he was younger, he worked as a missionary in Mexico, and he grew up hearing a lot of folk tales about monsters in the woods. 

    The “Huay Chivo” is a Mayan beast—half-human and half beast with really creepy eyes. He can turn himself into a goat, a disguise he uses to eat livestock (at least that’s what I understood from it). Luis really wanted it to be as authentic as possible, so together with our friend and cinematographer Andrii Lantukh, we literally went in with our hearts and souls and we made the legend come to life. 

    I produced it together with Luis and it was the realest experience I’ve ever had as a filmmaker. I knew it would be. Luis is amazing at what he does, Andrii too. We’re turning it into a feature film as well. So much fun.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    NYFA: How do you decide which films to produce? What draws you to them?

    FB: In the beginning, I’d get a text saying “Hey Furaha, I have a friend who needs help… are you free?” And that’s literally how it’s been. Just me being nice, saying “yes” to almost everyone. Then I guess the word got out that “Hello everyone, Furaha produces movies and she can raise money too!” And I realized that okay maybe I should find a strategy because I’m only one woman. 

    I’ve tried to produce several short films at the same time, and line produce them too with directors I didn’t connect with. So I had to step back one day and think, “Okay Furaha, why are you here? Because you love storytelling right, not producing.” So now I ask for three things before even agreeing to a meeting. “Script, crew list so far, and budget.” Script to see if I need to help them develop it a little more, budget meaning what they want for the film, and how much money they have on their own so far. 

    Then I read the script, break it down in my head, check the budget, google search the crew. I take my notes, then I meet with them. Even if the material is flat I meet with them because sometimes they have no idea what they’re talking about but they’re just so adorable in person and I kinda love them instantly.

    Furaha Bayibsa

    So I decide to work with them anyways and help them with literally everything – hold their hand through every step until they don’t need me anymore. Because what draws me in is the director’s passion. The story is more important to me than the script, so I always ask them “tell me about the story” and if I can sense that they love filmmaking as much as me in that meeting, and I can laugh with them (super important), then let’s go. The process sounds strict, but the ones I’ve worked with have appreciated my straightforwardness and work ethic, so there must be something I’m doing right (right?) 

    NYFA: You have produced, written, and directed—do you have a particular preference for one of these roles?

    FB: Writing and directing goes hand-in-hand for me, and they are my favorites. But producing is so much fun when I work with directors who know the craft, as well as respect the craft. So I don’t know really.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    FB: Right now? Like, right this second? Right this second I’m only working on one project. I’ve written two feature films that I’ll direct, or sell, or do something with in the future. But now I’m writing a Swedish feature film called Silver Wedding; I want it to be the first feature I direct. The goal is to shoot it in Sweden together with my two favorite filmmaking friends from LA when the time has come. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    Then there’s another feature film I’m line producing for a friend of mine. A romantic comedy, but it’s standing still right now because our investor is still waiting on the final draft. So that’s gonna be fun too. But it’s the filmmaking industry, so you never know, maybe Shonda Rhimes will call me tomorrow wanting to add me to HTGAWM writer’s room, who knows really?

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your filmmaking?

    FB: Nothing… Just kidding! Too much to tell you about right now. But there were some things that I remember from my education that I will always keep with me. The class Film Art and the class Critical Film mainly. We had to read all the history from the beginning of cinema until the present. 

    I was one of those students who actually read all the chapters, took notes, watched all films, prepared study questions, etc. No I’m not embarrassed, yes my classmates thought I was extra. But now I know so much of the little things people don’t talk about anymore. Those books tell us how past filmmakers thought and experimented with cinema, struggles they faced and how they overcame it. How much they hustled and thought outside the box to achieve their goals. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    I was also one of the fortunate ones to have Gil McDonald as my screenwriting teacher, and he taught me everything I know about writing. The most important part was that we should show and not tell, and most importantly not to write what the character is thinking or feeling, but instead only write their actions. That’s been my life savior really. 

    My directing instructors (Joe Burke, Nick Sivakumaran, and David Armstrong) all taught me everything else I know about filmmaking. All of these classes have really taught me that we’re all artists painting on a blank canvas, so we should just let our imagination run free. They taught me that cinema is the place where the impossible is done, where there’s no limitations, we just have to put in the work. Maybe that’s why I am the way I am today, because I never let anything stop my creativity. My instructors taught me that. Now I’m teaching you that. You’re welcome!

    NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    FB: First things first, read the answer to my previous question and if you’re at the LA Campus, find these instructors and befriend them. They’ll change your life I promise. Secondly, and please take this to heart: we’re all different, so don’t compare yourself to another artist. It’s easier said than done I know, but I promise you everyone is going through their own struggles and just because someone might seem to be better than you or have it better than you, please don’t put yourself down because you really have no idea what they had to go through to get there. 

    Furaha Bayibsa

    So what if there’s someone in your class you think is a better writer than you? Go and read more scripts of films you like to learn more about the craft of screenwriting and become as good as them. So someone in class directed a great film and you’re jealous? Go and talk to that person. Ask them about the stuff you admired in the film, how they thought of it, the process. Go online and read trivia from directors from movies you like. Break down movies you like to understand them better. 

    Anyone can watch three movies a day, but you need to put in the behind-the-scenes work to actually grow. And don’t rush please, because we all grow at our own speed, okay? Also, be nice. Not just to your classmates, instructors too. They’re people just like you with feelings. Just trust me on this one—always be nice. 

    NYFA: Anything else you’d like to speak on?

    FB: First day of class, ask for the club brochures and join a club! If there’s no club you like at NYFA, create one yourself. No, it’s not as time consuming as you think, or as lame. NYFA has the resources to make your stay at school more than amazing with their student led clubs, and as a founder and former president to one of NYFA’s coolest and I want to say all-time best (?) clubs, I know what I’m talking about. Join a club! I’d recommend the African Black American (ABA) Film Society at the LA Campus if you’re there. I’ve heard some great things about them. 

    The New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Furaha Bayibsa for taking the time to answer our questions and wishes her the best of luck as her career moves forward!

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    February 11, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 489

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Update – February 7, 2019

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    One of the truisms in our field is that you never know where you will find yourself, and what you will be doing there. When planning my career, the idea that I would become a specialist in producing programs about China was never a consideration. Yet Shanghai 1937, the documentary that Evgenia Vlasova and I produced last year, has now been broadcast more than 154 times by public television stations across the United States. It’s been sold to broadcasters in France and Germany too…

    Another example is digital journalist Gillian Kemmerer. She used the skills she learned at NYFA to build a new career. She was an on-air anchor/presenter and director of US programming for the financial news service Asset TV. She then received a fellowship to study Russian, in Russia. She has been reporting from Moscow for several months now. She says:

    “I interviewed Olympic/Stanley Cup champion Alex Kovalev for Sport Express, and it made the front cover! We chatted for nearly two hours on everything from how video games almost stalled his career to a near-return to the ice last month at age 45. The piece has sparked responses from Darius Kasparaitis and many others. Check out the English language story here.

    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019

    Next stop on Gillian’s 2019 world tour is Shanghai. (That’s the Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower behind her in the picture below.) I recommended one of my favorite restaurants…

    Gillian Kemmerer

    One of the nice things about learning digital broadcast journalism in New York is that the city is one of the media capitals of the world. In fact, you can be walking down the street and discover the six o’clock news being shot at one of the local TV stations. No secrets here… an associate producer hands the anchors some last minute copy, while the weather correspondent is in another part of the studio. He then materializes on the main set, just in time for a little back and forth with the anchors, who then lead into a story about saving money on gym memberships.

    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019
    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019
    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019

    Finally, our January short-term students arrived at New York Film Academy (NYFA) last week. Which means this week they are producing their first story. After classroom exercises with camera instructor Daniel Hernandez and TA Fabiola Torres — where they learned what all those numbers on the screen mean — they were off to meet one of downtown New York’s favorite celebrities, the Fearless Girl… 

    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019
    Broadcast Journalism Update February 7 2019


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    February 7, 2019 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 250

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Kane Senes Makes Micro-Budget Film ‘For Now’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Kane Senes’ first feature, Echoes of War, is a period Western featuring high-end production value and a name cast. Where does one go from there? In Kane’s case, he went back to his DIY film-school roots. Armed with a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign and only the outline of a script, writer/director Kane Senes and fellow NYFA alum and director of photography Anton DuPreez hit the road (literally) and made For Now

    According to its official website, For Now is a “look at twenty-somethings adrift in the limbo between adolescence and adulthood, grappling with the superficial connections that define their generation.” The film was “shot on the road over seven days on a shoestring budget and with entirely improvised performances.” 

    Kane Senes For Now

    As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Senes and his fellow writers (Hannah Barlow and Katharine DuBois) were playing variation of themselves. And the tight schedule and budget meant they had no time for second takes or traditional coverage. 

    The result? A poignant coming of age/road movie akin to Diner, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking & Screaming, and the improvisatory works of John Cassavetes. Senes, DuPreez, Barlow, and DuBois had their official LA premiere of For Now at NYFA and talked about how they made their feature with little money and even less time.

    After attending a Q&A with low-budget maestros The Duplass Brothers (The Puffy Chair, The MisEducation of Bindu), Barlow was inspired to create a film loosely centered on her relationship with her dancer Hannah Connor. An incredibly short four months and one Kickstarter campaign later, principal photography on the film was complete! 

    Kane Senes For Now

    Though initially hesitant to perform as the somewhat unsympathetic character “KANE SENES,” co-director Kane Senes realized that he needed to throw all aspects of himself into the project. This included some personal moments from his relationship with girlfriend/co-director/co-star  Hannah Barlow. The filmmakers soon discovered that the more personal they went with their story, the more relatable it became. However, DuBois (who is flat-out hysterical in the film) did stress that her character’s more “friendly” characteristics were pure fiction. 

    While a traditional narrative film might have a 10-to-1 raw-footage-to-final-edit shooting ratio, the For Now team’s approach meant they only had a few hours of footage to use. As an editor, Senes spent an extended amount of time in post-production and one lone day of reshoots to shape the improvisatory tale into a more cinematic story. Completing the film then led the team to their next big hurdle: distribution. Barlow and Kane connected with fellow NYFA alum Claudia Pickering, whose micro-budget film Frisky received international distribution and is currently being adapted for television. 

    Pickering’s sales agent watched For Now and fully committed to finding the movie distribution. And now, For Now has transformed from a improvisatory, crowd-funded project to a feature available to buy or rent on iTunes, Amazon, and countless other video platforms. 

    The New York Film Academy congratulates the filmmakers for taking their passion project all the way to the finish line!

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    February 5, 2019 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 306

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Producing Alum Irene Méndez Featured in Multiple Festivals

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    Producer and director Irene Méndez has been incredibly busy since graduating from New York Film Academy’s producing school, working on multiple films that have made several festivals and garnered a great deal of press and attention from the industry.

    Irene Mendez

    Méndez originally hails from Madrid, Spain. In 2016, she enrolled in the 1-year Producing conservatory at New York Film Academy (NYFA). While studying at NYFA’s New York city campus, acquiring strong project management skills as well as a hands-on filmmaking education from experienced industry professionals, Méndez completed production on several films in multiple roles. 

    This included her own film Tinnitus, which she wrote, directed, and produced, as well as several NYFA thesis films—From Me to Me, directed by Moe Myat May Zarchi; Lighter and Cigarettes, directed by Rafael Cintra; and Almost, directed by Mahair Kahn. These projects, as well as other films Méndez produced, have accrued numerous awards and Official Selections from film festivals around the world.

    Almost (2017), which Méndez worked on as 2nd Assistant Director and Script Supervisor, was an Official Selection in the New York Indian Film Festival. From Me to Me (2018), which she co-produced, won Best Woman Filmmaker at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival and was an Official Selection in Myanmar’s Wathann Film Festival.

    Lighter and Cigarettes (2017) was produced by Méndez and was a Semiinalist at Los Angeles CineFest and an Official Selection for both the Los Angeles SR Film Festival and Hope Film Awards. Additionally, it was part of the Short Film Corner at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival.

    Tinnitus (2017) was a Finalist or Semifinalist at multiple fests, as well as an Official Selection of New York Film Screenings, Women’s Only Entertainment Film Festival, Bridgwater and Taunton College Film Festival, Hope Film Awards, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, and the Los Angeles SR Film Festival.

    Irene Mendez

    After graduating, Méndez also produced Obini Bata (2018) which was directed by Damian Calvo. The short documentary profiles the first women to perform with Batá drums in Cuba, drums traditionally forbidden for women. The film has won the Audience Award for Best Short Film Documentary at the Edmonton International Film Festival and has been an Official Selection at Lady Filmmakers, Women in Film and Television Atlanta, The Pan African Film Festival, and The Chicago Feminist Film Festival.

    Méndez is also in postproduction for Agua Desgasta Roca, a documentary short about a rock climber diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The film has already won the Premios Solidarios from Fundacion Merk. 

    Currently, she is working on two additional documentaries, Los García, and Costus. Los García, a feature film, was featured as part of the Focus CoPro pitching event at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also one of five winners at the La Incubadora competition, and was featured at Abycine.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Producing alum Irene Méndez on the multiple successes of her films to date, and looks forward to following her career as it develops!

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    February 4, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 515

  • The Latest New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Alumni & Faculty News

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a quick look at some recent achievements of the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alumni, faculty, and students:

    Alumni:

    Victoria Bergqvist (Fall 2017 1-Year) crewed as a production coordinator on the documentary Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire, which is competing at Sundance this year (she did this just prior to coming to NYFA). Now based in Los Angeles after graduating from NYFA’s 1-Year Documentary program, she currently works for George Media creating branded content as a director. Here’s what she had to say about her experience at NYFA and how it serves her in the professional world: 

    “I can honestly say that the 1-year documentary program at NYFA in Los Angeles gave me very well-rounded skills. Although it was an intense program, I learned how to do literally pretty much everything myself. Meaning: writing, producing, directing, filming, editing, and sound mixing. And also how to make completed films during a short amount of time.

    “It turned out that this was exactly what George Media in Venice was looking for. The official job title of the position is ‘Young Director,’ but we are expected to do almost all the things mentioned above ourselves, except we get to work with a DP. The job entails making 12 short videos [in] six months, so having learned to make films under time pressure was incredibly helpful. Also, since the documentary program at NYFA is so hands-on and we make six films [in] one year, it gave me the confidence to keep doing what I had already done at school multiple times in the professional world.”

    Producer Julia Cheng (18) launched production of two feature documentaries in Beijing: The Invisible Shore, a feature doc directed by Qi Zhao, who produced both Last Train Home, The Chinese Mayor, and The City Dream, directed by Weijun Chen who previously directed Please Vote for Me.

    Guy Yang (Fall 2016 MFA) Right after graduating with his MFA in Documentary Filmmaking, Guy Yang was hired by Radio Free Asia, based in Washington D.C. as a broadcaster. The station has also asked him to develop three documentary series that focus on social issues in Eastern Asia. He will work with a team, researching and producing episodes and also filming, editing, mixing and, delivering packages to the station. Yang says, given his experience at NYFA of working on multiple projects quickly, he will continue to produce and direct his own documentary projects as well.

    Ashley Harris (Fall 2015 MFA) is served in the U.S. Navy as a Second Class Petty Officer. She came to NYFA in Fall 2015 and graduated with an MFA in Documentary in September 2017. In November of that same year, she interviewed with and was hired by Participant Media as Assistant to the Senior Vice President, Documentary Film and TV. She said that she loves the work and continues to grow with the company.

    Paul Gallasch’s (‘11) new feature documentary, Love in the Time of Antidepressant, produced with grants from both Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation, premiered to great enthusiasm at the 2018 Adelaide Film Festival. Paul was also a 2018 Points West Fellow at the 2018 Camden Film Festival.

    Dikeos Foudeas (Spring 2015 1-Year) was hired for A/V production at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska for the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kay (as we affectionately refer to him) has said “I strongly believe my employment was influenced by the training I received at NYFA.” He also continues to work freelance as a videographer in Anchorage, Alaska.

    Dade Shields (Fall 2014 1-Year) is a native to Southern California and was always interested in outdoor cinematography. In 2018, Shields produced and shot several branded content mini documentaries for TravisMathew (a sportswear clothing line) as part of their Life on Tour series. Shields continues to shoot sports-themed documentary footage and recently partnered with professional skimboarder Blair Conklin to create YouTube channel Skid Kids, which quickly amassed over 2,000 subscribers.

    Rachael Pelzer (Fall 2014 1-Year) is originally from the Midwest and began working as a logger for Herzog & Co right out of graduating NYFA’s Documentary program. She’s been at Herzog for four years and is now their Post Production Coordinator. Her credits include: 1968: The Year that Changed America and The History of Comedy—both series aired on CNN. Rachael continues to credit NYFA for training her in production and this past year revived her 1-year film to develop it into a feature documentary with the help of fellow alum, William Nestlehutt. The two continue production on Rachael’s Hip Hop Ohana.

    Marie Vanderrusten (’16) signed on as editor of Ma Ville, Notre Idéal (My City, Our Ideal), airing daily on France 3. The series focuses on young people inventing new apps and industries to take on problems including climate change, overpopulation, poverty, overconsumption, and pollution.

    Executive producer Yusaku Kanagawa (’15) hired Mariko Ide (’16) as a story consultant on his Creators Program platform at Yahoo Japan.

    NYFA Alumni Yusaku Kanagawa & Mariko Ide
    NYFA Alumni Yusaku Kanagawa & Mariko Ide

    Peabody Award-winning production companyTransform Films staffed Nancy Dionne (‘18) as Associate Producer. Her semester one film, All I See Is the Future, will also premiere this month at Winter Film Awards International Film Festival, screening on Feb 19 and Feb 20.

    In a unique trifecta, NYFA Docs grads became chief filmmakers for three of the foremost arts institutions, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Alex Guns (‘10), Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater (JR Cronheim (’12), and New York City Ballet (Laura Snow ’11).

    Santiago Machado (’18) began a gig with the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN DPI) for the television section of the News and Content Branch, News and Media Division.

    Francesca Pagani (’11) shot, produced, and/or associate produced several new VICE pieces including: Fighting in Drag with LGBTQ Wrestlers,Inside the FBI’s Hunt for “Black Political Extremists, Fighting the Use of Electric Shocks on People with Disabilities, and Inside the Gambling Scandal That Rocked The NBA. Her photos were also featured on the front cover of Politiken as part of a profile of gun violence survivor Jaqueline and her family who arrived in Tijuana with 3,200 others from the migrant “caravan.”

    Colorist, Susi Dollnig (’12) has been invited to present a seminar at this year’s Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival).

    Many 6-week Workshop grads also made their way into the limelight in 2018:

    David Diaz won the Southern Exposure Film Fellowship, for If They Build It, What Will Come, which he premiered at Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival.

    Hannah Currie was awarded Best Director at Under Wire Film Festival, for We Are All Here which is now also an Official Selection for both DOCfeed 2019 Film Festival and Glasgow Short Film Festival.

    Krisztina Danka’s Final Film, Violet and the Wildman, will make its North American premiere February 16 at the Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival after winning the Golden Fox Award for the Best Educational Film in Kolkata, India.  

    Edwige Pezzulli Stępniewska and Maria Giulia Mancuso Prizzitano‘s final film project for NYFA, Embodiment, is now an official selection of Corvallis Queer Film Festival, the Prisma Independent Film Awards and Ivelisecinefestival.

    Faculty:

    Academy Award nominations were recently announced for Free Solo, edited by Bob Eisenhardt and RBGwhosedirector of photography is instructor Claudia Raschke.

    Director/instructor, Maxine Trump, premiered her new film, To Kid or Not to Kid at DOC NYC, published The Documentary Filmmaker’s Roadmapfor Focal Press, delivered a pilot for an ITVS series, and started production on The Tongass Legacy in Alaska.

    Editor/instructor, João Queiroga, also Chair of Post-Production, directed Our Skin, which screened at IDFA, Hot Docs, BFI, and DocLisboa, and was nominated for the Iris Prize and received the Lili Award. He produced the feature film I Can Only Be Mary Lane premiering at Doc’n Roll Film Festival in the UK, and is in production on both Digging For Life and Behind the Sun

    Producer/instructor Tracie Holder’s film Grit, directed by Academy Award-winner Cynthia Wade, premiered at Hot Docs and will air on PBS/POV later this year. A film she is currently producing, The Quiet Zone, received Sundance, NYS Council for the Arts, and IFP/HBO funding, while A Place of Absence, the other film she’s producing, was awarded a prestigious grant Tribeca Gucci grant.

    Producer/instructor Dorottya Mathe finished post-production of Impossible Monsters a psychological thriller starring Santino Fontana that will be premiering at Cinequest on March 9, line produced the recreation segment of the documentary A Cops and Robbers Story that will be released in 2020, finished and produced The Independents, a modern folk ’n roll comedy that will soon be screened across the US after a successful festival run, and began production of The Tongass Legacy directed by fellow instructor, Maxine Trump.

    Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift taught a special workshop facilitating some of the kids from Newtown, CT in making micro-docs as well as a different micro-docs workshop for over 400 Fulbrightersat their annual conference.

    Students:

    And finally, Dunya’s Day, associate produced by NYFA Documentary student, Aya Hamdan, won Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction this January.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary MFA Alum Sasha-Gay Lewis Screens At Filmwochenende Würzburg

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary MFA Alum Sasha-Gay Lewis was honored when her MFA Thesis film was included on the program of the International Film Weekend, held annually in Würzburg, Germany.

    Filmwochenende Würzburg was started in 1974 with just 12 films and 1,000 visitors. This year, the 45th edition of the International Film Weekend – Würzburg was the most visited with more than 10,000 film fans visiting the traditional festival. Held from January 24 – January 27, 2019, the festival screened 82 films over four venues.

    Sasha-Gay Lewis The Incursion

    The aim of the festival is to showcase international films that have not yet found their way to distributors. Added to this is the opportunity for cinephiles to meet the makers behind the productions and to discuss their films with them. 

    Lewis is a Jamaican documentary filmmaker, producer, editor and writer, as well as a trained journalist and award-winning writer/producer for radio. She has written, produced, and directed several short narratives and docs in Jamaica, California, and Belize. She enrolled in New York Film Academy’s MFA Documentary Filmmaking program in Fall 2014.

    The Incursion, her documentary short, follows the residents of Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica as they seek justice after a government raid in 2010 that resulted in the death of over 150 residents.

    Sasha-Gay Lewis The Incursion

    In addition to Filmwochenende Würzburg, the film was named Honorable Mention at the 2017 DOC LA Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the 2017 Pembroke Taparelli Arts & Film Festival, won an Award of Recognition at the Impact DOCS Awards, and won Best Documentary Short at the LA Film and Script Film Festival.

    In its 45-year history, this year is the first year Filmwochenende Würzburg have screened a film from Jamaica. Additionally, Lewis is the second black director to be invited to the festival; the first was filmmaker Spike Lee.  The Incursion had a full house for both days of its screening. packed cinema on both days.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary alum Sasha-Gay Lewis on the success of The Incursion and looks forward to following her career and future accomplishments! 


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    January 30, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 403

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Update – January 28, 2019

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    There are many reasons to become a journalist. A number of them involve idealism, and the belief that journalists play an essential role in society. Still, for me, a key factor was that journalism is exciting. No, you aren’t flying off on a helicopter into the sunset every day. Yet everyday there is the possibility that you might. 

    What is guaranteed is that every day you are going to meet people with important stories to tell. Some of those stories are happy. Others are sad. But they are stories that society needs to hear. And you are the storyteller…

    BJ Update January 28 2019 1

    One of my favorite storytellers is New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism grad Bryanna Reynolds. She lives and works in Australia, and recently she reflected on her career and opportunities:

    So what do you do after covering “the red carpet”? For Bryanna, it was onto the Australian Open tennis tournament…

    BJ Update January 28 2019 3

    Our students come from everywhere—across the United States, and around the world. We’ve been fortunate to have a number of students from Brazil. One of them is Livia Fernanda. During a cold New York City winter, it’s nice to think of warmer places. But if you take a closer look at the map behind Livia, I think some of those places are a bit too hot! 34 C translates into a toasty 93 F…

    BJ Update January 28 2019 4

    Last week we were back in the studio for the 2019 season of NYFA News, our own in-house news magazine. (We use the same type of green-screen effect that Livia does. Only instead of a weather map, we insert banks of TV monitors.) 

    That’s student Nicole Abebe anchoring the show. Nicole was born in Nigeria, but came to NYFA via London. And while this was her first time as a presenter, she looked and sounded like an experienced pro.

    BJ Update January 28 2019 6
    BJ Update January 28 2019

    If you want to get an idea of just how exciting that day was, take a look at a short video NYFA instructor Evgenia Vlasova put together. I think it really captures how TV is a collaborative effort—a real “team sport.”

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    January 28, 2019 • Broadcast Journalism, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 223