Boxing Girls, a new Arabic-language drama from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) premiered earlier this year and is the screenwriting debut of New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Afnan Alqasimi. Additionally, the program features actress and NYFA alum Dana Al Salem.
Alqasimi hails from the United Arab Emirates and attended NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop in April 2012. Alqasimi previously worked on the animation short Homecoming. Al Salem is originally from Bahrain and enrolled in NYFA’s 4-week Filmmaking workshop at our Los Angeles campus in August 2015. Al Salem previously appeared in The Sleeping Tree and the short film Canary.
Boxing Girls is gaining buzz for its focus on female characters and stars several well-known Arabic performers, including Fatima Al Hosani, Ali Al Sherif, and Shaifan Al Otaibi. The program was directed by Saudi filmmaker Samir Aref and was produced by O3 Productions and twofour54 Abu Dhabi.
“This drama production is particularly unique, because it puts a real emphasis on the region’s young talent — both in front of and behind the camera,” says Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority, Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.
The program was shot over two months across various locations in Abu Dhabi, before completing production in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Additional cast members include Mila Zahrani, Abdul Aziz Skeirin, Alaa Shaker, Anoud Al Saoud, Abeer Sander, Noura Ezzer, Mohammed Meshaal, Rakan, Zuhair Haider, and Zara Al Balushi.
Boxing Girls debuted in February of this year.
The New York Film Academy congratulates workshop alumni Afnan Alqasimi and Dana Al Salem on the production and success of Boxing Girls!
Abby Ajayi, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting alum, was one of 63 black female writers featured in an epic photo shoot by The Hollywood Reporter late last year. In a rebuke to the industry sentiment that it’s hard to diversify writers rooms because there aren’t enough women writers and writers of color to choose from, the industry magazine gathered dozens of women from the networking group Black Women Who Brunch.
Black Women Who Brunch (BWB) was founded in 2014 by television writers Nkechi Okoro Carroll, Erika L. Johnson, and Lena Waithe as a way to get black female TV writers a chance to meet, support, and get to know one another. Their first meeting was in March 2014 and had 12 attendees. The current membership of BWB is now around 80.
In addition to taking photos, many of the women shared their experiences and thoughts on being black women television writers—many of whom were the only person of color on their staff. NYFA alum Abby Ajayi was one of those at the shoot interviewed. Unlike many of her peers, she wasn’t the only woman or person of color in her writers room.
“On How to Get Away With Murder,” Ajayi toldThe Hollywood Reporter, “there were seven women in the room and six were women of color. It didn’t fall on one person to be the voice of all women or all black people. Having multiple women from diverse ethnic backgrounds broadened the conversation, which in turn led to richer, deeper characters.”
Ajayi added, “It’s also inspiring to see the women higher up the ladder prove that there is a path.”
Ajayi originally hails from Nigeria and attended NYFA’s Screenwriting school in 2011. In addition to How to Get Away with Murder, Ajayi has worked on Eastenders, Doctors, and Hetty Feather. She is currently co-producing Hulu’s limited series adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Screenwriting alum Abby Ajayi on her current success and encourages everyone to read The Hollywood Reporter’s piece!
The world premiere of the final season of mega hit HBO series Game of Thrones took place last night, and fans of the fantasy series all over the world could not be more excited. HBO is using this excitement to promote the show in every way possible. That included installing “iron thrones” (like the one in the show) in a number of remote places around the world, then tweeting hints so people could search for them.
One was in New York City. Well, in a very, very remote part of New York. People rushed to Fort Totten Park in Queens to have their 30 seconds with the throne. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism student Nicole Abebe made the journey—on the subway from Manhattan to the last stop on the 7 line, then another 45 minutes by bus—to see why people were willing to come from across the city, and beyond, then spend hours on line, just to shoot a selfie on the “throne.”
Fernanda Mueller is a graduate of the Fall 2018 8-Week Broadcast Journalism workshop. Recently, I contacted her to get some feedback about her NYFA experience. And, in addition to sending me an email, she put together a short video! It is truly delightful, and not just because I make a brief “guest appearance.” You don’t even need to know Portuguese to understand it…
Two New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Alumni were recently honored at the 2018 International PHOTOgraphy Competition, run by Latitude Life APS. Lotta Lemetti won in the Culture section of the contest, as well as the overall competition, while Nipun Nayyar placed second in the Nature/Archiecture Category.
Latitude Life APS is an International Think Tank based in Italy. According to its own mission statement, Latitude Life APS is the “first international operative think tank of the culture sector” and focuses on interests within art, culture, and scientific research.
The second edition of their International PHOTOgraphy Competition received hundreds of submissions from across the world, including the US, Australia, Canada, Cuba, India, Japan, and Europe. The categories of the competition included Culture, Intimacy, Nature/Architecture, and Street Photography.
Lotta Lemetti is from Finland and graduated NYFA’s 1-year Conservatory in Photography in New York City before enrolling in the BFA program at our Los Angeles campus, and won Best of the Best – Photographer of the Year for her contribution to the Culture category. She was awarded a Sony 4K camera for her efforts. Nipun Nayyar won second place in the Nature/Architecture section for his overview shot of the Gordon Dam in Tasmania.
The winners were announced March 30, 2019, while the awards ceremony will be held on April 25 at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus at Battery Park. The competition is co-sponsored by NYFA, as well as Sony, Fujifilm, Nikon, and others. The International Jurors Committee includes NYFA-New York Chair of Photography David Mager, Professor Saul Robbins, Dr. Davide Andretta, and Professor A. Patron.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Photography alum Lotta Lemetti on her win, as well as alum Nipun Nayya and everyone else who was honored in this year’s competition!
Here at New York Film Academy (NYFA) we take great pride in the fact that our instructors are also active professionally in their specific craft(s). Case in point, Broadcast Journalism’s own Evgenia Vlasova. She is now producing and hosting a series of reports for RTVI, a digital Russian-language programming service that reaches 20 million people around the world. The camera operator for her first story? NYFA instructor Daniel Hernandez!
Email is a wonderful thing… On a regular basis I hear from NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduates I may not have actually seen in years. This week there is big news from Grace Shao. When last we reported on her, she was working for CGTN in Beijing. After a sojourn in NYC, she is joining the staff of CNBC in Singapore. Congratulations, Grace!
Last week I heard from Mariana Janjacomo, in Brazil. She told me that she is working as a video producer for a radio station in Sao Paulo called Jovem Pan. (Talk about “multimedia”…)
“I came here to work as a producer for the brand new daily newscast of ‘Jovem Pan Agora’ (something like ‘Jovem Pan Now’), a newscast that is broadcast daily on YouTube, and the very first one that was conceived as a TV newscast. But I also work as a reporter, and sometimes I host a few shows.”
Closer to home, successful international model, fashion journalist, and NYFA grad Amanda Salvato is based in New York City. It’s only natural, given that New York is a global center for both media and fashion. Recently she had the opportunity to interview Brazilian designer John John, known as the “Alchemist of Jeans.” One of the things I love about her story is the way she had John John explain how a common assumption (“jeans are always blue”) just isn’t true!
So what happens to student projects after New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism students graduate? In the case of Alisa Arvind, they take on a life of their own.
Now a published author, in 2016 Alisa posted a video about the Holi Hai Festival in New York City on YouTube. The news package was produced for one of her Broadcast Journalism classes. Since then, it’s had 100,000+ views!
Three years ago she wrote: “They call it ‘the happiest festival of NYC!’ Holy Hai is an Indian festival of Spring where people come to dance their hearts out and get colorful.” And colorful it is… It wouldn’t surprise me if Alisa was still getting some of that color out of her hair…
NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Gillian Kemmerer, now based in Moscow, continues her journey through Eurasia. Most recently she was in China.
More than 120 Under-11 players arrived at the Little Wolf Arena in Beijing last month to compete in an event run by the Kontinental Hockey League coaching staff. Gillian reports the kids were competing for the chance to head to Astana, Kazakhstan and Sochi, Russia for two tournaments this April.
Kunlun Red Star is sending a youth team to the Gazprom Cup for the first time in franchise history. The young athletes participated in workshop activities, as well as actual games in which their skill levels were assessed.
Studying in New York City provides students with opportunities that are simply not available anywhere else. Recently, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism student Nicole Abebe was able to cover New York Fashion Week as an accredited journalist.
Nicole was backstage and on the runway. She shot, wrote, and edited her stories—all of which were then distributed by a New York media company.
Obviously, this situation is unique. It is rare a student from any school gets a chance like this. That said, New York City is filled with many tremendous opportunities.
But you have to be here to take advantage of them. And you have to go to the right school to get the skills you’ll need…
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alexandre Kyriakidis grew up watching movies, and eventually, started making his own. Kyriakidis attended NYFA’s 8-week and 12-week workshops in 2001 before going on to shoot multiple short films as well as over 50 music videos across the globe.
Kyriakidis hails from France from Greek and American parents, and has lived both in Europe and California, watching movies from his grandmother’s vast film collection nearly as early as he can remember. Those movies both inspired and influenced his own projects, which he started making at a young age and continues to make today.
Filmmaking runs in the family — Kyriakidis’s aunt is producer, director, and Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster. While Kyriakidis says their artistic sensibilities differ greatly, Foster has still appeared in some of his favorite films.
The New York Film Academy spoke with Alexandre Kyriakidis earlier this year about his background, his work, and about the four movies that had a lasting impact on his filmmaking aesthetic:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Alexandre Kyriakidis (AK): I was born in France from a Greek father and an American mother, and have been living in Europe most of my life with some extended periods in the USA, in California mostly. I started making backyard films in high school until landing an internship at 14 years old for the French visual effects company DUBOI (they don’t exist anymore), who were doing Alien: Resurrection at the time.
What brought me to NYFA was that after graduating from high school I couldn’t find a film school that I liked; most of them would rely too much on theory and not enough on practice, and I also didn’t want to sit in classes for hours learning about the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder for example, when I had already seen these films and built my own film education since I was a kid.
But then I learned about New York Film Academy and it suited me perfectly; it was all about practice and hands on, where just after the first day you would already touch and use the most important tool in filmmaking — the camera. It was all about living, breathing, and dreaming films.
NYFA: What was your time at NYFA like?
AK: It was the best time in my life, because nothing around me was important, nothing else mattered but films, and I was surrounded by people just like me — people who loved films more than anything.
I also met some of the most amazing people in my life, other students with whom I shared the same passion, other students with whom I can talk about movies that weren’t just blockbusters, and students from all over the world who became friends and with whom I still communicate today.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on directing?
AK: I always wanted to tell stories, to make movies, but I wanted to be the person who was in charge of the creative aspect — deciding what was going to be on the screen, basically put on the screen what is in my head — and that is why I wanted to become a director.
I have had many influences from when I was a kid, and even today I’m influenced by many great filmmakers. But when I was a kid, four movies had a big impact on me, and three were directed by the same person.
First was Raiders of the Lost Ark by Steven Spielberg. I think I saw that film on VHS when I was four or five years old, and I remember seeing it in Greece at my godfather’s home. Looking back at it today, it’s a harmless film, but … leaves a big impact on you as a kid.
The other film was Robocop, that I saw on VHS at six, and when I first saw it, it felt like if I was watching something forbidden, something I wasn’t allowed to see … Then when I was eight, Total Recall was being replayed in Greece one night on a giant screen on the beach, and my dad and godfather took me to see it.
And then when I was ten, I was in Los Angeles one summer and my grandmother showed me Basic Instinct. So as you have guessed, Paul Verhoeven had a big impact on me.
After that my grandmother, who owned at the time a huge film collection, started to show me everything she owned, from the films of Werner Herzog, to the classic Italian films like Last Tango in Paris, as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa, the films of Stanley Kubrick, French films, German films, Soviet films — I basically saw everything, and I mean absolutely everything.
So my film education came from there, and it’s after seeing all these great works of art that I wanted to make films myself.
AK: I had always wanted to make music videos, but never really knew how to get into it. All I knew is that great directors like David Fincher, for example, started in music videos and still make some once in a while.
In my case, there is this guy I know in England who was starting his own music company after owning an event company for whom I shot videos in nightclubs, and he asked me to make a music video for a Romanian singer.
And I had never worked on a music video before, never learned how to make a music video, so really I didn’t know much, but I told him I would do it. A few weeks later we were shooting on the Mediterranean with a skeleton crew and a Canon 5D camera.
And after the success of that music video, a second music video was made for the same singer; again it was a success, eventually new artists were signed up, mostly metal and hard rock, so I ended up doing more music videos.
Eventually other music companies from all over Europe, even Russia, contacted me, and I made music videos for them. Some being hits, some doing well, others doing less well, and once in a while there is a controversial one that ends up in flaming internet debates.
Now even after making 50 music videos, I still feel that I’m learning more every day, and each one of these 50 are like making a new short film each time. A good thing about music videos is that they allow you to experiment, to test new tools or to try things you would never dare doing in a movie.
NYFA: What kind of music videos do you prefer working on? Is there a particular genre of music you feel lends itself better to the medium?
AK: I have done mostly rock, metal, and gothic music videos, but I have also done a lot of pop music videos in Eastern Europe, in Southern Europe, and in Russia. My first music video was a pop one.
My taste in music is rock with a preference for ’90s and ’80s rock. I have always been a rock fan, so I’m always enjoying making rock music videos.
But I still feel pop music videos are the ones that are the most fitted for music videos, because the songs are often so overproduced and have so much Auto-Tune in them that they are often recorded with a music video already planned.
Rock music is made for the stage, pop is made for the screen.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your short films? What are they about and what inspired you to make them?
AK: My first short film, Blues Stop was made right after NYFA, shot on Super 16mm. It’s a thriller about a Bible salesman who falls for a psychopathic, beautiful female serial killer who ends up framing him for murder. The film was never shown in its home country of France, but it was screened in festivals all over the world, including in Los Angeles.
My second short film, C22, made many years after my previous one, is a sexual thriller with a dose of action, a dose of horror — it’s about a kidnapping gone wrong. This film once again didn’t get shown in any festivals in France, but was shown in festivals all across the world, including North America.
And my third short film, Sfagi, is just a small-budget martial arts action movie about capturing a fugitive. Originally it was just going to be a demo reel for a group of martial artists and stuntmen, but I managed to convince them to make a short film.
You can check out Alexandre’s film below, though speaking with NYFA, he made it clear that since it was his first film straight out of school, he finds it very hard to share with anyone these days.
“I will always be proud of it,” he says, “on the other I have made so much progress since.”
But even in his first film, his talent is evident and shows the potential of his craft that would come later. Alexandre also made sure to give props to his experienced crew, many of who had just come offLove Actually and Neil Jordan’s The Good Thief. The director of photography of the film was focus puller on Star Wars: A New Hope.
NYFA: Besides Raiders and the films of Paul Verhoeven, what are some of your other favorite films or types of films?
AK: I don’t have a type of film, I like any film — science fiction, drama, horror, action, or comedy. I can enjoy just as much a classic heavy duty drama just like I can enjoy an old ’70s exploitation film.
But my all time favorite film, the one that is all the way up there, would be Gone with the Wind and then I would say the following: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Blade Runner (the original one), Ran, Suspiria (the original one), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Léon: The Professional, Schindler’s List, and I can go on because I have actually done a list of my 200 favorite films of all time. But as you can see in just these titles, it’s very diversified.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you’ve applied directly to your filmmaking?
AK: I learned to think and not be impulsive. By that I mean back when I was at NYFA we still shot on film, meaning that each time we pressed the camera trigger it would mean money being lost — so if you failed your shot, or if an actor messed his lines, that is money lost that you will never see again… While today with digital we can shoot all day; sure it saves a lot of money, but you end up not thinking as much anymore before shooting. While I, because I learned on film, I tend to treat digital the same way I learned to treat film.
Also the fact that NYFA is very hands on, I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty… how many times was a prop in the way and I would just go and move it myself, instead of having the 1st AD call the Prop Master so he would come and move it? How many times have I picked up the camera myself and taken the shot myself, and little details like that?
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
AK: I have been trying for years now raising enough money to make a feature film, it’s a vampire film — it’s at the same time a sexual thriller, a horror, and a romantic film. But it’s not easy.
I’m also trying to make another short film named Femme Fatale that is a tribute to the old “film noir” movies of the ’40s and ’50s. And I’m trying to finish a script named The Lobster Shift that is a mix between After Hours by Martin Scorsese, Into the Night by John Landis, and the Japanese anime Cat’s Eyes.
NYFA: How has your aunt, Jodie Foster, as either an actress or director, influenced your own work?
AK: Our works are the total opposite — she’s more cerebral than me while I’m more impulsive and react more by instinct. And you can notice it in her films, her films as a director are always very character-driven, while my works are more visually driven.
As an actress she happens to be in three of my all-time favorite 100 films — Taxi Driver of course, Silence of the Lambs obviously, and Bugsy Malone, a forgotten gem that happens to be Alan Parker’s first film.
It’s not an influence, but each one of my works — being a music video or a short film, even my scripts — she’s always the first person to see them (even sometimes before the actual producers or bands) or the first reader, especially when it comes to scripts; her advice and opinions are very precious, and help me to make them better.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
AK: Be ready to live films 24/7 … try not going out at nights and have fun learning about your passion, and you are all in good hands.
The New York Film Academy thanks alum Alexandre Kyriakidis for taking the time to answer our questions and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Federica Polidoro has kept busy since graduating the 4-week Broadcast Journalism workshop in July 2016, building a steady and impressive portfolio of interviews with several high-profile filmmakers and actors for multiple leading publications across the globe.
While at NYFA, Polidoro learned to to identify and make arrangements for story and interview subjects, choose and secure locations, prepare equipment, arrange preparation and setup of the locations, and make final technical checks. One piece she shot at NYFA was about the astrologer Angel Eyedealism. “NYFA is in my heart and I have wonderful memories about the program I attended,” Polidoro says about her experience at the Academy.
Polidoro currently works as a freelance journalist for several primary publishing companies in Italy, and has already conducted several high-profile interviews, particularly in the film and arts industry.
One such Italian media company Polidoro freelances for is GEDI Gruppo Editoriale, and their national newspaper La Repubblica. This includes her work for Repubblica XL, the publication dedicated to music, comics, and entertainment, and L’Espresso, a prestigious weekly news magazine. Polidoro introduced for L’Espresso at the Cannes Film Festival last year, where they released interviews with filmmakers and actors including Sofia Coppola.
For Rolling Stone Italy, Polidoro reviewed Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman directly from Cannes, and was able to interview Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee and NYFA Guest Speaker Adam Driver. She also interviewed veteran director Terry Gilliam about his decades-old passion project, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, as well as legendary composer Philip Glass.
Polidoro also works with Gruppo 24 ORE’s Il Sole 24 ORE, primarily with their monthly magazine IL, where she has been able to write longer, more in-depth pieces. She earned a cover story when she interviewed filmmaker Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire;Paris, Texas), one of only a few directors to win the Palme d’Or, Golden Lion, Golden Bear, and an Academy Award.
Polidoro has also interviewed the Coen Brothers for their Netflix and Oscar-nominated film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Alfonso Cuarón about his critically lauded film Roma.
Recently, Polidoro was guest of King Mohammed VI and Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco for the Marrakech Film Festival, together with other selected members of the international press (she was the only Italian female entertainment journalist of the group.)
At Marrakech, Polidoro interviewed Robert De Niro, Julian Schnabel, and Guillermo Del Toro, among others. Soon she will be launching video interviews for IL as well, starting with director James Gray, the Jury President of the Festival.
Polidoro has also recently become a contributor for Cineuropa, the first European portal dedicated to cinema and audiovisual in four languages, for which she interviewed Palme d’Or winner Christian Mungiu. She also works for Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, which published her interviews with filmmaker Errol Morris about Wormwood and filmmaker Paul Greengrass about 22 July, as well as a very intriguing interview with directors Verena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor about their documentary Caniba.
“There is something so exciting in talking with creators that you just become addicted and you finally just set your whole life to enjoy those rare, rarified, and immersive moments of overwhelming happiness and satisfaction,” Polidoro tells NYFA.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Federica Polidoro on all of her hard-earned success so far, and looks forward to following her career in the future. We encourage everyone to check out her stories and interviews!
The work of New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography school alum Jon Henry was recently featured on the cover of PDN Magazine, along with a feature profile of Henry included in the issue. PDN (Photo District News) Magazine is a monthly publication for professional photographers and was founded in 1980 by Carl S. Pugh.
Henry enrolled in the 1-year Conservatory at New York Film Academy’s Photography school in Fall 2010. NYFA’s esteemed Photography department has previously hosted PDN’s 30 2018: Strategies for Launching and Building a Career.
Henry is an incredibly talented photographer who has found success since graduating NYFA. His work was previously featured on the cover of Jungle magazine.
His project Stranger Fruit is featured in the January 2019 issue of PDN. In the piece by PDN writer Dzana Tsomondo, Henry’s photos are described in great detail along with the cultural context that shaped them. Stranger Fruit uses the iconography of the pietà—the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ—in response to the numerous murders of unarmed black men by police officers.
The images are centered on black mothers photographed with their children. The first photo Henry created, for Stranger Fruit, Untitled #10 Flushing, NY, directly references the pietà, which was perhaps most famously captured in a sculpture by Michelangelo. “When I started the project,” Henry tells PDN in the article, “I wanted something that was as close to the original as I could, but [to] still make it mine.”
Henry was born and raised in Flushing, Queens. After Sean Bell was killed in Jamaica, Queens in 2008, Henry was inspired to make something in response, but it wasn’t until 2014 that Henry photographed Untitled #10. That year, and in the years before and since, several additional high-profile cases of unarmed black men being killed by police have shook the nation.
Strange Fruit was shown at BRIC House in Brooklyn, NY and New Image Gallery at James Madison University in Virginia, and this month is showing at Drury University in Missouri in March. For further detail on Henry’s work and efforts, we encourage everyone to check out his profile in PDN Magazine.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Photography alum Jon Henry on the latest showcase of his important and visually arresting work!