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  • Student Spotlight: Rodrigo Zanforlin

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    Seven years ago, Rodrigo Zanforlin (May 2014 MFA Filmmaking) was the head of a successful digital marketing company in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Today, he’s the award-winning writer/director of Jimbo, his MFA thesis short which screened at over 30 festivals, including Beverly Hills Film Festival, Dead Center, New Filmmakers LA, and the Brooklyn Film Festival.

    How did he get here? It all started with a road trip.

    At 27, Rodrigo lived in his hometown of Sao Paolo, Brazil. On the surface, it seemed he had everything: a great job, a beautiful apartment, a wonderful fiancée. But he was miserable. “I felt stuck, and I was very stressed with all the responsibility of running a company with a lot of employees,” Rodrigo said. “I felt like I was hunting lions every day. One day I had a big epiphany. I needed to rethink my life.” He sold everything he had and went to California with nothing but himself and a suitcase. Rodrigo hit the road, camping, exploring, and meeting people. “I was so inspired by the people and the energy of California,” he said. He realized he wanted to stay.

    First, Rodrigo polished his English in San Diego, then he landed at his new home, the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. He chose NYFA over other area film schools because of its hands-on teaching approach and because filmmakers own the films they make. “Also, I’m a multi-cultural guy from a big city in Brazil,” Rodrigo said. “I liked the diversity of NYFA.”

    Like most road trips, Rodrigo’s journey into filmmaking was full of amazing discoveries and frustrating wrong turns. He started in the MFA Documentary department because “I was searching for truth,” Rodrigo said. However, it wasn’t long before documentary instructors suggested that he move to narrative filmmaking. “I was too interested in the aesthetic of my film and controlling the environment to be a documentarian.” He switched to the MFA Filmmaking program. The only problem was – he had to start Semester One all over again. However, that turned out be an amazing experience. “The first semester of NYFA’s filmmaking program was one of my favorites,” said Rodrigo. “That’s when you learn how to be a visual filmmaker.”

    After writing a dialogue-heavy film for a cinematographer friend that Rodrigo called “the worst film ever”, he started asking the question, “What kind of filmmaker am I?” Realizing that he was more interested in visuals than dialogue, he made a surrealistic year one film that did well at festivals. When it came time to write his thesis, however, he decided he wasn’t ready. He took a break to rethink his thesis idea, and “I decided to prepare myself to be a better director,” Rodrigo said. He started hanging out with actors to learn more about how they work and how they prepare themselves for a role.

    Working with actors was a major turning point for Rodrigo. It led to him writing the short script Jimbo, which became his thesis film. Ironically, he cast mostly non-actors in the roles because he felt they could more authentically portray the roles. Rodrigo cited senior directing instructor James Pasternak as a major influence in the thesis process, saying, “Jim really provoked me to explore the characters, to go deeper into the story and the dialogue.”

    Regarding the experience, Jim said, “Rodrigo had strong directorial vision of the movie he wanted to make. Like a good director, he was a good collaborator, open to ideas and willing to use them to make the best movie he could — and did.” Clearly, that is the case: Jimbo was an official selection of more than thirty festivals around the globe, landed a variety of awards, won the NYFA/RED competition last summer, and was picked up for representation by Shorts.TV in November.

    Today, Rodrigo is shooting and writing as much as he can. He recently directed a short film for Serbian/Swedish musician Alezzandra that premiered on Noisey and has been hailed as a “Lynchian fever dream through LA’s seedy underbelly.” His next big project: expanding Jimbo into a feature. He plans to start shooting in late 2018.

    And to think it all started with a road trip!

    Writer Crickett Rumley is the Film Festivals Advisor and Liaison at NYFA in Los Angeles. You can email her at festivalsla@nyfa.edu.

     

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    June 14, 2018 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 121

  • Resilience and Art in Puerto Rico at the Heart of New York Film Academy Alum Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez’s Work

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    While mainstream media has largely neglected coverage of the ongoing repercussions of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, one New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum is working tirelessly to not only help to rebuild and support his country, but to bring the authentically lived stories of the people and culture of Puerto Rico to light.

    This month was very busy for NYFA Acting for Film alum, college professor, clinical (media) psychologist, Buscapié ENDI columnist, actor and director Dr. Ariel Orama Lopez, who traveled from Puerto Rico to New York City to present the short film A Mis Queridos Reyes (as one of the producers and the leading actor), to be shown at Enfoque International Film Festival. He presented this film as a part of the artistic collective at The Motherland Resists in New York, joining with fellow community and thought leaders to share stories and raise funds for artist communities and the continued recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. While visiting New York, Dr. Ariel Orama also participated in the prestigious NYU Network Summer 2018 seminar Gender and Sexuality in Film. William Luhr, principal speaker of the seminar and writer of the book Screening Genders, selected Dr. Ariel’s award-winning short film Esteban (Spain, California, Florida and PR), to be presented and discussed in a forum with academics from around the world.

    His recent projects include SOMOS and the short film Erick, in which he starred, was selected by the Puerto Rico Queer Film Festival, and the premier was held at Fine Arts Cinema in Miramar, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Ariel recently began teaching drama at the University of Puerto Rico alongside his role as a social sciences professor, and credits his training at NYFA with a major influence on his approach. And two more short films are coming up soon!

    Dr. Ariel took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts on art, recovery, and a multidisciplinary understanding of media with the NYFA Blog.

    NYFA: Congratulations as you step into the role of professor of Drama, Humanities & Social Sciences at University of Puerto Rico (UPR)! What does this new role mean for you?

    Dr. Ariel: First of all, thank you very much for the wonderful experience of sharing my new projects with my beloved NYFA. Since 2000, I started a parallel search in acting and psychology, a journey took me to a) NYFA Los Angeles to study Acting for Film; b) take one year of graduate courses in contemporary media and culture from the perspective of “performance” and film; c) carry out research in psychodrama and the Almodovarian film, and; d) expand my work in praxis in both professions.

    My integration as a psychologist immersed in the media field, as a communicator, and as a professional actor, allowed me to study the different faces of entertainment: that of the spectator, the producer, and the executor of the fine arts, summing more than 200 projects on arts.

    It is a great honor to be part of the Department of Social Sciences and Humanities in the UPR System, which I consider a dream achieved in a very short time.

    En primer lugar, muchísimas gracias por la maravillosa oportunidad de presentar mis nuevos proyectos en mi amada NYFA. Desde el 2000, inicié una búsqueda paralela en Actuación y Psicología, cuyo caminar me llevó a Los Ángeles a estudiar Acting for the Film en NYFA, a tomar un año de cursos graduados en Medios y Cultura Contemporánea desde la mirada del “performance” y el cine, a efectuar investigaciones en psicodrama y el cine almodovariano, así como a ampliar mi quehacer en la praxis en ambas profesiones. Mi integración como psicólogo inmerso en los medios, comunicador y como actor profesional me permitió estudiar las diversas caras del espectáculo: la del espectador, la del productor y la del ejecutor de las bellas artes. Es un gran honor poder formar parte del Departamento de Ciencias Sociales y de Humanidades en el Sistema UPR, lo que considero un sueño logrado en muy poco tiempo.

     

    NYFA: What is your day-to-day like at UPR?

    Dr. Ariel: My interaction with students in the classroom is equivalent to a performance. Each experience I acquire is nuanced with the knowledge associated with films and other audiovisual experiences, so that when I teach my courses and theory I can show that I have additional tools and metaphors to inspire each student to create in his mind a three-dimensional image of what he has learned.

    I am passionate about knowing the recent-ness of what I teach. I enjoy observing the creations and manifestos that my students make through group processes, or even through manifestos that they elaborate from the privacy of the home and then they show me in class — a work of art, an article, or an investigative work, are only some of the fruits that have emerged, which makes me feel infinitely honored.

    Theoretical learning alone is not enough to address the student of the 21st century: for all of this, the possibility of being a hybrid professor — immersed in several disciplines — provokes curiosity in my students, from different angles. It is the search for the “Uomo Universale” (Renaissance man) proposed by da Vinci, my only north.

    Mi interacción con los estudiantes en el aula de clases es equivalente a un “performance”: cada vivencia que he adquirido está matizada con el conocimiento asociado a filmes y otras experiencias audiovisuales, de tal manera que cuando imparta mis cursos y la teoría pueda demostrar que tengo herramientas y metáforas adicionales para inspirar a que cada estudiante pueda crear en su mente una imagen tridimensional de lo aprendido. Me apasiona conocer lo reciente de lo que enseño: de igual manera, disfruto de observar las creaciones y manifiestos que efectúan mis estudiantes a través de procesos grupales o incluso a través de manifiestos que elaboran, desde la intimidad del hogar y luego me la ensenan en clase: una obra de arte, un articulo o un trabajo investigativo, son solamente algunos de los frutos que han surgido, lo que me honra infinitamente.  El aprendizaje teórico, únicamente, no es suficiente para abordar al estudiante del siglo XXI: por todo ello, la posibilidad de ser un profesor hibrido -inmerso en varias disciplinas- provoca en mis estudiantes la curiosidad, desde distintos ángulos. Es la búsqueda del Uomo Universale, de da Vinci, mi único Norte.

    NYFA: Will what you teach be influenced at all by what you learned at New York Film Academy?

    Dr. Ariel: Definitely, what has been learned in NYFA will influence my paradigm of teaching at the undergraduate level. The practical tools of performance that we acquired in the Academy, added to the respect for the technique and cultural diversity to which we are exposed, will allow me to offer my students not only a national approach, but an integrated and multicultural one.

    The digital platforms and the countless festivals existing in the world are only a way to spread our art: it is important that students can recognize the immeasurable value of exposing themselves to festivals and consecutive projects, as NYFA invites us; to recognize the value of immediacy and the multiple hats required by the actor when disseminating their projects to the world. In my case, I have received laurels from Spain, California, Orlando, Miami, Martinique, Italy, among other national achievements.

    Definitivamente, lo aprendido en NYFA influirá en mi paradigma de enseñanza a nivel subgraduado. La mirada práctica de la actuación y del “performance” que adquirimos en la Academia, sumada al respeto por la técnica y a la diversidad cultural a la que somos expuestos, me permitirá brindarles a mis estudiantes no solamente un enfoque nacional, sino uno integrado y multicultural. Las plataformas digitales y el sinnúmero de Festivales existentes en el Mundo son, solamente, una vía para difundir nuestro arte: es importante que los estudiantes puedan reconocer el valor inconmensurable de exponerse a Festivales y a proyectos consecutivos, tal como nos invita NYFA: que reconozcan el valor de la inmediatez y de los múltiples sombreros que requiere el actor a la hora de difundir sus proyectos en el Mundo. En mi caso, he recibido laureles de España, California, Miami, Orlando, Martinica, Italia, además de otros reconocimientos nacionales.

    NYFA: Are there any NYFA instructors who have particularly inspired your teaching philosophy?

    Dr. Ariel: Although Denis McCourt was one of my major influences in my acting courses, I must also point out that each of the stories I read from my NYFA colleagues around the world are my inspiration to continue exploring other facets. For example, I will make an incursion soon into dubbing, which adds to my experience as a) coach in reality TV shows; b) professional TV collaborator; c) laureate actor in short films at international festivals; and c) theater, voice over, and series actor.

    As I have always said, I dream of one day offering the first module of “acting psychology of character” in Spanish for NYFA, and belonging to the privileged group of outstanding students of NYFA around the world. It is a great responsibility and a great motivation to continue developing in my field of study.

    Aunque Denis McCourt fue una de mis grandes influencias en mis cursos de actuación, también debo destacar que cada una de las historias que leo de mis compañeros destacados de NYFA alrededor del Mundo son mi inspiración para seguir explorando otras facetas. Por ejemplo, recién incursionaré en el doblaje, lo que se suma a mi experiencia como colaborador profesional de TV, coach en programas de Telerrealidad, actor laureado en cortometrajes en Festivales internacionales, al igual que como actor de teatro, locución, series y voiceovers. Como siempre he dicho, sueño con ofrecer el primer módulo de actuación o de psicología del personaje en español para NYFA y con pertenecer al grupo privilegiado de estudiantes destacados de NYFA alrededor del Mundo: es una gran responsabilidad y una gran motivación para continuar desarrollándome en mi campo de estudio.

    NYFA: What inspired you to want to teach drama?

    Dr. Ariel: The highest aspiration of any expert in a profession should be to teach at the university level. In my case, the opportunity to be an assistant professor of psychology and now of acting, even being young, is a blessing — and a consequent achievement of an active preparation, throughout my whole life.

    In my case, I have been exposed to brains and real human bodies, from the medical anatomy; I have studied the visuality and the Almodovarian film, from the academic angle; I have been a coach; have collaborated with or served as a columnist in the media for young actors and singers who have been honored around the world, some on Broadway, off-Broadway, in reality shows, in NY or in Los Angeles; I have had the opportunity to direct short films and act in them; been awarded and screened in countries that I have not visited; I have taken courses in psychoanalysis and I know the spectrum of mental diagnoses and their different emotions, from different angles; I have reviewed plays, consistently, in the Puerto Rican distinguished press; I exposed myself to the media from its different faces; I have published a theoretical framework on creativity, neuroscience and virtuality, recognizing the difference between creativity and innovation and its importance in the world of entertainment; I have studied Artaud, Grotowski, and Stanislavski with the same passion that I have enjoyed the films of Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, Tarantino, and Hitchcock.

    And all of this composes a multidimensional approach that should be the aspiration of every actor in the 21st century.

    I can speak properly about the brain and the diaphragm, because I have seen it “in situ.” Also, I can know what is real or not in a certain emotion, because I know the symptomatology and because I have also exposed myself to it as an actor or director. Best of all, I believe in collective work, and that each actor in training is a potential director. My coaching certification in Spain has been the key. I believe in the relevance of knowing ourselves and exploring our full potential, in addition to collective processes in order to achieve a quality work that can be conceived as a creative manifesto. This is the aspiration of every creator.

    La máxima aspiración de todo experto de una profesión debe ser enseñar a nivel universitario. En mi caso, la oportunidad de ser profesor universitario de psicología y ahora de actuación (Catedrático Auxililar), siendo joven, es una bendición y un logro consecuente de una preparación activa, a lo largo de toda mi vida. En mi caso, he sido expuesto a cerebros y a cuerpos humanos reales, desde la Anatomía Médica; he estudiado la visualidad y el cine almodovarioano, desde el ángulo académico; he sido coach, he colaborado y/o he fungido como articulista en los medios de actores y cantantes jóvenes que han sido laureados alrededor del Mundo, algunos en Broadway, Off Broadway, en Reality Shows, en NY o en Los Ángeles; he tenido la oportunidad de dirigir cortometrajes y actuar en ellos, premiados y presentados en países que ni he visitado; he tomado cursos de psicoanálisis y conozco el espectro de los diagnósticos mentales y de sus diversas emociones, desde distintos ángulos; he reseñado obras de teatro, de forma consistente, en la prensa del país; me expuesto a los medios desde sus distintas caras; he publicado un marco teórico sobre creatividad, neurociencia y virtualidad, reconociendo la diferencia entre la creatividad y la innovación y su importancia en el mundo del espectáculo; he estudiado a Artaud, Grotowski, e Stanislavski con la misma pasión que he disfrutado los filmes de Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, Tarantino y de Hitchcock. Y todo ello compone un enfoque multidimensional que debe ser la aspiración de todo actor en el siglo XXI. Puedo hablar con propiedad sobre el cerebro y el diafragma, porque lo he visto “in situ”. Asimismo, puedo saber lo que es real o no en determinada emoción, porque conozco la sintomatología y porque también me he expuesto a ello como actor o director: y, lo mejor de todo, creo en el trabajo colectivo y en que cada actor en adiestramiento es un director en potencia, cuyos adiestramientos en Coaching en España han sido clave. Es decir, creo en la importancia de conocernos y explorar nuestras potencialidades, sumada al trabajo en equipo, para lograr un trabajo de calidad y concebido como un manifiesto creativo, aspiración de todo creador.

    NYFA: What do you most look forward to sharing with your students?

    Dr. Ariel: My students will know my philosophy of work when it comes to educate: “Nosce te ipsum” (Know thyself) and “Niente senza gioia” (Nothing without joy). From my experience, every artist should aspire to be a Uomo Universale (Renaissance man), based on both visions. If you are an expert in sports or cooking, believe it or not, it will be relevant! Everything that is part of your baggage will be very useful to become a competitive actor. For such purposes, you must expose yourself to change, as a philosophy of life: you must be as malleable as your brain, whose plasticity remains, from my point of view, the invaluable metal of the future. That students recognize that verisimilitude is the most important thing in our acting process; what is organic and what can be demonstrated, from the immediacy of the film or from the rehearsal-after-rehearsal prolonged process of theater plays — this is built day by day.

    I also enrich my experience with formal education in classical and popular singing, and I recommend it. Even the voice has to be developed daily.

    Finally, my students will learn that movement is not only physical. It must be projected from our eyes, from the voice, into our soul. And so we build complete actors, real ones; connected with their environment; away from the notions of the ego; creative and directed to change.

    That my students would be capable of teaching, in the future, is my highest aspiration.

    Mis estudiantes conocerán mi filosofía de trabajo a la hora de educar: “Nosce te ipsum” (Conócete) y “Niente senza gioia” (nada sin alegría). Desde mi experiencia, todo artista debe aspirar a ser un Uomo Universale, fundamentado en ambas visiones: si eres un experto en deportes o en la cocina, aunque no lo creas, será relevante: todo lo que forma parte de tu bagaje será muy útil para convertirte en un actor competente. Para tales fines, deberás exponerte al cambio, como filosofía de vida: deberás de ser tan maleable como tu cerebro, cuya plasticidad sigue siendo, desde mi visión, el metal invaluable del futuro. Que reconozcan que la verosimilitud es lo más importante en nuestro trabajo actoral: lo orgánico y aquello que se pueda demostrar, sea desde la inmediatez del cine o del proceso prolongado de ensayo tras ensayo de las obras teatrales: todo ello se construye día a día. También he tomado clases de canto popular y lírico, y lo recomiendo: incluso la voz debe desarrollarse diariamente. Por último, aprenderán que el movimiento no es solo físico: debe proyectarse desde nuestros ojos, desde la voz, hasta en nuestra alma. Y así construimos actores completos, reales, conectados con su entorno, alejados de las nociones del Ego, creativos y dirigidos al cambio. Y que sean capaces de enseñar, en un futuro, es mi máxima aspiración.

    NYFA: As Puerto Rico continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, how do you see the role of the visual and performing arts in rebuilding?

    Dr. Ariel: In Puerto Rico, creative arts has been an angular piece during the reconstruction process. Right after Maria, I had the opportunity to participate in three audio-visual projects, despite all the hardships on our island. The engine of creativity of our filmmakers was not stopped by a category 5 hurricane!

    During the recovery process, I joined the dubbing team on a project that will bring great benefits to the acting class. Likewise, we are collaborating with those who have used art to heal at the classroom context or the community spaces in this difficult period for all.

    Therefore, our island urges educators and creators to keep our national treasure alive. I refer to the immense creativity of our beloved Puerto Ricans in various branches of art, which have been recognized internationally, such as the case of Rita Moreno and our adoptive son Lin-Manuel Miranda, among other faces that will continue to surprise the world from the ever-shining star of the Caribbean: Puerto Rico.

    Finally, I want to express my gratitude to NYFA. I feel honoured for this wonderful interview. Thanks, Jeanne, for receiving me at your beautiful NYFA Campus. I will always be letting you know that my heart and my spirit are with you. I’m NYFA forever!

    En Puerto Rico, el arte ha sido pieza angular durante el proceso de reconstrucción. Justo posterior a María, tuve la oportunidad de participar en tres proyectos audiovisuales, pese a todas las carencias de nuestra Isla: es decir, el motor de la creatividad de nuestros ejecutores del cine no fue detenido por un huracán categoría 5. Asimismo, en plena recuperación, me incorporo al equipo de doblaje en la Isla, proyecto que traerá grandes beneficios a la clase actoral. Asimismo, somos más de uno los que hemos utilizado el arte para sanar a nivel del aula de clases o a nivel comunitario en este periodo tan difícil para todos. Por lo tanto, nuestra Isla urge de educadores y creadores que mantengan vivo a nuestro tesoro nacional: me refiero a la creatividad inmensa de nuestros amados puertorriqueños en diversas ramas del arte, que han sido reconocidos internacionalmente, tal como el caso de Rita Moreno, nuestro hijo adoptivo Lin-Manuel Miranda, entre otras caras que seguirán sorprendiendo al Mundo desde la siempre Estrella Brillante del Caribe: Puerto Rico. Finalmente, quiero expresar mi gratitud eterna a NYFA: me siento muy honrado por esta maravillosa entrevista. Gracias, Jeanne, por recibirme en el hermoso campus de NYFA en Nueva York. Siempre les dejaré saber que mi corazón y mi espíritu está con ustedes. ¡Soy NYFA para siempre!

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  • Loveratri, Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, Arya Babber and More From New York Film Academy Mumbai Alumni & Guest Speakers

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    Since opening its doors in May 2017, NYFA Mumbai has seen an incredible year filled with student successes, insightful guest speakers, special master classes, and powerful storytelling. If you’re a film buff, whether you’re in the capital of Bollywood or simply streaming movies from anywhere in the world, you won’t want to miss what’s been happening at NYFA Mumbai.

    Check out these alumni success stories, as well as some of the luminaries that have visited our newest campus this year as Guest Speakers to share their advice with NYFA Mumbai students.

    NYFA Mumbai Alum & Guest Speaker Sana Saeed

    TODAYYY ❤️ @newyorkfilmacademy #NYFAMumbai #letstogethermakethisyearcount

    A post shared by Sana Saeed (@sanaofficial) on

    It’s always a special occasion when a NYFA alum returns to their alma mater as a Guest Speaker, and NYFA Mumbai recently welcomed NYFA Acting for Film alum and child star Sana Saeed. Sharing a joyous evening with a packed house of students, Saeed spoke especially to the new class of NYFA Mumbai teen camp attendees in sharing her experiences as a child actor in Bollywood.

    As a child, Saeed played megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter in the romantic epic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and was re-cast by same director Karan Johar 20 years later!

    NYFA Mumbai Alum Arya Babbar

    Noted actor Arya Babber is currently studying at NYFA Mumbai, taking a Filmmaking course to expand his already impressive repertoire. Well known in Punjabi film industry, Babber was nominated as the Most Promising Newcomer in 2002.

    Babber has also had crossover success in Bollywood, where he is one of the best known Punjabi actors; he has acted in 25 feature films in 16 years. So far, he’s been very open on social media about how much he is loving his time at NYFA Mumbai.

    NYFA Mumbai Guest Speaker Sanjay Shetty


    Founder, Director at Opticus INC, recent NYFA Mumbai Guest Speaker Sanjay Shetty has over two decades of experience as a director at Ad-Films. During his time at Ad-Films, Shetty was a finalist at the Cannes Lions Festival, one of the most prominent and coveted awards for the creative and marketing communications industry. He has been recognized for his work at Promax-Asia Advertising Awards & Goa Abbey Awards.

    NYFA Mumbai Guest Speaker Sandeep Shandilya


    With over 17 years of experience as a producer, from feature films to ads, for the past eight years NYFA Mumbai Guest Speaker Sandeep Shandilya has executive-produced such Bollywood hits as Love Story 2050, 1920 London, and TV series 24:India. As a producer, he has worked all over India and internationally, from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Bangkok to Dubai, Paris, Switzerland, and much more.

    NYFA Mumbai Alum Tharun Bhascker


    NYFA alum Tharun Bhascker attended NYFA’s intensive 4-week Filmmaking Program in Mumbai in 2011, even before NYFA established its permanent campus at the Urmi Estate. He’s recently directed his second feature hit, Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, which follows the major success of his first feature, #Pellichoopulu.

    NYFA Mumbai Alum & Guest Speaker Rakesh Varre


    NYFA Guest Speaker Rakesh Varre is an Acting for Film, Filmmaking, and Screenwriting New York Film Academy alumnus. He is best known for for Baahubali: The Beginning, and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, where he played Setu Patti, and Vedam.

    Bahubali 2: The Conclusion was released in April 2017 and quickly became the highest-grossing film in India, grossing $82.8 million in five days.

    NYFA Mumbai Guest Speaker Seher Latif


    Seher Latif is a Casting Director and CSA member who has had success in both the American and Indian film industries. Her credits include Zero Dark Thirty, Furious 7, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Eat Pray Love. Her Bollywood credits include The Lunch Box, and Monsoon Shootout.

    NYFA Mumbai Alum Warina Hussain


    Warina Hussain is a model and actress of Afghani-Iraqi descent, who attended the New York Film Academy’s Mumbai campus in 2017 to study Acting for Film. She is currently filming the lead role in Salman Khan’s Loverati, in which she will star alongside Khan’s brother-in-law Aayush Sharma, in his acting debut.

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  • New York Film Academy Photography Alumni Partners Photograph Swedish Star Jasmine Kara

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    When you’re starting your own photography business, few things are as exciting as those first few high profile gigs. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography alumni and teaching assistants Stephany Viera Fernandez and Neil Camposuelo recently celebrated this landmark, during a promotional shoot with Swedish singer and songwriter Jasmine Kara.

    To celebrate and share their success, Stephany and Neil have offered the NYFA blog a sneak peek behind the scenes.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    Steph & Neil: Coming from two different parts of the world where photography is not as broad, unlike here in New York, one of the main reasons was to be able to keep growing and to build confidence — not just as a photographer, but also as a complete artist. We attended NYFA in different school years, but we both felt this school is the best avenue to do so.

    We wanted to be surrounded with talented and motivated people who shared the same passion as us. Along with the great faculty and other amazing students, being with them daily and continually creating work opened a whole new domain of ideas and philosophies on how we view the industry that is ahead of us.

    NYFA: Why photography? What inspires you about this medium?

    Steph & Neil: What is really astounding about photography is how you can be able to create your own world, but also at the same time you can capture the world right in front of you.

    There are so many ways you can maximize the use of this medium. Also, the power of one frame and the longevity of preserving that one frame can influence not just the present but also years to come. It is like a relationship also; it builds up gradually, and requires understanding between you and the medium to obtain the peak of mastery.  

    NYFA: How did you two connect as collaborators?

    Neil: After I finished my stint as a student here in NYFA, I applied to work as a TA last year, which eventually made Steph my colleague. That was when I got to know more about Steph and her work. I saw we had the same passion and motivation to succeed, and that was when I proposed the idea to her to work as a photographer duo.

    Steph & Neil: We knew it would be a good idea because we both have different cultural backgrounds and expertise; the dynamic between us is very good. Working with two brains and bodies can get more work done, and we are able to experiment with contrasting ideas and putting everything together cohesively. We both have trust, and along the way we help each other grow as we fill in our individual differences, strengths, and weaknesses.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying (and/or working as a TA) with us?

    Steph: For me, it was when I met all the teachers here in NYFA. I was really in awe of the load of talent and knowledge that they all have. It gives me the drive every day to potentially reach the same level.

    As for working as a TA, it is like being a student all over again. I continuously go along with the classes and I also experience in real time how fast photography changes in terms of style and techniques. That helps me to always have a different outlook and an open mind whenever I approach our own work.

    Neil: Just like what Steph said, my favorite moment here in NYFA is also the opportunity to meet all the teachers, to have a conversation with them and basically to learn from them every day. It is really a blessing to have such a group of people this great, because it helps me to stay humble, work harder, and keep track of my vision — our vision as a photographer duo.

    It is also great to work as a TA here at school because it gives you a sense of responsibility. I consider it a noble profession to be a part of student development, in terms of their career and life, to be able to help them, as well as guide them to be great on what they want to pursue.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your recent shoot with Jasmine Kara? How did this collaboration come about, and any inspiration or details you can share?

    Steph & Neil: We will be doing a cover for her upcoming single that will be released into three different languages (English, Spanish, Persian) this August. We cannot really tell yet the full detail of the single, but it is about how we can carry on in life with all the negativity and problems through laughter.

    The concept we are planning to do is a mix of humor and inspirations from Greek sculptures, work from photographers like Roger Ballen and Chris Buck, and relating it to the music video of Jasmine Kara’s single. Our main idea is having our own take of humor in a contemporary art approach, as we are trying to blend in the mood of the song but still remaining grounded in the style of our work as a photographer duo.

    NYFA: When photographing a star like Kara, how do you prepare? 

    Steph & Neil: This kind of opportunity do not come every day. So, when we knew we would have the chance to do a shoot with her, we started doing our pre-production plan.

    We had at least one-and-a-half weeks and to prepare, and even though it was a short period of time, this is one of the advantages of working as a photographer duo; we’re able to accomplish more and finish on time.

    Plus, [we did] a lot of research also. It is important to get to know the subject, her personality, and her background history as a singer. We had a couple of meetings with her, talking about the ideas for the shoot and making sure everything was according to plan.

    NYFA: What is your must-have piece of photography equipment, or your must-do ritual when preparing for a shoot?

    Steph & Neil: We never forget to have a scrim-jim on our equipment list every time we shoot. It is a very versatile diffusion, and helps soften and tone the light. This is like the signature look we have on most of our work.

    And for a must-do ritual, we love to eat before and even after a shoot! We always double-check everything also from the pre-production and the equipment we are using to avoid mishaps.

    NYFA: What’s your advice to students interested in photographing on the pop and music scene?

    Steph & Neil: For us, it’s not just about photographing on the pop and music scene. In general, our advice is that students should continue to grasp anything they can learn. Continue reading books, watching movies, talking to people. In the future, this will be an accumulation of knowledge and experiences that they can apply to their work. They should not be afraid of experimenting, breaking the rules of photography, risking ideas. In this era of photography where everything has been done already, students should be able to create ways to improve these latter ideas into something new and contemporary.

    On the other hand, students must still respect and give credit to the history of photography, the art of it, and take time to understand how we got here to this point — especially in the level of creativity.

    Lastly, we would like to share this quote with everyone. This is a mantra for us working as a photographer duo: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” We both believe that we make our own luck, that we should have to work for it, and just keep creating beautiful images.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful for the work you’re doing now?

    Steph & Neil: Absolutely, NYFA was like our training ground and a big part of the foundation of who we are now as an artists and photographers.

    Coming here to New York City and to this school with no prior professional experience, it did help bring out the best in us. The school gave us not just the tools but also the mental preparation to face the reality of this industry.

    Thank you and congratulations to Stephany and Neil!

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  • Game Design Students Venture to New York Film Academy Alum’s Escape Hotel in Hollywood

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    Last week, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles Director of Media Lab Matthew Sheehan took a group of NYFA Game Design postgraduate students out for a heck of a final: the one hour to escape challenge from Slaughterhouse at the Escape Hotel in Hollywood. The stakes: solve the puzzle or pay the ultimate price — no, not a failing grade, just the pain of defeat.

    For the uninitiated, an escape room is a little bit theater, a little bit puzzle, and a whole lot adventure. Groups of anywhere between two to eight, whether coworkers, families, friends, or even couples, are placed into a themed room filled with puzzles and surprises, and have one hour to solve the clues to find their way out.  Escape rooms are amazing fun and they are all over the place, but nobody is doing them like the Escape Hotel in Hollywood.

    Photo courtesy of Cassie Hunter (NYFA).

    A soon as you enter the Escape Hotel in Hollywood, you know you are about to go on an adventure. Going into the hotel is like stepping into a story line. The lighting, the sound, and the costumed employees of the hotel all set the stage.

    When the NYFA group talked over the choice of which of the rooms we could go through with a macabre bellhop, MFA student Fabio Ribak’s face lit up when we were told, “You start the Slaughterhouse room blindfolded and handcuffed to the floor.” Challenge accepted!

    In the end, we did not make it out. But it was okay, as the room was so much fun. The teamwork, the panic, and the discoveries were worth every second of it. These rooms are more than padlocks and puzzles; they are stories, little movies, games come to life, with you in the center. For a group of students who had recently completed story-focused visual and performing arts training, it was the perfect evening.

    Photo courtesy of Cassie Hunter (NYFA).

    Escape Hotel co-creator Ivan Leon sat down with us afterward. Ivan is also a NYFA alum, who after completing his education went to work starting the Escape Hotel with some of his classmates.

    “It’s what’s next,” he told us. “It’s combining every form of media arts, theater, and games, in a way no one else is doing, and we wanted to make a big commitment, to be on top.”

    If you want to see it, you will have to come up to the Escape Hotel in Hollywood and put your blindfold on. If you want to make friends with the next Ivan Leon, you should come over to the New York Film Academy.

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  • Univision, Conference Calls, Story Corps, & Memorial Day With New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism School

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    Here in the United States, the months when national TV audiences are measured are known as “sweep” months. This past May was just such a month, and the local news programs on stations that are part of the Univision television network did very well; in fact, they made history,  finishing first in a number of key demographic groups and time periods.
    What makes this especially historic is that all of the programming on Univision is in Spanish, yet these Spanish-language news programs drew a larger audience than English language news broadcasts in the same cities. It says a great deal about changing audiences, and a changing America.
    A primary lesson to be learned from these results is that news organizations need to continually look for novel ways to engage audiences.
    The Neiman Lab at Harvard University, a research group that studies American journalism, reported recently that The New York Times is using conference-call technology to bring together hundreds of subscribers for what might be called “a private radio program.” Much like a conventional radio talk show, there are subject experts and the opportunity to “call in,” only — instead of being broadcast — it is distributed by telephone: often mobile phones.
    One of the things that typifies all of the departments at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), not just the Broadcast Journalism program, is an emphasis on storytelling. As broadcast journalists, we are in the business of “electronic storytelling.” One of my favorite examples is an organization called Story Corps. This nonprofit group travels the country collecting stories from everyday people. They do it in a novel way, in that they ask people to visit their small mobile recording booths in pairs. And it is there the storytelling happens. Recently, Story Corps began to create animations which portray some of these stories. This is especially important for social media, where people respond to images more than audio.
    Here is a wonderful example, posted online late last month for Memorial Day, the day when America remembers its war dead. And like all the best stories, it has a twist…
    The multimedia journalism (MMJ) skills students learn at the NYFA can be used in a wide range of ways. Former summer session student Alexandra Saeys was recently the on-site reporter for a digital conference called #DES2018, the Digital Business World Conference, which was held in Madrid. As you can see in the picture below, she had all the necessary resources to capture insights and trends that were being hotly debated at the conference.
    Congratulations Alexandra!
    Staying in Europe, in Georgia (“the country, not the state”), New York Film Academy alum Mariam Shalikashvilli works for Georgia Public Broadcasting. And while she is pretty tall, for one stand-up she needed to be a little taller. I don’t think she brought the little platform she is standing on in the picture below. In fact I think she “found it.” But in either case, it was just right.
    We end this week with a moving Memorial Day story produced by former Broadcast Journalism student Melissa Aleman, who works at CW33 in Dallas, Texas. She wrote:
    By far, one of my favorite stories that I wrote and produced … hope you all enjoy it… and truly remember the meaning of Memorial Day. 
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  • Congratulations to 1-Year Broadcast Journalism Fall 2017 Grads!

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    Last Friday was graduation day for the latest group of 1-year NYFA Broadcast Journalism students. And by the looks of things, everyone had a good time.

    Photos by Evgenia Vlasova and Joao Queiroga.

    One of the graduates has a job here in New York. Another submitted her resume and resume reel for a general assignment reporter position in Texas. And that was before they even graduated!

    Photos by Evgenia Vlasova and Joao Queiroga.

    One of the grads — Sara Quintana — summed-up her NYFA experience in a wonderful 70-second video. (Here is a link to it.) Those names you see at the end are her classmates and instructors. Yes, it’s always a “team effort.”

    Congratulations to our 1-Year Broadcast Journalism Fall 2017 grads!

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  • Marie Senghore: From the New York Film Academy to the Red Carpet

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    Marie Senghore followed her dream of moving from Sweden to Los Angeles to invest in an acting career. To begin her journey, she enrolled at the New York Film Academy, which she applied for through Blueberry — and the rest is a real success story. Check out Marie’s story in her own words, below!

    (Please note: this interview has been translated from Swedish to English and reprinted with permission from Blueberry. To see the original, click here.)

    Blueberry: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what you’re up to right now?

    MS: I’m an actor, and I earned my associate degree in Acting for Film from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles in May 2017.

    Now, one year after graduation, I’m still living here in LA and working part-time at Disney, while recording movies.

    Blueberry: How did you become interested in acting? What was your first role?

    MS: I have always wanted to work as an actor. I think my first job was at like six years old, when I participated in a section of [Swedish TV show] Bolibompa. It went well so they called me back several more times. Then, I started taking theater lessons and chose theater as a focus in high school.

    However, I did not start working with movies again until autumn 2013, after I had moved back home after spending a year in Spain. I started recording commercials and short films and finally became a part of a feature film.

    Blueberry: What are some films we can see you in?

    MS: In Sweden I played Aliki in Aliki (2016, Tine Alavi) and Tessan in Alena (2015, Daniel di Grado). Later, in the United States, I have participated in a lot of movies, as Spaelade Main Girl in Shea Buttah (2018, Deja Gordon); Julia in 6:00pm (2017, Savvas Christou); and Leonora Kale in 1989 (2018, Furaha Bayibsa).

    Blueberry: How did you choose to study at the New York Film Academy?

    MS: I had searched around at a number of California schools that had film programs. I had previously encountered NYFA through one of Blueberry’s student fairs, so I already knew a little about them. In the fall of 2015 I went to school to have my audition and I felt safe with my choice to start there.

    Blueberry: How would you describe NYFA?

    MS: It is very intensive. You have three terms in one calendar year, so there is no summer vacation. You have a free week between the semesters and then you start again. It sounds very hard, but I think it’s good. You never lose focus and I personally felt that motivated me more.

    Blueberry: Is there a big difference between the industry in Los Angeles and Sweden?

    MS: Yes. This is the capital of all movies, so the industry here is much bigger. There are always lots of projects to work on. Sometimes it also feels like everyone in this city also works in the industry. There are not many I encounter that do not. But that’s what makes it fun. You can always find any project to jump on. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Sweden, but hopefully it will be the case in the future.

    Blueberry: How did a regular school day look like you at NYFA?

    MS: As I mentioned, the school is intensive. Some days you start 9 in the morning, other days not until 7 in the evening. Even though you do not have a lesson, you are also expected to have projects with your classmates. Then there are also many drop-in lessons and guest lectures that you can take. For example, for me it was stage combat. It was one of those lessons I had planned to take once a week, but as I developed, I worked on it almost every day. I really recommend taking as many courses as you can.

    Blueberry: Where did you stay during your program, and how did you do to find accommodation?

    MS: NYFA has a department that helps students find accommodation. I got help from them and found an apartment with two other girls from school. I lived there during my school time. I lived with two girls from China. It was wonderful to live with people from a completely different culture but who have the same passion. I still have contact with them both.

    Blueberry: What do you do in your spare time?

    MS: Watch a movie! I’m a film student so that’s a lot of it. I usually swim, practice, read, or have BBQs with friends. I also like art, so sometimes I go to explore new installations. I work at Disney, so it’s fun to go to Disneyland sometimes too.

    Blueberry: What do you have to see and do when visiting LA?

    MS: Going to the beach, I suppose? Even though I have not gone there so often myself, it is nice to live near the sea. But LA has a little bit of everything. There are beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and metropolitan areas. It’s just about finding what you like.

    Blueberry: What is your best memory so far from your stay?

    MS: I cannot find one memory, I’ve had too many! I was celebrating Midsummer with my Swedish friends. I celebrated July 4th at Huntington Beach. I spent the summer with my friends by the pool. I got to work on so many amazing projects. I graduated. I got a job at Disney. One of the films I had the lead in will be featured at an American film festival. So many wonderful things have happened that I don’t really remember everything.

    Blueberry: What has been the biggest surprise during your stay in LA?

    MS: I thought I would move here and just focus on acting. It did not even take a year and then I got an interest in being behind the camera. I had to test myself on cinematography and script writing, and it has led me to write my first short film. It’s great that NYFA gave me the chance to explore more parts of the film creation experience.

    Blueberry: Was there anything that was not as you had imagined?

    MS: I did not have so many expectations. I thought that in an Acting for Film program, it’s wouldn’t be much more than movies, but I also got a great deal of theater training so that’s just a big plus.

    Blueberry: Do you have any tips for others who are interested in studying abroad?

    MS: Go! I know that it may feel like there is so much in the way and there are so many criteria that you have to tick off, but it’s worth it. During my time here I have met so many international students. Even though many of them have gone home and followed another career, none of them have regretted their time. I know for myself that, although I would do the same, I would not have changed anything.

    Blueberry: What are your plans for the future? Where do we see you next?

    MS: My goals for the future are to keep up with what I do. I want to continue recording movies. This summer I will record a short film that I have written. It will be interesting to bring a character to life that comes directly from my own imagination. Then for the rest of the year, we’ll see. Maybe I go home to Sweden again or move to South Korea or stay here in the United States. As I said, there is so much I want to do and I do not want to get stuck in a specific country. If my passion gives me the chance to work in another country, I will definitely follow it! Next, you will see me in Deja Gordon’s movie Shea Buttah and then in my own movie Remember.

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  • New York Film Academy Glee Club Honors the ’80s in Spring Performance

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    This spring, the Glee Club at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus held a 1980s music concert — and it was a huge success!  

    The Glee Clubbers put up seminal hits by Michael Jackson, Madonna, The Smiths, Guns and Roses, and DEVO. Glee Club faculty supervisor Melissa Sullivan said, “It has been an amazing experience to musically direct this multi-talented group the last two years. Throughout the semester, I have seen students flourish and grow through music.”

    To create a true pop sound for the music of this semester’s concert, the Glee Club utilized microphones — for some of students, it was their first experience using mics. Sullivan had mics set up in rehearsals so students could learn mic singing technique. The event was also choreographed and staged with the help of students Sunny Amara and Jasmine Mensah.  According to Amara, “My experience in Glee Club has been everything I imagined; a group of talented people who just want to have fun, work hard and make beautiful music. I’ve become great friends with these people very quickly and we’ve become a little glee family!”

    Sullivan had this to say about NYFA Clubs in general: “What I find amazing about the clubs that NYFA has to offer is that the students involved are usually in more than one club. Some of the Glee Club students are also in the Dance Troupe. I believe these clubs are beneficial to student’s growth. They are collaborating with students outside of their class and have an additional creative outlet. “

    NYFA’s Glee Club is usually comprised of four sopranos, four altos, four tenors and four basses, and guided by strong student leadership and collaboration. This semester, the club had BFA student Rachel Gordine as assistant musical director, and the sections’ leaders were BFA student Rachel Gordine (sopranos), BFA student Paige Conroy (altos), AFA student Ethan Williams and BFA student Zackary Nel (tenors), and BFA student Zane Hudson (bass).

    Next semester the New York Film Academy Glee Club will be putting up the music of Broadway, and possibly collaborating with the NYFA Dance Troupe. It’s a very exciting time here in Los Angeles, and the Glee Club hopes you can join them at next semester’s show.

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    May 23, 2018 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 328

  • A Peek Behind The VFX of “Avengers: Infinity War” with New York Film Academy Alum Francesco Panzieri

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    Francesco Infinity War

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    Francesco Panzieri is no stranger to big hits, both in television and film. Panzieri’s name has been included in the credits for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Men, True Detective, Westworld, and many others.

    Still, the New York Film Academy alum’s most recent work on Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War may be the biggest film he has worked on to date. The superhero blockbuster raked in $630 million on its opening weekend, which is the biggest opening of all time.

    The digital effects compositor sat down with us to discuss Avengers, his upcoming projects, and how his time at NYFA helped prepare him for career.

    NYFA: How did your experience on Infinity War compare to the other Marvel films you’ve worked on?
    Francesco Panzieri: On my first Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was actually working in-house within Marvel Studios, where I was tasked with 2D live-action visual effects. As such, my work scope was compositing actors from green screen onto photographed backgrounds, monitor insert, wire removal, plate re-timing, re-positioning, scale-up and split-screen.

    On Thor: Ragnarok and eventually Avengers: Infinity War, the team at Digital Domain had to deal with some intricate compositing of CG characters onto live-action plates. I came aboard late in the game on Thor, yet I was still lucky to get some cool looking shots, including the composite of a blue-screen take of Chris Hemsworth over a fully-CG environment in the Sakaar chase sequence, where Thor smashes the engine of a spaceship barehanded.

    On Avengers, stakes got higher. Almost every one of our shots in the sequence featured Thanos versus an Avenger; I was very lucky to get him in each of my five shots and by getting to work on one of the trailer shots released to the public two months before the movie came out. Captain America and Thor were the other two characters in my shots, so I also focused on locking down their hands onto Thanos’ gauntlet and head, to make sure that the audience would really perceive that rock solid hold as the Avengers attempt to save half the universe.

    DD had developed a technique to color-grade Thanos in a photo-realistic yet nonhuman way while adding some splash of purple on selected areas of his face and body. We also made a great use of the subsurface scattering render-layer to fine-tune his color and deep ID’s for his stubble and hair. Thanos was fully rendered in VRay with many proprietary skin shaders that DD has been continually refining for years; all the compositing was done in Nuke.

    NYFA: Was it harder to deal with mo-cap and completely CG characters like Thanos, Groot, and Rocket, or easier to incorporate VFX in their scenes?
    Francesco: The photo-realism that Digital Domain was trying to achieve on this feature definitely pushed the CG characters to be the most-challenging part. The team really cared about giving them a perfect fitting in the scene under every point of view. We made sure that black levels matched accurately to the live-action plate and brainstormed every possible interactive light from the environment onto the characters and vice versa.

    Ultimately, during every session of dailies, the supervisors kept asking, “How can we make the shot look spectacular?” or ‘What is this shot missing from looking memorable?” For Thanos, we had some great rigging work done to enhance all the muscle tension from Josh Brolin’s performance onto his digital character to help perceive the struggle during the fight scenes, as well as the weight he is bringing in the game to fight the Avengers.

    All of the Thanos work you see in the movie, with the exception of the sequence on Titan, belongs to the tireless work of the artists at Digital Domain.

    NYFA: How much direction, or conversely, freedom, are you given by the directors when crafting VFX?
    Francesco: It can vary. As previously mentioned, with Marvel, if you’re tasked with something that has already been done in their previous movies, you can rest assured that they will ask you to stay on that same beaten path. Of course, your work might exceed their expectations in terms of presentation and integration, but they really care about keeping the continuity with their previous movies as the MCU is a big shared playground.

    On another note, if you’re being asked to introduce something new to the visual story, you can really push the limit of your creativity and submit different versions for their review, as long as you also keep in mind what your VFX supervisor asks you to do and that your work must look coherent with the storytelling.

    Infinity War Francesco

    A shot from The Avengers: Infinity War

    NYFA: Was it easier creating VFX taking place in NYC and the real world or easier creating them in the totally made-up space fantasy worlds?
    Francesco: It is always easier to work with a photographed plate as a reference for compositing anything over it. Trying to create a fully CG environment without any real photographic reference can really make things unfriendly, unless you know precisely what you’re aiming at and what you want it to look like. The flexibility that comes with it can very well be a double-edged weapon if you’re on a tight deadline, however it also gives you plenty of creative freedom to fully express the storytelling.

    NYFA: How did NYFA prepare you for this particular job?
    Francesco: NYFA trained me to work very hard and for long hours. I was able to grasp a solid knowledge of 2D and 3D during my time there, thanks to a very organic and inclusive approach to the art of filmmaking and storytelling. I was able to develop technical and artistic skills that could help me find a job once I graduated, and I had a fantastic time during my studies.

    NYFA is excited Francesco’s upcoming work following the tremendous success of Avengers: Infinity War. You can learn more about him and his credits on his website.

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    May 17, 2018 • 3D Animation, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 640