MFA Filmmaking graduate Al Hallak has directed numerous award-winning film projects including his sci-fi thriller “The Paradigm,” which was his thesis film at NYFA. The film earned several honors including The Award of Excellence at Los Angeles Movie Awards.
Since graduating, Hallak started his own film production business in Burbank, CA and received a certificate of recognition from Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy. He was also commended by The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Given his status as a freelance filmmaker, currently working and residing in Washington D.C., Hallak was recently selected to be a judge at the upcoming Washington West Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The festival was founded upon the belief that story can change the world and aims to spotlight films that provoke us to dream and question what we know to be true. Films that inspire us to see the potential of what could be and that ultimately paint a unique picture of the raw human condition.
“This is a great opportunity; it is a very important film festival sponsored by Boeing,” says Hallak. “I am always proud of NYFA, and I hope to see NYFA students and graduates at the Festival in October.”
WWFF will run from October 19-25, 2016 in Washington D.C.
NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad, and Cox Media Washington correspondent, George Colli covered an important story over the past weekend. He spoke with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Tom Frieden, about the failure of the U.S. Congress to provide funding for the ongoing fight against the Zika virus. The CDC and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have run out of money, and it could bring mosquito control efforts and vaccine research to a halt at the end of the month.
On a far lighter note, NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Chiara Carcano is off on a worldwide adventure. She is one of the participants in Donnaventura, a hybrid Italian travel/adventure television series. Good luck, Kiki!
While the Rio Olympics are now a memory, we just found out that one of our grads was working at the Broadcast Center. Karina Gaudereto was one of the brave Brazilians who came to NYFA in the middle of a cold, wet, dark New York winter. Congratulations, Karina.
Finally, Good Morning America — ABC’s morning chat show — recently introduced a new set and a new format for the last half-hour of the program. But before they could take the show to air, they had to block out all of the camera angles and locations. A group of NYFA faculty and students came by to help play the role of “audience” during the rehearsals. Editing instructor Ed Parada took some still images of the occasion. He even took one of me! Which means, for you incoming students, you now will recognize me on Registration Day.
One of our recent One Year Filmmaking graduates, Jessica Bridger, from New York Film Academy Australia, Gold Coast, is now a Weekend Camera Operator for the local Channel 7 News, which covers Rockhampton and the Central Queensland Region.
We recently caught up with Ms. Bridger to learn more about her and her new career.
If someone was making a movie about your life, what genre would it be, who would play you and what would be the title?
Comedy/drama; Emma Stone or Hailee Steinfeld; and “Adulthood: Are you sure?”
If you had one sentence / log line that could change the world, what would it be?
Do what you love, not what you’re told to.
You’ll always find a way, no matter what.
What did you enjoy most about studying at NYFA?
Definitely working with new and interesting people and collaborating on different projects.
How has NYFA prepared you for working in the “real world” of Film/TV/Entertainment?
If I didn’t have the knowledge I have now, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve only been gone a year and already amounted to something in the industry. It’s amazing what can happen within the space of a year.
What exciting project/s and/or plans do you have now or coming up?
Right now I’m just taking each day as it comes. Weekend camera operating is something different everyday. I could be shooting a football game one minute and going to an accident or house fire the next. I’m interested to see where I’m headed in my career.
New York Film Academy High School Summer Camp graduate Sara Eustáquio was the recipient of the Award of Merit at the Accolade Global Film Competition in Los Angeles for her narrative fiction short film “Mirror.” The film, which stars NYFA Summer Camp actress Jamie Marchuk, was Eustáquio’s final project of the intensive 3-week HD Filmmaking program.
In the short horror film, Marchuk looks at her mirror for answers, but what she finds may change her life.
The young Portuguese filmmaker, 16, had already been awarded with her debut narrative fiction short film “4242,” which has received 16 international prizes and was screened in more than 30 international film festivals across the globe.
“My time at NYFA taught me much more than I could have imagined,” says Eustáquio. “During the program, I learned about all the technical aspects of the filmmaking process in a fast-paced environment, as well as the importance of telling a story and how to tell a story. It was an amazing experience which deeply changed my perspective and encouraged me to move forward. NYFA helped me find my voice and definitely made me realize this what I want to do.”
During his second year, New York Film Academy BFA Filmmaking student, Richard Selvi, developed his short film “Oiled Up” with the intent of eventually turning it into a feature.
cast and crew of “Oiled Up”
“I thought it’d be a better idea to prove we could handle such a story on both an emotional and visual standpoint by turning the premise into a stand-alone short which would showcase that and perhaps help us find funding for the larger project,” said Selvi.
Produced by NYFA instructor Richard D’Angelo and shot by cinematographer and NYFA instructor Till Neumann, the film stars some very well known actors, including Chuck Zito, James Mcaffrey, Lou Martini Jr, Cathy Moriarty, Vincent Pastore, Larry Romano and Eric Roberts, amongst many other younger talented actors.
“I am beyond thankful for those two instructors that have put their backs on the line more than once in order to bring the film to competition,” said Selvi. “I am honored to be able to call them mentors, but more importantly, friends. I’d also like to thank NYFA for putting absolutely all the tools in our hands, as well as a great infrastructure to make our film without ever trying to stop us.”
“Oiled Up” (Teaser 2.0 // LA Shorts Fest) from Richard Selvi on Vimeo.
The story is told through Mike Simms, the elder brother of three. After a robbery gone wrong, Mike sacrifices his life as a free man to save his younger sibling’s lives and better their relationship. Unfortunately, when Mike comes out of jail years later, he realizes his sacrifice did not help his younger siblings in any way; and they have parted ways since Mike’s imprisonment. Mike has to set the right example as an elder brother, once again, in order to regain his younger siblings’ trust as well as reconcile their broken relationship.
“I’ve always wanted to make a film based on the relationships I have and had with my siblings” says Selvi. “It’s been very important to me all along through making the film that I maintain a clear understanding of which of my characters represented which of my siblings. When you watch the film and if you happen to know my family, I’m sure it is very apparent. I’d consider it successful in that way, as I’ve managed to convey a chemistry and a relationship on screen which did not exist prior to that based on my life off-screen.”
“Oiled Up” is having its official US Premiere in competition at the LA International Short Film Festival on September 6th at 5.30pm followed by a Q&A with director Selvi and a few members of the cast. The festival, which will take place at the Regal Cinemas downtown Los Angeles (1000 W. Olympic Blvd), is an Academy Award qualifier for the top 3 winners.
After being in her high school performance of “Grease,” New York Film Academy Musical Theatre alumna Ilda Mason knew she wanted a career in musical theatre. Since graduating from NYFA, Mason has performed in two productions of “West Side Story”: one at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, and the second one at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. Mason played the role of Francisca in one, Estella in the other, and understudied Rosalia in both.
“Doing ‘WSS’ was incredibly close to my heart because it’s not only a classic masterpiece in every way possible, but it also gives me a sense of pride in my Latin American culture: to speak Spanish, to let my Latin flare explode, and to dance with all the I have,” says Mason.
She’s currently rehearsing for the “Cinderella” national tour, which she describes as ten exhilarating months of adventure across the US and Canada while telling the story of Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
“It’s a fast paced learning experience where you have to give 100% all of the time and put a show together in two weeks,” she says. “I’m an ensemble member and love every second of it! It’s all about everyone being a company; it’s about images, formations, blending harmonies, and telling this beautiful story. It’s a special feeling to be part of a team like this.”
In addition to her performances on stage, Mason has worked as a choreographer on NYFA’s Musical Theatre performances. “I have come across many incredible and inspiring fellow students that have made me wish I could do what they do so effortlessly and vice versa,” she says. “But there is so much more to this. We all need to improve our dancing and our singing in different levels. Competing in the professional world is a delicate mix between the will power to go to those early calls everyday hoping one day they cast you; the discipline to take care of your instrument (meaning your entire body inside and out) while constantly going to classes to perfect your art; and a great deal of timing. Timing is everything because not only must you be ready for when the opportunity is presented, but you also need to have a level of maturity to build a career. Most of us will even need the time and previous experience to apply for a visa that will allow us to try to work in the U.S. I believe that when these characteristics of resilience and passion are present (and mixed with the unstoppable desire to conquer that musical theatre dream), NYFA’s students will always have what it takes.
Honoring films like The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby, the Finnish film discusses current topics such as women’s rights, man’s relationship with nature and young people’s difficulty to find their way into the work life. The story revolves around a young textile student, who takes on a summer job at a secluded and totally self-sufficient town. The cast consists of upcoming actors like Veera W. Vilo, Saara Elina, Ari Savonen and Enni Ojutkangas who have become known as the faces of the new wave of Finnish genre movie with films like Bunny the Killer Thing and Backwood Madness.
“In addition to the fact that the story discusses extremely important topics, it does it with a very raw and objective voice, which for me was very fascinating from the get-go,” said Olenius. “It was important for me to tell this exact story at this point of my life because it really allowed me to throw my questions into the film and at the same time transform myself into a better person. Even though the story is fictitious (and in ways goes over the top), it points out some mindsets and behavior patterns that currently take place in Western countries and especially in Finland, which for me was a way to connect with the story. The possibility to make a film that has the potential to challenge the audience to think about their own values and opinions in life, is, for me, the whole point of filmmaking.”
Olenius, who has consistently worked as an actor in his home country after graduation, is also producing the film and responsible for the adapted screenplay, which is is based on an original play of the same name by Neea Viitamäki. Kyrsyä – Tuftland is currently in production and set to premiere in 2017.
“My training at NYFA has helped me enormously in terms of understanding all aspects of filmmaking and how they play together in a film production,” said Olenius. “Even though I studied acting, thanks to the versatile program I attended, I already had a good understanding of filmmaking after graduation and, therefore, the potential to pursue the making of this film after working only few years in the industry. Studying acting for film in Los Angeles has given me resourceful tools to get cinematic and true performances out of the wonderful cast of this film, which I believe will really make this film extraordinary.”
It was quite an honor to take part in the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. The exclusive New York Film Academy Showcase at the VIFF began with a Q&A between NYFA Florence Program Director, Diana Santi, and NYFA alumnus, Giorgio Pasotti, who attended a Filmmaking Workshop in 2003. Pasotti has acted in numerous well-known Italian films, including Paolo Sorrentino’s Academy Award-winning film “The Great Beauty.”
Held at the Venice Production Bridge platform at the Spazio Incontri of Venice’s Excelsior Hotel, Pasotti discussed his overall education at NYFA, which he described as an amazing learning experience.
“It was more useful to study 8 weeks at NYFA in NY than the years I’ve spent studying and watching movies,” said the Italian actor. Pasotti used the skills he learned from NYFA to direct his debut film, “Io, Arlecchino.”
Following the Q&A, the festival screened five NYFA student and alumni films that included two live-action shorts, two animated shorts, and one documentary short.
After the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, thousands of kids went to the streets and became targets for organizations of child traffickers. These kids were traded like livestock. “The Life of Janka” is a fictional story of two brothers who go through such an experience.
Set in the mid-1920s, a frustrated sound composer works as one of the first sound engineers in the history of cinema, and happens to be madly in love with the main actress of the production. On the day he decides to finally declare his love to her, he finds out about an affair going on between her and the director. The discovery drives him crazy.
In Limpopo, South Africa, the village grannies lace up their soccer boots and start kicking their way down the field — and through centuries of oppressive taboos. They play serious soccer and then break into the laughter and traditional song that help fuel their singular struggle for decent lives and a league of their own.
“The Perfumist,” by Yukari Akaba, Shannon Lee, Daniela Lobo Dias, Sandra Rivero Ortiz (animation)
“The Perfumist” is a dramatic story highlighting the battle of Machine-Equipped Man against Cosmic Nature. Seeking the perfect scent for his perfume, Benedict Malville runs into the consequences of trampling on sacred, natural ground.
A short animated story of the day in a mom’s life of raising her young child. While the child tests the mother’s patience, there is a final moment of relief after the mom reveals her secret oasis within the confines of the home.
Following the screenings, director Sean Miyakawa spoke in-depth about the making of his original film, “Fumo.”
Additionally, “The Life of Janka” director of photography Leandro Mouro spoke about his cinematography on Luis Henriquez Viloria’s film, shot in Haiti.
The prestigious Venice International Film Festival will continue to run until September 10, 2016.
Can you smell what “The Rock” is cooking? Well, if you can’t, check out the new teaser video created by Studio71, which announces his new YouTube Channel. The video stars MFA Acting for Film alumna Ioanna Meli, and has now received over 1.5 million views.
After submitting herself to a breakdown for the part, Meli received a call from one of the producers saying they watched her demo reel and wanted to know if she was interested in accepting the part. After a thorough explanation of the role from both the producers and the director, Meli was sold.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been involved in a project that has reached hundreds of thousands of people within a few hours — and now over 1.5 million views,” said Meli. “I was surprised how fast the news spread across the world; articles started popping up right away, the video was being shared on social media by Dwayne Johnson and his fans, and I was getting messages from friends asking if ‘it was really me in that video The Rock shared on Instagram’! It was very exciting, and slightly overwhelming, I’m not going to lie.”
The YouTube channel, which launched July 18, will feature Johnson’s own videos, a scripted action series, as well as highlight projects from his production company, Seven Bucks Productions.
Meli also directed the film “A Little Part of You,” which received Best Short Film as well as Best Actress in a short film at New York City International Film Festival, Best Student Short at California International, and was well received in Madrid and Ioanna’s hometown of Athens, Greece.
This year’s Venice Film Festival will feature short films from two New York Film Academy Filmmaking alumni. Along with a documentary and two animated shorts, the films will be presented at the NYFA Showcase, which will be introduced on September 1, 2016 by NYFA alumnus Giorgio Pasotti (“The Great Beauty,” “After Midnight,” “Salty Air”) at the brand-new Venice Production Bridge platform at the Spazio Incontri of Venice’s Excelsior Hotel.
One of the films, “The Life of Janka,” directed by NYFA alumnus Luis Henriquez Viloria, focuses on the story of two brothers from a very poor village in Haiti who are kidnapped by an organization of child traffickers.
“Because of its honest performances, beautiful cinematography, and tasteful direction, ‘The Life of Janka’ is not only very engaging, but provides a poignant glimpse into the world of Haitian youth after the devastating earthquake of 2010,” said NYFA Academic Chair, Arthur Helterbran.
After the massive earthquake in 2010, a lot of people went to Haiti to help, but another group of people went there to take advantage of the situation. This is what the filmmaker hopes to finally expose.
“This will be the first time this fact will be exposed through film,” says Henriquez Viloria. “It’s interesting how many people know about the earthquake, but do not know about the kidnappings.”
Henriquez Viloria is currently working on the feature length of “The Life Of Janka,” which he hopes will provide more details as to how everything was happening from other point of views.
Another very captivating film that will be screening in Venice is from NYFA Filmmaking alumnus Sean Miyakawa. His film, “Fumo,” set in the mid-1920s, is about a frustrated sound composer working as one of the first sound engineers in the history of cinema, and just so happens to be madly in love with the main actress of the production. On the day he decides to finally declare his love to her, he finds out about an affair going on between her and the director. The discovery drives him crazy.
“’Fumo’ is a visually and sonically arresting love story that is equally sweet, sincere, and sardonic,” says Helterbran. “I have not seen many student films that move me the way that Sean Miyakawa’s surreal romantic-romp ‘Fumo’ does.”