Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • NYFA Australia Acting Chair and Alumnus Appear in ‘San Andreas’

    san andreas premiere

    One-Year Acting Grad, Nick Allen-Ducat and NYFA Australia, Gold Coast Chair of Acting, Brad McMurray                                                              picture by David Clark; Gold Coast Bulletin

    It’s no coincidence that the New York Film Academy Australia’s Gold Coast campus is situated on the backlot of Village Roadshow Studios adjacent to Warner Bros Movie World in Queensland, Australia.

    Similar to our Los Angeles campus, NYFA Gold Coast students have access to the movie studios, giving them a truly hands-on, real-world experience.

    Given the unparalleled access to the filmmaking community in Queensland, it came as no surprise to find two of our very own in front of the camera for the upcoming blockbuster film San Andreas, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Paul Giamatti. NYFA Australia, Gold Coast Chair of Acting, Brad McMurray and One-Year Acting Grad, Nick Allen-Ducat had roles in the film, and walked the red carpet at the Queensland premiere, which took place at the Roxy Theatre.


    pic by David Clark; Gold Coast Bulletin

    “Being on the backlot leaves it wide open to massive possibilities as many of our current and former students had on set experience as extras on San Andreas and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken,” said McMurray. “Having international blockbusters shooting on NYFA’s doorstep creates an industry pulse that is felt by all of the students at NYFA. This creates a hunger that will drive them into this vibrant exciting industry. In securing a role on something as big as San Andreas, it enables me to get in the room face to face with the students and share this valuable experience with them. The class experience then becomes a session of artistic osmosis where the students beliefs and expectations are ramped up ready for the industry.”

    In addition to Brad and Nick’s roles in the film, NYFA Australia filmmaking students were able to intern on the production of the film.

    Having filmed on the Coast, The Rock, who was in attendance at the premiere, had this to say about his experience: “I had the best time — amazing time — shooting the film on the Gold Coast.”

    Look for Brad, Nick, and The Rock in San Andreas, which opens in theaters today!

  • Documentary Students Produce Promo for Burbank Arts for All


    New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles Documentary Department was on display Thursday, May 21st, when their Community Film Project concluded with a presentation at the NYFA theatre, celebrating the MFA Jan ’14 class production of a promotional film for the Burbank Arts for All Foundation (BAFA). The event highlighted the work of writer-director Michelle Flores, sound recordist and mixer Raed Salagoor, and DP-cameraperson Alejandro Talens, who, along with June Zhou, producer, and Omar Monge, editor, created a 3 and ½ minute promo for BAFA as their client.

    The Community Film Project was designed to give students real-life experience with a non-profit organization by having them pitch an idea, receive a client’s feedback, and then create a film according to the client’s needs. The class used their documentary film training to create a piece both informational and emotional, as the goal was to educate the public on BAFA’s multiple role in raising awareness and funds for arts programming in Burbank’s public schools.

    This very ambitious project involved shooting ten interviews and activities in several public schools over 10 days. “There were several script changes and film revisions along the way, which is typical in a client relationship,” states instructor Denise Hamilton, who supervised the project. The results — a pleased Executive Director of BAFA, Trena Pitchford, who will be using the promo in an upcoming fundraising gala.

    May 27, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 552

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Produces Feature ‘El Freeman’

    Since graduating from his MFA in Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles in 2012, Antonio Chavez Trejo has established himself as the Director of Production and Creative Services for a 360 production and social media marketing company based in LA, called Supersonix Media Inc. Having come from a film school background and being well versed in the many facets of filmmaking, Antonio served his hand as producer, co-director and camera-op on his feature film entitled, El Freeman. Antonio and his team are now handling distribution, marketing, and crowd funding.

    el freeman

    The film is about El, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is trying to raise money to hire a lawyer to get his papers in order. He ends up meeting the wrong set of people, and works at a moving company with a few low life criminals who steal from the owners of the homes. During one of his jobs, El meets a man who will become his mentor and help him correct his path. In addition to his eventual brotherhood with his fellow criminals, there’s also a love story that pushes the interior motives of El and his connection with his values and his family.

    “Working on El Freeman taught me something very important,” said Trejo. “Im up for the challenge, and I have acquired the leadership I need to run any film I want to make.”

    el freemanTrejo had been assembling the team for about two years, which includes former classmates of his, director Yelhas Rakhimbekov, director of photography Erik Kjonaas, and 1st AD Carolina Sandoval. This tight group of filmmakers worked arduous schedules to complete production of the film.

    “We had days when we had to shoot 6, 7, 8 or 9 pages a day,” recalls Trejo. “With their eyes and ears and my directing keeping the vision of Yelhas, we shot something that looks as beautiful as the script is.”

    Trejo and his team finished principal photography, and are currently in post-production.

    Aside from this project, Trejo has been showcasing a few of his short films and has a feature script which he hopes will see a green light soon.


    May 26, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 944

  • NYFA Grad Alfonso Ribeiro From ‘Fresh Prince’ to Host AFV


    photo courtesy of ABC

    Who can forget the lovable Carlton from the popular 90’s television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? What most of you may not know is actor Alfonso Ribeiro took a filmmaking workshop at the New York Film Academy in 1999 to provide him with additional insight into the creative process that surrounds him on set.

    Since coming off the hit show, Ribeiro has acted and appeared in a number of television series, including his most recent stint on Dancing with the Stars. Now, Ribeiro will replace Tom Bergeron as the host of the long running show, America’s Funniest Home Videos. Like the series showrunners, we think Ribeiro will be a terrific fit.

    “There’s got to be a sincerity and a connection with the audience,” executive producer Vin Di Bona told Variety. “You’ve got to be someone who cares about kids. That connection you make with the audience is of the utmost importance to me. That’s something you just don’t get by reading copy. In our auditions, it just became very, very apparent that Alfonso is a genuinely nice man.”

    Ranked as one of primetime TV’s most family-friendly shows, AFV wrapped its 25th anniversary season this past Sunday.


    May 20, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 902

  • ‘Whatever You Want’ Wins Best Comedy at LA Independent Film Festival

    whatever you want

    Inspired in large part by Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit, New York Film Academy One-Year Filmmaking alumnus Leonardo Bentes’ film, Whatever You Want, which recently won Best Comedy / Dramedy at April’s Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards, combines elements of film noir with slapstick comedy. Bentes even admits his protagonist has influences from the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Hong-Kong Phooey. Indeed, all the makings of a silly comedy.

    Whatever You Want, which was Bentes’ NYFA thesis film, focuses on Benjamin Sherman, a clumsy private investigator who begins to work on a case for a beautiful young woman — the femme fatale. As usual, Benjamin doesn’t get things done right.

    leo bentes

    Director Leo Bentes on set of “Whatever You Want”; photo by Lucia Luben

    “Except for some 3D animation training, I hadn’t had any filmmaking background by the time I started my first class at NYFA,” recalled Bentes. “So, basically everything you see in Whatever You Want — not only directing but also writing, producing, editing — came from what I learned in class, workshops and previous projects, classmates collaboration, and some self-study.”

    Bentes feels strongly that his thesis film will serve as his business card into the professional world of directing. While he has began outlining a TV pilot for Whatever You Want, he hopes his next project will be a feature comedy with some musical influence.

    Whatever You Want (trailer) from leo bentes on Vimeo.

    May 20, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 852

  • NYFA Representing at Cannes Short Film Corner

    cannes 2015This year, we have a number of filmmakers representing the New York Film Academy at the Cannes Film Festival. These students and alumni have the incredible opportunity of networking and screening their short films at the Cannes Short Film Corner, which offers industry meets, workshops and conferences that deal with strategic issues.

    Our filmmakers benefit from all the advantages of being a Festival de Cannes accredited attendee, from being able to access the Marché du Film exhibitors or those in the Village International. With the festival officially underway, we’ve been hearing from a number of NYFA filmmakers!

    Below is a list of some of these students and their films. We want to wish them all the best of luck in showcasing their films at Cannes!

    francesco mazza

    Francesco Mazza at Cannes

    Francesco Mazza, Frankie

    Richard Selvi, Datin’ Marvin

    Diego Londono, Medley

    Denis Kulikov, Nadezhda

    Ilya Rozhkov, Sabre Dance

    Aditya Patwardhan, Red House by the Crossroads

    Luis Christian Dilorenzi, Sináptica

    Shantal Freedman, Ticketed

    Raquel Bordin, Tip Toe

    Ricardo Lopez-Franco, Binary Stars

    Gabe Chavez, More than Words

    Victor Olea, The Miracle Archives


  • NYFA Grad Produces ‘5boys’ with All-Female Cast


    The New York Film Academy is proud to announce the New York City premiere of 5boys, an award-winning play by the Slovenian playwright Simona Semenič. Produced by NYFA Acting alumna Sandra Herlog, directed by NYFA Instructor Rico Rosetti and featuring an all-female, all-Swedish cast of former NYFA students!

    The female cast portrays the young male characters of Blaž, Vid, Krištof, Jurij and Denis, who initially meet up to play in an empty lot. The innocent games they create — superheroes, house, cowboys & Indians — slowly, and inadvertently, expose a deep-rooted legacy to the violence, misogyny, bigotry and homophobia in our modern world. Blending humor, physical action and an unflinching honesty, 5boys invites its audience to view the world as seen through the eyes of 10-11 year old boys.

    5boys cast

    Photos by Luis Alarcon – Edit by Ellinor Denkert – Poster by Ellinor Denkert and Sandra Herlog – Graphic Design by Linnea Larsdotter

    “Last summer while visiting a friend in Norway I came upon 5boys,” recalls Herlog. “Sometimes there’s those special pieces of art that linger, they effect you and they won’t let go, and that’s what 5boys did to me. It’s a brilliant and raw piece—daring, violent, comedic, honest—and it’s written for an all female cast, which is not exactly the most common thing. Realizing it’s never been up here in NYC there was no doubt about it, I had to make it happen. So I got in touch with the author, got the rights, and started the journey of putting things together.”

    While the performance is being held for 7 days, Herlog hopes for a second run and perhaps even a tour.

    Herlog appreciates her time at NYFA, and admits it was crucial in terms of producing this play. “The networking and the connections I made during my time as a student is what made 5boys become a reality. Rico Rosetti (director, mentor and the one helping me out with exactly everything) was my former teacher. The cast are alumni and current students. The photographer is a TA. The whole crew and everyone building sets is a former student or TA. Yes, 95% of the whole 5boys production is generated through NYFA, and all my questions and concerns have been solved through the contacts I’ve made there. I’m extremely grateful to have found these incredible people.”

    5boys runs May 12-17th at the Access Theater in New York City. Tickets are free of charge and available at

    May 13, 2015 • Acting, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 648

  • Screenwriting Student’s ‘May is for Mayhem’ Finalist at LA Comedy Festival

    andrew messersmithGiven the month, it seems appropriate to announce that screenwriting student Andrew Messersmith’s screenplay May is for Mayhem was selected as a finalist in this year’s LA Comedy Fest. Andrew has been developing the screenplay under the tutelage of NYFA instructors as well as student feedback. One of his teachers, Gil McDonald had this to say about Andrew and his development of May is for Mayhem.

    For a first time feature writer combining elements of Neo Nazis, Martians, Yeti’s, and 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger inspired characters and one-liners, I feared he would become overwhelmed. But Andrew was fearless and used the challenge to fuel his creativity.

    There was a no-holds-barred approach to the meticulous execution of his script. I couldn’t be more proud of the way it turned out. It is no wonder to me that his work is garnering attention from festivals. I believe this is the start to something very special for Andrew.

    I’m always inspired to see students reach their full potential. When I see real potential in students, I often seek out three positive traits: Passion, Persistence, and Punctuality. Andrew has them all. The best thing I could say about him is that he’s a consummate professional, and I wish him the very best of luck with his burgeoning career. ~ Gil McDonald

    The feeling of was mutual for Andrew. He credits his finished product on the environment and advice from the faculty and students at the New York Film Academy. Here is what Andrew had to say about his experience in NYFA’s Screenwriting Program.


    May is for Mayhem. It all started as a joke; which is kind of fitting given the nature of my first feature script. I had to write a full treatment as a final project for my Feature Screenplay class.  Months of developing different ideas had gone by, but none of them were anywhere near being close to what I wanted. I thought, “Hell with it. If I’m going to write something it might as well be me being myself on the page.” So, three hours before it was due I sat down and knocked out 8 pages of pure me. When I presented it in class everyone laughed. Well, everyone except for the instructor. That’s how I knew it was something worth developing. I love making people angry with humor — I get a twisted kick out of it.

    The next year I had Feature Screenplay II and my new instructor, Andrew Shearer, was a big supporter of May is for Mayhem. I have always loved action movies and today they…well they could be better. There are a few exceptions, of course. But let’s be honest, the standards nowadays are pretty low. This lack of great action films is what partially inspired me to become a filmmaker. I want to make films about great characters that get wrapped up in all this chaos. You know, a lot like how life likes to randomly dump a colossal mountain of hate on you at the worst possible moment.  But the biggest thing missing in action films today are strong characters. That’s what I really focused on with this script: character. Mr. Mayhem isn’t just some invincible commando who gets the chick in the end. He’s a major screw up who must overcome his massive failure before getting the chick in the end. And there are aliens. Lots of aliens.

    Anyways…writing action is tough because it’s really easy to get wrapped up in all the action and deviate from the characters and their personal conflicts. Andrew Shearer really helped me keep my focus on the character. I should also note that, since this is also a comedy, I discovered that it’s really difficult to keep the comedy tied in with the characters and the plot; as opposed to just making random jokes that are funny but ultimately have nothing to do with the story.  My fellow classmates were a great help when it came to testing and sculpting the style of humor. So a big shout out to Gabi Zogall, Chris Dias, Ryan Lopez, Luca Brinciotti, Art Vargas, and Massiel Corderita.

    Feature Screenplay II ends right when you finish the first half of the script. Feature Screenplay III is meant to help you finish it. The only thing is, Screenplay III is an elective. I encourage anyone who is writing a feature screenplay to take this class like I did. Not just because it forces you to keep writing, but also because it’s a great opportunity to continue getting some feedback and guidance from a good instructor and experienced screenwriter. I had Gil McDonald for Feature Screenplay III, and I couldn’t be more thankful for his help. In addition to finishing my script, I got a lot of great tips on how to stay focused. Gil is all about having a system and being organized. “Look at your treatment and your beat-sheet. You made them for a reason.” That’s what he used to say and he couldn’t be more right. You think you have it all in your head but really you do need to have all of your notes next to you when you write. Gil helped me stay organized and his support for my script really pushed me to finish it.

    Back in Screenplay II, Andrew Shearer had strongly encouraged me to send a final draft to the LA Comedy Festival. They have a screenwriting competition that gets screenplays a lot of attention.  The fact that he encouraged me to do this gave me a lot of confidence in my script. Soon enough, I sent it off when it was done. A few months had gone by and I was getting a lot of rejection letters from other festivals I had submitted one of my films to. I was beginning to think that my script would probably suffer the same fate. One late night I was staring at my white board. It had a list of all the festivals I had entered and every name had a big “X” and the word “DECLINED” written in red next to it. It was not a great night. Right before going to bed I decided to give my gmail one last quick look and there it was: an email from the LA Comedy Festival. I thought, “alright let’s get this over with.” But the first thing I saw was “Congratulations.” I had a little freak out and couldn’t believe it. I read that email probably ten times before I accepted it. My script, May is for Mayhem, was a finalist at the LA Comedy Festival screenwriting competition! The first thing I did was email Andrew and Gil to share the good news.

    I didn’t really get a chance to attend the festival. I was booked on some shoots practically everyday but I manage to go to the kick-off party and keep the awards night open. To be honest, I’m not a party guy. But I needed to grab my All-Access Passes and they were serving free drinks. I got a few sips before I managed to drop my hard lemonade at the event and break the bottle all over the floor, effectively embarrassing myself in front of many industry professionals. That was around the time I grabbed my complimentary All-Access Passes and snuck out before someone asked me my name. The awards night was happening at the same time as the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. I really wanted to watch the fight but I also didn’t want to miss out on possibly winning and not being there. Sadly, my fate that night was much like Manny Pacquio’s: I didn’t win. But it was announced at the festival that normally there were three screenplay finalists, this season there were EIGHT. Apparently there was also much debate over who should’ve won. Sufficed to say I was up against some pretty tough competition. Nonetheless, it was an honor to be selected as a finalist.  Especially since May is for Mayhem was the first feature screenplay I have ever written, and I submitted the first draft.

    Though I did not win I am very grateful for how far I came with this screenplay. I am also very thankful for Andrew Shearer, Gil McDonald and my fellow classmates for all their help and support.  This script wouldn’t be what it is without those guys. Right now I’m still reworking Mayhem and exploring the option of getting it made into a graphic novel. With any luck, it might build a fan base from that and hopefully from there it might one day get picked up and made into a movie. That would be incredible! I’d like to encourage anyone who is aspiring to become a screenwriter or filmmaker to keep your ideas alive; no matter how long it takes! If you’re passionate about an idea, then don’t stop building it. In the end, nothing else will make you happier and being a regretful, sad person sucks. I accomplished a lot with this script in a short amount of time and I’d like to keep that going.  After all, where would the world be without.. MAYHEM?!

    May 12, 2015 • Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 868

  • Why Motion Capture is an Essential Part of Animation VFX

    The New York Film Academy Animation Department caught up with two former 3D Animation students, Chad Waldschmidt and Scott Cullen. Waldschmidt is a 3D animator living and working in New York City. Over the last eight years, he’s worked on commercials, cinematics, video games, short films, concepts, and online advertisements. His game credits include Just Cause 3, NBA Live ’14, Ben10: Omniverse, Skylanders: Giants, Dance Central, Rock Band: Green Day, Rock Band: The Beatles, and Rock Band 2Scott Cullen currently works as a professional Previs and Layout Artist in Los Angeles. He’s worked with well known companies like NBC Universal, DisneyToon Studios, Imaginary Forces, and more. He’s also worked on numerous films such as Life of Pi, R.I.P.D., and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    We asked the two alumni one simple question: Do you think having motion capture in the NYFA Animation program is essential, and has it helped you in your professional career as an animator?


    Chad: I’ve been working with motion capture since practically the first day I started working in the industry. I’m sitting at work using it right now. If you have your animation basics down, you should be able to pickup motion capture relatively quickly. It’s a different way of working for sure though. And most animators I know usually have a love or hate relationship with it. But the fact is, it’s been an invaluable thing for me to know, personally. I’ve been doing this for a long enough time now, and have been involved with enough projects and studios, to safely say that having a strong knowledge in motion capture is a huge benefit for any animator to have. It’s so widely used now—from films to previs to video games—that I of course think it’s a great thing for students to have a decent understanding of what it is and how to work with it.

    And it’s not going away anytime soon. As the technology gets cheaper and better, it’s just going to keep becoming more and more common. It’s an important medium for animators, and it’s used all over the place. It opens a lot more doors for you. And I think these days you’re going to need as much of an advantage as you can get, coming out of school, as more and more people get into this industry.

    NYFA throws everything at you in a short amount of time, so you can see how the whole 3D pipeline works. Motion capture is very much a part of today’s 3D pipeline, and anyone studying animation should be at least familiar with it.

    Here’s a quick trailer of the game I’ve been working on for a little while now, it’s been a pretty fun project!

    Scott: I’d say it’s definitely beneficial to have in the program. The virtual camera setup is starting to get used more widely now. Disney’s upcoming Jungle Book remake was all done with mocap and a virtual camera setup and there were tons of Motion Builder positions that they were scrambling to fill. Like Chad said, it’s a good skill to have and adds a lot of versatility which is important nowadays especially when coming right out of school and trying to land that first gig.

    May 11, 2015 • 3D Animation, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 907

  • From Doctor in Saudi Arabia to Acting Student in Los Angeles

    Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 4.57.29 PM

    Often creative individuals are afraid to take the necessary steps toward becoming a working artist, especially those who have found a comfortable life in another professional industry. One of our newest students put fear aside and decided to pursue his passion for acting. As a doctor in Saudi Arabia, Abdulhakeem Jomah still felt that something was missing in his life. After learning about a friend who had taken up filmmaking at New York Film Academy and another in the producing program, Jomah became more and more interested in our hands-on programs. Ultimately, his decision was to enroll into NYFA’s MFA Acting for Film Program in Los Angeles — stark contrast from being a doctor. We decided to have a brief chat with the new student, as perhaps his story could pave ways for others looking to break into a creative pursuit.

    What ultimately made you decide to go from being a doctor to pursuing acting at the New York Film Academy?

    I’ve always been into acting as more of a hobby — coming from a militarily academic family very much eliminates an academic pursuit of the arts right off the bat.

    I suppose my tipping point was when a group of amateur actors, led by an ambitious director, took a pretty daring chance (considering the highly traditional playing field) in staging an all English, localized adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. In which I would play the lead, McMurphy.

    It was a hectic eight months of rehearsal at one of the local college auditoriums where we were meant to stage it. And not three weeks before opening night we were shut down by the government.

    We were in shambles for a good while, but a private benefactor took up our cause. He gave us his estate to use for our play.

    And for one night, we did two shows, to two explosive standing ovations. The energy was electric. The aftermath very positive, and the pleads for more thrummed through the following year.

    Seeing that energy, that positivity, the fruits of our near nine month struggle come to fruition, we weren’t paid, we did it because we loved it and it was ALL worth it, and I’d do it again, a million times over.

    That, is what made me realize that this is what I needed to do.

    Have you acted in anything prior to the play: professional or otherwise?

    Aside from the play I mentioned earlier, nothing professional.

    Abdullah Kurashi, the aforementioned production student, and I have done a lot of shorts together back in Saudi. Ranging from Joker impersonation videos for local competitions, to completely random, often psychotic shorts. Only because we loved doing it.

    Is there an actor who inspires you?

    I can mention oldies all day, but there are actors that have a deep, personal methodology that I respect and one day hope to attain that discipline.

    Christian Bale, is at the top of that list. His methodology is absurdly dedicated and there’s nothing I didn’t love him in.

    Jake Gyllenhaal was the star of the first movie I ever called my favorite (Donnie Darko), and has ridiculously come into his own recently with Nightcrawler and Prisoners.

    But most recently, Oscar Isaac has really won me ove with Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ex Machina — he’s just a cool guy.

    What do you hope to achieve with your training at NYFA?

    I’ve no illusions of living the American dream and making millions. I have a genuine, embedded love for the craft. If it were about the money, doctors make tons of it. I’d stick with that and call it a day.

    There are artists in the Middle East that CAN’T go public with their art out of fear or scrutiny, it’s a taboo. And I want to change that. We can only perform after jumping through a million and one hoops, and even then with restriction.

    If nothing else, I’m hoping this move will inspire my fellow artists in the trenches and foxholes to come out and show the world what we have, and perhaps in doing that, shed light and awareness on all other issues that, if addressed and abolished, could better our home.

    And I’d love to say I was at the vanguard of that movement.

    May 7, 2015 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1516