Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • NYFA Union Square Hosts PGA’s Meet the Networks Panel with ESPN

    ESPN Films

    Shirley Escott, John Dahl and Dan Silver

    This past Tuesday, the New York Film Academy proudly hosted the Producers Guild of America’s PGA East Documentary & Non-Fiction Committees “Meet the Networks” panel with ESPN Films. The panel, moderated by Chair of the PGA East Documentary & Non-Fiction Committee Shirley Escott, included Dan Silver, Senior Director of Development and John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer of ESPN Films.

    The two ESPN executives have been at the forefront of the award-winning 30 for 30 series on ESPN.

    pga east

    Silver is an Emmy Award-winning producer who manages the development of ESPN films and Exit 31’s short film series. He oversees the Peabody and Emmy winning series 30 for 30 Shorts, and the Nine for IX shorts series and is also now supervising the development and production of’s two original short form documentary series, Signals and The Collectors, as well as the recently launched Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints, and announced Versus (executive Produced by Eva Longoria), and Marvel and ESPN Films 1 of 1 – Genesis” and “1 of 1 – Origins.

    Dahl has overseen production on all documentaries produced by ESPN Films since its launch in 2008, including the Peabody and Sports Emmy award-winning 30 for 30 series. He has produced and supervised documentaries for over 15 years going back to ESPN’s Peabody-winning “SportsCentury” initiative. Prior to the creation of ESPN Films, Dahl created the concept and oversaw production for the Baltimore Colts/New York Giants 50th anniversary documentary, The Greatest Game Ever Played, which was nominated for a Sports Emmy. He oversaw production for ESPN Films on the Peabody-winning two-part/four hour documentary Black Magic and the Spike Lee-directed film Kobe Doin’ Work. From 2002 to 2005, Dahl was Executive Producer for ESPN Classic and the company’s 32-hour programming initiative ESPN25, responsible for overseeing production and personnel for both entities. That work garnered a total of eight Sports Emmy nominations (two winners).

    nyfa pga

    Speaking to a full house of producers and filmmakers alike at New York Film Academy’s Union Square theater, the main focus of the evening boiled down to the all important pitch. What stood out as the most prominent piece of advice was for filmmakers to be able to pitch their idea in one sentence. Having your idea delivered in the most concise and compelling manner is the most effective way to bring your show to life.

    Considering the overall success of the evening, we look forward to hosting similar PGA events in the near future!

  • Filmmaker Chris Paine Screens ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ at NYFA

    revenge of electric car

    In 2006, Chris Paine’s documentary Who Killed The Electric Car told the tale of the life and death of the EV1, the first mass-produced electric car that was recalled and destroyed by its maker, General Motors. The film had a very successful theatrical release and ignited much discussion about the future of electric cars.

    Just five years later, in 2011, Paine told New York Film Academy students, the tide had turned, and he felt compelled to return to the topic with his follow-up film, Revenge of the Electric Car. The sequel follows four entrepreneurs as they fight to bring electric cars back to the world market in the midst of a global recession.

    Paine discussed his creative process with the NYFA students and the difficulties of gaining access to the major automakers he profiled.

    March 3, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 336

  • NYFA’s Bob Eisenhardt Editor on Audience Award Winner at Sundance

    bob EisenhardtA documentary that received a lot of buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, winning the Audience Award, was Meru. The story includes filmmakers Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, who aim to tackle the steep ‘Shark’s Fin’ on Mount Meru in India. Along the journey, the friends face hope, sacrifice and obsession.

    As the film’s official editor, New York Film Academy Documentary Editing Instructor Bob Eisenhardt had the honor of piecing this journey together. Eisenhardt teaches a Thesis Editing Master Course two nights a week for the final six weeks of each One-Year class’ Thesis Edit.

    Eisenhardt is a three-time Emmy Award winner and Oscar nominee. With over 60 films to his credit, he has edited documentaries for Barbara Kopple, Maysles Films, Susan Froemke, Matt Tyrnauer, Marc Levin, David Grubin and Alex Gibney. Recent films include Wagner’s Dream, which received an Emmy nomination for editing, Valentino: The Last Emperor, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, Living Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders and Dancing in Jaffa. He is currently editing the HBO film Everything Is Copy on the life of Nora Ephron.

    Eisenhardt’s next Master Class will be at the New York Film Academy in New York City on March 16th to discuss Barbara Kopple’s Shut Up and Sing.

  • Spielberg’s U-2 Movie Casts U2 Daughter

    eve hewsonSt. James Place, a historical spy thriller, has quite the pedigree background behind it. Steven Spielberg will be directing a screenplay by Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers. Its cast includes Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, and frequent Spielberg collaborator Tom Hanks. Also included in the cast is Eve Hewson, 23, a rising star from Ireland who also happens to be the daughter of music legend Bono.

    Hewson studied acting at the New York Film Academy in 2005 and has since found roles in music videos, thrillers and romantic comedies. She currently co-stars with Clive Owen in the Cinemax medical drama The Knick.

    Spielberg’s hotly-anticipated film takes place in 1960 and stars Hanks as real-life lawyer James Donovan. Donovan was tasked with negotiating the release of a pilot shot down in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Filming commenced last Fall in Hewson’s current hometown—Brooklyn, New York. Ironically, the plane shot down in both real life and in the movie was a U-2 spy plane, U-2 inspiring the name of Hewson’s father’s legendary rock band.

    Dream of co-starring with Tom Hanks in a Steven Spielberg film one day? Check out New York Film Academy’s acting school program today!

    March 2, 2015 • Acting, Entertainment News, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1152

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad to Premiere ‘More Than Words’ at Cannes Short Film Corner

    more than wordsThey say write what you know. That’s precisely what former New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking student Gabe Chavez set out to do with his semi-autobiographical thesis film, More Than Words. Chavez suffers from a heart disorder called Aortic Stenosis, a genetic disorder that constricts his aortic valve. If left unchecked, the disorder could become life threatening. Initially, Chavez refused to take the heart disorder seriously — he wouldn’t even visit his doctor. Eventually, his girlfriend (now fiancée) Caitlin gave him an ultimatum: if you don’t want to take care of yourself, do it for me. A crucial moment not only in Chavez’s film, but in his own life. In addition to Caitlin, other characters in his film were inspired by his extended and immediate family.

    Chavez’s team consisted of a number of NYFA students, including Kyle Pavlin (co writer/AD), Tripp Townsend (producer), Regina Bang (EP), Javier Del Olmo (EP), Laura Elisa Perez (DP), Badr Farha (production design), Mich Castro (1st AC, b camera op), and Yiting Lyu (2nd AC).

    “This film simply could not have been made if it wasn’t for [producer] Tripp Townsend,” said Chavez. “He has been like my brother; he grew up with me in New Mexico, produced my film, and is about to graduate from the producing program this May.”

    Townsend and Chavez are business partners, having teamed up to form production company Frozen Frame Productions, LLC.

    “Also, my actors were fundamental in telling this story—especially my leads, Samm and Cody.”

    Chavez put Samm and Cody through 6 weeks of rehearsals before filming began. While working on set, the three of them formed a very close bond of collaboration and trust that still exists today.

    Praised by NYFA Los Angeles Producing Chair Tony Schwartz, Chavez’s thesis film will begin the festival circuit with its premiere at the Cannes Short Film Corner.

    more than words set

    Chavez originally decided to enroll in the MFA Filmmaking program because of its hands-on approach and access to industry-standard equipment. The program put Chavez in a position where he could concentrate solely on filmmaking and directing.

    “My directing teachers Nick Sivakumaran and Adam Nimoy along with my writing mentor Andy Guerdat really helped me with my thesis,” said Chavez. “While Nick didn’t advise me in my thesis year, it was really his teaching and constant inspiration of my films and efforts that led me to my thesis film with the tools necessary to get the most from the scenes. Adam’s advanced directing class encouraged me to experiment (especially in rehearsals), and gave me the vocabulary to talk these actors through such difficult and personal material. When it comes to Andy, he provided me with such great screenwriting advice and knowledge (coupled with my undergrad screenwriting teacher Matt McDuffie — writer of the recent Ed Harris/Annette Bening vehicle Face of Love), that lead me to the final script I wrote with my cowriter Kyle Pavlin. This story really couldn’t have come off the page without Kyle’s contribution. He really is the most excellent writer.”

    gabe chavez

    Chavez hopes his film will inspire people to examine their own relationships, realizing the blessings they have in life. Beyond that hope, he intends to use this short as a springboard toward the feature film version.

    In addition to showcasing More Than Words at festivals around around the country, Chavez has been working in New York City on several TV shows and movies, including Gotham, Madam Secretary, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Broad City, The Americans, Elementary, and the upcoming films Urge (with Pierce Brosnan) and Freeheld (with Academy Award Winner Julianne Moore and Inception/Juno star Ellen Page). He is also key gripping a low budget feature film that is being produced by NYFA graduates Regina Bang and Javier Del Olmo (the same team who executive produced his film).

    March 2, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 896

  • Create Content for Brands & Earn Cash!

    zooppa snack well

    The New York Film Academy has partnered with the growing online creative community, Zooppa. Zooppa is a global social network that develops user-generated advertising with a commitment toward giving talented people with original ideas the ability to work with leading brands. This is a tremendous opportunity for NYFA’s diverse student body to immediately impact the professional world of creative advertising.

    Thus far, NYFA members have contributed content for “Be Bold for Girls,” as well as Campbell’s and other brands.

    Now, Zooppa has announced the following opportunities for students, alumni and faculty to continuing creating content for major brands and earn money!

    • Mission: Create clever 30 second or 15 second videos that entertain female shoppers and entice them to try new the new Snackwell’s.
    • Tone: Clever and entertaining
    • Target: women 35 – 65 years of age who is health conscious and weight conscious, but still craves sweet-tasting snacks with fewer calories.
    • $15,000 in total awards that will go to the top 3 submissions
    • Deadline to submit is April 14, 2015
    • All students who submit to this project will be eligible to win from the $15,000 awards pool offered by SnackWell’s. In addition, NYFA students only will be eligible to win an additional $500 – guaranteed to go to the best submission from NYFA.
    • For more info click here
    • Mission: Create 30-45 second commercial style videos showing real life moments where Volo Vitamins Energy packets give you the boost you need
    • Tone: Informative and Inspirational OR Funny, Sharable, Entertaining
    • Target: Healthy, active, men and women (18-49), seeking a healthy alternative to coffee and energy drinks
    • $20,000 in total awards that will go to the top 8 submissions
    • Deadline to submit is May 5, 2015
    • Social sharing encouraged! Tag @VoloVitamins
    • For more info click here
    • Mission: Make short (30 second) video PSA’s calling people to action and activating them to join the SanDiego Zoo’s conservation efforts
    • Tone: Lighthearted, humorous
    • Target Audience: Women 40+ who are animal lovers and 20+ year olds who have grown up with conservation as a pressing issue
    • Winning videos may be used on a nationally broadcasted TV PSA
    • $25,000 in total awards that will go to the top 7 submissions
    • Deadline to submit is March 17, 2015
    • For more info click here 

    Please feel free to reach out to with any questions you may have.

    In order to be eligible for the special $500 NYFA award, students must submit high-quality content in-line with the creative brief.

    Best of luck with all of your projects!

    March 2, 2015 • Contests, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 585

  • Photography Guest Speaker Jen Davis: Body Image, Intimacy, Self Identity

    Jen Davis - Photography

    Photography Guest Speaker Jen Davis

    Jen Davis, a photographer renowned for her intimate self-portraits, was our guest lecturer last Friday, February 20th at the Battery Place campus.

    Photography students were taken through Davis’ 11 year journey of honest self-portraits dealing with issues regarding personal growth, self identity, body image, love, intimacy and self acceptance. The journey was not just personal, it also gave students great insight into her technical photographic development.

    “Mapping the trajectory of her career and showing her most recent work, she gave us a completely uninhibited view of her working methods and her approach to personal discovery through photography.  It was an inspiring afternoon in the presence of a provocative contemporary artist.” Paul Sunday, New York Film Academy’s Co-Chair Photography Department summed up the afternoon.

    During her early years at Columbia College Chicago, completing her BFA in Photography, she began experimenting with natural light. “Light became very seductive to me,” Davis explains. “The light guided the photography” and with her transition from a 4×5 to medium format, she felt this allowed her to learn “about how the frame works in a different way.”

    All of her of work developed from her interest in women, the body and how it “related to me.” She began studying her own body as her interest in flesh and skin became her main focus. Her first image with herself as the subject (or “object” as she describes it), was taken at the beach. As this specific image was projected on a white screen in front of a lecture room of students, she explains that she never expected to share this photo as it was done purely for herself.

    Once she began her MFA at Yale University, she began to explore men as her subjects, capturing “masculinity and vulnerability” while also “using photography to gain access” to forms of intimacy with her male subjects. As Davis presented her work to the students, it became clearer that she, in fact, used her photography to guide her though her personal growth. “[Photography] was a vehicle to experience that,” she said when referring to her introduction to love and intimacy.

    As the talk came close to an end, a Q&A session left the audience with these wise words: “Don’t worry about putting yourself against what has already been done, because everything has already been done.” Just don’t put walls and limitations on yourself. She recommends “putting tape over your digital SLR.” Stop judging your work and “just shoot, shoot, shoot!”

    February 27, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 423

  • Film Executive Ruth Vitale Discusses Creativity & Anti-Piracy

    Ruth Vitale

    Film Executive Ruth Vitale with NYFA Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman

    Noted film executive and anti-piracy advocate Ruth Vitale participated in a “Conversation with…” as part of the New York Film Academy Producing Department’s Industry Speaker series recently at NYFA’s Battery Campus.

    Moderated by Producing Department Co-Chair Neal Weisman, students from various programs listened as Ruth intimately discussed her career as a producer and distributor. From the early days of basic cable, working as an acquisitions executive at the Movie Channel, Ruth has gone on to witness dynamic changes in the creation, financing, and distribution of film content for over thirty years.

    Ruth Vitale

    Sharing her experiences as President of Vestron Pictures, Ruth walked students through the producing process that led to one of that company’s most successful films, Dirty Dancing. She discussed her tenure as President of Fine Line features, where she distributed a number of notable films including Academy Award winner Shine. As the founder and Co-President of Paramount Classics, Ruth was involved in such seminal films as Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Mad Hot Ballroom (frequently discussed in NYFA Documentary classes), and Hustle and Flow which garnered an Academy Award nomination for lead actor Terence Howard (currently starring in the television series Empire).

    Ruth shared insider details on the actual purchase of Hustle and Flow, which set the record for the largest sale ($9M) in the history of the Sundance Film Festival.

    As the current Executive Director of the organization CreativeFuture, Ruth has been on the forefront of battling film piracy. Students saw a dynamic video presentation describing the importance of protecting creativity in various mediums including film, television, music, new media, and fine art.

    In a spirited question and answer session, NYFA students offered valuable suggestions on how to fight this industry wide problem. We look forward to an ongoing discussion with Ruth and her CreativeFuture colleagues in the effort to conquer this important issue.

    We’d love to hear from you as well. How can we prevent this ongoing problem of piracy in our industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

    February 26, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1018

  • NYFA’s James Lecesne Gets Rave Review from NY Times

    james lecesne

    James Lecesne

    As was made quite clear in the Oscar Winning Best Picture Birdman, having the approval of the New York Times is one of the most crucial components of putting on a successful show. While turning the pages (okay, clicking a link) of a recent Times article, we came across a rave review, highlighting none other than one of our very own, New York Film Academy​’s Oscar-winning Documentary instructor James Lecesne.​

    The New York Times’​ respected and well known critic, Christopher Isherwood, identified Lecesne as one of “the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation,” in his review of James’ one-man show, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

    In his one-man show, Lecesne portrays various characters of a small Jersey shore town as they struggle to understand what happened to 14-year-old Leonard Pelkey. Adapted from his YA novel, Absolute Brightness, this solo show begins with the the discovery of Leonard’s disappearance, follows a criminal investigation led by detective Chuck DeSantis, and concludes with a trial that reveals the shocking truth.

    The multi-talented Lecesne has been admired for many of his artistic traits, as well as his work in philanthropy. To attest to his tremendous talent, the first film he ever wrote, Trevor, won the Oscar for best live action short! It’s truly an honor to have Mr. Lecesne as a member of the New York Film Academy.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is showing at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street in Manhattan, now until March 28.

  • NYFA Grad Marisol Tudela: The Fashionista Chica

    marisol tudelaSuccessful fashion, lifestyle and event journalist, as well as New York Film Academy alum, Marisol Tudela will be the guest speaker this Friday at the graduation ceremony of the February 4-week Broadcast Journalism students. A native of Lima, Peru, Marisol has created the online persona of The Fashionista Chica, and regularly covers red carpet events including New York Fashion Week and the Miss America pageant for the PressroomVIP website.

    The Fashionista Chica series incorporates celebrity styles, fashion education, and real-world use, by spotting upcoming trends, finding why they intrigue the present culture, and showing viewers how to make those trends part of their lifestyle.

    Following her graduation from NYFA in 2013, Marisol was the Associate Producer of the Emmy Award winning CUNY-TV magazine series Nueva York.

    The graduation ceremony takes place this Friday, February 27, at 12:30pm at the NYFA Battery Park campus.

    February 25, 2015 • Broadcast Journalism, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 845