Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • MFA Acting Alumna Featured in Video with “The Rock”

    ionna meliCan 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.

    September 1, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1686

  • Filmmaking Grads to Screen at Venice Film Festival

    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.

    life of janka

    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.”

    August 31, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2864

  • NYFA Takes Over Brazilian Film Festival in the US

    Five out of nine films selected for the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival this year are either from NYFA students or from recent grads.

    After the success of the Olympic Games in Rio, a new competition for Brazilian filmmakers is about to begin. It’s the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival (LABRFF), in which the New York Film Academy (NYFA) is already leading the pack. The official selections of the festival were announced earlier this month, and in the category that rewards short films made by Brazilians in the US, five out of nine films selected are either from NYFA students or from recent grads.

    Winners will be announced on September 20th, but for now we present the selected NYFA filmmakers and their films, which will be screened to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles from the 16th.

    the dress

    on set of “The Dress”

    Publicist Raphael Bittencourt competes with “The Dress,” which is his first year’s project for the NYFA MFA in Filmmaking in Los Angeles. The outfit in question serves as a pivot to introduce family issues between the father and his daughters.

    Despite having solid experience in cinematography and advertising in Brazil, Bittencourt came to study at NYFA to network with high caliber professionals and discover technical differences between shooting in his country and in the US. “No school can compete with NYFA in terms of equipment usage,” said Bittencourt. “In our second class, we headed out with a camera in hand, learning by practicing. In Brazil, colleges end up developing film critics, because everything is more theoretical.”

    under water

    “Under Water”

    Family drama also inspires “Under Water: Dive Deep” by MFA in Filmmaking student Lucas Paz. His film portrays the redemption journey of a mother when she returns to the beach where she lost her son in the sea. There, she meets fantastical characters that share unusual experiences, shedding light into her lament.

    For Paz, the face-to-face contact with movie idols, visiting NYFA as guest speakers, is one of the greatest school highlights. He also points out the possibility of students filming their own projects on film (and not only in video) as another big advantage.

    Paz produced another film selected by the festival as well: “Match,” starring Brazilian actor Domingos Antonio (“Blindness,” by Fernando Meirelles) and Puerto Rican actress Laura Alemán (Crackle’s series “Cleaners“). The film deals with the apathy and emptiness of the virtual relationships through smart phone dating apps.

    food for thoughts

    “Food for Thoughts”

    Director Luisa Novo is also a MFA in Filmmaking student at the Los Angeles campus. Her short “Food for Thoughts” was made after she completed the One-Year Filmmaking Conservatory at the school. “I wanted to shoot a film in between my programs and I proposed the idea to my former classmate Jordan Scott, who joined the project as Director of Photography,” she recalls.
    The starting point of “Food for Thoughts” is a relationship breakup with a chef, which leads Hope — played by American actress Brittany Falardeau, who attended a 4-Week Acting Workshop at NYFA — to recall her past relationships and come to a realization that will lead to a major life change.
    red souls

    “Red Souls”

    Brazilian actresses Paula Soveral and Valeria Guimarães also shot their film after graduation. Following the completion of their One-Year Acting Conservatory, in October 2014, they decided to develop a project where they could showcase their talent in English and Portuguese. “We wanted to overcome the accent barrier, showing our full potential,” says Soveral. Thus arose the short “Red Souls,” selected for LABRFF this year. The film shows the drama experienced by women recruited in Brazil under false promises of high financial gains that end up in the US as sex slaves.
    To produce their short film, Soveral and Guimaraes had the support of the Industry Lab, the NYFA department that works as a production company, intermediating real client demands for audiovisual products, which are entirely delivered by students and recent graduates.

    Soveral and Guimarães wrote the screenplay and produced it, also shining on the screen. To direct, they invited another NYFA grad, Indian Aditya Patwardhan, with whom Soveral had worked with previously. “This interaction with different cultures is one of the best things about NYFA,” says the director, who got his MA in Film & Media in 2014. Patwardhan enjoyed working with Brazilians so much that this year he directed “When Red is White,” starring well-known Brazilian actress Thaila Ayala and Al Danuzio, who is currently enrolled in NYFA’s BFA in Acting.

    August 30, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3633

  • Two Animated NYFA Shorts to Screen at Venice Film Festival

    In addition to the two live action shorts and a documentary short, the New York Film Academy will be screening two animated short films at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

    Both films were created in NYFA’s 3D Animation program as collaborative projects.

    the right way

    still from “The Right Way”

    One of the films, “The Right Way,” was created by Elena Zobak Alekperov and Flavia Groba Bandeira. The short story is about a mom trying to do the right thing raising her child, but sometimes things are not what they seem to be.

    “The inspiration behind this video was taken from my life,” says Zobak. “I wanted to share my experience of being a parent and trying to do the right thing with everyday life choices. And since sometimes we’re a little bit hypocritical with all this ‘right approach,’ this funny scenario just came to mind.”

    Flavia was responsible for environment design as well as the overall look.

    “I tried to fit the environment to the characters personality or, in the case of the girl, her imposed personality by the mother,” said Groba.

    “It sounds trite to ‘write what you know,’ but by doing so, this team was able to tap into the emotions—humor, frustration, love, contradiction—that make this mother-daughter relationship so relatable, and so funny,” said NYFA 3D Animation & Game Design Chair, Phoebe Elefante. “The high level of technical expertise exhibited in the production is seamless, so the audience can be completely immersed in the storytelling. That’s the kind of mastery to which we encourage all students to aspire.”

    the perfumist

    still from “The Perfumist”

    The other animated film that will screen at the NYFA Showcase in Venice is “The Perfumist,” which was a collaborative effort amongst several animation students — Yukari Akaba, Shannon Lee, Daniela Lobo Dias, and Sandra Rivero Ortiz.

    “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.

    “I love this short film for many reasons,” said Elefante. “Its exquisite beauty, its dark humor, its depth. But I am most proud of this short because it is creative collaboration at its best. Each woman worked to showcase the others’ talent, and together they were able to produce something exceptional — even beyond what each could have done by herself. That embodies the spirit of ambition and cooperation I hope to see in every student.”

    The animated shorts will be introduced on September 1st 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.

    August 30, 2016 • 3D Animation, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2018

  • NYFA Alumna’s “Alive and Kicking” Documentary to Screen at Venice Film Festival


    Lara-Ann de Wet

    One of the more successful films to come out of the New York Film Academy in recent years is Lara-Ann de Wet’s documentary short, “Alive and Kicking.” Her film has screened at numerous film festivals, including SXSW, Brooklyn Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, and Docs NYC, where her film won Jury Prize for “Spirited Storytelling.” Next up, de Wet will be taking her film to the 73rd Annual Venice Film Festival, where it will screen with four other NYFA short films.

    “Alive & Kicking” is a triumphant story about elderly African women who have taken their health and happiness into their own hands by taking up the game of soccer. It is a story that celebrates the fact that even against the harsh and desolate realities of their lives, living in extreme poverty and crime, and surrounded by death and disease, these African grandmothers are able to create a joyful space whereby they can celebrate being alive and physically able. Not only that, but through the love and guidance of their coach Jack, and Founder Mama Beka, these grannies run and kick their way down the soccer field more impressively than most young people in their community.

    “More often than not we are often only given the unfavorable social and economic statistics of what life is like in rural Africa or South Africa without any documented account of the culture and vibrancy often found within the rural communities,” said de Wet. “Being South African, there are so many wonderful stories that have yet to be told and need to be brought to the world stage.”

    De Wet says her film also celebrates the African women as being a pillar of strength in their society as well as the importance role exercise and community can play as a means to deal with physical or mental illness.

    Alive & Kicking Trailer from Lara-Ann de Wet on Vimeo.
    “My NYFA Doc experience was invaluable in terms of equipping me with the skills and insight I needed to direct this film,” said de Wet. “Prior to my one year conservatory course in documentary filmmaking I had never in fact made a film before, as I had been working in a management role at a brand consultancy. The course not only taught me the technicalities of shooting, editing, producing and directing, but more importantly the elements and critical thinking behind what makes a good story; and how to convey that to an audience. Doing the one year documentary course at NYFA may have been the most worthwhile investment I have ever made and, considering this film was my thesis film, I attribute nearly all I have learned to my training at the New York Film Academy.”

    De Wet continues to work as a freelance editor and producer on other documentaries. She is also in the process of applying for funding to make a second film about surf therapy in South Africa.

    “My goal is to continue to direct and tell stories that shine a light on African Culture,” she says.

    August 29, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1668

  • NYFA Grads Team Up for Thriller “Ryde”

    rydeIf you rely on ride share systems like Uber and Lyft, you may be reconsidering after watching “Ryde,” written, directed and produced by New York Film Academy alumnus, Brian Visciglia, and co-written and edited by NYFA alumnus, Dustin Frost.

    The thriller/horror film is about a cereal killer that uses ride share systems to lure victims in and kill them.

    “The story serves as an awareness for all of us using these ride share apps and, even for the drivers, to be more conscious and vigilant with the service,” said Visciglia. “Pay attention to the correct driver, vehicle, and even clients. It’s a great system and very useful, but as always all good can be misused and/or abused.”

    The idea for the film came about after Visciglia noticed a couple of intoxicated young girls calling for a cab — he wondered about their safety. A few weeks later, his friend and fellow NYFA alumnus Olavo Jr. DaSilva asked him to write a thriller for a short. Visciglia decided to update “Taxi” to a more popular and relevant transportation method — ride sharing.

    The film was shot with the ARRI mini Alexa in and around Los Angeles, including Hollywood Blvd where the crew had to prepare and shoot a car crash.

    “I learned a lot from my two years at NYFA,” said Visciglia. “I used that knowledge to write, organize, pre-produce, and execute everything leading up to this feature.”

    As for some advice from the first time feature filmmaker, Viscigilia says, “Practice, practice, practice. Do, do! do! Don’t give up hope. Do everything with passion. Nobody wants it as much as you, so you have to keep the energy and morale going. Read. Research. Pay attention in class. Also, this is ‘art’ as well as business, stay true to your art and stay within your budget.”

    August 26, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1435

  • NYFA Producing Grad’s “Gods Acre” to Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival

    Considered one of the most ideal festivals to premiere a film, the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) has launched the careers of many up and coming filmmakers. We have high hopes for New York Film Academy Producing alumnus Eric Janvier, who produced “Gods Acre,” which will have its world premiere at this year’s TIFF.

    gods acre on set

    Gods Acre,” which is Kelton Stepanowich’s directing debut, is about an older aboriginal man, Frank, struggling to adapt to a constantly changing world. Isolated in the wilderness, his roots are firmly planted in the customs passed on to him like his ancestors before. The everyday problems of the outside world creep closer to his doorstep. As water begins swallowing up the land his cabin stands on, Frank must grapple with the decision of abandoning his home or adapt to an impossible situation.

    “I was able to use the skills I learned at NYFA after graduating,” said Janvier. “I want to thank the staff at NYFA for all the great things they’ve taught me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the school.”

    Since Janvier graduated from the producing program in 2008, he has started Broken Tree Productions and has worked for such musicians as Abandon All Hope, Hit or Miss, and Shantelle Davidson, to name a few.

    Janvier has recently written, directed, produced, and edited his first feature film, which is scheduled to be released in the near future.

    August 25, 2016 • Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2567

  • Summer Camp Grad Wins Award of Merit at IndieFest Awards

    New York Film Academy High School Summer Camp graduate Sara Eustáquio was a recent recipient of the Award of Merit at the IndieFest Awards Film Awards in Los Angeles for her debut narrative fiction short film “4242.”

    sara e

    The young Portuguese filmmaker had already been awarded with the Award of Merit Special Mention at the Best Shorts Competition, also in LA, and the Junior Winner Special Jury Prize at the Near Nazareth Film Festival, in Israel.

    Inspired by true events, “4242” is about a teenager who leaves her home country, her family and friends, to live in another country in Europe.

    “This story is important to tell because teenagers across the globe increasingly face similar situations as the character of ‘4242’,” says Eustáquio. “For several different reasons, many teens end up living in different countries where they may not even speak the same language. This story is not only about immigration, as we have seen in Europe, but also about the mix up of so many feelings during adolescence. Perhaps even feelings that may occur during adulthood: loneliness, confusion, the integration process in new spaces, the challenge of displacement both physical and spiritual.”

    In addition to “4242,” the NYFA New York City Summer Camp grad also has a new micro short, “Mirror,” which she produced at NYFA to compete at several international film festivals.

    “My time at NYFA taught me much more than I could have imagined,” said Eustáquio. “During this 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.”

    August 23, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2528

  • NYFA Instructor’s “Summer of 8” in Theaters Sept. 2

    New York Film Academy Los Angeles instructor Ryan Schwartz’s debut feature film, “Summer of 8,” is scheduled to be released in select theaters and all VOD platforms on Sept. 2nd, 2016. Schwartz has also recently started a new production company, Object In Motion, which is producing a true crime documentary, and he is currently attached to direct “Cadence,” a character driven sports drama set in the world of ultramarathons.
    summer of 8

    A Santa Monica, California native, Schwartz remained close with his high school friends and says his film is about that time in his life. “‘Summer of 8’ is about eight best friends sharing one last summer day together before heading off to college,” said Schwartz. “It’s a special day because they all sort of intuitively know things will never be the same again, so they really try to soak it all in.”

    “Summer of 8” stars Shelley Hennig as well as Carter Jenkins (from the upcoming MTV series “Sweet/Vicious”), Matthew Shively, Natalie Hall, Michael Grant, Bailey Noble, Nick Marini, Rachel DiPillo and Sonya Walge. The film has already been written about in Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, which wrote, “With an appreciation for the bittersweetness of summer’s last rays, first-time director Ryan Schwartz celebrates youth, beauty and mixed emotions over a daylong gathering at the beach. [SUMMER OF 8] strikes universal chords…the cast of twentysomethings deliver effective moments and a credible group chemistry…alive with flirtatious uncertainty.”

    With Schwartz’s release less than a month away, we thought we’d have a chat with the filmmaker to get a little more insight into his debut film.

    NYFA has a special thanks credit for the film. What was your reasoning behind that?

    NYFA is great about encouraging and supporting its faculty. They also provided grip and electric equipment, which I will be forever grateful for.

    Can you tell us how you secured distribution for this film? What was that process like?

    We shot most of film in Newport Beach, CA, and fittingly we premiered in April at the Newport Beach Film Festival. It was a blast. Most of the cast and crew came out and we sold out both shows.  After our screenings we had several sales agents and distributors approach us. We were absolutely thrilled that FilmBuff decided to take us on.

    summer of 8

    Were there any lessons you learned from making this film that you were (or will be) able to pass on to your students?

    I would say there’s two things that really crystalize for me. The first lesson is quite simple: there is no magic fairy dust secret to making good movies. People make movies. If you want to make a good movie, you need to surround yourself with talented, smart, generous, wonderful people. If you do that, you have a chance. If you don’t, you don’t. I am so grateful to my unbelievable cast, and to my entire crew who worked tirelessly for very little money.

    Which brings me to my next lesson: in the world of low budget filmmaking, the most important currency you have to offer is your passion/energy for the project and your gratitude for those who have rallied around you. That passion and gratitude is really the fuel that keeps everyone going.

    What advice do you have for filmmakers who are getting ready to shoot their first feature?

    Take a lot of deep breaths and trust that you’re ready. We shot “Summer of 8” at a lightning pace…10 days! Things were moving so fast. The key for me was to stay calm and collected, stay truly ‘in the moment.’ And to remember, I’ve spent my entire life fighting for this opportunity. It was finally here, so I made sure to enjoy every moment of it. And I did. It was an absolute blast.

    August 19, 2016 • Faculty Highlights, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2782

  • NYFA Doc Grad Justin Young to Tour with Colbie Caillat

    One of the more enticing aspects of the New York Film Academy’s short-term programs is the fact that students can learn an artistic craft that may be outside of their main creative focus. As for NYFA Documentary grad Justin Young — who joined the program with such a strong background in music — the 6-Week Documentary Film Workshop was exactly what he was looking for. Faced with a hectic schedule of touring as a musician, Young was able to gain the knowledge he’d hope for within the time frame of the short-term program.

    justin young

    Young, who is very well known in the Hawaiian music scene, has released several albums to date. He’s also toured with his girlfriend Colbie Callait, as well as Gavin DeGraw.

    We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Young before heading off on another US tour with Colbie called The Malibu Sessions Acoustic Guitar.

    What made you decide to join the New York Film Academy Doc program?

    I’d been trying to find another creative outlet, besides music, for a while. Always loved non-fiction form of storytelling — books, radio programs and of course documentary films. The fact that NYFA offers a 6-week course was really appealing. I could totally immerse myself and see if it was something I wanted to pursue without the long commitment.

    Were there any films or influencers that made you decide to learn documentary filmmaking?

    There have been so many. As a kid, I remember watching Hoop Dreams many times and wanting to find more movies like that — not knowing exactly what documentaries were. Later, Capturing The Friedmans was one that totally floored me. More recently, a movie like Keep On Keeping On, that really shows some beautiful human connections made me want to contribute something like that to the world.

    How would describe your overall experience? What did you achieve or produce during your time at NYFA?

    It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was really bittersweet when the program ended. We got a lot of info and tools jammed into the first week and then were sent out to make things. Personally, I learn best this way and with no filmmaking experience, this really shortened the initial learning curve for me. It also bonded all of my classmates. We all became very close and still keep in touch and joke of a reunion someday. I also felt like the teachers took the time to get to know us and help us individually, meeting us wherever we were in our filmmaking.

    You have a very strong background in music — do you have any ambitions to bring your musical background to a film or documentary project?

    Definitely, plan on doing some scoring for some of my own projects. I think that’s something I can uniquely bring to the table – and it helps with the budget!

    How did your relationship with Colbie Caillait come about?

    We met through mutual friends in the LA music scene 10 years ago. Shortly after that, Colbie asked me to join her band and I became her guitarist and eventually Music Director. After a few years of working together we started dating and are now engaged. It’s great to be able to travel and work with your best friend.

    Can you tell us about this current tour / publicity (Billboard Live, Rolling Stone, etc.) w/Colbie for GOLDMINE?

    We’ve been out and about promoting Colbie’s new single, Goldmine, which took us to The Today Show and performances at Billboard, Rolling Stone and Paste, to new a few. We are doing a US tour in October called The Malibu Sessions Acoustic Tour. I’ll be opening the shows with my own set, as well as playing with Colbie.

    Any personal meaning behind the song? Or do the two of you have a personal favorite song?

    I wrote and produced one song on her new album entitled Runnin’. It’s about her struggle to adjust to life on the road, and on stage, and finally finding a comfortable place to be with it.

    With social media being the force it is, where do you see the future of music going for you and other artists?

    Hard to say. Things are changing so fast for all of us creative people. It is important to stay up on the latest ways to share your work and engage your fans. But really I think what doesn’t change is people will always crave real stuff. Express something that’s honest and truthful and there will be an audience for it.

    When and where can we see you and Colbie sing?

    All tour dates are up at, and I have new music and a new website launching soon at

    August 18, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2082