Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • Veteran Student Highlight: Nic Lewis

    Considered a Top Military Friendly School, the New York Film Academy has wholeheartedly welcomed hundreds of military veterans and servicemembers to its long-term and degree programs. Often our veterans are uncertain of what direction to take their careers after service, and this was no different for former NYFA screenwriting student and current filmmaking student in Los Angeles, Nicholas Lewis.

    “My last deployments with the military were with the 5th and 10th special forces,” said Lewis. “They ended up being pretty brutal, as it was during the rise of the insurgency. It took a pretty heavy toll on me physically—since I was a turret gunner—and I got my retirement out of it.”

    last comic standing

    A former US Navy Firefighter and US Army Infantryman, Lewis returned home from combat and served as a bartender in Scottsdale, Arizona until he could figure out exactly what it is that he was meant to do. As fate would have it, one day Lewis befriended a patron of his bar over a few drinks. After a night of bonding and talking, Lewis soon discovered that the man was writer/producer Andrew Weiss, and he was in the Phoenix area shooting a film he had written called Middle Men. Weiss’ story peaked Lewis’ interest and led him on a career path toward screenwriting and filmmaking.

    His first gig was as an Art Department PA on a feature called Everything Must Go. While working in the art department, he met the 1st AD, Joe McDougal, who offered the job of being a PA in set. On the first day of shooting, the DP asked him to come in as a day player (2nd AC)—which allowed him to be in Arizona’s Union.

    While currently studying filmmaking at NYFA Los Angeles, Lewis also works as a Talent Coordinator on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He’s also worked as a talent coordinator for multiple award shows including the ESPY’s, ASPCA Hero Dog Awards, American Cinematheque, and Race to Erase MS.

    nic lewis

    Lewis recently had the opportunity to be Episodic Director, Co-Executive Producer and Producing Director Glenn Kershaw’s “Director’s Shadow” on season 11, episode 7 of Criminal Minds.

    In the meantime, Lewis is preparing his own project, which will be a web-series called Bluffside Drive, premiering January 5th, 2016 on Youtube.

    October 8, 2015 • Film School, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1129

  • NYFA Australia Graduate to Screen 3 Films at Sydney Indie Film Festival

    It’s with great enthusiasm that we discover New York Film Academy Sydney graduate Ren Thackham has not one, not two, but three films screening in this year’s Sydney Indie Film Festival!

    Coming from a background in production design and having produced corporate videos for several years, Thackham returned to her hometown of Sydney to attend NYFA’s One Year Diploma of Screen and Media, in order to take her filmmaking skills to the next level.

    ren thackham

    “No matter how much experience you have flying solo, you’re miles behind anyone with a year of NYFA under their belt,” said Thackham. “The teachers are all industry, they’re speaking from experience not textbooks and they give real answers to real world questions. It provides the confidence to take on more ambitious projects. The training was definitely valuable and I miss it, but the post graduate support and the pride NYFA has in their graduates is worth the course fee alone.”

    The three films that Thackham will be screening at the Sydney Indie Film Festival, which runs from October 17-25, are:

    Lady Luck
    A film that follows one man through a game of poker where Lady Luck herself materializes and takes him to a fantasy world where he meets the characters at the table as they really are. This was Thackham’s NYFA graduation film.

    This short film throws a twist on the smartphone addiction debate by referring to it as an actual drug called Glow. Glow has been her most successful film thus far, as its been selected for nearly every online festival she has entered.
    brainless killers
    Brainless Killers
    This is by far her most ambitious project. It’s set in a world where zombies and humans coexist. Zombridge is the town where all the zombies reside and survive off donations of cerebral fluid. The story follows a couple of journalists into Zombridge where they uncover an illegal hunting and farming operation and have to blow the lid off the story before they become victims themselves. It’s a twist on the animal rights issue, but instead of showing how animals are treated, Thackham gives a new perspective of how humans would like it if they were treated similarly by someone else further up the food chain. “Starring Australian Comedian ‘Steve Hughes’ with ‘Odd Studio’ doing the make up (The artists behind Mad Max Fury Road), and the best production design I could muster, it’s going to be my best film yet.”
    on set ren

    Like most filmmakers, Thackham has a couple of feature scripts she’s currently writing. Her hopes are that her shorts will bring help her the attention and contacts needed to make her features a reality.

    “When you have a project, even at script stage, your perspective of the world becomes richer,” says Thackham. “Every place you visit is a potential location, every item a prop, every stranger you meet could inspire a character, every situation you’re in could be a scene. That’s what makes you want to do it forever; it’s way more fun than living in the real world!”

    If you’re in the Sydney area and would like to see Ren Thackham’s films, visit for more information.

    October 7, 2015 • Entertainment Australia, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1203

  • NYFA Veteran Students Attend USC Football Game

    Veteran students attending the New York Film Academy gathered on Saturday, September 12th to attend the USC Trojans football game at the famous “Coliseum” in Los Angeles. This event was in collaboration with the Veterans Department and the Veteran Student Association at the New York Film Academy.

    usc football

    As a school committed to its veterans, the sporting event was part of an ongoing effort to bring veterans together and develop a peer-to-peer support network within the veteran student population.

    Army veteran and acting student, Doug Prideaux, had this to say about his experience at the game: “I enjoyed meeting fellow students and appreciate the support that the New York Film Academy provides to its veterans.”

    usc football

    Additionally, BFA Acting veteran student Joel Wright was thrilled to attend his first major college football game.

    Not only was it a good day for the Trojans, putting up a whopping 59 points, it was an all around enjoyable afternoon of football and camaraderie for our fellow veteran students.

    We extend our gratitude to the USC Center for Innovation and Research (CIR) on Veterans & Military Families for providing the tickets.

    football usc

    September 25, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1245

  • One-Year 3D Animation Student Accepted into MetroCAF 2015

    Having no previous experience in the craft of animation, New York Film Academy One-Year 3D Animation & Visual Effects Conservatory student, Felipe Amaya Quintero, put together a remarkable short film, Lights, that has been accepted into NYC AMC SIGGRAPH’s MetroCAF 2015. Amaya is the first non-degree student to have his film accepted into the prestigious animation event, which is considered the leading showcases for student animations in the New York City area. Celebrating the thirteenth edition of its annual metropolitan-area college computer animation festival, this year’s festival will be held at NYIT’s Auditorium at 1871 Broadway.

    Amaya says he began developing the idea for Lights while taking a screenwriting class at NYFA. His main goal was to tell a story that was appealing and funny; and could me made with one character, with no dialogue, in under one minute.

    “My education at NYFA was mainly what made this project possible,” said Amaya. “Without the knowledge I have gathered here, this animated film would not have made it further than just being an idea written down on a piece of paper.”

    Amaya’s goal is to accumulate as much knowledge as possible in order to be able to continue to produce better and more compelling computer generated imagery. We think he’s on the right track!

    The MetroCAF screening will begin at 7:00PM and will be followed by the MetroCAF Awards presentation.

    September 22, 2015 • 3D Animation, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1232

  • Student Spotlight: Connor Williams

    connor williams

    Connor Williams with Terry Kiser from “Weekend at Bernie’s”

    While many of our incoming degree program students have had some level of experience in film and acting, rarely do we come across a student with 20 movies under his or her belt. Incoming BFA Acting for Film Freshman Connor Williams directed his first short film at the very young age of 10 years old. The movie screened at festivals in the U.S. as well as Athens, Greece. After winning 50 bucks and a karaoke machine for his first film, Williams was hooked.

    As a Freshman in high school, Williams won first place in a statewide video contest. The contest earned him $1,000 and another $1,000 went toward his school, which would come in handy two years later.

    His first real big break came when he beat out hundreds of teen actors for one of the lead roles in The UnMiracle, co-starring Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin. He Skyped his audition and callback from his bedroom in Idaho. The film, which explores a suburban teen’s accidental drug overdose, comes out in 2016.

    From there, Williams played opposite Sam Rockwell in a couple of scenes in Napolean Dynamite director Jared Hess’ new comedy Don Verdean, which played at Sundance and was purchased by Lionsgate. This also comes out in 2016.

    At the age of 17, in the summer going into his senior year, Connor decided to invest every penny he had earned from acting into producing, directing and acting in his own feature film, Spoilers The Movie — a modern day version of The Breakfast Club. Using the $1,000 he earned for his school, Williams was able to rent the school for three weeks of shooting. He brought in teen actors from New York, Chicago, Texas and California. He negotiated the contract and hired Terry Kiser (Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s). The film was shot on a Sony FS 700 in 2k. The feature was made in 15 days over a 17 day period. It has since played in Florida, Texas, New York, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California.

    Spoilers the Movie has been up for Best First Time Feature (no age limit) in two different festivals, winning Best Student Film at the Rendezvous Film Festival in Florida and Best Student Film at the Temecula Independent Film Festival. It also won The Award of Excellence at The San Francisco Film Awards. The biggest award came when Connor won $60,000 worth of rental equipment and supplies from the RXSM Self Medicated Film Festival in Victoria, Texas. Connor is also recognized as being the youngest producer ever of a SAG/AFTRA feature film, breaking the record of 18 year old Richard Switzer who was featured on Entertainment tonight.

    His film continues to propel his career in acting. From Spoilers, Williams was cast in American in Texas, starring Quinton Aaron, better known as “Big Mike” from The Blindside. Connor just spent six weeks in Utah playing the lead in the coming of age film American Nobody.

    If you would like to rent Spoilers, please go to

    Williams is currently looking to hire cast and crew from New York Film Academy to make his next feature film. If NYFA students would like to collaborate with Conner, he can be reached at

    Connor is looking forward to attending and learning at NYFA’s Acting for Film school. He has never taken an acting class…ever.

    September 21, 2015 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1316

  • AFA Producing Student to Screen at Laughlin International Film Festival

    second floorSometimes it takes a few films before filmmakers get accepted into their first film festival, but not for AFA Producing student, Andreina Perez. Her first semester film, which she wrote, produced and acted in, will be screening at the Laughlin International Film Festival (LIFF) in Nevada this upcoming October, 2015.

    Perez’s short film, Second Floor, is about a young woman who’s running late for an interview and deals with the urgency of having to go to the bathroom. As soon as she gets to the elevator, a handsome young man gets in with her and they get stuck for a while. In between her desperation and need to go to the bathroom, her attraction for this handsome young man provokes her into doing things she’d never imagined.

    “I don’t see this film as a business, I see it as a story that must be told for its beauty, its lesson and its purpose,” said Perez. “I think the most important element is the story and its purpose. Make people laugh, and so far it has so I think my team and I did a very good job.”

    Perez originally attended the New York Film Academy last summer for a 4 Week Acting workshop where she says she fell completely in love with Los Angeles, its people, and the school.

    “I learned so much in those four weeks. I wish I could have spent more time there, but unfortunately I had to go back to Venezuela,” recalls Perez. “Then, I started applying because I wanted to also know the business part of the industry — my biggest dream is acting, but I think I can make it through acting by producing as well. So that’s what I’ve been doing; developing my knowledge in different areas such as writing, producing and acting.”

    We wish Andreina the best of luck at LIFF and with the rest of her AFA program!


    September 21, 2015 • Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 826

  • NYFA Student Veterans Attend Padres / Dodgers Rivalry Game

    padres game

    Veteran students presented Mr. Coy with a NYFA “signature bag” as appreciation for the wonderful experience he provided them

    Over this year’s Labor Day weekend, student veterans from the New York Film Academy were invited by the San Diego Padres Military Division to attend a game free of charge against their rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The San Diego Padres are highly supportive of our military servicemembers and veterans throughout the season and the theme for Sunday’s game was an Air Force Appreciation Day.

    padresNYFA veteran students also had the opportunity to join Matt Coy, Senior Director of Game Day Presentation in the production booth for pre-game production meetings. The students were able to sit side by side with the production staff and learn how the production of the game works first hand.

    Ruddy Cano, President of the NYFA Veterans Student Association, thanked Mr. Coy and the NYFA Veterans Support Office team for the opportunity to be behind the scenes at the San Digeo Padre’s game. Rudy stated, “It has been an outstanding experience to not only learn what it takes to produce a live major league game but how our training at NYFA actually corresponds to the real world.”

    We are grateful for the support that the San Diego Padres provide to our military and the veteran students attending the New York Film Academy.

    September 17, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 896

  • NYFA Abu Dhabi Student to Screen at Malmo Arab Film Festival

    One-Year Filmmaking student from New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi, Latifa Assade, recently had her first semester film accepted into the Malmo Arab Film Festival MAFF short film corner in Sweden.

    The film, Seeking Justice, is a story about Hannah, a divorced single mother who is arrested and accused of child abuse. Her son, Jason is given to the father (Richard) until all investigations have been conducted by the authorities. Tension builds as Hannah fights to get her son back, accusing her ex-husband of revenge. As the pressure increases in a custody battle, Hannah is unable to contain her rage. In the end, a court room breakdown reveals Hannah’s true nature.

    Latifa is in now in her second semester of the One-Year Filmmaking course, and she is currently considering the pursuit of her Master’s degree at NYFA Los Angeles.

    We wish Latifa the best of luck at MAFF, and in her further studies at NYFA!

    September 17, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1061

  • Saudi Arabian Students at the New York Film Academy

    Like the city where it was founded, the New York Film Academy has become a melting pot of many locations, ethnicities and cultures, proudly welcoming students from all over the globe. In recent years, we’ve accepted more and more degree program students from Saudi Arabia in the fields of filmmaking, acting, cinematography and photography.

    The New York Film Academy is listed as a recommended school by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education and is considered the best hands-on film school in the world by many of today’s top filmmakers. NYFA is honored to be the school of choice for many Hollywood filmmakers, actors, and figures from the entertainment world that have sent a son, daughter or a family member to study with us. They include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Downey Jr., Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, among many others.

    The Academy is also known for hosting one of the most exclusive Guest Speaker Series in the world, which has delivered guest lectures from industry elites such as Al Pacino, Ron Howard, Kevin Spacey and Saudi Arabian-born producer, Mohammed Al Turki.

    To continue its blossoming relationship with Saudi Arabia and its people, NYFA’s Dean of Enrollment Services, Tami Alexander, often holds workshops, auditions, portfolio reviews and information sessions in Riyadh and Jeddah. “I cannot believe the level of talent every time I visit Saudi Arabia,” said Alexander. “We recognize the overwhelming enthusiasm for acting, filmmaking, and photography in Saudi Arabia, and we welcome students from all around the world.”

    For more information about the New York Film Academy or its events in Saudi Arabia, please email Tami Alexander at or call +1 (212) 674-4300.

    Thank you to the following students whom contributed to this video: Aymen Khoja (studying MFA Filmmaking), Fahad Alharbi (studying BFA Acting for Film), Musab Alamri (studying MFA Filmmaking), Alaa Alrafaihi (studying MFA Photography), AJ Aljandal (studying BFA Filmmaking), Maan Binabdulrahman (studying BFA Filmmaking), Thamer Bagbi (studying BFA Animation), Abdullah Bamjabor (studying BFA Filmmaking), Mohammed Alhiniah (studying BFA Filmmaking), Maram Al Joaser (studying MFA Cinematography).

    September 13, 2015 • Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1920

  • MFA Producing Grad’s Political Documentary Available on Amazon

    When we last spoke with MFA Producing graduate Janek Ambros, he had just premiered his film Ten Thousand Saints (which he co-produced) at Sundance. He briefly mentioned his upcoming directorial debut film, Imminent Threat, which has now come to fruition. The documentary film, produced by Academy Award nominee James Cromwell, focuses on the War on Terror’s impact on civil liberties — certainly a hot topic in our currently heated presidential race for 2016.

    The documentary examines the 2001 AUMF days after 9/11, foreign entanglements abroad, the war on journalism, and the NSA. With interviews from prominent liberals (ACLU, CodePink) and conservatives (Cato Institute, R Congressmen), the film shows the unusual coalition being formed to challenge the two-party system and strike a better balance between security and liberty.

    “The film also tackles a larger issue: the fact that these issues aren’t conservative versus liberal, they’re instead about basic rights that are enshrined in the bill of rights and the basis of the United States and the rule of law,” says Ambros. “The film gives the issues context by discussing the war on terror abroad, the use of target killings by drones, and the NSA’s mass surveillance program.”

    Ambros said he was originally drawn to the project because he noticed that a “massive encroachment on civil liberties” was coming from the very same political party that criticized the Bush administration.

    “It showed a massive hypocrisy of the democratic establishment, and I felt a documentary should be made about how liberal democrats and libertarian republicans can work together to strike a better balance between security and liberty,” said Ambros.


    Janek Ambros at the LA premiere of Imminent Threat

    What has certainly helped give the film notoriety, including a recent write up in Deadline, is having James Cromwell attached as producer of the film.

    “James loved the film and he was willing to put his name on it as a political endorsement,” recalled Ambros. “He’s one of the great character actors of all time. I really admire him as an outspoken individual and activist, so I was extremely lucky and fortunate.”

    You can now rent or purchase Imminent Threat on Amazon.

    In three weeks, Ambros will be shooting his next film, Valley of Bones, starring Autumn Reeser.

    September 10, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1365