Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • You’re Never Too Young to Become a Screenwriter

    eric conner and students

    Dean of Students Eric Conner with Valley View Elementary students

    Each year, Hollywood seems to get younger and younger. Just ask the ten writers from Valley View Elementary, who witnessed their original screenplays performed live in front of a packed audience.

    As part of the Young Storytellers Foundation, a group of New York Film Academy students and alumni have been mentoring these fifth grade writers, helping them to realize their unique visions and commit their words to the page.

    After eight weeks of zip zap zop, three-act breakdowns, NASA shakeoff, story games, lectures on theme, character, tone & conflict—not to mention a whole lot of writing—our talented young auteurs created ten original screenplays.

    young nyfa students

    Featuring power-absorbing banana bread, transforming robots, sibling rivalries, magic fairies and talking New Jersey lions, these scripts were worthy of a world-class show. And thanks to the tireless work of our NYFA & Young Storyteller actors, the scripts were brought to vivid life.

    Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 11.25.24 AM

    Congratulations to our budding writers from Valley View. Look for them all to get their first studio deals by age 13!

    If you’re a kid who is interested in learning screenwriting or another creative discipline, be sure to check out the New York Film Academy Summer Camps.

  • NYFA Covers Young Storytellers’ Final ‘Glee’ Big Show

    glee cast

    As part of our on-going collaboration with the wonderful Young Storytellers Foundation, New York Film Academy students and alumni recently got the chance to film “THE FINAL GLEE BIG SHOW.”

    Glee cast members Mark Salling, Dot Marie Jones, Harry Shum Jr., Max Adler, and Alex Newell along with Chrissie Fit (Teen Beach Movie, Pitch Perfect 2) performed four different short screenplays written by a group of inventive middle schoolers.
    glee la
    The connection between Glee and Young Storytellers dates back to the organization’s very beginnings when Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk helped create what is now YSF. Since then, Mr Falchuk has regularly brought the cast of Glee to perform the student’s material as part of YSF’s “Big Show.” With Glee now coming to a close after six seasons, this performance truly marked the end of an era.

    NYFA was honored to be part of the experience, and congratulates the cast and crew of Glee as well as all the Young Storytellers Writers.

  • Photography Grads Work ‘Backstage’ Shoot with Chris Messina

    Immediately after graduating from New York Film Academy Photography School, Luc-Richard Elie began assisting full time for several Commercial Advertising and Editorial photographers while also interning at Sync Photo Rental. Six months later he opened his own Film and Photo Rental Studio called Concrete Studios LA in the Downtown Arts District. Luc-Richard’s work has been published several times both domestically and internationally, including photography work for the Australian Consulate.

    Most Recently, he collaborated with fellow NYFA Alumnus and Army Veteran Liam Jager for the behind the scenes film to his Backstage shoot with actor Chris Messina from The Mindy Project.

    The New York Film Academy caught up with Luc-Richard following his recent shoot for Backstage.


    Luc-Richard Elie

    How did you become involved with Backstage?

    The Chris Messina shoot is actually my 6th cover for Backstage. My first involvement with the magazine came by way of another Photographer, Stephanie Diani, whom I’ve assisted on a number of editorial shoots with Backstage and at my studio in Downtown Los Angeles. During that process, I became acquainted with the Creative Director of Backstage, who by chance happened to see a glimpse of my portfolio. In October of last year, the magazine scheduled a shoot at my studio, but due to some last minute complications, lost the photographer the night before the shoot. The creative director, having seen my work, gave me a call and asked if I might be interested in shooting for the cover. That cover was for Gina Rodriguez (also her first cover) the star of the hit show, Jane the Virgin and now a Golden Globe Winner. I’ve been shooting for them ever since.

    What were some of the challenges of this specific shoot with Chris Messina? 

    With Chris there weren’t many challenges. He is very laid back and takes direction extremely well. He even offered suggestions, which made the shoot a collaboration and brought more energy into the overall experience. When we were moving between sets, Chris suggested we shoot in the staircase hallway. The lighting in the area was actually pretty bad, and the narrowness of the staircase didn’t really offer a lot of options to be creative, especially with the talent waiting and ready to go. So I gave some direction to my team and kept Chris entertained while all the lighting was being placed. It was important to stay loose and flexible in a situation like that. I pride myself on preparation, and staying cool when I’m thrown a curve ball. We were set up in about 10 minutes, and spent about 5 minutes shooting on the staircase before we wrapped for the day. Although it wasn’t originally planned, that shot ended up being the one used for the cover.

    Would you say your training at NYFA was useful in terms of being prepared for a shoot like this one?

    I’ve never used a DSLR or was actively in photography prior to NYFA. So, of course, just learning the basics of lighting and exposure is given. But it was the other intangibles that NYFA’s instructors prepared me for that have made all the difference. Always make sure you do preproduction prior to every shoot, and always be prepared to go off script.Very few things ever go as planned, but the better prepared you are the more success you’ll have in tackling obstacles. And most importantly, always display confidence and keep a cool head. Nothing can really prepare you for the feeling of having the creative director, the client, the publicist, make-up and hair, random assistants and especially the talent huddling around the computer and critiquing every shot you take as it come in.

    How do you feel about the final results from the shoot? Did you get any feedback from Backstage?

    I felt great about the shoot and the Art Director was pretty happy with the final results. I of course would have picked a few different pictures for the actually spread lol, But that’s just me being an artist and having an emotional attachment to some of my work. The magazine had a direction and voice they wanted for this particular article and I was able to provide the photos to support that vision.

    Do you have another project or shoot in the works?

    I just had some photos published in the New York Times and have some new work coming out in Angeleno Magazine this upcoming May. Aside from that, I’m gearing up to shoot a lot of personal projects for the summer. My goal is to shoot more Ad work for sports and lifestyle brands, so I’m spending a lot time working to revamp my portfolio to reflect that.

    April 29, 2015 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 971

  • NYFA Students Attend Red Carpet Premiere of Russell Crowe Directorial Debut at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood

    nyfa student Last week New York Film Academy students received a special invitation to the Los Angeles premiere of Russell Crowe’s directorial debut film The Water Diviner at the historic Chinese Theater. Students from all departments and programs attended and got a rare, first-hand Hollywood red carpet event experience.

    NYFA producing student Emilio Madaio and acting student Tania Martínez where there and recounted the night’s events for us in an interview:

    What were your initial impressions of the event?

    Emilio: It was my first time at the Chinese Theater so I was really excited about it. With its (decorative) entrance it’s definitely a classy place. I saw some of the red carpet events before Russell Crowe arrived. It was fun to see it executed in real life—the interviewers behind the ropes courting the stars and trying to get there attention, the celebrities getting interviewed and posing for pictures with their best angle—that was interesting. I actually ended up sitting near the very front of the theater. Some of the movie’s cast like Yilmaz Erdogan and Ryan Corr sat close to me.

    Did you go with other NYFA students?

    Tania: I was with my whole class, except one person. There were 12 of us. And there were lots of people from other programs and classes too. Even one of my teachers was there. The whole theater was full and they had free popcorn and drinks for everyone.


    Did you get to see Russell Crowe?

    Tania: I was seated little further back. But it didn’t matter because before the screening someone started talking (over a loudspeaker) saying, “Everyone please be seated…” and I didn’t realize who was talking but then I looked to my left and it was Russell Crowe. He was talking to the audience and making jokes. He didn’t even go onto the stage he just stayed upstairs (on a balcony) in the middle of the theater. Nobody realized it was him talking at first, then people started pointing and taking pictures.

    Emilio: Yes, he spoke from the back of the room and explained that usually at a premiere like this you will see the director talking at the front of the theater discussing why he wanted to make this movie, what happened on set, and what his influences were, but that he wasn’t going to do this. He just wanted to cut to the chase and let movie speak for itself. And he did it in a very funny way. He joked with the audience that after the screening they could trade in their ticket stubs with the Australian government to receive a free kola in the mail. After hearing Russell Crowe speak I decided he was a class act. He seemed like someone who had reached the top and wanted to give back. He supported the other actors in the movie, announcing who was in the audience and giving them a nice push, so to speak. He didn’t want to be the star that night; he wanted the movie to take the lead.

    What did you think of the movie?

    Tania: Russell Crowe’s acting was great, as well as all the other actors. It’s the kind of movie that keeps you “in the movie” and engaged, and impacts you emotionally. And I’m a really family-oriented person and this movie has a great sense of family. I definitely recommend the movie.

    Emilio: I was very interested to see the directorial debut of an actor. The movie really delivered and exceeded my expectations. (As a producer) I was paying attention to the producing aspects of the movie and it’s much more than you would expect from a first time director. Would I recommend the movie to my friends? Yes!

    What happened after the screening?

    Tania: Afterwards many of the actors were talking to the crowd. People were congratulating them and taking pictures with them. I got to take pictures with a few of the cast members. It was interesting and nice. Walking through Hollywood you always see premieres and stuff going on, and normally you’re on the other side. And it was nice to be inside and to see it from another perspective. I really enjoyed it and want to go to another one!

    April 24, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1720

  • NYFA Military Students Produce Veterans PSA with Joe Mantegna

    joe mantegna

    Actor Joe Mantegna with NYFA veteran students

    Today, military veteran students enrolled at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy produced a Public Service Announcement for partnering organization, The Soldiers Project. The PSA featured award-winning actor Joe Mantegna, who is a dedicated supporter of veterans and their families. The Soldier’s Project, a non-profit organization that offers counseling to service members, veterans and their families, has been a long time collaborator with The New York Film Academy, offering counseling and support to Veterans making the transition from military service to pursuing their dreams in the creative arts industries at NYFA.

    The PSA shoot was staffed by an all veteran film crew featuring veteran students from all branches of the military and studying various disciplines including filmmaking, producing, cinematography, and photography. The shoot offered a unique opportunity for Veteran students to come together and create a high quality video that will support their fellow veterans.

    joe M

    Ruddy Canohernandez, a BFA Producing student who produced the PSA, did so with the hope that his work would “open doors for other service members that he has been so lucky to take advantage of.” As a Marine, Mr. Canohernandez holds strong to the idea of never leaving a man behind, and sees his work as a producer as part of supporting his fellow service member. The PSA was directed by first year student and Army veteran Eric Milzaski, who was thrilled to have the opportunity to direct such a well known actor. In his own words, “this was a tremendous experience for me as a filmmaker, and we, as veteran students here, appreciate the opportunity that the NYFA Veterans Office was able was provide us with.”

    Mr. Mantegna was impressed by the hard work and professionalism of the veteran students and shared a desire to see more veterans working in the entertainment Industry. We will all be keeping our eyes out for this exciting PSA and the futures of these talented young filmmakers.

    -John Powers & Kelly Gardner

    April 24, 2015 • Community Highlights, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1562

  • How Do You Define ‘Making It’ in the Art World?

    Often the definition of what it means to be successful will vary from person to person. Is there a real point in an artist’s career where he or she can announce “I’ve made it”? New York Film Academy 8-Week Filmmaking graduate Anthony Moorman explores this topic in his documentary Making IT by focusing primarily on artists Eric Fortune, Andrew Bawidamann, and Brian Ewing’s daily struggles of making a living while staying creative.

    making it

    Making IT is an idea that came about with my friendship and creative collaborator Woodrow Hinton,” recalls Moorman. “Woody is an illustrator and artist. He was pitching an idea to me about making an art documentary about illustration. I wasn’t sure how to go about that, but over a two year process we figured out the logistics and strategy about telling a story about three working illustrators in the middle of their careers. We told that story through Woody’s eyes. It’s a personal journey about Woody, through his three friends. When Woody came to me with the title Making IT, and said the film is about how artists define success — are they or are they not ‘making it’? I was sold on the idea and knew we could tell an honest and fresh story.”

    The film ultimately came together from late 2012 to 2014 with pre, pro, and post, over a three year period on a shoe string budget. Andrew Bawidamann, Brian Ewing and Eric Fortune are three excellent artists who are in the middle of their careers. This stage of their journey is the toughest because they’re on the edge of success, “Making it.” As most of us are aware, the road to success can be very arduous, and in this film, Moorman explores that path through the eyes of students, working professionals, and artists who are working at the top in their field.

    Andrew Bawidamann

    Andrew Bawidamann

    One of the topics in the film is something that prospective students asks themselves all the time before enrolling at the New York Film Academy: is art school worth it? “We all agree that it’s expensive,” says Moorman. “But we can’t imagine our careers without art school or film school. Film school can be a place where you fail and it’s okay. As long as you learn and grow from that failure, your work or craft can only improve. I do wish I would have been more open to my instructors at NYFA. Sometimes as a film student you think you have it all figured out and you’re awesome. I kind of fell into that trap. Instructors are great people, and they are there to help you to improve. But I would say that if I hadn’t had my 8-Week Workshop experience at NYFA, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Furthering your education in any field can really be the key to success. You can’t discover the journey of an artist by living inside your own little world. You need to get out there, experience life a bit, and be okay with failing. Being a filmmaker is all about taking risks.”

    Teaser Trailer from Tony Moorman on Vimeo.

    Through his honest observations of students, recent grads, and art legends about the struggles and the dark times, Moorman hopes his film will not only inspire artists, but also spark an honest conversation about what it really takes to be a success. “We didn’t want to just say how cool it was to be an illustrator. Making that kind of film isn’t helpful,” said Moorman. “But really explaining to people that they need to work really hard for 10 years before they’ll actually make a living was the key message. I believe that also the message of the film industry. You’re not going to graduate and start working in the business and make a ton of money. No. You’re going to struggle, suffer, and crawl for a while. And if you’re lucky, you will make it out on the other side. So the goal was to make sure we prepared people and be honest to them about how hard it is to get in the business of the art world.”

    Moorman is currently in production with Hinton on another art bio documentary on famed local artist C.F. Payne: an American Illustrator.

    Making IT is now available on iTunes, Amazon, X-Box, and Google Play.

    April 23, 2015 • Documentary Filmmaking, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1483

  • NYFA Chinese Student Club Invites Filmmaking Alumna Jing Wen for Screening and Q&A

    jing wen screening

    New York Film Academy Chinese Student Club invited one of our MFA Filmmaking graduates, Jing Wen, a Chinese filmmaker who studied at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles to screen her short film A, B, C or D? followed by a Q&A last week.

    “I like to observe people’s facial expression, voice, and body language in order to understand them,” says Jing. “That’s one the most important skills a director needs to learn and practice because film ideas are inspired by observations from life and they are a reflection of reality.” As a writer and director with a record of success, Jing Wen is never satisfied with her own films and always believes that there is something she could do better.

    jing wen film

    Inspired by the story structure of Run Lola Run, Rushmore and the 2006 Chinese comedy Crazy Stone, Jing wrote the short film A, B, C or D? as her thesis project. Her final shooting script came out after workshops during her thesis committee meetings and was rewritten seven or eight times during her study at the Academy. “The production only took about two days and in fact we shot for one and a half days.” Jing described, “it saved us a lot on budget, but the biggest challenge we face, like many young filmmakers doing student films, is that we lost one of the main cast a few days before the principle of photography started.” It helped that three quarters of the crew working on her short film were friends who she met on classmates’ sets and were doing her a favor. She suggested that our current students at New York Film Academy begin coming up with ideas no later than March if they want to start shooting between May and July. “It’ll give you enough time to absorb others’ opinions and achieve a more mature storytelling,” she said.

    Jing not only shared her production experience but also gave important lessons she learned along the way. “It is extremely difficult for an Asian director to climb up the ladder and direct a major hit feature in Hollywood. Your experience and networking are equally important whether you want to stay in Hollywood or go back to China,” she says. In addition to filmmaking, Jing has a strong background working in the Television Industry in China. She started interning at major Chinese TV station at a young age and participated in productions of hit variety shows and games shows when she was only 19 years old. Her advice to those seeking a career in the industry was to build a relationship with people. “The most important lesson I learned is that you can’t work alone as an individual but need a team that supports one another no matter what you do or where you are,” Jing explained. “Teamwork in this particular industry together with the network you built is a weapon that will get you far.”

    Wen Jing

    Jing Wen has been selected to direct a forthcoming feature comedy The Disappeared Fish later this year. The film is scheduled to release theatrically after premiering at 2016 film festivals in China. Jing is currently working with Chinese financiers on a second feature written by her. She’s working in development with a production company and is considering a TV platform release. Our Chinese students at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus had a blast listening to Jing Wen’s unique experience and we sincerely thank Jing Wen for taking the time to openly share her insight with us. We also look forward to seeing the Chinese Student Club host more events in the future to benefit NYFA students.

    – Wanyin Bo

    April 22, 2015 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1207

  • MFA Filmmaking Grad Developing Female-Empowering ‘Daughters of Abdul-Rahman’

    daughters of abdul-rahman

    One of our MFA Filmmaking graduates, Zaid Abu Hamdan, a Jordanian filmmaker who studied at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, is generating buzz with his newest project Daughter’s of Abdul-Rahman. The film, which raised more than $23,000 on indiegogo, is a dramatic comedy about four estranged and very different sisters.

    Following the mysterious disappearance of their father, the eldest sister, Zainab, must now reunite with her three sisters at the family home to find their patriarch. Only by coming together will they be able to locate their missing father, and, in the process, overcome their differences and realize who they truly want to be. A drama with a unique, Jordanian sense of humor that is full of light heartwarming moments, Daughters of Abdul-Rahman is natural and organic. Yet, the screenplay tackles serious issues and taboos in a poetic, dark, but still comedic style.

    The four female leads of Daughters of Abdul-Rahman loosely represent the wide spectrum of women in Amman while their old traditional father represents the patriarchal structure in Jordan. Given the endless list of differences between them and their divergent social lives, the four sisters do not choose to embark on a journey together to find their missing father, but they must. The sisters’ journey creates a whirlwind of fear, tears, new discoveries, and laughter. Through difficult times, the daughters find their inner voices, not only as individuals, but also as a union of women—sisters.

    “I am a strong believer in the voice of women, the strength of women, the freedom of women, and the much-needed intellectual liberty of women and men in the region,” states Abu Hamdan. “If I wish for something, it would be that this film contributes to a larger movement for women’s liberation in my own country, or even in the Middle East. And when that happens, I will be there, with my mother.”

    Abu Hamdan has proven to be a very prolific and successful filmmaker since leaving the Academy. The Jordanian filmmaker has directed a number of short films including Bahiya and Mahmoud, which won the Best of Festival Award at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival and Shortfest, and was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2012.

    You can view his award-winning film below.

    If you’re interested in donating to Daughter’s of Abdul-Rahman, click here.

    April 15, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1088

  • MFA Filmmakers Collaborate to Develop Klaus for PS4 and PS VITA


    In addition to film and television, games have become one of the most prominent platforms for artists and writers to tell their story. We’ve seen films adapted into games and games adapted into films. Either way, the multi-billion dollar gaming business continues to grow and allow filmmakers another avenue to reach their audience.

    We recently heard from MFA Filmmaking students, Victor Velasco, Aleksandar Cuk and Kshitij Bal, who are currently all studying at New York Film Academy Los Angeles. The team is in the process of developing a 2D puzzle based platformer for Playstation 4 and PSvita. The game, Klaus, which was the brainchild of game designer and creative director Victor Velasco, aims to provide an experience that is narratively innovative and extremely self aware. Klaus is an office worker who wakes in his basement with no recollection of who or where he is. Almost reminds us of the classic Chris Nolan film Memento.


    His only clue is the word Klaus tattooed on his arm — forcing him to find his way out of the mechanical and constructivist world that he finds himself imprisoned in. It his search for these answers of where and who that lead him to the larger question, Why.

    During the course of the journey, Klaus encounters a second playable character – K1, a friendly brute who has been damaged by his prolonged imprisonment. Together the two embark on an existentially definitive journey that explores the idea of the 4th wall and a self awareness of the player playing the game. Will Klaus discover his truth? Will he find a way out? These are questions that are at the core of the narrative that the game presents.

    In terms of gameplay, Klaus is an organic and reflexive 2D platformer, with 2 playable characters, Boss fights and interactive environments. The focus of the gameplay will be on tight controls, environmental puzzles, exploration and a complex yet accessible interaction of the player with not only the characters, but also movement and rotation of objects, jump pads, platforms etc. The game is best designed for the PS4 and uses the touch pad as an integral part of the gameplay.

    “It is an extremely exciting game that allows us to bring our passions and our talents together to collaborate to create a cohesive, creative yet marketable product,” says Bal. “This is a project that is extremely close to our heart.”

    Klaus was awarded the 2012 Square Enix Excellence Prize and was recently showcased at the PS Dev Summit 2014 where it received a lot of welcome attention for its unique approach and narrative techniques. It is also the first game to be developed out of Venezuela for the PS4 and PSVita platforms and has received positive media reception from Media outlets within the country. However, it is targeted to audiences worldwide, as it has a universal feel and story.

    Bal and Klaus have already been featured on the PlayStation blog, as well as HardcoreGamer, GeekBinge, and other gaming publications.

    Klaus is set for release on the Sony Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita platforms that is releasing in August – September 2015. For more information, visit

    April 14, 2015 • Filmmaking, Game Design, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1269

  • Screenwriting Student Hosting History Channel’s ‘Forged in Fire’

    As a school that prides itself on being a Top Military Friendly School, the New York Film Academy often highlights its veteran and former military students who have shown achievement and success both inside and outside the classroom. One of our current BFA Screenwriting students, Wil Willis, has already succeeded in finding his way into the business, as he is now hosting the History Channel’s Forged in Fire. The competition reality show—in the vein of Ink Masters or Face/ Off—pits master blacksmiths against one another in head-to-head competition to forge from scratch a weapon that could win them a $10,000 prize.

    Willis had been hosting a show for Discovery Channel’s American Heroes Channel, and the producers decided to test him for Forged in Fire. Willis tested well and the job was his.

    Before pursuing a career in entertainment, Willis served in the Army as a Ranger, and in the Air Force as a Pararescueman. After fifteen years in the military, Willis found himself working on the set of a Broken Lizard production. From there, he began taking acting classes on the down-low, so his military buddies wouldn’t find out. His decision to step out of the box paid off.

    “After acting in a couple films, someone asked me to be a TV show host,” recalled Willis. “I figured why not?” Life is all about adventure and having some cool stories to tell the nurses at the Veterans home.”

    From an early age, Willis had a fondness for storytelling and movies — especially 80s B-Movies like The BeastmasterGiven his passion and his goal of obtaining a college degree, Willis decided to pursue his BFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.


    In the process of learning how to properly structure his countless ideas, Willis recently finished a personal project titled Comatose Dad, about a veteran struggling to get his act together in the real world. In the script, the main character kidnaps his comatose father from the hospital and takes him on a road trip.

    With his foot already in the door, Willis has extremely strong ambitions. “It would be an honor to graduate with the other guys in my class. As far as achievements go…I want it all,” says Willis. “No one comes into this business wanting to ‘just get by.’ I think you’ve got to want it all to get anywhere. And when you start making progress, you’ve got to want more and push yourself and know that you can do better and that you’ll only be as good as the last project you worked on.”

    April 6, 2015 • Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2377