Student and Alumni Spotlights
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  • Dare to Be Remarkable: New York Film Academy Alumna Adriana Ledesma on Film, Family and Future

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    Latina filmmaker and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Masters of Screen and Media graduate Adriana Ledesma is hard at work, applying her remarkable skill set as a writer, director, editor, cinematographer, producer, production manager — and more — to tell distinctive stories. In an industry focused on better promoting diversity and women in film while also creating opportunity for individuals with unique voices, this rising filmmaker is intent on creating engaging stories and touching audience’s hearts, and we are excited to watch her blaze a unique path.

    In the past few years NYFA alumnus Adriana Ledesma has premiered her work at numerous film festivals, including her films “Departure,” “Karma,” “A Choice,” and “Empathize.” In 2016, “Departure” won the Bronze Award for Short Film at the Fameus International Film Festival, and was also nominated for the Best Short Drama Jury Award at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival and the Best Short Film Hollywood Cinefest award at the Hollywood Cinfast. Adriana’s passion, experience, and unending love of mankind lend a unique perspective to her films, helping to create an experience audiences won’t soon forget.

    Recently, the busy filmmaker took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog and share some of her thoughts with our international community.

    NYFA: Some of your films have been honored with multiple awards. How did that feel? 

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    AL: Of course it’s always a great satisfaction that someone external, in this case some real experts, value the work you do and that you put so much effort into accomplishing. I don’t do things to receive something in return, but I am very passionate and I believe you should put more than 100 percent on everything you do — or else, what’s the point in doing it at all? So it has been an honor for me.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your experience in the film industry since graduating from the New York Film Academy?

    AL: Well, it certainty hasn’t been an easy road. There have been many obstacles and many sacrifices involved, but when you set your mind towards what you truly want, there’s nothing that can stop you.

    What you need to do is take the risk, forget about all the complications you might find on the way, and step out of your comfort zone. Don’t limit yourself, and dare to be remarkable.  

    I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do what I love, to wake up and go to set every day. I feel blessed.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: You are from Mexico originally and left home to pursue your dream, which is something that many members of our international NYFA community can relate to. Can you tell us a bit about that experience, and how your home and family have inspired your work?

    AL: I am a person who values family immensely and thank God I come from a family where love, affection and support are key. Even though I know they miss me as much as I miss them, the fact that they are always there for me, giving me advice and encouragement, pushes me to continue. …

    Adriana Ledesma, via IMDB.

    … I have countless memories of my childhood, climbing trees, riding bikes with my neighbors, playing soccer, going to the park with my siblings and my parents, etc., but there is one that stands out from when I was around nine years old. I was with some cousins and friends at my cousin’s house, and all of our parents no longer knew what to do to entertain us anymore, so they came up with the idea of all of us creating a whole episode of a TV program. We were very young at that time but I remember, knowing nothing, we pulled together a very decent project with nothing but one camera. Some of us took care of crew-type activities, some of them were acting in it, we had production design involved and even visual effects with some blood. That moment, at that age, felt magical for me.

    Adriana Ledesma on set, via IMDB.

    NYFA: Who are your influences? And how would you define your style as a filmmaker?

    AL: I am mostly inspired by Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg. The way they portray their stories, the approach they have when it comes to every single element involved, the importance they give to movement, acting, and framing while doing a film, is also how I love doing mine.

    For me, making a film is like putting a duet dance piece together: it’s all choreography. First you do the research — you gather all the elements you might use, then you explore styles and steps and you make your creativity shine.

    Once you have planned all the moves, you have to spend time rehearsing so it goes as well as possible. But when you’re actually shooting, you have to deal with unpredictability and uncertainty, because even when you’ve been working on it for a long time, the music might take you to different places.

    Then it becomes about timing. Each of the puzzle pieces have a detailed purpose, a precise time where they are needed, a specific meaning — so at the end, if everything flows as it was supposed to, the unified project gives you goose bumps.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Adriana for taking the time to share a part of her story with our community. Keep an eye out for many of her exciting new projects in development, including “Growing Up,” “Once in a Life time,” “Los Elegidos,” and “Until the End,” among others.

  • New York Film Academy Alum’s “Newton” Selected as India’s Entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award

    Amit V Masurkar’s “Newton”

    “Newton,” a feature-length film by NYFA alumnus Amit V Masurkar, is now in the running for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — just one in a long line of successes the Indian dark comedy-drama and its writer & director have already seen.

    Co-written and directed by Amit, “Newton” stars Rajkummar Rao as Newton Kumar, a rookie government clerk who seeks to uphold democracy and conduct fair elections in Chhattisgarh’s conflict-ridden jungles. The film has received positive reviews, including from India’s Huffington Post, which called it “a touching, personal and very human film.”

    Amit first premiered “Newton” at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. Since then, Amit has presented his film at nearly 50 festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it screened in the International Narrative Competition, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, where it won the coveted Jury Prize.

    An Academy Award would be the crowning achievement to go with these accolades, and the journey to attaining one is a long and tough road. Films that are produced outside of the United States and are delivered in a predominantly non-English language are eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Unlike other Oscars, the Foreign Language Film Award is unique in that the golden statue is presented not to the filmmakers, but to the nation that produced it—adding an air of patriotic pride to the category.

    Each country must then select just one film per year to represent it at the Academy Awards, creating a lot of competition between movies of all genres, especially in a nation as populated and cinema-oriented as India. “Newton” was selected from a shortlist of 26 films to represent India at this year’s Oscars, and the final nominations from five different countries will be announced along with the other Academy Award noms early next year. The 90th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 4, 2018.

    Amit V Masurkar honed his screenwriting skills at New York Film Academy’s New York campus, taking the 8-Week Screenwriting workshop in 2009. After writing for numerous sketch and comedy shows, Amit’s directorial feature-length debut “Sulemani Keeda” became a surprise indie hit. “Newton” is only his second feature film, and Amit has proven to be one of India’s most exciting voices in filmmaking.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Amit V Masurkar on such a fantastic achievement, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments he and “Newton” will achieve!

  • NYFA Gold Coast Advanced Diploma April ’17 Students Hold Graduation Showcase

    The April ’17 Graduates with Acting Coordinator Louise Lee Mei

    On November 9th, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held its Advanced April ’17 Actors End of Year Showcase and Graduation. Graduating students were joined by family and friends at Event Cinemas at Pacific Fair to celebrate their achievements and the body of work they accomplished throughout the year.

    New York Film Academy Australia delivers the nationally recognized Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media, with chosen coursework focused on the craft and business of acting for film. Students who enroll with the program commit a tremendous amount of time and effort, which paid off handsomely with a much-anticipated screening at the April ’17 graduation.

    Acting Coordinator, Louise Lee Mei, opened the event by welcoming guests and congratulating the four graduating students: Christopher Gillham, Esther Crane, Marc Johnson and Sherry Kawecki.

    “The Advanced April Actors are a group of very hard workers who we are extremely proud of,” said Mei. “We are excited to present these great actors to the industry.”

    The screening included Acting for Film scenes and the group’s pilot episode “Eternity”, concerning a jilted lover turning her hand to black magic and threatening the delicate balance between good and evil.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates our NYFA Gold Coast Advanced April ’17 Actors!

     

    November 14, 2017 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 875

  • New York Film Academy Australia Alum Premieres and Wins Big With Mockumentary

    Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League

    The list of sports films and sports comedies are endless, but not many movies have been about the burgeoning E-Sports wave, the billion-dollar industry of competitive video games. New York Film Academy Australia (NYFA AU) Gold Coast alumnus and California native Josh Hale sought to change that, and it’s starting to pay off for the filmmaker.

    His mockumentary film “Digital Athletes: The Road to Seat League” just had its North American premiere at the Historic Bay Theatre on November 3, and has already picked up multiple awards and official selections to festivals around the world. “I am on cloud nine,” Hale told NYFA while in California showcasing his film.

    Hale’s most recent win was the Best Comedy Film Award from the San Francisco International New Concept Film Festival. The Festival bills itself as an “international platform for film lovers, new filmmakers and film/media students who love filmmaking to stand out,” with a specific mission of “discovering and selecting potential talents with new concepts to accelerate the prosperous development of the film industry.”

    Hale told The San Leandro Times that his mockumentary style was inspired by comedy classics like “This is Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show.” He continued, “I find E-Sports fascinating.” Hale shot the entire feature-length film on Australia’s Gold Coast on a tiny budget of $5000, using local actors.

    Hale graduated from the Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media in Filmmaking at NYFA AU Gold Coast. Skills he developed during his time at NYFA AU, including producing and budgeting, were the fundamental skills he utilized during the production. Hale is still a part of the NYFA AU family, and is now passing on his experience and knowledge at the campus as a Teaching Assistant.

    Josh utlitzed his hands-on training with NYFA Gold Coast to go make a feature film right out of college,” noted NYFA Gold Coast Director Tasha Cooper. “He’s one of our success stories and we’re very proud of his recent achievements.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Josh Hale on his success, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments his hard work and dedication will bring!

  • NYFA Student Showcase is a Success at DOC NYC 2017

    The 2017 edition of DOC NYC included another fantastic New York Film Academy Documentary Department Showcase, spotlighting the work of NYFA students. NYFA faculty also had work represented at the festival, which MovieMaker Magazine has named amongst the top 5 “coolest documentary festivals in the world.”

    NYFA President Michael Young with NYFA DOC NYC Documentary Filmmakers at the NYFA Showcase, IFC Center.

    Known as one of the most prestigious documentary festivals in the U.S., DOC NYC is held annually at the IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village. The 8-day festival provides a cutting-edge platform for documentaries and includes panels and conversations with industry leaders.

    This is the third year in a row that NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students have premiered their original work at DOC NYC. The five NYFA student films premiering at the festival were “Atomic Love” (Yusaku Kanagawa), “Home Free” (Marie-Chan Kasongo), “Little Red Lie” (Mariko Ide), “Jatar” (Braulio Jatar), and “Janguaribara” (Lucas M. Dantas). Following the special screening, students, faculty, and industry guests alike enjoyed the usual excellent day-long after party/reunion, networking with fellow filmmakers and documentary industry insiders.

    NYFA Doc NYC Showcase Poster

    “DOC NYC is one of the most important documentary film festivals in the world. It’s a huge honor to be included in their showcase for the third year in a row.  Luckily, our students are up to the challenge,” said Andrea Swift, Chair, NYFA Documentary Department. “These five films are as accomplished as they are diverse, which is representative of the majority of NYFA documentaries.”

    Three NYFA faculty members were also honored with film screenings at DOC NY: “Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood” (featuring NYFA Digital Editing Professor Bob Eisenhardt, multiple Emmy Award-winner and Oscar nominee), “Hot Grease” (NYFA Documentary Department Producing Professor Jessica Wolfson), and “Atomic Homefront” (NYFA Documentary Department Cinematography Professor Claudia Raschke, four time Oscar nominee).

    DOC NYC Shorts Programmer Opal Bennet and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair Andrea Swift with filmmakers.

     

  • From “Carousel” to China: The World of NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Ilda Mason

    NYFA Musical Theatre alumna Ilda Mason is no stranger to the hustle and bustle of life as a working actress in New York City. Since graduating from NYFA, she has performed in not one but two professional productions of “West Side Story” and toured the country with “Cinderella.”

    Now, as she gears up for her next adventure — performing as Pilar in a tour of “Legally Blonde” in China! — Ilda took some time to catch up with the NYFA community to share her thoughts on success after school and believing in yourself, no matter what.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to NYFA?   

    IM: I was born and raised in Panamá City, Panamá. I studied ballet on and off for many years because I always found myself coming back to it despite of all my other extracurricular activities I did in school, like musical theatre.

    I auditioned for my first professional musical in 2008. It was “Beauty and the Beast,” and we performed in the biggest theatre in the country. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life, but as a plan B, I studied Structural Architecture. So I have a degree in Architecture!

    I knew I wanted to come to the United States to study Musical Theatre and it seemed like fate when I saw NYFA at a student’s stand in the very same building where that huge, first musical took place. I knew instantly that NYFA was it because it mixed Musical Theatre and Acting for Film.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?      

    IM: I loved my first NYFA Musical, “Spring Awakening.” Such an incredible show to be part of! It was my first audition process in New York, and to be cast in it was out of this world. Everything about it was exciting, new and powerful. And my favorite class project was the Final for Performance Lab, in which we had full creative freedom to do whatever we wanted and create a medley of songs and musicals to tell a new story. It was my favorite because I had the opportunity to see how my classmates shined so bright.

    The team I was a part of was amazing! Terra made the most incredible medley of rock songs and musical theatre hits that told the story of a rock band going to space, and I got the role of the astronaut! We used Christmas lights against the dance classroom’s mirror to create the illusion of being in space and … it was just perfect. To this day, my favorite class assignment.

    NYFA: Why musical theatre? What inspires you about this kind of storytelling?            

    IM: Musical Theatre brings together my love for acting, singing, and dancing. There is something magical about being on stage, telling a story with so many challenging elements. It’s live, always. You have to be on your A game all the time, whether it is trying to get the job or then keeping your mind, body and soul to 100 percent because your body is your instrument and you need to be ready to do a show eight times a week. It’s inspiring to me because it is special, it is demanding and it is rewarding. To dance my heart out every night, to sing a gorgeous score and to tell a beautiful story for a living must be the best job in the universe. I stare in awe whenever I see a Broadway show, or incredible acting on film. I want to do that, I want to be there. That’s why I moved countries.

    NYFA: While at NYFA, you choreographed the Musical Theatre Department’s production of “Carousel.” Can you tell us about that experience, and how it has shaped what you do today?     

    IM: I was chosen by Chad Austin to be his associate choreographer for this show, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had. To see a show from concept to end required a lot of hard work and we were a team that was committed. Getting to work so close to Chad as director/choreographer, gave me a look into all it takes to create something special. Being able to help choreograph and teach to our cast made me grow so much. I taught me about leadership, ownership and commitment. I needed to know every single move, step and position because the cast was counting on me. I think this was the biggest preparation to be a dance captain on Broadway one day soon.

    NYFA: You performed in two separate professional productions of “West Side Story.” What was it like to approach the same show in two different iterations?     

    IM: My first “West Side Story” will always hold a dear place in my heart. That production in Signature Theatre was flawless in every single way. It was so special to do such an iconic show that tells the story of Latino immigrants just like me, surrounded by such inspiring actors. We did a very immersive, intimate production in which only 300 people were all around us while the Jets and Sharks ran amongst them during the prologue.

    The second time I was part of the cast in Paper Mill Playhouse and that on its own was already mind-blowing. We rehearsed at the New 42nd St. Studios, and I was once again surrounded by massive Broadway stars, but the story was the same. Same beautiful message, stunning score and the best dancing there can be. The best part was seeing how different directors and choreographers bring the same show to life.

    NYFA: You recently performed in the national tour of “Cinderella.” For our students, how did you adjust and sustain your work for the tour conditions and schedule? Was there anything that surprised you or challenged you along the way?         

    IM: Being on tour is incredibly challenging and demanding. I learned and grew exponentially during those 10 months on the road. I learned that you must go in being 100 percent in every possible way, because the nature of touring will take a toll on you. I learned about making a lot of money and saving a lot of money for my future; I learned about the importance of rest. My body needed rest because we never truly had a day off while on tour since our “off” days where travel days. I learned about not falling into the claws of drama. Drama is meant to happen when you live in such a small bubble, and it will drain you mentally and spiritually.

    I learned how to be more like my dad and stay calm, collected and in a way diplomatic because these people become your family. You don’t want to fight on the road. I learned about the importance of keeping myself healthy and injury-free. So many people had to leave the tour because they got hurt and couldn’t perform anymore. I learned how to cook on the road! By the end of tour, I had a mini kitchen with me, equipped with a mini electric skillet, mini rice cooker, cutting board, spices, cutlery — you name it. It gave me the comfort of eating the food that I loved and missed and the peace of mind that I always had something to eat even when we were in the middle of nowhere, and saved so much money because of it.

    It’s challenging to be away from your loved ones, to miss out on things, to be surrounded by the same people every single day, but that was also something beautiful because you appreciate your long distance relationships with friends and loved ones; because you appreciate your alone time, and sharing time; because touring is a whole new ball game and doing a show about kindness and dancing a beautiful Ball every night is pretty spectacular.

    Processed with Snapseed.

    NYFA: What is next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that excite you, or any new avenues you hope to explore soon?       

    IM: I’m so excited because next month I will be going to China to perform as Pilar in “Legally Blonde: the Musical”! We will be doing a short tour through Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this Chinese adventure!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for what you are doing today?         

    IM: Absolutely. I was so prepared for that first audition season. I was my strongest in every way and ready to tackle any dance call, had a full repertoire of songs and enough confidence in who I am that I was ready to start the job of auditioning and having a day job at the same time. With time I grew to learn more about what was my style, what songs show me best at the actual audition time and what to wear to show who I really am and who I can be. I had incredible teachers at NYFA and I’m thankful for all the pieces of gold they gave me as guidance for this difficult journey though the musical theatre/film industry.

    NYFA: Any parting thoughts for our readers?       

    IM: Musical Theatre is hard work and perseverance to its core. It’s about not giving up and showing up to those auditions even though you are tired, haven’t been seen for Equity calls or even if you are scared. I learned a huge lesson from a close friend of mine. My tour roommate, an immigrant from Malaysia who was on an O-1 visa just like me and was also non-Equity, booked the Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon” and made her dreams come true.

    After that I realized that there is no audition too big. You want to be on Broadway, right? So you have to go to that Broadway call! She unknowingly taught me that you never know if you never try, and that if you feel you are right for something you have to go for it.

    Funny story, that’s how I landed this “Legally Blonde” tour! I applied to get an appointment and didn’t get one. The day of the audition I looked in Audition Update and found the location of the singers call. I marched there determined to be seen and, because they were running ahead of schedule, they were so nice to let me sing for them.

    Long story short: I crashed the audition and got the role. We need to believe in ourselves first and always.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ilda Mason for sharing a part of her story with our community.

    November 9, 2017 • Academic Programs, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 953

  • NYFA Gold Coast Holds Sept. 2016 & March 2017 Filmmaking End of Year Screenings

    This October, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held a joined graduation screening night for Sept. 2016 Filmmakers and March 2017 Filmmaking at Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair.

    Students and guests gathered in the foyer, where they were photographed at our NYFA media wall before being ushered into the cinema to watch the end of year films. All graduating students screened incredibly diverse and high quality films that showcased their exceptional skills in the art of storytelling.

    Directing and Editing lecturer Trevor Hawkins stated, “It’s been a privilege to be part of these students’ journey in becoming future filmmakers. Filmmaking is a skilled craft. Having a good story also helps, and NYFA certainly gives a firm grounding on both counts. The result has been some of the most impressive end of year productions. I wish them all well and I hope to work with them again sometime in the future.”

    Deputy Chair of Filmmaking Brian Vining said, “The screening was a huge success, with a big turnout of current student filmmakers, family, supporters, cast members and alumni. We are very proud of the skills, motivation and talent of our graduating filmmakers.”

    Congratulations to the graduating students: Brad Smith, Emilie Chetty, Lynne Cairncross, Adam Anonuevo, Callum Taylor, Isaac Moit and Philip Paton. We are very proud of their skills, motivation and talent, and can’t wait to see them succeed in their chosen fields.

  • NYFA Gold Coast Celebrates March 2017 Actors’ End of Year Screenings

    This October, the New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus held the March 2017 Diploma of Acting for Film end of year screening at Event Cinemas in Pacific Fair. The event included an opening reception for students, friends and family, and concluded with a screening of the students’ performances filmed throughout their year at NYFA Gold Coast.

    Acting Coordinator Louise Lee Mei said, “We are all very proud of the skill, motivation and determination of these students. Two special guests, Gael McDonald from Williams Management and Casting Director Cinzia Coassin, were in attendance to congratulate the graduates on their showcase scenes. As students prepare to enter our Advanced Diploma, the Acting for Film team look forward to further developing their professional skills for on-camera work.”

    Senior Acting Lecturer Adam Couper stated, “These students truly embraced the spirit of collaboration. They were a tight-knit and mutually respectful group and I think the work we saw showed how successful they were.”

    On behalf of all the staff and lecturers at the New York Film Academy Gold Coast, we would like to give our sincerest congratulations to the following graduating students: Amber Monaghan, Christopher Le Poidevinm, Ilavalu Tupou, Jake Dodds, Lachlan Crane, Lachlan Bliss, Olivia Samin, Shaunyl Benson and Tarnequa Pettet.

  • NYFA Broadcast Journalism School Update Nov. 6

    Last week, the biggest American story was right here in New York City. It was an act of terrorism, and it drew global attention. NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate George Colli was on-the-scene the following morning, along with Keith Porter, the chief camera operator of WTNH TV. They were here not just to report for their own station in Connecticut, but for the 170 other TV stations owned by the Nexstar Media Group. That’s a lot of TV stations…

    It was an opportunity to remember the important role that journalists play in society, and our responsibility to provide accurate and timely information, not hyperbole and speculation.
    There is a saying among journalists: “The first report is always wrong.” That means initial information on a developing story is almost always fragmentary and imprecise. CNN Money pointed out on its Reliable Sources site how that rule applied last week.

    Journalists scramble to cover terror attack right in their backyard

    The initial reports of an “active shooter” in lower Manhattan were wrong. So were the reports a few minutes later of a “road rage” incident. But unfortunately the reports of multiple fatalities were right. The 3 p.m. hour was consumed by confusing reports of injures along the West Side Highway in NYC. During the 4 p.m. hour, it became clear that the injuries were from a truck attack — and that
    it was being investigated as terrorism. In the 5 p.m. hour, officials said eight people were dead in an “act of terror.”
    Many people were looking to digital sites for information. One prime example is Snap Maps, which provided a graphic depiction of “what” was being reported by users “where,” along with user-generated footage. It captured both the potential, and pitfalls, of crowd-based news gathering. The site pretty well guarantees that images are being posted by real people, but those real people can say some really questionable things. That’s why, in an era of instant-everything, journalists continue to play a critical role.
    The Pew  Research Center is a wonderful source of nonpartisan, data-driven information on a wide range of subjects. One of their areas on emphasis is journalism, and their latest effort looks at how increasingly people who get their news via social media are turning to multiple platforms for information. Traditionally, I’d look at the NBC News site, CNN, MSNBC and Fox to see how a story is being covered … or,sometimes, if it is being covered at all. Now I have to include Facebook and Instagram too.
    Circling back to CNN, correspondent Brooke Baldwin did a fascinating behind-the-scenes story about her recent visit to the Republic of Korea (aka “South Korea”). Her description of landing on an American aircraft carrier is vivid, as are her portraits of Americans she met there, all living under the very real threat of a nuclear attack. Her story went beyond the usual soundbites and “talking points.” The online headline, however, doesn’t do it justice…
    Finally, you all know how I love to hear from our graduates. Here is a note I got last week from recent grad Luis Cacio:
    I’m glad to tell you guys that I get my first job with a Brazilian Soccer team, who has an affiliation in Orlando, Florida. It’s my first filming, editing and animation with Sports, what I wanted when I applied for NYFA!  I’m really happy and grateful for the learning that I got with the Program! 
    Thank you so much! 
    You’re welcome, Luis…
  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Kodi Milburn Spreads Her Wings

    For all students, the transition from art school to the professional world is a journey of transformation often wrought with surprises both good and bad, but it takes particular skill and dedication to turn such life experiences into a work of art.

    With her original work “Chrysalis,” NYFA Musical Theatre alumna Kodi Milburn morphed the challenges she found in the entertainment industry into an artistically satisfying and empowered performance piece. We had a chance to catch up with Kodi to hear about her collaborative creative process and thriving in life after NYFA.

    Photo by Sean Ben-Svi

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    KM: I grew up in Nebraska with my single mother. She is both a hippie and a musician, qualities that shaped me into who I am now. I’ve always been into music and theater.

    My first show was as a baby in “Fiddler in the Roof,” followed by “Peter Pan.” My mom was Peter and I was a Tiger Lilly dancer. Time went on, and I knew I wanted to pursue art further. It’s kind of the same old story: a small town girl from the Midwest moves to the city to pursue a dream.

    I chose NYFA because it was a more down to earth and artistic environment than other schools. I needed that freedom to work on my art. I also noticed the star-studded list of instructors, some of which had directly inspired me to become a performer (Deidre Goodwin). How cool is it to learn dance from a woman you used to watch on TV?

    NYFA: Why musical theatre? And, what has inspired your work lately?

    KM: I have since branched out into different genres, but the core of my training is in musical theater. I think that as a musical theater performer you have to be a triple threat. Therefore, I feel prepared to attack any genres head on. Lately the work of my peers, Terra Warman, Caleb Settje, Zoey Michaels, and Makayla Benedict, has inspired me to put up local theater and produce more of my own work!

    NYFA: What surprised you most about your time studying with us? Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    KM: I was surprised at how close I got with my peers and instructors. You’re really going through the trenches together, and I work with those same people on nearly every show I do outside of NYFA. They quickly became family to me.

    My favorite NYFA moment was being selected to sing for the Jonathan Groff master class. You had to be nominated by your teachers to be selected. That was a validating and humbling experience, to be chosen by the people I held in such high regard.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience filming NYFA movie musical “Seeking Alice,” and seeing it go on to win awards like Best Musical at the Nova Fest?

    KM: Filming “Seeking Alice” was a hoot, but we were up all night and filming outside in January. You do it for the art though! Funny enough that was not the first time I had played Tweedle Dum, and I got to revive the character alongside one of my dearest friends, Jonina Bjort. The crew and creative team for the film were innovative and an absolute joy to work with in such hard-core conditions. I mean, I got to eat ice cream, refine my MUA and Hair tech skills, and belt Bobby Cronin’s original music — of course it was amazing.

    As you can imagine, we were all thrilled to see that the film was loved as much by the professionals at the Nova Fest as it was by all of us involved! Truly the icing on the cake

    NYFA: For our current Musical Theatre students, what did you find most challenging in transitioning to work outside of the program environment, and do you have any advice for navigating that transition?

    KM: I found that the balance between working on art and becoming a responsible adult was the hardest transition for me. Here’s the thing: That transition is hard for everyone. The good news is the instructors at NYFA have the tools to help you into the real world. I’m sure you’ve heard it from them but my advice is to follow these four rules.

    1) Be professional. (Meaning, show up early and show up prepared).

    2) Take yourself seriously and take care of yourself. (Get up and go to that 5 a.m. audition and invest in your own business. Get a survival job! You have to pay your rent to stay here).

    3) Be a good person. (You will work with the same people over and over again, do not burn bridges!)

    4) Be true to yourself. (There is no right way to be successful in this industry, so if you end up doing something that isn’t exactly what you planned, that’s not a fail, it’s part of a path.)

    NYFA: How did your original project “Chrysalis” come about? Can you tell us about that creative process?

    KM: I started writing “Chrysalis” after I graduated. My friends and I were auditioning and it seemed that we couldn’t book anything because we were too thick or too dark skinned or not blonde enough, not because we weren’t talented. So I wrote a show for those people and me to perform artistically satisfying pieces without feeling like we needed to change something about us in order to do so.

    The creative process was a lot of work. I began writing music and then the script. Next I gathered my team (which included NYFA alumni) and began rehearsals. I then pitched my show to a millennial, all-female, producing team called The Creators Collective. They picked up the show and we began fundraising.

    We received free space from CC and 100 Bogart, and most of our funding from a group funding campaign and a live fundraiser in my hometown of Rushville, Nebraska. The show went up on Aug. 5, 2017! We are now recording a cast album and applying for grants for a 2018 run of the show.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you are working on?

    KM: Currently I am continuing my work on “Chrysalis,” appearing in Tandem Children’s Theater Company as a female Harry Potter, collaborating with Caleb Settje on his new musical, “aKing,” partnering with my producers and AirBnB for live AirBnB experiences, taking promotional photos for SHIFT dance collective, and working with Makayla Benedict and Zoey Michaels on a song set for live performances. My Facebook is updated with my current/future projects.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to share?

    KM: I am a promotional portrait photographer with reasonable rates for fresh graduates and students. You can contact me if you would like to set up a session.

    November 6, 2017 • Academic Programs, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 914