Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • Producer Stephanie Allain Screens “Hustle & Flow” for 10 Year Anniversary at NYFA

    It’s been 10 years since the seminal film Hustle & Flow hit theaters (earning the Audience Award at Sundance, Oscar for Best Original Song and Best Acting Nomination for Terrance Howard) but the movie is just as impactful now as it was then. Just ask the students who attended the screening of Hustle & Flow in the New York Film Academy Los Angeles Theater this week, followed by a Q&A with producer and champion of the cultural relic Stephanie Allian.

    As Senior Vice President at Columbia Pictures, Stephanie helped launch the careers of filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and John Singleton. She shepherded Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood, which garnered two Academy Award nominations. Following her tenure at Columbia, she was named President at Jim Henson Pictures.


    Stephanie Allain


    Stephanie formed Homegrown Pictures and produced Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow, which earned the Audience Award at Sundance, Oscar for Best Original Song and Best Actor nomination for Terrence Howard. Since then, she’s produced the directorial debut film of Sanaa Hamri and of Tina Gordon Chism. Stephanie worked again with Craig Brewer, producing his film Black Snake Moan. She’s produced Tim Story’s Hurricane Season and most recently Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights, and Justin Simien’s directorial debut, Dear White People. In addition to her prolific producing endeavors, Stephanie is Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival, Producer of the Spirit Awards, where she sits on the board of Women In Film and Film Independent as a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and of the Producer’s Guild of America. Producer Tova Laiter and NYFA producing instructor Lydia Cedrone moderated the discussion.

    NYFA students were hanging onto Stephanie’s every valuable word as she described her rise through the Hollywood ranks, and important lessons she learned along the way. Soon after college she became a script reader when she discovered she could make up to $50 for every screenplay she wrote coverage for. Stephanie described the ability to write good coverage as essential in starting a producing career. This skill is what got Stephanie recognized by studio execs and working in their offices. And it’s the skill that gave her continued success in pinpointing quality material as a studio exec herself. She recommended that students read every script they can get their hands on and write coverage for it, if not only for practice. Her advice to those seeking to hone their screenwriting skills was to read 1,000 scripts and write coverage for them. This, she told students, would help them most in mastering their craft. Stephanie can now spot a bad script from page one. She’ll know if a screenplay is something that she’ll want to get behind because the feeling it gives her is very much like falling in love.

    allain and laiter

    Stephanie described how she shepherded the very unconventional Boyz N’ The Hood script through the studio system. John Singleton, the young genius who wrote the script and would later direct it, was a script reader at the time hired by Allain. John convinced Stephanie to read his script and she was floored. She said to herself, “This is what I’m here to do.” One-by-one she convinced her studio colleagues to read the script as well. This took a few weeks, but when she finally made known her burning desire to champion the film, it was already ingrained into everyone’s consciousnesses. To Stephanie’s surprise her boss green-lit the film and she was promoted to VP, since only VP’s could supervise production and it was clear to everyone only she could supervise this film. Stephanie revealed that one of the determining factors in her success within the studio system was that she was never afraid to give her exact opinion on things. It is these types of people, Allain said, that rise to the top.


    Stephanie Allain

    Allain described the exciting experiences of discovering directorial sensations such as Robert Rodriquez” (Desperado) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow). By the time Stephanie made Hustle & Flow, however, she had become independent with her company Homegrown Pictures. A true believer in one’s power to create their own reality, Stephanie has adapted to the changing times to continue to make the kinds of movies she wants to make and also champion them via the Los Angeles Film festival that she is heading and intending it to become the most diverse festival yet.

    We sincerely thank Stephanie Allain for visiting the school and look forward to her next groundbreaking project.

    April 3, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1435

  • NYFA Abu Dhabi Student’s Script Accepted to Oscar Library


    The New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi is pleased to announce that one of its 8-Week Filmmaking students, Arkus, has had his script Pink accepted into the Oscar Library, and the short Arabic film he created from the script has already screened at more than 10 international short film festivals around the globe.

    Pink is a story of Khadijah, a middle aged Arabic woman suffering from depression and low self-esteem after her divorce. The divorce has scarred her and led her to believe that she is no more attractive. Therefore, she begins a quest to look beautiful once again.



    “I am honored that Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences popularly known as the Oscar library has accepted the screenplay of Pink,” said Arkus. “It gives me a great sense of joy to know that my screenplay will share a room with some of the best screenplays in the world.”

    Arkus describes the New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi as his second home.

    “I had amazing teachers and staff who took the pain to guide me even after the lectures at pretty odd hours, and my batch mates who made extra efforts to ensure that the film is what it is today. Specifically for the screenplay — maximum credit goes to my two teachers, Norman B. Schwartz and Scott Hartmann, who poured their heart out. I just feel that if I would have listened to them more, the screenplay would have been better.”

    Arkus continues to screen his film at festivals around the world. After making Pink, Arkus teamed up with a few close friends to create a paper-cut stop motion animated short film Dubai LoveScape, which screened at Dubai International Film Festival, 2014.

    He is also working on a feature film script, which he hopes to find the right sponsors who can someday make it a reality.

    March 31, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1873

  • NYFA Australia Showcasing Their Talent

    It’s showcase time at New York Film Academy Australia. Both our Sydney and Gold Coast campuses, together with Acting for Film students, had been working effortlessly over the months putting together performances that showcase the students’ talents.

    Gold Coast had a busy three-day showcase schedule running throughout early March, featuring 34 of the Academy’s skilled acting students. Each and every night, the Helensvale Cultural Centre was filled with friends and family who had come along to support the graduate actors’ and actresses’ live performances and showreels. The room was filled with great energy and positive vibes as all graduates pulled-off an outstanding performance.

    Congratulations to the Gold Coast Acting for Film graduates:

    New York Film Academy Gold Coast Students

    New York Film Academy Gold Coast Students: Brandon Sherwood, Callum Whitton, Anthony Christodoulou, David Austin, Samantha Willis, Tara Wraith, Michael Stoeckert, Marie-Clare Loi Zou, Jasper Batenga, Will Wensley (instructor), Stephanie Kutty, Paris Moletti, Taryn Roberts and Christine Campbell.

    Thursday 5th March Performers

    • Caleb Saron
    • Christine Campbell
    • David Austin
    • Jim Rossngton
    • John McMahon
    • Marie-Clare Lou Zou
    • Max Gundy
    • Natalie Hunt
    • Rebecca Lyon
    • Samantha Willis
    • Villami Kama
    • Zac Bankowski

    Wednesday 11th March Performers

    • Anthony Christodoulou
    • Brody Arrowsmith
    • Callum Whitton
    • Georgia Pilling
    • Kiara Watson
    • Natalie Jones
    • Nicola Haks
    • Paris Moletti
    • Rhys Williamson
    • Sam Farell
    • Stephanie Kutty
    • Steve Budgen

    Thursday 12th March Performers

    • Ashley Dunscombe
    • Brandon Sherwood
    • Clare Brimmer
    • Jasper Batenga
    • Joshua Conboy
    • Kerri-Anne Keenan
    • Laura Scott
    • Tara Wraith
    • Taryn Roberts
    • Zoe Bankowski


    As we headed down the coast of Australia, on Friday 6th March, Sydney was preparing for an over-capacity performance at the Australian Theater for Young People, located above the Sydney Theatre Company and accompanied with the breathtaking backdrop of Walsh Bay.

    Over the months leading up to the showcase, acting one-year program graduates of the night, Chantelle Von Appen, Chris Strauss, Alexander Merlo, David Pound, Nicole Torode, Rafael Haddad and Andrew Murdoch were able to experience exactly why New York Film Academy programs are defined by their intensive, hands-on reputation. Graduates’ commitment and dedication truly shined on the night, with their high caliber execution of mixed scene performances and beat poetry receiving a well-deserved standing-ovation from audience members, family, friends, NYFA staff and instructors.

    With a buzz in the air, graduates continued to showcase their works to a number of agents and casting directors at the Sony Theatrette. The opportunity for students to present their showreels was nerve-wracking but again, was received positively by students, agents and casting directors, alike.

    New York Film Academy Sydney

    New York Film Academy Sydney Students on-stage showcasing their talents.

    New York Film Academy Sydney

    New York Film Academy Sydney. From left, Rafael Haddad, David Pound, Nicole Torode, Jennie Hughes (NYFA Sydney, General Manager), Alexander Merlo, Chantelle Von Appen, Chris Strauss & Andrew Murdoch.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank all students, graduates and teaching staff who worked tirelessly to produce such a successful program, making it possible to accomplish these inspiring events and performances. We congratulate all students who have now joined our NYFA Alumni family and look forward to another prosperous year working with talented, upcoming actors and actresses.

    View the photos from the events here:

  • ‘X-Files’ Alumnus Paul Brown to Teach Workshop at NYFA South Beach

    Paul BrownAfter a thirteen year hiatus, Fox has officially let fans know that the popular 90s TV show, The X-Files, will be returning for a brand new season. Series creator Chris Carter says the series will pick up right where it left off with stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny all on board to reprise their roles.

    The six-episode season is set to begin production this summer.

    In the meantime, X-Files alumnus Paul Brown will be teaching a workshop at the New York Film Academy’s South Beach campus.

    The Secret of Great Stories
    Workshop Featuring award-winning writer, director and producer, Paul Brown
    SATURDAY, APRIL 11th, 2015 at 12pm

    If you’re interested in attending the workshop, email

    Instructor Paul Brown is an award-winning writer, director and producer, having worked in film and television for over twenty-five years. He has produced over one-hundred television dramas, pilots, and movies, working on such series at The X-Files, Quantum Leap, The New Twilight Zone, Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise.  He has received nominations for three “Emmy Awards” and three “Golden Globes” as well as winning the “Edgar Award” from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Drama. He has also received the “Genesis Animal Rights Award.”

    He co-created Disney’s world-wide smash hit Camp Rock.  Most recently, he directed and co-wrote the dramatic feature film Heaven’s Rain in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

    As a teacher for the New York Film Academy, he also gives lectures on writing, acting, and filmmaking throughout the year in Latin America, Europe, and Russia.


    March 25, 2015 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 809

  • New York Film Academy Photography Heats it Up!

    dr island

    © Maciej Stachowicz 2015

    This month, one-year students from the New York Film Academy Photography Department took to the skies for the first ever “photography expedition,” a new initiative by the Film Academy to provide its students with an international educational experience. For students of the visual arts—such as photography and filmmaking—exploring another culture is key to re-examining their perspective on the world while providing valuable new ways to inspire and shape their art-making. The program’s plan is for all students enrolled in the Photography and Documentary Filmmaking Departments, from all U.S. NYFA campuses (Los Angeles, Miami, and New York), to have the opportunity to travel to an exotic destination each year. At least six photography and documentary filmmaking expeditions per year are planned.

    The venue for the Photography Program this term was the Dominican Republic, while the Documentary Department journeyed to the Central American country of Belize. Occupying the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic is the second largest country, after Cuba, in the West Indies.

    dominican republic
    Upon landing in Samana and traveling to the small town of Las Terrenas, student April Vidal stated, “I’m so excited,” and she, like all of the students, remained excited for the rest of the trip.

    NYFA student Mathew Williams reported, “We have been experiencing Dominican culture: the music, the food, the environment, the weather …that’s been really great!”

    Las Terrenas and its surroundings offer a wide variety of visual subject matter for students to photograph. While there, the assignment was to tell a visual story about the country. Students created a varied and large selection of works– everything from social documentary, to landscape, to portraits, to abstracts of the colors in Las Terrenas.

    “This trip is an amazing opportunity for students to put into practice everything they have learned in our program so far; to do so in a live shoot environment couldn’t be more exciting or challenging,” said NYFA Photography Co-Chair David Mager.

    “The best part of this trip was the freedom to go out and shoot whatever we wanted to shoot… it’s so beautiful. Everyday when I wake up I feel like I am getting closer to my dreams, because this is what I want to do for my career. I want to be a photo journalist, so being out here, meeting all these people, learning about the culture is so inspiring for me,” said Courtnie Keith, a one-year student at NYFA.

    “This was an invaluable experience. I think I fell in love with photography a little more each day,” exclaimed Alexandra Schaede, a student from NYFA’s New York City campus.

    nyfa dr

    The College’s faculty is in the process of scouting locations for future programs. Locations under discussion include Cuba, Honduras and Costa Rica.

    The New York Film Academy is a proud member/partner of the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative.

    March 24, 2015 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1057

  • Oscar Winning Actor J.K. Simmons Visits NYFA

    jk simmons

    Academy-Award Winning Actor J.K. Simmons

    New York Film Academy students gathered in a theater at Warner Bros. Studios this past week for a special screening of Whiplash followed by a Q&A with this year’s Oscar winner for Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons. Jonathan Kimble (“J. K.” Simmons) is known for his roles as Dr. Emil Skoda on the NBC series Law & Order (and other Law & Order franchise series), neo-Nazi Vernon Schillinger on the HBO prison drama series Oz, Assistant Police Chief Will Pope on the TNT series The Closer, J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and the voices of Cave Johnson in the 2011 puzzle game Portal 2 and Tenzin in The Legend of Korra. Simmons’s performance as music instructor Terence Fletcher in Whiplash (2014) received universal acclaim and earned him more than 30 accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award. Producer Tova Laiter moderated the discussion.

    To anyone who’s seen Whiplash, the memory of J.K. Simmons’ role as Fletcher, the music conservatory instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a promising young drummer’s potential, is burned into their memory. Soon after the credits finished rolling, and the man who had just captured the students’ attention so intensely on screen appeared in the flesh and took the stage, the whole theater immediately erupted into cheers and applause during a standing ovation. It was interesting to see how much of a contrast the terrifyingly sadistic Fletcher was to the real man behind the role. J.K. was upbeat, jovial, and having the students laughing in stitches with his endless stream of quips. He was as appreciative to be there as the student’s were to see him and even though the line of students waiting to ask questions stretched to the back of the theater and nearly out the door, J.K. stayed until every last question was answered.

    jk simmons

    Actor J.K. Simmons with Producer Tova Laiter

    J.K. talked about the incredibly fateful circumstances surrounding the Whiplash feature. Director Damien Chazelle wrote the part of the student drummer Andrew for Miles Teller not knowing at all the the actor had been a drummer since the age of 15. What’s more, when Damien first approached J.K. about playing the part of music instructor Fletcher, he assured him that there would be a music technical advisor on set and that they could use a body double for difficult orchestral scenes. As it turned out, however, Mr. Simmons studied music in college. “I thought I was going to be Leonard Bernstein when I grew up, but I took a few left turns…” J.K. jokingly said. “It was just all meant to be.”

    Elaborating more on the making of the film that changed his life forever, Mr. Simmons explained that when he first met Damien Chazelle the director was only 26 years old. However, despite Damien’s lack of experience, the two immediately clicked as J.K. saw the genius within the young director. Within 10 minutes of working together on the Whiplash short film, Simmon’s and Chazella knew they would be working together on the feature version. Simmon’s also had a comfortable, creatively exciting relationship with actor Miles Teller on set. Even though the tension between them was high on screen, the two would joke around together between takes on set. This was also due to the relaxed environment Damien created on set which allowed for experimentation from the actors. An interesting fact about the young music students from the various college bands in the film was that, aside from a few, they were composed of real student musicians, not actors. And during the filming the bands were actually creating real music!

    jk at nyfa

    While reminiscing on the long road that took him to where he is now J.K. said, “When I look back it almost seems like I had a plan. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and doing what I really enjoy doing… When I was scrapping by and making ends meet, I didn’t have a wife and kids and any responsibilities… In my case, the level of success, acclaim, attention I’ve gotten more and more of in the last decade or so, if that had happened when I was 25 years old I would not have been prepared creatively, personally in any way.”

    March 23, 2015 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2107

  • NBC Visits NYFA in Search of Diverse Talent

    nbc diversity

    NBC’s Grace Moss presenting NBC’s Diversity Initiative Programs

    This past Thursday, March 19th at the New York Film Academy in Union Square, our students, alumni and faculty were treated to an informational session on NBC’s Entertainment Diversity Programs hosted by Grace Moss.

    The goal of their initiatives is to increase diversity on the network through programs like Writers on the Verge, the Directing Fellowship Program, NBCU Short Film Festival and Scene Showcase.

    Grace was able to break down each program with her informative presentation, and answered questions from the audience. She even answered specific one on one questions for students after the presentation.

    nbc diversity

    The New York Film Academy strongly recommends its students of diversity apply to these programs, as it is an amazing opportunity to break into the industry on a serious level.

    Below are just a handful of the programs Grace highlighted in her presentation:

    DIRECTING FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM The Directing Fellowship Program is designed to take directors accomplished in their respective fields (features, commercials and/or music videos) and give them the opportunity to work alongside episodic television directors. The selected directors will foster relationships and fine-tune their art to fit the television format.

    NBCUNIVERSAL SHORT FILM FESTIVAL The Short Cuts Film Festival is an initiative to discover diverse voices both in front of and behind the camera. It provides creative individuals of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to get their materials in front of key decision makers from the entire NBCUniversal family, as well as agents, managers, producers, and other industry players.

    WRITERS ON THE VERGE Writers on the Verge is a 12-week program focused on polishing writers and readying them for a staff writer position on a television series. We are looking for writers who are “almost there,” but need that final bit of preparation with their writing and personal presentation skills.

    LATE NIGHT WRITERS WORKSHOP The NBCUniversal Late Night Writers Workshop is a program focused on exposing talented joke, sketch and comedy writers to NBCUniversal’s late-night & alternative lineup and readying them for a staff writer position.

    NBC SCENE SHOWCASE A 6-8 week workshop of original scenes by diverse writers, cast with up-and-coming actors and guided by directors of diverse backgrounds presented in a one-day showcase for executives, producers, casting directors, and other industry professionals.


    March 20, 2015 • Acting, Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1342

  • NYFA Student Lucas Diercouff to Film “The Gael” in Paso Robles

    Lucas Diercouff filming The Gael

    Lucas Diercouff, a United States Army veteran and current BFA Filmmaking student at the New York Film Academy, has announced his intention to film his short, The Gael, in Paso Robles, California. To help him achieve the goal, he has launched a GoFundMe campaign 

    The film takes place in 200AD Scotland, in a time when the Romans were trying to take over the Caledonia region. The story follows as Caer (played by Rachel J. Clark, Miss Scotland 2014), attempts to save her husband (Paul Meixner, NYFA graduate and veteran).

    Diercouff chose the Paso Robles area of California to film because he had heard of its resemblance to Scotland. After a bit of investigation and visiting the vineyards in the area, the stage was set.

    In a statement given to the Paso Robles Daily News, Diercouff says:

    “It has always been my dream to tell the story of a challenged love amidst the struggle of war, the kind of story that suits historical period and is an honest portrait of the passion of ancient Scotland.”

    The cast and crew plan to begin filming in May to finish by August, just in time for Diercouff’s graduation. Members of the project include current and former NYFA students, and members from outside the school (along with several veterans that fall into both camps).



    March 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 637

  • Shakespeare Competition at New York Film Academy

    louis fantasia

    photo by Scott Hanlon

    On Sunday, March 9, the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy played host to the LA Branch of the English Speaking Union for its 28th annual high school Shakespeare competition. Six finalists competed before a panel of distinguished film and theatre professionals in the Academy’s Riverside theatre before a cheering audience of family, friends, teachers and patrons, for a chance to perform at the ESU National finals at New York’s Lincoln Center in April.

    The six finalists were Carlos Camacho (Ramon C. Cortines School for Visual & Performing Arts); Clement Dexter (St. Monica Academy); Avery Girion (The Marlborough School); Kathleen Glynn (Los Angeles Senior High School); Emma Rothenberg (Westridge School); and Alex Thorland (New Roads School). They were chosen from 23 participants from the greater Los Angeles area two weeks earlier in a semi-final competition held at the Marlborough School in Hancock Park.

    shakespeare festival

    photo by Scott Hanlon

    Winning top prize was Emma Rothenberg from the Westridge School in Pasadena (shown I photo with drama teacher Laurie Riffe). Runner up Avery Girion, from the Marlborough School, was awarded a tuition scholarship to NYFA’s Advanced Acting summer camp for High School students this July.

    Judges for the Finals competition included Tony-nominated actress Roxanne Hart; actor, director and Golden Globe nominee Philip Casnoff (who teaches acting at the New York Film Academy); actress, director and Manhattan Marymount College Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Swain; and actress and ESU-LA Board member Kara Hume.


    photo by Scott Hanlon

    Shakespeare scholar Louis Fantasia, Dean of the Faculty at NYFA/LA, serves as President of the Board of the LA Branch of the English Speaking Union, which is part of a network of 68 branches throughout the US dedicated to global understanding and educational out-reach.

    Said Fantasia, “I was very happy to wear both my NYFA and ESU hats at the same time to help make this wonderful competition a success. I’m thrilled that we could show NYFA’s world class facilities to the participating students, teachers and patrons of the ESU, and equally thrilled that NYFA could help spread the word not only about Shakespeare in schools, but also about the wonderful work the ESU does in education in Los Angeles and across the US.”

  • NYFA Filmmakers Making ‘Waves’ in the Philippines


    It’s no secret that networking is one of the most essential parts of becoming a successful filmmaker. At the New York Film Academy, we encourage students to find like-minded individuals who want to collaborate and are truly passionate about their craft. After all, you can’t create a film entirely by yourself. It’s a team effort.

    Recently, a team of NYFA students put their efforts together and filmed the feature film Waves. The film was written by Scott Acornley, directed by Don Frasco, edited by Adrian Morales Ramos, and produced by Anna Skrypka and Don Frasco, all of whom graduated from NYFA.

    “NYFA’s intensive hands-on approach worked well for me,” says producer and MFA Filmmaking alumna Anna Skrypka. “We were pushed to wear so many hats that we had no choice but to learn fast and figure our way out.”

    waves still

    The film, which will be Waverly Pictures first feature film, is about intimate friendship, love and heartbreak, revolving around two old friends who test their boundaries on a secluded island in the Philippines.

    Waves is mainly about a man in his later 20s, drowning in his own life, in his own indecision, in his own lack of focus,” says screenwriter and MFA Filmmaking alumnus Scott Graham. “The ocean is a great metaphor for the human subconscious, so I always thought that the main character should be consumed by it, overwhelmed by it. But with the appearance of the whale shark, he kind of starts finding his way. There is beautiful potential inside all of our minds, and sometimes we need to drown and struggle a little bit to find that potential.”

    Waves is now available on Vimeo on Demand, and will be theatrically released this June in the Philippines by the Distribution Company Viva. The team is also in the process of getting US and worldwide distribution.

    waverly pictures

    Frasco and Skrypka are currently working on a number of other projects, including a feature that they intend to shoot early 2016. Through the film, Frasco hopes to explore Cebu youth culture from the perspective of two fresh medical representatives tasked to introduce family planning products to rural towns.

    “I hope to make films that have a sincere impact on society and its culture,” says director and cinematographer Don Frasco. “I believe that principles can be influenced and shaped through cinema in ways that ignite passion and a resilient interest in contributing to the world.”

    There will be a screening and Q&A with the filmmakers at NYFA Los Angeles on March 27th.

    Have a look at the trailer below, where you’ll also have the option of purchasing the film to view in its entirety.


    March 17, 2015 • Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1742