Recent New York Film Academy Filmmaking graduate Javier Alfonso Bartolozzi’s thesis film, “The Kobal Report,” has been selected to screen at the Los Angeles Film Awards, NYC Indie Film Awards, and it will also appear at the Cannes Short Film Corner in May 2017.
His film is about a depressed journalist, Colin, who has no aspirations and winds up meeting a cruel “vigilante,” killing criminals in New York. Colin sees him as an opportunity to grow professionally and to fulfill his empty life, with inevitably disastrous results.
“I wrote the script so that the audience can decide what is right or wrong,” he said. “It’s ‘take law into your own hands’ — a way to give justice.”
Bartolozzi came to NYFA from Spain. He says he was looking for a school to not only network with like-minded individuals, but also work with students from all over the world.
“I had the support of a lot of teachers, classmates and, of course, NYFA helped with all the equipment,” said Bartolozzi. “Also, I learned a lot from my instructors, especially from the screenwriting class.”
Bartolozzi is currently writing a couple new short films, but is still in the early stages of the process.
“My goal is to create stories to create emotions in people,” says Bartolozzi. “I also want to produce all the crazy ideas I have in my mind. I’m not interested in prizes or festivals, I just want to work as a filmmaker and make a living in the industry.”
Former New York Film Academy Australia, Gold Coast student, Damian Lang, has shot three award-winning short films thus far, and has worked as a Location Assistant on major Hollywood films like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Aquaman,” both of which were filmed in the Gold Coast. Between his on-set experience and filmmaking background, Lang says he is currently working on an idea for his first feature film.
Below is Lang’s description of his three award-winning shorts:
“This film is about trying to re-connect with people, woman particularly. I returned from Afghanistan with the Australian Infantry a few years back and developed some mental issues, which unfortunately ended in me losing my wife and job. This sent me on a bit of a downward spiral, but I always forced myself to get out and push through. The events in the film actually happened multiple times — just not usually with a fairy-tail ending.”
Caymen, Int Film Festival
Stage One, Int Film Festival (Won ACS Best Cinematography)
Long Beach Indie, Int Film Festival
Screen IT, Gold Coast Film Festival
Austin Revolution, Film Festival
“Diamond In The Rough”
“This film is about understanding your own beauty and worth. I went through a faze where I was trying to build myself into another person to attract certain types of women into my life. I found out it’s not very sustainable or fair on the other person.”
Colorado, Int Film Festival (Won Best Student Short)
Fort Worth, Indie Film Festival
International Video and Music Awards
Roma, Cinemadoc Film Festival
“The First Step”
This film is about re-connecting even if it isn’t the easiest route, and also about betrayal at the most unexpected times. The idea stems from when I was in Afghanistan and there were multiple ego driven orders that put us in unnecessary danger. Duty first is what we always did, but now we have to live with the outcomes and the question ‘why’.”
Screenings: (This film is still on the festival scene until December 2017)
Around Films, Int Film Festival (Won Best Short film)
Hollywood Screenings, Film Festival (Semi-finalist)
Lang also directed a music video for the Gold Coast based DJ duo “Bombs Away,” which was featured on MTV.
The Acting for Film Department at the New York Film Academy has started a new Industry Trend series, which welcomes recent graduates who are at early and mid-level stages of their career. The series aims to provide current students with a glimpse of what their careers might look like in the near future.
Last week, as part of the Industry Trend series, Acting for Film Chair Glynis Rigsby welcomed her former student, Emily Seale-Jones, who is an actress, writer, producer, and director. Seale-Jones spoke about creating content, specifically her web series “Frankie and Emma.” The series follows the daily, comical antics of two girls in London. Seale-Jones created the show and stars in it with Nancy Wallinger, who is known for “The Play That Goes Wrong” at London’s West End.
Seale-Jones said she created the show in order to showcase her skills as both an actress and a filmmaker. “It’s really uncomfortable to promote yourself, but you have to get used to it,” she said. “If people aren’t going to bank on you, then you need to do the work and prove you’re bankable. You have to prove yourself.”
At the end of the day, even if Seale-Jones is unable to sell the series to a network, she believes it’s important to get the work out there for people to see. That’s the goal. “If you want to do something, you just go ahead and do it,” added Seale-Jones.
Her first experience creating content was at NYFA in 2011 when she decided to create a play with her fellow classmates and with Glynis as her director. Seale-Jones said NYFA broke down the wall of filmmaking, allowing her to believe the entire process of creating a film from idea to completion is feasible.
Seale-Jones also spoke about her film, “To Tokyo,” which her brother wrote and directed over a four year span in Japan. The film is about a young woman, hiding from her past, who is confronted by her stepsister in Japan and forced to face the figure that haunts her in a world where dreams meet reality.
With all of her projects, Seale-Jones has realized one major fact: “There has to be something that’s the driving force. You can’t rely on anyone except yourself.”
New York Film Academy Acting for Film alumnus Kojo Boama’s newest short film, “Proceed With Caution,” has been picked up by Amazon Prime video. “Proceed with Caution,” written by NYFA alumnus Joey Colebut, is about an upcoming NYC music producer who stumbles on his way to stardom by getting his mistress pregnant. The film has been talked about by major hip-hop artists such as P.Diddy, Jadakiss, and Swizz Beatz.
We had a chat with Boama to find out more about his new film, and about how aspiring filmmakers should never give up.
Hi Kojo. Can you tell us where you’re from and what brought you to NYFA?
I was born in Ghana, West Africa and raised in Harlem, NY. My mother lived in London and had me educated in England as well. She was going to have me stay and live the rest of my life there, so NYFA in NY was an alternative escape route to move back in with my father up in Harlem while seeking to further my education and study a craft.
And the craft you studied was Acting for Film. Can you tell us about your experience in NYFA’s Acting for Film program?
I absolutely loved the acting program. Meisner technique is an essential tool I still use today: always listening to determine the true meaning underneath a person’s statement was a technique that was very useful in the making of this film. This is because I had to multitask around the set — produce, semi-direct and clean the set while playing the lead role. So aside from memorizing my lines, actually paying attention to other actors responses helped save me from potential bad acting.
How did this short film come about? What made you want to create “Proceed with Caution”?
This short film was written by fellow NYFA student Joey Colebut, who had originally had me act in his final showcase at NYFA. I fell in love with the process. Most of our journey can be found on our episodic youtube documentary called “Never Give Up,” which showcases the trials and tribulation it took to actually make this project a reality. “Proceed with Caution” was scheduled to be wrapped in six months, but due to setbacks it ended up taking four years. (Below is the first episode of “Never Give Up.”)
You have some really notable hip-hop artists and celebrities talking about your film. How did that come about?
Due to the hardships of making this project a reality, I always had to plot ahead to see how I could overcome any giving situation. Initially, I worked over at CBS and used to rush down celebrities every time they came by to get some endorsements. One endorsement from Jack Thriller, which I actually got on 125th street in Harlem, helped turn this project around. I knew that hiring my co-star, Jack Thriller, who is signed with 50 Cent, and is talked about in the streets to be the next Kevin Heart, would help open other doors to various people within the entertainment business. (Check out this episode for more details.)
Why do you believe people should see your film?
Aside from the fact that it’s mere entertainment, I also want to give aspiring artists hope that they could do it as well. Thus, the making of the behind the scenes episodic documentary “Never Give Up.”
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
I hope this film helps open doors for me to grow as a filmmaker within the industry, and for me to be able to make a few feature films.
Are you planning to film a feature version of “Proceed with Caution”?
I could make a feature version of this project if need be, but I have already written another feature, “Blue Grease,” which I believe would be a great challenge for me if I’m able to accomplish it. “Blue Grease” is an urban love and basketball themed movie.
We wish you the best of luck with everything!
If you’re interested in checking out “Proceed with Caution,” CLICK HERE.
Growing up in Myanmar, Moe Myat May Zarchi was very interested in a variety of movies from art house cinema to american independent films, and also reading about film history. Though adept to the storytelling aspects of filmmaking, Zarchi decided to pursue the Filmmaking Program at the New York Film Academy to learn how to make a film professionally and systematically. While in the program, Zarchi directed her thesis film, “My Lover Never Came,” which she says is about “the process of destruction in identity and sense of direction in this world for wanting something that you would never get back.” The protagonist is a young woman who is waiting and searching for her mysterious lover. It is told subtly in the form of a visual narrative using words and photographic frames.
“We had about four months to film our thesis film from writing scripts to production,” said Zarchi. “But just about three weeks before shooting my original script, I had to cancel it because of property rights. I went through an anxiety induced state as it felt too rushed for me to come up with a new idea, a new story. So I decided to take my mind from it. By chance, I came across photographer Duane Michels’ photo sequences, and one of his particular series made me think of this idea. I could personally relate to it so much that I need to make a film of it. The visual style is also an adaption of his photographs.”
So far the film has screened in New Filmmakers NY and won three awards at NYC Indie Film Awards (Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Editing).
“The experience at NYFA was indeed very useful,” said Zarchi. “It totally made me consider all the production aspects of turning an idea into a film; how to balance the budget, draw the timeline, get all the rights, working with a big team and handling the stress. But the most important tip I learned from NYFA is the question ‘why?’ Knowing why I choose a particular frame or movement, the color palette, the production design, the acting style, the pace, and the rhythm, makes me really dig into knowing my film as a director. It really brings out all the emotions and tones from a film.”
Zarchi is currently working on post-production of a short film she shot in New York, after graduating NYFA. She’s also working on a script for a feature film, which she intends to shoot Myanmar.
Shot on a mere five thousand dollars, 8-Week Acting for Film alumna Claudia Pickering’s film, “Frisky,” was recently digitally released by Gravitas — which happens to be the same distribution company who distributed her former NYFA instructor, Adam Nimoy’s Spock documentary — in the US and Canada.
The Sydney-born filmmaker began her foray into filmmaking through acting, which led to creating comedy sketches, short films and webseries’, the first of which was a music video titled “Sebring,” which included Danny Trejo, who choreographed and performed a synchronized dance for the clip.
“Acting and directing involves a lot of switching between head spaces, and a lot of trust in your cast and crew,” says Pickering. “Having a very intimate understanding of each scene really helped the process of going between ‘acting’ and ‘directing’ modes. As an actor, I could feel when we had hit the right emotional moments in each scene, but the issue was, I couldn’t see whether we’d nailed the shot. Fortunately, I had a wonderful relationship with our cinematographer, Christiana Charalambous, and trusted her that when she said she got the shot, we were clear to move on.”
Pickering has now written and produced two feature length films, ‘Frisky’ and ‘Winning Formula‘, of which she directed the former, and both have received international festival success including Official Selection at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, Best Feature Film at the 10th Broad Humor Film Festival in Los Angeles, Best Comedy Feature at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and the Director’s Choice for Best Feature Film at the Austin Revolution Film Festival. Pickering won the 2015 Tropfest Tropvine competition with a stop motion animation of a giraffe telling a dad joke, and regularly creates sketches with her comedy troupe, Frothpocalypse. She is currently developing several projects through her company, Cliff House Productions.
“My experience at NYFA LA was nothing short of life-changing,” said Pickering. “With incredible teachers such as Adam Nimoy, the course not only taught great acting techniques and theory, but also gave me a solid practical and theoretical foundational understanding of filmmaking. Additionally, I met some wonderful lifelong friends, one of whom, Anna Bennett, I went on to form a comedy production company with.”
Her most recent film, “Frisky,” involves two young women who move back to San Francisco, where they had met on exchange years earlier. However, their high career aspirations quickly become sidelined by their sexual interests. While wildly crass and charismatic in their public personas, they are in fact fundamentally at odds on many levels. Their opposing beliefs surrounding responsibility and romance, combined with their close quarters while crashing in an acquaintance’s living room, find them thrust onto a fast track to discovering what their friendship is really made of. Based on true events, “Frisky” is an honest, tongue-in-cheek look at what it is to be a woman in the limbo years between college and “the real world.”
“The film is based on my real life experiences moving from Sydney to Los Angeles — the first and most emotionally potent time was for NYFA — then from LA to San Francisco,” says Pickering. “The emotions, the the friendships, the flings, the near-misses, and the life-long lasting love for people and places. I was living in San Francisco, waiting for another feature film, ‘Winning Formula,’ to go through post production in LA. I was working as an architect to earn some money, but was really becoming disillusioned by the whole profession as I’d sit at my desk and fantasize about stories I’d like to make into movies. One night, I was invited to attend the test screening of a film that a friend of a friend had made on virtually no budget with a six month turn-around. The film was such a joy to watch — so honest and funny — and had been shot on a DSLR camera just like one I already owned and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that.’ I checked my savings account balance that night, quit my job the next day and started writing ‘Frisky'”
For more information about how to download or stream, “Frisky,” please visit the website at friskymovie.com.
After graduating from the New York Film Academy, Musical Theatre alumna Anna Luisa Preto returned to her home country of Brazil where she was cast to play the Little Mermaid in “The Little Mermaid: The Musical.” The musical’s first season was at Teatro das Artes in São Paulo, and is now playing at “Teatro Jardim Sul,” also in São Paulo.
“I have always loved musical theatre, and when I saw the opportunity of auditioning for NYFA’s Musical Theatre program, I was immediately interested,” said Preto. “After researching about the course, the place and the professionals involved I fell completely in love! NYFA has changed the way I approach and study a song or a scene. With what I learned there, I have much more material to work on the performances.”
Preto says the Little Mermaid was a very special character in her life as a child, especially being a redhead. “It was one of those stories that you do not think will happen to you…until it happens,” she recalls. “I didn’t know about the auditions, in fact, I lived in another city during that period. A friend that I hadn’t spoken for a long time had moved to São Paulo and sent his material to this musical and in the middle of the material was a duet that we recorded when we studied together. The production saw the material and decided to look for me! I almost did not believe it when I saw the producer’s message calling me audition for the mermaid in São Paulo. In the end, I went to do the test and, on the same day, I received the answer that changed the course of my life at that moment.” She became the Little Mermaid.
Since graduating, Preto has also performed as the character of Cassie with the Company Project Broadway in Highlights of Chorus Line at the “Teatro Guaíra,” in Curitiba.
“My goal is always to overcome myself,” she says. “Learn something new with each class, or work and be able to put it into practice. I have no idea what my next character will be, but I look forward to more of this amazing world of musicals!”
Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei’s short film, “The Dawn,” was very well received at the ADASA Festival and is due to screen at the Kuwait Film Festival soon, and possibly play in local Kuwaiti movie theaters thereafter.
His film is about a young boy, Bader, who wants to go fishing with his father. The father, unfortunately, has to cancel the trip due to a work commitment, which leads Bader and his friends on an adventure to find out what it is that the father actually does.
Al-Qenaei had a chance to talk with us about his film and his experience as a filmmaker in Kuwait.
What brought you to NYFA, and what led you into filmmaking in the first place?
I’ve always had a passion for film and theatre. My childhood was spent on stage, and therefore the performing arts were always something I was fond of. After a while, I began writing plays as opposed to acting in them. I found a joy in that. Film was a new medium for me. It involved less dialogue and more to show. It was a challenge I was keen on exploring. NYFA was on the top of my list, and it being in NYC, a hub for creatives, made it all the better.
What is the current filmmaking scene like in Kuwait?
Kuwait has always been one of the strongest in the region when it comes to the arts. True, there was a period were things became idle and a lack of interest in the industry was prevalent. But now, the means in which a person is able to broadcast their work are a lot more accessible. Therefore, talent is being recognized and the scene is more inspiring now than ever.
Did you shoot this film during or after NYFA?
After my time at NYFA. I actually met with members of the Ministry of Youth Affairs of Kuwait whilst in NYC, at a conference for Kuwaiti students abroad. They asked me to submit a storyline for a short film that I had written, in the hopes that the Ministry may fund it. And they did, which was lovely.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?
Most definitely. I did an 8-week screenwriting course at NYFA. Before then, my comprehension of story structure and screenplays in general were terribly primitive. So much so that I had never been able to actually complete a screenplay before the course. The instructors and students also helped me with my biggest challenge whilst writing: making it more about showing the emotion than having the characters speak it.
Kuwaiti filmmaker and New York Film Academy alumnus Yousef Al-Qenaei
Have you screened this film elsewhere, or will you be in the future?
This is the first official, public screening for the film. It is due to be screened at a few more soon, and then maybe into our local theaters here in Kuwait.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
The most gratifying thing for me is when people watch films coming out of Kuwait and are proud that these are local productions. There’s definitely a stigma here, that all works of television or film are mainly social dramas that tend to highlight the negatives of society. We generally tend to sway away from the neutral let alone the uplifting. So I want this film to show that we have a diverse selection of work in the region, all representing different ideologies and mindsets. Representation is key.
Are you currently working on another project that you’d like to tell us about?
I am. It is in the very early stages at the moment, but it is definitely a project that will be a lot more challenging than a short film, but all the more gratifying and fulfilling. Watch this space. And thank you for your time!
With over ten years of experience in both the communications and production industry in Jamaica, Sasha Gay Lewis set out to pursue documentary filmmaking by enrolling in the MFA Documentary program at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles. Lewis has directed, produced, filmed, edited and written a number of documentaries and commercials in Jamaica, Belize, and California.
Her most recent documentary, which was highlighted on KTLA TV in Los Angeles, is called “The Incursion.” The documentary is an immersive experience that chronicles the events of that deadly day, the emotional drama and personal trauma the residents’ endured and its lingering effects on their lives today.
On May 24, 2010, a joint police/military operation called “Operation Garden Parish” and famously known as “The Incursion” was launched in Tivoli Gardens — a Jamaican inner-city community described as the ‘mother’ of all ghettoes — to capture the notorious and untouchable drug lord, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. This search climaxed in a deadly clash between the security forces, residents and supporters of Coke, resulting in over 150 civilian deaths. For many of these residents, Coke was a protector and provider. He gave them jobs, created social programs for the children, and took care of the elderly.
“I was in Jamaica working as a journalist and a producer and at the time the facts about the raid didn’t add up for me,” Lewis. “The journalist in me prompted me to investigate further and the more I researched, the more I wanted to know. It is said that as a documentarian you pursue the things that makes you upset and / or curious about and this was it for me.”
Still from the documentary “The Incursion.” The Incursion examines the 2010 government raid on an inner-city community in Jamaica that resulted in the death of 150 people.
Additionally, the victims were being told that their experience was false and that they deserved what they got. Nobody deserves to experience such acts of injustice and violence. The fact that it was carried out by those whose job it is to serve and protect is asinine and a dereliction of duty.
In 2016, an inquest into the operations of the security forces revealed that the events of May 2010 left enduring physical, psychological and emotional scars on the residents of Tivoli Gardens and that although the operation of the security forces was justified, the manner of its execution by the security forces was “disproportionate, unjustified and unjustifiable.”
Director and Producer of the documentary film “The Incursion,” Sasha-Gay Lewis on location in Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica with subjects of her film.
“I would not have been able to create this documentary without coming to NYFA,” said Lewis. “I was always a storyteller, but through courses such as directing and writing the documentary, I was able to strengthen my storytelling, directing, and producing skills. This was a documentary seven years in the making and being able to workshop it for an entire year made all the difference.”
“We are living in a story driven world where stories connect and in many cases provide release and healing,” she added. “I am happy that through all the support afforded to me by the Documentary Department of NYFA, I am able to make my contribution even as I pursue my passion and what I believe to be my purpose. I could spend the rest of my life doing this.”
“The Incursion” is in the final stages of post and will be complete by the end of March 2017. The trailer will be out the first week in April 2017, and it will start its festival run shortly after.
New York Film Academy alumni Susana Matos and Javier Colon have just finished their latest film “Yo soy un Politico” (I am a Politician). The film is about Carlos, an ex-convict looking for a job where he can make a lot of money without putting in a lot of work. After discussing it with his cellmate, they decide that the only job that fits that description is governor of Puerto Rico.
The filmmaking duo presented their film at the New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus on Saturday, March 4. The film will also screen at the Chicago Latino Film Festival and the San Diego Latino Film Festival. It will begin airing on HBO starting this September 2017.
We had the opportunity to talk to both Matos and Colon after the screening to get more insight into how the film came about.
Tell us about what drove you to make “I Am a Politician.”
Susana: Javier’s first movie was titled “I am a Director.” When he produced that movie, there was an ongoing conversation about how to make a trilogy of these I am… films. The character could be a different profession every time. It could be “I am a Regueton Artist,” “I am a Doctor”… so when the election year rolled around we settled on “I am a Politician.” I wrote the first 25 pages as a draft to motivate Javier into doing the film and he liked them so we finished the script… and began working on preproduction.
Was this a collaborative effort in terms of writing and directing? Were you both writer/directors on this film or did you have different roles?
Javier: It was a collaborative effort. The Idea for this film was on the drawing board since I shot my first film I am a Director. I didn’t really want to do a sequel to that film but Susana began throwing ideas around for this story. One day she just sat down and wrote 20 something pages, I liked them so we finished the script together.
Even though I have the directing credit on the film, Susana was a very big part of the directing process and decisions during the shoot. And beside being a writer, she was one of the producers of the film.
How were you able to raise funds to produce this film?
Susana: With Javier’s first feature film “I am a Director” he got distribution from Starz, Sundance, Canal +, and Croatia. Thanks to his reputation with the 1st film, we were able to raise funds through private investors.
How did the meeting with HBO come about? Can you tell us a little bit about that process of selling your film
Susana: With the first feature, Javier acquired a sales agent. He was very interested in our future projects. In 2015 we went to Argentina for a Film Market, and we told him our idea; he loved it and signed a sales contract with us. He shopped the film around and sold it To HBO
Talk about audience reactions to the film? Is the reaction what you expected or was it different? How?
Susana: We are so pleased with Saturday’s screening at the New York Film Academy. We had a full house! It was the first time we had so many people watching the film whose first language was not Spanish and we were happy to hear them laughing.
Javier: We definitely did not expect that many people to come watch our film and laugh as much as they did. It’s a comedy with subtitles, so we weren’t sure if English speakers would understand the humor, but based on the comments we received after the screening, seems like they really enjoyed it.
What was the message you were trying to leave for the audience in this film?
Javier: When we began writing this film, we knew we wanted it to have a positive message. Susana’s favorite directors are Matt Stone and Trey Parker. In the style of South Park, we wanted to create a satire with a message. The message in I am a Politician focuses on not waiting for politicians to fix our problems. We all should be part of going out there to make a change.
What was the biggest hurdle in completing this project?
Susana: The biggest hurdle is taking on a film with a very limited amount of money. So many people helped us because they believed in us but I would have loved to pay people well for the work they put in. Which is why we always like to take the time to thank our crew and cast for being a part of this project.
What are you most proud of in this film?
Javier: The HBO sale is the first thing that comes to mind, but, also, whenever we watch a screening of the film and I hear someone laugh. It amazes me that I wrote and created something that makes people laugh.
Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms of being able to create this film?
Javier: I actually took a digital course in filmmaking in 2002 in New York. At that time my plan was to be an editor, NYFA help me realize that what I truly wanted was to be a director and tell stories. Im 100% sure that if it wasn’t for that small course, first I wouldn’t be in the situation that we are right now, and most importantly, I wouldn’t have met Susana
Susana: The NYFA filmmaking course helped me develop my skills as a director and for me the greatest asset was the people I met on the program. My classmates are still part of my work.
What’s up next for you guys?
We’re working on getting the funding for our next project, “Who Cares?,” a road trip dramedy with the tone of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” Our goal is to begin pre-production at the end of this year.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Susana Matos and Javier Colon for taking the time to discuss their work. You can learn more about this dynamic duo on Facebook.