If you haven’t heard Ayane’s name yet, you soon will: the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film graduate will soon be a household name in the third largest movie market in the world: Japan.
This year, Ayane stars as Natsumi in Walking with My Grandma, a film poised for international success as it releases in over 10 countries. The touching film follows Natsumi as she prepares for her upcoming wedding by helping to rehabilitate her injured grandma, Kiyo (Mitsuko Kusabue), in the hope that they can walk down the aisle together during the ceremony.
After its international release in April 2018, Walking with My Grandma will also be available for travelers to view in-flight on their way to many international destinations.
Helming the project is renowned Japanese director Tetsuo Shinohara, whose 39 directing credits include Heaven’s Bookstore and Inochi. Shinohara is nominated this year for Japan’s Director of the Year award.
Walking with My Grandma is the latest credit in an already impressive resume for the NYFA alum, who has appeared in eight films as well as eight plays and TV shows. Ayane graduated from NYFA New York City’s Acting for Film Conservatory in 2013. In addition to her starring turn in Walking with my Grandma, Ayane will star alongside Reiko Takashima in upcoming Japanese feature film Omiokuri, which opens in March 2018.
With box office earnings topped only by China and the U.S., Japan’s film industry generated an astounding box office take of $2 billion in 2017, and it’s exciting to see Ayane poised as a major player for 2018. Congratulations, Ayane!
If you have the winter doldrums this March, we’ve found the solution: watch action-packed Den of Thieves, the latest adventure from director Christian Gudegast, with a star-studded cast including heavy hitters like Gerard Butler, 50 Cent — and NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory grad Ron J. Rock.
Rock has been busy since graduating NYFA in 2010. He is the founder of his own production company, Rocktober Productions, and along with making his feature film debut in a major action flick with A-list stars, Rock is also executive-producing upcoming Broadway musical Lucifer.
We had a chance to hear some of the story behind Rock’s meteoric rise. Check out his interview with the NYFA Blog, below:
Ron J. Rock via IMDB
NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy? Why did you choose the Acting for Film Conservatory program?
RJR: I’ve been a theatre actor since the third grade in New Jersey, and after high school I wanted to study acting in New York. It’s an amazing city and the people I’ve met in my NYFA program have helped me sharpen my acting skills and create my own content.
I chose the program because it wasn’t just on-camera training: It was all the skills I need to know as an actor, taught in one program.
NYFA: Why acting? What inspires you most?
RJR: I love acting because you can start to understand circumstances and perspectives through different characters. It’s important to live life and be able to relate to others. Relationships become more real.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?
RJR: My favorite moments were definitely getting together with fellow students to film any idea we had. It’s a collective program of artists who are working toward the same goal, so it was a lot easier to find people to work with.
NYFA: Can you tell us how your role in Den of Thieves came about?
RJR: I was filming a short film in Atlanta, and I came across a producer who knew who I was, and he asked me to stay and read for the character “Junior.” I was hired on the spot.
NYFA: Shooting Den of Thieves with 50 Cent and Gerard Butler must have had some interesting moments. What surprised you most about the shoot? Any stories you’d like to share?
RJR: What was surprising was how organized the entire production was. The energy on set was fun and kept everyone going. It was an entire community of hundreds of people making this movie amazing.
NYFA: For our students, what is your advice for transitioning from film school to working on a professional film set?
RJR: Every little detail you learn in class matters when you’re on set and in front of the camera. Taking classes is very important. There is a reason why these [successful] actors are who they are. They train on their craft endlessly.
NYFA: You’re producing a new musical, Lucifer. What drew you to this project? What is it like working behind the scenes as a theatre producer?
RJR: I came across this project after I produced a short film of my own. It was intriguing because it is the story of the Bible through the devil’s eyes. It simplifies what the Bible is about for anyone to watch.
NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in terms of the work you are doing now?
RJR: YES! The 2-year program helped me stay focused on my career, and it has paid off.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
RJR: I’d like to create a TV series about issues millennials face — love, careers, and unspoken battles we all face in this generation.
NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?
RJR: I would also like to say thank you for having me at NYFA and sticking by my side during the successes.
Thank you Ron J. Rock for sharing your story with the NYFA Blog!
New York Film Academy Documentary Filmmaking grad Amy Wright hasn’t slowed down since winning Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival at the White House. While busy at work creating a documentary with Emmy-winning media personality-turned-activist Darieth Chisolm, the young documentarian and producer took the time to catch up with the NYFA Blog to share her insights into the important issues behind her documentaires, what’s coming next, and how to revolutionize the mainstream narratives around people of color.
NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey, what drew you to documentary filmmaking, and why you chose New York Film Academy?
AW: I had a pretty roundabout journey that led me to documentary filmmaking. First and foremost, I’ve always loved documentaries. As a kid, I would watch nature documentaries with my grandfather, so there was always that positive feeling associated with docs.
I studied theatre in high school and undergrad, so the arts was always a part of my life. However, after graduation I moved to New York, went to grad school at LIU for education and became a high school special education teacher. I enjoyed being in the classroom and working with kids, but there were a lot of issues I saw within the system — issues that affected the kids I worked with the most (underprivileged, of color, immigrant, disabled).
It started getting to me and I knew that I was going to leave the profession. I just didn’t know what I was going to do next. Then one day, I was in Union Square when I saw a bus stop ad that said “Learn Documentary Filmmaking,” and something just clicked for me.
At the time, Netflix had started expanding their catalogue of docs, and I was watching docs multiple times weekly. I think at that point I had just watched The Black Power Mixtape and was completely inspired. I saw it as a path back to the arts, but also as a way to change the things I couldn’t accept in the world.
I went to the next available open house, learned about the doc program, was completely sold on the idea of learning by doing, and a month later I was resigning from the DOE! I finished out that school year with my kids, came to NYFA the following September and never looked back.
Amy Wright and Andra Swift at March on Washington Film Festival
NYFA: What inspires you most as a filmmaker?
AW: I think what inspires me the most is seeing grassroots movements enact change. Or even a single individual. There’s something so motivating about seeing one person, or one group who believes in something so fiercely, use the medium of film to change the world for good.
I think about films like Blackfish and I wonder if the filmmakers knew when they were first conceiving the film, what an impact it would have on whales in captivity. The idea that I could share something through film that is so important to me, particularly Black American stories, and it changes a system or even just people’s way of thinking about an issue — that’s what keeps me energized and inspired as a filmmaker.
NYFA: You’ve mentioned that your thesis film, Legacy, was inspired by your grandfather. Can you tell us how Legacy came to life and a bit about your experience of production?
AW: During the gauntlet that is the second semester of the NYFA docs program (lol), I had settled on doing a doc on the education system, because I was already so invested in the lives of disabled students of color. But as we learn in production, there are lots of roadblocks and challenges to getting the type of access that we need, especially within the time constraints of the semester. I was struggling to come up with a plan B.
It just so happened that I was on my way to JFK airport when I passed by these stables that I had passed a million times before, and I saw a sign that read “The Federation of Black Cowboys.” And I knew that was my story.
Something about working in docs makes you look at the world a little more carefully. It felt like I was meant to see, really see that sign. Add to that, as a child my grandfather would take us all to the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (a Black rodeo), and the Black Cowboy Parade in Oakland every year, so it seemed like a no-brainer for me to pursue it.
50 Shades of Silence via IMDB
NYFA: The Black Federation of Cowboys talks about its mission to promote and share knowledge of the “Black West.” After your experience of making Legacy, what is the Black West for you? AW: For me, the Black West is wherever the people are. Post slavery, I know for many freed men and women, the West represented a place with no chains or borders, and an escape from the oppressive South. Of course, we know that during that time there wasn’t really a place where a Black person could live without the looming fog of white supremacy and terror. However, the West was romanticized as a place where a man could be free, and forge his own way ahead, and Black people grabbed at that opportunity and never looked back. Which is how legends like Bass Reeves, “Stagecoach” Mary Fields, even outlaws like Nat “Deadwood Dick” Love, could go out and forge their own way ahead, despite being born into slavery. Today, the descendants of that cowboying tradition carry the Black West wherever they are, be it Oakland, Compton, Tulsa, Charlotte, Philly, or even Brooklyn.
NYFA: Legacy screened at DOC NYC and also won Best Short at the March on Washington Film Festival at the White House, which is amazing! How did this come about, and how did that moment feel?
AW: I can’t talk about this without first mentioning our [NYFA New York City campus] documentary chair, Andrea Swift. This woman has this amazing knack for putting her students in the right place at the right time, introducing us to the right people, and overall just setting us up for success.
My class (of 2015) was the first to screen in the DOC NYC U program, which was just an incredible opportunity. And if I do say so myself, being up there with NYU and Columbia … NYFA Docs were pretty strong! So that experience alone, screening at a major doc festival so shortly after graduation, was surreal. I even posted about it on Instagram, and Ava DuVernay liked my post and commented … my head just about exploded!
During DOC NYC, Andrea introduced me to one of the programmers, Opal Bennett, who also happens to program for March on Washington. She suggested I submit. I was thrilled just to be accepted to March on Washington — I had no clue it was a competition. So you can only imagine my shock when a few weeks after learning I was accepted, I found out that I had won for Best Short.
Then, to add to the excitement, we learned that we would be screening at The Obama White House! The actual screening was very bittersweet for me, though: The day I learned that we’d be screening at The White House, I called my grandfather to invite him. We lost him very unexpectedly later that day. So for him to have been a huge inspiration for the film, but not be able to attend that special screening … it was a pretty emotional day for me.
NYFA: So many times we see Black culture and Black women especially portrayed on film — and behind the scenes — in subservient or tertiary roles. As a minority woman director, what are the stories you see that still need to be told?
AW: I think right now there’s an active push to present images that counter the mainstream narratives about people of color and women of color. I mean, right now we have Black Panther, this huge blockbuster about a non-colonized Black, African people. That in and of itself is revolutionary. And it was shot by a woman! A whole action film, shot by a woman.
Visibility is key. Personally, what I would like to see are more stories about people of color that have nothing to do with the fact that they are people of color, because in many ways, unapologetic Blackness is inherently political. So it’s cool when we see things that show, “Hey we live normal lives and experience human emotions just like everyone else.”
In Detroit, right now, there are people who have repurposed the empty lots for beekeeping. They happen to be Black. That’s so dope to me, that as a people we do these incredible, regular things just like anyone else. That’s what I’d like to see more of.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AW: Right now, I’m writing and producing an exciting project with former NBC journalist Darieth Chisolm called 50 Shades of Silence, in which we chronicle her terrible experience with revenge porn and her mission to have legislation passed to protect victims and punish perpetrators. We were recently featured on Dr. Oz and The Today Show with Megyn Kelly — you should check us out!
Also, I have been developing another (currently untitled) documentary feature about the Shreveport six that’s really near and dear to my heart. In 2010, six Black kids drowned in the Red River in Shreveport while trying to save a friend. That friend survived. It’s a tragedy that shook an entire community, and there are rippling effects of that tragedy in Shreveport to this day. But more to come on that … I don’t want to give too much away.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Amy Wright for sharing her story with our community. Learn more about 50 Shades of Silencehere.
So, what do you know about blockchain technology? It is the technology behind Bitcoin, a so-called cryptocurrency. Put simply (probably too simply), instead of there being one, central “computer” where all the records of an enterprise are kept, there are an unlimited number of “users” who are keeping the records on their own computers, which (in theory) keeps any individual user from cheating. Blockchain technology is becoming a disruptive force in many industries, and it looks like the news industry might be next.
The always interesting Journalism.co.ukposted a story about Civil, a “decentralized journalism marketplace,” that is using a USD $1,000,000 grant to set up crowd-sourced online news operations in a variety of places, including Chicago here in the United States.
Personally, I am wary of so-called “citizen journalism.” Being a journalist requires a series of essential skills. Just buying a video camera (or a mobile phone) doesn’t automatically imbue someone with those skills.
The problem is that large news companies seem to be getting only larger, and dropping coverage of a vast number of areas both geographically as well as subject-wise. So-called hyperlocal news organizations were supposed to fill that gap. But here in New York, Gothamist and DNAinfo both closed, as have many Patch outlets nationwide.
In a piece of good news, public media outlet WNYC has put together funding to revive Gothamist. That may be the only way local news can survive, within a “public service” economic model.
As for Facebook, the technology giant which at one point was expected to dominate global news distribution, TechCrunch reports that more efforts are underway to separate legitimate news reports from viral rumors, slanders and propaganda. This points to the key problem with uneditied/unmediated “citizen journalism”: It can easily be highjacked by people with agendas, which often don’t encompass truth…
In alumni news, recent NYFA Broadcast Journalism alum Anita Efraim is now a radio reporter back home in Brazil. She’s working for media giant Globo. She writes, via Facebook:
My first article for Radio Globo was about one of may favorite themes, the race. During the shooting, one of the interviewees told me something that made me think a lot: everyone who runs, runs for something. And maybe it’s true. Hope you like it!
Broadcast Journalism grad Radha Dhar sent me a long email about how one of the student projects she did at NYFA ended up getting her (and a classmate!) professional jobs:
’ve been working full time as a social producer and news researcher at TV ASIA since December. I was covering the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, in Times Square for the NYFA News Package project, where I managed to nab an interview with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). This guy from TV ASIA noticed me and interviewed me on the spot, asking for news pitches, saying “We could use young people like you to target millennials!” I told him about my team (Brigette Mancheno & Elina Mukherjee — who later also ended up getting a job from that story) because he seemed pretty excited hearing that we are from NYFA and wanted to know what the students there are up to! (Below is a pic of me out shooting that day!)
And now she interviews Bollywood stars on the red carpet. Wow!
Connor Williams has truly hit the ground running in Los Angeles, not only booking a lot of professional work as an actor but also keeping up with his studies in the intensive New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA program in Acting for Film. It’s a schedule that would certainly prove challenging for anyone, yet Williams shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
With his strong supporting role in feature horror flick Happy Hunting newly released on Netflix — along with his supporting role in indie feature The UnMiracle — Williams found some time to tell the NYFA Blog some of the secrets behind the hard work, dedication, and talent that go into the blistering pace of his life in acting for film.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film BFA program?
CW: I had made a feature film heading into my senior year of high school. Relativity Film School reached out to me and offered me a full tuition scholarship, which was great, but I turned it down. I was just really unsure what I wanted to do after high school, and college was not in the plans. I then informed my parents of my plan that I was going to work full time in Utah (where my agent was located) and audition for smaller parts when movies came to town. They thought maybe I was making a mistake, so they asked me to reconsider. I called the school back about two weeks later to see if the scholarship was still good. They said it was, but in the meantime I had a buddy that was in my feature film Spoilers move to LA, and his place was right across the street from NYFA. I looked into NYFA, filled out the app, sent them my reel, and overall just had a better vibe with everyone at NYFA, so I decided to go there.
NYFA: Why acting? What inspired you to pursue this craft?
CW: I booked a commercial as a baby. …When I watched the videotape of the commercial years later, I told my parents I always wanted to be a actor. My dad did some networking, and two weeks later I had booked a part in a feature film. I was two-for-two for auditions! …
When I was 10 years old, my dad realized he was waiting for people to do projects, so he paid for a two-day film camp. My brother Aidan and I learned how to shoot, light, boom, and edit. My dad would write these two-minute scripts for us, and we would do the rest. We won some awards, money, and prizes, which kept us motivated. From then on, I knew I wanted to make movies or act.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us so far?
CW: The very first semester our class was obviously all new, and we rented a limo bus and took it around LA. That was fun. And I really enjoyed shooting an episode from Friends [in class]. Not only is it my favorite show, but I also worked with Isabella Hoffman, who is a great director, and did this with a bunch of my NYFA friends. It was a real fun shoot.
Regarding moments, I have really clicked with a couple of teachers that really care about my auditions and want to help and guide me. That’s been pretty cool. We will break down the sides and make choices.
I’ve always lived with NYFA students and it’s been great meeting people from all across the U.S. and abroad. I just got done with my voice-over class and just made a VO reel, which I’m really happy with.
One other thing about NYFA classes: before I came here I had never taken an acting class, so this has really helped me understand the process so much better.
My favorite thing about NYFA is all the connections I’m making. My classmates will always be my friends forever. I actually call them family.
NYFA: You’ve been working professionally while also balancing your full-time studies at NYFA Los Angeles. What does that look like for you?
CW: … At the beginning I would get an audition and go. Now, my manager and agent have my schedule and I ask them not to schedule an audition during class time. I can’t afford to miss class for an audition. You only get so many missed days and then your grade is dropped. I need to save those days for when I book something.
NYFA: What is your advice to your fellow students for finding a balance between the intensive schedule at NYFA, and beginning to build your resume in the wider industry?
CW: I would do the opposite of me. Just come here, do your school work, get involved, and learn the craft. The gigs will be there when you graduate.
I would suggest that on the days off, go do background work on film and television. While on those sets, watch and listen, and when you go back to NYFA it will make a little bit more sense. Take it slow.
Just by coming here, you will have an awesome reel before you leave. The talent here is crazy. Your game will go up just by being here.
NYFA: Tell us a bit about your work in Happy Hunting. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?
CW: It was weird how fast that happened. I drove in from Idaho and had an audition set up for Happy Hunting through Actors Access. We get to LA with the car jam packed with all my junk, and we don’t have time to go to my new apartment and chill. We went straight to the audition. I remember thinking, “This traffic is insane and I really wish I had time to clean up and not so be rushed!”
So I go in there, sign in and take a seat, and I really wanted to focus. Right when I sat, they call me in. I do my lines and they ask me to do it again. To me, that’s always a good sign. I leave the room tell my parents it went great, they remind me this is LA, not Idaho or Utah, and not to stress about it.
We were finally driving to my new apartment and my phone rings. It was the Happy Hunting gang and they asked if I would turn around and read for a bigger part. I did, and I got the gig!
I’m not sure what the record is but I feel like I have it: I was literally in LA less than 10 minutes before I booked my first feature film! We shot in Barstow and the Salton Sea. My part shot for nine days. What I didn’t know at the time was that the co-writer/director is Mel Gibson’s son, Louie. He just wanted to be one of the guys. I respect him for that.
NYFA: Happy Hunting has just released on Netflix — congrats! How does that feel?
CW: It feels pretty awesome. …
The UnMiracle with Kevin Sorbo and Stephen Baldwin is also on Netflix. I got that part by skyping my audition and a callback from my bedroom in Idaho, and we shot that in Chicago. I actually shot that while in high school, but it was held up for whatever reason and got released about six months ago.
NYFA: What have you learned that has surprised you the most in your NYFA studies?
CW: First off, the teachers care about us. They want us to succeed. I have a teacher that helps me all the time with my auditions. It’s intensive but fun.
NYFA: Are there any upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about?
CW: The feature film Regionrat, where I play the lead, is now hitting the festival circuit. So far so good, as we just won the Chandler Film Festival for Best Feature! I flew out there for that. It has also won Best Feature at Barcelona Planet Film Festival, Festigious Film Festival and Best Ensemble at Festigious.
NYFA: What’s next for you?
CW: With Regionrat I have won Best Actor at the London Independent Film Awards, Festigious Film Festival and Stars Hollywood Film Festival. I was up for a fourth but didn’t win.
I’m also up for Breakout Performer and Best Actor in a Feature at the First Glance Film Festival. Regionrat plays at that festival March 10 at 8 p.m. in North Hollywood. I guess I’m seeing what happens to me and this film … but I really think 2018 is going to be a great year for me.
Congratulations, Connor! Thank you for sharing some of your story with the NYFA Blog.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Screenwriting student Ines Carolyne de los Santos Almanzar and her all-NYFA crew for winning the Runner-Up prize in the All Rise Film Competition.
Founded by Simone Benhayon in 2015, All Rise is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to eradicate cyberbullying. Through legislation, reform, and education, All Rise has empowered thousands to take a stand against cyberbullying. Part of their education initiative is an annual film competition that draws attention to many of the issues surrounding online bullying.
This year, the theme of the film competition was “Is Cyber Abuse an International Crime?”
The youth competition is divided into two categories. The first is a children’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 10-15. The second is a young adult’s competition, featuring filmmakers between the ages of 16-21. Films can’t be more than three minutes in length. Other than that, creators are able to tell their story in whatever cinematic format they chose.
Initially, Almanzar wasn’t sure what story she would tell, but she relied on her own experiences.
“I was a victim of cyberbullying, myself,” Almanzar said. “I know how tough it can be to survive cyberbullying. You want to ask for help, but most people don’t think this is a big issue.”
With polls showing that anywhere from 35-50 percent of teens have been bullied online, it is clear that cyberbullying is, in fact, a very big deal.
Almanzar’s film Isn’t This a Crime follows a plus-size woman as she tries internet dating for the first time. She struggles through date after date. She is told she isn’t pretty enough. One man explains that her need to have kids makes her undesirable. Everything from the way she dresses, to her desire to study art, is insulted. Later, the emotional abuse she has endured begins to manifest itself physically as bruises all over her body. When she tries to report the abuse, she’s informed that the police cannot help her.
The film is incredibly impactful, and Almanzar’s entire crew was made up of current NYFA students and NYFA alumni. Almanzar said she relied heavily on her crew to help complete the project.
When asked why she liked working with NYFA students, Ines said, “Since we’re all students we already had a kind of shorthand on set. Communication is vital to the success of a set. We were able to move quickly and resolve issues as they happened.”
You can watch Isn’t This a Crime and all of the finalist films here:
American Cinematographer magazine, the official publication of the American Society of Cinematographers, recently spotlighted the meteoric rise of New York Film Academy MFA Cinematography grad Egor Povolotskiy in it’s Rising Stars of Cinematography piece.
In an issue that also features ASC giants like the creative minds behind The Last Jedi, American Cinematographer highlights how Povolotskiy’s pathway to success in Los Angeles was paved in large part through his NYFA connections.
First, Povolotskiy points to his NYFA instructor and mentor Mike Williamson, and later to fellow NYFA alum and line producer Mariietta Volynska, who hired the cinematographer for his first project post-graduation, based on his NYFA thesis.
Since then, Povolotskiy has padded out his already impressive resume with three wins at the Rochester International and Voya Film Festivals plus another four nominations for his short film We Are Enemies.
Nowwith eight features and almost 60 short films under his belt, we had a chance to hear from Povolotskiy about his experience working on the riveting thriller, Gold Dust, and his own journey behind the lens.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
EP: My journey starts back in Russia. I was at university getting my first master’s in artificial intelligence. Somewhere in the middle of my education, I started taking pictures of my friends and becoming interested in photography in general. I realized that AI was not that interesting for me anymore, and I started growing more as a photographer. (I still finished my masters though!)
During university, I was working as a photojournalist as well as a wedding and family photographer, shooting for Marriott Hotels in Moscow. I was also an official photographer of Russian Association of Motorcyclists. Bikers and their bikes were involved in film productions, and for me it was always magic to see how films were done. So the next time I saw them on set, I called the president of this association and asked him if I could stop by and take some pictures just for myself. It was a shoot of a son of one of the most famous directors in Russia, with the biggest production company. I ended up being hired as bts [behind-the-scenes photographer] after my first day on set.
After working for three years as bts and 2nd unit, the producer asked me one day if I wanted to DP a film. I refused, and told her that I would first get my education. … I had a sense of framing and lighting, but I didn’t know anything about being a DP at that time. Being a DP is not just framing and lighting. A DP is a storyteller, a head of a department, a set runner and problems solver — that’s became a definition of my job now.
When I was choosing a school I was really afraid to go overseas, but my wife supported me, saying that everything was going to be how I wanted. My parents also gave me big support. My DP friends recommended NYFA as a possible school — hands-on and not that expensive. I was choosing between London, Lodze (in Poland), and NYFA, and I choose NYFA in the end.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time as a NYFA student?
EP: As for favorite moments — I really don’t know, because it was great overall. … Every project I was shooting, I was trying to do better and bigger than my previous project. I still have warm feelings about NYFA and mention it where I can. I was also TA-ing sometimes between projects. By the time I graduated, a lot of people at NYFA knew me already. But I was still afraid of what would happen after school, how I was going to find a job. But right at two weeks after my graduation, I booked my first feature film as a DP!
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your experience shooting Gold Dust?
EP: That was a fun experience. I went to an interview and I usually talk first, but here I was kind of shocked that the director took the initiative. He ask me, “What’s wrong with you Russians, you shoot so differently?” I really didn’t know what to answer. Later when we became friends he told me that he hired me because of the way I told him that I like to shoot fast. David Wall — a true director, in my understanding of what that means: great powerful leader, a captain of a ship. …
We were actually blessed to have a desert with its very different looks — breathtaking sunsets, rain, heat — we got everything taped. We got a great “family” film by the end.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your prep process before you start working on a film?
EP: I read the script as the “dumbest person,” meaning that everything should be clear for me. If I have any questions, there’s going to be a person [in the audience] who will ask the same question. Then, myself and the director talk about the story in general. … In most cases I’m able to tell what kind of film the director sees in his mind. I do a beat breakdown of a script, and we decide if the film needs to be stylized or not. Then I build visual arcs based on developing the character and style of the film. Usually I give a couple of options to the director, if he gives me freedom. I prefer collaboration over the projects were I have no creative influence — every film is a part of myself.
… I remember at NYFA we had some sort of test. If the director wanted a shot, but the producer was not giving him money, which side you will take? There are always two [out of three] things you have to choose: not expensive, good or fast. The secret is you can combine all three, actually!
Being a collaborator with understanding of storytelling is a great help for a director, if you’re fast. … You have to stay in the budget, and then the producer will always love you. Learning how to use visual tools (composition, lighting, movement, editing, color grading), how to be a leader, how to delegate to your crew and build a shooting process so the crew feel safe, comfortable, respectfully treated — it is huge work.
…Being a DP you’re learning not only about other people, but also about yourself.
FAYN is a collaborative photography magazine produced by the New York Film Academy Photography Department. The magazine features students, faculty, and alumni whose work explores contemporary concepts in art and culture.
We are a community of global visual storytellers, with students and faculty from around the world. We thrive in our constant engagement with a multitude of perspectives and aesthetic practices, and we mine our diverse understandings of cultural identity, beauty, and symbolism in the collective pursuit of artmaking.
As faculty advisors and editors, we see the inspiring voices of emerging image-makers represented in the content of this magazine, alongside the deep values that guide our program. We prioritize both intersectional diversity and the highest standards of photographic practices in this magazine, as well as in our classroom critiques.
FAYN is a platform for visual expression, and it’s a celebration of printed media. In this fast-moving digital era of photography, FAYN serves to slow down the experience of viewing photography and experiencing art. As you flip through the pages, we hope that you take the time to savor the experience of holding them in your hand.
We want to thank the students and faculty who participated in issue #002 of FAYN. We are honored to guide, teach and learn from such creative and talented artists.
Click here to buy your copy of issue #002 of FAYN.
Once again, news programs here in the United States are dominated by reports of a mass shooting. And, once again, news producers have to decide what to report, and how to report it…
As current and former NYFA students have been taught, “the first report is always wrong.” In other words, initial reports are always fragmentary and usually contain a mix of fact, conjecture and misinformation. That means care must be taken in reporting, with accuracy taking precedence over speed. Now, there is a new complicating factor: As social media and cell phones become ubiquitous, it’s not unusual for “real time” information to emerge from crime scenes. Which is exactly what happened last week during the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Students, trapped in classrooms, sent out desperate text messages and videos.
While certainly accurate in that they reflected students’ actual experiences and fears, how much of that information should be allowed on-air? Does information like this help clarify, or just sensationalize, a story? Might it actually aid an active shoot locate potential victims? There are no easy answers. But you can be sure these questions were hotly debated in newsrooms across the country. Journalism isn’t easy. If it was, anyone could do it…
Another reality for contemporary journalists is the amount of blatantly false information that is readily available online. The box office success of the new Disney/Marvel superhero film Black Panther has led internet trolls to claim that at some screenings white moviegoers were beaten up by black audience members. (The reports, of course, are false.) They even included images of “victims.” But few journalists believed there stories, in part because they did Google Images searches of the pictures, and discovered where they had really originated. (One was a picture of the former wife of a recently resigned White House staffer, an apparent victim of domestic abuse.)
It’s our job to always get information from multiple, verified sources, as well as use the power of social media to investigate what appears on social media.
Swedish NYFA Broadcast Journalism graduate Emilie Olsson has added another job title to her already impressive resume — radio news anchor. Emilie is working in Stockholm, but as I only understand six words of Swedish I can’t tell you what she is actually reporting. One thing I can report is that radio studios sure look a lot nicer today, compared to the studios I worked in back in my radio days.
Congratulations, again, Emilie!
On a personal note, I’m happy to announce that my U.S./China coproduction Shanghai: 1937 will be competing in this year’s Shanghai International Film Festival. It’s a great honor to even be considered, and should help our marketing efforts both at SIFF as well as MIP-TV. The two events will be taking place within days of each other in April, one in China and the other in France.
With award season upon us, we’re always excited to hear from our alumni around the world as they find success screening their work. New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking graduates Talha (“B.”) Bin Abdulrahman and Maan Bin Abdulrahman have already seen their NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, celebrated at the Middle East’s leading film festival, the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. There, it was an official selection.
The short was an official selection at the following other festivals:
The Irvine International Film Festival
Orlando Film Festival
San Antonio Film Festival
Chandler Film Festival
The Scapegoat continues its momentum as an official selection at the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, screening at NYFA Los Angeles Feb. 18.
Talha B. was able to take some time during his busy festival schedule to tell the NYFA Blog a bit more about his experience directing The Scapegoat.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey in filmmaking and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
TBA: Let me just start this by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a filmmaker. After graduating from high school almost nine years ago, I have gone through several academic paths before I found out that my real passion is filmmaking, which is how I ended up at NYFA — a decision that changed the course of my life, for the better.
NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about the medium?
TBA: Ever since I was a kid, I was a big fan of watching and talking about films. I believe filmmaking is a format that contains a beautiful package of many different art forms, to tell stories that provoke emotional responses from viewers from all over the world. I always found that inspiring and compelling.
NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film The Scapegoat? What is the story, and what about the project grabbed you?
TBA: The Scapegoat is a 22-minute short I directed as my thesis project for the New York Film Academy’s BFA filmmaking program. The Scapegoat is about Paul Dugan, a former best-selling author who is in search of his next novel. Feeling the pressure to live up to his earlier success, he shelters himself in an isolated cabin in the woods to confront his internal demons.
Every creative person goes through some [form of] writer’s block, so the story was appealing to me, to represent that visually by telling this story. A creative mind can be its own worst critic, because it is continuously working — especially when there is too much pressure and a lot at stake.
To not do a project that deals with this topic would be madness.
NYFA: Were there any surprises or challenges along the way during production, and how did you adapt?
TBA: I’ve never directed a project that involved a single actor playing multiple roles all at once. In this case it was four distinct characters.
It was quite the brain teaser to think of all the factors in each scene we shot, from camera blocking to hair and makeup. It required an extra level of planning and coordination between every single person working on set.
I believe the biggest challenge I faced was when I learned that my actor’s body double refused to shave his facial hair to match the lead actor changing between character looks. Luckily enough, two talented performers stepped in to save the day.
The critical lesson overall for me was to believe in your crew, because it takes a village to make a film — no matter how big, or small.
TBA: Thank you, it was a pleasant experience. My producer Maan B. attended on behalf of myself and the team. The film was positively received by the audience, which is something I was delighted to hear.
TBA: Just one piece of advice that one of my instructors had shared with me, which is to be one of the first people who apply to the festival. Sometimes it’s good to be early, for your film to be noticed.
NYFA: What is next for The Scapegoat?
TBA: More festivals will pick it up, hopefully.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
TBA: Excited about directing a feature with a working title of The Alien.
It is a stylized dramedy following the story of an unworldly immigrant who dares to go after his dream as an artist, despite the harsh reality he faces. It will be a collaboration with the same talented writers and producer behind The Scapegoat.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Talha, Maan and The Scapegoat team on their success! To see The Scapegoat (along with seven other excellent selections) at the Young Saudi Film Festival Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.