Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • Photography Guest Speaker Jen Davis: Body Image, Intimacy, Self Identity

    Jen Davis - Photography

    Photography Guest Speaker Jen Davis

    Jen Davis, a photographer renowned for her intimate self-portraits, was our guest lecturer last Friday, February 20th at the Battery Place campus.

    Photography students were taken through Davis’ 11 year journey of honest self-portraits dealing with issues regarding personal growth, self identity, body image, love, intimacy and self acceptance. The journey was not just personal, it also gave students great insight into her technical photographic development.

    “Mapping the trajectory of her career and showing her most recent work, she gave us a completely uninhibited view of her working methods and her approach to personal discovery through photography.  It was an inspiring afternoon in the presence of a provocative contemporary artist.” Paul Sunday, New York Film Academy’s Co-Chair Photography Department summed up the afternoon.

    During her early years at Columbia College Chicago, completing her BFA in Photography, she began experimenting with natural light. “Light became very seductive to me,” Davis explains. “The light guided the photography” and with her transition from a 4×5 to medium format, she felt this allowed her to learn “about how the frame works in a different way.”

    All of her of work developed from her interest in women, the body and how it “related to me.” She began studying her own body as her interest in flesh and skin became her main focus. Her first image with herself as the subject (or “object” as she describes it), was taken at the beach. As this specific image was projected on a white screen in front of a lecture room of students, she explains that she never expected to share this photo as it was done purely for herself.

    Once she began her MFA at Yale University, she began to explore men as her subjects, capturing “masculinity and vulnerability” while also “using photography to gain access” to forms of intimacy with her male subjects. As Davis presented her work to the students, it became clearer that she, in fact, used her photography to guide her though her personal growth. “[Photography] was a vehicle to experience that,” she said when referring to her introduction to love and intimacy.

    As the talk came close to an end, a Q&A session left the audience with these wise words: “Don’t worry about putting yourself against what has already been done, because everything has already been done.” Just don’t put walls and limitations on yourself. She recommends “putting tape over your digital SLR.” Stop judging your work and “just shoot, shoot, shoot!”

    February 27, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 627

  • Film Executive Ruth Vitale Discusses Creativity & Anti-Piracy

    Ruth Vitale

    Film Executive Ruth Vitale with NYFA Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman

    Noted film executive and anti-piracy advocate Ruth Vitale participated in a “Conversation with…” as part of the New York Film Academy Producing Department’s Industry Speaker series recently at NYFA’s Battery Campus.

    Moderated by Producing Department Co-Chair Neal Weisman, students from various programs listened as Ruth intimately discussed her career as a producer and distributor. From the early days of basic cable, working as an acquisitions executive at the Movie Channel, Ruth has gone on to witness dynamic changes in the creation, financing, and distribution of film content for over thirty years.

    Ruth Vitale

    Sharing her experiences as President of Vestron Pictures, Ruth walked students through the producing process that led to one of that company’s most successful films, Dirty Dancing. She discussed her tenure as President of Fine Line features, where she distributed a number of notable films including Academy Award winner Shine. As the founder and Co-President of Paramount Classics, Ruth was involved in such seminal films as Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Mad Hot Ballroom (frequently discussed in NYFA Documentary classes), and Hustle and Flow which garnered an Academy Award nomination for lead actor Terence Howard (currently starring in the television series Empire).

    Ruth shared insider details on the actual purchase of Hustle and Flow, which set the record for the largest sale ($9M) in the history of the Sundance Film Festival.

    As the current Executive Director of the organization CreativeFuture, Ruth has been on the forefront of battling film piracy. Students saw a dynamic video presentation describing the importance of protecting creativity in various mediums including film, television, music, new media, and fine art.

    In a spirited question and answer session, NYFA students offered valuable suggestions on how to fight this industry wide problem. We look forward to an ongoing discussion with Ruth and her CreativeFuture colleagues in the effort to conquer this important issue.

    We’d love to hear from you as well. How can we prevent this ongoing problem of piracy in our industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

    February 26, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1379

  • NYFA’s James Lecesne Gets Rave Review from NY Times

    james lecesne

    James Lecesne

    As was made quite clear in the Oscar Winning Best Picture Birdman, having the approval of the New York Times is one of the most crucial components of putting on a successful show. While turning the pages (okay, clicking a link) of a recent Times article, we came across a rave review, highlighting none other than one of our very own, New York Film Academy​’s Oscar-winning Documentary instructor James Lecesne.​

    The New York Times’​ respected and well known critic, Christopher Isherwood, identified Lecesne as one of “the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation,” in his review of James’ one-man show, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.

    In his one-man show, Lecesne portrays various characters of a small Jersey shore town as they struggle to understand what happened to 14-year-old Leonard Pelkey. Adapted from his YA novel, Absolute Brightness, this solo show begins with the the discovery of Leonard’s disappearance, follows a criminal investigation led by detective Chuck DeSantis, and concludes with a trial that reveals the shocking truth.

    The multi-talented Lecesne has been admired for many of his artistic traits, as well as his work in philanthropy. To attest to his tremendous talent, the first film he ever wrote, Trevor, won the Oscar for best live action short! It’s truly an honor to have Mr. Lecesne as a member of the New York Film Academy.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is showing at Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street in Manhattan, now until March 28.

  • NYFA Grad Marisol Tudela: The Fashionista Chica

    marisol tudelaSuccessful fashion, lifestyle and event journalist, as well as New York Film Academy alum, Marisol Tudela will be the guest speaker this Friday at the graduation ceremony of the February 4-week Broadcast Journalism students. A native of Lima, Peru, Marisol has created the online persona of The Fashionista Chica, and regularly covers red carpet events including New York Fashion Week and the Miss America pageant for the PressroomVIP website.

    The Fashionista Chica series incorporates celebrity styles, fashion education, and real-world use, by spotting upcoming trends, finding why they intrigue the present culture, and showing viewers how to make those trends part of their lifestyle.

    Following her graduation from NYFA in 2013, Marisol was the Associate Producer of the Emmy Award winning CUNY-TV magazine series Nueva York.

    The graduation ceremony takes place this Friday, February 27, at 12:30pm at the NYFA Battery Park campus.

    February 25, 2015 • Broadcast Journalism, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1094

  • Craig Ross, Jr. Advises Directors to Utilize Social Media

    Craig Ross, Jr.

    NYFA Directing Instructor Craig Ross, Jr.

    After graduating from film school, New York Film Academy Directing Instructor Craig Ross, Jr. moved to Los Angeles, where he formed his own production company Asiatic Associates (ASA). From there he went on to direct a number independent films, his first being the film Cappuccino (1998). His other film credits include Blue Hill Avenue (2001), Ride or Die (2004), Motives (2004) and The Mannsfield 12 (2007), the first film that was released through

    Since 2004, he has also had a career in television, directing episodes of Strong Medicine, Cold Case, Standoff, Crossing Jordan, The 4400, Lincoln Heights, K-Ville, Prison Break, Bones, Numb3rs and NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

    Coming from such an extensive background in directing for both film and television, Ross’ on-set knowledge enables him to provide answers and solutions to a number of problems or difficulties that may arise on student film sets. “My work history makes it virtually impossible for me not to be able to answer, from a place of first hand knowledge, any question the students may have,” says Ross. “I’ve done just about everything they’ve thought of doing. So I can definitely help guide them down certain paths from a place of confidence.”

    As experienced as Ross is in the world of directing, he admits that teaching at the New York Film Academy and working with students has been eye opening in terms of his own learning experience. “It may sound like a cliché, but I get as much education from my students as they get from me. So the experience has expanded me as a filmmaker and as a human being.”

    In addition to his work in the classroom and on students’ sets, Ross runs NYFA’s Industry Lab, which provides students with real world experience while still in school. The production entity utilizes instructors and students to produce projects outside of the school for clients that are in need of a production services. The lab is the brainchild of the Chair of Diversity, Cheryl Bedford, who first introduced Ross to the Academy.

    To date, the Industry Lab has worked with Warner Bros. to film a concert series. We were hired as the production company to shoot the summer concert sessions for the record label’s new artists. We’ve also filmed a music video for top selling Uk artist DJ Rusko. Just recently, we shot an interview with Denzel Washington at the Pan African Film Festival, and are currently working on several other commercial projects for outside clients.

    Ross’ strongest piece of advice for his students and others looking to break into television is more clear today than ever before — social media!

    In the digital age, everything is about branding, and today branding can be done for very little money. Simply put, my advice for anyone wanting to be in TV, is to build an audience (crowd funding is a great way to do that) and create a web series. Create partnerships with the project — if it has a social issue attached to it, partner with a corresponding organization.

    Market through social media using your partners social media marketing as amplifiers to get your product seen. The more hits you get, the more visible you are to Hollywood. Web series are a direct path to tv series — all you need is the branding.

    For starters, you can share your projects with us by tweeting @NYFA or using #NYFA. We’re always catching some fantastic projects from students and alumni, and are never shy in sharing your incredible work!

    February 24, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1053

  • NYFA Participates in Interview with Denzel Washington at Pan African Film Festival

    denzel washington

    Executive Director of the PAFF, Ayuko Babu with actor Denzel Washington

    On Saturday, February 14, Industry Lab students and others—through the Diversity Development Department—participated in the filming of three major events in a row at the Pan African Film Festival.

    The first two events were produced by Kim Ogletree, NYFA Producing Instructor, and executive produced and directed by Neema Barnette, the first black woman to win an Emmy directing comedy. The Director of Photography was Tommy Maddox Upshaw who is a Cinematography Instructor at NYFA. NYFA provided some of our hard-working students and equipment.

    PAF students

    The first interview was the Power Broker discussion with Sony Executive, Producer DeVon Franklin. He is also a film producer and has worked on projects like The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, Hancock and Heaven Is for Real.

    Next, the students helped document a conversation with Denzel Washington. Having directed Denzel in Devil In a Blue Dress and Out of Time, director Carl Franklin (House of Cards) was the one who interviewed Mr. Washington.

    Lastly, the students took stills for DGA Panel Event, hosted by NYFA Instructor, Jeff Byrd, Co-Chair of the African-American Steering Committee of the DGA. The Director’s Panel consisted of Ernest Dickerson (Bosch, Walking Dead), Charles Stone (CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, Friday Night Lights), Princess Monique (Seasons of Love, The Call), Janice Cooke (Jane The Virgin, Pretty Little Liars) and Charles Murray (Sons of Anarchy, Castle).


    February 24, 2015 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 795

  • NYFA Documentary Adviser Editor on Oscar Winning ‘Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1′

    Crisis Hotline

    Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1 has won this years Documentary Short Subject Oscar. The film’s editor Geof Bartz, is also New York Film Academy’s Documentary Curriculum Adviser and Master Class Professor.

    Crisis Hotline: Veteran’s Press 1, which won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, was edited by Geof Bartz, New York Film Academy’s Documentary Curriculum Adviser, Master Class Professor and Supervising Editor in HBO’s Documentary Department. This is Bartz’ third Oscar win from a total of 5 nominations over the years.

    Crisis Hotline is a touching 40-minute documentary, condensed from 100 hours of footage of VA’s suicide hotline call center, located in Canandaigua, New York. The documentary delves into the deep compassion, emotions and stresses call center operators endure when working daily to help and save suicidal veterans. Many of these operators are in fact veterans themselves, military family members and former service members.

    Nearly every hour, a veteran takes his or her own life. The film brings much needed attention to this issue and other challenges veterans (and their families) face when returning to civilian life.

    “We are hopeful this documentary will help raise awareness of this important issue with the American public,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said.

    Producers Dana Perry and Ellen Goosenberg Kent went on-stage to accept their aware, with Perry dedicating the film to her son Evan who died at age 15 in 2005.

  • Oscar Nominated ‘Foxcatcher’ Screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman Inspire NYFA Students

    foxcatcher screenwriters

    Tova Laiter with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

    This past Tuesday, February 17th New York Film Academy Los Angeles students were admitted into a special screening of Foxcatcher — nominated for 5 Oscars, (starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo) and participated in a Q&A with screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman who received a nomination in the upcoming Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. E. Max Frye won an Edgar Award from WGA for his first screenplay, Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme. As a writer on HBO’s Band of Brothers, he received a Christopher Award, a Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy.

    Dan Futterman was nominated for a 2005 Academy Award, a BAFTA Film Award, as well as a Writers Guild of America Award for his screenplay for the film Capote. He also won an Independent Spirit Award and shared the USC Scripter Award with Capote biographer Gerald Clarke. Dan and his wife and frequent writing partner, Anya Epstein, were show runners for the third season of the HBO series In Treatment and are currently writing and producing a new series for Fox TV, Gracepoint. As an actor, Dan has appeared on Broadway’s Angels in America and Off-Broadway, at Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club. His film acting credits include A Mighty Heart, The Birdcage, Urbania, and the upcoming Kill the Messenger. The Q&A was moderated by producer Tova Laiter.

    E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman gave invaluable advice to aspiring screenwriters and storytellers in general. Shedding light on his writing process E. Max Frye explained that he scribbles down his original drafts as quickly as possible on a legal pad. This allows him to get the story in his mind on paper in the most uncensored way possible. He doesn’t do a traditional plot outline, but rather starts from the concept of character and expands from there. He emphasized the importance of rewriting and never showing anyone of consequence the script until it is in it’s absolute final form. The reason for this is that there is no one in the industry that will read a script twice, so you have one shot only to impress.

    max frye

    E. Max Frye

    In contrast to E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman talked how he likes to structure like crazy. The process of writing Foxcatcher took six years and the breadth of his notes over the course of that time was “insane.” It was a particularly meticulous process working with a director such as Bennett Miller for whom this screenplay was written. Bennett is not a writer himself, so Dan would have to glean what Mr. Miller wanted from the trial and error process of providing ideas and talking about what does and doesn’t work.

    dan futterman

    Dan Futterman

    The information E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman provided to NYFA students, many of which were in the screenwriting program, was incredibly beneficial. We sincerely thank Max and Dan and wish them the best of luck at the upcoming Oscars!

    Foxcatcher will be available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD on March 3rd from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment complete with deleted scenes and an all-new featurette: The Story of Foxcatcher. Click the links below to pre-order.


    February 23, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 901

  • NYFA Appoints Medal of Honor Recipient Col Jack Jacobs

    jack jacobs

    Colonel Jack Jacobs

    New York Film Academy Los Angeles Veteran Students gathered in a Warner Bros. theater last night, Wednesday February 18th, for a special lecture from Medal of Honor Recipient and newly appointed Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program Colonel Jack Jacobs. The Colonel discussed his own experience in transitioning from military to civilian life and offered advice to NYFA veterans on the subject. Colonel Jacobs served in the U.S. Military for more than 20 years and his gallantry in Vietnam earned him the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest combat honor—two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Colonel Jacobs is currently a military strategist and on-air analyst for NBC and MSNBC News. This special lecture was the first step in Colonel Jacobs’ mission at NYFA to support in veteran students’ transition from the military to an exciting career in the media.

    The evening began with a screening of a short documentary that recounted the events in the Vietnam war and the Colonel Jacob’s valiant acts the resulted in him receiving the Medal of Honor. The Colonel’s personal, inspiring, and often times humorous talk covered many poignant topics. He emphasized his belief that military men and women are the most competent and hard working individuals in society, and that hiring a veteran is not an act of charity, as many feel, but a benefit to the employer.

    jack jacobs at NYFA

    Colonel Jacobs discussed the importance of veteran rehabilitation and the incorrect stigmas associated with war veterans. Knowing from his own personal experience, the transition from the brotherhood of the military in the most intense of circumstances to often times feeling completely alone afterwards in ordinary civilian life is extremely difficult. He also told many extraordinary stories from his own life such as when he met the Viet Cong commander who led the deadly ambush against his battalion 40 years after the Vietnam war. The night ended with a short documentary that included moving testimonials from Medal of Honor recipients including Colonel Jacobs, which expressed the importance of remembering those soldiers who acted selflessly for their country and in many cases sacrificed everything.

    Afterwards, the Colonel talked personally with student veterans and took photos with them. It was a truly inspiring experience to witness and garner great knowledge from this legendary man in person. We look forward to the great work Colonel Jack Jacobs will do as the newly appointed Chair of NYFA’s Veterans Advancement Program.

    February 19, 2015 • Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1145

  • NYFA Screenwriting Graduates Celebrate with Industry Pitch Fest

    pitch festOn January 21st, 14 graduating MFA and AFA New York Film Academy Screenwriting students attended their culminating Industry Pitch Fest Event held at the Andaz Hotel up on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A catered event and mingling opportunity for the students, executives, and faculty alike, this capstone event celebrated the New York Film Academy’s graduating MFA and AFA Screenwriting students, offering them a professional outlet to jumpstart their careers by pitching their projects.

    These writing students, having spent their final semester in their Business of Screenwriting III class preparing and fine-tuning their pitches for their thesis film and TV projects, shined on this pinnacle evening, leaving with new professional contacts and a flurry of interest in the scripts they’d worked so hard on all year.

    Considered by the school to be their first night as professional screenwriters, this group of bright students brought their A-game, as they pitched managers and production company representatives in a relaxed, round-table environment.

    pitch fest

    Hosted by NYFA’s Business of Screenwriting curriculum kingpin David O’Leary, in conjunction with NYFA Screenwriting Chair, Nunzio DeFilippis, and NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach & Professional Development, Adam Finer, the event featured representatives from 14 Hollywood companies.

    Attendees included: Bright Whale Entertainment, Canana Films, Dobre Films, The Dino De Laurentiiis Company, Echo Lake Entertainment, Elevate Entertainment, FilmHaus, FR Productions, Meyer Management, No BullScript, Paul Schiff Productions, RatPac Entertainment, Unbroken Pictures, and Underground Films & Management.

    The school wishes to thank its participants, for which this evening could not have been possible without, including — Guy Jackson, Maria Brasero, Paloma Martinez, Mike Klein, Dan Ingram, Jesse Murphy, Dan Rosenfelt, Bobby Sabelhaus, Jessica Jacobs, Scott Varnado, Daniel Manus, Jay Glazer, J Stuart, Peter Meyer, Chris Armogida, Annie Manion, and Tiffany Prasifka.

    You all made this event such a success. Thank you, guys! Congratulations also to all of the Sept ’13 graduates! Onwards and upwards!

    February 19, 2015 • Community Highlights, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 724