Award-winning Hungarian journalist and documentary filmmaker Andras Takacs took the hands-on training he got as a student in the New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism program and literally travelled around the world. Having interviewed former President Bill Clinton, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, he has now been selected by Forbes magazine for inclusion in their prestigious “30 under 30 Europe: Media” list.
Andras has produced and presented the current events series On The Spot, with his colleague and wife Eszter Cseke, for 7 years. From the revolution in Egypt to the front lines in Afghanistan, they work with just two small cameras and no crew, giving their programs extraordinary intimacy and honesty. The famed Hungarian war photographer Robert Capa provides their motto: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
The BBC called their work “rare and exclusive.. “Up-close and visceral,” wrote the Financial Times about their films, adding that “Takacs and Cseke plunge their cameras into the heart of the action, asking questions that are normally suppressed.”
Andras credits NYFA for giving him the skills to embark on his remarkable career, lessons that he still uses every day.
After taking a look at the list of successful projects that New York Film Academy graduate Konstantin Frolov worked on during his first year after graduating, we can confidently say that he is not only talented and organized, but also knows how to make connections. In 2015, Frolov worked as a director of photography on several projects, including:
A music video for Abdulrahman Mohammed (directed & produced by NYFA Grad Hanaa Saleh Alfassi) that already has almost 2 millions views on Youtube
A feature documentary on the Russian Special Olympics
A music video for Baby Kaely called “Smile” (directed by NYFA Grad Mykyta Samusiev and produced by former NYFA student Kelline Kanoui)
A commercial for the Suites Investment (directed by Mykyta Samusiev)
A short “YUMNA” that received an Award of Merit Film festival, an Award of California Film Festival and will be represented at Marché Du Film at Cannes in May 2016 (directed by NYFA Grad Noor Al Yaseen)
A short “Fire Water” (written and directed by NYFA grad David B. Johnson)
A music video for the Russian singer Selfieman called “For All The Broken Hearts,” which will premiere on Valentine’s Day (produced by former NYFA student Kelline Kanoui)
Despite his busy schedule he was recently able to share a few interesting stories about his career as a cinematographer.
What made you decide to study at NYFA?
I was working as a cameraman in Moscow and was thinking about getting a cinematography education abroad. I checked out options in France, England and the United States. And I guess NYFA was my destiny. On one cloudy day I was walking through the center of Moscow. I had no plans, but it was cold and I wanted to stop into some place to warm up. Then, I noticed a banner on the street saying New York Film Academy. It was exactly what I needed. So I went in. A girl with a smile told me the Master Class with American screenwriter Paul Brown was about to begin. He didn’t simply walk into the room, he was almost flying. It turned out that he was a bit late, and I was just on time—otherwise I would have missed the beginning. Paul Brown told the story of a strange flock of penguins in the Moscow Metro, which were probably going to the North Pole, so they created traffic. Then, he began to talk about movies, about the Academy, and all of it was so fascinating that I applied a week after.
David B. Johnson and Konstantin Frolov on the set of “Fire Water.”
Is there any secret how to be so productive?
The most important thing is to organize the process in the correct way. This list of my rules will explain:
Most of the meetings I arrange are on one day of the week, so the other 6 days I can work on the projects.
I don’t answer calls after 9 pm, unless we have scheduled it in advance.
Before I go to bed I spend time on creating storyboards, shot-sheets or watch movies. I believe that filmmakers have to devote at least an hour every day to watch a movie or new TV-series, even if it is not very interesting.
I also try to minimize the number of meetings that can be solved by e-mail.
I spend about an hour a day walking. The best way to do it on a regular basis is to get a dog.
One day a week I fully dedicate to myself.
What would you say are the main keys to success?
Experience is a large part of the success, and you shouldn’t fear participating in experimental and complicated projects. Be hardworking and remain humble at all times. And listen more than you talk!
Without a doubt, the most talked about film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. The compelling drama tells the true story of Nat Turner, a slave in 1831 who taught himself to read and became a preacher before ultimately leading a deadly rebellion that wiped out 60 white slave owners. One of the executive producers on the film is former New York Film Academy 4-Week Producing student Jane Oster!
“I made this film for one reason: with the hope of creating change agents,” said Parker. “That people can watch this film and be affected. That you can watch this film and see that there were systems that were in place that were corrupt and corrupted people, and the legacy of that still lives with us.”
We’ll be paying close attention to the theatrical release of this film, as well as Jane and her team’s road to next year’s Oscars!
With all of Hollywood and the independent film world buzzing about Sundance, it’s with great delight to find both Documentary Master Class Instructor Alexandra Johnes and graduate Laura Snow representing the New York Film Academy at this year’s festival!
Snow’s film, Newtown, on which she served as Associate Producer / Associate Post Producer, premiered on Sunday, January 24th. The documentary, directed by Kim A. Snyder, tackles the horrific tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. There are no words of compassion or reassurance that can bring back the 20 children and six educators who lost their lives during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In Kim A. Snyder’s searing new film Newtown, we are given exclusive access into the homes of those who lost loved ones. They speak candidly about their grief, anger, and disbelief over what occurred and how nothing has changed in regards to our legal response to gun violence.
This past Monday, January 25th, was the premiere of Holy Hell, directed by Will Allen and produced by Alexandra Johnes. Just out of college, Allen, a young idealist filmmaker, joined a secretive spiritualist community led by a charismatic guru. With his camera in hand, he documented 20 years of living inside a cult that changed how he would see the world forever. Allen recorded everything, offering us a juicy and unparalleled look into the extreme ideals and expectations that make up this community, born out of Los Angeles, the city of cults. From total devotion turned to paranoia, the cracks began to unfold as unexpected truths were revealed about the enlightened leader they built every fiber of their lives around.
All screenings of both documentaries were sold out. Congrats to both Alexandra and Laura, and best of luck with the films!
The graduating MFA Photography class had its Gallery Opening at 4565 Santa Monica Blvd. on Saturday, January 23, 2016. There were over 75 guests that came and reviewed the New York Film Academy students’ work. If you weren’t able to attend the Gallery Opening, the work will continue to be on display from Monday-Saturday until February 6th.
The five graduating students are from diverse cultural backgrounds from around the world. They completed their Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program in Photography with full-time study over the course of four semesters.
Parth Sutaria finds the connection between nature and our human bodies through his project, Our Intimate Connection with Trees. This series reminds us that the key to our existence is nature.
photo by Partha Sutaria
Khulud Muath’s thesis project, Under The Microscope, is about her experience living as a Muslim woman in the United States. This artwork explores the notion that terrorism does not belong to any religion or country.
photo by Khulud Muath
Hadeel Alahmari has created her thesis about the fashion and style of Saudi Arabian women after they leave their home country. Her work illustrates six different versions of the Hijab and Abaya worn by Muslim women here in the United States.
photo by Hadeel Ali B Alahmari
Hongbin Dai’s thesis project, Self, explores Hongbin finding her place within her personality and identity in relationship to the rest of the world. Finding “oneself” is the purpose of this project.
photo by Hongbin Dai
Zhuoqun Jiang created and made all the props and accessories in her beautiful series, Non-Breath Creature. As non-breathing objects, her stained glass inspired props are the centerpiece of the project and they represent immortal creatures.
photo by Zhuoqun Jiang
The New York Film Academy provides a creative setting with which to develop, challenge and inspire the talents of prospective photographers in a totally immersive, professional environment. By combining seminars and lectures with intense, hands-on classes, students acquire a sound understanding and appreciation of still photography and learn to integrate knowledge and professional experience.
With over 100,000 social media followers and close to 7 million views on her Youtube channel, the former New York Film Academy Summer Camp student Nika Khargiyanova from Moscow, Russia is better known under her singer/songwriter, model and popular video blogger pseudonym Nika Nova.
From a very young age, Nika excelled in almost everything she participated in: ballet, modeling, singing, dancing, and acting in theatre productions. After winning several beauty pageants and talent competitions, her first major accomplishment was when she was voted the Grand Prix winner in the prestigious “Young Pearl of Europe & Asia” competition. Soon after, she was voted “Miss International” and the winner of the coveted “Miss Fashion Of The World,” where she was crowned by famous designer, Pierre Cardin. At the age of 11, Nika became fascinated with video blogging, which was beginning to become very popular with young people across Russia. Utilizing Youtube, she created and produced her own talk shows called “What’s Up, Stars?” and “What’s Up, Teens?”—a spin on American talk shows.
As creator, producer, writer, editor and host of the show, Nika would interview famous Russian artists and actors. It didn’t take long until Russian teens found the Youtube channel, making it a major hit.
Soon after, in the summer of 2013, Nika traveled to Los Angeles to study Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. There she focused on creating and producing film while studying at the world-famous Universal Studios. After her training at NYFA, her newly created “What’s Up, Stars?” grew enormously popular all over the Internet. In 2014 “What’s up, Stars?!” was officially accredited by the main television channel of Russia, “First Channel,” which produces such well known shows as “The Voice” and “Voice Kids.”
Today, Nika works with songwriters and producers from all over the world, including Russia, USA, Australia and the UK. At the same time, fashion Moscow magazine OOPS did a spread on Nika for their October, 2014 issue.
Nika has exploded into the music scene and there is nothing standing in her way. Recently, she took part in Grammy Award-winning composer Laura Sullivan’s project called “900 Voices.” She sings both Russian and English, and she is on a mission to be the first Russian female recording artist ever to break through the competitive Western music market. At the moment, more than 200 radio stations play her music, but her dream and major focus is to not only break into music, but television and film as well.
Nika Nova on Hollywood Blvd.
Despite her busy schedule, NYFA recently had the opportunity to catch up with the former summer camp student to ask her a few questions about her blossoming career.
We know you must be very busy with your singing/songwriting, modeling and video blogging. Can you tell us a little more about the projects you are currently working on?
Yes, I am always working on something creative. I am interested in everything that is related to music videos, vlogs, songs, videos, and, of course, my program “What’s up, Stars?”
We know you have a very large fan base. How do you manage your time to work, study and also stay connected with your followers?
Since I can remember, I have always lived like this. But this year is pretty complicated for me, because I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for college. But I can’t stop to writing songs, shooting videos and communicating with my subscribers. They are watching my work and can see how much time I spend editing my videos and writing my songs. And I’m so glad that my followers are understanding in the fact that I can’t always respond in time, even though I try. They are always with me and supporting me.
What made you decide to study at NYFA?
At age 11, I started to get involved in video blogging. I wrote scripts, filmed on my unprofessional camera, and I had to master the editing program Final Cut Pro. I’ve got thousands of subscribers and I really like to create my own videos, but I don’t have enough professional training. My dream was to go to NYFA. When my parents saw my passion in filmmaking, they supported me; and when I was 14 years old, they realized my dream and I went to New York Film Academy. It was hard to believe, but it happened!
You attended a few of our programs. Did you have a favorite and why?
After completing my first course, the quality of my projects improved greatly. I began to position myself not only as video blogger, but also as a singer. I began to try to shoot and edit my own music videos.
Some of which won “Academia Music Awards” (LA) as a singer and as a video producer .
So, in 2015, I went back to study Music Video Production and Acting for Film.
It’s difficult to choose which program I like more, because I’m interested in everything. Each course has its own specifics.
What was most memorable about your time here at NYFA?
Of course, it was amazing to film and to be filmed at the world-famous Universal Studios! This was an amazing opportunity because you feel like you’re part of the Hollywood film industry—the world’s best!
Students have the unique chance to shoot their projects on a studio where major blockbusters have been filmed.
Also, I like to communicate with students from different parts of the world, and now I have a lot of friends from all over the world and we still communicate today!
During your time here, what was one of the most valuable things you learned?
I learned that creativity can bring people together despite differences in religion, politics or even nationality.
How have you used your new skills to help you with the projects you are currently working on?
Practical projects taught me a lot. During the courses, I had an amazing opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a director and an actor in castings and on set. Now I’m more confident in my videos than I had been in the past, but I would still like to learn more and more!
Would you recommend any of your programs to others interested in attending and why?
Yes, I’d recommend NYFA for sure! In any creative profession it is very important to practice. NYFA gives you this opportunity, and any student can realize his or her most ambitious projects!
And most importantly, at NYFA you can learn any of the major creative professions related to film, television, digital technology and media space.
From conception to full realization, with a modern technical base, we have the opportunity to attend master classes of the most famous (and Oscar-winning) actors and directors.
What do you have planned for yourself in 2016?
One of my latest projects was a music video for the Russian song “Набери,” which I produced. I shot this together with friends but took an active part in the assembly of the project, as well as generating ideas. Now I’m preparing another song, in which I wrote the music for, and I’m already thinking about a script for a new movie. I plan to work on some new projects with “What’s up, Stars?” and release my music album “With Love from Moscow.” And finally, I hope to have an opportunity to return to NYFA once again.
Any advice you can give to teens looking to grow their career in the performing arts?
Believe and fight for your dreams! And never ever give up.
Last week was a big one in Washington, DC as President Obama gave his final State of the Union speech. And just steps away, New York Film Academy graduate George Colli was set-up to interview members of Congress for Cox Media.
President Obama went on-the-road in an effort to take his message directly to the American public. And waiting at his first stop—Baton Rouge, Louisiana—was NYFA grad Nicole Cross. Nicole is a news anchor at KNOE in Monroe, Louisiana. The station is seen is portions of three states: Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi; so her morning news program is called Good Morning Arklamiss.
Nicole Cross waiting for the President
That same day, NYFA grad Mariam Shalikashvilli, a correspondent in Georgia (the country, not the state), was covering Flag Day activities in the Georgian capital of Tblisii.
Finally, alum Emilie Olsson has begun working for Swedish public TV network SVT. SVT is the largest, and most prestigious, network in Sweden. Emilie learned how to report, shoot and edit at NYFA, and is now working as a multimedia journalist.
What does it take to land a gig working on one of the biggest movies of all time? If you’re New York Film Academy alumnus Francesco Panzieri you simply do what you’ve always done: Work hard, work fast, and produce work of impeccable quality.
In conversation with The Force Awakens senior digital compositor, who is at once marked by his humility and quiet confidence, it soon becomes overwhelmingly clear that you are talking with someone who’s had a lifelong fascination with visual effects. He was exposed to them as a young child through such classic films as the Indiana Jones movies and the original Star Wars trilogy, films that “raised him as a child.”
Thus, when Francesco was called into the offices of Bad Robot, the production company owned by JJ Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he knew that he was standing on the precipice of realizing a lifelong goal of his, remarking that “it’s mind-blowing because it’s one of my biggest dreams.”
So how does one go from NYFA to working on the biggest film in the galaxy? In Francesco’s case, possessing over seven years of professional experience and the reputation for doing high quality work at a very quick pace—something he picked up working on television shows like Sleepy Hollow and Limitless that require a lightning-fast turn-around time—earned him kind words on his behalf from a “good soul,” words that soon had him in the offices of Bad Robot.
“I told [my friend], if you guys ever needed someone, I would love to help,” says Francesco. As it just so happened to turn out, Bad Robot was indeed looking for a team of experienced, dependable, and fast-working VFX artists who could accomplish the massive workload of The Force Awakens not only on time, but also with peerless perfection. “One day I received an email from Bad Robot that said there is someone praising you…and within 24 hours I was there for an interview.”
When Francesco was first called in for an interview, the project was still undisclosed, although Francesco knew in his heart was it would be. This lead him to going to his current employer and asking that he be allowed to work on this Non-Disclosure Agreement-sealed project, knowing that his work on the film would bring a new level of prestige to the company despite not being able to say what the project actually was (his employer of course agreed).
When it came to working on the production itself, Francesco found himself in a pressure-cooker situation where he worked twelve hour days for seven days straight over the course of five weeks, up until the final edit was completed just a couple of weeks prior to the film’s release. Despite the high stakes, Francesco remained positive throughout. As he said, “Every morning I went to work with the smile of a child who is finally able to fulfill one of the most desired dreams of his childhood.”
This childish wonder was certainly aided by the overriding ethos of Abrams’ vision, which focused much more on practical effects and bringing to life the spirit of the original trilogy. “The great thing about Episode 7 was that it was mainly shot [using practical effects]. I had hundreds of shots on my monitors with an X-Wing and I had BB-8 running on the monitor.”
This mention of BB-8 is where we first learn one of the secrets of The Force Awakens as Francesco talks about his work removing the rig from BB-8, which was in fact a puppet operated by a master puppeteer dressed in all green in order to make keying him out, or removing him, from the shots much easier.
Another fascinating tidbit that Francesco shares is the fact that The Force Awakens had the secret name of AVCO, which was the name of the cinema where Abrams first saw Star Wars. Of course, secrecy was at the heart of the film’s production and Francesco and his fellow colleagues received a lengthy rundown from a head of security at Disney who advised the VFX team to keep their phones away from their desks and forbade them from taking any pictures or sharing any media whatsoever.
Francesco dressed up as Kylo-Ren at Disney Studios for Halloween 2015.
Generally speaking, most of Francesco’s work focused on the scenes in the desert when Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, dismounts her speeder. However, his excitement spikes when talking about one shot particular: “My last shot before wrapping up the movie was on an alien-character in Maz Kanata’s cantina, and it took me 7 days to ultimately complete what was a very, very tough paint job on 25 frames of the movie. I probably consider that as my favorite shot because it challenged me to give everything I got and it also stoked and left many people amazed who were pushing the shot away from their lists as they were intimidated by the amount of time required and difficulty of such a task.”
When discussing the technical challenges he encountered, he talks about the overarching high standards held by Abrams, visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, and visual effects studio Industrial Lights & Magic. According to Francesco, “We had 6 steps of review, the effects on the whole movie were on 2,100 shots and the schedule was really tight. However, I felt [incredible] to be part of the right group of talented artists who also had a huge passion for the Star Wars universe, and that’s why every single goal was achieved and nothing seemed impossible. Each time we looked exhausted or tired or challenged, our compositing supervisor would joke and say, ‘We are just working on the biggest movie in cinema history!’”
As to whether he believes the new film carries on the legacy of the original trilogy, Francesco responds vehemently, saying “I think it touches the inner chords of each fan of Star Wars…I found it very touching. Even when I was watching it with everyone from Disney and Bad Robot, we were all involved together, you know, screaming and hooing at the moving. It’s such a beautiful homage in the way it was done.”
Of course, making his way all the way to the Star Wars galaxy is quite a feat for the Italian, who split his time growing up between the city of Pescara on the east coast of Italy and Dubai. Traveling extensively as a child, Francesco eventually enrolled in the Accademia dell’Immagine (The Academy of Image Arts) where he studied under such Italian Film legends as the composer Ennio Morricone and director Francesco Rosi. Panzieri was the odd one out early on in his studies in that, unlike his fellow students who had no clue what they wanted to accomplish professionally, he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with his career and that was to work in VFX.
Following his graduation in 2008, Francesco’s next move was to New York City where he enrolled in the One-Year 3D Animation & VFX Program at NYFA. While he is quick to credit NYFA with setting him on his current path, he also does not mince words when talking about his time in the fast-time program, stating that “NYFA was the toughest year of my life.” However, despite the long days and endless experimentation with new tools, Francesco describes the program as “very hands-on and I am thankful as that kind of [fast] pace prepared me to enter the field.”
It was at NYFA where Francesco truly started to realize his potential, citing faculty members as Boaz Livny and Robert Appleton as crucial figures in not just helping him to learn the software and know-how of the VFX craft, but also providing him with priceless advices. He cites Livny’s exhortation to attend such industry events as SIGGRAPH as a particularly important suggestion, enabling him to go and meet recruiters face to face.
He cites his year on OPT as the “most important year of my life” as that was when he had a relatively short window to establish himself in the field and find a company to sponsor his work visa. Realizing it was now or never, Francesco made the point of making many copies of his portfolio, which he would then deliver in person to studios around town. “I was shameless,” Francesco says with a slight smirk. However, this shamelessness paid out, eventually leading to his first gig, interning on Danny DeVito’s web series Blood Factory, which in turn led to him getting hired to work on Clash of the Titans.
Having worked as a senior digital compositor and in the Hollywood VFX industry for over seven years now Francesco’s credits are lined with the kind of prestige television and movie credits such as Mad Men, True Detective, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Limitless, and For Colored Girls Only. Equal parts soft-spoken yet self-assured in his abilities, Panzieri’s soft-spoken style belies a fevered intensity that has guided him through the many highlights of his VFX career, which itself was first inspired largely by Star Wars.
After all, as Francesco is quick to point out in relation to VFX artists, “Star Wars invented our profession.” He goes on to describe George Lucas’ trilogy, which “gave hope to many creative people,” as setting off a sort of visual effects butterfly effect out of which emerged many legends and pioneers of the VFX industry. Panzieri counts himself as one of many who was inspired to pursue visual effects after seeing the original Star Wars, alongside a steady diet of video games and movies. He remembers being struck by Lucas’ film when he first saw it and thinking, “Wow, how can I do that?”
In looking back at his long road, Francesco lights up when providing advice for how other aspiring VFX artists can make their way in the industry. Ultimately, for him, it’s all about picking a goal and staying focused on it. As he says, “I opened in my head the door that would get me [to Star Wars] and I worked my butt off to get to that door.” He adds that patience also plays a major role, stating, “You can’t force something to happen. You have to create a positive energy for those things to come to you.”
With another undisclosed project already under way, it’s clear that Francesco’s drive and commitment to his craft will continue to attract new and exciting opportunities for this young artist.
On January 9, The New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus facilitated a unique day of workshops for more than twenty-five soldiers from the 201st and 222nd Public Affairs detachments.
With the support of the New York Film Academy’s Foundation, the College was honored to have the opportunity to work with this exemplary group of servicemembers.
The 201st and 222nd units are both based out of Bell, CA and consist of public affairs officers, combat photographers, combat correspondents and broadcast specialists who are involved in creating, filming, reporting, hosting and editing news and entertainment radio and television program.
These groups are primarily responsible for participating in and supervising the operation of audio or video news for the American Forces Network (AFN), The Pentagon Channel or Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS). Combat Correspondents, or broadcast journalists in the 222nd prepare scripts and news copy for radio and television programs and participate as hosts, announcers, masters of ceremonies, and actors in radio and television broadcasts. The 222nd has a long, proud history of telling soldiers’ stories as they serve all over the world. Most recently, the 222nd supported the public affairs mission with two yearlong tours of duty in Baghdad, Iraq.
The classes were taught by NYFA instructors in the College’s Filmmaking Department, who have decades of experience in the industry. Documentary Chair, Barbara Multer-Wellin led the program. The first workshop provided an overview on essential interview techniques and how to formulate intriguing interview questions, which were then used to dialogue with special guests John Henry and Nick Searcy.
John Henry is the co-founder of Purple Star Veterans and families, a non-profit created to assist struggling transitioning veterans and their families, and Nick Searcy is a renowned actor who has starred on productions such as: Tigerland, Castaway, The Fugitive, and most current ongoing TV series (Justified). The soldiers interviewed the gentlemen utilizing the techniques and interview skills they procured through the workshop.
After the interview techniques session the participants divided into two groups for instruction on camera and lighting techniques and how to properly light a set for an interview and on the importance of sound and how to achieve the best sound quality for a high quality interview. Lance Fisher (Filmmaking Instructor) instructed one group and the other was taught sound by James Coburn (Filmmaking Instructor).
At the end of the intense training day, Christopher Cardoza, a Specialist assigned to the 201st Public Affairs Detachment stated, “This experience was without a doubt, one of the most honorable moments of my military career. I was able to practice the proper tools of Networking, Building Relationships, and having a Rolodex of greatness!” In addition to his service at the 201st, Specialist Cardoza is a BFA student at NYFA and assisted the College’s Veterans Service staff in putting this successful event together.
“One of the greatest hands-on training that our unit has performed, in the time I’ve been with the 201st,” remarked SPC Kris Wright.
These workshops were tailored for our 201st and 222nd guests, and based on the New York Film Academy’s mission to provide the most hands-on instruction in the world and the participating members from the 201st and 222nd Public Affairs Detachment soldiers were very thankful for the trainings, which provided the opportunity to gain a large amount of knowledge that will be instrumental in the growth of their careers.
The New York Film Academy, the world’s largest and most prestigious visual and performing arts private institution, is a certified and award-winning Military Friendly School committed to supporting this newest generation of veterans. NYFA is proud to serve military veterans and servicemembers in their pursuit of a world-class education in filmmaking—and related disciplines—through its Veterans Advancement ProgramChaired by Colonel Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient.
The 201st posted this article after attending our workshop on January 9th. You will have to be logged in to Facebook in order to view. Please click here to check it out.
Coming out of his MA Film and Media Production degree from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles, Varun Verma was hired by Replay Collective to work as a Line Producer for the production company. Replay Collective works with some of the most creative young filmmakers out there today to produce the most engaging content for major brands. While working for Replay, Verma has worked on almost a dozen high profile music videos, major commercials, and a few international short films.
Varun Verma on set of one of his productions
Given the fact that many of our recent graduates are deciding which specific field in the industry to explore, we decided to get some more insight into Verma’s career after film school, as well as his role as a Line Producer for Replay.
Congrats on your success thus far! Can you tell us how you began working for Replay Collective?
During my final semester, I was producing a NYFA thesis called Maquisard, directed by Kurt Claridades, in an abandoned town called Boron. The first day of the shoot, I found out that there was another production going on at the same location, which was being produced by Replay Collective. Since there were student and studio productions at the same location, it was a big challenge for me to coordinate with them and make sure every one returns home with completed work and making sure the director achieves his vision. One day, I sat with producer Sid Ganji, who I work with now, and scheduled in such a way that neither of our productions would ever conflict with each other. The very next day, I received a message from Sid saying they liked the way I handled the situation and would like to hire me as a freelance line producer on two music videos of for the popular Youtube artist, Trisha Paytas. Fortunately, my first music video project “Fat Chicks” went viral (almost 5 million views to date) and was covered by Cosmopolitan magazine. After a few more freelance gigs with Replay, I was finally offered a full-time job with the company.
What are some of the challenges that come with your role as line producer?
My job as Line Producer is to support the director’s vision under the given budget. This typically includes making sure the crew is content and treated well. Keeping calm in tough circumstances is a big challenge. For example, at a recent production, our A.D. had an accident in morning and it was a tough call whether to get a new A.D. or wait for his final call. Meanwhile, our crew became irritated and began complaining about the set not being organized and, as a result, there was a communication breakdown amongst the crew—which ultimately went to higher authority. Overall, it’s a high pressure job from all aspects. And it’s tough not to freak out and prioritize the task and think a step ahead with all of the possible consequences of a decision I make that I’m totally accountable for.
Which of the videos that you’ve worked on are you most proud of?
Recently, I worked on a music video project “Problematic” by Ricky Dillon featuring Snoop Dogg that I am very proud of. Another video that I am proud of was “Steal the Show” by Ricky Dillon, as well as the EA Games’ “Battlefield Hardline” commercial. Every project comes with new challenges and creatives. As a producer, I love working on new creatives, which makes me explore the horizon and gain experience in something completely new.
Was your experience at NYFA useful in terms of being prepared to work as a line producer?
I never thought I would end up as a producer, but NYFA played a big role in teaching industry level ethics and detailed orientation of the hollywood industry. I’m very thankful to NYFA for the practical training, in which I was given the opportunity to experience every crew position and now, as a producer, it helps me understand what it takes to be in a particular crew position.
What is your overall goal in the entertainment industry? What do you hope to achieve?
Since I love producing, and it’s fun to work in numbers and creatives, my goal is to become youngest award-wining commercial producer and eventually work on feature movies.