Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • NYFA Grad to Screen ‘On the Spot’ at Rooftop Films

    Andras TakacsThe New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism program attracts students from across the United States and around the world. NYFA grad Andras Takacs is returning to New York in early July for a film festival screening of his video On The Spot: Gaza – Chronicles of a Conflict.

    Andras, who comes from Budapest, tells me that he took the skills he learned at NYFA and used them to build a powerful first-person video series. He, along with collaborator and On The Spot co-founder Eszter Cseke, has traveled far from his native Hungary. (Currently the two are shooting in Thailand.)

    At NYFA, we train multimedia journalists. Being able to “do it all” makes our grads valuable contributors at American networks like CBS and NBC, as well as Agence France-Presse, TRT (Turkey), Ten Network (Australia) and Glitz (Brazil). It also gives them the skills necessary to embark upon bold, independent productions.

    The On The Spot series has won numerous awards, including one at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. On The Spot: Gaza – Chronicles of a Conflict will be shown as part of the Rooftop Film series in Brooklyn on Friday, July 2. (Isn’t everything in Brooklyn, these days?)

    Tickets are available online and at the door. Both Andras Takacs and Eszter Cseke will be at the screening, as will I and several current NYFA students.

June 15, 2015 • Broadcast Journalism, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1270

  • Jamaican Novelist Roger Williams Sets Sights on Film

    roger williamsAlready with a successful novel under his belt, American-based Jamaican novelist, Roger Williams, came to the New York Film Academy to expand his creative writing abilities in the field of screenwriting. Williams’ book, Turn Back Blow, made him the first Jamaican author to advocate animal rights and bring awareness to animal cruelty. The novel was inspired by a real-life event where a dog was being used as bait to lure a crocodile in a Jamaican community. Since releasing the book, its become a part of the catalogue at Yale, Princeton and England’s Oxford University.

    Now, with his sights set on the film world, Williams is working on two screenplays that he began developing at NYFA. His first full-length screenplay is an action/drama called Murder For Sale, which he intends to shop to Jamaican producers.

    “The experience with NYFA was great,” said Williams. “I learned so much — things that I wouldn’t have learned from a book about screenplays. The knowledge from NYFA will be very valuable when it’s time for me to adapt my book into a screenplay.”

    In addition to his writing, Williams took an acting course at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. While there he wrote and acted in a short film called Redemption Irony. From there, he took his hand at directing while at a course at NYFA New York. His short was entitled Shutdown, and was well received, especially by women.

    “I never dreamed of working behind the camera, and working on Shutdown was a tremendous experience. The short has been receiving great feedback from women on Facebook and YouTube, because they can all relate to what is taking place in the scene.”

    On the whole, Williams hopes to not only entertain his audience with his work, but to educate them in the same way he did with his novel, Turn Back Blow. We look forward to seeing his adaptation, as well as his original material in the near future.

    June 11, 2015 • Acting, Screenwriting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1196

  • Portuguese Filmmaking Grad Directs Award-Winning Commercial

    Directing commercials can not only be a creative and rewarding career, it can also propel directors into the world of feature directing. Just have a look at David Fincher or Michel Gondry’s early career in the film business.

    One of our 8-Week Filmmaking graduates, Francisco Miranda, directed a commercial in his hometown of Portugal, which recently won the grand prize in the prestigious “Galp Create” publicity contest. The video is a 30 second spot for Tangerina.

    “I attribute a huge part of this success to the New York Film Academy,” said Miranda. “Back in school, I gained a lot of knowledge in the classes that I was part of. The movies that I made at NYFA with my fellow students were very important to improve my craft and become a director.”

    Have a look at Miranda’s award-winning spot below!

    Galp Tangerina from Francisco Miranda on Vimeo.


    June 11, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1128

  • Cinematography Grad Captures New York’s ‘Queens of Flesh & Blood’

    michelle cassis

    Michelle Cassis and her crew on set

    Queens of Flesh & Blood is a fashion piece statement that celebrates the hard-working women who inhabit one of the toughest cities in the world. Shot in the streets of New York City by New York Film Academy Cinematography alumna Michelle Cassis, the film is an anthem to real, persevering women who strive daily to conquer the concrete jungle. It is a film that captures and showcases New York City in its essence — by telling the story through New York’s most iconic signs and billboards.

    “This film is dedicated to real women, with the hopes of inspiring them,” said Cassis. “My goal was to shoot a fashion film with a strong story and message — not just pretty shots — but an inspiring film to the audience. I wanted to jump out of the glamor of couture and editorial and come up with a down-to-earth fashion film that women all around the world could relate to.”

    Cassis creates an homage to strong women while at the same time using New York as a character of the story. “These women, these queens, are out there, we see them everyday,” Cassis concludes.


    The video was shot in New York last October. The crew consisted of other NYFA graduates:

    • Producer Anthony Argento
    • Jieun Shim and Mihyun Park from South Korea, both assistant cameras and graduates from the Cinematography course
    • Tomas Velasques, from Colombia, who helped Ming as his gaffer
    • Mariana Araujo, from Brazil, was assistant director
    • Jorge Godinez, from Mexico, was the production designer

    “I’m really grateful to the entire crew,” added Cassis. “Without their hard-work and help the film wouldn’t be what it is today.”

    Shot with the Arri Alexa and the Optica Elite Anamorphic Primer lenses in 50mm and 70mm, cinematographer Ming Jue Hu said, “The look for each character is inspired by the space they live in. We were going for a romantic realism.”

    In regards to the casting process, Cassis said while she wasn’t necessarily looking for a specific look, diversity was the main goal. The team ended up casting Darin Itdhanuvekin from Thailand, and Lidiia Vidrenko and Alexandra Chelaru from Russia.

    Have a look at Michelle’s video in its entirety below.

    Queens of Flesh & Blood from Michelle Cassis on Vimeo.

    June 9, 2015 • Cinematography, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1594

  • High School Camp Grad’s Short Awarded ‘Short of the Week’

    ike interviews god

    With summer approaching, we’ve been looking back at what some of our High School Summer Camp graduates are working on today. Last week, we stumbled across a “Short of the Week” from New York Film Academy Summer Camp alumnus, Eli Shapiro. His award-winning film, Ike Interviews God, tackles the potential apocalyptic doom of our society in a somewhat dark yet comedic way. As the director puts it, the initial premise of the film was quite simple: if you could have a private conversation with God, what would you ask Her?

    “I wanted to make fun of what would actually happen during a major religious event today,” said Shapiro. “How news stations would exploit it, how people would try to make money out of it, how they’d cast Ryan Gosling for the movie adaptation.”

    While Shapiro practices the Jewish faith, he wanted the film to make people laugh regardless of his or her beliefs. “I think everyone — atheists and religious people — have these cosmic questions.”

    To date, Shapiro’s short has screened at several film festivals, including the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival 2014, Screen Actor’s Guild Foundation Film Showcase 2014, DC Shorts Film Festival 2014, Montclair Film Festival 2014, and Hollyshorts Monthly Screening Series 2015.

    Have a look at his award-winning short in its entirety below.

    IKE INTERVIEWS GOD from Eli Shapiro on Vimeo.

    June 8, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 993

  • NYFA to Create Promo for Teens Take the Met

    teens take met

    New York Film Academy will send a crew of top graduates to the Metropolitan Museum tomorrow to create a documentary/promo of their signature teen event, TEENS TAKE THE MET.

    The event, which starts tomorrow, Friday, June 5th and runs from 5:00-8:00pm, is sponsored by dozens of arts-related non-profits, and of course the New York Film Academy. The evening is expected to draw at least 4,000 local teens from all around the New York City area.

    Teens Take the Met is free and open to all teens 13+ with a middle or high school ID. No RSVP—just show up!

    And while you’re there, be sure to look out for our talented documentary filmmaking students!

  • BFA Filmmaking Grad Finalist in CineGear 2015 Film Series at Paramount Studios


    When our filmmaking students graduate from the New York Film Academy, they bring with them a thesis film that they can be proud of. Often the short film will be his or her calling card to the professional world. But before that happens, we encourage our graduates to enter his or her thesis film into as many film festivals as possible, giving him or her and the film the proper exposure needed.

    One of our recent BFA Filmmaking graduates, Diego Andres Londono, has followed this advice, and has already seen success at the festivals with his thesis film, Medley. He’s won awards at two film festivals, California International Shorts and LAArthouse Filmfest, both as Best Experimental Film. Medley has also been selected into the biggest University level Film Festival in Colombia and was a part of the Cannes Short Film Corner.

    “There is a sweet and twisted bliss in Diego’s talents as he sees things with a creative eye that understands both art and commerce,” said NYFA Instructor Saga Elmoraseb. “He is detailed without being demanding and is sensitive about the filmmaking process. These (and many more) are reasons why I feel Diego is a cut above the rest. His film Medley is proof.”

    Now, Diego’s film is a finalist in the CineGear 2015 Film Series, which will take place at the famous Paramount Studios. Diego is competing for $5,000 in equipment for his next project against two other student thesis films from AFI and USC.

    We had a chance to ask Diego a few questions about his film and his young career before his upcoming GineGear screening on June 4th.

    Congrats on the success of your thesis film! Can you tell us what the film is about?

    It wasn’t the first idea that I had and it was born kind of in the middle of turmoil, as I didn’t know if I was going to be able to shoot a thesis film at all. Nevertheless, one night of May 2014, Matías Piegari, a very good friend and composer, whom I met at NYFA, showed me an amazing piano recital experiment called: “4’33.”

    The experiment was conducted by John Cage, and in it, Cage brought a world-renowned piano player and made the audience believe that he was about to play a sonata. The curiosity would build up as the piano player sat down in front of the big audience, but when the time to perform came in, the player would start his metronome and remain motionless until the metronome hit an entire movement. It is what’s called a symphony composed of silence.

    To me, it challenged the very definition of art because it shows that art is not just this thing that is created by a human being for others to judge, it exists on its own. And in the context of Medley, it exists in nature. I went back home and began writing with extreme passion about a piano concert in which the piano didn’t produce the sounds that it was expected to produce, but sounds of nature. Nature for me is what drives my creativity — as I see it — it is in nature where art resides in its pure form and in its universal state.


    Can you tell us a little bit of how this film came together?

    I got an amazing support from Asaph Polonsky and Tony Schwartz, my directing and producing instructors. They knew of the effort I put on my first thesis idea and the reasons why it didn’t come through. At that time, they put a word in with Mike Civille, who was the head of the filmmaking department at that time. I was asking for an extra semester to be able to shoot my thesis, but Mike gave me an extra month; and he was right: an extra month was enough for me to conceive the idea and shoot it. I had to resource to my own creativity, the producing and directing tools that I had acquired with years and to my friends — the people who I spent three years of my life battling side by side in the sea of projects that is the BFA program.

    I will be eternally grateful to Melissa Inzunza, our Producer, and Yana Surits, our AD: they are not only just classmates, they are my true friends. After the initial struggle, we managed to get Jordan Black on board, an amazing Director of Photography and an equally talented Production Designer, Kalise Wallace (Star Trek: Renegades, Bound). And just like that, we rented a small studio in Glendale and began dressing up the atemporary world where the concert had to take place. A lot of friends came forward and helped in the dressing of the place. To help in the construction, Kalise brought a master threader who works with ‘Cirque du Soleil’ to build their tents and scenery in Vegas. (Only in LA do you get to meet people like that.) He congratulated us for the amazing production value that we were capable of generating with a minimal budget.

    A month after principal photography was completed, we shot the nature sequence. I wanted to contrast the arranged concert as an art form with the pure art that exists in nature. But I knew that I had to choose a place equally beautiful to what we had created artificially. This is why we chose Big Sur as our location for the nature shots. This magical place on Earth is one where Ansel Adams decided to inspire himself and represent his work. At Big Sur, the majestic sequoia trees die by the sea. I’ve never seen that spectacle elsewhere. We hiked for two days with a skeletal crew of five. We captured mesmerizing imagery that, in the words of many photographers, rival those of the National Geographic.

    What do you hope to achieve with this film?

    I wanted to try new approaches to filmmaking by conveying emotions through the creative use of sound and image. I learned heaps in the process; and most likely will affect my future films. As for our audience, I would like to generate questions about what is art, and where does the concept comes from. I would like for them to feel and experience an experimental journey that hopefully will trigger their creativity.

    on set medley

    Would you say your training and education at NYFA was useful in terms of directing this film?

    I am grateful for the education and hands-on training that I received at NYFA. I learned from working on all of my friend’s projects and also from great instructors who taught me to strive for greatness and to stand behind my vision and get my collaborators involved in it. Throughout the time that I spent at the school, we constantly changed and evolved and towards the end of my BFA program I was able to put together all of the directing lessons that I received and implement them in the natural way that I imprinted in Medley’s actors.

    NYFA is a young school but it has an international quality to it that gives you a sense of global perspective that other schools might not give you. This helped me in writing Medley out of a traditional way, and go for an avant-garde style. All for all, I had awesome experiences that allowed me to see the world through other scopes. Being surrounded by different cultures allowed me not only to receive an ‘American Education’ but also to share my cinematic experience with people from around the world. I am proud to say that my film is the first NYFA film to compete in the ‘2015 Cinegear Film Series’ at Paramount Studios, alongside of AFI and USC thesis films, because my school is at that level.

    Are you currently working on another project?

    Currently, I am working on developing a feature film about a murder case in Pleasanton, California, in which authorities work in a crooked way because of the victim being an African American and because of the sense of ‘small town’ that NorCal communities have. We can use all the help that we can get and of course we where planning on coming to NYFA, as we know of the good relationship that the school has with its alumni. I also have projects in development in Colombia and México, which I’m already in conversations with production companies back home to produce in the upcoming years. I say ‘years’ because it seems like feature filmmaking is a marathon and not just a sprinting race, but I’m enjoying the ride.

    Medley has been selected to compete in the Student Film Category for the ‘CineGear film series’ at Paramount Studios on June 4th of 2015. For more information visit:

    Have a look at Diego’s trailer for Medley below!

    June 3, 2015 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1171

  • New York Film Academy Photo Shoot at Bloomingdale’s Miami

    miami bloomingdales

    The New York Film Academy South Beach Photography department, led by Photography Co-Chair Paul Sunday, held a “Movie Madness” event with Bloomingdale’s Miami in The Falls. The photography event created a movie-like atmosphere in the cosmetics department, giving ladies the opportunity to feel what it’s like to be prepped before a photo shoot. Many of the people we met were naturals and shined behind the camera!

    “I’ve collaborated with Bloomingdale’s many times over the years.  It’s always been fun and inspiring,” said Co-Chair of NYFA’s Photography Program, Paul Sunday. “The Hollywood makeup event at the Falls was no exception. The beauty team at Bloomies was stellar. They embodied what we teach our photography students; vision, style and professionalism are ingredients for success.”

    nyfa bloomies

    Since 2013, the 10,000 square ft. South Beach location, with facilities on the second floor and in the Penthouse Suite of 420 Lincoln Road, has quickly become a desired home for aspiring photographers, actors and filmmakers to truly hone their craft in a hands-on learning environment.

    Catered to all levels of expertise, the NYFA South Beach Photography program offers short-term, long-term and degree programs. Each curriculum is designed to allow students to develop their own unique voice so that they can build a photography portfolio that is immediately recognizable as their own.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the New York Film Academy South Beach Photography School, visit

    To view more photos from our event, please visit our Facebook Album by clicking here.

  • New York Film Academy Celebrates its Graduating Class on May 30th

    nyfa la graduation

    On Saturday, May 30th, New York Film Academy Los Angeles students from the Filmmaking, Acting, Producing, Screenwriting, Photography, Cinematography, Game Design, and 3D Animation and Visual Effects disciplines gathered to receive their degrees during two commencement ceremonies at the Harmony Gold Theater in Hollywood, California. Deans Louis Fantasia, Eric Conner, and Mike Civille as well as Department Chairs Lynda Goodfriend (Acting), Tony Schwartz (Producing), Nunzio DeFilippis (Screenwriting), Mark Sawicki (3D Animation and Visual Effects), Michelle Kirk (Photography) and Associate Chairs Mike Williamson (Cinematography), Adam Finer (Screenwriting), and Julia Raz (Game Design) addressed the students, congratulating them and giving personal fair wells and final advice for the future. School Director Dan Mackler and Dean Louis Fantasia presented diplomas.

    NYFA Los Angeles grad

    actor Manish Dayal

    Manish Dayal, film and television actor known for his recurring role as Raj Kher in the hit TV show 90210 and starring in a leading role in the film The Hundred Foot Journey, was the Commencement Speaker for the Acting and Screenwriting graduates. Mr. Dayal relayed the importance of having a positive perspective of “failing” in life as every success he’s experienced would not have been possible with the failures that led him there.


    David A. Permut, television and movie producer known for creating Richard Pryor: Live in Concert and Dragnet, which was an early example of remaking a television series into a motion picture, was the Commencement Speaker for the Film, Producing, Cinematography, Photography, Game Design, and 3D Animation and Visual Effects Graduates. Mr. Permut stressed the importance of remaining positive and having patience in the film industry as the average time it takes an idea to debut on the screen from conception is seven years, and the time it’s taken for many of his projects to come to fruition has well exceeded that.

    Los Angeles grad

    After the commencement ceremonies, graduates and their family and friends celebrated at the Riot House Restaurant in West Hollywood’s Andaz Hotel on the Sunset Strip. Congratulations to all of NYFA’s 2015 degree program graduates!

    MFA in Filmmaking
    Paul Dees
    Simeon Flores
    Ryan Lopez
    Eduardo Michel Piza
    Eljazz Rakhimbekov
    Alexander Rodriguez
    Daniel Zagaevschi

    MA in Film & Media
    Ahmed Farouk Ibrahim Al Ayooti
    Abdullah Bin Kulaib
    Paulo Erico Claridades
    Ali Farshchi
    Krid Krongyuth
    Huimin Mao
    Andrei Mindru
    Varun Verma
    Manal Elias

    BFA in Filmmaking
    Tyrone Breaux
    Noe Miguel Obregon Escobar
    Joelle Kahn

    MFA in Acting
    Kankana Chakraborty
    David Dasilma
    Ricardo Diaz Guillen
    Omar-Farouq Ayorinde Edu
    Marthe Einseth
    David Epstein
    Yara Ferreyra
    Brandon James Gailliard
    Ivonne Garcia Asimbaya
    William Justice
    Jong Man Kim
    Ivona Kustudic
    Nenad Nikolovski
    Nozipho Jamilah Profit-Mclean
    Danielle RowLee
    Fernando Quintana Lasso
    Chris Ferera
    Emre Pala
    Dian Yu
    Zhen Wang

    BFA in Acting
    Andras Farago-Szabo
    Rebecca Hamilton
    Anthony Hubbard
    Anthony Kiser
    Kristoffer McMillan
    Eboni Osteen
    William Stavrakos
    Diana Valencia Medina

    AFA in Acting
    Susannah Almer
    Blake Altman
    Carlos Rodrigo Chavez
    Leonardo Diaz
    Karen Flores Kauffman
    Ryan Harrington
    Dylan Jackson
    Benjamin Jooste
    Michael Brandon Lamkins
    Hadas Sima Lev
    Kamali Martin
    Lucero Rodriguez
    Dulce Sosa
    Ellinor Taflin
    Alexis Taylor

    MFA in Producing
    Ismelda Cruz Mojica
    Marisela de Los Angeles Delgado Fuentes
    Carlos Eguiagaray
    Melinda Graves
    Ana Pou Valeriano
    Tripp Townsend III
    Meng An
    Luoting Jin
    Pengchen Li
    Phillip Simon
    Arthur Smith
    Anna Tveritina
    Xu Yang
    Shijie Zhang

    AFA in Producing
    Tyler Scheff
    Davin Tjen

    MFA in Screenwriting
    Ray Cadiz
    David Ephraim Cantor
    Yanwen Guo
    Christopher Hayes
    Dakota Klaes
    Xiaoxiu Li
    Thomas Saetveit Jensen
    Agosto Silveira
    Angelina Tala
    Pallavi Vaidya

    AFA in Screenwriting
    Quintin Allen Bell
    Tevin Knight
    Daria Leshchenko
    Jamaul Phillips

    MFA in Photography
    Sultan Al Rubayq
    Khulud Albati
    Mihaela Belichovska
    Walla Jarallah
    Yisen Li
    Pavlinka Popovska
    Elli Tashkandi
    Qian Zhe

    MFA in Cinematography
    Peng Ding
    Nelson Javier Flores
    Kevin Gillingham
    Leandro Moura

    MFA in Game Design
    Omar Ahmedien
    Ohoud Ali
    Kevin Newton
    Zheng Qin
    Chad Robinson
    I-Chieh Shen
    Yufei Zhao
    Ziyi Zou

    BFA in 3D Animation & Visual Effects
    Arjun Nair

  • NYFA Australia Acting Chair and Alumnus Appear in ‘San Andreas’

    san andreas premiere

    One-Year Acting Grad, Nick Allen-Ducat and NYFA Australia, Gold Coast Chair of Acting, Brad McMurray                                                              picture by David Clark; Gold Coast Bulletin

    It’s no coincidence that the New York Film Academy Australia’s Gold Coast campus is situated on the backlot of Village Roadshow Studios adjacent to Warner Bros Movie World in Queensland, Australia.

    Similar to our Los Angeles campus, NYFA Gold Coast students have access to the movie studios, giving them a truly hands-on, real-world experience.

    Given the unparalleled access to the filmmaking community in Queensland, it came as no surprise to find two of our very own in front of the camera for the upcoming blockbuster film San Andreas, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Paul Giamatti. NYFA Australia, Gold Coast Chair of Acting, Brad McMurray and One-Year Acting Grad, Nick Allen-Ducat had roles in the film, and walked the red carpet at the Queensland premiere, which took place at the Roxy Theatre.


    pic by David Clark; Gold Coast Bulletin

    “Being on the backlot leaves it wide open to massive possibilities as many of our current and former students had on set experience as extras on San Andreas and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken,” said McMurray. “Having international blockbusters shooting on NYFA’s doorstep creates an industry pulse that is felt by all of the students at NYFA. This creates a hunger that will drive them into this vibrant exciting industry. In securing a role on something as big as San Andreas, it enables me to get in the room face to face with the students and share this valuable experience with them. The class experience then becomes a session of artistic osmosis where the students beliefs and expectations are ramped up ready for the industry.”

    In addition to Brad and Nick’s roles in the film, NYFA Australia filmmaking students were able to intern on the production of the film.

    Having filmed on the Coast, The Rock, who was in attendance at the premiere, had this to say about his experience: “I had the best time — amazing time — shooting the film on the Gold Coast.”

    Look for Brad, Nick, and The Rock in San Andreas, which opens in theaters today!