Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • NYFA Filmmaking Grad Assaad Yacoub’s Film “Cherry Pop” Featured in NYLON

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    NYFA filmmaking alumnus Assaad Yacoub via IMDB.

    As Pride Month celebrations bring the LGBTQ+ community to the world spotlight, New York Film Academy had a chance to go behind the scenes with the creator of “Cherry Pop,” triple-alumnus Assaad Yacoub, who graduated from NYFA’s 2-Year Filmmaking Program in New York City before going on to complete both his BFA and MFA degrees in Filmmaking at NYFA Los Angeles. His much-buzzed feature film stars Bob the Drag Queen from “Rupaul’s Drag Race” along with Tempest DuJour, Latrice Royale and Lars Berge.

    With a recent interview in NYLON and a busy schedule touring such film festivals as Outfest Los Angeles and the London International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema, Yacoub took some time to talk with NYFA about his “Cherry Pop” journey.

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    NYFA: Congrats on your feature film debut with “Cherry Pop”! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    AY: I’m Assaad. Nice to meet you!

    When I was younger, I would take our old school video camera and film my brother and my friends doing anything and everything. I enjoy the art of telling a story. It’s fun! I used to dance with a group in Dubai and that form in itself is storytelling. Then I went to art college where I majored in painting. I remember one of my teachers, Rachael Hines, and I’ll never forget this, told me to get the hell out of the Middle East and move somewhere that would actually allow me to succeed and have a career in my talents.

    At the time there was no “art scene” in Lebanon or the Middle East — no one took it seriously as a career pursuit — art classes were basically just electives not majors. Moving to the states was the best thing I could have done for myself and my future. That’s how I ended up at NYFA!

    NYFA: Your feature “Cherry Pop” started out as a student short film project at NYFA, can you tell us a little about the journey you underwent to turn that student project into a feature?

    AY: The feature was actually also a project I did at NYFA as my thesis in the MFA program. It started as a short film in 2013 and we enhanced it into a feature film by 2015.

    The short film’s success is basically what decided to make the film into a feature. The festival circuit showed me it was valuable to movie audiences and I decided to push forward with it. When I started my master’s program, from day one I knew I was going to choose the feature track and make this film.

    NYFA: What advice can you offer to fellow NYFA students eager to make their first feature film?

    AY: You have to be prepared. And even when you think you’re prepared you have to be even more prepared. Mistakes are going to happen no matter what. The more prepared you are the easier and quicker you will solve obstacles as you go along.

    Stick to one idea and go with it. Stick to your guns, believe in your idea and what you’re doing. Other people will then believe in you.

    NYFA: You mention in your NYLON interview that you were especially interested in showing a “day in the life of a drag queen” with “Cherry Pop.” Why do you feel it is important for people to have a chance to see that world? Why is this story so important to tell, at this moment in time?

    AY: It’s important because a lot of people just don’t understand what drag queens do and who they actually are. The topic is now more important than ever – the timing is perfect especially with transgender/LGBTQ+ community speaking out a lot more nowadays. It’s amazing to be a part of the bigger picture of it all.

    NYFA: Has the experience of working on “Cherry Pop” in any way transformed the way you approach filmmaking?

    AY: Yes. I learnt I do not what to produce ever again. Ha! — I’m sticking to directing!

    It was my very first feature film so there really was so much I didn’t know and was learning on the way. I learnt a lot about post-production and about what happens with the movie after you achieve distribution.

    A fun thing on set that was new to me was that we built the “Cherry Pop” sets. I have never experienced having full control of how the space was going to look, which was pretty cool.

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was helpful in preparing for your experience making “Cherry Pop”?

    AY: My time at NYFA was the only experience I had to prepare for “Cherry Pop” so yes it was very helpful! I think everyone should go through the feature track [in the MFA Filmmaking program] because the classes we took were invaluable. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of Lydia Cedroni, Justin La Reau, William Dickerson and Mike Civille — thanks guys!

    NYFA: Are you working on any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

    AY: In addition to touring with “Cherry Pop” nationwide, I am working on its TV adaptation. We just finished writing the pilot. I have a bunch of music videos coming up for “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Queens. Those should be lots of fun. I also just pitched and sold a web series to an online streaming platform.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed you’d like to mention?

    AY: Ya! If you’re in LA on July 10 come watch “Cherry Pop” at The Harmony Gold Theatre. If you’re in San Francisco July 11, we will be at The Castro Theatre. Come!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Assaad Yacoub for the success of “Cherry Pop” and thank him for sharing his story with the NYFA community.

  • NYFA Alumnus Miguel Garzon Martinez Releases “The Broken Legacy” on Amazon

    New York Film Academy alumnus Miguel Garzon Martinez has been hard at work on his latest project, “The Broken Legacy.” Now that the film has completed it’s festival run, it is available to stream on Amazon and Vimeo.

    Martinez sat down with us to talk about his experience writing, directing, and editing the project.

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    NYFA: Tell us a little about your latest project?

    Martinez: “The Broken Legacy” is a personal project for me. It came from a mixture of past experiences. This was an incredible opportunity to explore those experiences. I was able to share my own thoughts about how the world works. Before I came to study at NYFA, I was a teacher at a high school back home in Colombia. I had some crazy experiences that taught me many things about the nature of people, and about myself as well.

    Originally the film was set in a high school. But then I realized that in order for me to make it happen within my budget I had to make some changes. I changed the setting to a research facility where the characters are forced to live together, which definitely amps up the stakes and the drama. But, at the end of the day, I wanted to portray the light and darkness that lives inside of all of us, which I show personified in the two leads: Steven and Tomás.

    NYFA: Why is this story important to you?

    Martinez: I needed to tell the story of “The Broken Legacy” because it’s heavily based on my own experiences. Sharing something so personal with the world is terrifying and difficult. I felt that as a filmmaker I had something to say, and that feeling continued to bug me until it became this film. However, my intention is not to preach or to tell people what to think or how to behave. For me, it was very important to portray characters who were honest. I tried to show every side of the conflict.

    NYFA: What was the hardest part of making this film?

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    Martinez: When I think about my biggest challenge making this film, and maybe this answer is not as thrilling, but it was unexpected to me as well: it was editing. When you’re so close to something you stop seeing things. It becomes harder and harder to judge what is working and what isn’t working.

    After several months of work in post-production and some test screenings, I had to make a very difficult decision. I stepped away from editing and hired an editor to do a new cut from scratch. I had to do what was in the best interest for the film.

    I had a wonderful editor, Aashish Mayur Shah, who brought so many ideas to the table and a strong vision that enhanced my previous work. It was a great learning experience.

    NYFA: What did what you learn at NYFA that helped you make this film?

    Martinez: My experiences at NYFA were integral to making “The Broken Legacy.” It is incredible looking back at how much of what I learned in school helped me through this project. NYFA’s hands-on approach really prepared me to be in command of the set, because I have already done it before many times in smaller projects.

    On top of that, I was very lucky to have two great directing teachers, Nick Sivakumaran and Adam Nimoy, who showed me how to visually tell a story without losing sight of the spine of each character. Most of my crew was wonderful people that I met at NYFA, including one of my actresses and co-producer Cynthia Bravo. I would never have been able to complete my film without the NYFA community.

    NYFA: Would you do anything differently if you could?

    Martinez: I think that if I could go back in time, I would have approached the screenwriting process differently. Writing a film is by far the most complex part. I wrote the script in eight months and I still feel like I could have used more time.

    Looking back, there are little moments where I realize that I should have added this or that to make it perfect. It is kind of like that feeling you have after walking away from a conversation and suddenly know exactly what to say. It’s very annoying, but I have learned from it. Now, I try to focus 110 percent on those details during the writing process.

    NYFA: What festivals did you take the film to?

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    Martinez: “The Broken Legacy” has screened at the Pasadena International Film Festival, where it won Best Feature Film, and at the Gwinnett Center International Film Festival, where Michael Stahler won Best Male Actor for his portrayal of Steven. We also screened at the Manhattan Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Speechless Film Festival and Hoboken International Film Festival.

    NYFA: What was it like watching your film with an audience for the first time?

    Martinez: Watching the film for the first time in front of an audience was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt as if I was naked in front of them and they were staring into my soul. However, and this is weird, it’s also a wonderful experience because it allowed me to connect with them. Every time I hear a little reaction, like a gasp, I know that people are invested in the story that I want to tell. It’s amazing because ultimately I want to make films so people can watch them and get involved with the characters. Eventually, you get used to people staring at you naked.

    NYFA: What is the message you hope viewers walk away with?

    Martinez: The main questions the film asks is, would you be able to sacrifice your happiness in this world to achieve a great work of art? Is it worth happiness, worth immortality? I don’t want people to walk away with an answer to that dilemma, but I want them to walk away asking themselves, is it possible to have both? And what would they be willing to sacrifice to achieve immortal fame?

    NYFA: What’s up next for you? Are you working on any new films?

    Martinez: Right now, my main focus is the distribution of the film. “The Broken Legacy” is finally available on Amazon and Vimeo.

    I am also developing a couple of new projects. I am in the middle of the post-production on a short film that I did in Colombia. It was produced by another NYFA alumni, Juan Sebastián Sarmiento Bazzani. I really wanted to have the experience of doing a short film back home. Thanks to the people I met at NYFA I was able to do so.

    Finally, I have also been collaborating with a wonderful group of actors in New York City, where I currently live, to develop a series of short films that will soon be on the festival circuit.  

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Martinez and all those involved in the making of “The Broken Legacy” on their success. To learn more about the film click here.

  • NYFA Alumnus Anthony James Faure Releases “Kids With Guns”

    Anthony James Faure worked in the film industry for five years before coming to the New York Film Academy. When he started the 1-Year Filmmaking Program he was also starting the post-production process on his latest film, “Kids with Guns.”

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    Using Paris, France, as a backdrop, he shot the feature film over the summer of 2014. The story follows Arno and Mo, two unimportant drug dealers who happen upon a bag filled with MDMA. They decide to sell the trendy drug to the Parisian Golden Youth. Soon they’re forced to navigate the dangerous territory between the real owner of the bag and an overzealous cop that swore to stop him.

    The French thriller was produced with a budget of just €30,000, or around $35,000 in U.S. dollars. He earned the majority of the money via crowd-funding sites, personal savings, and a few grants. Then entire cast and crew worked on a volunteer basis.

    Faure attributes much of that success to his friend and producing partner Antony Renault. Faure said of the experience, “We were trying to get a short film produced in France for a long time. During that time, we wrote ‘Kids with Guns.’ Once the script was done we thought we should just shoot it. It’s that spontaneity that makes the essence of our film: we wanted to shoot now.”

    Faure’s scrappy nature had earned him great footage, but turning it into a film would be an entirely different process. “NYFA helped me in my rewriting process during postproduction. Indeed, after the course I took at NYFA, my understanding of film had evolved, and I managed to use that new knowledge in the editing.”

    The visual effects artist, postproduction manager, and sound mixer for “Kids with Guns” were all students Faure met at NYFA. He enjoyed his experience at NYFA so much he’ll be returning next semester: “I will never stop learning. I have a few feature film ideas and treatments I’ve been working on for a while, going back to NYFA in the screenwriting course will hopefully give me that little push I need to execute them.”

    TEASER KIDS WITH GUNS from Les Films de l’Ours on Vimeo.

    Faure’s next project is a superhero story. “Super Zeroes” is the story of superheroes forced into retirement by a world tired of the destruction their crime fighting causes. They retire to Trinidad-and-Tobago but a crime committed on the island will force them to work together, even if their powers are a bit rusty. NYFA alumni Jolene Mendes and Chloe Na will work with Faure as producers, Sashank Sana is the director of photography, Carolina Lara will do production design, and Daniel Techy is editing.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Faure’s success. To learn more about Faure click here.

  • MFA Cinematography Grad Bob Nguyen Wins Vietnam’s Highest Award for Cinematography

    IMG_2291New York Film Academy is proud to congratulate MFA Cinematography graduate Bob Nguyen on winning the Golden Kite Award for Best Cinematography in 2016 for his work on the feature film “Sut.” The Golden Kite is the highest award given in Vietnam, and represents the country’s equivalent to an Academy Award.

    During his time as a student at NYFA, Bob worked hard to refine his cinematography skills and master his craft. He built a strong network, collaborating with many students from different programs. In addition to making connections, Bob built an impressive reel with a range of striking images that showcased his skills as a cinematographer. Bob took advantage of the network he built, finding work in Los Angeles, Italy, Australia, and Vietnam. Since graduating, he has photographed three feature films and a number of short films.


    “Sut” tells the story of young man who became a national soccer star early in his life, but soon found himself lost after the death of his younger brother. Searching for purpose in his life, he returns to the sport he loves as the coach of his brother’s soccer team. He struggles to find a way to teach the players to come together and win as a team.


    14Working with the director to realize his vision, Bob wanted to avoid the clichés of a formulaic sports movie. He and the director were inspired by a number of films, including “Moneyball,” and they worked to tell a simple human story against a backdrop of the world of professional soccer.  Shooting with the Red Epic digital cinema camera, Bob carefully planned his compositions and choice of lenses to present a different side of Vietnam not often seen on the screen. The film has been praised for its distinctive visual style, including winning the highest honor for cinematography given by the Vietnamese film community.

    We are proud to congratulate Bob on this incredible award, and we wish him continued success in his career as a professional cinematographer.

    June 23, 2017 • Academic Programs, Cinematography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1811

  • Musical Theatre Alumnus Pierre Marais to Perform in Baayork Lee’s “A Chorus Line,” “Dancing Queen” and “West Side Story”

    Pierre Marais comes from a family of circus performing trapeze artists from Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey, who were undoubtedly influential towards his aspirations to perform in his own way.

    “I still have very vivid memories of watching them perform and wanting to be up there with them,” said Marais.


    It wasn’t long until Marais got his first break in the industry when he met Jean-Claude Van Damme at a training facility in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.

    “We met and struck a conversation; being from Belgium we immediately had a few things in common,” recalled Marais. “By the time I had gotten home, without my knowledge, Jean-Claude had called the producers of the movie, told them to fire the kid they cast as his son, and hire me instead.” Two days later, Marais was screen testing to play his son in “The Wake of Death,” which was about him being captured by the Triads and Van Damme coming for revenge.


    After coming to the realization that he would need to move to the U.S. to further pursue his career as an actor and performer, Marais decided to take up the 2-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory at the New York Film Academy.

    “Broadway is a billion dollar industry; my New York training had a musical theater focus and most of the connections I made at college were in the theater world,” said Marais. “Taking classes with the right choreographers and casting directors has directly led to more job offers than I can count. Loyalty is certainly not dead. So taking classes and improving is a part of life. My friends who have been on Broadway for decades still take classes for acting, singing and dancing regularly.”


    Since graduating, Marais has continued to work steadily as a performer. He recently finished performing in the musical “Rock of Ages.”

    This summer he will be in Niagara Falls as a lead singer for a show called “Dancing Queen,” and then after that he will be doing “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night Fever” at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut.

    “Doing different shows presents new challenges and those are the things that keep me excited,” said Marais.


    Though he continues to book show after show, Marais said he still has a strong desire to return to Broadway. Surely, it’s only a matter of time. His next stop will be portraying the role of Paul in the national tour of “A Chorus Line,” directed by Bayork Lee next year.

    June 21, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2152

  • NYFA Alumnus Todd Lien Talks “You Have More Friends Than You Know” on NYFA Hour

    On Thursday, June 13, New York Film Academy alumnus Todd Lien appeared on the NYFA Hour for a special Pride month interview. The Popcorn Talk Network was proud to host the filmmaker, who in the past year has worked as a composer, writer, director, and actor.

    Lien’s latest project is a music video for Jeff Marx song “You Have More Friends Than You Know.” The song has been performed on Ryan Murphy’s Fox hit “Glee” and was created for the It Gets Better Organization.

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    When Lien first heard the song he was reminded of a good friend who lost his battle to depression. His friend was openly gay and married, but his family didn’t support him. He took his life. Lien wanted to re-write the story even it was just fictional. “What would have happened if I had reached out?” Lien asked.

    So, he announced his intentions to create a music video on Kickstarter. Marx caught wind of the campaign and donated the majority of the money to get the project made.

    Lien then took the original score and arranged it for members of the NYFA – LA Glee Club. Each voice was recorded individually and then mixed together. Lien also acted in the video, asking a fellow NYFA graduate to direct the video.

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    The music video for “You Have More Friends Than You Know” can be viewed here. To watch Todd Lien’s entire interview on Popcorn Talk’s NYFA Hour click here.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Lien for sharing his powerful story and his incredible work.

    June 20, 2017 • Academic Programs, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 702

  • NYFA Alumnus Alon Jawal Film “Visitors” Tours Festivals

    New York Film Academy Alumni Alon Juwal has been on a veritable tour with his short film, “Visitors,” which has received nominations from the Newport Beach Film Festival, Phoenix ComicCon, USS Film Festival, New Hope Film Festival, and the New York City International Film Festival.

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    Juwal received the award for Best Director of a Sci-Fi Short at the New York City International Film Festival and an Honorable Mention at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. The film has earned numerous nominations including Best Sci-Fi Short at Phoenix ComicCon and Best Student Short at the Vail Film Festival.

    “Visitors” follows characters George, Cole and Kayleigh, an estranged family who come together at a remote and isolated farm. Cole and Kayleigh find themselves facing a series of strange events and a group of uninvited visitors with mysterious and sinister intentions. An old, forgotten bond rekindles, and a once broken and divided family begins piecing itself together in order to survive, overcome and become whole again.

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    “‘Visitors’ was basically my way of fusing all of the sci-fi films I grew up watching as a child adding a bit of a personal twist and eventually creating something that is truly unique and original,” Juwal said in an interview via email.  “I wanted to make something that felt truly authentic, and in order to do that, I had to find the strength to expose my deepest feelings. Even a thriller needs a bit of a personal touch to fully connect with a viewer, so my personal touch to the story was the complex relationship I have with my father, and how his separation from my mother affected our family.”

    That relationship became the guiding light for the film. Grounding this film in a core that would touch viewers was Juwal’s main goal. “‘Visitors’ is a sci-fi thriller on the outside, but on the inside, it speaks of values such as family, loyalty and most importantly, forgiveness,” Juwal said. “When people leave the cinema, I don’t want them to think about aliens or tractor beams. Instead, I hope they will be thinking about their families.”


    His impressive festival run was influenced by a gambler’s spirit: “You can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket.” He narrowed his focus to festivals that had the science fiction genre at the forefront of their thinking. “I carefully chose festivals that I believed showcased emerging talent (and) had the power of pushing our film forward.”

    Through all the screenings, conventions, and conferences, a lot of hands are shaken. Each handshake usually comes with a note about the film. All that criticism has worn down many great filmmakers but Juwal takes it all in stride. “When you make a film you are sometimes blind to many of its shortcomings. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot from every single screening. It’s always great to hear a positive comment, but the negative ones are the ones you end up learning from the most, and they are also the ones that make you grow as an artist.”


    Lessons learned and classmates met at the New York Film Academy were instrumental in the completion of the project. Juwal reflected, “My time at NYFA taught me many things, but most importantly, it taught me the power of collaboration. I have many shortcomings as a director, and I fill those shortcomings with talented people who complete me. In the case of ‘Visitors,’ many of these people were my classmates.”

    Juwal’s next film, “A Golden Heart,” will tell the story of an 11-year-old boy who, after learning of his mother’s illness, sets off on a journey to find a rare flower that is rumored to have magical healing powers. Look for “Visitors” on Amazon Video Direct once the film has completed its festival circuit. To follow the film’s progress, follow “Visitors” on Facebook.

    June 15, 2017 • Film School, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1462

  • NYFA Grad’s Doc “ED Vs IT” Now Available on Amazon Prime

    In an age where information is readily available through everyday technology, former New York Film Academy student Atif Ali Khan’s documentary “ED Vs IT: SOS” explores the role of education in an information driven age — how we have to dissect and deploy the online IT tools to create a giant technological leap forward to educate our next generation. The documentary investigates how, if we don’t make the amends, our lives will be controlled by robots.

    attic khanKhan’s thought-provoking documentary, which is now available on Amazon Prime, has peaked our curiosity, leading us to an interview with the director to find out more about him and his film.

    Congrats on your recent documentary, “ED Vs IT”! Let’s begin by telling us where you’re from, and what brought you to NYFA?

    Originally from Pakistan, NYFA was my ticket to Hollywood. It is where you get firsthand exposure with industry professionals, who have not only “been there and done that,” but are also actively involved in various projects too. They also recommend you, if you have outstanding skills.

    In fact, for me it became a mode of networking with the top notch professionals in Hollywood. NYFA surpassed my expectations of what I had envisioned. The faculty not only gives you the hands-on skills, but they teach you the creative process of storytelling. A giant leap in confidence. Shooting at Universal Studios backlot was a dream. From the Golden Age of Cinema to the Silversceen VOD age of today, I saw it all from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars are held, to the actual locations where top-grossing movies are made. We embraced it all during our thesis film project.

    They were shooting “Modern Family” and Sofia Vergara was right behind our shooting location on the European set. I recovered all the money I had invested at NYFA within two months of my graduation with a bunch of projects. It is that good. It is like an interneship at Paramount. The NYFA jacket is an easy pass to enter anywhere — be it press coverage or a movie set.

    New York is the TV hub of the world and doing it at the LA Campus I got exposed to film fraternity of the highest cadre in the world. Needless to say, I received a host of discounts against my NYFA student ID from B&H to Amazon and from Best Buy to Apple. I got many projects just by “name-dropping” NYFA. It is the most respected name be it Tokyo, China, Italy, Abu Dhabi and from the East to the West Coast. Ten years from now, every film project in the world will have a NYFA alumni in one form or another.

    Additionally, I became friends with Craig Fox, in New York, who is a leading stand up comedian and whom I later found is a teacher of Acting for Film at NYFA in New York. He introduced me to a range of actors, who are either studying at NYFA or are graduates. All are very active on Broadway (theater) and the improv scene in New York.

    How did this documentary “ED Vs IT” come about? What drew you to this subject?

    I saw online platforms emerging at a dynamic pace, from entertainment to mobile and from Amazon to banks.

    The production design tips, given by my teacher Jack Daniels at NYFA, really came in handy. I did all of the production from shoot to special FX and editing. Finally, the film was made on a shoe string budget with no production compromises at all. You really don’t need a studio to back your project — if you learn the NYFA guerrilla filmmaking.

    What do you hope to achieve with this documentary? What is your overall message?

    It is a wake up call. Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence is steering forward at an alarming pace. Automation is taking over human capital way faster than ever anticipated. We need to overhaul the outdated education modules with a sense of urgency. We can’t stay complacent as self-driving cars and automated businesses are quickly replacing human resources. If we don’t take active measures there will be a resource apocalypse, which might lead to a ‘Terminator sort of situation’ where robots will be used as bodyguards and there will be no checks and measures in place for their legal litigation. People will fight amongst themselves, with machines to win their livelihood.

    Do you think NYFA’s training was useful in terms of being able to create this documentary?

    Absolutely, it is like assisting a movie with Stanley Kubrick. If you follow how they instruct and “walk you through” various technical nuances, you will develop a huge conceptual framework overnight. It is like a firsthand experience because they run you through all the litmus tests of past, present and future of filmmaking. I learned from NYFA how to stage a scene, how to convert my vision into telling my story with words and visuals. Like I said earlier, NYFA is a lifestyle; it is a fraternity where recommendations are made, where your teachers and former students all interact and integrate to create a future for you in media industry. With future of video so bright with Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and MSM (Mainstream Media), I think I did myself the best favor of my life to enroll at NYFA. Every penny that I invested has given my 1000% returns and I am just in the second year of since graduating.

    My teacher Brendan Davis at the LA campus taught me that ‘film is a collaborative art’ and it really helped me to liaise with people whom I interviewed for the documentary. I was cultured about the artist protocols in terms of getting work done on time and drawing the best talent out of voice-over talents who narrated my project. Without NYFA I wouldn’t have been able to bring it all together.

    I also now provide stock footage to famous Video Blocks that outsource for more than 15 leading TV channels including Discovery, MTV and History.

    How did your relationship with Amazon Prime come about?

    Documentary is the next big thing. After winning several Oscars, Oliver Stone recently made a documentary about Putin for Showtime. Every evening I see at least one documentary on Amazon or Netflix. While Netflix distribution is rather lengthy, I sent my demo to Amazon Studios and got an instant approval. Amazon Studios is an amazing platform where you can DIY everything from script to approval and release.

    Studying at NYFA I got the membership for Without a Box. Not only did I learn how the film industry in VOD age works, but I also learned how to submit my film to festivals across the globe in a tapeless format. My student film (that I wrote, directed & produced at NYFA) went on and got selected in the pro categories across the globe and got top spots in London Intl. Film Festival and various others. Building on that experience and response, I have now submitted this documentary in many Oscar qualifying film festivals. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next level.

    Are you currently working on any other projects?

    Yes, I am working on a psychological horror feature film, based in NY. I am using improv actors and special FX like Neon Demon to create a new wave feature project. The project named “Disowned” is starring Michael S. Benjamin and Heather Cole as the lead.

    I am also covering IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Awards on July 16, 2017 at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey. IIFA is the equivalent to Oscar for Bollywood film industry. I also provided press coverage to their conference at Sheraton Times Square on June 1, 2017 — live streaming from Mumbai.

    Lastly, as a follow up to the script I wrote for the documentary, I have been offered a writing deal to the book covering the same theme but a step forward in terms of its criticality. “Automation vs. Autocracy.”

  • Musical Theatre Grad “Ione” Performing as Alternate Lead in West End’s “Thriller Live”

    Growing up in Manchester, UK, Mica “Ione” Townsend began developing her singing chops at three-years old in her church choir. From there, she progressed through classical vocal training and performances to sharing her gift with renowned professionals around the world.

    At just 14, Ione became a session singer and backing vocalist, displaying an outstanding vocal talent that earned her the opportunity of performing with the likes of Gorrilaz, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Heather Small.


    In 2007, Ione moved to London to further her career and was soon invited to join a European and American Tour as backing vocalist to singer Adam Green. The success of the tour proved a catalyst for her career and Ione moved to the U.S. to fulfill her dream of studying at the Musical Theatre School at the New York Film Academy.

    “I think to train at NYFA, in New York, where musical theatre was born, has been extremely useful,” said Ione. “The focus was always on the acting and the story, and singing and dancing were an extension of that. I was also taught, at NYFA, not to limit myself; it was always inspiring that the teachers were on Broadway, taught, then would do other projects. I don’t have to choose between all the things I love.”

    After finishing NYFA and moving back to the UK, Ione toured as a soloist in the ”Hacienda Classics,” an experience which involved re-working dance classics with a 70 piece orchestra. She is now a lead in the West End musical ”Thriller Live,” which celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. The highly successful stage production has become the 15th longest running musical in the West End.

    As an artist who certainly doesn’t want to limit herself, Ione has continued to write her own songs, which gave her the impetus to showcase them as a singer in her own right.

    “The music industry is great,” says Ione. “Anybody can ‘release’ music, but in the same breath that means so many more people have music out there, so I would say the promotion of music as an artist, the staying on top of it, is most difficult for me.”

    In 2013, Ione released her debut EP “Fighting Fear,” which gave a nod to her musical theatre background in the haunting ballad “My Love.”

    Her first single “Back in the Day,” released in 2014, is an eclectic mix of soul and pop music with electronic sounds and is a blend of everything she loves in music. The song was heavily supported by BBC INTRODUCING and was aired by Tom Robinson Mixtape on BBC Radio 6. It was also chosen by songwriter Mark Hadfield, who has written for NEYO and Iggy Azalea, to be played on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1.

    “Growing up around powerful and knowledgeable women gave me the landscape to share these life experiences in my work,” says Ione.

    Ione is also curently recording new material which is set to be released Spring 2017.

    June 12, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1112

  • MFA Photography Graduate’s “Coming out Stories” Featured on BuzzFeed

    While those who identify as LGBTQ+ can often share a common bond remembering the moment they officially “came out,” the way in which he or she comes out is hardly ever a similar experience. After discovering this through a conversation with a friend, New York Film Academy MFA Photography alumnus Alejandro Ibarra decided that he would dedicate his class project to individuals’ “Coming Out Stories.” His series, in which Ibarra photographs his subjects and asks them to write about their “coming out” experience, has recently caught the attention of BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

    We recently had a moment to chat with the graduate about his inspirational “Coming Out Stories,” his time at NYFA, and what’s to come in his photography career.

    alejando ibarra

    Alejandro Ibarra

    Can you tell us where you’re from and what made you decide to attend NYFA’s MFA Photography Program?

    I’m from San Diego, CA — although I’ve lived kind of all around the States — and was raised primarily in Mexico. I had been a commercial photographer for about five years, and my knowledge of the medium was strictly technical, so I decided to pursue an MFA because I wanted to broaden my understanding of photography, and to go beyond the technical so that it would enhance my work.

    When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

    I honestly don’t remember ever making that decision or anything; in a way, it sort of just happened. I began taking pictures, portraits specifically, after my brother passed away. This was before smartphones were the norm and everyone had countless pictures and selfies, and we realized we didn’t have a single decent picture of his to use for the funeral. We ended up cropping him out of a family photo that was taken with a tiny point-and-shoot and then blowing it up. It didn’t look great, and it didn’t do him justice, so I decided to begin shooting everyone in my life after that; not in case anyone died or anything, more-so because I think I realized back then the importance and the power of capturing at least part of someone’s essence in an image.

    coming out stories

    What inspired you to create “Coming Out Stories” as one of your NYFA projects?

    The inspiration for the series came after a friend of mine told me about how he came out to his family. My own experience was very different from his, but I somehow really related to it. I realized that there’s an entire community who has experienced this key moment in various ways, and that it would be potentially appealing to other people who didn’t identify as LGBTQ+, because the themes are universal. At the same time, for a final in one of my classes in my first semester, we had to come up with a book project that we were actually going to have printed. The series then made sense to do as a book because of the narrative element of the handwritten text over the images.

    Can you tell us a little bit about the process of finding your subjects? Was there any pushback or did you find that most people were proud to participate?

    At first, I photographed a couple of friends as a way of testing the concept. Once I finalized the aesthetic, I put them out on social media and invited people who wanted to participate. It was all word-of-mouth and social media up until BuzzFeed and other media outlets began publishing articles on the series. Now it’s mainly people messaging me through instagram. There have definitely been several people whom I approached who didn’t feel comfortable doing it, especially now that there’s a larger audience for it on social media.

    A few people I had shot over a year ago actually didn’t give permission to appear in any articles because the amount of attention it would receive. The people who did give permission, however, have been as happy and grateful as I am, and it’s been so wonderful seeing their friends and family now saying how proud they are of them.

    coming out stories

    Would you say your NYFA experience was useful in terms on working on this project?

    Oh, definitely. Having critiques when the series was in its early stages was super helpful in terms of figuring out how to get the right look, and how to make the text pop without it being hard to read, and all sorts of details and ideas that might’ve never occurred to me. Furthermore, I was able to pitch the project to BuzzFeed while attending the Palm Springs Photo Festival last month with the school, so the exposure she series has had never would have happened had I not been invited by the school.

    coming out stories

    Is all of your work this personal?

    All of my work is personal, whether in film or still photography, so all of my projects deal with themes of equality and identity, specifically from the Latin-American and LGBTQ+ perspective. “Piece by Piece,” which was my thesis project, was about challenging the terms “non-traditional” and “traditional” families, and addressing the irrelevancy of sexual orientation as it pertains to what constitutes a family. It originated after a series of pro-traditional families (a.k.a. anti-gay rights) nation- wide marches that took place in Mexico last year. It’s currently showing at Bergamot Station in a group exhibition.

    Do you have any other projects coming up that you’d like to share with us?

    Other than focusing on my celebrity editorial work, my goal right now is to turn “Coming Out Stories” into a book. Furthermore, I want to keep telling stories of real people in real life situations, similar to this project.

    June 9, 2017 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2333