Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • David Bowers Speaks with Summer High School Students


    This week, director David Bowers brought his latest project, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the third installment in the Wimpy Kid franchise, to screen at the New York Film Academy – Los Angeles Campus. Flanked by NYFA Cinematography Chair Tony Richmond and moderator Eric Conner, Bowers spoke about his long career in animation, working his way up the ladder, and navigating big Hollywood studios.

    Students from the popular NYFA Summer High School Program were in attendance for the screening and were excited for the opportunity to speak with him about his successful career. Bowers had an illustrious career that began as a kid making Super 8 Claymation films. When he was twenty he began working as an animation artist on Who Framed Rodger Rabbit. Bowers said in the Q & A he was only hired because, “…they were desperate for anyone who could hold a pencil.” He went on to explain that this stroke of luck set him on a challenging and rewarding career path. Since the work on Rodger Rabbit was so new and complicated he was learning as the technology was being created. With the knowledge gained he was able to launch his career.

    Bowers continued to ascend the ladder as an animator in American Tale: Fievel Goes West and the 90’s revival of Danger Mouse. Other works include FernGully: The Last Rainforest, We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (produced by Steven Spielberg), and The Prince of Egypt.

    But it wasn’t until he began work at the legendary production company, Aardman, that Bowers began his foray into storyboarding. First he worked on Balto and then The Road to Eldorado. Bowers recommended every film professional practice storyboarding, stating, “It’s an opportunity to make mistakes before you shoot.“

    WC3When Aardman and DreamWorks teamed up to do joint features Bowers was the obvious choice to direct. Students erupted when Flushed Away, Bowers directorial debut, was brought up. The director broke down his time on the nearly four-and-a- half-year project.

    After the massive success of Shrek, DreamWorks’ first tentpole project, the expectations of Flushed Away skyrocketed. The American based DreamWorks wanted to push for a universal project. They wanted less British and more standard American English. However, Aardman, the UK based company, felt the cultural touches made the film distinct. In the end, the British cultural touches gave the film a certain truth of character that made it a favorite of children on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Through the trying process of filming Flushed Away, Bowers learned what he liked and what he didn’t like about the animation process. The yearlong wait between storyboarding and viewable animation always felt too long. The teamwork and collaboration, on the other hand, were invigorating. Bowers shot one final animated feature film, Astro Boy, before moving to live-action properties.

    When asked if there was one thing he could go back and change about his career, Bowers stated, “I’d launch into live-action sooner.” Later adding, “Live action is thrilling because you’re making things all the time.” Within just 8 months Bowers had shot and released the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules. “Even on your worst day when everything’s gone wrong… it (film) is still fun.”

    Richmond, who shot the film, remarked at the onset movie magic they were able to create as a team. The luxurious country club is actually a very old community pool. Richmond described it as being “…rather dirty.” But with fabulous set dressing and a carefully placed camera they were able to convince the audience they were at a ritzy club.

    WC1A student asked the pair if they ever had trouble working with a director or cinematographer. Tony stated that a cinematographer’s job is to make the director’s vision come to life. He’s never had a problem working with a director.

    Bowers said his greatest challenge was learning that there are times when your confidence will be knocked or you believe in yourself and other don’t. “Astonishingly,” he added with a laugh. “It’s not that you get knocked down. It’s that you get back up.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Bowers for taking time out of his schedule to sit down and discuss his cinematic career with student. He did inform the audience that he was working on a fourth film in Diary of a Wimpy Kid franchise. We look forward to seeing where Greg Heffley’s adventures take him next.

    July 13, 2016 • Acting, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1733

  • Former Student to Present Photo Exhibition at Cloud Gallery in NYC

    Stone Wong

    Stone Wong

    Born and raised in Hong Kong, the New York based photographer and former New York Film Academy Photography student Stone Wong has been featured in Gothesque Magazine and Nam Magazine.

    With a focus in fashion, beauty and portrait photography, Wong is especially strong in capturing the emotional moments of people, and he has a keen sense in presenting a blend of Chinese and Western culture in his works.

    Beginning this Thursday, July 14, 2016, Wong will be presenting a Solo Photo Exhibition “In Search of Hong Kong” at the Cloud Gallery in New York City (66 W Broadway). His exhibition will run until July 28th.

    Recently, NYFA had a chance to catch up with the busy photographer before his upcoming exhibition.

    Would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself and your background?

    My name is Huang Ka Kit. You can call me Stone. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I grew up in a very normal family with my parents in the fashion trading industry. After I graduated from high school, I started helping them out while working as part-time photographer at the same time. It wasn’t until I turned 29 years old that I decided to chase my dream as a photographer.

    What drew you to study photography at NYFA?

    I fell in love with photography when I first owned a camera at the age of 17. When I turned 29, I realized life is not all about making money, so I decided to put a hold on my work in the fashion trading industry and pursue my dream in photography.

    When I think of photography and fashion, New York is always the first city that pops up in my mind. I always wanted to live and study in New York at least once in my life. I’ve been learning photography on my own for a few years but I’ve never received any professional training. New York Film Academy provides the most hands-on program as far as I know. That’s why I decided to come to NYFA to improve my skills.

    work by Stone Wong for Gothesque

    work by Stone Wong for Gothesque

    What was your favorite aspect of your Photography Program at NYFA?

    What I truly enjoyed the most was the close connection between our instructors and the students. It goes beyond class hours. Whenever I had any technical questions, regardless of time and distance, I could always ask for guidance and advice from my teachers during and after the class. For example, they guided me through the way of exploring and figuring out what photography means to me both as a photographer and an audience through my own efforts. Students have to rack their brains to express their feeling towards photographs and critique them in a professional way under instruction. Among all the courses, I love “Vision and Style” the most.

    I also love the way students work as a team just like in a real work environment.

    Before joining NYFA, I learned all of my technical skills from the Internet. I took photos based on whatever ideas or concepts popped into my mind. NYFA’s program helped me put my “scrapped” techniques and knowledge together in a more systematic and structured way, further improving my understanding of the art and technique as a photographer in a profound way. It also gave me a clearer direction of where I’m going to in terms of personal artistic style and career path through teaching me how to develop a concept, compose an image, use color, interact with models and eventually tell a story.


    Wong’s work for Nam magazine

    What’s your favorite work that you have produced thus far?

    My final project “Lost in Chinatown” is my favorite work produced out of the NYFA program. In my opinion, photographic work should not only appeal to our eyes but also to our minds, which means I expect these visual images to influence people in a more meaningful way.

    As a New York based Hong Kong photographer, I’m very proud to have a Chinese identity with strong experience in culturally diverse environment, which enhanced my reflection of China. From this “Lost In Chinatown” series, I want to create a peculiar yet coherent collection that challenges people’s perceptions on Chinese beauty. By having an American stylist, a Japanese make-up artist and a Chinese model to collaborate in this project, I tried to present vivid visuals of China in its new era.

    "Lost in Chinatown" by Stone Wong

    “Lost in Chinatown” by Stone Wong

    What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced during the production process and how did you solve it?

    It’s all about leveraging between creating a high quality photograph and dealing with the difficulties encountered all the way through pre-production to post-production: the limited time and resources to conceptualize a creative idea, setting up everything for shooting, controlling the unpredictable circumstances on set, and the necessary technical skills to polish your work and develop it into something you desired. I want my work to be perfect, so I will spare no effort to achieve what I want.

    In what ways do you think NYFA helped you to develop the business skills needed to succeed as a professional photographer?

    The program itself is very practical and inspires me a lot. The techniques and theoretical knowledge that I obtained from classes have been applied to some of my favorite photographic pieces.

    Which artist influences you most and why?

    Annie Leibovitz is one of my favorite artists. She is a great storyteller. Her photographs are just like condensed romantic films appealing to her audience emotionally. We have all the necessary recipes including lighting, scene, mood and subject — now you just need to blend everything together into a decent and delightful meal. That’s something I’ve always been looking for and working on.


    “Deviate in Murk” by Stone Wong

    Can you tell us about your solo fashion photography exhibition coming up this July?

    Yes, I’m going to have my first ever solo photography exhibition at the Cloud Gallery in New York City. It’s called “In Search of Hong Kong Vision.” It will showcase some of my favorite pieces of work, including “Lost in Chinatown,” “Film Noir,” “The Lady,” “Fear,” “Deviate in Murk,” “The Gentlemen and Dark is Coming.” I want to present a harmonious blend of Chinese and Western culture while sharing a special view for China’s rapid development, Hong Kong and international vision, and humanity issues.

    Hong Kong is my root, but I travelled and lived in different cities in China and the U.S. in order to widen my perspectives and culture inspirations. There is no definite answer for Hong Kong Vision. By understanding through thinking and discovering through experiencing, I attempt to define this unique view of Hong Kong Vision, and present his distinctive sense of Chinese and Western culture into his fashion photography and portrait works. I love the saying that “Photography is not only about the moment of pressing the shutter, photography is nothing but eternity.”

    This exhibition will open on Thursday, July 14th, 2016 with a public reception at 7pm for the artist.

    Please find out more information from the following link.

    Where do you see yourself as a photographer in five years?

    I want to be a full-time fashion and commercial photographer without compromising. I will keep working on my “In search of Hong Kong” project. I hope a couple of years later when I look back on today’s work, the quality of my work grows simultaneously with the increase of my age and accumulation of life experiences.

    Any additional advice you would like to give to NYFA photography students?

    If you love photography and decided to devote yourself to this industry, you should get started as early as possible. Photography cultivates your life in an artistic and educational way. It teaches you to appreciate the world and the fine parts of it by concentrating it into a tiny little image. But before you choose this career path, you should be aware that it’s a road with no turning back. It’s the enthusiasm and hard work that support you at the end of the day, so just be prepared to face all the challenges and the endless efforts you should make on your road to success. If you are not quite sure about it yet, you probably should enter schools like New York Film Academy and figure out who you want to be and where you want to go.

    If you would like more information about Stone and to see his portfolio, please check out his website, Facebook & Instagram.

    July 12, 2016 • Photography, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2275

  • NYFA Doc Grad Directs Award-Winning Feature “Gazelle: The Love Issue”

    gazelleGazelle: The Love Issues, directed by New York Film Academy One-Year Documentary graduate Cesar Terranova, started as a five minute short project. It then grew into a feature documentary and became one of the most awarded festival recipients.

    Since its premiere at the Brazilian Film Festival, critically acclaimed Gazelle: The Love Issue has won numerous awards including: Best Brazilian Feature Film by Jury at the Festival Mix Brazil (Nov/2014), Best Documentary Feature at the Mexico International Film Festival (Apr/2015), Gold Award for International Documentary Feature at the Documentary and Short International Movie Award in Jakarta/Indonesia (Mar/2015), Special Festival Award at the Rio Festival Gay de Cinema (Jul/2015), Best Cinematography in a Documentary at the Tenerife International Film Festival (Jul/2015), Best LGBT Film at the QCFF: Queen City Film Festival in Maryland/USA (Oct/2015), Jury Special Mention at the Cine Detour On The Rouad in Rome/Italy (Nov/2015), Best Professional Feature at the IAFOR Documentary Film Festival in Kobe/Japan (Nov/2015) and, most recently, Best Documentary Feature Award at the North Hollywood International Film Festival (Apr/2016).

    Congratulations on winning so many awards with your movie! Where did you find inspiration for the initial idea?

    Thanks! Before going to NY to study I was living in French Polynesia and started to buy online magazines. Then I found this strange magazine named “Gazelland” with lots of colors and odd creatures…but it was beautifully crafted and assembled with amazing photos. And when I started the program at the New York Film Academy, Gazelle Paulo, was the first person I approached to make a doc about. First, I asked if he would be willing to be a part of my 5 minute short… then it became my thesis film, and I continued working on it until I achieved a full length feature doc.


    What was the most challenging part in the creation of this project?

    The editing process. It felt like it would never have a real ending. After graduating from NYFA, I travelled around the world, following the character, and then I got back home and sat for almost two years editing all the footage and materials I collected for over the course of three years.

    New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Department, Andrea Swift, who is a two-time Telly winner and three-time Emmy nominee, helped me so much by giving me feedback and pushing me to keep working on the editing until I got the satisfactory material that I submitted to a Festival in Brazil. Once it won the Best Brazilian Feature Film Award…only then, was I convinced I had a film ready.


    How did you fall into documentary? Was it something you had always wanted to do?

    My grandmother was married to a filmmaker, which was always a major inspiration. I was born and grew up in the middle of sets. At 16 I got involved in the business as a Dubbing Actor, at 24 I became a photographer working on cruise line ships. Step by step I got money and equipment to produce music and I became a DJ as well. Then with my first Canon 5-D, I decided it was the time to try filming. Docs felt like they would be cheaper to make, so it was my choice to begin making documentaries before stepping into the scripted films.

    gazelle pictures

    Would you say your training and experience at NYFA was useful in terms of making Gazelle: The Love Issue?

    I tried to make a short film before attending the program and it was a huge mess. From my first short at NYFA until my achievement of the feature Gazelle: The Love Issue, NYFA gave me the skills and basic techniques I needed to organize my knowledge to be able to become a documentary filmmaker. The school helped me get to the point where I could make my film happen.

    Do you have any advice for anyone interested in entering the documentary industry?

    Take a month for tourism. Start your program focused on finding subjects that you may consider good for pilots. Use the strength of the program to produce shorts that may become your feature films. Make everything useful for your life! It will be forever in your creative personality.

    “GAZELLE -THE LOVE ISSUE” VISUAL TRAILER from Cesar Terranova on Vimeo.

    It’s been a pleasure to talk to Cesar Terranova. He is currently working on a film about Brazil and is also developing a trilogy about NY Artists. After Gazelle, he will start filming Scooter LaForge and Fernando Carpaneda.

    NYFA wishes him nothing but good luck and success for the future!

    July 11, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 793

  • NYFA Docs’ “Freya” Selected to Screen at G2 Earth Film Festival

    New York Film Academy Documentary Department is proud to announce that Freya is an Official Selection of the G2 Green Earth Film Festival. Last November, the film premiered with four other NYFA student documentaries at the prestigious DOC NYC at the IFC Center in New York City.

    Filmed by seven students during a NYFA filmmaking expedition to Belize, Freya follows the story of an endangered loggerhead sea turtle fighting to survive a shark attack against the odds.

    The students who worked on Freya spent a week filming and helping the local volunteers. The expedition focused on the imperiled Mesoamerican Reef including coral reef conservation, endangered sea turtles and manatees.

    “Following Freya’s story has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” says director, Rachael Peltzer.

    On the expeditions, young filmmakers explore threatened ocean worlds and raise a call to activism through the power of documentary storytelling—all in collaboration with some of the top marine conservation organizations. Expedition collaborators include Mission Blue, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People, Oceanic Society, Ecomar, Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association, Sea to Shore Alliance & Coastal Zone Management of Belize, Hawksbill Hope, and the Belize Fisheries Department.

    “It’s exciting to see the expeditions spark a deep love for the oceans in young filmmakers; and a passion to tell stories that can help save them,” says Andrea Swift, Chair of the Documentary Department at NYFA.

    “The ocean is in great danger,” says producer and former student, Gary Bencheghib, who is currently working on another documentary called Recycled Mississippi. “We are hopeful that stories like Freya’s will help increase awareness of such critical environmental issues.”

    July 8, 2016 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1003

  • NYFA Broadcast Journalism Students to Cover NATO Summit

    One of the biggest global stories this week is the biennial heads-of-state NATO conference taking place in Poland. With Britain’s pending exit from the European Union, and continuing tensions between NATO members and Russia, this summit has taken on added significance.

    And NYFA News is there!

    Yesterday Alisa Rajkitkul and Urvashi Barua left for Warsaw. Earlier this year, Urvashi and Alisa—thanks to hard work, superior reporting skills, and a bit of luck—were able to become accredited White House reporters. (That’s right, just like the correspondents from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.)

    They were invited by the White House Press Office to travel to the NATO Summit, along with a Presidential visit to Spain on the way back to the United States.

    nyfa news

    Alisa Rajkitkul and Urvashi Barua

    As far as I know, this is the first time student journalists have ever traveled with the President of the United States as accredited reporters. It’s evidence of just how far the skills students learn in the New York Film Academy Broadcast Journalism program can take them…

    July 5, 2016 • Broadcast Journalism, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1628

  • BFA and MFA Photography Gallery Show

    photo gallery

    The BFA and MFA Photography Gallery Show of the Spring 2016 graduating students from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles was held at Schomburg Gallery, in the famous Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA. The seven MFA students and three BFA students had a wonderful turn out of 250 people. Aside from family and friends, one of the guests was the retired curator of photography from the Getty Museum – Weston Naef – who stopped by to enjoy the exhibition.


    Bergamot Station is a facility housing multiple art galleries in Santa Monica, California. The site was previously a railroad station from 1875 to 1953, serving the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad and later the Santa Monica Air Line. The station was named after the Wild Bergamot flower, which once grew in the area. The Bergamot Station is on schedule to become a Historical Landmark in the next few years.

    The New York Film Academy and Schomburg Gallery at Bergamot Station have created a partnership and the BFA and MFA Photography shows will be exhibited there every semester going forward.

  • Student Networking Night in LA

    Every semester New York Film Academy Los Angeles gathers young aspiring professionals together to provide them with an opportunity to establish new connections and share their ideas and projects while building a strong list of professional contacts. It was a huge turn out for Student Networking Night on June 24th, which was hosted by NYFA’s Chair of Industry Outreach, Barbara Weintraub.

    meet greet

    “This is my second networking event at NYFA and it’s very helpful,” remarked MA Filmmaking Student, Daniel Peres Morel. “Here I’m getting all type of connections—meeting producers, cinematographers, people who I become friends with, collaborate with—and I’m very grateful for that opportunity.”

    In the creative spirit of “meet & greet,” non-profit organization NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) joined the event to share information about all the wonderful showcases and screenings they organize monthly to support emerging filmmakers. NFMLA provides a forum where filmmakers can be recognized for their contributions, have open audience discussions about their projects and connect with industry professionals for insight on distribution, production, acquisition and representation.

    newfilmmakers la

    “This event is really important, because connections you make here could bring you on further when you go into your life after school,” commented One-Year Acting for Film student Stephanie Weise.

    Business cards were exchanged, filmmakers crewed up and lots of pizza was eaten!

    nyfa la networking

    “It was a great event to meet actors, actresses, directors, and filmmakers all under one roof,” added One-Year Cinematography student Zachary Haussmann.

    NYFA is very excited that students from different programs were able to find collaborators with shared interests.

  • NYFA Alumni Panel Talks Business, Networking and Movie Trivia Following Screening of “Hellion”

    New York Film Academy had the pleasure of welcoming back alumni Tanner Beard, Steven Garcia, Ashley Eberbach, and Ryan Rottman. These former students returned after over a decade, having attended NYFA Los Angeles when it was a small group of offices running out of the Universal backlot.

    The evening started with Hellion, starring Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad and produced by Tanner Beard’s production company, Silver Sail Entertainment. They also screened a trailer of an upcoming film from Silver Sail Entertainment. Filmmaking instructor Eric Conner moderated the Q&A that followed.

    alumni nyfa tanner

    One of the first things the group focused on was the importance of being a positive person to work with, with Ryan Rottman saying, “In this town, the nicer you are, the more real you are…people appreciate that.” Rottman has acted in several TV series, including 90210, The Lying Game, and Happyland. He’ll be appearing with Kevin Spacey in the upcoming film, Billionaire Boys Club.

    Steven Garcia, VP, Current Programing and Development at B17 Entertainment, added, “I’m thankful I’ve surrounded myself with good people. I’ve been a good enough teammate to have them keep me around.”

    This went along with the question they were asked about how to network. The whole panel agreed when Rottman said to “talk to other people.” Beard added that students should “surround [themselves] with people who love what you love and do what you do. Once you get out of school you’re so hungry for it, you forget it’s going to take time.”

    6 Bullets to Hell – Video Game Doc from Ashley Eberbach on Vimeo.

    They did admit how difficult the business could be, but their hope was to show that it is possible to succeed. Beard said that “it never gets easier. It was something I wanted very badly. I took the glass half full approach.”

    Rottman advised that students “not [let] it beat you down…just keep going. I know people who booked it…do your best.”

    nyfa alumni panel

    Ashley Eberbach, who works as a photographer and runs a multi-media production company in Los Angeles, chimed in, saying, “I think we all have war stories of like ‘I can’t believe that worked out.’ Make the best of it—the minute you break, that’s when you have a disaster. Making movies is supposed to be fun.”

    They reminisced fondly about their time at NYFA, and Beard said that “it is so cool…we are so happy to be here.”

    They concluded the evening with a movie trivia contest with prizes like Silver Sail Entertainment T-shirts and a signed event poster. We hope this will be the first of many visits back from these thriving, successful graduates.

  • Former Students Return to Discuss Production of First Feature

    New York Film Academy Producing and Screenwriting Alumni Justin Ford and Mark DeBarr spoke with current students last night about collaborations and their first feature film Lemons. Set in New York’s Lower East Side, the low budget film charts the breakup of a relationship between two Millenials.

    nyfa mixer

    NYFA alumni Justin Ford and Mike DeBarr with NYFA Producing Chair, Neil Weisman

    Written and directed by Mike DeBarr, produced by Justin Ford, and shot by fellow NYFA Producing graduate Heikki Herlin, the film is currently in post-production. Mike and Heikki also share producing credit.

    Having met at NYFA, Justin and Mike spoke about the development, financing, and production of the project, and shared their marketing and distribution plans in a conversation moderated by Producing Department Chair Neal Weisman.

    nyfa mixer event

    The team hopes to launch Lemons at a prominent film festival in early 2017. A mixer followed, encouraging current Producing and Screenwriting students to start their own NYFA collaborations.

  • NYFA Grads Team Up For “Thumbs Up”

    Acting for Film graduate Mey Ferdinand, who came to NYFA from Brazil, has recently spent a week in Los Angeles to act in the Brazilian-American production called Thumbs Up, directed by NYFA alumnus Brian Visciglia. The LA based film was produced in partnership with local and international artists, and the production company Red Line Filmes.

    Still from "Thumbs Up"

    Still from “Thumbs Up”

    Thumbs Up surrounds Internet celebrity, Gabriel, a young Brazilian artist who becomes lost in his own fame. Dealing with his agent, personal problems, as well as his superficial and selfish decisions moves him into an entirely new lifestyle that is anything but “normal.”

    With an international cast and crew, the movie focuses on the fact that today’s Internet stars are the new decision-makers in the entertainment world and, often times, are not prepared to handle the responsibilities. The goal of the film is to show how the Internet influences our youth not only in the US and South America, but in the entire world.

    thumbs up

    Still from “Thumbs Up”

    The film is also an important lesson to all of our students, as we always encourage our graduates to work on projects with the people they hit it off with in school.

    “NYFA was very important to my career,” said Ferdinand. “Not only for its acting lessons, but all of the networking I was able to do while attending.”

    Upon her return to New York, Ferdinand will be acting in another short called Model Life, where she plays a fashion director of a magazine. The film will be released for cable in Manhattan.

    June 29, 2016 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 905