Student and Alumni Spotlights

  • Award-Winning Commercial Filmmaker Transitions to Feature Film

    BrunoWith years of success in the commercial directing world, including a “best advertising” award at the Garden State Film Festival for the commercial Flanm by Coca-Cola and several awards for the advertising campaign Big Shake that has been a viral success on the Internet, New York Film Academy 8-Week graduate, Bruno Mourral, has decided to venture into the world of feature filmmaking.

    Bruno had been working as a professional prior to enrolling at NYFA, but wanted to truly hone his skills over an 8-week summer program. “It helped me strengthen my knowledge of filmmaking,” said Bruno Mourral. “I mostly made good contacts in the filmmaking industry. They gave me the opportunity to partner up and create Maninhat, a production company based in New York City. We worked internationally with several big brands such as Sony, Sports Illustrated, Nissan and others.”

    Since 2005, Bruno has had the idea for his feature, Kidnapping Inc., which he initially intended to have a rather serious tone. During his time at NYFA, he went ahead and worked on an idea for a short-film revolving around the theme of Kidnapping. Though, his tone shifted to that of a dark comedy.

    Last year, Bruno decided to team up with two screenwriters to help him develop a feature based on that short story. “The experience of working with two people who shared the same ideas and passion was great. This helped me bring the movie to a whole other level. Today, we are very pleased with the Kidnapping Inc. script.”

    Based on actual events, Kidnapping Inc. is a dark comedy, satirizing the Haitian society’s epidemic of kidnapping. The movie is about two deliverymen working for the largest kidnapping corporation in Haiti. While delivering the wealthy senator’s son, the duo foolishly misunderstand each other and one of them ends up killing the boy. Trying to fix this mess, they stumble upon the senator’s son look-alike, which sets them on the craziest kidnapping of their lives.

    Bruno is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign, in which he hopes to raise $150,000. To learn more about his fundraiser, CLICK HERE.

    If he raises the funds to film the feature, his goal is to introduce the film to several festivals and find distribution deals to make this movie accessible to the world. He also wants this movie to be a premiere for the rebirth of the Haitian film industry.

    Watch below for a sneak peek of Kidnapping Inc.

    November 11, 2014 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1217

  • NYFA Abu Dhabi Graduate Shortlisted for $100,000 Prize

    SaeedSwiss luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen and the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) have announced the three shortlisted projects in the line-up for the $100,000 prize for the third annual IWC Filmmaker Award.

    We’re proud to announce that one of our New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi filmmakers, Saeed Salmeen Al Murry, is one of three in the running for the $100,000 with his film, Going to Heaven. His film surrounds the life of Sultan, an 11-year-old boy, who is longing for the tenderness of his late yet ever-present grandmother. Sultan likes keeping colored fish, as they help him to escape the loneliness and suffering inflicted on him by his stepmother.

    The three projects in development will be assessed by a jury of film industry experts, who will consider the scripts and the overall potential of the projects.

    “We are delighted to partner with the Dubai International Film Festival to bring the IWC Filmmaker Award to the Gulf filmmaking community for a third year,” said Karoline Huber, Brand Director of IWC Schaffhausen Middle East & India. “Over the course of the past two editions, we have had the privilege of meeting some of the Gulf’s most prominent and up-and-coming filmmakers who introduced us to unique and captivating stories from the region. Witnessing their visions come to life has been an extremely rewarding and fascinating experience, and we are looking forward to further contributing to storytelling in the region.”

    Saeed has already directed a number of acclaimed films, including Bint Mariam (2008), which won both local and international awards, including Best Emirati Filmmaker at DIFF in 2008.

    November 6, 2014 • Abu Dhabi, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 705

  • Documentary to Raise Awareness About Sex Trade in Banchara Community

    atin mehra

    Former New York Film Academy Filmmaking student, Atin Mehra, is currently in the final stages of an ambitious and worthwhile documentary, Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale. Now in its editing phase, the Orange Kite Productions film is seeking funds to complete post-production. The goal of the documentary is to raise awareness about the Banchara community and their struggle with a long-standing tradition of caste-based prostitution.

    “Due to the caste-trade of prostitution, girls as young as 10-years-old are forced into the sex trade and boys grow up their entire lives without the opportunity to work and earn living wages,” said Atin Mehra. “Entire families depend upon the work of the young girls in the trade.”

    Atin is raising funds through a crowd source funding campaign on Indiegogo, which can be found here.

    Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale documents the life of a young Banchara girl living off National Highway 79 in Madhya Pradesh, India. At twelve-years-old, Bulbul already stands at a crossroads. Bulbul’s tribe, the Banchara, has existed at the bottom of Indian society for centuries, relying on prostitution as their economic lifeblood. A continued lack of options allows this practice to persist. Generation upon generation of the tribe has experienced social, political and economic exclusion from Indian society. The documentary explores caste and untouchability through the life experience of Bulbul.

    “As we spent three months following Bulbul within her community, we came to realize that the documentary itself served as a means of empowerment for the community. This film aims to raise global awareness of the struggles of the Banchara tribe, thereby encouraging dialogue and engagement of human and financial capital toward an alternative means of economic livelihood for this community.” – Atin Mehra

    Director Atin Mehra was born and raised in Varanasi, India and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. Early in his career as a filmmaker and photographer, Atin worked with female victims of dowry burnings in hospitals in his native Varanasi. Beginning in 2002 he collaborated with French filmmakers to produce and shoot his first work in documentary film, Mitti ke Jivan (The Cycle of Clay). Since that time, Atin has grown as a storyteller and filmmaker, partnering with international broadcasters and independent artists to tell stories that span both a wide array of genres and viewing audiences.

    Atin’s personal understanding of caste discrimination in India, the close relationship he developed overtime with the Banchara community and his passion for documentary filmmaking, all make it possible for him to share this story with the world.

    More information on the documentary can be found on their website: Sponsored through the International Documentary Association, all donations made to the project are tax deductible. In the coming months, as the team works to complete the film, they will also work to collaborate across sectors to bring the Banchara story to the global stage. All inquiries on the project can be directed to

    October 30, 2014 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1342

  • Actor Ronen Rubinstein Returns to His Alma Mater

    Ronen RubinsteinNew York Film Academy Acting for Film graduate Ronen Rubinstein has come out of the gates running. Since graduating from NYFA, he’s appeared in a few features, including It Felt Like Love, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and landed him representation with Radius Entertainment and The Gersh Agency. Last night, Ronen returned to his alma mater to screen the film and discuss life “in the real world.”

    The independent feature truly captures the raw emotions of a teenage girl coming into her sexuality without a mother in her life. The lead, Lila, fixates herself on an older boy, Sammy, played by Ronen. Sammy is the kind of guy who seems to be willing to sleep with any girl at the party and yet Lila becomes infatuated with him. Given the somewhat misogynistic nature of Sammy’s character, Ronen initially found the role challenging.

    “I would take pieces of people I knew in high school and mold them into the character of Sammy,” said Ronen. “I actually knew a lot of ‘Sammys’ in high school, but was afraid to talk to them.”

    With no real rehearsal time and a first time director, Eliza Hittman, Ronen was able to tackle the part in what became an unprecedented nineteen day film shoot in Brooklyn. In the feature film world, that’s almost unheard of. Nevertheless, the film found itself at Sundance, screens across the country, and is currently available on Netflix. Ronen says that Sundance really propelled his career and confidence in the business. Seeing the likes of Robert De Niro, James Franco and Robert Redford gave Ronen the inspiration and confirmation that a career in acting was the right path for him.

    Ronen provided a unique prospective to students on life after acting school. Given the fact that Ronen is only two years out of NYFA, it was refreshing to hear first-hand the possibilities of being a working actor right out of school. One piece of advice that Ronen learned at NYFA: “You can’t judge your character. If you judge them, you won’t be able to properly portray what they’re doing in the film.” As an example, if you’re asked to play a murderer in a film and go in with a negative attitude towards that person, the ability to truly capture that person will be extremely difficult.

    While reflecting on his time at NYFA, Ronen recalled one of his favorite instructors, Paul Warner. What he loved most about Paul was that he never sugarcoated anything—much like the real world. Having that critical tutorage is a key to success.

    In addition to It Felt Like Love, Ronen will be appearing in the features Condemned and Some Kind of Hate. Not only that, he will be appearing in season 3 of Netflix’s hit show, Orange is the New Black.

    If you were unable to attend the Q&A with Ronen, you can watch it in its entirety below.

    October 23, 2014 • Acting, Guest Speakers, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1171

  • Love and Business Blossom at NYFA


    Helena Hilario and Mario Pece

    After working post-production in New York City and Los Angeles for five years on projects like Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New York Film Academy graduates, Helena Hilario (Producing) and Mario Pece (Directing) have decided to explore other opportunities in the Brazilian market by starting their own business. Their company, StratoStorm, will focus on developing visual effect sequences for commercials, films, television, music videos and digital projects for creative advertising agencies, production companies, and talented directors.

    “There is a demand in Brazil for VFX for advertising, television and films,” says Helena Hilario. “We wanted to bring our experience from Hollywood to Brazil.”

    Helena and Mario have invested in a state-of-the-art studio in São Paulo, equipped with workstations and render farms. Their remote-based workflow system allows them to work with clients and artists from around the world while residing in the tropical Brazilian countryside.

    Thus far, StratoStorm has hit the ground running, as they’re currently working on a TV commercial for Combatant Gentlemen, which will air in the United States. They are also creating visual effects for the Brazilian feature film Jonas e a Baleia, directed by Lô Politi, set to premiere in movies theaters in South America in the beginning of next year.

    Helena and Mario met while attending NYFA. From there, they developed a life-long relationship both personally and professionally. Helena had been working as a line producer at Academia de Filmes, one of Brazil’s largest production companies, until she decided to move to New York to learn about the movie business. “It was my dream to attend NYFA, I always heard about the great programs, excellent teachers and impeccable reputation of NYFA. When I found out about the Producing program, I had no doubts that it would be one of the best experiences of my life.”

    Following her studies at NYFA, Helena worked in NYC at Downtown Reel, a production company which specialized in TV commercials for foreign markets. After that, she moved to Los Angeles, where she was hired to work on the production team at KGB, a boutique, independent production company based on the legendary Paramount Studios lot in the heart of Hollywood. In mid 2013, she joined the team at Ingenuity Engine as a VFX Executive Producer and New Business Development. There she worked with various ad agencies and production companies.

    Helena’s partner, Mario Pece left Italy in 2008 to attend the 8-Week Directing Program. While enrolled, he directed several shorts films and decided to continue his education in the One-Year Directing Program. His focus was primarily on creating innovative and unique ways to incorporate VFX into his storytelling. After graduating, Mario became the lead VFX artist at Ingenuity Engine, an award winning VFX studio creating VFX for numerous clients such as Doritos, Reebok, Callaway, Jello, UFC and Virgin Holidays. For television, they produced the visual effects for TV shows Parks & Recreation, Happy Endings and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Winner of Best Comedy at the Golden Globes 2014) and award-winning music videos. One of the music videos, Katie Perry’s Wide Awake, was nominated at the 2012 VMA’s for Best Visual Effects.

    “Our training at NYFA was definitely very important for our careers,” said Helena. “We created hundreds of projects from concept to delivery, including the award-winning trailer for the suspense thriller Out of Home, starring Patrick Boll.”

    Helena and Mario encourage talented visual effects artists and freelancers to send his or her reel to StratoStorm at

    Mario Pece Reel 2014 from StratoStorm on Vimeo.

    October 22, 2014 • 3D Animation, Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3379

  • How Two Former NYFA Students Formed Fact Productions

    fact productions

    (left to right) Ion Beroiz, Ivan Leon, Juan Carlos Arciniegas, Film Critic and CNN host

    One of the many positive aspects of attending a film school like New York Film Academy is the opportunity to meet and collaborate with motivated and creative artists. What’s fascinating about the collaboration between former NYFA students, Ion Beroiz and Ivan Leon, is their partnership came after not having seen or worked with each other for nearly eight months. Ivan, originally from Bogota, Colombia, had the desire to start his own production company, but needed the right partner who shared a similar passion of producing quality content. After discussing his ideas with Ion at party in Los Angeles, the two of them soon found themselves on the same page. Two days later, they registered the corporation name Fact Productions, Inc. They haven’t looked back since.

    Since it’s nearly impossible to start from scratch and acquire paid clients, the duo put together a few spec commercials, using footage from their NYFA productions, stock footage, and personal videos. Soon after, they submitted their best commercial for a contest and were awarded second place. Now that they were “on the map” and beaming with confidence, they were able to parlay the victory into a few video gigs for some local restaurants. Not exactly international acclaim, but certainly a step in the right direction for a blossoming young production company.

    It wasn’t long until NYFA was on their mind again. The duo pitched two more commercial ideas to NYFA Los Angeles’ Jean Sherlock and Dan Mackler. Jean and Dan were quite taken with their ideas and decided to assist in the production of another spec commercial, providing more quality content for Fact’s reel.

    After improving the portfolio, they landed their first major client: Samsung. The production called for a voice-over in Hungarian and re-editing two commercials—washing machines were the product. Following Samsung, Fact began working with Mattel, producing internal communications.

    As the ball continued to roll, a friend of theirs was able to introduce them to a contact at the record label, Universal Music Spain. It just so happened that the label was looking for a production company to take the lead on an upcoming video. Perfect, right? Well, they only had six days to prep! Looking back at their NYFA days, they realized, six days was plenty of time. They locked treatment with Universal two days before the shoot, providing them with 48 hours to produce a music video with full crew, 22 extras, a big band from Spain, and a mega star of the Spanish rock world, Enrique Bumbury. A hell of a challenge, to say the least.

    Fortunately, the team pulled it off. The band was thrilled with the final product and so was Universal. After that, the phones were ringing.

    “No matter how big or small our projects are, we always prepare them in the way our mentor from NYFA, Jonathan Pope Evans, told us, ‘As detailed as possible’,” said Ivan. “As Ion and I say, going to set is like going to war. We got that sense of preparation from NYFA.”

    Fact’s most recent project was a music video for the band Marlango, featuring their new single Dinero. Have a look at the video below!

    October 20, 2014 • Filmmaking, Producing, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2471

  • Producing ‘Strawberry Kisses’ For Michaela in Los Angeles


    As part of the Producing Department and Diversity Development in Los Angeles, the NYFA Industry Lab aims to provide students with a truly hands-on, professional experience. Students, along with their instructors, are brought on to produce, shoot, and edit full productions for industry clients. Thus far, NYFA Industry Lab has worked with a number of major companies, including Warner Records and actor Matthew Modine, infamous for his role as “Joker” in Stanley Kubrick’s classic Vietnam film, Full Metal Jacket.

    Recently, the Lab embarked on its largest production to date. The team partnered with singer and songwriter, Michaela, to shoot her new music video, Strawberry Kisses. Michaela has appeared on the popular Nickelodeon show, iCARLY, and has appeared in commercials, theatre productions, as well as video games. Strawberry Kisses is Michaela’s brand new original song, which she even wrote the lyrics for.

    Produced in collaboration with management company, WaterWalks Entertainment, Inc., the video was shot entirely at New York Film Academy’s Riverside building. The video was co-directed by Directing Instructor Jeff Byrd and student Laura Elisa Perez Rebullen. Aside from his teaching at NYFA Los Angeles, Jeff is the Co-Chair of the African-American Steering Committee of the DGA.

    Pay close attention to the video, especially our NYFA Los Angeles students, as you may just catch your classroom in the shot!

  • Abu Dhabi Grad’s Film Screens at 21 Festivals

    spring passed by

    Eva Daoud completed the filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy Abu Dhabi and has already made quite a mark on the film festival circuit. In a marvelous joint collaboration with the talented Adnan Aschamat, a well known Syrian actor, A Spring Has Passed By has met tremendous international success and continues to collect accolades in some of the world’s leading film festivals.

    The Academy is proud of students like Eva that give inspiration not only to their audience, but to their colleagues and alumni.

    The film has been selected and screened at the following festivals:

    1. Urban Mediamakers Film Festival – Atlanta, CA (2013)
    – Official Selection – Best International Short Film
    2. Best Shorts Competition – La Jolla, CA (2013)
    – Award of Merit for Best Short Film
    3. Wild Rose Independent Film Festival – Des Moines, Iowa (2013)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    4. Peace on Earth Film Festival – Chicago, Illinois (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    5. Palm Beach International Short Film Festival – Palm Beach, Florida (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    6. Liverpool Lift-Off International Film Festival – Liverpool, UK (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    7. Sarasota Film Festival – Sarasota, Florida (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    8. 2014 Athens International Film + Video Festival – Athens, Ohio (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    9. The World Film Festival – Montreal , Canada (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    10. Arab Short Film Festival – Beirut, Lebanon (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    11. Female Eye Film Festival – Toronto, Canada (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    12. Palm Springs International Shortfilmfest – Palm Springs, California (2014)
    – Marketplace Selection – Short Film
    13. Malmo Arab Film Festival – Malmo, Sweden (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    14. San Giò Verona Video Festival – Verona, Italy (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    15. Bahamas International Film Festival – Bahamas (2014)
    – Short List Selection – Short Film
    16. Phnom Penh International Film Festival – Cambodia (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    17. Marbella International Film Festival – Spain (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    18. Massachusetts Independent Film Festival – Somerville, Massachusetts (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    – Best Actor Nominee – Adnan Aschamat
    19. Festival of the Mediterranean short film – Tangier, Morocco (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    20. Lady Filmmakers Film Festival – Beverly Hills, USA (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film
    21. Baghdad International Film Festival – Baghdad, Iraq (2014)
    – Official Selection – Short Film

    October 13, 2014 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1222

  • NYFA Grad’s Award-Winning Film Captures Gays in Military

    LingerAfter being raised in a military family, the idea for New York Film Academy Filmmaking graduate Molly Calliste’s thesis film, Linger, came quite naturally. With the theme of the film in mind, Molly’s best friend’s situation truly shaped the story. One of her close friends was a gay U.S. Marine terrified by the thought of being outed. He lived in fear as to what would happen–the least of which he thought would have been a dishonorable discharge.

    “He couldn’t scream about the betrayal he felt,” said Molly. “So I thought perhaps, I could whisper it.”

    And this is what paved way for her film, Linger, which is about the United States military’s handling of gays or suspected gays in the armed services. The forced secrecy, the badge of ‘shame’ and mostly, the betrayal of what is taken when your country fails you on such a level.

    So far, her message is being heard at film festivals around the country. Linger has received an Award of Merit at IndieFest and screened at the IndependentFilmmakerProject. Her upcoming screenings include the NewFilmmakersNY Film Festival fall series on November 12th at 7:15 PM and Bakersfield Film Festival on November 9th in Bakersfield, California.

    Molly was born and raised in Grenada, the British West Indies, but has been living in New York City since the age of twelve. She chose to study at NYFA because of its intensive, hands-on curriculum.

    “My training at NYFA was singularly instrumental in the production of this film, as well as several others. I knew nothing of storytelling in terms of moving pictures, except what I liked and didn’t like. I knew a good film when I saw one, and kept an open mind for the most part, but what I learned from NYFA was not just technical–though a large part of it was. It was also political, and dealt with the ethics and hierarchy of filmmaking. Essentially, you put into it what you hope to get out of your production, and your reputation travelled a lot faster than you ever could in filmmaking. When I didn’t know what I was doing, which was often, I asked for help. Instructors at NYFA: Piero Basso, Lanre Olabisi, Claude Kerven, Ivan Julien and many others were always eager to help. I will always be a perpetual student when it comes to filmmaking.”

    Molly’s hope is for Linger to ‘reach’ at least one person, who in turn might alter their perception on how they view a simple human choice.

    Aside from Linger, Molly has recently completed post-production work on a feature film directed by a fellow NYFA alum, Manoj Annadurai, titled Get Happy. She’s also trying to raise funds to film her own feature, tentatively set to begin filming November of 2015.

    Linger canon

    October 13, 2014 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 980

  • Paquita Hughes Launches ‘Sugar the Web Series’

    sugar web seriesIt is with great pride to announce the launch of Sugar the Web Series from one of our accomplished former students and military veteran, Paquita Hughes. The dramedy series tackles everything from the rise of health care and education costs to the expenses of the most basic necessities. In the pilot episode, Nikki wants to get her former coworker Terri (played by Terri London) into the “sugar baby” game in order to make some real money. For those of you who may not know, a “Sugar Baby” is a slang term for a young female or male who is financially pampered by an older, wealthier man or woman in exchange for companionship. Considering Terri is stuck with her mother’s hospice bills and Aunt’s utility bills after recently being laid off at a local restaurant, Terri hesitantly agrees to give it a shot.

    After being approached with the idea by a close friend, Paquita decided to develop Sugar as her thesis project. “The sex work industry has always been intriguing to me, not only as a female, but as a human,” says Paquita. “These women put themselves through experiences we can only hear about through stories and raw documentaries. I felt it was a topic that should be discussed amongst the masses. It’s a prevalent industry that has been around for ages, it’s recession proof and it will be here beyond the lives of many of the those reading this post. Why not explore this world and create a healthy dialogue between the people involved in the sex work industry and the community they thrive in. Education of this lifestyle will hopefully tear away at the negative appeal it gives off. It’s a cautionary tale tied into a woman’s journey into womanhood and discovery.”

    Thus far the production time put into Sugar has taken upwards of a year and change. Paquita hopes to eventually gain distribution from networks like Netflix or Hulu. She is currently taking meetings from investors to help fund the project and make her dream a reality. Her current campaign, while she shops the pilot around, is to gain as many YouTube subscribers as possible. If she reaches 10,000 subscribers, she can utilize the YouTube space in Los Angeles for free and keep all of the film locations local.

    “Seeing that the pilot is only the blueprint of what could be greater, I’m extremely happy with the results. I have a fine cast and a great story. It’s destined for greatness!”

    You can view the Sugar the Web Series‘ Pilot, trailer, and read all about the cast and crew on Be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel and website for giveaways, updates and more!

    October 3, 2014 • Filmmaking, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1146