2021 Film Festivals
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  • Broadcast Journalism Update – March 2021 Edition

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    This month marked ten years since the start of the tragic, still ongoing Syrian civil war. NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Nour Idriss, who comes from Aleppo, found herself stranded in New York City when all flights back home to Syria were canceled. Enrolling in NYFA, she reinvented herself as a multimedia journalist, then found a home at CBS News. Recently she wasn’t just the producer of stories about the past decade, she became part of the story herself.
    She wrote: “I still can’t believe I’m actually doing this! I’m a journalist! And I owe you for this dream I’m living.”
    Thank you for your kind words, Nour. I think countless hours of hard work had a lot to do with it too…
    It is often said that journalism is the first draft of history. NYFA grad Celina Liv Danielsen can certainly attest to that. A producer/reporter for TV2 In Denmark, she was on-the-scene when violence broke out in Washington DC this past January. Needless to say, it wasn’t the story she thought she was going to report, the official announcement of the winner of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.
    Livia Fernanda enrolled in NYFA to develop her reporting skills. Up until that point, she had worked strictly as an in-studio weather reporter. Now an on-air reporter with Grupo Jovem Pan in São Paulo, she demonstrated the difference between covering Brazilian Carnival in 2020 and 2021 with two striking photos.
    Staying in Brazil (I know, Brasil), congratulations to NYFA Broadcast Journalism grad Beatriz Puente, now producing for CNN Brasil, based in Rio!
    When Eduvie Martin came to NYFA from Nigeria, she had already developed strong on-camera skills. What she felt she lacked were the technical skills essential to success. She has over a decade of experience in communications and reputation management for global brands and start-ups in Europe and Africa. And as this Linkedin posting can attest, she can multitask with the best of them!
    Lorenzo Capezzuoli Ranchi always looks dapper “on-air,” or I guess I should say “in cyberspace.” He is a regular contributor to the Italian digital media app 264 Zoom. He continues to bring to his stories the same unique qualities that served him so well on the projects he produced as a student here at NYFA.
    Elina Mukherjee, who is back home in India, writes: “These days I work at a food/travel/lifestyle channel called Gobble. …venturing into digital content has been a shift from mainstream journalism. But so far I am really enjoying myself.”
    Closer to home, NYFA alum Dr. Nicole Cross continues to do great things at Spectrum News in Texas. She is not only a wonderful news anchor, studio host and field reporter. She is also a powerful role model for young African American women, and other women of color, who might be considering a career in Journalism.
    Emilie Cruz was recently promoted at ViacomCBS to Senior Manager – Editorial/Creative Strategy. If you look at her LinkedIn page, you’ll notice that she chose for her profile picture a still shot taken from one of the stories she did at NYFA. She’s even holding an NYFA News mic!
    Thanks, Emilie!
    As regular readers of the Broadcast Journalism Update know, last Summer Evgenia Vlasova and I co-taught a three-week online workshop for early-career Russian journalists. This past January, we all got together (virtually, of course) to find out how everyone was doing. Each participant had produced a story on the theme: 2020 – Not The Year Anyone Expected.
    Anastasia Dzutstsati’s story examined The Church In The Era of COVID, while Ekaterina Frolova created a global digital experiment, asking people the question 2020: The End or the Beginning? If you have a few minutes to spare, I have posted these stories and others on Vimeo. They are definitely worth screening.
    Stay tuned for NYFA Moscow Journalism Summer School II, taking place this July and August in (hopefully) in Moscow. Support for this innovative enterprise comes from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
    Finally, I am proud to announce that my independent feature film, Invisible Love, won several prizes at the Paris International Film Festival including Best Narrative Feature. Here is a link to the trailer. Coming to a digital platform or theater near you (if you live in Vietnam or China) soon. Here in the United States? Probably next year…
    For more information on NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism program, click here.
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  • NYFA Alum Rajni Mysore Chamaraj on Working With Her Sister and Studying in Los Angeles

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    Rajni Mysore Chamaraj, along with her younger sister Shynica Mysore Chamaraj made The Day I Met Joshua, a short film about a social media influencer who encounters a path of self-discovery in the desert. The film was written, directed, and edited by both Chamaraj and Shynica and was screened at the Canadian Academy qualifying festival, Yellowknife Film Festival. The short film also garnered Chamaraj a Best Debut Director award at the Hollywood Film Awards and the Best Editor award in the New York Movie Awards. 

    Film poster for “The Day I Met Joshua”

    “I always felt that film combined the paradox of human nature so well, sometimes the simplicity of a character has left a deep impact. It brought about many changes, subtle, yet life-changing for me. This thought always lingered as to how visual storytelling overcomes all the barriers, be it geography, the human mindsets, or cultural barriers.” – Rajni Mysore Chamaraj

    Chamaraj got her start in Mumbai as the Assistant Creative Director for a television show on Star Plus, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, and eventually became involved in sports broadcasting as an Assistant Producer, creating live and pre-recorded content for sports including NBA games, Champions League, FIFA-U19 World Cup, French Open, World Rally Championship, PGA tours exclusive for the Indian audience. 

    NYFA alum Rajni Mysore Chamaraj (Right) and sister Shynica Mysore Chamaraj (Left)

    After nearly working for four years in the television industry, Chamaraj took her first step to follow her dream of being a storyteller and made the tough decision to leave her job and take-up full-time filmmaking. Her younger sister Shynica, also a filmmaker, was a big influence on that decision. With both siblings having a strong love of the universal language of film and understanding of the other, both knew they needed to pursue filmmaking and eventually work together. 

    “As siblings, we always influenced each other synergistically through our 3:00 a.m. philosophical discussions or just staring randomly into the cityscape of Mumbai with the Arabian Sea in the backdrop,” recalled Chamaraj. “It’s during one such moment, it struck me that I should also get into serious filmmaking and that my sister and I would make a brilliant team. So our idea of teaming up as a family was born with an idea to create an entertainment company that creates multimedia content inspired by regional themes for a worldwide audience. Essentially, we want to use the power of filmmaking to create content that inspires and elevates the human spirit and Entertainment studio that nourishes and mothers evolved, elevated entertainment.” 

    Before venturing into the business of filmmaking, however, Chamaraj wanted to hone her skills and began talking to friends and colleagues about their own film industry journey, leading Rajni to learn more about New York Film Academy. 

    “I attended a two-month program in NYFA Mumbai and instantly fell in love with their teaching methods. You shoot and learn from your mistakes, and there was more hands-on experience than theory classes. The faculty were from around the world which gave me a glimpse into how a long-term program would look like.”

    Photo courtesy of Rajni Mysore Chamaraj

    Eventually, Chamaraj applied and got accepted into the Film & Media Production MA program at NYFA’s Los Angeles campus. “While living in Los Angeles and studying in NYFA, the biggest advantage I got was that I worked on projects that had crew members from around the world. You get real-life experience of working on a film set right In the collage. [Students] can use this wonderful opportunity and make mistakes and learn from them too. It’s just a preparation for you to face the real world that’s not always as conducive as you would like it to be.” 

    “I am an Indian, the whole process of filmmaking is pretty different in India compared to the American way, so I had to learn a lot of new things such as division of work, laws of the land, and constantly update myself with the latest equipment, and technologies. So as an international student, you need to learn to adapt. You’ll learn that this is an important key that can make your career as a filmmaker outside your home country a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable. Go put your best foot forward, The staff and faculty at NYFA will be with you every step of the way. There were always there for me when I needed them.” – Rajni Mysore Chamaraj

    Poster for “The Day I Met Joshua”

    Now, Chamaraj and her sister are in the thick of their careers, with the recent success of their short film The Day I Met Joshua, which received a positive global response on the film festival circuit. 

    The film is based on Chamaraj’s own experience while on a vacation in Florida. “My phone became unusable as its entire software crashed. That night, I had a sense of awakening because it felt like a personal loss, How could a mere gadget have such a deep impact on me?” 

    Chamaraj and Shynica then wrote the film and shot it in the Mojave desert. “It was both a challenging and exciting experience. On the third day of the shoot, we even had unexpected rain, we had to stop shooting for a bit,” she remembered. “While shooting in nature, we have to be extra prepared as we are fighting the uncontrollable elements and all this with a cool head.”

    Shooting “The Day I Met Joshua”

    “We had crews representing almost nine different counties, from India, the USA, Cuba, Ireland to China. So as a team, we had to learn to communicate with each other effectively, considering each one of us was from different cultural backgrounds, it was important to keep the overall morale of the whole team-high and positive.”

    In post-production, the film took its shape. With the film marking the first time Chamaraj and Shynica were officially working together, their whole family celebrated their Best Original Story win at Hollywood Gold Awards. “Even more surreal was when our film was screened to a private audience at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank in the very same auditorium where an iconic film like Casablanca was screened for the very first time.”

    Poster for “Finding Home”

    Chamaraj currently resides in India and is working on getting her work visa in the U.S. During the pandemic, the NYFA alum wrote, directed, and edited a short Spanish web series in LA called Finding Home, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime UK and US. As of now, Chamaraj is working on a four-part anthology series about the lives of four urban Indian girls living in different cities of India. 

    “We just shot the first part in Hyderabad city,” she shared. “I am also working as a screenwriter for an Indo-American feature film to be shot in mid of 2022. It’s going to be an exciting ride, I am looking forward to following my heart and dedicating all my energies to bring to life the stories that have had a deep impact on my life.”

    New York Film Academy is excited to share the success of Rajni Mysore Chamaraj and her sister for the film The Day I Met Joshua and looks forward to seeing Chamaraj’s upcoming projects come to fruition in the near future.

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  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Meital Cohen Navarro Wins George Sidney Independent Film Competition For Best Narrative Short

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) is thrilled to announce that MFA Filmmaking alum Meital Cohen Navarro has won the George Sidney Independent Film Competition at the world-class San Luis Obispo International Festival (SLO Film Fest) for her NYFA thesis film, Over My Dead Body. The film screened at the festival March 9 – 14, 2021.

    Film poster for “Over My Dead Body”

    Over My Dead Body is written, directed, and produced by Israeli-born female filmmaker Meital Cohen Navarro. Her short film explores the taboo of religious intolerance and inter-cultural marriage after a young Jewish Persian-American woman named Isfahan tells her parents that her fiancé is Muslim.

    Over My Dead Body had its world premiere at the prestigious UK Jewish Film Festival in London last November and its North American Premiere at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Ahead of the film’s West Coast premiere at SLO Film Fest last week, Cohen Navarro also received critical acclaim for Over My Dead Body from Voice of AmericaNational Magazine Kayhan London, and the Jewish Journal.

    NYFA alum Meital Cohen Navarro

    “As a grandchild of immigrants, making this film was an amazing journey,” recalled Cohen Navarro. “I hope the film helps families with intergenerational rifts to better understand each other: for parents to see the toll it has on their children and for the younger generation to acknowledge their parents’ equally heartbreaking cultural challenges.”

    Behind the scenes during filming “Over My Dead Body”

    Shot in English and Farsi, Over My Dead Body features Muslim, Christian, and Jewish actors and iconic stars of Persian cinema Mary Apick (Dead End) and Bahram Vatanparast (Zan-e bakere) in leading roles.

    “I believe our role as filmmakers is to project a view of our daily lives onto the silver screen with such sincerity and honesty as possible,” shared Apick. “Each character must face all challenges and obstacles that we all face every day in today’s world. Meital Cohen Navarro has certainly accomplished that delicately and beautifully in the film Over My Dead Body.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Meital Cohen Navarro on her well-deserved win for her film Over My Dead Body at the SLO Film Fest, and looks forward to when her short film will be available to the public.

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  • Filmmaker & NYFA Alum Kushaal Chawla Directs and Produces Music Video for Rapper Badshah and LG Electronics

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    Film director, writer, and producer Kushaal Chawla has directed multiple advertisements for some of India’s top brands. Most recently, the MA Film & Production alum directed the music video commercial for LG Electronics featuring popular Indian rapper Badshah. 

    Chawla also produced the commercial, which promoted the LG Tone Free Earbuds, under his production house Dream Slate Pictures, based out of New Delhi. 

    “I had the opportunity of being taught by some really good instructors who taught me the most practical things about film directing, which I will continue to use forever,” shared Chawla. “A special mention to Mr. David Newman who is responsible for all the directing tactics and perfectionism that he instilled in me, and also Mr. Neil Casey,  who enhanced my knowledge of cinematography and helped make me a technically sound director.”

    NYFA alum Kushaal Chawla

    “In addition to the instructors, NYFA has a great curriculum that includes practical applications and multiple filming projects at the best studios of Hollywood that make students well versed with the practicality of making movies by actually filming them as opposed to just learning about them.”

    “Another Time” film poster

    In addition to being the Executive Director of his own company and producing stellar content for clients, Chawla is also focused on feature films. He is currently working on a new screenplay for an upcoming feature film, and his most recent film, Another Time, which has been part of fifteen international film festivals and has won a handful of awards. It can currently be seen on Amazon Prime Video in the US and UK.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Kushaal Chawla on his growing production company and looks forward to seeing more content from the alum in the near future. 

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  • Producer & NYFA Alum Alex Lampsos on His Latest Film “Breaking Fast”

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    Born in Beirut and brought up in Abu Dhabi and Canada, Alex Lampsos was always drawn to film and entertainment. From his beginnings in the film festival to producing indie films and music videos for the stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Lampsos has also produced commercials for Marvel, Disney, Sony, and LA Models in collaboration with Sir Elton John. 

    After working managing festival experiences and logistics at the Toronto International Film Festival for two years, Lampsos then decided it was time to dive into the technical and creative world of filmmaking itself and moved to Los Angles where he enrolled in NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking Conservatory. “Halfway through, I honed into my love of producing and took on as many projects that came my way, starting with thesis short films through the school network and slowly expanding into the real world,” he recalled. 

    NYFA alum Alex Lampsos

    The NYFA alum has since gone to produce music videos for Ru Paul’s Drag Race stars which have garnered millions of views and have been featured in Forbes, Entertainment Tonight, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, Paper Magazine, Out, and more.

    He has also produced incredible projects, from Cherry Pop, a NYFA thesis project that got picked up by Netflix, to feature Breaking Fast, which is now available to rent. Collectively, both films have garnered over 30 awards and have had an impact in the queer and indie film community. 

    Film poster for “Breaking Fast”

    His latest feature film, Breaking Fast, is a romantic comedy that follows Mo, a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak. When a guy named Kal offers to join him in his nightly Iftars – the traditional meal eaten by Muslims during Ramadan – meal after meal, the two start to discover they have more in common than they initially thought.

    Lampsos first got involved on the project after a serendipitous encounter with the film’s writer and director Mike Mosallam. “A friendship quickly bloomed, leading us to collaborate on the short film version of Breaking Fast – the genesis of the feature,” recalled Lampsos. “After finding much success with the short, we spent approximately three years developing the feature with a team of leading producers, finally securing the funding and entering production in 2018.”

    Alex Lampsos at premiere for “Cherry Pop”

    As for what he has taken with him since studying at NYFA, Lampsos shared that it’s all about community. “NYFA taught me the importance of building a filmmaking family that can grow and prosper collectively over time, often with fellow students that eventually become long-term collaborators,” he remarked. “It [NYFA] also gave me the framework to approach the industry with a strong sense of ambition and a self-starting mentality; the ‘it’s what you make of it’ mindset, while giving me the technical foundation to thrive.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Alex Lampsos on his latest release Breaking Fast and looks forward to sharing new updates on what’s next from the talented alum. Click here to learn more about Breaking Fast and where to watch the film. 

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    March 8, 2021 • Diversity, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1176

  • More Than a Career Move: Filmmaking as a Medium of Truth With NYFA Documentary Alum Jia Wertz

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    Canadian native Jia Wertz exited a 20-year career in the fashion corporate world to dive into the filmmaking industry. With a background in photography and a passion for social issues and bringing a voice to the voiceless, Wertz decided it was time to answer her calling – becoming a storyteller.

    “I didn’t want to simply work at a job that was focused on making profits for a corporation without doing any good in the world for other people,” shared Wertz. With the decision to make a career shift, Wertz remembers the moment it all changed for her. “ I was at Adnan Syed’s post-conviction hearing in Baltimore and Amy Berg’s team was there filming the HBO docuseries The Case Against Adnan Syed and a light bulb just went off.”

    NYDA alum Jia Wertz

    Wertz realized that filmmaking would be something that she could do to reach a large audience and impact social change by speaking on the conflict of the institutional correction systems and the wrongfully accused.

    “I have been passionate about wrongful convictions since I was in my twenties,” revealed Wertz. “My interest in this cause began when I read Rubin Carter’s book The Sixteenth Round, and I’d wondered ever since what I could do to help people who have been unjustly imprisoned. There is something about an innocent person being silenced that really shakes me to the core. After hearing Adnan Syed’s story on the Serial podcast, I was really motivated to do something.”

    And she did. Wertz took a 6-Week Documentary Filmmaking Workshop at NYFA and went on to direct the true-crime documentary Conviction, now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video. The documentary short follows the wrongfully convicted Jeffrey Deskovic of the rape and murder of a fellow classmate at the young age of sixteen and how he fought the justice system against all odds to prove his innocence. “The film tells his story, in his own words, and sheds light not only on the shortcomings of the justice system but the physical and emotional impacts that wrongful convictions have on the lives of innocent people,” revealed Wertz.

    “I was inspired to work on this documentary because I thought it would be an effective way to spread awareness about wrongful convictions, and also because Jeff’s story is so inspirational – it’s truly a testament to the human spirit. Jeff now has a non-profit organization that helps other people who are wrongfully convicted, and by sharing his story I am able to support his organization and the work he does.”

    With a crew of NYFA students and the encouragement of NYFA instructor Kuldeep Sah Gangola, Wertz worked on the documentary during her course. “From the very first day shooting the film while I was attending NYFA, it just felt right – like I was in the right place, doing exactly what I should be doing,” shared Wertz. 

    Behind the scenes of “Conviction”

    “Every part of the process has been a learning experience and extremely enjoyable – from filming with Jeff who is such a great interviewee, to the excitement (and surprise) of being officially selected at eleven film festivals, and now to have the film streaming on Amazon Prime. I would’ve never thought that we could’ve accomplished all of this in a short year after finishing the documentary program at NYFA.”

    The documentary is a testament to Wertz’s hard work and dedication on transitioning into her true calling – being a storyteller and advocate for the unheard. “My hope is that the film spreads awareness of a cause that I think often goes unnoticed. Unless it impacts you personally, you may not even think of wrongful convictions as a major issue in our country. A very conservative estimate is that about 2-5% of people incarcerated in the US are wrongfully imprisoned. At this rate, it could mean tens or even hundreds of thousands of people – the numbers are staggering.” 

    Jeffrey Deskovic and Jia Wertz (“Conviction”)

    People are beginning to take notice of Wertz’s Conviction. From the multiple festival laurels  Wertz has received to the Emmy Award-winning show The List, people are taking note of Jeffrey’s story and Wertz’s passion to bring his voice to the forefront  – and she isn’t done yet. The NYFA alum is currently in post-production of a feature-length version of Conviction and aims to finish and distribute the film this year.

    New York Film Academy celebrates Jia Wertz’s work for her applauded first film Conviction and looks forward to seeing what story Wertz will focus on next. Conviction is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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    March 4, 2021 • Diversity, Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1617

  • “Invisible Love” From NYFA Chair Bill Einreinhofer Wins Big at Paris International Film Festival

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    Chair of the Broadcast Journalism department at New York Film Academy, Bill Einreinhofer has a lot to celebrate after his film Invisible Love won three major awards at the Paris International Film Festival in February.

    Bill Einreinhofer on set of “Invisible Love”

    Coming off on its premiere at the Marche du Film, associated with the Cannes International Film Festival, in 2020, Invisible Love has racked up three awards including Best Narrative Feature Film, Best International Actor (Hoang Phuong), and Best International Collaboration. 

    In addition to Einreinhofer executive producing Invisible Love, NYFA’s roots run deep in the film, with Acting for Film alum Kazy Tauginas playing one of the male leads and former NYFA staffer Nancy Hanzhang Shen serving as both a Producer and the 1st AD on a set working in three languages (Vietnamese, Mandarin, and English).

    Hoang Phuong in “Invisible Love”

    Invisible Love takes place during the 1930s during the era of French Indochina and follows the story of one woman’s search for love, and how time and again her dreams are betrayed. “The subtext of the film is the nature of colonialism, and the corrosive effect it has on both the colonizers as well as those colonized,” explained Einreinhofer. “There is plenty of melodrama in this film and enough plot for perhaps three movies. While in North America and Europe Invisible Love is considered an ‘art house’ film, in Vietnam and China it is popular entertainment.”

    Einreinhofer is no stranger to working heavily with international markets and met the film’s director, Guo Xiang, while working on Einreinhofer’s documentary Shanghai 1937: Where World War II Began. We found we had a lot in common, even though we are totally different and each doesn’t speak the other’s language,” recalled Einreinhofer. “Director Guo valued my experience in international co-production and distribution while I admired his cinematic vision and resourcefulness. He wanted to bring authenticity to this period film [Invisible Love], and my background in non-fiction video and familiarity with Asian cultures helped to ensure historic elements of the film rang true.”

    Nancy Hanzhang Shen (Left) and Bill Einreinhofer (Right)

    The Broadcast Journalism Chair even makes a cameo appearance in the film as Dr. Sawyer, the director of a Western-run hospital in DaNang, where two of the key characters work. “It [acting] helped me better appreciate the ability of the actors to do the same scene time after time, with no slip-ups in dialogue and always hitting their marks, which I find challenging,” he shared. 

    Einreinhofer also explained that he was able to rely on Tauginas while on set to give him a quick tutorial on the do’s and don’ts of film performance as well as Shen, who served as a producer and 1st AD on the film. “I was also much taken by the sheer beauty of Vietnam, and how welcoming the people there are to Americans. For my generation, Vietnam was a war, not a place.”

    For those who see the film, Einreinhofer hopes that Invisible Love will speak to the notion that, regardless of culture or societal norms, love knows no barriers and surpasses all universal emotions. 

    The film now continues on the festival circuit for the next six months, after which Einreinhofer and the crew hope to sign agreements with distributors to get into the prime markets and platforms for a larger audience to view the film.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Broadcast Journalism Chair Bill Einreinhofer on his continued success with Invisible Love and looks forward to announcing when the film is available to view for the public. 

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  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Lizzie Gottlieb Featured by ‘Insider’ to Talk About New Film “Turn Every Page”

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    NYFA Documentary instructor Lizzie Gottlieb has been directing film and theater in New York for the past couple of decades. As a director, Gottlieb has worked with Peter Dinklage, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Amy Ryan, Michael Ian Black, Justin Kirk, Francie Swift, Josh Hamilton, Sara Ramirez, and more. Recently, Gottlieb got to work with another talent, notable editor, writer, and father to Gottlieb, Robert Gottlieb.

    (L-R) Robert Gottlieb and Robert Caro (Photo courtesy of Lizzie Gottlieb)

    The documentary, Turn Every Page, follows Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro and his 50-year argument and relationship with his editor, Robert Gottlieb (Robert), as they work towards completing a final book. The documentary from Gottlieb is an ode to the work of Caro and Robert over the last 50 years as Robert (89) awaits Caro (85) to complete his much-anticipated fifth volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

    “They are not slowing down because of their age,” Gottlieb told Insider in an interview about the project. “I think they both feel the enormous weight to finish [the final LBJ] book. I very much wanted this to be a story about them finishing their life’s work, not just a retrospective of their lives and how impressive they are.”

    The documentary film will also feature interviews from Ethan Hawke, Conan O’Brien, The New Yorker editor David Remnick, and former president Bill Clinton, who will make remarks of the impact of Caro and Rober’s work over the past 50 years. Gottlieb shared that most of the filming of the documentary was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the interview featuring former president Clinton was done recently over Zoom.

    NYFA instructor Lizzie Gottlieb

    Gottlieb is also known for her documentary Today’s Man, which aired on PBS and screened at festivals and conferences all over the world. Her film Romeo, Romeo was honored with the prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA).  

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Lizzie Gottlieb on her latest achievement, Turn Every Page, and encourages everyone to check out her latest documentary when it becomes available later this year. 

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    March 2, 2021 • Documentary Filmmaking, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1592

  • Akinola Davies Jr. Awarded Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance For Film “Lizard”

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Akinola Davies Jr. has won big at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize for his film Lizard.

    Sundance announcement of “Lizard” winning the Short Film Grand Jury Prize

    The film was written by Davies and his brother Wale Davies, and was backed by BBC Film and producer Rachel Dargavel. Lizard follows an eight-year-old girl, Juwon, who has the ability to sense danger. After getting ejected from a Sunday school service, Juwon witnesses the underbelly in and around a Mega Church in Lagos, Nigeria. In addition to the Sundance win, the film was also nominated for an ALFS Award by the London Critics Circle Film Awards.

    Film poster for “Lizard”

    Davies has previously made short films Zazzau and Unity Is Strength. The UK-Nigerian filmmaker is known for his exploration of themes of community, race, spirituality, identity, and gender. Ultimately, through his work in film and music videos, Davies aims to navigate the collision of both colonial and imperial tradition, whilst advocating a return to indigenous narratives. His next slated project will be sci-fi film X Us.

    NYFA alum Akinola Davies Jr.

    “I’m overwhelmed and as much as I’d love to gloat, filmmaking is really crazy hard,” shared Davies on his Instagram after the winners were announced in a virtual ceremony. “Big love to all those who were part of the shorts program – it’s an honour to be amongst such brilliant films. I have to say this award is really for the whole cast and crew who worked so hard and committed their all to this little film pre and during a global pandemic. I’m so proud this was made in Lagos by the many hands that make up the beautiful people of Nigeria.”

    To view the full list of Sundance Film Festival winners, click here.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Akinola Davies Jr. on his important Grand Jury win at Sundance for his short film Lizard and looks forward to seeing the film’s impact and Davies’ upcoming projects.

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  • NYFA Alum Irene Mendez on Film Sustainability and a UN Campaign to Change The Film Production Landscape

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    Spanish producer Irene Mendez has always been interested in visual storytelling. With her degree in communications coupled with her education from NYFA’s 1-Year Producing Conservatory, Mendez is seeking change in the production space, aiming to make all media projects more sustainable across the industry. 

    Coming to NYFA, Mendez knew it would give her a new perspective on film production. “I’ve always thought it is essential to know and understand how movies are made in different countries, and I saw in NYFA the opportunity to do so,” she shared. “NYFA has some of the best professionals teachers, including instructors who have won BAFTAs and have been in some of the most important film festivals.”

    NYFA alum Irene Mendez

    From her time at NYFA, Mendez has learned that preproduction is the most essential part of any project. “Work before you get to the set. Study every possibility that might happen once you are filming,” she emphasized. “Be ready for any inconvenience. It is so vital to plan what might happen and be prepared for any kind of problem. It is funny cause it’s actually the same advice I will give to anyone who wants to make a more sustainable film.”

    Mendez first got involved in sustainability in filmmaking after attending Madrid’s Another Way Film Festival in Madrid, which focused on sustainable progress in filmmaking. “I realized that we can do much more. There are many things we can change to create the same entertainment content in a much better way,” urged Mendez. “We can tell the same great stories without hurting the planet and its future. Even more, we can help to be part of the change.”

    Mendez is now involved with Fiction Changing the World, an organization that specializes in sustainable audiovisual productions, working both in reducing the negative impact of productions and creating fiction and entertainment formats that convey important info about sustainable development to the viewers. “There is a lot of things that we can do when we work on a project to reduce the negatives impacts and create good ones. Not only on how we do things but also in how we tell the stories and entertain.”

    This past year, Mendez worked with Fiction Changing the World on a UN campaign to show the world that a new way to make content is possible. “Being part of the UN campaign and seeing Paloma Andres and Rhoda N. Wainwright (Founders of Fiction Changing the World) speak beside people with innovative ideas and famous names as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), makes you understand that we are not alone. There is a lot of people trying to be part of the change. Thousands of unique ideas can help us all to do our bit.”

    Fiction Changing the World has also started their campaign The Dante Movement, which focuses on creating fictional media that will inspire sustainable action and change in the world among others to do their part. “Documentaries are a wonderful way to bring attention to different topics, but they have a couple of problems when it comes to reaching the general public,” shared Mendez when asked why the fictional format is a better medium for the campaign as opposed to documentary filmmaking. 

    Irene Mendez on set

    “They [documentaries] often focus on particular topics, which is fine, but it is more difficult to get millions of people interested in very a specific issue. Also, documentaries are not always the first choice of entertainment for the general public. On the other hand, fiction is a format that is consumed by everyone on the planet; it leaves no one out. It is a more global and entertaining way to send a message and to educate and raise awareness.”

    “For example, I would dare to say that the vast majority of Spaniards of my generation know that water rotates in a different direction in each hemisphere thanks to an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart travels to Australia,” Mendez said. “Fiction is a way to reach every home. We all get motivated watching the Avengers fighting together against Thanos. In our universe, we can all unite to fight our own common enemy.”

    Though The Dante Movement is focused on fictional stories to get the message across to viewers, Fiction Changing the World still allows for other formats to be used to reach different people, like documentaries. In addition to working with the organization, Mendez has also been working on the TV series Foundation for Apple TV+ here in Spain, but what Mendez expressed she is most proud of is producing the first certified Positive Carbon Footprint spot for Greenpeace

     

    “This proves that it is possible to create sustainable content. We had to think from the script in how to make it more environmentally friendly way,” shared Mendez. “I had several meetings with the screenwriters and the production company to explain to them what are the points that make a film create more or fewer carbon emissions and what makes more negative impacts. They quickly understood what was needed and realized that thinking in a sustainable way doesn’t have to compromise the project’s creativity.” 

    As a lover of making films and the environment, Mendez is an advocate for change in the industry, working to make sets reduce their negative impact on the environment from issues like not recycling properly and consuming more on set than necessary. “The reality is that there are many more things we aren’t doing right. The material we use to build a set, the fabric to sew amazing costumes, and the places we choose to use as scenarios are decisions we can make to reduce the negative impact of production,” she explained. “Our responsibility as filmmakers is not solely to entertain, but also to inform and inspire our audiences. We have the power to reach every single soul, and we should use it.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank Irene Mendez for taking the time to share more about the sustainability movement that is taking place on sets all over the world. With the urgency to act, filmmakers like Irene can continue to make a difference and be agents for change across the industry. NYFA looks forward to seeing what’s next from the alum and to hear more updates on Mendez’s mission for film sustainability. 

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