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  • NYFA Acting for Film Alum Anatolii Panchenko Stars in ‘Infiniti’ and ‘OnePlus Nord 2 5G: Origins’

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    Anatolii Panchenko

    Photo of Anatolii Panchenko by LA-Based Photographer, David Zaugh

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Anatolii Panchenko (Анатолий Панченко) has been cast in a Canal+ mini-series, Infiniti, which began filming in March of this year. 

    Directed by Thierry Poiraud (Black Spot, Don’t Grow Up, and Goal of the Dead) and written by Stéphane Pannetier (Research Unit, Les Ombres Rouges) and Julien Vanlerenberghe (Les Ombres Rouges, Famille d’accueil), the series follows a crew aboard the International Space Station after discovering the murdered corpse of a fellow astronaut on-board. 

    Anatolii Panchenko

    Photo of Anatolii Panchenko by Anna Vialova (NYFA Cinematography alum)

    Now in search of the culprit, a French astronaut and Kazakh cop work together to solve the crime. Production companies Empreinte Digitale and Federation Entertainment Belgique are distributing the series on Canal+ and StudioCanal in 2022. 

    The series was filmed in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and France and shot in English, Russian, and French. The thriller will span six hour-long episodes. Panchenko will be working alongside an international cast including co-stars Céline Sallette (La Flamme, Vernon Subutex, and Marie Antoinette), Daniyar Alshinov (A Dark-Dark Man), Vlad Ivanov (The Transporter, Snowpiercer), Lex Shrapnel (Les Médicis: Masters of Florence, Harlots), Karina Arutyunyan (The Bureau), Ellora Torchia (The Cowboys, Midsommar), Laurent Capelluto (Moloch, Into The Night), Jarreth Merz (Six, Titans), and Samal Yeslyamova (Ayka, Three).

    Anatolii Panchenko

    Promotional artwork from ‘OnePlus Nord 2 5G: Origins’

    Anatolii Panchenko also starred in a recent commercial called OnePlus Nord 2 5G: Origins (also known as OnePlus Nord 2 5G: Nord of the Rings), a project by Stink Films. Directed by Keith McCarthy (The Ganzfeld Procedure) and written by Josh Erickson, the commercial merges humor and a Lord of the Rings-inspired narration to tell the origin story of the Nord 2 5G smartphone. 

    The crew uses advanced VFX, beautiful cinematography, and music to capture the different tempos for each “chapter” of the phone’s history. From fantasy to a Sci-Fi film to an action thriller, the team uses a combination of extras, makeup, and costumes to bring you out of each scene and into the next. 

    Be sure to check out behind-the-scenes footage of the film crew working their magic to bring the commercial together. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates acting alum Anatolii Panchenko on his role in Infiniti and looks forward to watching the series once it’s released next year. 

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    September 22, 2021 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 75

  • NYFA Alum Galo Semblantes Directs ‘The Legend of Tayos’

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    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking alum, Galo Semblantes directs a recent film, The Legend of Tayos (2021), which follows the story of Janos Moricz, a Hungarian explorer who finds a metal library inside the caves of the Ecuadorian Amazon. For this film, Semblantes worked with fellow NYFA alum, Janek Ambros who produced the film. Ambros is an MFA Producing alum with a recently released film, Mondo Hollywoodland, available on Amazon

    Semblantes is not only a documentarian, but a director, writer, and producer as well. A graduate of the MFA Filmmaking program at New York Film Academy, Semblantes has worked on numerous feature films and short films. His screen credits include American Dreams (2019), Oblivion (2012), Project Heaven (2014), Napkins (2012), Tell Me a Memory (2012), Nighttime (2011), and more. The film Oblivion was an official selection for the Columbia Gorge Film Festival in 2011, and his film Project Heaven was an official selection for the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival in 2014. 

    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    The documentary film follows Janos Moricz, who pushes for government support to make new expeditions after claiming to have found valuable information within the caves of the Amazon that could change humanity. According to the director, “La Leyenda de Tayos is a film that talks about the value of idealism that leads us to explore unknown places to which we would not have gone otherwise.”

    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    Production still from The Legend of Tayos (2021)

    Officially released in September 2021, The Legend of Tayos is a production that spanned several years. Winner of the Documentary Development Fund in 2013, the film began gaining public attention, due to its enigmatic subject matter. The Cueva de los Tayos, located in southeastern Ecuador, attracted many explorers in expeditions, including Neil Armstrong in 1976

    You can follow Galo Semblantes on Twitter, or stay up-to-date on the latest content by his production company, Non-Sequitur Films by visiting their website or following them on YouTube or Facebook.

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    September 17, 2021 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 335

  • NYFA Alum Bob Ahmed’s ‘Tikkun Olam’ Tackles Homelessness with Humanity in Award-Winning Short

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    Bob Ahmed opens his interview at the 2021 SEEMA Summit with a translation from a poem written by a famous Indian poet, Mirza Ghalib: “To be human is easy, but to be humane is almost impossible.” Thus was born the inspiration for his award-winning short Tikkun Olam (2021), which tackles the subject of homelessness in Washington, D.C.

    Tikkun Olam poster

    Image Source: IMDb

    For anyone who has lived in the nation’s capital or is familiar with the city’s history of poverty, you may not be surprised by the alarming number of homeless, an issue that plagues veterans and civilians alike. Tikkun Olam is a poignant film that revolves around the love and humanity of an eight-year-old boy who encounters a homeless veteran. 

    Based on Ahmed’s own experiences while living in Washington, D.C., The Daily Times described the film as an “urgently needed story of hope in our broken world today” with “blistering performances”. Views & News describes the film as “a rare, polished gem” with “riveting performances”. Voice of America calls it “a unique film on an important topic”.

    Director and NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Bob Ahmed

    Director and NYFA Filmmaking Alum, Bob Ahmed | Photo courtesy of Arielle Lewis

    Tikkun Olam won almost universal acclaim garnering success on the festival circuit where the director’s choice to focus on his actors, putting them in a position to evoke truly intense emotional responses was rewarded. The film won ‘Best Short Film – Teens’ at the 22nd ShorTS International Film Festival in Trieste, Italy in July 2021. The short is also an official selection for the 35th Washington DC International Film Festival and the 27th Sedona International Film Festival, which is ranked amongst the “Top 10 film festivals in the world.”

    “I studied at the New York Film Academy and that is where I really got inspired to make film,says Ahmed in an interview with South Asian icon, Aroon Shivdasani, at the 2021 SEEMA Summit. 

    Ahmed believes his role as the director is not to evoke emotion from his actors, but rather to remove the pressure from the set and create an environment in which the actors can create someone truly special on camera. 

    This approach with his actors which encourages them to do what they believe they would do in a scene (even if slightly different from the script) reaps rewards as the short film was also selected for the 21st D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival and selected for the 10th D.C. South Asian Film Festival. 

     

    The director is working on a new film, Johnny & The Golden Gifts about a young boy in Washington D.C, whose life spirals out of control because of a personal tragedy. The story explores themes of forgiveness as a solution to ongoing challenges in modern American Society. 

    Considered both a Director and Screenwriter, Ahmed also wrote, Lost in DC, about a Pakistani man who visits Washington, D.C. and runs into a former high school friend. The two men spend the next several days in each other’s company, learning more about the other’s path in life following their school days. The script is currently a finalist at the 52nd Nashville Film Festival, an Academy Award Qualifying Film Festival. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Bob Ahmed for his success and looks forward to the upcoming Johnny & The Golden Gifts.

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    August 11, 2021 • Acting, Alumni Events, Filmmaking • Views: 1291

  • Q&A With NYFA Alum Abdulrahman Al Madani on Filming ‘The Monster’ and Recent Work

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    NYFA Filmmaking alum, Abdulrahman Al Madani shares his personal experience tackling challenges in the filmmaking industry with anecdotes from his own recent work, as well as advice for emerging filmmakers. Al Madani wrote and produced the successful short film, Laymoon, and closing his newest project, The Monster. 

    Al Madani is a graduate of the One-Year Filmmaking program at the NYFA Abu Dhabi campus from 2014. 

    Abdulrahman Al Madani

    Filmmaker Abdulrahman Al Madani

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What projects have you worked on over the past several years? Have you won any awards or been showcased in any festivals or competitions?

    Abdulrahman Al Madani (AM): My work has comprised of short films, documentaries, music videos, and public awareness campaigns. 

    Since graduating from NYFA Abu Dhabi in 2014, I have written, directed, and produced two short films including Laymoon (2019), which was a recipient of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Production Grant, and The Monster (2021). 

    Laymoon was screened all over the Arabian Gulf, including other Arab countries like Lebanon, North Africa, and Europe such as France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, and Norway. The film is currently playing on Etihad Airways flights. 

    My latest short film, The Monster, has completed post-production recently and is currently being submitted to film festivals worldwide. 

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest project & how you got involved in the project?

    AM: I started writing The Monster over a year ago. Once the pandemic hit, I pushed myself to develop the script further. By the end of the year, I was ready to go into production and wrapped filming in February 2021. The film is a drama revolving around a young mother named Hessa who escapes her abusive husband, only to find herself pressured by her estranged mother to succumb to his abuse. 

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to this project and others?

    AM: Being in NYFA was an eye-opening experience in terms of giving me insight into various aspects of production, which allows me to be knowledgeable of everybody’s work on set. Time management, speaking to actors, and writing three-dimensional characters are some of the most important lessons I learned in NYFA which I continue to find useful to this day. In addition, NYFA helped build a filmmaking community that makes it easier to find a group of people you can trust and help one another. 

    NYFA: Are there any other upcoming projects we should know about?

    AM: I am currently focused on distributing The Monster to festivals worldwide as well as developing my first feature script. 

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming NYFA students? 

    AM: Allow yourself to make mistakes and do not be afraid to experiment. Learn to take feedback with a pinch of salt; everyone will have an opinion about your work. Making films is the best film school, and you will keep learning as you go. Challenge yourself with each project because being stuck in your comfort zone is the death of creativity.

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    July 30, 2021 • Acting, Filmmaking • Views: 934

  • Netflix Limited Series “Behind Her Eyes” Stars NYFA Alum Eve Hewson

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    Netflix’s binge-worthy new limited series is Behind Her Eyes and it has everyone talking about all the twists and turns. The series, which released on February 17, stars NYFA alum Eve Hewson as lead character Adele.

    Eve Hewson studied at NYFA in 2008 in the Acting for Film program and has since appeared with Sean Penn and Frances McDormand in This Must Be the Place and Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. Hewson also appeared alongside Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx in Robin Hood. She recently appeared in the BBC adaption of Eleanor Catton’s novel The Luminaries as Anna Wetherell that premiered in the U.S on February 14, 2021, on Starz.

    Eve Hewson as Adele in “Behind Her Eyes” (Netflix)

    Hewson’s latest project, Behind Her Eyes, is a psychological thriller adapted from Sarah Pinborough’s 2017 novel of the same name. The story follows the love triangle of single mother Louise and married couple Adele (Hewson) and David. With a series of shocking twists, and a highly talked about ending, the story is nothing short of gripping, where nothing is what it seems.

    Poster for “Behind Her Eyes” (Netflix)

    Hewson’s character Adele is married to David, who is having an affair with the new resident to the town, Louise. Adele, surprisingly, is interested in forming a friendly connection with David’s new lover but sets off an entangled web of twisted circumstances and conspiracy.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Acting for Film alum Eve Hewson on the release of her latest project and encourages everyone to check out the new limited series, now streaming on Netflix.

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  • NYFA Alum Francesco Panzieri Works as Compositing Supervisor for Netflix’s ‘Jingle Jangle’

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    It’s the most wonderful time of the year…well almost. Netflix has recently announced the upcoming release of the holiday musical feature film Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Jingle Jangle), starring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Hugh Bonneville, and more. NYFA’s own Francesco Panzieri served as the compositing supervisor for the upcoming film, set to be released November 13, 2020, on the streaming service platform.

    Forest Whitaker in ‘Jingle Jangle’ (Netflix)

    Panzieri has had an extensive career since attending NYFA’s 3D-Animation & VFX conservatory program and has contributed to over 20 feature films and 50 television series. Some of his titles include Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Fate of The Furious, Avengers: Infinity War, Westworld, Spiderman: Homecoming, and so much more.

    The NYFA alum’s latest work will be featured in Jingle Jangle, a holiday musical by David E. Talbert, with songs by EGOT winner and celebrated recording artist John Legend. The story follows a former toymaker (Whitaker), who is rejuvenated in his love of creativity for his craft when his curious granddaughter appears on his doorstep one day.

    Still from Netflix’s ‘Jingle Jangle’ (Netflix)

    Panzieri worked as an in-house compositing supervisor for Jingle Jangle, leading a team of artists who completed over 230 shots of post-visualization, with over 70 production shots that are in the final cut. Panzieri shared that the total VFX shot count was around 550 and is confident that the film will be welcomed warmly for all audiences over the upcoming holidays.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Francesco Panzieri on his involvement on Netflix’s Jingle Jangle and encourages everyone to check out the holiday film on November 13, 2020.

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    October 22, 2020 • 3D Animation, Entertainment News, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1326

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Issa Rae Hosts ‘Saturday Night Live’ in Show’s 46th Season

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    “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night…with your host, Issa Rae!” In the show’s third episode of the live sketch comedy’s 46th season, NYFA Filmmaking alum Issa Rae played the iconic role of celebrity host on Saturday Night Live, performing in the comedic sketches alongside the show’s main cast and introducing this week’s musical guest, Justin Bieber.

    NYFA alum Issa Rae performs her opening monologue on ‘SNL’ (Will Heath/NBC)

    With Rae as host, shared how important the hosting gig was to her and joked that if Insecure’s fourth season was her senior year of High School, then SNL felt like the prom and the live audience were her dates. Rae also joked, “If the show goes bad tonight, just blame it on me, Mary J. Blige,” a lighthearted jab at how Black people in Hollywood often get confused for other people who look nothing like them.

    Rae’s quirky comedy enlivened many sketches throughout the evening, but her top moments seemed to shine in sketches like “First Date Exes,” where her character keeps seeing her extremely off-putting exes while on a first date, and “Canadian News Show,” in which she played an anchor always on the lookout for Canadian rapper Drake in Toronto.

    Rae recently appeared in HBO’s original film Coastal Elites and is currently in pre-production on season 5 of her critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated series Insecure.

    New York Film Academy is proud to watch NYFA alum Issa Rae shine on stage and looks forward to what’s next from the talented writer, director, producer, and actress.

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    October 18, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 817

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum Pavitra Chalam Co-Directs ‘Rooting for Roona’ – Now Streaming on Netflix

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    Now available to stream on Netflix: Filmmaking alum Pavitra Chalam co-directs the new, inspirational documentary Rooting For Roona about a child named Roona with an advanced form of hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid builds up in the brain resulting in an enlarged head and can also cause brain damage.

    Roona quickly becomes known all over the world after images of her go viral. Not long after, Roona is admitted to one of India’s premier private hospitals in the nation in New Delhi to undergo surgery for her condition. In the documentary, Chalam and co-director Akshay Shankar chart the incredible story of Roona and her family as the young child goes through a life-altering surgery to combat her birth defect.

    Documentary film poster for ‘Rooting For Roona’ (Netflix)

    Chalam and Shankar aim to create public awareness around the issue of congenital healthcare and bring birth defects to the forefront of the public conversation. Chalam has previously directed documentary shorts Anamika: Her Glorious Past, Indelible, and Maanasi – ‘of Sound Mind.’

    NYFA Alum Pavitra Chalam with Roona

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking alum Pavitra Chalam on her latest directorial achievement and encourages everyone to check out the new documentary now streaming on Netflix.

    Watch the full trailer for the new documentary below or click here.

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    October 15, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1089

  • NYFA Filmmaking Alum & Vice President of Original Films at Netflix, Tendo Nagenda, Featured in ‘The Hollywood Reporter’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Tendo Nagenda recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about what viewers can expect from Netflix originals in the age of COVID-19, showing that the streaming service giant is not slowing down and ready to provide viewers with more content in the next couple of years.

    Nagenda, who studied Filmmaking at NYFA in 1999, went on to become the VP of Production at Walt Disney Studios, where he was involved with titles like Queen of Katwe, A Wrinkle in Time, and Dumbo, among others, until he was nabbed by Netflix in 2018 to be the new VP Original Films. In Nagenda’s new role, he explained to The Hollywood Reporter that Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed film Da 5 Bloods was the first film he gave the greenlight to at Netflix, followed by Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg, and fan favorite The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron.

    Tendo Nagenda for ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ (Photo Credit: Phylicia J. L. Munn)

    In his conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Nagenda shared that right now, with the pandemic in mind, “there are still going to be plenty of movies that people will want to see in the theater. I just think that there is also going to be an awareness that there is a super-high-quality film available that might or might not be in theaters.”

    Enter Netflix. The streaming platform has seen tremendous growth since the pandemic hit, accumulating 10 million subscribers in the streaming service’s second quarter, growing the global user base to 193 million. Ultimately, restrictions and safety have caused more people to turn to streaming services in general to consume all the media they want.

    As a company, Nagenda revealed that Netflix has shown no signs of slowing down due to the pandemic. “We have a lot of runway, definitely through 2020 and part of 2021,” he shared. “We want to get to work and back into production just like everybody else, and we want to get through this year. We’re still in pretty good shape.”

    (L-R) Lena Waithe, Tendo Nagenda, Ava DuVernay, and David-Oyelowo (Photo Credit: Trendy Africa)

    As for what’s next from the popular streaming platform, it is still in high competition with heavy-hitter Hollywood studios that have their own intellectual properties (IPs) and catalogue of directors to choose from. “We have to concentrate our efforts on finding people of that talent level that we can work with as early as possible and then get them to make movies only for Netflix,” explained Nagenda.

    Still from Nagenda’s first film with Netflix – ‘Da 5 Bloods’ (Courtesy of Netflix

    “We’re looking at big, broad-audience, PG-level adventure films as something that we want to get into. Something along the lines of the first Star Wars, or Harry Potter 1 and 2. A lot of family live action, fantasy, spectacle movies that we think are big and can play great.”

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate the NYFA alum and Netflix executive on his recent feature in The Hollywood Reporter and looks forward to seeing upcoming original titles like The Gray Man (Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans) spearheaded by one of NYFA’s very own.

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    September 15, 2020 • Entertainment News, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1005

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum John Saponara Starts Portrait Series While Working to Make PPE Equipment for Healthcare Workers

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    From businesses to hospitals to schools to families, COVID-19 has forced people into a season of great change and uncertainty, causing people to adapt to new circumstances in the age of social distancing. For many, this has been a cause for reflection and doing their part to stay alert and distance themselves in public. For others, like NYFA Documentary alum John Saponara, this has been a time of giving back to the community and utilizing creativity to bring awareness and hope to others. 

    John Saponara grew up in Yonkers, New York, a suburb just outside of New York City and recalls, “from as young as I can remember I wanted to be a photographer.” His photos have since appeared on book covers both nationally and internationally, including the New York Times bestseller Eat Pray Love. He also founded the crowd-sourced project, Picture Black Friday, and his commercial clients include: Sony, Intel, HP, Oprah, and New York Magazine, just to name a few.

    A volunteer packing face shields in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Saponara has been working at Bednark Studio and volunteering his time with other organizations, while also documenting workers and volunteers who continue to make the community safer by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional supplies for individuals and families in the age of COVID-19. 

    Bednark Studio, a full service fabrication company in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, has been Saponara’s source of inspiration for documenting what is happening behind the scenes. “It’s there [Bednark Studio] that my portrait project formed,” he says. The portrait series follows the workers and volunteers who are working day and night to create PPE like face shields for medical workers or dividers for Uber/Lyft drivers.

    Portrait of a volunteer in Bednark Studio (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    “In the portraits, I’m there as a worker, so I do them when I can in my breaks or in a spare moment,” says Saponara. “In both cases, I don’t want to interfere; just be the proverbial fly on the wall.” The photographs are symbols of those who are working behind the scenes in NYC and all over the world, who are actively volunteering their time or working additional hours to provide PPE equipment or additional, essential supplies for others.

    Masks for Docs volunteer headed to deliver PPE (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Another group Saponara has been volunteering with has been Masks for Docs, formed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They connect PPE with doctors and medical staff that need it,”  he explains. “Motorcyclists help get where it [the supplies] needs to go.” The grassroots organization is composed of volunteers from the tech, business, arts, and members of non-profit communities, who have banded together to make a difference for healthcare workers not only in New York City, but all over the world.

    A volunteer for Brooklyn Mutual Aid buying supplies (Photo courtesy of John Saponara)

    Saponara also mentions Bushwick Ayuda Mutua, who help “get food on the table of the neediest families in Brooklyn.” In just one weekend alone, Saponara mentions that he and other volunteers were able to feed 200 people in need. “We collect donations of food and money and use those collections to buy groceries that we then deliver to families.”

    Saponara says the groups that he has been able to work with and document are “a combination of the private sectors innovation and the power of people and community to get things done to bring about change effectively and efficiently.”

    New York FIlm Academy thanks alum John Saponara for his service to the community and for sharing his portrait series, and encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about each organization to click the links above for more information on how to get involved.

    To view more images from Saponara’s portrait series and his other works, click here.

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    May 29, 2020 • Alumni Events, Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2046