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  • Q&A with NYFA Filmmaking Alum Filipe Coutinho on Script ‘Whittier’ and the 2021 Black List

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Filipe Coutinho is a Portuguese-born filmmaker with both short film and television experience. His credits include work as a producer, director, and writer for TV shows and short films such as Women on Top, The J&T Sketch Show, A Walk with James, and Time Asks Time.

    Coutinho recently made the 2021 Black List for his screenplay Whittier. Originated in 2005, the 2021 Black List features a year’s list of the most liked, but not-yet-produced screenplays. Many of the screenplays featured on the Black List have gone on to production and earned Oscars, including Slumdog Millionaire, Argo, The King’s Speech, and Spotlight.

    The alum spoke with us about his latest work, his selection for the 2021 Black List, and his learnings from NYFA. 

    Filipe Coutinho NYFA Alum

    NYFA Filmmaking alum Filipe Coutinho

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Filipe Coutinho (FC): Well, I was born in Portugal, where I spent the first 20 years of my life. My passion for film deepened after I watched a couple of films that completely transformed my perspective of what life is and what could be. 

    At the time, the only way for me to incorporate film into my life was to create a blog (very mid-2000s, I know!) and write about the films I watched. Turns out I was quite good at it, and shortly thereafter, I was invited to write for a few Portuguese publications. 

    When I finished college, I decided that it wasn’t enough for me to write about movies. I wanted to make them and I wanted to help other people in the same way movies helped me. With the full support of my family, I discovered New York Film Academy and made the transatlantic trip.

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating?

    FC: After graduation, my life took me in many unexpected directions. Being an immigrant in America while trying to find steady work in such a competitive industry was a daunting task. But eventually, I was able to find my footing. I worked as a researcher on a BET TV show called Being and developed three shows with FX. Afterward, I found a writing partner, Ben Mehlman, and we dedicated ourselves to the craft fully. 

    I made the quarter-finals of the Academy Nicholl’s Fellowship twice; hosted a table read of my script at the WGA with Reed Diamond, Merrin Dungey, and Hailey Erin; worked on a book adaptation; and then was selected to be a part of the Black List Fellowship Lab, during which I was mentored by Beau Willimon (creator of House of Cards) and Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, Enola Holmes), and took masterclass sessions with Rachel Rovner, Lindsay Doran, and Liz Hannah.

    NYFA: What is your screenplay about?

    FC: Whittier is about a Los Angeles social worker who stumbles upon a political conspiracy while looking into a client’s murder in the wake of the 1987 Whittier earthquake. The film is a reflection on what it takes to keep fighting the good fight despite external circumstances of escalating difficulty. 

    It’s a story meant to shed light on the greed, corruption, and self-serving attitudes that start locally, expand nationally, and ultimately, plague us globally. The intention is to offer a sobering look at the backdoor politics that impact social issues like homelessness and gentrification. I want audiences to take home the idea that just because endings are not always ‘happy’ in a more traditional sense, truth is a cause always worth pursuing. Even though this story is set in 1987, the parallels to today are inescapable. 

    Making this a period piece helped create a healthy distance from the issues of today, allowing the challenging aspects of the story to be easier to digest. We’re hoping to attach a director and/or actor soon.

    NYFA: What was your reaction when you found out you were selected for the 2021 Black List?

    FC: Elation, of course. It’s a huge honor and point of pride to have written the 12th most liked, unproduced screenplay of the year, especially when there are fifty-thousand new pieces of writing every year in the U.S. alone (a very conservative number). It’s also great to get external validation about your work, especially in a field that often requires creating your own momentum.

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

    FC: I didn’t know anything about filmmaking before I arrived at NYFA. The way the program is structured was perfect for someone like me. Each week I wrote, shot, directed, and edited a new project. That allowed me to understand exactly what my strengths were and lean into them. 

    My technical film education happened at NYFA, for which I’ll always be grateful. Furthermore, I need to shout out one of my screenwriting teachers, Jack Paglan, who was a huge influence in the way I approach writing.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Filipe Coutinho for his well-deserved recognition and placement on the 2021 Black List for his script, Whittier

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    January 11, 2022 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1336

  • Q&A with NYFA MFA Screenwriting Alum Cesia Cano

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    NYFA MFA Screenwriting alum Cesia Cano (above)

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting alum Cesia Cano is a writer and producer with film credits for her work on the television series Robot Trains and Exorcism 101, as well as the short film High Score. The children’s show Robot Trains is available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

    Cano spoke with NYFA about her latest projects for film and television and her work that’s appeared on the film festival circuit. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What brought you to the New York Film Academy to pursue your interest in writing?

    Cesia Cano (CC): I’m from Dallas, Texas originally, but after reading all the positive online reviews about NYFA, I decided to attend to pursue my passion for writing and storytelling.  

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating from NYFA? Have any projects won awards or have been showcased in festivals or competitions?

    CC: Since graduating from NYFA, I’ve been one of the writers for The Flamenco Killer pilot, a six-season series being pitched to Sony. I was also the co-writer and interview assistant for Taboo, a documentary by Angela Koh. The film won at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020.

    I’ve also produced three short films and written over forty short scripts for the Neon Children’s Art Theater. I work as a volunteer to help alleviate the struggle theaters, and students face as a result of the global pandemic. These short scripts are read by students over zoom workshops to continue their practice and improve their acting skills. 

    I’m also the founder subscription business Story Layers, a biography service that helps people share and create tangible life stories with their loved ones. I was also the script supervisor for the multiple award-nominated short film High Score by Ethan Itzkow and Serena Ryen. The short film was the winner at the Chelsea Film Festival in 2020 for ‘Best Short Film.’ 

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

    CC: One of my most recent jobs was writer for Robot Trains (Season 3), an animated television show currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. 

    As a result of my involvement with the series, I’m also working on my first children’s book set to be published in the Spring of 2022. I got involved in these projects by staying connected with other artists, reaching out to new people in the industry, and sharing my scripts with the right people.

    Robot Trains poster image

    NYFA alum Cesia Cano is a writer for several episodes of season 3 of the children’s show Robot Trains

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

    CC: One of the most essential things that I learned from NYFA was to have my sample scripts polished and ready because you never know when a potential employer might ask to see your work and you don’t want to keep them waiting.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Cesia Cano for her work, success on the festival circuit, and her upcoming book publication.

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    January 11, 2022 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1227

  • NYFA Acting Alum Cleavandor Wright in ‘Meeting Juan Jones’ and ‘Diablo’

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Acting for Film alum Cleavandor Vandorn Wright is a retired Military Army veteran turned actor now working in the film industry. The Florida-based actor spoke with NYFA about his latest work, life after graduation, and advice for NYFA students. 

    Wright first started acting in 2016, at PlayBuilders of Hawai’i Theater Company in a production called ‘Dragonfly.’ The play tells the story about a girl’s journey through foster care and was directed by Terri Madden. The actor performed eleven times, playing six characters, each with dialogue, and toured with the troupe as performances were carried out throughout the island of Hawai’i. Wright was awarded the Ensemble Award at the theater company’s banquet, PO’ OKELA AWARD Ensembles Performance: Non-Traditional. 

    In 2017 Wright was also featured in the television series revamp of Hawaii Five-O in episode five of season eight alongside Chi-McBride. The NYFA alum played the role of a Security Guard. 

    Wright starred in the 2019 film Diablo directed by Cedric Livingston, a suspense thriller following protagonist Reggie who lurks from town to town, picking victims for murder. The film is available for streaming in certain locations on Amazon Prime Video

    NYFA Acting alum Cleavandor Wright plays Edgar in the film Meeting Juan Jones (2021) 

    NYFA Acting alum Cleavandor Wright plays Edgar in the film Meeting Juan Jones (2021)

    The alum also plays Edgar in the 2021 feature film Meeting Juan Jones, in which cryptocurrency trader Tim loses his life’s savings after an insider tip goes wrong. Tim meets Juan Jones, a local Miami shylock who takes Tim for a ride through the streets of Miami for a night of corruption and self-discovery. The film was both directed and written by Larry Camacho and Alejo Vega. The film was produced by Mcpree Production Films based in Miami, Florida. 

    A behind-the-scenes photos of the short film From Miami with love with NYFA alum Cleavandor Wright

    A behind-the-scenes photos of the short film From Miami with love with NYFA alum Cleavandor Wright (left)

    Wright teamed up a second time with Cedric Livingston (Diablo) to be featured in the short film From Miami with love, which was directed, written, and produced by Cedric Livingston. 

    In support of the NYFA community, the actor appeared in two NYFA student films which were directed, written, and produced by a NYFA student and alum from the South Beach (Miami) campus. The two short films Silver Mettel directed by 1-Year Filmmaking student Clay Ransom Greenwald, and 222 directed by NYFA BFA Filmmaking alum Zoe Bell, were also thesis films for the two filmmakers. 

    NYFA acting alum Cleavandor Wright on the set of the student short film Silver Mettel 

    NYFA acting alum Cleavandor Wright on the set of the student short film Silver Mettel

    When asked what he learned from NYFA that he applied to his work as an actor, Wright replied, “Everything, everything, and everything. I learned consistency, focus, a work ethic, discipline, and resiliency. How to dissect a script and get a visual understanding of what the character’s psychological mentality is so that you exact out the script what the director or writer wrote is what I took away from New York Film Academy.” 

    The actor has advice for incoming NYFA students, which is to “be on time to class and turn in your assignments before the deadline because this all ties into being on time to auditions and film sets. There’s a motto the Army lives by, which is also my motto since I’m a retired Military Army veteran, ‘If you’re early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late.’ Early arrival is always authorized.” Wright goes on to remind students to “ask questions, actively listen, be actively engaged during the exercises to construct techniques for your craft. And don’t forget to have fun!” 

    New York Film Academy congratulates alum Cleavandor Wright for his work in the acting profession, thank him for his service in the United States Army, and wishes him the best of success in his upcoming feature films. You can stay updated on Wright’s latest work by following him on Instagram (@mr_cleavandor).

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    December 23, 2021 • Acting, Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 987

  • NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum Hongyu “Neo” Li on Life After Graduation as a Development Executive

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Hongyu “Neo” Li has been hired as the Development Executive and In-House Writer for Starlight Media. The production and finance company has produced several popular films including Crazy Rich Asians, Malignant, and Wuhan Wuhan. Li’s creative role includes overseeing treatments, ideas, pitches, and more. He reports directly to Starlight Media’s CEO, Peter Luo. 

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum, Neo Li

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum, Neo Li (above)

    The China-born writer and filmmaker began his career with short films, including Hank and Waiting For Frank, both of which received international recognition. Li screened his short films at over 30 film festivals, including the Palm Springs International ShortFest, Cleveland International Film Festival, and Chicago International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. His most recent screenplay My Chinese Neighbor was semi-finalist at the Austin Film Festival Script Competition, selected as a 2020 New Reality Screenwriting Program finalist, and named a semi-finalist at the 2021 Nashville Film Festival. 

    Li spoke with NYFA about his latest role and life after graduating in 2018. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What can you tell us about what you do as a Development Executive for Starlight Media? 

    Neo Li (NL): As a development executive, I am responsible for generating ideas, treatments, pitches, and scripts, and guiding producers and writers in the development of content, curating a growing slate of film and TV projects. 

    NYFA: What type of projects do you oversee as a Development Executive?

    NL: I have been overseeing a couple of crime thriller projects, one with an Oscar-winning producer attached. 

    NYFA: What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your work in the industry?

    NL: There have been some challenges along the way. The biggest one was shifting my mindset from writing/directing to the perspective of an executive. As a writer/director, I mostly ask myself if the story is appealing to me or not, but as an executive, I have to consider more elements, such as talent, budget, IP, merchandising, distribution—it’s a package of deals. Of course, the story is essential, but it’s not the only factor that needs to be considered.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied to your work and experience since graduating? 

    NL: Directing, writing, and producing my year one film and thesis film at NYFA helped me understand how to complete a film from the logline stage all the way to distribution. The difference is, budgets in the industry are higher, and filmmakers need their work to appeal to a wider audience and are also responsible to their investors and backers. 

    As a film student, I was only commercially responsible to my selfless parents! But I do think that your short films from your degree will be your calling cards as you set out on a film career – so it’s important to think about what your films say about what strengths you can bring to a project.

    In terms of specific classes, I think James Rowe’s directing class deeply enriched my knowledge in directing and story development. While developing my thesis film Hank, I wasn’t really confident about directing it myself, and my instructor David Newman strengthened my faith and confidence. 

    Mark Horowitz’s class in feature film sales, marketing, and distribution gave me a general idea of an executive’s world, which helped me stand out in my three-month internship. And I want to give a big shout-out to Crickett Rumley, who has been a steadfast supporter since I graduated and who has been a great resource for connecting alumni together. 

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

    NL: The biggest trend that I have been paying attention to is that of crime thrillers combined with high concepts. As evidenced by Squid Game, foreign language is not a barrier anymore. The determining element is the core and the theme – is it universal? People living in Seoul struggle with the issue of class, but so do the people in San Francisco.  

    NYFA: Do you have any advice for incoming NYFA students? Especially those seeking an MFA? 

    NL: Never underestimate the importance of your year one film, which is a great opportunity to make mistakes and conquer your fears. Stop submitting your films to those film festivals that will hand you 10 awards. Go to the real ones. Go to their screenings and panels and connect with people. You will get inspired, make friends and probably find your next director of photography, producer, or lead actor. When you have ten film ideas, choose the one that you personally respond to at an emotional level. For your thesis film, tell your OWN story and be sincere. 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Li on his role at Starlight Media and his pipeline of projects. If you’d like to learn more about Neo Li’s work, you can visit his LinkedIn profile or read about him on his professional website.

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    December 21, 2021 • Alumni Events, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1001

  • New York Film Academy & Sichuan University of Media and Communications Launch New Degree in Filmmaking

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    In a virtual ceremony on December 14th, 2021, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the Sichuan University of Media and Communications (SUMC) celebrated the launch of a collaborative bachelor’s degree in filmmaking.

    New York Film Academy & Sichuan University of Media and Communications Launch New Degree in Filmmaking

    New York Film Academy and the Sichuan University of Media and Communications (SUMC) celebrated the launch of a collaborative filmmaking degree

    Jean Sherlock (NYFA’s Principal), Michael Young (NYFA’s President), Dan Mackler (Dean of NYFA’s Los Angeles campus), Joy Zhu (NYFA Executive Vice President of the China Region), and other NYFA faculty and staff attended the ceremony.

    Zhang Shuyu (SUMC’s Chairwoman), Zhang Yingjiang (SUMC’s President), Zuo Xuzhou (SUMC’s Vice President), and other SUMC professors also attended the event, as well as an outstanding alum from both institutions.

    Zhang Yingjiang opened the event crediting the success of the program launch to the hard work and long-term partnership between NYFA and SUMC. “This collaborative program is a milestone, marking a new period of collaboration between the two institutions,” said Zhang Yingjiang, SUMC’s President.

    New York Film Academy & Sichuan University of Media and Communications Launch New Degree in Filmmaking

    Zhang Yingjiang, SUMC’s President (above)

    “Sichuan University of Media and Communications is one of our most trusted partners. Over the years, we have successfully developed collaborative projects and enhanced our relationship,” said Michael Young, NYFA’s President.

    New York Film Academy & Sichuan University of Media and Communications Launch New Degree in Filmmaking

    Michael Young, NYFA’s President (above)

    Zhang Shuyu (SUMC’s Chairwoman) said in her speech that the New York Film Academy is an old friend of SUMC and as the collaboration grows, there will be more and more outstanding students, rising into the forefront of the international film industry.

    Zhang Shuyu, SUMC’s Chairwoman (above)

    Jean Sherlock (NYFA’s Principal) congratulated the official launch of the program. He appreciated the high quality of students from SUMC and hoped that the program would bring the partnership between the two institutions to the next level.

    New York Film Academy & Sichuan University of Media and Communications Launch New Degree in Filmmaking

    Jean Sherlock, NYFA’s Principal (above)

    NYFA and SUMC believe that the new collaborative bachelor’s degree in filmmaking will further enrich academic and educational exchanges between the United States and China, and cultivate more young storytellers with a global vision.

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    December 20, 2021 • China, Filmmaking • Views: 654

  • Gianluigi Carella To Become A Director for Stept Studios

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    NYFA Filmmaking alum Gianluigi Carella joined the directorial roster at Stept Studios, a creative and production studio known for its advertising. Carella is a graduate of NYFA’s 1-Year Filmmaking conservatory program in New York City. The Italian filmmaker’s body of work includes a myriad of filmmaking jobs. He has worked on popular music videos as well as commercial videos for international brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Samsung, T-Mobile, Prada, Gucci, Dior, Tom Ford, Tiffany & Co., and Spotify. 

    Filmmaker Gianluigi Carella

    Filmmaker Gianluigi Carella

    According to the filmmaker, “Having signed with an agency like Stept has definitely given me access to certain bids and opportunities. I also signed with Nicholas Berglund in Europe for commercial rep and I am represented by Forager.tv as an editor.”

    Carella was first recognized within the industry for his editing on the VMA-nominated ‘Rule The World’ music video for Ariana Grande, featuring 2Chainz. 

    The filmmaker has a forthcoming project, also produced by Stept Studios, for Oakley and is directing a feature documentary for Amazon on Bella Thorne. The documentary features Benji Mascolo and Bella Thorne. The Leone Film Group-produced film is currently in pre-production and will be available on Amazon Prime Video. 

    Filmmaker Gianluigi Carella

    Filmmaker Gianluigi Carella

    Stept Studios prides itself on the creative content its directors produce. The studio provides services in strategy, production, and post-production. Per their website, their team of directors “represent the next generation of storytellers.”

    An article from Shoot details Carella’s extensive and equally impressive career thus far. The NYFA alum started as an editor for Forager after he graduated from NYFA. He began making a name for himself after working on Ariana Grande’s ‘Rule The World’, which would earn Carella a great deal more work. 

    Carella made his directorial debut with the film, The Blind Man’s Ball. Since then, he’s directed many music videos for international artists (including Princess Nokia, Anna, Rich the Kid, Irama, and Sofia Reyes). In the commercial world, the NYFA alum also worked on a series of films for Lux Hotels, Audi, Cartier, and Donna Karan. Additionally, Carella directed and edited an ad for the Riot Games and Mercedes-Benz partnership too. 

    Carella’s advice for students is to get ready for when the opportunities come. The filmmaker says, “If I hadn’t spent so many endless nights smashing my head on the keyboard trying to understand how certain things are done, prepping my website, working on specs and personal projects to show my skills, I wouldn’t have been able to get hired and get noticed. When they come to you, you need to have your stuff together, something to show. Use every single school project as something you could potentially show to a client, go simple and clean, AND LEARN EDITING.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Gianluigi Carella for his impeccable work in the film industry and looks forwards to his upcoming projects.

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    November 5, 2021 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1062

  • Nidhie Sharma Shoots Homemade Trailer For Her New Book, Invictus: The Jungle That Made Me

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    Nidhie Sharma, a NYFA 1-Year Filmmaking alum, is building an impressive career as a filmmaker and as a best-selling author. Sharma worked on multiple projects in varying roles spanning her career, ranging from producing to co-directing to writing, but now she adds author to her CV. Her new book Invictus: The Jungle That Made Me was released on August 10th, 2021. You can see the trailer for her new book below. 

    Sharma has worked as a writer for the web series Inside Edge. Sharma has directed three climate documentaries for Current TV founded by Al Gore, creator of the Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Her list of short films includes Kids Bank of India and Mask in the Mirror.

    She was also Associate Director on the second season of the Indian series adaptation 24, an action thriller show. Sharma has worked with national award-winning filmmaker Sudir Mishra and associate producer/director Melora Hardin’s indie feature You.

    Filmmaker and Author, Nidhie Sharma

    Filmmaker and Author, Nidhie Sharma

    The filmmaker’s literary debut came with her book Dancing With Demons, published by HarperCollins in 2014. Sharma’s latest book Invictus: The Jungle That Made Me made the Outdoor Survivor bestseller charts since its release was first announced.. 

    The alum shared with us that while filming the trailer Invictus, she used only her iPhone as Mumbai was under strict lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    Sharma reflected on her creative journey, saying that thus far it “has been an interesting one” and recalled her days starting out at NYFA. The Filmmaker and Author has a passion for wildlife conservation and gender rights, describing them as “themes that regularly recur in [her] stories”. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Nidhie Sharma on the success of her new book and future endeavors.

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    November 3, 2021 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1381

  • ‘Don Filipo’ by Tim Muñoz Finds Success on Festival Circuit

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    NYFA Acting For Film alum Tim Muñoz directs and writes a recent favorite among the festival circuit. His most recent work, Don Filipo (2021), is a feature-length homoerotic, horror film starring Beverly Benny, Dindeth Ditablan, Rap Robes, Megan Sharpe, and newcomers Adrian Arias and Luis Padilla

    don filipo movie poster

    Don Filipo (2021) Directed and Written by Tim Muñoz

    The story takes place in a remote village gripped with fear after its residents go missing one by one. A young nurse visits the town to look after an ailing town resident, Don Filipo, as terrifying events start to unfold.

    The film premiered at the Philippine Cinemalaya film festival in 2021, and has been showcased across numerous festivals globally. Don Filipo was screened and won ‘Best LGBTQ Film’ at the Stockholm City Film and Luleå International Film Festivals in Sweden, and the Mabig Film Festival in Germany. The film was also named ‘Best International Feature Film’ at the Uruvatti International Film Festival in India. Per a statement from the director about the film, “…I hope it also opens awareness about its message of inclusivity.”

    Tim Muñoz

    Director and Screenwriter Tim Muñoz (above)

    The Phillippines-born director is an alum of the NYFA 1-Week Acting for Film Workshop. His directorial credits include Lodi (2018),  Hombre (2017), and Estranghero (2016). Muñoz maintains a love for independent filmmaking, classic films, and the French New Wave genre. Following fifteen years of work as a director and screenwriter for ABS-CBN and TV5, he transitioned to directing independent films. With close ties to his home country, Muñoz often travels back to the Philippines to create films. He takes inspiration from directors and filmmakers including James Wan, (Annabelle, The Conjuring), and Filipino horror film classics like Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara and Feng Shui

    Don Filipo is a success among critics as well as movie-goers:

    Top Review of Don Filipo on IMDB | May 2021 

    “I have come across a few American-made gay-themed horror movies and I am always left disappointed by the amateurish acting and banal script. Don Filipo, on the other hand, has won me over on so many levels. I find the story quite riveting in its presentation. It is not about originality, but the proper use of directing. The actors did a fantastic job capturing the scenes that even though the movie did not have the benefits of Hollywood special effects, the pacing, lighting, background music and the actors presence make each scene authentic and interesting. Kudos to the writer and director because this was a gay-themed horror done tremendously well.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Tim Muñoz for the success of Don Filipo and the project’s and his deserved awards across the festival circuit.

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    October 28, 2021 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1257

  • Q&A With NYFA Alum Marija Apcevska on Her Selection at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival

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    Film and Media Production alum, Marija Apcevska caught up with NYFA to share some exciting news. Her latest work, Severen Pol (North Pole) was selected in this year’s 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Apcevska is a graduate of the Film and Media Production MA program at the Los Angeles campus and represents North Macedonia (her home country) in this year’s festival. Severen Pol (North Pole) competes with nine other films across Iran, Denmark, France, Brazil, and others. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you provide a synopsis of Severen Pol?

    Marija Apcevsk (MA): The film takes place in a misty field and crowded locker room. Margo belongs to neither. Maybe if she loses her virginity, she will finally find her place.

    North Pole film poster

    Severen Pol (North Pole) was selected at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival

    NYFA: What was your reaction when your film was selected for the Cannes Film Festival 2021? How did you find out?

    MA: I received a phone call from them and it was such a surreal experience and feeling. At first, I couldn’t believe it and then it quickly transformed into a total mix of emotions. Obviously, publishing the information was not allowed until the official release of the selection, so it was difficult for both me and the producer, Robert Naskov, not to share the joy immediately. Being selected at Cannes is a tremendous honor for everyone but for us, this was even bigger as North Pole is the first film ever from our country to be selected at Cannes Film Festival. We have never had a film before, in any section. 

    Marija Apcevska headshot

    Director and Filmmaker, Marija Apcevska

    NYFA: What other projects have you worked on during these past few years? Have they won any additional awards or showcased in any festivals or competitions?

    MA: I previously shot another short film, Ambi, which also had a festival run. It was actually screened in LA as well, at Hollyshorts 2017. Apart from that, I have directed and worked as a second unit director on TV series in North Macedonia, I have been directing ads and I also worked as a teaching assistant at a directing department for two years.

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest project & how you got involved.

    MA: North Pole is an intimate story about acceptance and belonging, told from the perspective of the teenage girl, played by an amazing young actress, Antonija Belazelkoska. I had an idea about it for quite a while and I wrote the script in 2018. We then applied to the European Short Pitch, a development platform, where they select only 16 scripts. We won one of the awards at the pitching session there and we also met our co-producer from Serbia during this time. The film was scheduled for shooting in the winter of 2019/2020, but due to weather conditions and then Covid 19, it got pushed to 2020/2021. We shot it in January 2021, on 16mm film, on locations in North Macedonia, and then immediately started with post-production. It was a challenging shoot from many aspects, including working with strict Covid protocols.

    Set photo from North Pole featuring Director, Marija Apcevska

    Set photo from North Pole featuring Director, Marija Apcevska (middle)

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

    MA: I love the time I spent at NYFA and always look back at it with nostalgia. One of the main things I carry with me from NYFA is respect and togetherness with the crew. It takes a lot of effort to make films and that is only possible when there is mutual understanding and support. I already had a BA in directing when I enrolled at NYFA for my masters, but nevertheless, the way the studies are organized, I got to work on different student projects as grip, boom operator, AD, etc. I think this practical approach toward film education is very important because even if you know that, it reminds you how crucial each role is and how important teamwork is. It basically reminds you to stay humble. And being humble and grateful is very important to me, in filmmaking, and in life in general. 

    Severen Pol (North Pole) production still

    Severen Pol (North Pole) production still

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

    MA: North Pole is now traveling to festivals and I am currently developing the script for my first feature film, Spring Cleaning. Spring Cleaning was selected for development at LIM Less is More 2021, a program led by Le Groupe Ouest (France), and also selected at Cannes Focus COPRO 2021. The film touches on themes of life after death, following the story of a young woman who faces a difficult relationship with her home country once she returns home after her mother’s suicide.

    You can keep up-to-date with Marija, her latest work, and existing news on her Instagram (@mapcevska). New York Film Academy congratulates Marija on this well-deserved selection and wishes her much success in the future. 

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    October 22, 2021 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1288

  • 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: 1674