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  • Q&A With MFA Filmmaking Alum Apoorv Arora on Life After NYFA and Recent Work

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    Filmmaking alum Apoorv Arora has been busy since graduating from NYFA Los Angeles’ MFA Filmmaking Program in 2018. He has gone on to direct and produce a number of projects and even launched his own production company, Apoorv Arora Films.

    The Indian-born filmmaker is currently based in Los Angeles and runs Apoorv Arora Films. The production company is already credited with the creation of music videos, promo shoots, and short films for both Bollywood and Hollywood.

    In his career as a producer, Arora worked with artists and celebrities including Priyanka Chopra, Diljit Dosanjh, and B Praak. His body of professional work includes projects for leading international brands like Speed Records, The Walt Disney Company, White Hill Studios, Balaji Telefilms, MTV, and others.

    Producer Apoorv Arora on a film set

    Producer Apoorv Arora on a film set

    NYFA caught up with Apoorv to discuss his past and upcoming projects and what he’s been up to since graduating.

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

    Apoorv Arora (AA): I have worked on multiple projects this year and am still working on a few. I am working on two independent feature film projects as Executive Producer and Producer. These projects are in development and pre-production. 

    I have been a believer in promoting black artists and artists of color. This year I produced a couple of music videos with artists of color. One of them is  J.Breckenridge’s single debut, Come To Me. He’s a Broadway artist from the Book of Mormon. He can be seen most recently on the 2020-21 season of The Blacklist (CBS) and Blue Bloods (NBC). This music video was published in the Playbill Magazine.

    The other Music Video I produced is called Olorun Maje by Sir Boyò, which means “God Forbid” in English. The video contains elements of symbolism and abstract art while conveying impactful lyrical content that discusses themes of hope and spirituality. Olorun Maje won Best Music Video Award winner at the Frostbite International Indie Film Festival and Direct Monthly Online Film Festival. The music video is a semi-finalist and finalist at many other film festivals.

    This year has also been great because I registered my company Apoorv Arora Films LLC with the California Secretary of State. It’s a big achievement of mine and something for which I’m very proud. 

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

    AA: One thing I like to do is build relationships, and I firmly believe that relationships can make you or break you. 

    After my first music video success with over 100,000 views on YouTube, I recently wrapped producing another music video for artist Sir Boyò. It’s called I Know U Like It and right now it’s in post-production and will be released later this year. 

    I was involved as a Producer from the idea to distribution and release. I think my clients believe in me and have faith in me.

    Producer Apoorv Arora (middle) on a film set

    Producer Apoorv Arora (middle) on a film set

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

    AA: I graduated from NYFA with an MFA in Filmmaking and Producing. I think all that I do in Producing on an everyday basis comes from the knowledge that I gained at NYFA. From budgeting to scheduling to skills and knowledge in directing, camera and lighting. All this I learned at NYFA. But I think NYFA isn’t just teaching you film, I believe NYFA also taught me LIFE. 

    I believe it’s just not about what you learn in class but also what you learn outside of it. I have had amazing conversations with some of the great Instructors at NYFA like Nick Sivakumaran, Matt Kohnen, and Igor Kovacevich. These guys are brilliant at what they do and teach. I have learned how to handle things in the toughest situations because things can go wrong even if you have the best plan. I have learned negotiations and how to handle different people differently. 

    These are some of my greatest lessons at NYFA.

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

    AA: I’m working on two independent feature film projects as Executive Producer and Producer. These projects are in development and pre-production. I’m also working on a commercial for an up-and-coming eyewear brand. I am also working on a short film based on Black Lives Matter and finally, I have a couple more shorts and a music video in development.

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

    Producer Apoorv Arora on a film set

    Producer Apoorv Arora on a film set

    AA: I would like to tell students that you get one life with multiple opportunities. You should try to seize every opportunity you can in this life. For students, I suggest creating content while they are in school as much as they can. Just keep creating content, so by the time you graduate you have enough on your portfolio to start with. 

    The school gives you access to the best of the best equipment, make sure you use it in your favor. Because the reality is once you graduate you’ll be on your own with your DSLR, so make sure you use those RED Dragons and Arri Alexas as much as you can while in school and keep creating.

    NYFA: How can folks get in touch with you? 

    AA: Students looking for any advice or help to produce a project can email info@apoorvarorafilms.com, visit my website apoorvarorafilms.com or follow me on Instagram

    NYFA would like to thank Apporv Arora for taking the time to speak with us and congratulate him on all his success. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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    October 12, 2021 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 272

  • 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: 682

  • 7th Annual Nordic International Film Festival Partners with NYFA for Workshop Scholarship

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    NIFF 7th year LOGO BLACK

    The largest Nordic film festival outside of Europe takes the stage in its seventh year to showcase the power of international film. The 7th Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF) will take place between 8/25 and 8/29 this year in the heart of Manhattan. The Park Avenue location, Fotografiska, will feature films from an array of internationally recognized filmmakers. Included in this year’s selection: Persona Non Grata, Come to Harm, and Abyss of the Birds. Check out the full 2021 selection here

    persona non grata film poster

    Persona Non Grata (2021) directed by Lisa Jespersen

    Fotografiska, the largest photography museum in the world, is a key partner of NIFF. With a mission to inspire a more conscious world, the museum’s exhibits are developed by the artists themselves. 

    The festival was founded by New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumni, Johan Matton and Linnea Larsdotter. Actor and Producer, Johan Matton graduated from NYFA’s 2-year Acting for Film conservatory at the New York City campus, as well as the 2-day Line Producing workshop. Actress and Producer, Linnea Larsdotter graduated from NYFA’s 2-year Musical Theatre program also at the New York City campus.

    come to harm film poster

    Come to Harm (2021) directed by Anton Kristensen & Ásgeir Sigurðsson

    New York Film Academy has partnered with the Nordic International Film Festival for the third consecutive year to award a scholarship to the winner of the Aurora Borealis category. The award will be presented by NYFA New York Acting For Film Creative Director, Amy Van Horne.

    The two acclaimed Producers co-founded NIFF with the hopes of bridging the divide between Nordic film and the international film community. In keeping with its mission, NIFF dedicates its efforts to support the Black Lives Matter movement and gender equality in the filmmaking community. 

    abyss of the birds film poster

    Abyss of the Birds (2021) directed by Jacob Krzysztof Glogowski

    Caption: Abyss of the Birds (2021) directed by Jacob Krzysztof Glogowski

    In 2020, NIFF pivoted along with every other organization to keep its attendants and participants safe by re-structuring its film showings in response to COVID-19. They included outdoor film screenings and COVID-19 safety restrictions. Back with an in-person venue, the festival is ready to continue its work in maintaining a safe environment in adherence to CDC guidelines. 

    In keeping with its mission, NIFF allocated 50% of its 2020 Official Selection ticket sales to the Brown Art Ink and the Black Independent Filmmaker app. In 2019, the festival touted a staggering 250% more female directors showcased than in the top 250 grossing films in the US, which was a mere 13% in the same year. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA alumni Johan Matton and Linnea Larsdotter on the continued success of the Nordic International Film Festival as well as this year’s Aurora Borealis winner, Lisa Meyer who directed Birds of Passage.

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    August 23, 2021 • Film Festivals, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 923

  • 6 NYFA Alumni to Support this Black-Owned Business Month

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    August is National Black Business Month, where we as a nation of consumers recognize and support black-owned businesses across the United States. According to the 2019 Annual Business Survey (covering the reference year 2018), 124, 551 businesses are owned by Black Americans, representing just over 2% of total businesses in the US. In the Arts-related sector, only a handful of businesses (relative to the number of Black-Owned businesses across all sectors) are Black-Owned – they fall within the Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation sector. 

    In support of National Black Business Month, New York Film Academy is highlighting just a handful of incredibly talented NYFA alumni who not only own a business and have earned success through their crafts but continue to build their brands in order to support other artists. 

    We encourage you to support these individuals by contributing to their business or sharing their incredible work.

    Issa Rae

    Writer, Producer, & Actress

    Chief Executive Officer of HOORAE (formerly known as Issa Rae Productions), Issa Rae oversees the multi-faceted entertainment media company to ensure a diverse set of stories and stories about the community are told. An award-winning actress and producer in her own right, Issa Rae gained critical acclaim and international attention from her hit HBO show, Insecure. The show received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. 

    HOORAE includes HOORAE Film & TV, as well as groundbreaking companies such as ColorCreative Management and Raedio.XXX. While overseeing the company, Rae continues to perform incredible work across Netflix and HBO, including The Lovebirds and Coastal Elites.

    Rae studied filmmaking with us back in 2005. You can keep updated on the latest from Issa Rae by following her on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Leonice (Leo) Brown-Young Jr

    Partner & Co-Founder 

    Co-Founder and partner in starting MoonRift Entertainment, LLC, Brown-Young Jr inspires and innovates by re-imagining the future. MoonRift Entertainment is an entertainment company with the mission o change the game by building a foundation for success. The business curates content across a variety of forms, including video games, films, and novels. 

    Always pushing the box, MoonRift Entertainment continues to reflect the same values of its co-founder. Brown-Young Jr is co-founder of Young Dreamers United, which strives to pave the way for success for middle school students in the San Diego area in California. 

    Brown-Young Jr studied with us to earn his MFA in Game Design 2021. You can learn more about MoonRift’s latest content on Instagram, or follow Young-Brown Jr on LinkedIn

    Thandiwe Mlauli

    Founder & CEO 

    Founder & CEO of Studio Yez, Mlauli created her studio to illuminate and capture hearts at home and around the world. Studio Yezi is a development and animation studio dedicated to creating and telling stories made for people of color and the black community. Studio Yezi equalizes the playing field for black animators by creating content opportunities. Mlauli studied producing for film and TV as well as screenwriting with us back in 2015. 

    Learn the latest news about Studio Yez and updates from Thandiwe Mlauli on Instagram and LinkedIn

    Arthur Hylton (a.k.a. Nestlè Snipes)

    Photographer & Visual Artist

    Born & Raised In East Flatbush Brooklyn, Arthur goes by the professional name, Nestlè Snipes. Snipes founded Snipes Studios in order to create imagery that models his passion and visual influences. Snipes considers himself a muse-based photographer and takes inspiration from other professionals like Helmut Newton, Yves Klein, and Daido Moriyama. 

    Snipes focuses his imagery around muses of color and processes his photos as little as possible to ensure the models are depicted as realistically as possible. Snipes prides his craft around creating art that forces audiences to see the world as it “really is” and not “as they want it to be” by creating work that showcases models of color into scenes that typically feature light-skinned models. 

    Snipes studied photography with us back in 2017. You can follow Snipes’ work by following him on Instagram or LinkedIn.

    Donald (EAD) Eferere

    Creative Director & Digital Content Creator

    Founder and Creative Director of RDCYF Brand, Eferere has a wide array of filmmaking and content creation within the entertainment industry. RDCYF Brand is an award-winning production company and agency founded in 2019. Based in NYC, the agency has produced a variety of content. Eferere brings to the agency his own film in film direction, music videos, editing, video color grading, and general content development. 

    Eferere studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on Eferere on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Nicole “Soul” Creary 

    CEO & Executive Director 

    Experienced entrepreneur and CEO of Soul2Soulz, Nicole “Soul” Creary has a professional history of working for nonprofits doing social work as well as for film and education organizations. 

    Soul2Soulz’s mission is to create connections that build positive relationships. The organization aims to develop communities where youth, families, and all people, reach their fullest potential. Creary has professional strengths in organizing grassroots initiatives and coalitions, philanthropy, and community organizing. 

    Creary studied filmmaking with us back in 2018. You can keep tabs on her work and the great work of Soul2Soulz on Instagram or LinkedIn

    Like all of the alumni we’ve noted here, there are many other NYFA alumni with no shortage of drive to share their voice through business acumen or support for the black community. Continue to raise the bar by supporting Black-owned businesses even beyond this month. 

    If you’re an NYFA alum with a story to tell, please share it with us by submitting your NYFA Alumni Success Story

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    August 19, 2021 • Alumni Events, Diversity, Progressive & Social Causes • Views: 988

  • 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: 1477

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alum George Carson on the Challenges and Rewards From Creating His First Feature Film ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

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    It can be tough and challenging to create any kind of film for the first time, but especially your first feature film. New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum George Carson caught up with NYFA to discuss what it was like to create his first feature film GetMeLovedUp.com and gave realistic insight into the challenging, but rewarding, process of filmmaking.

    NYFA Acting for Film alum George Carson

    Carson retired from the UK Fire and Rescue service in early 2015. It was then that he decided to pursue a professional career in acting and filmmaking. After studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and pursuing other workshops, Carson realized he wanted to specifically tap into Acting for Film. “I was already aware of NYFA but at that time never dreamed I would go there. I was over the moon to be accepted a year before I was due to retire and  I couldn’t wait to get away from the Fire Service and live in NYC,” shared Carson.

    While at NYFA, Carson recalls bonding with many of his classmates and how they made the short film The Evanescence while at school together. “The whole NYFA experience was just fantastic,” shared Carson. “The instructors had a wealth of real-life experience, unlike some ‘Drama’ teachers who have never been outside a classroom. The facilities were great and the interaction of the Actors course working with the Filmmaking course meant we had a whole bunch of new friends and collaborators.”

    Film poster for ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    Carson’s latest film and first feature, GetMeLovedUp.com, which he wrote, directed, produced, and acted in, has been submitted to various film festivals around the world and has already received several awards. The film follows lead characters Sharon and Kevin, who find themselves under pressure from friends and family to find a partner and sign up for an internet dating site. 

    “The inspiration was easy. I had been chatting to a friend in Glasgow one night and she told me about a particularly awful story that had happened to her on a date via an online dating agency,” explained Carson. “We then both shared funny stories about people we had met on these dates. I joked that I should write a film about it and a few months later the script was finished.”

    Carson shared that he had a vision for how he wanted to block the film (image below):

    But don’t let the blocking fool you. The wedding (Seen above) is not actually the lead couple. “For the film, I tried to make sure I avoided all the usual clichés,” shared Carson.

    On the challenges of making a feature film, Carson shared that it can be very different from making a short film. “The casting alone was a far bigger challenge than I imagined it would be. It took months and a considerable amount of time to cast the roles. It is an immense job,” he explained.

    George Carson blocking the scene for ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    The NYFA alum funded the entire film himself, so the project was working on a microbudget to produce the film and ensure the cast and crew got paid. “It meant having to do all the work ourselves. Meticulous planning and preparation were required at every step otherwise money would be wasted.” 

    Also an actor in the film, Carson shared that understanding the skills needed in front of the camera is just as important for directors to understand as well as actors. “Giving direction is all about clear communication with everyone,” shared Carson. “I don’t think a director necessarily needs a deep understanding of the actor’s craft, but there does need to be an understanding of the skill and directors need to be able to communicate clearly what they would like the actor to do performance-wise. Every word in every line can be delivered in about a million different ways.”

    “For example, the line ‘I will really miss you.’ The director has to let the actor know what they are looking for here. Will the character really miss them or is the character glad they’re leaving?

     

    An actor can say, ‘I will really miss you’ to a character on-screen with great meaning but, at the same time, the director can let the audience know that they actually hate the other character. It is this quality that a director has to tap into.”

    As for what incoming NYFA students should tap into when coming to study at NYFA, Carson says it’s all about studying, working, and learning from yourself and by others the mistakes that are made along the way. “There are very few overnight success stories. Acting and Directing are skills that can be taught and learned. Do the work and don’t worry about failing. Just get on with it. I could talk to you and show you YouTube videos about how to drive a car. But you still need to take the keys and get into that car and drive for yourself to be able to learn how to actually do it.” 

    Behind the scenes of ‘GetMeLovedUp.com’

    The NYFA alum is set to appear in a few upcoming films that have been halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic and shared that GetMeLovedUp.com is expected to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray soon. The film can currently be found on Reveel.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Filmmaking alum George Carson on his outstanding achievement of first feature film GetMeLovedUp.com and encourages everyone to check out the film when it becomes available and for upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.

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    October 27, 2020 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1403

  • 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: 1380

  • 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: 859

  • NYFA Welcomes Filmmaking Alum and Director Antonio Campos for ‘The Q&A-List Series’

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    On September 29, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with writer/director and NYFA Filmmaking alum Antonio Campos to discuss his latest hit movie on Netflix’s The Devil All The Time with NYFA students and alumni. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A-List Series, curated and moderated the event.

    Antonio Campos’ other notable feature directing credits include the Sundance sensations Christine, starring Rebecca Hall, and Simon Killer, starring Brady Corbet. His debut feature Afterschool premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Caméra d’Or and Un Certain Regard awards. In television, he directed the pilot of the USA Emmy-nominated series The Sinner and served as an Executive Producer for the first season of the anthology series. He has other credits both in Film and TV as producer.

    Tova Laiter (Left) and Antonio Campos (Right) for the NYFA Q&A-List Series

    Laiter opened the discussion with the NYFA alum by asking him about how he first got into filmmaking “I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker for a long time and it really started at New York Film Academy,” remembered Campos. He shared a humorous account of how he was too young (13!) to take classes so he posed as a 16 year old so he could take a 6-Week Filmmaking course at NYFA.

    “For six weeks I was living this other reality and my parents were comfortable with me staying up late to edit,” he joked. “My first short film I did at NYFA called Puberty and I remember this moment where I was so nervous to watch the film with an audience that I stayed in the projection room, and I didn’t know how people were reacting. Afterwards, I saw my father crying because he was so proud and it was validation and support that I could feel, so it’s one of the most important moments for me as a filmmaker.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) and Rebecca Hall at ‘Christine’ screening (Photo Credit: Variety)

    Campos then rooted himself in the indie film world, solidifying himself with hits like Martha Marcy May Marlene, which he produced, along with Afterschool and Christine, which he directed. “I made Christine and, in a lot of ways, it led me to getting The Sinner. That became a success and changed the perception of me as someone who can make things work beyond the art house. That’s just patience and letting things organically happen.” To the question of what contributed the most to the success of the movie, he attributed it to the fact that he always takes his time with the script, even if everyone else is impatient. That’s why it takes him four years between movies but ultimately, they get the response he intended them to have.

    Laiter then asked Campos to share more on the making of his hit film The Devil All The Time, which Campos adapted from the original novel and co-wrote with his brother. “The characters felt familiar, but also specific in how he [the author] was rendering the characters and getting into their heads to go to these places with awful people,” revealed Campos.

    Antonio Campos shooting ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)

    “It’s an interesting movie to have gotten the wide reception it has. It’s a very disruptive film emotionally. When I talk about the movie, it should feel like you are breathless for two and a half hours until you get in the car with Arvin and then you can catch your breath,” explained Campos.

    With The Devil All The Time boasting a star-studded cast with the likes of Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, and more, one audience member asked Campos how he selects actors for his projects. “I like actors that take big swings and make strong choices, along with actors with distinct faces,” he replied. “I ask myself, ‘how do I feel when I meet them,’ because I will be spending a lot of time with them.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) with Robert Pattinson (Right) on set for ‘The Devil All The Time’ (Photo Credit: Netflix)

    Campos also reminded the directors in the audience to “always make your actors feel seen and heard” and reminded the actors in the audience to communicate with other actors on what they need and that a good actor “likes to be around other actors and feed off that energy.”

    With a stacked cast of celebrity actors in his own film, Campos shared that, regardless of star power, his film is, ultimately, character-driven and was “calibrated between people who were more well-known with other character actors or people you may have never seen before.” When it came to casting his film, he shared that he “knew that this film was very different for how we were approaching characters,” and it required the balance of both known and unknown performers, all of whom shine in this ensemble film.

    In one of the last questions of the night, one student asked for tips on how NYFA students can make the jump from student to a seasoned professional in the industry. Campos had this to share with the audience:

    “Everyone’s career is different and times out differently. Always expect that things may take longer than you expect, but keep your network of friends and collaborators close. In my case, it was about being open to getting involved with other filmmakers and their processes to make their movies. Keep making short films before you make your feature. Always try and be working. Short films are such a safe place to make mistakes and learn. Put yourself out there and submit to every film festival and embrace the networking aspect of being a filmmaker. You can be the most talented filmmaker in the world, but if you cannot convey your film into concrete terms, people will not be able to understand your vision.”

    Antonio Campos (Left) with the cast of his film ‘Afterschool’ at NYFF (Photo Credit: Godlis)

    As for what’s next for Campos, the writer-director reveals that he is adapting a comedy piece, as well as a new drama series starring Hollywood heavyweight Harrison Ford. “It’s called The Staircase, based on the documentary on novelist Michael Peterson,” he shared. “I’ve been working on it in some capacity for ten years and it never quite worked as a feature, so now it is going to be a series and it’s set up with HBO Max.”

    Campos closed the conversation by thanking Laiter for the enjoyable discussion and wished NYFA’s next generation of filmmakers the best of luck for their future projects.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank director and NYFA alum Antonio Campos for sharing his time and filmmaking experience with NYFA students and alumni, and looks forward to his upcoming projects including The Staircase.

    To watch Campos’ recent film, The Devil All The Time, the film is available to stream here on Netflix.

    To hear the full conversation, click the video below our watch on our YouTube channel here.

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    October 1, 2020 • Acting • Views: 1511

  • 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: 2094