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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: 1270

  • 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: 1143

  • Q&A with NYFA MFA Filmmaking Alum & Cinematographer Shivashish Ahuja

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Filmmaking alum Shivashish Ahuja is a Los-Angeles based Cinematographer with industry experience shooting and directing short films and music videos. Ahuja has worked with several well-known artists since graduating from NYFA, including Billie Eilish, Alessia Cara, Naomi Osaka, Tate McRae, and more. 

    Ahuja spoke with NYFA about his latest videos, career challenges, and experience traveling from a small town in India to the city of Los Angeles.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Tell us what originally brought you to the New York Film Academy and what prompted your interest in cinematography?

    Shivashish Ahuja (SA): I come from a small town called Kota, India, which is known for “manufacturing” engineers and doctors. With the strong support from my family, especially my brother, I took the step to move to the United States to pursue my dream of becoming a professional cinematographer. 

    I had an early interest in still photography but decided to pursue moving images after I covered Vin Diesel’s visit to India in a Behind the Scenes video. They were in town to film their movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

    For me, film is an engaging medium and forces you to not only think but to take a step toward change. My journey at the New York Film Academy was beautiful. The school not only gave me a platform but also made me aware of the culture and people in the United States. Without NYFA, I wouldn’t have been a member of the Academy Gold Rising Cinematography program in 2021

    NYFA: What projects have you worked on since graduating from NYFA?

    SA: Ever since I graduated from NYFA, I’ve managed to grow within the industry, including work as a cinematographer for the reality show Staycation and work with Grammy award-winning artists like Billie Eilish, Alessia Cara, and Carlitos Del Puerto. 

    I’ve also worked with Mena Suvari, Naomi Osaka, Tate McRae, and Diljit Dosanjh to name a few. Short films I’ve worked on for Dhar Mann Studios on YouTube have performed well and made it to the IndieFEST Film Awards, and the film Big Rant screened at the Fimucite Festival Internacional de Musica de Cine de Tenerife and made it to the Hollywood Music In Media Awards (HMMA). The movie Paper Boats was screened at the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and my film FaceOff made it as a finalist in the Rethink Dance Film Festival. 

    NYFA: Tell us more about your latest work & how it felt to work with well-known artists? 

    Shooting the live performance with Billie Eilish was both challenging and fun. I got the chance to work with fellow NYFA MFA Cinematography alum, Mayur Patankar who was the gaffer, and I served as the rigging gaffer. 

    Billie Eilish was soft-spoken and very respectful to everyone on the set. Plus, to listen to her live was an incentive. I was given the opportunity to work with both Alessia Cara and Carlitos Del Puerto as the cinematographer through Richy Films LLC. 

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

    SA: NYFA taught me the importance of pre-production, especially on bigger sets where celebrities are involved. They have extremely tight schedules and so it’s best to be prepared with everything so when they walk in, you’re ready to roll. Another crucial learning from NYFA was understanding the director’s language. Some shoots demand you work fast, which means maintaining good quality with as few setups as possible in a limited amount of time. By understanding the directors’ and producers’ goals and deliverables, it becomes easier to perform your best. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Shivashish Ahuja for his success in Hollywood and we encourage you to check out the show Staycation and watch the music videos included here. 

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    January 3, 2022 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 803

  • NYFA MFA Screenwriting Alum Bruce Purnell’s New Feature ‘Boxing Day’ Unwrapped for the Holidays

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    Bruce Purnell, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Screenwriting alum, director and producer, has a new feature film coming this holiday season. Boxing Day, the story about a British author living in the United States who returns home to London for Christmas to introduce his American fiancée to his eccentric British-Caribbean family, is a romantic comedy co-written by Purnell. The main character’s relationship is put to the test, as his fiancée soon discovers the world her partner left behind. 

    The new romantic comedy was co-written with director Aml Ameen in his directorial debut. The plot of the film was inspired by director Ameen’s own life and will star Ameen himself. Boxing Day will also star Aja Naomi King, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. The film will be the first UK holiday film to feature an all-black cast. 

    Promotional poster for Boxing Day (2021)

    Promotional poster for Boxing Day (2021)

    Financed by BFI and Film4 with Warner Bros. Pictures as a distributor for the film’s release in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Boxing Day is produced by Ameen and Purnell’s new label Studio113. 

    In a statement featured in a Deadline article, director Ameen quotes, “It is such an honor to be teaming up with Warner Bros. Pictures, Film4, and BFI to bring Black British Culture to the world in this universal holiday rom-com. It’s long been a dream of mine to capture films that reflect the wonderfully multi-cultural city that raised me while sharing stories from the diary of my life.”

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum and writer Bruce Purnell (left)

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum and writer Bruce Purnell (left)

    Screenwriter Bruce Purnell has also worked as a director and producer, having developed and filmed several short films, including One Heart, Moments in the Grey, and Learning to Share. New York Film Academy congratulates Bruce Purnell for his success with his newest feature Boxing Day, coming to theaters this holiday season.

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    December 16, 2021 • Alumni Events • Views: 969

  • Nika Nikanava’s ‘Generation 328’ Wins Best Student Short at 2021 Woodstock Film Festival

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    Generation 328

    Screen still from Nika Nikanava’s short film, ‘Generation 328’

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking graduate, Veranika (Nika) Nikanava, won “Best Student Short” at the 2021 Woodstock Film Festival with her short film, Generation 328.

    After passing in a tragic hiking accident in Alaska before she could see the film fully finished, Nika’s classmates and other graduates from the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program worked together to complete the film and submit it to film festivals on her behalf.

    Veranika Nikanava

    Veranika Nikanava (above), NYFA Filmmaking student and posthumous winner of “Best Student Short” at the Woodstock Film Festival

    Anna Panova, one of Nika’s classmates, worked on post production and production of the film. Panova shared that for the graduates supporting the film, “it was important to work on this film as a memory and tribute to Nika’s life. It’s not about us, it’s about her… and making sure that the work of her life is getting proper recognition and is not forgotten. Even though she’s not with us anymore, her work continues to live.”

    Generation 328 is a character-driven documentary following a group of mothers as they defy Europe’s last dictatorship, fighting to free their children from draconian sentences in brutal Belarusian prisons. Under article 328, it is common for young Belarusians to spend around ten years in prison for possession of less than a gram of marijuana. 

    Film Poster for Generation 328

    Film poster for ‘Generation 328’

    The story of Generation 328 is also one that was very personal to Nika. Originally from Belarus, she had a deep passion for telling stories about unheard heroes and was deeply concerned about human rights issues in her home country. Many of Nika’s acquaintances had been detained or knew someone that had been detained under article 328.

    The film had its world premiere at DOC NYC in 2020 and has since been screened at festivals around the world, including the Anchorage International Film Festival, the Ghent Viewpoint Documentary Film Festival in Belgium, and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival in Canada.

    You can read more about the film or follow Generation 328 on Instagram.

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  • 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: 997

  • 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: 1318

  • NYFA Alum Elizabeth Grimaldo Stars in ‘Algo Azul’ an AFI Latin American Film Festival Official Selection

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    NYFA alum Elizabeth Grimaldo stars in Algo Azul (2021), a selection for this year’s 32nd AFI Latin American Film Festival hosted by American Film Institute. Grimaldo is a 2015 graduate of the Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) Acting for Film program in Los Angeles. The Panama-born actress is recognized for her roles in Dream Killer (2019), Al Otro Lado del Luro (2018), Acepto (2021), Little Star (2016), and Sueños de Verano (2011). 

    Grimaldo’s most recent work, Algo Azul is a romantic comedy that follows the story of a high-end wedding planner, Ana (played by Grimaldo) as she organizes the wedding of a famous actress and influencer, along with her own. When a strange turn of events results in Ana accidentally stealing her clients’ $20,000 wedding dress, Ana resolves to make the most of fate before she’s caught. As Ana and her pursuers engage in a mad dash across Panama City, she reflects on the meaning of true love and learns about herself along the way. 

    Directed by Mariel García Spooner, Algo Azul was filmed in Panama City’s lushly historic Casco Antiguo and was named an official selection for the 2021 Los Angeles Latino and Cine Las Americas film festivals. The film also stars Andrea Pérez Meana, Andres Lutrell, and Pablo Brunstein. 

    The 32nd annual AFI Latin American Film Festival is one of North America’s largest and longest-running showcases of Latin American cinema. Screened films include work from Spain and Portugal as the festival celebrates Ibero-American cultural connections during National Hispanic Heritage Month. 

    The festival is one of Washington’s top events and features international festival favorites, award winners, local box office hits, and debut works by promising new talents. The New York Film Academy congratulates Elizabeth Grimaldo on Algo Azul’s selection at the 32nd AFI Latin American Film Festival and her continued success. 

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    October 28, 2021 • Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 996

  • 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: 1230

  • 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: 1134