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  • Forbes Interviews New York Film Academy (NYFA) Broadcast Journalism Alum Alana Blaylock

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Alana Blaylock has had a productive career since finishing the 8-week Broadcast Journalism workshop at NYFA’s New York City campus in the summer of 2011. It’s no surprise then that many in the indAlana Blaylockustry have taken notice of the Emmy Award winner, including Forbes Magazine, which recently published a profile on and interview with the up-and-coming producer.

    Blaylock has amassed an inspiring roster of credits since finishing her workshop at NYFA’s Broadcast Journalism school, which teaches aspiring reporters a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of the production process, including researching, writing, shooting, producing, and editing. This is important in the modern digital landscape as contemporary broadcast journalists are expected to be multimedia journalists, marrying their technical skills with their creative ones. 

    This is exactly what Blaylock has excelled at, and why she has already won an Emmy and why her career is taking off even as her path winds between both traditional roads and outside-the-box ones. Her credits include work on CNN, HBO, NBC News, National Geographic, and the ID Channel, including popular programs Deadline and United Shades of America. However, her work on newer streaming models like Amazon and YouTube is what has been generating a lot of buzz. 

    One of her latest projects is producing for Best Shot, a YouTube Originals docuseries executive produced by Lebron James and Maverick Carter for the NBA. The show follows the student basketball players of Newark Central High School as well as chronicling the life and career of their mentor, former NBA player and sports television personality Jay Williams.

    In addition to working in both traditional and digital media, Blaylock curates a strong online presence on social media, further highlighting her smart instincts in an ever-changing media landscape.

    “I love the visual storytelling that happens on Instagram,” Blaylock tells Forbes. “That’s the platform I probably use the most [in my personal life]. And I am inspired by movies, set design, museums, exhibits and artists.”

    She continues, “I try to take in as much new culture as possible and then decide what I want to do with it or how it fits into my process as a creative.”

    What lies ahead for Blaylock remains to be seen, but it’s clear whatever she does next will be insightful and successful due to the work she puts in and the philosophy that keeps her driven. When asked about keeping her own personal voice while working on other parties’ projects, Blaylock tells Forbes, “My brand evolves as I attain more world experience. I have to remain authentically Alana, and the projects that I take on are continuations of my career journey.

    “I can adapt to the demands of a project and still be the best version of myself. I remain steadfast in my goals while producing every show, documentary or collaboration. As a result of working on many projects, there’s always new information and experiences. It keeps me well-rounded.”

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Alana Blaylock on her career and looks forward to her future successes sure to come!

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  • iTunes, Amazon & Sydney Screen Far From Here by New York Film Academy Grad James Pillion

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    Making your first feature film is a challenge. Making your first feature film in a foreign country is an even bigger challenge. Yet rising Aussie director and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking MFA graduate James Pillion did just that with his feature debut, Far From Here. Shot on location in Bucharest, Romania, the film screened this Feb. 5 in Sydney shortly before its digital release on iTunes and Amazon.

    Pillion’s successful debut is even more impressive when you hear the backstory. Overcoming many obstacles, including losing his visa and being refused entry to the U.S., Pillion and his writing partner/leading man Jonathan Ahmadi were able to convert a formidable crisis into a poignant work of art. The result is a lush coming-of-age story that follows a young couple navigating pressures that may sound familiar for many NYFA students — holding onto love, living in a foreign country, sacrifice, following a dream, and facing the tough decisions that define your life.

    “The more you surrender your ego and open your eyes and ears to everything around you, the stronger your chances are of ending up with a film greater than the sum of its parts,” the director wrote in Australia’s FilmLink.

    Pillion took some time during the busy week leading up to his film’s Sydney premier and digital distribution to share an exclusive peek into his process with the NYFA Blog:

    FAR FROM HERE TRAILER from Jim Pillion on Vimeo.

    NYFA: What program did you take at NYFA and when did you finish?

    JP: I graduated with honours from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles campus in 2013 after completing the two-year accelerated Masters in Filmmaking (MFA).

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Far From Here?

    JP: Far From Here follows a young couple, Grant and Sofia, struggling to keep their marriage afloat in a foreign country. When a family crisis pulls them apart, the physical and emotional distance forces the couple to take a hard honest look at their choices and to confront a decision that could alter their future forever.

    The script was conceived in the wake of a life-changing event. I’d lost my visa to the U.S. and had been forced apart from the love of my life in the process. The script was an attempt to examine my newfound circumstances and was written in a very fast four month window over Skype with my writing partner, Jonathan Ahmadi. Jonathan would also go on to play the lead role in the film.

    NYFA: What are your future plans for Far From Here and beyond?

    JP: Far From Here was shot on location in Bucharest and received a very generous distribution deal, with the film screening in 40 cinemas across Romania — an amazing feat for a $100,000 budget!

    To celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of the film on iTunes and Amazon this year, we’re holding the Australian premiere at the Ritz Cinema in Sydney this Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. 

    I’m also in pre-production on my new feature Fire Island — a psychological drama — which is due to shoot in Australia towards the end of this year.

    NYFA: What if anything have you learned from your NYFA experience that has helped you with your professional career?

    JP: My time at NYFA was invaluable. It taught me the value of failure and gave me the opportunity to explore and experiment in a way that I’d never had the confidence to do. Embracing failure is such an important part of my creative mantra — it helps me to continually sharpen my voice as a storyteller.  

    Congratulations to James Pillion and the Far From Here team! Check out more of the behind-the-scenes story of Far From Here in Pillion’s four-part series on FilmLink.

    Far From Here
    is available from the following sources:
    iTunes Australia
    iTunes USA
    Amazon USA

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  • Story Editor & New York Film Academy Grad Giulia Bernardini Behind Zero Zero Zero, Gomorrah, and More!

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    Netflix has brought the stories of Italy’s largest film and television production company to the world, but that is not the only place you can see the work of  New York Film Academy Producing School grad Giulia Bernardini. Working extensively with Italy’s massive production company Cattleya, Bernardini’s has served as a producer on projects featured on Sky Europe, Canal +, Sundance Channel, Amazon, Netflix, and more. 

    A native of Rome, Italy, with a passion for film and television development, Giulia Bernardini came to NYFA New York City to hone her film production skills in the hands-on 1-Year Conservatory Producing Program. Since graduating in 2014, she has kept quite busy, establishing herself as a producer in the U.S. with a variety of independent productions companies before returning to Italy. But once back in Italy, in 2015, she started working for the legendary, largest film and production company in Italy: Cattleya.

    At Cattleya, Bernardini has truly worked her way to the top. Beginning as a development coordinator, she was first promoted to story editor. Now, Bernardini produces on internationally successful content. 

    Even if you’ve not heard of Cattleya on this side of the Atlantic, you’re sure to be affected by some of Bernardini’s work soon. Last year, Bernardini worked on the critically-acclaimed mob series Gomorrah (Sky Europe, Canal +, Sundance Channel and now Netflix U.S.) as well as the first Italian Netflix Original series, Suburra.

    Bernardini is currently working on the international event mini-series, Zero Zero Zero, for Sky Europe, Canal +, Studio Canal, and Amazon.

    The NYFA Producing Department is exceptionally proud of Giulia Bernardini and wish her continued success!

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  • New York Film Academy Acting Alum Adrian Voo Talks Teen Comedy “Little Bitches”

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    Not many of us wish that we could go back to high school, but for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film Conservatory alumnus Adrian Voo, revisiting teen angst never looked better. This month, the world will see him co-star in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s “Little Bitches,” a raucous, R-rated teen comedy that will release digitally Jan. 23 on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Microsoft Store, Play Station and Google Play.  

    Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Voo was bitten by the acting bug when he was a business major at San Francisco State University. Following his dream led him to NYFA Los Angeles campus for an intensive year of conservatory training before going on to snag mainstream attention in the Jason Biggs comedy “Amateur Night.” “Little Bitches” follows three former-best-friends-turned-frenemies who must find a way to make peace in their senior year of high school in what Sony Pictures describes as a “crazy, twisted, coming-of-age female-empowerment comedy.”

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to catch up with Voo to hear more about “Little Bitches,” what he loves about comedy, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy (NYFA)?

    AV: My love for film has spanned my lifetime but I had never really given acting much thought until my final year of business school. I was auditioning for plays and became fascinated with the craft. After receiving my BS, I decided to explore acting and searched for an intensive film school, and that’s when I found NYFA!

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    AV: One of my earliest childhood memories was being in absolute awe while on a tram tour at Universal Studios. So the first time we had an on-camera class on New York Street was a little “magical” for me.

    NYFA: Congratulations on your role in Sony Pictures’ “Little Bitches”! How did this project come about for you?

    AV: Thank you! Long story short, I was pitched to Scott Aversano (producer). I was so excited to hear that he was assembling a teen comedy, knowing his previous success with “That Awkward Moment” and “Orange County,” among many others. We had a good meeting and he brought me in to read for Nick Kreiss (writer/director).

    NYFA: You’ve had a great streak of working in some big comedies. For our students, what do you find the most challenging about intensive comedy work? How do you prepare?

    AV: I’ve found the most challenging part to be forgetting that it’s a comedy — and not trying to be funny! I think comedy works best when you trust the script (the writers) and find the dialogue rhythm. Once you have the rhythm, you can add improv for color.

    NYFA: You recently served as an executive producer of “Dear Dictator” with Michael Caine and Katie Holmes, as well as appearing in the film. Tell us about that process, and why you felt drawn to this story?

    AV: I had worked with the writer/director’s on “Amateur Night,” which was their true life story, so I was thrilled when they invited me to be a part of “Dear Dictator.” The script is so inspired (it was featured in the Black List in 2006). It’s a satire but, ultimately, a story about a non-conventional family. There’s some familiar film moments but it’s truly a film like no other…

    It was also a full circle moment to work with Michael Caine since I studied his “Acting in Film” book at NYFA!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you’re doing now?

    AV: Very much so! When I first walked through the doors, I had a little stage experience and almost no formal training; I dreaded speaking with fellow actors whenever I was in productions because they used jargon that I had never heard of. NYFA instilled technique and discipline, and molded my process today. I’ve also become a strong proponent for hands-on training and found it to be an essential element.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

    AV: Let’s just say, for now it’s “Little Bitches” and “Dear Dictator” in March! I hope you guys will enjoy the films as much as we had making them. Cheers to everyone at NYFA!

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Adrian Voo on his work in “Little Bitches,” and looks forward to seeing “Dear Dictator” soon!

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  • NYFA Acting for Film Grad’s “Proceed with Caution” Available on Amazon

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    New York Film Academy Acting for Film alumnus Kojo Boama’s newest short film, “Proceed With Caution,” has been picked up by Amazon Prime video. “Proceed with Caution,” written by NYFA alumnus Joey Colebut, is about an upcoming NYC music producer who stumbles on his way to stardom by getting his mistress pregnant. The film has been talked about by major hip-hop artists such as P.Diddy, Jadakiss, and Swizz Beatz.

    We had a chat with Boama to find out more about his new film, and about how aspiring filmmakers should never give up.

    Hi Kojo. Can you tell us where you’re from and what brought you to NYFA?

    I was born in Ghana, West Africa and raised in Harlem, NY. My mother lived in London and had me educated in England as well. She was going to have me stay and live the rest of my life there, so NYFA in NY was an alternative escape route to move back in with my father up in Harlem while seeking to further my education and study a craft.

    And the craft you studied was Acting for Film. Can you tell us about your experience in NYFA’s Acting for Film program?

    I absolutely loved the acting program. Meisner technique is an essential tool I still use today: always listening to determine the true meaning underneath a person’s statement was a technique that was very useful in the making of this film. This is because I had to multitask around the set — produce, semi-direct and clean the set while playing the lead role. So aside from memorizing my lines, actually paying attention to other actors responses helped save me from potential bad acting.

    kojo boama

    How did this short film come about? What made you want to create “Proceed with Caution”?

    This short film was written by fellow NYFA student Joey Colebut, who had originally had me act in his final showcase at NYFA. I fell in love with the process. Most of our journey can be found on our episodic youtube documentary called “Never Give Up,” which showcases the trials and tribulation it took to actually make this project a reality. “Proceed with Caution” was scheduled to be wrapped in six months, but due to setbacks it ended up taking four years. (Below is the first episode of “Never Give Up.”)

    You have some really notable hip-hop artists and celebrities talking about your film. How did that come about?

    Due to the hardships of making this project a reality, I always had to plot ahead to see how I could overcome any giving situation. Initially, I worked over at CBS and used to rush down celebrities every time they came by to get some endorsements. One endorsement from Jack Thriller, which I actually got on 125th street in Harlem, helped turn this project around. I knew that hiring my co-star, Jack Thriller, who is signed with 50 Cent, and is talked about in the streets to be the next Kevin Heart, would help open other doors to various people within the entertainment business. (Check out this episode for more details.)

    Why do you believe people should see your film?

    Aside from the fact that it’s mere entertainment, I also want to give aspiring artists hope that they could do it as well. Thus, the making of the behind the scenes episodic documentary “Never Give Up.”

    What do you hope to achieve with this film?

    I hope this film helps open doors for me to grow as a filmmaker within the industry, and for me to be able to make a few feature films.

    Are you planning to film a feature version of “Proceed with Caution”?

    I could make a feature version of this project if need be, but I have already written another feature, “Blue Grease,” which I believe would be a great challenge for me if I’m able to accomplish it. “Blue Grease” is an urban love and basketball themed movie.

    We wish you the best of luck with everything!

    If you’re interested in checking out “Proceed with Caution,” CLICK HERE.

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    March 28, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4075

  • Producing Grads Team Up for “Lilin’s Brood”

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    Nothing like cuddling up with your loved one on Valentine’s Day with a psychological thriller, chiller/horror film. Come on, you know it sounds great. Now that you’re convinced, we have the perfect recommendation for you. Lilin’s Brood, created by New York Film Academy MFA Producing graduates Artii Smith and Phil Simon, has been picked up for distribution and is now available on iTunes, and will be released on Amazon next Friday, February 12th—just in time for Valentine’s Day.

    The movie is about a “New Media” news coverage team (W.H.I.S.T.L.E.) that is stranded near a beleaguered brothel in the middle of nowhere. The footage that is recovered will reveal what happens when they encounter a group of women with a terrifying secret.

    lilins brood

    “It’s personal in a sense that we both really love the horror/thriller genre and wanted to create a story that people like us would love to see,” said Smith. “Also, the characters we created were a loose combination of people we’ve known from our past experiences.”

    The NYFA grads shot the film on a small budget over an eleven day period.

    “Coming up with a strategy far in advance on how to tackle each phase of a project should be top priority,” says Smith. “We planned every single creative detail and business strategic move meticulously.”

    The filmmaking duo also suggests young filmmakers really believe in the story they are working on. It takes so much energy to create a feature, and you don’t want to be stuck doing a project you’re not passionate about.

    Before studying at NYFA’s Producing program, Smith was only interested in producing projects. He didn’t want to write and he wasn’t entirely sure about becoming a director either. But NYFA changed his attitude.

    “I think my joy for writing was discovered and ultimately nurtured at NYFA, and my love for directing really flourished as well. Working with writing professor David O’Leary, I believe, now that I look back, was an essential experience I needed in helping me develop and write engaging feature film scripts. Working with directing professor Nick Sivakumaran really helped me discover my love for directing.”

    Smith and Simon currently have a part two to Lilin’s Brood already written up and ready to shoot. They are also have several other projects in various stages of development—from treatment to full script—that vary in different genres such as Science Fiction, Drama, Comedy, Action and Historical Biopics.

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    February 5, 2016 • Filmmaking, Producing, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4874

  • NYFA Instructor William Dickerson Breaks Down Microbudget Filmmaking in “DETOUR: Hollywood”

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    william dickersonIt’s a great time to be a filmmaker. With old models of film financing and distribution breaking down and increasingly cost-efficient and easy-to-use film production equipment available, filmmaking has become democratized. A handful of studio heads no longer stand between you and success in the entertainment industry. Now more than ever, the power to shape your career as a director is in your hands. This is the realization that film director and New York Film Academy instructor William Dickerson had a few years ago when a few of his scripts were seeing interest from studio development execs, but nobody was seriously considering him to direct any of them because he had never made a feature length movie. Dickerson and his writing partner decided to write a screenplay that could be made with a “microbudget” for William to direct outside the studio system. The film William directed was Detour, which centers around a man trapped inside of a car during a mudslide. The Hollywood Reporter declared Detour a “tautly efficient thriller that fully succeeds.” Dickerson established himself without waiting for anyone’s blessing and his directing career was underway.
    william dickerson

    NYFA Instructor William Dickerson

    To share the knowledge he gained from his experience of making Detour, William wrote the book DETOUR: Hollywood, How to Direct a Microbudget Film (or any film, for that matter). The book explains how to sidestep, or detour around, the Hollywood system and make a microbudget film by giving a detailed account of how Dickerson literally made Detour, thus DETOUR: Hollywood. This has to be the most clever film education book title in a long while. The book also contains some of the most meaningful and practical instruction on film directing ever provided in a text. For instance, Dickerson breaks down the concepts of Subtext and Point of View, the two most important yet neglected ingredients in filmmaking, in such a complete and digestible way that even directors already well-versed in story will have much to learn from it.

    Within DETOUR: Hollywood, William Dickerson analyzes all the hurtles he faced over the many years he spent trying to direct his first feature and the trial and error process that led him to what eventually DID work for him and will for you too. The obvious benefit to the reader is saving you time, money, and from unnecessary headache so that you can start your directing career sooner rather than later. Since making Detour, William Dickerson has experienced increasing success in film directing. Most recently William directed Don’t Look Back, a feature-length thriller that aired on Lifetime Movie Network and exhibits a level of craft in directing that is rarely achieved.

    William Dickerson’s book DETOUR: Hollywood, How to Direct a Microbudget Film (or any film, for that matter) comes out April 14th and can be ordered through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/DETOUR-Hollywood-Direct-Microbudget-matter/dp/0985188634

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    April 8, 2015 • Community Highlights, Filmmaking • Views: 6643

  • PlayStation’s Original Content Powers On

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    powers

    Another day, another trailer. This one, however, for the new original series Powers, is a little different, and a sign of big changes ahead for the television industry. Powers, an adaptation of the popular graphic novels by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, tells the story of a familiar, realistic world filled with superheroes and supervillains, much like the NBC series from last decade, Heroes. Unlike NBC’s Heroes, however, Powers intends to be much darker, grittier, and bloodier, if the trailer is any indication.

    The season’s main antagonist, played by comic and TV/movie vet Eddie Izzard, oozes danger in the brief looks we get at him. He’ll be facing off against the show’s leads, police officers played by Susan Heyward and Sharlto Copley, who first won sci-fi fans over with his starring role in District 9 and is currently starring as the title character in Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie.

    However, the most remarkable aspect of Powers may be where you can watch it—exclusively on your PlayStation. The show is the first attempt by the video game console to create and stream its own original content, hoping to take a piece of the pie Netflix and Amazon have been stealing away from the traditional TV networks. It is a bold but savvy move, considering many cord-cutters currently stream Netflix and their other television through the PlayStation already. It’s safe to say the industry, from television writers to television producers will be watching Powers’ ratings closely. Judging by the trailer, a lot of fanboys and fangirls will be watching too.

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    March 11, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 2584

  • Yahoo! TV Debuts Trailer for Community’s Resurrected Season Six

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    community trailer

    This week Yahoo premiered a trailer for the sixth season of the cult comedy sitcom, Community, the absurdist, pop-culture referencing show about a local college starring Joel McHale. Originally part of Must See TV with The Office, Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock, NBC cancelled Community (several times) and its hardcore fans thought they’d never get the “six seasons and a movie” they hoped for every year the show lived on the ratings bubble.

    While many hoped Netflix, Amazon or another network would come to Community’s rescue, few predicted its savior would be Yahoo, which had yet to start its own streaming service. While the show has lost some cast members, including Chevy Chase, Donald Glover, Jonathan Banks and John Oliver, season six will have new characters played by Keith David and Paget Brewster.

    While the show’s surprising resurrection and trailer is great news to its fanbase, it also highlights some major evolutions for the television industry. For one, it is the coming out party for Yahoo! Screen, which is using Community’s beloved cult status as a foothold to break into the increasingly-crowded streaming mediascape, much like Netflix did with Arrested Development in 2013. With its capital and buzzworthy CEO, Yahoo is poised to become a major player.

    For another, it shows that Amazon’s strategy was most likely not a fluke. Yahoo is joining other large companies not originally based in filmmaking and TV in providing original content online. It won’t be long before these corporate names are as synonymous with Emmys and ratings as the broadcast and cable networks.

    Finally, it’s another feather in the cap for vocal fanbases, who are succeeding more and more with bringing back their favorite shows with their passionate outcries. With more and more companies entering the TV game and having a lot more to prove, suddenly these TV viewers are finding themselves with more power than they ever expected. Now that’s community.

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    March 4, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3076

  • NYFA Acting Instructor Lands Role on Amazon’s ‘Alpha House’

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    Michelle Best

    Michelle Best, who teaches acting classes at the New York Film Academy, will be appearing in the new Amazon original series Alpha House starring John Goodman. Michelle is playing the role of Constance. The series is Amazon’s first major attempt to break into the world of original streaming content, much like its competitors Hulu and Netflix. So far the reviews have been positive and a second season is looking very promising, especially considering it’s Amazon’s number one watched show.

    “Writing and acting are the strengths of Alpha House, with Trudeau’s keen satiric sensibility brought to life through engaging performances from a veteran cast led by Goodman and Johnson.” – David Zurawick, Baltimore Sun

    Be sure to look for Michelle toward the tail end of the first season and hopefully in a second season!

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    November 22, 2013 • Acting • Views: 4309