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  • New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Alum Jaco Dukes Premieres ‘El Guardia’ at Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film

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    New York Film Academy MFA Filmmaking Alum Jaco Dukes saw all of his hard work come to fruition last May when he premiered his film El Guardia at the Cannes Film Festival’s Marché du Film.

    Dukes originally hails from Chile and first attended NYFA in September 2011, enrolling in the MFA in Filmmaking program at our Los Angeles campus. “My first year at NYFA was one of the best years of my life,” says Dukes. “For the first time, I was able to think about filmmaking all day, every day of the week. It was paradise. My thesis film that I shot at NYFA opened the door for me to every project and work opportunity that came after. So I think that, if you have all the guidance, support and resources that NYFA can offer (like the amazing instructors; James, Ryan, Nick, Tim, Andrew, and many others), plus an obsession for film and filmmaking, then probably great things will come.”

    El Guardia Jaco Dukes

    The English-language poster for ‘El Guardia’

    Since graduating NYFA, he has written and directed the short films Silent and Mikey, as well worked several others as an editor and cinematographer. Dukes directed, wrote, and co-produced El Guardia, his first feature film. The script is based on the true story of the highly acclaimed businessman, life coach, and best-selling author Juan Rosado from Puerto Rico, and was inspired by Rosado’s empowering book Rags to Riches (El Guardia Que Compró Su Sueño).

    The story focuses on a frustrated security guard that starts a network marketing business as a second job with his mentor and veterinarian friend, which leads them into a life-changing journey that will affect the lives of everyone around them.

    The film made its grand debut at the Marché du Film in Cannes, France in May 2019. The distribution of the film is being managed by Adler & Associates Entertainment, who are submitting the film to festivals around the world as well as planning a theatrical premiere and distribution in cinemas in Puerto Rico, Miami, New York, and Los Angeles sometime in 2020.

    El Guardia Jaco Dukes

    NYFA MFA Filmmaking alum Jaco Dukes

    Dukes is currently working on his next screenplay, an indie film that he’s always wanted to make—he’s devoting all of his energy to producing it in 2020. Says Dukes, “[El Guardia] was the most challenging learning experience of my life as a film director, and thanks to all the obstacles, failures, and successes I had making this film, now I am a little more confident about directing my passion project, my own script, and kick ass with it.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Filmmaking alum Jaco Dukes on the Cannes Film Festival Marché du Film premiere of El Guardia and looks forward to seeing what he makes next! 

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    January 10, 2020 • Film Festivals, Film School, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 916

  • Cannes International Film Festival Emerging Filmmakers to Screen Life in Color Starring New York Film Academy Alum Ioanna Meli

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    Life in Color is an official selection in the 2018 Cannes International Film Festival Emerging LGBTQ Filmmakers category, starring New York Film Academy (NYFA) Acting for Film alum Ioanna Meli. The film shares a touching portrait of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long-lost love of his life. The film is directed by Bishal Dutta, who also wrote it together with Matt McClelland. Along with the prestigious honor of screening at Cannes, the film has shown as part of the Silicon Beach Film Festival in LA.

     

    In the midst of all the excitement, Meli took the time to sit down with the NYFA Blog to talk about the film, screening at Cannes, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your film at Cannes and your role?

    IM: Life in Color was created by a collective of young artists and it tells the story of an aging, closeted gay man with Alzheimer’s who struggles against his strong-willed daughter to hold on to the memory of the long lost love of his life. Working with the team and developing the role of Beth, the daughter, was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as an actor so far. Beth’s torment in trying to understand her father and the childhood she was deprived of, while fighting her own beliefs was a challenging journey to go on to. And to be honest, I always feel a little extra lucky getting to work with directors as generous as Bishal Dutta; his direction was insightful and clear, yet allowed for the building of the characters and the relationships between them to develop organically.

    NYFA: How did you come to this project? What inspired you about it?

    IM: I submitted myself through the breakdowns and was called in to read for Beth. The sides I read at the audition and callback were an excerpt from the script at the time; even though it was an early draft, it was clear that both the scenes and the characters were constructed in-depth. The final script is also characterized by minimal dialogue, and that’s definitely one of the most inspiring parts for me — the storytelling that happens without the need for too many words. I got a sense of Beth’s character from the beginning, and her struggle in finding the right way to help her father intrigued me. Most importantly, the story touches upon sensitive issues that are most relevant in our world today and is told in such a way that really draws the audience into the characters’ conflicting realities. I’m truly grateful to have been a part of telling this story.

    LIFE IN COLOR – Trailer from Bishal Dutta on Vimeo.

    NYFA: Are you attending Cannes? Or, can you speak to what this experience means to you?

    IM: It’s still barely sinking in but yes, I will be attending Cannes! I’m not sure how to express how much this means to me. I am excited beyond words, but it’s also a little unreal. I realized that every time I imagined participating in such an event, I pictured myself older. I guess I thought that the chances of getting there would be higher later on in my career. But here we are now, and all of a sudden I get to attend Cannes for the first time with a short film I am so proud to be a part of. I’m looking forward to screening our work in such a unique environment as part of the Emerging Filmmakers LGBTW Showcase; to experiencing this magnificent festival to the fullest in the company of a great group of young artists; to exploring all it has to offer and meeting fellow professionals from around the world. Preparing for this trip to be able to make the most of this opportunity is what I’m focused on right now. But also looking forward to the french croissants, if I’m honest.

    NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    IM: I was born and raised in Athens, Greece, where I would perform on stage at school as well as with the school choir around Europe. I got to experience the world of performance through that, but also because we grew up always playing music all together and going to the theatre with my family. Studying theatre arts was something that came naturally to me; I went on to get my undergraduate degree in drama and theatre arts from Goldsmiths College University of London, and that helped me build a strong base as a performer and creator. Before graduating, I was cast as the lead in the Greek feature film Elvis’ Last Song, which had a very successful festival run, and it was what introduced me to the world of acting on camera. I knew right then that it was what I wanted to train in further; I looked for a graduate program in Acting for Film and that led me to NYFA. Soon after, I moved to Los Angeles, completed my MFA at NYFA, and I was later in the first ever group to graduate from UCLA’s Professional Program in Acting for Camera. Today, I am truly grateful to say that I have seen my work be recognized at Festivals around the world and to have worked with masters such as Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s a business where you definitely take one step at a time, and I still have a million of those I want to take. But now, it’s time for Cannes!

    NYFA: What’s next for you after Cannes?

    IM: We just held a private screening of a pilot for our TV series Dirty Laundry. It’s a dramedy about a dysfunctional family of sorts, comprised of people from different walks of life who form a support group at a local laundromat. In that, I play a cheerful kindergarten teacher, Annie, who is trying to help her older sister survive the sudden death of her husband. The concept is unique and the screening was received enthusiastically by the audience; the production team will begin pitching the show later this month. Other than that, I’m currently completing my own script for a pilot of a comedic series that I want to shoot in Greece and in Los Angeles. I’ll have more information to share about that soon! I’m trying to keep my website updated with everything that’s going on, so go to www.ioannameli.com to stay posted!

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    April 30, 2018 • Acting • Views: 1819

  • Coen Bros. First to Share the Chair in Cannes History

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    coen brosIts organizers announced this week that the 68th Cannes Film Festival will, for the first time in its history, have two Presidents of the Jury, and they’re the Coen Brothers. The Oscar-winning directors have a long history with Cannes, having nine of their films presented at the prestigious festival and having won the Palme d’Or in 1991 for Barton Fink, the Grand Prix in 2013 for Inside Llewyn Davis and two best director awards—in 1996 for Fargo and in 2001 for The Man Who Wasn’t There.

    The Cannes Festival will run from May 13 – 24 this year, with its official selection of films as well as other members of the jury being announced sometime in April. The Festival is renowned for its selective pedigree of movies, ranging from independent to foreign films to Hollywood blockbusters. The Palme d’Or is one of the highest honors a film can receive; the winner of the prize is selected by a jury of luminaries that changes every year. As co-Presidents, the Coen Brothers will have a large say in both the selection of films and the winner of the award.

    It’s no accident the Coens were selected for this year’s festival. 2015 is the 120th birthday of the cinematograph, a landmark invention in the art of film, designed and built by Louis and Auguste Lumiere. In honor of the revolutionary camera and the brothers who made it, the Cannes organizers have selected a theme of “cinema brothers.” It was a no-brainer then to invite Ethan and Joel Coen to chair this year’s festival. Unlike Donny, they will not be out of their element.

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    January 20, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3795

  • Nollywood Star Gives Back

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    After her successful debut as writer, director and producer of the award-winning film “Through the Glass,” A-List Nollywood actress Stephanie Okereke-Linus, a graduate of the New York Film Academy film school, is working on a new film-making project, titled “Dry,” that will further her mission of helping victims of vesico vaginal fistula (VVF). The feature film is the latest in Okereke-Linus’ myriad endeavors, which also include international acclaim as a model, style icon, and winner of the 2008 Beyond the Tears Humanitarian Award for her work against rape and VVF. VVF are holes resulting from a breakdown between the vaginal wall and the bladder or rectum, usually caused by days of a baby struggling to fit through the birth canal. In “Dry,” Okereke-Linus tells the story of two young girls trying to survive in a world of rejection and hopelessness brought on by their condition.

    The film will raise funds to pay for VVF surgery and rehabilitation, and after its premiere, a mobile movie theatre will take it to African villages and towns, particularly those where VVF patients reside. Okereke-Linus has earned a reputation as Africa’s foremost actress, especially in Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, which The New York Times reported to be the world’s third largest. In 2002, she became a household name in Nigeria for her performance in the movie “Emotional Crack,” which earned eight awards. Okereke-Linus herself won the 2003 Reel Awards for Best Actress English and Best Actress. The movie was screened at New York City’s 2004 African Film Festival.

    Since then, Okereke-Linus has starred in more than 100 films. In 2006, she won the Afro-Hollywood Award and the Film Makers USA Award for Excellence, followed by the Miriam Makeba Award for Excellence in 2007. “Through the Glass” premiered in October 2008 at the Pacific Design Center in Hollywood, Calif. and won the Recognition Award from the California Legislature and the city of Carson. It opened in theaters across Nigeria in 2009 and was the country’s first film to gross over 10 million naira in its first week. The movie was nominated for African Academy Movie Award as Best Screen Play. In 2010, the film premiered in Switzerland, the first Nigerian movie to open in a Swiss cinema, and it also had a market screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

    In 2010, Okereke-Linus was featured in the CNN documentary “50 years of Nigerian Independence.” That same year, she joined Hollywood A-list star Meryl Streep, for an exclusive stage reading of the play “Seven” at the Hudson Theatre in New York City as part of the Women in the World Conference, opened by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Okereke-Linus has been nominated three times for the prestigious Africa Movie Academy Awards. She was awarded Nigeria’s fourth highest award, Member of the Order of the Federal Republic. She also serves as a brand ambassador for LG Super 3D Smart Phone, Kanekalon, recently winning the Eloy award for brand ambassador of 2012 and a brand icon for numerous Nigerian fashion designers.

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    December 27, 2012 • Acting • Views: 5061

  • Deciphering Stanley Kubrick at the New York Film Academy

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    Director and NYFA Editing Instructor Rodney Ascher recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his first feature film, Room 237, was one of only two American films in the Directors’ Fortnight. His documentary explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film, The Shining, and its hidden meanings. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and received glowing reviews from the major press. Here’s a roundup.

    • New York Times examined the documentary and called it an “intriguing” look at a growing subculture of Kubrick fans which has developed over the years.
    • “One of the great movies about movies…”  – Variety.
    • The Hollywood Reporter said, “Nutty, arcane and jaw-dropping in equal measure.”
    • On his blog, New York Magazine film critic Bilge Ebiri chose Room 237 as his Sundance pick. “The film expresses, better than any movie I can think of right now, the feeling of being lost inside the world of a film, and by extension being lost inside the world of film.”
    • “A brilliant work of alternative film criticism – and critique of criticism.” – LA Weekly.

    “Kubrick was my first favorite filmmaker,” says Ascher, “and one whose work has stuck with me throughout my life – The Shining in particular. The first time I saw it, I managed to sit through about 10 minutes. The music in particular filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread and doom that was more than I could take. It soon became one of my favorites.”

    Ascher says the idea for the film came after a chance Facebook posting. “My friend, Tim Kirk, who went on to become a producer of the film, posted an analysis of [The Shining] on my Facebook page. I became interested in the phenomenon — lots of people bringing up radical ideas. I thought we could make a pretty comprehensive field guide to what was in the film. It soon became clear that we could only get the tip of the iceberg.” Room 237 shares theories about The Shining from five people, told through voice over, film clips, animations, and dramatic reenactments. Ascher describes it as “not just a demonstration about how it has captured people’s imaginations, but also how people react to movies, and literature, and the arts in general.”

    The film was chosen to screen as part of the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes alongside Michel Gondry’s The We and the I. Room 237 is being distributed by IFC in North America and Wild Bunch in France. Watch for a theatrical release later this year. “It’s very exciting,” says Ascher, “I’d been used to being sort of an outcast with short films, screening to more … select groups. It was great. The screenings were packed, we were in a gigantic theater, got great press … I’m sure anyone would be excited.”

    See yourself premiering your movie at Sundance, screening it at Cannes, and getting fawned over by critics? Then look into our school and decide if it’s the right path for you.

    Rodney Ascher at Cannes Film Festival.

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    June 7, 2012 • Community Highlights, Digital Editing • Views: 5378

  • One Graduate’s Journey to the Cannes Film Festival

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    Faraz WaqarNew York Film Academy Abu Dhabi grad Faraz Waqar’s graduation thesis film 9:11 AM was selected for its world premiere at the Festival de Cannes 2012 Short Films Corner. The Short Films Corner hands you an annual tailor-made program of industry meets, workshops and conferences that deal with strategic issues. Faraz will benefit from all the advantages of being an accredited attendee of the festival. He can access the Marché du Film exhibitors or those in the Village International. Faraz will also be able to network with all the biggest industry players, whether they are institutions, financiers and the most important international reps in the film business. Talk about opening some doors. What more can a film graduate ask for?

    Tell us where your passion started?

    Studying film and working in film was always my dream. Reviving the film industry in my own country through films has always been my goal. However, the pressure for financial success and lack of support from my family forced me to study Business Management instead of filmmaking. I spent 12 years working in the corporate world as a banker in the Middle East but never let my dream of becoming a filmmaker die. After achieving a fair degree of success in my business career and achieving financial independence, I was in a position to finally pursue my dream and passion.

    What drives you as an artist?

    The Middle East has played a very important role in the of human civilization. In recent years, however, this region has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Cinema is the most powerful tool to make or break the image of a person, culture or country. Becoming a film director puts you in a position of immense power. You can influence the hearts and minds of people of the world. This is the best way to contribute something which will benefit your own culture. You also enjoy the immense opportunity to be creative. You’re having fun too.

    How was your NYFA experience?

    I joined the 1-year Filmmaking program in Abu Dhabi last February. The institution brought to my doorstep the facilities and instruction that has trained so many prominent filmmakers in the United States. I graduated from NYFA two months ago. It was perhaps the most memorable year of my life. I truly lived my dream. The best part about studying at NYFA was learning from professors who had a wealth of experiences working as directors and cinematographers on world renowned film projects both in Hollywood and in the Middle East. The student body in Abu Dhabi is extremely diverse. We have classmates from Australia, India, Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Lebenon, Switzerland, Iraq, UAE, Nigeria and Denmark. It was superb because you got to make some wonderful friends from different cultures and benefit from their vastly different perspectives. I formed some very close friendships and enjoyed working with this diverse international group. Film school always ends up attracting the most creative and passionate people. The network I’ve established will benefit me in any project I pursue.

    NYFA’s program is intensive and comprehensive. Film projects start from idea conception to script finalization, and ranges from casting, editing, production and post-production. I wrote, directed and edited 8 complete films during my one year at the school. In addition I was also involved in the production of 39 films in various capacities as part of the crew (short films, documentaries and music videos) for other directors. I got full freedom to experiment, shoot and work on different ideas and scripts for my projects.

    We had access to some of the best film cameras in the world. We shot from digital to 16mm, 35mm and even on the Red Epic. It was amazing.

    What is your perspective on screening at film festivals? Advice on the process?

    Recognition at quality film festivals do add a lot of credibility to a new filmmaker’s profile. It gives one confidence as a professional to people. Recognition at a major festival immediately bring you into the spotlight, especially in a market where filmmaking is still in a nascent stage and the people in the industry all know each other. It helps bring your name into notice amongst all in the film making circle. Never make your film with the intention of getting into any particular festival. That is not the way I would do it. Be selective about the festivals you apply to once your film is complete. I believe that whatever comes naturally from your heart will represent you and what you are most passionate about. It will turn out to be your best work. It is also very important to present their films professionally. Films submitted should be properly branded. DVDs must be labelled, craft themed posters meticulously, and make sure to select originally composed or royalty-free music. This improves the chances of selection too. Every small detail helps.

    What kind of advice would you give to the aspiring filmmaker and NYFA student dreaming to succeed?

    Be yourself. Let your work be original. Let it be your best creative effort on a subject you are passionate about. It will naturally bring out the best in you. Believe in your work but never shy away from feedback and criticism from a trusted source. The audience is your consumer, and you must communicate a certain point of view. Being too abstract for the sake of being artistic may cause the message of your film to be lost. Be intelligent. Do not focus on controversial topics for the sake of controversy. Base your film on a controversial topic if you truly believe in it. Your script is everything. Make sure it’s perfect. Make sure it’s engaging and interesting.

    Actors matter the most. Their performance can make or break your film. Select them wisely, prepare them well and value their time and effort. You cannot make a film alone. It’s a team effort. Your crew is contributing in a major way to give shape to your vision. Value them and treat them with respect. Build your team with the next project in mind. Don’t use and discard others. Selfishness and a bad attitude will take you nowhere in a very team-dependent industry.

    To learn more about NYFA in Abu Dhabi please click here.

    9:11AM

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    April 3, 2012 • Acting • Views: 4702

  • New York Film Academy’s Student Spotlight: Paris Bauldwin on Cannes and Eric Roberts

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    Paris Bauldwin and Eric Roberts

    MFA Film student Paris Bauldwin recently finished her thesis film, Chrysalis. The film centers on Abigail Hunter, a struggling waitress with little direction in her life, aside from drugs. Her aimless drift is disrupted when a young runaway shows up, claiming to be her daughter. The girl’s search for family and affection interrupts Abigail’s free fall, and the two decide to define family on their own terms. It features veteran actor Eric Roberts.

    “He’d had issues with addiction in the past and was really honest about it. I wrote a letter and sent it to his team. He and his wife made [the process] really easy. They invited me to their home. He is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met.”

    On a recent visit to New York Film Academy at Universal Studios, Roberts spoke glowingly about working with Bauldwin, saying “Paris is a real director, guys. Really.” He joked, “She is also very… kind in her manipulation.”

    Paris recently published her first book, Fragments of Addiction, co-written with her father. “It’s always been something I’ve been passionate about — helping people with addiction” she says. “I grew up around addiction. I knew all the characters really well. They were my sisters and brothers.”

    Paris also recently completed a short film called Looking for Liana that was accepted to the Cannes Short Film Corner. She is excited to visit Europe first time, and participate in her first major festival. She credits New York Film Academy for giving her the education she needs for her film to succeed, saying, “To have support from people who have already done it was really amazing. Ultimately, I don’t think I would be able to complete this project anywhere else.”

    Paris has plans to take Chrysalis on the film festival circuit, as well as fundraising for the next feature film she is producing. Of her hectic schedule, Paris says, “Sleep is secondary. I’m on the right track.”

    Eric Roberts at NYFA

    Paris Bauldwin at NYFA

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    April 3, 2012 • #WomenOfNYFA, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5365