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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Faculty Spotlight on Jen Prince

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    Like many residents of Los Angeles, Jen Prince moved to the city from somewhere else. Hailing from Texas, she ventured to Los Angeles to attend film school and has been carving out a niche in the LA indie film scene ever since. 

    As an award-winning producer, director, and editor, Jen’s love of music, movies, and theatre shine throughout her various projects. Currently, she is in post-production on her feature film directorial debut, Miles Underwater, which was the recipient of the Duplass Brothers Seed & Spark Production Grant. In addition, Jen is a vocal advocate for women in film, and teaches a wide array of courses for NYFA’s Producing Department, is the mother of four, and brings her love of guacamole with her from South Texas.    

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Hailing from Texas, you say that your love of music, theater, and film began there. Could you discuss some of your earliest influences? 

    Jen Prince (JP): There was always music in my home. My parents both play instruments and encouraged me to play from a young age. I played in the city’s youth orchestra and participated in my high school theatre program, which was top notch and a pretty singular experience. It was through that study that I became passionate about working with actors and directing, and decided to pursue it in college. With very few examples of female directors I could find in the video store, I definitely took notice and was inspired early on by Jodie Foster, particularly because of her attention to the actor’s process. As I started to explore older films, I was also taken with Mike Nichols and have continued to find inspiration from his films and approach to directing. Sandra Cisneros isn’t a filmmaker, but I learned a lot about creating a sense of place and point of view from her writing. 

    NYFA: Your experience in film is extensive, as a writer, producer, director, and post- production supervisor. How did you find yourself wearing so many different hats in the entertainment industry? If you could pick just one, which would it be? 

    JP: While I was in school I tried my hand at everything because I felt that to be the best director and producer I could be I needed facility with the language and needs of each department. After a few years of post-production gigs in reality television, I found myself itching to make films again and was inspired by my colleague’s scripts. That led to my first feature as a producer and we successfully pulled off a micro-budget road movie. 

    I have continued to follow a low-budget model to create work that I want to see made and I love working as a creative producer in the indie world. I have always felt most at home as a director and am currently in post on my directorial feature debut Miles Underwater. All my different jobs have allowed me to make more work in less time than if I had waited for someone’s permission (and financing) to grant me the job. My willingness to wear all the hats has helped me greenlight my projects. 

    NYFA: As a vocal advocate for women and mothers in film, could you discuss some of the challenges they face in this business and what can be done to overcome these obstacles? Jen Prince

    JP: The statistics are real. Women, and particularly women of color, face well-established implicit and explicit bias when it comes to hiring women in film and, of course, in terms of equal pay. 

    The solution is to hire more women in EVERY position. Seek them out on your projects at every level. Look at your crew list and mandate diverse hires. If you are in the position to be a key in a department, request a new list of potential hires if what you are handed is all men or only has one person of color. The question is specifically about women in film, but of course we need better representation and intersectionality across all marginalized groups. Even on a student film—you are a gatekeeper to opportunity. I have produced four features and they have all had female DPs. Be the change you want to see. 

    I did not understand the challenge I faced when I graduated from film school. I was completely naive to the fact that just because I had passed the gatekeeper of acceptance to a top film school that in no way challenged the statistical almost certainty that I would not be given opportunities. We have to find our voice and press onward by demanding our successes be celebrated—by celebrating each other, by being patrons of each other’s work, by calling out bias, by HIRING OTHER WOMEN EVERY CHANCE WE GET. Stop waiting in line—this line is not for us. 

    NYFA: Any projects you would like to highlight? 

    JP: My two most recent completed indie features are available to stream online and rely almost entirely on word of mouth to be shared, so I’d love everyone to click on them. Quality Problems is a comedy I’m very proud to have made and it is the perfect antidote to cynicism. It’s a lovely film about a family (a real family) dealing with a health crisis while keeping their sense of humor and relationships intact. It was a joyful production and that shows up on screen. And Then There Was Eve is a drama featuring some incredible performances, cinematography, and music, a good example of what you can do with a little if you maximize resources in the right way. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite classes to teach at NYFA and why? 

    JP: One of my favorite classes is Directing for Producers. This subject teaches directing fundamentals through the lens of the producer—how do we support our directors, how do we ask the right questions to get their best work, how do we identify the biggest challenges and assets on each project? Most of these students have no experience working with actors and are fearful of that aspect of directing when we do our casting session, but by the end of the class they feel empowered to give direction and have a new respect for their process. I absolutely love the moment in class where they discover techniques for working with actors effectively and see it work in their films. 

    NYFA: What advice do you have for students looking to get into the entertainment industry? 

    JP: Figure out what is unique about your own worldview and find your confidence in your own voice, tastes, and personal mandates for your work. Take a look at the industry and look for the people doing work that aligns with you and these values. Try to keep getting closer to these circles. Network constantly. That means talk to people, but mostly LISTEN to people and ask thoughtful questions. Follow up on everything. Mean what you say. Support your peers work. Give more than you take. Show up as your authentic, kind self, every day everywhere (and work on being kind, we can all be kinder). Position yourself as close to the job you want to be doing as you can. Don’t stop writing, directing, producing, shooting, even if you have a day job. Don’t let anyone tell you what is impossible for you. 

    NYFA: Any advice on how to make killer guacamole? 

    JP: Yes. Diced tomatoes are key. Also, it always tastes better sharing with friends!

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    October 25, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 384

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Terah Jackson

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    Washington, DC is about as far away culturally from Hollywood as one can get in this country. However, for New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting and Liberal Arts & Sciences (LAS) instructor Terah Jackson, his hometown (DC, not Hollywood) provides a wealth of experience to draw upon. Terah Jackson

    Jackson doesn’t just write politically-minded movies, but also mixes genres such as science fiction to—as he says—“add some Hollywood flair.” A director and writer of both stage and screen, Jackson has trained at Lincoln Center and worked off-Broadway. He’s also won awards and garnered attention from the WGAW, Nicholls, Film Independent, and Sundance.

    Currently, Jackson teaches NYFA classes such as Playwriting and Great Playwrights as well as courses like Genre Studies and Writing the Feature Film. He took some time from his busy schedule to discuss Washington, DC, his career, and his civic responsibility as an artist—based on his ties to the civil rights movement. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): How did you discover theatre?

    Terah Jackson (TJ): You mean outside of holiday kindergarten pageants, where I was an outstanding Tree #3? 

    I’d say it began with my mother. She’s a master storyteller and as a child I’d follow her around to different storytelling gigs like Three Stories Tall, the first show on NBC4’s 1980s Saturday Morning lineup. She would ask me how she did, and I would give her my notes on her performance and story structure. In time she grew to appreciate it—I think! Those experiences shaped who I am as an artist and storyteller today.

    NYFA: How did your experiences in Washington, DC influence your writing? Do politics—local or national—inform the themes and issues you explore? 

    TJ: Growing up in Washington, DC was, for me, a tale of two cities. There’s Washington—the stuff of The West Wing—then there’s DC, which at times resembles The Wire (which is set in Baltimore). While my neighborhood had its own international gangs, I took the E2 bus line to schools that daughters of diplomats might attend. It was a good life, but confusing crisscrossing cultural and class divides. My sci-fi thrillers, political period pieces, and comedies speak to these experiences. 

    But if you mean more directly “does working in the Pentagon and youth detention centers show up on the page?” Yes, absolutely. To me, working in Hollywood is like DC, but with flair. Take what I did in the DC government, working on adult education and special needs services, dress it up with a little flair like invading aliens posing as lobbyists, and there you g—that’s my sci-fi thriller, Primrose. The customs are different, but the work, the negotiations, and the characters are strikingly similar. There has to be a demand to make a deal. 

    NYFA: Your parents were in the civil rights movement. Can you talk about that—and how that also influenced and shaped you?

    Terah Jackson Rustin

    Civil Rights Activist Bayard Rustin

    TJ: Yes, both my parents were civil rights activists at Howard University and in the city at-large. As the child of civil rights activists, it’s important to me that my work carries forward the spirit of what they fought for—even if it is sci-fi or comedic—that it carries a sense of human dignity. Their work is unfinished. The struggle continues. 

    As an artist I have a civic responsibility to amplify or envision the kind of future we all deserve. It’s an important role to reflect and shape culture as well as one’s sense of self within society. We don’t often discuss it, but Harry Belafonte, Maya Angelou, Sammy Davis Jr., Lorraine Hansberry, and Marlon Brando in their own ways and to varying degrees were influential to making events like the March on Washington what they were. When you look at their artwork they often speak to human dignity and the betterment of society.

    NYFA: Any projects of yours you’d like to highlight?

    Rustin, a feature, probably is the project that honors my parents and their generation the most. It started at AFI as my thesis and was developed further at Film Independent and with support from the WGAW. It’s about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s strategic advisor Bayard Rustin, who is pushed out of the civil rights movement because he’s gay. But when he returns, he organizes the March on Washington of 1963. It honors the work of Bayard and the civil rights movement and hopefully reminds us to keep on working for a truly inclusive and equitable society. 

    NYFA: What are you currently working on?

    TJ: Quite a few projects, but today it’s all about Displaced, a sci-fi pilot, about a lowly janitor who finds he’s receiving pranks calls from inside his bedroom wall from a phone on his own dead body—or at least someone who looks identical to him. Without giving too much away it’s a bit of a doppelganger thriller that I’ve been developing over the past year or so alongside a few other concepts for TV that I can’t talk about yet. Displaced definitely draws on my experience growing up asking those “What if” questions. 

    NYFA: What are your favorite classes to teach at NYFA and why?Terah Jackson

    TJ: My favorite class to teach at NYFA are the ones when a good mix of students from across the world—from various ages, ethnicities, classes, and those with military experience and those without—are all in the same room together investigating a deep tenet of writing or film that reflects what we are up to in life. In that moment we all learn from each other. It’s dynamic, electric, and enriches everyone.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for students looking to get into playwriting?

    Take risks that you wouldn’t in film and television. Read and see lots of plays. Act in plays. Seek to understand the mechanics of how they are structured. And write, write, write. Develop your writing routine. Connect with other playwrights. Go outside and listen to people and how they speak. Jot down moments of striking human interaction. Piece them together. Theatre often calls for you to dig deep into yourself. So take care of your relationships, spirit, and your health as you do all this. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

    New York Film Academy thanks Screenwriting and LAS instructor Terah Jackson for taking the time to speak with us and wishes him the best in all his creative endeavors.

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    June 26, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 654

  • Q&A with NYFA Acting for Film Instructor Melissa Sullivan

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    Melissa Sullivan was so shy growing up, she would stare at the ceiling to avoid looking at people. Eventually, realizing “ceilings weren’t going to get me anywhere in life,” she decided to make a change—and committed to talking to one stranger a day. That, plus an affinity for the stage, got Sullivan out of her shell and into a variety of performing arts: theatre, television, film, and music. 

    Melissa Sullivan

    Sullivan, who teaches acting and is the musical director of the NYFA Glee Club, took some time to discuss her career as a multi-hyphenate and her upcoming album.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): How/when did you know you wanted to pursue the performing arts?

    Melissa Sullivan (MS): In Naha, Okinawa, my mother put me in a ballet class. I remember a performance being back stage. I loved it. The smell of the stage, the curtains, the anticipation of the performance. I wasn’t the best dancer but the experience was informative and I knew I was at home in the theatre.

    NYFA: You’ve performed in a variety of fields—theater, television, film, and music—and have also directed. As an artist, how do you see yourself and why?

    MS: When I first moved to Los Angeles things were very different than they are now. I heard “Are you an actor, or a singer? You need to pick one.” Now it is much more fluid. Performers have more freedom to explore, perhaps because of technology and the access to it. The connection of artists globally through technology is amazing. I studied at California Institute of the Arts where all disciplines lived side by side. You would hear music in the hallway, walk by a piece of art, see dancers in the distance, artists in the gallery discussing someone’s work, and watch filmmakers editing in the graffitied sub-level. It was such a great environment. After I graduated, I never gave that spirit up.

    NYFA: Speaking of, you have a long list of credits in various mediums. Of all the work you’ve done, what are you most proud of and why? 

    MS: Recording my album of original music and playing Honey in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Actors Studio, directed by Barbara Bain.

    NYFA: Additionally, are there any others that stick out in your mind of being particularly memorable and why? 

    MS: Filming an episode of Shameless. I had been called into the casting office for Shameless for a few years and was happy to finally land a part. I’m really happy with the work that I did on that show. The experience was fast paced and yet enjoyable. It is a great production from the actors, directors, AD’s, scripts, grips and on.

    Melissa Sullivan

    NYFA: As a multi-hyphenate, what is the most challenging aspect about wearing different hats, project to project? How do you take on the challenge? 

    MS: Working on a few things at once suits my mind. I am very busy, so I write music while I walk my dogs or drive to work. I wrote some of my favorite songs in my car. I guess to be a multi-hyphenate you have to organize your time well and I have gotten better at this. Teaching has inspired me to take more risks. When you talk with students about their growth and how to facilitate it, you in turn have to follow suit with your own work.

    NYFA: You’re the musical director of the NYFA Glee Club and have said that “music can transform people.” Can you elaborate on that? 

    MS: I have seen students petrified to sing in front of one person, but at the end of the semester they are performing in front of an audience of 90 people. Singing brings people confidence. It is a raw emotional expression. With the Glee Club I try to foster leadership and collaboration. We have student conductors and section leaders. I am blown away by their talent.

    NYFA: Speaking of music, you have an album coming out in December. How would you describe your music? 

    MS: I am a trained jazz singer so my songs come from a jazz foundation, but it is an amalgam of genres: jazz, blues, and pop. I am almost finished! It’s been quite a journey.

    NYFA: What’s your favorite thing about teaching at NYFA? 

    MS: I admire my colleagues. I appreciate the support that the acting and filmmaking teachers give to one another. I also love the fact that the students are from all over the world. I have so much respect for foreign students who open their hearts and act in a second language. I also really like working with the veterans. I appreciate the time they served for our country and I find most of them are highly disciplined at NYFA. They are brave and want to dive into the craft.

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    April 16, 2019 • Acting, Faculty Highlights • Views: 677

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Screenwriting Instructor Matt Harry

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    With his debut novel published last October and development underway for his animated pilot, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screenwriting instructor Matt Harry is making waves in the industry. A multi-hyphenate, Matt’s not only a writer—he’s an editor, director, and producer. Matt took some time to chat about his career, teaching, and the time he made a fool of himself in front of Tom Hanks.

    NYFA: Where are you from originally? 

    MH: I was born in West Virginia, but my parents moved around a lot. We ended up in Cleveland when I was in sixth grade.

    NYFA: Growing up, what did you want to be? 

    MH: I wrote a novel in seventh grade, so I wanted to be an author from a young age. Later I became interested in theatre, then filmmaking, but eventually I went back to writing. 

     

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What’s your professional background? 

    Matt Harry (MH): After I graduated, I spent 12 years working as an editor on shows like The Bachelor while continuing to write. I’ve written screenplays for various production companies and my feature film Fugue, which I wrote and produced, was named Best Horror Film at the Mississippi International Film Festival. My short Super Kids, which I wrote and co-directed, has over 3.7 million views on YouTube and is being developed into a feature by Temple Hill and Fox 2000.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    MH: A chance encounter with my former USC classmate Eric Conner at a coffee shop led to me to NYFA.

    NYFA: What are you working on right now? 

    MH: My novel Sorcery for Beginners was released last October, so I’ve been busy promoting that. I’m also developing a TV adaptation of Sorcery as well as an animated pilot I wrote called Monster Cops. I also have a couple new book projects I’m finishing!

    NYFA: What was the most satisfying project you’ve created or worked on in your career so far? 

    MH: My short film Super Kids was the first project I worked on where the finished product looked almost exactly like what I imagined it could be. 

     

    NYFA: What is your favorite course to teach?  

    MH: The thesis screenwriting workshops.

    NYFA: What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current students?  

    MH: Keep working. I’ve met very few artistic geniuses, but my own career is a testament to the fact that if you keep pushing, working and revising, you’ll improve.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of teaching?  

    MH: Frequently I’ll be discussing a student’s project, and I’ll have a realization about not only their work, but mine as well. Thanks to the students, I’m constantly learning and improving.

    NYFA: What is most challenging about teaching for you? 

    MH: Finding enough time. I could talk about story development all day, but with less than three hours per class, we have to set timers to get to everyone!

    NYFA: What is the most helpful advice you’ve received?  

    MH: “Stick with it. Even if you don’t make it, eventually everyone you know will make it, and you make it by proxy.” I have absolutely found this to be true.

    NYFA: Who has influenced you the most in life?

    MH: My wife Juliane. Her work ethic, morality, and positive attitude inspire me to be a better person.

    NYFA: What creators have influenced you the most? 

    MH: Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, David Lynch, Edgar Wright, Colin Meloy, Madeline L’Engle, Stanley Kubrick, Philip Pullman, and Wes Anderson.

    NYFA: What do you do to take a break from work and teaching? 

    MH: Video games, going to restaurants, and hanging out with my family. 

    NYFA: What is an interesting fact about yourself your students and fellow faculty might not know about you?  

    MH: I interviewed Tom Hanks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer when I was 15 years old. I had no idea what I was doing, but he was incredibly gracious. I remember shouting out some inane question about Madonna, but he treated me like every other adult journalist there.

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    April 15, 2019 • Digital Editing, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 647

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy MFA Alum and Instructor Justin LaReau

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    Justin LaReau had a pretty cool job. He was the head basketball coach at Southeastern Illinois College. But he was temporarily living in a hotel, reevaluating his life, and reconnecting with his love for movies. So while he was working on his playbook, he was simultaneously reading screenwriting books and began sketching out the idea of what would become his first feature. 

     

     

    Eventually, he made the difficult decision to leave coaching behind. Justin came out to Los Angeles and got an internship at Underground Film and Management—which led to his career writing, directing and producing films.  New York Film Academy (NYFA) spoke with LaReau about his movies, experiences, and his next projects. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): Recently you produced and directed A Demon Within, a horror film. How did that come about? What was it like directing a feature film for the first time? What were the biggest challenges– and what was the learning curve like? 

    Justin LaReau (JL): I started writing it when I was coaching basketball, but it really initiated as a kid when my friends and I would ride by a haunted house that was widely talked about in our community. The house had been abandoned. We stopped our bikes and I saw some movement in the upstairs window. It could have been wind moving the curtains but as a 12 year old, we assumed it was a ghost. My hometown has a documented case of possession that dates back to the 1800s. Knowing that story, I wanted to tap into the personal connections I had as a kid. I felt like it would be a fun experience, plus I believed as a first feature I could get a horror film at a 100K budget fully distributed.

    And in terms of the learning curve, it was tremendous. Whether you are directing or producing, there is nothing like making a full feature. I heard Jon Favreau speak and he said whatever you do or however you have to get it done, make a full feature. Short films are great for trying to find your voice, style and developing the skills, but telling a narrative for 90 minutes or more is like no other. I tell people that I spent summers in 100 degree heat building bridges and overpasses while I was in undergrad. That’s hard work. But making a full-length movie is much harder. And unless you have, you can’t comprehend it nor can you learn as much as doing.

    Justin Lareau

    NYFA: How did your experiences as a producer inform the decisions you made as a director? 

    JL: Because we were operating on a microbudget and I was constantly tracking the spending as a line producer would. It made me eliminate waste and only spend on items that would be seen on screen. We secured free locations, free lodging, free cars/trucks for transportation, discounted food as well as many other resources. Because of that, it allowed an extra shooting day which is so vital. Time as we know is so precious in general and in filming, an extra hour goes a long way in allowing actors the opportunity to act, take direction, and deliver the performance that works for the film. 

    Additionally, the script had to evolve. The team and I were rewriting throughout prep to pull off a full feature. Many elements that would have created more value had to be removed because there just wasn’t enough money. And that is a tough pill to swallow. 

    NYFA: Can you talk about your upcoming projects? What are you working on right now? 

    JL: My producing partner Lydia Cedrone and I recently launched a production company called Tidal Wave Entertainment, LLC. As producers we currently have a slate of eight movies in development. They range from comedies to dramas to thrillers. I’m the writer and attached to direct two of the films: Fallen Lands, a post-apocalyptic drama and The Riddle Maker, a thriller. 

    NYFA: You earned your MFA from NYFA in Producing. What’s it like to be a former student on the other side of the classroom—and how does that inform your teaching? 

    JL: I had been teaching for 10 years and had already completed a graduate program. I went from standing in front of the room to sitting in the seat again. What I enjoyed about NYFA besides the hands-on experience and the location was the wealth of experiences instructors brought to the classroom. And that is what I try to draw on now. I have been where the students are and I have been through the same program. This allows me to truly connect with them.

    Justin Lareau

    NYFA: What’s your favorite class to teach and why?  

    JL: My favorite class to teach is Pitching. It is a skill/craft that all producers, writers, or directors need to develop. My mom would probably say that I like pitching because I am full of it, but selling an idea starts with the way you present it. We may have the next Oscar-winning idea, but if you can’t excite someone about it, it probably will never get made. 

    NYFA: Speaking of, what advice do you have for students who might be looking to produce and direct? 

    JL: I am a believer that if you want to do something, then go do it. But students should know that your drive and commitment has to be greater than you can imagine. You have to be able to grind through the times when things get tough. This is not an easy industry. But you need to be like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. You don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. So get your hands dirty and get to work!

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    April 12, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Producing • Views: 781

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Photography Instructor Amanda Rowan

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    Amanda Rowan grew up around rock stars. Rowan, a New York Film Academy (NYFA) photography instructor, is the daughter of Grammy-winning bluegrass musician Peter Rowan. But unlike many of her contemporaries—offspring of famous musicians—she discovered her instrument was a camera, not a guitar or piano. She began shooting rock concerts in high school and went on to shoot portraits for corporate clients, international artists, and pop celebrities. Rowan recently took some time to discuss her career, her upcoming projects, and playing Paris Hilton’s best friend in a National Lampoon movie.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): As someone who grew up around music and musicians, why were you drawn to photography?

    Amanda Rowan (AR): At first I was drawn to photography as a way to document the music and performances that I was inspired by. But I realize now that when I was shooting bands and live music the camera was my “instrument.” I felt like I was part of the band and adding to the music.

    Amanda Rowan

    NYFA: How would you characterize your work?

    AR: I am drawn to elements of life that are visually theatrical. I seek to create images that feel like a movie or a dream. I like the heightened art direction with dramatic color and juxtaposition.

    NYFA: Speaking of musicians, you did a project—Born Backstage—shooting musician and performer offspring of artists like The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, and Frank Zappa. How did this project come about?

    AR: In my 20s I was living in New York City and had a lot of musician friends. I was shooting a lot of bands and actors. I was looking for a project to focus my portraiture towards a single subject and build a photographic series. One night I was at a party and I was sitting with Chris Stills (his father Steven Stills was in Crosby, Stills & Nash) and we were talking to Jenni Muldaur (her mother Maria Muldaur was on the cover of Rolling Stone for her 1970s hit song “Midnight at the Oasis”) and Harper Simon (his father is Paul Simon). We were talking about art, music, and our shared sense of gratitude and angst about having musicians as parents. I thought that there was a unique bond between us and that it could be a compelling photo series.

    NYFA: You were an actor in your 20s. What were some of your highlights?

    AR: One of the highlights was playing Paris Hilton’s BFF in National Lampoon’s Pledge This! We lived in Miami for six weeks at the Shore Club. We would stay out all night and then film all day—I don’t remember sleeping much! But even then I always had my camera on set and was known by the cast and crew as the actress who was always taking everyone’s portrait. Paris was very sweet and liked to pose for me. Our on-screen friendship developed into a real friendship. When I moved to LA to pursue photography, she gave me my first job taking photos of her. 

    I also played opposite Dave Chappelle on a Chappelle’s Show sketch. He was The Wolfman and I was his girlfriend. It was shot in black and white like an old 50s horror movie. I was cracking up the whole time.

    NYFA: Tell us about your latest project.

    AR: My new project, Arrangement, is a series of still-life images as well as self-portraits, taken in the studio. The images are of flowers and fruits and other organic matter pared with personal objects like jewelry and feathers. The objects and items in the images are all symbolic to me and represent the “performative” quality of acts of domestic curation, like setting a table for dinner. The images tell a story of seduction, vulnerability, and power. The series will debut at the Carrie Able Gallery in Brooklyn this August. The show is produced in conjunction with the leading photography and art publication, Float Magazine.

    Amanda Rowan

    NYFA: What is your favorite thing about teaching at NYFA?

    AR: Teaching is the best plot twist of my career/life! I truly love it! I feel like I have a chance to teach all the little secret things I wish someone had told me when I was coming up! Mostly I just want to support young artists and give them the tools and the confidence to be creative and bring forth the amazing ideas inside their brains! It makes me happy when they are able to express themselves.

    NYFA: What’s your favorite class to teach at NYFA?

    AR: I love teaching the business classes. I think the business side of art can be challenging for artists. But I have found with the right tools and education you actually gain confidence in your art by feeling equipped with the business side of things!

    NYFA: Is there a piece of advice you give your students before graduation?

    AR: Do everything you can to stay confident and nurture your creativity and self-confidence. A creative career is not linear so enjoy the wild ride and be open to the twists, turns, ups, and downs!

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    April 11, 2019 • Faculty Highlights, Photography • Views: 873

  • Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Faculty Matt Kohnen

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    For New York Film Academy (NYFA) Directing for Cinematographers instructor Matt Kohnen, falling in love with movies was a gradual process. He started in theatre in high school, but eventually turned to writing and directing. His latest feature film effort, The Funeral Guest, a dramedy about a lonely woman who crashes funerals, won Best Director and Best Actress at the LA Indie Film Festival. 

    Matt Kohnen The Funeral Guest

    Matt took some time to chat with NYFA about his career, his love of science fiction, and a love story that could have only happened at NYFA:

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): What kinds of stories did you start off wanting to tell?

    Matt Kohnen (MK): I like stories with a touch of the fantastic to them. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi. Not because of the escapism, but because it allows us to take our own society and its current trajectory. Sort of what Black Mirror does and what the original Blade Runner or Forbidden Planet did back in the day. I still write that stuff, but the reality of independent filmmaking is that the price point of most sci-fi is big.

    NYFA: Your films Aaah! Zombies!! and The Funeral Guest center on death and how such an event can bring people together. What is it about the theme of life after death that inspires you? 

    MK: Funny, I’ve never heard my two features linked in that way. Not sure it’s the “death” issue that links them for me as much as it is the “outsider” parts. Both feature perspectives of people who are on the outside of something looking in. Aaah! Zombies!! began as a funny idea about classic horror, but became more about the characters who were dissatisfied with their current lives. In The Funeral Guest, it’s similar. She’s on the outside of life, looking in on others because she doesn’t have one of her own. 

    NYFA: Tell us about your latest project.

    MK: I’m currently writing a couple new scripts. One of them is very low-budget, the other is trying to swing a bit larger. I’m not in a place to talk about them now, but The Funeral Guest is available on Amazon Prime, soon to be all over. 

    Matt Kohnen The Funeral Guest

    NYFA: What is your favorite thing about teaching at NYFA? 

    MK: I love working with my students. I love seeing their eyes open and that “aha” moment that sometimes comes when they realize in class or during shooting what has been lacking in their work up to now, and they make that jump to the next level of the art. It’s extremely rewarding to be a part of that. 

    Secondarily, I love how international we are, seeing students from such vastly different worlds interacting in a space where they share that one thing they all love. One of my favorite outcomes of this was in an early Cinematography Practicum shoot, a kid from middle-of-nowhere Montana sat next to a young woman from India. Two people who would never have met in any other iteration of the world. They wound up married. 

    NYFA: What’s your favorite class to teach at NYFA?

    MK: Second Semester Cinematography in the MFA. It’s great, because the students have gotten a good base from semester one, and now we start introducing dolly, advanced lighting, and camera, and the ceiling of work we are able to hit raises a lot. I love seeing them rise to the challenge.

    NYFA: Is there a piece of advice you give your students as they head toward graduation? 

    MK: Keep your eyes focused on the horizon, and put one foot in front of the other, every day. Even if it’s only one step, have goals, and know that as hard as it may seem, good work will always be recognized. 

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    March 27, 2019 • Faculty Highlights • Views: 743