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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    January 3, 2022 • Community Highlights, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1076

  • NYFA Filmmaking Instructor Shoots ‘I Love Us’ Now Available on Amazon Prime

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    Instructor of Filmmaking and Cinematographer at the New York Film Academy’s NYC campus, Hernán Toro, recently shot a new feature-length film, I Love Us (2021). Released in select movie theaters across several cities in the United States, I Love Us is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. 

    Directed by and starring Danny A. Abeckaser and written by Kosta Kondilopoulos, the film follows the story of a criminal (Danny Abeckaser) born into a crime syndicate, who must choose between his love for a single mother (Katie Cassidy) and his career in heisting. In order to leave his past, he must commit one last act of crime to offer his new family the life they deserve. 

    Toro discusses his artistic approach toward filming, “the approach for the Cinematography was basically pragmatic and came down to the story. I wanted to make Los Angeles look bright even when dark, when things are being cooked, when drama is taking place, families are breaking, thieves are trying to survive and vindicate, bad guys support each other–it all looks sunny. Only the heist is dark, because they provoked a blackout to mute alarms and surveillance cameras.”

    The film was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed unique challenges for the crew. Toro explained how the team managed to continue their work, while taking precaution for the actors’ and crew members’ health and safety. According to Toro, “the COVID restrictions were very demanding, because not only had it taken a large chunk of the budget, but it stole away time and the ease of filming on set. After the budget cut–due to the change in the regulations in California–we had 15 days to shoot the entire film. We conducted PCR testing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and had to visit the COVID station every morning to scan a QR code to then complete a form, have our temperatures taken, and take a fresh set of masks. On set, we were required to wear double masks at all times as well as a face shield when actors were on set.

    With a career spanning over 20 years, Toro has shot over 20 feature-length films. His portfolio of work includes feature-length movies, music videos, and commercials for top brands including Toyota, Lipton, NyQuil, Astor, Revlon, Nestea, Presidente, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. Toro is an Instructor of five years at the NYFA New York City campus and has continued to work in the industry filming over 800 TV spots. 

    As a member of the NYFA faculty, Toro collaborated with other instructors on a multitude of projects. Toro was the cinematographer for a popular production Hamlet/Horatio (2021), a feature film directed by fellow NYFA Filmmaking Instructor Paul Warner

    Originally born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Toro was a student of advertising before leaving home for England, where he attended The London Film School. Upon his return to Venezuela, he became one of the most sought-after cinematographers in the country. He currently lives in New York City, where he has resided since 1995. 

    Toro is also an accomplished still photographer, with his work shown as part of a dozen photographic exhibitions, photos published in magazines, catalogs, and three architectural books. From a young age, his talent was encouraged by his father. While looking back on his childhood, Toro recalls a fond memory of his father’s influence on his passion for filmmaking, “I’ve loved making films since I was a little kid, helping my father make home movies on his Bolex 16mm camera. He taught me how to interpret the f.stop for the lens by reading light off of a light meter, so I could give him the aperture and help him not miss a shot. I have pictures of that, and I look around 5 years of age. I still have that light meter.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Hernán Toro for the success of I Love Us, now available on Amazon Prime.

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    October 8, 2021 • Faculty Highlights • Views: 1416

  • Meet NYFA Cinematography Instructor & ASC Member Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

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    At New York Film Academy, the faculty is an incredibly talented group of artists that teach the next generation of filmmakers and creators all while being active members in their industry. For NYFA Cinematography instructor Tommy Maddox-Upshaw, ASC, this is no exception. 

    Maddox-Upshaw has lensed fan-favorite shows like Empire, Snowfall, Tales, and On My Block, to name a few, and teaches 35MM, Advanced Lighting, and Stage to Screen for Actors in NYFA’s Cinematography department. 

    Maddox-Upshaw first got interested in the world of lensing and cinematography when his sister Kyla got him on set as a Production Assistant for a Hype Williams music video when he was 19 years old. “I saw how the Cinematographer worked with everyone and created such beautiful images and I already liked photography,” he shared. “I was like, ‘I want to do what he does’ and I set out to learn what I could even though my college didn’t have a film program and really no film studies.”

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    From there, Maddox-Upshaw notes that the documentary film Visions of Light inspired him even further to pursue a career in cinematography, and the NYFA instructor began picking up work between his Boston hometown and New York City while continuing to further his education in cinematography. His work for commercial clients like Ford, Allstate, and HBO, to name a few, helped develop working relationships which led Maddox-Upshaw to eventually work alongside visionaries like Spike Lee and Matthew Libatique, ASC.

    He provided VFX additional photography on A Star Is Born, and worked on the second unit for Straight Outta Compton, both shot by Libatique, and shot additional photography on feature films Grown Ups 2, Beyond the Lights, and The Circle. Maddox-Upshaw also served as the director of photography (DP) for Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Hello Beautiful: Interludes with John Legend, Fixed, and more.

    Photo courtesy of Tommy Maddox-Upshaw

    Recently, Maddox-Upshaw was recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and was welcomed as a member of the ASC. The distinguished honor is one that names Maddox-Upshaw among the legacy of celebrated directors of photography over the last 100 years.

    “Becoming part of the ASC has been a goal of mine since the time I really started to study and read American Cinematographer Magazine and watch Visions of Light when I was about 20 years old,” revealed Maddox-Upshaw.

    For his students and aspiring cinematographers, Maddox-Upshaw encourages them to study more than what’s on the other side of the lens to become a good DP. 

    “Study the art of understanding good screenplays. understand the Black and White of the page so then you can make the correct emotional decision from what is written. Try and watch a movie a day; it makes a difference after a couple of years of doing it. You can recall so much and understand why certain things in cinema work,” Maddox-Upshaw explained. 

    No one can dream bigger for you. You have to enjoy the process of your own journey you should want to be on set and learn from other people. You can learn this on your own and don’t be afraid to make mistakes especially in a learning environment.”

    In addition to teaching at NYFA, Maddox-Upshaw recently photographed Season 6 of the Fox drama Empire. Additional credits from Maddox-Upshaw include season three of the FX drama Snowfall, season two of Netflix’s On My Block, and season one of the Netflix comedy Huge in France

    New York Film Academy congratulates Maddox-Upshaw on his recent induction into the ASC and is excited to have the opportunity for Maddox-Upshaw to continue to teach NYFA students about what it means to be a director of photography.

    To learn more about NYFA’s Cinematography programs, click here

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    February 23, 2021 • Cinematography, Community Highlights, Diversity, Faculty Highlights • Views: 2183

  • NYFA Community Among Shortlist for 93rd Academy Awards

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    After teasing the annual announcement of shortlists for this year’s upcoming Oscar nominations, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally announced nine categories of shortlists on Tuesday afternoon. Included among the list in the Documentary Feature category was All In: The Fight For Democracy from NYFA alum and producer Lisa Cortés; Boys State from Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke; and Dick Johnson is Dead from Cinematographer instructor John Foster. 

    The shortlists for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced for: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, International Feature Film, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music (Original Score), Music (Original Song), Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film and Visual Effects.

    NYFA alum Lisa Cortés

    Cortés co-directed and produced the documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy, released September 18, 2020, on Amazon Prime. The film follows Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and the struggle against voter suppression. As of February 10, 2021, the film holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been met with widespread critical claim with Kevin Crust from the Los Angeles Times writing “All In manages the triple-E feat of being entertaining, educational, and enlightening.” 

    This past year, Cortés attended the NYFA’s Rock The Vote Rally rally in October, where she brought a special sneak preview of Janelle Monae’s end-credit song, “Turntable,” song written exclusively for the film. Cortés also spoke about how her NYFA Producing education proved to be valuable in pulling together a project like All In during such challenging times. 

    Lisa Cortes, Lee Daniels, and Mo’Nique (Photo Credit: WireImage.com)

    The producing alum has had an extensive career prior to her success with All In. Cortés co-produced NYFA guest speaker Nicole Kassell’s film The Woodsman, co-directed The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion, produced The Apollo, and executive produced Academy Award-winning film Precious from Lee Daniels. 

     Documentary Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke was an additional cinematographer on the set of the shortlist contender Boys State from A24. The film follows an unusual annual experiment in Texas that joins together a thousand 17-year-old boys from across the state to build a representative government from the ground up. The film won the U.S Documentary Competition Grand Jury at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and is currently available to stream on Apple TV+.

    Shortlist contender Dick Johnson is Dead was worked on by Cinematographer instructor John Foster.  The documentary film directed by Kirsten Johnson focuses on Johnson’s father Richard, who suffers from dementia, portraying different ways—some of them violent “accidents”—in which he could ultimately die. The comedic and heartfelt film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling. 

    New York Film Academy congratulates Lisa Cortés, Claudia Raschke, and John Foster for their films making the 2021 Oscars Shortlist for Best Documentary Feature and wishes all the projects that made this year’s Academy shortlist the best of luck when the full list of nominations are announced on March 15, 2021.

    The full shortlists for each announced category can be found below:

    DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

    “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “Boys State”
    “Collective”
    “Crip Camp”
    “Dick Johnson Is Dead”
    “Gunda”
    “MLK/FBI”
    “The Mole Agent”
    “My Octopus Teacher”
    “Notturno”
    “The Painter and the Thief”
    “76 Days”
    “Time”
    “The Truffle Hunters”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

    DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

    “Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa”
    “Call Center Blues”
    “Colette”
    “A Concerto Is a Conversation”
    “Do Not Split”
    “Hunger Ward”
    “Hysterical Girl”
    “A Love Song for Latasha”
    “The Speed Cubers”
    “What Would Sophia Loren Do?”

    INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

    Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
    Chile, “The Mole Agent”
    Czech Republic, “Charlatan”
    Denmark, “Another Round”
    France, “Two of Us”
    Guatemala, “La Llorona”
    Hong Kong, “Better Days”
    Iran, “Sun Children”
    Ivory Coast, “Night of the Kings”
    Mexico, “I’m No Longer Here”
    Norway, “Hope”
    Romania, “Collective”
    Russia, “Dear Comrades!”
    Taiwan, “A Sun”
    Tunisia, “The Man Who Sold His Skin”

    MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Emma”
    “The Glorias”
    “Hillbilly Elegy”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Little Things”
    “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
    “Mank”
    “One Night in Miami…”
    “Pinocchio”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

    “Ammonite”
    “Blizzard of Souls”
    “Da 5 Bloods”
    “The Invisible Man”
    “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “The Little Things”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Minari”
    “Mulan”
    “News of the World”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

    “Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy”
    “See What You’ve Done” from “Belly of the Beast”
    “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan”
    “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
    “Never Break” from “Giving Voice”
    “Make It Work” from “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
    “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”
    “Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)”
    “Rain Song” from “Minari”
    “Show Me Your Soul” from “Mr. Soul!”
    “Loyal Brave True” from “Mulan”
    “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami…”
    “Green” from “Sound of Metal”
    “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

    ANIMATED SHORT FILM

    “Burrow”
    “Genius Loci”
    “If Anything Happens I Love You”
    “Kapaemahu”
    “Opera”
    “Out”
    “The Snail and the Whale”
    “To Gerard”
    “Traces”
    “Yes-People”

    LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

    “Bittu”
    “Da Yie”
    “Feeling Through”
    “The Human Voice”
    “The Kicksled Choir”
    “The Letter Room”
    “The Present”
    “Two Distant Strangers”
    “The Van”
    “White Eye”

    VISUAL EFFECTS

    “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”
    “Bloodshot”
    “Love and Monsters”
    “Mank”
    “The Midnight Sky”
    “Mulan”
    “The One and Only Ivan”
    “Soul”
    “Tenet”
    “Welcome to Chechnya”

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    February 10, 2021 • Diversity, Entertainment News, Producing, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2097

  • Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Claudia Raschke Lenses Upcoming “FAUCI” Doc For National Geographic

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    UPDATE: NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Claudia Raschke is Director of Photography (DP) for the new series Land of the Giants: Titans of Tech premiering on CNN+.

    At New York Film Academy (NYFA), our instructors are not only teaching the next wave of filmmakers and creatives alike but are out focusing on their own work and setting up the shot for the next big film. In this case, veteran cinematographer Claudia Raschke is no different, having lensed yet another prominent documentary film, FAUCI from National Geographic Documentary Films. 

    The New York-based Documentary Filmmaking instructor is known for shooting the Oscar-nominated and Emmy award-winning documentary RBG, the Oscar-nominated film God is Bigger Than Elvis, the Peabody Award-winning film Black Magic, the Oscar short-listed Mad Hot Ballroom, The Freedom to Marry, and many more. 

    Behind the scenes of “FAUCI” (National Geographic Documentary Films)

    Her latest project will see Raschke as the DP on the highly anticipated documentary FAUCI, directed by John Hoffman and Janet Tobias. The film will follow epidemiologist and famed White House COVID-19 pandemic advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, offering a glimpse into his career and life as a public servant who has advised seven U.S presidents from the start of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s through SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19. 

    The film was announced on February 4, 2021, with special appearances listed like Bono, former President George W. Bush, Bill Gates, etc., and as of October 6, 2021, it is available to stream on Disney+.

    NYFA instructor Claudia Raschke on set

    Raschke’s year is just getting started, as her feature documentary work on My Name is Pauli Murray recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and the 2021 premiere of Julia (CNN /Imagine Entertainment) on the horizon. Raschke’s new spy documentary, Codebreaker, aired this past January and is currently streaming after airdate on PBS’ American Experience.

    “Capturing the big and the small moments of the amazing world we live in feeds my passion for the art of cinematography. Equally important is that I bear witness to and document the unique stories that unfold before my eyes in a way that dismantles barriers, opens doors, and reveals the truth. I believe that filming intuitively, honestly and without inhibition is a journey that requires a compassionate heart and the ability to see and hear what lies beneath the surface.” – Claudia Raschke, DP

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Filmmaking’s Documentary Division Cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke on all of her upcoming projects and looks forward to sharing more about the FAUCI documentary upon its release later in 2021. 

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  • Cinematography Instructor Mark Sawicki Featured in ‘Deadline’ and Discusses New Book “Filming the Fantastic with Virtual Technology” Bringing Movie Magic Solutions

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    As many TV and film productions are grappling with new social distancing guidelines and reassessing working with extras for crowd scenes, New York Film Academy Cinematography instructor for NYFA’s Los Angeles campus, Mark Sawicki, says VFX is here to help.

    Sawicki is a Clio-winning VFX and opticals artist, who has worked on incredible titles from The Dark Knight Rises and Bullet to the Head, to Tropic Thunder, 3:10 to Yuma and X-Men, among several others. Recently featured in Deadline, Sawicki shared how productions will increasingly begin to look to VFX to solve the challenging situations for making safer productions and creating scenes with crowds where multiple extras on set are typically needed.  

    Courtesy of Mark Sawicki

    Using examples from titles like Casanova, Dracula, Gladiator, Pan Am, the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and more, Sawicki explains different VFX and even practical effects that can make movie magic for keeping sets safer. He also elaborated that background actors are still integral to filmmaking, but safety will need to take precedent. “I think background actors are very important. You know, this is a moving target as we’re adapting.”

    Sawicki is the co-author with Juniko Moody of the recently released book Filming the Fantastic With Virtual Technology: Filmmaking on the Digital Backlot. Like his interview with Deadline explains, Sawicki and Moody outline some of the most ambitious evolutions in digital effects in filmmaking and the new and exciting developments in digital cinematography with their new book, ultimately providing solutions for how VFX can help solve many of the challenges arising as crews look to return to work on COVID-safe sets.

    To read the full article on Deadline, click here. Sawicki’s book has recently been released and is now available on Amazon and Kindle. 

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    November 11, 2020 • 3D Animation, Cinematography, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1801

  • NYFA Cinematography Alum & Rapper Sapra on Single “Haiwan” and Shooting a Music Video During a Global Pandemic

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    NYFA Cinematography alum-turned-rapper, Sapra, recently released his latest track “Haiwan.” Sapra, along with fellow NYFA grads Justin Knodel, Mohit Soni, and Pierre Mendoza, have been making the most of their time in quarantine by producing the music video for “Haiwan.” 

    Originally from New Delhi, India, and currently based in Los Angeles, Sapra is known for fusing Bollywood rhythms with contemporary Hip-Hop sounds with lyrics that address social issues like body positivity, drug abuse, human rights, and more universal themes like love. The rapper’s latest track “Haiwan” (Translated to “Devil” in Hindi) is now available on major streaming platforms, with the video also available on video platforms like YouTube.

    The video for the newly released track centers around COVID-19 and the response from countries throughout the world, specifically the U.S. and China. The sound is ferocious with Sapra’s rapping vocals and lyrics focus on themes of unity and love in the face of the global pandemic. A Cinematography alum from NYFA, Sapra’s video pays special attention to the imagery with eye-catching visuals for the viewer to experience the essence of human diversity and how our common humanity is the unifying factor in these unprecedented times.

    “In India millions of people were on the street, unemployed, sick, walking over 200 miles to get back to their hometowns,” shared Sapra when asked about what inspired him for the track. “Justin Knodel, also an NYFA graduate, rang me up and said ‘why are you not doing something, let’s shoot something together.’ I then called my music partner Sharad Tripathi and he wrote the lyrics immediately. I collaborated with my neighbor, Apiwe Bubu, and my mentor, Ara Torosyan, who are music producers and we had a song in 8 hours.” 

    He continued, “My friend Mohit Soni (Also a NYFA alum) helped Justin shoot this project. It was a small crew due to COVID-19 and they both nailed it despite those limitations,” revealed Sapra. “Mohit created some amazing lighting schemes and also helped me co-produce this video. I personally went 9 times to the location to get shots and the location was a 4-hour drive back and forth from Burbank.”

    Behind the scenes of the “Haiwan” shoot (Photo courtesy of Sapra)

    With the location for the shoot being filmed in the desert, Sapra reveals it was chosen to show the “emptiness, barrenness, and roughness” that surrounds the lyrics and purpose of the song itself. “The land showed how people are feeling out of place and we played off the idea that there is little life left. The diversity of the characters in the music video helped to bring a global element to the song making the message of the song much more universal and relatable.”

    The rapper hopes that the song helps listeners feel the need to stand up for justice. “We must do something to act in a just and kind manner to this global pandemic,” he encourages. “We must have compassion for our neighbor, have a dialogue with people who are suffering, do something about climate change and subside the greed, anger, and foolishness within this world.”

    The energetic and socially-conscious artist has more up his sleeve and has also recently released singles “Coco” and “High on Love,” for which the alum also has also released music videos.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/CHVVhohhxrl/

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    November 10, 2020 • Cinematography, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1575

  • TV & Film Actress Samantha Soule Expands Her Craft With New York Film Academy’s Online Workshops

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    At New York Film Academy (NYFA), we are excited to continue to offer our creative and performing arts workshops online so that everyone, from artists and industry professionals like Samantha Soule, can continue to hone their craft under the guidance of renowned instructors from anywhere in the world. Samantha Soule, who recently took an Online Film Directing Workshop and Online Cinematography with NYFA, already boasts an active acting career, with credits including Outer Banks, Godless, City on a Hill, and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, amongst many others.

    A full time actress for many years, Soule holds numerous credits for TV and film across Netflix, Showtime, CBS, and many more. She has a number of projects in the works for the upcoming year which, unfortunately, are on hold due to the global pandemic.

    “When COVID-19 shut down the projects I had in the works, it felt like a really good time to learn and evolve,” shares Soule. “So much of my life as a performer is being the clay for another’s vision, which is a job I love, but as I move forward in life I am interested in the ways I can expand: use other parts of my brain, create stories, create opportunities to collaborate in different ways, and create opportunities for others, and not just benefit from them myself.”

    Samantha Soule as Charlotte Temple in Netflix’s ‘Godless’

    During her online courses at NYFA, Soule shares that learning more outside of acting has been an eye-opening experience, allowing her to explore different avenues of the business like film directing and cinematography. “I learn best by doing, and this course has been an incredible kick in the butt to just get out there and start trying, learn from mistakes, fail, get up and try again.”

    As Soule pursues more avenues for creating more opportunities in the future, she shows no signs of stopping in her acting career, having already gained recognition for many of her roles including the put-together high society woman, Charlotte Temple, on Netflix’s Godless, where Soule stars alongside Michelle Dockery, Jeff Daniels, Merritt Weaver, and Jack O’Connell in the streaming giant’s western mini-series.

    Samantha Soule as Anna Carrera on Netflix breakout series ‘Outer Banks’

    Soule also recently appeared in Netflix breakout series Outer Banks (also referred to as OBX), which was recently renewed for a second season that has yet to begin filming due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Soule plays Anna Carrera, the caring and concerned mother of main character Kiara (played by Madison Bailey). Soule praises the show for its themes of the trust, loyalty and love that you build with the family you are born into and the family you choose. As for whether we will see more of Soule’s character next season, Soule says: “I think there is some of that ferocity in Anna. She has her own history and has made some bold choices herself along the way, but I haven’t a clue where the story is going! We shall see!”

    Samantha Soule (Right) in Showtime’s ‘City on a Hill’

    Soule’s long standing career as an actor has brought her many roles both big and small, but she approaches them all with a student mindset with what she’s absorbed from her experiences along the way. “I have been both really lucky and active in my fight to work on a really diverse array of characters. I love leaping from one world to the next and I learn from each. Each character is a new vantage to view the world, so the wider the range of humans I get to understand the deeper the education. I think most of what I love is the extreme juxtaposition, it’s like using different muscles.”

    New York Film Academy would like to thank actress and NYFA alum Samantha Soule for taking the time to speak to us on her experience as a constant student to her craft and also encourages everyone to check out Soule in AMC’s supernatural thriller Nos4a2, which premiered this summer, and her upcoming project with Godless creator Scott Frank called Queen’s Gambit.

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    August 5, 2020 • Acting, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1873

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum and Cinematographer, Arjun Ravi, on Communicating with the Director, Shooting Action Sequences, and the Malayalam Film Industry

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    In pre-production and during a shoot, Arjun Ravi has one of the toughest jobs for a film; communicating a director’s vision to the audience as a cinematographer. Like other DP’s (Director of Photography), he is tasked with giving the audience an accurate portrayal of the director’s ideas, characters, settings, and emotions, which are integral elements for any film. 

    Originally from the state of Kerala in Southern India, Ravi graduated from NYFA’s Los Angeles campus in 2017 after completing a 1-Year Conservatory Program for Cinematography. “NYFA has great exposure to many renowned lecturers and guests from the industry,” he says, “which got me interested to join the course even more.” 

    After graduating, Ravi brought the hands-on skills he learned in his cinematography course back to India with him, where he has gone on to shoot three feature films and is currently in production on another. 

    Official film poster for ‘The Kung Fu Master’

    One of Ravi’s more recent films, The Kung Fu Master (Directed by Abrid Shine) is a vengeful action film shot in Auli, India, where Ravi remembers filming for four months in negative degree temperatures with a short amount of time for shooting in daylight (8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.). The film itself was martial arts heavy, requiring an even more specialized way for Ravi to shoot since he was capturing action sequences. Ravi, who shot the action-packed film with a handheld camera, describes filming each scene for The Kung Fu Master as a “breathtaking” experience.

    “Each scene had to be captured in multiple angles in very few takes, as the actors would get extremely exhausted very quickly due to the lack of oxygen.” In addition to the meticulous detail for shooting the action sequences, Ravi also focused on capturing the environment for the film to convey the director’s tone and sense of place. “A lot of historical places were captured in the film to bring out the beauty of the state [in India] where we were filming.” 

    From the fast-paced action of The Kung Fu Master, Ravi then pivoted to his next project, Vaanku, which was “a completely different style of story compared to The Kung Fu Master.” Ravi worked alongside female director Kavya Prakash to tell a more concentrated, character-driven story about four ambitious young women in a coming-of-age drama. 

    “We shot the feature in 29 days. The lighting felt more sophisticated, yet simple at the same time, which gave the movie the look it needed.” Vaanku, which was originally slated to be released in 2020, has since pushed back its release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    All of Ravi’s feature films that he has shot are all considered part of the Malayalam film industry. “Malayalam, to those who may not know, is a language spoken in the southern part of India majority in Kerala, also known as “God’s own country.” Ravi shares that the Malayalam film industry is well known for its scripted films and famous actors, including Mohanlal (Manjil Virinja Pookkal, Rajavinte Makan) and Mammooty (New Delhi). Other well known films that have come from the Malayalam film industry include Kalapani (1996), Manichitrathazu (1993), Killukkum (1991), and many more. 

    As for what’s next for Ravi, he is currently in production on his latest film, Jillampeppere. He also shares that some of the best advice to becoming a great cinematographer is focusing on your lighting, framing, and, most importantly, knowing what the director needs. 

    Arjun Ravi shooting ‘The Kung Fu Master’

    “I listen to the story a few times from the director before we head out for some location scouting.” Ravi notes that there are additional discussions surrounding topics like “the color pattern we would use on the house, for the film as a whole, and the other properties involved with the film.” One of the final parts of Ravi’s process with the director includes making “the shot division [list] according to the dates of the location and the actors, while also taking into account whether there are any action scenes or any kids on the set that day; which means we will need have more time and care.” 

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Cinematographer Arjun Ravi on his success in the Malayalam film industry and looks forward to seeing more from the NYFA alum in the coming future.

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  • NYFA Instructor and Cinematography Chair, Piero Basso, Shoots Critically Acclaimed Film ‘Working Man’

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    Like many films slated for a 2020 release, the low-budget indie film, Working Man, had to cancel its theatrical release due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The film then opted to be released on streaming platforms like Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu and Fandango Now. NYFA instructor and Cinematography Chair, Piero Basso, spoke with NYFA about his work as the Director of Photography (DP) and how Working Man is the film many need right now.

    Working Man centers around factory worker Allery Parker who, after many years in the workforce, finds himself out of a job and attempts to cope with his newfound unemployment. Eventually Parker’s existence takes a turn as he leads his former co-workers in a secret crusade to pressure their bosses to reopen their former work facility. For the first time, Parker feels like the man in charge. However, when truths are revealed, Parker must confront the loss and pain he’s been working so hard to avoid.

    Official film poster for ‘Working Man’

    Piero Basso’s work as a DP on Working Man was hailed by Hollywood Reporter, saying the “sense of place is well captured by cinematographer Piero Basso.” Basso first got involved in the project after connecting with Tara Tovarek, a producer Basso worked with when shooting the National Geographic series American Genius.She [Tovarek]  felt I had the right personal approach [for the production] considering this was the director’s first feature film and he [Director Rober Jury] needed not only the proper technical support, but someone to confront his vision without being overwhelmed by the experience.” 

    Basso explains that he was also interested to work on the project because it reminded him of personal struggles that he has experienced growing up in Turin, Italy. “It was the center of the industry manufacturing for companies like FIAT, and it has seen a steady and painful decline over the years.” Basso shares. “I have always been fascinated by factories and industrial buildings, as well as the manual work. Visually, it has always intrigued me because of the metal, the reflections, the coldness of the structures, often mixed with the warmth of the work (fire, furnaces, machine executing tasks).”

    Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)

    For Basso, Working Man, at its core, is a humane story grounded in reality that is “able to focus on the main character’s emotions in a non superficial way.”

    For cinematographers, it is a common trait for DPs to leave their personal artistic mark on a project. For Basso, he leaves his mark in a different way. “I personally find it more interesting if my mark is achieved without bringing a special attention to the cinematography, but instead allowing it to disappear in a full integration in the narrative storytelling.”

    While working alongside the director and screenwriter for Working Man [Robert Jury], Basso had several sessions with Jury to discuss the visual concept of the film. “We both felt that this film needed to be approached with a very strong agreement between us on how we wanted to portray the film.” 

    Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)

    Due to the quick 20 day shoot, Basso recalls, “I approached every scene with a sense of urgency to deliver as much as possible space to the actor/director team to bring their characters to life.” Basso also shared that the film was shot on Arri Alexa using Master Prime lenses, a luxury in many cases for mid/low budget films like Working Man.”This allowed us to shoot with a much smaller lighting set up than traditional films.”

    Like many filmmakers, some shoots don’t always go as expected. Basso recalls that portraying the small town of Joliet, IL, while actually shooting in Chicago, IL, made it tough to find locations as the production needed to convey a sense of community that felt realistic to show a sense of community. 

    This sense of community was essential in “showing the powerful capacity of different people to rally together and become, out of many, one entity and how the strength of the group is much stronger than each other’s weakness.”

    Still from ‘Working Man’ (Cinematographer: Piero Basso)

    Basso also notes that the project and sense of place needed to feel authentic. “I loved to see the wrinkles, the imperfections in the skin, and the bodies and ethnicities reflecting a true average of society instead of the Hollywood version of it.” 

    At a time when many around the world are out of a job and America has reached an unemployment level that rivals the Great Depression, Working Man has been released as a poignant time. “Now, with COVID-19 and millions of people losing jobs and the entire society completely shaken up, Working Man is more relevant than ever,” says Basso. “As a character says in the movie ‘a person needs a job to survive, but you need work to feel like you are worth something,’ and I believe today this is a feeling many people can share.

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA instructor and Chair of Cinematography, Piero Basso, on his latest cinematography achievement and encourages everyone to check out Working Man, now available to view on demand.

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    June 10, 2020 • Cinematography, Faculty Highlights • Views: 3080