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 andthe 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.
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.
As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, New York Film Academy continues to show how its adapting to delivering an applied arts education. The Cinematography department on the Los Angeles campus has taken an updated approach to the “Stage Lighting Workshop” course using practical components integrated with remote instruction.
Production design instructor Francis Pezza created a set for a modern urban apartment to be built on Stage 5 at TBS Studios (former home of NBC), down the hall from the famous soundstage where Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show.
The apartment design features a spacious floor plan that incorporates a living room, kitchen, and bedroom. The layout allows students a great degree of flexibility in designing shots and creating a variety of lighting schemes. Additionally, the set features a large window that looks out onto a 50-foot translight backing of the New York City skyline. The backing can be lit for either day or night, and allows the Cinematography students to incorporate a greater sense of depth and dimension in their photography.
Following the set build, department chair Anthony Richmond ASC, BSC and Cinematography instructorJacek Laskus, ASC, PSC began their workshops with the MFA and One-Year Cinematography students. Each student is instructed to choose a reference image, which will first be analyzed by the class, and then used as inspiration in creating a new shot and lighting setup.
The instructors and the students worked remotely, relaying their instructions to a group of TA’s on set, who followed the students’ directions, placing and shaping the lights as instructed, and executing the cinematographer’s vision for the shot. The students were encouraged to incorporate camera movement into their visual design, utilizing the available space to best effect.
Throughout the workshop, the students learned new techniques for lighting, shot design, and moving the camera. This hybrid model of remote instruction with practical elements proved successful in delivering the goals of the workshop.
Reflecting on the class, Richmond said:
“I was pleased with the success of this workshop. Working remotely proved very effective. I was with the students on Zoom, where we could all see each other, and the image from the Red camera as the students lit the set. We had additional cameras showing us what was happening on set, including a bird’s eye view of the entire stage. The crew worked well together, and the students were able to accomplish many unique shots.”
In addition to having his film selected in the New York Lift Off Festival, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking alum Naman Goyal is using his latest documentary as a means to educate others during the global Coronavirus pandemic about a unique meditation technique that could assist individuals with their mental health in such unprecedented times.
Naman Goyal, who hails from India, graduated from NYFA’s One Year Filmmaking Conservatory in 2010 from the New York City campus. The Jaipur-based filmmaker is now gaining media attention surrounding his feature documentary The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra (revealed), which portrays a unique meditation technique that is having a positive impact on hospital patients and others seeking healing.
NYFA Filmmaking Alum Naman Goyal
The docu-film explores an alternative healing method, otherwise known as “’Energy Healing Meditation Technique” and its founder, Guru Ram Lal Siyag. This meditation technique is said to build up the body’s immune system and generate antibodies that could help fight off bacteria or even a virus.
Goyal completed filming the documentary in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. “Initially, I only wanted to make a half an hour film on this topic, but as I started researching, the project just expanded into a feature film and one and a half years just flew by,” shares Goyal. The docu-film, includes interviews from doctors and patients who benefited from the Energy Healing Meditation Technique both physically and mentally. Some patients interviewed even included former cancer patients who experienced significantly reduced cancer recovery times.
When the global pandemic hit, Goyal knew his documentary would be an informative resource for Coronavirus patients seeking healing. “I started sending clips of my documentary to patients in Wuhan (China), Daegu (South Korea), Milan (Italy), and New York City through Facebook,” says Goyal.
At the time the pandemic reached Goyal’s own city of Jaipur, India, he showed the meditation technique to a Coronavirus patient, who recovered a week after beginning the meditation, along with their prescribed medication. Goyal then reached out to another patient in Jodhpur City, who also owed their recovery to the meditation technique. Goyal has since been interviewed by a number of news outlets including India’s CNN-News18 about the technique featured in his documentary (Video below with English subtitles).
Goyal’s docu-film has already attracted festival attention and has been selected to appear in the upcoming New York Lift Off Film Festival. Goyal reveals the film may have an official release in September 2020 and shares that he is in talks with the U.S. Department of Health (NCCIH and NIH), who are looking at the possibility of doing a clinical trial with the meditation technique.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Naman Goyal on his forthcoming documentary film The Magical Guru and His Secret Mantra and looks forward to upcoming projects from the Filmmaking alum.
New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Natalia Bougadellis’ public service announcement (PSA), “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition. Bougadellis, who attended NYFA’s Teen Filmmaking program in Los Angeles and an intensive 6-Week Filmmaking workshop in New York, worked on the PSA under her female-run production company Blue Slate Films.
Bougadellis is a director and cinematographer, who hails from Athens, Greece. Her critically acclaimed film, The Owls, (available on Amazon), has played in eleven countries and over thirty film festivals, winning the prestigious Zoe Award at LifeArt Festival, “Best Student Film” at Miami Independent Film Festival, and “Best Student Filmmaker” at America’s Rainbow Film Festival Presented by HBO.
Natalia Bougadellis behind the camera during filming
Bougadellis is also the Executive Director of The Great Griffon, a non-profit organization founded to bring awareness and support to LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream entertainment. Bougadellis also co-founded her own production company, Blue Slate Films, with female filmmaker Emory Parker, in 2017 and continues to produce cutting edge projects for high-profile brands like Nike, McDonald’s, Calvin Klein, and Pepsi, to name a few.
Her PSA, “You Can Still Smile,” finished second in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, acquiring almost 48,000 votes and over 200,000 views. Though Bougadellis’ PSA did not come in first place, Gov. Cuomo announced in a briefing that New York state will still air the PSA.
New Yorkers from the PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit NYC, Blue Slate Films (Bougadellis’ production company) was gearing up to shoot their very first feature film, Whirlpool. “As a small business, we were really affected by this,” says Bougadellis.
When Bougadellis and her production partner [Parker] saw Gov. Cuomo’s #NewYorkTough competition, they knew they had to get involved. “We saw the PSA competition as an invaluable opportunity to showcase our talents and stay creative throughout this time, while also spreading a message crucial to ending this pandemic.”
Bougadellis explained that they [Bougadellis and Parker] wanted to use this opportunity to tell true stories about real New Yorkers. She recounted that their vision was to show raw emotion for each individual portrayed in the PSA. “Our eyes can tell amazing stories, so we focused on faces and eyes to show how powerful human connection can be.”
For Bougadellis, the journey of filming this video around NYC and Long Island was heartfelt and sincere. “We had no script for this video,” she says. “All answers were spontaneous and came from the heart. Emory [Parker] then worked on editing the piece and bringing it all together.”
Still from PSA “You Can Still Smile” (Courtesy of Blue Slate Films)
Beyond the stories of the individuals featured in the PSA, Bougadellis hopes that those who watch the video understand that wearing a mask isn’t just about protecting oneself. “Wearing a mask means respecting your fellow New Yorkers and caring about them, as well,” she remarks. “The sooner we can all cooperate to control this situation, the sooner our city will be able to return to normal.”
During these times of social distancing and self-quarantine, in addition to their PSA, Blue Slate Films has also launched a digital series, The Slate, featuring artists, experts, and entrepreneurs that seek to make a difference in their respective industries.
New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Natalia Bougadellis on her inspiring achievement, which highlights a crucial global message for all, and encourages everyone to check out the PSA and to keep an eye out for Blue Slate Films’ forthcoming film Whirlpool.
To watch the full “You Can Still Smile” PSA, click here or watch the full video above.
The New York Film Academy recently hosted an Industry Speaker session with the Executive Director of SAGindie, Darrien Gipson. Students and Faculty from all NYFA campuses attended as Gipson addressed the state of the industry during Covid-19. With all sectors of the industry focused on returning to work, it was a prescient discussion moderated by NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman.
Gipson spoke of the various protocols that are being proposed once production resumes. While a certain degree of uncertainty prevails, and as the industry awaits government guidelines, a consensus around various parameters is formulating. They include reduced crew sizes, staggered work hours, “pods” of crew alternating on set, various departments working timed shifts, longer days sanctioned by the unions, strict enforcement of social distancing, personal and set/equipment sanitizing regimes, monitoring for symptoms, and isolating actors.
NYFA Producing Chair Weisman with SAGindie’s Darrien Gipson
On a positive note, various “silver linings” are beginning to emerge from the current environment. Smaller productions with lower budgets, like student films and web series, are going to find it easier to handle the logistics and flexibility required to move forward. There will be a great hunger for projects as a result of the freeze on production in effect since March.
The smaller productions that can proceed at a quicker pace than the larger, more cumbersome projects will be better positioned for distribution. Gipson cited that a smaller number of “starry” submissions to festivals like Sundance will enhance the chances of less high profile films obtaining top-tier festival launches. Streaming platforms and other distribution entities will be seeking more product than ever. These observations connected with the NYFA audience as the conversation made it more apparent that there has rarely been a better time for emerging producers, filmmakers, writers, and actors to create content for a voracious audience.
The New York Film Academy has a long standing relationship with SAGindie, and thanks Executive Director Darrien Robbins for her insight and generosity. SAGindie is an invaluable resource for the NYFA community, as they not only assist in navigating the various paths forward working with the Screen Actors Guild, SAGindie will also offer guidance on a host of matters from financing to festival strategies, and more. SAGindie welcomes NYFA students who would like to reach out and learn more.
For more information on SAGindie and how to contact them click here.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TV news programs around the world have changed the way they operate. Our own NYFA News is no exception. All NYFA classes have moved online. Plus, our student producers/reporters face the challenge of creating a news program while everyone in New York is encouraged to stay at home, and all of us are expected to maintain “social distancing.”
This makes their accomplishments especially impressive, as they have found innovative ways to produce solid, information-based stories. They are also shooting entirely on-location, transforming NYFA News into a reporter-driven program.
The skills NYFA students learn can take them in a number of different directions. For Grace Shao, that includes time spent reporting for China Global Television Network (CGTN). She then joined CNBC, based in their Singapore bureau. She is now a media consultant and creative director for PayPal’s podcast series focusing on business innovation in the Asia Pacific region. She is also the Hong Kong Chapter Lead for SoGal, the largest global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors. (You can read more about SoGal’s mission in the New York Times.)
If you live in or visit Stockholm, you’ve probably heard the voice of NYFA grad Emilie Olsson, a radio news anchor for Bauer Media, so it’s probably not surprising that she explored the relatively new field of podcasting. She created Älskade Psykopat (Beloved Psychopath).
When asked about the podcast, Emilie says,”in the podcast we meet men and women who anonymously tell their story or experiences they’ve had with a psychopath or narcissist. It could be in a love relationship, family or at work. Here, real stories are highlighted that rarely can otherwise take place, and my hope is that the podcast will help, support and change!”
She was also recently featured on the TV4 morning show in Stockholm. Congratulations Emilie!
Imorse vad jag med i Nyhetsmorgon och berättade om min podd "Älskade Psykopat" som släpptes förra veckan! 🙂 I podden möter vi män och kvinnor som anonymt berättar sin historia eller erfarenheter de haft med en psykopat eller narcissist! Det kan vara inom en kärleksrelation, familjen och på jobbet. Här lyfts verkliga berättelser fram som sällan annars får ta plats och min förhoppning är att podden ska hjälpa, stötta och förändra! I veckans poddavsnitt möter vi Relationsexperten Michael Larsen som berättar mer om det här viktiga ämnet! Hela tv-inslaget finns att se här: https://www.tv4.se/nyhetsmorgon/klipp/att-dejta-en-psykopat-saknar-empati-12603932
It is always exciting when the paths of two NYFA grads cross. Bryanna (“Red Carpet”) Reynolds moved from Melbourne to Los Angeles last year. And while LA is a big place, she found herself interviewing fellow Broadcast Journalism alum Alisa Arvind. Alisa, now a published author, is using the communication skills she developed at NYFA as a life coach and motivational speaker.
This week we began offering a 4-Week Online Broadcast Journalism workshop. There are people around the world who want to study at NYFA. But for many, travel isn’t currently an option. Others need to stick close to home because of family commitments and work. Now there is a 4-Week Broadcast Journalism Workshop for them too.
A few days ago, I got a message from former NYFA Games student Shaquan Ladson (1-Year Game Design Program, 2017), who finds himself quarantined in the rural Pacific Northwest. “This time at home is making me miss being around good company and creatives,” he wrote me. We texted for a bit and I advised him to see the wealth of opportunity in this time alone. What will the world do, I wonder, on this global artist’s retreat?
Those of us lucky enough to be stuck at home during “Borentine” (as a friend so aptly dubbed this time) have a unique opportunity to flex our creative muscles, and create without the usual restrictions of time and commerce.
While the news inundates us with frightening stats and global uncertainty, and we marvel at the courage of healthcare professionals and those services we consider essential for our modern life, humanity has been connecting in the most inventive and intimate ways. We’re getting our groove on at home with Instagram Live DJ sets from people like celebrity darling @DNice and my hometown hero @DJ_Oso_Fresh, as well as exploring the magical self-expression of distance nightlife through #ClubQuarantine.
TikTok insanity has gripped everyone from Jane Fonda’s 9 to 5 send-up to my in-laws’ happy Birthday Abuela dance. Let’s hope you’ve seen some variation of the high fashion Trikini for summer 2020. We’ve gotten weird, people, and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.
And that’s all happening when we’re not scrolling, streaming, or gaming. According to SuperData Research, we spent a record $10 Billion in March on digital games – that’s the biggest monthly expenditure on games, ever. Nintendo’s brand new Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold 5 million units in March alone – the most any single title has sold in one month. It’s no surprise that a lot of that spending is on MMORPGs and networked multiplayer games, across all platforms. When we can’t be together, we play together.
I’m not gonna lie, my Farmville 2: Country Escape obsession had definitely cooled until I was forced to find ways to disconnect from all this high-intensity family time. While I farm away 5 minutes at a time, my students are playing hours ofFIFA20, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and reliving their youth through fan-supported servers of Club Penguin. Other worthy titles include:
Bring your darkest sense of humor to the browser based Pandemic 2, where you play as a virus that aspires to become a species-decimating disease.
Photo Credit: Club Penguin Online
Whatever your pleasure, games are a way for us to connect, to comfort, and to escape.
I don’t want to sound trite: millions of people are losing their jobs, many are facing life-threatening illness and death on a daily basis, and all the burdens we struggled with before feel a lot heavier now.
The beauty of creativity is that it is in you, in me, and in us. It’s in the ways we are providing and caring for each other, and the ways we’re finding laughter even in grief. So whether you’re alone in the woods, or stuck in your 5th floor walkup, you have something inside you that deserves to be seen and heard. If games are your artform, I hope you’ll join us in making something meaningful and magical.
Classes in our 1-Year Conservatory, BFA, and MFA programs start every quarter. Click here for more info.