Darren Dean

  • New York Film Academy’s Inaugural Virtual Industry Pitch Fest


    The New York Film Academy’s New York campus Producing Department hosted their first ever Virtual Industry Pitch Fest on May 4, 2020. Students in the Fall 1-Year Conservatory Program in Producing presented their “final” feature film pitches to a group of esteemed producers, casting agents, and production executives, who gave feedback to the Producing students over the course of the day. 

    Film producer Chris Bongrine listens to a NYFA student, Alice Shy, give her “final pitch”

    Industry Guests included Chris Bongirne (Marshall featuring Chadwick Bosemen,, I Am Legend, featuring Will Smith) along with Dan Hank (Former executive in charge of production for Netflix/Marvel and AMC Networks), Darren Dean (The Florida Project, Tangerine) and Eve Pomerance (Son of the South, sadly Brian Dennehey’s most recent and last film).

    Industry professional Dan Hank shares feedback with NYFA Producing student, Caspian Khonigh

    Producing instructor Nick Yellen organized the event and said, “students received detailed critiques on their presentations, along with invaluable industry advice and strategies on how to further their projects toward production. More importantly, students made valuable industry contacts and found it exciting, informative and… nerve-racking!”

    NYFA Producing student Richard Payne recounted, “Monday’s Virtual Industry Pitch Fest was definitely nerve-racking at first. It was the first time my “final pitch” was done virtually. My classmates and I would have liked for it to be in person, but due to the current state of the world that clearly wasn’t going to happen. With that being said, it went really well.” He continued, “It was a great experience to practice pitching with real industry professionals. Nick Yellen does a great job in preparing his students for the “final pitch” and for pitching [stories] in the real world.”

    Producer Eve Pomerance discusses Camille Rao’s “final pitch”

    When asked about the Virtual Industry Pitch Fest, Producing Chair, Neal Weisman, said, “this is the culmination of months of students’ work, and it’s gratifying to see it all come together on this new online platform.” Weisman also concluded, “this is exactly the kind of interaction our students will encounter when moving into the industry. The Pitch Fest also serves as a terrific networking opportunity.”

    Producer Darren Dean listens as a NYFA Producing student, Christine Aberyuf, gives her “final pitch”

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to thank special guests Chris Bongrine, Dan Hank, Darren Dean, and Eve Pomerance for providing their industry expertise and constructive feedback for NYFA student’s final pitches. NYFA would also like to congratulate its Producing students for presenting outstanding work as a culmination of their hard work and creativity.

    For more information on the Producing School at New York Film Academy, click here.


    May 6, 2020 • Producing • Views: 1527

  • NYFA Shows Early Screening of “The Florida Project” with Darren Dean


    On Wednesday, October 4th, New York Film Academy hosted an early screening of the already critically acclaimed “The Florida Project,” as part of the Producing Department’s Industry Speaker Series.  NYFA Instructor and Producer of the film Darren Dean was on hand to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A session following the screening. Produced by Sean Baker, “The Florida Project” focuses on Florida motel residents who live in the shadow of Disney World in and around Celebration, Florida (Kool & The Gang’s post-disco smash “Celebration” blares during the credits). We previously wrote about the film’s premiere at the prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. The film is being distributed by A24 which has positioned itself as a curator of excellent cinema with recent releases such as “Good Time,” and last year’s excellent, Academy Award-winning “Moonlight.”

    Darren Dean at NYFA

    Producer Darren Dean discusses “The Florida Project” with NYFA Producing Chair Neal Weisman

    Neal Weisman, Chair of Producing at NYFA, introduced the film and moderated the Q&A with his colleague. Dean described his entry into the film industry as such: “I started making films when I was 40. I was working marketing. I worked with Sean, went back to school to complete my degree, and ended up shooting a film he liked.” He continued,”I know no other world. I don’t know the ‘let’s go from the paper, let’s strictly follow the rules’ world.” His unique vantage point was valuable to students who may eventually try to marry traditional methods with experimental filmmaking styles such as Baker and Dean.

    “[Sean] likes to get involved with the families that live in the motels, for example, or, in ‘Prince of Broadway’, the West African street hustlers, or, in ‘Tangerine’, the trans sex workers.” As Mr. Weisman put it, this lends an authenticity and honesty to all of Baker’s work. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned to trust, it’s his instinct.” “Create this pastiche of ‘The Little Rascals. This is Sean’s tribute to ‘The Little Rascals.'”

    “We are two straight, white men from New Jersey who happen to think straight white male filmmaking is boring,” Dean joked referencing his work, such as the acclaimed “Tangerine,” with Baker. The newest film focuses on another marginalized group, the “hidden homeless” people living week-to-week in motels outside of Orlando. A number of the bit parts were people who actually live in the motels with no prior acting experience. Like many actors and actresses in Baker’s previous films, the female lead, Bria Vinaite, was cast from Instagram. Veteran actor Willem Defoe is the “name” of the cast and delivers a powerful performance as the tough but empathetic manager of the motel. The main child character, Moonee, is played by Brooklynn Prince who is astounding and is sure to receive recognition come award season.

    New York Film Academy students from Filmmaking, Screenwriting, Acting for Film, and other disciplines were captivated by the harrowing drama and stuck around for questions afterward. Following the Q&A, Dean was gracious enough to sign posters given by A24 and chat with students and aspiring filmmakers.

    “The Florida Project” is released nationwide this Friday, October 6. Director Sean Baker will be attending a Q&A at AMC Lincoln Square in New York City following the 9pm showing of the film. See below for more info.

    The Florida Project NY Q&As

    UPDATE: “The Florida Project” has since been nominated for the following major awards, among others:

    • Golden Globe – Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor
    • Independent Spirit Award – Sean Baker for Best Director
    • Satellite Award – Sean Baker for Best Director
    • Screen Actors Guild Award – Willem Dafoe for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
    • Gotham Independent Film Award – Brooklynn Prince for Breakthrough Actor

    October 6, 2017 • Acting, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing, Screenwriting • Views: 4455

  • “Tangerine” Screens at NYFA NYC


    Instructor Darren Dean, actor Karren Karagulian and Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman

    A packed and enthusiastic screening room at New York Film Academy’s Union Square campus was the scene of an exclusive showing of the new film Tangerine last night. As part of the Producing Department’s Industry Speaker series, students and faculty from all departments participated in a “Conversation with” and Question and Answer session with producer and NYFA Instructor Darren Dean, director and co-writer Sean Baker, cinematographer Radium Cheung, producer and costume designer Shih-Ching Tsou, and actors Karren Karagulian and James Ransone (The Wire).

    Costume designer Shih-Ching Tsou, director and co-writer Sean Baker, actor James Ransone (THE WIRE) and Instructor Darren Dean

    Led by Producing Co-Chair Neal Weisman, the spirited conversation explored the producer/director relationship, and the team’s continuing collaboration on several films over more than eight years. Cinematographer Cheung described the process filming the entire movie with the iPhone, and Director Sean Baker ran down the technical work flow in this unprecedented approach to feature filmmaking. Sean also shared with the audience his genesis of the project, and his experiences during the extensive seven month research and development process that culminated in the script. Filmed on a micro-budget, with an assist from Executive Producers Jay and Mark Duplass, Tangerine is being distributed by Magnolia Pictures.
    The film opens July 10 in New York and Los Angeles.
    sean baker

    Sean Baker signing autographs for NYFA students


    July 8, 2015 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 6485

  • NY Film Academy Faculty Produce and Star in Sundance Award Winning Hit Movie!


    Cassandra Freeman stars as Rose in Kinyarwanda

    New York Film Academy Acting Instructor Cassandra Freeman stars as Rose in Kinyarwanda

    When Roger Ebert gave feature film Kinyarwanda four stars, he commented, “I thought I knew something about Rwanda, but I didn’t really know very much. I was moved by Hotel Rwanda but not really shaken this deeply. Not like this…Here is a powerful film.” Behind the project are New York Film Academy Acting Professor Cassandra Freeman, star of Kinyarwanda, and Producing Professor Darren Dean, who is responsible for producing the film along with Ishmael Ntihabose, Tommy Oliver, and Deatra Harris. The film interweaves six different tales that together to form one grand narrative, providing a complex and real depiction of human resilience and life during the genocide.

    Poster for hit film Kinyarwanda

    Poster for hit film Kinyarwanda, produced by New York Film Academy instructor Darren Dean

    Kinyarwanda’s many recognitions have included winning the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival, the World Cinema Audience Award at AFI Fest, the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival, and the Audience Award at the Starz Denver Film Fest. The film is now playing at select theaters throughout the country including at AMC Theaters in Times Square, New York.

    Cassandra Freeman

    Cassandra says, “I’m also a teacher at New York Film Academy. If you’re an actor and you have a lot of things going on, it helps inform your work and it gives you a toolbox of emotions and different perspectives. You can’t just act all the time.”

    Cassandra, whose other credits include playing Denzel Washington’s wife in Spike Lee’s Inside Man and the funny best friend in Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife, comments in a recent interview that the experience of playing Lt. Rose Kabuye was more than just learning lines: ”I shaved off my hair. I shaved it off until there was about a half inch of afro and I let that grow in. I actually lived with a real Rwandan family, so I underwent a cultural transformation as well. I had a mom, dad, sister, and brother. So I really had the chance to absorb the culture of Rwanda.” 

    To learn more about the film including where the film will next be screening, check out http://www.kinyarwandamovie.com/


    December 15, 2011 • Acting • Views: 4366