NYFA Veteran Students with Col. Jack Jacobs (NYFA Chair of Veteran Advancement Program)
Everybody knows by now that the Internet is filled with countless blogs, from globally famous media companies to ones covering even the tiniest of niches. But there’s at least one blog that’s doing great work serving an often overlooked yet large and vitally important demographic—the United States military community.
The blog, We Are The Mighty, is for veterans, servicemen and women, and their families, and covers everything from military news to pop culture, with both thoughtfully penned articles and silly, amusing listicles. Overall, WATM’s mission statement is “Celebrating military service with stories that inspire,” but in doing so, it’s also provided a way for the community to congregate, communicate, and share their ideas and views through its site and social media.
NYFA BFA Filmmaking and MFA Screenwriting Alum Tim Kirkpatrick
Tim Kirkpatrick is one of the writers for We Are The Mighty, and has already built an impressive portfolio of articles. Kirkpatrick is a Navy veteran, having entered as a Hospital Corpsman in 2007. In the fall of 2010, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines.
After coming back stateside, Kirkpatrick enrolled at the New York Film Academy and earned his AFA degree in filmmaking from our Los Angeles campus. Honing his skills even further, Kirkpatrick followed his filmmaking education with NYFA’s 8-Week Screenwriting workshop.
One of his most recent pieces is about the New York Film Academy itself, highlighting the Academy’s relationship to the Military and veteran community. As Kirkpatrick mentions in his article, “At any given time, NYFA caters to over 200 veterans in the student body and the school takes pride in putting a camera in their hands on the first day of class,” while also adding that NYFA has enrolled over 1500 veterans and dependents of veterans in total.
The Military and veteran community is an important part of the NYFA family. Kirkpatrick mentions in his article the Academy’s V.S.A., or Veteran Student Association, where vets from different branches of the armed forces come together over their shared love of film and the visual arts.
Kirkpatrick also shouts out the venerable Colonel Jack Jacobs, who in addition to being a Medal of Honor recipient and on-air military strategist for NBC/MSNBC, is the Chair of the NYFA Veterans Advancement Program.
The Military and the film industry are a more natural pairing than some may suspect. Kirkpatrick writes, “As in the Military, the film industry uses a precise chain of command for its operational purposes, so vets feel right at home on set — hierarchy and order (and yes, even paperwork) have been branded into their solid work ethic.”
You can check out Tim Kirkpatrick and the other writers at We Are The Mighty here.
NYFA May 2017 Diploma of Filmmaking End of Year Screening & Graduation
For New York Film Academy Gold Coast’s May 2017 Diploma Filmmaking students, the holidays didn’t just represent the end of 2017, but the end of a year of learning, training and artistry. On the 21st of December, the group held their graduation at Event Cinema Pacific Fair, along with the End of Year Screening of their final films.
With a packed house of friends and family, the group of talented, passionate filmmaking students were able to share their achievements in a tangible way, by showcasing the films their vision and hard work made manifest. By having a full theatre audience and seeing their final films up on a big screen, the students got a taste of what their future careers could look like. Being inspired and surrounded by loved ones, the filmmakers were able to celebrate the holidays and their accomplishments of 2017 all at once.
In addition to gaining vital filmmaking skills, learning by doing, and applying them to their work, the students’ time at NYFA was valuable in other ways. Filmmaking lecturer Trevor Hawkins elaborated, “What is apparent—apart from learning the art and craft of filmmaking, after spending the year working on each others’ films—the students have formed bonds and connections that will continue on into their professional filmmaking careers.”
NYFA May 2017 Diploma of Filmmaking End of Year Screening & Graduation
Indeed, forming relationships with colleagues is just as important to the collaborative art of making movies as the practical skills needed to bring them to life. While this is just the beginning of their careers, the students were already showing off their distinct talents. Each of their final films portrayed their own unique voice, and demonstrated just how much they’ve grown since starting the program in May.
Hawkins added, “We wish them all the best and look forward to all their future projects.” The New York Film Academy congratulates the students on their films and a job well done!
With the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival coming to a close this December, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia profiled six pioneering female filmmakers from the Middle East, including New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Khadijah Kudsi. The in-depth piece about the six directors not only celebrates their hard work and achievements, but highlights the cultural shift taking place in the 21st Century Middle East, and subsequent progress women have made in playing a larger role in society—including the arts.
NYFA alum Khadijah Kudsi grew up in Saudi Arabia and was always artistic and interested in storytelling. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I went to New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2014. I only meant to go for four weeks, but that turned into eight, which led into a year and then into a whole career. I did a diploma in filmmaking and then I started working on short films and writing.”
After graduating from the Academy, Kudsi quickly found work for a Chinese television channel. As her career has progressed, Kudsi likes to focus on stories from Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, including one film that’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and another currently in production focusing on Dana Al Ali—the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.
Kudsi continued, “I think it’s important to have ties to this region and highlight positive stories coming out of it. But it’s not always easy—the funding is hard. As is finding the right producer and managing your time being a mother and a working woman.”
Festivals in the Middle East have grown in importance as more and more voices from the region are making themselves heard. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) first launched in 2004 with 76 films and 13,000 attendees. During its initial six-day run, acting legend Omar Sharif was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival has steadily grown since then, with over 60,000 admissions to its 2016 event. This year marked the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival and presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Irrfan Khan and Sir Patrick Stewart.
As the region modernizes and women are being given more and more freedom, their roles in society are becoming more prominent as well. For Middle Eastern women working in the arts, that uphill struggle feels all the more real, considering the industry has been historically unequal not just in the region but around the world. Kudsi told Harper’s Bazaar, “I have four children, whereas most of the crew you work with on set are single or have no kids. They don’t understand when you say you need to wrap by a certain time because I need to go see my kids.”
The New York Film Academy strives to give filmmakers and artists of all kinds a voice, and prides itself on its diverse student body. By learning and working hands-on together, students find their differences are a strength—learning and sharing experiences not just from the school but from one another. If you’re interested in filmmaking or the visual arts, you can find more information about NYFA’s programs here.
NYFA has committed itself to giving aspiring storytellers in the Middle East an education they can build their careers on. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to see Khadijah Kudsi recognized for her inspiring work and career, and looks forward to the stories she will tell in the years to come. “I love the rawness in the stories here,” professed Kudsi, “and we have so much to talk about.”
“I Heart Jenny” at the New York Film Academy’s New York City Theatre
“I Heart Jenny,” a heart-wrenching and beautiful documentary by producer and director Blake Babbitt, had a special screening this December at the New York Film Academy’s recently opened New York City Theatre. The film follows Babbitt’s close friend Jenny Rie Vanderlinden as she struggled with and eventually succumbed to a rare form of ovarian cancer. More importantly, the documentary focuses on the powerful positive spirit Jenny embodied, inspiring her friends, family, and eventually total strangers with her optimism and zestful love of life.
In a piece written about Jenny, the Huffington Post wrote, “Jenny doesn’t seem terrified of this thing that is so far beyond us, this thing that none of us can now see… Instead, she’s investing her unconquerable energy in living the spectacular life she’s always lived—skiing, canyoneering, rafting, traveling and raising four amazing children—with a bit more urgency.”
“I Heart Jenny” started documenting Jenny’s journey over a year after her diagnosis, and followed her right up until her untimely end, a death she refused to allow to shadow her life. Babbitt was inspired to make the documentary after seeing the “I Heart Jenny” stickers their mutual friends began posting frequently as badges of support.
“I Heart Jenny”
The initial idea of the documentary came to Babbitt during a pitch session that was part of his curriculum while attending the New York Film Academy’s Evening Producing workshop. From there, he started a years long journey, utilizing the skills, resources, and colleagues he met while at NYFA. “I had never made a film before,” said Babbitt, “but I was able to use the resources at NYFA to get my feet underneath me. At NYFA I was surrounded by people who really knew what they were doing. I felt supported by NYFA the entire way.”
Shooting the film took two years, and was in post-production for another three—a long, laborious process that is not uncommon for documentaries, especially works of passion and as personal as “I Heart Jenny.” During this time, Babbitt not only applied the skills he learned at NYFA, but also used the connections made there to help his film see the light of day. In addition to being a distinguished alumnus, Babbitt is also currently the school’s Associate Director of Recruitment. With this notable position, he is able to guide incoming students as they look to grow as artists and filmmakers in their own right.
Producer & Director Blake Babbitt
As a result of the relationships formed at the New York Film Academy, Babbitt was able to recruit a strong, talented crew for “I Heart Jenny”—many alumni and staff from the school—including:
Kathleen Harris – DP/Producer
Brad Gallant – Lead Editor/Producer
Zena Wood – Associate Producer
Mike Diaz – Editor/Story Producer
Chris Hayes – Editor
Mike Walls – Camera Operator
Shani Patel – Sound recordist/2nd Camera Operator
Lexi Phillips – Colorist
It was only fitting then that “I Heart Jenny” had its initial preview at the New York Film Academy. Babbitt continued, “It was an honor to be able to host my first screening in our stunning new screening room.”
Andrea Swift, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Documentary Filmmaking, was in attendance, and was very impressed with Babbitt’s debut film. “It takes extraordinary passion, commitment, and talent to make a film like this.” She added, “This film can do real good in the world.”
The specific cancer that took Jenny’s life was related to the BRCA gene, a sequence of DNA that has become more and more noted in recent years for its ominous relationship to many types of cancer. While making “I Heart Jenny,” Babbitt linked up with Jonathan and Mindy Gray, founders of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine. The Basser Center is the first of its kind to focus specifically on BRCA-related cancers, and Babbitt has tied his film to their worthy cause, helping to raise donations for further research (click here if you’d like to support the Basser Center as well.)
While it’s been a long, winding road for Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” their journey is far from over. Babbitt’s goal is to get the documentary into the Telluride Film Festival, based in Colorado where Babbitt is from and where he first met Jenny. According to Babbitt, “If it gets in, she wants me to bring a cardboard cutout of her—LOL!”
In addition to submitting the film to as many festivals as possible, Babbitt is also hoping to get distribution, hoping the more people who see the film, the more they will take home its poignant message and look to support the fight against BRCA-related cancers. Babbitt continued, “We’ve had so many supporters along the way, and anytime I felt dejected or lost in the process, I would just think about our supporters and Jenny. I knew I couldn’t let her or them down.”
Supporters of the film can follow updates on Facebook as well as on Twitter. You can also follow Babbitt’s filmmaking exploits on Instagram.
The New York Film Academy is proud of Blake Babbitt and “I Heart Jenny,” and wishes him the best of luck as he continues the legacy of Jenny Rie Vanderlinden and her powerful story.
Lucia Barata wanted to support the Dancing Wheels Company & School, an organization dedicated to teaching and showcasing dancers both with and without disabilities. Lucia decided to put the filmmaking skills she had learned over the years toward this goal to bring more exposure to Dancing Wheels and help them find more support and sponsors. Her efforts are paying off as her documentary, “Dancing Wheels,” is quickly collecting both awards and acclaim, including Best Film at the International Student, Newcomer, and Woman Movie Awards (ISENMA) 2017.
Since 1980, Dancing Wheels has dedicated itself to providing “a unifying expression of movement for all,” exhibiting dance as an essential illustration of the human spirit, including from people of all abilities. Since adding a school to its company in 1990, Dancing Wheels has become one of the foremost arts and disabilities organizations in the country.
By using the medium of film to showcase both the incredible dancing of the company’s members, as well as the passion and heart behind these beautiful physical movements, Lucia Barata was able to bring Dancing Wheels’s mission statement to a larger audience, including those outside the United States.
The International Student, Newcomer, and Woman Movie Awards are held in Indonesia and were founded in 2015, collaborating with the Film Festivals Alliance. Creating a platform and opportunities for both Indonesian and International filmmakers, the festival accepts narrative and documentary submissions from film students, newcomers (non-student, professional, recreational, or amateur filmmakers) and female filmmakers from around the world.
Out of a selection of 350 films, “Dancing Wheels,” was nominated for Best Film alongside three other films. Despite the competition, the documentary was an audience favorite and took home the big prize. The award ceremony was held in Bali and attended by an illustrious crowd, including Indonesian royals. Barata accepted the Best Film award from His Majesty the King of Bonea Selayar, H. Andi Mahyuddin.
While ISENMA presented “Dancing Wheels” with its first Best Film award, the documentary has already picked up several other accolades, including the Diamond Award in Short Documentary and Platinum Award for Editor of the Year at the Directors Awards, the Medal of the Year and Platinum Award for Director of the Year from the Filmmakers of the Year Film Festival, and the Royal High Achievement Award from Royal World Prize & Records.
“This film is the one I’m very proud of,” remarked Barata, adding, “there are no boundaries to dance.” Barata was born in Brazil and already had an impressive education in art and architecture before enrolling at the New York Film Academy in 2012. Taking the 1-Year Filmmaking program in New York City, Barata learned the skills necessary to telling a story—fictional or nonfictional—through a visual medium.
The New York Film Academy congratulates alumna Lucia Barata on “Dancing Wheels” and its awards, and looks forward to seeing what further accolades her career will bring!
On the morning of November 26, 2017, Paul Brown, a notable Hollywood writer, director, producer, as well as a screenwriting instructor at the New York Film Academy, arrived in Guangzhou, China. Just a few hours later, Brown hosted a Master Class at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA), where students and faculty from the GAFA animation department and others packed the house.
Brown has taught several screenwriting workshops at the New York Film Academy, and has a distinguished career in the film & television industry. Starting over twenty-five years ago, Brown has produced more than one hundred television dramas and movies, working on illustrious series as “The X-Files,” “Quantum Leap,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Brown has won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best TV Drama, and has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and three Golden Globes.
In the Master Class “The Secrets of Great Stories,” Brown used “Wall-E” as an example of a film that truly brings its characters come to life in an emotionally powerful way. Brown elaborated on how mystery is at the heart of all great stories, following up with a discussion about the hidden ways that makes the audience can care about and connect with memorable characters whose desires, flaws, and need for change awaken secret wishes for a transformation in our own lives.
After the class, Brown engaged with many students in a Q&A session and gave notes on students’ scripts until the end of the session. Overall, the afternoon was very well received and the audience from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts had many words of appreciation and gratitude for Paul Brown and the Master Class.
“Newton,” a feature-length film by NYFA alumnus Amit V Masurkar, is now in the running for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film — just one in a long line of successes the Indian dark comedy-drama and its writer & director have already seen.
Co-written and directed by Amit, “Newton” stars Rajkummar Rao as Newton Kumar, a rookie government clerk who seeks to uphold democracy and conduct fair elections in Chhattisgarh’s conflict-ridden jungles. The film has received positive reviews, including from India’s Huffington Post, which called it “a touching, personal and very human film.”
Amit first premiered “Newton” at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. Since then, Amit has presented his film at nearly 50 festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in April, where it screened in the International Narrative Competition, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, where it won the coveted Jury Prize.
An Academy Award would be the crowning achievement to go with these accolades, and the journey to attaining one is a long and tough road. Films that are produced outside of the United States and are delivered in a predominantly non-English language are eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Unlike other Oscars, the Foreign Language Film Award is unique in that the golden statue is presented not to the filmmakers, but to the nation that produced it—adding an air of patriotic pride to the category.
Each country must then select just one film per year to represent it at the Academy Awards, creating a lot of competition between movies of all genres, especially in a nation as populated and cinema-oriented as India. “Newton” was selected from a shortlist of 26 films to represent India at this year’s Oscars, and the final nominations from five different countries will be announced along with the other Academy Award noms early next year. The 90th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 4, 2018.
Amit V Masurkar honed his screenwriting skills at New York Film Academy’s New York campus, taking the 8-Week Screenwriting workshop in 2009. After writing for numerous sketch and comedy shows, Amit’s directorial feature-length debut “Sulemani Keeda” became a surprise indie hit. “Newton” is only his second feature film, and Amit has proven to be one of India’s most exciting voices in filmmaking.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Amit V Masurkar on such a fantastic achievement, and looks forward to seeing what further accomplishments he and “Newton” will achieve!
On Monday, October 9th, 2017 the New York Film Academy was proud to welcome TV Executive, Jerry London. London is best known for producing “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Doris Day Show.” He’s directed over three hundred episodes of television, eleven miniseries, and forty TV movies throughout his lengthy career. In addition to working on “Chiefs” with Charlton Hesston and “Ellis Island” with Richard Burton, London earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the twelve-hour mini-series, “Shogun.”
London screened a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Shogun” for students at our Los Angeles campus. The Q and A was hosted by Associate Chair of Filmmaking, David Newman. The evening’s conversation began with Mr. London’s childhood. On Saturdays, when London was five, he would accompany his uncle to work at the RKO studio lot. “I became fascinated by it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I always knew I wanted to be in the movie business.”
At first, London tried his hand at art design but found admission to the union difficult to obtain. “You had to be a son or daughter of someone who was already an art designer,” he explained. His uncle thought he ought to try editing. On the RKO lot, London learned to splice film on the Moviola. At nineteen, he landed his first Hollywood gig as an Apprentice Editor on “I Love Lucy.”
After eight years on “I Love Lucy,” London moved to Fox to edit the television program, “Daniel Boon.” The producer of the show, Ed Feldman, then asked London to cut a new pilot. The pilot was “Hogan’s Heroes.” The show ran for six years and London edited every episode.
Feldman altered the course of London’s life once again when he suggested that Jerry become a director. London was not convinced he could direct actors. “I didn’t know much about staging. I knew cameras because I used to shoot stills. I knew editing. What I didn’t know was actors or stage direction. I didn’t have the confidence.” He thought about it and began taking acting lessons. Soon he was directing plays and getting to know the ins and outs of the craft.
After a year, he was still struggling with his confidence when it came to actors. He decided to take psychology courses at a local college. “That was the most valuable thing I ever did in regards to becoming a director. The whole course was about dealing with people, how to understand their thinking, and how to make them have confidence in your speaking.” Now, he was ready to direct. In season four of “Hogan’s Heroes,” London directed his first episode of television.
From there he directed “The Partridge Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” and “The Brady Bunch.” These multi-camera comedies were a lot of fun to film, but London aspired to challenge himself with more serious work. “Comedy is a writer’s medium,” London said, “and drama is where the director can move the camera and really set the tone for the piece.”
He decided to take one of the comedy scripts he was hired to direct and shoot it like a drama. He convinced the Director of Photography to take a chance with the network. “At this point, I’d shot 40 episodes (of “Love: American Style”). If I don’t make another one it will be okay.” Six weeks later ABC sent him a letter. He was concerned they hated it and he would be out of a job. Instead, he was hired to direct his first drama.
Now, he was bouncing around back and forth between noted dramas like “Kojak,” “The Rockford Files,” and “The Six Million Dollar Man.” “It was a great education. In those days you shot in six days. As a director, you’re a problem solver and you have to come up with an answer. By the end of those two years, I had a lot of confidence.”
When it was time for questions one student asked, “On a scale of one to one hundred, how much of an actor’s performance is his, and how much is the director.”
“I would say eighty percent of it is his.” London responded.
He said that it is important to give an artist space to create. When he worked with Faye Dunaway on his film, “Ellis Island,” she took out a mirror while rehearsing marks to check up on the work of the Director of Photography. This way she could examine how she looked on camera. The Director of Photography, Jack Hildyard, who also worked on “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” was furious. No one wants to be second-guessed by someone outside of his or her expertise on set.
London did not want to upset or embarrass Dunaway. For the first day, he decided to let it go. As he was watching the dailies he was stunned to discover that Dunaway looked twenty instead of forty. Hildyard was incredible at his job. The following day when Dunaway asked about the dailies London let her know how good she looked and politely told the Academy Award winner she did not need the mirror. Dunaway agreed and they got along famously for the rest of the shoot. “It was the smartest decision I had ever made.”
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. London for taking the time to speak with our students. His book, “From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘Shogun’ and Beyond: Tales From the Other Side of the Camera”, is now available on Amazon.
New York Film Academy College of Visual & Performing Arts (NYFA) MFA Alumnus Dias Azimzhan was always interested in storytelling, starting out as a blogger before deciding to pursue filmmaking. Azimzhan’s transition to a new profession wasn’t seamless and he had to spend some time working for an international airline company before attending NYFA.
Eventually, with help of the Kazakh Bolashak Scholarship program, Azimzhan was provided the opportunity to attend NYFA, and recently graduated completing the education he dreamed about. His first film, “Moments of Enlightenment,” screened at numerous festivals, taking home awards from the Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival.
NYFA sat down with Azimzhan to find out more details of his journey.
NYFA: Based on your experience, what do you recommend to those who are just planning to apply for the Bolashak scholarship program?
DA: At the beginning of the process, you may be scared and demotivated by the list of documents that you need to collect, but this procedure is also similar in other countries (including the U.S.) when applying for certain grants, so I advise you to be patient.
Look at this process as the first step of the journey to your dream. Further, during following stages, be self-disciplined and organized as possible. Plan and rationally use your time for preparing other documents and visas. It is important do not be late for the beginning of the academic year. Start dates can vary depending on the school and country.
NYFA: What was most difficult during the Bolashak application process?
DA: During the examinations, I often heard from the candidates for the scholarship that the third stage is the most difficult, that is, the last stage of the selection. In this round, the candidate surrounded by members of the selection committee (usually composed of the President of the Center of International Programs, doctors of science, professors and public figures) answers various questions. Those questions can be absolutely unpredictable — they can ask you about the constitution of the country, continuing with questions in poetry, mathematics, history, psychology, foreign languages, etc.
However, personally, for me, the most difficult stage was the second one, where the candidates who passed the first round have to take an IQ and psychological test. Additionally to logic tasks, it includes various mathematical and geometric questions. About 500 questions in total.
It’s also important to mention that each Bolashak scholarship candidate has to know Kazakh language on a very high level. Everyone will have to pass KAZTEST in the first round (analog to TOEFL and IELTS), and based on results you will either go to a second round or not.
DA: It all started in 2011 when I decided to write a script. At that time I had a blog (where I was writing my thoughts and observations) and I thought that it would not be difficult for me to write a story for the movie. I installed “Finaldraft” (screenwriting software) and started. But on the first paragraph, it became clear that I did not have enough knowledge in this area. I did not know how to structure and tell the story for the screen using pen and paper. The art of screenwriting has its own nuances (for example, you can not write the characters’ thoughts as in novels, as the viewer simply does not see it). I began to look for materials and educational institutions to fill the gap.
I primarily considered the New York Film Academy because of the intensive program, with an emphasis on practice. Also, NYFA instructors are working in the film and television industry, which is important in terms of gaining new knowledge from them.
Unfortunately, at that time I did not know about Bolashak, and did not have the necessary financial funds to apply. I had to postpone my dream. And, as it turned out, everything does happen for reason: While creating a financial basis for the future, I was working in the international airline company. I saw the world and got acquainted with the culture of many countries, which helped to significantly improve and broaden my horizons and critical thinking. Those qualities are very important for the director and filmmakers in general.
Eventually, already with little life experience and certain skills, I decided to return to the realization of my dream and plunge into the creative process, which imbued the walls of NYFA.
NYFA: What is your impression of your NYFA program? Do you have a favorite subject or instructor?
I would like to highlight screenwriting instructor, Lee Gordon. In his class, I gained knowledge on structuring story and the ability to apply this knowledge directly to the shooting process. Also, a thank you goes out to directing instructors Steve Morris and Michael Sandoval, for teaching me working with actors and listening and feeling every member of the crew. All these years, Carl Bartels taught us the art of cinematography. In his classes, we learned different cameras, lenses, compositions and how to feel the visual components of the frame. I also want to highlight Mark Horowitz, who shared his huge experience in the film business and content promotion.
NYFA: Your short social drama “Moments of Enlightenment” has won many awards at various film festivals. Tell us how the idea for this film was born?
DA: In 2008, one of my friends lost her job. It was during the global financial crisis. By the way, I also lost my job then. I think almost everyone remembers this difficult period for many in the world. On one cloudy autumn day, I met her at the cafe, and she told me about her difficult situation, including problems in the family. I was helping her as much as I can. Part of her story remained in my head forever.
And when I had an opportunity to tell the world a small story, I decided to share that period of my acquaintance’s life (with her permission), through the prism of two immigrants living in the U.S.
NYFA: Recently, you starred in Alisher Suleimen’s “Cloud on the Roof.” Did you use behind-the-scenes experience and knowledge in acting?
DA: I think behind-the-scenes experience gives a huge advantage to the actor, not only in knowing the geography of the scene and the shooting process but also in understanding the story itself since not every actor can think like a director. But neither does every director think like an actor in terms of becoming a new character; finding and making new skills, habits, weaknesses and strengths his own.
I had the opportunity to synchronize my knowledge in both, because I already had acting experience in small projects, as well as experience in studying the art of improvisation at NYFA along with the courses I had taken in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
NYFA: What did you learn from acting as a director?
DA: Nowadays, due to lack of time and the fast pace of pre-production, not every director, unfortunately, has the opportunity for deep and detailed exploration of characters, giving preference to breaking down the story itself — which is also very important. Actors can fill that gap and breathe life into the characters, but they need to do it together with the director and screenwriter; otherwise, free interpretation can have a negative impact on the story and even ruin the project.
NYFA: What projects are you currently working on?
DA: Now is the editing process of the recently shot short “Interius: The War Within.” I think we will finish the post-production of the film by fall.
Also, we shot three music videos with Kazakh singers. One of them has already been aired on the national music channel. All of them were shot in Los Angeles, and I was responsible for the script and directing of storyline.
In parallel with the editing, I am writing a script for a feature film under the working title “Pure Society.” I write in English, but depending on where it will be shot script can be translated and adapted.
WATCH “Ulitio” Official Trailer :
NYFA: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
DA: I see myself the founder of production studios and a film school. Perhaps, the director-inspirer of the younger generation, who still has to keep building our society together with you, a society of people with an unconventional thinking and a fair approach to life.
New York Film Academy would like to thank Dias Azimzhan for sharing with us his story. We believe that his experience is truly inspiring and would like to wish him all the best with his filmmaking career.
Considered one of the most original Italian filmmakers over the past several decades, it’s hard to think of a more accomplished international guest speaker than Italian director, Nanni Moretti. In 1976, Moretti released his first feature film, Io sono un autarchico, and never looked back. From that point on, Moretti became a professional filmmaker, eventually gaining international acclaim with his film, Sogni d’oro, which won the Silver Lion at the 38th Venice International Film Festival. Moretti was also awarded for La messa è finita, which won the Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the 36th Berlin International Film Festival and La stanza del figlio, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.
In an event moderated by NYFA President Michael Young, students from the New York Film Academy in New York were treated to a screening of his 1993 film Caro diario—which awarded Moretti with Best Director at Cannes—followed by a Q&A with Moretti. Like so many of his films and similar to Woody Allen, Moretti writes, produces, directs and stars in the semi-autobiographical film. Presented in three chapters, Moretti uses the experiences of traveling on his motor scooter, cruising with his friend around a set of remote islands in search of peace to finish his new film and consulting doctor after doctor to cure his annoying rash to cast a humorous look at his life and those around him.
While bouncing around from doctor to doctor, Moretti eventually discovers he has a lymphatic system tumor on his lung. Based on his actual battle with the illness, Moretti told a full house of students that he only wanted to tell of his struggle if it was delivered in the appropriate tone—dry and ironic.
Most of Moretti’s films are very personal and yet universally relatable. Admitting there’s no calculated plan to succeed in that regard, Moretti says he writes and creates films about his life, his experiences and his neuroses, each a terrific starting-point for a screenwriter staring at a blank page.
As a kid who began making short films on Super 8, Moretti recommends the current generation of up and coming filmmakers band together with a crew and shoot on video. And while it may be enjoyable at moments to work alone, Moretti says, “In the long run, working alone can be very tiresome and boring.”
Be sure to check out his most recent award-winning film, Mia Madre, which stars Moretti, Margherita Buy and John Turturro.