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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Students Win At Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival

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    The theater lights dimmed, the first frames of film flickered across the screen, and the orchestra played their opening bars. Orchestra? Yes, orchestra, for this wasn’t just any film screening. This was the Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival, a celebration of the relationship between film and music, and that was the Helix Collective playing live as the films screened. 

    Held on July 21, 2018 at the Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theatre, the festival featured the works of Los Angeles area film students, including five New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmakers. Festival director Sarah May Robinson paired each of them with a composer from the Academy of Scoring Arts who scored the shorts. 

    On the night of the event, host Brian Ralston of the SCOREcast interviewed each director/composer team, asking them to discuss the experience of being matched with a total stranger and what it was like to work together. Los Angeles Live Score Film Festival 2018

    Next, conductor Phil Popham picked up his baton and led the orchestra in a thrilling accompaniment for the films. Audiences were entertained by the films of NYFA directors Victoria Gagieva (Niara), Vicken Joulfayan (Liminal), Oliver Weinmann (The Pill), Nicolas Varela (Aphrodite), and Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou (Arrow and Oil). 

    But the excitement didn’t stop at the last “The End” because the audience was asked to vote for the Best Film and the Best Score. The tension was palpable as audience members texted in their choices. The winners for Best Film were Haily Lanyue Zhang and Majik Jingwei Zhou with Arrow and Oil, and their composer George Oldziey took Best Score. After their win, Zhang exclaimed, “I’m thrilled and excited! Now I have great expectations about launching into more film festivals!” 

    Zhou was also full of thanks, remarking, “I want to thank my parents. They supported me to come to the USA to study Filmmaking! Secondly, I want to thank my school. NYFA taught me so much knowledge about filmmaking and gave us this chance to represent the school in this festival. Especially, I want to thank my teachers Nick Sivakumaran, the Kohnen brothers — Matt Kohnen and Sean Kohnen — Carl Bartels, Sanora Bartels, Steve Morris. They are the best teachers, ever, ever!”

    Their prize was a free studio recording of the orchestra playing their composed score.

    All the filmmakers were winners, though, as each received a studio recording of their score for a nominal fee plus a free sound mix from Greenhouse Post.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates all the filmmakers and wishes them continued success in their film festival runs!

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    August 8, 2018 • Film Festivals, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 284

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Movie Magic Award Recipients Announced

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    New York Film Academy’s Katherin Hussein and Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez are the most recent recipients of Entertainment Partners’ Movie Magic Scholarship Producer Award. The scholarship is sponsored by Movie Magic, a software program for production professionals. Both students come from the Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking Feature Track.

    Katherin Hussein is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. Originally hailing from Venezuela, Katherin is currently in development on her first feature film, The Unfinished. The film is about a recently orphaned twelve-year-old who girl who must stop a monster before it destroys her mother’s legacy. The monster is from an unfinished painting.

    With this award, Katherin is recognized for her outstanding development effort on The Unfinished, including the creation of a beautifully crafted and visually powerful proof of concept to support her fundraising efforts.

    Robert (Bobby) Gutierrez is a Spring ’16 MFA Filmmaking graduate at New York Film Academy’s Los Angeles campus. A native of Wyoming, Bobby has an extensive background as both an actor and director on stage and in films. He is in development on his film directorial debut, Safe, about a death row inmate who relives his time spent with a wild young couple on a deadly crime spree across the badlands of Montana.

    Bobby is recognized for his outstanding development of the film’s script, adapted from a play by Ron Fitzgerald.  A consistently excellent and ambitious student, he is a very worthy recipient of this recognition.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Katherin and Bobby on their well-deserved awards and looks forward to the completion of their feature films and to all their future successes! 

    Interested in studying filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here.

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    August 3, 2018 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 610

  • Q&A With New York Film Academy Documentary Alum Carolina Sosa

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    Carolina Sosa graduated in 2017 from the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Los Angeles campus with a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary. Since then she’s been hard at work on Trumphobia, a feature-length film that originally started as her thesis documentary.

    Carolina is one of many notable alumni and faculty to hail from the NYFA Documentary School, including instructor Kristen Nutile, who edited the Oscar-, Peabody-, and Emmy-nominated Heroin(e) on Netflix, and RBG’s director of photography and NYFA Documentary professor Claudia Raschke. Ranked as a top documentary filmmaking school for the past eight years, holding a coveted spot on The Independent Magazine’s list of the Top 10 Academic Programs for Documentary Filmmakers, the New York Film Academy’s documentary program aims to prepare students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films. Carolina Sosa

    Only 27, Carolina has already amassed several awards and honors for her work in documentary filmmaking. She received the award for Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script, and Film Festival and the Award of Excellence from the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards for her documentary short Exit the shelter. She was also invited by CinemaFest 2014 to adapt movies for the blind and deaf after directing Okurelo Cine in 2013.

    It was no surprise, then, when NYFA alum Carolina Sosa recently received a $10,000 grant from the Rogovy Foundation, an organization that works “to build a more enlightened and harmonious planet,” and supplies grants to documentaries and other “highly targeted projects which will have a measurable impact.”

    Recently, Carolina spoke with the New York Film Academy about her film Trumphobia, her time at NYFA, and other projects she is currently working on:

     

    New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

    Carolina Sosa (CS): I’m from Uruguay, I’m 27 years old, and I got a Fulbright scholarship to study a master’s degree in documentary filmmaking, and NYFA was the school that gave me the highest tuition award from all the schools that I have applied; also the program was located in Los Angeles.

    NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on documentary filmmaking?

    CS: I like to use art as a tool for change. I believe that reality is often more fascinating than fiction, and I want to dedicate my life to tell true stories that inspire, promote justice, and can make a difference in this world. And also, because I love to travel and share my view with others.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your film Trumphobia?

    Carolina SosaCS: Trumphobia: what both sides fear (tentative title) is a feature documentary about the political division in the United States and how Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric increased that division with the help of the mainstream media. On one side, he gave strength and safety to his supporters and, on the other side, he imposed fear and anger on his opponents, which led to major confrontations, protests, and counter-protests across the country. Trumphobia analyzes the reasons for the political division, provides a moving description of Trump’s supporters along with the people who are most affected by Trump’s policies, and proposes empathy and compassion for all as a possible solution to the turmoil. The documentary has the participation of the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, New York Senator Michael Gianaris, Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics George Lakoff, Ph.D., professor of psychology and social behavior Peter H. Ditto, six hate crime victims and witnesses from both sides, representatives of major organizations, many of Trump’s supporters and opponents, and includes footage from more than thirteen debates, marches, and protests across six states.

    NYFA: What inspired you to make Trumphobia?

    CS: The documentary started as part of my master’s thesis. I was looking for a subject matter right when Trump got elected, and I thought that making a documentary about a current topic that affected millions of people was worth my long work. Especially because I wanted to portray both sides of the story — his supporters and opponents — and I wasn’t seeing much about the right side on the media, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to make a documentary that actually tried to be objective when it comes to politics. The good thing is that most of the crew was international, so we all had an outsider perspective that allowed us to listen without immediately judging. And the one thing that got my attention the most was the articles about hate crimes related to the election and the violent confrontations between people, so it’s not about Trump’s policies — it’s about critical thinking and how moral values determine our worldview. I believe we are all biased, and we need to be more empathetic with others to overcome our differences.

    NYFA: How did you find out about the Rogovy Foundation grant?

    CS: Thanks to NYFA, I became a member of the International Documentary Association and, through their website, I searched for all the grants that I could apply and that’s how we heard about the Rogovy Foundation. We have applied for more than ten different grants, it’s a long and tedious job to prepare all the documents and materials for each grant, but it was worth it because we got their Miller / Packan Film Fund for the postproduction of our film, and they have been very supportive. Moreover, the IDA accepted our project and they became our fiscal sponsor, so that’s also good news.

    NYFA: That’s great news! What are your plans for Trumphobia?

    CS: For the thesis, I made the first 20 minutes of the film and, since September 2017 when I graduated, I have been working on the 90-minute version. It took me a lot of time because I started working as an editor right after school, and so I have been very busy. But I have never given up, even without money or with a full-time team, I truly believe in the message of the movie and I’m very proud of the result so far, thus we are still working on it. We shot the movie during a year almost and there is always a new thing with Trump, so it takes a lot of work to edit many hours of footage and do constant research, but we are almost there. We are planning to have a final cut that we can send to the Sundance Film Festival in September, and then really finish the movie in October. After that, we will send it to more festivals and try to find online distribution immediately.

    NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?

    CS: For the 1-year project of the school, GuangLi Zhu and I made a short documentary about the killing of pets in animal shelters, called Exit the shelter, and I have been promoting that short as well. We received the award of Best Film at the Los Angeles Television, Script and Film Festival and an Award of Excellence at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and we are still waiting to see other festivals’ results. GuangLi was one of my classmates and he is back in China now, but I have partnered with the LA Animal Services and other shelters, so we recently did a screening of the short and a fundraising event to help the pets in two different shelters. Meanwhile, I work as an editor, producer, and cinematographer at Dame Dash Studios; right now I’m editing a documentary about a trip to China for them, but I’m also working as a camerawoman for Harrison Engle (former president of IDA) for one of his documentaries. And every once in a while, I work freelance on other small projects. I’m a workaholic, I work eight hours (or more) at my job every day, then I get home and I work four hours on Trumphobia, and on the weekends it’s all about Trumphobia.

     

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Trumphobia, or your work in general?

    CS: The documentary department at NYFA was very helpful with my project Trumphobia. Since the topic was so urgent, they allowed me to borrow the equipment in November 2016, while all my other classmates shot their thesis in June 2017. I pitched the project when Trump got elected and I asked them if I could travel across the U.S. in the winter holidays so I can shoot what I needed, and with almost no bureaucracy involved they said yes, so I’m always thankful for that. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and the resources that I needed when I asked for it, because I shot through the whole year several times and they never said no. I can imagine that this could have been very different in other schools. NYFA gave me the tools that I needed to feel prepared to shoot across the country with little resources.

    Carolina SosaNYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

    CS: My advice to new students is to think big, work hard, go to all the events, conferences, and workshops that you can (even the ones that are not related to your degree); go out, meet people, build your network, and apply to as many grants, scholarships, and festivals that you can — you never know who you are going to meet, what you are going to receive, and what you are going to learn.

    The New York Film Academy congratulates Carolina Sosa on her recent grant and looks forward to the completion and distribution of Trumphobia and Carolina’s continued career!

    Interested in learning documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s programs here!

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  • Q&A with Filmmaker Ned Dougherty

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    It’s often said that family members should never work together. This certainly is not the case for Ned and Michael Dougherty, a father and son filmmaking duo who’ve been successfully working on films together for the past few years. They have just recently finished a feature film titled Love & Everything in Between. “I can’t stress this enough,” Michael shared, “it’s all because of my parents that this is even on screen. That’s the truth.”

    The New York Film Academy invited Ned and Michael Dougherty to do a special Q&A with students following a screening of their film, where they shared with the audience how the movie came to be, from the writing process to the marketing of the film. The film has already earned several awards and nominations from the festival circuit, including wins for Dramatic Original Feature and Best Feature Film – Romance from WorldFest Houston.

    One student asked what it was like to screen the movie in the Hamptons, where the movie is set. “It was a great turn out,” Michael answered.

    His father Ned added, “That was our quiet, low-key premiere at the Southampton United Artists Theatre last July, to a standing room of more than 300 friends.” Another student, Roberto, approached the microphone, and Ned immediately recognized him — they both attended a producing workshop together a couple years back, and Roberto had helped to create the thesis for Love And Everything in Between.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Robert shared, “We were classmates… as a matter of fact, we actually shot a short film, a thesis for this movie… it was actually the dinner scene…. it was so fun.” Roberto continued, “I don’t really have a question, I just want to say congratulations because I know… I was kind of a witness to how much work you put into this project. And I think that it’s a big motivation for me, because I can see closely how dreams actually become true.” According to Ned,  that statement made his night.

    Prior to the screening, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had an opportunity to ask Ned Dougherty a number of questions pertaining to Love and Everything in Between (LEIB), concerning the struggles he and his son faced, his experience as a producer, and any insight he could give to aspiring filmmakers:

     

    NYFA: How did you get involved with this film?

    Ned Dougherty: Following [his] high school graduation, my son Michael Dougherty studied acting for two years at Stella Adler in New York City and then came to Los Angeles in late 2012 to pursue an acting career. After several years of “pounding the pavements” in L.A., Michael decided to promote his career by creating his own projects through his own production company, Hampton Filmworks.” Michael’s first project is Love & Everything in Between, written primarily in 2015.

    Here is the key: Michael’s mother Ginnie and I both fully supported Michael’s decision to pursue his dream, including our financial support. We are both co-producers with Michael and I have been actively involved as a full-time creative filmmaker and business-end producer. Initially, we hired a line producer in January 2016 who prepared a $250k budget. In February 2016, I completed the NYFA Los Angeles Producing Program. The principal cinematography was completed over six weeks in Fall 2016 with pick-up scenes filmed in May 2017.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about this film’s success?

    ND: When Michael initially wrote the screenplay in 2015 without ever attending a screenwriting course, I read it and said: “Son, you have written The Graduate for the Millennial Generation.” Michael had never heard of or seen The Graduate (1967) at that time. Both films feature a recent college graduate trying to find himself, complimented by a beautiful music score, but the similarities end there. Michael was passionate about writing Love & Everything in Between and his passion for the story, as well as the location settings, is evident in his storytelling.

    Michael grew up in the Hamptons and I taught him to swim and surf at the same beach which is the opening scene location. Michael created a “Romeo & Juliet” in the Hamptons story and his knowledge of the Hamptons provided him with the beautiful Hampton scenery as well as the inspiration for a compelling Romance/Drama which morphs into a Romance/Thriller.

    NYFA: What has been the hardest part of completing this film?

    ND: We are currently marketing the film, attending film festivals, seeking distribution opportunities, etc., to successfully monetize the project. Finding a successful route to making the film financially viable seems to be the greatest hurdle for first-time filmmakers.

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty


    NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with cinema?

    ND: In my youth, I read classic American novels (by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and James Michener) and developed an appreciation for great storytelling that morphed into my interest in great films. Among my favorites: Casablanca, It’s A Wonderful Life, To Kill A Mockingbird, Dr. Strangelove, Rocky, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump, and ironically The Graduate.

    NYFA: Why are you passionate about producing?

    ND: I prefer to introduce myself these days as a “filmmaker,” rather than as a “producer.” I am more passionate about the creative side (filmmaking) as opposed to the business side (producing). Michael has allowed me to creatively participate in his project, and I have really cherished that opportunity to work alongside my son from creation to distribution. I have been primarily a businessman for most of my life, so I had that experience to offer Michael, but both Michael and I have had to learn the business by trial and error.

    NYFA: What advice do you have for young producers?

    ND: As trite as it sounds, follow your dream! If you are not “passionate” about your project, take a pass! Optimally, strive to balance your energies between your dual responsibilities as a creative filmmaker and as a business-oriented producer. While Michael was pursuing his acting career, I encouraged him to take college business courses to develop a business sense and an understanding of basic business principles.

    NYFA: Why should people see Love & Everything in Between?

    First of all: Location! Location! Location! The Hamptons has a global appeal to moviegoers and LEIB is a cinematic treat for the eyes with spectacular drone shots and scenery of the Hamptons and Montauk that — and I say this with all humility — has never been achieved before in previous Hamptons’ films. At our World Premiere, the Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, the judges agreed; we garnered the “Best Cinematography” award (Thank you Red Dragon!)

    While your eyes are being dazzled by the scenery, story, and character development, the romance/drama unfolds unexpectedly into a romance/thriller that never stops moving while accompanied by an outstanding musical score that appeals to all generations.

    Secondly, LEIB is a socially relevant story. In writing LEIB, Michael never intended to create a controversial film, but so it is — much to our surprise. The controversial aspect of the film, which deals with sexual assault, became obvious in test screenings that we held at several Hampton libraries. At these events, college students wanted to know if they could bring LEIB to their campuses as a teaching or learning tool for students. As a result, we have developed a program to provide public service screenings for colleges and universities, particularly during “April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” utilizing TUGG.com and TUGG.edu.

    There is one word that continuously surfaces from viewers: “Amazing!” A sure sign that LEIB made a significant effect on viewers was the consistent feedback from many viewers that the story and the music stayed with them days later. I often heard “I can’t get the music (or the story) out of my head!”

    As a matter of fact, LEIB was selected and screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival NYC in March 2018. In February 2018, LEIB received The Grand Prize – Best Feature Film at the Silicon Beach Miami Film Festival and has already been nominated as a finalist for a REMI Award as Best Feature Film at Houston Worldfest in April 2018.

    NYFA: What projects are you working on next?

    ND: We have a number of projects and several episodic series in various stages of development to be filmed primarily in the Hamptons and Los Angeles. Michael’s personal next feature film preference is The Butterfly & the Butcher, a colorful character crime drama to be filmed primarily in the Los Angeles Artist and Warehouse Districts. Followed by a paranormal love story to be shot on location on Shelter Island, New York. The Marakesh Story is my personal true story of my experiences as a nightclub owner (played by Michael) in the Hamptons and Palm Beach during the champagne/cocaine-fueled disco era of the 1970s-80s,  with additional shooting locations in New York City, Washington D.C., the Cayman Islands, Central America, and other locations.  TV episodic series include South Beach Spirit and an untitled Hamptons project Michael is developing. However, film financing and future producer/partner relationships may determine the scheduling of our next projects.

    NYFA: Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I could not have effectively assisted my son as a producer without the NYFA Producing Program and have great respect for the professionalism of the administration, staff, and faculty at NYFA L.A. I view this opportunity to screen LEIB at NYFA as a way of “giving back” by sharing more details of what it is like to be a first-time filmmaker. I am developing a “Dos & Dont’s” list for the Q&A Session on June 7, 2018, following the NYFA L.A. screening of LEIB.

     

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ned and Michael Dougherty for graciously attending this Q&A and sharing their story with our students. They are a true example of teamwork and great minds coming together to collaborate on a project for which they hold a great deal of passion. We look forward to continuing to follow their journey and watching the rise of their success that undoubtedly awaits them in the future! 

    If you are interested in attending a NYFA program, you can find more information here

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

    Michael & Ned Dougherty

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    July 11, 2018 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 479

  • New York Film Academy Alum Writes For Military Blog We Are The Mighty

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    Orientation with Jack Jacobs

    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.

    Putting those writing skills to good use, Kirkpatrick has written multiple blog pieces for We Are The Mighty, including “6 of the Funniest Comedic Military Sketches Ranked” and “5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Navy Medal of Honor.”

    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.

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    January 26, 2018 • Community Highlights, Veterans • Views: 1685

  • Packed House For New York Film Academy Gold Coast Screening

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    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

    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!

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  • Harper’s Bazaar Profiles New York Film Academy Alum Khadijah Kudsi

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    Khadijah Kudsi

    Copyright © Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 2017

    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.”

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  • New York Film Academy Alum & Associate Director of Recruitment Screens Powerful Documentary “I Heart Jenny”

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    "I Heart Jenny"

    “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"

    “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.

    Blake Babbitt

    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.

    I Heart Jenny Promo- Extended Version from Blake Babbitt on Vimeo.

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  • New York Film Academy Alum Wins Big With “Dancing Wheels”

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    Credit: PRLog

    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!

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    November 30, 2017 • Documentary Filmmaking, Film Festivals • Views: 1176

  • New York Film Academy Screenwriting Instructor Paul Brown Teaches Master Class at GAFA

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    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.

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    November 30, 2017 • Faculty Highlights, Film School, Filmmaking, Screenwriting • Views: 1219