documentary filmmaking
Posts

  • NYFA Documentary Alum Pedro Peira Talks Upcoming Film LA Queenciañera

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Pedro Peira is a Fulbright scholar and NYFA Documentary Filmmaking MFA graduate. Since his time as NYFA he has been active in the industry directing, producing, writing and founding his own production company, Festimania Pictures.

    The NYFA alum, who hails from Spain, first became interested in documentary filmmaking in his pre-teen years, “Whenever there was a family event I would take photos or record Hi-8 videos, initially with some help from family members and once they started to trust me, on my own.”

    Having developed a passion for documenting reality, Pedro decided pursue documentary filmmaking as a profession. “It’s a way of informing, entertaining and hopefully, promoting social change. There’s also the added benefit of not having the pressure to raise major funding for a (documentary) film project. Generally, as the costs are much higher for fiction (films), whereas you just need a story and a camera to make a documentary.”

    This decision eventually led him to apply for a Fulbright scholarship and choose NYFA as the place to hone his craft.”When I was doing all the Fulbright paperwork, prior to becoming a finalist, I was looking for a place to study documentary filmmaking and I easily contacted the documentary department at NYFA. The rest is all history.”

    Throughout his career each project has taught Pedro valuable lessons that have allowed him to grow in his profession. “I learned to delegate responsibility. In my first feature I took on most of the production roles (mainly due to budget constraints) and I have now learned to share these tasks. I’ve also transitioned to using a narrative structure so as to make the film more appealing to the audience.” As for what leads him to choose a project Pedro had this to say, “I guess what attracts me most to a project is who’s behind it. There’s people who I would work for free and, also, others who I wouldn’t work for no matter the amount. The type of project is also very important when it comes to my decision making. For me, it’s not the same to be part of a project which can lead to a change in society compared to a film which generates profit for the producers without any higher purpose behind it.”

    The Fulbright scholar has also started his own production company. “Festimania Pictures was set up in Spain 7  years ago. Although we carry out some distribution and consulting, we’re now mainly focused on documentary
    production. Our biggest successes so far have been the features Soul, which world-premiered at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival and Free Way, which world-premiered at the 2020 San Sebastian Film Festival. Both films have been widely distributed around the world and on the top-tier festival circuit.

    As for upcoming projects, Pedro has a few lined up, including the Rosario Dawson backed LA Queenciañera. “We’re finishing post-production of a film called LA Queenciañera,  of which I’m the director and producer. The movie follows LA-based, transgender, undocumented, Latina activist, Bamby Salcedo, as she prepares for an epic 50th birthday celebration, which is a deliberate queering of that traditional Latino ritual, the Quinceañera. Our executive producer is Rosario Dawson and we have the participation of Patricia Arquette, sharing the story of her sister Alexis.”

    Patricia Arquette sites with trans rights activist Bamby Salcedo and documentary filmmaker Pedro Peira

    Pedro Peira with Patricia Arquette and Bamby Salcedo

    “We’re also in development for a documentary series which explores the influence of Islam on the gastronomies of Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Spain.”

    As for advice to aspiring documentary filmmakers and NYFA students Pedro says, “work hard and enjoy what you do. Don’t worry about not having budget – if the idea is good, success (and funds) will come. Just be patient.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Pedro Peira on his success and looks forward to the upcoming LA Queenciañera.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    June 17, 2021 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1570

  • More Than a Career Move: Filmmaking as a Medium of Truth With NYFA Documentary Alum Jia Wertz

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Canadian native Jia Wertz exited a 20-year career in the fashion corporate world to dive into the filmmaking industry. With a background in photography and a passion for social issues and bringing a voice to the voiceless, Wertz decided it was time to answer her calling – becoming a storyteller.

    “I didn’t want to simply work at a job that was focused on making profits for a corporation without doing any good in the world for other people,” shared Wertz. With the decision to make a career shift, Wertz remembers the moment it all changed for her. “ I was at Adnan Syed’s post-conviction hearing in Baltimore and Amy Berg’s team was there filming the HBO docuseries The Case Against Adnan Syed and a light bulb just went off.”

    NYDA alum Jia Wertz

    Wertz realized that filmmaking would be something that she could do to reach a large audience and impact social change by speaking on the conflict of the institutional correction systems and the wrongfully accused.

    “I have been passionate about wrongful convictions since I was in my twenties,” revealed Wertz. “My interest in this cause began when I read Rubin Carter’s book The Sixteenth Round, and I’d wondered ever since what I could do to help people who have been unjustly imprisoned. There is something about an innocent person being silenced that really shakes me to the core. After hearing Adnan Syed’s story on the Serial podcast, I was really motivated to do something.”

    And she did. Wertz took a 6-Week Documentary Filmmaking Workshop at NYFA and went on to direct the true-crime documentary Conviction, now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video. The documentary short follows the wrongfully convicted Jeffrey Deskovic of the rape and murder of a fellow classmate at the young age of sixteen and how he fought the justice system against all odds to prove his innocence. “The film tells his story, in his own words, and sheds light not only on the shortcomings of the justice system but the physical and emotional impacts that wrongful convictions have on the lives of innocent people,” revealed Wertz.

    “I was inspired to work on this documentary because I thought it would be an effective way to spread awareness about wrongful convictions, and also because Jeff’s story is so inspirational – it’s truly a testament to the human spirit. Jeff now has a non-profit organization that helps other people who are wrongfully convicted, and by sharing his story I am able to support his organization and the work he does.”

    With a crew of NYFA students and the encouragement of NYFA instructor Kuldeep Sah Gangola, Wertz worked on the documentary during her course. “From the very first day shooting the film while I was attending NYFA, it just felt right – like I was in the right place, doing exactly what I should be doing,” shared Wertz. 

    Behind the scenes of “Conviction”

    “Every part of the process has been a learning experience and extremely enjoyable – from filming with Jeff who is such a great interviewee, to the excitement (and surprise) of being officially selected at eleven film festivals, and now to have the film streaming on Amazon Prime. I would’ve never thought that we could’ve accomplished all of this in a short year after finishing the documentary program at NYFA.”

    The documentary is a testament to Wertz’s hard work and dedication on transitioning into her true calling – being a storyteller and advocate for the unheard. “My hope is that the film spreads awareness of a cause that I think often goes unnoticed. Unless it impacts you personally, you may not even think of wrongful convictions as a major issue in our country. A very conservative estimate is that about 2-5% of people incarcerated in the US are wrongfully imprisoned. At this rate, it could mean tens or even hundreds of thousands of people – the numbers are staggering.” 

    Jeffrey Deskovic and Jia Wertz (“Conviction”)

    People are beginning to take notice of Wertz’s Conviction. From the multiple festival laurels  Wertz has received to the Emmy Award-winning show The List, people are taking note of Jeffrey’s story and Wertz’s passion to bring his voice to the forefront  – and she isn’t done yet. The NYFA alum is currently in post-production of a feature-length version of Conviction and aims to finish and distribute the film this year.

    New York Film Academy celebrates Jia Wertz’s work for her applauded first film Conviction and looks forward to seeing what story Wertz will focus on next. Conviction is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    March 4, 2021 • Diversity, Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1480

  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Lizzie Gottlieb Featured by ‘Insider’ to Talk About New Film “Turn Every Page”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    NYFA Documentary instructor Lizzie Gottlieb has been directing film and theater in New York for the past couple of decades. As a director, Gottlieb has worked with Peter Dinklage, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Amy Ryan, Michael Ian Black, Justin Kirk, Francie Swift, Josh Hamilton, Sara Ramirez, and more. Recently, Gottlieb got to work with another talent, notable editor, writer, and father to Gottlieb, Robert Gottlieb.

    (L-R) Robert Gottlieb and Robert Caro (Photo courtesy of Lizzie Gottlieb)

    The documentary, Turn Every Page, follows Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro and his 50-year argument and relationship with his editor, Robert Gottlieb (Robert), as they work towards completing a final book. The documentary from Gottlieb is an ode to the work of Caro and Robert over the last 50 years as Robert (89) awaits Caro (85) to complete his much-anticipated fifth volume of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

    “They are not slowing down because of their age,” Gottlieb told Insider in an interview about the project. “I think they both feel the enormous weight to finish [the final LBJ] book. I very much wanted this to be a story about them finishing their life’s work, not just a retrospective of their lives and how impressive they are.”

    The documentary film will also feature interviews from Ethan Hawke, Conan O’Brien, The New Yorker editor David Remnick, and former president Bill Clinton, who will make remarks of the impact of Caro and Rober’s work over the past 50 years. Gottlieb shared that most of the filming of the documentary was completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the interview featuring former president Clinton was done recently over Zoom.

    NYFA instructor Lizzie Gottlieb

    Gottlieb is also known for her documentary Today’s Man, which aired on PBS and screened at festivals and conferences all over the world. Her film Romeo, Romeo was honored with the prestigious Excellence in Documentary Award by the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NLGJA).  

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Lizzie Gottlieb on her latest achievement, Turn Every Page, and encourages everyone to check out her latest documentary when it becomes available later this year. 

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    March 2, 2021 • Documentary Filmmaking, Entertainment News, Faculty Highlights • Views: 1414

  • Documentary Filmmaking Alum Elaine Minionis Awarded Regional Emmy Award for “Uncanny: The Dolls of Mariana Monteagudo”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    NYFA is excited to celebrate Documentary Filmmaking alum Elaine Minionis joining the ranks of multiple creatives who have had the distinguished honor of being awarded an Emmy. The regional Emmy, awarded in late 2020 by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Suncoast Chapter, was for Minionis’ film Uncanny: The Dolls of Mariana Monteagudo.

    The short documentary was produced by Minionis and was picked up for national broadcast by PBS. The film follows renowned Venezuelan visual artist, Mariana Monteagudo, who currently lives in Florida. The film especially captures Mariana’s creative process and her inspirations behind her intriguing, eerie doll sculptures, all made of repurposed materials. From following Mariana dumpster diving to visiting local thrift shops for useful material, Uncanny also touches on topics like immigration, consumerism, and more viewing them through the lens of contemporary art.

    Still from “Uncanny: The Dolls of Mariana Monteagudo”

    “Coming from a strong family tradition of ceramists in Venezuela, Mariana loves giving a second life to objects that are discarded by our society,” shared Minionis on her personal Instagram. “Like a waste picker, she [Marina Monteagudo] walks around neighborhoods to salvage gems from people’s bulk trashes, rescuing textiles or baseball balls, plastic bottles of orange juice, or an old unkempt teddy bear. To her, everything has potential for inspiration and hybridism, and that’s the way she lives her life: continuously seeking, always resuscitating abandoned things, permanently combining and thinking ahead of time, and placing her faith into the most unimagined creations.”

    Also a native of Venezuela, Minionis got her start in the arts by writing poetry at a very young age. Her big break came in 2005 when she was one of a handful of winners selected for a national poetry contest, receiving as a reward a text publication with one of the most important literary houses in Venezuela (CELARG). As she grew up and continued to study, her love of photography and documentary became more clear.

    NYFA alum Elaine Minionis with her Emmy and one of Mariana Monteagudo’s dolls

    In 2006, the Emmy-winner saw her still photography work featured as part of the advertising for the 20th Century Fox production of Elipsis. In 2008, Minionis came to study Documentary Filmmaking in NYFA’s 1-Year Conservatory program. Of her experience, she shared that “non-fiction visual storytelling became an artistic and intellectual space” that allowed her to explore research and visual concepts of storytelling.

    After graduating, Minionis worked at the Brooklyn-based production company Flicker Flacker Films, as an intern and then the assistant editor for a History Channel feature-length documentary The Naturalized. She eventually became an independent producer at Discovery Networks Latin America/US Hispanics in the Original Production & Development Department.

    New York Film Academy congratulates Minionis on her Emmy win and is proud to count her amongst the NYFA alum ranks. We look forward to her future projects and wish her continued success.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    February 19, 2021 • Acting • Views: 1001

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

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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

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

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

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

    There is no release date yet for the film as it was just announced on February 4, 2021, with special appearances listed like Bono, former President George W. Bush, Bill Gates, and more.

    NYFA instructor Claudia Raschke on set

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

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

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

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum Drama del Rosario Awarded ‘Juried Prize’ in The 2020 PBS Short Film Festival

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    In late July, New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario received one of the two awarded prizes for the 2020 PBS Short Film Festival. The documentary filmmaking alum caught the eye of voters and the prestigious Jury for the competition and ultimately received this years ‘Juried Prize’ for his film In This Family

    Del Rosario was awarded the prestigious prize by eight jury members, who selected the NYFA alum’s film as their favorite out of all the festival selections. In addition to del Rosario’s film, all festival selections are available to the public to watch online.

    ‘In This Family’ film poster

    Del Rosario is a Filipinx documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the 2019 BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant for his documentary film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You), which touches on sexual assault trauma from a gay couple’s perspective. The NYFA alum is known for creating documentary films that challenge the Filipinx Catholic background and he has worked with many international names including BeBe Zahara Benet (Winner, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 1) and Sophie Sumner (Winner, America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 18). 

    His latest documentary, In This Family, is a twelve minute short film that chronicles what happens after del Rosario’s teach outs him as a gay man and includes recordings of his family’s reaction to the news.

    “Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students,” shared del Rosario. “I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools.”

    Del Rosario also credits NYFA alum Naya Rivera, who tragically passed away in early July, as a source of inspiration for his short film. “In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character, Santana Lopez, was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera.”

    The NYFA alum also shares that this documentary is an important release in his native country as it is produced by Cinematografo, which is under the Filipino production company ABS-CBN International. “It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard!” His full statement can be found below.

    View this post on Instagram

    WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!!!!!!!! 🎉🔥✨💕😭🎊⭐️🏆 My documentary film “IN THIS FAMILY” is officially the JURY WINNER for this year’s PBS Short Film Festival! This is so huge coming from a very, very stacked jury! 😱 Thank you so much to everyone who watched and voted for my documentary! Your support has been so overwhelming, and I am so moved by all the messages from queer youth, parents of queer children, and teachers of queer students. I hope this documentary moves us closer to helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and loved, especially within Asian families and schools. ❤️ Furthermore, showcasing this documentary at this particular time has been special to me for two reasons… 1️⃣ First, this documentary is executive produced by Cinematografo, which is under ABS-CBN International. As a lot of people know, ABS-CBN and Philippine media in general are not in a good place right now because of Philippine politics. It has been so humbling to have this documentary represent how important it is to keep Philippine media alive and growing! Our voices need to be heard! 2️⃣ Second, I am extremely touched by all the messages from Glee fans regarding the recent death of Naya Rivera. In the documentary, I reference various queer programs, Glee especially. Naya Rivera’s character Santana Lopez was one of the crucial queer characters that helped me and my family get to where we are now. It is a testament to how much queer entertainment can change the life of a family on the other side of the world. Rest in Power, Naya Rivera. ❤️ I am incredibly honored to receive this award. Thank you so much to CAAM (@caamedia and their superstar team @czarinagee, @akolaurenlola, @livinproofsf, @gracehwanglynch, @krakauer, @sushboy34 ++) for believing in my film as your official entry and for always supporting my career as a documentary filmmaker. Thank you so much to PBS (@pbs) for putting together an amazing film festival with an amazing film line-up and jury. And most of all, thank you so much to my family for continuing to change and grow. I would not be where I am right now had you not powered through the discomfort of growth and change. ALL MY LOVE! 🏆💕

    A post shared by Drama Del Rosario (@dramadelrosario) on

    New York Film Academy would like to congratulate NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Drama del Rosario for his latest achievement and looks forward to what is next from the talented filmmaker. 

    To watch the full documentary, view below or click here

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • New York Film Academy Welcomes Director Tânia Cypriano and NYFA Student Jude Washock for a Q&A on Groundbreaking Documentary ‘Born to Be’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    On Tuesday, June 23, 2020, New York Film Academy (NYFA) hosted a live video Q&A with the talented documentary filmmaker Tânia Cypriano to discuss her much admired and trailblazing documentary film Born to Be. Cypriano was also joined in conversation by NYFA Acting for Film Conservatory student, and consultant for the film, Jude Washock. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.

    Director Tânia Cypriano has been working between her home country of Brazil and the United States for over thirty years. Her films and videos have won international awards including ‘Best Documentary’ at Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino in New York, the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, and Fespaco in Burkina Faso. Her work has been shown in the world’s most prestigious institutions including The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Hong Kong Arts Center, the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.

    (Clockwise) Tova Laiter, Tânia Cypriano, and Jude Washock for Q&A Series

    Her television credits include documentaries for PBS, the History Channel, NHK in Japan, GNT in Brazil and Channel 4 in England. Cypriano has co-organized a series of films with the MoMA, the Anthology Film Archives, Exit Art, the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, and the Grazer Kunstverein in Austria. She has also previously worked on productions for Bill Moyers, Martin Scorsese, Kent Jones and Nelson Pereira dos Santos.

    Dr. Ting walks with one his patients in the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery wing of Mount Sinai Hospital (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano’s latest documentary, Born to Be, follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City —where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people can have access to quality transition-related health and surgical care. The film received critical acclaim upon its original release in the 2019 festival circuit and was hailed by Variety as “a lively and moving documentary,” and “a film that distinguishes itself with a sensitive, human portrait” by Hollywood Reporter.

    A patient awaiting consultation from Dr. Ting (‘Born to Be’)

    Cypriano remembers wanting to make this documentary after hearing about the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York from her producer, noting it was “a historical moment for New York City, and also for healthcare.” After deciding she wanted to do this documentary, Cypriano recalls staying in the clinic and documenting the surgeries with the crew, noting how many of the characters in the film “understood the importance of that moment [of filming] because these surgeries were just made available, and the importance of them was so great to the [transgender] community.”

    Washock, a SAG-AFTRA member and NYFA student who served as a consultant for the film, explained that his role was “to ensure that the stories being told by the characters, who were receiving surgery, were portrayed in a humane way and were not damaging or exploitive.” Consultants like Washock are especially important for documentary filmmakers so they can ensure they do the subject matter, and story, justice.

    Dr. Ting posing with one of his patients (‘Born to Be’)

    One student asked Cypriano how she was able to compose herself during the documentary shoot. “It was a tough one,” she recalls, “I think that is why I chose to live outside of my family because it was emotionally draining, but nothing compares to what I imagine Dr. Ting goes through because he is over there listening to those stories everyday.”

    Film poster for ‘Born to Be’

    In addition to discussing the film, Cypriano also encouraged NYFA students to tell stories because they can. “You have to put yourself out there, work hard, be patient, and persevere. If you hang in there, you can do it.” Washock, who got involved in the project just by talking to Cypriano at an event added, “put yourself out there and have conversations with people and just talk, you would be surprised.”

    Washock also encouraged students in the New York City area to look into volunteering or becoming a member at IFP (Independent Filmmakers Project), where Washock praised his experience there networking and attending informative panels.

    Cypriano thanked Laiter and the NYFA students for joining the call and also extended gratitude to NYFA student Jude Washock for joining the conversation.

    New York Film Academy would like to thank the talented Tânia Cypriano for sharing her time and expertise with the students and NYFA Acting for Film student Jude Washock for sharing his experience as a consultant on Born to Be. NYFA also encourages everyone to keep an eye out for the forthcoming theatrical and streaming release of the film.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Student Spotlight: Documentary Film Student Richard Brookshire Pens Article Featured in ‘New York Times Magazine’

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Film student Richard Brookshire recently wrote an article for New York Times Magazine about his experience serving in the army as a Black, queer man, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and what he has been doing to bring Black stories to life as a filmmaker and a storyteller.

    NYFA reached out to Brookshire to continue the conversation from his New York Times Magazine article and to discuss his experience as a Black documentary filmmaker, his upcoming short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0, and the future of Black stories in the entertainment industry.

    Richard Brookshire, with his mother, Natacha, at his graduation from Army basic training in 2009 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    Before pursuing filmmaking, Richard Brookshire served as a combat medic with the 170th Infantry Brigade in Germany, and later Afghanistan. At this time, Brookshire recalls his closeted sexuality due to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and also remembers being one of a few Black soldiers in his 40 person platoon. In his article for New York Times Magazine, Brookshire wrote:

    Through Brookshire’s personal encounters, the experiences of his loved ones, and witnessing modern events of racial inequality unfold (like the horrific shooting of Trayvon Martin), led Brookshire to join the New York chapter of Black Lives Matter and to co-found the Black Veterans Project, a racial equity and archive initiative created to shed light on systemic racial inequities within the U.S military (both historic and present).

    Brookshire’s interest in racial injustice led also opened up another area of interest; film. “I recognized how the medium of [documentary] film was the perfect space to merge my background and skill set to capture Black American life for future generations.”

    “Film is one of the most powerful forms of propaganda we have in retelling histories and cultivating a public imagination around how we see ourselves as a society and our shared humanity,” says Brookshire. “Just as it can do harm, it can also harness good. It can expand our collective understandings, give us a window into lives far different than our own, and equip stakeholders and activists with powerful narratives to drive necessary and provocative awakenings around injustices across societies.”

    Brookshire during an Army National Guard, Upstate New York in 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Richard Brookshire)

    After Brookshire’s four year old niece passed away last year, he says it was the motivation he needed to study the documentary filmmaking craft. “NYFA felt like the perfect place to gain expertise from leading filmmakers in an intimate intensive program geared toward teaching me the fundamentals,” says Brookshire. “I credit NYFA alum, Clyde Gunter for persuading me on what NYFA had to offer.”

    Brookshire notes that documentary filmmaking can change or broaden an individual’s perspective. “It only takes one mind to begin planting the seeds of change and revolution. We are in constant evolution as human beings, and we must not shy away from harnessing the power we have to inspire each other to do better, to be better and to create new systems that reflect a reality that is informed by the shared understanding of our common humanity.”

    As a filmmaker and activist, Brookshire turns to creators like Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates for imagination, creativity, and unforgettable storytelling. “I always joke with my friends that if Spike Lee and Henry Louis Gates had a director baby, it’d be me.” He notes that Spike Lee has always taken incredible care and consideration “in capturing the splendor and hardship of Black American Life.” As for Henry Louis Gates, Brookshire claims Gates “has created unparalleled works that dive deep into the overlooked African American histories.”

    Brookshire being interviewed recently at a protest at the Manhattan Bridge (Photo Credit: Dexter Philips)

    For his next project, Brookshire tells NYFA that his short film Boukman’s Prayer 2.0 will explore “five Black artists surviving the COVID-19 crisis in the days leading up to the riots.” In his essay film, Brookshire describes it as an exploration of “Black folk who find freedom within and access planes in their creative imagination to allow a spiritual awakening and healing outside of an anti-Black society.”

    While the country continues to address various systemic racial prejudices and injustices, the entertainment industry has its own work to do too. “The archive is full of Black histories and Black life to tell. The diaspora is rife with untold and unexplored characters and circumstances,” says Brookshire. “If we are to bridge the long-standing racial divide, we must create spaces for Black stories to exist, and not just those that retell Black traumas (which has been a primary avenue for Black filmmakers write large).”

    He continues to note the importance of Black documentaries and their ability to show “the vastness of our humanity and experience,” and urges the conversation of ownership with Black storytelling; “who owns Black stories is just as important as who tells them.”

    In addition, Brookshire shares that mentorship cannot be overlooked either. “Sharing resources and knowledge creates pathways to opportunity,” he says. “The reason the canon of documentaries is lacking relative to Black stories is because, for far too long, film was an exclusive space and, in many ways, it still is quite a privilege to be able to do this sort of work.”

    New York FIlm Academy would like to thank Richard Brookshire for continuing to share his stories and insight as a Black filmmaker and encourages everyone to read his New York Times Magazine article and to be on the lookout for his upcoming short Boukman’s Prayer 2.0.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    June 30, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1341

  • NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Alum, Mollie Moore, on Her Journey as a Documentary Filmmaker and the Importance of Storytelling

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking alum Mollie Moore is a filmmaker and cinematographer from South London, who is currently based in London and New York City. She has worked for renowned production companies such as the BBC, PBS, ITVS, Human Love LTD and DNA Films on various projects. Her films have gone on to be screened at festivals all over the world, with her work taking her to multiple continents. With her background in cinematography, Moore’s work pushes the limits of visual poetry through non-fiction storytelling, while also weaving in important themes that highlight the LGBTQ community and forced migration.

    From a young age, Moore was always involved with the theatre world and, when it was time to go to college, she travelled instead to South East Asia, India, South America and many other places while working as a crew member on fictional film sets. “I realized the vast possibilities of storytelling and the importance of capturing the beauty of the world we live in and the stories within it,” shares Moore. “Documentary felt like a natural marriage with my background in theatre, storytelling and my passion for exploration and the people I met along the way.”

    This realization brought Moore to New York, where she studied in NYFA’s 1-Year Conservatory Program for Documentary Filmmaking. “It was a course that I could give all of my attention to, whilst getting maximum in-person time to learn in a creative and hands-on way,” she explains. 

    Film Poster for ‘A Word Away’ (Dir. Mollie Moore)

    Her thesis film, A Word Away, premiered at the Camden International Film Festival. A Word Away centers around a young man named Cosmo, who is from South Sudan and now resides in the U.S, who share his journey of migration through the medium of poetry. For Moore, it was important for her to find “a new way of telling a story of migration, through a more intimate and personal lens.” At the film’s premier, Moore recalls that having Cosmo and his family present was a very important moment for her as it was their stories being told and seen. “Documentary filmmaking should always be seen a collaborative process between the filmmaker and the people sharing their stories.”

    After graduating NYFA, Moore also worked on festival favorite Paper Thin, a documentary about a young transgender womxn starting a new life in New York City after having to flee the persecution of LGBTQ+ persons in Russia. Not long after, Moore worked as the cinematographer for the short film, Mama, a personal story between a mother and daughter (dir. NYFA alum Lucia Florez), who look into their past to try and reconcile their relationship after years of difficult conversations and opinions about sexuality.

    Mollie shooting in Peru on set of the film ‘Mama’ (Dir. Lucia Florez)

    These films, and others with similar themes, are ones that Moore says she holds “very close to my heart and with a lot of passion.” While Moore identifies with these topics on a personal level, as a filmmaker, she explains that these stories are crucial to share. “I think shedding light on topics and communities that have often been massively misconstrued and discriminated against through violent acts of oppression and injustice is of huge importance.” For those that have a platform to shed light on subjects and real world issues in an objective, honest way, it can be a privilege. Moore says, “we must share it [the stories of others] and give voices to those whose realities have often been silenced throughout history.”

    Moore is currently working as a filmmaker on the artist Marc Quinn’s public art project, Our Blood; a multi media public artwork that focuses on the refugee crisis all over the world. The art piece will premiere outside of the New York Public Library in 2021, but for now, Moore and others involved on the project are continuing their filming in London and New York City. 

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) would like to thank NYFA Documentary alum Mollie Moore for sharing more about her work as a documentary filmmaker and encourages everyone to check out her work and keep an eye out for the Our Blood project, once it has been unveiled in 2021.

    To keep up with Mollie Moore, check out her website here or follow her on Instagram.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    June 17, 2020 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1266

  • The Criterion Channel releases the series “Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women’s Stories”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The Criterion Channel has recently made available a collection of films based on the acclaimed series “Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women’s Voices,” originally screened at The Metrograph in  2018. 

    The films, all documentaries, all directed by women, share women’s stories through the startling intimacy that’s created between the subject and the camera. As the films vary from cinéma vérité to essay to agitprop The Metrograph, as one of the few independent theaters left in New York City, presented as an ideal venue for the original series. Known for its atmosphere, it aims to create the ultimate film enthusiast’s space where one can immerse themselves in film alongside movie professionals who screen and discuss their work.

    The series adopted an Adrienne Rich quote from Motherhood: The Contemporary Emergency and the Quantum Leap (1979) as it’s raison d’être:

    “One of the most powerful social and political catalysts of the past decade has been the speaking of women with other women, the telling of our secrets, the comparing of wounds and sharing of words… In order to change what is, we need to give speech to what has been, to imagine together what might be.”

    Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women's Stories Poster

    Curated by Nellie Killian, Tell Me helped to highlight how the film industry has in many ways, failed women. They’re underrepresented as directors and as subjects in film – an issue the New York Film Academy’s 2018 Gender Inequality Infographic explored. These documentaries are so unique in that they are about women by women which give them a different tone and distinctive voice. These stories and the manner in which they’re told are so very different from anything mainstream filmmaking and even, many independent films have released. 

    While spanning five decades, the films of “Tell Me” have a common thread. They celebrate women filmmakers as well as the women in their films. By simply giving women a safe space to speak of their lives and experience without restraint, the films capture life-long frustrations and injustice painting intimate and complex portraits of its subjects. These groundbreaking films, all from the nineteen-seventies and early eighties, are mostly documentaries that run under 60 minutes.

    Among the films in the collection is Growing Up Female (1971), which focuses on the story of six women, ages 4 to 35, and how stereotypes in the media and advertising, and their personal relationships influence their socialization. It offers an interesting insight into how much has changed over time and how much has remained the same.

     The Camille Billops and James Hatch short documentary, Suzanne, Suzanne is a multigenerational story. It chronicles the devastation a life of physical and psychological abuse has wrought on a daughter Suzanne, who is a recovering drug addict, and her mother, Billie. 

    In Dis-Moi -Tell Me (1980), whose title inspired the name of the series, the director Chantal Akerman sits with and gives a voice to elderly Jewish women who are all survivors of the Holocaust as they recount their lives and family stories before and during World War II. Akerman’s mother is also featured in the film as she recounts tales of her own family. The film offers an intimate and delicate portrait of the lives of its subjects.  

     The complete collection of “Tell Me” features the following films:
    Growing Up Female (Julia Reichert and Jim Klein, 1971)
    Janie’s Janie (Geri Ashur, Peter Barton, Marilyn Mulford, and Stephanie Pawleski, 1971)
    Betty Tells Her Story (Liane Brandon, 1972)
    It Happens to Us (Amalie R. Rothschild, 1972)
    Joyce at 34 (Joyce Chopra and Claudia Weill, 1972)
    Yudie (Mirra Bank, 1974)
    Chris and Bernie (Bonnie Friedman and Deborah Shaffer, 1976)
    Guerillère Talks (Vivienne Dick, 1978)
    Inside Women Inside (Christine Choy and Cynthia Maurizio, 1978)
    Soft Fiction (Chick Strand, 1979)
    Dis-moi (Chantal Akerman, 1980)
    I Am Wanda (Katja Raganelli, 1980)
    Clotheslines (Roberta Cantow, 1981)
    Land Makar (Margaret Tait, 1981)
    Audience (Barbara Hammer, 1982)
    Suzanne, Suzanne (Camille Billops and James Hatch, 1982)
    The Ties That Bind (Su Friedrich, 1985)
    Conversations with Intellectuals About Selena (Lourdes Portillo, 1999)
    Privilege (Yvonne Rainer, 1990)
    The Salt Mines (Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio, 1990)
    The Transformation (Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio, 1995)
    Mimi (Claire Simon, 2003)
    No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
    Shakedown (Leilah Weinraub, 2018)

    The New York Film Academy encourages everyone to check out Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women’s Stories on The Criterion Channel. 

     

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    June 1, 2020 • Diversity, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 2205