The 2019 awards season concluded last night with the 91st Academy Awards, where Oscars were presented to Green Book for Best Picture, and Free Solo for Best Documentary Feature, among many others.
Free Solo is the critically-acclaimed and visually arresting National Geographic documentary following rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to scale El Capitan, arguably the most dangerous climb in the world–without a rope.
The film was directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, and edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking instructor, Bob Eisenhardt.Also a three-time Emmy winner, Eisenhardt was previously nominated by the Academy for Best Short Documentary as Director and Editor of Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. He has also edited another two Oscar-nominated films as well as three that were shortlisted.
Free Solo’s Oscar win follows on the heels of the British Film and Television Academy Award (BAFTA) for Best Documentary. A week before that, the American Cinema Editors awarded Eisenhardt their coveted “Eddie” Award – the highest honor accorded a documentary editor.
NYFA Instructor Bob Eisenhardt with wife, Bonnie Mackay holding the Academy Award
The NYFA community celebrated other nominations as well—Documentary Department cinematography instructor, Director of Photography, Claudia Raschke, shot RBG, another excellent, high-profile contender in the Best Documentary category. Best Actress nominee Glenn Close and Best Supporting Actor nominee Adam Driver are both previous guest speakers for the Academy. NYFA alum Francesco Panzieri worked as a VFX artist on Avengers: Infinity War, which was nominated for Best Visual Effects. Broadcast Journalism alum Celina Liv Danielsen attended the ceremony, covering the red carpet for Danish network TV-2.
New York Film Academy congratulates all the winners and nominees of the evening and applauds Documentary Filmmaking instructor Bob Eisenhardt for his exceptional work on Academy Award winner Free Solo!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) 6-Week Documentary alum Justin Kawika Young premiered his first documentary, My Hero’s Shadow, at the Hawaii Film Festival. The work tells the story of Shane Stant, the man who famously attacked ice skater Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, through the eyes of his sister Maile, who had never known her brother to be anything other than kind. The documentary also screened at HIFF Hana Hou/ Waimea Film Festival in early 2019, with a mainland debut scheduled to be announced soon.
“I think that it has the potential to bring some light into a dark story,” Young toldBlasting News.“It’s easy to forget that these people are more than just this one event. I think it’s an interesting journey where Maile only knows Shane as a hero and is now learning about his past as a hitman, while the audience is traveling the other way. They only know him as this bad guy, and they’re seeing him as much more than that. So eventually Maile and the audience meet somewhere in the middle.”
A native Hawaiian, Young is a successful musician and three-time Hawaiian Music Award winner, and is engaged to popular singer Colbie Caillat. His music has also appeared on a number of film and television soundtracks, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Parenthood, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Young attended NYFA’s 6-Week Documentary program in New York City in 2015, where his instructors noted both his technical skill and his ability to handle complex and challenging material.
“Justin Young is an incredibly talented filmmaker,” said Kristen Nutile, Academy Award-nominated editor and documentary instructor at NYFA. “ His feature-length debut, My Hero’s Shadow, is a brave, unflinching and yet compassionate film that explores violence, family, identity and the ability to heal. I cannot wait to see more of his work.”
The New York Film Academy congratulates Justin Kawika Young on his continued success, and looks forward to seeing his future projects!
The Eddie award is the highest honor American documentary editors can win. Last Friday night, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Department editing instructor Bob Eisenhardt, ACE, won it.
If you’ve seen Free Solo, you’ll immediately know why. The 2018 film focuses on rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan, the vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, without ropes, or “free solo.” El Capitan is so dangerous, no one has ever tried before, and Honnold is the only person to have ever accomplished the feat. The documentary has been praised for its unparalleled look at such an intense climbing experience.
His fellow editors in the American Cinema Editors (ACE) guild voted Eisenhardt’s work on Free Solo, National Geographic’s current Academy Award nominee, Outstanding Editing on a Documentary (Feature). Filmmaker Spike Lee presented him with the Eddie and his Free Solo directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, saw to it that he was properly feted.
Eisenhardt’s NYFA Docs students acknowledge his Jedi master editing skills on pretty much a daily basis, but it’s nice to see the big guns officially shouting him out too.
This is Eisenhardt’s second Eddie Award. He was previously acknowledged for his Outstanding Editing on HBO’s feature doc, Everything Is Copy. Since the Academy Awards does not present an award for documentary editing, the Eddie is documentary filmmaking’s uncontested top honor. Free Solo is the fourth film Eisenhardt has cut to be nominated for an Academy Award, which also just won the BAFTA. Additionally, Eisenhardt was previously nominated for an Oscar as a director, and has won three Emmys and been nominated for several more. Films he’s cut have been awarded multiple Emmys and nominated several more times. One even earned a Grammy nomination!
The New York Film Academy congratulates instructor Bob Eisenhardt on his prestigious win at the Eddie Awards and wishes him and the crew of Free Solo the best of luck at this years Academy Awards!
On Thursday, February 7, New York Film Academy (NYFA) screened the critically-acclaimed, crowd-pleasing, box office documentary hit, RBG, with the film’s cinematographer and instructor for the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking program, Claudia Raschke participating in a Q&A with students afterwards.
RBG tells the story of Supreme Court Justice and surprise millennial icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka “The Notorious RBG”). The Flatbush, Brooklyn-born Justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1992, becoming only the second woman to serve at the highest federal court in the United States. Ginsberg still serves on the Court and is currently the second-most senior Justice.
The film was directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen and has been nominated for and won multiple awards since its debut at Sundance. It is currently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; “I’ll Fight” by Diane Warren, from the soundtrack of RBG, is also up for an Oscar for Best Song.
Director of photography Claudia Raschke has worked on four other films previously nominated for Academy Awards, as well as Peabody, DuPont, and National Board of Review Award winners. Her oeuvre includes acclaimed documentaries as varied as My Architect, about Louis Kahn, Mad Hot Ballroom, which focuses on a New York dance program, and Particle Fever, which tracks the experiments of the Large Hadron Collider that ultimately discovered the Higgs boson (aka the “God particle”).
Students were thrilled to pick Raschke’s brain at a Q&A following the RBG screening. Here’s what some NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students had to say after the event:
Working with Claudia has been a dream come true in more than one way. Every step you take with the camera in your hand and every little movement you add with the camera while you are shooting should have a thinking behind it. That is the approach with which students like me have had the fortune to learn at New York Film Academy with Claudia. Making every second of the story powerful through visual storytelling is what Claudia is capable of making you learn. She is an inspiring teacher and an even more motivational person! – Kuldeep Sah Gongola (‘18)
There is so much attention to detail in Claudia’s teaching; she prepares you for any situation. When I went to see RBG, I bragged about how Claudia taught us to light interviews and how she kept the lights from reflecting off of the Justice’s glasses. It is easy to see why her work is so esteemed. She gives honest and practical feedback but her compassion for every student and their films is what makes her classes so great. – Ti Cersley (’17)
Having the opportunity to work with renowned professionals in their field one-on-one is priceless! It’s what sets NYFA apart from other great programs around the world. – Mark Humphreys (’18)
Being taught by Claudia is an amazing space to be in. She allows for creativity and ideas to grow in a playful way. Being taught by a female cinematographer who’s worked her way up in a male-dominated industry is very inspirational to watch and learn from. – Mollie Moore (’18)
The New York Film Academy thanks Documentary Filmmaking cinematography instructor Claudia Raschke for speaking with students and congratulates her on all the success RBG has seen so far!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor Jessica Wolfson produced and directed The Columnists for WSJ. Magazine, a video series of intimate conversations with renowned figures reflecting on various themes that have guided their careers.
The project has its roots in On Point, a coffee table book from WSJ. Magazine, a glossy news and lifestyle monthly magazine by the publishers of The Wall Street Journal. The book, released September of last year, included interviews from the publication’s renowned column The Columnists. The new series has six parts and a 20-minute short film, directed and produced by Wolfson.
This is the second project Wolfson has made for The Wall Street Journal. Her earlier project was Drawing the Future, a video tech series. Wolfson is a photographer and documentary filmmaker who has directed shorts including Night People, IowaMixtape, and Play a Round with Me, as well as films Radio Unnameable and Hot Grease. Additionally, she teaches for the Documentary Filmmaking department at New York Film Academy’s New York City campus.
Episodes of The Columnists are based on a particular theme, including Luck, Risk, Mistakes, and Willpower. Notable subjects speaking on these topics include, author Fran Lebowitz, director Lee Daniels, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, television star Rainn Wilson, and the late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld.
“What I really loved most about making this series was having conversations with the subjects about emotional and philosophical topics such as willpower, advice, envy—rather than the typical career questions they are normally asked,” Wolfson tells NYFA. “This made for a very interesting dialogue.”
Wolfson also worked with Associate Producer and graduate of NYFA’s Documentary Filmmaking program Nancy Dionne. Dionne researched crew and shooting locations in Canada, Paris, London, and New York for the series. “It was the kind of call where you hang up and jump up and down smiling saying, ‘Yes!’” Dionne tells NYFA. She was also more than happy to work with Wolfson, who she met at NYFA.
“I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see her in action,” Dionne says of Wolfson. “What struck me first was how calm Jessica and her crew were, not that they were not feeling stress, but how they handled it and how they communicated with me and each other—just so professional and smart with no effort wasted.”
Currently, The Columnists is a limited series, but Wolfson is eager to shoot additional seasons in the future.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking instructor Jessica Wolfson and alum Nancy Dionne on The Columnists, and thanks them for taking the time to speak to NYFA about their experience!
The New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking department is happy to announce the winter season of Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center, featuring ten documentaries playing from February 5 to March 26.
The season opens with UNITED SKATES (Feb 5), winner of the Tribeca Audience Award, about roller skating in black communities across the United States. Two films will appear as sneak previews fresh off their Sundance premieres: Alex Gibney’s THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (Mar 14), and THE BRINK (Mar 26, closing night of the winter season) about the former Trump strategist Steve Bannon spreading his nationalist ideas in Europe. Each screening features the filmmakers or other special guests in person. New York Film Academy students receive a discount at the door.
Called “a vital outpost for award-winning documentaries” by The New York Times, the beloved docs series Stranger Than Fiction is being retitled to share a name with the popular podcast Pure Nonfiction, now in its fourth year. Both were created by Thom Powers, renowned Documentary Programmer of the Toronto International Film Festival and Artistic Director of DOC NYC, and Raphaela Neihausen, Academy Award-nominated producer and NYFA graduate. “Pure Nonfiction as a screening series at IFC Center shares the same mission as the podcast to illuminate the art of documentary making, so it makes sense for them to share the same name,” says Powers.
Andrea Swift, Chair of NYFA’s Documentary Department, says, “It is an honor for the NYFA Documentary Department to continue our sponsorship of Pure Nonfiction in its new incarnation. The series has been a crucial pillar of the documentary community for fourteen years. It provides our students with the unique opportunity to see great films curated by a legend like Thom Powers, and to hear from their creators via the insightful discussions he always elicits. Going out after to rub elbows and continue the conversation, students also get a chance to begin to know their new community.”
Pure Nonfiction‘s winter season also includes a sneak preview of the new series THE CASE AGAINST ADNAN SYED (Feb 26) based on the case made famous by the Serial podcast. Director Amy Berg will present its first episode prior to its debut on HBO. Other sneak previews include IT’S A HARD TRUTH, AIN’T IT (Feb 12) about prisoners learning to make films; and ONE NATION UNDER STRESS (Mar 19) with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, which looks to uncover why American life expectancy is falling.
Classic revivals are a key part of the screening series. The season includes a double bill (Feb 19) with D.A. Pennebaker’s ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY (1970) about a studio recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical; joined with a new parody of the film from the series DOCUMENTARY NOW! titled ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: CO-OP. (In a happy coincidence, DOCUMENTARY NOW! features NYFA grad, Bill Hader along with Fred Armisen.) Pennebaker will present the films with other colleagues who were part of the original.
Other classics include the 20th anniversary of Doug Block’s HOME PAGE (Feb 21) about the emergence of a confessional culture on the internet; THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (Mar 5) that will memorialize director Bill Siegel who passed away last December; and THAT RHYTHM…THOSE BLUES (Mar 12) in a new restoration of the 1988 film that explored rhythm and blues music in the 1940s and 1950s.
The Pure Nonfiction winter season takes place at the IFC Center every Tuesday night at 7:30 pm for eight weeks, plus special Thursday screenings on Feb 21 and Mar 14. Each event includes a discussion with the filmmakers, followed by a gathering at a nearby bar. Season passes are now on sale for $99 for ten films, though NYFA students are offered a discount. The full season schedule appears below. For more information, visit here.
Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center: Winter 2019 Season
7:30pm Tuesdays at IFC Center, Feb 5 – Mar 26
Each show features a Q&A with the director or other special guests:
Feb 5: Opening Night – UNITED SKATES (2018, Q&A w/ dir. Tina Brown & subject Reggie)
Feb 12: IT’S A HARD TRUTH, AIN’T IT (2018, Q&A w/ dir. Madeleine Sackler)
Feb 19: Double bill: ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY (1970, Q&A w/ dir. D.A. Pennebaker & others) and DOCUMENTARY NOW! presents ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM CO-OP (2019)
Feb 21: Thursday special – HOME PAGE – 20th anniv. (1999, Q&A w/ dir. Doug Block & others)
Feb 26: THE CASE AGAINST ADNAN SYED – episode one (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Amy Berg)
Mar 5: THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (2014, Q&A in memory of dir. Bill Siegel w/ his colleagues)
Mar 12: THAT RHYTHM…THOSE BLUES – newly restored (1988, Q&A w/ dir. George T. Nierenberg)
Mar 14: Thursday Special – THE INVENTOR: OUT FOR BLOOD IN SILICON VALLEY (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Alex Gibney)
Mar 19: ONE NATION UNDER STRESS (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Marc Levin)
Mar 26: Closing Night – THE BRINK (2019, Q&A w/ dir. Alison Klayman)
Tickets for Pure Nonfiction screenings are $17 for the general public and $14 for IFC Center members and NYFA students. A Season Pass covers admission to all ten evenings and provides free popcorn at all screenings. It is available for $99 ($80 for IFC members and NYFA students).
New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary MFA Alum Sasha-Gay Lewis was honored when her MFA Thesis film was included on the program of the International Film Weekend, held annually in Würzburg, Germany.
Filmwochenende Würzburg was started in 1974 with just 12 films and 1,000 visitors. This year, the 45th edition of the International Film Weekend – Würzburg was the most visited with more than 10,000 film fans visiting the traditional festival. Held from January 24 – January 27, 2019, the festival screened 82 films over four venues.
The aim of the festival is to showcase international films that have not yet found their way to distributors. Added to this is the opportunity for cinephiles to meet the makers behind the productions and to discuss their films with them.
Lewis is a Jamaican documentary filmmaker, producer, editor and writer, as well as a trained journalist and award-winning writer/producer for radio. She has written, produced, and directed several short narratives and docs in Jamaica, California, and Belize. She enrolled in New York Film Academy’s MFA Documentary Filmmaking program in Fall 2014.
The Incursion, her documentary short, follows the residents of Tivoli Gardens, Jamaica as they seek justice after a government raid in 2010 that resulted in the death of over 150 residents.
In addition to Filmwochenende Würzburg, the film was named Honorable Mention at the 2017 DOC LA Film Festival, was an Official Selection at the 2017 Pembroke Taparelli Arts & Film Festival, won an Award of Recognition at the Impact DOCS Awards, and won Best Documentary Short at the LA Film and Script Film Festival.
In its 45-year history, this year is the first year Filmwochenende Würzburg have screened a film from Jamaica. Additionally, Lewis is the second black director to be invited to the festival; the first was filmmaker Spike Lee. The Incursion had a full house for both days of its screening. packed cinema on both days.
The New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary alum Sasha-Gay Lewis on the success of The Incursion and looks forward to following her career and future accomplishments!
The Year of the Documentary strikes again with the arrival of National Geographic’s Free Solo. The 2018 documentary, edited by New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructor Bob Eisenhardt, focuses on rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan, the vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, without ropes, or “free solo.” El Capitan is so dangerous, no one has ever tried before. Honnold is the only person to have ever accomplished the feat.
Free Solo currently sits at an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes after 66 glowing reviews. Tom Russo of the Boston Globe said of the film, “Go figure that the year’s most outrageously harrowing action movie turns out to be an arthouse doc from National Geographic.” Free Solo beat out An Inconvenient Truth as the highest per-venue average of all time. The documentary is also screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List at the 2018 DOCNYC film festival, and has been shortlisted by the International Documentary Association (IDA). It was directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
Editor Bob Eisenhardt is an Academy Award nominee, three-time Emmy winner, and recipient of the coveted “Eddie” aka American Cinema Editors Award. He has edited over 60 films, mostly feature and television documentaries, including Everything is Copy (HBO), Jerusalem (IMAX), and another rock climbing documentary, Sundance Audience Award Winner Meru. He teaches Advanced Thesis Editing and is a Master Class instructor at the New York Film Academy’s New York City campus. In 2017, Eisenhardt’s film Scotty Bowers and the Secret History of Hollywood was screened at DOC NYC.
Free Solo is the latest in an exciting run of releases for NYFA Documentary faculty. This year alone has seen rave reviews for Claudia Raschke’s work on RBG, Kristen Nutile’s work on Heroin(e), and Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not To Kid, all of whom are instructors at NYFA’s Documentary school. For the past eight years, NYFA has been ranked as one of the nation’s top documentary filmmaking schools, grooming students for the practical challenges, opportunities, and realities that arise when creating documentary films.
The New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA instructor Bob Eisenhardt on the continued success of Free Solo!
Chicago native, New York-based producer, writer, and social entrepreneur Kendall Ciesemier has been making waves with breaking news stories and interviews about social causes ever since she was 11 years old. At that young age, she formed Kids Caring 4 Kids to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. While she was at Georgetown University, Kendall co-founded OWN IT, a women’s leadership initiative to empower college-aged women to engage with women leaders. And at New York Film Academy (NYFA), Ciesemier completed the 6-week Documentary program in 2017.
Ciesemier’s personal history of health issues inspired her humanitarian work. Expounding upon that, she says, “My own health struggles entirely formed the lens through which I look at the world.” In lieu of gifts and flowers during her recovery, she humbly requested well-wishers donate to the village of Musele, Zambia — the most highly affected area by the AIDS epidemic at the time. “I found my purpose in founding Kids Caring 4 Kids,” added Ciesemier. Since 2004, 8,000 individuals in five different African countries have been assisted via the construction of dormitories, orphan care centers, a clinic, classrooms, computer labs, bicycles, indoor plumbing, meals, and clean water.
Now a producer at Mic, Ciesemier recently found herself helping out with an interview of rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in 2018 as the youngest woman in Congressional history. The Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed 29-year old recently stunned the country after defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed alongside fellow DSA-supported Cynthia Nixon, who lost her bid to defeat incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo.
At Mic, her topics range from criminal justice reform, racial justice, the #MeToo movement, and more. Her recent interview with Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, helped lead to Johnson’s clemency as is arguably the highlight of Ciesemier’s career.
Speaking of the experience, Ciesemier said, “We actually drove down alongside her family, three hours from Memphis to Alabama. We were racing to get there in time to pick up Alice and watching her walk across the street and see her family across from the prison was pretty powerful.” She continued, “I think, as a journalist, you’re taught to just do your job — but you’re also a human being. I don’t think I processed all of that experience until a good four days after. This is a story I’ll never forget.”
Ciesemier tweeted her emotional reaction to the release:
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kendall Ciesemier for her time and, more importantly, her community service, philanthropy, and activism. We wish her the best of luck with all her future endeavors.
For the fourth consecutive year, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary School has been selected to screen a slate of exceptional student documentaries as part of the prestigious DOC NYC film festival.
Screens from DOC NYC 2018 films
The largest documentary film festival in America, DOC NYC is also among the most consequential. One of the most respected programmers in the documentary world, Artistic Director, Thom Powers has a track record for programming Academy Award winners and nominees. Thanks to Executive Director (and Academy Award-nominated NYFA alum), Raphaela Neihausen, the festival has also become one of the most important annual gatherings of the worldwide documentary community.
The festival will premiere four NYFA DOCS shorts, curated by the Documentary program. NYFA was invited by noted Shorts Programmer, Opal H. Bennett.
NYFA’s Showcase features just the tip of the iceberg of remarkable NYC student work:
Cricket Liu Cricket Liu (China, 18 min., Julia Cheng), an aging Cricket Fighting master uses his ancient art to earn all he can for the grandson he is barely allowed to know. Matt struggles daily to remember what happened even minutes ago in I Love You, Wally (USA, 19 min., Simona Kubasova Prakash). In Keliling Bali (Bali, 4 min., Gary Bencheghib, DP Aitor Mendilibar), Gary and Sam attempt to circumnavigate the plastics-filled ocean surrounding Bali. On a rocky Danish island, five-year-old Tobias sets out on a quest to find its famed mythological creatures in The Trolls & I (Denmark, 19 min., Charlotte Madvig Schmidt).
EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Directors Julia Cheng (’18), Simona Kubasova Prakash (’18) and Charlotte Madvig Schmidt (’18); DPs Braulio Jatar (’18) and Aitor Mendilibar (’13) and Producer Sam Bencheghib
Also taking place during the course of the week:
To Kid or Not to Kid
The World Premiere of NYFA Doc prof Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not to Kid onSunday, November 11, 2018, 2:15 PM at the IFC Center.
EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Director Maxine Trump, Producer/NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Josh Granger and PA/Production Coordinator and NYFA DOCS graduate Marie Vanderusten (’16).
Grit The NYC Premiere of the NYFA Doc prof Tracie Holder-produced Grit on Sunday, November 11, 2018, 5:15 PM atCinepolis Chelsea and onThursday, November 15, 2018, 12:45 PM at theIFC Center
EXPECTED TO ATTEND: Producer Tracie Holder; Director Cynthia Wade, Sasha Friedlander; Executive Producer Abigail Disney
And screening as part of Thom Powers’ Short List:
RBG – shot by NYFA DOCS instructor, Cinematographer, Claudia Raschke
Free Solo – edited by NYFA DOCS instructor, Editor, Bob Eisenhardt
Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists – edited by NYFA DOCS Master Class prof, Geof Bartz – World Premiere/Closing Night Film
DOC NYC has also tapped several of NYFA DOCS’ venerated faculty for panels and special sessions throughout the week, which will be announced shortly.