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  • Off-Broadway Show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Instructor James Lecesne Available on Audible

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    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, the Off-Broadway show by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Instructor, is now available to listen to on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform.

    Both written and performed by Lecesne, the story unravels around Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14-year-old boy who goes missing from a small town on the Jersey Shore. Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration to the townsfolk, who begin to question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. Sound design for the production was done by Christian Frederickson, with original music by Duncan Sheik.

    The New York Times says that The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey will “leave you beaming with joy … a superlative solo show … Mr. Lecesne is a writer of wit and keen observational skills, who here unfolds a dark tale that shimmers with the needling suspense you associate with the best police procedurals.”

    Much of Lecesne’s work focuses on LGBTQIA+ themes, including his screenplay for the Academy-Award winning short, Trevor. That film directly led to his founding of The Trevor Project, an American non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Lecesne also wrote for Further Tales if the City, Will and Grace, and Vicious, starring Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.

    The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey by NYFA Documentary Filmmaking instructor James Lecesne can be found on Audible here. New York Film Academy encourages the NYFA community to check it out today!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Department Works With Ben’s Lighthouse

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    Last Spring, New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Documentary Filmmaking Andrea Swift and NYFA Docs alum Braulio Jatar taught a micro-docs workshop to Newtown teenagers at Ben’s Lighthouse, a grassroots organization founded after the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Ben’s Lighthouse was founded to honor 6-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, one of the victims of the 2012 massacre. The organization is based in Newtown, Connecticut. Their motto—and mission—is “helping is healing,” and the organization uses local mentoring programs and national outreach service trips as part of their cause.

    Members of Ben’s Lighthouse were headed for a service trip to Louisiana. Andrea Swift, NYFA Documentary Filmmaking Chair, helped prepare them by teaching a workshop in micro-docs, which are typically very short, effective documentaries. Swift focused on story development, which is especially important in documentaries that have a very short window to captivate and engage an audience. 

    Once they returned from the trip, the members—led by group leader Sue Vogelman—came back to NYFA to edit their footage. NYFA Documentary Filmmaking alum Braulio Jatar worked with Swift and taught the members how to edit on digital software Adobe Premiere, as well as supervising their edit.

    Micro Doc: Newtown Workshop from New York Film Academy on Vimeo.

    Jatar graduated from both the Documentary Filmmaking 6-Week Workshop and 1-Year Conservatory at NYFA’s New York campus. Since graduating, Jatar has found success with his film, Where Chaos Reigns, co-directed with NYFA Docs alum Anaïs Michel. The film recently won the Golden Gate Award for Best Short Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival, qualifying Jatar for an Academy Award next year.

    The micro-doc was directed by Gigi Marino and Sam Henriques and is available on Vimeo.

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    July 18, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Outreach • Views: 453

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Student Drama del Rosario Awarded BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary student Drama del Rosario received some major support for his important filmmaking endeavors when he received a Commissioning Grant from BAFTA-GSA.drama del rosario bafta

    del Rosario is currently studying for his MFA in Documentary at NYFA’s Burbank-based campus. “It’s been amazing to watch Drama del Rosario grow as a documentary filmmaker over the last two years,” says Sanora Bartels, NYFA-LA Chair of Documentary Filmmaking. “He brings tremendous heart to all of his projects and is fearless in his approach to sharing the truth of his personal story.”

    I’m Okay (And Neither Are You) is del Rosario’s thesis film and is currently in post-production. del Rosario’s grant application and documentary proposal was given final approval by an elite group of BAFTA members, including veteran writer and actor Stephen Fry, and succeeded despite a great deal of competition for the grant.

    “Drama is an amazing student and filmmaker,” says NYFA instructor Mary Beth Fielder. “All the work he’s produced while at NYFA has been exceptional, beginning with his very first film In This Family, a personal voice documentary which explores the repercussions of being ‘outed’ against his will by his seventh grade teacher.”

    The $8,000 grant was awarded to del Rosario by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), in partnership with Global Student Accommodation (GSA), for his documentary I’m Okay (And Neither Are You). The BAFTA-GSA Grant was launched in 2018 to provide young filmmakers with a platform to raise awareness and encourage change in how mental wellbeing is understood amongst their peers. This year marks the first time Netflix has sponsored the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

    drama del rosario bafta

    At the awards ceremony, del Rosario gave an impassioned, emotional speech, thanking New York Film Academy, his family, and his boyfriend, and more importantly speaking publicly of his own personal mental health issues. “I have been fortunate in my life to know how to use a camera and to have people around me who don’t judge me for being in front of the camera,” del Rosario told the audience in attendance. “So when things like this happen to you in your personal life, to some degree it’s your responsibility to share with other people.”

    The BAFTA-GSA grant will certainly help del Rosario finish his film and reach his goal of sharing his important story with others. “Drama literally puts himself and his personal stories in his films,” says Crickett Rumley, NYFA Director, Film Festivals. “Given the specificity of his observations, the powerful emotions he expresses, and the reactions he provokes in his audience, it’s no surprise to me that he’s been tapped for such a prestigious award.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary Filmmaking student Drama del Rosario on his BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant and looks forward to the completion of his thesis film, I’m Okay (And Neither Are You).

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    July 18, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 386

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera Films ‘Queenz of the Night’

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    Queenz of the Night is a subversive short film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Student Eleonora Privitera.

    Privitera hails from Italy and has a background in social anthropology. She has been involved in ethnographic research fieldworks concerning urban violence and humanitarian projects in South America and East Africa. 

    Privitera is now continuing her studies in the 1-year Documentary Filmmaking conservatory at NYFA’s New York City campus. Here, she is gaining hands-on instruction from professional and award-winning instructors in the documentary and filmmaking industry, learning the tools and skills she’ll need to use documentary filmmaking as another way to channel her efforts in combating social ills. By documenting the lives and stories of people she has come across in her work and studies, Privitera hopes the medium of nonfiction filmmaking can help her denounce social injustice, economic inequality, and environmental conflicts. 

    Queenz of the Night, one of her recent films, is a subversive short about an LGBTQIA+ movement that uses art and political performances to fight homophobia and the gun industry’s chain of death violence in New York City. The film shows all aspects of the movement, capturing both its strengths and weaknesses of their methods, while also supporting the actions of those who take the risk of making a stand and fighting publicly for equal rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ Americans. Against a contemporary social backdrop where hate crimes are on the rise, Privitera’s film is more relative than ever.Eleonora Privitera Queens of the Night

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking student Eleonora Privitera on the important work of her film Queenz of the Night and looks forward to future projects based on her passion for social justice.

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    June 14, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 614

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Department Updates: A&E, HBO, PBS, VICE, IDA, MTV Award, BAFTA Nom, Premieres, Fests, Gigs & More!

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a look at the latest achievements of the Documentary Filmmaking department’s alumni, faculty, and students:

    What to Watch

    Season 1 of The Employables, shot and produced by CJ Ferroni (NYC ’13) for A&E began airing last Wednesday. You can catch the first two episodes online, and watch the rest of the season Wednesdays on A&E at 10 p.m. EST or online via Hulu or A&E’s website.

    The feature documentary, Trials of Spring, shot by director of photography Muhammad Hamdy (NYC ‘08) aired on PBS as part of the Women, War and Peace series and can still be seen on their website.

    You can catch one of the many pieces Ilaria Polsonetti (NYC ’11) recently cut for HBO’s VICE New Tonight online as well.

    Hannah Currie‘s (NYC Workshop ’18) post-graduation short Lumo: Too Young to Die aired on BBC Scotland, and can still be seen on BBC iPlayer.

    The episode of The New York Times’ Secret History of Muslims, directed and produced by Maria Stanisheva (NYC ’12) is now also available on Vimeo’s list of Staff Picks.

    Human Rights Watch recently published Saudi Arabia: 10 Reasons Why Saudi Women Flee, based on three short animated films created by Maria Stanisheva and commissioned by fellow alum, Human Rights Watch producer Janna Kyllästinen (NYC ’12).

    The Bit Player, shot by NYC instructor and director of photography Claudia Racshke for director Mark Levin, is premiering at The World Science Fair in NYC. The feature documentary tells the story of the brilliant math genius Claude Shannon, father of the digital revolution.

    Drama del Rosario (’19) has two films in distribution on REVRY.TV 

    In This Family  — What is it like coming out as a gay teen in the Philippines? In a country imbued with traditional Catholic views, coming out is received with disapproval and anger, especially from one’s own family.

    The End of LifeWhat pushes a person to choose between living and dying? Science, religion, and law all converge at the end of life.

    Also, In This Family recently won the Loni Ding Award in Social Issue Documentary at CAAMFest 2019.

    Honors, Awards, Festivals, Grants

    NYFA Docsters have been racking up festivals, major grants, fellowships, and a variety of honors around the world.

    In April, Julia Cheng‘s (NYC ’18) thesis doc Cricket Liu won Best International Short Documentary at AmDocs (American Documentary Film Festival), and qualified for the Academy Award. Then, Anais Michel’s (NYC ’16) and Braulio Jatar‘s (NYC ’18) short Where Chaos Reigns won Best Short Documentary at San Francisco International Film Festival – and also qualified for the Oscar.

    We Are All Here, an earlier, shorter version of Hannah Currie‘s (NYC Workshop ’18) film Lumo: Too Young To Die, made the shortlist for the BAFTA for Best Student Documentary.

    Pedro Peira‘s (LA ’16) film Trabajadores won the K.R. Mohanan Memorial Documentary Award 2019.

    Director/Producer Maria Stanisheva (NYC ’12) and her company AnimaDocs were awarded a development grant from the French CNC – Centre National Du Cinéma Et De L’image Animée for her animated documentary series Finding Home.

    Paul Gallasch (NYC ‘11) was awarded a SA Writers Development Grant from the South Australian Film Corporation.

    Rodrigo Urriolagoitia (NYC ’12) was selected for “Film Accelerator” at La Selva. There, he will shoot a short fiction film under the supervision of director Lucrecia Martel, who’s taking over that role from Werner Herzog. Created to identify and cultivate the most promising filmmakers around the world, Film Accelerator has tapped Rodrigo as its first ever Bolivian director. Meanwhile, his first foray into short fiction, Our Price, has kicked off its festival run by winning its writer/director Rodrigo a Silver Award for Best Crime Short at the Independent Shorts Awards in Los Angeles. Additionally, Pseudo, a feature he produced in Bolivia, will premiere in September.

    Nancy Dionne‘s (NYC ’18) first semester film, All I Can See Is The Future, was picked up by KweliTV following a great launch as a nominee for Best Documentary at the 2019 Winter International Film Festival. It’s now also an Official Selection of Docs Without Borders, the Katra Sidebar series in Dumbo, Hollywood South Urban, and Bowery Social Justice Film Festival. Stay tuned for its drop date on KweliTV.

    Pretty Dead, produced by Wynona Barbera (NYC ‘16), premiered at HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival.

    Elaine Minionis‘s (NYC ’08) Uncanny: The Dolls of Mariana Monteagudo premiered at none other than Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF). It won the Audience Award at the “I’m Not Gonna Move to LA” film festival and also received the Award of Merit at the IndieFEST Film Awards. Uncanny is also an Official Selection of the Miami Independent Film Festival, Fort Myers Film Festival, Tallahassee Film Festival, and Hollywood Florida Film Festival.

    Love From Afar, from director Cristian Sanay (NYC ’14) and editor Nina Thomas (NYC ’15), has hit the festival circuit as an Official Selection of the Latino Film Festival, Corto Circuito Short Film Festival, and Latino & Iberian Film Festival at Yale. The latter included a special Q&A and talk with the filmmakers about immigration. The short has also been invited to be part of the curriculum at various universities, such as Fairfield University in Connecticut and CUNY. Next stop: Long Island International Film Festival on July 12.

    Krisztina Danka’s (NYC Workshop) doc The Stolen River continues its festival run with a new win; this time it was awarded Best Film On Nature at the L’Age D’Or International Arthouse Film Festival in Kolkata, India.

    Amy Wright (NYC ’15) returned to Tribeca Film Festival as Tech Liaison Manager, leading a team that included Anna Panova (NYC ’18), Kuldeep Gangola (NYC ’19), Maria Tamburro (NYC ’19), and Mollie Moore (NYC ’18). Once again, the team successfully screened well over 100 films and got to spend the time they weren’t on duty rubbing elbows and watching the hottest new films.

    After serving on Amy’s Tribeca Film Festival crew, Anna Panova (NYC ’18) stayed on to assist Sandy O’Hearen, CFO of Tribeca Enterprises and others, soaking up more film festival wisdom in preparation for her launch of the Shortie Film Festival in Williamsburg. It sounds pretty cool—they keep the entry fees low and even have a special award Best NYFA Documentary. Enter the fest here 

    Ida Myklebost (NYC ‘16) has jumped to the other side of the festival equation, too. Her freshman festival run with thesis film Unwelcome was quite successful. Last year, for example, she won Anchorage Film Festival. This year, she’s programming it. And their call for entries is open, so send your films!

    Ghost Villages of Himalayas, the thesis film of Kuldeep Gangola (NYC ’19), won the Collective Critics Award in Uttarakhand, India and a Jury Award from Variety International Film Festival, and has been getting love from the press all over India, including an article in The Times of India.

    Juliana Sakae (LA ’13) is Awards Competition Manager for International Documentary Association and is looking for amazing film students to be part of our pre-screening committee:

    “The students will be screening features, shorts, and podcasts in June and July to make sure we have the best in our competition. As a thank you, we offer a 1-year student membership in IDA as well as their name in our Awards Program. The feedback we get from the students is always very positive and they seem to really enjoy the experience.”

    Lucia Flores (LA ‘18) has been awarded a coveted Matthew Modine Masters Scholarship to support her thesis work at NYFA LA.

    This June, Yusaku Kanagawa (NYC ‘15), Chief Producer at Yahoo! JAPAN CREATORS Program in Tokyo, is sitting on the Jury for the 2019 Fresh Pitch competition in Shanghai, China, alongside executives from Discover and NHK. Created by Beijing-based documentary producer/director Julia Cheng (NYC ‘18), Fresh Pitch has quickly become a major hub for the Asian documentary community. Mariko Ide (NYC ‘16), JAPAN CREATORS Program Story Consultant, will be in attendance as well. And Shanghai-based producer Jenny Song (NYC ‘16) is rounding out the NYFA Docs contingent. Together, the four will also attend the Asian premiere of National Geographic’s Academy Award-winner Free Solo, edited by their NYFA mentor, Bob Eisenhardt.

    Great Gigs & Dream Jobs

    Lara Ann de Wet (NYC ’15) has temporarily relocated to Bali as editor of Gary Bencheghib‘s (NYC ’14) new short doc Plastic River, about his ongoing work on the Citarum river with the President of Indonesia.

    Kendall Ciesemier (NYC Workshop) has moved to The New York Times as a producer/reporter continuing the great documentary journalism she began at Mic.

    CJ Ferroni (NYC ’13) has landed in his dream job as a producer/cinematographer developing documentaries for TV at NBC Peacock Productions after years of successful freelancing in the documentary series world.

    Earlier this month, Annie Woods (NYC ‘07) checked in on her way out of the city as she walked away her “fancy” job as creative producer for Viacom to move to a tiny house in Ojai, minimize, and get back to her environmental and social issue documentary work. Or, as Variety would put it, “Woods ankles to go indie.”

    Fuma (Andrea) Fumagalli (NYC ‘07) is also shaking it up. He’s temporarily forsaken sports docs for journalism. After editing the documentary series First Team: Juventus for Netflix and coming in to do some additional editing on Paul George: My Journey for ESPN, Fuma’s moved his attention to reportage for Rai Italia, the channel of Italian Public TV that reaches millions of Italians that live abroad, all across the globe. He’s basically become their foreign correspondent from New York. Check out the page dedicated to his work on “Italy Run.” There will be four pieces and a short doc by the time the Run has run.

    Another foreign correspondent, Bianca Zanini (NYC ’11), continues to thrive at the international TV channel i24 and is developing a documentary series there so she can get straight-up docs back into her daily life.

    Less than two months after graduation, Mollie Moore (NYC ’18) got a gig traveling to Uganda as 2nd Camera/DIT for NYFA Docs instructor Eddie Rosenstein. She has since been sharpening her camera acumen freelancing and TAing in the Doc Department. This week, she returned from TAing the expedition to Belize, just in time to take off for Peru to shoot the MFA thesis of classmate Lucia Florez‘ (NYC ’18 / LA ’19).

    Eddie also hired Charlotte Madvig (NYC ’18) in the editing department on that same film. 

    Nika Nikanava (NYC ‘18) and Braulio Jatar (NYC ’18) got to work with NYC instructor and DP Claudia Raschke on a gig for Sesame Street. Claudia also twice booked Amy Wright (NYC ’14), Carolina Gonzales (NYC ‘15), Anisia Boronova (NYC ’15) and Braulio Jatar (NYC ’18) to shoot and record pieces for American Classical Orchestra.

    Serena Smith (NYC ’18), Kuldeep Gangola (NYC ’18), and Mollie Moore (NYC ‘18) served in various positions for NYC instructor Maxine Trump‘s new ITVS digital series Should We Kid or Not?, a spinoff on her documentary, To Kid or Not to Kid. Fellow NYC instructor Dorottya Mathe produced the series.

    Faculty News

    NYC instructor Tracie Holder won a National Endowment for the Arts grant for The Quiet Zone, a new feature doc she’s producing.

    Randy Dottin, NYFA Chair of Screenwriting, won a documentary grant from the Sundance Institute for his six-part documentary series called The House I Never Knew.

    RBG, DP’ed by NYC instructor Claudia Raschke, is up for four different MTV Movie Awards, including Best Fight (RBG vs Inequality). Free Solo, edited by fellow NYC instructor Bob Eisenhardt, is up for an MTV Movie Award as well.

    Claudia Racshke has also wrapped her celebrity-laden world tour shooting the new National Geographic series Activate, about local activism around the globe.

    NYC instructor Kristen Nutile and Master Class instructor JP Olsen made great use of their residency as MacDowell Fellows and re-emerged with their new doc, Stan, finished and ready to begin its life in the world.

    The Spirit of Discovery, story produced by NYC Documentary Chair Andrea Swift, premiered on KPBS. The feature doc was directed by once and future instructor Eliana Alvarez.

    Maxine Trump’s To Kid or Not to Kid, associate produced by Marie Vanderrusten (NYC ’15) continues to rack up festival appearances and press around the country. And from The New York Post to The Daily Mail, the film is getting love from the press on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Many thanks to distinguished alum Ilaria Polsonetti (NYC ’11), who generously returned this April to teach a Master Class with the current students in the Doc Department. As part of the Master Editors series, Ilaria’s master class was part of a line-up that also featured Academy Award nominee (with Spike Lee, 4 Little Girls) Sam Pollard, and NYFA instructor Bob Eisenhardt, editor of this year’s Oscar winner, Free Solo. Polsonetti was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Editing in News last year for a short documentary she edited for VICE on HBO. Currently a staff editor for VICE News Tonight, she has cut numerous short docs and served as editor on Raised in the System, a VICE on HBO feature documentary starring Michael K. Williams (The Wire), among others. The students got to watch some of the films she’s cut, and soak in her wisdom and insights on editing and working as an editor—especially for VICE—as well as learn about the path she’s taken to get from film school to her current position in the world.

    Personal and Community News

    Paul Gallasch (NYC ’11) checked in to let us know that he’s now a father. Welcome baby boy, Augustine! And while his new feature documentary Love in the Time of Antidepressants continues to make the festival rounds, he has moved to New Orleans to set up shop making docs with his wife and filmmaking partner—and Augustine’s mom—Madeline. If you know anybody in the business in or around New Orleans, Paul would love to meet them! (Andrea’s happy to connect you if you aren’t already.) 

    Turns out Francesca Pagani (NYC ’11) was listed as a producer and Points North Fellow at Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) alongside Paul Gallasch (NYC ’11), who got a nod in the last update. We’ll have to catch Francesca’s details in the next update as, last we heard, she was on a pirate ship in Panama shooting a new short doc.

    In other NYC ’11 reunion news, Bianca Zanini (NYC ’11) and Department Chair, Andrea Swift, got to grab a coffee in Tel Aviv, where Bianca is now based.

    It seems Marco Vitale (NYC ’11) had just spent a few days there too, en route from Iceland to Naples.

    Michael Jovic (NYC ’09) has become a father too. Welcome, Roman Jovic!

    And per Facebook, Fred Boll (NYC ’07) has one on the way!

    SEND YOUR NEWS!

    Your community wants to know what you’ve been up to! Just email or tag your Documentary Chair and we’ll take it from there!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin Receives Sundance Institute Grant

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    The Sundance Institute has announced it is bestowing a grant to New York Film Academy (NYFA) Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin for his documentary film, The House I Never Knew.

    Dottin is an award-winning writer, director, and producer as well as current Chair of New York Film Academy’s Screenwriting department at our New York campus. As Chair, he shepherds a program committed to giving students the unique opportunity to work with fellow filmmaking, acting, and producing students in developing and turning a script into a finished film as well as extensive experience with each step of the filmmaking process as it relates to screenwriting.Randall Dottin

    Dottin’s thesis film A-Alike won a Gold Medal at the Student Academy Awards for Best Narrative Film and the Director’s Guild of America Award for Best African American Student Filmmaker, as well as earning other awards and a two-year broadcast run on HBO. His feature doc The Chicago Franchise was accepted into IFP Week’s Spotlight on Documentaries.

    The House I Never Knew, Dottin’s latest project, is a six-part documentary series and focuses on the struggle with and against the negative effects of housing segregation policy, including social ills like gun violence and educational failure—especially in Boston, Houston, and Chicago—as well as the personal lives affected by them.

    While teaching screenwriting at NYFA, Dottin requested a sabbatical to focus on shooting the film. NYFA Founder Jerry Sherlock personally granted the request and, along with NYFA, supported Dottin’s important work on the project, confident in his skills as a filmmaker.

    The film is one of 25 nonfiction projects that will receive Documentary Fund and Stories of Change grants from the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford committed to the growth of independent artists.

    The grants are bestowed on projects that range through all stages of development, and are aimed to help films anywhere from initial project development to building a larger audience.

    Randall Dottin The House I Never Knew
    “It was great to get the encouragement from an institution on that level,” Dottin tells NYFA. “And the type of resources that are now available to the project are immeasurable and will help us get the doc done in the best way possible!”

    New York Film Academy congratulates NYFA Chair of Screenwriting Randall Dottin on his Sundance Institute grant and looks forward to the completion and release of The House I Never Knew.

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    June 6, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights, Screenwriting • Views: 161

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking Student Drama Del Rosario In Doc Edge Pride Festival

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    In This Family, the BAFTA-shortlisted documentary film by New York Film Academy (NYFA) MFA Documentary Filmmaking student Drama Del Rosario is now an Official Selection of the Doc Edge Pride Festival. The prestigious festival is Oscar-qualifying and one of the biggest events In This Family will screen at to date! 

    The Doc Edge Pride Festival is held in New Zealand and is celebrating its fourteenth year. Its mission is “to lead and support filmmakers to develop and make compelling documentary films and to inspire the creative, business, and wider communities to celebrate local and international documentary stories.”

    The fest will be held in Auckland, New Zealand from May 30 – June 9 and then in New Zealand’s capital city Wellington from June 13 – 23.
    drama del rosario in this family

    Drama Del Rosario is a documentary filmmaker originally from Manila, Philippines, whose film focuses on complex themes surrounding culture, religion, commercialization, and LGBTQIA+ issues. In Fall 2017, he began studying for his MFA in Documentary Filmmaking from New York Film Academy at our Los Angeles campus.

    In This Family is a 12-minute short that tells the story of one Filipino family’s reaction to finding out their son is gay, while weaving in the filmmaker’s own story to offer an eye-opening perspective into the process of coming out to and finding acceptance from a very traditional Catholic tradition. Last year, the film was shortlisted for the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

    New York Film Academy congratulates MFA Documentary Filmmaking student Drama Del Rosario on the latest success of his film In This Family and looks forward to seeing where his journey takes him next!

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Enrique Pedráza Botero on the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Filmmaking Alum Enrique Pedráza Botero doesn’t just write and direct films—he also helps other filmmakers bring their documentaries to life through his work at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program (DFP). While Sundance is synonymous with its prestigious film festival, its documentary film program and creative labs are working year round to bring new and unique voices to the world of nonfiction cinema.

    Botero is originally from Colombia and first enrolled at New York Film Academy’s New York campus in 2010, before finishing his studies at NYFA-Los Angeles where he earned his BFA in Filmmaking. “I miss my time at NYFA,” Botero tells the Academy. “I loved the school and their open-minded philosophy about the approach to the work … I connect to the importance of discovering your interests and voice as a filmmaker by actually shooting and seeing through the camera, not necessarily when you have it all figured out.”Sundance Enrique Botero

    Following graduation, Botero worked as Manager of Programming at Ambulante California before working with the Sundance Institute. The Documentary Film Program at Sundance was established in 2002 and comprises both the Documentary Film Fund and the creative labs where films are workshopped and filmmakers mentored to become stronger storytellers. With a rolling application process, the DFP receives countless submissions each year, and looks for passionate and emerging filmmakers, particular those with unique cultural perspectives and personal connections to ongoing social issues.

    That worldly perspective is something Botero connected to even while studying at NYFA. “I also really appreciated how global my class was, and the opportunity to see how other people thought about story in other parts of the world,” says Botero, “how people thought creatively and aesthetically, and get a chance to understand how expansive that notion of story really is, something that is so rigged in history and culture.”

    He adds, “I realized how much more compelling and complex my stories could be if I saw my ideas from a personal perspective and my place in the world.”

    The Documentary Film Fund looks to support nonfiction films at all stages in production, and gives out nearly $1-$2 million in grants to over 40 projects each year. To apply, filmmakers must submit a written proposal and line item budget, as well as visual samples of their work. If footage hasn’t already been shot for the documentary, a mood reel and/or previous work of the director should be included. According to Botero, the DFP isn’t looking for a staid summary of the project but rather a strong feel for the artist—their voice, their artistic statement, the character access and connection they have to the subject of the film.

    The DFP Creative Labs are residential workshops, where filmmakers live and breathe their projects over the course of an entire week. There is an edit and story lab, which takes place in the mountains of Utah at the Sundance Resort as well as a music and sound design lab, where directors have the opportunity to work with talented up and coming composers from around the world, and sound designers from Skywalker Ranch. Both labs take place in June and July every year. At the labs, filmmakers can expect a trusted space where they will work with mentors, often filmmakers who have gone through the labs themselves, in an exchange of knowledge, and where they can learn to look at their work and the footage they’ve shot with new perspectives. Each director-editor team is paired with a contributing editor (an emerging nonfiction editor aiming to make the jump into feature-length editing), and are pushed to be more creative and experimental with their own current takes on their project.

    Sundance Enrique Botero

    From left to right: Tabitha Jackson (Director, Documentary Film Program), Maria Clement (Manager, Creative Producing Lab & Fellowship), Kristin Feeley (Director, Labs and Creative Producing Initiative), Enrique Pedraza-Botero (Manager, Labs and Artist Support) Photo Credit: Brandon Cruz

    Botero cites the 2019 documentary Always in Season as a perfect example of a film that was successfully workshopped through the edit and story lab. Director Jacqueline Olive had been working on her footage and material for over eight years, but it was through the labs that she was finally able to see her story in a new context and truly unlock her creative side by learning to better visually communicate her themes. The documentary finally came together as a powerful story of lynching in the rural South. The film premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the US Documentary Competition.

    In addition to the Film Fund and Creative Labs, the Sundance Institute is launching Collab, a learning platform designed for emerging filmmakers which aims to help students looking to expand their community and participate in curated masterclasses. Botero tells NYFA that anyone can open an account to receive access to both free and paid content, including a robust list of resources as well as weekly events and conversations. “It is open to artists globally, which is something we’re excited about!” adds Botero.

    More information about the Documentary Film Program and how to apply to the Film Fund and Creative Labs can be found here. The New York Film Academy thanks alum Enrique Pedráza Botero for sharing his insight into his fascinating work at the Sundance Institute, and encourages all NYFA students and alumni to seek further resources like those provided at Sundance to strengthen their creative vision and storytelling skills.

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  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Alum CJ Ferroni on Switching Careers

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    Before graduating the 1-year New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking conservatory, CJ Ferroni was a middle school teacher. That job turned out to be the first step on a career-changing path that led Ferroni to NBC Peacock Productions, where he currently works on professional documentaries.

    Ferroni taught at the middle school for several years, and started an extracurricular media club where he taught students to write, shoot, light, and edit short films and news stories. He then moved to Hong Kong for a year, where he taught SAT prep classes with a focus on the Verbal and Written sections of the test.CJ Ferroni

    Through his years of experience as an educator, Ferroni came to the conclusion that important stories are the best medium to reach and teach the masses, and that documentary films are the best vehicle for those stories. “My students always loved when I would show them a documentary at the end of learning a new topic,” Ferroni tells NYFA. “It just seemed to cement everything, and they always paid attention and asked great questions after watching a film.”

    When he returned to the States, Ferroni enrolled at NYFA’s Documentary school, where he learned the artistic and professional skills to become a documentary filmmaker from an award-winning professional faculty.

    Soon after graduation, Ferroni got a paid internship at Warrior Poets, where he quickly became a researcher and then an associate producer—all within two years. While at Warrior Poets, Ferroni was able to work on various shows in research and development. After leaving Warrior Poets, he worked as an associate producer and camera operator on the documentary Machine Gun Preacher.

    Ferroni then earned a freelance position at NBC Peacock Productions, working as an associate producer on a feature-length Alexander Hamilton documentary, which he also worked as a camera operator on. After the nine-month project, Ferroni stayed at NBC Peacock, where worked on several productions as second shooter and associate producer, including true crime documentaries and a mini-doc series on SEAL Team Six. 

    Ferroni then worked at Cakehouse Productions as a field producer and shooter for a food competition show on the Food Network, before working at Optomen Productions on a National Geographic show about great white sharks, a travel show about museums, and a documentary series about independent adults living with autism trying to find full-time employment.

    Following those projects, Ferroni worked as a producer at Vice and worked on Action Bronson’s F*ck, That’s Delicious, which shot both domestically and internationally. “That show was a ton of fun to work on,” adds Ferroni.

    Ferroni then returned to NBC Peacock, where he worked on several projects, including true crime documentaries, Dateline NBC, a documentary about Robert Mueller, and a feature-length special on the 35th anniversary of the comedy classic Ghostbusters.

    CJ Ferroni
    After the Ghostbusters special, Ferroni was promoted to a full time staff producer and shooter for NBC Peacock. He now works on multiple shoots and interviews, including a four-part miniseries about the Obama administration, a true crime show titled Killer Motive, and a pilot doc series called A Day In The Life of the White House.

    Even years later, Ferroni’s lengthy and impressive portfolio has its roots in his original career in education. “As a former teacher and current filmmaker, I’ve learned that a great story can captivate and inspire anyone,” he tells NYFA. “It is not your business to compare your expression or determine how good it is, but rather to keep the channel of inspiration open.”

    New York Film Academy congratulates Documentary Filmmaking alum CJ Ferroni on all his success following a career change from middle school educator, and wishes him the best of luck moving forward.

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    May 22, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 641

  • New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking Students Shoot Mini-Docs in Belize

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    New York Film Academy (NYFA) Documentary Filmmaking students are off on another international expedition this spring, traveling to Belize in Central America from May 19 through May 25.

    The Documentary Filmmaking department is partnering with Adaptation Fund in collaboration with Belize Fisheries Department on the Marine Conservation and Climate Adaption Project implemented by the government of Belize (MCCAP). 

    The crew is led by NYFA Documentary Faculty Chair – Los Angeles, Sanora Bartels, and includes students Cassandra Bauer, Ayu Logan, Jackson McGuire, and Ashley Valsin, who are working alongside NYFA Documentary alum Mollie Moore.

    The crew will shoot and edit several short (90-120 second) mini-docs that will be used by Belize Fisheries Department for dissemination of information and to highlight the project’s positive effect in alleviating climate change.  

    The crew landed in Belize on May 19, and on May 20 set sea to Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. On Turneffe, the students will interview local fishermen and beneficiaries of MCCAP’s work.  They will also capture the work of administrative and scientific leaders connected to MCCAP and the Adaptation Fund. They’re really looking forward to shooting underwater footage concentrating on Marine Protected Areas, mangroves, fishing livelihood (seaweed cultivation), and coral restoration. 

    After Turneffe, the students will return to Belize City and edit the mini-docs as well as host a screening on their final night of the expedition. Once back in the US, the NYFA Documentary Filmmaking students will join the Adaptation Fund campaign by posting their films on social media in support of climate adaptation programs. Stay tuned to check out their finished work!

    Turneffe Atoll

    Marine habitats in Turneffe Atoll
    © Eric Ramos

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    May 21, 2019 • Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 706